"Thank you, Mr. Spock," said Sulu. He looked at his watch. Sulu was punctual to a fault. It was a trait Spock appreciated in general, but particularly when it came to moderators. "Now," Sulu continued, "we’ve got some time left, so I’d like to open the floor for questions." He turned to Spock. "If that’s all right with you."
Spock nodded. “Of course,” he said. The assembled crowd broke into applause, and Spock straightened his shirt reflexively as he resumed his position at the microphone.
The questions were usually similar at these events. Describe your process and When did you know you wanted to be a writer and Are you ever going to write a sequel to The Mists of Mount Seleya? And so Spock fielded them as best he could, and then Sulu was looking at his watch and shifting in his seat and Spock was already anticipating the wrap up: “Thanks everyone for coming; signed copies of Mr. Spock’s latest are available at the front of the shop.” He was leaning down to fish in his briefcase for his phone when a chair scraped rudely on the concrete and a reedy, dark haired man half-rose from his seat, hand raised.
"I just have one more question," he said. "Your protagonist is a man who’s just lost his mother, who’s letting his grief effectively destroy his life. To what extent did your own mother’s death inform his characterization?"
The words blindsided Spock, who froze for a moment just as his fingers found the phone in the flotsam at the bottom of his bag. He took a breath, then another, and made a show of checking his texts before clearing his throat and leaning back in to the microphone. He was struck with an almost hysterical blankness; he had absolutely no idea what he was going to say, and that he could be struck so magnificently dumb four years on at the mere mention of her—
"I," he started. "That is to say—"
"Come on, man," said a third voice. It was obnoxious and brassy and in spite of himself Spock felt instantly buoyed. "Haven’t you ever heard of the death of the author? I mean, look at those hipster glasses; I guarantee you, like, hide your comic books behind a copy of A Thousand Plateaus on the train. And that’s cool, man, it’s dense stuff, but you’re telling me you’ve never read Barthes?”
The man looked crestfallen; Spock actually felt sorry for him. Jim could be excoriating when he wanted to be, which tonight he apparently did.
"I got an A- in my poststructuralism seminar last semester," the man muttered desultorily.
"Well then," Jim said, "I guess the alternative is that you’re an asshole who asks overly personal questions."
The room fell silent, except for the sounds of Spock’s thwarted interlocutor retreating in a huff. Spock feigned rummaging in his bag again to hide his smile.
"Dude," said a black-clad girl in the front row to no one in particular. "Did you see who that was? That was Jim Kirk.”
"I believe you were the one who once described debates with undergraduates as ‘shooting fish in a barrel’," Spock said without looking up.
"I actually feel kind of bad," Jim said. He winced, taking a sip of his drink. "Did you see his face?"
"He will doubtless decide on a career in consulting before the end of the week," said Spock. "Congratulations; you are officially a killer of dreams."
Jim sighed. “Yeah, that was a dick move,” he said. “I don’t know what I was thinking.”
"You were not thinking," Spock said. "It is a bad habit."
They sat in silence. Spock took an overlarge gulp of port and let his cursor hover over Sharknado for a dangerously long time. “Thank you,” he said finally.
Jim nodded. “Of course,” he said quietly.
"I didn’t know you were planning to come," Spock said. "You should have contacted Nyota; she would have—"
"Please, Spock, like I’m going to call up our agent and beg for tickets to your reading when you won’t even return my calls?"
Spock sighed. “I have been busy,” he said weakly.
"Bullshit," Jim grumbled into his drink. He looked up at Spock, smiling too wide. "But hey, maybe that’s the life of a bestselling author," he said. "I wouldn’t know."
Jim shook his head. “Nah, don’t,” he said. “I’m being an idiot.” He laughed; Spock wished he wouldn’t. “A maudlin idiot,” he said. “Anyway, listen, you’ve probably seen more of me tonight than you wanted to see, so I’ll just—”
Spock reached across the table, brushing Jim’s wrist with his fingertip. Jim stilled, and Spock heard him suck in a breath.
"Nyota booked me a suite," he said.
Jim’s face softened slightly, and he raised his eyebrows at Spock. “Seriously? She’s the biggest tightwad I’ve ever met; how’d you swing that?”
"I believe she prefers to think of herself as frugal," Spock said. He shrugged. "Presumably she is deducting the cost of the stay from my next advance."
Jim grinned at that. “Logical,” he said.
"It has an impressively large flatscreen television, and the beds are memory foam."
"Look, if you’re just going to torture me with this information—"
Spock swallowed. “Would you like to come upstairs?”
The ease of their banter evaporated as the words left his mouth, and Spock regretted them instantly. Because it had been a year, hadn’t it, and New York was a world unto itself, and who knew what manner of exploratory missions Jim had undertaken since moving here.
Jim gave Spock an inscrutable look. “Are you…are you sure?”
Spock wasn’t sure, not really. But he’d spent the better part of a year deciding that that, occasionally, was acceptable.
"I believe I can stream from my laptop to the flatscreen," he said, turning his computer to flash the scarlet Netflix homepage. "Have you seen Sharknado?”
Jim downed the rest of his drink in one gulp, and took Spock’s hand with only a trace of trepidation. “Baby,” he said, “that’s the best pickup line I’ve ever heard.”