They say that there are moments that your life changes.
Moments that could otherwise slip by if one were not paying attention to them.
Insignificant until they’re not.
When a rainy Tuesday in San Francisco turns out to be so much more than that.
Moments like these, you only realize matter, when it’s too late.
“We don’t have that either,” Janice’s voice rings out. A hint of annoyance in her tone. Loud enough now to distract Jim from where he had been doing inventory in the back.
He stops in the middle of filling out yet another order form, setting it back down on his desk instead, and making his way through the space that was a mix between his office and a makeshift pastry kitchen depending on the time of day.
He’s expecting to see a cadet harassing Janice. It wouldn’t be the first time it had happened, for some reason the young woman always seemed to be the type to attract the most difficult of customers.
Except it’s not a cadet.
No, the figure standing on the other side of the counter is not wearing the bright red of a cadet’s uniform, but rather the deep grey colors of an officer’s uniform.
At the sound of the backdoor opening they had both turned to look in his direction. Janice with a look of exasperation on her face, and the customer without much of an expression at all. Though now Jim feels himself caught, stuck in place under the gaze of this officer, this vulcan officer - there’s a pin on his lapel that indicates him to be a professor rather than a captain or commander on shore leave, Jim is not certain whether this makes the situation more or less uncomfortable.
It wasn’t that Jim had a dislike of Starfleet.
No, certainly not, he wouldn’t be running a coffee shop just off of Starfleet’s San Francisco campus if he did.
In fact, a good percentage of Jim’s customer base were either Cadets at the Academy, personnel from Starfleet Medical, or the friends and family of those working at the Academy.
There was something about the grey uniform of the man in front of him that reminds Jim all too suddenly of his own failures. Leaving the Academy all those years ago had been a personal choice, one that had caused a small bit of disappointment from his family, but one that had felt right. He had always wanted to be out there among the stars, inspired by a family that had always had deep connections to Starfleet and his own childhood (complete with rough patches) not always spent on Earth.
But something had fallen through.
The captaincy that he had wanted as a child, forgotten, left behind because of a minor stipulation and possible breach of protocol. What had started as a six month suspension so that his case could be looked over had led to a job at a coffee shop.
And when the owner had become sick, leaving the shop to his favorite employee well… Jim didn’t regret not going back to Starfleet.
Not until someone shows up in dress greys and starts harassing his employees.
The thing is Enterprise Coffee was like his starship.
He was the Captain.
He’d had his fair share of cadets working part time jobs, local San Franciscans, and everything in between. There was even a cat wandering around here somewhere, though technically if anyone asked the cat wasn’t his, and certainly wasn’t a health code violation.
His employees were his crew.
The customers his uncharted space.
And anything that goes wrong in the ship becomes his personal problem sooner rather than later.
Jim waves Janice off, taking her spot at the register a moment later and placed on his patented customer service smile a moment later. The one that Jim has spent years practicing. The one that could charm any customer.
Or well, almost any customer.
Vulcans seem to be immune to his charms.
The one in front of him not changing his expression at all. Everyone has always said that Vulcan’s were impossible to read, not prone to expressing emotions, if they even had any at all. Though when Jim looks into the eyes of the man standing on the other side of the counter he swears that he can see something. Not frustration as he would have originally expected given the way Janice had sounded, but something else… He just looked tired.
Upon closer inspection Jim can tell that there is water on the shoulders of his uniform, dampness sticking his hair down flat to his head. Clearly he had dipped into the coffee shop to escape the rain once it came down suddenly and having found himself without an umbrella. That, at least, Jim could sympathize with.
“How can I help you,” Jim says, in a forced cheerful customer service voice.
The tired note that he can see in the Vulcan’s eyes carries over in his voice as well, “Miss Rand has already informed me that you do not service Plomeek tea or any sort of Vulcan spice tea.”
“Well, we don’t typically have people asking for it,” Jim points out, a bit of a cheeky grin, as he says it. The sort of grin that would get any other customer to give in. Years of service have taught him that the customer is always right, but they’ve also taught him that a smile and the flash of a badge labelling him as manager tended to give even the most frozen of hearts a chance to thaw. Though this time it seems to work. Jim drops the fake smile at once, trying instead - “We do have a Malasa Chai which is similar to a Vulcan spice tea?”
There’s a small nod at that.
Because it’s certainly not what he wants to drink, but they both know the real reason he is in the shop isn’t for any tea, and the sign at the door clearly states the ordering something was a prerequisite for hanging around the shop.
Thankfully Jim isn’t the type to call a paying customer out and when he’s given the right amount of credits, Jim turns away and busies himself with preparing the drinks. It’s not often that he works up in the front of the shop, especially on such an easy day. During the morning rushes he’ll be up here certainly, or if one of his employees calls out sick, but there’s a lot more to running a business than standing at a cash register and making drinks.
Still there is familiarity to it.
He’s done this plenty of times before.
Muscle memory in a way.
It feels right.
The coffee shop his home, literally seeing as his apartment was just a floor above where they were all standing now, but also figuratively. He’s not entirely certain that he would have fit right on a starship, that he would have worn his dress greys crisp and clean the same way the professor before him did, that he would have felt at home among the stars.
But he feels it here.
