“Last night I had a dream where we were birds, and we flew up and up until we were in space, and then we kept going, flying farther and farther from the known universe and into the unknown universe, past the edge, until the black of space became a familiar blue again and we realized that we were right back where we started, only this time we were beetles.”
“Last night I dreamed I was stranded in a marketplace on a familiar planet, but I couldn’t speak the language and no one would sell to me because of it – and then the sea of patrons dissolved into a real ocean, with waves for city blocks and ships for stands and I would have drowned if it weren’t for you hauling me up and over, onto your raft.”
“Last night I dreamed I was exploring a cave, and it was so dark I couldn’t see the ceiling or walls, and I walked and then I ran, chased by unseen terrors and the sound of my own footsteps, which grew louder and louder as if running towards me, disembodied, and then I tripped and slipped and fell and I was cold and lost, completely, until I looked up and caught sight of your smile, the light at the end of my tunnel,” you slide your hand down his stubbled cheek and wiggle his chin teasingly.
“Last night,” Jim laughs and swats at your hand, “last night I had a dream where we were two olives in a martini glass at a Starfleet function, on the tray of a waiter who never showed for his shift, and so we kept each other company until the drink was warm and flat and all the guests left and as we laid there, forgotten and wholly unimportant, we never drowned and never felt bad because we still had each other to talk to – and in that moment, that was all we could ever need.”
You try and tamp down the undeniably stupid grin that wants to erupt across your face, but you’re so high on the jetlag and the being with Jim that it’s impossible. Your clock is ticking on ship time and your heart is beating with his in time and Lieutenant James T. Kirk has class in a couple of hours ‘cause you’ve looped the night, but his cheeks are flushed and he’s wearing that dimple that makes you want to kiss his face to pieces and so you don’t find it in you to care that much about anything that isn’t right here and right now.
The air is soft and still where you sit, and the voices from the heart of the party carry easily across the garden because of it. You’re off to the side, lounging on some oversized deck chair, and Jim thumbs a burn on the back of your hand and you tuck yourself farther under his arm, trying to ward off the lingering distaste and nerves that always comes with speaking at Starfleet functions, appearing in front of uniformed officials as you spout off technical terms and point at a presentation screen with deliberately smooth transitions screens.
It never fails to make your skin crawl, the posing and posturing, the dance for funding, like you have to sell yourself, convince everyone in the room that you and your work are worth it on showmanship rather than merit; your badges pinned, collar pressed, shoulders sore from endlessly standing at attention and a plastic smile plastered across your face.
Your head lab technician stepped forward to explain the practical applications of your research, and you finally let yourself breathe, eyes seeking Jim out in an indistinct crowd because he’s the glow coming from under the door in a dark room. Then you stepped off the stage.
The conversation was a constant rumble, the lights were nauseous, an admiral shook your hand, a military history grad offered to buy you a drink, then Jim was guiding you towards a table circled by his colleagues with an easy smile, “Haisrus would never let me hear the end of it if I didn’t introduce him to you,” he’d said, “he’s been obsessing over your work ever since I mentioned you were a friend,” and you laughed and followed him through the crowd because if you knew anything about Jim Kirk, it’s that he always manages to surround himself with the most intriguing and pragmatic people he can find – and then someone said something about a Mexican restaurant – and then you found yourself sitting on a couch in a living room lined with Arcturian art, trading fibs and unprofessional opinions, Jim leaning towards you, laughing in your ear – and then Jim covered your retreat to the garden, sneaking out a minute later for fresh air and a rehash of shared memories – and now he says –
“Let’s go home,” Jim runs a thumb across your cheek, and you know he’s fussing over the dark circles under your eyes, “you deserve some sleep.”
He splits off to thank the host for the drinks; you tug at the collar of your uniform to keep it from cutting into the base of your neck, fabric thick and unyielding as you begin to pick your way through the house towards the front door.
The house is far from crowded, but it’s warm and the laughter is rich and the conversation easy. Your boots hit fuzzy carpet, and you wave goodbye to your lab tech, who’s reclined against the kitchen counter with a Betazed leaning flirtatiously over her. She raises her glass in salute, Jim rounds a corner, pulling on his overcoat, then someone cracks a joke, and it’s that laughter that chases your heels down the front steps and out into the night.
