OH MY GOD?! TWO CHAPTERS IN ONE MONTH!? WHAT!?
I'm on fire!
Anyways my new writing style is a bit more encompassing, it's not going to lock with one character POV or another, you guys are gonna get to see A LOT more of what goes on with the main characters than just from Spock's point of view from now on.
Chapter 21: Talk
Leonard watched Ben.
The same way a rabbit watched a fox from one side of the fence. Hysterically grateful for the fence but glaringly aware that that didn't mean he was going to survive if he so much as blinked.
Probably part of the reason that Leonard didn't dare move from the spot at the table, serving as his fence, while the ruckus of an early family breakfast crashed around him. Everyone greeted Ben with hugs and rumbles of happiness. The sleepy little ones snuggled their bear of a grandfather and the boys received heavy thumps on the back.
Leonard got a few sly looks as the brood ate, packed themselves together then headed out to the door.
As quick as they had been swamped they were alone again, only with the company of a few plates still full of biscuits and bacon and a pot of coffee.
It was only then that Ben fixed his eyes on Leonard, giving him that sharp eyed fox look. Leonard was determined not to fidget and only sat up a bit straighter in his seat and returned the look with steady eyes and a set jaw. The quiet slipped between them for a long while before Ben shifted and set his heels up on one of the empty chairs, stretching out his knees and giving a little roll of his shoulders.
"So, Leonard. Care to enlighten me 'bout this whole business between Jimmy and that Vulcan fella?"
The doctor started and cocked his head a bit. "… what?"
"Ya heard me." Ben chuffed and wrinkled his nose a bit.
"… not exactly what I was expectin' ya to say is all, Ben."
The man chuckled and winked a bit. "Expectin' the shovel talk huh? Don't give the secret away but there ain't a shovel talk. Any of that stuff goes without sayin'. The kids can make their own choices 'bout who they go 'round snugglin'. Ain't my business to get in their way really, so long as they ain't bringin' home serial killers I'd care less. Sides, scarin' em offa my kids means I gotta learn everythin' the hard way."
"My god… ya let yer own kids work their dates into a lather over the speech then yer a kitten and they spill their guts in relief…"
Ben's lips twisted in a sly grin.
"… yer a genius. Ya mind givin' that one over? There's boys like likin' Johanna…"
Ben gave him a wave, "Sure. Have at it. Now. About Jimmy and Spock…"
Spock and Chambeau were keeping good pace with Jim and Yellow Wolf. The chill in the air bit at the hybrid and he hugged his coat a bit closer.
"Holding up okay, Spock?"
"While I will be eternally grateful for my experiences here at the ranch I will not mourn the climate when we depart."
"Yeah. I know what you meant." Jim's cheeks were flushed pink and his breath was clouding in vapor in front of his face. "She almost took the ranch down to Nevada. I kinda wish she had. Warmer and its closer to San Francisco. I woulda been able to come around more."
"What drove her decision to the mountains of Montana?"
"Dunno. I think part heritage and part cattle over sheep. The beef industry is in better shape than the wool and ovine one. She was starting a family and she wanted to have something strong to pass down… I don't think she would move now if she had all the chance to. It's home now. She's just used to it better than us I figure."
They were riding a bit behind the group. The Pups finally waking up enough to trot their horses around each other. The brothers chatting amicably about dinner plans for Thanksgiving and then the upcoming Christmas. Far ahead Cody rode at the front of the group with Johanna and Rockhound riding close on her right. Without McCoy there to look after the eight year old and everyone unwilling to have broken a promise to Johanna that she could go along for the push down into the valley Cody was watching over her like an over protective mother bear.
That left Jim and Spock to bring up the rear at a more sedate pace, quietly enjoying each other's company and keeping an eye on everyone else ahead of them.
"Who is it that has caught your interest, Jim?"
The blonde choked a bit on a sip from his coffee mug. He sucked air as he breathed to regain composure. "Spock!"
"I am merely curious as to who it is that has attracted your attention." Spock kept his attention forwards. "Another of the crew perhaps? You are not well known for your lengthy romantic attachments."
"… little bit harsh there, Spock." Jim grumbled.
"You past behavior does not dictate your behavior in future attachments, Jim. It is of my personal opinion that you would make an exceptional partner. You are loyal and tenacious. A fierce friend. I have no doubt that you are equally such as a mate."
Spock expected a bit of embarrassment. That was Jim's normal reaction to such conversation and scrutiny. But Jim's quiet voice made him turn a bit to look towards the blonde.
"… you really think that?"
"Vulcan's do not lie."
Jim snorted, he knew that wasn't exactly true, as much as Spock did. The blonde's focus was dropped down to the horn of his saddle, he was tracing a bit of embossed toolwork around the horn and over the swell.
