A/N: As some of you may have noticed, I'm not doing a sequel to Quiet Houses. I just don't think it needs one. But I am working on another chaptered fic, the second most voted for in my poll. So there's that.

This one-shot was written during a slightly less melodramatic fit of angstiness than Quiet Houses. I have very wild mood swings, okay? And when I suffer, the characters suffer.


Men of duty


"Hey."

Spock opens his eyes, slowly easing out of his meditative state. Jim is standing by his desk, hands in his pockets and his head cocked to the side. Spock knows from experience that Jim likes to watch him meditate; he claims it makes him feel calm. Spock has offered to let him join in a few times but Jim has always declined. Spock supposes he is right to do so; the captain is not the kind of person who likes sitting still for very long (a fact that Doctor McCoy frequently complains over).

"I was not expecting you so early," Spock says honestly. He stands up. "I had assumed you would spend at least twenty minutes more arguing with Admiral Pike."

Jim shrugs. "I thought so too but then he was so understanding, it kind of made my righteous anger look like a temper tantrum. It's not his fault anyway."

"So am I to understand that nothing has changed?" Spock asks quietly.

"No, nothing's changed. They're still transferring you to the Constellation," Jim replies. He swallows thickly and attempts a smile, although it looks more like a grimace. "Congratulations. I'm sure you'll make a great captain."

"Jim-" Spock falls silent, because he does not know how to continue. For all his eloquence, he has never been particularly good with comforting words.

But Jim smiles, and this time it's genuine. Understanding. He always seems to know what Spock wants to say, even if he has no idea of it himself. "I know. I don't want you to leave either. But Starfleet needs a captain, not a first officer, even if it is the best first officer in the fleet."

Jim is right, of course, no matter how Spock wishes he weren't. Were it not for the fleet's desperate need for more captains (still recovering from the Nero incident, years later) Spock would never have considered this offer. He knows this. That does not mean he has to like it.

He walks over to Jim and grasps his right hand softly, attempting to communicate through touch what he cannot say with words. Jim leans into him and touches his forehead against Spock's. Through this contact Spock can feel the soothing hum of Jim's affection and he closes his eyes, focusing on the warmth of it.

They stay like this for a short while, basking in each other's presence. "When we started our five year mission I didn't think it would end like this," Jim mutters, his breath playing on Spock's face.

"It is not over," Spock reminds him. "There are still 2.4 years left-"

"I know," Jim interrupts and Spock can almost hear the affectionate smile in his voice. "It feels like it's ending is all I'm saying. It won't be the same."

Again, Spock doesn't know how to respond, so instead he lowers his lips to meet Jim's. They kiss, soft and slow at first, but it soon grows desperate. Spock's free hand tangles itself in Jim's golden hair while Jim grasps Spock's hand tighter and pulls him closer. They break apart when it becomes too much and Spock thinks he hears Jim choke back a sob, but he might be mistaken as he can hear very little over the buzz of their emotions combined, threatening to overwhelm him.

"If you ask me to stay, I will," he says after a brief silence, although he does not know what he hopes to accomplish with such a confession. He already knows how Jim will respond.

Jim closes his eyes and it takes him a moment to compose himself enough to answer. "You know I can't do that Spock," he mutters and it sounds as though every word pains him. "I want to, so bad, but I can't. Duty comes first." He lets out a brief laugh, utterly devoid of humor. "Besides, this isn't forever. Five years, ten tops. The recruiting quota is on the way up, I hear. There'll be plenty of new captains soon. We'll be able to serve together again soon. And we can still keep in contact, just not in person."

But it's not the same Spock wants to say, but he doesn't. It takes a lot of effort though. He does not recall having such little control of his own wants before Jim Kirk.

"I know it isn't," Jim whispers and Spock cannot remember his thoughts being so transparent before either.

Jim's communicator chirps and the captain curses under his breath. "Duty calls," he intones and pulls away from Spock reluctantly. Spock allows him to, even as his blood calls out for Jim's touch.

As Jim takes his call Spock takes the time to compose himself. The emotional calm resulting from his recent meditation is completely gone, replaced with a conflicting whirlwind of emotion Spock has come to associate with Jim's presence.

"I'm sorry," Jim says, pulling Spock out of his thoughts. "It's urgent business, I have to-"

"Go," Spock finishes for him.

Jim smiles wearily. "Right. Duty first and all that." He kisses Spock gently and pulls away before it can go on too long. "I'm sorry."

"It is hardly your fault," Spock says.

"Yeah, still."

It takes Jim a few moments to get going and even then Spock can tell it takes him great effort. As he observes the captain's retreating back he suddenly feels a surge of desperation, he wants to run up to Jim and take his hand, beg him not to leave, to beg Spock to stay…

"Jim," he chokes out before he can help himself. Jim stops and turns around, his eyes questioning. "I…"

He can't continue. Years of suppressing and denying his emotions have left him unable to confess to them, even as they are laid out bare in front of him. Even as Jim is slipping out of his grasp he cannot say it.

But he doesn't need to. Jim's face softens in understanding and he grins. "I know. Me too."

Spock feels the knot in his stomach, the one he was not aware of, loosen slightly. Jim smiles and waves as he exits their quarters and before he can stop himself, Spock smiles back. It is small, only the slightest quirk in the corners of his mouth, but it is enough that Jim's face lightens up considerably.

Perhaps the situation is not as bad as Spock had originally feared. They have overcome the impossible before, they can do so again.