A/N: I wrote this by accident when I was supposed to be writing the next chapter of Enterprise High. I'm so sorry. It came upon me like a sudden craving for chocolate, i.e., it could not be stopped, nor reasoned with.
Urr, Jim's a drama queen, Spock's… John Lennon? idek. Enjoy.
PS: Pray for Gaila. Woman needs all the help she can get. And I have a caveat—I've never actually seen a Grammys ceremony, but I have seen the Oscars, so, my reference is… a bit off.
James Tiberius Kirk, the man who was called the best reporter to cover the Earth, was getting really tired of hearing those words. He sighed heavily and sat back in his chair. In front of him, his editor Christopher Pike paced like a ravenous lion.
"I ought to fire you," Pike snarled at Jim. "I can't believe—" He let out a little screech and tried to pull his hair out. Jim glanced around the office, bored.
"You," hissed Pike, finally giving up on destroying his follicles and leaning over his desk with one of the most menacing expressions Jim had ever seen, "are on the arts beat."
"What?!" cried Jim, standing up. Outside of the glass office, the heads that were turned eagerly towards the scene inside started leaning over to each other and whispering. The red-haired woman sitting right outside of the office put her head in her hands in despair.
"You heard me!" shouted Pike, gesticulating wildly at Jim. "You're never getting a political interview again! I'm pulling you out of San Francisco! You're demoted! I'm cutting your pay! The only reason I'm not having you killed is—well, I can't think of one, other than that it'd be a waste of money to pay the assassin!"
"Chris, come on, it'll pass—"
"PASS?" shrieked Pike. "You punched—the President—in the face—during your live television interview with him! These things do not PASS."
"He insulted my—"
"It does not matter who he insulted! He is the President! I agree that he deserved it! But my God, Jim, did someone slip you a crazy pill?"
It went on like that for a few hours. By the time Pike ordered Jim out of his sight for the rest of eternity, or at least until the workday began tomorrow, the sun had set. Jim left the office in a huff, the redhead getting up from her seat to follow him as he stormed into the newsroom like a really angry hurricane. Pike threw a couple of breakable things at the walls of his office, clutched at his heart for a while, and finally sat down to make frantic phone calls to various members of the media and the government to ensure that the San Francisco Enterprise didn't get all of its press passes and reputation destroyed. His assistant solemnly handed him a steaming cup of coffee, black, that he drained without flinching. The newsroom kept right on whispering and staring as Jim swept out of the room.
"Okay, I know Pike just lectured you, but seriously," said the redhead, walking with Jim down the corridor he'd just entered. Interns scrambled out of their way. "I am attached to you, and whatever happens to you happens to me too, Jim. JIM."
The redhead grabbed him and whipped him around, causing all movement in the hall to cease as curious bystanders stuck their heads out of offices and over stacks of files to watch.
"What, Gaila," snarled Jim.
"What did he do?" Gaila demanded, her green eyes flashing. "Did he fire you? What happened?"
"Worse. He assigned me to arts."
"Oh God," said Gaila, going completely pale.
"I know!" wailed Jim. "I've won a Pulitzer Prize! I turned down the New York Times! Time magazine said I was bigger than Woodward and Bernstein!"
Gaila, Jim's photographer, had seen action in three of the major wars of the past ten years and had also won a Pulitzer Prize. She was considered one of the best photographers in the business, and she had started out in the arts. Like Jim, she had a made a vow never to go back.
"This is horrible," mourned Jim, actually sitting down in the middle of the hallway, tears leaking from his eyes.
"Yes," snapped Gaila. "Yes it is. And it's completely your fault. Everybody knows President Nero's an asshole. You didn't have to emphasize it."
"Yeah, he does that himself," said Jim. "Ugh." He put his elbows on his knees and leaned forwards despondently. "Arts," he said miserably. "I hate the arts."
"I hate you."
"I hate me too."
Gaila sighed heavily. "Come on," she said, heaving Jim up. "Let's get you home."
He allowed himself to be dragged out of the Enterprise building and put bodily in a taxi. Gaila watched him go, then went to a nearby bar and got completely smashed.
A week later, Nyota Uhura's cell phone rang. She answered it immediately.
"Uhura here. Yes. Yes. Yes. No. Ten o'clock. Yes." She brought the cell down from her ear and hit end. Then she turned to the man sitting beside her. They were in a plush dressing room, surrounded by mirrors, lights, and sofas, but the man was writing instead of getting ready for the show that was starting in ten minutes.
"Interview," she said briskly, brushing her hair out of her eyes and tucking it behind her ear, making one of her large earrings jangle. "Midnight, at the Lion."
"Mm," said the man, to all intents and purposes ignoring her.
"Guess who it's with."
"I do not guess," said the man, frowning at the sheet of paper he was writing on and crossing a line of text out with a single straight mark.
"Do it anyway."
The man just looked at her.
"Fine," huffed Nyota. "It's with James Kirk."
The man's expression did not change.
