“For the hundredth millionth thousandth time, Jim, you died!”
“Like, a month ago!” Jim says.
“No, you are not yet released from this hospital,” Bones says. “Christ almighty, Jim, you haven’t even been awake for two goddamn days!”
“I’m so bored,” he moans, head falling back into his pillows.
“How about some physical therapy to pass the time?” Bones asks with a frightening smile.
“Ooh, better idea,” Jim says, “let’s do not that.”
Everything in this room is white. It goes on forever, an endless swallow of pristine cleanliness that reflects the sunlight filtering in through the windows and blinding Jim on a regular basis. He glares at Bones, whose own lack of color is another betrayer: White sleeves, white shirt, white buttons.
“You have access to Starfleet’s entire library on your PADD,” Bones says as he waves his magic wand over Jim’s torso. “You have visitors up the wazoo.”
“Except you don’t let them visit for very long,” Jim grumbles.
“You have holovids! Your own monster brain to keep you occupied! Plus you sleep about eighteen hours a day, you’re like a cat,” Bones adds.
“It’s a defense mechanism,” Jim says. “To being bored. What else do I have to do?”
“I just gave you several perfectly viable—you know what, no, never mind. I don’t even care anymore.” Bones frowns down at his scanner. “You’re not leaving until I give the okay. And I mean it this time.”
Jim sighs heavily, dramatically, because it seems the only real source of amusement he has now is Bones. That’s the way it should be, really. He did, after all, once weave Bones a friendship bracelet out of daisies back at the Academy.
He has been trying to read and watch the news, and scan through all the ass-backwards, misinformed gossip on what happened out in Klingon space, but the truth is, his head starts to hurt when he reads too long, Bones and the rest of his crew keeps him informed on the important news, and all of the gossip surrounding the terrorist attacks and John Harrison and Captain James Fuck-Up Kirk, as one conspiracy blog put it so delicately—well, all of that just kind of makes him want to sleep a lot. And throw up, occasionally, but he hasn’t been able to hide that from Bones.
They neatly sidestep the big issues. Most notably, lack of visits from Pike, who is dead, Jim knows that, but occasionally through his blog-fury-induced haze of exhaustion and illness, he wonders to himself when Pike will limp through the door, mouth quirked in that fucking annoying I-know-better-than-you side smirk, asking Jim whether or not he can pee on his own yet.
The answer to that is yes, thank you.
The second big issue is Spock, who is not around. Jim really, really hopes it doesn’t have to do with the whole dying thing. Or the emotions, or whatever. Maybe the thank you, you are welcome heartfelt reunion conversation—which lasted all of five minutes—was enough closure for Spock to retreat back into his proverbial turtle shell. No visits, no messages, no homing pigeons. Jim assumes he’s just up to his neck in Starfleet bureaucracy nonsense. That’s one good thing to come out of this medical shit storm, anyway. Jim doesn’t have to deal with any of it.
Inquiries, debriefing, awkward lines of questioning. He received one message about it from an Admiral—a tentative suggestion that Jim get his ass to a round table for some Serious Talk, stat—and he’d just typed back, sorry, i don’t know if you heard, but i died recently. still recovering. c u soon. jtk.
He imagines Spock taking it like a champ, hopefully defending poor, recently deceased Jim.
That’s why Spock hasn’t come. He’s very busy and important. That’s the only explanation.
Jim tells Bones, “I just want to see how my ship is doing.”
“Starfleet’s taking good care of her,” Bones says. “Why don’t you call Scotty over?”
Jim can’t call Scotty over, because he was there. You know, there, at that moment, watching Jim as his insides melted and his head screeched and his bones hollowed out. Scotty dropped by once last night, just briefly, and he’d babbled the whole time—the damage to the Enterprise, Keenser’s latest mishaps, repairs he was overseeing. Jim just laid back and watched him in awe and eventually let out a fake yawn that turned into a real yawn. Scotty left him alone after that.
“What time is?” Jim asks instead of answering.
“Almost four o’clock,” Bones says. “Physical therapy, seriously. Your muscles are incredibly weak right now.”
“I bet you say that to all the good-looking starship captains.”
Bones rolls his eyes. “Be nice, and you can have a relaxing stroll around the room.”
“Goodie.” But he lets Bones help him sit up and swing his legs over the edge of the bed. Alarmingly, it takes a lot more energy than it should. Jim knows he’s weak, certainly—he appreciates the side effects of death—but come on. Isn’t there a super serum inside him, or something? Shouldn’t he be able to hold his head up without his neck trembling, sit without the stern support of Bones behind him, get to his feet without his knees knocking together?
Bones must see something in his face, because he sighs impatiently. “Jim. You died. You were in a coma for two weeks. This is exactly how I expected you to fare. All things considered, you’re healing wonderfully. It’s just going to take some time.”
“What happened to the wonder-Khan stuff?” Jim demands as Bones eases him to a stand. “I’m supposed to be superman now, aren’t I?”
“No, you’re not,” Bones says. He narrows his eyes at Jim. “It already did its job. It’s done now.”
Jim gets a chill, suddenly. Goosebumps pepper his arms, raising the hairs at the nape of his neck. He drags his fingernails harshly against his stomach, soothing an itch. He becomes hyperaware of his heartbeat, pumping blood through his limbs. He closes his eyes tightly.
“Don’t start that.” Bones grips his shoulder, shaking him a little. “Jim? Don’t start with that.”
“Start with what?” Jim says, but his voice is very far away. He feels a little numb and his hands start to tingle uncomfortably. His mouth works, but he want to grind his teeth together. Grit them against the thing crawling around inside of him. Ground himself.
“Sit down.” He feels Bones put a large, warm hand against his neck, like he always does when Jim’s been torn down to pieces. “Take a deep breath.”
Jim does so, through tightly compressed lips, just like Bones had taught him when air feels like it might not come so easy through the fluttery anxiety building in his chest. In and out. But it doesn’t help. He can feel Khan. Feel him rooting around inside Jim. Fucking with his DNA, maybe, burrowing down into the very core of Jim and leaving behind bloody footprints.
Being dead is just like being asleep, he remembers. Just the same. He’ll never know, now, will he, when he’s sleeping, whether or not he’s just dead, because it’s the same.
“Jim, look at me. Keep breathing. Look at me, now. You’re okay. Keep breathing.” Bones’ eyes are fierce and calm. The world thins down to a single point. Jim can breathe. He’s okay. It’s just—it’s just blood, it’s just death, it’s nothing, it’s just like sleep. Just the same.
