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Character study:

James Tiberius “Jim” “Jimmy” and other variations Kirk is the archetypal insomniac. He goes to bed exhausted, wakes up exhausted, and takes a lot of melatonin in between. He is seventeen point sixty-one standard Earth years of age.

The apex of winter grips onto the land and wipes it dry as he lays on his back in bed, scrubbing away the last traces of spring and summer like clouding from glass. Outside the trees stand like bare bones, perseverant leaves clattering together from where they hinge off of thin twigs, rustling together as some dark object breaks free of the wild cage of branches and flees over the boundary of vision. He raises his head from the pillow and stares into the curtains obscuring the view from his window, and thinks of the dark and the woods, the blackness of trees and a jagged shadow, leaping irregularly over the frosted grass that springs apart at the interruption of each towering skeleton.

It is strange to imagine there could be someone existing here in between it all, not only existing, but living rather consistently, eating and growing and moving about on the edge of everything. Not the edge in the regular sense - implying Earth as a sort of consistent plane - Kirk exists, more like on the fringe, more like on the tipping-point of something so massive he can hardly comprehend it, one hand on solid ground, a shoelace caught on a tree branch, threads caught on the frailest twig, Never to be whisked away by unconsciousness. Some kind of horrible curse on his universe. That is how he thinks of it, when he can’t fall asleep. He turns from the window, pulls the blankets up around him so that he can only breathe,

The multiverse theory comes down to this very simple truth: in all of existence, Earth is a speck.

Like the trail of a ghost the shadow is soon matched, fluttering through the trees on a parallel course, following every step like an inversion behind an unframed mirror. Faltering here and there, springing off a ledge to come just a bit ahead. One man’s hand catches around a tree, grazing the skin, but never breaking the vow of silence made from the blood of two hands, not to speak in the face of sleep. Not to interrupt the silence broken only by the crush of ice and twigs, perchance to catch the first impression of a dream that would provide a respite, a short interlude to tide them over until that promised meeting at the juncture of the two paths.

And then: light, the way many things in this universe tend to begin, in some sort of explosion, a great leap into existence accompanied by a burst of light that seems to illuminate even the darkest corners of space. Here, it is sunlight, the great explosion something along the lines of an average human weight colliding with a wooden floor and scrambling upright in a somewhat dazed tangle of sheets. Assuring that he is awake. The edge still remains sharp.

I’m going to Christine’s. Yes, in this weather. Yes, I’ll be home for lunch. What was that sound earlier? Oh, I don’t know.

In all of existence, remember that a few specks is all you will ever know in yours.

Iowa is not meant to be cold. At least, James Tiberius (etc.) Kirk, the archetypal insomniac, certified farm boy and recent (early) high school graduate does not think it is, and he should know such a thing on account of spending fifteen whole Terran years exclusively in the state. Iowa simply shouldn’t be allowed to be cold. It is a farm state. That could not be good for the soil.

Of course, Iowa is cold. James (etc.) Kirk has lived on a farm for fifteen years, and he did graduate high school five months early, but he has managed to do both without knowing the slightest thing about latitude lines. This would explain why he is now screaming down the dirt road into town on his solar-power bicycle in nothing but a flannel shirt and a pair of jeans in the 35 degree temperature. In case the neighbor who has stumbled out cocooned in a heavy quilt to check the mailbox wondered. Or, for that matter, the sheriff who has seen this kind of thing before, and is now beginning to suspect it is the same kid, and her generation perhaps did not fail collectively to educate their children on how to prevent the common cold. This Kirk boy is simply an idiot and is in no way representative of his population.

When the aforementioned idiot arrives into town, his nose feeling as if it might simply fall off of his face, and his hands as if they may stick permanently in the handlebar shape, he has two things on his mind: Christmas lights, and possibly a ride home. The rush of warm air that hits him square in the face the second he comes swinging through the “general” store doors almost knocks him off his feet.

