“Hi everyone, I’m James T. Kirk and I could set you all on fire if I wanted to.”
The students were dead silent and Professor Pike pinched the bridge of his nose. “That’s not exactly the kind of introduction I was hoping for, Jim.”
Jim scratched his jaw and coolly inspected the motley crew standing behind Pike like a wall. “Whatever man – can I see my room now? I better not be sharing with anyone because that would seriously rain on my parade.”
In other words, Jim’s reoccurring nightmares often had him flaring up and setting his sheets ablaze. It was kind of embarrassing and not something he wanted anyone to be aware of.
“Actually,” Pike responded with raised eyebrows. “You’ll be rooming with one of our most promising students, Spock.”
Jim eyed the tall, staid Vulcan who stood directly behind Pike. They regarded each other with mutual suspicion. Jim didn’t yet know what Spock’s deal was – that is, what his freak-show abilities were. In fact, just by looking at the few mutants gathered in the room, Jim couldn’t particularly gauge any of their talents.
Oh, well except for the kid with wings – Pavel?
The rest of them: Uhura, Scotty, Sulu, McCoy and Gaila all looked relatively normal. Gaila was green but she was just Orion, so no big shock there. No – just like Jim, none of them were particularly telling.
Jim sarcastically grumbled, “Great,” and hefted up the single duffel he’d brought when Pike had dragged him into this shit.
There hadn’t been much to pack amid the charred heaps of rubble and the acrid smell of burnt flesh.
“Actually, y’know what?” Jim said and dropped his bag on the floor with a thump. “I need some air.”
Without another word or heed to Pike’s calling after him, Jim turned and flung open the glass doors to the expansive gardens. With quick, long strides he escaped into what appeared to be a wild rose garden. The San Francisco sun warmed his skin and eased the rush of blood to his head that hinted of panic.
Jim paused at a small fountain adorned with angels and looked to the cloudless sky. He squinted directly into the sun and allowed himself a smile at the bright white splotches that marred his vision.
He hadn’t wanted air. Jim had needed the sun – always had.
“Your behaviour is most unbecoming for a person who has been taken in by Professor Pike,” a cold voice prickled at Jim’s skin.
Jim sucked in a sharp breath and turned on his heel, a glare already twisting his features. “And your behaviour is fucking creepy if you consider the way you sneak up on people.”
Spock merely tilted his head as if Jim was a squished bug beneath a microscope. “Considering how little your presence means to me, I find myself uncaring of your assessment of my person.”
“Oh, good.” Jim bared his teeth in mirror of a smile. “I feel the same. Except I’ll just put it into laymen terms for you.”
Jim kissed the pad of his middle finger loudly as he flipped Spock the bird, and then turned down the dirt path he desperately hoped would lead him back to the mansion. His sense of direction had never been one of his talents.
And goddamn if he didn’t hear crunching, balanced footsteps behind him. Jim whirled on Spock, his face going red.
“What?” he snapped. “Whaddaya want? To escort me back? I know my way, okay?”
Spock raised a severe eyebrow, but otherwise his expression was blank. “I find that interesting, as you are currently travelling north-west of your intended destination.”
Jim bristled at being corrected. “Oh, shut up. What do you want, anyway? Did you search me out just to berate me or was it to make me feel sad about ruining my little homecoming party? Because lemme just make this clear now.”
Jim stepped up to Spock, displeased to find that there was a few inches of height difference between them. He squared up his shoulders and looked Spock in those dark, stony eyes.
“This isn’t my home and it’s never going to be. I certainly don’t need one, and I don’t need a makeshift father or family or what-the-fuck-ever. What I need is a roof over my head ‘til I hit eighteen next year and then I’ll be out of your perfect hair. Got it?”
Over the course of Jim’s short tirade, Spock’s eyes had begun to travel along the column of Jim’s neck and down to his bare arms. When Jim finished, he looked down at his hands with mute horror.
Charcoal lines engraved the length of Jim’s arms and hands; seeped through his veins in stark contrast to the gold of his skin. Spread like a virus that inflamed his blood and shot his heart through with fire and anger.
Jim’s heated emotions were laid so fucking bare before the world, and it only triggered further fury.