Maybe that’s why an officer, even a professor, standing in his shop in his dress greys still settles an uncomfortable feeling inside of Jim. Surely, that would be the best way to explain it. The way he is still very conscious of the Vulcan’s gaze on his back as he works about making his tea.
When he turns back around after finishing the drink Jim finds that steady gaze still on him.
“Here you go,” Jim says, defaulting back to his customer service voice, despite the obvious proof that it is not working in this case.
For a second their hands touch, just briefly, as the to go cup is exchanged between them, but Jim feels something nearly instantaneous, a spark, something which nearly makes him jolt in surprise.
The coffee cup slipping slightly, before thankfully secured in his customer’s hand.
“Thank you,” the Vulcan replies quickly, cutting off Jim’s question.
In the absence of the brush of his fingers, Jim feels suddenly cold in comparison.
He knows that he was not alone in feeling whatever that was, the tired expression is gone from the Vulcan’s eyes for a moment and replaced by an awareness that makes Jim shift uncomfortably behind the counter. With one more quick nod, he turns taking his tea with him and heading for the door despite the fact that the rain is still coming down heavily and he does not have an umbrella. As if he is desperate to leave the coffee shop and everyone inside of it behind as soon as possible.
The whole situation feels odd.
But then again, Starfleet always has a way of gathering the eccentric sort to teach at the Academy. So he shrugs it off, heading back to do inventory with nothing more than a quick call to Janice to - “Let me know next time you’re having a difficult customer, sooner rather than later, yeah?”
“Sorry,” she replies quickly, retaking her place at the register despite the fact that the shop really is empty and with the rain nobody else will likely be coming in any time soon.
He waves her off as he slips back into the backroom.
He doesn’t mean to think much of it.
Certainly doesn’t plan on dwelling on it.
But as he goes back to filling out the order forms he still feels slightly off. A tingling sensation in his fingers that still hasn’t managed to go away. And when his eyes settle on one of the options on his order form, for interplanetary teas.
Well, if he places orders for Plomeek and Vulcan Spice Tea, it certainly has nothing to do with the Vulcan whose name he doesn’t even know.
No, certainly not.
He just orders some in case, on the off chance, to try something new.
“You ever fuck a Vulcan?”
“Remind me again why I let you drink my good scotch?”
Jim rolls his eyes, pushing the chair with his foot in order to get it to spin, though Bones’ hand comes down to stop him from spinning the chair a moment later. Fixing him a look that was thrououghly unimpressed.
Not that Bones was ever particularly impressed with his nonsense.
At least, his office at Starfleet Medical was always open when Jim had a long day at the coffee shop and needed to talk. Or in this case, needed the nice vintage stuff Bones keeps in the safe that they both try to pretend Jim doesn’t know the code to.
It’s been ages since they were roommates at the Academy, but some things really do never change.
“Doesn’t answer the question, Bones.”
“If any of us would have it would be you.”
Which, fair point.
“Just scientifically speaking it is possible to fuck a Vulcan right, they do it the usual way, right?”
Distantly he registers one of the nurses, that has been lingering in the doorway trying to get Bones attention mumble, “Aren’t Vulcan’s touch telepaths?”
Though that’s forgotten a moment later as Bones reaches forward to take the bottle from Jim’s hand, “Yeah, we’re cutting you off.”
It’s two weeks before he sees the Vulcan again.
Not that Jim was keeping track. Not that he had really spared a second thought for him after that rainy Tuesday, the subsequent evening in Bones’ office, and then a night spent possibly looking up what Vulcan porn options the internet had to offer.
(The final verdict had been not many at all.)
But then he’s there.
There’s no rain to excuse it this time.
No real reason for the Vulcan to be standing inside of Jim’s coffee shop and yet he is standing there.
Jim’s up in the front this time, Uhura having called in to say that she was going to be running late, and Jim still not entirely certain that he was ready to leave the whole front of the shop in Chekov’s hands, despite how capable he kept insisting that they were.
It’s a slow enough day that he’s spent most of it trying to explain to Chekov the difference between a cold brew and a regular iced coffee, while the kid kept insisting with each sample that Jim offered that the two tasted the same. For someone with what was clearly a genius IQ to be in Starfleet at such a young age, he didn’t have much in the way of taste.
Which is why Jim is thankful for the distraction of the Vulcan appearing in his shock.
“I ordered your tea,” Jim says by way of greeting.
For a second there’s a hint of confusion on the Vulcan’s face. A hint of surprise too. But Jim is certain that Vulcan’s don’t do surprised.
Instead, he shifts his gaze away from Jim, up to the vintage chalkboard menu display above Jim’s head. “I do not see it listed as an option.”
“It’s part of the secret menu,” Jim says.
The secret menu really just code for drinks Jim was too lazy to write up on the board.
Or, more accurately have one of the girls with nice neat handwriting put up on the board.
“All the cool kids have a secret menu,” Jim adds with a wink.
“That does not seem very logical. How would anyone know that it is available to purchase?”
Jim shrugs. What is he supposed to say? That the real reason he had bought the tea in the first place because this one Vulcan made an impression on him. One that lasted long enough that he had allotted surplus budget to importing expensive teas that nobody else would even be remotely interested in drinking.