(For clarification purposes: the phrase “general” seems to imply a place to satiate a wide range of needs. While this establishment may once have been something of the sort, it now resembles a sort of post-hurricane general store, which both brought in useless items and swept out useful, leaving a mild cacophony of assorted, disjointed material. While the odds of what you need being inside the premises are fairly high considering the sheer quantity of the stock, the odds of you locating such an item are directly inverse to the probability of it actually being there - on account of about thirty years of a disorganized barter system following the abolishment of paper money in the year 2058.)

Flattening himself back against the cold glass, Kirk sucks in a breath and brings the stiff back of his hand to his nose, which stings from the kind of spice that could only place him in that certain era between November 25th and December 31st (that point of no return in the month, where suddenly nothing stands in the way of the usual bustle of the holiday season, and then when everyone finally sighs and abandons what shreds of festivity they cling to in the looming presence of a new year). Kirk doesn't usually buy into the spirit. In fact, he thinks it all quite ridiculous except for the fact of the holiday usually connoting shore leave. Other than that, he never really understood the spices and the unprompted and unannounced surpluses of fried foods, not to mention the sensory amalgamate that was shoved straight in his face the instant he decided to take refuge from the wind that had begun to rage at the tackily garlanded shop windows behind him, like cinnamon, like scented candles. Like charcoal.

It is officially too cold to deny, 32° now according to the square television that stares straight at him from across the room - perfect for riding a bicycle the three arduous miles into town. Now, at least it hadn't snowed - if the cold had consumed everything else, at least it left untouched the bit of unflinching optimism that didn’t seem to originate from either of his parents and rather sprung up in his brain a few years back to everyone’s mixed reactions.

The shopkeeper raises his head at his sudden and dramatic arrival, a stooped, quiet little man with a book in hand and a nearly constant expression of judgement that combats entirely his otherwise unassuming appearance. He gives the impression of a man with some wildly supernatural and moralistic backstory that in some whirlwind way culminated in this now quiet, unbothered existence in a small town, and now he gives Kirk a look that seems to dare him to ask for direction, holding the dusty, fraying novel to the side of his face long enough for Kirk to make eye contact.

“You wouldn’t happen to know where I could find some Christmas lights around here, would you?” He blurts out before even attempting to navigate the sea
of aisles before him, and the man tells him to try aisle seven with his gravelly, careless tone.

Aisle seven is pressed against the far wall, long and overflowing with winter decorations, though seeming less so at this point in the year. Shelves of the gaudiest lawn decorations, lights, and wreaths crowd the white metal shelving all the way to their ends, and he begins to scour the small, multi-colored boxes as the gravel voice calls at him over the maze if only for the sake of hospitality.

“You still in school?”

“No, sir,”

“Got a job?”

“No sir.”

“Got a car?”

“I’m working on it.”

He pulls a small red box from the bottom of the shelf, shaking it on either side like a jenga piece to avoid bringing down the stack, and straightens up.

“I don’t need one of those new hovercars they have in the city, though.” He talks across the room as he makes his way to the front desk, passing through the grocery section to pick up a large jar of instant coffee along his way. “I’d like something antique, if I could. Maybe even something wheeled.” He smiles his best as he brings his I.D. forward to pay with credit.


“Just like my dad used to have. You have any wheels yourself? You seem to have everything around here.”

“A few in the back, but nothing that’s been used for years.”

“Looking to barter one off?”

That one takes nerve, and it doesn’t go unnoticed. The dusty novel he had continued to hold as he rang Kirk up is placed onto the counter, the spine so broken that it stays open to the designated page even when laid down. He doesn’t wear a nametag, like most retail employees Kirk has seen in his life. He flicks a wrinkled, dark finger out in the direction of the window, where Kirk has propped up his bike in favor of bothering with the kickstand.

“Kid, what could you possibly have in that handlebar basket out there that I would want to trade a mint condition antique set of wheels for?”

“You’d be surprised.” The basket has nothing in it but possibly some frost and a leaf if he’s lucky. Kirk, on the other hand, has always been rather good at games of deception.

“Whatever you say.”

