Looking For Shooting Stars

Chapter 8: The Feelings

…to get her to return the feelings that he had…

Jim knew that he was dreaming. He didn’t know how he knew, but he did.

He was huddled on the floor of the living room, and he wasn’t alone. Frank was there, and as soon as the dream started, he was laying into Jim. “Worthless piece of shit,” he grunted as he kicked Jim in stomach. Jim hunched over even further, regretting it a moment later when he received a blow to the back of the head.

Stupid, stupid! he scolded himself. Never leave your head exposed like that, you fucking idiot. He tucked his head into his chest and covered it with his arms as Frank continued to kick the shit out of him.

The whole thing was fucking surreal. Not the getting beat up part, because that happened regularly enough for it to be considered normal, but the fact that Jim knew exactly what blows were going to hit him and where they were going to land. He couldn’t place it for a moment, but then something seemed to snap into place and he remembered. He knew that the actual beating had taken place eight days ago on his fifteenth birthday, and it had been particularly memorable because his extensive injuries had caused Spock to become suspicious and start questioning him. He knew that even as he was dreaming about that stupid asshole hitting him, the bruises on his real body were already in the process of healing.

Frank couldn’t hurt him in here.

Even as he told himself that, he felt the man’s fist thump against his back, felt the blood vessels breaking, the bruises forming, his step-father still muttering profanities under his breath. “Look at you,” Jim froze, not even daring to breathe as another voice joined the sound of Frank’s cussing. He looked up and met his mother’s cold eyes. “You are a pitiful excuse for a human being.” She crouched down next to him, completely ignoring her husband who had stopped to grab his bottle and take another swig. Jim cringed, knowing that pieces of that bottle would soon be embedded in his skin. “He wouldn’t have died if I hadn’t been pregnant with you, Jim,” she hissed at him. “I wish you had never been born. You don’t deserve to be alive. You are the reason he’s dead.”

Jim squeezed his eyes shut and told himself that it wasn’t really her. She had never said anything like that to his face before, but he had always known that she was thinking it. He could see it in her eyes ever time she looked at him, and while it had hurt to be aware of what she was thinking, he had never imagined that hearing her say it to his face would hurt even more.

He felt a hand pass gently over his hair and couldn’t resist the urge to look up. Neither his mother nor his step-father would be so gentle, so who…?

Sam. It was Sam as he had last seen him over two years ago, and Jim had to ask; he had to know. “Why, Sam?”

His brother smiled sadly. “I couldn’t handle living with Frank anymore, Jimmy,” Sam looked at him and read the question in his eyes before he could open his mouth. “And you weren’t worth it.”

Jim stared at him, a cacophony of anguished thoughts rampaging through his mind. He wasn’t worth it. He wasn’t worth staying for. He wasn’t worth protecting. He wasn’t worth loving.

A bottle smashed against Jim’s back as Frank finally rejoined the fray. Jim cried out as shards of glass buried themselves into his flesh. He had later considered himself very lucky that none of the pieces had hit anything vital, but now, reliving it in his dreams, Jim could only remember how much it hurt.

Frank didn’t react to Jim’s cry of pain; he just kicked Jim again while the rest of Jim’s broken family watched and did nothing.

And then Spock was there, sending Frank unconscious to the ground with a well-placed pinch to the neck. He ignored Sam and Winona as he dropped to his knees next to Jim.

“Spock, what are you doing here?” he asked before grimacing and spitting out a glob of blood. Jim wasn’t really surprised to see Spock there—he had been having a lot of dreams that involved the Vulcan bastard lately—but even so, he still felt compelled to ask.

Spock tilted his head in that (absolutely fucking adorable) way he had. “I am not actually here, Jim. You are dreaming.”

Jim ignored Spock’s logical answer. He tried to prop himself up, but his arms were shaking and he couldn’t seem to stop it. Seeing how Jim was struggling, Spock reached out to help him sit up, but the moment they touched, Jim found himself back in his bed.