Jim had tried them himself, finding the Plomeek too bland, and the spice tea too bitter. Not the type of tea prefered by the usual human palate that made up the vast majority of his customer base.
And the truth was, he didn’t buy the tea for the rest of his customers.
He bought it for just one customer.
The one right in front of him.
“So what’ll it be,” Jim presses, “Plomeek or Vulcan spice tea?”
“Plomeek,” he replies, instantly.
Jim nods, “And a name for that?”
It feels good to place a name to the face that he had thought about over the last two weeks far more than he would like to admit. To finally have something more than a scrutinizing gaze, and a grey uniform to go off of.
Jim writes the name on the side of the to go cup carefully, waves off Chekov’s offer to take the cup and work the line like he is supposed to, and turning to brew the tea.
He’s only ever made Plomeek tea once before, in an attempt to try it for himself when the order came in, and it hadn’t come out much to Jim’s liking. Then again, maybe that was the way it was meant to be service. Bitter and bland. Some liked their tea that way.
It would be fitting for a Vulcan to.
The thought brings a small smile to Jim’s lips as he brew the tea, carefully following what he remembered of the instructions that he had tried to memorize after reading them online days before.
When he turns back around Spock is watching him just like before, his lips pursed, scrutinizing Jim still.
He once again hasn’t moved away from the register and to the pick up area like any other customer normally would. Instead he still stands there, waiting and watching.
“Here you go,” Jim says, same as before.
Only this time when he holds out the cup Spock doesn’t take it. Instead he stares awkwardly at the drink in Jim’s hand, for a moment far too long.
Isn’t that what the articles Bones sent him had said.
And last time he had seen Spock they had touched hands, just for a moment, but surely just long enough.
“Right,” Jim says awkwardly putting the drink down on the counter.
Once it’s down on the counter, Spock grabs the drink without hesitation. Giving Jim a small nod and saying, “Thank you,” before he leaves again, just as quickly as he had the first time he had came in weeks ago.
“You know, there’s no Vulcans in Russia, they’re not allowed in,” Chekov says breaking the silence that follows Spock’s exit, with the weird sort of quirk that only the kid can have. Sprouting off the usual weird sort of nonsense that really makes Jim wonder what part of Russia this kid is actually from.
Jim knows better than to ask, but it’s easier than to dwell on the lingering feeling of awkwardness that hangs in the air even after Spock has gone from the shop. “You don’t say?”
He gets Uhura up on a ladder the second she comes in to start her shift, the woman only making the slightest of protests about having to adjust the board.
“If we just got a smart board like any other restaurant,” she mumbles even as she goes up the steps, taking the offered chalk from Jim’s hands.
Chekov watches from by the register, “Did you know the inventor of the smart board was actually Russian?
Jim snorts. “You hear that, maybe you should move to Russia? Work at a coffee shop there?”
He can’t see her face, but he’s certain Uhura is rolling her eyes at them.
Still she humors him. Using her sleeve to erase the special that is currently up there replacing it with Plomeek Tea instead. No longer a secret menu after all. He’s not certain why seeing those two words up on the menu board brings a smile to his face.
He calls it satisfaction.
Sticking it to Spock and his subtle jibe about what was and wasn’t logical.
“You know, you could have just done this yourself,” she points out, when she finishes, stepping down the later. “You didn’t need to wait on me.”
“You really expect me to trust the kid to hold the ladder steady?”
Spock is back the next day.
Something which feels like a good surprise, because Jim has spent the last twelve hours unable to get the thought of Spock out of his mind. Especially now that he has a name to go with the face.
That is until any pretense of playing nice slips away and before Jim can even offer to take his order or point out that his tea is no longer part of the secret menu Spock cuts him off - “You did not brew yesterday’s tea properly.”
Jim blames the fact that nobody has ever actually came up to complain about a drink that he has made in years for the fact that the only word he can manage is, “What?”
Spock, seeming to have assumed that Jim was simply not listening or did not remember clarified, “The drink that I ordered yesterday, was made improperly.”
“What would you like then a refund,” Jim asks. “Because that tea was expensive and I’m not really-”
“You should not offer something you are not capable of making.”
Somewhere behind him he registers Janice gasping in surprise.
A feeling that Jim would relate to a lot more if his stubborn pride wasn’t getting in the way.
“I don’t come into your classroom and tell you how to teach,” Jim points out. “Or would you like to come back here and do it better?”
It’s sarcasm. Not a real offer. But Spock doesn’t seem to realize that, nodding after a moment, as if this was the only acceptable answer. “Certainly.”
Jim is still in a bit of a shock which is probably what accounts for the fact that he doesn’t think in time to stop Spock from moving around the counter to cross over into the employees only section. He looks so out of place here, but also so resolute in his determination to be here that Jim does not stop him. Not like he probably should.
Instead all he has to say is a half hearted, “You need an apron.”
Spock raises an eyebrow at him which is a look that is far more attractive than it should be, and accounts for at least twenty percent of why Jim is letting him get away with this. The other part is curiosity, he does have a business to run and who better to teach him how to brew Vulcan teas than a Vulcan.
Sulu, unhelpful as always, tosses his own apron in their general direction, which Jim catches easily with only an unamused glance in his employee’s direction before handing the apron off to Spock.
