Disclaimer: I do not own Star Trek 2009, and I make no profit from this work.
It was the picture heading every single newspaper, e-paper, news bulletin, news show, talk show, and chat show. Even the digital radios and audio news feeds to and from the colonies were chattering on about it, and all Jim wanted to do was throw up.
"How...where...how did...?" he demanded, his hands shaking as they gripped the paper McCoy had handed him. He hadn't heard about it yet when McCoy and (surprisingly) Chekov had showed up at his apartment with the morning paper, coffee and, in Chekov's case, surprisingly good hugs.
"Probably a forgery," McCoy said, "but it's a damned good one."
Something in his tone hit a sore nerve, and Jim snapped, "I didn't fucking do it!"
"'Course you didn't, Jim. I'm not stupid," McCoy drawled. "But the media vultures are all over it."
Jim dropped the paper on the coffee table, the incriminating picture laughing at him from there, and ran both hands through his hair.
"They...they won't be able to get that through to Lomaris, will they?" he asked desperately. "Lomaris don't even have regular emergency communications, never mind..." he swallowed and interrupted himself. "God, I can't get through to Lomaris, never mind a media channel! I have clearance!"
"He won't hear about it on Lomaris, no," McCoy agreed. "But he will the minute that shuttle touches down tomorrow, if not on the shuttle. He'll hear about it before you get to him, Jim."
Jim's face hardened and he shook his head. "No he won't," he snapped. "I don't know what bastard doctored up that photo, but no way is he hearing about it before I get to explain. I'm not letting some shitty media campaign fucking ruin..."
His voice cracked then, and he discovered exactly how good Chekov's hugs were.
'That photo' was the talk of the week, and one could see why. The media would never change, and a disgraced celebrity was everything. Especially a golden hero like Jim Kirk. He was the hero and poster boy of the Federation, and living a (frankly) disgustingly happy life with his partner and on the flagship of the Fleet. There was a betting pool on between The Ganymede Times and North West Press on when the 'first all-male, mixed-species, all-military, completely legal wedding' was going to happen.
So to have that golden, picture-perfect hero destroyed with one photo...the media was going wild, and making a fortune.
The incriminating picture? A man who was unmistakeably Jim Kirk, apparently making out with a young Orion woman in downtown San Francisco. Jim honestly couldn't tell if it was a genuine photograph of him and Gaila on one of their jaunts in their Academy days, or whether it was completely made up. It was an excellent fake.
He just had to hope Spock realised it was a fake too.
Spock was out of reach on Lomaris, an out-of-the-way research station where Vulcan had been. Lomaris made the Delta Vega outpost look in tune with the rest of the world – it was a wasteland of failing communication signals, irregular shuttle timetables, and no tourists whatsoever.
On the other hand, it was a gold mine for observing spatial anomalies, and Spock had been sent out to figure why a binary star system had apparently popped into being overnight, with no warning.
He was due back in the morning, and this had just hit.
McCoy was right: Spock wouldn't hear a thing out on Lomaris. But the moment he got back, he would hear all about it. Especially if the tabloids knew that he was out of town at the moment.
Jim kicked the coffee table until the newspaper slid off and landed on the carpet, photo down.
"Fucking bastards!" he growled, and Chekov resumed the hug, apparently trying to squeeze the distress out.
Jim was never sure how much the media knew. This could either be a cheap shot that was horribly on target, or somebody had told them – but it wasn't the first time that Jim's sowing-oats past had caught up with him.
Namely, in the form of Carol Marcus during a shore leave on Risa.
Jim had hooked up with Carol Marcus very briefly in their Academy days. She was gorgeous, sharp and a real kick to his libido. At the time, he and Spock had been having a bad month – really bad – and Jim had managed to make it so much worse on Risa.
He'd gotten drunk to forget his relationship issues, and ended up sleeping with Carol Marcus again.
The fallout had been ugly. Jim had woken up, hungover, in Carol's hotel room and knew immediately that he'd quite probably just destroyed his relationship. And as Spock was unquestionably the best thing to ever happen to him, he'd been understandably scared.
It had very nearly killed them. Vulcans did possessive like nobody's business, Spock was Vulcan, and he'd taken one look at Jim and known. He'd blown a gasket, and Jim had had to fight tooth and nail to stop him a) finding Carol and killing her, b) resigning his commission and getting out of there, c) killing Jim and d) applying for a transfer.
It had taken seven months to coax Spock into giving him a second chance. Ever since, Jim had been terrified of seeming like he was even thinking about cheating, because he knew damn well that if he did it again, Spock would leave.
