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This Business Of Art

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This Business Of Art: Part 1

 




cover made by [info]witblogi 

“A shot of Jack, straight up.”
 
Jim looked up from the depths of his glass. The mirror behind the bar afforded him a glimpse of the woman making such an order. From the half warped reflection he dimly liked what he saw and liked what he heard even better. A woman who was sure what she wanted, not looking to dick around or flirt, she was there for one reason.
 
He leaned forward onto his forearms, trying to see around the lumberjack of a man on the stool next to his. When he finally managed to pick her out of the crowd, all stern brows and full lips, a slow smile spread upon his face.
 
“That’s a strong drink for one woman,” he called down the bar to her, and her dark eyes slid to land on him, giving him a look of such disinterest a thrill raced down his spine. Oh, he was going to enjoy this.
 
“I’m Jim,” he offered undeterred. She blinked and looked down at the bar, pressing her lips together firmly. “Aren’t you going to tell me your name? If you don’t I’ll just have to make one up for you.”
 
A muscle twitched in her jaw and her eyes tracked the progress of the bartender, slowed by several more orders being placed. Jim licked his lips and opened his mouth ready to bestow upon her a brand new name-
 
“It’s Uhura.” She finally looked at him again, warning flashing in her eyes. “Just Uhura.”
 
Jim smiled again, pushing away from the bar and off of his seat, winding his way around the massive man separating him from Uhura. Sliding into the space between her and the next patron, he fixed one elbow onto the bar top and looked her over.
 
Dark skin and big eyes, she drummed her fingers, each adorned with several rings, on the bar. Her hair, hundreds of thin long braids, adorned with gems, shells and trinkets of metal woven in, was swept back and knotted at the nape of her slender neck. Her scarf looked old although the colours were bright, teal and tangerine. Jim wondered if it was soft as well.
 
“Fair enough. Nice to meet you, Just-Uhura.” Her drink arrived and she immediately slugged it back. He blinked at her as she slammed the glass back down, swallowing hard at the burn in her throat. 
 
“So… what do you do?” He leaned into her space, making her roll her eyes and look him over.
 
“I’m a lapidary silversmith, and you have no idea what that means.”
 
“The craft of carving and engraving stones, working gems into metal – specifically silver. A jeweller. It means you’ve got talented hands.” He smiled, placing his own hand down on the bar next to hers. She looked up at him with something like amused surprise in her eyes.
 
“I’m impressed. For a moment there I only thought you were a dumb twinky barfly who only hits on women who can handle their liquor.” Her earrings shone brightly for a moment in the low light of the lit bottles behind the bartender. He reached out to flick one, just so it glinted for him, showing off her craft.
 
“Well, not only.”
 
Uhura laughed darkly, turning to face him. He noticed one of her rings looked staggeringly like a silver spider, its eight legs wrapped around the entirety of her finger between knuckles. The red glint of the gem in its thorax let him know it was deadly, and Jim suddenly did not like the look in Uhura’s eyes.
 
Whatever she was going to say or do next however was interrupted by an older gentleman sliding between them to order a drink.
 
“Pike!” Uhura’s features went suddenly blank. The man, Pike, turned to her with a kind smile.
 
“Ms Uhura, so nice to see you again.” He took a step back. “Oh, I wasn’t interrupting your conversation was I?” He turned sharp eyes on to Jim, his smile slipping a fraction. Jim kept his expression carefully neutral; there was something about this Pike and his all too polite and airy demeanour that reeked of bullshit.
 
“No, I was just leaving.” Uhura gave Jim a bitter smile and then slipped away and off into the night, her hair jangling just so as she moved. Jim frowned into his drink, lamenting the spectacular bit of cock-blocking action he had just been subjected to.
 
“Don’t look so put out, I just saved you your balls from a world of pain.”
 
Jim’s head snapped up at the deep sharp tone the miraculous Pike had adopted. He was leaning on the bar now, smiling benevolently at Jim.
 
“You were about to see what a woman like Uhura can do with a pair of tin-snips.” Pike gave a nod to the bartender as his drink was delivered in record time.
 
“Why are you talking to me, man?” Jim sneered, but all Pike did was smile some more and lift his drink.
 
“Lets go to my table.” He took a step away from the barstools.
 
“Your…what? Listen, I’m flattered but I don’t really go for-”

“I don’t think you want to have this conversation at the bar, Kirk.” The name fell heavily into the space between them. Pike’s smile returned and he led the way to a back corner booth where one pointed look had the current occupants scrambling to vacate their seats.
 
“Who are you?” Jim slid heavily onto the vinyl seat, dropping his glass with a clunk.
 
“My name is Christopher Pike.” He folded himself carefully into the adjacent seat, legs crossed casually, charcoal turtleneck making him look strangely authoritative.
 
“Jim Kirk. But apparently you already knew that.”
 
“I almost couldn’t believe it was you at the bar, but there’s no mistaking it. You’re your father’s son.” Pike cocked his head, eyes roaming uncomfortably over Jim’s features again.
 
Jim gave a shrug and rolled his eyes.
 
“What are you doing in San Francisco?”
 
Jim snorted. “What is this, like your turf? I don’t even know who you are.”
 
“You know exactly who I am.” The smiling portion of the evening was apparently over, Pike’s eyes pinned him.  Jim frowned. He didn’t actually know who Pike was, but he was sure that it wouldn’t take much to shake it out of anyone in this bar. He was obviously powerful, and knew of his father, or perhaps, judging by his age, maybe even personally knew his father once.
 
“So are you going to tell me what you’re doing here? It’s a long way from Iowa, Kirk.” 
 
“I don’t know. I was thinking about working some, figuring out what was so great about this city.” He chose his words carefully, slowly tracing the lip of the glass with one finger.
 
“And by work you mean paint.” Pike cocked his head.
 
“Looks like someone knows how to use a search engine,” Jim retorted tiredly. He didn’t want to play games with men who thought they were something else because they liked to sip brandy in their studies and jerk off to his father’s paintings.
 
“Not necessary. You have paint in your nail beds,” he stated simply and leaned forward over the table. This was where the business proposition came in: I’ll sell a few of your paintings if you just cower under your father’s name, do exactly what he did, reproduce his works. Jim was not his father.
 
“Look, I can pretty much guarantee I’m not interested in whatever you’re offering.”
 
“That’s too bad. I’ve seen what you can do and the art society, the culture, around here needs you.” Pike leaned back again in his chair lifting his hips to pull his wallet out of his pocket, “I’m willing to offer you wall space, you could have a show in four months. No questions asked.” He thumbed the leather open and drew out a card tossing it across the table to where Jim’s fingers rested.
 
“That’s my gallery. Show up at eight am on Wednesday and ask for Spock.” Pike slid to the edge of the booth. “If you’re interested, he’ll go over what’s expected of you.” He stood and straightened his shirt while Jim picked up the thick, ivory card from the tabletop.
 
“Your father was only known in the media for a year, but started an entire modernist movement. I dare you to do better.” Pike looked sternly down at him and then walked off, disappearing the same way Uhura had into the crowd.
 
Jim spun the card once between his forefinger and his thumb, downed his glass and looked at the card. The Kobayashi Maru, elegantly embossed in sans serif, beckoned.
 
--
 
In the bright light of Sunday morning, San Francisco was definitely something else. It was foggy and cold and the hills were brutal on his frugally conscious legs. But it beat the hell out of Riverside so Jim continued to plod on, gazing at the buildings he passed with an assessing eye.
 
He looked down at the scrap of newspaper in his hand and the back up at the massive brick building before him. It looked like a firehouse, but the ad in his hand said it was a studio for rent. Wearily trotting to the door he pressed the doorbell, or what he could only assume was the doorbell, and waited.
 
It took a while but eventually the door was thrown open by a man not much older than himself, dark hair flecked with grey. His hands looked weathered in a way that spoke about the copious amounts of mud and dirt that was caked upon the apron he wore.
 
“Can I help you?” he asked with a raised eyebrow, taking Jim in as he barred the rest of the house from view by keeping his arm anchored firmly on the door.
 
“I’m here about the studio for rent?” Jim lifted the ad by way of explanation. The man looked him over wearily this time and then stepped back from the door, gesturing for him to come inside. The space was huge, opening into a large kitchen with more red brickwork, heavy stone countertops and exposed copper pipes along the walls and ceiling. The second level overhung the kitchen, railed off but still complete with fire pole, which dropped down conveniently beside the coffeemaker.
 
“The space is upstairs,” the man said pointing towards a tightly spiralling wrought iron staircase in the corner. Jim noted that although it wasn’t prominent, a southern accent was detectable around his words, hardening his consonants and creating sticky soft vowels.
 
Jim followed obediently up and up to a small landing before being taken around the corner into the last of the rooms branching off the walkway. Inside the studio, huge dirty windows spilled morning light onto the bare wood floors. It was massive, brick-lined like the rest of the place and just Jim’s speed.
 
“This is it. What do you do?” the man asked as Jim made a slow lap of the room flicking the light switch and delighting in the floor creaks.
 
“Drawing, painting, enamel, acrylic, nothing toxic.” He shrugged and tapped at one of the panes of glass. A chilly breeze floated through the slightly warped frames.
 
“Don’t worry about the cold, it won’t stay that way for long. Downstairs we’ve got a gas kiln, and the glass,” he gestured up to the slanting windows above them that created the roof,  “traps the heat. Makes the place feel like a goddamned greenhouse.” Jim looked over his shoulder with a smirk at the grumpy expression settling on the man’s face.
 
“If you’re also in the market for a place to live, there’s an attached bedroom.” The man crossed the room and pulled back the curtain that sectioned off the simple square room with mattress frame inside.
 
“Extra 200 a month. Not just for the space of the room but for water and putting up with a new face and name to remember.” He let the curtain drop and crossed his arms over his aproned chest.
 
Jim grinned.
 
“I’ll take both. I’m Jim, by the way.” He held out his hand and the man took it.
 
“McCoy, Leonard McCoy.”
 
--
 
After all the details had been worked out and Jim had signed on the dotted line, it had only taken a few hours for him to make arrangements for himself; packing up what little he’d brought with him from Riverside and placing the calls to get the rest of his things express shipped.
 
First things first: he needed a bed. McCoy strangely came to the rescue, explaining that the last tenant who lived there had found the mattress supplied to him unworthy and bought his own space-foam-wonder-bed. The original mattress was luckily still in the storage lockers somewhere in the back of the house.
 
With a bit of finesse, charm, and finally bribery he managed to talk McCoy into helping him haul the mattress back up into his bedroom. The experience was enlightening for Jim, mostly about his landlord who seemed to bitch about absolutely everything. Most bizarrely it wasn’t annoying, more amusing as Jim learned how mobile his dark brows could be and how expansive his swearing vocabulary was.
 
“I’ve never heard anyone call a mattress a ‘cock-sucking son of a whore’ before.” He laughed breathlessly, flopping onto the beast of springs and foam as soon as they got it into place on the frame in his room.
 
“Yeah, well you didn’t have to move that bastard twice, did you?” McCoy joined him, sitting down heavily on the end of the bed, letting himself bounce once or twice. Jim smiled wryly up at the windows, thinking of the other tremendous name-calling that had taken place. Surely if they’d been in an apartment building the other tenants would have been poking their heads out of their doors just to see what was causing all the fuss.
 
In fact Jim was a little surprised no one else had surfaced to see what all the racket was. The ad had explicitly said that there were three residents already living in the house. So far Jim had only seen the exceptionally ornery McCoy.
 
“More people do live here right?” he sighed, and tamped down a laugh when McCoy looked over his shoulder at him, one eyebrow raised sky high.
 
“Yeah, kid. You just won’t see them much. See, there’s this thing called money that we all need to eat. And the only way we can get enough of it is to work our fingers to the bone. Speaking of fingers and bones…” He turned to loom over Jim.
 
“You will not steal, you will not do drugs, and you will not avoid rent payment. You will be polite and courteous to everyone under this roof. If you break these rules I will cut off every one of your fingers, strip them of their flesh, grind down your bones, put the dust in my porcelain and make myself a china tea set. Understood?” McCoy seemed terrifically crazy when talking about real bone china, eyes wide and serious. Jim nodded.
 
“You got it, Bones.”
 
McCoy narrowed his eyes and picked himself up from the bed, “Alright, we’ll have no problems then. You do have money don’t you?”
 
“Yeah.” Jim got up as well and moved to his bags left on the floor, hauling them up onto the mattress one by one. “Yeah, I have money, and I’ll be working. In fact I need to see a man about a show on Wednesday. I need to get to the…something Maru? Do you know it?” McCoy, who had been pulling the curtain back so he could pass through froze, arm in mid air.
 
“The Kobayashi Maru? The Kobayashi Maru Gallery?” he asked turning around slowly as if on an axis. Jim paused, looking up in his process of unzipping his biggest suitcase.
 
“Yeah. That’s the one.”
 
“Who are you?” McCoy narrowed his eyes. “Jim what?”
 
“ Kirk. Okay? It’s Kirk,”
 
“Jim Kirk? You’re Jim Kirk?!” McCoy sagged against the wall suddenly, letting the curtain drop and half cover him, “As in son of George Kirk? The painter who kil-” He swallowed thickly on his words as Jim flipped back the top of his bag.

“Yeah, killed himself. The day I was born actually. Funny story isn’t it?” He gave a thin ironic smile and busied his hands with pulling out his soft roll of brushes and knives. He’d be lucky if he wasn’t badgered for money, or generally avoided by his roommates now. And damn, just when he thought he’d found a potential friend. He breathed out hard through his nose, reaching for the stack of pallets next to him.
 
“Right.” McCoy pulled the curtain slowly back again and turned face Jim, “Look, kid, I won’t tell anyone else if you don’t want. You can just be Jim here.”
 
When Jim blinked up, it was to find the curtain already swinging closed and Bones’ retreating footsteps soft as he left.
 
--
 
Jim slept fitfully that night, wrapped in crisp, newly bought sheets. He dreamed of revolvers clicking and paint splashing violently against walls as the wind blew through the rickety windows of the studio and ruffled the wide curtained entrance to his bedroom. Waking with a start at unknown-o-clock, he dragged himself out of bed and found the washroom down the hall. Splashing water into his face, he looked at his dripping reflection, rumpled, tired, and he tried to see what Pike saw, tried to see the man he’d never met.
 
After a moment he blinked hard and shuffled over to the towels. It didn’t matter, what was in the past was just that, in the past. He blotted the water off his face with a heavy, strange-smelling towel hanging on the rack and then stumbled back down the hall to the fireman’s pole. With a small secret grin he delighted in wrapping his legs around it and silently sliding into the kitchen.
 
Beside him the door of the refrigerator was open streaming light into the kitchen blocking whoever was humming softly from view.
 
“ Hello?” His voice was rough with sleep, while he raised a hand to block out the worst of the bulb’s piercing rays sliding through the crack between the door and the shelves. A gasp, followed by the snapping shut of the fridge, accompanied a slender figure standing and whipping around to face him. Without the light he couldn’t make out what they looked like, or indeed why they were now edging away from him around the back of the island counter.
 
Then the overhead light clicked on and he was face to face with the woman from the bar.
 
“You!” Jim gaped trying to recall her name but drawing a blank as he squinted through tearing eyes to see she slept in very small shorts.
 
“You!” She set her jaw, angrily pressing her fists into her hips, “What are you doing here?”
 
“I…live here?” He ran a hand through his hair, and then held his hands up innocently as she advanced on him pointing with a newly acquired and rather sharp looking kitchen knife.
 
“You’re the new tenant?” Her teeth gleamed in the burning bright light of the room.
 
“Yes, I take it you’re a roommate?” he asked, swiping a seat on one of the stools that lined kitchen’s island, “…Uhura…right?” He blinked at her trying to recall if that really was her name.
 
“Yes.” She rounded the island, throwing her knife down in favour of gathering together the items she’d taken out of the fridge and putting them in order, “You’ll have to forgive me, I don’t remember your name.” She glanced sharply at him.
 
“It’s Jim,” he told her, noting the lack of jewellery on her slender fingers and wrists. Around her neck was a single pendant, a gleaming silver Eye of Horus. Her hair surprisingly still clanked and jingled with its decorative add-ins.
 
“Jim.” She said it like a shot, a period at the end of a sentence, sharp and unimpressed, “What are you doing here, Jim?” She began cutting her bread. “In San Francisco. Don’t tell me about how you couldn’t sleep.” She tore a chunk of bread off and popped it into her mouth.
 
“I didn’t know late night personal interrogations were part of the roommate agreement. Must have been the fine print, hm?” He rested his chin on his fist, setting his elbow on the counter and surveyed her. Uhura dropped her knife and leaned one hip against the counter, inspecting his shadowed face while she wiped her hands on a dishtowel.
 
“They are when you spend a good ten minutes chatting with Chris Pike like old friends. I want to know who you are, Jim.” She returned to her sandwich making, clanging her spoon against the side of the mayo jar.
 
“What?” Jim frowned at her and she rolled her eyes.
 
“Please, I’m not an idiot. I saw you two tucked away in his booth. I know he didn’t just step between us to spare you lasting trauma.”
 
“I don’t-” She held a hand up to halt his protests.
 
“I saw what I saw, the two of you talking over drinks. So I’m guessing your story goes something like you came into town on a drinking binge and were coaxed into staying by the owner of the biggest privately owned galleries this side of Nevada.” She looked at him innocently. Jim felt the beginnings of a frown tug at the corners of his mouth; he owed her no explanations and certainly didn’t have to tell her anything.
 
“So what’s he paying you? What does he get out of it? Is he fucking you?” she asked before picking up her sandwich with both hands and taking a large bite.
 
“Who’s fucking who now?” Bones appeared at the foot of the stairs rubbing his eyes with one hand in the brightness of the light.
 
“Sorry, Len, did we wake you?” Uhura asked around her mouthful of turkey on rye. Jim watched as he shuffled further into the kitchen, his sleep attire a pair of flannel pajama pants and an old faded shirt from the University of Mississippi.
 
“‘M a light sleeper. Come from a long line of doctors, not your fault,” he grumbled sleepily. “But if you don’t give me some of that I’ll be forced to stop allowing that robot of yours in the house.” He lifted a shoulder in reference to Uhura’s sandwich as he slipped behind her towards the cupboards. Uhura chuckled and offered her snack up over her shoulder where Bones took a large bite and then kissed her on the cheek in thanks.
 
“This kid knows Pike, Len.” Jim frowned darkly, disliking Uhura more and more as he spent time with her. Bones grunted in reply, going for a water glass with sleep-heavy limbs. He didn’t appear to be willing to tell Uhura anything about Jim unless given the okay.
 
“You don’t think that’s interesting?” Uhura was watching Bones too, her sandwich held loosely in her hands. Bones took a long time filling up his glass and then taking a slow drink, setting his glass down, sending Jim a significant look before sighing.
 
“Pike knows a lot of people. A lot of artists.” He shrugged. “So what makes Jim here any more interesting than the last pretty boy barista topping off Pike’s morning latte?” He pinned Uhura with a stern look. “And for that matter, I don’t think you should be talking about what sort of contacts you have that make you interesting. It’s a bit of pot and kettle style gossip then isn’t it?”
 
Uhura’s hair jangled in its tie as she shook her head.
 
“I’m not hungry anymore, I think I’m back off to bed. Do you want the rest of this?” She held her sandwich out to Bones who took it with an easy smile.
 
“G’night darlin’.” He kissed her cheek again as she passed by him to disappear through the dark door leading off from the kitchen Jim had yet to explore.
 
Jim frowned at Bones as he took a large crunchy bite of his newly acquired sandwich.
 
“What was that?” He leaned back to try and see where she had gone. “What did you say? Who does she know?”
 
Bones rolled his eyes and swallowed. “The two of you are a matched pair. Don’t be nosy, it’ll get you nothing but your nose cut off around here. You’ll find out everything you want soon enough, but on everyone else’s terms. I’m not always going to step in for you. You’re the new kid, Jim.” He finished eating and washed his hands. “It’d be best if you remembered that.”

He gave Jim one last significant look and then left, flicking off the lights as he went, leaving Jim utterly alone in the darkness.

--
 
The next time he entered the kitchen it was by the stairs, passing by the open doorway to what could only be Bones’ room, the large bed within still unmade.
 
With two days to kill before he needed to get down to business, and half of his things still making a cross-country trip to catch up with him, Jim decided it was time to forage for living materials. Despite his best intentions when packing, his bags had turned out very little in terms of clothing and toiletries – instead he’d filled the depths of his luggage with his supplies including but not limited to: brushes, curled up and half dried out tubes of paint, water buckets, about ten sketch books and several hundred pens and pencils.
 
So he made his list as he shuffled along down the stairs and walked straight into what looked like a regular family breakfast. The family however was the strangest Jim had ever seen, consisting of Uhura reading bits of the newspaper aloud, Bones working a frying pan and another man Jim assumed to be the last roommate looking up at the lights through the bottom of a water glass.
 
“Jim,” Bones acknowledged him, sliding an omelette out of the pan and onto a plate. Uhura flipped a page absently and the man with the glass looked up with cheerful interest.
 
“You’re the new lad?” he asked in a startlingly happy Scottish brogue. He looked like an extremely friendly sort of fellow, with a ruddy complexion, pointy nose, and a mobile mouth. He was at least a few years older than Jim and perhaps even Bones, with thinning brown hair cut (or…maybe that was singed?) short.
 
“Uh, yeah, I’m Jim.” He gave a smile and took the offered hand to shake.
 
“Montgomery Scott. But you can call me Scotty,” he declared, offering Jim the seat beside him at the island bar. “Don’t mind the mess.” He began shoving a few more water glasses aside, their sides clinking together. Jim tilted his head, catching sight of a large peeling burn along the inside of Scotty’s wrist.
 
“Ouch, how did you get that?” Jim pulled a face.
 
“Why, I’m a glass blower! McCoy, what have you been telling him?” Scotty absently pushed his sleeves back revealing more scars and half healed burns.
 
“Nothing he didn’t ask about.” Bones picked up a fairly standard looking coffee mug and took a sip. “You want some eggs kid?” Jim ignored Uhura’s ruffling of her paper and agreed. He eyed her tall, wide lipped mug where it sat at her elbow, and then looked to Scotty’s scarred hands, cradling his own sturdy handle-less ceramic mug.
 
“Glass blowing then, that’s what the kiln’s for?” Jim turned to Scotty who nodded.
 
“Yes, that, and the good Doctor here has quite the little business model in the basement.” Jim turned to look at Bones who was concentrating on getting the omelette to flip neatly with a spatula.
 
“Doctor?”
 
“I repair ceramics when I’m not working on my own projects. They call me the Dish Doctor.” Bones began adding the filling to one side of the eggs. “I’m a potter,” he added firmly, giving Scotty a disapproving look.
 
“Aye.” Scotty took a sip of his coffee and glanced down at Jim’s speckled notebook. “What’ve you got there?”
 
“Oh.” Jim ran a hand through his hair and glanced down at his already substantial list, “Just a list of things I need to buy today: tables, clothing, toothpaste…”
 
“You’re going to want to add a dresser or two to your list.” Uhura spoke up from behind the paper. “This place was a fire hall not a house and there aren’t any closets.”
 
“Oh, thanks.” Jim quickly scribbled down the addition, while Uhura folded up her paper and swiftly stood from her perch at the end of the island.
 
“I need to get to work,” she sighed. “Thank you for breakfast.” She smiled at Bones, who saluted her with his spatula as he leaned forward and set Jim’s plate before him. She then slipped off, disappearing back through the same door she had during the night.
 
“Is she always like…” He picked up his knife and fork and dug into his breakfast. Bones merely grunted and Scotty sighed.
 
“Hell of a woman. You’ll figure it out eventually Jim, you seem like a smart enough lad.” He clapped Jim on the shoulder and swung his legs out from under the island.
 
“Thanks.”
 
“Don’t mention it. Alas, I’ve got to get to fanning the fires as well.” He set his mug aside, “If you see Keenser skulking about, tell the wee bugger there’s work to be done!” He declared to Bones who raised his own mug in acknowledgement.
 
Jim refocused on his meal after that, occasionally adding to his list while Bones puttered about the kitchen, cleaning and doing dishes.
 
“If you want to drink anything in the morning you’d better add coffee beans onto that list or pitch into the grocery pot.” Bones finally broke the silence, setting a large jar full of twenties before Jim.
 
“I’m officially in now aren’t I?” he asked with a sigh, fishing his wallet out of his pocket.
 
“If by ‘in’ you mean you’ve earned our undying trust? No. It’ll take a lot more than a few polite meals shared.” Bones smiled in a self-satisfied way as Jim tucked a few Jacksons into the jar. “But it’s a start.”
 
He replaced the jar on the counter and sauntered off out of the kitchen and into the basement, where Jim assumed he had work to be done as well.
 
Without any company and having finished his meal, Jim gathered up his notebook and set off on his day, ready to go shake up the city and see what fell out.
 
--
 
So Monday and Tuesday were spent poking through furniture stores, balking at prices, and finding flea markets full of much more affordable if not a bit style-challenged pieces. Moving everything back to the firehouse proved a problem until Scotty offered the use of his small, red, rusted-out pickup – that is, if he got to come along for the ride. Unwilling to let a good opportunity pass him by, Jim agreed, and Scotty had the old, dodgy vehicle he fondly called ‘the transporter’ puttering about the city in no time.
 
With his ragtag collection of possessions amassing, Scotty’s anecdotal conversation and company in moving his new things, and Bones shaking his head at the both of them, the studio began to feel like home in a weird sort of sense that Jim had never felt before. Not even the small farmhouse he’d grown up in had felt as intrinsically right to be in as this strange new place with its bizarre little adoptive family.
 
It was contemplating this new family that Jim found himself doing as he opened the door to the Kobayashi Maru on Wednesday morning. A large white building, it cut an imposing figure on the landscape of the city around it with its classical architecture. Inside however it was completely contemporary. A sleek, stainless steel reception desk rose up to greet him in the shade of the foyer. Beyond he could see the bright whiteness of the actual gallery, lit by skylights, calling to him.
 
“May I help you?” the woman behind the desk asked coolly, her dark hair sleek, her expression carefully neutral. Jim smiled, and she did not smile back.
 
“I’m here to see a…Spock? Pike sent me.” Jim flipped the business card over his knuckles and faced to towards her.
 
“Very well, I shall see if Mr. Spock is available. You may wait in the gallery.” She turned in her seat without waiting for his reply and picked up her phone. Jim backed away slowly, edging around the circular desk and strolling into the gallery.
 
Upon the white walls were paintings; most looked like they were part of a set. He glanced at the artist biography printed on one of the short walls near the entrance. Isaac Mendez. Jim blinked; he’d never heard of him. Wandering the gallery idly, Jim noted a few other people within. Most looked wealthy and had an associate with them taking notes. They were shopping, picking out which pieces they would fancy in their collection…apparently this gallery was some hot shit.
 
Entering a new room, Jim stumbled upon a massive floor mural picked out in blacks and oranges. He gave a low whistle.
 
“It’s a little ostentatious, isn’t it?” Jim turned to see an Asian man, probably the same age as himself blinking down at it.

“Can you imagine the shipping cost?”