"Oh come on!" cried Nyota. "This is the best publicity we've ever had! The Vees are going to be famous because of this interview! Kirk punched President Nero a week ago and we're his first assignment after his demotion! Do you know what that means for us—more than as a band, but as a brand name?"
The man merely raised an eyebrow and lifted another sheet of paper from his bag next to his seat.
Nyota shook her head. "I just don't know what to do with you sometimes."
"Do nothing," said the man, finally putting down his fountain pen. "I am disinterested in being a brand name."
He was one of the tallest men Nyota had ever met, along with being one of the smartest—and the most maddening. He was a Vulcan, an adherent of a small but intense religious sect that advocated stoicism and reason. He was also one of the most talented lyricists and singers in the music industry, and had recently started an alternative rock band called The Vees that already had a platinum album and five number one hit singles. He had long black hair and wore famously simple clothes that he handmade himself. He was covered in piercings: there were thirty-six in his ears alone, along with the fourteen on his face. He had just one name: Spock.
Nyota was both his manager and publicist, which most of the music industry didn't think she could deal with, but she was, so far, doing an incredible job. Spock was famous for being reticent, uncooperative, and completely unwilling to sacrifice art for popularity, but Nyota was brilliant in her own right, and had steered Spock and his band towards breathtaking commercial success.
Spock wrote the lyrics, but another man wrote the music and occasionally played backup guitar for the band. It was this man that burst into the dressing room like a small tornado.
"You metal-faced hobgoblin," Leonard McCoy shouted at Spock without any sort of preamble. "You told Hikaru we were playing 'Miri' tonight? Pavel doesn't even know the part yet!"
This was how most of Leonard and Spock's encounters went. Nyota had, at first, been downright alarmed by their vocal interactions. Any number of people called it abuse: Leonard constantly insulted and screamed at Spock, who bore it with a patience—and a biting retaliatory sarcasm—that many had remarked on. But they wrote incredible songs together, that much was true, although how those songs were produced was a matter of some confusion, as the two did not seem to enjoy being in the same room with each other, much less cooperating artistically.
"I did tell Hikaru that we would performing 'Miri' tonight," said Spock calmly. "I then realized that, as you so astutely state, Mr. Chekov does not yet have the piano portion memorized, as he is new to our band. However, Mr. Chekov informed me that he had an 'eye for music,' which is, after all, why I hired him, and assured me that he would be able to perform the piece as requested." He paused, devastatingly. "Had you taken the simple precaution of asking Mr. Chekov about this, you would not have had to come up here and be proven utterly wrong."
Nyota hid a grin. Leonard spluttered at Spock for a bit, then left, slamming the door behind him.
"Why are you two always so mean to each other?"
"I have no idea," said Spock archly. "Leonard's stunted personality seems to require it."
Nyota left it at that.
"I don't want to see them perform," Jim whined as Gaila shoved him towards the club entrance. "It's bad enough that we have to talk to them at all. The music will be crappy and I'll know it and then I'll have to take them even less seriously."
"You didn't want to stay at home and listen to the CD, so you have to go to the performance," said Gaila, shoving Jim into a lamppost so that he was out of her frame and she could snap a clean picture of the crowd lined up outside of the club. "This is how arts reporting works. You have to be exposed to The Vees in some way before you interview them. Get your press pass out."
"I'd rather die," said Jim melodramatically.
How this man had survived the Mediterranean War is beyond me, Gaila thought.
"Fine, the road's right there, and the cars are fast enough. Wait a sec." She clambered on top of a trashcan in order to get a better angle, took a few photos, and leapt down. "Okay, we're good. Come on! Get out your notebook. Write down some tone. Think about a lead."
Jim pulled out his spiral and scribbled a sentence. He handed it to Gaila.
The Vees, the latest piece of pop cultural trash strewn across the toxic wasteland of modern American music…
"Tone it down," she advised, handing the notebook back. Jim stuck his tongue out at her.
Jim and Gaila probably could have gotten in without their press passes. Gaila was infamously beautiful and Jim could flirt the clothes off of anybody, female, male, or otherwise. They didn't exactly make an incongruous pair. The bouncer was already letting them by with a smile before he saw their passes. Gaila, remembering Jim's tendency to get in fights, slipped the bouncer a twenty as insurance. After all, this was the man who had given the President a black eye. She wouldn't put anything past him at this point.
Jim bought a beer and leaned dispiritedly on the stage. (Another bouncer, whom Gaila had also tipped exorbitantly, had cleared a spot for them at stage right.) One of the musicians, a tough-looking blonde, was setting up the instruments. She would have been ethereal had she not been wearing a torn red and black dress that made her look like a cross between an angel and a vampire.
"Nice legs," Jim commented unenthusiastically.
Gaila rolled her eyes. "I'm going to go take some pictures. Try not to get crowd-surfed."
