« Oh, » Gaila discreetly said to him. “Hottie’s back, I see.”
Jim grumbled, deliberately ignoring the man sitting on the other side of the bar as he served another shot of whisky to a customer. This one barely managed to grab his drink and was rocking on his chair as if he had lost all sense of equilibrium. Time to cut him off.
“Wasn’t he also here last week?” Gaila continued joyfully, somehow managing to serve and keep her attention on the object of Jim’s irritation. “Me thinks someone’s got a secret admirer.”
“More like a stalker,” Jim hissed between his teeth.
Thank God his shift was nearly over. Right at this moment, he wanted nothing more than to go home, take a long, hot shower and wash away the last remnants of a very shitty day still clinging to his skin.
Next to him, Gaila suddenly choked on her breath, her green cheeks flushing a little. “Wait, Jim, isn’t that—…”
“Yes,” Jim cut her off and left it at that.
He endured those last 15 minutes as well as he could, all the while feeling the intensity of that unwanted stare prickle his skin.
In the year 2258, a Romulan terrorist equipped with a technology which far surpassed anything the Federation of United Planets had ever known, attacked one of its founding members and wiped out their entire world after easily defeating the armada that had been sent to defend them.
Vulcan was no more and Starfleet’s brand new starship had been the only vessel to survive the massacre.
“I happen to be in need of a mechanic.”
Startled, Jim banged his head against a thick piece of hard metal and rolled out from under the car with a curse.
Leaning against a motorbike at the entrance of the garage, the man from the bar tilted his head and looked at him curiously.
“Do you know where I can find one?”
“For fuck’s sake—”
“What an eloquent answer,” was the dry response.
Jim forced himself not to wince at the throbbing sensation in his head, turning to glare at the intruder. He’s had enough.
“Look, I don’t know what your problem is, but if you don’t want to end up with my fist in your face, then I suggest you leave now.”
The complete and utter asshole had the nerve to look entertained at that. “Is that the way you treat all your customers?”
“That’s the way I treat stalkers,” Jim spat out. “Learn to take a hint, buddy. I’m not interested.”
That seemed to amuse him even more, if possible, and Jim had to fight against the sudden urge to strangle this man, consequences be damned. Gaila would be pissed that he left her alone to pay the rent, but she would understand. Eventually.
“I believe there’s a misunderstanding here,” his interlocutor said. “I simply wish to speak with you.”
“In case I wasn’t clear enough—”
“Oh, you were,” he cut Jim off smoothly. “But it would not be in my interest to leave.”
Jim found himself blinking in a mix of surprise and outrage, with maybe a little bit of interest too.
Interest that he crushed mercilessly because this man was clearly a psycho and Jim wanted him gone already.
“That’s it, I’m calling the cops,” he growled as he stalked towards the tool table to grab his phone. “I don’t care if you’re some big shot at Starfleet, I’m done with you.”
There was a satisfying edge marring the man’s warm tone. “Ah, so you have heard of me.”
Jim shot him a glare, putting the phone to his ear. “You’ve got 10 seconds.”
That didn’t seem to deter his interlocutor in the least. “Would it help to know that I’ve also heard of you?” A smirk twisted his face. “After all, it’s not everyday you get to meet George Kirk’s son.”
The dial tone started to ring in his ear.
“There’s a nice little café nearby,” the man said. “And hour of your time is all I ask.”
The Enterprise. That was the name of the fleet’s new star flagship. She had been assembled right next to Jim’s home, allowing him to witness the process as this beauty slowly came to life.
There were times where the awe and amazement were enough to take over the anger and bitterness that had taken roots into Jim’s guts a long time ago, moments where he entertained the possibility of turning his life around and giving himself the means of walking within her walls one day.
Those moments were always short lived as Jim would then quickly remember everything space had taken from him, making him turn his back on the enthralling vision of a ship that was nothing but pieces of metal put together yet still, somehow, called to him.
A siren’s call. Strong enough to want. Too weak to follow.
The café was actually pretty nice. Isolated, cozy and with terrific coffee.
“So,” Jim said casually as he threw a look around. “You wanted to talk. Talk.”
His interlocutor hummed thoughtfully. “You said you knew who I was.”
Jim snorted. “I don’t think there’s a single person on Earth who doesn’t know who John Harrison is.”
The corner of Harrison’s lips curled with a touch of irony. “Well, don’t sound so impressed.”
