Notes: This is NOT the sequel to 'The Stargazers.' I also know I probably shouldn't be starting a new story yet, but oh well. This is the beginning of a series of probably five multi-chaptered stories. I will issue the appropriate warnings for each story separately, but the warning now is that there will be severe angst. And you will quite possibly hate Jim by the end of the series.
Warnings: strong language, moderate violence, slash.
Disclaimer: I do not own Star Trek 2009 and I make no profit from this work.
Jim took in a lungful of clear, unhabited-planet air and grinned. Sometimes, this job paid off.
Marelles V was a very small planet on the outskirts of the Marellen system, inching its slow way around a tiny new star and growing absolutely bugger all in terms of fauna, but so much flora that Jim had sneezed the moment they'd materialised on the surface.
Marelles IV, its closest neighbour, was home to (surprise surprise) the Marellen species - a small, squat humanoid species with the ugliest faces Jim had ever seen. And he'd been in an advanced astrophysics course with a Tellarite. Until the USS Santa Ana and her crew had managed to get through negotiations and a shaky peace treaty with them, the Marellens had a nasty habit of attacking Federation ships anywhere near them. They weren't technologically advanced enough to really pose a threat, and certainly not to frontline ships like the Enterprise and the Santa Ana, but they were enough to mean a ship couldn't stay in the area for very long.
Which meant Marelles V, while having been known to the Federation for decades, had never seen a single Federation member on its surface.
Frankly, it was a godsend of a mission. Just sit there in orbit and let the sciences do their thing. Jim liked this part of space exploration - all the sciences (and a fair number of the engineers, just for kicks) crawling all over a brand new planet, taking readings of things Jim hadn't even known you could take readings of, and nothing within a million miles to shoot them with phasers, guns or old-fashioned bows and arrows.
It was like a short shore leave.
Often, crew members suffering from cabin fever were stuck on the away teams as well, to get some air and take some of the more basic readings that even Jim's admittedly dim new yeoman could have done by herself. It improved everyone's mood, and therefore inter-crew relations and morale.
Plus, it was like a day off for Jim.
Their chosen site for the day was a beach, small and closed, with dark red sands and beautifully cool (and brilliantly safe) seawater that lapped at Jim's bare ankles. He'd said 'screw regulations' as regarding uniforms, so half the crew were barefoot, trousers rolled up, and paddling while simultaneously doing their jobs with scary professionalism.
Naturally, Spock wasn't barefoot, and Jim mourned the hidden feet. He liked Spock's feet. Slim and pale and somehow delicate to the touch. Not that he'd ever admit that out loud - it was a weird, girly, poetic thought that he'd very much like to keep to himself.
Still, he couldn't resist asking whether Spock didn't want to paddle.
"Hardly, Captain," came the dry response, and Jim snickered.
"Not even a little bit?"
"Do Vulcans not like water, then?" he asked, slightly more seriously, determinedly following Spock from rock to rock as he took readings of the mineral composition of the cliff face that sheltered the beach from the stronger winds they'd experienced yesterday on the inland hills.
"If, by that, you mean that we do not partake in fruitless water-based activities for entertainment purposes, then I suppose it is a reasonably accurate statement to make," Spock said. He was quite obviously only half-listening to Jim, but that was just fine as far as Jim was concerned. There was something nice - warm and fuzzy, maybe - at seeing him engrossed in his beloved science.
"Shame. You'd look good soaking wet."
Spock gave him a look that said, quite clearly, don't even think about it. Jim grinned, not quite innocently, and the look intensified to I know that you are thinking about it, and believe me, if you do it, I will personally make the rest of your existence very short and very unpleasant. Jim wasn't fool enough to believe otherwise, and held up his hand in the universal gesture of 'not going to do anything.'
"I stand by my statement," he said defiantly, and - before Spock could stop him - darted in and quickly pressed a chaste kiss to that stern mouth before backing up out of reach and revenge.
"We are on duty."
"And nothing is happening, and everybody knows, and it was just one little kiss," Jim said, knowing the argument by heart. They'd not been together long, but Spock was very strict about on- and off-duty activities. Most of the time, Jim agreed. But just this once, it wouldn't hurt. "Relax. I'm hardly going to sneak you off for some sex on the beach, am I?"
Spock's eyebrow told him that that would get him punished too, and probably not in an enjoyable way, so Jim shrugged and backed up a little further out of reach.
"Go on, get back to your science," he said, and grinned yet again.
Spock eyed him in...Jim didn't know what...for a moment longer, before nodding and turning back to the rock face with a soft, "As you wish, Jim."
Jim was sure that he was smiling too.
Jim came with a shout, bliss snapping through every pore of his body in a lightning-fast reaction, and barely caught himself from collapsing onto Spock in a boneless heap. His chest heaved in the warm air of his quarters, and he grinned in bleary exhaustion down at his similarly dazed Vulcan.
"Look at you," he panted, "all messed up like this."
