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Jim casts a critical look in the mirror (waistcoat, jacket whole nine yards in a cool gray), then winces in sympathy at his reflection.  He hates this suit, the way it resembles Starfleet formal wear and makes his mom cry when she sees him in it.  

She bought it for him, but apparently he looks—wait for it—just like George in it, so she has to make him wear the freaking thing and then look at him with watery eyes.

Oh yeah.  This is going to be awesome.  

She's already a mess.  

The thing is, Starfleet is opening up the shipyard outside of Riverside, and they've apparently run out of ancient dead guys to name shit after, so they're naming it after George Kirk.  And celebrating it being ready to go and fully operational on Dad's birthday, because Starfleet bureaucracy sucks balls. 

With Starfleet officers and Federation bigwigs in dancing attendance, even.  

So it's Dad's birthday, and Mom's already kind of weepy and clingy (Jim's taken refuge in his room: Frank's out in the garage), and instead of everyone going to bed early, the way they have every year on April 30th, they're instead going to this…shindig.

Jim didn't get a choice in coming: Mom said he was, and Frank had glowered and said at least it'll be one Friday night Jim won't be with "that boy,"  or "that girl," which is how Frank has been referring to Jim's boyfriends and girlfriends since Jim was eight and Freda Juarez kissed him on a dare.  Jim hasn't "dated" anyone a day in his life: gets bored too fast, or Mom and Frank take too much interest and Jim is just not cool with…he has no privacy as it is.  He doesn't want to invite more attention by dating.  

The thing about Frank is, he married Mom when Jim was six and Sam was ten.  He's a farmer, like everyone in the town who isn't employed by Starfleet Engineering Corps.  And Frank's kind of a hardass, which led to Sam running away at fourteen.  Which was great for Sam, but sucks for Jim, because now Frank overcompensates: insists on being called "Dad," that Jim have a curfew (he's sixteen, c'mon), and generally acting like Jim's his little princess he'd like to lock in an ivory tower.  Mom thinks it's sweet, that Frank takes such an active role in raising Jim even though he's not Frank's.  It's this weird limbo: Frank claims Jim like he planted a flag on the top of Jim's head, but it's universally acknowledged that Jim isn't Frank's.  And then there are nights like this, where Frank likes to show Mom and Jim off: like it makes him equal to Dad to have taken his place. Mom likes being shown off: wears the layered dress and the tiny diamond necklace and twists up her hair.  Winds her arm through Frank's and leans on him while people dance around the memory of Dad and the presence of Frank.  

It's especially weird tonight, because tonight's all about Dad, in that it's The George Kirk Memorial Shipyard.

He catches his foot on the inside of the door as he climbs out of the car and almost falls on his face (which bodes so well).  A pair of hands catch him, and Jim grabs a handful of foreign-feeling fabric.  He looks up, catches dark eyes before—

"Jim!" Frank barks, and Jim straightens and pulls away.  

"Sorry," he mutters.

"There is no need to apologize," the guy replies from behind him.  

The room is full of Federation representatives and their families, come to honor the dead and toast progress and innovation.  Really, it's just everyone from San Francisco coming to Iowa for the night, but it seems like a big deal.  The huge room is bathed in a soft gold light, and there's music playing, loud enough to dance to if you know the steps and quiet enough to speak over if you don't. 

Jim looks for a way to escape Mom, glancing around the room.  There's a Vulcan kid probably Jim's age, and there's a…moment, or something, where they're just looking.  He's hot, Jim realizes, making the heavy folds of fabric work for him.  

Then Jim realizes that that's the guy who caught him and looks away, flushing a little.

"I'm going to go say 'hi' to Captain Pike," Jim murmurs to Mom, who nods.  

Jim is so not saying 'hi' to Chris Pike—he heads all the way across the room to the cluster of people who look like they're his age.

They're a mix of Terran, Andorian and Ferengi, mostly, with one girl from Orion who he likes immediately, not least because she offers to sleep with him as a way of saying 'hi.'  

Jim declines, but compliments her dress, which is navy and accents the green of her skin nicely.  She mutters about parents, and he agrees and…well, no, that's how the conversation goes, followed by a lot of gossip, and a lot of laughter.  This is Gaila's court, but Jim's been allowed temporary entry.

It doesn't suck, which makes him so so grateful.

"Don't look," Gaila murmurs confidentially, glancing pointedly out of the corner of her eye, "but the Vulcan Ambassador's son is headed over here, and he's not looking at me."

"You sure?  There's a lot of boob on display there—" Jim teases, and then raises his hands, laughing as she hits him, the pearls in her scarlet hair glinting in the light.

There's a gentle brush of fingers against Jim's shoulder, that he somehow feels through three layers of fabric, and Gaila beams at him (he can almost hear her saying, "See, totally not into me!") before he turns around.

"Pardon me," the young man says, "but I do not believe we have been introduced.  I am Spock, son of Sarek."  He lifts his hand and splits his fingers like a peace sign, only not.  He's tall and slender, even under the layers of his outfit.  The height of his collar emphasizes a long neck, and the haircut just emphasizes eyes that look like dark chocolate.  He has very long fingers, Jim notes, stupidly.

"James T Kirk," Jim says, and sticks his hands in his pockets because Vulcans don't shake hands, and he's pretty sure his fingers don't bend that way.

Movement behind Spock makes Jim tense, thinking Frank's about to totally mortify him, except it's just people dancing: Jim's had his back to the room, but he can see now.

Spock follows his line of sight.  "Do you dance?" he inquires, looking back at Jim.  