Jim lifted an eyebrow. “Do you want me to be impressed?”
“I want to know how the son of a legend ends up cumulating two different underpaid jobs when he’s scored incredibly high marks at the entrance exam of Starfleet, probably the highest marks seen in decades, and could be on his way to greatness himself instead of living a life that is clearly unsatisfying and dull.”
Stunned silence followed that statement.
Jim felt the grip on his coffee cup tighten to the point of pain as he struggled to control his breathing and ire.
“I see you’ve done your homework,” he eventually managed to hiss between his teeth. “You give a whole new meaning to ‘never meet your heroes’, you know that?”
Harrison cooked his head. “I’m your hero?”
Something dark and bitter swirled in Jim’s chest. “Not even close.”
Christopher Pike was the Enterprise’s original Captain and, to Jim’s knowledge, had only ever sat on the chair once. Taken hostage by the Romulan terrorists the day they attacked Vulcan, he was found on the brink of death by his First Officer and another member of his crew, a surviving Vulcan who had then taken upon himself to sabotage the Romulan ship from the inside.
Pike survived, but was in a coma ever since.
“The John Harrison asked you out on a date?” Gaila exclaimed excitedly, perched on the edge of his bed with her red curls falling like a curtain around her face.
Jim groaned. “It wasn’t a date. We just took a coffee and I nearly threw mine at his face.” He threw his clothes into the laundry basket and went to the bathroom without looking back. “The guy’s an asshole.”
Gaila followed him easily, not bothered in the least by his naked state, leaning against the sink as Jim hopped into the shower stall. “But what did he want?”
“I have absolutely no idea,” Jim complained, loud enough to be heard over the sound of warm water flowing down his body.
“But are you going to see him again?”
Gaila gave up the subject after that, but Jim should have known that she was just bidding her time. She waited until they were both comfortably sitting on their couch, delicious slices of pizza in their hands, before she approached the subject again.
“It’s strange though,” she munched thoughtfully. “Why is he so interested in you?”
Jim frowned, half his attention already on the tv. “Who?”
Gaila shoved his shoulder lightly. “Harrison. Geez, Jim, try to keep up.”
A groan escaped Jim. “Gaila, please, can we stop talking about this already?”
Considering the way his friend seemed to lose herself into her usual bubble of excitement, Jim very much doubted that she would let it go.
“But it’s John Harrison!” she repeats, as if the information hadn’t quite reached Jim’s brain yet. As if he wasn’t perfect aware of the power of that name. “Earth’s savior. Captain of the USS Enterprise. Starfleet’s very own golden boy.”
“Don’t forget arrogant and self-centered prick,” Jim mumbled under his breath.
Gaila ignored the remark, wide violet eyes staring at him incredulously. “Are you really going to blow him off like that?”
Taking a big bite of pizza, Jim answered her with his mouth full, just to piss her off. “Yes.”
Coming to San Francisco wasn’t exactly planned.
Jim had just… he had just been suffocating in Riverside and after another night spent at the station for starting a bar fight, it had occurred to him that if he didn’t leave right at this moment, he would probably end up killing himself.
It was an eerie sensation to say the least.
So he sold his motorbike, abandoned the family house that brought him nothing but misery in all his years of existence and bought a ticket for San Francisco on an impulse.
He didn’t look back as he left.
Harrison kept coming back.
Which was really starting to royally piss Jim off.
“Don’t you have a ship to get back to?” he growled at him once as he was forced to serve the man under his boss’ watchful stare.
A smirk twister Harrison’s features. “Eager to get rid of me?”
“Whatever gave you that impression?” Jim mocked with a sneer.
“Is it really that hard to believe that I just want to get to know you?”
“Why?” Jim challenged.
Harrison shrugged. “Let’s just say that there’s something about you that I find fascinating.”
Uneasiness crawled under his skin and Jim tensed, he couldn’t help it. “Interesting choice of words,” he said quietly.
The tip of Harrison’s fingers were playing with his drink, tracing circles on his glass. He looked at Jim like he was a strange specimen that he couldn’t wait to dissect. “Have dinner with me.”
And, by god, that wasn’t even a question. It sounded like an order.
Holding back a curse that and very admirably restraining himself from breaking a bottle across his stupid face, Jim went back to work and tried really hard to pretend that he couldn’t feel Harrison’s burning stare following him for the rest of his shift.