It’s a little absurd, the whole Professor uniform with a yellow apron over the front of it, but somehow it suits Spock.
More than Jim would like to admit.
He tears his gaze away before he can think any more about how good Spock looks in an apron, instead busing himself with getting the root tea out of the cabinet and offering it to Spock. He doesn’t miss how Spock is careful not to have their fingers brush together when he takes the box of tea from Jim.
The thing is once Spock starts explaining the process he is actually very good at it.
Not that Jim expected Spock to be bad at brewing the signature drink of his home planet, but Spock isn’t just good at making the tea. It is the way he explains what he is doing, each step, carefully instructed, going at a slower pace that Jim imagines that he normally would so that Jim can see each step.
It’s no wonder when Janice and Sulu come over a minute into the explanation, though Jim’s not certain whether that’s because they genuinely want to know how to make the drink or because his employees are incredibly nosy.
“You’re a good teacher,” Jim finds himself reluctantly admitting when Spock pauses in his explanation saying that the tea needed to steep.
Spock shoots him a look that seems to imply obviously, “I am a Professor, Jim.”
Jim is taken aback for a moment, somehow he hadn’t expected Spock to know his name.
He had forgotten that they had never properly introduced themselves. His shock must show on his features, because a second later Spock points out, “Your name tag.”
“Right, of course,” Jim says quickly, to cover up his momentary surprise.
Judging from the cough that was certainly a laugh coming from the peanut gallery, he wasn’t nearly as smooth as he had thought that he was.
“Maybe you should quit Starfleet and become a barista,” Jim says, a joke to diffuse the tension.
“That’s quite illogical,” Spock points out. “I am very accomplished professor.”
“You’ve got a natural talent for it.” Jim shrugs. “I wouldn’t mind you hanging around the shop more often if you changed your mind.”
Spock gives him a look that makes it clear he won’t be changing his mind, but there’s the barest hint of mirth in his eyes and Jim knows his joke did not fall short. Before going back to his explanation as if Jim had never interrupted him.
If Jim can’t look away, he blames it on the fact that Spock really is a good teacher, surely it has nothing to do with how good he looks in that apron.
When Spock leaves Jim turns back to Janice and Sulu, ignoring the knowing look on Sulu’s face (proof that Jim really needed better friends) -”If he ever comes in again and I’m in the back make sure to get me right away.”
Sulu wiggling his eyebrows in Jim’s direction doesn’t help at all. “Sure thing, Captain.”
“It’s not like that,” Jim insists, “He’s just a picky bastard and neither of you could make his drink properly.”
Sulu hums a disbelieving tone, “Whatever helps you sleep at night.”
Janice, at least, backs him up, “It did look awfully complicated.”
“And this why one of your is getting a raise, and the other is not.”
Sulu’s noise of indignation is enough to cause Jim to laugh as he moves back into the workroom once more.
He tells himself that it is purely academic interest, the sort of interest that he hasn’t had in years, that the first thing he looks up when he closes the shop of the evening and trudges up the stairs to his apartment is different techniques for brewing Vulcan teas.
Spock had showed him the one but there was a batch of Vulcan spice tea too and apparently this was a delicate and complicated process if the numerous articles and videos on the subject were anything to go off of.
Jim spends a good hour looking up the different theories on how best to brew the tea before he gives into the impulse that had been growing inside of him since he first learned Spock’s name the day before.
An impulse that he had thus far managed to keep down, but that now given how good Spock had looked is something as silly as an Enterprise Coffee apron well… A nagging want that had become a need.
It’s not hard to do, Starfleet keeps an active database of their professors for anyone to look at, complete with small biographies and what classes they are teaching that semester.
All he has to do is search Spock’s name and then he’s there.
Jim’s not certain why he had expected Spock to have been on loan from the Vulcan Science Academy, but to see that he had started off at Starfleet, had been a commander on a ship, before deciding to focus on the academic section causes a sort of weird feeling to overtake him.
To think that in another life, if Jim had stayed in the Academy, that they might have crossed paths in a different way. On a starship together. As a Captain and Commander. It’s a pointless thought, one so far from reality, but for a moment staring down at Spock’s official Starfleet headshot he cannot help but imagine it.
Imagine how Spock might have looked in the blue uniform of a science track officer, rather than the grey dress uniform of a ranking professor. While Jim would have been in command golds of his own.
The mental image is so hot that for a second Jim closes his eyes to let it fully sink in, the tablet settling from his hands back onto his coffee table that way he doesn’t break it, as he lets himself.
“Three days in a row,” Jim comments when Spock shows up in his shop again. “You know what they say, third time’s the charm.”
It’s later in the afternoon this time, Spock with a bookbag under his arms, and a tired look in his eyes that reminds him of the first time.
“A human sentiment that I have never found to have much validity,” Spock replies.
Jim blames it on the fact that he spent far too long the night before staring at pictures of Spock that that comment somehow has a way of charming him. It’s a harmless crush really. One that Jim knows will lead to nothing. Spock isn’t the first regular that had won Jim’s attention for a few weeks only to disappear in favor of another shop eventually, probably wouldn’t be the last knowing Jim’s luck.
Still he feels a need to impress Spock.
