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This With Thee Remains

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“How long has this rice been in here? Actually, don’t tell me. I’ve decided I don’t want to know.” Bones grumbles as he drops various takeout containers in the recycler. “Do you have anything in here besides old takeout and beer? Good god, man!”

Jim groans and reaches over to shut the fridge before Bones can get any more crotchety. “Bones, you promised.”

“What exactly did I promise?” He asks, the annoyance in his voice obvious.

“We made a deal that if I stay a good patient and I quote, ‘don’t pull any asshole shit in the office’, you stay just Bones when we’re hanging out and don’t go all ‘Doctor McCoy’ on me.”

Bones frowns at him and argues, “Well what am I supposed to do when you seem to be adamant about not keeping yourself healthy?”

“A bit late for that.” Jim says snarkily. “And you know what I think the people in your office would love? That picture of you when you got pantsed at the pep assembly senior year.”

“I’m your doctor, Jim.” Bones says helplessly.

“You’re also my friend.” Jim pats him on the back and steers him toward the couch. “My best friend, actually. Have been for ten years.”

Bones opens his mouth to fire back but Jim shakes his head and smiles at him.

“Sorry, Bones, but I win. You promised.”

The doctor deflates and allows Jim to push him down on the couch. He grabs his previously abandoned beer from the coffee table and settles back to watch whatever crap is on TV. “Remind me to bring my own drinks next time. This beer sucks ass.”

Jim gasps in mock horror and takes a sip of his own beer. “How dare you speak ill of this splendid beverage? It’s practically the nectar of the gods!”

He struggles not to wince when he takes an exaggerated gulp. It’s shit, he knows it is. He can afford much better but there’s something familiar and comfortable about shitty beer that keeps him buying it.

About half an hour into an action movie with too many explosions and not enough plot, Bones puts his empty bottle down and sighs significantly at Jim. “You’re going out of town soon.”

“What? How do you even know about that?” Jim asks, shocked at this bit of information from Bones. He’d hoped to keep it from him and his worrywart ways.

“Please. You’re being brought in as one of the most anticipated speakers at one of the biggest lit conferences in the Federation and you expect me not to know?” Bones asks incredulously.

“So what you’re saying is Janice told you.”

“When are you leaving for Chicago?”

“Tuesday.” Jim admits, not looking at Bones. He knows he should have told him as soon as he found out and not only five days before his departure.

“Tuesday.” Bones exclaims and rises from the couch. He stalks over to the fridge and wrenches it open forcefully, grabbing another beer. “Dammit, Jim! I know I promised not to nanny goat you, but you’re sick, dammit!” He punctuates his exclamation by slamming the fridge door shut.

Jim’s stomach sinks and he stares at Bones over the back of the couch, feeling almost glued into his seat. “Bones, I was going to tell you. I just knew you’d react like this. I didn’t want it to be a big deal.”

Bones sighs and scrubs a hand over his face, leaning against the fridge in defeat. “I’ve got an old friend from school out there, Jacob Reynolds. He teaches at University of Chicago and he’s one of the best out there.”

“Besides yourself, of course.”

“Damn straight. Now, if you have any problems, any problems at all, you go to him.” Bones points at him sternly. “I know your fool ass likes to play it fast and loose but just know that I will kill you if you do anything stupid.”

“Highway to Hell, Bones.” Jim winks and holds his beer up in the air, toasting some uknown entity. “Highway to Hell.”

Bones does not laugh.

-

Spock is grading his students’ midterm papers at a small café when a man distracts him by walking up to his table and stopping. He looks up to find that this man is someone Spock definitely recognizes.

“Mind if I sit here?” James Kirk asks despite the fact that there are many other empty tables in the sparsely inhabited coffee shop.

He is already sinking into the chair before Spock can say, “You may.” But he says it nevertheless.

“Thanks.” Kirk says with a lopsided grin. He takes a sip of his coffee and does not take his eyes off Spock, who raises an eyebrow. “You know, I don’t usually see many people our age hanging around these conferences.”

“I am not ‘hanging around’. I am attending the conference to present a paper.”
“Fine, I don’t usually see many Vulcans attending these conferences.” Kirk grins even wider and puts his cup down with a teasing tone to his voice. “So you’re presenting a paper? What about?”

“The evolution of humor in post-warp Terran literature .”

Kirk giggles at that and Spock merely raises an eyebrow. Kirk notes this and puts his hands up as though surrendering. “I’m sorry, it’s just that you don’t really expect a Vulcan to write about humor, you know?”

Spock nods solemnly and moves to pick up his padd and stylus once more. “I see.” He goes to continue grading but is prevented by James Kirk grabbing his wrists and guiding them back down to the table.

“Hey, I’m sorry. That was rude.” His alarmingly blue eyes are most earnest while he speaks. “I’m always going around putting my foot in my mouth. Can I try to start this over?”

Spock holds his gaze for a moment before nodding in acquiescence. This brings back Kirk’s grin quite effectively.

“Alrighty then, uh…hi, I’m Jim Kirk.” He does not offer his hand as many humans are wont to do, a fact for which Spock is extremely grateful.

“I am Spock. And I assure you, Mister Kirk, I was already aware of your identity.”

A light pink flush appears on Kirk’s cheekbones and he takes another sip of his coffee. “I assume you attended my presentation?”

Spock nods and briefly ponders upon the possible cause for Kirk’s apparent embarrassment. As far as he is concerned, there is no need for him to feel such a way. “I did. I found it quite engaging.”

“After I had to reschedule it.” Kirk mumbles and Spock thinks back to the events of two days previous, when the audience had been abruptly informed that the presentation would take place the following day—a mere twenty minutes before it was scheduled to begin.

“Which, sorry if it messed up your plans. I had some…things to deal with.” Jim apologizes genuinely.

“It did not affect me negatively.” Spock assures him. “It was an easy adjustment to make. And quite worth it, Mister Kirk.”

“You can call me Jim.” He says eagerly and leans forward on his elbows. “And really? You liked it?”

Spock nods and shuts off his padd finally. “The excerpts from your next novel show a considerable amount of promise.”

Jim looks down at his hands and back up through his lashes. “Wow, thank you.”
Spock tilts his head to the side questioningly. “You seem surprised to hear this when you are a widely acclaimed author with a remarkable talent.”

“It’s different hearing it from someone who’s obviously so well educated and intelligent.” Jim leans forward on his elbows and Spock finds him once again trapped in that intense gaze. “So you’re…familiar with my work?”

Spock nods and answers, “Quite. I am a professor of literature at Georgetown. Your first novel is part of my curriculum.”

A flush of excitement passes over Jim’s face and he bounces slightly in his seat. “Wait, no shit?” He asks quite earnestly and Spock nods, becoming quickly confused at Jim’s mercurial attitude. “I live in DC, too! Got a little place in Mount Pleasant.”

“I was unaware of your place of residence.” Spock says solemnly. “Had I known, I might have asked you to come in and talk to my class.”

“That sounds like a great idea! I’d love to!” Jim exclaims. He checks his watch quickly and frowns, pushing his pink lips out into a pout. “You know, I would love to sit here and talk to you all day if I could, but I actually have a meeting with someone. Do you have anything you want me to sign while I’m here, since you’re a fan?”

Spock is sure that his question is mostly joking, but he pulls his copy of Desert Lemons out of his leather messenger bag nonetheless. “If you would not mind.”

Jim’s face lights up and he grabs the copy almost greedily. “Oh, I’m so glad you have an actual copy! This paper substitute stuff is awesome and not enough people appreciate it. Do you have a pen?”

Spock hands him a black pen and Jim takes it, quickly scribbling on the title page of the novel. He hands it back with a grin and a wink before standing up from the table and departing without a word.

Spock opens the cover and reads the inscription. “Thanks for letting me sit with you! xxJim Kirk. PS, call any time!” and below it, seven digits which Spock doubts could be mistaken for anything but his communicator frequency.

Spock takes a deep breath, sips his coffee, and smiles slightly. He will have to be sure to thank Nyota for suggesting that he attend the conference.

-

“Your white blood cell count is way down.” Jacob Reynolds remarks, not looking up
from the readings on his tricorder, which has a vial of Jim’s blood inserted into it.

Jim laughs slightly and nods his head. “You say that like you’ve never dealt with Tarsus-Forge disease before.”

Reynolds flinches at the name, the way so many people do. When Jim was first diagnosed he felt the same way, but now he cannot bring himself to feel that fear and loathing of that place. He could not go on running from what was coursing through his veins. “Hardly anyone has dealt with Xenoerythematosus, Mr. Kirk. It’s a fairly new problem in the medical field.”

Jim nods understandingly and marvels at how defensive some doctors get when you question their credentials even in a joke. He had the same problem with Bones when he first graduated from med school, but he got over it when he remembered how Jim teased even his literary idols, though he never understood that particular habit of his best friend’s.

“Yeah, sorry about that.” Jim apologizes halfheartedly. “Can I go now?”
Reynolds eyes Jim with a look of mild shock. “Wow, Leonard wasn’t lying.”

“What does that mean?”

“You really don’t care about your health.” Reynolds remarks far too casually.

Jim bristles and crosses his arms. From Bones, he would know that the other man was joking but from this stranger it rubs him in all the wrong ways. Jim can’t help but feel defensive and insulted at the assumption. “I care plenty, thanks.”

“Well then will you slow down and allow me to finish the exam thoroughly? Your assistant Janice haddid have to run you in here the other day because you collapsed, remember?”

Jim remembers. He had to push back his big presentation a whole day because of it. The convention executives were less than pleased at his lack of explanation on the matter but adjusted nonetheless, as Jim was a highly sought- after guest. He hated to readjust his life because of the disease, but at times like that, when he had been in such intense pain that he had passed out, it was unavoidable.

“I know my limits, all right?” Jim insists, temper rising. “So can I go or not? Cuz there’s a presentation I’d really like to make it to.”

Reynolds looks over his readings once more, hands Jim a bottle of pills, and nods. “Yeah, you can go. Just take two of these daily. It should help with those pains you’re having. I already ran the ‘scrip past Leonard.”

Yet another bottle of pills to cover up symptoms. Jim mentally adds it to the impressive list of pills he has had to take every day for the last few years of his life.

At this point, he’s pretty sure he ingests more pills thant food.

Jim takes the bottle from Reynolds and pockets it. He hops off of the bed and throws his blazer on over his shirt, sleeves still rolled up still rolled up sleeves. “Thanks, Doc!” He says cheerfully with a mock salute before dashing out of the door, lest he be burdened with even more drugs or tests.

Janice is waiting outside with a car and Jim marvels at how she could have possibly appeared so quickly between the time he texted her that he was done with his examination and the time he reaches the lobby of the university hospital.

“I don’t know how much of the presentation you’ll be able to catch.” Janice says while she ushers Jim into the car. Jim scoots across the bench seat and buckles in as the car starts moving. Janice is on her padd tapping away and probably scheduling yet another of a million things for him to do.

When he started writing, he never thought that it would lead to all of this. He wrote because he loved it, not because he wanted to be paraded around at signings and conventions and the like. He loves what he does now, but it is nothing like what he imagined it would be.

They arrive at the conference center and Jim practically launches out of the car and runs to the room that the convention guide indicated. He can hear the click of Janice’s heels behind him, going at a clipped pace just like always. Unlike Bones and his mother, she does not yell for him to slow down or wait, simply follows with the knowledge that eventually he has to stop.