“What if I’m—” Jim starts. But he can’t finish. Something in Bones’ expression stops Jim from saying it. What if it changed me? It already has, in a way. Even so, his heart rate begins to slow. Bones, steadying Jim with his hands, breathes through the panic with him, always a calming presence.
“Sorry,” Jim says. He starts to fall backwards a little, and Bones guides him onto his back again, rearranging the pillows. Jim closes his eyes and says it again, because it feels right: “Sorry.”
“There are other ways to get out of PT, you know,” Bones says with an edge of gruffness.
Just like that, they snap back into their rapport. Bones doesn’t bring up the panic attack. They snipe at each other for a while longer, until Jim’s pulled into sleep again.
It’s just sleep, though. It’s nothing else.
Spock is on the other side of the glass. Everything is dark. Jim feels something seeping inside of him—something insidious. His organs feel full of worms.
Spock mouths something through the glass, but Jim can’t hear him. That’s wrong. Jim remembers—he remembers hearing Spock—he does, it’s there, he remembers, if he could just focus—but it hurts it hurts there's something inside of him growing and extending and it hurts—
Jim wakes up tangled in damp sheets, his breath painful in his lungs as he gasps his way to full awareness.
He forces himself onto his elbows. Dread tangles in his stomach and starts to wrench up his throat but he swallows everything back. It's so dark in here, even with the subtle glow of the monitors surrounding him. But there's no glass. No Spock.
"Fuck," he says to himself. He coughs once, but he manages not to puke, miracle of miracles. "Fuck!"
"Captain Kirk?" A nurse pokes his head into the room. "Lights to fifty percent."
"Lights off!" Jim snaps, but that moment of blinding whiteness drills straight between his eyes and he feels shaky with the shock of it. He falls back, breathing heavily through his mouth.
The nurse bustles around him, asking him questions, sweeping a tricorder over him, but Jim just waves him off. "Where's Dr. McCoy?"
"Sleeping, I imagine," the nurse says. "Do you want me to…?"
"No, no, no, it's fine," Jim says tiredly. "I had a nightmare, it's fine, I'm not—stop scanning me, I'm fine."
Jim forgets that he can usually cow people into doing as he says. Bones never listens to Jim unless Jim is asking how many shots to pour. The nurse dutifully backs away, though not before giving the monitors and his readings a once-over.
"You sure you're okay?" he asks. "I can give you a mild sedative."
Jim blows an exasperated breath between floppy lips and makes a childish raspberry noise. And if the nurse wants to report on it, well, give Jim a break: He died. Didn't you hear?
When Bones shows up at the ass crack of dawn the next morning, Jim fakes sleep.
"Well you can cut that right the hell out," Bones says. "Lights on."
"Fuck you!" Jim moans as the lights blaze on and drown Jim in an endless sea of white. He pulls the sheets over his face. "My eyeballs are on fire! Mutiny!"
"It's not mutiny if I'm your doctor," Bones says carelessly. "We're not even on a ship! Oh, quit, Jim, you are a child."
Jim wrestles with the blankets for a second, then glares petulantly up at him, not exactly building a winning case for his side of that argument. Bones doesn't bother scanning him. He just purses his tiny mouth and stares Jim down.
"So," Jim says, "how about that weather, huh?"
Bones doesn’t buy it. "Nightmares?"
"Just one. It's fine."
Bones raises an eyebrow. Jim grins.
"Spock taught you that," he says, pointing. "That's a Spock face."
"No need to get nasty," Bones grumbles, immediately schooling his face into something he clearly thinks is more Bones-like, which is to say: a deep scowl. But there's an irritating softness there, too, and Jim doesn't think he can handle that right now. Bones adds, "If you need to talk about something—"
"I really don't," Jim says quickly.
Bones raises his hands in resigned surrender and moves on to a more medical line of questioning, asking after Jim's head and strength. Physically, it seems that Jim feels better every passing hour. Bones doesn't let him out quite yet—they take a walk out of the room and down the hall, and Jim is surprisingly steady, though he tires quickly and afterward takes a two-hour nap that makes up for a lot of last night's lack of sleep.
Uhura visits briefly, bringing Jim a basket of candy bars, bless her heart. He almost weeps when he sees them, and he later eats them in front of Bones, who nearly strains a muscle trying to keep himself from batting the chocolate right out of Jim's hands.
There's a comment Bones would normally make in this kind of situation, something about how if Jim keeps eating like that, he'll be dead before he turns thirty.
Been there, done that.
The nightmare that night is the same. Spock talks without saying a word. The glass devours whatever he tries to say. But he looks so desperate. He cries openly, maybe lets out a sob—and that's not right, Jim knows it, but he can't remember why—and Jim wishes he could let Spock in, but it hurts to move. Hurts to breathe. His skin feels tight, like tanned canvas stretched over a drum.
"Spock," he says, the attempted yell stuttering out in a thin gasp. "Spock."
When he wakes up, the name is a ghost in his mouth: "Spock."
It happens the next night, the night after that, and so on. Spock stands over him, an enemy. He stares at Jim with the flat eyes of a shark. Jim lies on a slab glass; it is cold underneath him. Everywhere is dark but reflective—his own blue eyes blink back at him from a hundred different surfaces.
"Spock," he says. It's all he can say. All he knows how to say.
Jim sees the disgust clear in Spock's otherwise passive expression. Jim says his name again, just to try, but it changes nothing. With a swift, clinical precision, Spock drops to one knee and presses a finger into the very center of Jim, right beneath his sternum. His traitorous insides, stained with Khan, seize up in agony at the touch. Suddenly, Spock's finger breaks through the barrier of Jim with a popping squelch. Blood oozes around his finger and spills hotly down Jim’s sides. Jim writhes underneath him, but Spock is going to help, isn't he? He will get rid of the snakes threshing through Jim’s arteries and undrape the heaviness over his heart. Spock is helping him. He'll be okay, it's okay, the pain will stop, the blood will stop soon, but the glass is so cold—
This time, Jim wakes up with a phantom ache where Spock had dug into him, and he's shaking so badly that he spills the glass of water next to his bed when he tries to drink.
Nobody comes to check on him, and he doesn't tell Bones.
Finally, Bones declares Jim fit for discharge from the hospital. Jim doesn't cartwheel joyfully out of the building, but it's a close thing. A week in small room on strict bed rest enforced by the entire Starfleet hospital staff is a week in hell, basically.