"No," Jim says truthfully, watching for a few beats.  He can gyrate and dance like a normal person, but this kind of formal step…not so much.  "But you could teach me."

Gaila coughs something that sounds like "smooth" and Jim glances back and winks at her before being led onto the floor, the sound of laughter following them.  

"What is so amusing?" Spock inquires as he settles Jim's left hand on his upper right arm, the hand of which rests on Jim's hip as though it belongs there; is staking claim to the terrain of Jim's body even before his other hand wraps around Jim's fingers.

"They're jealous," Jim says, and follows Spock's lead.  It's a disaster, with Jim laughing as his feet tangle between and under Spock's, forcing Spock's hand from Jim's hip to his lower back, pressing them together.  They're probably a spectacle: probably being watched, but Jim can't bring himself to give a shit, and Spock's infinitely patient until eventually Jim picks it up, and they're dancing across the room.  

"You are not terrible," Spock decides, and Jim laughs again—can't help it.

"Aw thanks," he says, batting his eyelashes.  "You're an awfully good teacher," he adds, as earnestly as he can manage.

"I am," Spock agrees, "but you do not mean that sincerely."

"Are you reading my mind?" Jim demands, grinning, and Spock blinks at him, and then flushes, just slightly.  "Oh, no, but now you are."

"Forgive me, that was—I should not have intruded in that way."

"Spock, I'm a Starfleet brat: I know how to raise my shields if I want to," Jim points out, stilling them and sliding his hand from Spock's arm to the nape of his neck, just resting there, waiting to see if this is going to get him punched in the face (Vulcans are strong: Jim wants to be able to brace for it, or like…run.  Spock's in robes—he might trip).  

"Perhaps," Spock manages after an almost-too-long beat, "this is not the venue." 

Jim has to agree that yeah, probably not, so they head out to a balcony (seriously, there is a balcony in a building in a shipyard, Jim doesn't even know).  Spock likes the heat of the outdoors rather than the climate-controlled interior; Jim likes to be able to breathe (sometimes feels claustrophobic even in the middle of nowhere, like there's just not enough space: not even close).

"It is far warmer on Vulcan," Spock comments.  "The present temperature here is equal to winters in my home region."  

It's eighty degrees Fahrenheit.  Jim tries to imagine how that could be chilly.  "So…the climate control at seventy-two degrees Fahrenheit…"

"Was very cold," Spock agrees.

Jim grins, then looks up as he presses against Spock's side.  "I'll keep you warm."  

Spock doesn't deign that with an answer.  Probably just as well.

"I have never seen the stars from this vantage point," Spock says.  "The starscape is markedly different from Vulcan, and light pollution from San Francisco makes it very difficult to accurately view them."

Jim nods, and the leans in, pointing.  "Vulcan," he says, "is there, and over there?  That's where I was born."

"In the Neutral Zone on the edge of space, in a shuttle of an overburdened research vessel on the edge of Klingon space," Spock agrees, because Jim's origin story is public domain.  He doesn't move away from where Jim's pressing against his side.

"Less than a minute before my dad drove himself into the ship attacking them," Jim finishes.  "Makes birthdays fun."

Spock looks at him, and there's no air— no space— between them, so Jim leans in, steals the kiss, but it's nothing Spock isn't willing to give him.  Spock returns it, tongue sliding against Jim's, his hands on Jim's hips and Jim's fisted in his lapels.  It's a good kiss, full of promises, and when Spock pulls back he breathes into the space between them, "I grieve with thee."

Jim presses in for another kiss, because he doesn't know what to say to that, with the way he feels like maybe Spock means it, or the wording is just better than anything any other culture's come up with.  Or that Spock's not trying to score political points with George Kirk's kid.  Like somehow Jim has stupid fucking sway.

"I have not—" Spock begins when they break apart, and then shifts their fingers, stroking his first two against Jim's.  It's kissing with lips and fingers and it's ridiculously hot, and Jim's shoulders are digging against the wall, Spock's leg between both of his, and he's about seven seconds from riding it like a twink in a porno, and Spock gasps against his lips.

Dude, touch telepathy is awesome.   Spock moans something that feels like agreement, hand under the waistband of Jim's pants, hauling him closer and kneading his ass—

Jim gets yanked—literally, hand on arm yanking—out of Spock's hold by Frank, who is glowering like Spock's just popped Jim's cherry or despoiled his flower or something equally stupid.  He's apologizing to Sarek, the fucking Vulcan Ambassador, who is standing right there.  

 Jim's going to have bruises on his arm, so mad he can barely talk as Frank marches him through the entire fucking gathering.  Chris Pike makes an abortive step forward, but holds himself back, and Jim lays down in the back of the car as they drive home.

"Oh, Jimmy," Mom sighs, turning as far as the seatbelt with let her.  "Can't you stay out of trouble?"

"That boy better stay away," Frank mutters.  "Goddamn uppity Vulcans thinking they just own the fucking place..."

"Frank, language," Mom murmurs, soft reproach, and Frank steamrolls over, things about how he was taking advantage and "no kid of mine's gonna mix races" and so much fucking bullshit.  Jim's pretty sure that at the end of all things, he can't exactly get knocked up.   

"It was a fucking kiss!" Jim informs the roof of the car.

"Jim!" Mom says sharply.

"It was inappropriate!" Frank snarls back.  

"He's half-human," Jim says.  "So it's like, a quarter mixing races."

"He's Vulcan."  Jim's not sure why exactly that matters, given that Vulcans are smarter, their society is older, and they're way more advanced in just about everything.  If Jim had a kid, he'd be happy they were hooking up with a Vulcan.  

