Notes: Joint seventh in the Keeping Love series, after 'Loud Places' and joint with 'Silence.' 'Silence' and 'Quiet Places' occur over the same time period from different points of view, so you can read them in either order.

Disclaimer: I do not own Star Trek 2009, and I make no profit from this work.


Kirk woke when his bladder told him to, and stumbled bleary-eyed into the bathroom on autopilot. Memory didn't surface until he ran his hands under the sonics, and he turned sharply on his bare heel and returned to the sleeping section of his quarters the moment that it did.

When he crept back into bed, he was surprised to find that Spock hadn't woken at his departure, but dismayed to find him shivering as though cold. He wasn't cold; he couldn't be. Kirk had ordered the temperature to be raised in his quarters, and in any case, when he moulded himself up against Spock's side, the Vulcan was - well, not warm to the touch, he never was, but normal. For a Vulcan. For him.

"M'here," Kirk mumbled, throwing an arm over his chest and squirming the other under his shoulders steadily. "M'here, sweetheart."

Under normal circumstances, he would never have spoken to Spock when he was asleep. Vulcans were much more aware of their surroundings in sleep than Humans; if anything, it was meditation that was difficult to disturb. Speaking to sleeping Vulcan would normally wake them up; it taken months before Spock had started to sleep through his touching, and he still (normally) would wake up if Kirk actually talked - but then, Kirk found he didn't much care right now. It was more important that Spock was aware of his presence, even in sleep.

In any case, he didn't wake - although after perhaps two, three minutes within the circle of Kirk's arms, the shivering began to lessen and eventually trailed off altogether.

"S'right, m'here," Kirk mumbled, sinking further into the lines of Spock's shoulder and side, and hooking a leg between the Vulcan's knees to anchor them together. He dropped his head tiredly onto the thin pillow, and blinked sleepily at the dark hair inches from his face.

Spock slept on, undisturbed - and Kirk hated it.

He had been withdrawn and distant ever since they had been reunited. His eyes were often glazed over, and he didn't seem to even hear Kirk properly. Kirk had to wash him in the shower, and dress him and undress him at the beginning and end of each day. With enough prodding and reminders, he would feed himself, but only if Kirk was in constant contact - and then he was sick more often than not. He was sleeping almost twelve hours a night, and barely eating, and if Kirk didn't hold him and talk to him and deliberately try to provoke a response, he would disappear inside his own head and vanish. It was as though without Kirk touching him, he went off somewhere else - and Kirk couldn't help but remember McCoy's warning.

He felt helpless, and he hated it.

Having him back only solved the he's-dead-oh-God-he's-dead panic. Now, Kirk was left with a partner who was suffering unimaginable pain, and he couldn't help. He could only hang on for the storm and hope that they were both going to come out of it alive. What was happening to the other Vulcan survivors suggested that death might still be only around the corner, and Kirk was terrified of the prospect.

He tightened his grip on the still body in his arms and closed his eyes.

"I love you," he whispered, and nobody was there to hear it if his voice cracked.


Kirk tugged an undershirt on over his head and got out a set of clothes for Spock before turning to the bed and sitting on the edge of the mattress, shaking one bare shoulder gently and trying to clumsily project positivity through his hand. He wasn't a telepath, and he didn't know how to do it, but he figured that it couldn't hurt.

"Spock?" he prompted. "Spock, sweetheart, you need to get up. We need to go to Sickbay. Come on, sweetheart, open your eyes for me."

He offered up a smile when a ripple of motion stirred down the long spine, and dark eyes slitted open to stare up at him. They were still hazy, but he optimistically put it down to having been woken, and brushed the back of his fingers across his cheek, carefully avoiding his psi points. They seemed sore; Spock flinched whenever he touched them.

"Hey, baby," he murmured. "Come on, up you get. We need to go to Sickbay."

Spock blinked slowly at him, but didn't resist when Kirk slipped his arms around him and physically hauled him into a sitting position. After a moment, he shifted to sit without assistance, and Kirk took both of his hands to kiss the knuckles.