And Jim wouldn't be able to take that.
And if Spock saw that photograph and proceeded to the logical conclusion, as he was wont to do...
"I have to get to him before the media does," Jim whispered, and McCoy nodded.
Jim couldn't sleep. McCoy and Chekov had stayed the night, probably to watch over him, and he could faintly hear Chekov's light, whistling snore through the wall of the guest room.
When Jim padded out to the kitchen, however, McCoy was soon to follow him, attuned after years of rooming with Kirk to the sounds of his insomnia.
"Can't sleep?" McCoy asked from the kitchen doorway as Jim rummaged for a drink. And not an alcoholic one – he never drank when he was miserable any more, not after what had happened with Carol.
"Too worried," Jim muttered, pouring a glass of grapefruit juice and sinking into one of the kitchen chairs. "Just...can't stop thinking about it."
McCoy slid into the chair opposite him.
"What if...what if he sees it?" Jim croaked.
"He'll see it," McCoy said flatly. "All it'll take is one news channel in the baggage collection area, and he'll see it."
Jim shivered, hands gripping the glass until his knuckles went white. Luckily, it was Vulcan glass, accustomed to stronger hands than his.
"Jim, there's two ways this can play out," McCoy said. "The first is that he won't believe it any more than we did when we saw it. And after what happened on Risa, I think he knows you well enough to know you're not going to go straying again."
McCoy narrowed his eyes. "What?"
"He doesn't," Jim whispered. "God, Bones, you don't get it. It...it took me so long to convince him to even give me a second chance and...I can see in his head, you know. When we...we meld sometimes, and I can see into his head, and...fuck, Bones, you don't know the half of what I did to him that night!"
"So why don't you tell me?" McCoy asked, voice softening into that slow, southern drawl that had coaxed secrets and anguish out of many a patient.
"He's...he's so scared that he's not enough," Jim whispered. "That's what I reduced him to! He's scared that one day, I'll get bored and leave him and that there's nothing he can do about it. And he was never like before Risa – before Carol. I did that to him. He still..." Jim swallowed and shook his head. "That's why I don't drink anymore. It upsets him, and God, Bones, I can't stand upsetting him! And if he sees that photo, then he'll..."
He choked and buried his face in his cold hands, shaking. McCoy came around the table to sit beside him and wrap a heavy arm around his trembling shoulders.
"No he won't, and I'll tell you why not," he said firmly. "Because if he does believe that goddamn picture, you can bet that every one of us on the command crew will beat that fool opinion outta his green hide. Got it?"
Jim didn't answer, but leaned into McCoy's hold like a child needing comfort.
"It'll be alright, kid. Spock wasn't born yesterday. Hell, he's probably better at recognising a fake than you and me. It'll be fine. You'll see."
Jim shifted anxiously from foot to foot, staring at the empty arrival gates and wishing for Spock to come through it. Sunday mornings meant a fairly empty shuttleport (as they went, anyway) but several of the tabloids had sent out reporters to get the viewpoint of Jim's 'suspiciously absent' spouse upon his return.
Many of the reporters were getting sneaky photographs of Chekov as well, where he kept close to Jim's side to provide moral support. It was quite obvious what the next rumour in the papers was going to be. And frankly, judging by the few snaps that had been taken of McCoy, Jim was fairly sure his communications officer would start sending round threats for slander soon enough.
Even Earthside rags didn't get away with insinuating that Nyota Uhura's boyfriend was playing around.
When the shuttle from Lomaris appeared on the arrivals board, tension shot up Jim's spine, and suddenly McCoy's warm hand was on the small of his back.
"Take it easy, kid," he drawled lowly. "Remember what I said. It's gonna be fine."
Jim took a deep, steadying breath – but it didn't stop him momentarily swaying on his feet when Spock appeared at the top of the steps to the arrivals gate and the cameras all started flashing at once.
"Easy," McCoy said, steadying him cautiously. "You okay, Jim?"
Then one of the security guards at the top of the steps handed Spock a newspaper. Even from this distance, Jim could see the now-familiar colours of that photo.
"Jim? You okay?"
"Yeah," Jim breathed, then broke from McCoy's hands and into a run.
He wasn't a record-breaking sprinter like Chekov, but Jim was a decent runner in his own right, and he ducked around the security guard that attempted to stop him leaping up the steps with agility. In mere moments, he charged up the steps and flung himself into Spock's arms. In order to catch him, Spock unceremoniously dropped the newspaper – but Jim knew he'd seen the photograph.
