Title: Where There Are No Phones
Fandom: Star Trek XI
Pairing/Rating: Kirk/Spock; R
Word Count: 9,530 (or thereabout)
Date Completed: 18 December 2009
Disclaimer: These people? Aren't mine.
Author's Notes: Many thanks to staraflur and i_claudia for the quick beta, and to this Billy Collins poem for the title. This is amnesia!fic, because every author has to do each trope once, right? Here's hoping this is different enough to not be a complete cliche, or to at least be enjoyable. Written for the 2009 Kirk/Spock Advent Calendar (ksadvent), so here's also hoping this is sufficiently wintery; my apologies if it's not, but I really didn't know what else to do. In any event, thanks to the mods there for giving me the opportunity to do this!
The doctors can’t tell him much.
They try, he knows. He hears all about how they found him bloody on the low-tide rocks, ankle twisted like he’d slipped and head bruised and scraped all to hell. And he hears about being brought unconscious to this clinic, St. Anthony’s, a small place in an even smaller town on some backwater colony planet, too far into the mountains to attract many of the tourists that come to visit the beaches. And he hears about having nothing on him, no identification and no pack, everything but the clothes on his back probably taken out to sea with the tide that tripped him up in the first place.
It doesn’t really tell him a lot, though. Not why he’s here or how he’s supposed to pay for this or who he even is -- doesn’t tell him a thing other than that they don’t know any more than he does. Which is to say, practically nothing.
“So what are my options?” he says, and by the looks on their faces, they’d expected something more like panic. Fuck that, he thinks, and says, “Well?”
One of them, tall and thin and long-nosed, reaches into his pocket for a pamphlet. “Your best bet is probably to stay here, see if anyone comes looking for you.”
He takes it, all glossy paper and bright ink. The pages stick to his fingertips as he turns them, thumbs catching on images of bright beaches and tides turned red with sunset and people splitting their faces in two with the size of their smiles. It doesn’t interest him much, but the doctor’s right. If he was smart (and he has the feeling that whoever he was happened to be at least a little intelligent), he’d have told someone where he was headed on vacation. Moving around the galaxy when he hasn’t the foggiest sense of where he’s going or where he’s been isn’t going to help them find him any, if they do decide to miss him enough to look.
He flashes what he hopes is a cocky smile at the doctors, a ring of anonymous white coats against whiter anonymous walls around his bed. “Where do I sign?”
It turns out that staying requires more than just signing, which, well. He had figured that would be the case. Still doesn’t mean the process isn’t slow, boring, and a total pain in his ass.
When he finally leaves the clinic, it’s minus the wad of tightly-rolled hundred-credit bills they had found shoved in the toe of his left boot. It’s enough to cover the clinic fees, and he thanks whoever he was for being at least a bit of a forward-thinker. He has a set of clothes, a bottle of pain meds in case of headaches, a first name (Long-Nosed had taken to calling him “Anthony” after the treatment center, and while it doesn’t feel like him, it’s the best he’s got for now), and an address for a bar that’s apparently been hiring lately. They’ve all been friendly, he thinks, eerily so; he decides he likely just isn’t used to people helping him like that, easy like it doesn’t come with a cost.
In any case, he figures he’ll need to see about a job before he tries to find a place to stay. One thing he does remember is that proof of income is always a good thing to have on your side. Seeing as he doesn’t have anything else now, that’s as good a place to start as any.
The bar, when he gets to it, is what he expects would be average-sized for such a place, had he anything to compare it to. It’s dark compared to the bright white of the hospital, all dim yellow half-lighting and shadows on the walls. The décor is an odd mix of chrome and wood, and none of it polished. The bar and tables are scarred, a deep and muddy brown in color, and when he leans on the counter to wait for the owner, the wood-stain scrapes off in small flecks against the grain of his skin.
“Can I help you?”
He turns at the voice, gruff and tired-sounding behind him. The man (the owner, he guesses) is thin and broad-shouldered, top half of his body too heavy-looking for his legs. He’s drying a glass slowly, circular sweeps of the towel practiced and reflexive, and he generally doesn’t look the sort to have a voice that rough.
“Ah, yeah,” Anthony says. “Yeah, I’m new in town, and I heard you were hiring.”
The man’s gaze is assessing, closed. “You the one they pulled in from the beach?”
Anthony blinks. “That’s what they told me when I woke up. How did you --”
“Small town,” he says. “Any news is big news, and big news travels fast. You get used to it.”
Anthony supposes he will.
“So you’re staying, then?” the man asks. He doesn’t sound surprised. Anthony wonders if this sort of thing has happened before. He thinks it’s probably less that and more that this man just isn’t one to be easily shocked.
“Think so. No ID, no money, no idea where I’m supposed to be,” Anthony shrugs. “Staying seems as good a plan as any.”
It’s hard to tell, but he thinks the man smiles slightly at that. “Well, I might be able to help you on the money front. You’re here about the job, then?”
“Yeah. One of the nurses mentioned you were hiring, gave me your info.” He shrugs again. “Here I am.”
“You got any experience with alcohol?”
Anthony smirks. “Who doesn’t?”
The man laughs. “Point, kid. Can you work with it, though? Tending bar?”
“I don’t really know, but I can sure as hell try.”
Anthony turns to watch as the man walks past him around to the back of the bar. He reaches under for something, rummaging around until he’s pulled up a collection of what looks like a fairly basic range of drinks and alcohols. He sets a glass down in front of them and says, “Cardassian sunrise. Have at it.”