"Don't push your luck," Bones warns him. “You aren’t invincible.”
Jim rolls his eyes. “Yeah, I know.”
Only, Jim does not feel invincible right now. He hasn't gotten a good night's sleep since the goddamn coma, Spock hasn't sent so much as a get-well-soon card, and he's pretty sure Khan is still rooting around his faulty system.
This is stupid.
As he and Bones make their way across Starfleet grounds to their temporary quarters, cadets and officers alike stare at Jim like he just sprouted a speckled Horta on his back. He doesn't really expect praise, or anything—the Enterprise was totaled under his command—but a smile or a nod in his direction might be a nice change from the wide-eyed stares and whispers passed behind hands.
"So the rumor's gone around, then," Jim says loudly, scattering a group of jumpy cadets.
"What rumor is that?" Bones asks. He's distracted, clicking his stylus against his PADD and frowning at the screen.
"That I died," Jim says flatly.
"Uh-huh," Bones mumbles.
"Pay attention to me."
"Who are you messaging?" Jim snatches the PADD out of Bones' hands, ignoring his indignant cry.
"Nobody!" He reaches for it, but Jim dodges him, shoving him back with a sharp elbow. "Jim, give it here!"
Jim stares down at the screen. It's a message from Spock, but before Jim can read it, Bones practically tackles him in an effort to retrieve is PADD. Jim gives it to him without much fight.
"Why are you talking to Spock?" He doesn't mean to sound so wounded, but—well.
"I wasn't," Bones says. His ears are bright red. "Never you mind."
"Never me mind," Jim repeats. "Hmm. Okay. Question two. Why is Spock talking to you but not me?"
"Maybe he likes me better."
That is so far out of the realm of possibility that Jim actually laughs in his face, and he feels a little better about the whole thing. Spock is Jim's friend. That's a thing now. It's very official.
"Seriously, though," Jim says. "Where has he been?"
"Busy, I imagine," Bones says.
"You are a terrible liar. I've met Vulcans who are better liars than you."
"That's blatantly untrue."
"Yeah, it is. But you suck at it, too." He gives Bones a final glare, but his irritation fades away as quickly as it had come. If Spock wants to talk to Bones but not Jim, fine. Be that way.
When they arrive at their building, Bones becomes increasingly shifty. He checks his PADD when he thinks Jim isn't looking, then tiptoes down the hall like somebody's going to jump out of doorway and attack him where he stands.
"Are you broken?" Jim demands.
"Shut up. You're room 249, aren't you?"
"Yes," Jim says. "Did they put me next to you?"
"I put you next to me," Bones says, "mostly because I knew I wouldn't hear the end of it if we weren't neighbors."
"Hey, we could put in a request for a bigger room, bunk it up, huh—"
"I cannot tell you how that suggestion horrifies me. I lived with y'all for two years, kid, I ain't doing that shit again."
"Gutted," Jim sighs.
"Here it is, end of the hall. Got your code?"
Jim punches a few numbers into the security panel, the door slides open, and Jim says, "Lights on—JESUS CHRIST."
"SURPRISE!" yells what looks like the entire fucking crew of the Enterprise as Jim jumps about a foot in the air.
"What!" Jim says, delighted.
Crammed into his tiny temporary quarters is a sea of people, crushed wall-to-wall, lap-sitting on his shitty standard-issue furniture, wreaking havoc in his kitchen, and generally looking like the merriest bunch of people he's ever seen. Instantly, he is rushed with greetings. They storm up to him and drown him in hugs and claps on the shoulder and welcomes. He knows all of them, recognizes them from the belly of engineering, the beta bridge crew, sickbay, the mess hall, the transporter room. Uhura pushes through the crowd and stands on tiptoes to kiss Kirk on the cheek; Sulu punches his shoulder hard enough to leave a bruise; Chekov gives what he probably thinks is a manly slap on the back. Scotty and Keenser are there, too, already drunk from the looks of it, and Scotty starts a rant about how you've got to come see your ship, sir, she's got nosy crewmen with their hands up her bloomers but she's faring just fine, sir, just fine.
"Surprise," Bones says from behind him. "Now tell me how much you love me."
"You planned—" but Jim is interrupted by a tackle hug from Lieutenant Allani. "Hi, Lieutenant, it's nice to see you too!"
There are tears in more than one person's eye, and Jim is not going to cry, he absolutely is not; but if his eyes are a little brighter, it's not his fault. Dying really does a number on your emotional health.
Somebody orders ten thousand boxes of pizza for the occasion, and Jim spends the next hour or so in total bliss. Everybody wants their own chance to welcome Jim back. He almost can't move with the amount of people, but they all push him to the couch and crowd around him, chatting animatedly with him and each other. Jim can't remember the last time he felt this much happiness. This is his crew. His family. And here they are, living proof that he's done at least one thing right in this whole fucked up ordeal.
"Hell of a lot more people came than I thought," Bones says. "I warned 'em we'd be stuck in this sardine can, but nobody really cared."
"Thank you," he says sincerely. He laughs helplessly. "Seriously, oh my God, thank you guys."
Everyone lets out a little cheer. Bones starts herding people out one by one, reminding them that yes, the captain really did die a horrible death, so you understand if he needs his rest.
Eventually, it's down to the core of them: Sulu, Chekov, Uhura, Scotty, Bones. Notably, there is a missing piece, and Jim can't help but ask.
"So where's Spock, huh?" Jim asks. "We're besties now. He told me so. So where is he? Toss me a Hawaiian."
Chekov hands him a slice of pizza as Uhura says, "Kirk, please. Standing in a crowded room full of Humans all running hysterical on emotion is not exactly Spock's idea of a good time."
"True," Jim amends. "But still. I'm offended."
Never mind that Jim hasn't heard from Spock in ages, but he's not bringing that up.
They all just hang out and chat for a while. Bones, an obnoxious germophobe, immediately begins cleaning the apartment, getting rid of all the empty pizza boxes and disinfecting every surface he can find while muttering something about how nobody washes their goddamn hands anymore.
None of them ask Jim what exactly happened to him, but Jim can tell they're burning to know. He trusts Scotty's inability to keep a good story quiet, and hopes he's given them the overview. Jim's grateful for that, at least.
Chekov and Sulu are the first to head out, and at Jim's questioning look, Chekov says, "Is date night, sir!"
"Lord alive," Bones mutters. "Sulu, are you defiling the youngest crew member?"