“Just wait and see,” Jim insists.
Everyone says that Vulcan’s are supposed to be expressionless, but Jim swears that Spock looks pleased at that statement. He quickly pays and moves to sit by one of the tables off to the side, ordering the drink ‘for here’ this time instead of his usual ‘to go’ order.
Jim’s not sure whether to take that as a sign that Spock wants to stick around longer or that he simply has papers to grade. Seeing how quickly Spock sets up, pulling tablets from his bag, Jim is certain it’s the former.
Despite the fact that Spock has sat down and clearly intends to work, Jim is more than well aware of Spock’s eyes on him the entire time he brews the tea, able to catch the reflection of his gaze in the chrome appliances of the coffee shop. However, when he turns back around after finishing Spock’s eyes are back on his tablet as if he had never been watching Jim at all.
He waves away Chekov’s offer to bring the drink over - after all, Chekov is technically the one on waiter duty today - and instead brings it over to Spock himself. Ignoring how Sulu whispers in the other man’s ear, clearly explaining what he had missed by not working the day before.
Jim sets the drink down on the table, with his usual warning of, “Careful it’s hot.”
Spock looks up at Jim’s words, those eyes that always seem to be watching Jim finally meeting his own. Spock’s eyes are deep, expression the small emotions that the rest of him seems often unwilling to. Jim wonders how others have not drowned in his eyes from a simple glance.
He comes back to himself only when Spock breaks the gaze and quietly says, “Thank you.”
Normally Jim would move away, go back to work, but something causes him to linger there in Spock’s space.
Spock notices arching an eyebrow at him.
And Jim feels the need to explain, “Just waiting for your assessment, Professor Spock.”
Amusement now in those eyes, a tongue that darts out just a little to wet his lips, as he moves forward and takes the tea cup raising it to his lips a moment later. It’s unfair that Spock should look this good while simply drinking tea.
Jim waits, seconds that seem like minutes, before Spock sets the cup down and rules it as, “Passable.”
With anyone else that would be an offense but from Spock it feels like the highest of compliments, “See third time really is the charm.”
When they go out for drinks that weekend as usual Bones fixes him a long look, one that makes Jim want to shift awkwardly away from his gaze. Bones has known him for far too long, and always knows exactly how to see through whatever Jim is up to.
A little surprised that Sulu hasn’t spread Jim’s interest in Spock around like wildfire through the various groupchats that they’re all connected in. In hindsight, befriending some of his employees and letting them meet his usual drinking buddies Bones and Scotty, may have been a mistake on Jim’s part.
Eventually, Bones finishes his silent assessment and simply says, “You seem happier than normal.”
“You say that like it’s a bad thing.”
Bones grumbles slightly, “With you it might be.”
After that Spock starts to stop by more often. It doesn’t become a spoken thing, Jim too worried that bringing attention to it will mean that it will stop happening, but more often than not Spock is there showing up during his breaks between classes to work on grading or research or whatever it is that professor’s actually did.
It becomes normal.
Spock showing up, one of Jim’s employees dipping in the back to grab him (usually with knowing looks) if he isn’t already up front. Brewing a cup of Plomeek or Vulcan Spice tea depending on Spock’s mood and bringing it over to his usual table.
Somehow Spock has become a usual.
Something that makes Jim a lot happier than it probably should.
Certainly it’s good from a business perspective that Jim’s order of Vulcan teas does not go to waste, and between Spock and the usual set of students curious about the newest specials, he actually has to purchase another order when the next inventory day comes in.
Usually he would be in the back going over order forms but Spock is there and when doing them perched on the countertop becomes too much and the other half of a table is offered despite there being other open spots well… Jim tries not to let his eagerness show when he takes the table and settles back down to his working on his orders.
Though it’s even harder to stay focused over here. He’s stayed at the same form for the last five minutes, not actually certain where he needs to order more herbal teas or not, transfixed instead in the way that if he tilts his tablet just right he can catch the reflection of Spock hard at work across from it.
It’s not as obvious as staring might be.
But he’s not entirely certain that his gaze goes unmissed.
There’s a brush against his legs and Jim is pulled away from his not staring staring. Jim jolting instinctively. His knee hitting the bottom of their table. Enough to jostle their drinks but thankfully not spilling anything over.
Still it catches Spock’s attention and a second later he sets down the table he had been working on to shoot Jim a look that is best classified as concerned.
“Just the cat,” Jim says, quickly.
As if one cue the cat slips out from under the table choosing to settle over by Spock instead.
He’s noticed before that the shop’s resident pet had taken a shine to Spock a few times. Normally she liked to lurk around in the back, only ever coming out to be affectionate to her actual owner, but there was something about Spock that seemed to draw her in. Good energy. Jim couldn’t blame the cat.
The fond feeling that always seems to make its home in Jim’s chest whenever Spock is around only grows when he reaches to pet her head, and gets his hand headbutted in return.
“I think that means she likes you,” Jim points.
“Animals tend to,” Spock replies, and when he shifts in his chair slightly she jumps up into his lap as if on cue, making a home for herself there. “What is her name?”
“Koshka,” Jim replies, “And yes before you ask her name is really just cat, but she’s Chekov’s so that one isn’t on me.”