And the thing is, Anthony doesn’t remember why it’s called a Cardassian sunrise, or how one tastes, or if his alcohol experience even extends to one. But he does remember how to make it, and it’s apparently decent, because the man nods after he tries the drink Anthony presents him. They go through a few more of the essentials and Anthony knows how to make them all, and while it seems odd to him that he remembers this and not even his real name, it sort of makes sense. Alcohol more than anything is a universal language, a constant no matter where you go, and it figures that some part of Anthony would remember the most basic way people have to break down barriers and communicate.
Within an hour, Anthony’s mixed about twenty drinks. The man, who is actually the owner, smiles as he puts the bottles back under the bar for later use. He straightens, wipes his hands on the towel, and says, “Can you start tomorrow?”
“Got nothing better to do, sure.”
He pulls a small PADD out from under the counter and tosses it to Anthony. “Some more advanced drink recipes. The simple ones’ll get you by for the most part here, but we occasionally get some visitors in, or some locals who decide to be adventurous for a night. Study up, kid.”
“Anthony,” he corrects, “and thanks.”
The man nods. “Tom. See you tomorrow at five.”
The floor creaks as Anthony turns to walk out.
“Oh,” Tom says, almost like he didn’t fully decide to say it. Anthony looks back at him. “Couple streets over, on Mance, there’s a house with a green door. Lady called Judith lives there. She’s been looking for a lodger since the last one left early this year. Just in case you need a place to stay.”
“I do,” Anthony says, nodding slowly. Again, he has a creeping sense of needing to worry about this, someone helping him and what it will wind up costing. He pushes it down, but apparently not fast enough.
“People help each other here,” Tom says. “As I said, small town. It’s a lot easier to get by if you’re all buddy-buddy with each other. You get used to it.”
“Thanks,” Anthony says again, and then he leaves.
Anthony finds a lot of things about himself.
He’s a social guy, for starters. He genuinely likes working at Tom’s place, looks forward to it, even. Tom’s a decent guy. He’s still a bit closed off, but Anthony figures he’ll loosen up after a few weeks. Anthony would be the same way, he guesses, if he had any aspect of his personality he knew well enough to hold back while acquaintances developed.
He doesn’t, though, and Judith is busy at her shop most days, so Anthony’s a bit starved for interaction. And he uses that word, “starved,” very specifically because that’s what this feels like. It doesn’t feel like he’s okay to go for most of the day without talking to someone, or seeing someone else; he feels restless when that’s happened, like he’s used to seeing so many other people all the time that being alone is something he should be wary of. It itches at his skin, in the back of his mind, and more often than not, he finds himself wandering around the town just to keep whatever part of himself it is that cares aware of the fact that yes, he’s not alone, not all the time.
So yeah, he likes bar-tending. Drunken conversation isn’t always the most intelligent, or even the most coherent, but it’s still conversation, and easy enough to keep going around him. There’re only so many topics it covers, and almost all of them go back to women. Which is fine -- Anthony’s also finding that he likes women, likes them a whole hell of a lot. He likes men, too, really just likes anyone who’s decently attractive and interested. He finds he’s more than a little shallow like that.
He learns that he’s not a fan of routines. He can follow them, sure: be to Tom’s by five every afternoon, mix these drinks for these customers without asking, slip an envelope with the credits for this month’s rent under Judith’s door every third Tuesday of every month. But he doesn’t enjoy them, and he thinks he’s only able to keep to them when he can see what it gets him (assured, steady socialization for the night; higher tips and a smile; a place to stay and, when the shop’s been slow that week, a plate of cookies outside his door a few days later). And when he can, he avoids establishing any sort of protocol. He runs every day because he’s apparently one to enjoy exercise, but he changes the time he runs, or for how long, or which way. He buys food once a week from the small green-grocer’s at the corner of Pickett and Mance, but never the same day, or the same time of day, twice in a row. And when he flirts with the waitresses at the bar, it’s always with something new, even as the action of flirting feels practiced, like something he used to do like breathing, too often to be memorable.
He learns that he likes reading, and apples, and watching the afternoon tide come in. He likes the dry days better than the rainy ones, and he doesn’t mind as much as he thinks he should that the sky this side of the mountains is pale, mottled gray, nothing at all like the blue in the pamphlet pictures, open and gaudy. He’s the type to sing in the shower, and to talk to himself just to hear a voice, whispers under his breath and small laughs at private jokes when there’s no one else around to laugh with him.
In general, small-town life doesn’t grate on him much. The longer he stays, the less of an anomaly or interest piece he is, and the more people talk to him. The bar’s the only one in town, so he gets to know everyone who visits, and most of the others he runs into at the green-grocer's or the clothing store or the park or on the way to somewhere else. He makes friends, and he makes might-one-day-be-more-than-friends, and they eventually keep him busy enough that he doesn’t mind that the mountains block almost all news and visitors from reaching and interrupting the slow pace of life here.
There are moments when it does bother him, though, when he wakes up and feels bored, like there’s something bigger he used to do or should still be doing. He’s most frustrated on these days, when he spends all of his time thinking, This is not where I’m supposed to be, and falls asleep no closer to knowing who he was than the headache pounding in his temples from pushing at his own memory too hard.
His first few months in town are quiet. People help him find his way about, and for a while, he’s the center of town gossip. It’s a small price to pay, though, and Tom was right: he gets used to it.
His eighth month here, on a Monday, he meets Trisha. She stocks the produce at the green-grocer’s, and she’s one of the few people he hasn’t met before. She’s pretty, dark corkscrew curls pulled up high behind her head and eyes a rich, warm brown. He makes up a problem with choosing the pieces of fruit he’s going to buy (pears this week; they’re not his favorite, but he’s decided he likes variety more than the ones that are) and, smiling, asks for her help. She smiles even more as she gives it.
