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Jim exited the hover taxi and slung his pack over his back. The air was crisp and cool even though it was almost midday. He heard the taxi leave but he didn’t turn, his attention was on the large iron wrought gate in front of him. There was no comm panel in sight. Carefully he opened the gate and made sure to close it behind him again. So here he was. At Spock’s house on Earth.

After Vulcan's destruction he and Spock had spent five years together in space, four of them as lovers. But then they had also spent a year apart. Spock had spent most of it here on Earth (or so Uhura had told him), while he’d been light years away on a special mission.

As he set out up the long grit path towards the house—a large cottage situated in the rolling British countryside. Spock's choice? Or someone else's?—the crunching under his feet and the rustle of the tree leaves overhead the only noises, he wondered what kind of reception he would receive when he reached his destination.

The cottage was old and weather worn, moisture glistening off every roof tile. Jim disliked it instantly. It was morose and sad. It couldn't have been Spock's choice, could it? He felt his chest tighten.

When he'd left to take on the undercover assignment with Starfleet Intelligence he hadn't known it would be a year. He hadn’t been able to share any of the details with Spock, but Spock had told him he understood. In Starfleet you had to go where you were sent; that was simply the way things were sometimes. All he’d told Spock was that the safety of the Federation was at stake. Then he’d left.

He'd shared his bed with another for a year, not sent a word to Spock and he couldn't even entertain sharing any details about that year with Spock--not in words, not in a mindmeld. If there was any chance in saving this relationship he would learn to keep those memories tucked away during a mindmeld. He'd felt stupid asking SI whether that would be possible and whether they would train him. Jumping the gun much? There might be no relationship here to save and therefore no mindmeld training needed.

Jim had come to a stop in front of the door. Why not Libya? Egypt? South Africa? England was nothing like Vulcan.

Maybe that was why he'd chosen England.

He took a deep breath and knocked on the door.

There was loud bark and Jim jumped backwards involuntarily. Growling, barking, and scuffling... the door shuddered as some almighty beast lunged at it from the other side.

For a moment Jim felt himself flush hot. He had the wrong address. That was followed by a small smile. Spock wasn't here. He was probably enjoying Death Valley's climate, sipping tea from a thermos.

The door opened and Spock stepped out. The barking stopped. Something big, heavy, and furry was panting behind his former first officer, just out of sight. It was almost like one of those screwy away missions, except Jim got the feeling there was no need to shout out There’s a monster behind you! Run!

All Jim could see was its heavy breath misting up the cold outside air and its slobber dribbling out of its mouth, pouring onto the carpet like a waterfall of slime. Even though his eyes should have been on Spock they were glued to the dark muzzle of the beast inside until it retreated back inside and out of view with a short grunt.

"Jim, it is good to see you again, if unexpected."

Jim's eyes snapped up to meet Spock's. His expression was unreadable. Jim felt stupid. Stupider than ever. Clearly Spock had found someone else and this was his new partner's dog.

Jim cleared his throat. "Hi Spock."

For so long he'd pictured this moment. Never had he imagined it like this. A year was no time at all, why did things have to change so much?

"The mission is over," he continued. "So I thought I'd come and say hello. I got the address from Uhura."

"Yes, she visited us here recently."


Jim pulled himself together.

"I'm sorry about not being in contact. I would have been if it had been allowed."

Spock nodded. "I surmised as much." He tapped his head lightly once. "And I knew you were alive."

Jim swallowed. The thought that Spock still had some kind of telepathic awareness of him was not surprising after all they had shared, but considering their current non-relationship Jim couldn't help feeling a bit embarrassed about that, no matter how illogical it was to feel that way.

"It is cold outside." The corner of Spock's mouth quirked up mischievously. "Did you come all the way here to stand outside or will you come in and join me and Hector for some lunch?"

Jim smiled in return. It was a genuine smile and he did feel warm inside at Spock's almost sunny disposition even if his legs felt like jelly at the same time. He didn’t look forward to meeting Hector, but if their friendship could be saved then not everything was lost.

The minute Jim stepped through the door he took in the sight of the torn carpet, chewed up furniture, and scratched walls. His jaw dropped.

"Jesus, Spock! What the hell happened here?"

The answer came in the form of a sharp, powerful bark. A huge black beast jumped into view. It looked a bit like a dog, an Irish Wolfhound of sorts maybe, but for the long, sharp talons, and the three rows of razor sharp teeth it flashed at Jim. Its eyes were black as the void. The massive creature had a thick and messy coat that was clearly well looked after none-the less.

"Damn, that thing is the size of a small pony! What on Earth is it?"

Jim took a step back--entirely of his own volition this time.

"Jim, this is Hector. He's a cross between an Earth dog and an Andorian forest hunter."

"I thought he looked a bit like that monster that had it in for me on Andor Prime."

So Hector wasn’t the name of a new lover, Jim thought, but at the same time he didn’t feel as much elation at that revelation as he probably should have. And when he thought about, maybe this was Spock’s special brand of humor, his way of telling Jim to get lost.

A Kirk-hunting pet. Fantastic.

"He's... quite large." That was a safe thing to say since it was evidently true. “I just never had you down as a dog person, I thought you would be more of a cat person.”

“Then it would appear you ‘had me down’ incorrectly,” Spock said flatly.

Jim winced. Way to get off on the wrong foot with Spock so quickly. He reached out gingerly towards Hector to pat his head.

“There, there,” he mumbled as he awkwardly patted the beast.

In return it gave him an ‘I will murder you later when my master isn’t looking’ glare.

Spock raised an eyebrow. “I see you have lost none of your famed bravery.”

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