"You have got to get over that," Jim informs him, rolling his eyes.

"You embarrassed your mother—" Frank's blustering now: pissed off and trying to justify, which is pretty much Frank's MO.  What he's really pissed about is that Jim had like, a whole independent moment there, with something that might have made him happy for a goddamn second.  Frank's constitutionally incapable of handling Jim being happy, Jim's figured it out.

"Did I?  Did you feel embarrassed, Mom?" Jim demands, sitting up to look at her.  She's playing with the folds of her skirt: she never fucking takes his side.

"Jim—"

"No, did you?  What was more embarrassing, me being away from the party or Frank making a scene by dragging me out?"  Jim should be used to this: it's been a decade of this and six years since Sam ran and Jim's the only one on the receiving end.  He's used to it, but it still pisses him off.

"Don't call your father 'Frank', Jim," Mom reproaches, sidestepping as fucking usual.  

"Say another word," Frank warns, glaring at Jim in the rearview mirror, "and you're grounded."  

"Troglodyte."

"One week," Frank says flatly.  

"Jim, come on—" Mom says, like somehow this is on Jim.  

"Oh, fuck off," Jim mutters.

"Two.  Keep it up, Jim," Frank snaps, and they pull into the driveway.  Jim's out of the car and up the stairs, slamming his door shut because if he doesn't get away he's going to punch Frank.  

Jim knows his limits.  He goes into his bathroom and starts the shower, strips and gets in so he doesn't have to hear the two locks click into place: Jim's door locks from the outside.

He stands under the hot water, and presses fingers to his lips.  His lower lip is swollen, just a little, and his heart rate won't settle.  He sighs, showers and changes into cotton pajama bottoms.  Lays across the bed, staring up at the stars out the window.   

He could get out.  Sam ran: Jim could run too.  Go up, out.  Find an expanse of space that finally felt enough.  

The thing is, Mom cried for Sam for weeks, their conversations for months after Sam left filled with Sam yelling at her about her not getting it; about her wanting to control everything and Mom just crying and screaming that he'd get killed, just like his father.  Sam ran away into space and it's not safe there, offworld.  Here everything is small and manageable with constants like gravity; small problems and domesticity and the security that comes along with that.  

Besides, Jim did get out, three years ago.  Went to Tarsus because he worked Frank over: said it'd be a real educational experience, and Frank had family out there, so Jim lived with his "aunt" and "uncle."  

He shakes his head, jerks his mind away from it.  Tarsus sucked.  Maybe up and out isn't the way to do it.  


Okay, so Jim's familiar with the pebbles-at-the-window thing, because he was thirteen once, and stupid.  He never broke a window, but Robbie Walters broke Shannon McGuire's, so he knows it can happen.  

He's not quite asleep, still just…dozing, and when he rouses he thinks at first that it's weird that it's hailing in April—no, May now.  And then he gets it, climbs out of bed, pushes the window up and grins down at fucking Spock.  Who changed from the bulky robes and the ridiculous jewelry into freaking skinny jeans and what looks like the world's most uncomfortable sweater.  

"You're at my window."

"I am assured that this is the way that humans contact each other at night."

Jim wants to know who's giving Spock this information, and maybe wants to thank them a lot.  He'd put money on Spock having watched a teen movie.  Not that Jim's complaining.

"Are you capable of coming down?" Spock asks, and it's probably fair: how's he supposed to know that Jim perfected climbing down the side of the house when he was six?  Frank hasn't figured it out yet, but then, Jim's pretty fucking stealth.  And Frank's a dick.

Jim does, hanging onto the ledge of his window and using the drainpipe, dropping most of the way (going up is…easier, weirdly).  

"Where to?" Jim asks, and Spock hesitates for a minute, looking at him.  Jim looks down, and remembers…yeah, he's pretty much half naked, with white pajama bottoms.  Eh, whatever.  

"I thought I would leave that to your discretion," Spock replies, because he talks like he swallowed an encyclopedia, a dictionary, and a thesaurus and they fused into his speech patterns.

They head towards the corn fields, because Jim knows that it's easier to get lost in there: that it's harder to find people in the square miles of green corn stalks, especially in the dark when there's only a sliver of moon.    

"I would've thought you'd've left for San Francisco already."  Their fingers are tangled together, the ground damp and giving under Jim's bare feet as he winds them closer to the river, away from the two farms that frame this field.   

"My father is capable of conducting business here," Spock says.  "He says it will be an opportunity to witness Earth's cultures in a less artificial environment, and my mother finds the setting idyllic, and wishes to use its tranquility to conclude several writing projects she is currently working on."

Jim looks at him, then grins.  "Idyllic."

"I imagine that proximity and length of exposure render it less so," Spock admits, and Jim shakes his head with a grin, cuts them through a few dozen rows of corn just to muss up their path.  The rough leaves drag over Jim's bare skin like grasping hands.

"Tell me about Vulcan," he demands, and Spock does, talks about dry heat; an education system that would have made Jim go digging for bone marrow with a spork; the way the sky looks unmarred by any moons; the way buildings hang down off of cliffs as well as going ground-up.  The freedom of it sounds nice though: that Spock could go off on his own without people constantly checking in, checking up on him.  It doesn't even make sense: Jim's a nobody, and Spock's the ambassador's son. 

Clearly Vulcans are the superior race. 

They've settled as Spock's talked, Jim breaking off an ear of corn to eat.  It's too-sweet, still too young and white, but there's nothing better.  They're sitting so they're shoulder to shoulder in a narrow strip of dirt between the rows.  Spock tells him about T'Pring, the girl he's meant to marry: whom he's bonded to but never knew, never liked.  