He ran his fingers through Spock's already ruffled hair, before exchanging a couple more lazy, open-mouthed kisses. Spock murmured a Vulcan word into his lips, though Jim didn't catch it, and let out what was undeniably a contented sigh.
"Be right back," Jim whispered, slipping free of Spock's body at last and going to the bathroom for a damp cloth. He cleaned them both off tenderly, pressing absent kisses to Spock's taut abdomen, before tossing the cloth aside and sliding back into the bed, tugging the sheets up. "I need to get a bigger bed."
Spock hummed, going placidly where Jim's hands told him to go, until they were curled like spoons in a drawer, just about fitting into the narrow bunk. Jim's thoughts pressed along their shared contact, and though he didn't take the chance to actually look at them, they buzzed with light, warm energy, brushing his skin and nerves like hot, nervous hands, and Spock allowed himself a very small smile.
Jim couldn't see it, of course, but his thoughts seemed positive enough without it.
Jim pressed a light kiss into the back of Spock's neck, inhaling the scent of his skin, and smiled. He never thought he'd get this lucky. They'd only been dating for three months, but Jesus, Jim knew he was in deep. He couldn't help but smile whenever he saw Spock engrossed in work - which was always - and his dick paid attention every time Spock bent over the science station - which was always - and during sex, Jim felt like he'd go off in under thirty seconds if Spock's hair got mussed - which was freaking always.
Okay, so he could be a stuck-up, prissy bitch as well, and Jim didn't get the whole vegetarian thing, and Spock had this special way of rolling his eyes that was totally not rolling his eyes that just pissed Jim right off...but God, Jim fancied the pants off this guy.
It was entirely possible, Jim considered, that Old Geezer Spock hadn't been entirely wrong.
"I don't want to know," McCoy said the next morning on that planetside beach, when he saw Jim's cat-that-got-the-canary smile. "I don't want to know, or even speculate. Let us ignore the entire ordeal."
"Or not," Jim said.
"We are ignoring it. I have hypos."
"Okay, we're ignoring it," Jim agreed. If there was one thing he couldn't stand, it was McCoy's hypos. And if there was one thing McCoy couldn't stand, it was hearing about Jim's sex life with Spock.
Jim scowled. McCoy was definitely winning in this scenario.
"You should show more support for your best friend's relationship, you know," he pointed out.
"Yeah, but it's not your relationship that you want to give me all the details about, now is it?" McCoy pointed out, quite reasonably. "And don't you take your boots off again. You'll get sunburned raw if you go paddling like a four-year-old again."
Jim pouted. "Oh come on."
He rolled his eyes. McCoy had clearly spent his morning telling all the other crewmembers the same thing, as nobody was barefoot today, despite it being just as nice as yesterday.
Well, okay, maybe the scientists weren't barefoot because a good dozen of them were inside a cave, but the others could have been.
"What are they looking at?" Jim asked, eyeing the cluster of people in the mouth of the cave dubiously.
"I dunno. Mould. Looks green and diseased. You watch, one of them'll get athlete's foot from prodding it."
"They're not prodding it with their feet," Jim pointed out.
"Alien athlete's foot - they might not need to," McCoy said pessimistically, and Jim snickered.
"Admit it, you want someone to get sick just so you've got something to do."
"I'm a doctor, Jim, not a pharmacist. All I've had to do in the last week is dole out the morning-after pill, condoms and hangover hypos."
Jim grinned broadly. "I'll remind you of that next time - what the hell?"
His yelp of surprise came as he hit the sand when the earth gave way. No, his dizzy mind realised, not gave away, but shook. The beach was shaking like beads in a child's rattle, causing every single crewmember to tumble to the floor. Jim's vision shook as if he was riding a bad rollercoaster, and he clung to the sand and felt faintly sick at all the motion.
"Earthquake?" he heard someone - Lieutenant Epping? - demand loudly, and then a scream.
Jim's head snapped up in time to see the cliff face sag inwards, almost like the rock was giving a despondent sigh, and folding down on itself surprisingly smoothly for a sheer face of shaky rock. Several of the scientists scrambled out of the way with shrieks as the loosest rocks came apart and tumbled heavily into the sand, the smallest the size of Jim's entire body, and easily three times as heavy.
"Get to the water!" he roared, and, through the blurred vision, saw his will obeyed as best they could on such unstable ground.
And then - quite suddenly - it was over. The ground slowed and stilled entirely, the tooth-rattling quake over in less than two minutes, and Jim staggered to his feet. He felt like he'd been picked up and shaken, like a terrier shakes a rat, and unceremoniously dropped again.
His stomach dropped out of his body entirely at the sight.
The neatly folded cliff face - so much so that the lines of sedimentary rock formed a new, neat ripple in the cliff face - had swallowed the small cave. It was completely gone, without a trace of where it had been before. Gone.
"Report!" he roared. "Are we missing people? Was anyone in there?"
He had his communicator out before he received the number, because he already knew.
Spock wasn't out here - so he had to be in there.