"I swear to God it's a lie!" he breathed, clutching at Spock's back as if someone was trying to rip them apart. Which, he supposed, someone was. "I swear it's not true, I promise, it's a fake, it's just a fucking fake, I never..."
He could faintly hear the yammering voices of the reporters, and the snap of cameras. With his face buried in the side of Spock's neck, he couldn't see the flashes, but he could imagine them, and his hands became claws digging into Spock's shirt in a desperate effort to hold onto what soon would be the ruins of his life, all because of some stupid fucking faked photo...
There was a jarring thump as Spock dropped the bag he'd been carrying, and both arms folded around Jim.
"It's a lie!" Jim cut him off, desperate for Spock to know that, to understand that. "Someone faked it, they made it up, I didn't, I swear to God I didn't! Please, please believe me, you have to believe me, please, I can't lose you, I can't, please..."
"Jim," Spock's voice was slightly sharper, but no louder, and Jim tightened his grip even further. "Jim, calm yourself. There is no need for concern; I am quite aware that you have not been unfaithful."
Jim let out a long, shuddering breath that brought him dangerously close to tears, and flattened his fingers against Spock's back until their contact more closely resembled a hug than a desperate death-grip.
"Calm," Spock murmured, one hand on the nape of Jim's neck. Due to Lomaris being very cold, he was wearing a turtleneck sweater, and so the only skin-to-skin contact they had was that hand. Through it, Jim felt a wash of calm and affection, tinged with love and longing and a distinct hint of desire.
"I love you," he whispered into the fabric of the sweater, and the hint of desire grew stronger.
"And I you," Spock said softly. "There is no need for concern. Nyota saw fit to send me an...interesting...analysis of the initial press release of the photograph in question. I received it on my personal communication device shortly after we left Lomaris."
"Interesting as in lots of swearwords in dead African languages?" Jim guessed, finally drawing back and offering a wet, tremulous smile.
"Indeed," Spock said. "I have not yet deleted it. It proved to be interesting reading on human idioms."
Jim managed an equally wet laugh, and disentangled himself entirely. "Sorry for jumping on you in public," he whispered as they began to descend to the waiting crowd of reporters, all looking vaguely disappointed at the lack of gasket-blowing Vulcan.
"It is of no concern," Spock dismissed flatly.
"Commander Spock!" one brave reporter interrupted, waving a datapadd and stylus in his direction. "Have you seen the talk of the news? Any comments?"
"I have seen the photograph in question," Spock confirmed, giving her a glance that even other Vulcans would have described as 'withering.' "However, I have more pressing matters to attend to than speculating as to the origins of inaccurate and slanderous data."
Spock was the son of an ambassador, and Jim was strongly reminded of the fact when the reporter quailed away from him, and they were not bothered for the remainder of their journey home.
The journey from Lomaris was a long and arduous one, and Spock was soon meditating in a corner of the living room while Jim threw together a light Vulcan meal from real food, for once, instead of replicated crap.
It was during that hour that McCoy called, and Jim routed it through to the kitchen console so as not to disturb Spock.
"Everything okay, kid?"
"Yeah," Jim said, smiling properly since they'd turned up on his doorstep the morning before with that damned paper. "Yeah, it's fine. I'm okay."
"So where's that Vulcan then?"
"He's meditating," Jim said, and laughed at McCoy's slightly sceptical expression. "I swear, Bones. Everything's fine. Apparently Uhura got a message through to him before he even landed, ranting about the media making shit up. And then when I pounced him in the terminal..."
"Yeah, even a Vulcan couldn't have missed your emotional body language this morning," McCoy agreed dryly. "See, didn't I tell you it'd be fine?"
"You did," Jim's beam softened. "Thanks. Thanks for...believing in me. And in him."
"You never tell him I said this, kid," McCoy ordered, "but as much as he and I don't see eye-to-eye, he's a smart man, and he knows more about you than he cares to admit. Yeah, I was worried he wouldn't see through the photo, but I knew he'd see through you."
Jim swallowed against the lump in his throat.
"And you definitely don't tell him this," McCoy continued, "but you two are good for each other. You got something worth hanging onto, and I think you know that."
"Yeah," Jim said, thinking back to the fear that had gripped every part of him when that security guard had handed Spock that newspaper in the terminal. "Yeah, I know."