He doesn't seem to want pity, it seems like there's freedom for Spock to find someone else, but still… it sounds like a piece of him belongs to T'Pring because of this bonded thing.  Even though it sounds like a…a pre-bond?  Like the foundation's built, they've just got to put the house on top.

"Have you ever been off-planet?" Spock inquires.

Jim hesitates, and then says, "I was on Tarsus IV."  

Spock shifts slightly to look at him, and Jim tells him about standing in the back of the assembly, knowing something was wrong but not knowing what.  About hearing Kodos tell them that they had to die so the others could live, grabbing a few kids in the back and running running running out of there; his aunt and uncle suddenly being gone; about starving; about hiding in forests with other desperately scared kids, always moving, never stopping, not until the Federation sent Starfleet and they were rescued.  

"I was a pain in the hospital," Jim remembers.  "'Survivor's Guilt' they called it.  My mom had to beg my brother to come back to Earth."

"Did he?"

"Yeah."  Sam had walked into the hospital, told Mom to get Frank out, and had sat with Jim.  Had told him about the new life he had, eating Jim's food idly until Jim had eaten too.  

"You miss him," Spock observes.

"It's been six years, but he's my brother.  Just 'cause he's a dick doesn't mean I don't love him."  

The fingers of one of Spock's hands are stroking comfortingly through the hair at the nape of Jim's neck, and Jim leans up and kisses him because he can't help it, because talking about Tarsus makes him feel jittery.  Because Spock feels calm, the slow way his hand cups Jim's cheek and the implacable press of his fingers against Jim's hip. 

There isn't, Jim knows, a logical explanation for this (though he'd love to hear Spock's rationalization for this); Jim just doesn't talk about Tarsus, not even with Sam.  

But he wants… he wants to know Spock.  Wants to be known.  

Which is stupid, because Spock will leave, and Jim will stay and he's setting himself up for a long, hard fall, here…but he can't bring himself to give a shit.

"You should return before you are noticed missing," Spock says.

"Take me with you," Jim replies, only half-joking, but grinning to mask it, grinding his cotton-clad hips against Spock's.  He's not sure if he means back to the hotel, or out of the town, or fucking to Vulcan—Jim wants out so bad he can feel it like blood in his veins.  The one time Jim did get out, two thousand people died.

Spock arches his neck and Jim licks along the line of it: greedy for the taste of it, for the now of this, to finish what they started at the fucking reception…but Spock stands, pulls Jim up with him.

"Your stepfather was upset," he says, and his fingers brush the ring of bruises on Jim's upper arm, left by Frank.  There is something dark in his eyes; angrily protective.  Jim looks at the bruises because he doesn't know what to do with the look in Spock's eyes.  "I would not be the cause of your pain, however indirectly."

Jim doesn't know what to say to that, so he follows as Spock heads them back to the farmhouse.  Apparently his sense of direction is just as good as Jim's, and he kisses him with his lips and fingers, watches Jim scale the house and slide back inside his room.  Jim closes the window, washes the dirty pajama bottoms in his bathroom, and doesn't watch Spock walk away.

He oversleeps and is a zombie in school the next day, playing idly with his PADD and trying so so hard not to fall asleep entirely.

≫When do you conclude school?≪

It pops up on the bottom of Jim's screen, but no one else talks like that.

≫15:15.  But I'm grounded.≪

≫I am unfamiliar with that term.≪

≫Have to go home right after school.  Come by tonight? ≪

≫I believe I will be able to do that.≪

≫23:30 should work.≪

"Mr. Kirk?  Care to pay attention?" Mrs. Forsythe inquires.  

Jim looks up: Robbie smirks at him and Jim flips him off under the desk.  "Um, yeah, totally," he agrees.  "Math.  Right on."  

"Would you like to tell us the answer?" she inquires.

Jim looks at the problem on the board.  "X=32."

She blinks, and then looks exasperated.  It probably makes Jim a dick for liking that moment where teachers think they've got him and then remember that he's actually too smart for this bullshit.

He looks back down at his PADD and smiles, something warm uncurling in his stomach.  

≫I will be there.≪


"Well, I heard that Ambassador Sarek, Lady Amanda, and their son, Spock, are going to stay for the rest of the summer," Mom gossips as she sits down at the table.  Jim's not sure why she's bringing it up…given that they just had a small family battle with the Ambassador's family (son) in the center.  Then again, Mom likes to pretend this kind of shit didn't happen.  Selective memory.  "They'll go back to Vulcan in early August, when apparently Spock is going to begin at the Vulcan Science Academy.  He's very smart," she adds, so apparently this Academy is hot shit.

"Don't get ideas," Frank warns Jim, glowering over meatloaf and baked potatoes.  He's apparently still pissed, which is awesome.  

Jim rolls his eyes and slouches at the table, decides he's not really hungry.  He wonders what ideas he's not supposed to get: ideas about Spock, or higher education.  Too late for the former, and who really gives a shit about the latter?  "I'm going for a run," he announces, shoving away from the table.

"Frank," Mom says, soothingly, and Jim rolls his eyes again, pulls on his shoes and heads down their lane, onto the main road.  Finds the groove and stays in it, just runs.

Ends up at the Imperial Hotel…which wasn't really intentional, but—

"Can you get a message to Spock?  He's um—"

"Whom shall I say is here?" the woman behind the counter asks.  Of course she knows who he is.  

"Jim Kirk."

"If you'll just wait over there?" she invites in a way that's not really an invitation, so Jim leans against a pillar and wipes his face with his shirt.  