"You with me?" he prompted, and received a shaky sigh and a small nod. It was more than he had actually hoped for, and he squeezed the fingers in his grasp. "Come on, then. Let's get you up and dressed."

Spock was barely there; he moved when verbally prompted, but made no effort to really assist, and Kirk opted to give him sweatpants rather than anything that would require a belt. Once, dressing him would have been fun and kind of stupid and maybe even a little bit erotic (or kinky, depending what he was dressing him up in) but now it just made his heart ache, to see him so...so...so unresponsive. He barely reacted to Kirk's hands, much less to his words, and if he actually spoke, did so in a whisper and one syllable at a time, sounding them out carefully like a brain injury patient.

He supposed that in a way, he was a brain injury patient.

"Alright, sweetheart, come on," Kirk coaxed, kissing him on the cheek and curling a hand into his elbow. "We're going to Sickbay. Bones wants a look at you."

Spock didn't protest the arm around his waist, or the thumb brushing the gap between his t-shirt and his hip. Kirk had timed it for the beginning of Alpha Shift, when the corridors would be fairly empty, and the odd crewmember that they did pass averted their gaze and stepped around them carefully. Nobody knew what to do or how to act. Even Kirk didn't, not really, and yet he had to act. He just knew to stick around, keep his hands on Spock at all times, and...what? And what? What did he do then?

What about when he couldn't do that?

"Hey, Bones," he called when they stepped into the Sickbay. It was still crowded, full of Vulcans in various states of psychic distress, and McCoy waved them to his office distractedly. Kirk took them back to the bench, sitting up against the wall again and pulling Spock to relax against him, stroking the tense lines of his body and slipping one hand under his shirt to measure his heart rate. "You with me?"

"...Yes."

"Good," he kissed the top of the dark head. "Does your head still hurt?"

Spock turned his face into Kirk's collarbone. "Yes."

"Can I do anything?" he prompted, squeezing him tightly and rubbing a hand up his arm.

"I..." Spock hesitated, his speech faltering, and Kirk made a soft questioning noise in the back of his throat. "Could you...?"

"Could I what?" Kirk asked.

Spock's eyes closed. "...hold me?"

"Of course I can," Kirk said, dropping one leg off the bench to pull Spock closer. He tucked the other leg around him awkwardly, pulling him into a contorted sort of body-hug, and worked both arms around his waist and under the shirt, angling his shoulder so that Spock could - and did - press his face into the pulse point at his jugular. He didn't know why, how or even if the skin contact helped, but Spock just...seemed a little better when they touched, and so Kirk kept it up. "That better?"

"...Thank you."

The office doors opened and McCoy strode in, tricorder in hand, and raised his eyebrows at the sight that they made.

"It helps," Kirk said defensively.

McCoy shrugged, activating the tricorder and waving it over Spock, who wholly ignored him. "Have you managed to get any food in him yet?"

"He kept down last night's soup," Kirk said. He hadn't kept down anything else so far but water. "He's sleeping a lot too. Eleven hours last night; I had to wake him up to get him here."

"I'm not worried about that," McCoy shrugged. "Keep hanging onto him while he's asleep, but otherwise let him do it. Spock? You still in pain?"

"...Yes," his voice was thready.

"Worse or better than it was when you came aboard?"

"...The same."

Kirk's face tightened and McCoy bit back a sigh. "Have you meditated?"

"No."

"He hasn't," Kirk confirmed. "He tried yesterday afternoon, but he couldn't stop shaking whenever I let go of him." He was rubbing a hand idly up Spock's bare arm again. "Is that...okay? That he needs me to touch him all the time?"

"Yeah," McCoy said. "Good sign, actually. You're the nearest thing he has to a bondmate, and they've all gone a bit...tactile. I think they're trying to...well, not be alone in their own heads. Hell if I know how the telepathy works, but the most stable of them all are those with close family or bondmates still alive."

Kirk pressed his cheek to the top of Spock's head and let out a long breath. "Shouldn't we...I don't know. Meld?"

"No," Spock said sharply, and in time with McCoy's, "Hell no," and Kirk blinked.