"'Til the day I die, Doc," Sulu says, cackling a little bit as Chekov drags him out the door.
"That's," Bones starts. He points to the doorway, then to the rest of them. "Did you all know about that?"
"Everybody knows about it, Bones," Jim says. "Did you not? Oh my God! That's adorable! You really didn't know they've been fucking like—"
"Stop right there, please, I don't want to know," Bones says.
"Seriously, Bones, don't you remember that awful two weeks when they weren't talking to each other because they couldn't figure out how to tell each other that they wanted sexy penis action?"
"Stop!" Bones yells.
"Aye, that was the worst," Scotty agrees. "Poor lad couldna hardly recalibrate the environmental controls, he was so smitten off his nut."
"Okay, that's it, I'm leaving," Bones says. "Jim, I'm coming over to check you in the later."
"Maybe you should go check Chekov and Sulu, I heard they're super into some kinky shit—"
"GOODBYE." He stomps out of the room. Scotty and Jim are giggling to themselves, content with their debauchery, and even Uhura looks pretty amused. She should, too; Jim has it on good authority that Sulu went to her for romantic advice.
"I need to get goin', Captain, I've got a date with the finest lady in all of Starfleet, if you catch my drift!"
"You're in a romantic monogamous relationship with the Enterprise, Scotty, I get it," Jim laughs.
Uhura gets up to follow Scotty out the door. Her hand trails across Jim's shoulder, and she gives him a light squeeze.
"It's good to have you back, Kirk," she says.
"Thanks," he says softly.
And just like that, he's alone again. He sits on the couch for a while longer, in a slight daze. This is like everything else that's happened to him recently. There is too much to process. He puts this in a box and tucks it away. Too much happiness all at once, though he supposes it's better than more of the alternative.
"Lights to five percent," he says. Almost immediately, he begins to doze. He falls asleep on the couch, still in his shoes, with a plate of half-eaten pizza balanced on his stomach.
Spock is on his side of the glass. No, wait—there is no glass this time. Jim looks up in wonder.
"Spock," he says. It's still the only thing he knows how to say.
Spock does not speak. He gently puts the top of his hand beneath Jim's chin, raising his face. Jim feels warm. A trickle of electricity lights down his spine as Spock stares at him. His eyes are dark, perhaps slightly dangerous. Jim feels the heat radiating off his skin. This is his Spock. This could be his Spock.
Jim tucks his face against Spock's neck, breathing deeply, and suddenly they are so vulnerable. They are lying down now, legs tangled, pressing together skin slick with sweat. Spock's hand tangles tightly in Jim's hair and he bites down on Jim's lower lip, and Jim can taste blood.
He needs this. He grinds upwards helplessly and Spock’s moan vibrates against his mouth. Heat threatens to swallow him whole. There isn’t enough friction, and Jim’s body automatically seeks Spock’s every plane and surface. Spock slides a hand under Jim’s shirt, dragging his thumb against his ribcage. Jim’s breath stutters. When his head tilts back, Spock trails his mouth over Jim’s throat.
There is something here so horribly wrong.
Is this his Spock? His chest begins to burn and his skin crawls. Something vile swells cruelly in his gut, but Spock is here, Spock will rip Khan out of JIm if it’s the last desperate thing he does.
Jim wakes abruptly to the sound of his door chime. He jerks hard enough to send his plate of pizza flying, and he nearly rolls off the couch. Shit, he can't catch his breath, and his hands are shaking—but he yells, "Coming, hang on!" and hops up. It's probably Bones, and he'll never hear the end of it if he doesn't answer the door right away.
Except when he stands, his body reveals yet another massive—if he does say so himself—problem.
"Oh, this is fun and new," Jim mutters furiously to himself. He palms at his crotch, trying to alleviate some of the pressure, and drops his head back for a second, groaning.
His door chimes again.
This is not happening right now. He is not masturbating over Spock. He's pretty fucked in the head, but he's not that fucked in the head.
He tries to take a few cooling breaths. He quickly goes to his kitchen and pours himself a glass of ice cold water and considers flinging it in his face, but ultimately downs it in a frigid gulp.
"I'm coming," he says loudly—then, quietly, to himself, "heh."
He doesn't bother checking the vid feed to see who's waiting to humiliate him, because he knows it's Bones. So he opens the door and says, "Surprisingly, leaving me alone for two hours hasn't resulted in my second demise, thanks."
It isn't Bones.
"You're kidding me," Jim says.
"Captain?" Spock asks, politely confused.
"I thought you were Bones."
Spock looks like he always does: pinched, constipated, and vaguely uncomfortable. His hands are clasped behind his back. They both stand in awkward silence for a full ten seconds, Jim frantically trying to wilt his boner with nothing but sheer will power.
"May I enter?" Spock asks.
"Yeah, yeah, of course, sorry," Jim says, while thinking fuck fuck fuck! "Sorry it's kind of messy, I only just got here, and I had some people over."
"I heard." There's a story there, but Jim's not going to ask right now, because his brain is mostly offline. "Dr. McCoy did issue me an invitation, but the thought of spending a prolonged amount of time in close proximity with highly emotional individuals was quite…unsettling."
Jim snorts. "Yeah, your girlfriend pretty much said the same thing. It's okay. I get it."
"I did, however, wish to convey the same…sentiment as the crew," he goes on. "I am pleased you are well."
"Thanks." Jim shields himself behind his kitchen counter and pours himself another glass of water. Everything is horribly conflicting right now. He wants to be really irritated at Spock—if he's so pleased that Jim's well, why did he disappear? Aren’t they friends now?
But at the same time, he keeps thinking about Spock spread out naked above him while Jim whines with need, so there's that.
"Dr. McCoy tells me you have a clean bill of health," Spock says conversationally.
Jim sighs. "I bet he did."
Spock gives him his version of a frown: a single crease line between his eyebrows. "Yes. But I detect unhappiness in your tone. Is there a problem?"
"Oh, no, no problem." Except for the fact that he is this close to humping the counter if he doesn't get himself off soon. "It's just, you know—I figured you were busy, and all, but I guess you found time to chat with Bones."
"I would not say we chatted," Spock says uncertainly. "When I declined Dr. McCoy's invitation, he was…upset. When I asked him to clarify his irritation, he intimated that I was not properly reciprocating our relationship."
Jim's jaw drops. "Oh my God. Did Bones tell you you were being a bad friend?"
