Jim grabbed a water bottle out of the fridge and downed the whole thing in just a couple of swallows. A least he was able to drink water without any additives. Then he went back outside and headed in the direction of Spock’s house.

There was no sign that anyone was outside, which was too bad, because Jim would have preferred not having to knock on the door. He really didn’t want to bother Spock’s mother.

He hesitated, biting is lip. He could just wait until Spock did come out. But that could take hours. Or he could just go back home. Not that he really thought of this place as home.

Riverside was home. Until it wasn’t. Part of him just wanted to go back there.

Jim went up to the front door and knocked. He had no idea what he was going to say if Spock’s mom opened the door.

But to his relief it was Spock who peered out at him. But the for a long time, Spock just stared blankly at him. Almost like he didn’t even recognize Jim.

“It’s Jim. You know. From yesterday.”

Spock nodded. “Yes, of course. Hello, Jim.”

“Um. Sorry to bother you, but I was wondering about the kitten.”

“Yes, I have kept the kitten and Mother has named her Butterscotch. You may come in and see her if you would like.” Spock opened the door wide to let Jim inside.

Jim grinned and entered the house. There was no sign of anyone other than Spock and he heard no noises.

“My mother is out,” Spock said, as though reading Jim’s mind.

Which Jim had heard was possible. Weren’t they some sort of telepaths?

“Are you mind readers?” Jim blurted out before he could stop himself.

At that, Spock arched a pointed brow, which Jim had to admit was cute. “That would come in handy for certain. Alas I cannot. Nor do other Vulcans. We are touch telepaths. And there are limitations there as well.”

“Yeah. Okay.” Jim nodded. “You’re my first Vulcan.”

Spock tilted his head. “Butterscotch is this way.”

Jim followed Spock to a bedroom he assumed was Spock’s. There was a strange instrument attached to the wall. “What is that?”

“It is a Vulcan lyre. I have been playing it since I was a small boy.”

“Yeah? That’s really cool.” Jim shuffled his feet. “Wish I played a musical instrument. But I’m not musical.”

“Anyone can learn, Jim. Would you like me to teach you?”

Jim’s draw dropped open. “You-you would do that?”

“Why not?”

“I…well. I wouldn’t want to waste your time.”

“It would be no waste of time. My father taught me.”

“Is your dad here too?” Jim asked.

“Negative. He is on special assignment at present. Our residence here is temporary.”

“Yeah. Me too. I don’t plan on sticking around here either.”

Spock crouched down next to his bed and then when he rose he held the squirming orange kitty in his hands.

He could not keep the grin from his face. “She is so cute! Can I-can I hold her?”

Spock handed Jim the kitten,

She immediately started purring as he raised her to his chest. He rubbed his face against her fur.

“It is a shame you were not able to keep the cat for yourself,” Spock said softly.

“Frank doesn’t like animals. Or anything living really. I had a dog before.” Jim felt a dull ache in his chest. “Anyway, I’d probably be allergic. Seems like I am to everything.”

“She has adjusted well so far. What happened to your dog?”

He stared down at the purring kitten, his stomach twisting painfully. “He didn’t make it.” Jim handed the kitten back to Spock. “I need to go.”

“Very well. I had thought to offer you tea but—”

“No, that’s okay. I really need to go.” He turned abruptly and fled from Spock’s house.

****

“There you are,” his mother announced when he entered the house that afternoon. “Where have you been?”

She stepped over to him and grabbed him by his shoulders. She studied him carefully. “Have you been smoking again?”

“No,” he denied, even though he had just had a cigarette.

“Don’t lie. I smell it.”

He brushed her away. “Then why ask me?”

She sighed and went back into the kitchen to the stove. “You said you stopped.” She looked at him. “Are you cutting again?”

“No.” Not that he hadn’t thought about it. “I did quit smoking. But today was just…hard. So I had one.” He sulked down into the chair at the dining room table.

She put the spoon down she had been using to stir the food in the pot and came to sit next to him at the table. “Things didn’t go well at the doctor?”

He snorted at that. “It never does. She threatened me.”

“Jim—”

“She did. To institutionalize me.”

“I won’t let that happen. Frank said you didn’t tell him much about your appointment.”

“As if I would,” he mumbled. “I met a guy. He lives nearby.”

“A guy? Yeah?”

“A Vulcan.”

She laughed. “On this planet?”

“He’s a teacher. He offered to teach me how to play the lyre.”

She raised her brows. “Did he? How interesting.”

Jim rolled his eyes. “Give me a break. His name is Spock.”

“You like him. Don’t you?”

Jim shrugged. “Well.”

She smiled a little. “Maybe you can invite him over so I can meet him.”

“With him around? No thanks.”

“We’ll pick a day when he isn’t.” She stood up again and squeezed his shoulder as she went back into the kitchen. “I’m making chili beans. Is that okay?”

“Sure.” It wasn’t like everything didn’t taste like the additive anyway. But she liked to pretend he could actually taste the food.

“Jim, I know you don’t like Doctor Cassadine but can you go just a few more times? And then if you still feel the same way, we’ll tell her to forget it.”

Jim got up from his seat and went to the fridge, taking out a chilled glass water bottle. “How many more times?”

“Two. Maybe three.”

He bit his lip. “Two.”

“Okay,” she said with obvious reluctance. “Sit back down, it’s almost ready.”

He retook his seat, glancing toward the hallway when he heard Frank yelling at someone from the office. “You know he’s not going to take those anger management classes you want him to take.”

She brought a bowl of the chili beans over to him. “You really shouldn’t interfere, Jim.”

Feeling rebuked, he lowered his gaze to the beans and took a spoonful. He put it in his mouth and chewed.

“How is it?”

“Good,” he said mechanically.

She petted his hair and sat down next to him. “I’m off tomorrow so I want to take you into town to get some new clothes. You’ve changed sizes again.”

“I don’t need new clothes.”

“Are you kidding? Those jeans you’re wearing right now are falling off you. We’re going. So be ready.” She ruffled his hair. “Maybe a new PADD too.”