Jim curses Doctor Reynolds aloud when he reaches the room and sees that Spock’s presentation is over and that people are milling about shaking hands and doing whatever it is that they do at these things. Jim elbows his way up to the front to stand in front of Spock. He smiles and hopes that the flush of sweat he feels is not too noticeable. “Hi.”

“James. You attended my presentation?” Spock raises an eyebrow in what Jim assumes is surprise. Spock may be more expressive than any Vulcan he has met thus far in his life, but Jim still has trouble reading him. “I will admit I am flattered.”

Jim frowns and stares at his feet before looking back up at Spock with apologetic eyes. “I actually just barely missed it because of a prior engagement but I really wanted to make it. I practically ran across town.”

“Then I am flattered by your efforts.” Spock concedes and Jim could swear that there is half of a smile present there.

Jim grins and claps Spock on the shoulder cheerfully. “As you should be. I’m in high demand, you know.”

Spock’s eyes flick briefly to Jim’s hand and he wonders if he has made some great faux pas in the contact but Spock says nothing of it, so Jim allows himself to relax.

When Spock looks back at him, it is with a completely unreadable expression. “So it would seem.”

Jim shifts his weight from side to side and removes his hand from Spock’s shoulder. He ran all the way here and pushed his way up to the front but now that he’s here, he finds himself at a loss for words. It is a completely new experience for Jim, whose very profession depends on having words.

“If you do not mind my asking, was your delay today related to the one which caused you to reschedule your presentation?” Spock asks and takes Jim completely by surprise.

“What?” He blurts out, a bit more harshly than initially intended. “Why would you think that?”

Spock raises both eyebrows and seems quite taken aback by Jim’s sudden outburst. “I merely assumed that since you are in Chicago, you might have a professional obligation in town that was demanding your time.”

Jim releases a breath of relief that he had not realized he had been holding. “Yes, professional responsibilities. There’s always something in every city I go to, it would seem.”

It’s not a lie. Staying alive to finish his next novel could be considered a professional responsibility. Jim is fairly sure even Bones would back him up on this one.

“Popularity does have its drawbacks, it would seem.”

“Yeah, but I wouldn’t give it up for the world. Writing is the only way that I have of putting the universe at large into perspective, you know? It’s like once I start writing, the words just pour out and things make sense.”

Jim catches himself rambling like a little school girl, so he stops himself before he starts gushing even more. His face grows hot and he twines his fingers together anxiously. Surely a Vulcan must find his emotionalism off-putting.

“That is a beautiful sentiment.” Spock says and Jim is either officially going crazy or there is some amount of warmth beneath that trademark monotone. “It sounds as if you drew on your own emotions to create your main character, Alma’s, feeling of being lost regardless of her location.”

Jim rubs the back of his neck and shrugs in what he hopes is a noncommittal fashion. “Yeah I mean, what author doesn’t include personal experience from time to time?”

“To my knowledge, all of the authors whose works have stood the test of time drew from their own lives.”

The implications of those words makes Jim stand straighter and try to appear more confident in his skill. “Thank you. That…that really means a lot to here.”

“It is of no consequence.” Spoke responds smoothly. “Your works speaks for itself and it is no great leap to believe that it will stand the test of time.”

Jim’s heart swells and he fights to keep himself from absolutely bursting with glee at Spock’s comments. For some reason, the opinion of this professor that he met just the other day holds more weight than even those of newspapers which are typically held in high regard. “Wow. You know, I was serious about coming in and talking to your class. You should seriously call me or get in touch with my PA, Janice, and set something up. I would love to help out however I can.”

“I will be sure to be in touch.”

It all suddenly feels very personal and Jim becomes hyper aware of the academics milling around them, some of whom are probably even listening in. Jim folds his arms across his chest and grips his elbows. He finds himself suddenly filled with the desire to speak to him in private, to go somewhere with Spock and hear the opinions of this professor he met just two days ago on everything from literature to advanced warp theory.

It’s ridiculous and probably a result of the over-romanticized author’s brain but Jim finds himself missing this scenario that he has never experienced.

Just as Jim is about to say something about this daydream of his, Janice’s hand appears on his shoulder and saves him from saying something that he would most certainly regret. “Jim, Leonard is calling.”

Jim quirks his mouth into an apologetic smile in Spock’s direction and he raises one shoulder. “Sorry, I have to take this. Professional commitment.”

Spock nods once in acquiescence and turns to one of his colleagues to speak to them.

Jim grabs the comm from Janice and walks out of the room with Janice in tow. Once he’s in a fairly deserted hallway, he takes a deep breath to prepare himself for what is most certainly going to be “Doctor McCoy” and not Bones. “Hey, what’s up?”

“Jim, I just got the report from Reynolds.” Bones sounds…off, even for being distorted through a comm.

“Bones, what is it?”

“Jim, I think you need to come home as soon as possible.” Bones says and Jim’s stomach drops to his feet. Bones is a worrywart of the worst kind but he would never tell him to come home unless…

“Is something really that wrong?” Jim starts walking for lack of anything to do to occupy himself. “What is it?” His hands are starting to sweat and his knees suddenly feel weak.

Bones sighs through the comm and Jim can practically hear the pursed lips. “Your white blood cell count is really low, Jim. I don’t know what it means but it can’t be good. You’ll probably be fine but I’d really rather you were here where I can keep a closer eye on you.”

Jim nods rapidly and runs a hand through his hair before remembering that Bones cannot actually see him. “Yeah. I’ll have Janice get me on the next flight.”

He makes eye contact with her and Janice nods before turning back to her padd with renewed purpose.

“I’m sorry to cut this trip short.” Bones says and it sounds like real regret.

“Don’t worry about it. I’ll be home soon, Bones. See you then.”

-

A few hours after his presentation and second conversation with Jim Kirk, Spock overhears some others professors discussing the fact that James Kirk left the conference two days early. They express indignation over the fact that the author was intended to do a large signing session which has now been cancelled.

Their remarks are those of annoyance at the seemingly constant need for rescheduling when it comes to James.

Spock wonders at what sort of professional commitments Jim could have which require so much of him at any given time.

 

~*~

Jim is jumpy the whole shuttle ride home. He bounces his feet and only stops when Janice shoots him a particularly murderous glare. “Sorry.” He mumbles and tears into a package of skittles, sorting them into piles by color.

“Everything is going to be fine.” Janice says finally after watching Jim eat his way through the purple and green piles. She even gives him a soft pat on the shoulder and a smile. “Leonard is an amazing doctor.”

Jim nods and swallows the candy with great effort, considering how dry his mouth is. He only really partially believes her, but the words are more than appreciated. Janice has been working with him for long enough to know that he works himself up far too much. “You’re right. I’m overreacting.”

“You’re probably not overreacting, given your situation, but you do need to let yourself calm down.” Janice responds. She goes back to tapping on her padd but Jim can see the sideways glances that she gives him every few moments.

He tries to lighten the suddenly suffocating mood in the shuttle by chuckling and remarking, “Bet you didn’t think you were signing up to be a babysitter when you got this job, did you?”

Janice rolls her eyes and humors him with a puff of air through her nostrils. The corners of her eyes crinkle slightly, which is about as close to a full-on grin that Jim knows he can get from her at moments like this. “I was actually a nanny in college, so I’ve got plenty of experience.” Janice quips back easily. “Now shush, I’m working.”

“Well, while you’re planning my schedule or whatever, can you set me up on a date or something? ‘Cause I haven’t gotten any in months.”

His crass remark earns him narrowed eyes from Janice and she even puts her padd down before her expression shifts to something considerably more devious. She taps her perfectly manicured nails against the screen innocently. “Are you sure you don’t have anyone particular in mind?” She asks.

Jim frowns and tenses. “No, what do you mean?”

Janice’s smile widens and she reaches up with one hand to adjust her already perfect hair. “Oh, nothing. Just that you and that professor seemed to be quite chummy.”

Jim gapes at her and hopes to god that his neck isn’t too red. He has blamed sudden fever before and he will do it again if he needs to. “I-We weren’t chummy. We only spoke to each other twice!”

“And you raced across the city to make it to his presentation.” Janice finishes with an expression that clearly says, “Seems awfully chummy to me.”

Well, damn. That is some pretty good evidence against him. “I just thought he was an interesting person.”

“The sort of interesting that you’d like to do further research on.” Janice responds, “Perhaps the sort of research that takes place in bed?”

There are times when it’s good that Janice knows him better than perhaps anyone else (Bones aside). She knows what he needs before he does and never fails to get him where he needs to go. Hell, he would probably be dead by now if it wasn’t for her reminding him of his appointments approximately three times a day.

=This, however, is not one of those times. He really does not need a personal assistant who thinks she knows everything about his romantic and sexual interests. He was (mostly) joking when he asked her to set him up on a date. And whatever this stupid crush is or will turn out to be, he doesn’t need her interfering.

Or telling Bones about it.

“You know I don’t do relationships and he’s a Vulcan, Jan. There’d be no way around it. They don’t make for the best fuckbuddies.”

“You gave him your number.” She says in a way that suggests that she does not believe a single word he’s saying.

“Yeah, so he can get in touch and I can help out with his class!” It’s weak but it’s all that Jim can come up with at the moment. It was a dumb move and he knows what it implies.

“You could always try a relationship.” Janice suggests. “You know, just for funsies.”

Only Janice Rand could say Just for funsies and have it sound completely serious and like something that he should consider. Her face gives away no hint of sarcasm or joking, though Jim assumes that she must be. She knows how Jim feels about relationships and how pointless it would be for him to have one, as it could never become the long-lasting sort of thing that people typically are interested in. The sort of relationship that Jim knows he would want.

“It’s not for me.”

Janice accepts this with a shrug and turns her padd back on. The lines of her face speak to how much she disagrees with Jim, but she does not press the issue further.

Jim leans his seat back as far as it will go and gathers the blanket that Janice always packs for him on shuttles (the complimentary blankets are too thin for someone who gets cold as frequently as Jim does). He closes his eyes and lets himself drift off into a sleep marked by dreams of sloped eyebrows and the curve of pointed ears

Once the plane lands, Janice drags Jim into a car and it’s not until they’re all of one block away from the hospital that Jim realizes they’re not even going to stop at his house. So he ends up sitting on a hospital bed for the third time in five days with Bones Glaring at him, capital G and all.

“I’m not going to say I told you so.” He says and somehow manages to deepen his frown even more. “But I may or may not have said that going out of town was risky.”

“In my defense, this probably would have happened regardless.” Jim holds up a finger and smiles smarmily at his best friend. Sarcasm and getting Bones to cave into the purity of friendship is pretty much his only defense when it comes to medical situations. Especially ones in which Jim may or may not have massively messed up.

Bones grumbles unintelligibly under his breath and stabs a hypo into Jim’s neck with questionable finesse. Jim winces away from it and half-shrieks in surprise. “Jesus, Bones.”

“Your white blood count has been fluctuating for the last few months but right now they’re so low that you’ve managed to beat your personal best.”

“Congrats to me.” Jim says with mock cheer as he throws a hand into the air.

“I know how you feel about adding pills, though, and since you’ve just started a new pain medicine, I’m just going to stick with bimonthly injections.” Bones holds up the hypospray.

“My favorite.”