The man laughed, his face crinkling attractively.
 
“I take it you aren’t a collector?” The other man asked slinging his hands into his pockets. Jim snorted and gestured to his jeans and chucks. Luckily he had managed to shanghai a western woven out of Bones before he’d disappeared into the basement for the day, but just barely.
 
“Do I look like I’m here to blow a million dollars on a floor?” Jim looked over the massive mural again.
 
“Looks can be deceiving,” the man said quietly, a heaviness to his tone that caused Jim to look up at him again. By the time he caught his gaze the man was smiling again. “Who are you here to see?”
 
“Uh, Mr. Spock?” Jim answered tentatively, still a bit shaky about the name. Was it a first name? A last name? A nickname?
 
“Ah, Spock, not too bad, at least you aren’t dealing with Number One. She was the one working the desk. She’s especially pissed today, forced to play secretary.” The man strolled lazily around the mural. “One word of advice, just don’t stare at him okay?”
 
“Stare?” Was he horribly disfigured or something?
 
“Yeah, he’s just…a little different, don’t worry you get used to it,”
 
“Thanks ah-” Jim realized he didn’t know the man’s name. The man hurried around the mural holding out a hand.
 
“Oh, I’m Hikaru-” he paused as if holding back what only came naturally. Jim grasped his hand and gave it a slow pump. There were probably a few Hikarus in San Francisco, but only one who would hesitate in holding his last name back. He was a Sulu.
 
The Sulus were a family made wealthy by collecting and selling art smartly. They owned all the antiquity and fine art auction houses on the western seaboard as well as a staggering number out of country. Rumor had it they were working on giving Sotheby’s and Christie’s a run for their money as the world’s pre-eminent auctioneer. As the cherry on top, they also possessed the largest private collection of antique weaponry (specializing in swords) in the United States.
 
“Not a common name, Hikaru. I’m Jim.” Jim flashed a smile. “Jim Kirk.” Sulu’s eyes widened in recognition.
 
“Kirk. Pike got to you too I take it?” Sulu grinned while Jim shrugged, but before they could say any more, another young man came ambling over to them.
 
“Ah, here you are,” he said to Sulu in a cheerful accented voice. The kid looked barely 21, with curly hair and big grey blue eyes. Jim smirked at the way Sulu lit up upon seeing him.
 
“Oh, Pavel, this is Jim. Jim, Pavel Chekov, my friend.” Sulu gestured between the thin Chekov and Jim.
 
Jim shook hands with Chekov. “Are you both here for meetings as well?”
 
“No, I just support.” Jim cocked his head at Chekov, that accent was some kind of …Slavic nation but damn if he could name it. “Hikaru is the artist.”
 
“He’s joking. I’m just a photographer. Plants and landscapes and things.” Sulu offered, flushing with embarrassment. Jim swallowed a laugh.
 
“I see.” Jim nodded, pushing his hands into his pockets and looking over the floor one more time.
 
“And you…?” the other, Chekov, asked curiously. He was a bold kid for looking so innocent.
 
“Oh I, ah, I paint.” Jim shrugged modestly and Sulu’s eyebrows rose in some comedic mix of knowing and surprise.
 
“Runs in the family?” he teased and Jim shrugged again, smiling back.
 
“Something like that,” he said softly, ignoring Chekov’s look of confusion thrown to Sulu. Before any more explanation could be offered however, the sharp sound of footsteps on the concrete floor rapidly approached them.
 
“Mr. Kirk?”

Jim turned. “You must be Spock,” he said with utter confidence in his deduction.
 
“Yes. This way please.” With that, the man turned smartly on his heel and walked away. Jim gave Sulu and Chekov a hasty little half-salute half-wave and hurried to keep up.

Chapter Text

The inside of Spock’s office was much like Spock himself. Immaculately clean and orderly, subtly accented in black and just a little weird. For instance, the prints on his walls? They weren’t flowers or buildings. They were diagrams; and not of organs or something cool like that, but furniture. It was a little like he had torn pages out of his Ikea instruction manual and framed them. Also, among all the hyper-clean ultra-modern furniture and décor were four stone jars, canopic jars. It was under their eerie gaze that Jim sunk into one of the shiny black leather chairs in front of Spock’s desk. 
 
Spock, tall and thin, had a stern mouth and sober dark eyes. Most striking about him was probably his incredibly shiny and orderly dark hair, cut in a style Jim was hesitant to call ‘bowl’ – it was too…normal looking, like Spock was a long lost, incredibly tidy Beatle. Other than that, he wore a tailored black suit with a blue tie and seemed completely normal.
 
Instead of taking the seat behind the desk as Jim expected, Spock deigned to primly lean against the front edge of his desk and loom over him.
 
“As you already know, I am Spock. I am the head curator for the Kobayashi Maru Gallery,” he began, voice just as steady and neutral as his features. Jim was beginning to think that between Spock and the aloof Number One, Pike had some how managed to create his own army of androids to run his business.
 
“Mr. Pike has informed me of your…situation and of the conditions he has placed upon you. As owner he has much say in the business of this Gallery, but I am still the final decision-making body. It is to me that you will be reporting.” Spock folded his hands behind his back and Jim tried not to feel like a naughty child being spoken to by the principal.
 
“I have looked over your credentials, your BFA, your past shows and collections.” He leaned back, long fingers splaying a pile of papers on his desk so Jim could see they contained practically every nugget of information on him that existed.
 
“Is that my birth certificate?” Spock ignored him.
 
“You are…a unique individual but only so far as your family extends. I have not seen anything particularly inspired within your work or indeed anything at all that would lead me to believe you belong in this gallery.” Spock levelled his clear distain for being handed candidates to assess not of his own picking, straight at Jim. The criticism was refreshing, yes, but also toeing the line of rude and Jim opened his mouth to retaliate-
 
“Mr. Pike, however, remains adamant I give you the benefit of the doubt and enough time to prove yourself.” Spock finished before Jim had a chance to protest. “So I shall schedule your show into October and in the time between now and then you will convince me that you have earned the spot.”
 
Convince you?” Jim frowned, itching to stand and put Spock and himself on par, “How am I supposed to do that? Take you out to dinner?”
 
Spock blinked and raised one eyebrow at him. Jim rolled his eyes. This guy didn’t actually think he was being serious, did he?
 
“As your pieces must be entirely new material, you shall present your progress for my inspection at regularly scheduled intervals.” Spock tipped his head forward in a mock nod. Jim scoffed and finally did push himself out of the squeaky chair.
 
“So you’re going to what? Grade my homework? Artistic expression doesn’t work that way.” He folded his arms across his chest and planted his feet, staring Spock down.
 
“No, Mr. Kirk. I work that way.” Spock stood and rounded to his chair behind his desk, “If you do not find these terms acceptable you may always decline the offer.” He unbuttoned his jacket and sat down.
 
“Fine. What are your terms?”
 
“The Gallery takes fifty percent of the sale, handles all publicity, display and storage, and delivery to the client. You are required to provide at least twenty new works, show up to meetings when they are scheduled, set the value estimate of your pieces, and meet your deadlines.” Spock set his elbows on the desk and steepled his fingers together before his mouth.
 
Jim mulled it over for a moment calculating mentally what all of that meant for him. “You said the show would be in October?”
 
“That is correct. The standard allotted time for a new collection being ‘commissioned’ is four months before a showing.”
 
Jim moved to the door, “Move it up to September, tell Pike I’ll do it in three.” He flashed Spock one last determined look and slipped out of the office, out of the gallery, and into his new job.
 
--
 
When he got back to the firehouse, still ramped up from his talk with Spock, he was not expecting to stumble into a pile of his own things. His boxes had arrived, none worse for wear as he looked them over, counting up that he had the correct number. He worked his way out from the door towards the kitchen where he met three returning stares.
 
Jim frowned at the tension crackling between them but once again before he could ask what was wrong they all turned back to what was leaned against the island.
 
Twine cut and paper peeled back, George Kirk’s Beyond Antares in all its oil-splotchy glory stared back at him. Jim pressed his lips together and waded through the boxes to get to his roommates.
 
“S’not a print is it?” Scotty asked in a hollow voice as Jim stepped up to stand in line with them.
 
“No,” he said simply, wrapping the paper back over the frame and picking it up gingerly.
 
“So you’re Jim Kirk,” Uhura stated, sounding betrayed already.
 
“That is my name, yes.” Jim brushed past Bones and made for the stairs.
 
“How do you explain this?” she demanded, hands pressed to her hips.
 
“This?” He tilted one corner of the painting, looking over his shoulder at them, “I don’t know. I think my Mom is trying to make up for something by sending me my favourite piece which I have never actually seen out from behind glass.” He began to climb the stairs. On the landing above he continued.
 
“Or did you mean how do I explain this complete invasion of privacy? Because, honestly, I have no clue. I’d hoped maybe you had some input on that one.” He paused before where the wall would cut them off from view, waiting for any sort of explanation. When nothing was forthcoming, he marched the rest of the way down the hall and shut himself into his studio, letting the door bang closed.
 
Setting the painting carefully upon one of his still barren tables, he pulled the last of the paper away and looked down at the painting revealed. This close he could see every bump, every swirl, even a few stray fingerprints in the paint. It was bittersweet, the feelings it evoked in his chest as he looked at it, and when it began to blur and swim before his eyes, he backed up and kept going until his back met the brick of the wall behind him where he proceeded to collapse into crouch, and then onto his bottom letting one leg spring out from beneath him at a time.
 
Blinking hard and swallowing on the pain lodged in his throat, he fought to remind himself who he was, where he was. He had never known George Kirk so why should Jim let his father affect him at all? Trapped with that painting felt like being confronted with his father’s ghost, a mocking, taunting thing he had spent his whole life running away from.
 
Scrubbing his eyes with the heels of his hands, he drew in a few deep shuddering breaths and slowly stood back up. Without focusing too hard on the painting, he gathered it back into its paper wrapping and took it into his bedroom. There he slipped it in between the wall and one of his newly purchased, far too ornate dressers.
 
Pushing back past the curtain into his studio, Jim circled the floor a few times, hands folded on the top of his head trying to shake off the anxiety welling up inside him. In the end he decided idle hands were not the thing for him and began arranging his studio, slipping his brushes butt end into jars for easy access and figuring out where exactly he wanted all his tables and chairs. He managed to become so focused on his make-work that he actually started when a soft knock came upon his door.
 
“Jim?” It was Bones. “You don’t have to come out. Just wanted to tell you we brought your boxes up. They’re out here.” And that was the end of it, just boxes, no explanations, no questions, no emotional bullshit. Jim couldn’t help but smile. Bones was turning into quite the friend.
 
When Jim opened the door there was no one in sight, just as promised, all of his boxes neatly lined up against the wall and the railing, creating a little path between them. So he started with those the furthest out, bringing them one by one into his studio until he was surrounded with them.
 
The ones he remembered packing, that he labeled clearly on the side, were the first to be dumped out and sorted. It was easy to arrange his books and tuck his winter clothing away into their appropriate places, and that stage moved quickly, wiping out half of the boxes easily.
 
Then came the stuff, the little knickknacks he’d picked up in his travels, the outright garbage he’d thought to pack and now regretted; those took some time to work through. After that came the last of his supplies that needed to be carefully sorted and placed in new happy homes. He had just finished re-assembling his favourite mini easel and was left with one lonely box when the sky began to darken and threaten night.
 
He wasn’t very hungry, despite having not eaten much at all earlier, and so he ignored the passing of afternoon and approached the last box. It was different than his others. Plain and square, it held no markings to betray its contents, so with simple innocence he slit the tape, pulled back the flaps and peered inside.
 
Photos, a letter, a blanket folded at the bottom and one green leather-bound journal. Jim sighed. This reeked of his mother’s work, and inspection of the letter and photos proved he was right. Reluctantly, he set the frames up on his dresser, letting his mother, his brother, even himself smile back at him. The last photo however, one of George with and his mother, and his brother, and even him, just a large mass in his mother’s overalls, Jim tucked carefully away into the back of his underwear drawer.
 
The letter simply explained that she wanted Jim to have these simple things, to remind him of his family no matter what past troubles they may have had, no matter how broken they might be.
 
You’ll have opened the painting by now. I know it’s your favourite, you deserve to have it, Jim, you deserve that much of him. I thought you might enjoy your father’s journal kept from his time spent painting in San Francisco as well. I haven’t read it, no one has since he last picked it up, but you should Jim, you should know what he wrote, how he thought. I’m sorry that it’s all I can do for you.
 
Love, Mom.
 
P.S. Don’t let the California ZIP code fool you, San Francisco nights can get downright chilly in the summer so I packed you a blanket.

 
The next sentence was scribbled out, so Jim turned to page over and held it up to the light. Just barely he managed to make out what she had originally written.
 
Don’t catch your death.
 
Jim swallowed thickly and set the letter aside, peering down into the box at the journal. It sat innocently enough, staring back at him. The leather was in good condition, obviously having been stored as his mother had said, and not handled repeatedly.
 
He picked it up slowly, running his fingers along the cover, the corners, the spine, turning it over and over in his hands. After a moment he plucked the blanket out of the box as well and took both into his bedroom, drawing the curtain closed behind him.
 
The blanket smelled like…well it smelled like box, but he spread it over the end of his bed anyway and then perched atop it with the journal held reverently on his knees.
 
Sliding his fingers carefully along the edges of the pages he thumbed open the cover, allowing the long unstressed bindings to rustle in protest. The top right corner of the first page merely held one word, hastily scribbled down in ownership. George.
 
Jim blinked and took a deep breath turning the pages randomly, revelling in the cursive he had too rarely seen, only on the back of a few photos, one letter written to Sam, worn soft and faded from the number of times it had been opened, read and reread. He picked an entry at random and began to read.
 
June 10,
 
The cost of paint is so high again, I’m stuck to using reds and white. R thinks I’m entering some kind of rose period like Picasso. I don’t have the heart to tell him I’m just a cheap bastard.
I got paint on my pants again, W says she’s not letting me wear anything other than what I’ve already ruined to the studio anymore if I don’t start being more careful or wearing a jumpsuit (like a mechanic!). She thinks I set a terrible example for Sam, but I don’t care, he’s three, I’m his hero.
I wish I could say everyone was as excited to see me as Sam always is. The press is…getting overwhelming. I don’t know how many times I can answer the same questions over and over again about my meaning and ‘technique’ because someone with a lot of money thinks that something I painted is nice. It’s like they’re looking for new answers, like I’m hiding my true intentions. If they like it so much, why isn’t what I’ve done good enough plain and simple?

The entry ended and Jim was profoundly glad he was already sitting. He had never… never seen something like this before. Such a small thing, only a few sentences and it told him more about his own father than he could have ever learned from the textbooks carrying his name or even stories stiltedly told by his ever-grieving mother.
 
It was…it was real, that’s what it was. George Kirk was a man, not a god, not a legend, but a man who had a family and money problems. Jim smiled faintly, pulled his legs up under him and turned the page.
 
June 12
 
W is pregnant again. She told me this morning before I had to go to the studio…damn, was she ever beautiful just then. It’s times like this I wish I had trained classically. Spent long months in Paris, or even Vienna, just so I could have the ability to capture that moment in paint. Of course if I’d done that I wouldn’t have her, or Sam…or he or she.
I’ve passed the ecstatic stage, that’s why I’m so mellow I think. I’m already whooped and hollered out (although I suspect R’s mysterious absence this afternoon has something to do with procuring whiskey and cigars, and there will be more whooping later). So I’ve come to write this down, “Documentation of the thought process is crucial!” R can be a serious hard ass sometimes.
I can’t wait to meet them, the new baby, he or she. A new member for the family, and then there were four. – C just said I looked like a loon, grinning like that to a book- I guess I haven’t really stopped since I found out.
I can’t stop thinking about what they’re going to be like. Sam surpassed my wildest dreams, what will this one bring? Will she have W’s smile? Will he have my eyes?

 
This time Jim didn’t hesitate in flipping the page and reading on. It was…surreal, reading his father’s premature thoughts about his youngest child, his musings, his day to day troubles. And for Jim, the child he’d never met, it was incredibly addictive. He read long into the night, turning page after page, soaking up as many words and moods as he could while he could.
 
--
 
When he woke up the next morning, fully dressed and atop his bedding, the sun was streaming brightly in from the windows high above. He couldn’t remember when he had fallen asleep, and gingerly picked himself up off he bed. Stumbling into the bathroom he admired the impressive v-shaped mark on his cheek where he had pressed the leather corner of the journal into his face, using it as a very poor pillow. After making use of the facilities, he slid down the fire pole and into the kitchen. The lack of roommates he encountered indicated it must be fairly late in the morning if not creeping into the early afternoon.
 
He rummaged for food and then blearily made his way back up the stairs into his bright, airy studio. The stark blankness of the canvas he had set up on his full upright easel yesterday beckoned to him. Without much pomp he plucked a few brushes out of his jars and gathered together a large square palette, a stool, and spread his paints out over the table beside the easel.
 
It didn’t take much to start painting, but without a plan, without an under sketch, he was aimless in his application. While conductive for abstract painting, it was still time consuming and, to Jim, fairly frustrating. He kept thinking about the journal, thinking about his father.
 
Something…something didn’t feel right. He’d read a good portion of that journal, an entry for every day no matter how short. So far, there was nothing, nothing at all that would lead Jim to believe the man writing about his life and his work would want to leave it all behind one day, let alone one day in the immediate future. He knew people could hide depression, hide their true feelings, but why would his father have lied in a journal, one that no one else was ever given permission to read?
 
By the time the canvas was thick with paint and he was no longer making any progress at all, the afternoon had waned thin, and evening was encroaching. Jim cleaned up his studio, set the canvas aside, and ambled into the bathroom to shower and scrub the paint off his hands and arms.
 
Feeling clean, but contemplative and sort of grumpy, Jim sunk down the stairs once again to find no one around. Signs of life however were present; jazz floated out of Uhura’s open studio door, and light seeping up from the basement lit the stairs yellow from beneath.
 
Rubbing his hungry stomach, he peered into the fridge and was pleasantly surprised to find leftovers in the form of pasta and beer waiting for him. Eating cold pasta, leaning against the counter, with his legs crossed at the ankle, he pondered the yellow glowing stairs and opened his beer.
 
It was definitely time to start exploring the house, he decided, finishing off his meal and taking a pull from his bottle. There was only one thing for it then. He opened the fridge and snagged another beer before turning towards the stairs and descending into the warm depths of the basement.
 
He was let out into a much larger room than he anticipated – in fact he was fairly certain, by the three large doors on the wall furthest away from him, that this had been the garage for the fire trucks at one point.
 
Another fire pole was also visible near the doors – it must descend from somewhere inside Uhura’s studio then. There was also another, straight staircase in the opposite corner, also going into Uhura’s studio. Interesting.
 
At the bottom of the spiral staircase he was let into a small makeshift hallway, created between the wall and several tall shelves stocked full of colourful glass. Bottles, sculptures, windows, if it was glass, it had a place on the shelves. Jim slowly made his way along the walkway, gazing at the glass as if it was an exhibit in a museum, so he was a tad startled when he reached the end and came face to face with Scotty.
 
“Ah, I didnae mean to scare you.” He reached a hand out as if to steady Jim but just as quickly retracted it, looking for the first time since Jim had met him like he was actually troubled by something.
 
“Hey, it’s okay, man.”  Jim laughed quietly. “This, this is amazing. Are they all yours?” He gestured to the shelves.
 
“Ah, no. Some, yes, but not all.” He glanced over the shelves and then looked up at Jim. “Listen, I…ah hell I opened the painting. I thought it was just a little something you might put up, or maybe something you had made? I didnae think it was…” He swallowed hard. “I’m sorry.”
 
“Oh.” Jim thought of the painting stashed behind his dresser. “Don’t worry about it okay? I didn’t know it was going to be here, or else I would have warned you, or been here to receive it myself.” He hoped to reassure the Scotsman. “Really, no harm done.”
 
Scotty smiled at last and nodded pressing a hand to the shelves absently. From behind him something dropped to the ground with a clatter and they both turned to see a very small person wearing a welding mask and holding and large pair of cutters standing atop some kind of trolley.
 
“Ach! Get down from there!” Scotty turned back to Jim for a moment. “My apologies, my assistant is a bit,” he made a vague hand gesture and eyed the bottles forgotten in Jim’s hands. “The Doctor is just down thatta way you’ll see.” He hurried off back into his studio, yelling all the while at…his assistant? Keenser, Jim assumed.
 
Contemplating the ‘Doctor’ comment, Jim strolled off past Scotty’s glass trinkets and closer to whatever was creating a great dry heat that filled the air with the scent of cooking earth. The kiln, square and made of white bricks, came into view, hitting him with a fresh wave of heat. It hummed happily as he edged around it and towards several carts piled with ceramic wares.
 
He picked his way carefully around the carts, and then rounded a new wall of shelves brimming with mugs, bowls, plates, half completed amphorae, ewers, and strange wobbly vases Jim quite liked the look of. The closer he got to the back wall the more discernible the sounds of life and quiet muttering were.
 
When Bones came into view, he was kneading some grey clay on a workbench covered in canvas, his dark hair dripping into his eyes, his hands and forearms covered in half dried mud. Jim paused for a moment, just looking, taking in the sight of Bones’ light tunic style shirt, open at the neck and rolled back to the elbow, the worn and faded jeans he wore, frayed at the cuffs so the scraggly white strings of denim brushed over the tops of his bare feet.
 
“Are you going to stand around and watch in the shadows like a damn voyeur or come in?” he asked gruffly, looking up at Jim after rolling his clay into an imperfect rounded cone and setting it to one side.
 
“What are you working on?” he asked, swinging fully into the light setting his open beer down on the far corner of the workbench. He pulled a stool out from under another table and settled upon it.
 
“None of your business,” he drawled, cutting another chunk of clay off a large bagged block with his wire and setting it on the kitchen scale he had before him, “But I could be convinced to share if you’ve got another of those.” He nodded to the bottle. Jim chuckled and produced the second beer, handing it off to Bones, who wiped his hands on his apron and opened it swiftly.  
 
Jim watched Bones’ throat work as he took a few thirsty gulps, smiling at the way he sighed in contentment as he set the bottle down.
 
“So what are you doing?” Jim asked again, setting his elbows on the canvas, lacing his fingers together to set his chin on top demurely. Bones took the new piece of cut clay and began the kneading process again.
 
“Wedging,” he grunted, focusing on his task. Jim blew a frustrated breath out his nose and Bones chuckled darkly. “Don’t get huffy. I’m making a tea set,” he finally admitted, nodding to the lumps of plastic-covered clay already set up.
 
“Maybe it’s me, but that looks nothing like any tea set I’ve ever seen.”
 
Bones rolled his eyes and made this lump into another rounded cone, putting it with the others. “Don’t be an idiot. I haven’t started yet,”
 
He then gathered up the board all the clay was set on and moved to where a low electric throwing wheel was waiting. A bucket of water, various tools and a few sponges stood by waiting Jim noted as he moved his stool around the workbench to watch.
 
Bones settled in behind the wheel, adjusting the pedal and draping a clay-caked cloth over his lap. Jim watched quietly as Bones slapped the first cone thing onto the center of the wheel, wet his hands, planted his elbows on his thighs and set to work making a muddy, perfectly round lump.
 
Unbidden images popped to life in Jim’s mind as he watched the clay move and shape with every prodding of Bones’ fingers.
 
“Hey, did you ever watch that movie Ghost?” he asked with a grin that only grew as Bones glared at him.
 
“Yes. And I don’t want to hear whatever crude joke you’re about to make.” He wet his hands again and bowed his head over his work.
 
“Oh, come on. It’s a classic.” Jim smirked and watched the way Bones’ arms flexed and his fingers dipped and shaped the contours of a whimsical looking teacup.
 
“Have you ever pulled a Ghost on some chick you brought back here?” he asked absently looking around the expansive studio. “I’m sure they’d be all over that.”
 
Bones removed his hands from the cup, took his foot off the pedal and the wheel slowed to a stop.
 
“No. I don’t bring women back here. Not to mention that movie is completely impractical. An inexperienced thrower and no underwear is a terrible combination.” He wiped his muddy hands on the cloth over his lap and took up his wire, cutting the cup off the wheel and carefully lifting it away to be set aside.
 
Jim cringed, thinking of all the flying muddy water and valuable exposed pieces of flesh. “Right.” He watched Bones take up another cone and slap it down where the last one had sat.
 
“So why are you making a tea set? I didn’t see any others around here.” He inspected the shelves again from where he sat. There was a separated section of the studio that looked like a tiny business set up facing one of the large doors. There were a few tea sets there, but they were all old and obviously pieces Bones had been paid to repair.
 
“Those are all made for money. I’m not selling this one, it’s a present.” Bones leaned over his work once again, dark hair inching over his forehead to hang in his eyes. His fingers worked fluidly, coated in grey slip, they caressed the form until another overly fancy delicate cup was turning lazily before them.
 
“For who? A six year old girl?” Kirk snorted. The cups were small and their style looked like something that wouldn’t be out of place at a tea party full of teddy bears. Bones’ hands dipped into the bucket before him and emerged wringing out a sponge.
 
“She’s eight.” Bones sighed, cleaning up the cup.  He bit his bottom lip as he dried his hands and cut the cup off the wheel. Jim felt distinctly uncomfortable, like he’d just prodded a forgotten bruise. Here he was, plundering into sensitive territory when Bones had been so careful with his own soft spots.
 
“Oh- I-” He wondered who this girl was that Bones knew – a neighbour, a niece?
 
“It’s alright, kid.” Bones stood and swept past him, going for his beer once again. “You didn’t know, stop over thinking it.” He swiped a frame off of his cluttered worktable nearby and handed it to Jim as he made his way back over to his wheel.
 
In the picture was the girl in question, smiling widely at the camera, freckled arms wrapped around her slender knees. Her resemblance was immediately apparent; this was his daughter.
 
“Her name’s Joanna,” Bones said, settling back in and focusing on his work. “Her birthday is in a few months and I want to get this shipped off in time.”
 
Jim looked down at the picture again and chose to raise his own bottle to his lips instead of speaking. So Bones had a daughter, who he didn’t see.
 
“She’s with her mom?” he asked finally, considering carefully where the conversation was leading. He set the image to face them both on the canvas counter.
 
Bones snorted.
 
“Yeah. With her mom.” After a moment his shoulders slumped. “Where she should be. A little girl needs her mother.”
 
His next cup collapsed on itself and he cursed quietly, defeated by the subtlest of blows. Jim felt distinctly uncomfortable, even more than before. There was something about fathers, father issues that sat too close to home for him.
  
He tightened his grip on his bottle, sloshing the remaining sips around the concave bottom and thought of the journal again.
 
“Thanks for ah, for yesterday,” he said sheepishly, watching as Bones scraped the lumpy unusable clay from his wheel with his fingers this time.
 
“Nothing to be thanked for, we were the ones standing around like three slack jawed idiots.” Bones set to work on a new cone, pressing it with strong hands into a smooth round starting mound, “I hope you got unpacked alright.”
 
“Yeah, yeah it actually went pretty fast once I’d started.”
 