“You never know. I may not have much, but I’m a hard worker. You ever need someone to help maintain this place, rearrange shelves, sweep up dead flies…” He leaves it at that, shrugging as he holds the small cardboard box and larger, black jar down at his sides and turns away, triggering the collection of bells suspended over the glass door with a clatter of metal. “Have a good day.”

The warm, gentle ring echoes behind the door when Kirk presses his hand against the little metal knob, but it takes a solid three tries before the careful pattering and creaking of socks on stairs alert him to the recognition of his efforts. The door clicks and rattles a few times before a pale face appears in the crack of the doorway, then disappears, then there is the rattle of a chain before the door is suddenly flung open and he is bustled inside, no doubt with the whole entirety of the cold front.

His warm and very irritable host wastes no time in fussing over him before he has even announced the reason for his presence, pressing warm hands to his cheeks and forehead with almost aggressive force and berating him for his audacity in between asking the reason for his strange foray.

“Just passing through.”

“Just passing through?” At this she steps away and Jim finally gets a clear look at the girl who may have borderline assaulted him over his poor health practice, sweater-clad arms folded tightly, and wide, gentle eyes somehow even wider in concern as she points a glittering, white fingernail at his chest. “I won’t be surprised when you turn up with pneumonia and I have to nurse you back to health. Because you were just passing th-”

When he extracts the box from the small of his back and holds it out between them, he smiles with a level of sheepishness appropriate for a much more monumental offering.

“James Tiberius Kirk you are a menace to society.”

“I never should have told you my middle name”

“You should have gone straight home the second the winds picked up.”

“And let you go the rest of December without Christmas lights? We have no idea when this’ll let up, Chris, I couldn’t just lay there and not do anything. I was bored, I needed to get out,” His hands are beginning to warm up in the soft glow from the living room, the oven-baking heat that carried the soft scent of ginger from the back of the house. “Feel something.” He tacks onto the end, knowing by her tight frown that she is caving.

“Well, I’ll bet you’re feeling it now.” Chris turns the box over in her hands, flicking open one side and looking into the jumble of dark green wire. “Thank you. I haven’t had a chance to go out. I don’t know what caused my other ones to go out like that, They were just so old, I assume.”

“You know I don’t mind.”

“Will you stay? There’s a fire, you might like to warm up before you go home.” She offers, always the pinnacle of hospitality, He knows she’ll offer him a real coat next if he doesn’t act soon.

“It’ll only get colder. I’m due back home, soon, anyways. I’ll see you later.”

When he swings back out onto the street, it would be a lie to say there is not some small part of him that wishes he wore a coat, the cold starting to crawl into his bones. If nothing else, at least he is headed downwind. There was that optimism, again.

The bike below him begins to hum as he presses hard into the pedals, bringing him to a speed that feels only second to the takeoff of a shuttlecraft in San Francisco, though it has been years since he has felt that kind of rush. And probably won’t, not again, not unless he puts through that application to Starfleet. Which he probably won’t. He presses harder, and the air causes his eyes to sting as the steel vibrates with pure solar power.


Kirk finds his PADD on the kitchen table, where he had conveniently forgotten it upon his departure, already dimly lit with new messages, Chris letting him know that the lights work perfectly, Chris sending him a picture of them above her bed, asking him if they should be a little more to the right. A distant cousin congratulating him on finishing school. People are talking in the living room, one voice rising above the others, obviously in the middle of some anecdote he only makes out pieces of as he takes off his flannel, suddenly hot in the warmth emitting from the oven, and ties it around his waist.

“You should have seen the look on her face when I told her I knew every man of importance in Starfleet. Now, I don’t know what she was trying to hide but it sure was fun to watch her alibi crumble. Husband in starfleet. Ridiculous.”

“Maybe she was secret service,”

“Who was secret service?” He calls from the doorway, and the small congregation sat untangling fairy lights around the fire turns their heads to appraise him, the tallest and loudest one giving him that practiced look that says tell me you didn’t go out only wearing that, before turning back to where she is arranging garland on the mantle.

“Just someone I met last night buying cold medicine. Lovely woman, recently moved. Down the road, in fact. She might’ve mentioned a son, or maybe a daughter, I don’t remember. That had better not be coffee in your hand, Jim, or I’m pouring it down the drain.”