“They’re especially good this season,” she says, and her voice is light like she wants to laugh, calm like she has more control than letting herself do so.
“Oh, they look it,” he says. “That’s why I needed help, actually. There are so many good ones here to pick from. I just want to make sure I have the best.”
She nods, still grinning, then quickly picks three pears from the pile. Her fingers are long, pale, sure, her movements graceful when she drops them in the bag he’s holding.
“Those should do nicely, then.”
“Thanks,” he says, offering her a mock-salute before moving to go.
Next Tuesday, she’s not there. He thinks, Oh, well, and picks his own peaches, fuzz tickling his fingers as he inspects each one levelly for imperfections.
Only very rarely do they get out-of-towners at Tom’s.
The first one comes in six months after Anthony woke up here. His name is Colby, and he’s a scientist, or hoping to be -- right now, he’s a graduate student working on his doctoral thesis studying lesser-known plant life. He says he came here hoping to find something new and undiscovered in the mountains, and he thinks he probably has. He’s in town for a few days’ rest before he heads back through the pass to the main city, and he has a fondness for old, Earth-style beer.
He also talks a lot, even before he’s drunk.
Anthony doesn’t mind; it’s a welcome change-up from the usual bar talk of work and women, and it gives all of them a chance to hear some news from beyond the mountains. Colby actually spends most of his two nights in town answering questions. He gets a lot of free drinks for it, though, so he doesn’t seem to mind much.
“Sorry about them,” Anthony says late the second night, drying out glasses all but the regular stragglers have left for home.
Colby shakes his head. “No, it’s fine. I grew up in the middle of Bumfuck, Nebraska, which is about as small-town lifestyle as you can get. Any news is big news, I get it.”
“Nebraska? That’s, uh --”
“American Midwest. Earth.”
“Nothing but flat land and cornfields.”
“Sounds terribly exciting.”
Colby snorts into his beer. “Oh, it is. Can’t wait to get back.”
Anthony can tell he means the opposite by his tone. He stays quiet and picks up another glass to dry it. Even only a few months of tending bar have taught him that people talk on their own, given enough silence to fill and alcohol to drink.
Sure enough, Colby starts up again. “My dad’s back waiting for me. I was supposed to see him after I got my master’s, but just. We haven’t gotten along since my mama died, and I didn’t really feel like spending a week in awkward silence, you know?”
Anthony thinks he might actually, or sort of, something beyond not liking the first few mornings he spent alone here. He nods.
“So you came here instead?”
“Yeah,” Colby shrugs. “Heard the beaches were nice, and I needed to get started on my research anyways. Figured now was as good a time as any, here as good a place.” He says it like he’s trying to convince himself. Anthony’s not sure how he can tell that, or why it feels like it’s ringing true for him, but whatever.
When he looks up from the glass he’s busied himself with, Colby is staring at him oddly, like he’s trying to pin down something and can’t quite find the spot he needs.
“What?” Anthony laughs a little, unsure and trying to hide it. He can’t remember ever having someone new look at him with something vaguely like recognition.
“Nothing. Or, well. You just seem sort of familiar,” Colby says, shaking his head slightly side-to-side. “Like I should know you from somewhere, only I don’t.”
“Well, you know,” Anthony gestures at his face, “blond hair, blue eyes, generic features. Probably just that.”
“Yeah,” Colby says, eyes still narrowed, “must be.”
An hour later, they’re alone in the bar, Anthony pressed against Colby pressed against a wall. Anthony’s mouth is hot on Colby’s neck, biting and kissing and biting again, and Colby’s grip feels almost bruising around Anthony’s cock. Sex seems to be another of those universal language things, because Anthony can’t remember doing this with a man since he woke up here, but his hips are thrusting reflexively like the basic biology sex is. Colby groans in his ear, soft and echoing, and Anthony’s head buzzes with the feel of this, memory tickling on the edges of his senses like something he can almost reach.
If Colby ever remembers seeing Anthony before, and where or who that might have been, he doesn’t mention it. Anthony, headache already lurking gray in the corners of his vision, doesn’t think to ask.
Anthony dreams sometimes.
Most nights, they’re nothing: the dull white halls of the hospital, the black fade of the night sky, the stars he falls asleep trying and failing to count through the small skylight in his room. The night after Colby, he dreams of dusty wind on his face, whipping through his hair, sand digging into his eyes and the soft skin under his nails when he flies and jumps and scrabbles to get a hold on the ground before he falls. He dreams of sun and cornfields, running like he’s trying to get away from something and fighting when he can’t, and when he wakes up, he thinks of Colby from Nebraska and chalks it up to coincidence.
He dreams he’s on the beach occasionally, pale sky above and deep blue waves pulling cold at his bare feet. The rocks are sharp against the tender skin of his soles, and the sand feels more like mud, wet and sucking. He feels it tugging at him, yanking him out into the water and knocking him back into darkness. Those mornings, he wakes up with his head hurting, pain knotted in his temples and aching vaguely around the back, and he thinks only, Oh, the rest of that sentence snatched away before he can finish it.
Trisha turns out to be more than just Oh, well. The week after the week he doesn’t see her, she’s back in the grocer’s, and the next week, and the next, until Anthony finds himself keeping to another routine. He tries not to think of it like that. Instead, he focuses on how it changes every time, asking Trisha about potatoes one week and grapefruits the next, how often she smiles and how little she laughs, all the ways he’s learning to draw them out of her.