“Good, and your meeting? You didn’t get a chance to say how it went.” He looked up, sweeping his hair out of his eyes with the back of one hand.
 
“Ah, alright? I’m not really sure. I have the show, but the curator is…not exactly easy going.” Jim watched as Bones pulled his hands off of his clay to laugh and wet his hands again. “Basically he’s going to be baby sitting me.”
 
“Lucky him.” The tone was dripping with a humor Jim didn’t quite understand but Bones just finished another cup, cut it off the wheel and set it aside.
 
“He’s a strange guy. I actually met someone in the gallery who gave me a little heads up about him.” Bones glanced at Jim curiously as he shuffled the plastic and his other lumps of clay, his eyebrow arching high.
 
“Hikaru Sulu? I know of his family but I don’t know much about him, he said he was a photographer.” He rolled his bottle between his palms and Bones paused in his ministrations.
 
“Sulu, now there’s a name up everyone’s ass around here. Can’t spit without hitting something they own. But if you’re talking about their son, word is he’s the black sheep. Wants to take pictures not collect them, rejects direct communication with his parents, talks to them through his sisters.” Bones stood again, carefully lifting his board laden with finished cups.
 
“How do you know that?” Jim moved out of the way so Bones could set the board down onto his workbench.
 
“I live here don’t I? You hear things. Besides, there are enough articles in the newspaper about the Sulus to wrap the world over.” He began cutting a new piece of clay off his block, wrapping the wire up in his hands with practiced ease. What he cut off he began the wedging process with again.
 
“Well, he was with this weird kid, a Chekov? Do you know about him too?” Jim leaned a hip on the workbench.
 
“Chekov…doesn’t ring a bell. Is it supposed to?” Bones began to roll out his clay into a long skinny length.
 
“Nah, I guess they’re just friends or…something.” Jim smirked at the memory of Sulu’s affectionate gazes directed at the unknowing Chekov.
 
“Grab the wooden pointy stick thing with the flat end.” Bones pointed Jim towards where an old yoghurt container sat filled with dusty tools and weird kitchen gadgets. Instead of trying to decipher the instructions however he just picked up the whole thing and brought it over.
 
Rolling his eyes, Bones plucked out the aforementioned wooden pointy stick with the flat end and began to chop this piece of rolled clay into equal lengths. Jim watched his hands working quickly, never stopping or slowing down for a second, absolutely sure what they were doing as he carefully gathered up one of the cups.
 
“Do…you always work so quickly?” he asked, offering the tool bucket again, this time for an old ratty toothbrush. Bones shrugged, wet the brush and scrubbed two small patches at the top and bottom of the cup and the top and bottom of one of the cut rolls of clay.
 
“Can’t let the clay dry out, gotta have a plan before hand or things fall apart, literally.” He pointed towards his worktable where the picture of Joanna had sat. There Jim noticed the bulletin board behind it covered in bits of drawings, more pictures of his daughter, even a few of him with friends. One of the drawings haphazardly sticking off however was a white and gold teacup, overly fancy and small in proportions. It was what the birthday present would become. When Jim looked back at Bones he was just finishing smoothing out the handle onto the cup so it looked like it had always been attached.
 
“The man with a plan.” Jim grinned at him and Bones huffed a laugh giving him a long look out of the corner of his eye.
 
“Not always Jim, not always.” It was cryptic and laden with too much meaning that Jim couldn’t decipher, not yet.
 
“Well plan or not you’re going to have to show me how to do the thing on the wheel.” He strolled over to the low device, still dirty and dripping.
 
“You want to learn to throw?” Bones snorted from where he was attaching the next handle.
 
“Maybe not something fancy like your cups there but yeah, a plate seems easy.” Jim mimed pushing down on the center of the wheel and Bones slowly set his cup down, shaking his head.
 
“I’m going to need more beer for this.”
 
“That’s not a no. I’ll get the beer, you do the kneading thing,” Jim was already making his way back through the forest of clay stuffs for the other side of the two studios and the staircase.
 
“Wedging,” Bones called after him in correction. Jim flapped a hand at him absently and hurried off up the stairs and back down again with two fresh bottles. When he got back, Bones was just putting down a fresh bucket of water in front of the wheel.
 
“You don’t care if you get those clothes dirty?” he asked, taking one of the beers to set aside. Jim looked down at his own ratty jeans and t-shirt.
 
“Not really? How dirty are we talking?” He eyed the minimal amounts of slip that had managed to get into the catcher tray beneath the wheel.
 
“How many times have you thrown before?” Bones asked with raised brow.
 
“Never?”
 
“Dirty. I’ll loan you an apron.” He rummaged through one of his cabinets beneath his worktable for a moment and came out triumphant with a black apron, “This will work.” He tossed it to Jim, who shook it out and slipped it over his head.
 
“You start saying anything about ghosts, goblins, or other paranormal beings, I’m kicking you straight up the stairs.” Bones held out a threatening finger while Jim tied the apron behind his back.
 
“You got it Bones,” he said with a snicker.
 
“Alright. Straddle the seat.” Jim looked at him with delight as he threw a leg over the wheel and sunk into the seat.
 
“Well, well I didn’t know you had it in you, Bones. Dear Penthouse Forum, getting down and dirty with Bones in the basement. It all started with straddling…” It earned him a slap to the back of the head, but also a laugh and that alone seemed to make learning to throw worth it.

--
 
When Jim finally crawled into bed that night, just a little drunk and with clay under his fingernails, he felt buoyantly happy. He hadn’t had a friend like Bones in…well ever. The contentment welling up in his chest was unfamiliar but completely welcome. The only thing troubling him at all was the fear of screwing the whole thing up. Just because Bones didn’t give two shakes about his father didn’t mean that Jim himself couldn’t do something to irrevocably change their budding bromance. Something like admitting that the thought of those potters hands running over all of the planes and curves of his body was becoming increasingly tempting.
 
He flipped over onto his belly, perfectly set to tuck his hands under his pillow when he contacted an obstruction. Prodding it with tired fingers he grabbed a hold and identified what he’d got. The journal.
 
For a moment he considered setting it aside and just going to sleep but the lure of his father’s words and experiences proved too great. Rolling back into his back he reached for his beside light and scooted back into a lean against the headboard.
 
As muzzily as he was thinking, plied with fatigue and alcohol he opened the book backwards, making a small startled noise when a few scraps of paper fell into his lap.
 
The first was a picture that looked like it was ripped it half. In it, Jim recognized his father, and mother and with a bit more study he also grinned at the half torn image of a much younger Christopher Pike- maybe the C his father had written about. The rest of the group torn or not were unknown to him, perhaps one of these faces was R. He set the picture aside with amusement and opened the other paper folded in his lap.
 
Dear Mr. Kirk,
 
Congratulations, your painting City On The Edge of Tomorrow has been purchased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art for $30 000. Your work will be an appreciated addition to our modern art collection. 

 
The note went on with details about shipping and deadlines but Jim let it fall free from his fingertips before he was finished. His father had known…he had known he was going to be shown amongst the greatest painters, among Pollocks and Picassos, down the hall from Rembrandt and Vermeer. Jim’s heart began to race, this…this was wrong.
 
His father had had the world in his hand, a family he loved, a baby on the way, his work about to be lining the inside of the Met… No one with all of that commits suicide, not without any warning, without a note, and someone with all that certainly doesn’t keep a journal hiding their depression.
 
He flipped to where he had last left off, determined to read the rest of the journal and find out if there was any inkling at all of his father’s oncoming death.

Chapter Text

Jim yawned expansively, stretching as he came down the stairs. It had been a seriously late night, reading his father’s journal until he’d fallen asleep in it once again. He rubbed his cheek absently where it had pressed another bruise while he slept. The only reason he was on his feet at all was because he was eat-your-own-arm hungry.
 
Rubbing his growling stomach he shuffled into the kitchen bleary eyed. Nodding at the familiar figure of Spock reading the newspaper at the island he opened the refrigerator door and peered inside.
 
Bones wasn’t around, no chance to coerce more eggs out of him the—he blinked. Spock was sitting at the island? He peeked back around the door. Sure enough there sat Spock, idly turning a page of the world news section, polishing off a bowl of cereal, and clad in just his grey trouser pants and undershirt.
 
Jim blinked, sure he wasn’t actually seeing what he thought he was seeing. The sheer number of questions backing up in his mind were boggling—and was that a tattoo on his shoulder?! Wasn’t this taking the checking up on him just a step too far?
 
Jim made a pathetic gurgling sound in the back of his throat, clutching at the still open fridge door. Bones chose that fortunate moment to enter the kitchen, still pulling on a shirt and rubbing one eye with the heel of his hand. Jim’s gurgle, seeing the half clad, sleep-mussed Bones, ramped up in volume.
 
“Hmm.” He didn’t sound terrified at this unannounced stranger sitting in his kitchen eating his bran buds. “Spock. Didn’t know you were here,” he muttered, hip-checking Jim out of the way so he could get at the eggs and bacon.
 
Before Spock or Jim could say anything, Uhura came striding into the room cradling a white dress shirt with a frown on her pretty face.
 
“I think I got it out. I’m sorry, that’s the last time I put strawberries–” she halted seeing Jim and Bones were awake.
 
“Oh,” she said in a flat unimpressed tone. In response Bones started putting breakfast fixings on the counter beside the stove. She turned back to Spock, content to politely ignore the vortex of what-the-fuck residing in the kitchen.
 
Uhura’s necklace glinted against her skin, drawing Jim’s attention to it. The Eye of Horus looked at him from her chest and now Spock’s arm. A sinking feeling began to overcome him as his eyes darted from the shirt in Uhura’s hands to Spock’s shirtless state.
 
“Here.” She handed him the shirt, which he proceeded to take before standing and drinking down the last of his coffee. Jim noted his mug looked like it was tailored to him too, just like Scotty’s and Uhura’s had been.
 
Spock threaded his arms into the sleeves and shrugged it up over his shoulders.
 
“I see you did not inform Mr. Kirk of our acquaintance.” He started on the buttons with long tapered fingers while looking at Jim, still gaping like a beached Koi fish in the middle of the kitchen.
 
“It’s none of his business,” Uhura said pointedly, taking a green silk tie from the back of the chair Spock had been sitting in and stringing it around her own neck. She then created a neat half-Windsor knot while Spock tucked in his shirt.
 
Jim watched with the same sort of detached fascination as one watches a cheetah take down a gazelle while Uhura took the tie off her own head and looped it over Spock’s. She then worked it under his collar and tightened it properly while he buttoned his cuffs.
 
“I shall make my departure now.” Spock gathered up the grey suit jacket also hanging off the back of his chair, “Doctor, Mr. Kirk.” He nodded to both of them and turned towards the exit where Uhura followed his long strides outside.
 
“Wh-” Jim couldn’t even formulate half a thought. He was almost convinced what he’s just witnessed was some kind of evil dream concocted by too much of the beer Bones favoured.
 
“I know,” Bones sleepily grumbled, his voice low. “It’s fucking terrifying the first few times, but you’ll get used to him blinking at you over your coffee.” As if to underline the point he took a sip from his own newly poured mug.
 
Used to him?” Jim sputtered. “This is a regular thing? You know Spock? Psycho curator Spock?” He searched Bones’ face for any sort of less than serious expression that might give away this practical joke. Sadly Bones’ expression was his regular displeased neutral.
 
“Yeah. I don’t even know how long he and Uhura have been a thing.” Bones began to rummage about in the pantry for some onions.
 
“A ‘thing’?” Jim made his way around the island to slump into one of the stools on the other side. Before Bones could reply, Uhura was coming back into the kitchen and an uneasy silence settled over them.
 
She began to gather up the dishes Spock had left behind.
 
“So…you guys are dating,” Jim said slowly, tentatively, willing to risk the wrath of Uhura for the possibility of more information about her.
 
“Not that it’s really any of your business…” she started with an icy tone but Bones gave her a pointed look and she seemed to deflate a bit. “But the fact is we live in the same house, so some personal information is going to affect you. Spock is a regular fixture around here. If that bothers you, I expect we can work it out like two civil people and come to some kind of agreement.”
 
Jim blinked – that was probably the most Uhura had ever said to him without much malice behind her words. Perhaps there was a trick to her like Scotty said after all.
 
“No, nope, I think…it’ll be fine,” he concluded, sure that, as Bones had said, he would eventually get used to seeing his at-the-moment boss at the breakfast table. Uhura nodded, absently fingering her necklace before settling back into clearing away the dishes and then disappearing into her own set of rooms.
 
“That went well.” Bones filled a plate with eggs and bacon and sat in the seat beside Jim, snagging Spock’s discarded newspaper to poke at. Jim replayed the whole thing over in his head; it could have gone much worse.
 
“Yeah, I…Bones…why did he call you Doctor? Scotty has said it too, and I don’t think it’s because you’re a dish repairman.”
 
Bones tensed, and slowed his chewing.
 
“I do repair ceramics. But I’m also a doctor. I’ve said before, I come from a long line of doctors. My daddy was one and his daddy was one, etcetera. I was going to be one too… was one in theory.” He paused. “But I couldn’t…deal with the physicality of the job. The decisions, who lives and who dies…” He shook his head and took another forkful of eggs.
 
“So it’s just like your proper title.” Jim decided not to prod any further allowing Bones to just grunt in acknowledgement. Jim got up after that and made himself breakfast using Bones’ discarded pans for his own eggy concoction.
 
When a significant enough amount of time had passed and Bones was well into the comics section of the paper Jim reopened the floor for discussion.
 
“So what’s on the agenda for today? More tea cup making?” He shovelled a too hot forkful of eggs into his mouth.
 
Bones turned. “S’friday. Gonna go to Korby’s.” He looked at Jim for a moment. “Art supplies. You can tag along if you need anything.”
 
Jim grinned. “I definitely need something.” 

--

Korby’s, as it turned, out was a moderately sized art supply store in a strip mall within walking distance to the firehall. Or at least, Bones thought it was within walking distance. In actuality Jim would have felt just as comfortable making the trip in a car and most certainly would have done so if he was coming back with more than just a few tubes of paint.

As it was, Bones seemed completely at home there, judging by the way he practically kicked down the door and started bellowing as soon as they adjusted to the dimness of inside.
 
“Chapel!” he barked. “Where is my Southern Ice, woman?!”
 
An attractive blonde woman came out of the back room wearing overalls and an annoyed smile. “Ah, McCoy. I thought I heard your dulcet tones,”
 
“It’s been four weeks since I placed my order. You said you’d have it today, I want my clay!” Bones marched up to the counter, slapping his hand down with determination. Jim slipped along the aisles, a small smile on his face.
 
“Hold on, you big baby I have it right back here.” Chapel ducked back into the stock room and came back with a 25-pound box of clay. “Cone ten, imported straight from Australia, Southern Ice purest white porcelain clay. For you, you picky bastard.” She hefted it onto the counter where McCoy hummed with content pleasure, running his hands over the box.
 
Jim stifled a laugh and wandered down the isle stocked with acrylics. He was running low on god damned Quinacridone Red again. Picking out a few tubes plus a jar of white he moved on to accessories, eyeing the fan brush selection critically. Bones worked his way down the isle after him, looking around as if he’d never seen painting supplies before.
 
What is in those tubes? Gold? Why are you paying fifteen dollars for…two ounces? Two ounces of paint?” Bones sounded positively scandalized and put the tube he’d selected to inspect back into its little rack immediately.
 
“I dunno, Bones, why did you pay fifty dollars for twenty five pounds of damp dirt?” He decided to pass on the brushes for the day and head to the cash register where Chapel was waiting, leaning on Bones’ box.
 
“You’re new.” Chapel smiled at him before standing properly to take his purchases and ring them through.
 
“I guess so.” Jim grinned – a little flirting was completely okay with him. “And you are?”
 
Bones snorted at his elbow. Chapel sent him a glare.
 
“Christine Chapel. I run the place.” She smiled sunnily and delivered his total bill.
 
“I’m Jim.” He smiled back, pulling his wallet out of his back pocket and unloading a pile of bills. Bones meanwhile caressed his box and rolled his eyes.
 
“He moved into my spare room, so you can take down that advert.” He motioned to the bulletin board of flyers and advertisements, some made by hand, others more professionally. Jim grinned at it – no matter where you went, the art community was just the same, holing up together like one big crazy family.
 
“With pleasure.” Chapel yanked Bones’ photocopy of his newspaper ad off of the board and crumpled it immediately. He made a low disapproving hum in the back of his throat and elbowed Jim to pick up his bag and get moving. He slid the box off of the counter and into his arms, hefting it once to situate it comfortably and then began herding Jim out of the store.
 
“What? We’re going?” Jim tried to turn back, not ready to leave quite yet without talking to Chapel a bit more but Bones swiftly kicked him in the shin halting his progress.
 
“Y’all come back now, y’hear?” Chapel drawled, lazily waving and only receiving a rude gesture from Bones in reply. The little bell above to door chimed merrily as they left.
 
“What was that?” Jim demanded. “Is she like your ex-girlfriend or something?”
 
“Who, Chapel?” Bones looked at him with genuine surprise, “No. We’ve always been friends.” They began to walk back in the direction they came from.
 
“If that’s how you treat your friends…” Jim took a few steps away from Bones, laughing as he rolled his eyes again.
 
“We have a special kind of relationship.” Bones cocked his head. “She’s like a sister.”
 
Jim walked on, wondering why, if they were in such a sibling state of relationship, Bones had made them hurry out of there like his shoes were on fire.  Bones grunted as they took the step off a curb to cross the street and Jim looked at him, thoughts jarred for a moment.
 
“Why didn’t you call Scotty, or hell, take a car if you knew you were going to be lugging that back with you?” He almost felt bad, but wasn’t about to trade his swinging bag of paints for the box any time soon.
 
“Exercise is good for you,” Bones muttered, leaning to look around the box as they mounted the next sidewalk. Jim snorted and swung his free arms leisurely
 
“Yeah, sure. You don’t come off as a ‘save the planet’ type, Bones. What’s wrong with taking a car?”
 
“There’s nothing wrong with it. I just don’t prefer it.”
 
“You prefer to lug an extra twenty five pounds with you all the way home? Why didn’t you even bring a big…back pack or one of those paper boy dollies then?”
 
“I don’t have a dolly.” Bones was looking more and more irritated by the second. “And it’s far easier to carry it like this than in a bag.”
 
“You know what’s far easier? Taking a car.” Jim could practically see the moment Bones finally snapped, his shoulders tense and teeth clenched.
 
“Jim! There is no car, you aren’t carrying it, so the easiest way to do this, from where I stand, is if you would kindly shut the fuck up,” he spat out and then quickened his strides so they walked more or less in single file.
 
Jim, only slightly cowed, was obligingly quieted but was still contemplating the enigma that was Bones’ new stubborn streak. Pushy and on edge, there was something about the supply store and the whole process of transit that he wasn’t telling Jim about. Not yet at least.
 
--
 
Bones didn’t talk the entire rest of the way back to the firehouse.  As soon as they arrived he disappeared in the basement with his clay, still without saying a word. It was only then that Jim began to think perhaps what he had so bluntly prodded at was a bit more serious than he had originally thought. Any number of horrible or irrational things could be behind Bones’ preference for walking, and who was Jim to pick at it, especially for only having known the other man for barely a week?
 
He couldn’t particularly go grovelling for forgiveness right then without seeming…well, creepy was the word that came to mind. Besides he didn’t really do apologies, and this one definitely was going to require some thought so he didn’t make the wound any worse in the process of trying to heal it.
 
So he retreated up into his studio, the temperature just a few shades too hot to be comfortable at the moment and the wooden floor warm under bare foot.  He opened a few of the windows and unloaded his new purchases. He needed to get to work – next time Spock decided to stick around for a meal maybe he wouldn’t be in such a hurry and actually follow through with that baby sitting.
 
Luckily, he felt inspired for the moment. Grabbing a stubby pencil and his laptop for reference photos, he got to work sketching. The act of creating, as always, allowed his mind to wander, gathering more ideas, turning over the problems in his mind: Bones, Spock, Pike…Pike.
 
He looked over his shoulder at the fluttering curtain that separated his bedroom from the studio. Pike had been in that photo in his father’s journal. Maybe…maybe he would be willing to answer a few of Jim’s questions about what was going through his father’s mind when he wrote those last few entries.
 
Dropping his pencil for a moment, he walked slowly to where he had stuck the Kobayashi Maru business card – now warped and worn from being in his pockets and hands so often over the past week – behind the corner of the light switch plate for safekeeping. Plucking it up he turned it over surveying the simple black printing proclaiming an address, a website, and a phone number.
 
He picked up his phone and wandered back towards his bedroom as he dialed. Passing the curtain, he made a beeline for the journal left sitting on his dresser and gathered it up into his lap as he sat on the foot of his bed.
 
“Kobayashi Maru Gallery.” The receptionist that answered sounded happy and definitely not like the Number One Jim had met manning the desk.
 
“Ah, yeah, hey, I need to know how to get in contact with the owner of the gallery, Mr. Pike?” He squinted – it was a bit of a long shot she would just give him that information so freely.
 
“I’m sorry, sir, Mr. Pike is unavailable for private consultations with the public. However, I can give you a mailing address if you would like to forward a digital copy of your portfolio-”
 
“No, I don’t want to get a showing, I already have one.” He could tell this was going to be something far too complicated to explain to a receptionist who really didn’t have it in her job description to deal with this sort of thing, “Listen never mind, can I set up an appointment with Spock? My name is Jim Kirk, you can check with him, he knows who I am.”
 
“That’s not necessary Mr. Kirk, Mr Spock has you on his list,” she said with renewed professionalism and went about listing a few times Jim could swing by and find the curator free. Jim opted for the first open window the next day. He would much rather have the chat he needed to with Spock at the gallery before he ran into him again in the kitchen or elsewhere in the shared household areas.
 
Jim hung up, thinking of the awkwardness that could only ensue from walking in on him and Uhura possibly having something as mundane as a CSI marathon camped out on the sofa. He shuddered, definitely still not ready to think of Spock as anything but a being that plugged himself into his office outlet at night and recharged.
 
Rubbing his thumb over the journal’s cover one last time he set it, his phone, and the card aside and got back to work at his easel. 

--

The next time he walked into the Kobayashi Maru he bumped straight into Sulu, who was trying to leave. They both laughed and steadied themselves, Jim’s eyes still adjusting to the sudden dimness of the foyer.
 
“Hey! Here for another meeting?” Sulu’s smile was wide and seemed genuine. Jim couldn’t help but smile right back at him. There was an odd sort of familiarity that he felt around the other man, camaraderie that sprang from their families and lifestyles.
 
“Yeah, sort of, I’ve just got some more questions to ask. You?”
 
“Ah, getting paper work.” Sulu waved a folder filled with forms and contracts in one hand. “I’ve got a show opening next Saturday, actually. You should come by.” He gripped the handle of the door. Jim paused for a moment, weighing the idea of immersing himself into the circles of buyers and press early just to show some support for another artist.
 
“Sure, I’d like that. All photography right?” Jim figured it couldn’t hurt to make a few more friends, and if he started making a few ripples now his show later in the year wouldn’t make such a large splash. If Sulu was using him just for publicity purposes, Jim could use him right back for whatever mass of connections his family name surely held.
 
“Yeah, man, I’d love to talk more but I really have to run.” He furrowed his brows apologetically. Jim was just about to shrug it off, let him get on his way, when Sulu brightened again and held out an offering hand.
 
“Hey, why don’t we have lunch or something, grab coffee maybe? I can tell you more about the show and you can tell me about how your stuff is going.”
 
“Oh, that sounds great, man.” Jim accepted the card Sulu slipped out of his shirt pocket and laughed as he checked his watch with a hiss and beat a hasty goodbye with a last grin.
 
Jim turned the card over in his fingers and then pocketed it before sauntering the rest of the way inside. He mused that if Sulu hadn’t been so obviously into the kid, Chekov, he might even have been convinced this was going to be some kind of date. Jim smiled to himself. Hell, Sulu was attractive enough that if it did turn out to be date-ish he wouldn’t complain.
 
At the desk, the new receptionist, the one he’d spoken to on the phone, a Janice, informed him that Spock was waiting in his office and that he could go straight in. 
 
Making his way from memory, Jim was unsurprised to find Spock working diligently in his office, completely focused on whatever he was writing out. Now that he knew somewhat of the backgrounds surrounding Spock’s character, he was marginally less ill at ease in the oddly furnished office.
 
The Egyptian thing for one didn’t seem so weirdly out of place. It obviously held some cultural significance to the man, and could even possibly be his background. He still wasn’t exactly sure how Uhura fit into the picture, but the two of them together spoke more about themselves than they each said alone.
 
“You have questions, Mr. Kirk?” If Spock had glasses he would have been peering over them at Jim at that moment. As it was, he sat squarely with his hands folded together primly on the polished desktop.
 
“I do. And if we’re going to be working this closely and possibly even sharing living space can we drop the Mr. Kirk thing? My name is Jim.” He pulled one of the chairs out of line so he could perch on the arm instead of sinking into its uncomfortable leathery depths.
 
“Mr. Kirk, it is regrettable that the circumstances of our acquaintance were not previously completely known so precautionary measures could be taken. As it is we are in a…predicament of professional standards. I must decline to forgo polite niceties as this is a place of business, and business is what we are here to discuss, is it not?”
 
Jim gazed at him blankly. Obviously Spock had serious boundary issues, but he was trying to extend an olive branch here, not asking to wash his underwear for him.
 
“Yes. Sort of.” Jim tried a charming grin when Spock’s look merely darkened. “Look, I just need a way to get in contact with Pike. I figured you know how to do that.”
 
“Mr. Pike is a very busy–”
 
“Yeah, the receptionist told me that much on the phone. This isn’t me whining about not having enough time or space or whatever with the show, the show is fine. I need to talk to him about a personal matter.” Jim spread his fingers over his knees, gripping the fabric of his pants. He didn’t know how he was going to get Spock to give him any leeway at all in the conversation, but he had to try.
 
“I am a curator, Mr. Kirk. I am not Mr. Pike’s procurer, nor do I organize any of his other social interactions.”
 
“Did you just say you’re not his pimp?” Jim reeled; Spock’s tone had been as dry and paper-thin as always but apparently beneath that austere exterior was a bit of a comedian.
 
“Was there anything else you required Mr. Kirk?” It was clear Jim wasn’t going to be leaving Spock’s office with Pike’s number, or even so much as his personal assistant’s email address.
 
“I want to know when our first meeting is going to be about my paintings.”
 
Spock’s eyebrows twitched upwards, almost in surprise that Jim had managed to bring up a legitimate, professional, show-related concern.
 
“I want to be prepared. Despite what you may think of me, I do take this seriously, and I would like to have this show. I need a deadline.” Jim let his fingers trace his lips anxiously, a habit he’d picked up somewhere along the way. Spock’s eyes tracked his hand’s movements for only a second before he was reaching for a day planner sitting to his right. It was a large thing, leather-encased with perfectly aligned pages in its rings and neat handwriting creating tidy rows on every day.
 
Jim noticed for the first time that Spock did not appear to have a computer, apparently preferring his fountain pen and actual paper to the intensely organized calendar programs that usually cluttered desktops.
 