“But since your immune system is especially weak, I am going to give you a hypospray that you’ll have to inject yourself with every day for the next two weeks until your next appointment. That one is just unavoidable.” Bones looks almost apologetic for it. “And the hypospray times how long it’s been between injections, so I will know if you’re doing it.”

Jim glares halfheartedly at Bones and feels that same itch he felt under his skin when he got his diagnosis. It’s an itch to run and fight and lose himself somewhere. The pressure of being sick becomes too much all at once and Jim just wants to get out.

He did run away when he was first diagnosed. He had barely just turned twenty-one and he got on the first shuttle to San Francisco and spent a few days wandering around and blowing a fair amount of the money that Starfleet gave them yearly because his father died in a fiery explosion to be remembered throughout the ages.

That was one of those time Jim was jealous of George Kirk.

It took his mother four days to find him then and she rained down all the wrath she could muster until Jim broke down and allowed her to bring him home.

Running again would only mean having her and Bones on his case about recklessness and after five years of being sick and getting lectured, Jim is just too tired.

“You need to start taking care of yourself, Jim.” Bones says and puts the hypospray down on his desk.

“I do take care of myself.”

“You know what I mean.” Bones gives him a look. “You live all alone in that house. Janice is great but she’s not exactly what you need when it comes to companionship.”

Jim boggles at Bones and wonders when he started playing counselor. “So, what? Should I get a dog? A cat?”

“I was thinking more along the lines of a girlfriend or boyfriend or whatever. Someone you can connect with.”

“Are you saying I need to get laid? Is this an actual medical order?” Jim grins lecherously at Bones. “Can I get a written prescription on that one?”

And apparently Jim is well enough for Bones to cuff him upside the head before the doctor grumbles, “Infant. You don’t need to get laid, you need to find someone you can connect with emotionally and who can be there to support you when you need it. A real adult relationship.”

Jim actually laughs aloud at that. “You’ve been talking to Janice too much.” He says with a shake of his head. “What’s ridiculous is that you both know me well enough to know that I don’t want that at all. It’s a terrible idea.”

“It’s not a terrible idea. Having someone there for you when you’re in the state that you’re in is not a bad thing.”

“But leaving them behind is.” Jim counters. Bones acts as though he has not spent endless hours considering this, like they haven’t had countless conversations to this effect. “No one can have a serious relationship with me and I seriously think that people need to get off of my case about this.”

He isn’t angry at Bones as such but he is sick of others forcing their will on him when he already feels out of control in his own life. He’s been saying this for five years and all he wants is to be heard.

Bones puts his hands up in surrender. “I’m sorry, Jimmy. I don’t want to see you close yourself off, it’s unhealthy. But I won’t push it.”

“I appreciate that.” Jim relaxes once more and rubs at the spot where Bones jabbed him as if some phantom pain lingered there.

-

Spock is dragging his spoon across the surface of his replicated plomeek soup when Nyota drops her fork on her salad plate with a clatter. “Was sending you to that conference a huge mistake?"

Though it is not logical, her voice sends a jolt of surprise though Spock as though he had forgotten her presence, which he of course had not. He looked up at her with curiosity. “What do you mean? I have expressed no regret over my attendance, Rather, it was a most pleasant experience.”

“Then what’s your problem?” Nyota demands, “You’ve barely said three words to me since you got back last night.”

It is untrue, he has said much more than three words, but the human expression is not lost on Spock. He knows that he has been noticeably non-conversational. “I do not have a problem.” Spock says calmly. He pauses to take a sip of his previously untouched soup before continuing, “I did, however, meet James Kirk.”

Jim’s name feels like it holds more weight than it perhaps should for someone that he only just made acquaintance with and with whom Spock will likely speak again, despite possessing his contact information. The few encounters he had already had with the other man had already induced such illogical feelings in him that further contact could only be detrimental.

“James Kirk?” Nyota makes a small choking sound in surprise and her eyes go wide. “You mean that author that you have a weird boner for?”

Spock’s ears grow hot and he glances around them to ensure that none of their fellow professors in the cafeteria heard Nyota’s words. “I do not have a ‘weird boner’ for Jim."

“Oh, so now he’s Jim?” Nyota teases and goes back to eating her salad.

Spock takes a deep breath and fights the slight urge to roll his eyes at his friend. It is a very human instinct, but one that he sometimes finds quite necessary to indulge in. “That is what he requested I call him.”

“Oh, so you didn’t just meet him, you actually spoke to him.”

Spock thinks back to the events of five days previous in the coffee shop in Chicago. “Yes, he sat down with me in a coffee shop, as I had an extra seat.” He knew that he was making it sound as though the café was so crowded that there were no other seats and that that was not the case, but what he said was not a technical lie. He did have an empty seat at his table. “I found him to be rather fascinating.”

This causes Nyota to smirk at him unabashedly. “So you have a huge embarrassing crush on him now.”

“I said nothing of the kind.”

“Oh but you did.” Nyota’s smirk only deepens and she even winks at Spock. As the one person he could consider a ‘friend’ here on Earth, she is often more reserved and logical than how she is behaving at the moment and it makes Spock uneasy. “You called him fascinating.”

“I do find him to be rather interesting. He is intelligent and mercurial and one might find him aesthetically attractive. These things do not equate to a ‘crush.’” Spock explains in the hopes that this will put the subject to rest.

All it seems to do, however, is increase the amount of entertainment that Nyota derives from the situation. “You totally have a Vulcan crush on him. A giant Vulcan boner for James T Kirk, award winning author. Did you get his number?"

Spock closes his eyes and takes a deep breath to try to ignore the first half of Nyota’s statement. The latter half, however, he has no problem responding to. “Yes, he gave me his communicator frequency.”

“So call him!” Nyota insists. “What are you waiting for?”

Spock shakes his head. Calling James Kirk when they hardly know each other would doubtlessly be a mistake. “I am certain he gave me the number so that I might ask him to come speak at Georgetown some time.”

“Sure.” Nyota remarks skeptically and takes a large bite of her salad. When she next speaks, it is with a mouth full of lettuce and croutons. “I’m sure he gives his personal number out to everyone that he wants to have a strictly business relationship with.”

“With whom he wishes to have a business relationship.” Spock corrects for lack of anything better to say.

Nyota sticks her tongue out at him. “I am not going to give you a linguistics lecture, Grammar police. Call him.”

-

Spock holds his communicator in his left hand while he grades papers with his right. He tries to keep from glancing at it frequently but finds himself failing incredibly.

He knows Jim Kirk will not call him, as he does not have Spock’s number, but Spock still finds himself wishing that he would. It would certainly make this task much easier, as he is experiencing an odd amount of anxiety over the prospect of contacting the author.

He sets his stylus down on the desk and taps on the screen of his communicator to pull up the contact list. He stares at Jim’s name for a moment before finally tapping it.

There is a few seconds of ringing before finally, “Jim Kirk.”

Spock takes a deep breath and tenses slightly. “Hello, Jim, this is-“

“Spock? Is that you?” Jim interrupts suddenly. “Wow, you actually called!”

He sounds pleased. Spock relaxes his posture ever so slightly. “Yes. Did you expect me to not contact you?”=

“No, no, it’s just…I don’t know.” A raspy chuckle comes through the line and Spock imagines Jim running a hand through his golden hair, a habit that Spock noticed in their few interactions. “I’m glad you called.”

“I was hoping that we might be able to talk again.”

There is a pause on the other end of the line and for a moment Spock wonders if Jim does not wish to see or speak to him, if his pleasure was merely a ruse. “Yeah. That’d be cool.”

“I am free on Wednesday at two. Would you like to join me for coffee?” Spock asks. He knows that it sounds like a ‘date’ but does not want to bring attention to it, as it may scare Jim off.

“Yeah, that sounds great. There’s a little place near campus that has really great caramel lattes. Do you know Katey’s?”

“Yes, I happen to frequent that particular establishment.” Spock enjoys spending spare time at Katey’s as it is not often occupied by undergraduates and their raucous laughter. It is small and has a plethora of comfortable chairs in which he is able to sit and enjoy a cup of exceptional coffee that, despite it’s lack of strong effect on him due to his Vulcan heritage, is quite pleasant. Nyota often joins him on his trips to the shop.

“Oh, cool! So…two?”

“Yes.”

“I’ll see you then, I guess.” Jim says and Spock detects a slight tremor in his voice which alarms him. “I actually have to go now but I’ll talk to you then, all right?”

Spock clears his throat slightly and says, “I look forward to it.” With all of the sincerity that he can manage.

After he ends the call on his communicator, he picks up his stylus and pauses for a moment to consider the fact that Nyota would be proud of him for his efforts.

-

Jim is stupid. He has been told this many times throughout his life, but this is the first time that he genuinely believes it. He is utterly and completely, without a doubt the stupidest person on the planet.

He has what seems an awful lot like a date with Spock. The very same Spock who Jim spent a ridiculous amount of time convincing Janice that he does not want a relationship with. Because he doesn’t want one, really. Jim does not need that in his life.

Yet despite knowing what he wants, Jim for some reason agreed to go get coffee with Spock. Jim can’t remember the last time he ‘got coffee’ with someone and it didn’t end up in sex.

Thus, Jim’s miraculous stupidity is revealed.

As Jim paces his living room, he justifies that it does not necessarily have to be a date. It could very well simply be two acquaintances going to get coffee and chat. Jim does that with Janice and Carol all the time. This thing with Spock could very well be exactly the same. Jim just has to stay far away from flirting territory which should not be too hard when your conversation partner is a Vulcan.

A very handsome Vulcan with brown eyes that are some of the most expressive that Jim has ever seen in his life. And with a body that is all hard long lines that Jim has spent too many nights dreaming about.

Jim shakes his head in a half-assed attempt to clear those kinds of thoughts from his mind. It’s wrong and Jim should not be thinking like that. Spock is a friend and nothing more. Jim can remain professional and friendly and perhaps come out of this without falling head over heels.

He can, he wants to, he has to.

~*~

The interior of Katey’s is warm and comfortable. Its worn out leather chairs and shelves of books free for reading by customers are familiar and put Jim’s nerves at ease while he waits for Spock to show up.

He is sitting in the back of the shop in the arm chair that he has been sitting in regularly since he first moved to D.C. and was crashing on Bones’ couch, not long after he was first diagnosed.

He has not been back in a few months but still everything seems to not have changed a bit. It still smells the same, looks the same, the same barista works behind the same counter. Jim smiles to himself and wonders at the consistent nature of places like this.

“Jim.” A voice interrupts his thoughts and Jim looks up to see Spock standing over him, hands clasped behind his back. “You are early.”

Jim checks his watch. 1:45. “So are you.” He responds with a quirk of his lips.

“I did not wish to be late.” Spock concedes with a nod.

“Neither did I.” Jim stands up and claps Spock on the shoulder. “Come on, let’s go order.”

One they both have their drinks (caramel latte for Jim, blueberry tea for Spock), they settle into the chairs. Jim notes that Spock looks out of place and at home all at once in the mahogany colored chair. He looks regal and Jim catches himself wondering if Vulcan ever had royalty because Spock must be descended from it.

“It is nice weather today.” Spock says suddenly and very stiffly.