“Don’t worry, I used my own credits.” He raises the jar, already forgotten about it, and two heads turn again. A face that could be his own, but with a cleaner haircut, in his early twenties, and a woman of the same age, with dark hair that contrasts sharply with the dirty golden brown of the three others in the room and the toddler at her feet that didn’t have a name yet because names are very important things Jimmy with the ability to define a whole person, and imagine where you’d be if our parents really did name you Tiberius-

“Well, all right!” Sam removes himself from the circle, taking the jar from his hands and turning it over as if to confirm that the powder inside is in fact his so sacred caffeine. “I was just saying, you know, you get used to living on a starship, where a push of a button gets you a cup of coffee in five seconds, and then you come back to Earth and forget there’s a whole population down here who doesn’t even know what a replicator is!” He claps Kirk on the back, steering him towards the kitchen and away from the disapproving glance. “Now, you have to show me how to make it, I’m afraid I haven’t done this manually since high school.”

“I’m just as lost as you, Mom hasn’t let us have caffeine since, uh, 2245.” He laughs along, and the flow of blood into his fingers steadies until he’s easily turning the knob on the stove to boil water and pour it. He forgets he was ever cold at all.


Rule number one. Try your best to stay warm.

"Sometimes I wish that incredible Vulcan self-control would allow you just a little visible pain."

He doesn’t say anything, eyes still closed, face a complete impasse. Amanda raises the metal tweezers again to his forehead and jerks them to the side, continuing in detaching his eyebrows from his skin, and he still does not move. She only wishes to know if she is being too rough.

“The pain is not great enough.”

Perhaps that should be sufficient. Leaning back on her heels on the bathroom floor, she tilts his head this way and that, and decides what remains of his eyebrow is proportional to what would exist on a human - barring the natural arch, of course.

She reaches into the box beside her, and takes out a pencil, making an experimental stroke across her hand and holding it up to the true eyebrow.

“This should work.”

"You show great joy in this rearrangement of my features."

"I show joy, child, in how discomforted you look while I do it."

"Why should that bring you joy?"

“I’m not sure.”

The pencil she lifts is sharper than anticipated, she feels his jaw tighten when she touches it to his skin, but he doesn’t say anything still, as she completes the curve, trying to create the best illusion of dimensional eyebrow with long, thin strokes. Worst case scenario, he is exposed for drawing in his eyebrows.

"Do not call me a child." he says.

“Put this on.” She says back, reaching into the bag at her side and handing over a small, black cylinder. He does so quite cautiously, attempting to unscrew the cap instead of pulling it open as intended, freshly-drawn eyebrows jumping on his forehead in an almost unnatural way as he takes the small mirror she holds out to him.

“It’s just lipstick. Your father wears lipstick.”

“That is not my concern.”

There’s a lot of powder involved now, that ends up being less trouble than she anticipated, and she holds his face in her hands again and tilts it to ensure every angle.

“Be careful of this. It’s cold lately, Now I’ve set everything, but still be certain you don’t smudge your nose or cheeks. No kissing, either. It also goes without saying that you can’t bleed, in any way, if you don’t want a problem.”

Rule number two. Allow nothing to touch your face. Rule number three. Don’t bleed.

“I shall...bear it in mind.”

“You think you can remember all that?”


Amanda picks herself off the floor, taking the lipstick and the eyebrow pencil and the rest and laying them inside the medicine cabinet behind the mirror. He looks up at her from the floor, and it would be a lie to say it didn’t evoke some indescribable emotion in her, and that his own indifference was beyond her comprehension.

“It’s quite believable.” And it is. It is immaculately believable, save for the ears, curled back points against his head. It hurts her that this could make sense. That this could be reality, that the illusion could be built, continued.

She walks away from the thought, goes to the thermostat in the hallway, and turns it up another three degrees. Then she stands with the wall at her back, listening to the water splash into the sink.

“Was this a good idea?” She says out loud in the dark to nobody but herself.

"In what sense?”