Tom asks him once if they’re anything. Anthony starts to say something, How did you know? hot on his tongue, until he remembers: any news is big news. He shrugs and says nothing. Tom lets it drop.
The thing is, though, that Anthony sort of wants it to be something. He likes Trisha. He knows he doesn’t love her, but he doesn’t think she loves him, either, and he thinks they could be good for each other. They could be a break from mundanity, something interesting to keep them both occupied and happy for a while, a relief from the routine he can feel steadily creeping into his life and scraping at his nerves.
What he doesn’t know is how this meshes with who he was. He doesn’t think he was married; his left ring finger isn’t tanned oddly, nor does it feel like it’s missing something, and he suspects wearing a ring would leave some sort of mark. But he can’t say the same for any sort of relationship other than marriage -- a girlfriend, maybe, or a boyfriend, someone he’d committed himself to if not in the more traditional sense. And Anthony may not know who he was before (his easy knack for flirting suggests someone more commitment-shy than he’s thinking of), but he does know that he’s not aiming to fuck anything up romance-wise for himself.
He asks Tom about it once on one of the rare nights when they both stay to lock up. Tom leans on his broom as he talks, voice heavy and slow.
“Well,” he says, “you’ve been here near ten months, right, kid?”
Anthony wishes Tom would stop calling him that, but all the reminders about him actually having a name have done nothing in the past. He doesn’t expect them to start working now.
“Yeah,” he says instead. “Exactly ten on Wednesday, I think.”
“Right,” Tom says. “So if there had been someone like that for you, a wife or a husband or anything, wouldn’t they have come looking by now?”
Anthony nods. It hurts to think about, that no one’s interested enough in finding him to try, but it’s more and more becoming his reality with every day he finds himself adjusting further to life here.
Tom continues, broom scratching on the floor as he starts to sweep again. “Way I see it, you’ve given them ample time to come find you. It sucks that they haven’t, but you can’t spend your whole life waiting for someone who may not be looking. So long as you think it’ll work out all right, I say you should go for it, kid.”
So Anthony does, because Tom’s help hasn’t steered him wrong yet. The next time he sees Trisha at the grocer’s, he smiles at her, practiced and winning and pulled up from somewhere he can’t remember yet. He takes the bag of apples she’s picked out for him and asks her, lazily confident, to dinner, and he spends the rest of the day feeling happy, like he’s finally managed to wedge his feet back into a favorite pair of boots.
Eventually, Anthony buys himself a small PADD for recording his dreams in. He feels foolish doing so, and Trisha laughs when he tells her. But he’s had several dreams since Colby about sunshine and dried-yellow grass and dusty air, running and falling and falling asleep counting a different arrangement of stars. It’s more than what Colby had told him, and more than he’s read in books, the only features of Earth described in them the most interesting and unique ones: the Grand Canyon ripped through southwest America, the Great Wall snaking across northern China, StarFleet headquarters stuck next to San Francisco Bay. It’s more than he should know, which makes him think it’s less something he doesn’t know and more something he doesn’t remember, and that has him excited like nothing has for months.
Every morning after he dreams, which isn’t all that often, he types it into the PADD, fingers tapping lightly against the screen. It’s laid out there for him to reread, white hospital walls and dusty nameless fields and cold water pulling at his feet, and even though he expects it, he’s disappointed when he looks over his saved entries and doesn’t think or feel or remember anything.
He and Trisha last for about seven months, mostly because what they are isn’t really anything, just like he’d expected. He doesn’t grow to love her, and she doesn’t grow to love him, and that’s fine. The company is good, different from what he’d had before, and that’s all he’d wanted going into it, so he’s happy.
The best part about them is the sex, which he thinks tells him something fundamental about who he was. He knows how to find places on her that he can’t remember touching on a woman, the swell of her breasts and the hollow of her neck, the small of her back and the soft heat between her legs. He’s good at it, too, if the way Trisha pushes back against him, eager and ready, is any indication.
He’d once spent a day doing this to himself, locked up in his room in voluntary isolation with nothing but a mirror and his hands. He’d learned that he likes it when his grip is tight, when his fingers pinch his nipples and twist fast around his cock, and he’d learned that he can make his back arch up into nothing with the press of a spit-wet finger inside himself. Trisha, though, helps him relearn himself in more ways than that afternoon ever did. She shows him that he can also like it lazy and slow, movements smothering and thick like the molasses Judith bakes into her cookies. And she shows him that he likes the feel of her mouth wrapped, hot and moist and sucking, around his dick; and the feel of his fingers inside her cunt; and the feel of her tongue shoving into his own mouth to taste him.
They have a lot of sex, and it’s all pretty great sex, which he expects out of a relationship where his involvement is based solely on giving him something other than the routine stuff he’d started expecting in his life. A voice in the back of his head points out how illogical that is, and something else in the back of his head twinges in response, bemused and unidentified humor brushing through him.
In any case, great sex or no, they don’t last exceptionally long. Anthony finds himself focused increasingly on piecing together something he only has half the parts to, and Trisha says she finds herself not anywhere near satisfied with a partner who pulls away from her more every time they come together.
“It just seems like you’re not really with me half the time, you know?” she says the night she ends whatever it is between them. “I still want to be friends with you, and I still want to help you find fruits and vegetables at the grocer’s, same as always, but it’s a bit discouraging when the guy you just finished fucking spends more time staring at the sky than at you after it’s done. You understand, yeah?”