Jim stifles a giggle at the attempt at small talk and nods. “Yes, it is rather warm for September. Although, I have to say that I like it when it’s colder, get to wear sweaters more often.” Jim says despite the fact that he is in fact currently wearing a cable-knit sweater that Bones’ mother made for him.

Spock nods in agreement and does not mention Jim’s attire. “While summers here are at most times tolerable, I find temperatures even such as today to be quite cold.”

“Oh, that’s right.” Jim bubbles up and nods, “What was that like, growing up on Vulcan?”

Spock’s jaw twitches slightly and relaxes just as quickly so that Jim might not have noticed had he not been paying such rapt attention. “It was very different from Earth. The deserts of Vulcan are very hot and very dry at all times of the year and there is very little greenery.”

“I hear Vulcan schools are crazy strict.”

Spock nods, “They are rather intensive. It is expected that students center their lives around their education. In Vulcan culture, there is nothing more cherished that knowledge and learning.

“I did, however have the opportunity to visit Earth at least every other year due to my father being the ambassador. I found the experiences to be odd but educational.”

Jim chuckles and takes a sip of his piping hot latte. It burns his tongue. “I can imagine it would be.” Suddenly, what he said sinks in, “Wait, you’re the ambassador’s son? So that makes Amanda Grayson your mom?”

“Yes, my mother is the lady Amanda Grayson.” Spock nods with the corner of his mouth quirked upwards.

“I had a few linguistic major friends in school. They all essentially worshiped your mother’s work with the universal translator.” Jim leans toward Spock without noticing and puts his chin in his hand.

“She is rather remarkable.” Spock admits. “It was a good experience, being raised by her. When I chose to attend an Earth university rather than the Vulcan Science Academy, she was remarkably supportive.”

Jim sits back in his seat. He hadn’t considered what that might have been like for Spock but there is a particular gleam in those brown eyes that says it was far from easy. “Why did you choose that?”

“I am a child of two worlds.” Spock begins, “I had trouble reconciling those sides for quite some time, and while it was first my intention to turn completely toward the Vulcan way and studied at one of the many universities there, there were some viewpoints brought to my attention which spoke to the fact that it was impossible for me to do so. I could never be completely Vulcan, much as I can never be wholly Human. The choice to study linguistics and then later switch to literature came from my mother’s influence, though I briefly entertained the idea of enlisting in Starfleet.” He finishes and takes another sip of his tea, giving away very little as to his emotions.

Jim wracks his mind for what he could possibly say to that. He knows how it would affect him, he would be completely wrecked by it, but Spock is something different altogether. He’s cool and has the ability to keep himself separate from his feelings. “I can’t even imagine going through that."

“It was difficult.” Spock concedes, “But the Vulcan genes in me are dominant and the control of my emotions allotted by those genes have allowed me a great amount of serenity.”

Jim thinks back to every rough moment of his life; thinks about every memorial service, every moment of hunger, every time he has felt like tearing his skin apart, every hospital visit. He wonders if those moments might have played out differently had he had even a drop of Vulcan blood in his body allowing him to feel peace.

“You are incredible, Spock.” Jim finally says with a grin that he could not stop if he wanted to. He shakes his head in disbelief. “Seriously, you’re half human, literally the only one of your kind. And being half Vulcan makes that so much harder, I imagine.”

“You too are remarkable.” Spock counters with a raised eyebrow. “At the age of twenty-six, there are very few humans who have achieved such mastery of their craft such as you have. Your writing has depth and intricacy that is rare and despite having read it many times, your novel still manages to…surprise me."

Jim feels his face grow hot at the praise and he ducks his head. “I never aimed to surprise anyone.” Spock was so forthcoming with the details of his life that Jim has no qualms about pushing ahead with, “I only really ever aimed to leave something here when I’m gone. Even if the book hadn’t made any mark in the literary world, it would have been something for people to remember me by. And because I love writing, of course.”

Spock considers the words with an odd and almost unnoticeable expression on his face. “I stand by my statement that you are remarkable.”

Jim grins and holds his cup up in a sort of mock toast. “To admitting that maybe we’re both sort of awesome.”

Spock, ever the good sport, taps the rims of their cups together. “Hear, hear.”

-

“How was your date with Spock?” Janice asks idly while she sits at Jim’s counter, his schedule in hand.

Jim chews and swallows the bite of the sandwich he was devouring and raises his eyebrows at her. “I thought we were prepping me for an interview, not jumping right in with some investigative journalism.” He gestures toward the padd in her hand, “And it wasn’t a date.” He adds as an afterthought.

“You got coffee and chatted for two hours.” Janice responds, “Either that’s a date or I’ve been doing this whole romance thing all wrong.”

Jim shakes his head firmly at her. “It was just two friends getting coffee, nothing more. I promise it wasn’t a date.”

“You don’t need to make a promise. I wouldn’t be mad at you for dating.” Janice hands over the padd for Jim to look at and steals a chip from his plate while she’s at it. “In case you didn’t notice, that’s what I want.”

“Well you’re not getting it.”

“I think we should wait a while before you say something like that.” Janice smirks at him and flips her hair which is hanging down around her shoulders for once. “I’m going to the bathroom and when I get back we need to talk about that interview with Gleana Dumas."

Jim gives her a two-fingered salute and watches her waltz off to the bathroom. His communicator buzzes in his pocket and he fumbles for it quickly, thinking that it must be Bones or his mother and is surprised to see Spock’s name on the screen. “Hello?”

“Jim, hello.”

“Spock, what’s up?” Jim asks and takes another bite of his sandwich, attempting to chew silently so that Spock won’t hear.

“I was calling to say that I rather enjoyed speaking to you yesterday.” Spock says like a lead up to something more.

“Yeah, I did too.” And Jim waits for whatever’s coming next.

“I was wondering if you would be amenable to seeing each other again.” Jim might be imagining it but Spock sounds almost nervous through the line.

Jim grins in spite of himself and rubs the back of his neck with his free hand. “Yeah, that’d be great. Do you want to have dinner at my place on Friday?” Jim figures if he keeps it on his turf, he’ll be able to control this attraction that he feels for Spock.

Meeting him for coffee was almost definitely a mistake if Jim wanted to keep himself from falling for Spock. If he had simply stayed away from the Vulcan from the start, it probably would have been much safer, but now Jim is in this friendship and he can’t very well back out without turning Spock down so rudely.

“That sounds agreeable.” Spock says, not giving away anything and it is beginning to drive Jim crazy. “Although I should inform you that I, as with all Vulcans, am a vegetarian.”

“Noted!” Jim chirps as Janice walks back into the room. “I guess I’ll see you Friday!”

He hangs up as Spock is saying goodbye and tries not to look guilty while he smiles at Janice. “So, how about that interview?”

“You know, it’s my job to know who you’re seeing when.” Janice says as she sidles up to the counter and steals the other half of Jim’s food. “So, who were you on the phone with that you’re seeing on Friday?”

Jim waves a hand dismissively and forces a light laugh out. “Oh, just a friend. We’re just having dinner.”

Janice puts her hand on Jim’s cheek and narrows her eyes at him. “Your face is hot and you haven’t stopped moving this whole time.” Jim tries to still under her intense gaze and does not meet her eye. “You’re having dinner with Spock.”

“What? No.” Jim drags out the vowels of the words and shifts away from her subtly. “Why do you care?”

“I think you should admit to yourself that you’re dating a Vulcan and you two are going to have adorable hybrid babies.” Janice says casually.

Jim gawps at her and shakes his head rapidly. “That’s not even possible. I’m ninety percent sure neither of us has a uterus.”

Janice points at him with the sandwich. “But only ninety percent. I mean, how much do any of us really know about alien anatomy?”

“Oh my god.” Jim snatches his food back and stalks off to his living room, Janice’s heels giving away the fact that she’s following close behind. “I’m paying you to help me keep my life together but this is so not what I meant.”

“I don’t really have much else going on in my life, honestly. I need this.” Janice answers with a shrug as she throws herself onto Jim’s couch.

“How’s Heather, by the way?” Jim asks in hopes of distracting her. “Things getting serious?”

Janice shoots him a look that clearly says she sees right through him, but she smiles nevertheless. “We’re good. She’s really fun and killer in bed. Thanks for setting us up.”

Jim grins and gives her two thumbs up. Heather was one of Jim’s more frequent fuckbuddies until she decided she wanted to try a serious relationship (She specified that she wanted it not with him). And because Jim is the best employer in all of Washington D.C., he decided to set Janice up with her.

A month later and Jim has gotten far too many texts from Heather about Janice’s body. He brought it upon himself but really he never wanted to know his assistant that well.

“That’s awesome. You should take Friday off and take her out on me.” Jim suggests with an innocent grin.

Janice rolls her eyes with a half smile. “I see what you’re doing but I’m not going to turn it down. And we’re definitely going to spend the shit out of your money.”

-

Jim loves food. His mother taught him to cook in high school when he was going through a particularly rough patch in his life. In college he would cook and bake for his roommates when he got stressed out.

He never thought that cooking could stress him out quite so much until he starts cooking for Spock. He finds himself having to put the knife down multiple times because his hands are shaking.

Despite the heat of the stove, Jim finds himself shivering while he makes curry and has to go back to his room to grab a sweater.

Jim is just getting back to his cooking when there is a knock on the door. He checks the clock in a panic, thinking that maybe he miscalculated the time, only to find that Spock is definitely not supposed to show up for another hour.

When he does get to the door, Jim is met with a wonderful surprise in the form of Leonard McCoy in worn out jeans and a flannel shirt. “Hey, kid. What’s that smell?”

Jim glances back over his shoulder and bites his lip. “Oh, I’m making dinner. Having a friend over in a bit.”

Bones shoves his hands in his pocket and frowns. “Oh. Should I leave?”

Jim hesitates for a split second before stepping aside and gesturing for Bones to come in. “No, there’s always room for one more.”

It is probably exactly what Spock is not expecting but Jim can think of nothing better to keep the evening strictly platonic than having Leonard McCoy and his ever-present scowl present.

“So, what brings you to this neck of the woods? You’re usually with Jo-jo on Fridays, aren’t you?” Jim asks and adds a dash of coconut milk to the curry. Bones is pulling apart a piece of naan and Jim swats at his hand with a spoon.

Bones scowls at him deeply. “Guess who decided that she absolutely had to have Jo with her at a gallery opening?”

Jim turns around and gapes openly at Bones. “Jocelyn can do that? She can just take Joanna away when you’re supposed to have visitation?”

Bones shrugs dejectedly and Jim is overcome with how much he really needs to learn to fight for himself when he spends so long fighting for others. “I guess. Joanna said she wanted to go so if I didn’t let her, it would have made me the bad guy.”

“I’m sorry, but that’s bullshit.” Jim spits out, “Joanna loves you. She could never hate you, she’s such a sweetheart.”

Jim is rewarded with a rare smile from Bones at that. “Yeah, she’s a great kid. Sometimes I can’t believe I actually made that.”

“Neither can I.” Jim jokes and sticks his tongue out at Bones.

Bones goes from grinning one moment to concern the next and he rounds the island in the kitchen to peer at Jim. “You’re looking awful pale, are you feeling alright?” He places a hand on Jim’s forehead in concern and the wrinkles between his eyebrows deepen exponentially.

Jim steps away and waves Bones away petulantly. “Come on, Bones, I’m fine.”

“No, Jim, you’re flushed and you’re obviously cold, with that giant sweater you’ve got on.”