That was another thing. She does not know if she'll ever get used to this...closeness. That things she would normally whisper to herself throughout the day would now likely be heard in the emptiness of these foreign rooms. That against the judgement of all around her, she made this choice, and now she would live with it directly, and somewhat literally, over her head. There are footsteps that ascend the stairs to the attic, and then silence.

She does not rest that night, just as she didn’t on the first. And half a mile away, Jim Kirk has just lit a candle.

Kirk stares down at the glass cup with the dark wax and the lazy, drifting flame, and wills himself to remember the prayers that go along with it, how his father used to speak slowly enough for him and Sam to say them along with him. How his face looked in the firelight, always so calm and collected, even when the window before them wasn’t showing a cold, clean landscape with twinkling lights in the distance as it did now.

Kirk thinks that maybe the point really isn’t that you need to stop clinging to something long gone, but just recognize that the sort of clinging exists. That you’re doing it. And there isn’t really any harm in that, so long as it’s done in the effort to forego all the melancholy of grief. It’s a good kind of self-medication. Just with searching for a car to replace the one you totalled six years ago. Leaving the curtains open at your window, clumsily repeating traditions your family stopped doing three years ago. Replacing the grief and the guilt associated with that memory with new life, the promise of a future. Winona lost her last shred of hope in an idea of god three years ago along with an ex-husband she still loved and her youngest son’s sanity and a bit of her own sanity as well, and that was why they didn’t do candles any longer, at least not out in the open, and in some wacky, roundabout way that was why she didn’t let coffee into the house, either.

Tomorrow is the last day that Sam and Aurelian and their baby that doesn’t have a name yet will be at the house, and then it’ll be back to him and his mom and Frank, who was so often out of town lately by virtue of his less than warm relationship with Sam it seems he only sleeps in the same house at this point. Kirk isn’t complaining. He used to think that one day his real father would come home and Frank would simply leave the picture, that even with everything that had happened a group of candles on a windowsill would catch his eye from millions of miles away, and he would find a way back.

He had remembered to take the melatonin tonight.

The candle flame still in his sight, Kirk collapses backwards on the bed, puts his hands over his face, and lays there until he becomes aware of the cold press of some vaguely cylindrical shape into his neck, then a gentle shaking of his shoulders.


Everything is very, very bright, and he raises the hand that doesn’t fumble for the receiver to his face to block out the glare as he rolls out of bed and quickly tugs the curtains shut again.

“Phone call for you.”

“What?” Sam nods down at the receiver still in his hand, and he feels heat explode in his face.

“Phone call for you.”

“Ah.” It is the man at the general store, and aside from his usual tone, he doesn’t seem much offended by the large amount of confusion preceding Kirk getting on the line with him. His voice sounds even more crunchy over the receiver, Kirk thinks, a bit absentmindedly.

“Now let me tell you, it isn’t a car, it’s a truck in the back of the warehouse, it hasn’t been used in years, and probably needs to be fixed up with a power source, but it’s got wheels, all right.”

“No problem. I’ll take it.”

“You don’t mind putting in the work for it? Be nice to have someone else behind the register ever so often. And god knows the place needs cleaning up.”

“I’ll work as much as you’d like, if it means I can have it.” He can feel himself smiling, and knows that he means it, as he thanks him and leaves the phone on his bed, walking back to the window and pushing the end of the curtain aside just enough to press his hand against the cold pane. The candle on the sil below has burned until the wick drowned in the wax, the surface hardened in it’s depleted state. He’s getting hungry.

The sound of laughing voices drifts in from the crack Sam left in the door, and Kirk looks back outside one last time, and decides tonight he’ll go out again.

He has been inside for two weeks, eighteen hours.

The walls that have contained him thus far are a yellow-cream inside and out, with great cracks running across them here and there like aerial canyons and rivers and everything is very dusty and dim even in the daytime. This house is like a cavern, tiny and detailed, speckled with age and miscare from many a previous owner. The emptiness of it is overshadowed by the size, the short hallways and how half of it sits directly over the other half, the bare furnace in the wall, the kitchen sitting off to one side through an open doorway, and how it all has become scattered with small boxes and unpacked bags.