A small smile finds its way onto Spock’s lips.
And Jim can’t help but feel envious of a cat.
“The dorms don’t let them keep pets,” Jim continues to explain, “He was all up in a fuss over it once he got caught and I said he could keep her here until he turns eighteen and can get a place off campus.”
He’s not mistaken, he knows now well enough to tell Spock’s expressions, wondering when exactly this became so easy for him. Because there’s a soft expression on Spock’s face, and it does things to Jim, makes him feel that maybe this is more than just a harmless crush on one of his usuals.
“You really do look after your crew,” Spock says.
It’s such a simple assessment of Jim, but it sticks there some place inside of him. He’s not used to being noticed like this. Not used to anyone being able to see him this easily.
“Someone has to.”
“Something’s off about you.”
Jim rolls his eyes at Bones’ assessment, even though his fingers are absentmindedly drumming an unsteady rhythm against his glass. It’s not that Bones is wrong. Normally when they went out for drinks Jim was off finding someone to flight with by now. Whether it was someone in their group (all of whom always shot him down for friendship's sake), the bartender, or one of the co-eds dancing to whatever upbeat music was playing in the club - it was always someone.
Except tonight the thrill of flirting with a stranger isn’t there.
Because the only person that Jim wants to flirt with isn’t there.
Probably wouldn’t be caught dead in a place like this.
Sulu answers for him, “Jim’s got a thing for one of our usuals.”
“I do not,” Jim says quickly. Too quickly.
Especially when they all know it to be a lie.
Uhura snorts into her drink.
“I might,” Jim corrects.
“Spill,” Bones says turning to Sulu and Uhura.
“I will fire you,” Jim threatens, “Both of you.”
“You won’t, you like us too much,” Uhura counters.
“I could,” Jim stubbornly insists.
“He won’t,” Scotty assures them, waving them on for an explanation.
Scotty’s right, but that doesn’t stop Jim from sulking into his drink.
“He’s a Vulcan Professor,” Sulu tells them, “Comes in about daily now.”
“Is that why you asked about-”
“Hey, Bones, don’t finish that sentence,” Jim says cutting him off.
Bones looks far too smug for his own good, “That was weeks ago.”
As if Jim was anything less than well aware of that fact.
“His name is Spock and he’s actually the guest professor for my Vulcan linguistics course,” Uhura supplies. “I wouldn’t have originally pegged him for Jim’s type, but I can see it.”
“Alright, who's got a picture,” Scotty says, suddenly more into this conversation.
And Jim knows already that he’s going to need at least another two rounds of drinks to even get through this conversation.
It’s not really a surprise to anyone that Jim is hungover in the morning, and when he texts Uhura and tells her that she’s in charge of running the shop while he takes the day off, he tries to pretend he cannot tell how smug her reply is in return.
He needs this day off.
He’s not certain when the last time he took a full day to himself was.
Jim is never far from the coffee shop, one of the downsides of living above the place, never far away. If he doesn’t put on music to distract himself he can hear the sounds of the shop below his feet. But it is still nice to have a break.
To not have to force himself through his hangover and instead be able to sit on his couch nursing his miracle hangover cure, a proven miracle after all the years of making it, and wait laze about his apartment waiting until his body decided to be well enough to keep something down and to free him from the pounding headache.
He plans to spend the day much like that.
Wasting it away without a care in the world.
But his rest is cut short sooner rather than he would like it to be as his phone vibrates with a text from Uhura, informing him that his usual is there. He can feel her pointed judgement through the simple message, but ignores the urge to head down the stairs to the coffee shop before, instead quickly messaging her back to just give Spock an apron and let him make his own drink. It would be better than any complaint that whoever else was on shift with Uhura was doing it wrong.
Jim’s certain that that will be the end of it.
And for a moment he lets his eyes slip shut resting on the couch there. It’s almost comfortable enough that he can ignore the pounding in his head, that he could maybe take a nap and hope that that does something to for his hangover. Even though he knows better than that, and that only time and chugging five more bottles of water would actually help.
Still sleeping does sound like a nice option for his day off.
Especially if good dreams await him.
Jim can almost feel himself falling asleep, only to snap back to wakefulness suddenly at the sound of someone knocking at his door. There was no reason for anyone to be knocking. There was never any reason, especially since the only way to get to that door of his apartment was to go through the shop and…
He was going to fire Uhura.
Really that was the best option.
Because there was nobody else who could be at his door.
Jim runs a hand through his hair, knowing that there’s no way to make himself semi presentable and less obviously hungover than he currently was, lounging around in sweatpants and a worn old t-shirt, not even close to presentable.
Still, he opens the door against all better judgement.
Of course, it’s Spock. Who else would it be? His usual.
Spock looks much the same as always, dress uniform, book bag slung over his shoulder like he had intended to work downstairs. The only thing different than usual is that instead of one to go cup of tea in his hands there’s two.
“You do not seem surprised to see me?”
“I’m firing Uhura tomorrow,” Jim tells him, though there’s no real fight in his voice. And they both know that he wouldn’t.
Spock frowns just a little at that. “Cadet Uhura informed me you were feeling unwell.”
“You could say that,” Jim grimaces.
“I made you tea.”
“Isn’t that my job?”