Spock, posture rigid, stares straight ahead, clearly uneasy. "Basically."
"Jesus," Jim says. He rubs a hand down his face. "Look, Spock, it's—Bones is just, you know, Bones."
"That statement is extraordinarily vague," Spock says, raising an eyebrow just slightly.
"He's just worried about me," Jim says. "Needlessly, I might add. You can sit down if you want, you know, my back hurts just looking at you."
Spock manages to restrain himself from commenting on such illogical claims. Jim has trained him well.
"I am comfortable standing, thank you," Spock says. "I cannot remain for long. I simply wished to reassure you that…."
Yikes. Spock might actually burst a blood vessel. He really isn't going to be able to say it. Jim lets him squirm for a minute. It's pleasantly distracting, so much so that he forgets his stupid PTSD wet dream long enough to crack a smile.
"It's okay," Jim says finally. "You’re not a bad friend. I’m reassured."
“I am pleased to hear it, Captain."
Jim points an accusing finger. "That's different. I'm not captain right now. Call me Jim."
Spock inclines his head. "Jim."
More gaping silence. This is seriously the worst. Spock honestly looks like this is the last place on Earth he wants to be.
"You know," Jim says slowly, "you don't have to, like…tread lightly. You're still allowed to be dick."
That garners the response Jim wanted. Spock finally looks at him with an indignant scowl that might have been mild indigestion on a Human.
"I beg your pardon," Spock says. "I am never purposely callous, and while I admit I am occasionally tactless, it is not a product of thoughtlessness, merely a side effect of misreading Human social cues and misunderstanding their emotional complexities. In fact, that particular insult is more often attributed to yourself, and while I may find such slurs immature, I do believe it periodically applies."
"Wow," Jim says, impressed. "That was a really long way to say 'I know what you are, but what am I?'"
Spock stares at him for a moment, so adorably bewildered that Jim's grin widens. In the end, all Spock says is, "What?"
Jim bursts out laughing. He can't help it. "Oh, my God. I missed you. You ditched me while I was in the hospital! Why'd you do that?"
"It was unintentional."
"Spock. I don't think you're a dick. Wait—I mean, I do, but affectionately, you know? Like, Bones is a dick, and he's my best friend."
Spock's eyes narrow slightly. "Thank you for the clarification."
"Jim." His shoulders slump a little. "I confess…I was unsure what I would say in the event I visited you more often during your time in the hospital. When Dr. McCoy inquired after my absence, I told him I was very busy overseeing the initial repairs on the Enterprise. Which was and still is true. But perhaps…unbeknownst to me…I was merely looking for an excuse to…avoid you."
"So what you're saying is, you like me a lot, and now that I know it, it's weird for you."
Jim can actually see the muscles in Spock's face twitching as he resists the urge to roll his eyes. It brings Jim true joy and does absolutely nothing to aid the situation in his pants.
"Unrefined. But apt."
"Aw," Jim says. "I'm an expert at unrefined. Hey, look. Like I said. Nothing is really different, is it? We don't have to talk about the whole…thing. And don't tell me I'm being vague, you know exactly what I'm talking about."
"Yeah. So. It's fine. Seriously. I'm really glad you're keeping close to the repairs. That's important."
"Perhaps you would join me on a tour of the ship this week at your earliest convenience," Spock suggests.
"Hell, yeah! Wouldn't miss it!"
Some of the worry bleeds out of Spock a little. Jim knows him well enough to see it, but it strikes him that Jim has only scratched Spock's surface. It makes him think of a cold cave and unfamiliar fingertips on his face, and the scope of a mind he cannot possibly comprehend.
He thinks of a warm body over his, hips pressing down—
Jim smacks a palm to his forehead. "Augh."
Spock steps towards him. "Are you well?"
"Yeah, uh, yeah, I'm fine, just a stupid…headache." Boner. All of Jim's problems are boners. "I had a long day, that's all."
"I will leave you to rest, then," Spock says. He sounds a little relieved, honestly. "Perhaps you should ask Dr. McCoy for an analgesic. I believe he lives across the hall."
"He does. And I will. Thanks, Spock." He smiles encouragingly—go away. Get out. Boner alert. "I'll see you soon."
Spock inclines his head again. "Yes, Cap—Jim. I believe you will."
And he marches out, nose in the air, back ramrod-straight, and hands still clasped tightly behind him. The moment the door whooshes shut, Jim slumps against the counter, pressing his forehead against the cool surface. He lets out a huge groan.
"I am not going to masturbate to Spock," he says firmly to himself. "I am not. I am not."
After about thirty seconds, he pours himself another glass of water, stares mournfully into it, then dumps it over his head.
As he promised, Bones came to check on him that night. Jim was already halfway asleep on his couch again when the door chimed, but now, instead of getting up, he just yells, "GO AWAY."
"Jim? It's me. You okay?"
"I'm fine but I'm not getting up. My code's six alpha six oh nine Yankee four eight two, then your serial number."
Bones struggles with the door for a second and then stomps over to Jim, glaring at him like it's somehow possible to sleep wrong.
"Why the hell is my serial number part of your security code?" Bones demands.
"Because I knew eventually you'd want to break in so I figured I'd make it easy for you," Jim says. "And look at that! Hasn't even been twenty-four hours and I was totally right. Go away, I'm sleeping."
"Yes," Jim says. "And I was sleeping until I was so rudely interrupted."
"You have a bed for that, you know."
"But it's so far away and this tiny couch is so comfortable," Jim says, burrowing further into the…armrest. Fuck, he's not even using a pillow. Oh well.
"Get up, you moron," Bones says. "You don't even fit. You haven't even taken your shoes off."
"Mmhm," Jim says vaguely, eyes already closing. "That's fine."
"Jim. Jim! Oh, goddamn it. I am not carrying you. Get up."
Eventually, Bones half-wrestles, half-bribes off the couch, dragging his sad exhausted ass to his room where he dumps him on the bed. Jim hits face first and immediately sighs in relief, digging himself into the mattress.
"Oh my God I love beds," he says into his pillow. "Why didn't I come here sooner? What's the matter with me? Beds are amazing. Fuck couches. I'm taking out the couch and installing a bed. I can do that, right? Because I'm the captain."
"Yes, Jim," Bones says soothingly. "Because you're the captain."
"'M gonna install a bed on the bridge," Jim says. His words slur and he's pretty sure he's already drooling into his pillow, but he can't bring himself to care. "Fuck the chair, too."