Jim looks guiltily at Bones’ t-shirt and then down at his own bare feet. “Bones, I’m fine.” He says more harshly than intended and clenches his jaw in regret.

Apparently it’s enough to make Bones back down. He steps back and holds his hands up in surrender. “Okay, I get it. No doctorin’ when we’re here as friends. Just at least take some cold medicine and if you’re not feeling good tomorrow make sure you come in and see me.”

Jim feels bad for his outburst, knows that Bones only wants to keep him alive, as annoying as it can be. “Yeah, could you go grab some from my bathroom? You know where it is.” Jim waves him off toward the master bedroom and turns back to his cooking.

He tries to lose himself in the act of stirring and adding spices and everything that his mother spent so long teaching him. He’s interrupted once more by Bones thrusting two bright orange pills and glass of water at him, which he takes without putting up a fight, feeling oddly compliant tonight. “Can I drink after taking these?”

Bones chuckles and claps him on the back. “Yeah, you can. Always got your priorities straight, I see.”

“Would you rather I never ask?” Jim suggests with a tilted head and pursed lips.

“No, you’re right. I trained you well.”

Jim huffs in annoyance but continues with his work, finally able to cover his curries and turn them on low to simmer. “There. Food’s done.”

Just then, Bones’ stomach growls loudly from across the kitchen. “When is your mystery guest supposed to get here? I didn’t even know you had friends other than me.”

Jim squawks and smacks his best friend with a spoon. “Hey! I have plenty of friends! Janice and Gaila are my friends!”

Bones opens his mouth to shoot back a likely snarky and rude response but the doorbell ringing cuts him off. “I suppose that’s one of your many friends.”

Jim whips his apron off and runs his hands through his hair nervously while he walks toward the door. Bones stays in the kitchen, thankfully, so that when Jim answers the door, it’s just him and Spock.

“Hi.” He breathes.

“Hello, James.” Spock greets him and takes a step forward, making Jim gasp until he realizes that Spock is most likely expecting to be let into the house and not trying to kiss him. He steps aside and lets him in. “It is pleasing to see you again.”

“Yeah, nice to see you too.” Jim knows that he sounds just shy of breathless and wants to punch himself for it. He distracts himself by taking Spock’s black pea coat from him and hanging it in the hall closet. Spock holds his scarf out as well and Jim takes it with an airy laugh. “Wow, you weren’t kidding about Vulcans getting cold.”

Spock quirks the left corner of his mouth upwards and inclines his head slightly. “Indeed. Despite having lived here for several years, I still find myself unaccustomed to the climate.” He holds out his right hand and Jim notices for the first time what he is holding. “I was informed that it is proper to bring wine when invited to dinner.”

Jim wonders what friends Spock could possibly have and thinks vaguely that whoever it is that suggested the wine must be very similar to Jim’s own meddling friends. “Wow, thank you. I think I actually forget to get wine earlier so you’re a godsend.”

“Regardless of whether I was sent by any deity, it was only polite to bring. Thanks are not necessary.”

Jim shakes his head at the oh-so-Vulcan response and guides him toward the kitchen. “You could at least say ‘you’re welcome.’” He teases.

“You are welcome.”

Jim is grinning to himself when they reach the kitchen and the scowling Bones inside. The sight of his friends snaps Jim out of his giddy daze and brings him back to Earth and what he should be feeling toward Spock. “Oh, hey. Bones, this is Spock. Spock, this is my best friend, Doctor Leonard McCoy, who I call Bones.”

Spock looks mildly confused, whether by the nickname or by Bones’ very presence, Jim is not sure. “It is…nice to meet you.”

Bones looks at Jim like he is not entirely sure that this is happening. “Likewise. Now, Jim, are you going to tell me where on Earth you found a Vulcan and how you got him to not hate you?”

“Jim is interesting and engaging. I fail to see why I would hate him.” Spock raises an eyebrow at Bones and Jim feels something warm flood through his stomach and out through his limbs.

“Yeah, Bones.”

Bones keeps up his expression and shakes his head slowly. “I don’t know what your deal is nowadays, kid.”

Maybe it’s the cold medicine, but Jim is feeling more relaxed and slightly giddy than he has all day, so he laughs genuinely and waves Bones off. “Come on, let’s eat.”

Nobody has spoken since they started eating at Jim’s small and rarely used dining room table. Jim is busy tucking into his curry and alternating stealing glances at Spock and laughing at Bones’ reactions to the spicy curry. Spock apparently notices this reaction to Jim’s cooking because he finally speaks up, “Are you all right, Leonard?”

Bones coughs and takes a gulp of milk before scowling at Spock. “I’m fine. Jim just made this curry so god-damn spicy.”

“I found it to be pleasantly warm. Perhaps your taste buds are not developed enough to detect the intricacies of flavor present.” Spock answers coolly.

Bones’ responding scowl makes Jim snort around his mouthful of curry. “Ow, fuck! Curry in my nose.” Jim wipes at his eyes and runny nose with a napkin and attempts to hide his blush in the same motion. Of course he would end up snorting curry up his nose.

“Are you all right, Jim?” Spock actually looks concerned and he leans in so that Jim could easily reach out and touch him.

Jim leans back in his chair and nods rapidly, waving his hands. “Yeah, I was just laughing at Bones and ended up snorting some curry.”

“Typical.” Bones grunts. His comm dings shortly after and he fishes it out of his pocket with some additional grumbling under his breath.

Jim and Spock watch him read the message slowly and Jim notices the way his scowl melts into something softer and much happier. “I’m sorry, Jimmy, but I’ve got to go. Apparently Jocelyn doesn’t enjoy having a six year old at her gallery opening.”

Jim mock pouts. “Oh no, don’t leave, uninvited dinner guest.”

Bones flips him off before exiting and leaving Jim and Spock completely alone in the house. It suddenly feels so formal and intimate to be eating in the dining room, rather than it just being a convenient place for three people to sit and eat. Jim clears his throat and smiles tightly at Spock. “Do you mind if we move into the living room? I’m more of a casual sort of guy, really.”

Spock pauses for a moment as though deep in consideration before nodding. “Yes, I believe I could be amenable to that suggestion.”

Before Jim even has a chance, Spock stands up and grabs both plates, leaving Jim to grab the yet unopened wine and two glasses and lead the way to the living room.

The change of setting does not calm Jim’s nerves very much at all and he finds himself nearly mirroring Spock’s posture sitting on his brown leather couch. The ramrod straight spine looks natural on Spock and must feel the same, but on Jim all it is is uncomfortable.

In hopes of alleviating his nerves, Jim reaches forward and takes the bottle of wine in hand. “Why don’t we get this party started.” He mumbles and pours two glasses of the dark red liquid.

“This is not a party, but one could argue that it ‘started’ when I arrived forty-two minutes ago.” Spock quips but takes the offered glass of wine all the same. “I should warn you that Vulcans do not become inebriated as humans do by ingesting alcohol.”

Jim eyes Spock and cannot help but think that this whole night is not working out to his advantage. He’s nervous and hopped up on cold medicine and knowing himself, is probably about to get drunk in front of a Vulcan that he has a crush on. “You could have at least brought something to even the playing field.”

“The only equivalent that I can think of is chocolate, but the effects of it on my system are not quite as strong as those of alcohol on yours.”

Jim shakes his head and stands up from the couch. “I’ve got some chocolate chips in the kitchen.”

Maybe it’s stupid and impulsive, but Jim actually grabs the yellow bag of chips from his kitchen and throws it down on the coffee table. He then grabs his cup of wine and sits cross legged on the couch, angled slightly toward Spock. “Now we’re even.”

Spock raises an eyebrow at him and Jim at least has the good graces to blush. “Yes, I suppose we are.”

-

Jim Kirk is odd. Spock had the thought when he first met the author and he buzzed about from topic to topic and left suddenly, but sitting on the couch and watching him drink and talk as though speaking every word that goes through his mind, Spock is sure that he is one of the single most peculiar humans he has met.

The suggestion that Spock eat the chocolate chips to ‘even the playing field’ with Jim might have originated as a joke but he takes it to heart. Once he has finished his excellently prepared meal, he eats a few of the chips and feels the familiar looseness fill his bones. Jim is beginning to look increasingly inebriated after three and a half glasses of the wine that Nyota suggested he bring. The other man’s cheeks are an attractive shade of pink and his eyes seem unusually bright.

He is babbling on about the work of astrophysicist Montgomery Scott and Spock finds it increasingly difficult to follow his words. He instead finds himself distracted by the motion of his hands and the sheen of wine on his pink lips. It is highly uncharacteristic of Spock and he finds it disturbing.

The feelings that Jim evokes in him are completely unfamiliar. Spock does not believe that he has ever felt something such as this in his life and it makes him feel even more off-balance than the chocolate does.

“See, and if we can harness that, starships will only become more efficient and they’ll be able to go even deeper, possibly indefinitely, barring damage to the ship itself. But really, this discovery is monumental! I just wish I could be here to see it.” Jim speaks as though what he is saying is of the utmost importance to him, all while maintaining eye contact with Spock and not spilling his wine despite large gestures. “It’s amazing, what they’re doing out there.”

“You seem to be very passionate about the subject. Did you ever consider pursuing a career in Starfleet?” Spock asks. Jim is certainly smart enough to have been an engineer or even a captain and it is common knowledge that he studied Physics in university. By all accounts, his current occupation makes no sense.

Jim’s face falls slightly and he shakes his head. “I almost did, actually. Both my parents are pretty involved in it, my mom’s an admiral for goodness’ sake, but in the end it just wasn’t right for me.”

Jim is leaning forward on the couch so that he is invading Spock’s personal space. If he focuses-no easy task-Spock believes he can feel Jim’s warm breath across his nose.

Impulsivity has very rarely been an aspect of Spock’s character, but there is no other word available with which to describe the act of placing his hand on the back of Jim’s neck and pressing their lips together. Spock hardly thinks at all, simply presses forward as if searching for a way to interpret these emotions.

There is a split second’s hesitation before Jim presses back, wrapping his hands around the back of Spock’s neck and kissing him with more passion that Spock has ever experienced. He rises slightly up onto his knees so that he is above Spock and brackets his face in his hands. Spock is left with nothing to do but hold on and move his lips in counterpart to Jim.

Just as suddenly as the kiss began, it ends with a gasp from Jim and hands against Spock’s chest pushing too roughly. Spock stares at Jim in mild shock while Jim runs his hands through his blond hair. “Shit.”

“Jim, I-“

“I’m drunk!” Jim exclaims, cutting Spock off. “I’m drunk and not thinking straight and you’ve been eating chocolate chips so you can’t be…” Jim trails off, looking distressed. “What was I thinking?”

Spock realizes his hands are still outstretched toward Jim and he pulls them back toward himself in a jerky movement. Jim is right. They are both clearly under the influence, there is no other explanation for Spock’s actions. His judgment must be impaired, otherwise he would never allow himself to be governed so strongly by his actions that he would do something so rash…so human.

Spock rises from the couch and clasps his hands behind his back, locking his posture. “Forgive me, James.” He implores, “I was not thinking clearly.”

Jim shakes his head and runs a hand through his hair. Spock can tell that his hands are shaking even from where he has walked backwards to. “It’s fine. Let’s just make sure it doesn’t happen again.” He offers a shaky smile.