For just a second that frown flickers into a smile, before settling back to the usual blank expression that Jim is accustomed to. When Spock offers Jim the coffee cup he takes it, not thinking, less careful than he usually would be, his fingers brushing against Spock’s just briefly.
There’s a little spark again and Jim wonders if it’s normal to feel that every time their hands accidentally brush.
When he pulls back, taking the cup with him, he can’t help but feel just the slightest bit better.
He does not realize that he had been staring into Spock’s eyes, unmoving for a moment, until finally Spock looks away from him, looking around Jim’s apartment instead, “I did not realize that you lived above the coffee shop.”
“Yeah, I own the building,” Jim says with a shrug. Feeling for a second that he should invite Spock in. Unsure what the usual protocol was for when one of your meddling employees decided to send your crush to your apartment.
Unsure if there even is a normal way to go about this.
Unsure about just about everything when it came to Spock.
He wants to ask him to stay, wants to spend his lazy day here, with Spock beside him.
“Spock, I-” Jim starts.
The same time Spock says, “I should leave you to your rest.”
He was supposed to be resting because he was feeling unwell.
“It is my pleasure.”
“I see that you are feeling better today,” Spock says the next time he comes in.
“Much,” Jim replies.
Going through the usual motions with familiarity, like he would with any other regular. Except Spock isn’t any other regular, he’s different. Jim’s well aware of that now.
Well aware of the fact that he cannot stop looking at Spock whenever he comes in. Cannot stop thinking about Spock when he is not there. It feels like so much more than a crush in moments like this, with Spock lingering by the counter longer than necessary, just to be in Jim’s space as he works. With the way he smiles just a little, just for Jim, as he takes his to go cup from Jim’s hands before heading out of the shop once more.
Jim’s gaze lingers on the door for far too long, even after Spock has left.
He’s falling for Spock.
(Maybe he’s already fallen.)
Even if he still stubbornly refuses to admit it to his friends.
Including the very friend that watches their whole exchange with an amused glance, standing by the counter to drink his third cup of complimentary coffee while he pets Koshka.
“I didn’t know that Vulcans could smile.
“Don’t start,” Jim says, shooting Bones a glare at the smug look on the other man’s features.
Still despite his tone, when Bones holds out his mug for one more refill Jim takes it from him and does so.
“You were sick,” Bones asks skeptically, “And you didn’t tell me?”
Jim rolls his eyes. “I was hungover, and Uhura was meddling.”
Bones snorts at that, “Lovesick more like.”
It’s not that Jim has a vendetta against customers that come in right before closing, except… He does.
During exam season they stay open later than usual for the cadets that might need time to study, but in the middle of the semester, on a rainy day when he’s long since sent everyone else home for the night, the door chiming with ten minutes left before closing is Jim’s least favorite sound.
“You better make it quick,” Jim calls, not caring about coming off as harsh, as he finishes wiping down one of the machines before turning around. “And if you want an espresso then-” He stops when he turns around and realizes just who it is on the other side of the counter.
Not a cadet that was out studying late for some reason and looking for a place to hide out from the storm for a few minutes.
But a familiar face.
He looks so similar to the first time Jim had met him. Hair stuck to his face from the rain, someone really did need to buy Spock an umbrella sooner rather than later. That same tired look in his eyes.
Suddenly someone coming in right before closing doesn’t seem like the worst thing in the world.
Not when that someone is Spock.
“My apologies for coming in so late, I saw the light on and-”
“You’re fine,” Jim says, waving Spock off before he can apologize. “You look like you’ve had a long day.”
He can see the exhaustion on his features.
A very long day clearly.
“I have,” Spock admits.
“Take a seat,” Jim tells him. Even though he’s already swept the main area of the shop, already put everything away. For Spock, he can make an exception. “I’ll make you a cup of tea, on the house.”
“You do not have to do that,” Spock insists, “I can pay, I have the money.”
“It’s a gift, Spock, you’re really not going to turn down a gift are you?”
Another day Spock might have debated that point. Reminded Jim what was good for his business, but it must have really been a long day because Spock does not. Instead, he simply goes to his usual table, settling down in the seat as Jim makes his drink.
For once Spock does not watch Jim as he makes the drink. Something that worries Jim far more than it should, and when he looks back over at Spock, he notices that the Vulcan has his eyes closed and seems to be slipping into a light meditation as he sits there.
When Jim finishes Spock’s drink he moves back around the counter, stopping at the front door to flip the sign from open to closed, before setting down Spock’s drink.
Spock’s eyes slip back open at the sound of the cup against the table, meeting Jim’s gaze and holding it for a long moment before he says, “Thank you.”
“Do you want to talk about it,” Jim offers.
Not usually the type to ask, but with Spock… He wants to know more about Spock. More than just how he takes his tea and which students of his can’t write a lab report to save their lives. He wants to know everything about Spock.
“It is complicated,” Spock says choosing his words carefully, “A family matter.”
Jim grimaces, knowing all too well about complicated families.
Spock doesn’t say anything more on the subject so Jim lets it drop, just saying, “Well, if you want to talk, I’m here,” before going back to cleaning the shop.
For a while there is silence.
Jim cleaning, while Spock sits there, a mix between relaxing and occasionally sipping on his tea.