Gaila stole a gulp of his beer and waded off. Jim made nasty comments about the audience, who were mainly heavily pierced, tattooed, and made-up teens and twentysomethings, in his notebook. He knew he looked really out of place in his slacks and collared shirt, but he had been in too bad of a mood to go find a t-shirt. Gaila had put on an even sluttier outfit than usual, of course. She always got into the spirit of things. He noted something to that effect in his notebook (that is, about the materialistic whorishness of the crowd). Then somebody said, "Oy, move yer fingers or ah'll snap 'em off."
Jim pulled his notebook hastily off of the stage. A very normal-looking man in his thirties was maneuvering a drum kit into place in front of him with deft expertise. Jim stared at the man for a bit before realizing that he should probably talk to him.
"What's your name?" Jim asked.
"Montgomery," grunted the man, shoving the drum kit incrementally to the left. "You're really reinforcin' my grand self-image."
"You the drummer?"
"'Course ah'm th' drummer, yeh bloomin' idiot."
Jim grinned. He liked this guy.
"You like being in The Vees?"
"Sure, well enough," said Montgomery, connecting some wires with practiced ease. "Spock's a wee bit barmy, at times." He straightened up, dusting off his pants. "But aren't we all. Well, enjoy th' show."
"Look forward to it."
Jim recorded the encounter in his notebook. He felt marginally more cheerful.
Soon enough the lights dimmed and the crowd, instead of going insane (like Jim had expected) went completely quiet. Gaila still hadn't returned; Jim speculated that she had found a good place to take pictures of the stage from, although since he didn't know the slightest about photography he had no idea where this could be.
The musicians filed out onstage. Montgomery, still as plain as ever, took a seat behind his drums, sending Jim a wink. A rather terrified-looking teenager went to the piano, the blonde from before stalked out onstage and flung an alarmingly spiked guitar over her shoulder, and an Asian man in his twenties with an incredibly emo haircut picked up a bass. Another man, an irritated-looking guitarist, hovered in the back, glaring at his instrument and shuffling his feet.
Jim pulled a flyer he had forgotten about out of his pocket and read the band info. The teenager was Pavel Chekov, some sort of piano prodigy that the lead singer had recently hired. The blonde was Christine Chapel, a death metal guitarist famous for her theatrical performances. The emo bassist was a classically trained musician named Hikaru Sulu. The backup guitarist was the band's composer, a Southerner called Leonard McCoy. And not at all to Jim's surprise, Montgomery the drummer, whose last name was Scott and nickname was Scotty, was Scottish, and a percussion legend.
Jim yawned. The hipsters beside him glared scorchingly. He wrote in his notebook, The crowd, while quiet, remains judgmental.
Then the lead singer walked out onstage. The lights went down until just one shone on the primary microphone.
Spock was dressed in a loose blue tunic and flowing black pants. All of his piercings were silver, and they gleamed in the light. The spotlight cast his angular face into shadows. He was an irresistible figure, a calm singularity in the midst of visual discord.
James Tiberius Kirk had interviewed forty-seven heads of state, countless soldiers and politicians, and even the Pope. He had broken news stories that had toppled regimes and disgraced the most upright of statesmen. He had seen war, its gory innards and its horrifying effects, and recorded the signing of monumental concords and peace treaties. But he had never been more awed in his life as he was now.
And Spock hadn't even started singing yet.
For Jim, it was an unfair song for The Vees to start with. "Miri" was not their greatest hit, but it was their most acclaimed piece of music. Bitter old music critics who swore by Haydn and Beethoven had called "Miri" a moving, sublime work of art. Jim didn't stand a chance. He was actually crying a bit by the end of the song. His notebook was completely forgotten, and the hipsters around him would have said "I told you so" to him if they weren't too busy having religious experiences of their own.
The next fifty-four minutes passed like time had burnt up in a spectacular fire and all that remained was the music. Jim listened in rapture, fixed entirely upon Spock's haunting voice and transcendent lyrics. When the music faded at last and the musicians departed the stage, the crowd stumbled outside, moved and soulful. Gaila found Jim leaning against a utility pole, a dreamy look in his eyes.
"They were pretty good," said Gaila, flipping through the archive on her camera. "And I got some amazing shots. The lead singer was absurdly photogenic, huh?" She elbowed Jim, who didn't even grunt. Alarmed, she waved her hand in front of his eyes. He jerked out of his trance.
"Are you okay?" said Gaila, narrowing her eyes at him. "We've still got the interview. Come on, the taxi's waiting down the block."
The prospect of actually meeting Spock spurred Jim into action. He ran for the taxi.
The first thing Gaila did when they got to the Lion was down two shots of scotch. It was before she even took pictures of the place. Jim was still too hazy to be amazed, though. He jotted down some notes and asked the maître d' where he was supposed to be meeting The Vees. The maître d' showed him to a private room and served him another beer. Jim waited impatiently, tapping his fingers on the table to the tune of one of the songs he had just heard.
Gaila snuck up behind him. "What is wrong with you?" she demanded in his ear, scaring the spinal cord out of him. He leapt a few miles, then floated back down like a balloon.
"Nothing," he sighed happily. "Except I'm in love."
"It really is a miracle, isn't it? I must have been destined to attack Nero. Otherwise I never would have met Spock."
