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the sound of you (was all I'd hear)

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It starts like this: Kirk is dying.

No, it starts like this: Jim is dying.

Jim is dying and every ounce of self control that Spock ever possessed seems to have left him. The universe has been ripped out from underneath him, and he finds, achingly, that he has begun to cry. His entire scope of vision has narrowed to a Captain-shaped space, and although the glass partition separates him from Jim, he finds that he can feel Jim’s consciousness as clearly though they were in contact. Even as he feels it, it begins to fade, and Spock, desperately, illogically, grabs for it, for him, for Jim , as best he can. For a moment, he thinks, from the hint of a smile on Jim’s face, that Jim can feel him too, even as he coughs. Spock holds onto him as best he can, feels him slipping away. When Jim’s body ceases to function, Spock feels something painful shift grindingly inside him, sharp and hot.

It doesn’t shift back when he hurts Khan, not like he wants it to. Spock has been victim to strong emotions before, and that caused him shame. He’s beyond shame now.

How’s this for a beginning: when Jim is revived, Spock can feel it. Like there was Jim just waiting to be there, rushing back like a flood to overwhelm a river bed.

Everyone’s moving around him (Nyota has swept Chief Engineer Scott into a tight hug; he’s weeping again, a nurse rushes to check Jim’s heartbeat, another sprints out to get more fluids) but Spock doesn’t move, afraid he’ll dislodge his sudden, starkly focused awareness. From the other side of the bed, McCoy meets his eyes. He too, is still, still disbelieving. McCoy is flushed, a little sweaty, but it makes him look like a living person again. Hoarsely, he says, “You alright there, Spock? You look a little green.”

Spock moves his hand minimally so that his fingers are brushing the back of Jim’s hand. The Jim feeling increases exponentially, washing over Spock in waves of familiarity and a feeling of right ness. Spock takes a moment to clear his throat before he speaks.  “On the contrary, Doctor,” he says. “I… feel myself again.”

McCoy almost smiles, the relief and exhaustion clear in his face. He says, “I know what you mean,” and Spock, reluctantly letting his fingers fall away from Jim’s hand, wonders if anyone does.

 

Spock finds himself somewhat agitated during the fortnight it takes Jim to wake up. To his mystification, his newfound awareness of Jim does not fade much with distance, although he prefers nonetheless to spend his time near. It’s nonsensical to want to be beside Jim despite McCoy’s reminders that it will likely be some weeks until he recovers sufficiently to rouse, but Spock can’t help but speculate that sense, at least with Jim, might be somewhat relative.

It takes Dr. McCoy a number of days to fully resign himself to Spock’s continued presence in Jim’s room, but once he does, he seems to warm to Spock a little. They end up sitting side by side, Spock doing the extensive paperwork that his missions with Jim always seem to require, McCoy reading a novel and getting up periodically to check the instruments hooked up to Jim. Spock doesn’t say that if something was wrong with Jim, he would know immediately. (He knows this because once one of the medical interns attached something wrong; Jim got mildly dehydrated and Spock woke up in the middle of the night.) He doesn’t want to look this gift horse in the mouth, especially if it might aid Jim’s recovery.

Not a day passes that Spock doesn’t visit Jim’s room at least once. It would be disarming to see Jim so helpless, so without animation, if Spock couldn’t feel the steady pulse of his brainwaves, settling calmingly at the base of his skull. Sometimes, when he finds himself tired and with little to do, Spock settles on the floor and meditates, letting himself sink away, sometimes for hours. McCoy never says anything, and Spock is grateful.

 

Spock isn’t avoiding Nyota, not exactly, but he isn’t making efforts to seek her out. He understands that they’re in a committed relationship, but both of them are busy with work, and Starfleet hadn’t arranged for them to share an apartment. In a way, Spock is glad; he often finds himself inexplicably exhausted at the end of the day, to the point where making conversation, even with Nyota, would be unpleasant.

Maybe this is why he feels a little guilt upon seeing her. He isn’t at fault, not exactly, but it feels odd to run into her at Starfleet headquarters by coincidence, especially after spending after several months working closely with her every day.

“Spock,” she says, clearly caught off guard.