Spock's wearing another robed outfit, heavily layered.  Like a kimono, kind of, but not quite as intricate as the one he was wearing at the reception, and he looks at Jim inquisitively (which is to say, his eyebrow lifts a little).  "I thought we had agreed to meet later, given your…grounding."

"Wanted to see you now.  Plus I'm technically on a run, which is allowed."  

"Fascinating."

Jim gives him a look.  "I can leave."

"I have been thinking," Spock says, "that perhaps a romantic entanglement with you could be problematic."

Jim's stomach does not flip or flutter or anything when Spock says "romantic entanglement"—not even a little.  And he certainly doesn't want to kiss him.  Nope. Mostly because of the rest of the sentence.

The rest of the sentence makes him feel like he's been punched in the gut.  "Oh."  T'Pring.

"For you," Spock clarifies, tilting his head to catch Jim's eyes.

Jim looks at him for a long moment, because… usually exposure of like, an hour lets people in on how much self-preservation Jim has (hint: it's not a lot).  Within a half hour of meeting most of his classmates in kindergarten he was known as the kid who would put crayons in the heater to see what would happen or let the snake loose to watch the teacher try to catch it.  And that was when he was six.

Jim's going to have to revise his opinion on how smart Spock is in a second if he doesn't get it.

Spock looks back, and then his eyebrow lifts, and he nods slightly.  It's almost chagrin, or amusement: it's getting it.

"Come around tonight," Jim says, stepping into his space and sliding two fingers against Spock's.  Spock watches the movement with heavily-lidded eyes, then bends his fingers around Jim's.  It's clearly doing more for Spock than Jim, but it's...weirdly...sensual

"23:30," Spock agrees, and kisses him, his free hand resting on the small of Jim's back.  Spock's kisses feel like drinking water after a too-long run, or falling into the river after working in the field the hottest day of the year.

The clock in the hall rings, and Jim breaks away.  

"I should--" Jim begins, regretful.

"Yes," Spock agrees, eyes on Jim's mouth for a long moment before meeting Jim's eyes.

"So I'll see you," Jim says with a grin, and then turns and jogs down the steps of the hotel.

The house is ominously quiet, but there's no indication either of them know where he was.  

He heads up the stairs to take a shower and is stopped by Mom's sigh. "Jimmy, why are you doing this?  Is this rebellion?  Do you want to talk about it?"

"Not really," Jim replies, and goes to his room.  At 9:30, when Mom and Frank go to bed, the double locks click.  At 11:30, Spock shows up.  

"Are there any unbonded…or…unpromised Vulcans?"

"In lower social strata," Spock agrees.

"What are you, some kind of prince?" Jim asks, pushing aside leaves as they wander aimlessly through the corn.

 Spock is quiet for a second.  "My father says the word loses something in translation, but it is the closest word Standard has for it.  More like a member of the oligarchy."

Jim nods, processing that.  "So if you didn't want T'Pring…"

"I do not know what recourse I would have.  She may challenge, at the time…she could set me free of obligation."

"Will she?"

"I do not know."  

"You couldn't…annul it?  What about your dad, I mean…your mom's Terran."  

"His bondmate died, thus freeing him.  They had a child."  Spock looks discomfited, and Jim raises his eyebrows.

"What?"

"…I do not usually disclose such personal information so rapidly," Spock admits.  

"Yeah, well.  I'm easy to talk to, or something," Jim says.  "Sam's on Earth Outpost II, studying biology or some shit like that."

"I do not know Sybok's present location," Spock says.  Jim kisses his neck lightly.  

"Oh."



`
Spock refuses to come by for a few nights because Jim's technically still in school and made the mistake of waving Spock to say ≫Fuck, so tired I could sleep with my eyes open≪ which Spock took to mean that Jim was like, dangerously sleep deprived.  

So Jim does homework he might, technically, have forgotten to do (okay, lie: he doesn't usually do homework because tests and in-class count so much more and really, Jim doesn't like wasting his time with shit he already knows how to do).

"Okay, who are you talking to?" Jenny Erviti demands when Mr. Binney turns his back in bio.  

"…No one."

"Oh my god, are you dating someone?"

"Shut the fuck up, Jenny."

Of course, Jenny Erviti couldn't keep a secret to save her soul, and so it's all over the entire school by the time lunch hits.  

≫Congratulations,≪ Jim sends Spock almost bitterly.  ≫You've been upgraded to boyfriend.≪

≫If you are just now realizing this, you have not been paying attention≪ Spock shoots back, because he's a testy asshole.

And Jim spends the second half of the day kind of freaking out because, yeah, fine, he likes being a shit and maybe getting under the skin of the known world but he has a boyfriend who is a crazy-smart Vulcan who he's got a weird Romeo-and-Juliet thing going on with (Oh god, that totally makes Jim Juliet, fuck).

Never mind that it's only been a week.  

And he was going to be pissed off at Spock.  He was.  

But he can't quite manage it as they walk towards the river, fingers tangled together.  

"You are not a focused student," Spock observes.  

Jim looks at him.  "Um, no.  This is Iowa."

"I fail to see—"

"Nevermind.  Why?"

"Do you not wish to live up to your full potential?"  

Jim shrugs, uncomfortable because Spock's starting to sound like his mom.  Spock's sometimes hard to parse: Jim's getting good at reading facial expressions in minute detail, and he can sometimes sort of…feel how Spock's feeling; something extrasensory because the guy doesn't smile but Jim knows he is.

Probably that Vulcan telepathy thing.  

Actually, that seems to kind of unnerve Spock sometimes.  