"You haven't met him yet. Listen, maybe we should go to the hospital. You might have a concussion or something."
"Gaila, he is marvelous. You saw him perform, didn't you? Like a ray of sun on a cloudy day, he lit up my life."
"Yeah, sounds like brain damage to me."
"Purple prose aside, he is a genius," insisted Jim. He nearly trilled. "I'm happier than I've ever been!"
"You've finally gone off the deep end, that's what's happened."
"Pessimist! You never believed in true love."
"Okay, yes, but neither did you! If—"
Gaila shut up. Spock had entered the room, and Jim's whole body went on red alert.
"Spock," he said in a deeper voice than Gaila had ever heard out of him. She stared for a moment, then remembered she was a photographer and lifted her camera.
Jim and Spock shook hands solemnly. Spock had changed into a white drape-thing that looked very comfortable and cotton-y. They sat down at the table, and Jim turned on his voice recorder.
"I'm a huge fan," Jim began.
"That is surprising," interrupted Spock, "since you have been quoted as saying, 'Today's popular music is about as useful as nuclear waste, and just as welcome in civilized society.'"
This flummoxed Jim, but only for a bit.
"That was… previously," he hedged. "I've had a change of heart."
Spock raised his eyebrow. Jim had never seen anything hotter.
"I had never listened to The Vees before, but I caught your show tonight," Jim tried to explain. "I was really moved."
"Mm," said Spock.
The interview did not go very well. Jim was more sincere than he had ever been, but Spock, who had read up extensively on Jim's past career and was well aware of his interviewing techniques, not to mention prejudiced against him for his gall and aggression, said next to nothing. Jim was close to crying with frustration by the time Nyota came to get Spock, who left the room without a second glance. Nyota was immediately concerned.
"How was he?" she asked Jim in an undertone.
Devestated, Jim replied, in a small voice, "Terrible. I feel… as if my soul has been crushed."
Nyota covered her eyes. "Fuck. I'm so sorry. He's always bad with interviews, but I think I said the wrong things when I was prepping him for this one… I'm Nyota Uhura, by the way."
"Oh, hi. You're his manager? And publicist?"
"Yeah." Nyota rubbed her chin. "Listen—okay, this is… probably not a smart thing to ask you, but… we're about to go on tour."
Jim crossed his arms. "Yes?"
"And, well, I know that the Enterprise is really interested in doing a magazine feature on The Vees. So I was thinking—you could come on tour with us, and write that feature for them."
Jim couldn't say yes fast enough. In the background, Gaila lowered her camera slowly, and eventually left for a few more shots of scotch.
Pike waved his hands. Jim and Gaila were back at the San Francisco Enterprise newsroom, in Pike's office, each talking loudly over the other. They went quiet at his gesture.
"Let me get this straight," said Pike slowly. "Jim: You want to go on tour with an alternative rock band because you've fallen in love with their lead signer." He paused significantly. "Who is a man. And Gaila, you are against this."
"Truly. Passionately. Utterly," said Gaila.
"'To love,'" sighed Jim, "'is to receive a glimpse of heaven.'"
"He's been like this the whole time," whispered Gaila across the desk. "He won't let me take him to a hospital."
Pike tapped his chin. "Uhura's right," he said slowly. "We have been interested in doing an in-depth feature on The Vees for a while now. And we do need to keep Jim out of the spotlight until the controversy dies down. Did you know he's been exiled from Washington D.C.? The Director of the FBI called me today to tell me. I didn't even know they could do that."
"And I didn't know you were gay," Pike added.
"I'm not! I'm bisexual."
"Ah. Okay. Gaila?"
"What? So am I."
Pike covered his eyes. "That's not what I was asking. I was asking your opinion on all of this. If you don't want to go with him, I can get him another photographer."
Jim looked like he was about to start jumping up and down. "I can go? I can go?"
"Yes, you can go. Gaila?"
Gaila glared at Jim. "I'll go with him. He needs a nanny."
"I do not!"
"Yes, you do. You forgot to take your allergy medication this morning, didn't you?"
Jim scowled at her. "That's not the point."
"I really believe it is."
When Nyota told The Vees that they were going to have two guests with them on their first world tour, nobody knew quite what to think. But before Spock could speak up against the inclusion of Jim and Gaila, Scotty said casually that he'd met Jim at the show and thought he was a nice fellow, for a reporter. That was all it took for Hikaru, Pavel, and Christine. Leonard was torn: he hated Spock on principal, and he also hated humans. Finally he ended up liking Jim, he said because he couldn't stand the idea of siding with Spock, but really because Jim turned out to be a pretty likable guy.
Except for Jim and Spock (and Spock and Leonard, but that was old news), everybody got on quite well. Spock and Gaila got to be good friends, something that Jim barely forgave her for. But nothing Jim did would coax Spock out of his shell. Spock disapproved of violence of any sort—Jim was famous for his bar brawls, and of course there was the incident that had gotten all of this started. Spock was quiet and reserved—Jim was excited and outgoing. What made it worse was that they were both professionals, and it was Jim's job to comment on Spock's profession, even though he didn't know a thing about it. One night, in Seattle, over dinner, Spock asked Jim if he could name all four members of The Beatles. He couldn't even name one.