“Nyota,” he returns. “It’s good to see you.”

Her smile is a little subdued. “You too, Spock.”

“I apologize that I haven’t been communicative recently,” he says. “I have been distracted.”

“I know,” she says. “I spoke to Leonard. The captain’s condition is improving?”

“Yes,” Spock says, “Yes, the doctor predicts he’ll wake soon, even tomorrow. Jim has healed at a remarkable rate, considering the damage that was done, although he may require physical therapy following his initial recovery.”

“I’m glad,” Nyota says, though Spock cannot fully decipher her tone.

“Would you like to have dinner?” he asks. It’s been a while since their last real meal alone, but he remembers which kinds of restaurants she enjoys; he is confident that he could make a good choice regarding both atmosphere and variety of food.

Nyota smiles a little, but it doesn’t convey the fondness it does normally. “Spock,” she says, “I… I wonder if we shouldn’t wait a while. I know things have been hectic, especially for you, but for me too, and. And maybe we should wait and see.”

“Wait and see?” Spock echoes.

“Yes,” she says. “That’s what I think. What do you think?” Her dark eyes search his, and Spock finds himself unable to formulate an appropriate answer.

Finally, he says, “I defer to your judgement.” Nyota makes a tiny, fragile laughing noise, pats his shoulder, and walks away. He watches her until she turns the corner, and then, feeling strangely tired again, goes on his way.

 

McCoy is so used to Spock’s visits that he barely looks up when he enters the room. “Afternoon,” he says, returning to his crossword, then looks up when Spock says nothing in return. “Spock?”

“I believe I have been,” Spock says slowly, “to use the informal term, dumped.”

McCoy’s eyebrows go up. “My condolences.”

Spock pauses. “Thank you.” He settles at the table McCoy is sitting at, aware of the eyes on him as he pulls out his work as usual. McCoy puts down his paper.

After a second, he leans forward. “Listen, Spock,” he says, “I wouldn’t normally- well. Are you alright?”

“I’m quite well, Doctor,” Spock says, and even without looking, he can tell McCoy is rolling his eyes.

“God knows why I bother,” McCoy grumbles, seemingly to no one, then to Spock: “Cut the shit, kid. I know you aren’t as cold as you act. What’s your logical explanation for coming here every day, huh? I know you know Jim isn’t going to wake up quicker.”

“Your point?”

“My point-” McCoy starts, then sighs. Clearly reluctant, he says, “My point is, if you need someone to…” He trails off, then finishes, nearly through his teeth, “talk to, I’m here.”

“I appreciate it, Doctor,” Spock says. “But truly, I believe this was a long time coming and no one’s fault but my own. In truth, though I will certainly miss Nyota’s company, I do feel some measure of relief. She deserves to be happy.”

McCoy watches him for a long moment, then shakes his head. “You’ve changed,” he says. When Spock begins to speak, he holds up a hand. “Don’t argue. It’s good. When I met you, I wouldn’t have believed there was a sentimental bastard buried in there somewhere.”

“I-” Spock objects.

McCoy stands, smiling asymmetrically. “Don’t worry about it,” he says. “Jim Kirk has that effect on the best of us.” He slides his bag onto his shoulder, heading for the door. Spock listens to him walk down the hall until he can’t hear footsteps anymore, then sets aside his work, pulls his chair up to the side of Jim’s bed, and takes Jim’s hand in his own. In solitude, he isn’t too proud to indulge in the solace that contact with Jim brings. Lately, it’s been the only time he feels at peace.

 

Maybe it begins like this: Jim died, but now he’s awake.

He’s awake, and Spock’s awareness of him, which had ensconced itself comfortably in the back of his mind, resolves into confusion, mild alarm, and relief. Granted, some of the relief may be Spock’s. He is loathe to admit the effect Jim’s extended unconsciousness had had on him, especially since he had recovered extremely rapidly, but he hadn’t realized how much he had missed speaking with him.

They only speak briefly before Jim falls asleep again. Though McCoy remains silent as he adjusts Jim’s medicine, he seems as delighted as Spock is; Spock had been absent when the doctor was informed of his closest friend’s death, but he suspects McCoy did not take it much better than he himself did.