“I am available one week from today at the same meeting time,” he declared, having inspected one page after another looking for a nook in his schedule to tuck Jim into. Spock gazed up at him expectantly, pen poised above the open space.
 
“Yeah, hell, sure. Same Bat-Time, same Bat-Place?” he asked with a grin although his joke seemed to fall stunningly flat, even drawing a perplexed line to the surface from between Spock’s brows.
 
“I shall come to your studio, as I already know where it is. One small advantage of the…circumstances we find ourselves in.” He paused momentarily as he scribbled down the meeting, “Is that everything you are concerned with today?”
 
“That’s it, scouts’ honor.” Jim slipped back onto his feet, raising his hand in what he hoped was something of a boy-scout fashion. Spock eyed his hand with suspicion. “I’ll just make myself scarce then, but really, I do need to get in touch with Pike so maybe you could pass the word along…”
 
He walked backwards towards the door, Spock watching him the entire way, his face unreadable.
 
“Goodbye, Mr. Kirk,” he said politely just as Jim walked straight out into the corridor.
 
Well, that hadn’t gone like he’d planned, but he’d have more chances to talk to Spock about the Pike thing. Besides, if push came to shove maybe Uhura knew how to get in contact with him – the first time they’d met in the bar, she and Pike had apparently met before, probably through Spock.
 
For now, however, he really needed to get to painting if he only had a week to prove he truly belonged in this gallery. 

--
 
Over the next three days Bones resurfaced from his extra grump, appearing completely normal or as normal as Jim could tell and ignoring the whole conflict about the car. He even came bearing gifts, dropping a wobbly, but shiny blue cup onto Jim’s worktable Tuesday morning.
 
“Uh…thanks?” Jim picked it up, noting how almost-too-hot-to-handle warm it was while he inspected the inside, also glazed blue. It was fairly heavy, but it felt amazing in his hand, like it had been made for him.
 
“It’s yours, ain’t it?” Bones crossed his arms over his chest and wandered over to Jim’s easel, inspecting the painting inspired by Klimt he was currently working on.
 
“Uh…” Jim repeated and turned it over in his hands inspecting the bottom; it was a little rough looking in all honesty.
 
“One of the cylinders you made.” Bone clarified, looking over his shoulder at Jim for a moment, “It was pretty solid, unlike the others, so I fired it and glazed it. It just came out of the kiln, figure you can put paint brushes in it or something.” He turned back to the painting and turned his head to look at it.
 
“Oh, wow, thanks, Bones.”  He proceeded in gleefully dumping out one of the soup cans holding his smaller brushes and replacing them into the new holder. “That’s so awesome.” He placed his hands on his hips and surveyed the pitiful cylinder with pride.
 
From the kitchen and foyer below the sound of the old fire alarm bell rung. Jim looked towards the door in surprise. The hammer had only struck the bell once but it had been loud and reverberated all the way into his studio.
 
Bones snorted at him, clapped him on the shoulder on his way out. “It’s the doorbell, kid.” He disappeared down the walk to the stairs, choosing not to take the pole located just outside Jim’s door.
 
Finding absolutely nothing wrong with taking the pole, Jim followed Bones out but instead slid down into the kitchen, hitting the floor just as Bones opened the door.
 
When nothing but silence spanned in the yawning doorframe before him, Jim quickened his pace to see who was there.
 
“Aren’t you going to invite me in?” Pike stood on their doorstep, hands in the pockets of his trousers, a serene smile gracing his face. He was exactly as he had been the night they had met. Much too calm, and too natural, the only thing about him different was his clothing, a tweed jacket making his salt and pepper hair look professorly.
 
Jim placed a hand on Bones’ shoulder, gently disengaging him from the doorway and making space for Pike to enter.
 
“I hear you want to talk to me.” Pike focused on Jim who resisted the urge to squirm and look away. On the plus side, at least Spock was reliable to pass the word along, but with consequences, like not having time to ready himself for this sort of meeting. Jim wasn’t sure if he wanted to kill the curator or not.
 
He settled for shooting Bones an apologetic glance and gesturing towards the stairs.
 
“Why don’t we talk in my studio?”
 
Pike merely eyeballed the path of the stairs up to the landing, across the railing lined hall and back down the fire pole. When his eye swept back to Jim’s face a new perfectly acceptable smile was on his face.
 
“That sounds perfect. We wouldn’t want to disturb your roommates.” He nodded at Bones and proceeded to follow Jim up the stairs and into his studio. “Interesting place you’ve got here.” He trailed fingertips along one of the brick walls as Jim closed the door, sealing them in together.
 
“You haven’t been here before?” He strolled awkwardly into his own space, pointedly ignoring his working clutter covering his tables, open paints and wet brushes that exclaimed that his visitor had not been invited.
 
Pike looked at him with astonishment.
 
“Here? No. Why would I have been?” He slowly circled around the tables, also ignoring their contents, instead pretending to be interested in the dingy modest view Jim had from his windows.
 
“Uhura, she lives downstairs.”
 
“Hmm. No, I do not usually make house calls to my associates.” He paused momentarily, pivoting on one foot to face Jim again. “This is somewhat of a unique situation.”
 
“Because of my father?” Jim let the words fall heavy and hard, making the twinkle in Pike’s eye dim to a mere glimmer. “You knew him.”
 
“I did.” He looked out towards the windows again. “It was a long time ago,” he said softly. Jim was so tired of soft words spoken about the dead, as if they were lingering just around the corner, about to catch you confessing that you sort of thought they were annoying.
 
“But you did know him. Worked with him. I wanted to ask you about that.” Jim was already making his way towards where he had last left the journal. Pike merely nodded and continued to gaze out the window. He ducked into his bedroom quickly and snagged the journal from his dresser.
 
“I found this.” He waved it slightly, garnering Pike’s attention. Recognition flickered in his eyes before they landed back on Jim’s face. “I take it you know what it is.”
 
“Of course. The studio we all belonged to, the Kelvin, was run by Richard Robau. He had all his apprentices write everything in journals just like that one. I can only assume it’s one of your father’s.”
 
“It’s the last one he ever wrote in.” Jim watched Pike’s eyes following the journal as he turned it in his hands, watched how he swallowed hard and balled his hands into fists. “I wanted to know if you could answer some of my questions about it.”
 
“You can ask but I doubt I’ll have many answers for you, I was just an assistant at the time. A boy. I brought the artists coffee, water and turpentine.” He gave a tired smile and looked at him expectantly, folding his hands together before him.
 
“I found this picture,” Jim fished it out from between the pages and gave it to Pike, “Those are my parents, and you… do you recognize anyone else?”
 
“Yes, yes.” He took the picture from Jim’s outstretched fingers and raised his free hand to rub at his mouth. “This is the Kelvin’s yearly crew photo from the last year your father was around. This is Robau,” Pike pointed out the dark-skinned bald man staring sternly from the back of the grouping. He frowned at the rest of the somewhat mangled figures from where the photo had been damaged and ripped in the middle.
 
“I’m sorry. I don’t recognize, or remember for that matter, anyone else, it was so long ago.” He handed back the photo curtly and Jim looked at it with suspicion.
 
“Do you maybe know why the photo is torn?” He slid it back into the journal, keeping his eyes on his hands.
 
“Can’t say I do.” Pike slung his hands back into his trouser pockets. “Does your mother know you’re doing this?” he asked curiously, like Jim was a naughty child with his hand caught in the cookie jar. 
 
“She was the one who gave me the journal.”
 
Pike stilled for a moment, his head bowing forward in thought, and then he began to nod.
 
“Listen, Jim, I don’t know what you’re trying to do. Whether it’s taking the skeletons out of your closet or resurrecting some essence your father possessed…it’s not going to work.” He leveled a cool blue gaze upon Jim’s own. “It will only bring about more pain and upset everyone you love while you’re at it.” Pike shook his head and started walking towards to door.
 
“This was a mistake,” he muttered as he tried to sweep past. Jim’s hand shot out to grasp his arm and halt his movements before he could leave.
 
“Who is N?” Jim asked; words hardened as he indicated the journal. Pike’s eyes darted between it and Jim’s face for a moment and then he firmed his mouth and broke Jim’s grip on his arm. Like Bones, in his exit Pike neglected the fire pole for the stairs and clomped down and out the front door without so much as a by-your-leave.
 
Leaning his palms against the railing Jim let out a low sigh. He’d gotten some out of Pike, but not nearly as much as he’d wanted. How the older man had reacted was downright strange. For claiming not to remember very much and not having much to do with his father he sure did spook easily. Instead of getting answers he had just cultivated more questions.
 
“So, you gonna tell me what that was about?” Bones was leaning against the wall near the stairs, arms crossed, one leg slung over the other. Jim took in his mile high eyebrow and began to laugh, letting the tension and the frustration drain from him in one long flush.
 
“Yeah, Bones, I think I will.” 

--
 
An hour later they sat in Jim’s studio, coffee cold in mugs on the table between them, the journal laying open to the side with the letter and the picture pulled out and displayed.
 
“So, you think your father was what? Murdered?” Bones had calm hands, no matter what, and his lack of fidgeting calmed Jim into a similar mellow objective state.
 
“I don’t know what I think. It just doesn’t feel right.” He looked at the journal again. The secrets it held weren’t that of a suicidal man.
 
“Hell, Jim, I’m not going to go against a man’s gut here but you’re talking about, what? A possible crime twenty-five years past, no substantial evidence, no suspects, no motive and with no police involvement.” He furrowed his brows but spoke with reasonable doubt for Jim’s story.
 
“Maybe no one was looking because the suicide was so convenient. They didn’t have the technology or half the suspicious nature anyone does today when this happened.” Jim met Bones’ gaze and gave a half smile. “Things change. There are suspects. Pike is acting seriously bizarre, my mom probably knows something if she’s sending me this journal, there’s this Robau guy I need to find and one name that keeps popping up near the end of the entries…an N.” Jim picked up the journal and flipped to the last few filled pages, showing them to Bones, who took the journal gingerly.
 
“N showed up again today, asking about my paintings, talking about Newsweek and Time. I keep telling him I don’t care about the fame, that I just want to paint but he doesn’t seem to think I’m telling the truth,” he read, his accented voice lending a quality to the journal that made it seem detached from George, made Jim feel a little like he was kicking up a fuss about absolutely nothing.
 
“Maybe…maybe you’re right and I’m just seeing what I want to see.” He shook his head and strung his fingers through his hair, tugging just slightly to try and enforce that point into his mind. 
 
“Now wait just a minute.”
 
Jim’s head snapped up to look at where Bones was reading the entries, his eyes skimming back and forth over the small pages quickly.
 
“I did some Psych when I was in school and one of the very first things we’re taught is how to recognize when someone is suicidal.” He looked up over the top of the journal at Jim momentarily, “This was a personal journal? Not intended to be read by anyone else?” he asked, flicking to a new page.
 
“Yeah, for his eyes only to record his experiences and ideas. Or that’s what Robau seemed to intend it for, his entries are really hit and miss staying on the topic of his work,” Jim stated a bit edgily, watching Bones’ hands on the delicate pages. That journal was all Jim had left, all that connected him truly to his father and Bones wasn’t exactly being reverent…
 
“Yes, that’s exactly what I was thinking. He seemed to write a lot about his family, even the others in the studio...” Bones looked up at him again and Jim tried to catch his gaze casually. To seem like he was intensely worried about a book was a little weird. In any case, Bones blinked down at the book then and closed it gently, setting it back down where it had sat before.
 
“Did he ever have any large swings in mood or content in his writing?” he asked after clearing his voice, folding his hands calmly once more.
 
“No, not really, he had some moods that were better or worse than others, but he always explained it fairly succinctly. There was nothing that seriously jumped out at me, that’s part of the reason that the whole suicidal thing just seemed wrong. Why would he fake what’s written in a personal journal?” It felt good to finally voice some of his concerns to someone, especially someone who understood as Bones seemed to.
 
“You’re right, it is very strange. Suicidal tendencies manifest in a myriad of ways as individual as the person in question.” Bones nodded. “But your father’s journal just doesn’t seem to hold enough indicators – on the contrary he seemed to be looking forward to things: your birth, the ceasing of the media being fascinated with him…Jim, if you’re really serious about this, you need to take this to the police.”
 
Jim licked his lips and rubbed a hand over his face. If he turned it over to the police, had his father’s case re-opened, there was no telling what would happen. The media could catch wind of it and the story would go global in a matter of minutes. His name would be even further entrenched with his father’s, and if he was wrong? Well if he was wrong, he would never be taken seriously again.
 
“Jim…what did you think before you read this journal?” Bones asked in a quiet voice. “Before you knew exactly what he thought of your imminent arrival?”
 
Jim refused to look up but couldn’t stop from thinking it over and over. As soon as he was old enough to realize what suicide meant everything had changed. Sam had made things abundantly clear while they were children: dad isn’t here because of you. Jim shook his head and hunched his shoulders trying to shake of the dread re-settling over him.
 
“You didn’t kill your father Jim,” Bones said in a firm voice. “I know what that looks like.” He was so full of conviction that Jim had to look at him, but instead of the expected anger on his face he only saw endless depthless sorrow.
 
“I don’t like cars,” he paused his throat catching on his words, “because I was driving.” He cocked his jaw and looked at Jim’s wobbly paintbrush holder he’d brought him just that morning.
 
“Bones-”
 
“He was a doctor dammit, a good man who saved lives. We were having an argument about my rejecting my residency.” Bones shook his head and furrowed his brows. “I couldn’t do anything.”
 
They sat together in the relative silence of the studio, breaths hollow and too fast. Bones smiled bitterly. “The last thing he said to me was, ‘Leonard, a doctor who can’t heal the sick and the injured is just a man with too many letters in his name, nothing more’.”
 
Jim watched him pick up his coffee mug, thumbing the manufactured edges. He had yet to be seen with a cup he made himself.
 
“I was going to be a doctor. Now I’m just a man who walks everywhere, plays in the mud every day, and has too many letters in his name.” 

Chapter Text

If Jim was a cereal, he mused while he and Sulu sat at a table on the patio of a little out of the way café near the Maru, he would be Corn Pops. If he was Corn Pops, Bones was like Corn Flakes, a completely different experience, different taste, different – and sometimes delicate – temperament but at the end of the day they were made of the same basic elements.
 
If he was Corn Pops, Sulu was like Cocoa Puffs, same shape, same crunch, same sweetness, but with an element of variety, a certain something that turned the milk that delicious chocolaty brown if you will.
 
He figured he probably shouldn’t have skipped breakfast before coming out to meet Sulu that morning.
 
After his somewhat wounding chat with Bones, Jim had gone back to work with his painting, but found his thoughts a swirling mess of darkness and confusion. So as a distraction he had called up Sulu and arranged a time for the two of them to meet Thursday. Jim had somewhat hoped Sulu’s almost tangibly bright and likeable nature would perhaps pull him out of his darkened mood.
 
Strangely enough it seemed to be working. Sulu had plenty of humorous tales of headaches related to his show to keep them laughing and fairly carefree. They were reminiscing about strange Spock encounters when Jim finally started really contributing. 
 
“You know, he’s dating my roommate.” Jim laughed as Sulu almost snorted his coffee up his nose. He threw some napkins at him while he set his cup aside and flicked the sticky coffee off his fingers.
 
“What?! Male or female? I always had him pegged for asexual or, I don’t know, reproducing by cloning or something.” Sulu made a face and Jim shrugged taking a sip of his own latte.
 
“Female. Really hot too, I’m talking underwear model standard of babe, but unfortunately kind of nuts so far.”
 
“Well I suppose that makes some sense then, if they’re both a little,” Sulu cocked his head and hand, “off center.”
 
Jim laughed and nodded. “That’s one way to put it. I just do not understand couples sometimes, man.” He paused and considered Sulu. “Like what about that kid you were with the other day at the gallery. You and him a thing?”
 
“No, no.” Sulu sighed. “Not for lack of trying on my part though. Guess that’s just my luck.” He darkened a tad and Jim narrowed his eyes. Bones had said he was the black sheep of his family…
 
“Have a lot of bad luck?” he asked innocently, raising his cup to his lips while Sulu absently swirled a spoon through his drink.
 
“No.” He gave a slightly bitter laugh, “No, it’s all been smooth sailing. Always is for a Sulu.”
 
“Doesn’t sound like you’re too happy about it.” Jim set his cup back down in its saucer carefully while Sulu watched him.
 
“It’s just…nothing I would have picked for myself. I love my family, my sisters my mom…” He frowned but continued on. “Sometimes it’s just a little much, the penthouse without rent because we own the building, the ability to get into any fencing club I want to because someone is paying for it, not because I’m talented or they want me.” He laced his fingers together and rested his chin upon them contemplatively. “I didn’t know I didn’t have good luck until I was old enough to get away. Now the first great guy I meet who doesn’t know who I am or at least who doesn’t care,” he laughed again, “he’s completely uninterested.”
 
Jim gave him a somewhat understanding smile. He hadn’t had exactly the same life but something like it, the Kirk name making waves and impressions before he even got there.
 
“It’s hard, but hey, at least he’s being honest with you right?”
 
Sulu sighed but nodded his agreement. “Yeah, I can’t say just being friends doesn’t have its benefits.” He grinned. “He’s taught me a lot, managed to even coax me into communicating with my mom again, although it’s sort of stilted still. But she knows what I’m doing day to day, I think she might even come to my show.”
 
“That’s great.” Jim contemplated his sometimes stiff relationship with his mother. “I’m not sure anything could coax mine into coming back to this city.”
 
“I guess it holds a lot of memories for her.”
 
“Yeah, but hey, when I first moved she shipped me a sort of care package including a few of my father’s old things she thought I might like. It’s progress, I think, and she’s starting to accept that I am who I am.” She had had a lot of trouble with Jim’s final decision to follow in his father’s footsteps as a painter, let alone the problems she’d had with him moving out to San Francisco as well.
 
“You get anything interesting?”
 
“A few pictures, a blanket, and actually a journal I’d never seen before but it’s proved to be pretty intense.” Jim grinned wryly. Intense was one way to put into terms the turmoil the journal had kicked up so far.
 
“I bet. How are you liking the city now that you’re here?” Sulu stretched back in his seat, extending his legs to one side of Jim’s like a cat sunning himself.
 
Jim thought about the question in relation to the brief but somewhat intense time he’d spent in the city so far. Pike, Spock, Uhura…Bones. Jim smiled to himself.
 
“It feels like home.” 

--

The rest of his time between Thursday afternoon and Saturday morning was split between painting and trying to get a hold of both his mother and one Richard Robau. His mother, although elusive, at least he knew how to track down. Robau had taken some extensive rounds with Google and his phone, punching in number after number trying to track the man down just to ask him a few questions.
 
Once he had finally gotten to a truly promising lead – one number patched straight to his office line. Jim had waited breathlessly only for a voicemail message stating Richard was out of the country, vacationing in Mexico, and did not know when he would return. Throwing his phone across the studio in frustration, Jim vowed to drop the whole thing and get his paintings in order for Spock’s examination.
 
Early Saturday morning he decided he really could use more Phthalo Green and made a quick trip to Korby’s taking the same walking route Bones had shown him previously. He figured it wasn’t worth waking Scotty to borrow his keys to the Transporter when he could just as easily just power walk his way to the store and be back with plenty of time before Spock arrived.
 
Emerging from the store, examining his booty, with a smirk still lingering on his face from his encounter with the lovely Ms. Chapel, Jim only managed to make it a block from the store before he was suddenly tackled from the side.
 
There was shouting, something about his wallet as he dropped painfully to his knees on the concrete. His failure to comply earned him a swift punch to the face, but the popping pressure and sizzling sting of the blow triggered something that had been so far left dormant in his mind.
 
Small town Iowa, the land of nothing but farms and idiots in bars. He had been one of those drunken idiots once, and his name had attracted more than its fair share of attention from men trying to prove something by socking him one in the jaw.
 
So when the next kick lashed out he rolled out of the way and ducked the next swing, curling his hands into fists and landing his own punches wherever he could. His vision was fuzzy at best, and the limited damage he’d initially taken to the head enough to cause him confusion. The confusion created slowness and that led to further hits being taken, but at that point his attacker had been sighted in broad daylight and shouts of concern were beginning to pop out of the shops along the street.
 
When others began to rush over, the attacker fled, Jim’s wobbling balance and ringing ears proved no match when he tried to give chase. Slumping against the side of the nearest shop he panted and tried to think straight. There was wetness to his left leg and arm and when he rubbed his fingers together they were slick and sticky.
 
There were faces crowding around him now, all asking questions, all too loud. One of them, he dimly realized, was Christine calling his name. He ignored them and raised his hand up to inspect.
 
It was covered in a deep shining green that covered his arm and soaked into his pants. He began to laugh absurdly; the paint he’d gotten to impress Spock, the closest thing to an alien Jim could possibly imagine existed, was now covering him. It was like his blood ran green.
 
He slid down the wall into a crouch and continued to laugh.
 
--
 
Someone called the police and paramedics, not that he was very seriously injured as he’d assured the crowd of shop owners who had congregated and brought him into the deli he’d been leaning against. He had just had his bell rung a bit, nothing that he hadn’t lived through before, but he put up with the EMT who showed up and cooperated when they sat him in the back of their ambulance, cleaned his cut lip, and flashed their penlights in his eyes.
 
By the time they released him, assured of just a few scrapes and bruises (along with one hell of a bump on his head) ailing him, the police had arrived and taken a few statements from those who had seen the whole thing. They insisted however that Jim was required to file an official report although nothing had been stolen and there was no one to press charges on.
 
Jim then took his first ride in the back of a police cruiser without handcuffs on, and was pleasantly surprised how comfortable the seat really was. At the station he was sat down in a chair beside the desk of a sweet looking female lieutenant who was put in charge of filing his report and the statements attached.
 
When he was finished writing what little to no information he remembered about his attacker into his forms he looked up at the lieutenant – the plaque on her desk read Marlena Peters – and wondered perhaps while he was there if he could ask a few questions about his father’s suicide investigation.
 
He was beaten up, definitely not scoring any charming points, so he wet his lips and tried his best hurt-puppy expression.
 
“Could I ask a huge favour of you, officer?” He synched his brows and practically simpered at her. Lt. Peters turned and looked professionally concerned, but nothing more, waiting for his request.
 
“You know, my father, George Kirk, died in this city the day I was born twenty-five years ago. I always wanted to get a little bit more information about that day, and I thought, maybe the police might have something to further explain his sudden departure, in their investigation files?”
 
“I’m sorry sir I can’t show you the contents of any case files be it five minutes or fifty years old,” Peters said in a firm voice. She was very good at her job, Jim had to give it to her.
 
“Oh, I don’t want to read it.” He shook his head and winced. “I’d just like to know if there was anything out of the ordinary…unexplained found with him. You could read it and just…let me know.” He smiled in what he hoped was a convincing manner with his bottom lip feeling numb and about the size of a beer bottle. At that Peters seemed to buckle a tad, apparently Jim had stumbled upon some sort of loophole in the system. She sighed in a slightly exasperated manner.
 
“Alright, hold on, a file twenty-five years old? It’ll probably be in the archives and not in the digital system. You stay put and I’ll be right back.” She stood, her uniform obscuring what Jim was sure would have been an otherwise very pleasing figure. He rested one arm along the end of her desk, cocking his head as he surveyed what was definitely one very fine behind when the main doors to the police station banged open.
 
Jim turned along with the rest of the bustling room only to almost fall out of his chair when he saw Bones looking furious and demanding something of the nearest officer he saw.  He quickly got up and made his way to the front of the station, intent on preventing what was quickly escalating into a scene in the middle of a room filled with guns.
 
“I don’t need to calm down. I need to see – Jim!” Bones exclaimed upon catching sight of him. His hair was in slight disarray and his eyes had a definite crazy tinge to them.
 
“Hey, Bones.” Jim glanced over at the large analog clock on the wall, “How did you get here? I’ve only been here for maybe twenty minutes and the station is a fair hike from–” Jim halted his question as Scotty came barreling into the station next, swearing a blue streak.
 
“You do not haul arse out of a moving vehicle. And especially do not after practically having an episode – the likes of which I have never seen before in my life – the entire trip over.” He scolded Bones with pointed index finger, his other digits curled around the keys to the Transporter.
 
“Chapel called me. Chapel of all people…practically in tears. I thought you were dead you know that?!” Bones sputtered at him, completely ignoring Scotty to flail mightily with his hands and elbows all in. Jim shot the officer who had tried to subdue Bones an apologetic glance and managed to catch a hold of both of Bones’ free-styling hands.
 
“Bones, Bones, I’m fine,” he emphasized but only succeeded in pulling his fat lip and making himself wince again.  Bones seemed to latch onto that immediately, eyes scanning over all of his newly acquired injuries.
 
“You are not fine. You were mugged. Look at your face!” Bones’ hands slipped out of his grip and in a moment were examining his face, turning him this way and that to be inspected while he continued to rant. The mother-henning only ceased when a delicate cough from the side drew both of their attentions to Lieutenant Peters who was looking at them expectantly, a manila file held in her small hands.
 
Jim, face still held firmly between Bones’ warm, rough hands let his eyes slide back to the man in question who in turn looked back at him. They gazed at each other for just a moment before Jim tugged back and Bones reeled both of his hands back in, stuffing them sheepishly into his pockets.
 
“I’ll just be a few more minutes.”  Jim assured him and Scotty who had exhaustedly flopped into one of the wooden chairs lining the entrance area. He then turned his attention back to Peters, who opened the file she was holding and scanned it, flipping back one or two pages.
 
“Well, everything looks to be in order for a routine suicide investigation. Nothing out of place, doors locked from the inside…there wasn’t a note…” She looked up. “That can be strange but not out of the range of normalcy …some people just feel like they don’t owe any explanations, like their reasoning is obvious.” She snapped the file closed and Jim, who hadn’t really realized he’d been hoping for anything felt strangely let down. Peters seemed to sense this in him and finally showed an emotion that wasn’t professionally restrained.
 
“I’m sorry. It looks like there was nothing that the investigation missed or over looked, but,” she shrugged, the folder held in one hand, “we still get evidence in for crimes far older than this one all the time. Something new could turn up.” She nodded and patted his arm, “You’re free to go home now, if you’re finished with your forms.” 
 
Jim nodded and turned, feeling strangely like a deflated balloon, stretched too much, tired and worn out. Bones and Scotty ushered him out of the building, Scotty providing a much more subdued commentary back to the truck than the blaze that they had arrived in.
 
Bones walked shoulder to shoulder with Jim – that was, until they came within ten feet of the truck where he froze up leaving Jim in the lurch.
 
“What’re ye waitin’ for?” Scotty hollered slinging himself into the drivers seat and jamming the key into the ignition. Jim turned and looked at Bones.
 
“We don’t have to take the truck. I’ll walk back with you,” Jim assured him before turning to inform Scotty, but Bones’ hand on his shoulder held him back.
 
“No. We’ll take the truck.”
 
Jim watched him approach the vehicle and then open the rear door with a shaking hand. He climbed up and in, but before he could slam the door closed again Jim caught it and clambered up into the cramped back seat with him. Bones nodded at him and reached for his seatbelt, pulling it across his body but was unable to get it buckled, his hands were shaking too badly.
 