"How," said Spock, nostrils flaring, "do you go through life, and even win a Pulitzer Prize, without knowing who The Beatles are?"
"Hey, they sang, I know that," said Jim, affronted. "Didn't they do 'Stairway to Heaven,' or something?"
Spock left the table and wouldn't speak to Jim for a week.
Things changed in New York, after The Vees' tenth concert.
After their (sold out) show at Madison Square Garden, Spock went for a walk. He threw a hood over his head and stayed in the shadows of the Manhattan streets. Nobody recognized him. He glided around, gazing up at the impossible buildings seemed to rub his shoulders with their closeness. Then he went back to the hotel and, right in front of his room, tripped over a notebook.
He was just looking for a name, he told himself, even though he knew whose it was. On a middle page that he flipped to was written:
The Vees are pretty great. But saying that is like saying that the Democrats are slightly unorganized, or that the Republicans are kind of zealous, or that Karl Marx was a bit of a socialist. They are, without question, a band for the ages—and not just the ages of pop culture, but the ages of history, of human accomplishment. High praise indeed, but the transformative experience of their music is not to be misspoken of.
Further down, Spock read:
The lyrics are good. The music is good. But it is more than that. The Vees have achieved a real synthesis between life and song. Their front man, the god-gifted, mononymous Spock, is more than a singer or a songwriter. He goes so far as to be not just your conscience, but your entire living mind.
Spock frowned at the page. He had not expected this. This was sincere prose; he could feel the truthfulness of it on the page.
He knocked on Jim's door after only hesitating for a few moments. Jim answered in his pajamas and jumped a bit, clearly not expecting to see him. Spock handed him the notebook wordlessly.
"Oh, thanks," said Jim, staring at it. "Man, I lose these all the time."
Spock just had to comment on this. "I had presumed that a reporter's notebooks are quite important."
"They are," Jim said. "I lose them anyway. I always find them again, though. One time I lost a notebook in Yemen, and it turned up three months later in a bargain shop in Greece. Strangest thing."
"How disorganized of you."
"Yeah, well," said Jim. "With genius comes eccentricity."
"Mm," said Spock. It was beginning to be a trademark. He started to leave. But something stopped him—something about the city he had just wandered around in.
He knew the answer to the question he was about to ask, but he asked it anyway. "What piece of reporting did you win your Pulitzer for?"
Jim, who had half-closed the door, flung it open again. "Oh," he said, slightly confused. "Um, my article on the Battle of Jerusalem."
Jim looked at him. His eyes were full of memory.
"Because of the significance of the battle," said Jim. "But more importantly, because of a husband and wife who died together, right next to me. She was Israeli and he was Palestinian, and they were fighting for the same side. Their names were Rebekah and Ibrahim. I wrote about them, and the committee liked it."
"The nation liked it," said Spock. "The world liked it. It is one of the most-read articles ever written. 'Like' is clearly an understatement."
Jim laughed. "I know."
"Did you lose that notebook?" Spock meant for the question to be, well, a joke, which was odd, since he had not made one of those in a long time.
"Yes," said Jim unexpectedly. "That was the one that turned up in Greece. The story had already been published, but it killed me to lose it. It came back to me, though." He shrugged, and the memories were gone from his eyes, leaving his face strangely empty. "Goodnight."
"Goodnight," said Spock, but Jim had already closed the door.
After that, things got better.
Jim started to be more closed off, and Spock tried to open himself up. For some reason, this worked out quite well; Spock understood Jim better when there was less to understand, and Jim became vastly less irritating. A month into the tour, Pavel knocked softly on everybody's doors and dragged them to the hotel meeting room, where they all peered through the window to see Jim and Spock talking intently about something at the end of a long, shiny table.
"What the fuck," said Gaila, shoving everybody else out of the way so that she could see into the room better.
"I don't get it," said Leonard. "And I think I'm offended."
Nyota just shook her head made sure to ask Jim how his story was coming the next day. He said well enough, and two months later, when Jim submitted the story to the San Francisco Enterprise, he handed a copy to Nyota.
"Approve it and it'll be published," he said. "I'm going to go give this to Spock."
"Wait—" said Nyota, eyes fixed on the printout. She had already read the lead and was well into the second paragraph. "Jim, you…" She shook her head. "I don't know," she said, looking up. "I guess I didn't realize who you were, this whole time."
"A journalist," said Nyota wonderingly. "And a damn good one. This is incredible."
"It's a story," said Jim dismissively. "Nothing more."
Jim couldn't stand to watch people read something he had written, so he merely gave the feature to Spock and left the room. He sat outside Spock's door, his stomach twisted in knots. Thirty minutes later, Spock came out and sat wordlessly beside him, holding the story so loosely it dripped out of his hands.