There is an unfamiliar sinking feeling in the pit of Spock’s stomach as he nods in response to this. It is only wise for him to agree, as Jim clearly did not want Spock to kiss him and found the experience disturbing. Were Spock in his right mind, he would in all likeliness feel the same. As it stands, he feels shame for his actions but notes that he in no way found it unpleasant.

The situation is highly unusual and Spock finds his mind to be in such disarray and it leaves him discomforted. “I should leave.”

Jim’s face shifts to something more earnest and he stands from the couch quickly, wavering slightly on his feet. Spock fights the urge to reach out and stabilize him. “No, don’t go. We can just forget that happened.”

Spock shakes his head and turns away. “I need to meditate and you are quite inebriated.”

Jim’s face falls and it only serves to increase the unpleasant feelings that Spock is experiencing. He turns on his heel and walks toward the front door of the house. He ignores the sound of Jim pouring another glass of wine behind him.

He walks to the end of the sidewalk and looks around himself, realizing he does not know how to get home and does not trust himself to attempt the journey alone. He orders a taxi with a few taps and in no more than two minutes, a black car with a white sign on top of it pulls up at the curb and opens its doors.

Spock is dropped at his doors sooner than he thinks should be possible, but he does not protest as doing so would be illogical. He simply transfers some credits to the driver and exits slowly.

Jim Kirk is strange, of this Spock was already aware. From the very first exchange they shared to now, he has known all along that James T Kirk is no normal human. But what before seemed only to be eccentricity now displays itself as serious instability. His actions were contradictory tonight and left Spock feeling unbalanced.

Spock folds his legs on his mat and does not bother lighting his usual meditation candles. He rests his hands on his knees and breathes in deeply, releasing the breath more slowly than he took it in. He does not attempt to clear his mind as he usually does, rather he allows the thoughts and feelings of the night to flash over his consciousness like sharp bursts of color.

This leaves his hands shaking and he takes a deep breath, instead changing his tactic to one of viewing his emotions as physical objects. It is a meditation technique that was taught to him by his mother, one which was not particularly encouraged by Sarek. Spock picks up each emotional object in his mind and pictures himself running his fingers over it, feeling every aspect of it and then placing it in a box to organize and understand it.

It is an effective technique until Spock comes to the moment with Jim on the couch. He sees the clear image of him with bright eyes and a cheerful smile as he drinks his wine. He looks…beautiful. Spock runs his fingers over the memory and tries to evaluate what it was he was feeling in that moment before he made the mistake of leaning in and staking a claim to Jim’s lips.

It feels warm in his memory, glows gold and pink and every color of memory which he has never experienced. He knows logically that Jim could not have been shining quite so brightly, but in his memories of him, Jim seems to be the only source of light in the room. It makes no sense.

Spock mentally pushes the images of Jim away and focuses instead on his lesson plans for the next week.

~*~
“Looks like you managed to not die in the past two weeks. Congratulations.” Bones puts down his tricorder and pats Jim on the back softly. “You should be proud of yourself.”

Jim grins at Bones and pulls his shirt on to cover up his body that is growing thinner by the day and which has some blueish bruises near his ribcage. “Thanks, I worked really hard to not catch any more deadly diseases.”

Bones rolls his eyes and walks over to his computer, dictating the changes and plugging in the tricorder to do the rest of the work. “Well you did a bangup job. And your white blood cell levels seem to be back at a safe level, so that’s good. Your iron is a tad low, though, so make sure you eat more iron rich foods or I will put you on another supplement.”

“Whoopee.” Jim says sarcastically. “Did you ever get any info on that weird cold I had the other night?”

“You mean the one when Spock was over?” Bones asks with a raised eyebrow. “I think it might have just been a bad night. You know how you have those sometimes.”

Jim nods seriously. “Yeah. That one just came on so suddenly that I didn’t even realize it was happening.”

Bones frowns and taps a note into his computer. “Well, I’ll make a note of it and be sure to include some extra tests when we do your bloodwork, but I don’t think it’s anything to worry about. Wash your hands plenty and you should be able to minimize.”

“Brilliant.” Jim says sarcastically and he slides off of the biobed. “So am I free to go?”

Bones nods absently before suddenly snapping back and pointing sharply at Jim. “Now you listen up. Anything like the other night happens again, and you call me. There’s nothing too small to contact your doctor about in your situation, because you know how fast your state can change.”

Jim bites his lip and nods. “Yeah, I know.”

-

Eight days and Jim receives no contact from Spock. He thinks that he has finally put this to rest and is now in no danger of doing anything idiotic in regards to him anymore.

Something idiotic like kissing him, for example. When Jim woke up the morning after that night, hung over and with red rimmed eyes, he had hoped it was a dream.

Hoped, but knew that it wasn’t. Spock probably hates him after that stunt and while Jim should be happy that he does not have to be on guard at all times, trying to avoid romantic entanglements on his way out.

Still, Spock’s absence in his life is oddly tangible. Jim grew far too used to his presence in his life, the quick occasional messages, the way he cam somehow manage to sound so passionate while he speaks in that still Vulcan tone.

Jim shakes his head to clear his mind of those thoughts and focuses on the task at hand: making sure he looks presentable for this ‘party’ (the term being used very loosely) that he’s been invited to by Bones’ hospital.

He reties his tie for the fifth time and sighs at his reflection after shrugging on his navy blazer. He hates dressing up like this but at least it’s not another white tie charity ball where Jim is being made to speak and be paraded around as a ‘donor’ and not one of the hospital’s most important terminal patients. At least he has his privacy at these things, though. He is certain that the hospital would love for him to go public about his illness and would love to exploit him for it, but so far he’s simply been presented as a very generous donor to the hospital’s research center.

Which he can’t really argue with, he’s essentially donated his body.

He rolls up to the hotel ballroom half an hour late to find Bones standing on the curb, arms crossed over his chest and with a sour expression on his face. Jim grins and salutes him cheekily only to receive an eye roll. “Hey, Bones. Nice to see you too.”

“You promised you wouldn’t be late. My boss is up my ass thinking you’re going to bail.” Bones gripes and grabs Jim by the elbow.

“Geez, Bones.” Jim stumbles along beside his best friend, who seems like he’s about two seconds from bursting his ulcer. “I’m here, can we calm down?”

Bones just sighs and shakes his head in annoyance. Despite this, he does slow his pace minutely and loosen his grip on Jim’s arm. “My boss wants to kill me. There are a lot of important people in there.”

“Like, important important or rich important?” Jim pauses before entering the ballroom to fix his tie.

Bones shakes his head. “Both. Got the usual donors that we’re trying to get more out of and some ambassadors and stuff who are interested in the work.”

“Good, good.” Jim says absently. He rolls his shoulders and cracks his neck. “I assume I’m here to charm the pants off the rich ones?”

“Of course.”

With that, Jim gives a single nod and pushes into the ballroom with his press-face on. He grins and waves at a few people who stop and stare before winding over to the bar to get a much needed whiskey sour. If he has to charm people into giving money so that he can be maybe but probably not be cured, he’s going to need to be more drunk.

“James Kirk,” a voice croons from behind him and Jim turns around to find Aazstha, an Andorian socialite grinning at him lasciviously. “When will I get to steal you away from one of these things?”

Jim laughs hollowly and shakes his head. “Come on, Aazstha, from what I’ve heard about you, I would be a bore.”

They grin back at him and Jim feels a shiver run through his body. “Oh, don’t worry about that.”

Just as Jim is about to run for his life from that absolutely predatory look, a green hand appears out of nowhere and saves Jim. Gaila turns Aazstha away from him and smiles at them. “Dear, I do believe Captain Green was looking for you.” She says with a saucy wink and sends the Andorian on their way.

“Thank you.” Jim sighs and nearly kisses Gaila right then and there. He settles for winding an arm around her waist. “You saved me, babe."

Gaila giggles lightly and shakes her curls out. She smiles at one of the many very reserved older millionaires who’s staring at her in her glittering and figure hugging gold dress on the arm of James Kirk. The rumors that the two of them are together are very popular, he knows.

“Jimmy, you have to stop seducing these poor people.” She teases.

Jim squawks in protest and pinches her waist. “You know I don’t do it on purpose. They just find me.” He shudders and frowns at several of those same socialites and millionaires. “This is how I’m going to die.”

“Probably.” Gaila muses as she plucks a champagne glass off of a passing tray. She doesn’t sip it, just holds it mostly for looks, Jim knows. If Gaila is going to drink, it’s going to be something sweet and alien, not the sub-par champagne they serve here. “By the way, what’s up with the Vulcan ambassador’s kid over there? He was staring at you like he ate a lemon earlier.”

Jim’s stomach drops to his feet as he looks over at where she was gesturing and finds Spock sitting alone at a table but he recovers quickly with a shrug. “I think Vulcans look like that normally.”

Gaila shakes her head and frowns even deeper. Jim wonders if she could make it more obvious that she’s staring at Spock. “No, this is different. He looked genuinely upset.”

Jim steers her away from staring at Spock and shrugs again. “Come on, I find it’s best not to dwell on what Vulcans are thinking.”

Whether she agrees with him or can see that he simply does not want to talk about it, Gaila goes along with Jim and smacks a kiss on his cheek. “Oh, Jimmy. No wonder all these people adore you, you’re so sweet.” There’s an edge of sarcasm to her voice.

“Shut up.” Jim says but laughs anways.

The next hour of Jim’s life is spent with some of the most financially influential people in the federation, trying to get them to really care about the causes at hand and essentially reaching in their pockets for the money the hospital needs. Jim thinks bitterly that they should just donate without him flirting with them but he knows that’s not going to happen any time soon.

Gaila, thankfully, stays by his side the whole time. She accepts the pats and pinches that might otherwise have been directed at him and she even pulls a few glares at anyone that gets a bit too friendly.

“Gaila!” A clear and pleasant voice comes from behind the two of them and Gaila pulls away quickly. Jim turns to find his friend in an embrace with an older woman with headscarves on. She has warm eyes and a smile that speaks to more mischief that she would probably ever admit.

“Lady Amanda!” Gaila says once she’s pulled away and is grinning at her friend. “It has been too long! What brings you out here?”

Lady Amanda smiles and adjusts her scarves to cover the wisp of gray hair that has fallen out. “Oh, Sarek has to spend a short while on Earth and I decided to get away from that desert for a little while. I must admit that I’m finding it oddly cold, though.”

Gaila smirks at her and shakes her head. There is a sharp contrast between her and her revealing dress and curls, and the woman who is dressed so conservatively and beautifully that she looks almost Vulcan.

As soon as the thought passes through Jim’s mind, he knows who it is that Gaila is speaking to. He should have recognized from the name Amanda, if not Sarek, but somehow Jim managed to ignore those signs.

He wonders if Spock has told his parents about their acquaintance, about Jim’s obvious crush on him, about the fact that they kissed. He thinks dimly that this could come to a very awkward end if he does not leave before the two women remember that he is there.

He almost moves to leave but finds that Gaila is turning toward him with an outstretched hand. “This is my dear friend, Jim Kirk. You may have heard of his novel and short stories. Jim, this is Lady Amanda Grayson of Vulcan.”

Jim smiles at her unsteadily and Amanda puts a hand over her heart. “Oh my goodness, of course I know who you are! Your book is only the most popular thing in the federation at the moment. I absolutely adored it.”

