When it was all over, when the Enterprise was in dry dock and Khan was back in cryo and the reports had all been (correctly) filed, Kirk went to Spock.
Spock, of course, quirked his eyebrow as he opened his door, as if he were surprised to see his friend. He always looked vaguely surprised to see Kirk, like maybe the guy thought it was a statistical improbability that Kirk would continue to be his friend from moment to moment. It hurt Kirk’s heart a little, and made him try harder.
But that wasn’t what he was here for. Not this time. Nervous, Kirk made a lot of noise as he poked all around Spock’s temporary rooms, waving his hands around, asking how Uhura was doing, asking about New Vulcan and the weather and -
“Captain, is there something I can do for you?” Spock cut in, all stillness and calm, always the steady anchor to Kirk’s high flying sails.
“I just, uh,” Kirk started, doing his best to hold still and not feel like the room was too small.
“Jim,” Spock tried again, managing to infuse his given name with understated yet overwhelming affection, filling that one little syllable with everything they were. It got Kirk’s attention, anyway. Blue eyes finally focused on brown. Spock continued, “Please, be seated. I will make tea.” When Kirk went to protest, Spock simply raised an eyebrow, and Kirk sank onto a plush red couch that he thought Spock might never have touched before.
Spock returned with an old fashion English tea set and poured out two cups of Vulcan spice tea. Kirk watched quietly, following his first officer’s fingers, just a little too long and a little too graceful to be quite human. That’s what made Spock fascinating (to use his own word against him) - he was almost human, and every time you started to forget the almost, he’d do something to remind you. Sometimes it might be a little linguistic misunderstanding or an overly accurate calculation. But other times... well. Kirk was hoping his friend might provide him with one of those ‘other times’ tonight. Kirk needed something superhuman right now.
For the moment, he accepted the tea, inhaling the sharp scented vapor. It was alien enough to calm him down, give his mind something to think about. Spock gave him a few more minutes to pull himself together. Spock always gave him the time he needed.
“Now,” Spock said, “Captain. Although of course you are always welcome to join me for tea, I suspect you had another reason for visiting me this evening.”
Kirk stared into his tea cup as he spoke, “You said - back on Kronos, I mean - you said you melded with Pike. When he was - dying.”
“Ah,” Spock answered, understanding. He set his cup down and interlaced his fingers. “Yes. I was joined with Admiral Pike as he died. You have come to ask for details.”
“No - yes. I mean,” Kirk fluttered. He took a deep breath and started again, “I came to ask if you could share those moments with me.” He kept eye contact as he asked, knowing mind melds were serious undertakings for Vulcans and wanting Spock to understand how sincere he was in his request.
Spock stood and went to look out his window, hands clasped behind his back. Kirk joined him. For a long moment, they only stared out at the glittering San Francisco skyline. At last, Spock quietly replied, “I do not understand why you would want to experience such a negative event. He would not have wanted - ”
“Why did you meld with a dying man, Spock? You must have known a human mind in that moment would be chaotic, emotional.”
“I merely wanted to understand. Admiral Pike provided me with unique insight into the human experience of death.”
“Bullshit,” Kirk spat, turning toward Spock, waving his hands again.
Spock’s eyes widened marginally, but he should have known better than to play technicalities with Kirk. He sighed, and tried again, “I may also have acted impulsively. I knew that he was dying, that there was nothing I could do. I did not want him to feel alone. It is not uncommon for Vulcans to join at the point of death. Perhaps such a meld is instinct.”
It clearly pained Spock to admit he might have acted illogically, so Kirk skipped teasing him about trying to lie and shared his own confession, “He was like a father to me. I just feel like I should have been there, I should have been in your place, or in his place, or I should have saved him. I know, I know,” he held up a hand, “That’s illogical. But the feeling won’t stop. And you’ve got his last minutes in that mind of yours, and I just - need them. I don’t know, for closure or something, I guess.”
Spock searched Kirk’s face for a long time but finally nodded, “If you wish. Please lie down on the couch - this will not be a pleasant experience.”
Kirk obeyed, and Spock knelt on the floor beside his head. “Relax, Jim. Breathe deeply.” He placed his fingers along Kirk’s face and then spoke, “My mind to your mind, my thoughts to your thoughts...”
As the meld brought their minds together, Kirk felt Spock’s deep sorrow for Pike’s death. His wasn’t the angry desperate feeling that inspired Kirk to drive cars off cliffs or start fights with odds decidedly not in his favor. Instead, Spock’s sorrow felt placid, but yawned over him like the Iowa sky, seemingly endless. Then, the meld was complete, and there was no Kirk and there was no Spock.
The council room was on fire, shattered glass everywhere. He felt the blazing heat, the ache in his leg, the fresh pain in his chest. He couldn’t hear - he knew there should be sound, could see things exploding and people screaming, but the world was silent. Kirk, where was Jim Kirk? That young fool, where had he got off to? A wave of anxiety washed through him as Spock appeared before him, alone. Was he dead? God, no, he prayed that the lucky bastard’s streak hadn’t run out just yet. He could feel his heart beating fast and his lungs trying to breathe but it felt like all the air had been sucked right out of the room and he couldn’t move his body. Who the hell was shooting? John Harrison? Why? What did he want? Spock touched his face - Jim? his thoughts begged, racing around and around, fighting to breathe, to run, to return fire, all failing. Jim? he asked again, and this time Spock’s thoughts answered reassurance, togetherness, concern. Jim is alive. Thank God, as long as he made it through this, Spock, take care of Jim. And then it was fear, fear, fear, and then nothing.
Kirk came out of it gasping, just like the first time. Spock pulled his hands away, but Kirk grabbed him. Shaking and crying, Kirk turned into Spock’s chest, wrapping his arms around his friend. For a moment, Spock didn’t move, but slowly he placed his own hands against Kirk’s shoulders like his mother had when he’d been young. He tried to move them like she had, in slow circles, firm but gentle. He knew he wasn’t quite getting it right, but he hoped Jim would understand.
Kirk cried for several minutes. Much longer than he had at the actual event. Spock concluded that this was what humans referred to as ‘letting go,’ and he did his best not to interrupt. He held still, the steady place in Kirk’s turbulent life. After a while, Spock whispered the simple commands, “Breathe, Jim. Breathe in. Breathe out. Good. In, and out. I am here, Jim. I am not leaving.”
“Sorry,” Kirk said when could speak again.
“Do not be. Rest. I will get you some more tea.”
When Spock went to pull away, however, Kirk only tightened his grip. “No,” he said, “Please just stay here a minute. I just need you here, Spock.”
So Spock stayed. He placed his fingers back along Jim’s face, not initiating another meld but strengthening the bond between them. He could feel the loneliness within his friend, the loss like a canyon, rupturing an otherwise vibrant landscape. “Jim,” he whispered, and did his best to fill that canyon with all his feelings of friendship, We are together, we are alive, we are, we are, we are.
In those quiet minutes of Spock kneeling beside his exhausted body, cradling his head, the warm scent of Vulcan tea filling the air, Kirk let those feelings of intimate companionship wash over him. He echoed back harmony, gratitude.
Spock let the shared emotions resonate between them. He let the contact linger even as Kirk’s mind drifted into sleep. Resting his forehead against his friend’s, he let one last wave of peaceful thoughts carry Kirk into dreams before he reluctantly pulled away.
For once, he observed, James Kirk’s hands lay still, his breath was soft, and his mind tranquil.