Scotty continued to mutter in the front as Jim took the buckle from Bones’ hands and slipped it into place himself, then strapped his own across his chest.
 
“Everyone ready?” Scotty turned and surveyed them, lingering on Bones’ ashen face. “Don’t ye vomit now. That’s original upholstery.”
 
A startled, nervous laugh flew out of Bones as he clutched his knees and they began to pull out of the parking lot. His whole frame was trembling now. Jim couldn’t imagine what on Earth had gotten him into the truck in the first place – pure adrenaline probably, flying by the seat of his pants. He shook his head. Bones had gotten in a truck, a vehicle he’d spent who knew how many years avoiding because Jim had gone and scared him half to death.
 
It was his fault Bones looked like he was about to have a heart attack now and he couldn’t just keep sitting there and do nothing.
 
Reaching out with both hands, Jim stilled Bones’ trembling at his shoulder and knee much like he had stopped the flailing in the police station and garnered Bones’ attention.  Keeping his gaze steady and assuring and his breathing calm he squeezed the hand under his and made the promise to stick around, for the ride, for the day, for however long Bones needed him.
--

Back at the firehouse Jim, Scotty and Bones said nothing as they disembarked the Transporter and headed inside. An unfamiliar shiny black coupe was parked on the street in front of the door. Scotty looked over Jim’s shoulder and hummed.
 
“Spock’s here then.”
 
Jim groaned. In the wake of the attack and going to the police station he’d forgotten all about his appointment with Spock. Now he was late, covered in paint and bruises and definitely in no ideal mood to woo anyone about his work.
 
Once inside, Bones shot off to his bedroom and Jim frowned up at the firmly closed door, wishing he could do something to help… but other matters required his attention.
 
At the island bar sat Spock and Uhura, turning away from their conversation as Jim shucked off his shoes. Behind him, Scotty continued to grumble to himself, tossing his keys in the catchall and heading for the basement.
 
“I know, I’m late, and I seem completely unprepared but…why are you looking at me like that?” Jim narrowed his eyes at the duo, who had been mostly stiff and unwelcoming, now looking at him with astonishment.
 
“Len told us what happened after Christine called.” Uhura shook her head.
 
“You believe us to be so unfeeling as to not show concern or even human compassion in light of the ordeal you have been through?” Spock stood, his tie still knotted at his throat, his jacket left behind on the chair.
 
“Ordeal?” Jim shook his head; he didn’t want their pity. “Listen, I don’t want to waste your time, let’s just get this over with and you can go back to work,” he offered, with hands upturned peacefully. Spock eyed him for only a moment longer before nodding his head once in acquiescence and following Jim up the stairs.
 
“You appear to be in pain,” Spock commented as Jim limped down the corridor.
 
“Yeah, I’ll be alright.” He opened the door to his studio, thankful that he had already taken the time to put everything mostly in order.  There was just one painting sitting upon his worktable waiting for the finishing touches of green that was instead crusted thickly along his left side.
 
“So how do we do this thing?” he asked, turning to see Spock observing him. It was sort of weird, having Spock in his personal realm now instead of being in his.
 
“The assessment will wait until you have healed from your injuries. As for the matter of if you have proven yourself capable of filling the show spot, you have done so unwittingly already.”
 
Jim closed his eyes, trying to will himself to stay calm.
 
“You’re saying you don’t even want to look at these?” He nudged one painting with his foot, wincing when his knee twinged with pain.
 
“No. I would very much like to see and discuss your work, but now is not the appropriate time.” Spock cocked his head. “As you have stated previously it is apparent that you do take this business seriously. As you have honoured my terms with respect I must return the favour.” He folded his hands behind his back.
“The show is yours. We shall reschedule the critique to a time when you are more physically and mentally fortified.”
 
“I don’t want any favours here man-”
 
“I am not favouring you, Jim. Merely showing common human courtesy. You have been through much today, to demand any further defence of your personal creation would only be destructive and cruel.”
 
“You called me Jim.”
 
“Did you not previously request I do so?” Spock cocked one eyebrow, quizzically.
 
“You shot it down,” Jim said flatly, crossing his arms over his chest and regarding Spock with confusion.
 
“In the gallery, yes. I have no problem with becoming your friend outside of our professional boundaries.”
 
“And this meeting wasn’t professional?” Jim threw his hands up, wondering how one person could be so singularly frustrating. After Spock had made such a big deal about professionalism in his place of work now that didn’t apply to Jim’s work space?
 
“No. It ceased being such when I was notified of the cause of your tardiness.” Spock’s voice was grave, like he was actually concerned for Jim’s health and wellness. Jim let his arms drop and let out a laugh.
 
“You want to be friends.”
 
“You are an intriguing man, I am not adverse to the idea.” Spock gave another singular nod as Jim sunk onto his easel’s stool.
 
“What about Uhura?” She had yet to warm up to him but maybe she had expressed her opinions to her…Spock about him.
 
“I am not at liberty to make decisions regarding her social companions for her. You will have to ask her yourself,” Spock said with…was that amusement Jim was detecting in his tone? He laughed; perhaps Spock wouldn’t be such a bad friend to have after all.
 
“Okay, okay, you’re not her keeper, got it.”
 
“Indeed. Now I shall make my departure; there is much to be done at the gallery for tonight’s show opening.”
 
“Oh, shit, Sulu!” Jim exclaimed. “His show is tonight.” He looked down at himself, smudged in green, hurting, no doubt bloodied and bruised. “You think he’ll forgive me if I show up a little battered looking?”
 
“I have no doubt Mr. Sulu would, as you say, forgive you. The invited press however would not be so kind. Once they realized who you were, your photograph would be more valuable to them than any of the ones on the walls,” Spock told him with his calm rationality.
 
“I am sure he would understand your motives for not attending in order to rest. I will deliver the message myself if you wish.” Spock stepped towards the door as Jim twisted his hands through his hair.
 
“Ah, yeah would you? Thanks. I’ll send him a message too but there’s no telling if he’ll get it on a day like this.” He felt horrible, he wanted to be there, to show support, to see Sulu’s photos but there was just no way he was getting in there without being noticed.
 
“I shall give him your regards,” Spock said with finality and ducked out of the room. Jim noticed he didn’t take the fire pole exit either and felt strangely disappointed. Giving a shaky sigh, he turned back to his worktable and leaned heavily against it. He was exhausted, and when his thoughts began to slow his emotions surged up in their place.
 
Snapping his head up he surveyed the room, checking every corner carefully before he realized what he was doing. Rubbing his eyes he assured himself he was alone, he was safe and that there were other people around to hear him if he shouted for help.
 
Getting up, he pushed the curtain between his bedroom and the studio back as far as it would go and collapsed into bed fully clothed. Pulling the comforter up over him to the nose, he turned slightly so he could see the entrance and let his eyes finally fall shut.

--
 
Jim slept through the day, waking once merely to go to the bathroom, catch sight of himself in the mirror and take a long hot shower. He downed some painkillers and sent Sulu an apologetic message and rolled straight back into bed. He slept until the wee hours of Sunday morning until he just couldn’t sleep a moment longer.
 
With everyone else still asleep and the firehouse looming gloomy and huge around him, he flipped on every light he could find and paused at every creak of the floors and jangle through the pipes.
 
The coffee pot gurgled as he sat at the island, his feet pulled up onto the stool rungs, elbows tucked close together on his lap. He focused on breathing evenly, quietly, calmly and not on how much he wanted to go over and check if the front door was still bolted.
 
“Hey.”
 
Jim startled, nearly falling off the stool in his haste to stand. Bones stood at the foot of the stairs, his shirt rumpled and hair mussed. He looked like the least threatening thing on the planet despite his generous dusting of stubble, scowly expression and sheer size. Jim tried to shake it off.
 
“Hey, you startled me.” He gave a grin and turned to the now finished coffee maker.  Pulling the pot his hand trembled, the harder the tried to steady it, the harder it shook.
 
Bones’ hand covered his, pulling the pot from his grasp and pouring them both brimming mugs. He then took both and gestured for Jim to sit back down. When Jim hesitated he gave him an impatient look.
 
“Go on.”
 
Jim slipped back into his seat, taking his mug with murmured thanks, letting its heat seep into his fingertips. Bones settled, full of weight and presence, into the seat beside his. Their knees knocked together under the counter.
 
“It’s okay to be afraid you know,” he said after a moment when they both breathed in their caffeine. “Hell, yesterday I was a wreck and I wasn’t even there.”
 
Jim stared into the dark depths of his coffee. He hadn’t mixed milk and sugar into it since he was a teenager but strangely at the moment he wanted to.
 
“Are you alright now?” he asked instead, looking at Bones in profile as he sipped his coffee. He turned, eyebrow pulling upwards as he looked Jim over.
 
“You’re the one with the shiner, Jim.”
 
“Bruises heal pretty fast.” He shrugged. “You almost had a panic attack.”
 
“You know, I think we’re both in no condition to make judgments on personal mental health. So just cut the bullshit, stop acting like you’re fine, like nothing happened.” Bones stood, placing a hand heavily on Jim’s shoulder. “Now I’m going to make some pancakes and you’re going to put as much sugary crap on them as you want and eat until you think you’re fit to burst, you hear?” He let the hand slide across Jim’s shoulders as he headed for the refrigerator.
 
“Yeah, I…yeah that sounds good.” He didn’t force himself to smile and neither did Bones. 

--
 
It was after said pancake breakfast that Jim started to feel like himself again. The light of true morning brought with it Scotty and Uhura, both following their noses to the kitchen. Their friendly morning bantering and delighted yummy noises upon tasting Bones’ breakfast seemed to shake off the dark shadow of the previous day.
 
So Jim was in good spirits when the bell rang again, and Scotty ambled over to open the door.
 
“Hey, I’m looking for Jim?” A familiar voice floated over to where he sat and he shook his head, getting up to take Scotty’s place at the door. Sulu stood on his door step, accompanied by his skinny Russian friend, both of them wearing dark sunglasses and haggard expressions
 
“What-” He looked them both over with a laugh. Sulu was carrying a tray of coffees and Chekov appeared to have a paper bag of something from the same café.
 
“You were mugged? Dude, that’s like the best excuse for skipping out on a show opening I’ve ever heard.” He tipped his sunglasses down a tad. “You look like I feel. Let me in – I have coffee and a spinach, garlic and onion bagel with jalapeno cream cheese that promises to cure my hangover and give me horrible breath for the rest of the day waiting.” Jim stared at him sort of unsure if he was being serious but Sulu just shook the coffee tray at him.
 
“Come on! This is heavy and we got up at the ass crack of dawn to come check on you!”
 
Jim stepped back in surrender, nodding as Chekov murmured his thanks when he filed past. Shutting the door firmly he turned to the kitchen and began the introductions all around while Sulu and Chekov took off their sunglasses and started unpacking their goods.
 
Things seemed to settle smoothly enough, Bones and Uhura asking Sulu about how his show had gone, how his work was being received, and Chekov and Scotty got into a strange love-fest for sourdough bagel sandwiches. Chekov’s accent was like nothing Jim had ever heard before, and he actually sat there for a few minutes trying to recall the last time he had heard a Russian accent.
When everyone finally retreated into their various corners of the house and the kitchen had been cleaned Chekov turned to Jim with bright eyes.
 
“Hikaru has told me much about you. Can we see your studio?” he asked point blank, making Sulu behind him drop his head into his palm and Jim bark a laugh.
 
“Yeah, sure, why not, it’s this way.” He led the way up the stairs where Sulu paused outside his door and gaped at the fire pole.
 
“…Tell me this is still safe to use.”
 
Jim nodded, leaning on his doorframe letting Sulu touch its shiny brass reverently.
 
“This is the coolest place to live I’ve ever seen.” He shook his head and stepped away from the opening in the floor, letting Jim continue in leading them into his studio. It was exactly as it had been left for Spock, all his paintings displayed and lined up.
 
While Sulu went straight for the paintings, Chekov wandered around the room first, inspecting everything and seeming to take delight in figuring out how the windows opened.
 
“Yeah, ignore him, he does that whenever he comes into a new room,” Sulu muttered to Jim while he tilted his head at one large mainly blue painting propped up against the wall. “I don’t know if it’s a Russian thing or if he’s just strange but…” Sulu shrugged and flashed Jim and grin.
 
“Well whatever it is, you’re both welcome to come by any time you’d like.” He sat at his worktable and let them have free reign in poking at his things and asking questions.
 
“I shall look forward to returning. Your Scotty has promised a panini I will not be forgetting,” Chekov told him once they had all retired to sitting around talking, and Jim could only smile in reply. He had never had this large a group of friends before, and never any that he had liked even half as much. None of them had ever really cared about him like this.
 
But now he had the proof, in Bones’ pancakes and Scotty’s driving, Sulu’s humor and Chekov’s trust, Spock’s strange respect and even Uhura seemed to be coming around. She laughed at his jokes in a truly sincere manner for the first time today. With the acceptance of the whole group something finally started to feel right in a way he couldn’t explain.
 
--
 
It took about a week and a half but when Jim’s bruises had mostly disappeared, Spock was willing to renegotiate their meeting for critique. Jim was one third through his allotted time before his show and desperately needed to get Spock’s yea or nay, to talk over styles and buyers, and who in the art world was doing what.
 
With so much focus on his work, painting furiously, and generally living with the strange new family he found himself embraced by, he barely noticed the days passing.  His father’s journal sat forgotten on his dresser.
 
On the fourth of July the unlikely seven of them found themselves sharing a raucous potluck dinner. Each of them had been assigned a certain aspect of the dinner to make; Jim had received vegetables and was in the middle of the preliminary preparation of his secret family recipe when a loud argument surfaced from the basement. Bones and Scotty again, they had been bickering all day over the merits of using the kiln as a makeshift rotisserie oven for the chicken.
 
“I’ll rig it up just so, and when dinner time rolls around we pop the bird in the kiln, furiously turn the crank and it’ll be done in minutes!” Scotty tried to wave his blueprints in Bones’ face yet again; convinced the whole thing was fool proof.
 
“No! We are not cooking a chicken in the kiln at nine hundred degrees. It’s not going to happen. And if I find any entrails of fowl of any kind in my kiln you can pack your bags.”
 
Uhura snickered from where she was putting finishing touches on her mystery desert. Jim had been trying to see what she’d made all day but that woman was adept at wielding a spatula to keep his nose and fingers out of it.
 
“Don’t you start laughing, you’re not the one who’s going to have to put up with your robot making ‘ingesting animal matter’ comments all night.” Something Jim had learned recently during their meeting, and in contact with him around the house, Spock was multilayered. He was a suit, on top of logic, on top of a vegetarian, on top of an artist, on top of a country club child, on top of a native Egyptian. How he kept all the facets of his life from attacking and killing each other while being as cool and aloof as he was, Jim had no idea.
 
Everyone it seemed had hidden talents and secrets about themselves that only came around if you weren’t looking for them. Like Scotty’s penchant for not only molten glass but dangers of all kinds, especially mechanical. The more gears and makeshift gadgets he could play with the happier he was.
 
Chekov was turning out to be a regular little critic, making comments on everything from how inaccurate popular crime dramas were to how doughnuts tasted better in Russia.
 
As if summoned by his thoughts, Chekov and Sulu turned up just about then, grunting and groaning under the weight of the boxes they carried into the firehouse to deposit on the rec room floor. They all watched them go back to Sulu’s tiny sports car for another trip, and Bones inspected the boxes, pulling back one cardboard flap to tug out a bottle of wine.
 
“Looks like they held up a liquor store.” Scotty whistled, opening the second box to reveal much of the same.
 
“They do know it’s just going to be the seven of us right?” Uhura asked while heading back into the kitchen. “And Spock doesn’t drink.”
 
Sulu and Chekov re-entered, but with only Sulu carrying a box this time and Chekov with a large handy wrapped bowl.
 
“I have fulfilled my duties as booze master,” Sulu declared, setting down his bounty, which appeared to be several bottles of hard liquor. 
 
“Yeah, you went above and beyond. There’s no way we can drink this much and still have proper liver function in the morning.” Bones pushed his way back into the kitchen, which was getting awfully crowded – Uhura putting her dessert away, Chekov poking at his own dish to make sure it had survived the ride over, and Jim elbowing his way over to the sink to wash his beans.
 
“One has to be well prepared.”
 
“Well sloshed at the very least,” Scotty agreed, setting a large pot of water onto the stove for potatoes.
 
“The whole reason for the potluck was so there wasn’t everyone in the damn kitchen at the same time.” Bones grabbed his oven mitts, shoving Chekov and Scotty out of the way so he could get at the bird to check its temperature.
 
“That’s an issue with four of us already sharing a kitchen regularly.” Uhura said airily before she led Sulu off to gather up some glasses and a corkscrew.
 
“I wonder if I could rig the kiln to boil the–”
 
“No rigging the kiln!”
 
--
 
Eventually everyone arrived and sat down to eat and partake in a feast of several cultures and tastes.  They all lounged around the large table they’d dragged from Uhura’s studio into the rec room, groaning with delight at Uhura’s pecan pie when dinner had finally been cleared away. 
 
“Only a woman after my own heart would make such a thing.” Bones gave his fork a lasting suck clean and dropped it to his plate with a clatter, “You’d better watch it, Spock, if she keeps making food like this I’m liable to steal her away from you.”
 
“I’m not an object that can be stolen, thank you,” Uhura chastised him. “But if I were, you’d have your work cut out for you.”
 
Jim listened to their exchange from where he was stationed in the kitchen, doing the dishes voluntarily for once.
 
“Oh you don’t say? Old Spock’s a regular Lothario when no one is looking?”
 
“I hide nothing, Doctor. Perhaps she was implying merely that you have many shortcomings.” Laughter rippled across the table and Jim grinned to himself rinsing and setting another plate into the washer.
 
“Play nice, we’re practically all family here,” Uhura stated and Jim paused to look over his shoulder at her. She was being sincere. She was also just looking at Bones. Sulu blocked his view then, coming over with a new stack of pie plates to be loaded.
 
“Aye, and sometimes the people you choose are better than the people you get.” Scotty toasted his small after dinner coffee and bourbon. Jim smiled and took the plates from Sulu, a prime example of Scotty’s words, with a dysfunctional family that required mediating and carefully planned visits. Apparently Sulu had been looking at him and thinking the same thing.
 
“Hey, have you heard anything more from your mom lately? Got any new exciting journals?” he asked, surely with good intentions in mind, but the rest of the room seemed to still and look over at them with interest.
 
“Journals?” Scotty asked slightly perplexed and slightly drunk.
 
“Yeah, I, ah, with that painting my mom sent me I got one of my dad’s old journals.” He shrugged it off.
 
“A record of your father’s time in his studio could be invaluable for art historians, Jim. Have you thought about donating it to any organizations or museums who could properly document it?” Spock sat forward in his chair while Jim tried to formulate a reply.
 
“It’s not a god damned artifact. It’s someone’s personal thoughts and opinions. It belongs just where it is, with family.” Bones spoke up first, sprawled lazily in his chair, one elbow hooked over the back.
 
“It’s not very interesting, Spock, really. It has no ground breaking philosophies about painting, just a lot of conversations with his studio-mates and day to day stuff like laundry,” Jim assured him and held Bones’ gaze when it was leveled at him. No one else needed to know anything about his suspicion surrounding the book. Even he had let it drop after so long without any new insights into the perplexing conditions of his father’s journal.
 
He just hadn’t been a typical suicide, simple as that. It didn’t mean anything.
 
“Well I’m done here. Wha’d’ya say we climb up to the roof and see if we can catch sight of the fireworks?” He shut the dishwasher and thumbed the dial into action, grinning as his suggestion was met with hoots of agreement and Spock’s atmospheric visibility report deeming the whole notion illogical.
 
--
 
His phone was ringing, shrill and demanding across the studio. He dabbed a few last times with the white and then set his brush aside, wiping his hands on his apron and hustling to answer.
 
“James Tiberius Kirk.”

Jim paled, having not even had the chance to say hello. He knew that voice, and it was not happy.“Mom, hey.”
 
“Don’t you ‘Mom, hey’ me! You were mugged? A month ago?!”
 
He moved into his bedroom and sat on the bed, closing his eyes.
 
“You heard about that huh?”
 
“Yes, although not from you! Why didn’t you tell me? You know how I feel about that city and now you’re being attacked–”
 
Jim looked up and rolled his eyes. This was exactly why he didn’t tell her.
 
“Mom, Mom, I’m fine. It was just the one time, a freak incident. They weren’t after me because of who I am.”
 
“Are you sure? Maybe you should come home. Just for a little while.”
 
Jim rubbed his eyes and when he opened them the journal was there, sitting innocently before him on the dresser. 
 
“Mom, I’m home right now. I like it here, I’ve made friends. A 'Christopher Pike' owns the gallery that I’m going to be showing at in September and he assures me he used to know you and dad.”
 
“Christopher?” She sounded practically breathless and broken and all sorts of emotional. “What has he been telling you?” 
 
“Not much to be honest. Not as much as I’d like actually.” Jim licked his lips, “I read Dad’s journal, Mom. What did you want me to see? What did you want me to know about?”
 
“Know about? Jim, I don’t know what he’s been telling you but I only sent you that journal so you could feel closer to your father. There are no hidden meanings and Christopher should have learnt by now not to put his opinions where they don’t belong. I told him then, I told him I was never–” She seemed to realize what she was saying and sobered immediately.
 
“Just be careful, Jim. For me.”
 
“Yeah, I will be. What did you tell Pike?”
 
“It’s nothing, nothing, just something long forgotten…and it should stay that way. I don’t know what your father wrote in that book but it doesn’t matter any more, understand?”
 
“Mom, what aren’t you telling me?”
 
“I…I have to go, the neighbors…”
 
Jim frowned, clutching at his phone in frustration.
 
“Mom, no, what aren’t you telling me?  Don’t hang up, don’t–”
 
“I’m sorry. Goodbye.” The line went dead, and Jim made a roar of frustration, throwing his phone into his studio and flopping back on his bed. It was typical of his mother to run from things she was afraid of, things she didn’t know how to handle. She’d been doing it his entire life and he should be used to it by now.
 
It didn’t stop him from feeling like crap every time though. Taking a few steadying breaths in through the mouth and out through the nose, he shot the journal a dirty look. It caused so much more trouble than it was worth.
 
He got up, pulling the curtain closed behind him and scooping up his phone from where it had skidded to a halt on the floor. He needed to get out, he needed to move and take his mind off of everything: the work, the people, and the journal.
 
Shutting his studio door behind him he slid silently down into the kitchen where Bones was studying the inside of the refrigerator with contempt.
 
“Hungry?” he asked with a grin as Bones let the door swing shut with a snap.
 
“Yeah, I’m just, not in the mood.” He waved his hand indicating the whole cooking process. Jim nodded.
 
“Me too. Wha’d’ya say we take off, go for a walk and get some grub?” He leaned his elbows on the island counter restlessly.  Bones looked him over and shrugged.
 
“There are worse things to do in the world. Bring your keys, Scotty’s on a stained-glass emergency repair and Uhura is with her gem dealer,” he stated, leading the way out the door and into the sunshine of the afternoon. Jim scooped his keys out of the catchall and locked the door behind them. This was just the thing he needed: a relaxing lunch, some fresh air and Bones’ inevitable bitching about fast food.
 
--
 
Arriving back at the house in good spirits, Jim was still laughing at Bones’ predictable dissatisfaction with the food they had found.  Tromping up the walk and pulling his keys from his pocket, he paused, seeing the door unlatched.
 
“Jim?” Bones came up behind him looking over his shoulder to see what was the matter.
 
“The door,” he frowned, “I locked it when we left.”
 
“Maybe Scotty came back early and forgot to close it behind him.” Jim continued to frown – Scotty’s truck hadn’t been parked where he usually left it and Uhura wouldn’t be so careless. He pushed the door and it swung inward freely, half off its hinges, the backside of the frame by the latch broken off, like it had been kicked in. Bones took a sharp breath in behind him and Jim stepped into the fire hall quietly. Nothing looked out of place, the TV, stereo, everything still in place where they had left them. He scanned the second level; both his and Bones’ doors were open when they hadn’t been before.
 
“Go check Uhura’s studio,” Jim told Bones, knowing Uhura had some seriously expensive gems and precious metals in her locked cabinets. Jim gathered up a frying pan as quietly as he could from the kitchen to use as a weapon and headed for the stairs.  He had just reached the landing when Bones came back shaking his head to indicate Uhura’s studio had been untouched.
 
Poking his head into Bones’ bedroom revealed nothing out of the ordinary. He tightened his grip on the frying pan, heart beating wildly in his chest as he headed towards the door he knew he’d left shut. Bones crept up behind him, breathing hard, worried, frightened.
 
As soon as he came into view of the inside of his room his heart fell. His studio was where the turmoil of the break-in finally showed. His tables were overturned, jars and boxes of supplies upended, brushes lying like casualties of war all over the floor. His paintings were thrown about from where they had been sitting tidily stacked in a corner, the curtain between his bed area and the studio was mostly ripped down, hanging by just a few of its hooks. His books were everywhere, clothes everywhere, everything was everywhere.
 
He let the frying pan fall from his fingers, taking in his space, his home, ransacked. What could they have wanted, what was valuable in this dingy little studio?
 
He gasped. His father’s painting. Worth at least a million dollars, still lying forgotten and collecting dust behind his dresser, or at least, he hoped it was.
 
Heedless of the mess, he headed for the bedroom, stepping over upturned chairs and dodging water pails. Shoving the dresser away from the wall as soon as he got to it he dropped to his knees seeing the painting, safe and untouched exactly as he had left it. Reaching out with shaking hands, he pulled it to himself. Too weak to pick it up at the moment, he instead dragged it back out in to the main studio space where Bones still stood in shock.
 
When he saw what Jim had procured, his eyes widened and the colour drained from his face.  He groped for Jim’s stool, misplaced but miraculously still standing and collapsed onto it.
 
“Bones.” Jim croaked, standing, painting forgotten to go to the other man.
 
“Hey it’s okay, it doesn’t look like anything is missing. I don’t know what they were looking for but they didn’t get anything that matters.” He set his hands on Bones’ bowed shoulders letting his head roll forward until they were almost touching. Bones’ breathing was uneven. Clearly he was upset, unsettled, his lips dry, no doubt his mouth was too. 
 
“Hey, come on, let me get you some water.” He pulled away, grabbing a cup from the floor that he knew before all this had been clean and waiting to be used. Heading for the small sink in the studio, he filled the cup and came back, handing Bones the water. He downed the liquid thirstily, licking his lips and shaking his head.
 
“Okay,” he coughed. “Okay I’m going to go…call the police,” he said firmly, blinking hard. “You make absolutely sure nothing else is missing.” He got to his feet unsteadily. Jim kept a hand on his shoulder until he was sure Bones would be all right and then let him head off down the hall and the stairs.
 
Turning back to the mess he began the process of straightening his things up again, thinking furiously of all the valuable things he owned that they might have been after. He headed into his bedroom again, intent to search for his watches and cufflinks, for whatever reason they might have wanted them. When he got there he found them exactly where he had left them on his dresser, everything was still mostly where it had been…except for the journal.
 