A swell of pride balloons in Jim’s chest but is tempered by anxiety at getting to know Spock’s mother. “Thank you so much. It’s not often that one hears such high praise from someone from Vulcan.”

Amanda waves him off. “Oh, I’m not from Vulcan. I’m from San Francisco originally. I only married into Vulcan. My son, however, loves your book.” She glances around as though looking for said son and Jim briefly prays that there’s a sibling that Spock never mentioned.

“Oh, where is Spock? Gaila, have you seen him?” Amanda looks to the Orion, who shrugs. “Well, let me go find him. I’m sure he’d love to meet you. Don’t stray too far!"

She’s off before Jim can say anything and he’s left with a sense of despair at the inevitable meeting he’s about to have, lest he take the rudeness route. “How on Earth do you know the Vulcan Ambassador’s family personally?” He asks Gaila.

Gaila tuts and shakes her head. “My dear Jimmy, Earth had nothing to do with it, of course. We met at a gala for the Tellarite-Andorian treaty.”

“And you, being the social must-have of the federation, were invited of course.” Jim rolls his eyes at her and she grins in response.

“Yes, sir! It wouldn’t be a party without Gaila. You know that by now."

Another kiss gets smacked on Jim’s cheek and he can’t help but smile at his friend. “You want to come over tonight?”

Gaila pats his ass and nods casually. “Sure, what else do I have going on?”

“I’m so glad that sex with me elicits such an enthusiastic response from you, really.” Jim deadpans.

“Sleeping with you is always great but we’ve been doing this for long enough to not have to play that game, Jimmy. You just asked me to come and sleep with you with absolutely no seduction whatsoever. I can be less than super thrilled and turned on.”

“What if I say you can use the strapon?”

Gaila grins sideways at him. “Now that I can get excited about.”

Before the conversation can get anymore inappropriate for a hospital fundraiser, Amanda shows up again, this time with Spock in tow. “James Kirk, this is my son, Spock. He’s an English professor at Georgetown. Spock, this is that author you love.”

“Mother, it was you who introduced his work to me.” Spock responds and does not look at Spock.

Amanda laughs and waves her hands in front of her face. “Oh, bother, Spock. Can you at least appreciate that your mother was kind enough to bring you along tonight and you got to meet one of your favorite authors.”

“Thank you.” Spock says finally, his words accompanied by something that sounds an awful lot like a sigh. “I have, however, already made the acquaintance of Mr. Kirk.”

The formality stings uncomfortably but Jim can see the confusion on Amanda’s face, so he jumps in with, “We met at the conference in Chicago a few weeks ago.”

Amanda nods but glances between the two of them as if she expects that there is some omission to this story. Neither Jim nor Spock say anything, though, and Jim hopes that the subject will drop. “Well I’m sure you two are glad to see each other again, then.” Amanda says slowly.

Jim nods at the same time Spock inclines his head. “It is pleasing.”

Jim wonders if that rumor that Vulcans can’t lie is true. Part of him hopes so while the more rational part of him thinks it would be easier if it wasn’t. “Likewise.”

The silence that follows is pregnant and Gaila, being herself, saves them all from it. “Spock, how is Nyota? Is she still with Christine?”

Spock looks almost relieved to have this distraction. He angles his body toward Gaila and away from Jim. “She is quite well. Miss Chapel is moving in with her this weekend. If you would like to speak to them, I believe they are over by our table.” He gestures behind himself toward a table where an elegant dark skinned woman and her blonde counterpart are standing.

Gaila nods excitedly and takes hold of Amanda’s arm. “Come with me to go talk to them, won’t you?”

Jim curses his friend’s retreating back as she walks away and leaves him alone with Spock. Jim stares at his slightly scuffed black loafers next to Spock’s own perfectly polished pair. He considers how rude it might be if he just walked away right now. Spock would at least pretend to not be insulted, or worse, follow.

“James, I must apologize for my actions last week.” Spock says finally and it completely surprises Jim. “It was inappropriate.”

Jim gapes at him and snaps his jaw shut. “What? No, Spock, don’t apologize. We were both a little bit drunk. I’m just sorry that I freaked, it’s just that I’m really not looking for anything romantic right now.”

“Understandable.” Spock says finally, with an unidentifiable glint in his eyes. “I do hope that this does not come in the way of our acquaintance. I find that I rather enjoy conversing with you.”

It’s pretty high praise coming from a Vulcan, so Jim grins and nods. “Of course, Spock. I enjoy conversing with you as well.”

“How have you…been?” Spock asks as though uncertain that this is the correct phrase to be using in the situation.

Jim lets a small chuckle escape his lips and he takes a sip of his drink. “I’ve been busy. And yourself?”

“I have been agreeable.”

Jim stares into Spock’s dark eyes and suddenly the ballroom, grand and spacious, feels too small, too lacking in privacy. Jim swallows thickly and glances over toward the doors leading outside. “Do you want to go out to the balcony? It’s sort of stuffy in here.”

It’s a perfect temperature for a Vulcan, and Spock probably should deny him this when Jim just made such a big deal about avoiding romantic situations, but he nods nevertheless. “That is fine with me.”

There is a slight chill in the late September air as the wind whips across the balcony. Jim crosses his arms across his chest and leans on the railing, overlooking the large expanse of grass. The hotel is at the edge of the city, by a golf course, and the view is more empty than one an usually find in this century.

Spock lets out a breath and stands next to Jim, not leaning but rather keeping his posture carefully perfect. Jim turns to look at him and sees that he has his hands clasped behind his back in an almost militaristic stance. Jim wonders if that is a natural thing for Vulcans or if Spock is making an extra effort to control himself for some reason.

“Are you cold?” Jim asks for lack of anything to say.

Spock raises an eyebrow at Jim. “It is considerably more cool than the temperatures of Vulcan, but it is not unbearable.”

Before he has even finished speaking, Jim is shrugging his jacket off and holding it out to his friend. “Here, take this.”

Spock looks like he is about to deny the offer, but his fingers curl in the fabric, so close to Jim’s own that he thinks briefly that he can the feel the heat coming from the Vulcan. “Thank you.”

Jim feels his cheeks heat up and thanks the lord for the dim lighting outside. “It’s not a problem. What are friends for?”

The corner of Spock’s mouth lifts and Jim feels that same swooping sensation in his stomach that he did a week ago, but he reigns it back this time. He means it when he says he does not want a relationship, and he’s going to stick to that.

Spock puts the jacket on and it looks rather strange when paired with his formal Vulcan robes, but it makes Jim grin nonetheless and Spock makes no move to remove it.

“So, how’s work?”

“Good. I do have a freshman class and they are rather excitable but their enthusiasm when directed toward the works at hand is greatly appreciated.” Spock allows and the small expression on his face makes Jim laugh. “What?”

“I don’t know. I guess I just can’t imagine you dealing with a room full of eighteen year olds.”

“It must be a very amusing scene to imagine.” Spock says, “But these young adults are some of the brightest in the federation, as Georgetown has upheld its academic reputation throughout the centuries.”

Jim shrugs and faces the green again. “Yeah. I always wanted to go somewhere like there or Archer University on Rigella X but I was sort of a trouble maker in high school.”

“I find that hard to imagine.” Spock admits. “You seem to be quite mature.”

Jim laughs emptily and shakes his head. “That only really happened when I was about twenty two. When I was a kid…I was known to ruffle quite a few feathers.”

“In what way?”

Jim bites his cheek and looks out of the corner of his eye at Spock. He doesn’t know why he’s talking about this with Spock. He hardly ever talks about his childhood even with Bones, and he was there for part of it.

“Breaking rules, running away, getting in fights, and on a few occasions, convincing other kids to join me.” Jim tries to keep his voice even and unreadable. “A few barfights as I got older.”

“I would argue that some of the responsibility could be put on the adult who was meant to be in charge of you.”

“Some things are unavoidable.” Jim says with a shrug. Desperate to change the subject, he asks, “What were you like as a child? Just as stoic?”

Spock shakes his head and the smile on his face becomes slightly more noticeable. “No, I am afraid that compared to other Vulcan children, I was rather wild.”

“Oh?”

“My father especially did not appreciate it when I took to drawing Le-matyas on the living room walls in jam at age four.” Spock says with that same cool demeanor, but still with enough humor to make Jim laugh aloud. “It is only humorous now.”

“I can’t even imagine you as a kid. I just see like a shorter version of you now.”

“If I had a picture, I would show you.”

Jim glances back toward the ballroom. “I guess I’ll just have to get one from your mother.”

Spock nods solemnly and nearly sends Jim into yet another fit of giggles at his stoicism. Instead, he settles for looking at Spock with one hand propping up his head and smiling.

“How is your writing going?” Spock asks with genuine interest.

“It’s good, I guess. The novel is going to happen eventually…probably.” Jim says absently. He’s actually doubting whether he’ll actually be able to finish it before…

Before he loses.

“What is it about?”

“An uphill battle.” Jim answers surely. “This guy literally has no way to win and he has to decide what exactly it is that he’s prepared to sacrifice to make things right.”

“It sounds compelling.” Spock remarks, “What troubles are you having with it?”

Jim sighs and rubs a hand over his face. “The main character…he’s sort of selfish, you know? And I’m not sure what he really wants to do. He’s trying to protect all these people but it’s not really helping anyone.”

“Is he protecting himself?”

~*~

“I don’t particularly like your new friend.” Bones remarks while he pokes at the eggs in the pan. He frowns at them like they have personally offended him. “The Vulcan one.”

Jim snorts and frowns at Bones. “I don’t remember asking you if you liked Spock.”

Bones turns off the burner and loads the eggs onto two plates, piling jalapeno slices and cheese on top of them. He sets one in front of Jim. “Still, when I said you should find someone, I meant someone with feelings.”

“First of all, Spock isn’t someone, he’s my friend. Second, he totally has feelings.” Jim lists off with a mouthful of eggs. Bones frowns deeply at him and Jim wipes his mouth with his sleeve, which only elicits a deeper frown.

“Are you sure the two of you are just friends? It always seems like you camp out around each other and never pay attention to anyone else. It’s like you two are in your own little world.”

Just at that moment, Gaila comes strutting out of Jim’s room wearing one of his old University of Iowa shirts. She yawns and stretches her arms above her head. “He’s right, Jimmy. You and Spock sure do act a lot like a couple.”

Jim frowns at her and gestures to her partially clothed form. “Did you miss the part where we slept together last night? Where we’ve been sleeping together pretty regularly for the past few years?”

Gaila shrugs and steals his eggs right from under his nose. “I don’t know how your relationship works.”

“Oh my god.” Jim mutters under his breath before looking seriously at his friends. “Look, I know that you guys think I should be in a relationship, but I’m telling you it just wouldn’t work. I would only be hurting whoever the sorry soul that fell in love with me was, and I really don’t want to do that.”

Bones and Gaila exchange a look but nod all the same. “Okay, Jimmy.” Gaila says softly, brushing some hair away from his forehead as she does so.

“And Bones, I honestly don’t even know why you’re here.” Jim says lightheartedly, referring to the fact that his best friend let himself into the house this morning and started making food.

Bones shrugs and purses his lips. “I was bored.”

“Maybe you should get a girlfriend.” Jim suggests teasingly.

“Very funny, shithead.”

