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Story Notes:

I was reading about the "Ship of Theseus" paradox, and this idea popped into my head.

Piece by Piece

Spock steps through the doors to the observation deck, letting them close behind him. The room is dark, deserted except for Kirk, who is standing at the window, looking out at the stars. He glances over as Spock approaches, giving him a smile before going back to staring out of the window.

Spock stops beside him, close but not touching, and follows his gaze out to the stars.

"It isn't the same," Kirk says, breaking the silence. Before Spock can respond, he clarifies, "The ship. It isn't the same."

There are many things Spock could say in response, but he settles on, "No."

Kirk reaches out, touching the window. "It's not even the physical changes. It feels different. The vibrations are wrong."

"It is a different ship," Spock points out quietly. "Constructed from different materials. It is logical that there would be... variations."

Kirk sighs, dropping his hand. "Yeah, I guess. It's good, in a way. Fewer memories."

Spock does not ask which memories Kirk is avoiding. He is fairly certain he knows. "Jim-"

Kirk cuts him off. "Did you ever hear of the Theseus's Ship Paradox?"

Spock frowns at the abrupt change of topic, but obligingly searches through his memory for the phrase. "I do not believe so."

"Well, it goes like this. There's a ship, the old sailing kind, made of wood. One of the planks breaks, and you replace it with a new one. When another one breaks you do the same. Again and again, until all the original planks are gone. The paradox is, is it still the same ship? And if so, how, when every part of it is different?"

He shakes his head, fingers curling around the handrail. "I've been asking myself that, over and over, trying to figure it out. The original Enterprise was rebuilt and repaired and refitted, until I doubt most of the original parts remained. Is this one really any different just because it was replaced all at once instead of piece by piece?"

Something slots into place in Spock's mind, bringing Kirk's recent pensiveness into focus. "We are not merely discussing the ship," he surmises.

"No," Kirk agrees. "I'm not sure we are."

He turns to Spock, finally, gripping his elbow briefly. "Neither of us are the men we were twenty years ago. We're all being replaced, piece by piece, cell by cell."

"Like the ship," Spock replies.

Kirk nods, smiling briefly. "Exactly. What happened to you shouldn't... it doesn't have to change things. Your body might have changed, but the rest, that's still the same. Right?"

Hesitantly, Spock reaches up to touch Kirk's face, his fingers stroking across Kirk's temple. "I am yours, Jim," he tells him quietly, firmly. "I will always be yours."

Kirk's eyes slip closed at the touch, a faint smile crossing his face. "I know," he says. "It's stupid, but I guess part of me just needed to hear it."

Spock shakes his head. "It is not stupid." He too has been concerned what affect his revival and subsequent memory loss may have had on their relationship. His fingers still, before spreading across Kirk's cheek. "May I?"

Kirk nods, his eyes still closed. "Please." The word is almost a plea.

Spock presses forwards slowly, tentatively, but the moment their minds touch he realises how foolish he was to be hesitant. His mind surges towards Kirk's as the fragments of their once-strong bond meet and begin to knit back together.

Piece by piece, and then all at once.

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