Spock felt the sweet musk of human skin pressed against his nose. Jim's neck curled towards him and their arms had switch places during the night. Spock felt warm. Too warm. Too comfortable. Too much.
He felt that friendly affection flood him and he realized he did not wish to get up. Nor here in this universe did he have to. He was not a true Ambassador. Just as Jim was not a true Admiral.
Their ranks, stripped by time.
The responsibilities of their reputation were also null. There were no faces to put on; none but their own, and Spock knew Jim would discover something new between them in due time.
And Spock was as grateful as he was terrified. Without duty. Without the barrier of Starfleet, their relationship would be redefined. No longer First Officer and Captain. No longer Admiral and Ambassador. No more missions. No more reports.
The comforting hum of Jim's mind purred through touch, and Spock briefly wondered how he managed without this feeling for so long. But then again, it had been a very long time since they served together.
Could they? Could Spock have completed his paperwork, handed Jim a report, and then followed him to bed?
The image was pleasant. But distorted. He could not see this in their past. And stubbornness made him wait until after their respective promotions. There was a long period of stalled friendship that Spock regretted. The only thing he specifically regretted. Even if he'd never verbally or physically claimed Jim as T'hy'la, or bondmate, he could have at least kept their friendship alive.
He became too Vulcan, and clouded the human need for companionship with rigid Vulcan philosophy. He had fifteen years to reconnect. To be what he saw after V'ger. And even then, he didn't take the chance. He didn't try hard enough. He didn't even take that last lunch with the Admiral before he boarded Enterprise-B. And watched helplessly from a shuttle craft as they broadcast the death of the great Admiral James T. Kirk.
The tear of their bond was deep. It carved him from the inside out. Spock had never experienced such pain. Even the telepathic loss of all of Vulcan could not compare to the mental gutting he received when Jim entered the Nexus.
He should have known.
The pain never completely severed, and Spock attributed it to Human grief. To depression. To self loathing. He never allowed himself to believe that their bond had just been stretched through unimaginable dimensions. And Spock was never one to hang onto hope void of logic. Especially when it was so easy to be consumed by that pain.
Pain that led him to Romulus.
Without Jim, he knew no bounds. Became reckless. Took diplomatic jobs with a high correlation to danger. He spoke to warring nations, pirates, rebels. And lastly landed himself with an alias and underground revolution for unification.
But he knew what it truly was.
And ironically that cowboy diplomacy he tried to incorporate led him to the very man he sought to embody.
Somehow, he and Jim remained together. And not more than a day into their reunion, Spock felt complete, whole as he'd never felt before.
This time he couldn't take for granted the friendship they had. Without the mask of duty, the feelings that kept him by this man were laid bare. For a long while, that mask was comforting.
As First Officer, he could not always be friend, and the expectation to be was not as high. Spock knew the possibility of more could not be while they were comrades. And he was content to wait.
Spock realized, just as he could not split his human from his Vulcan, he could not split business from the personal. He had to be one or the other. And now with Vulcan gone, literally, and Starfleet no longer a daunting pull, he finally has a choice. To embrace his Human. To be personal.
Spock returned his head to the curve of Jim's neck and pressed his nose to his skin and allowed himself to breath deeply, selfishly, just to feel. That hum picked up into a delightful buzz. If Jim could feel this... And the longer Spock laid half curled around Jim's body, the more he wanted to press against it. Eventually, Spock pulled back and away. The heat and electricity was too much and he was too awake to try to sleep again.
Jim never woke.
But when he did, Spock was already up, busying himself in the opposite corner of the tent.
Jim stretched as much as his muscles could respond and settled into the warmth radiating beneath him.
"When did you put this here?"
Jim's voice was another sweet revelation.
Spock turned, cup in hand and sat on the edge of the bed.
"You woke when I placed it Jim, you must have been very tired." Spock waited as Jim tried to sit upright, and failed.
'He's regressing.' Spock thought. He attributed Jim's strength to adrenaline from escaping the nexus. His acceptance of this world as reality may have lessened his mental capacity to overcome his physical state.
"My whole body is tired." Jim looked frustrated for a second and gave him pleading golden eyes.
Spock set the cup on the nightstand and placed his hands on Jim's lower back. Jim could sit up, with some help from Spock and the bed's slotted backboard, an addition Q apparently deemed necessary.
"Here." Spock pushed the ceramic cup into Jim's hands and waited as his muscles finally clenched around the handle.
'The atrophy must be more advanced than I thought.' Spock mused as Jim attempted to lift the cup to his lips. When his hand just hovered at chest level, Spock took the cup from him and brought it to his lips.
"Mm. Where did you get coffee?"
"There are several Starfleet officers stationed on New Vulcan to help with the rebuilding efforts. I surmised they would have a supply."
"You stole coffee for me?" Jim looked pleased and nodded his head down for another sip.
His eyes closed and Spock was filled with warmth.
No, he did not steal the coffee. Though he might have asked around for a darker roast, as per Jim's preference. It was no trouble.
But if Jim wished to infer his actions from the half smirk Spock responded with, that was his prerogative.