"Just don't," McCoy advised. "He's not in control of himself, and you're not a telepath. He could wreak havoc in your head by accident. He can't play with your head without actually melding with you, so the physical contact is okay - but if you meld, Jim, he could very easily kill the both of you."

"Jesus," Kirk's grip tightened. "Okay. Okay, no melding. Not until you're better," he added, but Spock said nothing in response.

"Is he always this...listless?" McCoy asked.

"Yeah," Kirk said lowly. "He's not...unresponsive, but it's kind of close."

"Shit," McCoy muttered. "Alright. I'll give him a couple of vitamin shots and an immunity booster. I can't really give him anything for the pain; any dosage that high would cause a detachment from reality and I really don't want to risk that right now, Jim."

Kirk nodded, rubbing Vulcan kisses into Spock's sides when the hypospray hissed at the Vulcan's arm. "I'll have to go back on shift soon," he said quietly as McCoy exchanged vials. "I...I really don't want to leave him alone."

They exchanged a significant look over the top of Spock's head, and McCoy nodded. "Leave him in here. I'll keep an eye on him. If he's feeling up to it, we could use a hand with some of the Vulcan kids as well. They're not too impressed at the nurses' attempts to charm them."

Kirk could imagine that, and offered McCoy a wan smile before shifting the body in his arms. "Spock? Do you want to go eat in the mess, or in our quarters?"

A faint frown creased those dark brows, and the faintest shake of the head registered against Kirk's clavicle.

"Spock, you have to at least try to eat something," he pushed. "If we take it really slow, you shouldn't be sick again. Try?"

"I...I do not feel..."

"Only because your body ain't registering yet over your mind," McCoy drawled. "Your medical scans are picking it up alright. You're heading for malnourished, Spock; get something down you. I don't much care what."

"Please, sweetheart," Kirk coaxed. "Please?"

And perhaps it was strange, but the easy capitulation when he nodded was also...disheartening - and the doctor and the commander exchanged another anxious look over the top of the dark hair, quiet in their shared concern.


By the fifth day, Spock was still...listless, and Kirk was still anxious every time he woke to the shivering body curled limply in his grasp, but he was no longer looking through Kirk as though he were a ghost. He had stopped staring off into space as well, but he still slept like the dead and for too long every night, and feeding him was still an effort to get more than half a bowl of soup into him in the day. Kirk was worried. He had to go back on duty tomorrow, and yet Spock was still, still...

God, but Kirk was scared for him.

Hope began to perk her head up, though, when Spock managed an entire bowl of soup that evening, and retrieved his robe out of the closet, slowly announcing his intention to meditate. Kirk had desperately tried not to transmit his own anxiety as he'd nodded and helped him change and given in to one hopeful kiss on the cheek as he headed for the mat.

The smell of incense permeated the room, and Kirk's own tension, that he had barely realised was there, eased a fraction.

Maybe...maybe this was a step towards healing?

He kept a watchful eye, going through paperwork meticulously for almost an hour, listening to nothing but Spock's slow breathing and near-silent hum of the engines under his feet. He had spent most of his off-duty time sitting up in bed, holding a sleeping Spock to his side, and going through paperwork and forms, endless hours of forms, and was more on top of his paperwork than he'd ever been. In exchange for the mounds of paperwork he'd shifted, he'd bargained this many days off, but now Pike needed him back on shift and -

Kirk's head snapped up as he registered a movement out of the corner of his eye.

"Spock?"

Spock had straightened, quite suddenly from his typical crouch, hands falling limply into his lap. His eyes were closed, but any colour was draining out of his face, and Kirk crossed the room to crouch before him worriedly.

"Spock?"

When he began to shake, Kirk moved upward into fear.

"Spock, what is it? Spock? Can you hear me?"

He reached out to grasp one cloth-covered shoulder. The shudders were powerful now, beginning to rock him off his heels - and his jaw dropped and an unholy, rasping cry tore itself from his mouth.