He searched the floor, under his bed, the entire room but there was no sign of the green leather book. Heart beginning to pick up its frantic rhythm from before, he headed back out into the studio, looking over everything as fast as he possibly could. Nothing, nothing, still nothing. He slipped out of his studio to the hall, leaning over the railing.
 
“Hey Bones–” He didn’t see the man below immediately but a glimmer of movement caught his eye from behind the island. One hand, wracked with tremors, the phone resting just out of its reach. “Bones!”
 
He immediately dropped down the fire pole, taking two steps to put himself in visual range of his friend, seizing on the floor, eyes rolled back in his head, body rigid. He dropped to his knees unsure what to do, only knowing enough to get him onto his side and held as still as possible. From below a tiny voice called out.
 
“Hello? Hello? What is the nature of your emergency?”
 
Jim groped blindly for the phone.

Chapter Text

“He was poisoned?” Uhura looked as tired as Jim felt but he soldiered on, nodding and trying to explain exactly what the doctors had told him. After the whirlwind that was the break-in and Bones collapsing, he had gone to the hospital with Bones only to be held back in the waiting room, pacing restlessly for hours. He had immediately called Scotty and Uhura who then began taking shifts at the house and the hospital, making sure there was always someone home, just in case whoever broke in came back.
 
The police were involved, because of the break-in, and now because it had turned out Bones had actually been poisoned. Their suspicion unfortunately was placed solely on Jim for the time being, having been the only person to witness both events other than Bones.
 
He couldn’t pronounce what the doctor had said Bones had ingested but he remembered what they had said: it was a fast working toxin and he was lucky to be alive.
 
“Perhaps you should return to the fire hall, Jim. Sleep will be beneficial after the day you have been through. If you are uncomfortable in your bedroom, I’m sure Leonard would not mind your borrowing his bed for the night,” Spock said, looking the most normal Jim had ever seen him in dark jeans and a hooded sweatshirt that looked like it had never been worn before.
 
Jim shook his head – he couldn’t leave, not until he knew Bones was going to be okay, not until he saw him with his own eyes. It turned out only to be a few more minutes before that happened, a nurse informing them Bones would be unconscious for quite a few more hours, but that they could see him if they wished.
 
Although he wasn’t allowed inside for the time being, a police guard blocking his way, Spock and Uhura were. Luckily he could see through the window of the hospital room just fine. Bones looked pale, his hair a dark contrast again his skin, but also peaceful without his usual frown upon his face.
 
The tension that had been spiraling tighter and tighter within him all day began to unwind at the sight of his friend, whole and alive, Uhura’s dark hand grasping his. Although he wished he could be at his bedside as well, he understood the precautions everyone was taking. It didn’t much matter; he would stay right where he was until he was let inside or until Bones woke up, whichever happened first. 
 
Spock and Uhura left when visiting hours ended, Jim assuring them he wasn’t going to leave no matter how much they cajoled and threatened. The lonely police officer that had been babysitting him eventually left as well, off duty and convinced at last that Jim wasn’t threatening.
 
Scotty appeared the next morning bright and early with coffee and grave silence for once. He explained that the situation with the break-in had been overseen and the police had finished with their preliminary investigation. Eventually, he lowered himself to sit on the floor beside Jim, where he had taken up residence for the night unbothered by the nurses and doctors.
 
“Listen,” he began in a low voice, “I know you think you’re responsible for this whole bungled thing, but you aren’t.”
 
Jim said nothing, simply lipped at his disposable cup and stared at Bones’ window.
 
“You aren’t doing yourself or him any favours camped out on a cold floor. What would he say if he saw you, eh?” he asked and Jim had to smile a little bit. Bones would be the first one hollering about catching his death on frigid tiles and the floor being unsanitary.
 
“I talked to the doctors, he’s going to be out for at least another eight hours. Let me take you home. You can have a hot shower, eat something, watch some TV if you refuse to sleep and whatever you want. Just relax for a bit and then I’ll bring you straight back here.” He said in the most soothing even tone Jim had ever heard him use. He cared about Bones, but he also cared about Jim. He turned to Scotty who nodded at him, extending his hand out.
 
“Okay.”
 
Jim felt in limbo, like a part of his insides, an organ maybe, was missing. He was too light, his chest was too light. He couldn’t stop replaying himself getting Bones that cup of water over and over in his mind. That was the only thing that could have done it, something put into the faucet maybe, something meant for him.
 
He dutifully took a shower and ate some cold pizza he found in the fridge and then curled up on the couch in the rec room. He couldn’t… couldn’t face the wreck that was his studio yet and he definitely couldn’t take Bones’ bed, couldn’t be that selfish.
 
He dozed but didn’t sleep, too much going on, too much racing around in his head, his chest still empty and aching.
 
Eventually Scotty came back for him, shaking his foot to get him fully awake and asking if he wanted to return to the hospital or if he wanted to go back to sleep. Jim said nothing, choosing instead to just get up and put on his shoes.
 
Scotty unfortunately couldn’t stay, but dropped him off and promised he’d be back later to gather him up.
 
The police were back, but this time to talk to him instead of barring him from the room that housed Bones. After a brief second interview he was finally allowed to go inside.
 
Within, the room was exactly the same as it had been when he had last seen it, with the minor addition of Uhura, curled up in one of the visitor’s seats fast asleep. Jim gently picked up the second chair and moved it to the other side of the bed, gingerly setting it down and perching upon it.
 
Bones was even more pale close up, his eyelids a translucent purple, the veins looking startlingly blue and delicate. Jim reached out hesitantly at first, letting his fingertips drag along Bones’ wrist, feeling the warmth beneath his flesh that assured Jim he was still alive. The extra reassurance exactly what he needed even as the the steady beep of a heart monitor filled the room and Bones’ chest rose and fell with his breath. He let his hand fall then, clasping the one beneath it, interlocking their thumbs and curling Bones’ limp fingers around for him with his other hand.
 
He had been so scared, when he had been waiting for the ambulance, just sitting there, unable to do anything to help. He bowed his head, closing his eyes tightly and let his forehead rest against Bones’ knuckles.
 
“I’m so sorry,” he whispered, voice thick but eyes unopened. “It should have been me.” He swept one of his hands down to stroke Bones’ arm. “Should have been me.” He pressed his eyes closed even tighter but liquid seeped out the corners anyway. He took a ragged breath and tried to rein it in. He was still being watched and didn’t particularly need anyone putting stolen footage of him weeping on Youtube.
 
He wiped his face and pulled back, sitting properly in his chair without releasing Bones’ hand.
 
“You honestly believe that don’t you?” The whisper startled him, but when he looked up Uhura was watching him, dark eyes wide awake, knees still pulled to her chest, heels resting on the seat before her. Jim looked away from her, unsure how to answer.
 
“It was meant for me, whatever did this, whoever did this.” He tried to keep the waver from his voice and almost succeeded. “He didn’t deserve it.”
 
Uhura unfolded her legs slowly, moving with utmost caution.
 
“Neither did you.”
 
He finally looked away from Bones’ form to see Uhura’s wide eyes looking the most openly emotional he had ever seen them. She was sad, devastated even, her pretty face crumpled.
 
“No one deserves this.” She thrust a hand out, “I don’t know what it is whoever did this wants but maybe you should think about giving it to them before anyone else gets hurt.”
 
Jim found the anger within him rising fast. He placed Bones’ hand down carefully and then clutched the rail of the bed.
 
“Are you saying I could have prevented this? Do you think I know what’s going on? Do you think I’d let anyone anyone hurt-” His eyes were welling again and he looked at Bones, unsure what to even call him, the nickname sounding hollow and morbid to his ears. He shook his head and slumped back in his seat.
 
“You know what? I don’t care what you think,” he whispered, holding her gaze for only a moment longer before turning his attention back to the bed, where it was needed.
 
They sat in a tense silence, Jim’s eyes unmoving from Bones’ face for long moments.
 
“Does he know this is more than just a friendship for you?”
 
When he finally looked up at her she appeared tired, her head resting on her fist, elbow on the arm of her chair. He let his eyes flicker back down to Bones, the lightness in his chest gave a lurch.  Jim took up his hand again, feeling rough skin under his fingertips.
 
He gave a small shake of his head and let the silence continue to dominate the room.
 
Eventually Uhura stood and stretched.
 
“Well, I’m going to go take a walk around the lobby, get some coffee, you want anything?” she asked casually, something having shifted irrevocably between them that Jim didn’t have the presence of mind to examine.
 
“No, not right now. Thanks, Uhura.”
 
She paused in the doorway.
 
“My name is Nyota.” Jim turned to look at her but she was already gone, sweeping down the hall with brusque sure steps. He frowned for a moment before turning slowly back around and looking at Bones who was looking right back at him.
 
“Bones?” Jim whispered, squeezing his hand and standing up to lean over the bed so Bones didn’t have to crane his neck. He blinked slowly, eyes still half lidded, but a small smile made itself known on his face. Jim grinned back, laughing joyously.
 
“Bones!” He watched, utterly still as Bones mouthed his name, weakly squeezing his hand back.
 
“Yeah, Bones, I’m right here. Not going anywhere. Uhura’s here too but you, you go back to sleep if you can’t stay awake, we’ll stay right with you.” It seemed to be the right thing to say because Bones gently squeezed his hand one more time and let his eyes drop closed once more.
 
--
 
It only took another twenty-four hours or so before Bones was lucid enough to do any real talking. The police only left once Bones had given his statement and pushed Jim completely clear of any lingering suspicion. They retreated, explaining they had a lot of information and evidence to process and that they would be in touch.
 
As far as Jim was concerned the break-in didn’t matter nearly as much as Bones’ life did. It still stung every time he watched Bones wince in pain from his sore body or have to take a break from talking to catch his breath.
 
He regained his strength slowly, encouraged by a seemingly constant stream of visitors through his room once word had gotten around he had fallen ‘ill’. Some of the people Jim knew, some he had yet to meet. A man called M’Benga stayed for a few hours, who seemed to know Bones quite well and made him laugh readily. Jim watched their interaction from the hall, just out of view, feeling juxtaposed between happiness that Bones was doing so well, and darkness in the realization there was still so much he didn’t know about him.
 
Most to stop by however made Bones snarky and grumpy and more and more like his usual self with each flower-toting well-wisher. Jim tried to limit his time with the man now that he was conscious. Uhura’s observation and his subsequent confession had not come without their own repercussions.
 
Mostly he worried he wasn’t being a good enough friend. That was what Bones needed, what they both needed, a friend. Feelings always made things complicated, they added strings and awkward tension that got tangled up with simple actions and conversations, and Jim didn’t want any of that to tamper with what was the purest kind of simple friendship he had with Bones.
 
The problem was the feelings were still there. There was just something, something not quite platonic or brotherly, about his affection for the other man that Jim just couldn’t completely snuff out.
 
Worry or not, he had his own schedule to get back to again when he finally returned to his studio. He got there only to find it already cleaned up by Scotty and Uhura, his curtain repaired and his entire faucet replaced. His father’s painting was newly hung over the sink, enthroned in a protective glass case.
 
He sat down, momentarily stunned that they would do something like this for him, and he had no doubt Uhura had helped. There was a new blown-glass vase filled with flowers on his work table, resting beside it a brushed metal journal case with locking clasp.
 
In the chaos of the past few days he hadn’t really had a chance to realize the implications of his father’s journal being stolen. Obviously it had been important to someone, but for what reason Jim couldn’t fathom. Whatever information it possessed he had apparently absorbed as well from reading it - why else would the burglars have tried to poison him?
 
But who knew that the journal even still existed or that Jim had it? His mother, Pike, and everyone who he had eaten with on the fourth of July. He hated to think one of them could possibly be behind something like this, but he had to admit it was the most likely scenario.
 
Come to think of it, his mother had called just before the break-in, and had been spooked at the mention of Pike’s name. If those weren’t suspicious circumstances Jim didn’t know what were. But, the fact remained that his mother was still his mother…she wouldn’t try to kill him…at least he hoped she wouldn’t. So that left Pike.
 
What had he said the last time Jim had spoken with him? Jim didn’t know what dangerous things he was dealing with? Considering the circumstances, apparently Pike had been right, and wasn’t that incriminating.
 
Any further attempts to contact Pike would probably be futile, especially if he was behind all this, and his mother would only shut down further if she found out about him being robbed. Jim stood, frustrated with his lack of options. Everything was a dead end.
 
Eyes falling on the stack of empty canvases that were waiting for his inspiration, he shuddered. Why was he doing this? Trying to play boy detective when there was no way he was getting more information than the police, it was crazy. He was a painter who had a job and a friend in the hospital; he had better things to do.
 
Thoughts falling on Bones again, Jim shook his head. Bones had a lot of friends for such a grumpy person, and yet it still seemed like there was something missing during the calm between visitors. Jim knew what it was like to be in the hospital without anyone waiting for him, no loved ones, no family. He blinked. Family, Bones didn’t have any of his actual family around.
 
An idea began to half form in his mind but he paused, considering the consequences his actions would hold. Was being a good friend worth crossing a few personal boundaries? He knew Bones’s family was a touchy subject for him obviously, having left behind so much. Jim shook his head. No, this was something that needed to be done, it wasn’t a question of if it was worth it at all.
 
Grabbing his largest canvas he set it up. He had the perfect idea forming for this one, and while he worked the undercoat he could finalize his plans for Bones.
 
--
 
Bringing Bones home a little less than a week later was difficult. Him not being unconscious, nor in a blind panic, he wouldn’t get in the truck and wasn’t strong enough to walk all the way home yet. Jim was getting so tired of haggling with him he was almost ready to borrow a wheel chair and push him all the way home just to get him to shut up.
 
Luckily Scotty came through – having been through this ritual a necessary time or two, he knew that a mild over the counter sedative would have Bones relaxed enough to be stuffed into the cab of the truck for the precious minutes it would take to get back to the firehouse.
 
So when they finally managed to get Bones settled into his own bed, he was pleasantly calm and polite, thanking them for their help and Uhura for making him some lunch.
 
The landline began to ring, and Jim tried to smother his grin as Uhura answered it and handed the receiver to Bones without another word. A suspicious smile had made an appearance on her face and she gave Jim a look that said she knew exactly what he was up to, as she swept through the doorway.
 
Lingering for just a moment more he allowed himself to see Bones’ surprised smile in getting a call from his little girl who had mysteriously found out he was under the weather.
 
Putting his worries to rest about what lines he was crossing while he was crossing them was never quite the same thing as when he put his final plan in motion and watched it work, ready to be judged by others. But there it was, in progress, Bones exclaiming he was doing much better now that his ‘Joanna-Bean’ had called.
 
Bones looked up at him sharply, a knowing glint in his eyes, which Jim could only shake his head at and leave, trying to look innocent. He entered his own studio feeling on top of the world. He still had to face whatever wrath would come of him going through Bones’ old-school address book and convincing his ex-wife to let their daughter call him but somehow...it had all been worth it already.
 
With that mood in mind, he took to his stool and continued the painting he had started when the idea had first taken shape. Something about this one, this painting was different from the rest. It had a kind of beauty in it that Jim had never created before. This was one he knew he wasn’t showing anyone until the gallery opening.
 
Less than an hour later there was a knock to his door, making him grab the nearest drop cloth and toss it over the painting like it was something shameful and secret. Looking to the door he laughed at Bones’ perplexed expression.
 
“Hey, why are you out of bed?”
 
“I just spent a week in bed. I’m not an invalid,” Bones grouched and took a few more steps into the room. Looking around with hesitation, his eyes lingered on the shiny new faucet on the sink.
 
“What are you working on?” he asked instead of saying anything about the changes he saw.
 
“It’s…I’m not showing anyone. I think it’ll jinx it if I do.” Jim put a protective hand on one corner of the cloth-covered canvas, hoping Bones didn’t take it personally.
 
“That nice?” He wandered over to Jim’s table, touching the container he had glazed with gentle fingers.
 
“Hopefully.”
 
Jim watched Bones, loitering in his studio, looking out the windows and gathering his thoughts. He knew what was coming, the confrontation about what Jim had done, either thanks or punishment.
 
“You called my ex-wife?” Bones shook his head eventually, laughing and rolling his eyes bitterly.
 
“Yeah, I thought if you couldn’t see your family, maybe hearing from them might be the next best thing,” he stated openly, taking up a brush and casually swirling it through his water pail to knock out the paint from its bristles.
 
“What made you think I needed my daughter knowing I was ‘sick’?” Bones turned to look at him, some menace starting to creep into the edges of his words, but Jim just shrugged – he had seen the way Bones’ face had lit up hearing his girl’s voice.
 
“Because everyone likes to hear from their family when they aren’t feeling well. She didn’t know why you weren’t well, did know you’d been in this hospital, she just knew enough that you might need to be cheered up.”
 
“Cheered up,” Bones said flatly, and Jim struggled not to laugh. It did sound slightly ridiculous looking back. When was Bones ever the definition of cheery? But Bones seemed to have drifted on to new thoughts, his face serious, a line drawn between his brows.
 
"I almost died. I might never have spoken to her again,” he said somberly and Jim slowed in his motions of drying his brush out.
 
“You could have. But you didn’t. Bones...I… It was my fault, this whole thing happening. I should have known–” Jim took the water pail over to the sink, busying himself with rinsing it out and refilling it.
 
“It wasn’t your fault. It could have happened to any one of us, and you certainly didn’t just invite someone to go pawing through your things and take your father’s goddamn journal. You aren’t a psychic either, don’t blame yourself for something you couldn’t have seen coming. I just happened to be the one dumb enough to drink tap water.” Bones grumbled, playing it off casually, but Jim knew how close it had been to a gravely serious situation. Jim had sat with him before any help had arrived and just watched...it had been terrible.
 
“I’m sorry anyway,” he mumbled even as Bones made for the door. Bones paused and turned back, one hand on the doorframe.
 
“I know kid...I know.” He nodded and ducked his head as he left. 
 
--
 
With the beginning of August came the return of normalcy to Jim’s life, or at least what he assumed passed as normal. With the pressing deadline of his show encroaching he was beginning to feel the pressure to live up to his name, and to his already somewhat innovative reputation.
 
The now completed painting sat in his studio, unseen by anyone other than Jim. It had become something of an obsession, this painting. He had worked on it at all hours of the day, engrossed in its development, in its detail and layering. He wasn’t sure what about it in particular was distinguishing it from any of the other paintings he had created over the years but there was just something about this one that felt more significant.
 
It was because this painting was so revolutionary compared to all of its predecessors that its anonymity had to come to an end. The only person Jim trusted to show it to right now was Spock. Fueled by the fact he was going to have to see it and assess it anyway, Jim figured there was no better person to allow access to this most intriguing development. The fact that he was literally at Jim’s disposal also didn’t hurt.
 
Spock and Uhura, while still a highly discreet couple, were beginning to relax around him in their interactions together. As a result, Jim was more in tune to the instances when Spock was actually within the firehouse. Surprisingly, or maybe not surprisingly at all, he was there quite a lot. It was one of the amusing things that Spock and Uhura actually fought about: whether he should just move in or not.
 
They were ‘discussing’ just that topic once again in the kitchen when Jim came down the fire pole looking for Spock.
 
“How does keeping the little shoebox, hell-hole you call an apartment make any logical sense, Spock? I just don’t understand!” Uhura carried on, plucking a bottle of water from the refrigerator and slamming it onto the counter top.
 
Spock, leaning one hip against the island looked at her with calm collection.  He took a deep breath in the way that signaled to Jim he was about to launch into a long, long meticulously and logically explained counter argument.
 
“Hey!” Jim interjected, smiling apologetically. “I don’t want to interrupt or anything but, Spock, when you’ve got a minute could you take a look at one of my pieces? I have a few...stylistic questions I’d like to get your opinion on.” He tried to back away peacefully although they were both still staring at him like he had just popped in out of nowhere.
 
“It’s fine, Jim, he’s available now. We’re done here.” Uhura shot Spock a look that clearly said she was unhappy with him, grabbed her bottle of water and stalked off into her studio, slamming the door behind her. They both stood looking in the direction as to which she had disappeared for a minute in silence.
 
“I... hope I didn’t just cause you to rack up some serious intimate time with the sofa.” Jim shifted uncomfortably but Spock didn’t look concerned, on the contrary he seemed slightly amused.
 
“No. This is one of the numerous reasons I have my own apartment,” he said, with a decidedly smug tone to his voice if Jim didn’t know any better.
 
“If you say so.” Jim led the way back to the stairs. “I don’t know how you can be so calm if she’s that upset with you.”
 
“She is not as you say ‘that upset’, merely frustrated that I have remained firm upon this one point,” Spock said from behind him.
 
“Why be stubborn now? I’ve been around you two long enough to know you let her have whatever she wants.” Jim strode casually down the hall and gestured for Spock to precede him into his studio.
 
“A relationship is not a dictatorship. We regularly come to agreements on many of our opposing opinions and create solutions. This matter is merely more resilient than those that have come before.” Spock looked around Jim’s studio, it having been rearranged recently so he could work on his painting and protect it from the eyes of anyone lurking by the door.
 
“Right, rational compromises I get. But the other day she said she thought your hair could do with a change in style and you completely rolled over for her, man.” He led Spock around to the other side of his set of tables, dragging an extra chair along with him.
 
“When it comes to matters of personal aesthetics I have long come to accept she has far superior tastes than I. My hair is a point with which she is never satisfied. It is best just to allow her her concessions,” he stated in a plainly bored voice, as if his hair was something that caused Uhura great grief and couldn’t bother him if it tried.
 
“But you have requested my assistance with your painting, not my opinion of how the politics of a relationship are successfully navigated.” Spock sunk into the chair Jim had brought over and looked at the covered canvas with a suspiciously appraising eye.
 
“Right.” Jim grabbed one corner of the cloth, took a deep breath and pulled, revealing his secret, his baby to Spock.
 
One of the most annoying things about Spock, Jim decided, was his ability to completely mask the thoughts that were going through his mind from appearing on his face. He took in the painting, eyes flowing freely over it, tilting his head slightly and folding his hands politely in his lap.
 
Well?” Jim asked when it finally got to be too much. He had to know if he had somehow actually created something mundane, or possibly even copied someone else without realizing it. If anyone would know objectively if his work was any good it would be Spock.
 
Slowly, the other man looked away from the painting and carefully at Jim.
 
“May I inquire as to the name of the piece?”
 
Jim frowned and looked at it again, realizing what Spock was asking and for the first time became a little flustered. He waved a hand as if to dismiss it as unimportant.
 
“It ah, it’s undecided,” he muttered, looking at the painting intently when Spock’s left eyebrow rose smoothly in reply.
 
“It is a captivating piece, none the less. Usually paintings that have come into this level of detail and attention from their painters have deep personal connections and meanings. The emotions captured are not always beautiful, but they are intense.” Jim sunk onto his stool.
 
“I would encourage you to seek the emotional source of your creativity and analyze it. To produce more paintings of this quality and inventiveness would be extremely beneficial to your future.”
 
“Emotional source?”
 
“Some call it inspiration, their muse, but it is no product of divine intervention.” Spock nudged the easel with his foot, tilting the painting even more in his direction. “I asked for the name as it may give some indication as to what the painting means. If you are undecided on the title, perhaps you are also undecided in your thought process.” He wrapped one arm around his body and rested the elbow of the other upon it, stroking his chin thoughtfully with tapered fingers.
 
“My thought process has been…hectic with this one,” Jim admitted. “It’s not really a product of any real idea or concept, just what I wanted and needed to paint.”
 
“What were you doing when you first started the painting?” Spock finally looked away, putting his full attention onto Jim. He frowned and thought back to the previous weeks, Bones in the hospital, Jim calling the Ex with the grand plan…it was then wasn’t it? He had been distracting himself from Bones.
 
“I was just distracting myself when Bones was in the hospital.” Jim looked at the painting again, trying to see his emotional turmoil, his guilt represented in paint but…it wasn’t really like that. This painting was airy, dimensional, serious darks beneath layers and layers of glimmering gossamer white and opalescent blue.
 
“Distraction from your worry over Leonard’s welfare?”
 
“What? Yeah I guess-” Jim was interrupted by a soft knock on the door.
 
“Sorry. I didn’t know you were doing a consult today.” Bones stepped through the entranceway a mug clutched in his hands. “I just…made you a cup of tea.” He set it down on the table by the door.
 
“It’s cold today,” he said by way of explanation, and then retreated, back into the hall just as quickly and quietly as he had arrived. His curt demeanor was confusing. Usually Bones loitered, making conversation, or at the very least making fun of Spock. But he had swept away like he’d been busy, which obviously couldn’t be true if he was taking time from his schedule to brew Jim a mug of tea.
 
Perhaps he had heard some of their conversation, that he had probably been the cause of Jim’s latest painting. Jim wondered why that was so terrible. It was natural for friends to be concerned about each other…He made his way over to the door, closing it softly and then picking up the mug.
 
He had never seen this particular one before; it was a large, with a barrel shape, a wide mouth and a sturdy handle. The glaze upon it was a kind of electric blue so pure he wondered how he had ever missed it sitting in the cupboard. The solution came by way of Spock once again.
 
“Ah, Leonard has finally made you one of his mugs.”
 
“What?” Jim looked up from the mug in his hand.
 
“He gifts his friends with coffee or tea mugs, tailored to their needs. It is a thoughtful but unnecessary practice. It appears your mug can be alternately used as a brush storage container or to hold water.” Spock seemed interested enough in the mug so Jim carefully carried it over and offered it for his inspection.
 
“Ah, he has used a new clay body,” Spock declared, lifting the mug to see the unglazed bottom. “Porcelain if I am not mistaken.” He pulled back suddenly, setting the mug down upon the table.
 
“What?”
 
Spock slowly looked up at Jim and when he caught his gaze he held it for a long minute.
 
“Perhaps… Leonard’s gifting you with this mug and your painting are related.”
 
“How?”
 
“In the relatively short period of time you have known each other you have grown quite close and gone through several harrowing experiences together. I would dare to say your painting at the very least was not inspired by you worry for Leonard’s health but rather your feelings regarding Leonard himself.”
 
“Feelings regarding…”
 
“And for that matter, Leonard creates his mugs with the receiver in mind. For him to have presumably just recently finished this indicates he has been contemplating you as well for a similar period of time.”
 
“Are you saying…what Bones is my muse?” Jim held back a laugh but couldn’t stop the ridiculous smile of disbelief from spreading over his face.
 
“No. As I have previously said, I do not believe in the concept of muses. I am merely suggesting that the emotions Leonard provokes in you are the cause of this creative output on your painting. You obviously feel strongly for him.”
 
Jim froze. Now Spock knew something? Had Uhura told him or had he just figured it out on his own? This knowledge of his feelings was starting to spread like a sickness he just couldn’t cure.
 
“I don’t know how I feel about him, alright? I don’t know what Uhura told you but could you keep it to yourself for now?” Jim watched Spock turn to him with an utterly perplexed eyebrow tilt. A sinking feeling began to engulf his gut. “You have no idea what I’m talking about do you?”
 
“Although I admit I am quite unsure of where our conversation has turned, I am beginning to understand what has transpired.” His gaze swept over the painting and the mug again.
 
