Notes: Unbelievably, I'm ill again. Seriously. This is getting ridiculous. *headdesk* This is also the last chapter. There'll be a sequel, obviously, but I felt it clearer to split the series up into separate stories.
Disclaimer: I do not own Star Trek 2009, and I make no profit from this work.
Technically, San Francisco didn't have its own shuttleport. The 'port was at Los Angeles - but the two cities hadn't really been separate places for a long time, and the monorails meant that nobody really cared where anything was anymore.
Los Angeles or San Francisco, the shuttleport was designed for intergalactic space travel. Every shuttle coming to Earth landed in Los Angeles, Beijing, Paris or Johannesburg - and then most global aeroplanes and shuttles went through Los Angeles to travel between continents as well. All in all? It was huge.
Honestly, Jim felt swamped.
The group of chattering Andorians by the arrivals gate hadn't fazed him, nor the swarms of younger humans in cadet reds everywhere. Not even the announcements designed specially for the Academy students, or the continual loop of announcements in grating Vulcan and high-pitched Tellarite.
It was the space.
Or the lack thereof.
The Riverside 'port was spaceous, but optimistically so. It was always open and bare. This place was even bigger, but packed. Wall to wall, people (human and alien) surged from point to point apparently aimlessly, and largely without regard for others. From the gate, Jim could see a group of Tellarite literally pushing people out of the way (and probably complaining loudly the whole time); an Andorian at the Information Desk was employing the more subtle human tactic of elbows and apologies.
The chatter of language was unfamiliar as well. Any alien passing through Iowa spoke Standard. All Iowans spoke Standard - albeit an oddly drawled version. Jim had simply never really heard any other language fluently spoken in front of him before - never mind all around him. The Standard was mixed in with...well, Jim didn't even know what. Some of the humans were speaking in their regional non-Standard languages; some were speaking languages he was fairly sure were alien; some of the aliens were doing both.
"Hey, kid! JIM!"
His head snapped around, in time to see McCoy elbow sharply past a frumpy-looking woman in purple and clap a hand on his shoulder.
"Finally. Goddamnit, kid, you ever think of giving a guy a time to go on. I had no damn clue when you were getting here, and trust me, the coffee in this 'port ain't worth shit."
They didn't talk about it until that evening, after McCoy lost an argument over takeout, and won the argument that no, Kirk wasn't sharing his bed with him, he would sleep on the couch, damnit.
Then Jim had shrugged and said, "Thanks, man," and they'd talked about it.
"What made you change your mind?"
Jim shrugged. "Mom, kinda. I mean...you and Spock said some stuff too but Mom...she didn't think I could do it. Should do it."
"Rub you the wrong way?"
Jim squinted at him. "You don't seem surprised."
McCoy shrugged. "I'm not that old. I know you tell a kid - specially a kid like you - that they can't, they'll just go ahead and do it. I mean, hell, it wasn't my career that it was over, but I did the same thing."
Jim cocked his head.
McCoy shrugged again. "Ma told me marrying Jocelyn was a bad idea. Didn't listen; did it anyway."
Jim almost - almost - congratulated him - and then remembered their first conversation. "Didn't you guys, uh, split up?"
McCoy snorted. "Kid, you're going into space. I'm going into space. We're both fucked."
Jim snorted, grinned, and that was that.
The Vulcan Embassy was not far from the Starfleet Academy, and almost a month after Jim had settled into the couch at McCoy's place, he went Spock-hunting there.
Being not-purpose built, the Embassy looked like every other bog-standard glass tower in the city, but the interior was heated to a ridiculous degree, covered in reddish-brown decorations, and silent as the proverbial grave. Jim was also fairly sure the squeaking his sneakers were making on the floor just advertised his mental incompetence to the severe Vulcan woman behind the desk, watching him approach.
"Er, hi," he leaned over the desk; her face didn't twitch. "I'm looking for Spock."
One eyebrow twitched. So it was a Vulcan thing.
"Erm, son of Sarek."
The eyebrow twitched again. "I am aware. Have you an appointment?"
"Nooooot as such, no," he laughed nervously. "Do I need one? It's, erm..."
Jesus, she was intimidating as fuck. And Jim had never been intimidated by a pretty girl before. (And she was pretty, with those dark eyes and perfectly plucked eyebrows and that stern haircut. Very pretty, in a dominatrix kind of way.)
She clacked away at her computer for a moment later, before rising. "Follow me."
To his surprise, the woman led him up two flights of stairs (and it was not fair that Vulcans should be able to climb stairs so gracefully) and through two heavy, dark doors, before he found himself in a small office with large windows, a view of the bay, and Spock rising from a chair behind an impressively large desk.
"T'Pre," he nodded to the woman, who returned the nod and promptly left, shutting the door behind her. Spock's dark eyes were mildly curious as they turned to Jim, and he grinned.
"...Indeed. I am to understand, then, that you accepted Starfleet's offer?"
Jim shrugged. "Well. Yeah. Thought I might as well, y'know. Get out of Iowa."
Jim knew that Spock knew that he wasn't quite telling the truth there, but the Vulcan didn't question it. "Is this a social visit?"
"Then, would you care for some tea?"
"Ah, no thanks," Jim did help himself to the seat opposite Spock's lounge, leaning on the wooden desktop idly, and watching Spock prepare himself some tea. "So, you back doing basic paper-pushing here for your old man?"
"I will most probably return to Vulcan on the first of December. My application to the Vulcan Science Academy requires me to attend certain tests and interviews at that time."
"You still going ahead with that, huh?" Jim asked.
"Shame," Jim said. "I liked playing chess with you."
Spock quirked an eyebrow at him as he sat down in his chair again.
"Feel like a game now?"
"I cannot spare the time."
"Well, how 'bout later? I'm crashing at a buddy's house and he's out wooing some girl tonight, so come over," Jim gave Spock his most winning smile, and the Vulcan's lips twitched minutely again.
"I...shall see, Jim."
Jim grinned. "Yeah, good enough, I guess. I mean, you got a job and I don't."
He slapped the desk as he got up - earning himself an inscrutable look - and headed for the door.
"Yeah?" he turned.
Spock didn't smile - in fact, his face was even more impassive than ever - but the words nearly floored Jim, then and there in the Vulcan Embassy.
"I am...glad that you changed your mind."
(for the moment)