Damn, Jim thought. I must be going insane or something. As if it wasn’t bad enough in real life, even his dreams were starting to feature Spock as his knight in shining armor. Jim shook his head and pulled himself out of bed. He winced as the movement pulled at his healing cuts and made his bruises twinge, but he wanted to write his dream down before he started to forget the details, so he continued, reaching over to grab his notebook and pen from their hiding place. Jim didn’t know why he had started writing down all of his dreams that involved Spock, but the more dreams he had, the more important it seemed to be.

Jim didn’t get it. Why the fuck was he having dreams about Spock in the first place? Sure, they were somewhere between friends and acquaintances at the moment, and Jim had finally come to terms with the fact that he was attracted to the Vulcan, but if he was going to be having dreams about Spock , he would have expected and even preferred them to be wet dreams. It wasn’t that he didn’t get those kinds of dreams, but usually he had angsty, almost-nightmares and post traumatic stress type dreams (which were usually variations of actual memories) from which Spock always had to save him. I didn’t make a bit of sense to Jim. Was his mind trying to tell him something?

Jim sighed as he finished transcribing what he recalled of his dream. He was tired and needed to get back to sleep. He put his notebook back into its spot between his mattress and his bed frame and stretched back out on the bed so that he could do just that.

He was asleep a few minutes later.

Spock woke up the next morning and found that it was once again necessary for him to wash his sheets and pajamas. Since his partial bonding with Jim, the frequency of Spock’s nocturnal emissions had increased from none to one in every 1.2486 nights. He had been quite worried about it at first, until his mother had noticed that Spock’s weekly load of laundry had become a daily load of laundry. His father, obviously having been coerced by his mother, had taken him aside so that they could have a conversation that, even days later, still made the tips of Spock’s ears turn green.

“Spock.” Sarek had hesitated for several long moments as though gathering his thoughts.

“Yes, Father,” Spock had replied, attempting to break a silence that even a Vulcan could tell was awkward.

“Your mother has brought it to my attention that you have started using the laundry on an almost daily basis.” There had been another long pause as he deliberated. “We have discussed the possible motivations you may have for this, and Amanda felt quite certain that it is a result of something called a…” Once again, Sarek had faltered. “…‘Wet dream’. As Vulcans do not dream, and therefore are incapable of these ‘wet dreams’, I have no experience with this matter, but your mother has asked me to reassure you that this was perfectly normal for human males once they reach the age of puberty. She suggests that since you have bonded with and are sharing the dreams of a human adolescent, you are more susceptible to your…” Sarek had looked distinctly uncomfortable, and Spock had felt his ears and cheeks, which had previously shown only a hint of green, flush completely with blood at the mere thought of what his father was suggesting. “…physical urges than if you were bonded to a Vulcan. She told me to remind you that you have nothing to be ashamed of, and that if you wish to talk, I, as your father, will be ‘here for you’.”

Spock did not think he had ever felt as close to discarding the teachings of Surak as he had during that mercifully brief conversation with his father, and he had thankfully been allowed to leave after the other Vulcan had finished speaking. Spock didn’t think he had really understood the true meaning of the word ‘awkward’ prior to that particular audience with his father, and he knew that no matter how badly he needed to talk, he would not soon relive it.

It had not taken Spock more than one dream to realize that these dreams were not like the other ones, the nightmares. In those dreams, Spock could control his actions enough so that he could save Jim from whatever horror his mind had conjured up that night. The nightmares were also really clear, with very few parts blurred out or indistinct.

In the other dreams, Spock had no control; he was just there, participating, but not through his own willpower (although, he did not object either). His and Jim’s actions in these dreams were vague. It as though Jim knew he wanted Spock, but did not know what to do with him. In every single one so far, Spock and Jim had spent the majority of the time kissing, and then the dream would begin to blur once they started to progress further.

After a few days, Spock realized that he had started to look forward to the dreams. This was especially true after Jim started incorporating Vulcan kissing into them. It seemed more fulfilling somehow, and the only hypothesis Spock could create for this was that their hands must act as the dream’s interpretation of their bond.

“Spock!” Amanda called up the stairs. “Come down for breakfast. You are going to be late for school if you don’t hurry.”