They were quiet for a while. Then Spock said, "Thank you."
"Thank you," said Jim.
"This is a monumental piece of work," said Spock. "I like it very much. It is… strangely understated, for being so positive."
They were quiet again.
"I should go," said Jim. "My flight actually leaves in about two hours. Gaila thinks we're late." He held up his cell phone, showing Spock his thirteen missed calls.
"Go, then," said Spock.
"Again," said Jim. "Thank you. I had a wonderful time." He shook Spock's hand. "I'll see you around."
"Yes," said Spock softly.
And that was it. Jim was gone.
Together, they had:
Seen twenty movies in theaters, and twenty more in various hotel rooms. Gone on late night snack runs. Gotten quite drunk just once (the other times, Spock was not involved in the inebriation portion of the evening). Been taught to play piano by Pavel. Bought a goldfish and named it "Miri." Cooked a huge number of meals. Rescued a cat from a storm drain. Gotten lost in London. Read sixty-six books. Played chess (final score: Spock, 26; Jim, 21). Stolen each other's clothes. Gotten piercings (Spock: a teardrop, Jim: a simple lobe). Made Scotty sandwiches. Gone to seven zoos. Flown kites. Made fun of Leonard. Ran from Leonard. Apologized to Leonard. Made fun of Leonard again. Run from Leonard again. Learned the ASL alphabet. Fed ducks. Walked in on Pavel and Hikaru making out. (Were sworn to secrecy.) Stolen Nyota's cell phone. Gone bicycling, hiking, and sailing. Built a sand castle on a cool Georgia beach. Gone to church. Done laundry in a laundromat. Thrown snowballs at each other. Eaten a one-pound box of chocolates in just under half an hour. Lit incense for a Vulcan ceremony. Lit incense to cover the smell of marijuana. Lit incense because it smelled good. (Bought lots of incense.) Walked in on Gaila and Scotty. (Were invited to join.) Attempted to knit. Played poker, Monopoly, Go Fish, Parcheesi, speed, and war. Gotten a speeding ticket (each claiming it was the other's fault; Spock eventually paid it). Decorated a hotel room with glowing stars and left them there. Leaned over the lip of the Grand Canyon. Watched the Super Bowl. Tried to learn how to drum with Scotty's help. Been stung by wasps. Walked in on Leonard and Nyota. (Were threatened into secrecy.) Gone to a horse race. Been stalked by a groupie. Taken over two thousand pictures (Gaila despaired of their photographic skill). Dressed up as deathmetalheads with Christine's help. Accidentally broken a guitar. Written postcards to their families. Cried during The Notebook. (Refused to admit this.) Nearly been killed by an eighteen-wheeler. Been chased by insane dogs down a residential street somewhere in the Midwest. Gotten food poisoning. Gotten tetanus shots. Gotten colds. Been lectured by Leonard on their mutual irritating qualities. Watched President Nero's State of the Union and threw things at the TV. Stared at the stars a mile outside of Phoenix, Arizona. Made Pavel a really homely ushanka. Walked in on Gaila and Christine. (Tried to take pictures; were thrashed with pillows to within inches of their lives.) Made pancakes. Talked about philosophy. Saw a mother hitting her child in a grocery store and reported her. Been angry at humanity. Visited an arboretum. Spent an entire day talking to each other in Pig Latin. Broken three cell phones (one stepped on, one dropped on concrete, one dropped in water). Visited eleven art museums. Fallen into two ponds and a river.
And buried the goldfish quietly, in Hartford, at the end of Jim's portion of the journey. Stood close to each other in the winter cold as the funerary candle placed over her grave burned to a simple trace of wax. Put their arms around each other and sung "Miri," softly, into the biting wind, letting the breezes take their intertwined voice to heaven.
A day after they got back, Jim and Gaila found Pike once more pacing behind his desk. When they came in, he smiled at them.
"Gaila," he said, holding up a folder with photographs she had taken spilling out of it. "You've surpassed yourself."
"I had a good time," said Gaila. "It was like a paid vacation."
"It was a paid vacation," said Pike. "And Jim…" He shook his head. "I don't even know what to say. I didn't know you were capable of this."
"I didn't either," said Jim, thinking of everything. "You like it?"
"Like it," said Pike. "I guarantee you it'll get you your second Pulitzer. You're promoted and I'm replacing your pay. Do you want to stay on the arts beat? You can, after this. But if you want to go back to national, that's fine too."
Jim didn't hesitate. "I'm done with arts," he said.
In the next month, Jim broke three important stories, wrote thirty-six articles, went to Rome and back for a peace conference, forced one corrupt mayor to resign, and interviewed the King of England. It was less than he generally did in a month, but he was just getting back into the swing of things.
He had forgotten what it was like to have no down time, to be constantly writing or researching or transcribing or traveling (and when he was traveling, he was doing the previous three), with moments of sleep and food between. He remembered that he loved it, and he did. The media made a gigantic deal of his being back on the streets, and in every interview he conducted that month (including the one with the King), the interviewee said that they hoped not to come to blows. Jim laughed it off every time.