He meditated himself back to Shikar, before realizing that he had no desire to be there.

He had also forgotten most of the events leading up to his departure from Shikar in an emotional depression, and now there was an empty line where an explanation would be. It is almost winter, and everything is very warm. Three days ago, in fact, everything was insufferably cold, and that was about the time that he found out that it doesn’t matter how well you believe you can manage the cold because it still has that strange capability to get inside your throat and chest and nose and make everything miserable for a week. Which it did. And then everything got warm and then cold again and Amanda got very irritable about it and wouldn’t let him leave the bed.

Which is part of the reason for the boxes.

It has been two weeks and eighteen hours since he came inside. He has not left. The first night, he had taken the two bags that contained his life essentials and his computer and located the small flight of stairs built into the wall behind the kitchen and began the short process of what humans would jokingly refer to as “nesting”. The rest followed gradually, as neither him nor Amanda were in any hurry and had left the majority of the things they felt necessary to bring along stacked in the corner of the largest room. He had come down twice to retrieve various tech, namely, his tricorder, and one other time.

They didn’t speak often, him and Amanda, perhaps even less than they did in the much more spacious, palacial house in Shikar. There were no questions between them, in those first two weeks.

When he came down the third time, around 0300 on the thirteenth day, he found her in the living room, legs hanging off the arm of one of the chairs left here by the previous owners. She had been reading, her hair a wreck over her shoulders from where she had pulled it down from its usual place atop her head, one hand on a thermos. The book is one of the ones they had discovered in the various drawers around the house, things of romantic, mysterious nature. Now she was looking at him, setting the tea down slow on the floor beside her, letting the book shut without marking her place, as if he was some rare occurrence in her life, and deserved her undivided attention.

“Will you show me how to alter my appearance so that I look human?”


“Will you?”

And she did, no further questions asked. He is grateful for her above all else, her ability to care so deeply that she will sometimes forego her own concerns to cater to the needs of another. He has seen her do it before, without recognition, a million times over, and this time, he is sure to express his gratitude for it.

Spock knows he must go outside. He knows that it is cold, and that he is only just recovering from a fever, but he also knows the importance of the outside world, and empty, unowned fields in which to walk, and that he misses the wide, red sands of Vulcan that you could wander in for days without seeing another person. There was something about finding yourself bedridden that made the allure of the outside world much more tempting than usual.

He goes outside, He does not disguise himself from the world, not yet, but puts on a coat that covers his ears and slings his tricorder over his shoulder and steps outside and it is cold. He picks his way through the field, snapping open the tricorder to take readings: 2.223 degrees celsius, a small group of lifeforms in a tree ahead, one on the road approximately 1.234 kilometers away and closing. Numerous more in the dirt, a small cluster ahead of him where trees accumulated around a running water source,

They would be birds, he believes, but from what he knows of Terran aviary, staying this far north of the equator is highly abnormal behavior this time of the year. He will investigate sometime. Not this time. Birds are one of those things he has always been fascinated by - not that there weren’t birds on Vulcan, but that they were not visible on Vulcan. If you looked up into the sky and let your eyes go unfocused, sometimes you would see the hazy silver outlines of them as they sped overhead, but nothing more.

Spock wanders for a time in the field, taking readings of the soil: high levels of potassium (this was logical, considering this land was used in the past for agriculture), calcium, nitrogen. The air: nitrogen, oxygen, argon, etc., not much different than the air on Vulcan, though less thin. When they had first arrived, the air had been overwhelming, and now that he is back outside after spending so much time in, he is of a similar mind.

The tricorder snaps shut, and he lets it fall at his side again. He wraps his arms together behind his back, and looks up, to where the moon sits as a pale glow underneath the heavy cover of clouds. He breathes the light, full air, all the way in, until he’s dizzy. He doesn’t know why he’s here, why he’s standing in this field on Earth in the cold, millions of miles away from where he should be, where the rest of his life is. He doesn’t know why he is going to go outside here, why he has just pulled out his eyebrows and is going to put on a human face and be amongst humans when he despises them so much, despises the human within him, wants nothing more than to board the shuttle back to the life he understands. He doesn’t know anything, in this moment.

