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An Interlude

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The days spent waiting for the construction of the NCC-1701 A, better known as the USS Enterprise A, were some of the longest of Jim’s life. They dripped by, the steady but maddening drops in the bucket that they were. Without a ship, without (too many) responsibilities, Kirk thought he might go insane. All he had to think about were the results of his last mission. Of his own negligence and boredom, really. If he’d been more alert, more focused, could he have prevented it? He’d had a perfect record for a while; surely if he’d tried a little harder…

He dropped his head into his hands and pulled at his hair. “Fuck,” he breathed, and then shot upright because not a second after-

“Captain.” Spock, silently lurking in his doorway, because who would knock when their captain is having a meltdown? Not Spock, that’s for damn sure. Spock, Kirk knew, would argue that he had left the door open, thus negating the need to knock on the door prior to its opening. Heaving a sigh, Kirk pasted a smile on his face and turned to face his first officer (and best friend, as annoying as he was).

“Christ, Spock, heard of knocking?”

“Of course I have, Captain, I-” Spock stopped, took a breath. “I did not come here to argue with you. Today.”

“Oh, joy. I’ll look forward to the day when you come and seek me out just to argue for argument’s sake. What can I do for you, Mister Spock?”

At that, Spock softened. Kirk noticed the slight shift in his shoulders; the Vulcan was wringing his hands behind his back. Nervous, then. “It is something of a… private matter, Captain. May I shut the door?”

Now concerned, Kirk nodded, a frown marring his features. Spock did as he bid, and then stepped closer to Jim. They both took a deep breath, nearly in unison.

“Captain, it has not escaped the notice of the crew that you are eager to leave.”

“You know me, Spock. I don’t like monotony.” Kirk shrugged, not exactly sure yet what the point of this was. If Spock came to tell him to slow his roll, Kirk planned to tell him to shove that thought straight up his ass. Jim wanted to explore. He wanted to boldly go! Being stuck planet side, or in this case, space station side, was not ideal to him. For many reasons.

“Of course. However, we—and by we, I mean myself, Misters McCoy and Scott, and… and Lieutenant Uhura—have noticed that you seem quite unwell with the desire to leave.”

Kirk first noticed Spock tripping over Uhura’s name, which almost makes him laugh. Of course Spock doesn’t know how to interact with an ex. And then he’s forced to process that this is what he gets for working with people he loves and trusts: they know him too well. The blond man sagged, leaning heavily into his hands. Without invitation, Spock sat by his side. Not to say that it wasn’t welcome, simply unexpected.

“I have brought with me something that belonged to Ambassador Spock, if you would like to view it. I think it may help your current emotional state.” Spock reached into his pocket and held a little box out to his captain, who took it without a word. What was that old saying, curiosity killed the cat? Yeah, Kirk knew that his curiosity might be the death of him, especially with a gift from Spock. His heart jumped into his throat.

In a way, the gift was the death of him, though in a more metaphorical, emotional way. When he opened it, at first, he didn’t understand what he was looking at. It was a photograph of a Starfleet crew, a bridge crew, by the looks of it. He picked out Ambassador Spock very quickly, and the rest took a few moments. Nyota, of course. Then Bones, then Sulu, then Scotty. That was right about when James Kirk realized that the man sitting in the captain’s chair was him. It couldn’t be anyone else but him.

For the first time in a few days, Kirk smiled, though his eyes misted up. He looked older, and his eyes were different, but that wasn’t exactly a surprise. Spock Prime had offered that information up freely, though Kirk did wonder why exactly Ambassador Spock was so familiar with his eyes. Besides that, though, the man was clearly him. Looking at the faces of his smiling friends, older, wiser, but very much still a team, brought the tears from his eyes. He smiled at Spock, who had a small smile of his own on his face.

“Thank you, Mister Spock. This is… a little bit incredible, don’t you think?”

“It is. I found myself similarly affected when I viewed this photograph.” The men sat in silence for a time, just observing themselves and their friends. Then Spock cleared his throat and Jim nearly rolled his eyes, knowing that Spock was about to try to emotionally connect with him. Jim adored Spock; the guy was his best friend (somehow), and a whole lot more besides that that Kirk wasn’t ready to acknowledge in that particular moment, but damn, the Vulcan’s emotional support skills needed work.

“Captain. Jim. I… We, your crew, your friends, are all worried about you. You may blame yourself for the loss of our comrades and crewmates as much as you wish, but no one else feels the way you do. You saved many lives, Jim. You have, once again, found your way out of a nearly impossible situation, and it is something to be proud of, even if it did not go as perfectly as you may have desired. I am sorry for the loss that we have all endured. But you can lean on us, as your friends and allies, for support. Our journey is far from over, Captain. Loss is, unfortunately, inevitable. But you will always have those around you who can and will assist you, should you need assistance.”

Okay, damn. Where had Spock pulled that one from? His human side, Kirk thought, and he smiled as a few tears made it through his defenses. He wiped them away quickly, but Spock wouldn’t have commented either way.

“Did you have to practice that in the mirror?” He joked, a little embarrassed at his vulnerability. Spock quirked a small smile.

“Admittedly, yes, I did practice what I was going to say before I arrived. But I feel as though I have succinctly expressed my feelings and those of your crew.” The two shared a laugh, and they drifted into companionable silence. After a few long moments, Spock quietly said, “Jim, you are beloved by your crew. We are all concerned for you. You have been in this room for several days now without seeing any of us.”

Kirk inhaled, shaky, and exhaled, steady. “Thank you, Spock. I just… need a little more time, I think.”

Spock nodded. “It is difficult to accept your own shortcomings when you have been a prodigy thus far.”

“A compliment, Mister Spock? I’m honored.”

“Just this once, let it go to your head, Jim.”

As they sat, Jim wanted so badly to touch him. To hold Spock’s hand or to lean on his shoulder. Anything to remind himself that he was alive, to ground him. Jim Kirk was a touchy man, and while he knew it probably crossed a whole bunch of lines for his first officer, the captain was also fairly sure that he was allowed to cross those lines. So after thinking on it for some time, Kirk laid his head gently on Spock’s shoulder. The Vulcan turned his head so comically fast he might’ve gotten whiplash, but he didn’t say a word. Rather, Spock placed his hand deliberately and carefully on Jim’s thigh, though not too high on it to be entirely indecent. Just a little indecent, which, coincidentally, was how Jim liked to live his life. If he had been able to see Spock’s face from his current position, Jim would’ve seen the delicate flush across his cheeks.

“Thank you,” Jim whispered, more of an exhale than true speech.

“You’re welcome,” Spock replied, and they lapsed into silence once more, enjoying one another’s company.