Jim was lucky, in a sense.
Settling in San Francisco wasn’t as hard as he thought it would be and that was mostly thanks to Gaia. He had met the Orion woman on the train and they had immediately sympathized, two lost souls finding kinship in one another. She was kind and bubbly and had the most infectious smile Jim had ever seen. Most importantly, she seemed to understand Jim’s situation in a way no one in his life ever did.
Gaia was the one who told him that her boss in San Francisco was looking for another bartender. She also gave him a place to stay when it was clear that he had nowhere else to go. Jim owed her everything.
Including meeting Spock.
“Whatever gave you the impression that I was even remotely interested in your love life?”
“Aw, Bones, don’t say that. You know you— Ow!” Too quick for Jim to react, Bones stabbed his neck with another hypo. “Fuck! That hurt!”
Leonard McCoy had the never to roll his eyes. “Oh, don’t be such a child.”
“This is why you were kicked out of Starfleet, isn’t it?” Jim narrowed his eyes. “You couldn’t control your thirst for blood anymore, is that it?”
“Yeah, yeah, they discovered my secret laboratory and put a stop to my evil experimentations on humans and aliens both.” He grabbed Jim’s medical chart and wrote something on it, ignoring his ramblings like only Bones could.
Despite his gruff exterior and total lack of bedside manner, Leonard McCoy was one of the best people Jim had ever known, as well as being an incredibly dedicated doctor to his patients. When Jim had first been brought to this clinic after an incident at the garage, McCoy had been in the middle of a job interview with the staff head. He had taken one look at Jim, quickly patched him up right there and then and saved his arm with such a natural ease that his future employer could do nothing but give him the job.
Jim had been so grateful – because, yes, he could be grateful despite what Bones seemed to believe – that he practically dragged the good doctor to the bar for a free drink.
They had been inseparable ever since.
Still, Bones never said why he chose to leave Starfleet when he had probably been one of their most promising recruit. Just grumbled something about the Fleet turning a little too military for him. Despite the burning curiosity eating him, Jim had never felt like it was his place to push for more information.
“Okay,” Bones nodded to himself. “Everything seems to be in order and the shot of antihistamine I just gave you should help with the allergies.” Then, under his breath. “Might help if you weren’t allergic to the entire universe, though.”
“Hey,” Jim protested. “Forgive me for existing.”
“Don’t be so dramatic,” Bones waved him off, getting rid of his gloves and throwing them to the trash. “You were telling me about Harrison?”
“Wouldn’t want to bother you with my petty problems,” Jim huffed.
Bones sent him a look. One. When his hand reached for another hypo, Jim got off the medbay like his ass was on fire. “Oh, no, you don’t.”
“I have other patients, kiddo. If you don’t want to tell me, fine, but don’t waste my time.”
“Harsh,” Jim winced. But true, he had to admit. “And I told you, I don’t know what to do about John Harrison.”
The answer was unequivocal. “Get a restraining order.”
Jim groaned. “I’m serious.”
“So am I,” Bones said seriously. “Jim, this man refuses to leave you alone, shows up at your place of work uninvited and constantly puts you in uncomfortable positions. I don’t care if he’s Earth’s mightiest hero, he doesn’t get to invade your space without your consent, that’s all there is to it.”
The thing was, Jim already thought about it. More than once in the past few weeks, he had been so close to either punch Harrison in the face or simply call the police. But somehow, he never did.
Gaila was right. This was John Harrison and, for a reason far beyond his understanding, he was interest in Jim. A bartender. A mechanic. A nobody.
If this was just a mere sense of curiosity over his filiation with George Kirk, then Harrison would have left him alone after they had that coffee together. Instead, he kept coming back.
“I just wanted to know if you ever had the occasion to speak with him, when you were still a cadet. What’s your real opinion on this guy?”
Bones exhaled loudly, absentmindedly putting away Jim’s medical file. “Sorry to disappoint you, but I don’t have much to tell. Harrison was already an instructor when I first entered Starfleet and I left before I could have him as a teacher. All I know is that he was Pike’s protégé alongside with Sp –”
He stopped. Threw an uneasy glance at Jim.
Heart clenching in his chest, Jim looked away.
It happened one rainy afternoon.