“There it is, Commander,” McCoy says, now pulling up Jim’s blanket. “I think you and I may have proved that the correct amount of fussing can bring a man back from the dead.”

“Your theory requires more research,” Spock says, then offers. “However, it has yet to be disproven.”

McCoy barks a laugh, and Spock, startled, almost smiles back.

The next morning, he wakes to a message from Nyota, succinct and well-worded in a way he appreciates, saying that, respectfully, she believed it time for their romantic, if not professional, relationship to end permanently. "I know we left things in a weird place," she says. "But I think this is for the best." Spock replies in kind, wishes her well, and wonders why he doesn’t feel worse. He would credit his well-honed Vulcan rationality, but he suspects it has very little to do with that at all.

 

McCoy searches for any possible side effects Khan’s blood might have, but none crop up aside from Jim’s remarkable recuperation. It isn’t unfamiliar, watching McCoy dart around Jim running tests, bullying him into sitting still, and Spock finds himself pleasantly reminded of their time on the Enterprise. He has been tasked with the job of distracting Jim, and, with all the paperwork done, Spock devotes himself fully, locating as many board games as he can. Jim is not a fan of puzzles, but he likes the games with small plastic players and dice, and seems further amused by the fact that Spock is willing to play with him. Still, they always end up gravitating back to chess, which Jim seems to be winning more and more often.

“You’re losing your touch, Mr. Spock,” he says, grinning as he removes Spock’s defeated queen from the board.

“So it would seem, Captain.” Losing doesn’t bother Spock- at least, not much- but he is unable to understand how his perfect winning streak had disappeared so quickly. One possibility, which he doesn’t like to consider, is that Khan’s blood has somehow increased Jim’s strategic capabilities. However, this is less likely than the change being on Spock’s end; Spock has found himself distracted during games, though not disagreeably, merely relaxing into the interaction with Jim. He still wins often enough that Jim has not accused him of allowing the losses, and Spock finds that his instinct to compete, while present, retreats during these games. Jim still tires easily, but since his initial awakening, they have played at least one game of chess a day.

Several days later, Jim is eager to get out of the hospital, but McCoy is hesitant about Jim being alone. Without a thought, Spock offers up his own apartment.

“It is not large,” he says. “But there is enough room for two, and it is near enough that Dr. McCoy could visit without much difficulty.”

“Do you think I live at the hospital?” McCoy asks irritably, then concedes, “Jim, if you want to spend the next week eating plomeek soup, be my guest. Or Spock’s guest, I suppose.”

Jim thanks Spock profusely as they leave. It’s only during the short walk to Spock’s apartment that Jim stops and says, “Hold on, I’m not displacing Uhura, am I? Wouldn’t want to put her out of her own boyfriend’s house.”

“That is thoughtful of you, Captain,” Spock says, “But Nyota and I are… not currently seeing each other.”

“Not seeing…?” Jim is speechless for a second. “You didn’t say anything, Spock, I’m so sorry.”

“As I assured Dr. McCoy, I am not unwell,” Spock says, hoping this will end the conversation.

Jim shakes his head. “Who’d’ve thought,” he says. He pauses again. “Listen, Spock, I… Well. This isn’t because of me, is it? Because I can talk to her if you want.”

Spock turns then, squints at him. “Captain, I am glad you consider yourself a prominent enough figure in my personal relationships to contribute to their disintegration. However, I fail to see how your involvement was even remotely a factor in the decision for Nyota and I to separate.”

“Well, good,” Jim says. “Or, not good.” He seems somewhat distressed, although even with their connection Spock cannot fathom why.

“It is cold,” he says. “Jim, I think it unwise for you to remain outside in this temperature while your immune system is still rebuilding itself.”

“Alright,” Jim says. Spock can tell he’s still uneasy, but it’s faded beneath a desire to get somewhere warm. Since Jim has been unsteady recently, Spock, for purposes of practicality, steps closer and links his arm with Jim’s. Jim chuckles, shakes his head, and says, “Lead on, Commander.”