Bones has to wrench Jim's boots off his feet, then pull the blankets from under Jim so he can throw them up to his chin. "Okay, Jim, you're all tucked in. Shut up and go to sleep."
"I can't sleep," Jim mumbles. He rolls a little to the side. His mouth hangs open. "'M just gonna have a nightmare."
There's a long silence and Jim thinks maybe Bones left, but then Bones says, "Are they bad?"
"Kinda," Jim says. "I think I have the stress thingy."
"I think you do, too. Try to get some sleep anyway, okay? I'll come back in the morning and check on you."
"Hey. Spock is a good friend. Okay?"
"Mmmkay," Jim says, and then he's out.
In his dream that night, Spock's mouth is everywhere on him, sucking bruises into his skin and pressing his long fingers into Jim's every corner and curve. Jim falls apart under him, whispering his name in the dark. Spock kisses him languidly, artfully, and Jim shakes under his touch. Jim wants to ask him for everything, and in return he will give everything—but Spock pulls away. His face twists in shock. Startled, Jim stares up at him, and he wants to ask what's wrong—but then he knows.
Jim scrambles away from Spock, who doesn't give chase. Jim looks down at his hands. Not his hands. His body is unfamiliar, too pale and narrow and solid. Jim's stomach heaves. He looks up and there's the glass—Spock is on the other side, crying—and Jim sees his own reflection but it's not him. He's not Jim. He's Khan.
Jim wakes up with a yell in his throat. He is drenched in sweat. He claws his way out of bed and almost crashes to his knees when he tries to stand, but he's got to move. He barely makes it to the bathroom before he heaves in the toilet. Vomit burns through his sinuses and he can't stop retching. It feels endless. Tears spill down his face. He is dizzy with sickness and memory. When his stomach is empty, he keeps gagging, because maybe his body is trying to get rid of whatever festers inside of him.
After what seems like a decade of choking and coughing, Jim falls back, head knocking against the wall of his bathroom. He reaches for toilet paper and wipes away tears and spit and vomit. Hysteria claws at his lungs, but he pushes it away, down and down, far away from him. He doesn't have time to fall apart. He needs to be all right.
He spits again and presses his fist against his forehead. Don't panic. Fuck.
"Fuck," he says out loud. It's too close to a sob for his comfort. He breathes slowly through tight lips, just like in the hospital.
Jim thinks he's over the worst of it when his door chimes.
He looks around, but there's no comm panel in the bathroom. That means he has to get up. He braces his hand on the toilet and barely manages to get to his feet. He flushes the toilet then meets his reflection in the mirror.
It's him. It's the face he knows, a little worse for wear, white as a sheet and shiny with sweat. But at least it's his face.
He bows his head. "Get it together," he whispers.
He checks the hallway feed on his front door. It's Bones, of course, here for an 8am wake-up call. Bones taps his foot impatiently and reaches up to press the chime again, but Jim just releases the lock.
Jim doesn't try to hide how he looks. There's no point. Bones' face changes from his default crabbiness to shock and sympathy when he sees him.
"You look like seven kinds of shit, Jim," Bones says. "Why don't you go sit down, I'll get some water."
Jim nods numbly. Strangely, he can't really feel his arms and hands. Pins and needles prickle along his limbs. Dejected, he sits.
"Here," Bones says, pressing a glass into his hand. He squeezes the back of his neck, and he also hands Jim a damp washcloth.
"Jeez," Jim mumbles, but he's grateful. He drinks the water and wipes his face.
Bones tilts his head. "You wanna talk about it?"
"Okay. But you need to sleep at some point. And I know you ain't gonna see a therapist—"
Jim snorts. "Got that right."
"Jim. I know you think you're impervious to this kind of thing, but every man hits his breaking point. If you just give yourself some time, let me help you get some sleep—"
"It's not even that," Jim says. "It's just…I mean, I keep thinking about…you know, the thing. Fuck. But it's more than that. It's different."
"You died, Jim, and—"
“And Khan brought me back to life,” Jim finishes softly. “Yeah. I know.”
“Damn it, Jim. You can’t let him get to you like that. I can read you like a newspaper; you’re tying yourself into knots thinking something’s changed.”
Jim sighs and swishes water in his mouth before spitting back into the glass. “Why do I keep having nightmares, then?”
“Because you’ve endured a hell of a trauma,” Bones says. “You have to admit that, at least.”
Jim leans back against the couch and closes his eyes for a second. His jittery nerves haven’t abated yet. What’s he supposed to say? He can’t even put into words everything that is wrong in him. It’s an instinct. It’s self-preservation.
Bones does that annoying looking thing again, where he stares right into Jim’s soul. He’s eerily good at it, and it sometimes makes Jim wonder if he is that transparent. It often occurs to him that Leonard McCoy knows him better than anybody else in the entire universe. This both comforts and frightens him.
Eventually, Bones says, "Here is my official prescription. Where's your PADD?"
Jim digs it up out of one of his packs and hands it over. Bones navigates with his middle finger, then hands it back to Jim, who frowns down at the screen. It's Spock's name and picture above an open messaging window.
"What?" Jim says.
"Go hang out with Spock," Bones says.
"Are you serious?"
"Serious as a heart attack," he says firmly. "Look, Jim, I wasn't there. I waffle on whether or not I'm glad about that, but Spock was there. He's been there for everything. And as much as I hate to say, I think it might help…to talk to someone who is less…emotional about this."
"Ohhhh," Jim sings, "oh, oh, I am so telling him you said that."
"Don't you fuckin' dare."
"Joke's on you, though. Because I know a secret." Jim sobers a little as he remembers. "Spock cried, Bones."
Bones rolls his eyes. "Ha ha, very funny."
"I'm not kidding," Jim says. "I wish I was. Don't ever bring it up, ever, I'm so serious. But I thought you'd like to know that."
"Well, I'll be damned," Bones says, "miracles do happen."
"Yeah," Jim says softly. He reaches out to rest a hand on Bones' shoulders. "Believe me. I know."
To be fair, Bones didn't know about the whole naked-Spock part of his dreams. If he had, maybe he wouldn't have prescribed quality epic-friendship-across-all-universes bonding. Still, Jim can't deny that it might be nice to actually talk to Spock when he isn't suffering from Painful Erection Syndrome. He also really wants to see the Enterprise and put to rest his worries about her repairs.
is today a good day to come see my ship?
Less than thirty seconds later, Spock responds.