Spock turns around, back to the house across the field in the trees with the dim light and yellow-cream paint. Kaiidth. He turns back to the field before him in the dark and the moon peeking out from behind the clouds. He is here, on Earth. The moon is there above him, He whips his entire body around, hands clasped still behind his back, and starts to spin.

Jim has loved the nighttime ever since he stopped sleeping through it. He supposes it is a principle of exposure, that as he saw more and more of deep, twinkling black through his window, he fought with a weaker passion the urge to go out into it, until he was spending entire hours wandering in the fields behind the house, going to bed in his shoes to save time. Then, when sleep felt somehow even more distant than when he turned the lights out, he would open the window, slip through, and move around the house, careful to move more quickly past the curtained windows, lest a shadow cast in moonlight give him away.

It has become harder to do so, in recent years. He has become more anxious, more reluctant to pop the locks on his window and slide it open. He hasn’t gone out in about a month, but something about that evening, the tight hugs shared with his brother, the waves as they boarded the shuttle back to San Francisco, where they worked in Starfleet, and Sam was trying to get assigned to a colony - for a reason Kirk couldn’t understand as hard as he tried - gave him that sense of enclosure that could only be remedied by a good, old-fashioned sneaking out.

He moves through the frosted grass while buttoning a second shirt up to his neck, inhaling sharply against the cold that stabs at his nose and eyes. The dangers of such season-typical temperature, especially in the dead of night, have already had their way with him, however he refuses to address the fact. Winona is often found around this time of year pressing a hand against his forehead, in the morning when she finds him sneezing and shivering, deaf to his claims of leaving the window open, not wearing a coat after all when he went down to the general store the other day. Perhaps she knows, and doesn't see reason in asking why. Perhaps she knows the why, as well, and sees no reason in addressing it.

He takes his bike out, walking it down the driveway until swinging onto it and setting off down the road. He doesn’t intend to go anywhere, he never does. He follows the road, gaining speed until he comes to the small bump in the road that signifies where a pipe had been laid in years ago to allow the creek through.

There's movement between the trees at his side, and his first thought is of an owl before noticing that it is out in the land ahead, and much too large to be anything but a person of similar stature to his, straight and silent in clothes that seem to fly around in the breeze, a streak of black and blue in the pale light. He decides soon enough that the chance of it being anyone of substance is quite slim. He pulls the brake, and skids to a halt, dropping the bike off the shoulder of the road and picking his way out into the sparse foliage.

Jim crouches in the brush, stubborn not to give himself away though it doesn't occur to him why, the figure in the field ahead moving in place, turning in circles like a blade. Like they've never been out in the open.

There's something about it that dulls the sting of bark against his left arm, the sharp thrum of the cold in his bones. Something he can't identify as pure, but at the very least raw. As they speed up, losing their orientation, orbiting irregularly, soundlessly...and he watches. Watches until he loses concentration and nearly springs to his feet in surprise when they lose balance completely, whirling straight into the frosted grass without a fight or warning.

Jim freezes, one foot halfway into a patch of ice, supporting his weight on a low bough, desperate not to reveal himself, if only not to give away the fact of his voyeurism upon what seems like a spiritual and personal experience. And from somewhere, amid the grass far out in the field, pops a silhouette, the pale dot of their face turned fully in Jim's direction, then pulling up a hood. He is a speck. A collection of shapes across a crowded room. Five or six pixels in a grand landscape, incomprehensible from the road, invisible from the sky, nothing at all from any further. And nevertheless, a major part of the scope of a human life.

Spock pulls the strings on his hood down and feels the fabric tighten over his ears. It could have been an animal in the brush, but he shouldn’t take the chance.

The fourth rule. Do not let anyone see your ears. He must remember. He picks himself from the ground and starts back to the house, and the thing in the brush turns around and goes to his, as if they had decided together. There is a great disturbance in the universe.