 

Jim seems drained even from their short trek outside, and so Spock leads him directly to the bed. Jim doesn’t argue, just toes off his boots, strips off his jacket, and lies down. Jim’s nose is pink from the cold, his breathing slightly uneven from the stairs they had to climb, and he looks so completely alive that Spock can’t help but feel another wave of relief at the turn of events.

“You will let me know if you require anything, Captain?”

“Yes, although I think we’re beyond ‘Captain’ now,” Jim says, blinking at him.

Spock nods, and goes to turn off the light, but Jim catches his wrist. “Spock. I can’t thank you enough, really.”

Jim’s sincerity would be obvious even without Spock feeling the gratitude Jim is, however unconsciously, projecting. “Of course,” he says softly, then adds, “Jim.”

Jim smiles, and Spock feels incomprehensibly light inside.

 

It’s late the next morning when Jim makes his way out of the bedroom. He’s changed into one of the shirts McCoy had lent him, just plain white cotton, but it’s odd to see Jim out of his captain’s yellow. There’s no logical reason for Spock’s brain to take as long to reconcile the image as it does.

“Morning,” Jim grunts.

“Barely,” Spock returns, and Jim snorts.

“There he is,” he says fondly.

Spock frowns. “Who?”

“My smartass first officer.” Jim rubs a hand over his face. “I was beginning to wonder where he wandered off to. Maybe while I was dead someone switched out Spocks.”

“You will forgive me if I don’t find your death amusing,” Spock says, clearly a little more coldly than he means to, because Jim looks up from the caffeine-free tea he’s fixing and sighs.

“That isn’t what I meant,” he says. “I’m just not really sure how to get around it.”

“You don’t need to get around it,” Spock says. “You did an incredibly noble, incredibly stupid thing that both saved a great deal of people and caused a great deal of people, myself included, distress. You do these things frequently, and although it alarms me on a regular basis it is also one of the qualities that make you the phenomenal captain you are.” He looks away briefly, and when he looks back, he can interpret neither the look on Jim’s face nor any clear emotions through their connection.

“Thanks, Spock,” Jim says quietly, and then, at a more normal volume, “Man, you really know how to flatter a guy.”

“I have been told that many times, Captain,” Spock says, purposefully impassive, and Jim, halfway through a sip of tea, chokes on a surprised guffaw.

 

What follows are several days of peaceful company. Jim sleeps nearly twelve hours a night and takes at least one nap every day, so most of Spock’s time is spent reading or meditating on his couch, or working at his table. At McCoy’s request, he sends reports once a day, updating him on Jim’s condition. However, despite Jim’s extensive sleep schedule, he spends more than enough time awake that they can continue their chess games. Jim has a four-game winning streak at one point, and there is one particularly notable game that spans three and a half days before Spock finally wins.

They go for walks sometimes, as Jim begins to feel better, and Spock can feel how much Jim loves getting outside, the way open spaces galvanize him. Spock thinks he might understand why, beyond the memory of his father, Jim might enjoy space travel; there is, after all, no space more open than space itself.

Maybe this is how it begins: Spock cannot recall any point in his recent memory, or any memory, that he has felt more content. Certainly, this was not what he aspired to do when he was a student at Starfleet academy, but he cannot bring himself to be dissatisfied. He thinks back to what McCoy had said- “Jim Kirk has that effect on the best of us.” - and muses that in this case, the good doctor seems to be correct.

Jim too is happy, as far as Spock can tell, and he seems to be growing healthier by the day. Spock momentarily entertains the idea of alerting Jim to the connection they seem to share but dismisses it almost immediately; Jim would surely question why Spock didn’t tell him sooner, and it isn’t as though the connection harms either of them. Spock can admit, to himself, that he finds it reassuring, especially so soon after Jim’s near demise. Meditating is easier with the absolute certainty that Jim is in the other room, alive and relatively well.

 

It’s on the ninth day Jim is staying with him that Spock opens his closet to retrieve a change of sheets and Jim says, frowning, “That’s a closet?”

Spock turns, holding the sheets, and uses his foot to close the door. “Were you under a different impression?”

“I assumed it was a second bedroom,” Jim says. “You had to have been sleeping somewhere.”