An ache passed through Spock's body. He missed this. Sorely.
If Q were to take him now... Spock couldn't let that thought culture. He mind clamped down on it immediately. He would enjoy however long he had with Jim. He must.
The atrophy was troubling. And though Jim seemed to be regaining mental strength, he was eager to have him at full capacity.
An idea flashed through Spock's mind, and with it an image of himself lying on a table from long ago.
"Jim. I will send for advice, but I believe I may be able to assist with your motor functions. When McCoy reassembled my neurons when my brain was reunited with my body...'for the first time...' (Jim interrupted) I believe I remember the correct paths. If we meld I may be able to see if your mind is directing your body correctly. If it is, then I will leave the medical to Dr. McCoy Jr."
"What else would you have me call him, Bones 2?"
Jim laughed fully this time. Slightly yellowing teeth and crows feet appeared. It was a delightful display.
"It's weird to hear you say 'Bones'. We could try. When?"
"This afternoon, if you're feeling up to it."
"Oh, I'll be fine, I feel like I've been sleeping for a very long time."
"Do you need anything else?"
"Yes, I need to urinate actually." Jim made a motion like he was going to swing his legs over the bed and caught himself before the attempt.
"Here, let me assist you." Spock was at his side immediately with one hand under his arm and the other gently at his hip.
Jim swayed, grunted and tried desperately to throw his foot forward. His muscles shut down. His legs felt like mush and his bones felt like they were grinding together.
"Are you in pain?"
"No." Jim strained again, grunted and let out a labored breath.
"It is fortunate that your lungs and heart are working. It seems your atrophy has only affected your extremities."
"I feel numb and useless. Damnit Spock, I'm finally back with you and I can't..."
"Can't what, Jim?"
"I..." A strange expression floated over Jim's face and his cheeks flushed a dark pink for a few seconds. His eyes were watery and he looked deeply disturbed.
"My muscles... I couldn't..." Jim started and looked down.
Spock followed his eyes the dark stain spreading through the fabric of his pants.
"Your bladder emptied itself?" Spock looked concerned.
"It is no matter. The Doctor will be here in 34 hours. I can give word to the Enterprise and see if they can expedite their travel. "
Jim nodded and allowed Spock to led him back into the bedroom. Spock set him in a chair and pulled out an extra pair of pants.
Jim let Spock lift his hips and strip his lower half. Spock disposed of the soiled pair and knelt. He took Jim's foot and began rolling the pant leg up one limb, then the other. Jim seemed to shake the stare he set on the floor and smiled weakly.
"I never thought I'd be reaching retirement home status so soon." Spock placed his hand over Jim's.
"I admit I am illogically pleased to do this for you."
"Perhaps. But I imagine that if we had lived out our lives in our respective timeline that I would always come to your aide. I knew you would eventually grow old. And I selfishly wanted to be your caregiver until your death."
Spock pulled a chair in front of Jim and sat down.
"That's both morbid and sweet of you Spock. I guess I never gave it much thought. I never wanted to see myself as old. I couldn't look that far ahead, it scared me to be honest, what I would do without command or rank."
"And yet here, we have neither."
"I suppose you're right."
"And how do you feel? Without the things that defined you." Spock implored.
"I am not without them all, Spock. I have you. I always thought you were a damn good definition of me. Hell, perhaps my only good descriptor. I was very proud to be called your friend." Jim couldn't seem to keep eye contact and would look away. He sighed partially and stared somewhere unseeing.
Spock replaced his hand, deliberately, and slowly over Jim's.
"I am equally grateful to have a friend like you, Jim. Although... perhaps you should stay in bed until the Enterprise arrives."
At Jim's sour look Spock tilted his head in thought.
"Or, we of course could keep ourselves occupied. I have a chess board. It is only two-dimensional, but I believe it will serve its purpose."
"I like the sound of that Mr. Spock."
The average chess match between the two lasted approximately 3.4 hours.
Three games would be sufficient before Jim had to rest again, and if Spock could hasten the Enterprise's travel, the crew should arrive in the morning. If the neural interface Spock planned on creating between their minds worked, Jim should be on his way to physical recovery. By the end of the week Spock planned to tell Jim that they were bonded. Or at least had been. And the siren pull of that bond cries out even now.
'Complete me'. It said. Whispering in the backgrounds of Spock's mind. It was a very annoying voice, persistent and telling. But it yearned and ached and it created much sadness in its host.
Spock set the last piece before he knew it and claimed black for their starting gambit. Jim's arm reached across the board and gingerly lifted a piece and more so dropped it than anything else into place. Their game lasted 1.8 hrs. In complete silence.
The average time it took Jim to move a piece elongated between moves. He started at 1.4 minutes and went to nearly 6.7 minutes to complete a move. Spock won in 27 moves. Jim blinked, and then yawned.
"Perhaps I have taken advantage of your weakened state." Jim's eyes narrowed and he worked on resetting his side of the board. Pleased with himself that his arms and fingers were still up to the task.