Spock started, realizing that he had been lost in thought since he had finished dressing for the day. He was finding it exceedingly difficult to suppress his longing for closeness with Jim now that the urge had been awakened. He had recently found himself losing focus for minutes at a time, which was not an ideal state for a Vulcan.

He could not afford to be thinking about intimacy with Jim when there were much more pressing matters at hand, such as the identity of the inflictor of Jim’s extensive physical injuries. It had been bothering him since the day subsequent to Jim’s birthday 8.5693 days previous.

When Jim had joined him outside their houses, he had been covered in contusions and lacerations. There had been a particularly nasty-looking cut on the back of Jim’s neck that appeared as though it had been in need of stitches, and he had been walking with a limp.

Though he had known that it was most likely a bad idea, Spock had decided to ask Jim what had happened. Predictably, Jim had lashed out at him and told him that he should mind his own business.

And for all intents and purposes, Spock did as he was told. He did not attempt to pry, but he did not try to prevent his mind from puzzling over the mystery Jim presented. He wrote about his theories in his Observation Log—they ranged from a school bully to the high school equivalent of ‘Fight Club’ (an old movie his mother was fond of)—but each one seemed more farfetched than the last.

Spock once again tried to follow Jim without drawing undue attention to himself, but he soon found that aside from those times during which the human was out with Spock, Jim did not leave his house. Ever. It was most perplexing. How could Jim be acquiring such injuries when he never left the safety of his home?

Spock finally had to resort to once more asking Jim directly. It had been almost two weeks since Jim’s birthday, and he had made no progress in discovering who was responsible for the human’s injuries. Spock had to know, and since observation did not seem to be producing results, he needed to enact more aggressive investigative techniques.

He had planned to slip it into the conversation in a discreet manner, but Jim seemed to have developed a talent for derailing Spock’s plans. This instance proved to be no exception, though Spock could tell that at least this time his human had not intended to unravel his carefully thought out strategy.

They were taking their customary route home from school when Jim, having apparently decided that it was too warm, began removing his leather jacket and the threadbare sweatshirt underneath it. As he stripped himself of the garments, Spock got a look at his neck for the first time that day and noticed the large, hand-shaped bruise completely encircling Jim’s throat.

“Jim,” Spock said as he invaded his t’hy’la’s personal space. “How did you get those bruises?” He reach out with one hand, gesturing toward Jim’s neck, and only barely restrained the urge to move his hand a bit further and actually touch the mottled skin.

Jim was immediately defensive. His expression flickered from worried to pained to distrustful before finally settling on infuriated. Spock could tell that this was not going to end well. “Look, Spock,” Jim replied, his tone angry. “We might loosely fit the definition of friends right now, but that doesn’t make my life any of your god damned business, you got that?” Jim stepped closer and Spock couldn’t help but notice that had the human been any taller, their noses would have been touching. “I don’t need you,” Jim declared vehemently. “So back the fuck off!”

Jim brushed past Spock, the human’s shoulder banging into him with more force than necessary. Spock could not react to it. He felt as though he was frozen in place, and by the time he had regained his ability to move, Jim was out of sight. How could he have let this happen? They had been doing so well.

Spock made his way home slowly, his thoughts moving rapidly as he tried to understand what had just happened. He knew that Jim’s reaction had been a defense mechanism. It was the same one he used every time Spock tried to learn anything personal about him. Even so, he had (irrationally) still found himself to be shocked and hurt by the words his t’hy’la had thrown at him. They had been making such progress lately that Spock had miscalculated the magnitude of Jim’s reaction to his query. He had expected some anger, but he had been completely unprepared for Jim to once more try to kick him out of his life.

He finally arrived home 15.9374 minutes later, which was 2.4413 times longer than the average amount of time it took him to get from the spot in which Jim had left him to the front door of his house. His mother, hearing the door open, called out, “Dinner will be done in a moment, boys. Please come and set the table.” She was taking a baking pan out of the oven and setting it on the stove when he walked into the kitchen. Upon hearing him enter, she turned, a smile on her lips, obviously having intended to greet them before noticing that Spock was alone. The corners of her mouth turned down. “Where’s Jim?”