“The door has been closed since you arrived here,” Spock points out.

“I don’t know, you’re a private kind of guy,” Jim says, “Jesus, have you been sleeping on the couch this entire time?”

Jim seems more upset than the situation calls for, so Spock assures him, “It is no trouble. The couch is perfectly comfortable, and I need little sleep. It was only-”

“Logical,” Jim finishes. “Well, I’ve been a shitty guest. You’re taking the bed tonight.”

“Captain,” Spock begins, and at Jim’s raised eyebrow, corrects to: “Jim. You may have regained a great deal of strength in the past weeks, but you still require a great deal of sleep. I, on the other hand, am in good health, and cannot in good conscience allow you to give up the bed. May I remind you that Dr. McCoy trusted me to aid your continued convalescence, and I am certain he would berate me at length, if not physically accost me, if I did not uphold that trust.”

“What, you’re afraid of Bones now?”

“No, but I happen to share his concern,” Spock says. Sensing Jim’s frustration and suspecting it might be wise to return to the conversation when Jim has less energy, Spock tries to step past him, only to have Jim grab the sheets with surprising vigor.

“You’re taking the bed,” Jim repeats.

“No, you are,” Spock says, with matching exasperation, although he regrets his word choice immediately when he hears how juvenile they sound.

Jim tugs futilely on the folded sheets, then sets his jaw. He’s enjoying this. “Well, Commander, we find ourselves at a stalemate.”

“We most certainly do not,” Spock objects. “I could physically overcome you even at your peak strength, let alone your current state.”

Jim pretends to be offended. “Yes, well,” he says, “no need to rub it in.”

Spock sighs. “Would it appease your disquiet if I shared the bed with you tonight?”

Jim plays it off well, but he’s surprised. He lets go of the sheets. “An unexpected compromise, Mr. Spock, but I suppose you have found the most logical solution.” He snaps a salute, strides away to the kitchen, but not before Spock notices something underneath his jovality, something new, something heavier.

Spock reminds himself that Jim’s emotions are, in actuality, none of his business and goes to distract himself with the fitted sheet.

 

Maybe this is how it starts: Spock wakes up in the very early morning lying on his stomach, cocooned in a nest of blanket and Jim’s limbs, and the physical contact (Jim’s forearm to his upper arm, Jim’s cheek to his shoulder, Jim’s leg thrown over his) is so overwhelming that after a moment Spock has to remind himself to breathe. The skin contact increases the potency of the connection exponentially, and Jim’s sleeping brain is sending off rolling waves that are almost taunting Spock with the promise of relaxation.

He would get up; it’s just that Jim is so warm . Normally, Spock keeps his apartment at a temperature that most humans would find slightly unpleasant, so he lowered it in preparation for Jim’s stay and simply wore a second layer. Now, however, with the combination of the thick comforter and Jim’s body draped half over his, Spock would scarcely be able to move if he wanted to. Half resistant, Spock allows himself to calm, lets Jim’s dreamless sleep wash over him.

When he wakes up again, an inordinate amount of time later, Jim is gone.

Spock pulls himself up from the bed with surprising difficulty, makes his way into the kitchen. Jim is there, reading the news and drinking coffee.

“It’s decaf,” he says, before Spock can get a word in. He grins. “Who’s lazy now?”

“Now, Captain, I never used that word.”

“No,” Jim agrees. “But some of your implications can be positively wounding. Hey, get dressed. I’ll make you some of that shitty excuse for coffee you like.”

“Excuse me?”

Jim’s grin widens as he slides his communicator across the table. “Starfleet called. They want to see us.”

Through Jim’s excitement, and his own interest, Spock recognizes distantly that he feels some measure of disappointment and cannot for the life of him determine why.

 

They meet up with Dr. McCoy outside headquarters, who claps Jim heartily on the arm and lets him stride animatedly in ahead. He mutters to Spock as they head in, “Listen, Spock, I don’t know what you did, but I feel like I should be warning you not to take over my job. Jim looks fit as a fiddle, and if that skipping of his is any indication, he feels it too. Hate to say it, but you did good.”