“In that case I suggest then that it is not me you need to speak with, rather Leonard. I suspect he could more adequately provide the answers to your concerns.” Spock looked pointedly at the mug still steaming on the worktable and stood.
 
“Jim, as your curator…and as your friend I urge you to speak with him, the sooner the better.” He rounded the tables, gave Jim a solemn nod and left him in the studio feeling like he had just stumbled upon something, although what he didn’t quite know.
 
He picked up the mug and took a sip of the tea within, closing his eyes in defeat. It was exactly the way he liked it.
 
--
 
The painting changed things. There was no way around it. Jim had created it, it had been fueled by emotions, and therefore there was no more hiding. He started at it, contemplating it for long minutes, the mug cradled in his hands.
 
Spock’s words circled in his head as he swirled the dregs left in his mug. If Bones had been thinking about Jim just like Jim had been thinking about Bones…whether they knew it or not they were acknowledging whatever was happening between them…whatever they were both headed for, together.
 
The whole thing was a mess. What the hell was he supposed to do now? Drop everything just to find out what was going on with them? He didn’t want to risk the delicate balance of friendship they were precariously perched upon. But if he didn’t do anything…how was he going to keep painting if he knew was capable of this but never reached that emotional peak again?
 
Speaking to Bones as Spock had suggested did not seem like as good of an idea as it sounded. First there was the small detail that Bones seemed to be avoiding him at all costs. Apparently he was just as unsure and possibly afraid of what was transpiring as Jim was. It was like dealing with a wild animal. If he wanted it to come closer the only thing he could do was wait and hold his breath, hoping desperately that nothing would interrupt.
 
Second was pure stress. Jim literally didn’t have time to play games with Bones if they were going to only end up talking around the subject. He had at least ten more paintings to finish in three weeks. He couldn’t let his entire life fall into a pit just because something deep and possibly amazing might or might not be falling into his life.
 
So he tried to focus, tried to ignore the outside world but not neglect his friends.
 
Mostly this technique found Chekov and Sulu bringing a sofa into his studio so they could lounge around while he frantically worked. Not that they weren’t working as well, Sulu tinkering with his camera and Chekov never far from his laptop. Chekov was turning out to be quite the baby computer genius, writing code at a rate like he spoke it instead of Russian. And when that code was implemented he could create some of the most magnificent websites. Whenever anyone asked him about it, however, he usually just shrugged and said it was a hobby.
 
With two weeks to his deadline, Sulu and Jim were in the kitchen getting some food to bring upstairs, although Sulu was far more interested in the way the light was hitting Jim and refused to help carry anything until he could take a few shots with his massive yet creepily silent, ninja-fast camera. Chekov as usual had feigned needing the bathroom so he could skip out of carrying duty. Strange of him really, but not atypical; though the kid never stopped seeming strange to Jim, like there was something not quite right about him. But Sulu seemed to accept him wholeheartedly, and maybe even a tad besottedly. So Jim chalked it up to him being paranoid and Chekov being foreign, young, and generally weird.
 
When they finally did pile up all the food into their arms and began climbing the stairs, Jim thought he caught a glimpse of someone disappearing back into the basement. It hurt, the ongoing avoidance and awkwardness with Bones. Jim shook his head. In the short time he had known Bones he had really come to appreciate his company and now being deprived of it was like missing a hand.
 
Putting the thoughts from his mind and refocusing on food, he hustled back into his studio in silence while Sulu flicked contentedly through his camera’s image gallery with one hand. When they arrived, however, Chekov was not hunched over his laptop on the sofa as usual but instead half caught between the curtain of Jim’s bedroom and the main studio. Sulu and Chekov had never gone into his bedroom before, there was no need to with only his personal things stashed there…but apparently Chekov had had some need to go through his personal things. In one hand he held a pile of envelopes, the familiar pile of envelopes Jim recognized as the mail he had just picked up from his personal PO Box this morning.
 
They all stared at each other in shocked silence before Sulu looked up and frowned.
 
“What are you doing?” He moved to set the plates and cutlery he was carrying onto one of Jim’s tables.
 
“Ah-” Chekov looked at the mail in his hands and the look darkening over Jim’s face, “I am very sorry. I was just curious…” He held the stack of mostly bills out for Jim to take from him.
 
“What were you so curious about that you went through his mail? C’mon Pavel what a shit thing to do, man,” Sulu scoffed taking the bowls and containers out of Jim’s arms to set aside as well. Pavel’s eyes darted back to the mail frantically.
 
“I want to know- to know what is your middle name?” A rosy glow began to rise up on his cheeks and Jim slowly took the envelopes from him.
 
“Middle name,” Jim said with skepticism, but Pavel merely nodded frantically, curls bobbing comically. Sulu snorted.
 
“Why didn’t you just ask him instead of going through his shit?”
 
“I-” Chekov stammered with wide eyes, gaze darting frantically between Sulu and Jim. “I have very big…crush.” At that Sulu stilled completely.
 
“Wait, a crush on…me?” Jim took in the way Chekov’s face seemed to turn even darker red, and suddenly what had seemed serious and sort of scary had turned into something too amusing for words. He kept laughter at bay however, sensing the level of tension in the room had not dissipated but merely transferred between Sulu and Chekov.
 
“I am very sorry.” Chekov said. Jim assumed it was directed at him but his eyes never left Sulu’s.
 
“It’s…um it’s okay. My… middle name is Tiberius. Next time just ask me, or, hell, go to a library and look up a few books on my dad.” Jim tried to pull a smile or two from them but his joke fell startlingly flat.
 
“He already did,” Sulu said in a hollow voice, eyes glazed. He dropped his hands from the tables and blinked several times shaking his head. “You know, I have to go. I just, I remember I left some film…” He was darting out the door and sliding down the fire pole before he even finished his sentence. Jim swore quietly, raking a hand through his hair. He looked over his shoulder at where Chekov was standing looking puzzled.
 
“Chekov-Pavel.” Jim began trying not to sound patronizing or, well, anything other than like a concerned friend, “Man, I’m just going to avoid us both a lot of awkwardness and tell you now I’m not really looking for any sort of…” he grasped for words, “Involvement? With anyone right now. So really, I think the best thing would be to grab your stuff, and take Sulu’s camera and go after him. You can probably get Scotty to drive you if the Transporter hasn’t broken down by now.” He handed the clunky camera to Chekov who cradled it a tad unsurely at first but determination grew in his eyes and he nodded. He shut his laptop and stuffed it into his bag and then was trotting off, slipping down the fire pole as quiet as a ghost.
 
Jim shook his head.
 
“These are the gay days of our lives,” he murmured, huffing and trying to get resettled into his work. Just when he was about to really get back to it, his brush newly loaded, food within arms reach, his phone began to play its jaunty tune from across the studio.
 
He threw the brush down looking over at his phone with loathing. Usually he turned his phone off when he was painting, but because he was so close to show date, Spock needed him to be contactable and just wasn’t satisfied with using Uhura as a go between.
 
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m coming, don’t get your robotic panties in a wad,” he muttered as the tune continued to blare while he ambled over. The display of his phone wasn’t Spock’s number and the hilarious up the nose picture he’d managed to take of the man. Instead it merely said ‘unavailable name and number’.
 
“Hello?”
 
“You need to get your ass over to the Maru, now.”
 
Jim almost didn’t recognize the voice but the inflection at the end? That was pure Pike.
 
“I’m sorry, I don’t respond to childish demands.”
 
“Jim. I’m not dicking around. I’ll tell you whatever you want. This is serious.”
 
Jim frowned, Pike sounded actually…sort of scared.
 
“What’s going on?”
 
“Remember Robau?” Pike didn’t wait for his answer. “He’s dead.”

Chapter Text

Chekov apparently had taken Scotty up on that lift in the Transporter so Jim was stuck with jogging over to the gallery, which wasn’t actually that far away, but even the minor delay was enough to annoy him.
 
So Robau was dead. Pike had said that his body had been found in Mexico where he had been ‘vacationing’ all this time. He didn’t have much more information he was willing to disclose over the phone other than that police were still investigating the circumstances surrounding his death.
 
It was only when he was about half way in the door that he remembered how suspicious he should be of Pike. Perhaps this whole thing was an elaborate ruse to get him alone and kill him? Well, he had come this far already, if he was killed in the gallery he was sure Spock would know about it within minutes, via his creepy sixth sense and or possibly a very advanced surveillance system of his.
 
So he slowed his pace, gave Janice a wink when she waved him through, and wound his way to the back of the gallery where Spock’s office was. He could only assume this was where Pike wanted to meet him.
 
His hunch turned out to be right. A door a few paces past Spock’s down the hall was standing open in invitation. Within sat Pike behind a large wooden desk, contemplating a large cardboard file box upon it. The office otherwise seemed plain enough, a few personal touches displayed, a panorama shot of some desert hanging across the wall behind Pike’s desk and a large prickly green cactus in the corner.
 
“Please, close the door.”
 
Jim followed Pike’s request, wondering if perhaps there was a gun in the box, or maybe a cross bow or some other wicked murder weapon. When Jim had taken a seat in front of the desk, Pike leaned forward and set his elbows upon the polished wooden surface.
 
“I called you here because, this box? I think it has something to do with the questions you were asking me about your father’s journal.” He rested a hand atop it. “But damn if I know what.”
 
Jim blinked. Well, that was neither a murderous thing to say nor a very clarifying statement.
 
“I was reluctant to talk with you before because I thought Winona was trying to, I don’t know, pay penance for some past wrong she’d done, we’d done.” Pike shook his head in a tired way.  
 
Jim began to feel queasy; he did not like at all the direction this conversation was going in.
 
“When your father and I both worked at the Kelvin your mother, and your brother for that matter stopped by from time to time, checking in I suppose. I was…an idiot, young, impulsive and your mother, was she ever something. Sharp as a knife, kind, funny, and beautiful; she was beautiful, probably still is actually. Anyway I…I thought I could…I don’t know, steal her from your father somehow.” He shook his head. “I’m not proud of it, and she always rightly turned me down. We kept it from your father until…well until he died.”
 
Jim sat, uncomfortable but understanding. This was why Pike had been so quick to shy away from Jim’s questioning. Pike had thought George had found out about the two of them and had written about it, and that Jim was trying to…to avenge him or something.
 
“He didn’t know. He never wrote about it, he liked you.” Jim didn’t know what to say, still didn’t know why he was there, what the box possibly contained, or even what all of this had to do with Robau.
 
“Yes, I didn’t call you here because of that, but it needed to be said before I show you this.” He drummed his fingers on the box. Jim swallowed and nodded.
 
“When Robau’s death was made official, a private courier was instructed to take this package from a safety deposit box and deliver it to me immediately. His wife has no idea what it is, there are no instructions, nothing about me in it. From what little I’ve pieced together it has something to do with what the Kelvin group inspired before it broke apart. Or at least, that’s what I think.” He shook his head and flipped back the lid of the box, “It’s a mess, honestly. I have no idea what it’s saying or why I’ve been given it. I called you because I found this and thought you might find it interesting.” He reached into the box and pulled out a framed photograph. He looked at it a moment and then handed it to Jim.
 
Beneath the glass there peered back at him the full, undamaged photo from his father’s journal. He gaped and his gaze shot up to look at Pike.
 
“There’s more, take the photo out.”
 
Jim struggled with the felt backing of the frame but eventually popped it away and there listed from left to right in tidy handwriting was the first initial and last name of every person in the photo.
 
“What else is in that box?” he asked looking at the names, growing realization welling in the pit of his stomach.
 
“I don’t really know to tell you the truth. There’s a lot of auction records – Robau seemed to have been collecting something, he has various pieces highlighted. There are a few newspaper articles that sort of thing…why? Do you know what it means?” Pike sifted through the loose pile of papers within.
 
Jim looked at him clutching the frame tightly in his hands.
 
“Maybe. Do you think I could borrow it? Look through everything just for maybe the weekend?” he asked as Pike flipped the lid closed again.
 
“I don’t know why not…but…Kirk I’m trusting you with this. You don’t let this box leave your sight even for a second. It arrived in an armoured van. Whatever Robau was doing, he thought it important enough to give it those precautions.”
 
“No, no you’re completely right. I’ll keep it close at all times.” He nodded, turned the frame over and looked into the face of the man beside his father, smiling brightly. His name was N. Sulu.
 
--

The walk home seemed to take an infinitely long time, at least three times as long as the jog to the gallery had. It could have been the added physical weight of the box of papers but more likely it was the metaphorical weight, pulling at Jim’s racing mind.
 
He wanted his answers now and this box held them all. So when he finally made it back to his studio he succumbed to his need to dump the box out immediately. He pushed a few of his tables out of the way and against the wall first and then got down on his knees and tipped the box like an excited five-year-old with his first real sack of Halloween loot.
 
The papers that fluttered out were exactly as Pike described: auction receipts, book keeping records, newspaper articles, textbook photocopies. Some were connected to the Kelvin but others seemed random and only a scant few had anything to do with his father or Sulu senior. Staggeringly some of the records were old, as old as Jim was, actually, the oldest were from the year he was born. One particular article, dated only a few months after Jim was born, was about how a promising new business savvy young artist – Sulu senior – was making waves in the art world by buying and selling art smartly.
 
The fact that the mysterious N in Jim’s father’s journal was actually auction lord Norio Sulu was staggering. Did Hikaru know that their fathers had known each other? That they had belonged to the same studio organization?
 
All of his calls to Sulu remained unanswered, possibly he was still pissed because of whatever he thought was going on between Chekov and Jim. He was just cursing Sulu’s voicemail message once again when he noticed a figure in his doorway.
 
Bones, adorned in an old red Ol’ Miss sweater and a well loved pair of jeans, looked positively like a dream come true, right down to the slightly mussed hair he was sporting like he’d been napping on it or possibly just running his hands through it repeatedly.
 
“Are…are you busy?” Bones asked in a gruff sort of way, clearing his throat. “I can come back…”
 
Jim stared at him blankly, wondering how Bones could have possibly garnered this ability to have the worst timing in the history of the world.
 
“Fuck, no, yes.” He squeezed his eyes shut. “I’m sort of in the middle of something,” he laughed at the unintentionally literal interpretation to his words, “but come in, please.” He hoped it didn’t sound like begging but didn’t really care when Bones just gave a bob of his head and entered further into the room.
 
“Doing a little paper work?” he asked with one upraised brow, surprising Jim when he lowered himself onto the floor, sitting with his legs crossed on the other side of the mad arc of papers Jim had created around him.
 
“Pike called me with this box of…I don’t even know what. The man who ran my father’s studio died, or was murdered or something, anyway he had a private courier deliver this stuff to Pike. He doesn’t know what it all means, but there’s the photo my dad had in his journal, the full version.” He handed Bones the photo he’d taken from the frame.
 
“And look, the back has everyone’s names. The guy beside my dad? N. Sulu.”
 
“You mean like…?”
 
“The very same.”
 
“What does that mean?” Bones tilted his head in an attempt to see the papers properly.
 
“I don’t know. I don’t know what any of this means.” Jim shook his head staring down at the mess before him once more. None of it was making very much sense, but there had to be something connecting them all, something that Robau had seen. “I’ve been trying to create patterns but nothing is really working. I found a couple duplicates, and a few auction receipts that belong to houses I know are owned by the Sulus.” Jim pointed them out where he had neatly grouped them and Bones nodded.
 
“This…this one is owned by them too…and so is this other one.” Bones reshuffled a few of the papers and then looked up. “Where’s your computer?”
 
Jim let Bones retrieve the laptop and settle back down with it, fingers flying surprisingly nimbly over the keyboard.
 
“These four are also connected to Sulu.” He pointed to them and Jim tucked them into their new places. It went on like that, Bones searching items, company names, whatever they could think of to try and relate it back to Sulu. Every time it eventually circled back.
 
“So this was an investigation,” Jim murmured to himself looking at the web of papers, “But what was he looking for?” He picked up an auction receipt, reading the details of the small horse figurine that had been sold for $30 000. The horse looked familiar…Jim scanned the read of the papers – there! One of the textbook photocopies claimed that a similar horse had been stolen from a museum in Prague only a few years previously. Looking at the photos, however, the horses were identical.
 
“Bones…” He looked up with a frown. “Look up missing soapstone horse miniature by Leewunhook,” he said, looking at the textbook with wary gaze.
 
“What am I looking at? A little horse with a broken ear and some serious abrasions, hasn’t been seen in years.” He looked up as Jim handed over the two papers.
 
“It was sold last year.”
 
“How is that possible?” Bones frowned at the pages, his eyes skimming back and forth over the print.
 
“I…don’t know.” It didn’t make any sense unless someone in Sulu’s operation had some connections to under the table dealings with stolen art. But these records were too extensive for just one person, if Robau was onto something underhanded in the way Sulu’s business was run he had gone straight back to the beginning…straight back to Sulu himself.
 
“This is…this is huge, Bones.” Jim sat back, looking at the papers around them, starting to realize what he’d discovered. The Sulu empire was built on fraud – stealing, cons, forgeries you name it, there was probably evidence of it.
 
How his father tied into the picture Jim had no idea. Perhaps he didn’t, but that didn’t change the fact that George had written about Norio bothering him about not taking advantage of his place in the public eye. Jim snorted looking at the newspaper article again, where Norio’s smug face smiled at him in smudgy ink, apparently he had had no such problems.
 
“Huge enough Robau got himself killed for knowing it?” Bones asked tensely. He handed the last set of papers back to Jim. Their hands brushed together in the exchange. They both paused and Jim looked up at the other man feeling suddenly like the floor had dropped out beneath him and his stomach was in free-fall.
 
“Why did you come in here? What did you want to talk to me about?” he asked, unable to look away from Bones’ gaze.
 
“It-” Bones blinked first, shaking his head, “It doesn’t matter now.” He pulled his hand back and rubbed both his palms along his thighs. “What matters is that you don’t get yourself killed. Not for this Jim, not for a box of papers and suspicious circumstances. You’ve got a show, a deadline, paintings to finish, and if this doesn’t end up taking your head off, Spock is sure to if you don’t get your act together.”
 
He unfolded himself and rose gracefully to his feet, yeah, old man claims be damned.
 
“Papers don’t go bad. Give the box back to Pike, tell him to put it behind a safe, I’m sure he’s got one, and tell him to be careful. Then deal with this when you’re finished with the show launch.”  He shook his head and strode towards the door.
 
“Bones.” Jim stopped him, cursing his own big mouth. What was he going to do? Just pull his heart out of his chest and hand it to him still beating? Why not sprinkle rose petals and recite poetry too?
 
“Thanks.” He gave his head a tiny shake. He looked over his shoulder at the other man, still in the doorway, silhouetted by the light from below. “For this and…and for the mug.” It wasn’t nearly close to what needed to be said but it would do for now.
 
Bones seemed to agree by the way he blinked and nodded, patting the door frame as if he wanted to say something more but thought better of it before he could.  He padded away and Jim turned back to the mess before him, slowly putting everything back into the box, wondering when his life became so complicated.
 
--
 
The difference between Bones’ advice and Spock’s advice was that Jim actually listened to Bones. He gave the box back to Pike with strict instructions that he was not to open it again, but instead take it straight to somewhere it would be safe, to a bank vault or at least in a safe guarded by dogs who were guarded by alarms. Jim, however, kept the full photo of the Kelvin group, locking it into Uhura’s steel journal case when he wasn’t looking at it.
 
As the final days before the show began to wear away Spock became a whirlwind of activity, making plans, sending invitations, asking Jim for quotes, assessing his paintings, measuring dimensions, hiring caterers, and finally – horribly – working with the press.
 
Once word got out James Kirk was showing in the city his father had lived and died in, it was like some kind of tabloid bomb had gone off. There were suddenly media trucks on the lawn in front of the firehouse, paparazzi waiting for him when he was just going on a coffee run and his cell phone had had to be disconnected from its current number. Spock had had some idea this was going to happen, so the top of his head thankfully hadn’t blown right off, but it was bigger than he had ever imagined. It didn’t help that Jim had never told him about his rather extravagant past few years of skimming by on his name and looks. Women and men were stepping out of the woodwork left and right, going to the papers and the damn internet with their stories of nights spent with Jim.
 
For the most part it didn’t bother him. He wasn’t ashamed of his past, and the only time he even came close to apologizing or making excuses for it was when Bones was critically looking over the two-page spread of women’s quotes who claimed to have slept with him in the past two years. Luckily none of them had anything bad to say.
 
Mostly, he frantically tried to finish up his paintings while avoiding the paparazzi and ignoring everything else. It didn’t help that Spock was so far up his ass about everything Jim was tasting bowl cut, but what had to be done had to be done. It was obvious at least that Spock was impeccable at his job and where a less observant man would have suggested he get an assistant to handle the more mundane bouts of phone answering he had to do, Jim knew that this is what Spock lived for.

Uhura seemed understanding about the whole thing at least, well, really everyone was being understanding. Scotty’s only complaint was that with all the people milling about the house it was getting even harder to keep track of where Keenser was at any one time.
 
Bones didn’t have much to say at all these days, not that Jim could have really handled anything more. It was hard enough as it was locking himself into his studio and trying to concentrate when he knew that it was Bones who was the one calling the police and getting them to shoo the craziest of the photographers away from the windows and doors. When he knew it was Bones who kept leaving him food just inside his doorway while he was too preoccupied to notice. And especially when he knew it was Bones who had somehow found the crumpled suit he’d taken out to be sent to the dry-cleaners, and had done the work for him.
 
Seeing the freshly cleaned and pressed suit hanging up on the rod that held his bedroom’s curtain aloft after having taken a much needed bathroom break he grabbed the hanger and marched down the hall with it. Bones was in his own room making a space in his wardrobe for a similar garment bag he had hooked over two fingers.
 
“Why did you do this?” Jim demanded slightly hysterically, shaking the suit at him.
 
“Because it needed to be done. You barely remember to bathe these days and if Spock gets one more thing piled on his plate he might start sobbing…or singing…either way it’d be ugly,” Bones said casually slipping his own suit into his wardrobe to be hung up.
 
“Besides I needed to get mine cleaned as well.”
 
“Yours.”
 
“For your show. I was invited, and it is black tie.” Bones said, like Jim was extremely slow, enunciating every word. He looked at the way Jim was clutching the shoulder of his suit and came forward reaching out for it. “How about I hang onto this until you need it, hm?”
 
“You’re coming to my show,” Jim said as if it just dawned on him while Bones took the suit from his hands. “In a suit.”
 
“Yes. I don’t think anyone would appreciate it if I decided to show up in nothing but my apron-” Jim’s brain stopped listening after that, unable to remember why it was a bad idea to jump the man before him who was now frowning and snapping his fingers in front of Jim’s face.
 
“Jim, Earth to Jim. Come on, you have paintings to finish, don’t you?” Jim blinked, his eyes rolling in their sockets sorely. He felt like a zombie and he didn’t want to paint any more but he nodded anyway.
 
“Go on then, get. You can sleep and stare into space when this is all over and done with,” Bones said like a promise and Jim was almost ready to threaten to hold him to it, possibly without any clothes…but he couldn’t be sure that made any sense. He wasn’t thinking very straight when it didn’t involve paintbrushes and water ratios.
 
So instead of muttering about missing aprons and threats he just turned around and left, letting Bones’ low chuckle behind him make him shiver but not turn back. He had a job to do. 

--
 
Uhura straightened his tie again.
 
“Try to pretend you at least have some manners.” She shook her head a little at where Jim was craning to see around her. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to look at Uhura, hell, Uhura looked damn amazing. Her braids were coiled into an elegant twist at the back of her head, a deep aubergine dress draped Romanesque around her. Its multitude of folds left her back for the most part completely bare, showcasing one of her designs – a plain necklace with deep-dripping jeweled clasp – perfectly.
 
He was only impatient because he had come to the gallery hours early with her and Spock making sure everything was perfect before the show officially opened. What a surreal that experience had been, Uhura insisting on music to be playing while Spock tried to dissuade her while directing the caterers where to set up. Jim still hadn’t gotten used to the sight of Spock, as calm and collected as always but Uhura had apparently finally made a decision when it came to his hair, and for the night it was flipped back off his forehead. It looked in all honestly to Jim like it was being kept still by nothing but mousse and sheer determination not to let it show that it bothered him.
 
Between Spock’s hair and Uhura’s back and of course the show launching Jim hadn’t had a moment’s thought collection to make sure everyone else in his private invite party had arrived.
 
The show in full swing, music playing a peppy but unobtrusive beat, food and drink being circulated by servers, the multitudes of high power guests milling about, and Jim still couldn’t spot any of his real friends.
 
He had been shaking hands, making small talk and laughing politely for a few hours already and he was ready to catch sight of a real smile, spend some genuine time celebrating with anyone – Scotty, Chekov, Sulu, or Bones, they would all be welcome to turn up. The gallery was a big place, but not that big.
 
“They’re here, I promise. I saw Scotty by the refreshment table earlier, making an embarrassingly huge pile of olives,” Uhura assured him impatiently, shaking her head. “You are making Spock nervous. You need to focus on your work tonight–”
 
Jim however, was no longer listening. Sulu had just emerged from behind a small group of collectors contemplating his smallest piece, wearing a tux and an apologetic smile. Jim ignored Uhura’s squawking as he wriggled out of her grasp and met up with Sulu’s sweeping strides towards a quiet corner.
 
“You came, I was afraid with–”
 
“Having my head stuck up my own ass is not nearly as good an excuse as mugging to skip a show opening, Jim,” Sulu said with a grin. “I was being an idiot, I’m sorry.”
 
“It’s fine, I didn’t know Chekov felt like–”
 
“No, I know it’s not your fault, lets just put it behind us, huh? I think we have some more interesting things to talk about, like maybe the elephant in the other room?” Sulu grinned evilly. “You didn’t tell me, man. I’m hurt.”
 
“What?” Jim frowned.
 
“The painting. Southern Ice?” Sulu emphasized jerking his head back in the direction of the largest and most dynamic viewing room in the gallery where Jim’s painting – the one that had caused him so much trouble to understand – newly named Southern Ice had its own wall and place of honour. “You should have seen the look on McCoy’s face when he saw it.”
 
“Bones is here? Where?”
 
“Still in there, staring at it I think. I can’t believe I didn’t know! Blinded by my own love-life woes to see yours.” Sulu made a dramatic face that Jim snorted at.
 
“Don’t say woes, it makes you sound gay,” he said with a friendly roll of his eyes.
 
“Oh, too late my friend. I’m not the one who painted a huge obvious ‘ode to my hot grumpy landlord’. You can’t claim no homo now.” Sulu smirked. Jim tried to shrug it off, but failed as a fresh wave of nervousness swept over him when he glanced towards the entrance of the room where Bones would most likely still be.
 
“Well, go on, I won’t keep you waiting, maybe one of us can figure out how to get laid in the next century.” Sulu sighed but shook his head when Jim turned back to him with concern. “No, no, go. I want to look at the rest of your paintings and you can owe me later.” He raised the glass he hand in his hand as a small toast.
 
Jim grinned and clapped him on the shoulder thanking him for…he wasn’t really sure what, but he knew he had to find out. Cutting across the gallery without anyone trying to snag his attention seemed like it was too good to be true, and maybe it was.
 