Affirmative, Captain. I will notify Commander Brett Rainaut that the repair crew should expect us. Is 1300 an acceptable time?
yup. meet u at the shuttle bay.
Spock is early and Jim is late and neither of them are surprised about anything. Spock wears his gray uniform (sans goofy hat, hallelujah) and Jim should probably feel underdressed in his dark trousers and black undershirt, but he'd tried putting on the uniform that morning and—no. Just…no.
"Captain," Spock says.
"Jim," Jim says, just to be annoying.
"That is not my name, Captain," Spock says, so quickly and crisply that Jim flounders in the joke for a moment. Spock moves right past his stunned expression and says, "The shuttle is ready for us, if you would follow me."
Snarky motherfucker, Jim thinks, and a bit of the pressure weighing on his chest loosens a little. Maybe Bones knew what he was doing after all.
"I did not expect you to accept my invitation so swiftly," Spock says.
"Yeah, well," Jim says. "God knows when Bones is gonna clear me for any duties, and I didn't really feel like sitting on my ass for another day."
"I hope a tour of the Enterprise will prove sufficiently occupying."
"Duh, Spock," Jim says. "So. Tell me about my ship.”
As they file onto the shuttle with a group of repairmen and officers, Spock launches into a breakdown of the plans and repairs for the Enterprise, Jim occasionally interrupting with his own question or comment. They fall into an easy banter, something that feels so familiar and strangely comforting to Jim that he almost forgets why he even came here—that he might have never asked if Bones hadn't shoved an open message screen under Jim's nose.
As Earth falls away in the windows, they're both silent. Spock magnanimously gave Jim the window seat because he knows Jim likes it. Behind them, the chatter of the rest of the passengers buzzes amiably. Jim wonders if any of them are whispering about him, asking if the rumors are true.
He considers telling Spock that Bones was the one who suggest Jim come "hang out" with him today, but that might entail owning up to the nightmares and the panic. Jim isn't ready for that right now.
It only takes the shuttle around 20 minutes to reach the Orbital Docks, and it takes all of Jim's self-restraint not to plaster himself against the window as the Enterprise suddenly rises into view. She's worse for wear—the hull breaches have been haphazardly patched, and he could probably count the scars even from this distance—but she's still a goddamned beauty.
"My God," Jim says. "This is just like it was last year, when Bones smuggled me onboard. Except the Enterprise was in working condition, and I was blind in one eye and feverish."
"That is unfortunate."
"Ha! You've heard that story, haven't you?"
"It would be difficult to ignore it, considering Dr. McCoy frequently relates that anecdote with the sentiment that he is directly responsible for bringing you aboard the Enterprise, and thus saving Earth."
"No, no, I know what you said but—seriously? That's how he tells that story?" Jim demands.
"He does technically have a point," Spock says fairly. And annoyingly. "If Dr. McCoy had left you grounded, we would have warped into a battle without being aware of the dangers, and likely destroyed."
"Well…Jesus, when you put it like that," he grumbles. "I didn't know he said that."
"He insinuated that such a claim would aggravate you," Spock says. "I am not surprised to find that he was correct."
"Is this 'insult Jim T. Kirk' day?" Jim asks, trying and failing to keep the smile off his face. "I'm a big damn hero, I'll have you know!"
"I was present for your heroics, Captain," Spock says. His words are oddly placating—gentle, even. "I am aware of your considerable contributions to the well-being of…everyone."
Jim settles back down. "That's…that's a good compliment."
Spock is about to respond, but the shuttle lurches and clangs slightly as it docks. Jim takes a deep breath. This is fine. This is going to be totally fine. There are no boners involved.
Touring the Enterprise is like arriving at another welcoming party. The ship is alive with worker bees. Jim recognizes a lot of his own crew assisting in the repairs, running around and making sure everything remains in top condition for the refits, and Jim’s heart swells as they walk from deck to deck. People salute, smile, and wave, often stopping to give him an update on what they’re working on, and beaming when he compliments their work.
It’s a huge ego boost, and he says as much to Spock, who then suggests that is ego is at capacity; so there’s some laughs to be had, as well.
Brief though the moment is, it’s strange standing on the bridge, especially since it’s so empty and lacking the usual crew. He suddenly can’t wait to be back here, surrounded by the closest thing he’s got to a family, wreaking havoc in the great spangled expanse of the universe.
About two hours pass, and finally, Jim can’t smooth-talk is way around the inevitable. They still haven’t visited engineering, the site of some of the most damage, and Jim knows it would be silly not to visit when he’s just strolled through every nook and cranny of the Enterprise.
He knows Spock is thinking the same thing, but he wisely keeps quiet about it. Jim feels Spock staring at him, though, while they make their way slowly to the turbolift.
“I guess I have to go, huh?”
Spock doesn’t bother feigning ignorance. “Of course not, Captain. Where you go aboard your own vessel is entirely at your discretion.”
Jim smiles gratefully. “Thanks. But…it wouldn’t feel right.” He presses a button the turbolift console, and suddenly they plunge down, with nothing but the whirr of the lift sounding between them.
When the door opens, Jim bravely tries to take the first step, but suddenly—shockingly—Spock touches his arm.
It’s a light touch, a slight pull against his sleeve. Jim turns around, eyebrows raised.
“Jim,” Spock says quietly. “I do not wish to witness you endure more mental or emotional stress. If you are uncomfortable, we should leave.”
Jim’s throat tightens. Oh, great. He’s not going to cry. He can’t right now. He’s such a wreck. Will that ever pass? Is he ever going to get used Spock actively and verbally liking him?
“Thanks, Spock,” he says. “I’m fine. Really.”
“I have heard you utter that same assurance forty-seven times since our acquaintance. Statistically—”
Jim elbows him. “Shut up. Don’t ruin the moment.”
“We were having a moment! Never mind. Come on, let’s go. I want to know if Scotty’s manage to smuggle on any unauthorized upgrades. Which is his favorite pastime. I promise if I start having a panic attack, you’ll be the first to know.”
Spock’s expression is unreadable—amused, exasperated, fond? Jim just logs the look away for later and instead leads the way down the narrow corridor and into the heart of engineering.
It’s not what Jim expects.
Engineering is wrecked. Scotty has overseen some massive improvements, it seems, but this is heart and soul of Starfleet’s flagship. This is the power and drive, the hope in a tight spot, the explosion that shoved the Enterprise out of the powerful pull of a black hole. When the Enterprise lost power and began to fall to Earth, here is where the crew looked for the possibility of survival.