Despite himself, Spock smiles. “Thank you, Doctor. It appears there may be no ailment that the great game of chess cannot cure.”

“Don’t undersell yourself,” McCoy says, unexpectedly serious. “I can’t figure out how, but you two do each other good. I mean it.” Instead of leaving Spock with no reply, McCoy catches up to Jim. Spock hangs a few steps back, not really listening. He looks around the grand entrance to Starfleet headquarters and wonders remotely when he stopped doing this for Starfleet and started doing this for Jim.

 

When they get to the meeting room, McCoy stops dead. “My god,” he says, “Is that who I think it is?”

“I personally have trouble keeping all the old people apart,” Jim says cheerfully.

“This isn’t a joke ,” McCoy says. “Jim, that’s the woman who performed open heart surgery alone on a deserted planet with only a pair of scissors, tweezers, and some floss and her patient survived. He survived , Jim.”

Jim meets Spock’s eyes, amused. “Why don’t you go talk to-”

“Oh my god,” McCoy says. He’s gripping Jim’s arm so tightly his knuckles are white. “She’s looking this way, Jim. She’s looking at us.”

The woman he’s referring to is actually walking towards them now. McCoy inhales sharply through his nose and runs a flustered hand through his hair. Under his breath, he says, “This is not a drill, you two. She is the best doctor Starfleet has ever had, and if you embarrass me in front of her I will-” He clears his throat. “Dr. Estrada! It’s such an honor to meet you. I’m-”

“Dr. McCoy, I know,” she says. “You’re the medical officer that brought this man back from the dead?”

“Yes, ma’am, that was me,” McCoy croaks.

“A remarkable feat, I have to say. I haven’t had the time to read your full report, but it looks fascinating. I have a couple questions about the transfusion, if you would…?”

“Ask away,” McCoy says. While Spock does not share the kind of connection with Dr. McCoy that he does with Jim, he can tell just from observation that McCoy is elated perhaps the the point of lightheadedness. Under the pretense of needing to talk with Jim, he guides him away, leaving McCoy and Dr. Estrada alone.

“Good call,” Jim says, barely containing a laugh. “Bones looks like he’s about to keel right over. You know, he had a poster of that woman on his wall when we were in the academy?”

“A poster?”

“She was fully clothed,” Jim assures him. “In uniform, actually.”

Spock glances around the room. There are a number of doctors, though only a few he can recognize. “Captain, you never informed me what the purpose of this meeting is.”

“That’s because I don’t know myself,” Jim says. “Although from the look of the people, it may have something to do with the whole resurrection thing.”

“Yes,” Spock says dryly, watching one wide-eyed medical intern point out Jim and another gape. “Perhaps that.”

One of the doctors Spock doesn’t know, a sturdy man with graying hair, approaches them. “My apologies,” he says, “But I’ve been told to give Captain Kirk an examination, nothing lengthy, just to check in.”

Jim shrugs, although Spock can tell he’s disappointed to miss the beginning of a meeting. “Check away, Doctor,” he says, and lets himself be led back through the doors and down the hall. Even when Spock can no longer see him, he occupies himself tracking the movement of Jim’s mind.

“Could I have everyone’s attention?” A Starfleet administrator is standing at the front of the room. “If everyone would take their seats. “This meeting is to discuss the events that transpired on the USS Enterprise almost four weeks ago.”

Since Spock was present on the Enterprise during those particular events, he allows himself to tune out slightly, focusing instead on Jim, who seems to be, though Spock cannot see him, as bored as he might have been attending the meeting.

Spock thinks that he has to remember to buy more of the cereal Jim likes. Maybe he and Jim should stop by the store and get some more before they go home, and while they’re there they need to get more fruit. Spock gets almost through an entire grocery list before he remembers that, once Jim can be safely on his own, he’ll probably leave Spock’s cramped apartment.

It’s Spock’s mild desolation at this thought that keeps him from instantly noticing something is wrong. Jim isn’t just alert, he’s alarmed. He’s afraid . Spock sits straight up in his chair, attracting the attention of the woman running the meeting.

“Is something wrong, Commander Spock?”