The rest of the morning follows in relative peace once Jim realizes he’s never going to get his food back and has to settle for eating jalapenos directly out of the jar since he’s too lazy to make more eggs.

At some point, he ends up with Gaila’s legs on his lap while she sprawls out on his couch watching TV and forces him into the corner of the couch. Jim rests his hands on her calves and absently traces circles onto the skin. He wonders vaguely what all the people who know Gaila only as a socialite and glittering star of the federation would think if they saw her now, with unwashed hair and no makeup, a beauty much softer dressed in Jim’s shirt and a pair of black shorts.

It’s so comfortable to be here, to just relax with people that he feels so comfortable with, and it makes Jim wish he could have a guarantee that none of it would go away.

He presses in slightly and watches the skin under his fingers turn a slightly darker shade of green as the blood rushes to the area, not a bruise by any means, just a change in color. “What’s on your mind, Jim?”

“Nothing, why do you ask?” Jim raises an eyebrow at his friend. “Don’t tell me this is another one of your plots to get Janice’s number.”

Gaila laughs delicately and sits up. She ties her hair into a ponytail while she responds, “No, if I’m going to get that, it’s going to be on my own terms. I was asking because you were doing that weird thing where you give me a footrub or something when you’re thinking.”

“I don’t do that.” Jim says defensively.

“Yes you do.” Bones chimes in from the other side of the room where he’s reading a medical textbook, of all things. “It’s frankly disturbing.”

“Well I’m not thinking about anything.” Jim snips. “Maybe I was just being a good friend.”

A harrumph from Bones before he goes back to hiding behind his text is all that Jim gets. Gaila, however, does not seem quite so convinced, and since it’s essentially his friends’ job to pester him, she presses further. “Are you sure there’s nothing wrong?”

Jim shrugs and twines his fingers together. “I guess I was just thinking about what it’s going to be like when…you know. Are you guys still going to hang out?”

Gaila glances to Bones, who looks at her like ‘you can deal with this one’ and Jim feels guilty. “Jimmy, you’re obsessed with this.”

“It’s sort of the biggest thing happening in my life, in case you hadn’t noticed.” Jim remarks. He knows he talks about it too much but what else is he supposed to think about?

“Well, don’t worry about us, Jimbo.” Bones chimes in. “We’re going to be just fine, eventually. We just want to make sure you don’t waste the time you have left.”

Jim looks down at his laced fingers and clenches his fists, making the thin white scars across his knuckles stand out sharply. He lets out a slow breath and blinks back the sharp tears behind his eyes. “You guys have fit your whole lives to mine. You’re going to have to adjust a lot.”

“And we’ll do it when we need to.” Gaila assures him. She reaches out and places a hand over his. “But not a second sooner. We’re here with you whether you like it or not."

“You shouldn’t have to be.” Jim mumbles under his breath but doesn’t move away.

A grunt comes from Bones across the room and the rustling of paper signifies that he has set down his book. Jim winces slightly but covers it up by running a hand through his hair. A sideways look at Gaila tells him it didn’t work.

“She might not have to be, but I do. Does ‘doctor’ mean anything to you?” Bones points a finger at him sternly. “And don’t go sayin’ you’d get a different doctor, ‘cause I’m the best there is when it comes to this and you ain’t getting anything less.”

His southern accent is thickened in the way it always is when he’s upset and it makes Jim’s spirits lift slightly that his friend could get so worked up over his health. “Wouldn’t dream of it, Bones.”

“Damn straight.”

Gaila grins at Bones and turns a softer smile on Jim. “And I’ve been here since we were fourteen. I’m not going anywhere.”

Jim can’t help but let the grin break across his face at that and he picks up Gaila’s hand to kiss it gently. “You’re the best, you know that?”

“Oh, she knows.” Bones says with a heavy sigh and an exaggerated eye roll. “Have you met our lovely miss Gaila?”

Gaila preens and nods rapidly. “I’m sort of awesome.”

“I was talking about both of you.” Jim says, knowing that Bones knew full well what it was that he was implying but was pulling his regular modesty nonsense. “Even if Gaila is the more fabulous of the two, obviously.”

Gaila flips her hair once more and returns to her stretched out posture on the couch. Jim smiles faintly and goes back to rubbing gently at her calves. “You really should give me Janice’s number, though.”

-

Jim’s hair shines almost golden in the sunlight while he struggles under the weight of his bags full of books while he makes his way back towards Spock’s car. He had called him this morning, saying that he owned no vehicle of his own.

Spock stays a few paces behind Jim and tries to keep himself from studying his form quite so intensely. There is no logical reason to do so, yet Spock cannot seem to refrain from tracing Jim’s slender form with his eyes.

The weight of the bags seems as though it should be too much for the young author. His arms are almost alarming thin and the bags are large, but he does not once ask for help from Spock, who is only carrying one novel himself and who could easily carry all that Jim has and more.

“Come on slowpoke!” Jim says with a note of panting in his voice, and Spock is tempted to offer his assistance, but as Jim has not asked, he refrains. Jim would surely make it known if he needed Spock’s help.

Spock increases his speed slightly to come to walk beside Jim, rather than behind him. Jim’s breath comes out in measured puffs much like those that athletes are trained to take. “James, are you quite all right?”

“What?” Jim looks at Spock with wide eyes that are so mixed that Spock cannot tell if he is surprised or frightened by Spock’s question. Neither makes much sense to him but Jim is the very essence of humanity, an essence which often escapes Spock’s comprehension. “Yeah, I’m fine. Why do you ask?”

“Your breathing has become quite labored, and as it is not hot and you have not engaged in any strenuous exercise, I am concerned.”

Jim smiles broadly but it does not reach his eyes. He shrugs minutely, as the bags weigh down his arms from doing any more. “Don’t worry about me, it’ll be alright.”
-

“As per your request, I asked Christine about McCoy.” Nyota says as she enters Spock’s office, a coffee mug in one hand and a smirk on her face. “And let me tell you, asking someone about their boss during sex? Real mood killer.”

Spock releases a breath out of his nose and inclines his head to indicate that she should get to the point. Nyota rolls her eyes at this and flips her hair over her shoulder.

“Anyways, she says he’s not a nutjob.” She says nonchalantly. “Despite what you seem to think about him, he looks like he’s a really upstanding kind of guy.”

Spock steeples his fingers and stares at his friend over them. “Still, I do not understand why Jim spends so much time interacting with him. James is intelligent and interesting while Leonard McCoy is irrational and mercurial. Their friendship does not make sense, by all accounts.”

Nyota sighs and sips her coffee with a pointed look at Spock. “You should just ask him on a date. Kirk, not McCoy, obviously.”

“I would not do that.” Spock says simply. It is true, what he feels for Jim is complicated and he does not believe that ‘asking him out’ as Nyota suggests could serve to alleviate any of those feelings. He tries to put them aside and finds success in meditation some nights, but it seems that even those small successes do not last and that he must find some other way to put this off.

Regardless of whether Spock could solve his problem by engaging in a romantic courtship with James Kirk, the man in question made it quite clear that he does not want to participate in such a relationship.

Nyota is studying Spock intently when he once more raises his eyes from his intertwined hands and she has a rather peculiar expression on her face. “You know, I have never seen you like this. You aren’t the type to be unsure.”

Spock disagrees with her internally but does not offer any protests. He simply tilts his head to the side and purses his lips. He is confused and finds himself often feeling like he is standing on uneven ground in this situation. “I know what my decision is. It is what Jim wishes and thus it is what I must desire as well.”

Nyota does not say more, though Spock can tell that she likely has a speech prepared in her mind.

-

“Run, dammit! Run!” The sound of feet pounding against dry and unstable ground echoes through Jim’s head while he pumps his legs beneath him. He looks over his shoulder to find some of the younger kids struggling to keep up. “Come on, run!”

He turns back against all of his better instincts and grabs the hands of two of the younger children. He drags them along beside him, unable to pick them up with his too-thin, too-weak arms. He can hear the sirens behind them growing fainter, the more distance they put between themselves and the warehouse.

It was supposed to be abandoned. There wasn’t supposed to be anything there besides a few scraps and maybe a few other refugees. There wasn’t supposed to be-

“Stop those kids, shoot if you have to! He doesn’t care!”

Jim sits bolt upright in bed, sweat beading on his forehead. He wipes an arm across it and it comes away nearly soaked. He closes his eyes only to have the visions of his dreams appear once more, and they fly open again. He rubs at them with a fist in an attempt to rid himself of those horrible memories to no avail.

The chrono beside his bed reads 0637. An hour and a half before his alarm would usually ring, but Jim gets out of bed anyways. He wouldn’t be able to sleep again after that kind of dream, anyways. He never does.

He isn’t sure if it’s just his exhaustion, but Jim finds it oddly difficult to grip the handle on his bedroom door. His body seems to be dragging even more than usual but he pushes it aside as simply being tired and up too early for someone who does not have anywhere to go until noon.

Jim is nearly out of breath by the time he walks across the first floor of his house from the guest bedroom (turned into the master last year) to the kitchen. Jim places his hot palms against the cool granite countertop and he bows his head, attempting to regulate himself once more.

He isn’t sure what’s happening. He hasn’t felt this awful in months. Bones’ voice echoes in the back of his head telling him to call but Jim brushes it off. He just woke up far too early after a nightmare. The confusion and weakness is probably from that. His therapist once did say he has PTSD, and that’s probably all that it is.

Jim sets about making coffee in his absolutely ancient and rare coffee maker. It’s the type that they used in the 20th and 21st centuries and there is something about the routine of making coffee rather than simply pressing a button to do it is very calming to Jim.

Not to mention that it tastes better.

Once Jim has finished his first cup of coffee and is feeling a tad bit more chipper, the comm unit on the wall of his kitchen beeps. ”Call for James T Kirk.” the female voice says.

Jim presses the button without looking at the screen to see who it might be and mutters. “Hello?”

“Jim, I must admit that I am surprised that you are awake.” The voice says coolly.

Jim furrows his brows, trying to place the voice. “I’m sorry, who is this?”

There is a pause on the other end of the line. “It is Spock.”

It seems so obvious now that Spock has identified himself. Hardly anyone that Jim knows of has a voice like that, and Jim had thought that he would have been able to pick out his friend in a crowd. “Oh, hey, Spock. Sorry, I’m just really tired.”

“Did I wake you?” The Vulcan sounds almost concerned and it makes Jim bite back a smile.

“No, Spock. I’ve been up for a bit. What do you need?”

“I have a favor to ask of you.”

Something twists inside of Jim’s stomach and he nods to himself. “Shoot.”

“I have had a cancellation by a guest lecturer and I was wondering if you would like to come in and speak to two of my classes? I could reimburse you if you wish.”

Jim nods again before realizing that Spock cannot see him. “Yeah, sure sounds good. What time?”

The sound of tapping on a padd comes through the comm. “Would you be able to come in at two o’ clock and stay until five?”

“Yeah, that sounds-ah!” Jim cuts off with a shout as a sharp stabbing pain shoots through his side. He pants and bends nearly completely in half, clutching at the spot.

“Jim, are you all right?” Spock sounds genuinely alarmed and almost human.

“Yeah, I’m fine.” Jim pants. “I’m just-ah!” Another wave of pain shoots through him and he crumples to his knees. His vision starts narrowing at an alarming rate. “Spock…”

His vision narrows until there is nothing.