"It is the truth of my opinion Jim." Spock reassured. "I merely wish to know who it is that you have turned your affections towards… I would like to congratulate them…"
"The way you just said that reminds me of how you talked to me at that hearing a million years ago, when we first met… are… are you jealous?"
"Absolutely not." Spock said a bit too quickly. Jim smiled, his flushed face brightening more. The pleased look gave away that internally Jim was bursting. A year ago he would have teased the Vulcan terribly.
"There's one person… but I don't think they're very keen on the whole relationship thing.. can't even tell if he's into guys…"
"They are a male?" Spock cocked his head a bit. And Jim only nodded quietly. Spock hummed, "Humans are one of the few species that retain difficulty concerning gender roles, though they have advanced far from what once was…"
"He's not human Spock."
"… I see."
"Not really sure you do." Jim grumbled with his head tilted away from the hybrid and focused on the black tips of Blackbird's ears.
"If I do I think you won't look at me the same way anymore."
"Is the individual of some great distaste?"
"Well… some people think he's a little hard to get along with…" Jim smiled a bit at the joke left only to himself.
"His behavior is of no import to me. I only care for your welfare and happiness."
"You care about my happiness?"
"Are we not friends?"
"Course… listen, Spock I-" Jim looked towards where Suri and Johanna had broken away from the group and were trotting back towards them. "-I want to talk this out. After we get back from the move down? I'd rather have no company and quieter space to do it in."
Spock looked at him with a cross of curiosity, concern and mild discomfort. But the hybrid gave a little nod of reassurance.
Johanna and Suri trotted up, pulling their ponies in line next to Chambeau and Yellow Wolf. Suri tugged his baseball cap down lower over his brow and made sure his sunglasses were in good place before speaking up. "Aunt Cody said we gall gotta have partners, she said that we haveta stick close to you and Uncle Jim."
"A wise decision considering the unpredictability of cattle. I believe Jim tells a story of once being trampled?"
"I wasn't 'trampled'… I was kicked in the face… it was the cow's fault."
"Cody stated it was a young bull and you'd tried to 'tip' it." Spock retorted factually.
"… she lied."
"… Indeed." Spock wrinkled his nose a bit and Jim hunched in his saddle looking a bit sulky. The Pups were giggling happily. They poked and prodded and begged Jim for the story while Spock turned his attention outwards as they climbed higher and higher into the mountain. Their group was following the pack of dogs, all of them with their ears up and noses low, scenting along for cattle. The cold grew deeper and the Vulcan hybrid shivered a bit more as they climbed higher and higher. He could feel the air thinning. And still no sign of the cattle.
The tree line was fast approaching and finding cattle in this woods would be difficult, though the hideaway seemed to make sense. In the dense trees, thickets of pines and ground covered in thick layers of fallen leaves, moss and pine needles the trees stood like a warm refuge in the chilling air.
Nemo A534, the one eyed German Shepherd and Situpsa, the corgi, both let out loud barks at the same moment and bolted into the trees. The rest of the pack on their tails. Cody pulled Blackbird around and let up a sharp whistle. Jim gave Spock a little smile as he, Cokata and Casper broke from the group and trotted up ahead. The rest stayed back, Spock flanked on either side by Suri and Johanna.
Cody and Jim, Cokata and Casper, all turned into the trees and disappeared into the play of light and shadow. Spock looked towards the remaining brothers and sat back, waiting.
There was only the distant sound of barking dogs. Then an almighty crash like a tree uprooting and falling to the earth. The dull thunder and heavy vibration through the earth was accompanied by lowing and mawing. The herd broke from the depth of the trees, shaking thick, red coats of hair and lumbering along at a trot. They looked disgruntled and chilled, some of them chewing strips of bark or shrubs.
The dogs, cued along by whistled and shouts whirled like satellites around the emerging herd of cattle. Sporting bits of sticks and branches in their hair and the horse's manes the group of four riders pushed along from behind. The only exception being the pet heifer, Rosie, trotting along behind Cody. The large bell around her throat clanging merrily.
The remaining brothers and pups fell into easy place among the cattle, the horses doing most of the work by training and instinct while the humans just kept their heads up and eyes out for strays. The Pups stayed close to their 'buddies', Johanna trotting off with Rockhound to fall into step with Jim and Yellow Wolf. Suri looked up towards Spock, still off to the side as the herd regathers and, protesting loudly, started down the slope pushed by dogs and horses.
"… are you nervous, Mr. Spock? It's your first drive" Suri asked, adjusting his sunglasses a bit.
The hybrid turned his head a bit to look down at the younger hybrid. "I admit some mild anxiety. But I have learned that if I give my trust to your Uncle Jim and Aunt Cody and especially in there horse then I have little to fear or expect in the way of ill tidings."
Suri gave a nod and a bright smile. He turned Mogget around and trotted along the slope towards the edge of the herd, Spock and Chambeau was were quick to follow, the painted mare jogging along and nickering loudly, her ears up and a little hop in her step. Excited to be back into the cattle again.