“No,” Spock says automatically, and then he feels pain shoot up his connection with Jim. “Actually yes, excuse me.” He stands and strides out, practically dragging Dr. McCoy along with him.

“What the hell?” McCoy hisses as they get out to the hallway.

“Jim is in trouble,” Spock says, pushing open the door to the stairwell.

McCoy pries Spock’s hand off his arm. “Spock, you better have a damn good explanation-”

“I do not,” Spock says, turning to go down the stairs. McCoy trots after him irritably.

“Embarrassing me in front of half the medical officers in Starfleet, in front of Estrada, no less…” he mutters. Spock doesn’t reply, just speeds up, trying to locate the floor Jim is on. When he reaches the fourth floor stairwell, he stops so suddenly McCoy stumbles into him, then pushes open the door and sprints down the hallway until he finds the room he’s looking for.

Jim is backed up against a wall, barely defending himself against his attacker’s blows. With barely a thought, Spock crosses the room and pulls the man- the medical officer that had asked to see Jim- off with so much force that when Spock lets go, he cracks his head on a counter and crumples.

Spock looks up. Jim is breathing hard, and there’s blood on his teeth when he smiles, but he seems overall unharmed. “Thanks,” he says, as if Spock had, say, passed the salt at the dinner table. Spock has the sudden, preposterous urge to reach out and wipe the blood from Jim’s lip.

It’s really only McCoy’s appearance at Jim’s side that stops him from doing so. “What the hell was that?” he asks, scowling. It’s directed at Spock, but Jim answers, expression growing more serious.

“I believe this man was under the impression that if he disguised himself as a medical doctor and got some of my blood, he might be able to get rid of his own terminal illness. You know, because of the…” He gestures vaguely. “The, with Khan.”

“Of all the damned stupid plans,” McCoy says, and then narrows his eyes at Spock. “And you. How did you know?”

“Oh yeah,” Jim says, like it’s just occurring to him. “How did you know, Spock?”

“I…” Spock says. “I…” He finds himself quite unable to formulate a lie. If he had noticed something was wrong with the man in disguise, he would have pointed it out immediately. Four floors above, he could not have conceivably heard the conflict happening. Unable to meet either pair of eyes, he directs his gaze away. “Since the captain’s death, I have found, inexplicably, that I have an increased level of telepathy towards him. Enough so that I was able to tell he was in danger, despite not being present.” He chances a look at Jim and McCoy. Jim looks taken aback, McCoy fascinated.

“Why, that’s remarkable,” McCoy says. “I don’t pretend to have a good enough understanding of Vulcan physiology to explain it, but you two won’t mind if I refer you someone?”

 

Three hours later, Spock finds himself in a waiting room, sitting silently beside Jim. He’s making an effort not not pay attention to the connection, but it’s like trying to not read words he’s looking directly at. Jim has said little since Spock’s admission, and the ardor with which Spock misses their easy camaraderie of just that morning surprises even himself.

Finally, they get called into the specialist’s office. Though he is not Vulcan, McCoy had assured them he knew what he was talking about. Spock is doubtful of this from the moment they walk in, because the first thing Dr. Dorsey says to them is, “Hey, congratulations!”

“For what?” Jim asks, as mystified as Spock is.

“Your marriage?” Dorsey says, flipping through the papers on his clipboard. “I assumed it was pretty recently, based on the development of the bond, but hey, I’ve been wrong before…” He glances up, sees Jim’s blanch and Spock’s blank look. “Oh. I guess Dr. McCoy meant it when he said it was an interesting situation.”

In a weak attempt to make conversation, Jim says, “How do you know Bones?”

“Just by reputation. Let me tell you, I was thrilled to…” He trails off. “Never mind. Sit down. Let’s talk about you two. How long have you been experiencing this link?”

“Since Jim came back to life,” Spock says. “Twenty-eight days.”

Beside him, Jim scoffs. “Could we get to the marriage part?”

“Right,” Dorsey says, “Well, as far as I can tell, the, ah, trauma, that Mr. Spock here experienced at your imminent death caused him to inadvertently form a bond almost identical to the one two Vulcans might form during their, ah, wedding.”

Jim rubs his forehead with the heel of his hand. “Okay, okay. Vulcan marriage, got it. Vulcan divorce?”