A group of Gaila’s friends arrived at the bar to and settled at a table in the corner, waiting for her shift to end so that they could enjoy a nice evening together. Gaila had been so eager to finally spend some time with her friends and when she asked Jim if he didn’t mind her leaving a little early, he easily told her not that it was fine. She thanked him with a big kiss on the cheek and left to join the group.
A little later, as they were ready to leave, Gaila came back with embarrassed little smile and discreetly showed him their table. Posture stiff and clearly uncomfortable, a man was still sitting on his chair, suddenly appearing extremely lonely now that the entire table had cleared.
Jim immediately recognized the pointy ears and shot an incredulous look at Gaila.
She appeared to be truly discomfited and explained to Jim that the Vulcan had come with one of her friends but clearly hadn’t expected this kind of outing. He had therefore deemed it better to stay behind and Gaila’s friend was feeling so bad that she was thinking of staying with him.
Personally, Jim thought that was fair. No need to be Einstein to know that this wasn’t the sort of establishment that would usually suit a Vulcan and if Gaila’s friend was responsible for this situation, then she might as well fix it.
But Gaila looked at him with those big, watery violet eyes he could never say no to and asked if he could – pretty please – entertain the Vulcan just enough so that he doesn’t feel completely abandoned.
Jim sighed, gave his approval, was offered another kiss on the cheek for it before his friend rushed out of the place and that was that.
Luckily, it wasn’t a busy hour, so Jim approached the table with a smile on his face. Sensing his approach, the Vulcan lifted his head and looked right at him.
That was the moment Jim fell in love.
A cup of coffee was put in front of him.
Startled, Jim looked up from his book to face the waitress. His eyes went from the coffee to the girl’s smiling face. “Uh, I didn’t order anything?”
The smile only got bigger somehow. Wordlessly, she nodded towards another table a little more isolated in the café.
Jim growled in frustration.
He took the cup and stalked towards the other side of the room where John freaking Harrison was calming sipping his own cup of coffee and very nearly slammed the glass on the man’s table, abruptly getting his attention.
Jim had to hand it to the guy, he looked really surprised at his sudden presence.
“This has got to stop,” he snapped angrily. “I don’t know what game you’re playing, but this it stopped being funny a long time ago.”
Harrison blinked owlishly. “Kirk, I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“I’m sure you don’t, Jim sneered. “Last warning. Next time I see you, I’ll shove my wrench so far up your ass you won’t even—”
“Uh, sir?” The waitress was suddenly next to him, her empty tray closely held to her chest, watching him wearily as if she was afraid he would attack her next. “I believe there was a misunderstanding…”
Clearly embarrassed, her eyes pointed to another table, right next to Harrison’s, where a young woman was pointedly not looking at him, a traitorous blush marring her cheeks.
Jim felt his own face flush in response.
“Oh,” he let out pitifully before bringing his attention back to Harrison who looked extremely entertained by this whole thing. “But you’re here,” Jim said a little dumbly.
Harrison’s eyes were shining with amusement. “Yes.”
Jim shook his head. “Why?”
Very carefully, Harrison looked around the café before his eyes came to rest on Jim once more.
“I like their coffee,” he simply said, as if that was answer enough.
Which, Jim supposed, it was. Harrison had been the one who brought them here in the first place and Jim had simply thought that it was because the café was close to his work place, not because the man was an actual regular.
Great, now he just felt mortified.
He cleared his throat. Once. Twice. Turned on his heels and walked back to his table with as much dignity as he could, opening his book and hiding his face in the pages.
Of course it was too much to hope that Harrison would just let the whole thing go.
He slid easily on the bench seat, tilting his head to catch the book’s cover.
“A Tale of Two Cities,” he read out loud with a touch of surprise marring his tone. “It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.”
Despite himself, Jim’s interest was piqued. “I didn’t peg you for the literature type.”
“There are many things you don’t know about me,” Harrison hummed. “Something that can easily be rectified.”
Jim sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Look, about what happened –”
“Apology accepted,” Harrison cut him off smoothly. “Now, about that dinner?”
Jim couldn’t help it, he laughed. A small, rueful little thing, but true nonetheless.
“Look, far be it from me to rain on your parade, but I’m not gay.”
The information did absolutely nothing to deter Harrison. “And?”
“And, I got your message, loud and clear, so I’m telling you right now; it’s not going to happen.”
Harrison simply brought his own cup of coffee to his lips. The gesture looked like a challenge.
That much arrogance should have angered Jim.