His article on The Vees was published to a considerable amount of shock and awe. "If this," wrote one Washington Post commentator, "is what James Kirk does in his free time, then I can't wait for him to retire." He did win his second Pulitzer for it, just a month after it was published. It was the very first entertainment story to win the prize, yet nobody put up much resistance.
But around the same time, The Vees got their first negative review, from the New Yorker.
Jim had just finished reading it and was about to go find a lighter so he could burn the thing when his cell phone rang. To his surprise, Spock was calling him. They had not spoken since Jim had left.
"I am in town," Spock said after their greetings. "I wondered if you would like to have dinner with me."
"I'd love to," said Jim, holding up the New Yorker so that he could glare at the very pixels of the byline. "This doesn't have anything to do with the review, does it?"
"What review?" said Spock innocently.
"I thought Vulcans weren't allowed to lie," said Jim.
"Eight. The Flyby," said Spock, and hung up.
It was strange seeing him again. Jim was shown to another private room to find Spock dressed in, to his shock, jeans and a collared shirt. He was wearing big sunglasses, and his piercings positively drooped.
"It's just one review," he said, sitting down close to Spock and putting his arm around him. "Come on, it's fine. Everybody else loves you."
"It is like I have perpetrated some sort of fraud upon the American public," said Spock, pulling off his sunglasses and staring hollowly ahead. "The review was correct. I am nothing more than a clearinghouse for the creative output of everybody else."
"No, you have influences, everybody has influences," said Jim. "I sound a lot like Edward Behr, but I'm not him."
Spock lowered his head. "Wait a moment." Jim watched as Spock took a few deep breaths. "I am not sure why I am telling you this," said Spock, after a while.
"Doesn't mater," said Jim awkwardly. "You want some food? I know you haven't eaten since this came out."
"You know me too well," said Spock.
They parted after two hours. The next morning, Spock sent him an email.
Jim, it began, thank you for your time last night. I reread your article when I returned to my hotel, and it comforted me very much… It went on for some time, referencing many of the things they had done in their three months on the road together. Grinning, Jim replied to each part of it, and Spock replied to each part of that.
A few days later, Jim got a call.
It was actually a conference call. Jim had become a celebrity within the entertainment industry because of his article, and the producer of the Grammys wanted Jim give out Album of the Year.
"What?" said Jim blankly. "Come on, I'm not a draw. If you want impact, get Hugh Laurie to do it, or something. Doesn't he play the piano?"
"How do you know that, but not who Paul McCartney is?" demanded Nyota. The producer laughed. "Anyway, of course you're a draw. You're controversial and smart. And you've refused to give interviews, which means that people are really curious about you."
Jim frowned. "I do interviews, I don't give them. And it's not like I'm going to be talking about myself much, if I'll just be a presenter…"
"Jim, just say yes."
"Fine. What do I have to lose?"
"Excellent," said Nyota, the grin evident in her voice. "But do me a favor—don't mention this to Spock."
"Just don't," said Nyota, who had been talking to Gaila.
Jim and Spock continued to email back and forth, although they never saw each other again. Spock had to go on with his tour, and Jim had to continue reporting. Jim went to a few rehearsals in Los Angeles and learned that The Vees were in neck-and-neck competition for their many Grammy awards with another new band, Ribald Heart, which was (when Jim listened to their most famous album) a hideous prospect; Ribald Heart was what was wrong with modern American music (or at least, that was what Jim said to Spock in his email about them; Spock agreed, and pointed out that Jim had used that phrasing before—Jim chose to ignore this). Jim still wasn't sure why he wasn't allowed to mention his Grammy appearance to Spock, so he didn't, and to his slight surprise, Spock never brought it up.
On the morning of the Grammys, Jim sent Spock the following email:
I'll probably be seeing you tonight, since you'll be in LA and I have this thing where I'm fond of you, or something, no idea what's up with that. I hope you win everything you've been nominated for—actually, I know you will; how could you not? It's not like Ribald Heart has more than a palmful of artistic talent, and they wasted most of that on their stage costumes.
I want to say that being your friend has been the best thing that has ever happened to me. I think, strange as this is, that burying Miri was a high point in my life—or maybe, phrased differently, the closest I've come to nirvana. In my existence I have never felt closer to absoluteness, to real conviction, as I did then. Spock, you stir up something in me, and I'll be damned if I know what it is. I don't think I'll ever figure it out.
Until then, until something changes and something happens and something fades, just know that… I treasure you. Your voice, your eyes, your mind, even your absurd piercings and religious beliefs.
I also want you to know that in saying this I've never felt gayer in my life, but hey, we're all liberal here. Anyway, I love you, dude, slap on the back, manhug, etc.
But in all seriousness, I really do love you.
And I really do think you'll kick ass at the Grammys. Go win some awards!
Spock replied, only an hour later:
I look forward to seeing you tonight. I am strangely excited about the Grammys. However, I do not share your confidence that we will win anything. Ribald Heart has proven itself to be a challenging force; it is possible that the voters will take into their account their popularity rather than their quality (or lack thereof). The Grammys, after all, do not have a history of… taste.
