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The rain on Mrennenimus II is no better or worse than the heaviest of Earth’s downpours. Spock doesn’t appreciate either one. The blustery, chilling, seaside climate of some of Earth’s prime locations have never worked well for his Vulcan blood—he much prefers the deserts he was raised in. But Starfleet Academy has certain programs that require trips to other planets. He’d intended to spend the bulk of his trip to Mrennenimus II in the Starfleet campus, but that was before he realized that the ‘campus’ comprised of several buildings dispersed haphazardly across massive, rolling plains subject to all sorts of unpleasant weather. Public transit does run between them, but the places where the busses stop make little sense. His only solace is that his mother sent him an umbrella despite his protests, and now the flimsy Terran invention protects his head from the slaughter of the storm.

His feet are still soaked. His trousers have fared little better. A part of him thinks it would be wiser to walk back, but the building he came from is nearly out of sight—just a little speck in the distance—so he may as well keep waiting. There’s no sense heading to the next location; that’s out of sight entirely, and it would be all too easy to get lost in the sprawling grassy plains. He should’ve brought a tricorder. Mrennenimus has no compass equivalent. He should’ve packed something stronger than his mother’s umbrella, but he foolishly believed Starfleet wouldn’t send him somewhere so untenable. A part of him wonders if this in itself is a test—surviving the oddities and tedium of other cultures. If nothing else, Mrennenimus II requires a great deal of adaptability and patience: both vital qualities for an officer aboard a starship.

It doesn’t help that the rain is cold. The air itself isn’t so chilly, but the water makes it worse, and Spock has to fight to remain tall and stoic. There are no witnesses, but he still doesn’t allow himself to shiver. He stands firmly next to the metallic pole the buses are drawn to, staring out into the grey mist over the greenery. The colours are all washed out, the scenery itself dulled down. It’s a beautiful world when it wants to be, but at the moment, the very planet itself seems miserable.

A fleck of moving red catches Spock’s eye. He turns to see another student hurrying along the muddy path, holding one hand over his head as though that’s any defense against the rain. He looks to be a human, no older than Spock, his light hair stained a darker brown with the water and slicked across his pale forehead. His uniform’s already soaked through. It was foolish of him to come without any protection. Humans have weaker immune systems than Vulcans, and this one is quite likely to catch a cold. The medical facilities are in the farthest building away.

The human reaches Spock, squinting over at him through the raging weather. Spock has no chance to offer any greeting—the human walks right up to him, so close that they’re almost touching. The human crowds under his umbrella and splutters, “Holy shit, you’re a genius! Why didn’t I synthesize an umbrella?”

Spock has no idea. He doesn’t know this human at all and therefore couldn’t possibly guess his motives. But Spock can theorize in general, “They are considered outdated technology.”

“True,” the human laughs, having to speak louder over the thunderous sound of droplets battering the grass. “I guess most decent planets have their weather controlled by now!”

Spock feels inclined to agree, though it would be rude to call Mrennenimus II indecent, even though, in his personal opinion, it is. The human thrusts out a dripping wet hand and calls, “It’s Jim, by the way. Jim Kirk. Nice to meet you.”

Spock glances down at ‘Jim’s’ hand. Clearly, Jim hasn’t been at the Academy long, or he would know that Vulcans don’t shake hands. It’s considered improper, given their touch-telepathy. For a moment, Spock considers taking it anyway, just to be polite, just because Jim’s skin looks pink and soft and somehow warm despite the water drizzling down his open palm. Spock’s in desperate need of warmth. But he thinks of his father and restrains himself, instead lifting his free hand to offer the Vulcan salute. He returns, “I am Spock.”

“Nice to meet you, Spock.” Jim takes the hint and drops his hand, stuffing both into his pockets. “Mind if I share your umbrella?”

It’s a little late to ask. Jim’s already standing under its awning. It’s quite presumptuous, as humans are wont to be, although this one seems particularly bad. Now given the option to refuse, Spock considers it, allowing his eyes to rake down Jim’s trim body and make what observations he can. Thus far, Jim’s presence has not proven overly offensive. He doesn’t smell bad, even though it looked like he was running and humans sweat easily—what little Spock can pick up over the rain’s stench is rich and earthy, something pleasant. Jim doesn’t look to have poor hygiene, nor an aggressive stance. He appears tolerable, perhaps even attractive, in a purely objective way that Spock doesn’t pursue. He decides, “You may.”