Spock deliberated for a moment on how to phrase his next words before deciding that simply telling her what had happened was most likely better. “Jim is mad at me and has refused to come over for dinner tonight,” he admitted.

Amanda’s eyes narrowed, and her voice when she spoke was a warning. “Spock…”

“Mother, you are not availed of all pertinent information,” he added hastily. “As I am sure you have noticed, Jim has been gathering an extraordinary number of bruises.” His mother nodded. “It has been bothering me, but I did not wish to ask him because I knew he would be upset with me. Unfortunately, I exhausted all of my other modes of discovering the answer without alerting Jim to the fact that I was observing him again. I was forced to ask him directly, and I am afraid he did not take kindly to my curiosity.”

Amanda’s brow furrowed. “What did he say?”

“He told me that it was none of my business and that I should…” He hesitated for a moment before continuing. “…‘back the fuck off’.” Spock’s eyebrows drew together in frustration. “I knew that I should not have asked, but I am fairly certain that someone was choking him, Mother. There were hand and finger-shaped bruises around his neck. I have to know who is hurting him.” His head tilted in contemplation. “At first I thought that he must be getting into fights when we are not together, but I have been monitoring his movements for the past two weeks, and he has not left his house except to go to school and come here. I must be overlooking something, but I have no idea what it could be. Without a direction to go in, I cannot form any plausible hypotheses, and I cannot collect any data that will allow me to help Jim.”

Amanda’s face was pensive and, if he was not mistaken, sad. “Spock, I don’t think that Jim is getting into fights.” His mother shook her head, her mouth drawn into a tight line as though she was afraid to say what she was thinking out loud. She eventually continued, her words coming out slowly and regretfully, “I think Jim is being abused.”

Spock regarded her with confusion. “I do not understand,” he finally admitted.

“I believe that Jim’s step-father, Frank, is beating him,” she clarified.

He stared at her in astonishment. Spock had never heard of a parent beating their child. On Vulcan, children were considered to be sacred. While there were occasionally instances where young Vulcans engaged in altercations, he had never known of any fully grown Vulcan—and especially not a father or a mother—who would show aggression toward a child. Had his Jim been suffering all this time at the hands of someone who was supposed to protect him?

“I don’t have any evidence to prove it, of course,” Amanda told him. “I’ve been thinking it for a while, but without proof, I can’t do anything about it.” She sighed. “Poor Jim. He survived Tarsus IV so that he could come home to this.” His mother shook her head and turned away from him.

“Mother.” Spock’s voice made her look back at him. “Jim may not have had a good life so far, but I will change that. He is my t’hy’la and I will not let anyone hurt him while I am able to stop it. I will find proof that Frank is not fit to be his parent, and we will remove him from that situation. No matter how long it takes, I will find a way to protect him.”

Amanda looked startled for a moment at the blatant emotion in his voice, but her face soon relaxed into a gentle smile. “I wouldn’t expect anything less from you, my son.” She beckoned him further into the kitchen. “Grab the plates so we can eat,” she directed. “I’ve always found thinking a bit easier when I’m not worried about an empty stomach.”

Though he knew it had not been her intention, his mother’s words only served to remind Spock that Jim was most likely going without food that night. With this in mind, he made a promise to himself.

As long as there was breath left in his lungs, Jim would always be the most important thing to him, and Spock would always find a way to save him.

Jim muttered curses under his breath as he entered his bedroom, slammed the door behind him, and threw himself onto his bed. What the fuck did Spock think he was playing at? Jim’s bruises weren’t any of his god damned business, and he knew it. The Vulcan had asked him about it two weeks ago, and Jim had made himself very clear on the matter. Spock was supposed to keep his stupid Vulcan nose out of Jim’s business, and in exchange, Jim would let the guy keep him company and feed him. That was it. That was the arrangement. There wasn’t supposed to be any personal conversations. They talked about school and about Amanda and the rest of the time, they were silent. Spock didn’t need to know about how he had gotten his bruises, just like Jim didn’t need to know about… well, anything regarding the Vulcan’s life, really. Jim didn’t want to know, and he didn’t care.