It’s only as Jim starts sweeping behind the counter that Spock finally does speak. His voice quiet enough that Jim thinks he mishears him at first - wants to mishear him - because this is not the question he had expected Spock to ever ask him.
But he does.
But he is here asking it.
A question that Jim has spent most of his life being asked - “Why did you drop out of Starfleet?”
Jim’s hands still on his broom, asking, “What?” even though he doesn’t need clarification.
“I looked you up,” Spock says, speaking slowly, “I was… Curious about you.”
“I know the feeling,” Jim admits. Before shrugging, giving into the impulse to turn Spock’s words back around on him, “It’s complicated.”
Spock almost smiles at that.
So Jim turns the question around, “Why did you join Starfleet?”
This question Spock answers for him easily, as if he has practiced the answer. He probably has. “My father is an ambassador, it was logical to pursue work which-”
“Bullshit,” Jim cuts him off, “The real reason.”
He abandons the broom. Abandons his plan to clean and instead moves to where Spock is, taking the seat opposite him. Spock sips his tea, seeming to consider Jim’s assessment of him.
“I was looking for a place to belong,” Spock eventually admits.
Jim nods. Knowing exactly it. “That’s why I left.”
When their eyes meet Jim can still see the exhaustion, but there’s something else there, so real, so powerful, that Jim barely resists the urge to breach the small space between them. Spock has always been attractive, Jim always well aware of that fact, but here sitting across from Jim, in the dim low lights of closing, with the rain beating against the window next to them, he’s suddenly so much more aware of the fact.
He forces his gaze away before he does something reckless, settling on Spock’s now empty teacup.
“Here let me get you-”
“It is fine,” Spock cuts him off.
Stopping Jim from taking the teacup away. Normally were there hands to brush against Jim would have been quick to pull back, but he can’t now. Not with Spock’s hand on his wrist stopping him from pulling the cup away, holding him there in place.
If it had been a spark before, it was so much more now.
And when Jim lets go of the cup, Spock does not tug his hand away, but instead slides his fingers around, brushing against the inside of Jim’s wrist, sliding further up so that there palms are pressed together, finger tips against finger tips.
Jim feels something.
A buzzing in his head, a feeling that he cannot explain.
That he cannot fight.
That he does not want to fight.
“Why did you do all of this,” Spock asks.
And for a second it’s hard to think with the buzzing in his head, “Let you stay past closing?”
Spock nods a little. “Not just that. Even before we knew each other, you ordered my tea, tried to learn to make it, why go through all the trouble to do any of this?”
It’s a question that Jim doesn’t know the answer to himself.
That there was something about Spock that first day.
Something that Jim felt inside of him the second he saw Spock walk through the doors.
“I couldn’t stop thinking about you,” Jim admits, “I still can’t.”
“I felt a spark,” Jim explains, “When our hands first touched that day by mistake, I felt a spark and I feel it now racing across my skin, I feel it inside of me, I…”
He trails off.
Looking into Spock’s eyes.
Understanding everything Spock is feeling so clearly as if he can see into his mind.
“Tell me you don’t feel it too?”
It is an impulse. One that he is not certain if it is the right one. But one that he feels so strongly that it is almost overwhelming. Spock’s mere presence overwhelming him. He’s aware of their hands, still pressed together, seemingly the epicenter of everything that he is feeling.
But he wants more.
He wants to kiss Spock.
Spock must sense this surely.
Jim is not certain who moves first, and in the end it really doesn’t matter, because they’re kissing, Jim leaning across the table to that he can kiss Spock, his free hand reaching up to run through Spock’s damp hair, while Spock’s free hand settles against his neck, the pads of his fingers pressing into Jim’s skin.
He wonders if Spock can feel how much he wants this.
How he’s wanted this for so long.
If Spock can feel how the sparks are so much more than just in the press of their hands now. This wonderful feeling consuming Jim, overwhelming him, with the inevitability of it all.
The kiss breaks apart just for a moment, just so that they can both catch their breaths, Jim doesn’t pull back, refuses to in case doing so will shatter the perfect illusion of what they have now. In case this will all have been nothing more than a dream.
But it’s not and it’s real, and when Spock pulls back, he says the only four. words that Jim ever needed to hear, “I feel it too.”
He kisses Spock again.
A more chaste one this time.
The beginning of what Jim hopes to be so much more, pulling back to ask, “Why don’t you stay the night? It’s raining too hard for you to make it home without an umbrella.”
They say that there are moments that your life changes.
Jim knows that this is one of those moments. He watches the morning sun barely cutting through the rain clouds, casting just a hint of light over their table in the corner, Spock’s usual table.
He doesn’t have his apron on this time, and Spock’s uniform is wrinkled, a side effect of Jim not keeping an iron in his apartment and the uniform having ended up in a pile on Jim’s floor the night before.
Two cups of tea between them.
A rainy Tuesday the way it was always meant to be.
It’s not a conventional date. Not really.
Then again they’re not really the conventional sort.
But for them it feels right.
Later he has plans for them, later there will be discussions to have about what exactly all of this is, but for now…
For now Jim watches Spock sip his tea, with a smile on his face, asking, “How was it? Passible?”
Though they both know he’s not just talking about the tea.