Anthony nods, not because he knows or can even imagine what she’s saying, but because he knows it’s the response she wants. He’s good at reading people, at figuring them out, and he knows Trisha doesn’t want to hear about how he can’t understand why it feels almost wrong, somewhere deep in his gut, when he looks at the stars and sees them stationary. It’s another one of those pieces he only half-knows, another one he’s trying and failing to slot in place, and hearing about that isn’t what Trisha wants or signed up for. So he doesn’t tell her any of that, just nods when she needs to see it and keeps that tucked away where it can frustrate only him.
She kisses him before she leaves, and next Monday, she helps him pick out pomegranates from the produce cart, and the soles of his feet itch at the resurgence of routine, tingling like he needs to run.
About six months after Trisha, another out-of-towner comes to the bar.
The town buzzes with his arrival, so soon after the last visitor, who was himself strange for coming so soon after Anthony. He is tall, they say, and stern, and odder still for how he gives away nothing else about himself. He wears a coat even though it is only early winter, and not nearly cold enough to warrant it, and he speaks like every word is irrefutable fact, like he is some sort of machine, like he is a thousand other things, and each more outrageous than the last.
Anthony supposes he should feel included at the fact that he’s now apparently part of the town enough to hear all of this, just another person seeing any news as big news and spreading it around. He doesn’t, though. Some of his clearest memories are the stares he got just after he woke up when he walked anywhere or spoke to anyone or did anything, and how much they burned on the back of his neck, his cheeks where he flushed without wanting or meaning to. Mostly, he tries to ignore the news; mostly, he succeeds.
But the second night after the traveler arrives, Anthony has to stop ignoring him. It’s a bit difficult to ignore someone asking for a drink at the bar you tend, he finds.
The man comes into Tom’s place looking like everything Anthony has heard about and tried to forget. He is tall and slim, closer to Anthony’s build than Tom’s. His coat is on the ridiculous side for this sort of weather, which is cool but not cold, and set to stay that way for at least another two weeks or so. He walks stiffly, like someone has drilled grace and precision of movement it into him, and Anthony knows where he’s from even before he sees the logo on the man’s pack and jacket.
When he sits, it’s only after removing his coat and bag with the same odd, measured movements, a reliance on the methodical evident every time he shifts. Up close, Anthony can see why, exactly, the town all but over-turned itself with this man’s arrival: his hair is cut strangely, razor-straight across his forehead and completely flat; his cheeks are tinged faintly green, probably in reaction to the temperature outside; his ears are flared and pointed, stark against the dark color of his hair. In short, he is clearly not human, and Anthony is willing to bet most people here haven’t seen anyone like that before.
He would wonder why he isn’t more shocked at this, except he pegged himself back in his early days here as not one to startle easily. One man isn’t likely to change that about him.
“What can I get you?” Anthony asks after the man has perched himself on a stool. It’s not a struggle to keep his voice openly friendly, not after over a year and a half of bartending. It is a struggle to do anything but slightly raise his eyebrows when the line of the man’s shoulders tenses impossibly more at his question.
The man’s face is carefully blank when he looks up, smooth like it’s been practiced and eyes carefully avoiding direct contact. “Water will suffice,” he says, and, as Anthony expected, his voice is even and calm, deep with it.
Water’s easy enough to get, and fast, and the man drinks quickly after Anthony slides the glass across the cracked surface of the bar to him. Anthony watches him drink, firm grip on the glass and throat extended only just as much as he needs to drain it. He can’t find anything to read in this man beyond the blankness he projects, and it’s beyond frustrating.
“So did you get the reject mission?” Anthony asks, and he hadn’t meant to so soon, not when his chances of getting the full answer he wants are so low. Still, it gets him a reaction, just a small flicker of the man’s eyes as he sets the glass down, and that’s definitely something.
“Your coat,” Anthony nods at it, draped over the high back of the man’s bar stool. “And the insignia on your pack. You’re StarFleet. So what happened? Rest of your crew stick you with the crap mission through the mountains while they explore the beach?”
The man’s eyes finally meet his, and they’re assessing like Anthony hasn’t seen since the first time he set foot in Tom’s bar. There’s more to it, though, like he’s trying to work something out, and behind that, there’s mostly-concealed anger and the smallest hint of something Anthony had only ever seen hints of from Colby. Here, it’s fully-realized, complete and shining and barely visible in the man’s eyes, gone when he blinks before he says, “Yes, I am a StarFleet officer. How did you know?”
It’s not the question Anthony was expecting. He still doesn’t hesitate to answer. “Like I said, the insignia on your stuff. Your posture, too. You stand like you've a board tied to your spine, or a stick up your ass, or both, and I've only ever seen that in the StarFleet recruitment brochures we get sometimes.”
The man nods. “And you have no other experience with StarFleet?”
Again, it’s an odd question. “No,” Anthony says. “We don’t get many visitors around here, and you’re the first I know of from StarFleet. You might be even more of an anomaly than me.”
The man just quirks an eyebrow, inquisitive. Anthony laughs. “Woke up in the clinic nearing two years ago without a clue who I was. Had nowhere else to go, so I just stayed here.”
“And no one had any idea who you were?” Anthony’s not sure, but he thinks he can hear a hint of disbelief in the man’s voice, buried deep under careful neutrality. He thinks it’s this, the fact that he’s starting to find some way to read this man, that’s making him open up. Otherwise, he hasn’t got a reason other than the way something in him relaxes a fraction almost instinctively at this man. That’s probably as good a reason as any, though, so he goes with it and keeps talking.
“Why should they? No ID on me and no memory, and they don’t get much in the way of outside news here, so my only bet was that someone’d come looking for me.” He shrugs. “No one ever did, so now I’m Anthony, barkeep for Tom.”