McCoy signed off shortly afterwards, and Jim found himself delaying the meal to wander back into the living room and watch Spock. Except, of course, simply watching Spock was rarely an option, and he soon ended up on his knees in front of him, playing idly with the loose meditation robes.
When he detected that slight change in Spock's breathing that meant he was coming back, Jim began to feather Vulcan kisses over Spock's hands, until they quite suddenly turned and unfolded to grip his fingers in return.
"Hey," Jim breathed, suddenly feeling that lump rising in his throat again. "Oh God."
Without question, Spock drew him in, expertly manhandling him before actually picking him and depositing the both of them on the couch, curled together until every part of them touched, if separated by their clothing.
"I love you," Jim breathed, clutching at him as tightly as he had in the shuttleport. "I love you so much, God, I love you..."
"What is the matter?" Spock asked, projecting calm acceptance through the odd places where their skin touched.
"I just...I could have lost this, lost you, all because of some stupid paper and my own idiocy..."
"How does your intellect, absent or otherwise, factor into today's events?" Spock teased lightly, but Jim wasn't in the mood to laugh.
"Because I cheated on you before, on Risa," he breathed, not missing the slight tension that curled into Spock's back at the mention. "It's my stupid fucking idiocy that got us into that, and now this, because if I hadn't done that, then..."
"Then, the forgery would likely still have happened," Spock said blandly. "I doubt they knew of the events on Risa, Jim. It was simply an underhanded attempt to generate further tabloid journalism."
Jim tilted his head to peer up at Spock. "But if I hadn't done...fucked up on Risa, then you wouldn't be so damn insecure about me doing it again. And I know you are – I've been in your head!"
"Indeed," Spock said, sounding faintly amused. "But if I recall, Jim, we have not melded in six point two months. You do not have an updated report, if you will, on my opinion on the matter."
"So give me one," Jim demanded.
"Very well," Spock said. "Consider this: I would not have gone to Lomaris for two weeks, with no communications and no way to know what you did in my absence, if I did not trust you to remain faithful to me."
"I have regained my faith in you, Jim," Spock said, almost absently smoothing down Jim's hair with one head – the equivalent, Jim had long suspected, of forehead kisses in humans – as he spoke. "It is perhaps time that you regained such faith in yourself."
Jim stared for a moment longer, then heaved himself up and over to straddle Spock and kiss him fiercely, hands curling around those hypersensitive ears.
"I'll give you faith."
Jim woke when a car alarm shrieked outside, and stirred sleepily in their bed.
The apartment was technically Spock's, but as they had come here every time they'd had leave on Earth, it had become theirs by default, and Jim's things had slowly merged with Spock's.
Like their legs, right now.
Their feet were tangled at the bottom of the bed, warm in a pool of sunlight, and Jim kicked a little more of the sheets over them to keep Spock's feet warm. He rubbed his toes over one cool, bony ankle, and smiled when a muscle in Spock's right hand twitched.
Spock was breathing, slow and shallow, into Jim's hair, both arms curled around Jim's upper body loosely. He often pressed close to Jim during the night, seeking out his higher body temperature, and now Jim was beyond grateful for the contact.
Very carefully, keen not to disturb him, Jim eased himself over so that they lay face-to-face, and began smoothing the dark hair back into place, occasionally dropping his hand to stroke over smooth, cherished skin and lips still swollen from the night before. Eventually, Jim dropped his hand to just stroke his thumb over those lips, again and again, before giving into temptation and pressing forward just a little further to press all-too-human kisses to them.
Spock never responded unconsciously to sexual stimuli, so Jim knew when he woke, because the kisses were returned, and those formerly lax arms wound closer and pressed them together.
"Hey," Jim breathed into the seams of Spock's mouth, and rubbed his toes over that ankle again.
In the idle sunlight, their lovemaking was almost lazy – a gallery of slow hands and lips, and explorations of familiar places that had to be remapped regardless; long, relaxed movements and warm hands, ghosting over deceptively fast heartbeats and the powerful draw of lungs and throats, and then south again to the hidden places where they came together after two weeks of separation and an unduly emotional reunion. Here, they reunited, fused together by trust and acceptance and a love so overwhelming that, even in the idle action, bruises were left and scratches made into smooth backs.
When they calmed again, soothed by satisfaction and the sun, Jim pressed a kiss to the jumping pulse point in Spock's throat, smiling his joy into the rough skin there.
"I'm glad you're home, by the way," he murmured, winding his arms around Spock's back, but with no more of that desperation.
Spock gave him a low rumble of contentment, but no vocal reply.