"You are wasted here," Spock persists as they settle on the riverbank.  "You are bored."

"I left once.  It didn't go well," Jim mumbles into the skin of Spock's chest.  

"It is illogical to allow one event to dictate the course of your decisions going forward."  He draws designs, maybe words, into the skin of Jim's back.  Jim shifts, laughs quietly.  

"And what the hell'm I gonna do?"

"Come to Starfleet."

Jim frowns.  "I thought you were going to the Vulcan Science Academy." '

"I had an…unfortunate interview."

"What does that mean?"

"They insulted my mother's race.  Described her as a 'disadvantage.'"  There's a thrum of anger, there.  Jim can feel it coil at the base of his spine, like he's feeling Spock's.  

"So you're not going."

"No," Spock agrees.  "I have been accepted to Starfleet, however."

"I haven't even graduated high school.  I barely finished sophomore year."  Well, fine, Jim technically has most of the credits, and he could get his GED, but—everything in him flinches away from that idea.

"What would you need to accomplish in order to do so?" Spock inquires.  

Jim tells him between drugging kisses, laying on his back with Spock over him.  

Later, Jim will realize that Spock is actually a manipulative bastard who is willing to use sex to distract Jim—but Jim knows what Spock looks like when he's coming, spilling onto Jim's hand and stomach.  Knows the taste of him and what his mouth feels like on Jim's dick.  So, you know, on balance, Jim's willing to be manipulated to learn that shit.


 

Later is the next day when he's English and a message pops up in the corner of his PADD.  He pulls up the message, frowning at it.

It's a confirmation notice for his GED test on the 13th of June.  

Which is the last day of exams and the day Jim doesn't have exams.  Jim doesn't think he told Spock that.  

Fucking touch-telepathic Vulcans.

He sends Spock a wave: ≫You didn't have to pay for it.≪

Spock replies: ≫That is true.≪

Jim grins kind of stupidly at it, and shakes his head.  He's ridiculous.  He types out a quick reply: ≫Thanks.≪

May slides by slowly.  Spring has decided that it's definitely going to turn into summer, and Spock stops wearing a billion layers (which makes Jim happy, because Jim is all about easy access).  

There's…it wears off, a little.  The novelty of it, and sometimes Jim thinks it's fucked up that he's just… so invested in this.

School gets out on June 13th, and Jim tells Mom and Frank he has exams all day when he totally totally doesn't.  He bikes over to the Imperial and Spock looks at the bike, Jim's lack of helmet, and looks like somehow this is a personal insult to him.  

"Shut up," Jim groans, rolling his eyes.

"We are taking mine," Spock decides flatly.  Jim would argue, but Spock's is a sleek anti-grav two-seater who purrs beautifully, a clean emerald color.

Apparently there are some perks to being an Ambassador's kid.  

The testing center is in Cedar Rapids, which is far enough outside Riverside that no one's going to notice and talk.  

"Where should we send your results?" the man behind the desk asks Jim.  

"Can you—my parents don't know I'm taking this," Jim says, leaning his hip against the table.  The man looks at Jim's ID, then at Jim.  "My stepdad's a dick," Jim mutters.  He knows how to play this card: he's done it in grocery stores and with dates.  

"My friend is staying at the Imperial in River Junction…can you send them there?"  

"Yeah," the guy says.  "What was the name?"  

"Spock," Spock says.  "Spock…Grayson."  

The man nods, and then Jim's in a room with the test.  He feels…lightheaded when he's done.  Energy skating up and down his spine nervously.  

"When should we expect the results?"

"Standard processing is about a month."

"Expedited?" Spock presses.

"A week."

Spock hands him his card, and the man looks at Jim, and then at Spock.  "Jim, will you come with me a second?" he asks.  

Spock is frowning, though Jim thinks he might be the only one to know it, nodding and walking into another room with the guy.  "Yeah?" he asks when the guy paces a little, not seeming inclined to talk.

"You're not…" he trails off and looks frustrated.  "Are you…?"

"Oh," Jim says, catching on, and almost laughs at the idea that Spock could be abusive here; forcing Jim into something against his will.  "No, no.  He's my friend, he's trying to help me get out, but he's only here for the summer, so it's like, now or never you know?  I'm trying to get into Starfleet.  I—home is…yeah."

He widens his eyes earnestly: he has no fucking idea if he's going into Starfleet, and this is all bullshit and he's going along for the ride, here, but the guy buys it: people love sob stories, and the guy will go home and tell his family and friends about the two kids who came to his center and took a GED so the one could get out of an abusive home.

Jim makes for a good story, but then, so does Dad.

They don't have anywhere to be, and it's novel, to have Spock in daylight (Jim hums 'Afternoon Delight' because he's a fucker, and Spock shoots him an poisonous look when Jim cracks up trying to explain it).  To check into a hotel and spread Spock out on blue sheets, to just look.

He's so pale, and he flushes green, which is hard to appreciate in the moonlight.

And then Jim's on his back, with Spock's long fingers in him and he's arching, panting, swearing at Spock that motherfucker who won't just do it

And then he does, and there's the burn and stretch, stupid, they're so stupid, no condoms, just hand lotion for lube fucking stupid but it feels so fucking perfect.

Spock's hand wraps around Jim's cock, jerking him off in the tight space between them and Jim's legs tighten around Spocks hips and he's gone, so gone.  

They're irresponsible twice more before they have to get back; go back to the Imperial (and god, this was such a bad idea because Jim is sore and he's pretty sure that even after the shower he's still leaking Spock's come out of his ass, which makes his dick twitch a little in interest). 