“Anthony.” The man says his name like it’s something foreign, strange.
“Yeah, after the clinic,” Anthony says, bristling a little at the man’s tone. “Why, you got any better?”
For a few seconds, he thinks the man might say, Yes, might tell him then and there who he is and where he’s from and all he’s ever done, laid out for him to hear and piece back into himself. It’s stupid, wishful thinking, and he’s expectedly disappointed when the man says simply, “I am Spock.”
Anthony shakes his head. “That’s one I’ve never heard before. Origin?”
“Vulcan,” the man’s, Spock’s, voice seems flatter than before when he says it. It’s probably as clear a “don’t mention it” as Anthony is going to get, so he takes the warning for what it is and doesn’t.
Instead, he says, “So where’s your ship, Spock?”
“Not here. I am currently on leave.”
“StarFleet run you too hard? Or are you just bored with life? Because either way, you sure picked a hell of a place to vacation.”
“I am not here on a recreational visit,” Spock’s voice is slow, measured like he’s having to actively do it. “I am searching for something.”
“Yeah? Another scientist? We had one of those come through a while ago. I think he had some decent luck in the mountains. You should try looking there.”
Spock nods once, jerky. “Thank you. I will consider doing so.”
They both pause, Spock back to looking at his empty glass and Anthony absent-mindedly wiping down the bar countertop. After a few minutes, the door bangs open and a crowd of regulars comes through. They crowd around the bar, already calling out drink orders, and Anthony has just enough time before he moves to fill them to say, “Hope you find what you’re looking for.”
Spock continues staring at the glass, and Anthony knows that if he could see it, Spock’s gaze would be distant, contemplative and analyzing.
By the time he has the locals satisfied, Spock has left. Anthony doesn’t worry; he’s sure he’ll be back.
Spock does come back the next night, and the next, and the next. He walks through the door at the same time every evening, 5:30 sharp like he has a scheduled appointment to meet. It’s an easily-established routine, but Anthony finds that he doesn’t mind, so caught up on trying to understand the reason for that hint of might-be-recognition in Spock’s eyes that he’s really only focused on getting another chance to see it.
He knows he’s working on limited time. Spock tells him on his second night in the bar that he’s only going to be in town for about two weeks, and Anthony’s amazed he’s staying even that long. There isn’t anything to do here, and Anthony’s restlessness is starting to build enough that it feels like his skin is constantly burning, tingling with the need to feel the wind of a run and the tension of not taking it. Spock doesn’t notice (or if he does, he hides it well, which Anthony’s brief research on Vulcans after Spock’s first night in the bar has led him to expect). And when Anthony asks again why he’s here, Spock only says that he’s looking for something.
Anthony learns after a few days that the trace emotion in Spock’s eyes, the one so powerful he can’t hide, when he says that looks an awful lot like grief. He wonders who Spock could have lost that needing closure would hurt him so badly, but he never asks.
Instead, he asks Spock more about his ship, the Enterprise, and her crew, and Spock tells him. They’re not quite stories, even though they feel like they should be, adventure and exploration and danger in every carefully-explained detail. But that’s what they are: explanations or accounts. When he tells them, Spock isn’t detached, per se. He’s just precise, controlled, that same careful measurement of his words putting enough of an emotional distance between him and what he’s saying that it’s almost difficult to believe he lived them at all.
Anthony mixes Spock Cardassian sunrises and Pan-Galactic Gargle Blasters and old Earth gin-and-tonics to try and loosen his tongue, and he switches back to water when they have no effect on Spock beyond inspiring him to make something of a game out of deducing the exact proportions of each alcohol type Anthony puts into whichever drink.
He realizes that talking is the best way to get Spock to open up, conversation establishing familiarity from which comes deeper conversation. And he realizes that the only way someone could so near to perfectly remove emotion from his stories would be if he had a reason to do so, culture condemning his open display of what he feels, experiences too overwhelming for him to relay them any other way without shattering at the memory of whatever it is he’s lost since.
He realizes that he has known Spock only a handful of days, that he can read less about him than anyone he can remember meeting, and that he’d still believe anything Spock told him.
What’s scariest is how little this thought scares him.
After Spock comes, Anthony starts dreaming more. There’s the same old mix of clinic white and cornfield yellow and beach gray, so many entries of those in his PADD that they’re expected by now. But there are other things, too, new things, things that disturb him a little with their intensity.
He dreams about gleaming chrome-and-white rooms, long halls of polished floors and all of it different from the dull anonymity of the town clinic. This place is cold and it echoes, but it has feeling somehow, a personality that vibrates through the soles of his feet as he runs through the corridors, steady thrum of what he knows are engines buzzing in his blood like they are what’s driving his pulse.
He dreams about people and routines and watching them break around him, cracking under stress and the consequences of failed attempts at diplomacy. He dreams about voices he can’t place, familiar and foreign at once, We can’t take another hit like that and I would rather die in agony than accept help from you and How did you manage to beam aboard this ship? And he wakes up wanting to scream in frustration, I don’t know pounding through his head hard enough to make him gasp, because he doesn’t. He really, really doesn’t.
The PADD becomes filled with things he can’t remember seeing and people he can’t remember hearing and everything that’s pushing against what feels like a wall in the back of his mind, struggling to come out. He hates reading through it, hates reading every word written out like it has no more emotional or experiential attachments to it for him than one of Spock’s accounts because he knows, deep in his gut and past the headache throbbing in his temples, that it does.