"Spock! Spock!" Kirk shouted, lurching forward to seize him by both shoulders before he toppled. The screaming was like nothing he'd ever heard - it was grating, like metal on rock, like something being crushed or torn asunder; it made all the hairs on Kirk's body stand on end, and he fought the instinct to run, to flee whatever in the hell was making this noise! He drew back a hand and slapped Spock hard across the face; he took a gasping breath that interrupted the cry, but it started up again half a second later. "Medical emergency in Commander Kirk's quarters!" Kirk roared, barely hearing the beep of the computer acknowledging the alert. "Spock! Snap out of it! Spock!"

He hit him again, and received that same jerky breath, and something clicked in Kirk's head. He shifted forward, wrapping an arm around Spock's back and tugging him into his chest, gritting his teeth against the horrific sound, and pushed his hands up into the wide, loose sleeves, clinging to the cold skin of his forearms desperately, rubbing at the hairs there and praying it would work.

The doors were only halfway open when Dr. McCoy forced his way through them, and Kirk met his gaze frantically.

"Bones! Bones, you have to," he flailed, still rubbing at his forearms. The cry was breaking up into rasping, shorter bursts the more he touched him, and Kirk ducked his head to press his cheek to Spock's forehead. "I don't know! He was meditating and then he just starting shaking and, and screaming..."

Spock was distinctly curling into him, and McCoy peeled up the heavy sleeves, allowing Kirk to rub over more skin, to cover more area.

"Keep touching him," McCoy nodded, fiddling with his tricorder with his free hand. After a long moment, the screaming stopped altogether and Spock fell quiet, shuddering against Kirk's chest like an epileptic. "His brain activity is beginning to calm down again," McCoy murmured, and leaned forward. "Spock? Spock, can you hear me?"

Kirk pressed a kiss to the clammy forehead at his shoulder, and stroked one hand up inside the sleeve to the shoulder, rubbing as though giving a deep tissue massage. Even the hairs were twitching, coarse against Kirk's palm.

McCoy frowned, then nodded. "Jim, get your shirt off," he said.

Kirk stared.

"Don't look at me like that, just do it!"

Kirk got the idea when McCoy reached out, and Spock went to his hands as willingly as he had to Kirk's, although he made a quiet, harsh noise when Kirk removed his touch. He stripped off his shirt quickly and settled more comfortably on the floor before reaching for the fastening that kept the robe closed at the neck and undoing it. They dropped it to his waist before Kirk drew the still-unresponsive Vulcan back into his embrace, cradling him against his chest.

"There," McCoy said, helping to arrange Spock so that the maximum amount of the skin touched. "There, get him - that's it."

Spock settled into Kirk's arms with a quiet sigh, the grating of his throat finally fading out entirely, and Kirk took a deep, shaking breath, trying to calm his own heart rate.

"What...what happened?"

McCoy shook his head. "He might have come across a primary bond," McCoy said. "A lot of them have been doing it; they can process the loss of their species fairly easily, but their families?" he shook his head. "We've had two of three go off in Sickbay just today."

Kirk squeezed the body close, stroking his fingers across Spock's temple before kissing his forehead. He became faintly aware that he was rocking again, and wondered when that had become an instinctive reaction to Spock's distress. "Come on, sweetheart," he whispered into that delicate layer of skin and bone that kept him protected from the universe. "Come back to me. I'm right here; it's alright. Whatever happened, it's alright, baby, you're alright. Come on, come back, come back..."

He kept up a nonsensical litany, ignoring the whirrs of the tricorder, and could have cried when Spock's fingers suddenly closed over his own.

"Oh thank God," he breathed, and buried his nose in the dark hair, shivering through the emotional shock.

"Spock, can you talk to me please?" McCoy said, using Kirk's distraction to take in the state of the patient. "I need you to try and tell me what happened."

Spock took several shallow breaths, curling further into Kirk's chest. He drew up his knees a little. "I...attempted to process the...the losses, and did not anticipate..." he trailed off, and shivered.

"Did you find a broken familial bond?"

Kirk tightened his grip and closed his eyes.

"My father," came the cracked, hoarse confirmation. "My father is dead." He stirred. "Jim..."

"Ssh, sweetheart. I've got you," Kirk promised. "I've got you."

"Jim, I need..." Spock swallowed and tried again. "Please, I need to know."