Spock kisses him before Jim grabs his bike and heads home, and Jim chews on his lower lip, trying to stop smiling.

"How was exams?" Mom asks when Jim walks in.  He smiles wanly at her, moving carefully and trying really hard not to because that's not really a fight he wants to have and she's been pretty happy, lately.  

Of course, Jim's been so busy with Spock he hasn't really had the energy to pick fights with Frank or get suckered into them when Frank picks them, or get into stupid trouble just because he can.

Holy shit, Spock's a good influence.

"Hard," Jim says.

"Do you think you passed?" Mom asks, and Jim thinks about it.

"Yeah," he says finally.  "Yeah, I think I did."  

He goes upstairs and bites the bullet, and writes to Chris Pike to ask for a letter of recommendation to get into Starfleet.  He knows Pike worked with Dad; wrote his dissertation on what happened on the Kelvin; looked Sam up and let him stay with him for a few years while Sam was floundering after he'd run away.  

He hacks into the school system to get an official copy of his transcript.

≫Chris says you're applying to Starfleet?≪ Sam pings him.

≫Vulcans are a bad influence, tell everyone.≪

≫It's about fucking time, Jimmy≪

Jim laughs a little, feels nervous and reckless.  

A week later he submits his application.

Three days after that they notify him that he's scheduled to take the entrance competition exams, which will be held in July.

…Jim has no idea how he's going to get out of town for a whole two weeks.  


Spock's parents find out because they weren't really hiding it from Spock's parents.  Jim's parents are going to be the problem, but—

"He says that I have responsibilities to my people.  That I have made a commitment to honor the Vulcan way of life."

"He does know you're going to Starfleet, right?"

"I believe he hopes for a change in my decision: he believes me to have acted rashly."

"So—what he said you're not allowed to—?"

"No, not in so many words.  My mother is concerned that you are using me, and that I am inviting hardship and heartbreak."

Jim's not sure if this is Spock's stealthy way of asking him if he's planning on breaking Spock's heart, so he twists to look up at him.  Spock is looking down at him, and Jim takes Spock's hand, turning it over carefully in his.

"I'm not going anywhere," he says, and brings Spock's hand to his face.  "I promise."

"I do not—"

"Spock.  I'm giving you permission here."

Spock looks at him, and then nods, murmuring softly words Jim's not listening to because then he's there, in Jim's mind and Jim's in his and holy shit, Vulcan kids are little bitches.  

When they're apart, untangled and separate once again, Jim kisses him.

They all leave.  Jim's…fluent in the language of getting left behind.  Spock doesn't even know that language exists. Jim's not gonna be the guy who teaches it to him.


They're more careful after that.  Jim brushes up on his skills of lying to so many people that no one can find the truth (he's going to a party; he's sick; he went to the movies; his car broke down)

It doesn't matter.  With Ambassador Sarek on the case it takes nine days for them to get busted.  

"Mr. Kirk.  If you would return to your home," the Ambassador says, and Jim looks at Spock—they were out in the garden of the hotel, and Spock looks…pissed.  Jim's never seen Spock genuinely pissed.

Annoyed, frustrated, exasperated, irritated, impatient, at the end of his rope…sure.  Jim tends to inspire those feelings in people.  

Spock genuinely pissed is fucking terrifying, but he brushes his fingers along Jim's as Jim gets up to leave.  

He goes home, and the house is quiet.  

Oh, fuck.

"I explicitly told you to stay away from him," Frank says.  He's standing in the middle of the kitchen: Mom's at the table, her hands wrapped around her glass of lemonade.  

"And I didn't listen because it's bullshit," Jim replies, wrapping his fingers around the keys of his bike.  

It happens so fast Jim doesn't register it: the sound of the backhanded smack echoing through the kitchen.  Jim stands stock still, mind racing, breath not coming, not fast enough, as Frank snarls, "Take care of your fucking son," to Mom.

"Don't you understand?" Mom says gently, holding his hands, like she can tolerate this—like she can bear it.  Jim's cheek is red and burning and he can taste blood inside his mouth and he's so mad he can't…  It's never—Frank's not physically abusive.  He's controlling, but he's never been a drunk and he never hit Jim: held too tight to his arms, shoved him, maybe but—

"No," Jim says flatly.

"Jim, it's safe here," she says, because that's always been Mom's thing.  She's crying now.   "It's—you'll be safe here.  Just finish school, you'll find someone nice to settle down with—this was a summer fling, a—an exotic romance—"

"A what?" Jim demands, staring at her incredulously, burning a little.  "Spock's not fucking exotic—"   

"Jimmy—"

"Look, fine, you don't approve, but—"

"You're not seeing him again," Frank says flatly from his chair.  His fingers are digging into the red leather, so old it's almost black.  "You're spending the rest of the summer in your room," he informs Jim, like Jim's a fucking a fairytale princess, and then adds, "They're leaving tonight."

Sarek told Frank and Mom, Jim realizes.  That asshole.

Jim stares at him.  "You can't—"

"Jim, please—" Mom begs, and Jim wrenches away from her, but Frank's there, and he's bigger and stronger.

Jim's faster, and he hauls off and slams his fist across Frank's face, turns and just runs back out of the house.  Has his PADD (he never leaves it in the house where Frank could get to it, not since all the Starfleet stuff is on it), wallet and his bike, kicks it into gear and goes.

Christopher Pike looks at him bemusedly when he opens the door to find a very grummy Jim Kirk at his doorstep.

"So, you took in Sam?  Can I sleep on your couch?" Jim asks.  Pike looks at his cheek, and then his forehead goes smooth.  