One of the first things Anthony learned about himself was that he was intelligent. It’s not something he says to boast, not something he says at all, really. He just notices it like he would anything else -- he is blond-haired and blue-eyed; he has no idea who he is; he is an intelligent man. It’s one of the fundamentals, the few things he knows that define both the person he is now and the person he’s trying to get back to being.
So it doesn’t take him past that first night to figure out that whoever he was, Spock knew him. And from there, it follows that he was in StarFleet, too. His dreams are enough to convince him of that, even if he still only knows them in the sense of knowing a story, and not knowing the memory. And he’s put together that whoever it is Spock’s lost is more than probably who he was.
What he can’t quite figure out is what, exactly, he was to Spock, back before his injury. He knows they must have been friends, too many dreams of chess games and grinning as Spock not-laughed next to him, the slight quirk of his lips more telling of his humor than anything else could be. But he also has the fact that Spock, for all his carefully-projected calm, has become all but an open book to him, which is something so intimate for (what he’s read of) Vulcans that his head spins a bit when he thinks of the implications that holds for their relationship.
And he has these dreams of Spock, dreams he thinks are too foggy to be memories, even as they’re unnervingly clear. They’re everything he wants to do to Spock, pressing him into the mattress and sliding into him, bodies slick with sweat and slide of his dick in and out even slicker. They’re the ideas he purposely doesn’t let himself entertain at the bar, watching Spock’s lips move as he talks about the Enterprise and thinking of how they’d feel around his cock, against his own mouth, bruising and hot and relentless. They’re all about making both him and Spock lose control, and he has another dream, one he thinks is more than likely a memory, saved to his PADD of doing that before, Spock’s hand wrapped tight around his throat and Spock’s eyes black like something inhuman, and the fact that he’s seen it before is enough to make him look at all those other dreams and wonder if he’s seen them, too.
One night, after Spock’s been in town for twelve days, Anthony says, “So tell me about him.”
Spock looks up at him from across the bar, and Anthony can see in the slight arch to his brow that he knows that Anthony has pieced it together, or very nearly. When he speaks, his voice is slow, measured. “His name was Jim Kirk. He was the Enterprise’s second captain. He was intelligent, if a bit irrational at times, and he was almost always one to let emotions complicate his decisions unnecessarily. Our styles of thinking and operation did not complement each other well when we first met, and we accordingly could barely tolerate each other. But we saved Earth together, and he accepted me as First Officer when he took command of the Enterprise, and we adapted. He became my best friend.”
The words don’t make anything click for Anthony, not even the name he can easily deduce is his. There is no bright moment where they give him the last piece he needs to make everything fit, to let himself know, and that’s frustrating beyond what he thought anything could be.
He says, “And what happened to him?”
“He took his biannual leave around Earth’s Christmas. Originally, I think he planned to visit his mother. But as I understood it, from what he told me, theirs was not the best of relationships, so I was not surprised when he announced his intent to come here. The beach was a logical, if predictable, choice for relaxation. We expected him back by the end of his allotted three weeks, but he never came. StarFleet’s search turned up nothing, and he has been presumed dead since.”
Anthony nods, turning the idea over in his head. It makes sense, even if it is the worst of coincidences all rolled into one giant clusterfuck. Story of his -- Jim’s -- his life, he guesses.
“But you never believed that,” he says, not needing the confirmation but wanting it anyways, the knowledge that someone, Spock, was out there looking for him.
“No. It seemed illogical that someone as physically strong, intelligent, and prepared as Jim would die here, especially after the search came up with no body. I came on my first available leave to search for him.”
Spock’s voice is quiet. When Anthony (he can’t think of himself as “Jim” yet, not when being Jim requires that he know, and he doesn’t right now, no matter how close he is) looks at him, he sees that Spock has taken another pull from his glass of water. His lips are wet, shiny in the bar’s half-light, and his face is still reflexively blank, and Anthony doesn’t know if it’s his urge or Jim’s to rumple Spock’s perfect control. Either way, he leans across the counter and kisses Spock, frustrated and fast and wanting so desperately to take anything he can from this life he's figuring out was his to see if it will bring it back to him.
For a few seconds, Spock lets the kiss happen, lips cold from the water against Anthony’s own. But sooner than Anthony wants, Spock pushes him back gently, hand firm on his arm.
Anthony blinks and says, “We didn’t do that?”
“No,” Spock says, and the unhesitating, unwavering tone in his voice makes Anthony believe him. But Anthony also feels the way Spock's grip tightens just the smallest amount on his arm as he answers. He sees the way Spock's eyes (so fucking open if you know how to read them, and Anthony does. He wonders if Jim did before, or if this is something new he's learning now because Spock is choosing to let him. He isn’t sure which he'd prefer.) look at Anthony for not even a second like he is everything Spock will ever grow to need, and he knows that they may not have done this, but that in no way means Spock wanted it that way.
Anthony smiles, even as his chest tightens again in that frustrated knot of so close, so close, and he says, “Did you find him?”
Spock looks at him levelly, expecting nothing and everything. “I am still waiting for that answer.”
He walks out of the bar before Anthony can organize his thoughts enough to tell him, Almost.
He dreams that night about standing on the bridge of the Enterprise. He barely notices that, though, too focused on watching the stars rush past around him through the wide, open panes of glass. Most of them move too fast for him to see clearly, but some he’s able to watch as his ship cuts through them. Seeing them appear and smudge and streak to black as the ship passes them is oddly like watching them move, like they’re racing to their places around him, almost too fast in their excitement for him to see as they finally slot themselves into place.