Spock followed his own advice and that of Jim and Cody, giving the painted mare a loose rein and letting her work, though he was careful to keep close to Suri, a watchful eye on the boy likely unneeded. It was the younger hybrid after all that was a verteran of the herd drive, even if it was only by a few years.
When the cattle realized what was happening, veterans themselves of the drive, they settled down from a trot and lope to a lumbering walk. It was a long climb down but it was all taken in stride. The horses and dogs seemed far more worked up than the cattle themselves. Keeping them in check to prevent a stampede proved more difficult than actually moving the animals. The work kept Spock far from Jim, though he occasionally brushed the path of one of the other brothers. They only had praise and encouragement to cast his way, though it was fleeting. His steadiest companion besides Chambeau being Suri.
The youngling given a few moments of Spock's time started to truly talk to the Vulcan hybrid. Opening up in casual conversation and the shyness that seemed to have plagued the boy before disappearing as they drove the cattle further into the valley.
The cold didn't cold didn't slack off, the land flattened and the grasses grew longer in the enclosed pastures of the ranch proper. A sharp whistle from Cody and the dogs drove the cattle towards the fence and turned them to follow along to the left. Spock's attention sharpened. He hadn't been this way along the property before. They drove the herd through the pastures, keeping them from stopping to browse on the grass.
The cattle trotted on only pulling up a bit when Cody and Blackbird trotted ahead, cutting off the herd and heading towards a large gate. Without dismounting from the buckskin stud, she bent, unchained the gate and swung it open.
The herd bottlenecked, moving along easily, actually speeding up when they spotted round bale scattered around ready for them. The lean pickings up on the mountain had started to wear on them. The fresh hay was a welcome sight and they bounced and jumped, kicking up their heels, happily rushing up to the bales. They buried their noses in deep to the dried grass and set right into to filling their bellies.
Cody and Jim wandered through the heard, counting and checking the animals, giving a few pats on the head as he moved around the herd before finally turning out of the paddock and shutting the gate behind them.
Cody lifted a hand and twitched out a few signs with her fingers. Pizza?
There was a little whoop and cheer from the assembled riders. Food ordered in was a rarity around the ranch. A prize hard earned. Once the horses were rubbed down, fed and put up and everyone had their chance at a shower and fresh cup of coffee a delivery boy was knocking at the door with a tower of boxes from small pizzeria in Darby that still used fresh ingredients in their pies.
Boxes were snatched up and fought over, plates piled high and contests over whose technique was better than the rest. Slowly the exhaustion from the long day of riding and driving and the heavy food drove most of the family to bed.
Jim and Spock lingered with Cody and Leonard. Ben dozing in a chair with a movie running on the screen going mostly ignored.
Spock was settling into a state of half meditation in the peace and warm bodies around him when Jim gently nudged his shoulder and jerked his head before getting to his feet and heading for the stairs. Spock roused himself and got up to follow. Cody barely lifted her head from Leonard's shoulder when they moved passed her vision, Leonard only slit an eye open before shutting it again and tugging the petite rancher a bit closer to himself.
Spock followed Jim up through the stairs and second floor to his room. The blonde gently shut the door behind them. He lingered a moment before turning and leaning his shoulders back to face Spock.
The hybrid stayed still, watching him, before slowly pulling his hands behind his back and linking his fingers together. The pose felt a bit… rusty. Unused in a place where your hands were constantly moving, constantly busy. He faced Jim. He knew what this was about and wouldn't try to play false or poke the blonde for attention. He only stood still and waited silently.
Jim met his eyes and studied him; there was a tension in the blonde that hadn't been there only a moment ago. Still Spock didn't move to try and assuage that tension or provide an opening.
The silence grew heavier and finally Jim cast his eyes away. "This… this is gonna be harder than I thought…"
"It's only as hard as you make it Jim. I will not judge you for your choice of partner. I am only curious as to who they are. If it caused you such duress perhaps you should-"
"No… no… I need to say it… sit on something to long and you start running from it instead of actually saying it… I'm gonna hold you to that."
"That thing you just said. That you won't judge me on who I'm interested in… its gonna be a lot to ask of you but I'm gonna hold you to it. Might be all I can get in the end after… "
"… then perhaps Jim is would be simplest to mere say the name. Or if it is-"
"No… Spock… you…"
… Ha. So yes, a shorter chapter than I meant for it to be and there are some time skips to move it along. Truth is that cattle drives, if they go well, are pretty uneventful. But from here on out we can get into some serious beef of the story. More soon!
So yes, a shorter chapter than I meant for it to be and there are some time skips to move it along. Truth is that cattle drives, if they go well, are pretty uneventful. But from here on out we can get into some serious beef of the story. More soon!