Or did he?

Fuck, Jim didn’t know what was going on with him these days. He knew that he shouldn’t be hanging around with Spock. He knew that it was only going to end badly for him when Spock realized that Jim was “a completely useless, worthless piece of shit”, as his step-father had so kindly put it. He couldn’t keep doing this to himself. He had to stop seeing Spock, just cut himself off cold turkey. It would be easier that way.

But it wasn’t that simple, was it? A sharp pain lanced through his chest at the thought of not seeing Spock again, and Jim realized that he had formed an actual honest-to-fucking-god emotional attachment. To a Vulcan. Fuck, he was so screwed. This was way more than he had bargained for. It had started small, with him letting the guy walk with him, then allowing himself to be coerced into eating with his family, and letting them throw him a fucking birthday party, accepting their gifts…

And now, he found that he actually liked Spock. Jim had even told Spock—when he was angry, no less—that he thought they “loosely fit the definition of friends”. Add that to the physical and emotional attraction he felt towards the Vulcan and Jim knew he could find himself unable to let go if he let it go on any longer.

No. Jim had to cut off that line of thinking before he got in any further. He could admit to himself that he wanted to be friends with Spock, but there was no way it was going past friendship.

Even if he wanted to be more than friends with Spock—which he really, really didn’t—Spock would never want him in return. Jim was broken. Between his father and Frank and Winona and Sam and Tarsus and that stupid asshole who had raped him, he was stretched too thin. There wasn’t enough of him left to give another person; he had been torn apart and stitched back together too many times. Nobody wanted second-hand goods, and that was what Jim was.

Spock deserved better than that. As hard as he had tried not to, Jim had gotten to know Spock just a little bit in the past few weeks, and he knew that Spock was a good person. The Vulcan was kind, if a bit stiff when it came to emotions, and he actually seemed to want Jim around, which was a bit of a new thing for him. Spock was a good person, and all Jim did was ruin things. He wouldn’t allow himself to ruin Spock.

He should make a clean break. Spock would probably be curious about it—Jim had noticed that the Vulcan was always curious—but eventually, he would stop trying and just accept the fact that he and Jim were no longer friends. It had to be this way. Jim couldn’t allow himself to develop any more emotional ties to Spock, and the only way to prevent them would be to sever all of the ties he had already formed. He couldn’t do that if he and the Vulcan were still walking to school together, eating lunch, eating dinner, being friends. It just wasn’t possible. So he would let go now before it got worse. He didn’t have a choice.

Jim’s stomach clenched painfully. Fuck, he was hungry. Groaning, he rolled over and reached under the bed, his hand finding…


Jim leapt off the bed, getting down on his knees to peer underneath. Fuck, he was out of food. He thought back and realized that he had eaten his last can of food weeks ago and just hadn’t realized because he had been getting regular meals from Amanda and Spock.

Shit, he had begun to depend on those meals. So much so, in fact, that he had stopped shoplifting cans of food from the local grocery store when Frank sent him out each week with a twenty and a backhand slap across the face.

The really fucked up part was that now that Jim knew he didn’t have to steal his food and eat meager amounts every night, he couldn’t quite bring himself to go back to living that way. He had another option now, and he wasn’t ready to give up on Amanda’s cooking even if eating said cooking brought him into contact with Spock.

Jim let the options war against each other in his head. Food versus Spock. On the one hand, he really, really didn’t want to go back to being hungry all the time. On the other hand, he really, really shouldn’t let himself be friends with Spock anymore, in spite of (and maybe because of) the fact that he wanted to. He knew he shouldn’t let himself get away with it though.

But the food…

It might be worth it not to be hungry anymore. It might be okay, as long as he kept his feelings separate from his stomach. Just because they were feeding him didn’t mean that he needed to grow any more attached to them. They were just… He was just using them. Yes, that was it. Jim was just using them, and that was all it was.

Jim went to sleep that night, hungry for the first time in a long time. As he drifted, he allowed himself to be honest for just one moment.

It wasn’t just the food.

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