“Certainly possible. If you want I could initiate it now-” Dorsey starts, but Spock interrupts him.

“Jim, I-”

Jim gets up and leaves.

After a moment, Spock says, “Excuse me,” and follows him.

Jim didn’t go far, just down the hallway. He’s sitting on a bench, resting his head in his hands. Spock approaches but doesn’t sit down.

“Jim,” he says uncertainly. “Jim, I, I apologize. I should have realized that such a bond would seem invasive and-”

“It isn’t that,” Jim says, shaking his head. “Fuck, Spock, why didn’t you tell me? I feel like such an idiot.”

“You have no reason to,” Spock says promptly. “I am the one at fault-”

“No,” Jim says. “I mean, yes, but God , you let me live with you, let me-” He runs his hands through his hair, sighs sharply.

“Jim, I must admit I have no idea to what you’re referring.”

“Oh yeah?” Jim stands. “All that time with a telepathic bond and you have no idea?”

“The bond transmits feelings,” Spock says. “Feelings, impressions, nothing else, especially not while not in contact with you.”

“In contact? Fine.” Jim takes Spock’s hand and holds it in both of his own. “How about now?”

“Jim-” Jim glares at him, and so Spock focuses on the contact, pushes away his own guilt and regret and Jim’s accusing eyes and tries to feel it as best he can. First, nothing and then. Then he gets it. “Oh,” he says.

“Yeah, oh ,” Jim says, dropping his hand.

Spock feels the loss of contact, but that pales in comparison to his new knowledge. “You love me,” he says, somewhat faintly.

Jim laughs, bitter and sharp. “Honestly I don’t know a great mind like yours hasn’t figured it out yet. Seems like so many people know it might as well be in gossip rags. When Uhura asked me about it I-”

“Nyota knew?” Spock works through it in his head. “When you asked if the end of our relationship was your fault…?”

Jim’s lips thin. “She came to see me in the hospital, right after I woke up, when you two were still waiting and seeing. Asked if I knew where you had gotten off to, because she sure as hell didn’t. I was confused, said you had visited me every day, and then she said that that figured. That at least one of the two of us ought to have you.”

Spock turns the words have you over in his mind. Jim keeps talking. “I think Bones suspects. He said he’d’ve kicked you out in the beginning if you didn’t improve my blood pressure. And then he did that muttering thing and said and your heart , and I said, Bones, there’s nothing wrong with my heart, and he said to just keep telling myself that and-”

“Jim,” Spock says.

“-and listen, Spock, we both got a shitty deal out of this, so let’s just go in there and let that fellow divorce us so we can both-”

“Jim,” Spock repeats.

“-get away, and I wasn’t going to tell you, I swear, and shit, this morning, thank God you were asleep, I shouldn’t have agreed to it at all but I couldn’t think of a good excuse-”

Jim .” Spock realizes Jim isn’t listening and so he does the only thing he can think of. He steps forward, closing the distance between them, and kisses him.

 

This is how it begins:

It isn’t very different, logically, from any other kind of physical contact; that is to say, there’s no increased connection via mouth to mouth touch than anywhere else. Except this way Spock can feel Jim’s shock, Jim’s confusion and relief, Jim’s overwhelming affection, with no distractions. He’s over his head in the middle of the ocean, and he doesn’t mind that he can’t breathe.

When Spock slowly pulls away, Jim’s eyes are still closed and he’s smiling. “Spock,” he says, and shoves lightly at Spock’s shoulder, “Why didn’t you lead with that?”

“Contrary to your apparent belief, Captain,” Spock says, resting his forehead against Jim’s, “I too occasionally experience doubt when it comes to expressing desired sentiments.”

“Well, we got there in the end,” Jim says.

“Not quite,” Spock says. “I should inform you that. You should know that I. Well. The feelings you have expressed to me. That is to say, I reciprocate.”

Jim snorts, and it turns into a snicker, which turns into raucous laughter. Unable to speak for breathlessness, Jim cups a hand around Spock’s jaw, and the bond, for the first time, resolves into something resembling language: I love you. I love you. I love you.