Kirk let out a slightly hysterical chuckle. "I will find out anything you need to know, sweetheart," he said, "but later. Right now, you need to not be screaming your lungs out on the floor of my quarters."

"I'd recommend you get some sleep, Spock," McCoy said quietly, and Spock turned his head to stare at him as if only now realising that he was in the room. "Get some sleep, or at least some rest and relaxation. Jim," Kirk's head snapped up, "drop by Sickbay with him in the morning and I'll have another good look with the neuroscanner."

Kirk nodded, curling in over the Vulcan in his arms when Spock returned to press against his shoulder. They stayed that way for some time, clinging to each other, each as desperate as the other, and Kirk only let out his breath when the doors hissed closed behind McCoy. He felt exhausted; God only knew how Spock felt.

He kissed the top of the hair at his shoulder and said, "C'mon. You're going to sleep, and I'm going to hold onto you." He paused as they were halfway to the bed. "That is...Spock, does it help? When I touch you? Does it help?"

Spock stared at him as though only just realising that Kirk was there - and for a brief second, a moment, something familiar flickered in that haunted gaze. "Yes," he said quietly, and for the briefest moment, it was Spock, really Spock, and Kirk's heart tripped in his chest.

Maybe he wasn't lost yet.


Kirk woke to find himself alone in bed, and a chill of panic shot down his spine before he had even fully roused himself.

His quarters were empty.

"Shit!" he gasped, and his hands flew to the console. "Oh God. Computer, locate Commander Spock."

"Commander Spock is in science lab four."

Kirk didn't even know which lab that was, nor did he really care. Spock had been...well, he'd been more functional lately, gluing himself to a new routine helping with the Vulcan children in Sickbay, but Pike's warning - and McCoy's several warnings - hadn't stopped ringing in Kirk's head, and he wasn't better. He wasn't better by a long, long way.

Kirk barely paused to throw on a shirt and sweatpants before taking off into the corridor at full-pelt - barefoot and all - and breaking into a full-out sprint as he left the turbolift on the primary sciences desk. It was the middle of Gamma Shift; the sciences department only had a Gamma rotation every other week unless they were specifically on a scientific mission, and so the corridors were dark, lonely, empty...

Oh God, what if he's...nononononononoNONONO!

He burst into the lab, and skidded to a painful halt, eyes darting over the star map projected into the middle of the room before dismissing it and going right to the lone form standing at the primary console, staring blankly at the chart.

"Spock?" he breathed.

Spock started - hardly visibly, but he did, and Kirk crossed the room hesitantly to lay a hand on his bare wrist. His skin was too cool.

"Spock, what's going on?" he whispered.

Spock stared blankly at the charts. "They have not been updated."

"Yeah, we've been kinda busy," Kirk said quietly.

"It is an unacceptable lapse. My department..."

"...is fully rerouted to medical, maintenance and engineering," Kirk said. "I'm pretty sure even your ensigns are employed in keeping the Vulcan kids busy. Nobody's had the time."

"They should have made the time," Spock insisted, but he sounded...almost vague, like a sleepwalker. He sounded not-quite-awake, and Kirk dropped his hand to curl around Spock's fingers and squeeze lightly.

"Spock? Somebody will update them eventually. Come on," Kirk stepped into his personal space. "We need to be in bed. It's 0400."

"0412."

Kirk blinked, startled, then smiled. "You getting your time sense back?"

"Yes."

"That's great," Kirk enthused, running both hands down Spock's arms to clasp his fingers and bring them together, kissing the knuckles. Spock didn't respond to it, but if his time sense was back, then...then there had to be some improvement anyway, right? "But that means it's 0412, which is even later, so we need to be in bed."

Spock simply stared at the star charts, so Kirk reached out for the console and shut them off. When they vanished, plunging the room into minimum lighting, he reached up to brush a very small, tentative kiss across Spock's lips.

"Come on, sweetheart," he coaxed. "Come back to bed. We need to sleep - both of us."

Spock once again said nothing, but leaned into Kirk's hands at his shoulders almost imperceptibly, and finally allowed himself to be steered out of the labs and walked slowly to the turbolift. Kirk kept quiet, rubbing patterns into the hand in his, for once daring to just hold it, ghosting his thumb along the side of Spock's fingers gently.