So that we do not stumble about searching for each other after the awards, I propose that I will meet you at the Chelsea party, to which you have undoubtedly been invited, and if you have not, I may bring a guest, so simply call me and I will come fetch you. (It is on the Strip, near the Hyatt.)
My feelings for you are equally complex and were, as you suggest, unknowable, although I admit to some clarity in my understanding of them. I wish to elaborate, in person; perhaps tonight, at the Chelsea.
Jim, I love you too. Do not worry, "manhugs" are not necessary with me. I know sincerity when I see it.
"You ready?" said the producer. Jim wiped his hands on his slacks (making one of his makeup artists glare at him) and accepted the gramophone trophy and the envelope.
"I guess," said Jim.
The producer stared at a prompter and then said, "Go!" and shoved Jim towards the curtain. He emerged from the small backstage space into the largest, loudest, and brightest theater he had ever been in.
(In the audience, Spock gasped audibly. He had no idea that Jim would be presenting the final award. His band-mates smiled at him. They had suppressed this information entirely on purpose.)
The scale and chaos was terrifying, but he was James Tiberius Kirk, and so he went straight to the microphone, smiling broadly at the audience, who were cheering him. He sat the gramophone trophy down on a crystal table next to the microphone and crossed his arms in front of him, holding the envelope loosely between his fingers.
"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen," he said, not even needing to read his lines off of the teleprompter at the back of the theater. "You may know me from my work as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, and the San Francisco Enterprise. Or as that guy who punched the president that one time on live TV." The audience laughed. "Either way, I've been asked here to give the award for Album of the Year. The nominees are…" Behind him, a screen divided into five sections to show the members of each of the bands, seated in various places in the audience. "… Scorpions' Bite, Grace de Witt, Ribald Heart, Hourglass, and The Vees." The applause, Jim was gratified to note, was loudest for The Vees. He couldn't see the screen behind him; couldn't see The Vees or Spock's expression as he read their name. Everyone else could, and they wondered at it.
"And the winner is…" Jim scrabbled at the envelope and finally got it open, shooting a charming smile to the patient audience as he worked on the slick paper. There was a small piece of paper within, and he pulled it out and read, beaming, "The Vees."
The theater exploded.
He finally saw Spock, at the back of his group, behind Leonard, Christine, Hikaru, Pavel, and Scotty, all of whom were high-fiving and hugging those they passed on their way down the aisle. Spock was smooth-faced, as usual, and evidently concentrating on not falling as he made his way to the stage, rather than looking at Jim. Five very attractive women filed out from backstage with more gramophone trophies and gave one each to the other members of the band. As Spock approached Jim, an unexpected silence fell across the theater. Neither of them noticed it.
"Congratulations," said Jim, passing the trophy to Spock, who looked at it for a moment.
"I did not expect you to be here," said Spock. "Thank you."
"It wasn't me, it was them," said Jim. "You can go thank people audibly, you know."
Spock looked in some surprise at the microphone. "Oh," he said, having evidently forgotten about this part of the reward, and went to it. Jim followed him, shaking everybody's hand as he went. (The other members of The Vees were clutching their trophies with pink-cheeked pleasure.)
"Members of the Academy," said Spock, "thank you. To my band mates, thank you. To James Kirk, who accompanied me on three months of my recent tour, thank you." Spock was quiet for a moment. In the wings, the producer signaled the conductor, who hushed the band.
"Jim," Spock said suddenly. "I might as well tell you now." And he leaned over, still holding the trophy, and kissed Jim on the lips.
There was another explosion. There were two, actually. One was from the audience. The other was from Jim, whose mind went through a million different reactions before settling on throwing his arms around Spock and kissing him passionately back.
They had probably both been happier, but surrounded as they were by the eyes of all the world, they were nevertheless lost in each other, and as such, they later agreed that this was the high point. This was the reason for being alive.
The incident made headlines for the next month. A number of Christian groups sent outraged letters, but everybody else thought it was adorable and ignored the Christian groups soundly. Christopher Pike, viewing the telecast at home, clutched at his hair and then called into the office, where the circulation desk was already reporting a rise in subscriptions to the Enterprise. Nyota, meanwhile, watched The Vees' latest album go multi-platinum.
Gaila, who had known this was coming all along, finished the scrapbook she had made for Jim and Spock on the event of their get-together. It was filled with pictures she had taken on tour. When she gave it to them the next day, they hugged her, and flipped through it later, reminiscing about each moment of each day on the road.
Later, they went out and bought another goldfish. Jim named it Ribald, just so Spock would scowl at him. Then they bought a really big tank and put Spock's Grammy in it, for Ribald to swim around with. Spock went back on tour with The Vees, and Jim went back to reporting.
But not all was back to normal. Spock gained a sense of humor. And Jim stopped losing his notebooks.
Spock probably wouldn't, but I'd appreciate a review.