Spock’s words were brittle, careful as traversing thin ice. “What, specifically, do your abilities entail, Mr. Kirk?”
“What do yours, Mister Spock?” Jim shot back on autopilot. He tore his gaze from black-laced wrists and gave Spock a hard stare.
“I am a high level telepath with a number of related abilities. I also possess some level of telekinesis, although both talents still require years of training to master and control.”
Jim raised his eyebrows. “Fancy.”
Spock aimed a pointed look Jim’s way. “You have yet to enlighten me regarding your power.”
“I already told you. I set things on fire.”
Spock’s eyes narrowed minutely, perhaps in annoyance. “In what capacity?”
Jim sighed and brushed past Spock, their shoulders catching slightly as Jim headed back the way they had originally come.
“Why don’t you just gossip with Pike? I’m sure he’d be happy to explain the logistics, since he seems to understand more of it than I do.”
Spock sounded close behind him. “You would rather I speak of you, as Humans say, behind your back?”
“I – no,” Jim admitted more than a little begrudgingly.
He paused at the fountain and stared blankly at the three paths which headed in varied directions. Spock indicated with a slight angling of his chin the correct way. Jim scowled, but went on ahead anyway.
“I guess I...”
In truth, Jim had never genuinely voiced his abilities. His mother and step-father had been vaguely aware that something ‘wasn’t right’, and so had Sam before he’d skipped town. But no one had really said it. As if admitting to Jim’s horrific talents would somehow make them legitimately real and all the more dangerous.
But this place was different. The Pike Institute for Higher Learning was not like any other place. Here – well, here you owned up to this sort of shit or else you wouldn’t be living here in the first place.
“Basically I,” Jim swallowed the knot in his throat and cursed himself for making this into something bigger than it was. Okay, this was huge – he’d accidentally incinerated his entire life because of this secret.
But Jim would fake it ‘til he made it. He was good at that – one of his better talents.
“I essentially absorb solar energy. I’m kind of bleh without the sun. I pretty much metabolise it into physical strength or convert it into thrust and fly for a little while, or I can...”
Jim gritted his teeth. “Or I can channel it into heat.” The last admission came out almost as a whisper. “Unbelievable heat.”
He conveniently left out the part that when Jim was performing any of these acts, his skin melted into a blackened mass of what could only be described as dark energy. He turned into a living sunspot. It was lame, to say the very least.
Jim didn’t dare look behind him to gauge Spock’s reaction. Not that he cared what some douche thought about him. Roommates or not, they weren’t going to get close. Chances were that once Spock experienced one of Jim’s nightmares and saw him for the creature that he was, their lack of a relationship would plummet rather efficiently.
Jim wouldn’t even have to be a dick to scare this one off.
Well, he would still be one, but that went without saying.
To Jim’s relief, they arrived at the doors to Pike’s office once again. Spock didn’t say a word to Jim about the confession. In fact, he was eerily silent.
When they got inside, Pike was there with his ridiculously patient eyes and his stupid knowing smirk that told Jim he wasn’t going to give up that easily. Jim mumbled something that may have been an apology or a ‘fuck you’ – regardless, Spock led Jim into the heart of the mansion and to the room they’d be sharing.
That night, Jim awoke in flames with the sounds of screams ringing in his ears.
His flesh hurt; felt cracked and split at the seams as the absence of skin-tone bled into the pitch dark of the room. His fingertips seared holes into the new sheets, his new mattress – burnt away at his new life.
Then there were hands on his cheeks, cool as balm; thumbs traced his jaw and pads soothed his temples.
Calm. Be calm, Jim.
Jim blinked away the red haze and the flickering dreams and finally saw – saw Spock.
Spock’s pale face in the dark; his hair mussed from sleep and his eyes so very fucking sober as if this were the most serious thing that had happened in the history of ever.
Jim winced at his own pathetic whimper when his hands came up to grip Spock’s wrists. Jim croaked, “I’m here,” without truly understanding why he said it. To ground himself, probably.
Soft palms lingered at his cheekbones for a moment longer before they slipped away. Spock’s voice was indescribable in the silence of the night.
“Yes, you are.”