"I apologise for disturbing you," Spock murmured as they stepped out onto Kirk's deck again.

"Just...I'm not comfortable with you wandering off yet," Kirk said. "I'm sorry, but...I don't like it. Not yet. You're not...you're not better yet, and it makes me anxious when you disappear."

Spock gave him an unreadable look, and Kirk leaned in to kiss his cheek.

"Just an illogical human thing," he teased hopefully as they stepped back into his artificially warm quarters, but Spock didn't rise to the bait. "Come to bed."

"You..."

Spock paused, and Kirk tugged him down into the sheets and began to arrange them comfortably. "I what?"

"You dream of the sea," Spock said suddenly, and Kirk stilled, surprised. Spock often picked up his dreams - or he had, but with his telepathy, and the trauma, he hadn't mentioned them in a while. And, really, he had only mentioned them when he was curious of their content, or if they had been disturbing - or if Kirk asked. He had never simply...mentioned it.

"I...do?" he asked eventually.

"Yes. A beach in winter."

"Oh," Kirk said. "I don't remember. Is it a nice beach?"

Spock did not reply.


Kirk glanced aside when Spock curled his legs up under him and adopted a meditation pose, but didn't bother to approach or speak to him. The argument - no, the lashing out, because it hadn't even really been an argument - had surprised him. Sure, it had upset him and pissed him off more than a little - like hell Spock was going to push him away now of all times! - but it had also...confused him.

Because part of Kirk was thrilled that it had happened.

For all that he was absolutely mad about Spock, and for all that Spock, quiet dignity aside, was absolutely mad about him in return, they...argued a far bit. They were both workaholics, and Kirk could be an asshole sometimes - he was a Human male, that just kind of came with the territory - and Spock could be a condescending prick sometimes - he was Vulcan, that came with that territory too - and it made for a sometimes loud relationship.

When they argued, Spock...flared, for lack of a better term. He flared up, and though he had never shouted, he would give off this icy anger that dropped the room temperature at least five degree. Celsius. And he had done it again tonight - that aura of do not touch me, approach me, talk to me or even look at me if you value the placement and functionality of your testicles had risen up as naturally as breathing, and Kirk...

Part of him had been overjoyed to see it.

Not most of him - he hadn't been faking his own anger at the demand - but...enough of him. Enough that he couldn't help but think that the argument had been a good sign, rather than a bad one. A sign that perhaps Spock's mind - if not his emotional control - was returning to its normal state. That now it was...well, feeling, it was not so...removed from everything.

Kirk hardly dared hope that this spelled recovery.

Still. He had been angry - they both had. Perhaps it would be prudent to grant some space before challenging it.


Kirk stirred when a strange sound caught his sleeping attention, and frowned when the body in his arms suddenly stiffened. He hauled himself from sleep to blink into the darkness of his quarters with more than a little bleary confusion, and muttered: "Lights, thirty perc..."

He hadn't even finished the command before the light bounced off the shimmer of tear tracks on Spock's face, and Kirk's heart twisted.

"Oh God," he breathed, reaching out. "Sweetheart, what's wrong? Spock?"

A cold fear squirmed up into his throat when Spock buried his face into his shoulder and his chest hitched in a sob that didn't sound. The tears were still coming; Kirk could feel them, hot and wet on his chest, and that fear wrapped itself around his lungs and squeezed.

"Ssh, baby, it's alright, it's okay," he murmured frantically, rubbing his hands over Spock's back as though trying to warm him. He had only seen him cry once before, and that had been after their first mind meld. He had never seen anything like this. "Oh please, sweetheart, don't cry," he begged. "Don't cry. Ssh, it's alright, whatever it is, it'll be alright. Ssh, please..."

Spock took a breath that sounded dangerously close to another sob, and was suddenly squeezing back, his hands fanning over Kirk's back and pressing hard enough to bruise. He was clinging, there was no other word for it, and Kirk was beginning to feel sick with fear.

"Ssh, baby, come on, it's alright. Oh God, baby, don't cry," Kirk pleaded as another wave of tears were smeared into his shoulder. "Please don't cry, ssh..."