“Thanks,” Jim chirps, grinning wide, and then his hand lifts to flatten over Spock’s, curling around the umbrella’s handle.

All at once, pleasure ripples through Spock’s body. It’s a hot, comforting glow that soars beneath his skin, rushing up to stimulate his mind, telling him that this man is compatible—offering the telltale brush of an early meld. Spock actually shudders from the shock of it. He’s come into contact with many different beings through the Academy and had physical contact with plenty, but he’s never felt such a spark before. He can tell that Jim feels it too, because Jim looks at him in surprise and wonderment.

It can only mean one thing. Spock knows exactly what that is. He can’t handle it just yet. He breathes, “Jim—” and Jim obliging removes his hand.

Spock’s equilibrium restores. But the aftershocks still course through him. He can’t release the knowledge he’s gained. For a long moment, the two of them look at each other. Then Jim asks, “What’re you doing here?”

“What?”

Still dazed, Spock has no answer. Jim quirks a charming smile that somehow makes Spock’s cheeks flush. That rare sensation jolts Spock back to reality, and he forces himself to steel over with Vulcan composure. He responds, “Waiting for the bus.”

Jim snorts. “I meant at the Academy. I’m in the command program—headed for captaincy.”

Spock frowns. No students are headed directly for captaincy. But Jim looks so sure that Spock doesn’t want to argue it. He answers properly, “The sciences.”

“Cool, I’ll need a chief science officer on my ship. You any good?”

Spock’s brows knit together. Of course he’s ‘good.’ He’s been accepted to the Academy. He’s hardly qualified to head a department yet, but he’s currently gaining the experience to do so. Perhaps Jim mistakes his confusion for offense, because Jim laughs, “Never mind, I’m sure you’re great. What about Mrennenimus? This weather must be a riot after Vulcan.”

Spock doesn’t understand the expression but can gather the general meaning of Jim’s statement. “It is... different. Yes.”

“Crazy different. But hey, that’s the fun of Starfleet, right? Getting to go to new worlds, see new things, meet new people. That’s what the universe is all about.” The way he looks at Spock seems to imply a deeper meaning that Spock doesn’t fully understand.

But Spock does see the merit in exploration, in diversity and expanding one’s horizons. He nods.

“Bones!”

That, Spock doesn’t understand at all. He looks at Jim in puzzlement, only to realize that Jim’s looking over his shoulder. He turns and sees something heading for them—a stout ground vehicle, not tall enough to be the bus. The car approaches, and Jim starts waving.

The car pulls up right in front of them, and Spock has to step back to avoid getting splashed. Jim hurriedly follows, flattening against Spock’s side, staying under the umbrella. But it presses them together, giving Spock another shiver. Jim’s wetter than him and drenches his clothes. Fortunately, Jim’s too distracted to catch Spock’s reaction.

One of the windows on the black car rolls down, and a dark-haired human pokes out, calling, “Anybody call for a cab?”

Jim laughs. He asks, “Any chance for a lift to the East campus, Bones?”

“That depends, you gonna start actually listening to me and eating more salads?”

Jim rolls his eyes. The two of them must know each other. Spock would even venture that they’re friends. Jim asks ‘Bones,’ “Hey, you got room for two back there?”

“That depends, he a friend or a booty call?”

Spock’s brows furrow. He doesn’t follow Bones’ meaning, but he doesn’t think he wants to. To Spock’s further horror, Jim chuckles, “Hopefully both.”

It’s Bones’ turn to roll his eyes. But he gestures to the backseat, grunting, “Just try not to soak my seats too bad.” Then he withdraws to the driver’s seat, rolling the window back up.

Jim dashes to the other door, leaving the sanctity of Spock’s umbrella. He climbs inside, then offers one hand and a dazzling smile to Spock.

Spock looks down the road. Still no sign of the bus.

Against his better judgment, he folds his umbrella and joins Jim. It’s a reckless decision, but he can convince himself it’s logical if he considers how much time he’ll save. And how much warmer he’ll be. Jim’s gorgeous smile has nothing to do with it.

If nothing else, maybe he might actually be networking with his future captain.