The panels are torn apart, revealing the ugly maw of the worst damage. Jim remembers steam hissing out of cracks and the wailing of every available alarm. Too much push, too little power. The screams had echoed in this vault of energy.
He remembers the momentary zero-grav yank as the core failed mid-warp, the stabilizers jammed for just a moment until everything buzzed back online, and the Enterprise spun like a kid tripped in the hallway. All because of Khan. He was accountable for all of this, and he’d done something to Jim—something that Bones assured him was fixed and over, but which feels like a niggling itch in the back of his head.
Jim tries to shake himself out of it. He fixates on the humiliation he’ll experience if he has to run back to the turbolift, gasping for air, with Spock chasing after him. He gets a hold on himself and tightly crosses his arms, momentarily losing himself in the happy faces and greeting of a huge number of his engineering crew, all helping out on the repairs and all elated to see Jim.
“Captain! Captain Kirk! Och, budge up there, laddie—Captain Kirk!”
He’s fine. Really. He turns with a smile. “Scotty!” he says.
Scotty gives him a vigorous handshake and doesn’t comment on Jim’s sweaty palm. Instead, he just says, “I cannae tell you how good it is to see you aboard, Captain! Commander Spock giving you the grand tour, eh?”
“Yeah, he is,” Jim says. “Everything looks excellent, Scotty. She’s in good hands.”
Scotty puffs up with pride. “Aye, the best! Got the best damned engineering crew in Starfleet, and I don’t mind sayin’ it! All right, you lot, everybody get back to work—go on, go on! Come on Captain, I’ll show you around, we’ve just started up on—”
“No, no, I wish I could, but I’ve got—I just came to reacquaint myself with my ship, but I’ve got….” He trails off helplessly.
Spock doesn’t miss a beat. “I believe Captain Kirk is referring to his appointment with Dr. McCoy about his returning to active duty.”
“Ah!” Scotty says, pleased enough with the excuse. “Get off with you, then, I’ve got everything handled here. Tell the doc to go easy on you!”
“Will do,” Jim says tightly.
He means to turn on his heel and get the hell out of there, he really does. But his hands have started to tingle. His feet feel glued to the floor.
Spock plucks at his elbow and gently tugs him backwards. Jim wakes up and instantly moves, trusting Spock to follow his huge strides to the turbolift.
“Jim,” Spock calls after him in the corridor.
“I’m fine,” Jim says. Jim almost doesn’t wait for Spock to get into the turbolift before he closes the doors. Jim falls back against the door, taking slow, measured breaths. Spock begins to say something, but Jim just shakes his head. His knees start to bend under his weight so he tightens his grip on the handrail behind him.
“This is a completely normal reaction to trauma,” Spock says, and Jim barks a wheezy laugh.
“It should be. Returning to the site of something so recently devastating would raise such a reaction in anyone.”
“Except you,” Jim says bitterly.
“That is incorrect.”
Jim narrows his eyes. He leans heavily against the wall, waiting for his strength to return. “What?”
“Your statement suggests I am unaffected,” Spock says. “That is incorrect.”
Jim doesn’t believe him. He inputs the command for the shuttle bay, but Spock immediately overrides it. They pause, momentarily trapped together. Jim has never seen Spock’s eyes boring into him so intently.
“Okay,” Jim amends. “Maybe I’m not fine. Your move.”
“I have no move to make. I am simply attempting to reassure you in order to appeal to your Human need for…” he casts around for the right word. “For camaraderie found in shared feeling.”
“That's not just a Human thing and you know it. You don’t need to prove anything to me. I know you feel. I figured that out a long time ago. You fool a lot of people, Spock, but not me.”
“I could say the same of you,” Spock says. “You are so insistent to ignore your own needs. In this case especially, it is proving detrimental to your well-being. My experience in interaction with Humans indicates that they benefit greatly from the sharing of emotions, specifically with someone who has endured similar pain.”
“You think this is about me dying,” Jim says bluntly.
Spock leans back in a way that suggests he’s been mentally slapped. It’s a subtle movement for a Vulcan, but Jim feels bad because he knows the full extent of Spock’s surprise.
Lost, Spock says, “What is it that you fear?”
The moment of quiet stretches between them. There are so many things unsaid. They’re supposed to have years together. That’s how it’s supposed to be. When Ambassador Spock connected their minds in a freezing cave on a distant world, Jim was bombarded with fragmented pieces of Spock’s history. More than that, he saw glimpses of Spock’s relationships, passions, and wants. He’d seen himself so clearly in that moment: not him, but another, better version of him. The version of himself that helped define Ambassador Spock’s place in his universe.
What is it that Jim fears? He fears that he won’t be that person for Spock. Already, the odds are against them. Their relationship began amidst a war. Jim hates Spock sometimes, really hates him, and he wants to strangle him more often than not. But always, that picture of their alternate selves remained planted firmly in the foundation of all his interactions with Spock.
Supposedly, Spock is supposed to feel so much for Jim—so many complicated emotions that even a practiced Human would have difficulty putting it all into words. Jim knows that they stand on the precipice of something amazing. He’d seen Spock’s tears as Jim lay dying on the other side of the glass. Jim's death almost meant the end of too many important things in Spock's future, and the weight of that responsibility absolutely terrifies Jim.
“Spock,” he says quietly, “I’m already not the man I was supposed to be. What happens if Khan—Khan’s blood—I can feel it in me, Spock—what happens if that’s the end of who I’m supposed to become?”
Spock stares long and hard into Jim’s eyes. He forces himself to hold that gaze, even after he wants to squirm under its fierceness.
When Spock speaks, his voice is carefully controlled.
“Jim, I have learned much in the past year. But there is something that my father told me when I was very young which has had great influence over me. He told me that I had the power to choose my own destiny. And this is what I have come to understand: There is no one, in any universe, at any time, with any influence over who you decide to become. Destiny is not a fixed point; it is an ever-growing, multifaceted choice. Perhaps I do not know you as well as I would like, but I do know that you have chosen greatness. Neither Khan nor anyone else can ever change that.”
Jim feels himself cracking around the edges. The firmness in Spock’s tone leaves no room for argument. What Spock says is truth, with no gray area and no doubt at all.
Jim nods once. He believes Spock. He has to.
“Thank you,” Jim says quietly.
A tiny smile curls the edges of Spock’s lips. “You are welcome, Jim.”