"I apologise," Spock's voice was a surprise - weak and thready and hoarse; just the sound of it brought Kirk close to tears himself. "My control is...not as it should be."

Yeah, no shit, Kirk thought, and he voiced the opinion before he could stop himself. "What's going on, sweetheart?" he asked. "Why...this?"

"I...do not know," Spock whispered. "I apologise for my outburst last night, and for this," he added in a croaky rush. "I do not understand why I am...acting so irrationally, but I should not have lashed out at you, and..."

"Oh, sweetheart, no," Kirk interrupted, the pieces suddenly slotting together. Emotional outbursts. If he was having emotional outbursts, then he had to be feeling the emotions in the first place, which meant that the terrifying distance and detachment... "No, no, no, no, no," he breathed, squashing down on the inappropriate swell of happiness rising in his chest. "It's alright, it's..."

"It is not. I..." Spock attempted - and he sounded so typical, so Spock, that Kirk could have cried.

"It is," he interrupted sharply. "Sweetheart," he tried, swallowing. "You've just lost so much, you're suffering so badly - frankly, I'd expected you to lose your rag sooner..." No, he had hoped for it. Hoped for it, and now it had finally happened. "You've had me so scared with that stoic-and-silent thing; you were," he took a shaky breath, "slipping away and I couldn't do anything to stop you. But you're really reacting now; God, you've got no idea..."

And that was the heart of it. He was reacting. He was finally, finally reacting - he was really here. That distance, that detachment, that constant sense of grasping at something just a little out of reach...Kirk drew back and pressed a fierce kiss into his forehead, and another to the bridge of his nose, salty from the damp patch of his chest.

"I was losing you, sweetheart," Kirk breathed into the tiny spaces between them. "You were just...slipping, and I couldn't reach you. I didn't know what to do; some of the Vulcans have died because they just...they just shut down, and I..." he cut off a choking breath. "I was so scared that it was going to happen to you..."

He kissed them, pressed a kiss across into his mouth, bursting past smooth lips - responsive lips, lips that moved under his and kissed him in return - into the cool silk of the mouth he'd missed, desperately missed, and there was life. There was love and life and them, shuddering back into being with the most desperate kiss of Kirk's life - and the most brilliant.

He drew back to rain kisses across the tear tracks, pressing the salt away, the tang bursting onto the surface of his mouth, peppering that stern face with affection and attention and love.

"You still bring crystals."

His voice - and the sentence - was a surprise, and Kirk paused. "I what?"

"Your touch still brings..." Spock swallowed. His eyes were closed, but he looked...peaceful. "Crystalline light, and the crystals."

It took Kirk a moment, but that conversation from so long ago, from a Sickbay bedside, whispered into his memory and he flushed. "Oh," he whispered, and kissed him again, a chaste press to the sculpted cheekbone. "I love you," he whispered, trying to transmit the feeling, and Spock sighed. "I love you, Spock, so much."

"And I you," the return was little more than a breath.

Kirk pulled him back into his chest, then, wrapping him in his arms and concentrating on that warm swell of love in the middle of his chest. Spock curled against him, letting out another small, breathy sigh that Kirk had come to learn meant that he understood, at least, Kirk's attempts at telepathy, and the warm feeling grew stronger.

"I am sorry."

Kirk blinked, and kissed the top of his head. "Don't be. You're getting better. That's nothing to be sorry for."

"I am going to be...difficult, and...unpleasant..."

Kirk almost laughed; Spock still hadn't worked that out about Kirk, had he? "I don't care," he said. "You're here. You're finally really here. That's all that matters. You can be a complete bastard, as long as you're getting better. And we'll get here, sweetheart, I promise," he added, whispering it fiercely into the upswept ear at his jawline. "We're going to get there."

Spock tucked his face into Kirk's shoulder, letting out a long, shivery sigh, and relaxed. After a moment, he began to sink into the lines of Kirk's body, and his breathing began to slip to the rhythms that indicated his intention to slip, and Kirk smiled into his hair and ordered the lights off.

For the first time since the Hellenica had gone down, he thought that they would be okay.