"I'll show you weakened." Jim promised, moving his piece quickly and efficiently. Their second game took longer. 2.6 hours passed and Jim showed an interesting mixture of awe and surprise as he tipped his king. His game had improved, but Spock was never one to let him win.
"Thank you, Spock." Jim said, smiling with everything at his disposal. Spock looked at that smile. Memorized it. Caressed it with his eyes and drank it in. It was a moment that floated by on some other timeframe, because Spock could not count how many seconds passed, even with his superior reckoning skills.
And when the moment was over Spock felt the need to speak.
"I'm glad you're here, Jim. I had resigned myself to a life without you, but it was never a life I would have chosen for myself. I missed you greatly, old friend." Spock reached across the chess board and firmly took Jim's hand.
In the wake of Jim's smile, he responded by a tight nod and a tight grip.
They sat there, hands touching, eyes staring, and when the intensity became too much they looked away and parted.
"I'm sorry." Jim said at last.
"Do not be. Come, you should rest. The Enterprise should arrive in twelve hours."
"Twelve? I thought they were further out than that."
"I requested their expedited presence. Your atrophy troubles me and if I cannot figure it out, I want McCoy to be there to examine you."
"Do you want to try that mind-link thing. I'm not tired yet." Jim offered, stretching mildly in his chair.
"We may attempt it, but if I cannot see a clear path between your mind and body I will want the Doctor's opinion before proceeding."
"Fair enough. So how do we do this?"
"First I want you to be in bed." Jim sported a quick pout and used labored effort to push back his chair.
Spock rounded to his back and pulled upward on his elbows. Jim lifted, feeling very much like an elderly gentleman and began making old man noises.
"Jim." Spock admonished and led him to the bed. Jim sank down and twisted his body so he could fall comfortably upon the mattress.
Spock rounded to the other side and sat on his knees next to Jim's side. He waited a few minutes, with his eyes closed, centering his mind and directed all his energy to the psi points of his hands.
Jim watched him, fascinated every time Spock prepared himself for a meld.
Spock's fingers brushed near Jim's nose, another at his hairline and the other two settled firmly near his jaw.
The points were warm like melted plastic or candlewax. That warmth bled through the skin, deep until it was penetrating the bone, and beyond that it became a psychic wave of energy.
Spock was being specific.
It felt very much like the time he saved them from the imaginary bullets of the OK Coral. It was a meld with a purpose, one, Jim realized hadn't happened in a long while.
Spock's mind settled in his, locked together and hummed with a wonderful buzz.
'Jim.' The voice said.
Jim was able to reach that voice, it had always been a beacon for where Jim was suppose to concentrate and partipate in a meld. He could feel the psychic presence and location like a pin on a map.
'An interesting analogy.' Spock answered unexpectedly.
'Move your arm.'
It was very much a command. And Jim immediately put away his curious thoughts and concentrated on the task at hand.
Jim put all his mental energy into lifting his arm, knowing full well that in reality his arm would stay limp at his side. The neural paths burned like city lights and Spock traced them to the movement Jim was attempting. To continue with Jim's mental picture, Spock found the lights bunching very much like a traffic jam. There were too many one ways, and no bypass to the function Jim wished to achieve. Small flickers however pulsed through. Dim fireflies of energy fluttered though Jim's neural net and showed Spock the correct path to Jim's motor function.
'Try harder.' Spock asked. Watching for the little flickers. The mind was like a thunderstorm. Pulses of energy that took logical paths according to different pressures within those paths. And Jim was the Rainman. Directing, calculating without conscious thought. But now Jim had to concentrate, because the storms were out of control. They danced to the left, to the right. Some energy went to places not directed by its host. Jim was lucky he wasn't seizing. The energy for all its unpredictability, was surprisingly contained. It didn't venture to any of the involuntary systems. Jim's heart and lungs and blood flow all seemed to carry on per normal.
Spock probed deeper, taking his bird eye view to a smaller scale. He watched for a long moment. Memorized how Jim's mind worked. Watched the light direct itself in the task of moving Jim's arm, and being stalled all at the same spot. Spock wasn't sure if this was a general roadblock in Jim's mind or if he'd have to release every function one by one. First Jim's arms, next his legs, further on until Jim was completely mobile.
'Harder Jim.' Spock asked.
A flare of light blinded Spock for a second, as Jim gave all he could into moving his arm. Lights pushed at the road block, as others found a path around it.
Spock couldn't do a thing. He realized as he mentally tried to sync with Jim's neural power. If he removed the block, it might over stimulate other senses and put his system on overload. If he didn't Jim would have limited mobility. Spock had only one real choice that he was comfortable with. He had to pull out of the meld, and wait for Dr. McCoy. Otherwise if he rerouted the energy block Jim might have to relearn all of his motor functions individually before he could fully use his arms or his legs without assistance.
Spock whispered his intent to pull back and waited for the neural storm of Jim's mind to subside. Spock released his mind from Jim's and blinked to regain his sense of physical reality.
Jim wasn't blinking. Spock realized as he stared at his friend.
"Jim." Spock said softly.
"Jim." Spock said firmly.