Your silhouettes are forced against a building by the headlights of a passing car, and Jim hikes you higher on his back as he hops the curb onto the sidewalk. You drape yourself over his shoulders, not really paying attention or holding on to anything other than his voice as he sings some song that was popular last year. You drop your chin to his shoulder, and let your arms hang loosely around him – and then his voice cracks and you both laugh.
“Last night,” you begin without much thought, “I dreamed I found you in the ground, and when I tried to pull you out, I fell through it with you – and as we descended through existence itself, we came face to face with the beginning and the end and we discovered the true meaning to life, the universe, and everything.” You hide your nose in the hood of his coat and bite back the anticipation.
He stutters a laugh, unaware, “Forty-two?”
“No, writing scientific reports for Starfleet.”
His shoulders shake with laughter, and it’s easy for you to reap the reward, to take the leap over the edge and join him. He clutches your legs tighter around him in a direct response to almost dropping you, curls forward, giggling, and you hold onto his neck and stifle your own delirious laughter through a close-lipped smile.
“Oh,” he says as he finally slows and turns to make his way up the steps to his apartment building, “don’t remind me this late – or early. Whichever it is, I have still have papers to grade.” He stops in front of the door.
“I can’t believe you’re one of them, Jim,” you say as you pull his wallet out of his coat pocket, “we used to complain about your type, remember? The professor who always has a fresh excuse for why grades aren’t out yet?” With some shuffling, you reach around him and swipe his ID, then boost yourself with one firm hand on his shoulder and grab the door handle as he walks backwards. The heavy door, thankfully, complies, hanging open just long enough for Jim to slip in with a straight back.
“I know,” he moans then, the door hissing shut behind the two of you, “I’m the worst of the worst – I even assign group projects.”
“I know! I know – Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Stop making me feel old.”
His footsteps echo in the empty lobby, approaching and approaching from the back wall, until they’re muted by the carpet (you can’t see the ceiling), and then he steps into the elevator and informs the computer of his floor. You pat his shoulder twice, re-adjust your legs, and he loosens his hold until you slide off his back.
You’re both still as you let the silence blanket the small space. Side by side, surrounded by something soft and physical, Jim bumps his shoulders with yours – and you’re both staring at your shared reflection in the metal of the door, matching grins, when your communicator chirps.
You fumble to pull it out, the elevator dings, and you follow Jim down the hallway with a hand on his back as your department head informs you that shore leave is being cut short by a week, the reasoning vague and not important; She signs off and you pocket the device.
The floor is black and synthetic, and you’re watching your feet when Jim comes to an abrupt stop in front of a door, presumably his. He reaches out, but his hand stalls in front of the keypad. You can’t see his face, a shadow falling over his expression.
“Jim?” you place a careful hand on his upper arm, “are you alright?”
His hand closes into a fist.
“Jim,” you give his sleeve a firm tug, and he turns and wraps you in a hug, arms loose, but his hands wound tight, pulling at your uniform. You close your eyes and let your hands glide around his middle, pulling him closer and farther towards you until he has no choice but to yield and hug you proper, melting like butter on warm bread.
“I’m just happy you’re here,” he says, pulling away just far enough so you can see his small smile.
Your fingers are carding smoothly through his tamed hair before you can think about doing anything else, “I am, too.” You tug him down for a soft kiss, and his lips move slow and smooth against yours.
“But I’m also happy you’re leaving in a week,” he confesses quietly.
“Jim,” you lose your voice.
You’ve loved others and love others and will love others and he’s loved others and loves others and will love others and this is nothing new – but sometimes it’s hard to see past the moment when the moment exists as something like this: soft and shared and beautiful and promising (“and in that moment, that was all we could ever need,” he says) – but you have a ship waiting for you in orbit and a yearning for something greater, “I am, too.”
He begins to grin, “good,” he punches in the code, and then the door behind him opens, “because last night I dreamed that even as I stood on the edge of the galaxy, that even though the odds were shot, you were standing there, somewhere else, far away, looking at the exact same stars I was.”
One day, you’re sure, this will all fall apart and you’ll have nothing but the notion that there are still questions begging answers, out in the deep of space, but until that day comes, you’ll bathe in whatever sunlight is offered and prepare to deal with that storm when it hits. For now, it sits on the horizon, a dark promise.
“That’s strange,” you say as you push him into his apartment (with a careful hand on his chest), “because last night I…” you breathe – breathe – breathe, “had the same dream.”