Notes: Some of you saw that coming and some of you didn't. Either way, I'm not sorry. I am, however, very sorry for the delay in updating. Those of you who follow my other works will know that life is...well, kicking me in the balls right about now.


"We have them, then they are gone but they stay in our minds. Their stories are part of us as long as we live and as long as we tell them or write them down." - Ellen Gilchrist.


Jim cried until his throat hurt, his jaw hurt, his nose hurt, his eyes hurt - everything between his scalp and his shoulders hurt. Breathing through the tears and the snot and the general wetness of a crying jag, his lungs began to rival Spock's for creepy noise-making skills before he finally managed to get the tears under control and quieted, exhausted, in Spock's grip.

"You..." he croaked, and swallowed. "You should take some of those painkillers."

Spock pressed a kiss to his hair - a shockingly affectionate gesture that told Jim just how long and how hard he'd been crying - before untangling himself and going to the kitchen units for a glass of water. In the cold light filtering in through the curtains, he was thin - perhaps it was Jim's new knowledge, but he was suddenly thin as opposed to lean, all angles and bones instead of the slender grace Jim had been acquainted with.

Disease put a new spin on everything.

"When did you..." Jim cleared his throat and tried again. "When did you stop...treating it?"

"Approximately one year ago," Spock replied. "I was left severely drained after an aggressive four months of treatment, and decided that as it was quite apparent I could do nothing to prevent the disease from spreading, I would rather die..."

Jim choked, and Spock came back to sit on the bed with him.

"Jim," he said quietly, "I am sorry for my oversight, but...I have had time to come to terms with this. It has been quite apparent for...years, that the lung cancer would eventually succeed. I have battled for many years and I am simply...tired."

Tired. Jim's mother had said the same throughout months of fighting and fighting and...and losing.

"Will you...will it hurt?" he whispered.

"Perhaps at the very end," Spock said quietly. "It is rarely as bad as it is supposed to be. I have seen other patients die in various hospitals and hospices throughout my life; they could still be made comfortable at the end."

"I don't want you to suffer," Jim whispered, twining their fingers together. A vague, shocked numbness was creeping into his own lungs, and beginning to leak out around his heart. "I don't...I don't...oh God..."

Spock deftly swallowed two of the pills from the blue bottle before placing it and the glass aside, and folding himself back into the mattress and around Jim again, wrapping him in warmth. That pulse point was jumping in his neck again; he was still alive. Still...there.

"I'm going to lose you," Jim whispered, his voice cracking, and he clung on, burying his face in Spock's shoulder. "I'm going to lose you."

"We all have to die, Jim," Spock murmured, rubbing a hand up Jim's back soothingly. "It is entirely possible that you are killed in a car accident before my illness ever comes to its final conclusion. It is entirely possible that I will be killed in that car crash. This...estimate is by no means a guarantee."

"But it kind of really, really increases the odds," Jim hissed, screwing up his face. "When are you...did they say...?"

"It is still too early to tell," Spock said, guessing at Jim's question. "I do not expect this to be my last Christmas, Jim."

"You'll outlive Mom."

"...Yes."

"So I'll lose Mom, and then I'll lose you, and then...and then what? Then Sam'll get it too?"

"That would be statistical clustering."

Jim choked out a wet laugh, torn between hysterical amusement and...simply being hysterical. He burrowed deeper, pressing his face into Spock's chest and feeling his ribs contracting and expanding, feeling the unnaturally loud rasp of the air in his lungs, feeling...

"Your heart," he whispered.

Jim wasn't a doctor, but he knew the sound of a human heartbeat, and they didn't...

It sounded almost as if Spock's heart were hiccupping. Du-dum-hic, almost. It was an odd, muted sound, as if the muscle were performing an aborted twitch sideways before resettling into a familiar pattern - only to hiccup again a brief moment later. It was an eerie sound, a strange sound, a...in the light of the new information, a frightening sound.

"Can't they fix your heart?" he whispered.

"I do not believe any doctor would risk his license in the attempt," Spock said dryly. "It was only detected after my first major lung surgery, and that procedure damaged it very badly. It is now almost certain that I would be killed in an attempt to fix it."

"Why...why didn't they find it earlier?"

"I do not know, Jim," Spock said quietly. "In the end, it would not have mattered. If they had known, they would not have operated in the first place. The end result is the same."

"But...a transplant, maybe?" Jim pushed, still listening to the hiccup.

"The waiting list is long, and considering the fragility of my own heart and lungs, and the recurring cancer, it is unlikely that even a successful transplant would achieve more than a few extra years," Spock said quietly. He spoke matter-of-factly, and Jim knew that he'd been speaking the truth: this was nothing new or frightening to him. "I would rather that someone else were given the chance, someone who would be able to live for many more years."

"But you could."

"But it is unlikely," Spock said firmly. "I would be unlikely to survive a transplant either, Jim, and I would rather die under my own terms and in a setting of my choice than in a hospital operating theatre, alone."

Jim raised his head and peered at Spock's face, frowning. "That's it, for you, isn't it? You don't want to die alone."

Spock's face twitched. "I...had always assumed that my mother..."

"Oh God, you never expected your mother to go before you did," Jim whispered.

"No."

Jim couldn't imagine that position. Even before his mother had become ill, it had always been a very vague knowledge in the back of his mind that he would outlive her. It was just...natural. It was what children did: in the end, they buried their parents. He was young, relatively healthy, and didn't do anything with enormous personal risks; in the end, he would stand at his mother's funeral. It had just been one of those facts. Not one that he liked, and certainly not so soon, when Winona herself was still so young, but...a fact.

For Spock, that had not been a fact.

He had been so ill for so long, his fact had been that he would never live to see either parent die. And then he had - his mother had fallen ill and died, gone before him, and that had never been a fact in Spock's world.

"What...what about your father?" Jim whispered.

Spock's face tightened. "He will not come. I do not wish to disturb his work for this."

Jim felt a bit sick at that implication, but he pressed on. "What about your father's heart? How long does he have?"

Spock almost shrugged; the muscles under Jim's body shifted slightly, but stilled before it truly happened. "It is unknown. He will most likely live into his sixties or seventies, and suffer a heart attack of some description. It should not cut off his life so...early, but..."

"He's still going to outlive you," Jim guessed.

"Yes."

"And...and he wouldn't...?"

"He did not arrive in time to see my mother before she died, and made it clear at the funeral that he will not enter the United States again," Spock said flatly. "He will not be in attendance at my own passing, and I would not wish him to be."

"Okay, okay, I'll drop it," Jim said, taking the hint, and scrubbed the last of the tears from his own face. "I will, though."

"You will...what?"

"I'll be there," Jim promised, pressing a kiss to the skin over that hiccuping heart - that death sentence lurking in Spock's chest. "I'll...I'll be there when you go. You won't have to go alone. I promise. You won't go alone."

Spock closed his eyes. For a moment, Jim feared that he'd said the wrong thing, and then a ripple of tension loosened in Spock's bones, and he let out a faint sigh that sounded...heartbroken, and had Jim reaching to hold him tightly.

"Thank you," Spock whispered, and Jim pressed his face into the lean neck and inhaled deeply.

There was nothing more to be said.


"Death ends at least the fear of it." - Edward Counsel.