Standing in the large archway between the two gallery sections he could see everyone viewing Southern Ice in profile. They stood in small shifting rows, talking amongst themselves about who knew what, looking dreamy and intense in turns. Jim’s gaze scanned them all quickly, jumping past the groups at the front and going for those who stood alone, closer to the center of the room.
 
When he finally caught sight of Bones it was only to smile in exasperation. For someone who hardly ever wore socks, and didn’t bother shaving half of the time, the bastard looked right at home in a suit. Jim was beginning to understand Bones looked right at home wearing anything, the problem being only the quantity of complaining that came along with any one outfit.
 
But Bones wasn’t complaining now, he wasn’t even frowning or scowling he was just looking calmly up at the painting. His head tilted ever so gently, the long column of his neck was uninterrupted from view, and his open collar ensuring Jim could see every swallow and breath he took.
 
Although the show continued to flow around him, it started to fade from his awareness while he looked at Bones. Drawn into his own mind, entirely too goofy grin forgotten on his face, the subject of his inspection seemed to sense he was being watched and turned.
 
When Bones finally really caught sight of him and realized what Jim had been doing…nothing dramatic happened. No eye rolling, no rude gestures, no annoyed huff, they held each other’s gaze. Several emotions did flicker over Bones’ features before he settled on the exasperated but accepting and – dare Jim think it – happy half-smile he tended to favour when faced with Jim’s usual antics.
 
Jim just grinned back, unable to think of why anything that had to do with this man could be bad. It didn’t matter anymore what was being risked or what feelings may or may not come around. Everything Jim needed to know to make his gamble was written on Bones’ face. There was no way this was going to end up anything but a win.
 
He licked his lips, he knew where his place was, and it was over there with Bones. Shifting his weight to launch into movement without breaking eye contact he took a step and blinked, someone having suddenly taken up all of the space in front of him.
 
He blinked startling out of his thoughts and smiling regretfully at whoever was demanding his attention now, but froze upon recognizing the polite smile and sharp dark eyes before him.
 
“Hello, James.” Norio Sulu quirked his lips, looking casually about, like he hadn’t just crashed a high profile show. “You have been quite the enterprising young artist as of late.” He flicked two fingers out, signalling someone up to Jim’s side.
 
“Come, we have much to discuss.” He turned and walked away in the direction of the back offices and storage facilities.
 
Jim opened his mouth to protest but the minion, hulking in size, pressed close to him, grasping his arm and nudging his side with the blunt hard end of what could only be a gun.
 
“It’s best not to keep Mr. Sulu waiting,” he said with a grin and prodded him into helplessly following.
 
--
 
“Murder,” Sulu senior said as he pulled on a pair of leather gloves, “is a much more complicated thing today than it was… even as little as twenty five years ago.”
 
Jim swallowed. As soon as they had all entered the storage section of the gallery and a second goon had stood firmly barring the entrance behind them, the first goon had pulled his arms behind his back, holding his wrists firmly together. The gun was pulled into the open and the safety removed as it was pressed once again into his side. The storage area was a small dim warehouse area located in the back of the gallery. Jim hadn’t had the opportunity to visit it before, and all mentions of it had been by Spock, who seemed to be one of the only people besides gallery-employed techs who ever entered it.
 
From what he could see as he was shoved along there were two rows of towering shelves constructed with tall, narrow slats within which painting and boards were stowed. Even if someone were to walk in, there was not a lot of empty space for them to be able to see between the shelves. On the plus side, paintings were usually created out of stretched canvases and masonite boards. That meant the shelves were stocked full of wood, solid barriers should he be able to get away and avoid being shot at.
 
He was forced into a waiting chair in what he could only assume was the center of the warehouse. They were at some kind of desk that was obviously used to inspect art pieces, judging by the cabinetry attached, as well as the light and magnifier mounted onto the table leg.
 
“But, just as technology has improved to catch ‘the bad guy’, it has also improved to aide him.” Norio pulled out his own gun, an antiquated looking revolver that he slipped one bullet into and flipped closed again. He set it upon the table and reached into his jacket again, this time for a phone.
 
He looked quite a bit like Hikaru, but with perhaps a wider nose and a stronger chin. His eyes were dark in the shadows, the planes of his face gentle slopes dissected by the lines of his age showing through. His hair was mostly grey, and parted and brushed in a style so far from Hikaru’s spiky black tufts Jim wondered at all how they could be related after the initial similarities. His suit was finely tailored, and was fairly expensive judging by the way the fabric moved and fell. He looked like a refined gentleman, and the business mogul he was supposed to be.
 
“Everything is so computer controlled. It only takes a few moments for those with the necessary skills to track, delete, and change.” He gestured lazily with the phone and smiled widely, turning to lean back against the desk, crossing one leg casually over the other. “But you already know all about that don’t you?”
 
Jim shifted, tensing his legs and balling his fists, ready to punch him in the face, to run, to do something, but before he could move the cool muzzle of the gun nudged his temple making him freeze.
 
“I suggest you don’t protest too much, we wouldn’t want to make a mess would we?” Sulu continued in his terribly patronizing manner, smile just as smooth as it had been in the gallery. Compared to this man, Pike’s level of condescension looked damn negligible. Norio was cold, and made some dreadful feeling curl up in the bottom of Jim’s gut. He had no question that with this many guns around, Sulu’s intentions were anything but peaceful.
 
“What’s the difference? You’re going to kill me anyway, aren’t you?” Jim spat, glaring at the gunman out of the corner of his eye.
 
“Well, let’s not jump to conclusions. But the fact of the matter is, even if I did say I was going to kill you, hold your life in the palm of my hand, it wouldn’t matter, would it? You would gladly let me kill you before you gave me anything I wanted.” Jim kept his gaze level, unwilling to let even the smallest emotion pass over his face. He thought of Spock, of neutral brown colours and kept his cool. His hands were free, and he had his brain, there had to be something he could do with them to stop this whole progression. The gunman was standing just a touch too far away, any crotch-high jabs Jim could deliver would be useless.
 
“So killing you isn’t much of an incentive then, is it? Well, how about we do something else? You do what I say and I won’t kill all of your little friends.” Jim glared up at him at that. It was true maybe he didn’t care how injured he got…but putting others in danger when he could prevent it…he ground his teeth.
 
“How? There are too many witnesses out there.” He thrust his chin out, balling his hands tightly into fists on his thighs. The gunman twitched – interesting reaction, obviously trigger-happy. Sulu’s plot was an obvious bluff, to shoot six people in the middle of a show crawling with photographers, reporters and every single person with a cell phone? He would never get past pulling the gun. Jim didn’t even know how Sulu was planning to kill him without generating any attention; the gunman had no silencer and that revolver certainly wouldn’t be a quiet shot.
 
Unless perhaps they were planning sort of a smash and grab, to shoot him and run for the nearest exit. The shelving would provide camouflage for the escape and time delay for any help to arrive. Jim’s eyes darted quickly up, trying to catch sight of the red glow of an emergency exit sign. If they could use it as an escape, so could he.
 
“You obviously think too small, James. It would be all too simple to explain. A terrorist attack perhaps? Or a simple electrical fire, a tragic accident, could kill them all.” Jim glared at him thinking of all the guests he had invited, all innocent, all deserving to live.
 
“Your son is out there,” he tried, hoping for surprise or maybe regret but all he got was a wide smile.
 
“And it would be a pity. Hikaru has been so useful these past few months. Did you know he’s begun talking to his mother again? He tells her all about his friends, all about Jim and his father’s mysterious journal.” Norio’s words sliced from airy to razor sharp in seconds. “I would be devastated by the loss,” he said dryly.
 
Jim didn’t see anything that looked remotely like an exit from his vantage point; the shelves were too high and the chair he sat upon too low.
 
“But it wouldn’t really be his death that bothers you the most. No, not when you have such deep affection for Mr. McCoy.” Norio pulled out the phone again. Jim watched his fingers swipe against the screen in utter still concentration. If he even so much as touched Bones…
 
“I really do regret the fact he had to fall victim to a fate that should have been yours.” He turned the phone around, showing Jim some kind of streaming video footage taken with a tiny shaky camera, probably a pin or a cuff link. Within the video however was Bones, drinking something, laughing and making a comment to whomever he was talking to. Jim swallowed reflexively, relieved to see Bones still unharmed and unaware. That meant he had a chance to get away, get them both away and somewhere safe. He was utterly unwilling to let anything happen to Bones ever again.
 
“Fate that should have been mine?” Jim tried to focus on the conversation, the small important details and not the roaring in the back of his mind that was telling him to rush the guard, knock his gun from his hand while he was still stunned, or perhaps turn and use his hand to shoot his boss.
 
“The poison. Twice you’ve gotten away.  I didn’t know you had such an extensive past in bar brawling and would be able to fight off an attacker long enough to attract the attention of those nearby. It taught me a lesson about doing my homework, so this time you aren’t getting away, James. If you even think about trying again, Mr. McCoy will die.” The phone was tossed to the guard.
 
Jim felt gutted. This man was responsible for the mugging, for the break-in, for Bones’ spending a week in the hospital? What had been so important that Jim needed to be dead? The journal? Stealing the journal obviously proved easy enough without killing him so what was in it that was so incriminating? He wracked his brain, there was nothing, nothing about Sulu’s empire, he didn’t even have it when his father was still alive. 
 
“What do you want? You already have the journal, you’ve got me, kill me already if I know too much!” Jim shifted his feet and let out a frustrated bark when the guard’s thumb flicked quickly out over the send button, obviously ready to give the order to shoot if he made one move.
 
“Suck a one track mind you have, James. This isn’t just about killing. But it is about your knowledge. See, behind those impeccable blue eyes lies information I need to know.” Norio leaned forward, gripping the table edge with his knobby fingers. Jim mentally assessed how close their foreheads were together, if he could get away with a head butt, but the older man moved back too quickly.  
 
“Knowledge.” Norio just nodded.
 
“Your good friend Pike has a little something that belongs to me. The file box. Where is it?” The gun pressed firmly into the side of his head, but Jim just tensed his jaw, ignoring the way sweat was beginning to bead on his upper lip and make his shirt stick to his back.
 
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he hissed, willing the gunman just an inch or two closer. One good punch and he could take him down, kick the gun away…
 
“May I remind you, James, that failure to comply means death to your friends? I know you know where it is. You took the box from him and then gave it back. It isn’t in this gallery and Pike has conveniently become a ghost so, James, I shall ask again. Where is the box?” His words became sharper and sharper, the spit flying from his lips as he bared his teeth, enunciating every syllable.
 
Something…something wasn’t adding up. Jim hadn’t known anything before he had gained possession of the box. He only had the little that was written in the journal, and Norio couldn’t possibly have taken it seriously enough that Jim could threaten his whole business on one eyewitness account twenty-five years old. So why on earth had he both stolen the journal and tried to kill Jim previously?
 
Unless…unless he had thought the journal had held something far more sinister, and personal in subject. Jim looked slowly up at Norio, the gun that rested on the table beside him, the fierce desperate glint in his eyes. This wasn’t just about his business.
 
“You killed my father.” He let the words tumble out in a gust ignoring the impatient roll of the eyes Norio gave as he uncrossed his legs.
 
“Don’t tell me you’re just putting the pieces together now. Yes, his death was a pity, a very bad decision on my part. I wanted him as a partner in my new idea, I wanted him to harness that impeccable public persona of his. That sparklingly likeable personality could have talked anyone into buying anything. They never would have questioned his word that what they were buying was genuine…But he was shy, morally impervious. He told me what I wanted to do was wrong and no amount of money or fame would assuage my guilt eventually.” Sulu shrugged, swinging his arms to clasp his hands in front of him, and scoffed.
 
“So much his morals did for him then, hm? So learn a lesson from your dear departed father, James, and tell me what I need to know.” He stood with his feet together, hands in his pockets looking down at Jim lazily. His balance was impaired, all he had to do was lunge and Sulu would be knocked back-
 
The second he pushed onto the balls of his feet the guard’s arm was swinging – only to be caught by Norio. He had pulled the revolver from the table, reflexes sharp for someone his age, and pointed it squarely at Jim’s forehead.
 
“No marks. Our friend James is about to have a tragic change of heart, just like his father,” he said with a carefully controlled voice, flinging the arm away before gathering up the phone. “You disobeyed me James.”
 
Jim tried to get up again, despite both guns trained on him as Norio hit send. He roared in anguish as he was shoved back into his seat by the guard’s one meaty hand on his shoulder. Bones…
 
The guard recaptured his wrists, holstering his gun as Jim began to struggle. There was no reason not to, they were going to kill him, they had killed or injured Bones already, there was probably emergency services already on their way, the more noise and trouble he gave them the better his chances were to either get out of this alive, or leave evidence that he had no choice in the matter of his death.
 
“It is regrettable it must end this way James.” Norio quickly pulled a slim brushed metal case out of his pocket and popped it open. Inside were a few scraps of paper, evidence pertaining to his suicide no doubt, and some extra bullets. All of these were tucked into Jim’s inside breast pocket while he tried to wriggle away. The guard laughed softly behind him and Jim sneered in reply.
 
“But I shall get what I want, one way or another.” The guard let one of Jim’s hands go free, which he immediately brought around and up to hit Norio with, scratch him, poke his eyes out whatever he could get. He was restrained with a surprisingly strong grip, his hand forced to accept the revolver, but kept distinctly away from pointing it at anything but his own head.
 
The guard shifted behind him out of the splatter zone, keeping his arm restrained still, wrapped around his body behind, wrenching his shoulder to a painful degree. One strong jerk and Jim was sure he would dislocate it.
 
“Any last words, James?” Sulu’s breath was warm against his face, leather encased hand clenching tighter around Jim’s, fingers overlapping on the trigger. He panted hard, spit flying out of his mouth and landing satisfyingly on Norio’s lapels.
 
“You’ll never get away with this,” he hissed, fighting as his hand was pinched and molded, tucking the muzzle of the gun up under his own chin so his tongue was shoved up and back against it.  The hand tensed-
 
“FBI! DON’T MOVE!” The shout was sudden and from behind them. Sulu’s head snapped up and Jim lurched, ignoring the blinding crunch of pain in his shoulder as his arm jerked out of place and yanked the gun from Sulu’s hand as he kicked him forward.
 
Around him chaos seemed to break out, guns firing, the guard having dove behind the table, taking cover. The phone had been dropped in the scuffle. Its screen cracked upon hitting the concrete floor. Jim dove for it, ignoring Sulu’s squawk of pain as he was trampled. When he finally turned the phone to face him properly it read: TEXT MESSAGE SENT.
 
“Jim? Are you alright? Jim?!” a voice was asking, but it was all wrong, the accent was wrong. He looked up and away from the phone at last seeing none other than Chekov applying handcuffs to Norio Sulu’s wrists.
 
“Chekov?” Jim asked feeling dazed and pained. What the hell was going on…? He clutched the phone with his good arm, looking down at it again, “Bones! We need to get out there he had more men-”
 
“Just two more, we already got them. Everyone is safe and are being evacuated from the gallery as we speak.” Chekov smiled at Jim’s astonishment, lending him a hand up and off of where he was pinning Sulu’s legs. He gasped as his right arm was jostled and Chekov frowned at the slump to his shoulder.
 
“That looks bad, we’ve got paramedics standing by, we’ll get you some help.”
 
“Your…voice…”
 
“About that. I’m not actually Russian. Well I am, but I’m an American citizen. Seriously, that accent was terrible – I can’t believe you bought it for a second.” He then hauled Sulu to his feet with a scowl of disgust.
 
“We’ve been after you for a long time.”
 
Sulu said nothing, merely sneered and hung his head as he was passed off to a woman with intensely red curly hair wearing an FBI vest.
 
“What-” Jim turned gingerly, feeling like he had the carpet pulled out from beneath him. What the hell was going on?
 
“My name is Agent Anton Koenig, I’m part of the FBI’s Art Crime Team. We’ve been working on the Sulu case for quite some time now. I was undercover as Pavel Chekov to get close to Hik- to his son for information. When I stumbled upon your discoveries in the murder of George Kirk it was completely coincidental, but incredibly useful.” Chekov – Agent Koenig? – pulled out his official FBI identification and let Jim inspect it.
 
“What…is the Art Crime Team?” He looked at the small divisional logo critically, trying to ignore the shaking in his hand, his arm, his whole body. His heart was beating wildly in his chest.
 
“ACT is a branch of the FBI devoted to retrieving missing or stolen pieces of art, stop art from being abused and used as underground currency, stop forgeries and the selling of forged art works among other things. Although we don’t usually catch murderers.” He grinned. Jim blinked tiredly and nodded, letting Chekov or whoever fold the ID back up and put it back into his pocket.
 
“I’m sorry to do this to you, Jim, but before you can go anywhere you need to come with me for questioning.” He waved and stepped back as someone uniformed carrying a paramedic’s kit stepped before him, assessing his injuries.
 
“Okay, fine. Just can you make sure one thing is done for me?” he asked, hissing as they prodded at his shoulder and told him the jacket would have to come off.
 
“Yeah, what’s that?” Cheko – screw it – Chekov looked at him with the same big eyes from around the medic’s shoulders. Now that gaze somehow seemed less…innocent. Jim looked around, seeing agents taking pictures and moving the injured guard from behind the table.
 
“Could you make sure that Spock…” He outlined his entire request while he was sat in his abandoned chair and was put back together. Chekov looked on sympathetically as he bit his lip so hard it bled when his joint was pushed back into place. The request was put into motion, as soon as Jim was approved for transport, tucked into a black FBI-issue SUV and whisked away into the night for further questioning.
 
--
 
It was in the early grey hours of the morning when he finally staggered into the firehouse. The SUV that had dropped him off glided silently away from the curb as soon and he got the door open.
 
The smell of home washed over him, stale, comforting. The house was quiet as he slowly eased himself up the stairs, carrying his ripped suit jacket over his left shoulder, his right arm strapped tightly across his chest in a blue sling. His shoulder throbbed, and he was fuzzy from the painkillers the agents at headquarters had given him.
 
On the landing he paused, considering Bones’ room. There was a crack of light between the jamb and the door so he gave into temptation and pushed at it until the crack grew into a sliver, and the sliver gave into opening partially.
 
Inside, however, was no Bones, merely his bedside lamp turned on, shiny black shoes on the floor and suit jacket left thrown on the bed spread. Jim frowned and took the few steps to look down the hall, seeing if he was in the washroom. Instead of the bathroom spilling light however, his studio appeared to be occupied.
 
Walking gingerly, he toed his way into his own space, and when he got there he found what he had originally been looking for. Bones sat at his easel, still in his shirt and black trousers, looking past it out the window, or perhaps just into space.
 
“Aren’t you supposed to be in bed?” He tried for teasing but it came out mostly tired. The feeling quadrupled when Bones turned suddenly, focusing sharp eyes on him, looking every bit like he had earned every premature grey hair he had.
 
Jim kicked of his shoes blindly, dropping his jacket, unwilling to look away from Bones’ intense gaze, just cataloguing his entire face. He stood for a moment, the rustling of his loosening his tie the only sound in the silent home.
 
Then Bones turned his whole body to face him, pushed up off of the stool and padded on bare feet to stand before him. He pushed his face into a scowl, lips pressing together hard while he shook his head and stared hard at him.
 
The hands that reached out Jim was almost certain were going to strangle him, but instead one just grabbed his good shoulder, and the other ghosted over his injury before latching onto the back of his head and hauling him in, wrapping him into strong, secure arms.
 
A “Damnit, Jim!” was whispered fiercely against his ear and Jim sagged against him in a relieved laugh, folding his good arm around Bones’ waist to try and hold himself steady. He dropped his forehead to the other man’s shoulder and let himself be pulled in tighter.
 
His father was still dead, his show had been ruined by the murderous father of one of his friends, he had been awake for about twenty four hours…and yet everything just then...was perfect. 

Chapter Text

Jim looked out the newly installed peephole, hesitating before he threw back the deadbolt and opened the door. On the front walk of the fire hall, wearing dark aviators, a navy windbreaker and some jeans was Agent Koenig.

“Hey.” He pulled the glasses off his face with one hand, folding the arms and tucking them into his collar. He looked so much older than he did even as little as a week ago, his hair newly shorn on the sides.
 
“Hey, what’s up?” It had been a long week of answering questions. The FBI wanted to know everything he knew, the press wanted every juicy detail, even his mother in one intense phone call that almost had her on a plane out to San Francisco when she had found out about how his show had turned out.
 
Almost everyone had been questioned, even Pike with his box had reappeared within 48 hours looking ashen faced when he saw Jim the FBI waiting area while Bones was being questioned. Everyone seemed to be involved in some way, most of all Hikaru.
 
Jim looked over his shoulder at where Sulu was sitting at the island in the kitchen, still nursing a mug of tea Jim had given him hours ago. He had been completely gutted by the recent turn of events.
 
His father, his whole family, his mother, his sisters had been so entrenched in the family business they were all facing the consequences: jail time, bail and probational periods. He was the only one left to pick up the pieces. And there were a lot of pieces. All the illegally controlled facets of the Sulu Empire had to be weeded out. Then the wreckage had to be salvaged, rejuvenated with a kind of business savvy that Hikaru had never possessed.
 
But all of that hadn’t been the reason the usually spirited man was now sitting hunched over a cup of earl grey, drawing dull patterns into the counter top with one fingertip. Hikaru had always been separated from his family, their seeming betrayal was nothing compared to someone who had earned his complete trust under false pretenses.
 
“I brought you something. It’s no longer evidence, it doesn’t hold any pertinent details to the case.” Used-to-be-Chekov shifted allowing Jim to see a large brown paper and twine wrapped parcel leaning up against the brick wall outside.
 
Jim frowned. He couldn’t fathom what was once evidence belonging to him that looked like that…but then he was being offered a small familiar green leather journal.
 
“Not that. That is from Spock, I was just going over a few last questions with Pike at the Maru and he told me to bring this over when he found out I was coming to see you.” He trailed his fingers over the paper and Jim nodded.
 
“Right, okay, thank you.” He took the journal and slid the package inside quickly trying not to notice the way Koenig was lingering, looking sad and tired.
 
“Listen…do you know how he is? I’ve been trying to call but he hasn’t answered and-” Jim waved a hand sharply at him, eyes darting over to see if Hikaru had been paying any attention to their conversation, but he was still immersed in whatever pattern he was conjuring on the counter.
 
He then stepped outside, closing the door gently behind him and faced Chekov. Putting aside the thoughts in his mind about accents and betrayal, he tried to just remember that his man in front of him no matter what his name was had genuinely become his friend at one point.
 
“I’m not going to lie to you. He’s not doing well.” He felt a bit like a doctor delivering bad news to a patient’s family. “You really hurt him.”
 
“I didn’t mean for this to-” He shook his head, pushing past Jim before he could stop him and into the home. He strode straight over to Sulu grasping his shoulder and trying again.
 
“I didn’t mean for any of this to happe-” Was as far as he got this time before Sulu slugged him right in the cheek, mouth drawn up in anger, eyes flashing with more life than Jim had seen in far too long.
 
Chekov reeled, clutching his cheek, “Son of a- nng,” he cursed. “Okay, okay I deserved that.”
 
“You aren’t even Russian! Did you tell the truth about anything?!”
 
Jim crept backwards, unwilling to get drawn into what was surely going to be an epic fight to end all fights. Either they were going to be together forever after this or Jim was probably never going to see the young agent ever again. So he dragged his package towards the stairs. Managing to angle it just right so he could drag it one armed, without the corner catching, down into the basement.
 
He really hated the sling. It would come off permanently very soon, and he could still remove it to dress and wash and things, but his shoulder didn’t really hurt all that much any more. All it was really doing these days was getting in the way. He was only putting up with it for one lone, singular, independent reason that happened to be working in the basement.
 
Bones had gotten a little over protective since the incident. There had been copious amounts of mother-henning over the past week: sharply informing even the largest, senior-most FBI agent that Jim needed sleep, elbowing photographers looking for a front page illustration, even telling Spock to back off about the details of Jim’s show left unattended to in the wake of crazy they were all adrift in.
 
So Jim dutifully figured out the angles to heft the package with one arm and shuffled it towards the back of the basement as quickly as possible. Scotty was not in, probably off having The Transporter repaired. It had died one spectacular death the night of the show just when Bones had apparently insisted on following Jim off to the FBI headquarters.
 
Jim grinned, thinking of Bones, hearing Bones, and finally, finally seeing Bones, working away at his wheel making Sulu a mug by the looks of it. Upon Jim’s entrance he pulled his foot off the pedal, looking up through his hair flopping onto his forehead. He gave an irritated huff, pushing it back with his wrist but unfortunately smearing some grey slip across his forehead.
 
“What’d ya have there?” he asked, resting his hands curled slightly, palm up on his knees. Jim laughed unable to stand looking at Bones, so surly with mud on his face and ambled over to swipe the slip away with this thumb.
 
“It’s a present for you,” he said, watching Bones’ eyes following his thumb’s progress to wipe the slip off upon his apron. He looked at the package and then at Jim, raising his eyebrow skeptically. Jim just grinned back at him and urged him to stand and come open it.
 
Bones did stand, gathering up an old towel to wipe his hands with and quickly removing the worst of the slick slip coating his palms.
 
“I swear to god, Jim, if this is a huge picture of your face I’m putting your head through it.” He reached for the twine, pulling it gingerly and letting it fall away from the parcel. Jim just rocked happily back on his heels.
 
“No, no, just something I thought might look nice down here in your studio.”
 
Bones threw him a look of obvious disapproval before crouching down and removing most of the brown paper. When he recognized it he paused, hands still outstretched over the surface of the paint.
 
“You…aren’t selling it?” Bones asked in confusion, gazing at Southern Ice, still as beautiful and captivating as ever surrounded by clay dust and brown paper.
 
“Nah. It’s yours. I told Spock to take it out of the show as soon as possible.” Jim watched as Bones slowly stood and turned around to look at him.
 
“I heard some of the offers people were making for it Jim…” He began to shake his head in refusal of the gift, but Jim waved a dismissing hand.
 
“I know. Spock practically begged me to reconsider.” He shook his head at the memory, “But I can’t sell it. It was yours from the beginning.” He kept his gaze level. He wasn’t hiding from anything anymore, least of all Bones.
 
A slow slightly predatory smile started to spread over Bones’ face and Jim couldn’t help but grin back.
 
“Is that so?” He looked around his studio, “Well, I don’t think I could find a place for it down here.” Jim’s smile faltered only for a moment absorbing the small rejection, but Bones was still smiling like he knew something Jim didn’t.
 
“But I believe there is an available space in the bedroom.”
 
It was Jim’s turn to raise an eyebrow in surprise.
 
“Really?” He drew the word out luxuriously, taking a lazy step closer to the other man. Bones rolled his eyes, still Bones then, despite all the smiling.
 
“Yes. Perhaps you could help me find a spot for it.” Bones cocked his head back towards the stairs. Jim let his grin intensify as he slipped even closer, wrapping his arm around Bones’ waist.
 
“Oh, I think I could definitely help you find a bit of empty wall.”
 
If they forgot the painting, and never managed to leave the studio, well, Jim didn’t mind.