"Yeah, kid.  Come on in."  

Pike's wife's name is actually Number One.  She looks at him and then offers him a cold pack for his face.  

"I have a regenerator somewhere," she muses, going through a desk.  Jim stands awkwardly—he's tired, he's so tired, and his comm is going off like crazy but he's ignoring it.  

"Sit down," Pike says. "What happened?"

"I'm stuck in a Shakespearian play, so I got the fuck out," Jim says, sitting on the couch.  His knees give out so fast he pretty much falls onto the cushions.

"Which one?"

"Romeo and Juliet.  Or maybe it's Pride and Prejudice," Jim muses.  "It sucks."

Pike grins at him a little.  "Yeah, I bet it does."  

"Here," Number One says, handing Pike the regenerator.  Pike moves slowly, like he thinks Jim might bolt.  

"How fucked up was Sam when he came to you?" Jim asks him.

Pike picks up one of Jim's hand and examines the four bloody crescents. Jim looks at them: he hadn't…realized he'd done that. Pike nods with a wry smile as he says,  "Better than you."

Jim takes up residence in the guest room and pulls the covers over his head, and sleeps because suddenly it's just too much fucking work to be awake.

He manages to make himself sick, or maybe driving for two days on his bike through rain and summer heat did that.  

Chris—Pike tells him to call him Chris—brings him Starfleet sweats and a tee, and while Number One seems to be occupied in having a daily job, Chris is a professor, so he's technically on break when he's not yelling into his comm about stupidity and regulations.  

"Your mom signed the waiver," he says, sitting beside Jim's bed.  "She's worried."

Jim nods, looking at the PADDs Chris has brought him to help him study for the exams.

"Get better faster," Chris tells him.  "You've got testing in four days."

Jim passes the tests.  

≫I got in,≪ he writes to Spock.  ≫Are you still coming?≪
 
And then, ≫I miss you.≪

And a week later: ≫You fucking asshole.≪

He doesn't—no.  He means the last one.  It's just sort of a revelation that he can be so pissed at Spock for just—

Jim fought back.  Jim got out, and Spock, who spent the summer telling Jim to fight back and take some fucking control of his own life, Spock is the one who's just…letting his dad—

He's mad at him.  Disappointed.  It doesn't make him love him any less.

"Love bites," Jim informs Chris across the dinner table.  

Chris looks at him.  "Yeah," he agrees, then shrugs.  "Marriage is basically an exercise in masochism."  

"At least you're enjoying it."  

Chris looks at him, Jim thinks he has to know—know who it is, know what happened even though Jim never says because he can't talk about it without wanting to hop a cruiser for Vulcan so he can throttle one of its princes.

"It'll get better, Jimmy.  And classes start in a week."  

"Oh yay, school."

"Four years of this—"

"Three," Jim snorts.

"—and then two in command—"

"Oh bull," Jim snorts.

Chris just smirks at him.  "Eat your snap peas, kid."


The thing is, Jim likes San Francisco.  After the homogeneity of Riverside—of Iowa—San Francisco is cultureshock.  Busy and diverse, with so many different languages and colors and heights and shapes.

Everything within easy reach, everything right there.  And Chris doesn't care if Jim goes wandering as long as he has his comm (new, because Frank was calling too much.  Jim hasn't given the frequency to Mom, not yet.  He's still… he's not ready to).

Three days before classes start, his comm starts going off.  

"Sam, I swear to God I will kill you do you know what time it is here?" he rasps.  The sun is only just beginning to come up: maybe 4:45—yeah, 4:51 in the morning, fuck that shit.

"Jim," Spock says.

Jim sits up so fast he feels lightheaded.  "Spock."  

"I am reliably informed you are in San Francisco," Spock says.

"Yeah, I'm staying with Chris— where are you?"

"At the Vulcan Embassy.  My parents are not—"

Jim's throwing his shoes on and grabbing a tee, shoving it on and running out the door before Spock can even finish the sentence.  

"Yeah, I know where that is."

"Are you—Jim, are you running?" Spock sounds coolly amused, and without seeing him Jim can't tell if that's surprise or annoyance.  Jim contemplates whether he wants to punch or kiss him.  Kiss first, then he'll go from there.  Jim likes to let things unfold (until he's fucking with them, but that's not the point).

Spock is standing on the front steps across the green of the embassy, and Jim runs across it, tackles him and kisses him.

It's messy—a wrong angle, Spock's teeth too sharp against Jim's lips and his fingers pressing bruises into Jim's hips, his back, his shoulders.  

Their legs are tangled together, and god, the Vulcan staff must be appalled.  

Jim pulls back to breathe when it's finally too necessary: lungs on fire from the run and then the kiss.

"I am no longer bonded to T'Pring," Spock murmurs against Jim's lips, and Jim laughs a little, shakes his head and kisses the corner of Spock's mouth, running his hands along his chest and shoulders.  

"I'm in my boxers," he says, and Spock looks down and lifts an eyebrow.  

"I do not object to the view."

"It might cause a scandal," Jim replies, and he can see Spock visualizing the headlines in one of the tabloids.  

Spock sits up, shrugs off his white robe and wraps it around Jim.  The fabric breathes almost like cotton but clings like silk, and Jim laughs as Spock fastens the front, and pulls him in for another kiss.

"You are attending Starfleet," Spock says, but it's a question.

"Yes," Jim says, and then, narrowing his eyes at Spock, "You're…you're staying?"

"Yes."  

Jim laughs, leaning in for another kiss, tabloids be damned.  

Yes.