When he wakes up, he knows. He gets dressed to go out for a run, loose sweatpants and a thin t-shirt and rubber-soled sneakers that feel strange on his feet, like he can’t remember what it’s like to wear them. He looks in the mirror on his way out. He sees a lightly tanned face and long hair, fringe falling almost past his eyes and the rest of it overgrown and shaggy and entirely out of regulation.
He looks at himself and sees Jim.
He runs down to the beach, totally different from the advertised coast he came to this planet for and more relaxing than he imagines that one could ever be. He sits on the low-tide rocks, feels them dig sharply into the muscle of his thighs and ass. The sky is dark, foggy gray and overcast, and he thinks it will probably rain today. It won’t snow. That won’t come for another three weeks or so at least, but he can feel the wind whipping chill around the bare skin of his arms and face like a promise, constant routines even if he won’t be here to see them.
The water today is a dull, deep blue, and the waves are choppy and harsh, every one cracking loudly on the shore when it hits. They make it hard to hear the footsteps behind him, crunching on the gravel and eventually brushing through the wet sand.
Jim knows without looking that it’s Spock. He doesn’t turn around.
Spock walks to stand by him, towering above Jim, who’s still sitting. Jim doesn’t care enough to move, or to ask Spock to move. He just watches the waves and shivers a little when the wind blows especially strong, and next to him, Spock does the same.
After a few minutes, Spock says, “Captain?” The tilt of the question is carefully calculated, precisely enough to let him ask without getting his hopes up high enough to cripple him when they fall.
Jim doesn’t bother answering his question; he knows Spock already knows well enough. Instead, he says, “Why didn’t you tell me?”
There’s a pause before Spock answers. “I don’t understand.”
“When you first got here, when you first saw me in that bar,” Jim says. “Why didn’t you tell me then?”
Like Spock and his question, Jim already knows the answer, or at least the one he wants to hear.
When Spock speaks, it’s with that slow voice again. Jim recognizes it now as tentative, which is odd, because he’s never heard Spock sound tentative before this town. He doesn’t know why he should recognize it when Anthony didn’t, but he does anyway.
“I decided the best course of action would be to let you come into it yourself. If you deduced what I suspected you would, it would probably be because other parts of your memory were resurfacing, which would mean you were remembering who you were. If I told you everything, who you were and what you had done, there was no guarantee that you would ever remember the experiences of being Jim Kirk for yourself. You would know who you were, but you would not remember your training or work in StarFleet. I would have left you here knowing exactly what you were missing.” Spock stops, waits like he’s fighting to figure out how to word what comes next. “It seemed illogical to risk causing you unnecessary pain if the memory loss continued and such a course of action was required.”
Jim nods; it’s both the answer he had expected and the one he wanted, and as much as it irks him to think of someone else making decisions for him without his consent, it’s nice to know that time apart hasn’t done anything to pull him and Spock off the same wavelength.
He turns to smile up at Spock. “Thanks,” he says, and moves to stand. He slips when he rises, rubber losing traction on the wet rock, but Spock catches his arm before he can fall. “Thanks again.”
“Of course, captain.”
Before Spock fully releases Jim’s arm, Jim leans up and kisses him. It’s fast, Spock’s lips still cold against his (from the weather this time, though, and Jim’s glad to finally understand again why Spock wears the heavy coat in the relative cool of early winter) but neither of them nearly so desperate as they were last night. When Jim pulls back, Spock’s cheeks are flushed light green from the chill of the air, and his eyebrows are quirked slightly in what could be surprise. He looks like the last first time Jim saw him, and completely different from the real first time, and better than either of those, because now, Jim can see him and understand, and it’s fantastic to have that back.
“Captain,” Spock says, “Jim. We don’t --”
Jim kisses him again, mid-sentence and stuttering for the first time Jim’s ever heard. This one’s a bit longer, and the next one even more so, sweet and cool and promising.
When he pulls back, Jim says, “We should,” partially to watch Spock’s face as he offers no argument, mostly because he’s learned that he can.
Later, after Jim has left his key and rent for the next two months (the shop hasn’t been doing so well, and he’s going back to a lifestyle that doesn’t use much expendable cash) in an envelope shoved under Judith’s door, after he has stopped in at the green-grocer’s to buy some apples from Trisha for the trip back through the mountains to the main city, after he’s given Tom his recipe PADD back and received one of the most spine-breaking hugs he’s ever likely to get. Later, after Jim has stuffed his clothes and personal effects into a pack and slipped his feet back into sturdier boots and taken one last look at the house with the green door on Mance Street, the peeling paint on the sign for Tom’s bar. Later, after Jim has had enough time to wonder what about this place it is he’s really going to miss and why he’s even bothering with something so sentimental and time-wasting at all.
Later, Jim stands next to Spock on that same stretch of beach as this morning, as the morning two years ago when Jim fell and dashed his head on that rock there, or maybe that one, and in any case started this mess. Spock is in the blue science officer’s shirt he never got rid of, the one he kept tucked away at the bottom of his bureau drawer and then his pack for when he knew he would need it. Jim’s feet ache in boots he hasn’t worn properly since the day he washed up in this town. He squints when he looks up at the sky, the mottled, gunmetal-gray clouds that look heavier every second, and he smirks at Spock when he says, voice lazily cocky, “What d’you say we try and beat that storm across the mountains?”
Spock’s eyebrows twitch as he says, “Captain, that is an illogical pursuit to attempt. The clouds are gathering at too fast a rate for us to --”
Jim laughs as he claps Spock on the shoulder. “I know,” he says, “that’s the point,” and then he starts off for the mountain trail with a smile on his face, fully expecting to get wet and probably lost, fully prepared to enjoy every minute of it.