Spock watched as Jim closed in on his prey. He wore a smile – that smile – and Spock was jealous. There was still a part of him that wanted to deny it, this feeling of jealousy, that he felt anything at all. But among the recollections he had been sifting through and examining since the fal-tor-pan, was a mind meld with a being known as V’Ger, and the revelation that logic was not everything, that he was empty without Jim, that that smile warmed him more than mere logic could ever explain. So he did not bother to suppress the jealousy he felt when that smile, which had been his and his alone for ten years, four months and 17 days, was casually given to someone else.
Other than Jim and his new lady-friend whale biologist from the 20th Century, Spock found the corridor empty. He recalled small moments when Jim used to whisk him away to private, secluded areas to talk and smile and simply be with him. Spock approached Jim and Dr Taylor, and cleared his throat to announce his presence. Jim glanced at him, and then returned his gaze to Dr Taylor.
“Jim.” Spock muttered, and it had the desired effect. He turned to look at Spock fully now. There was something in his eyes… hope, desire. Far more pleasing to Spock than the disappointment he had shown at the designation ‘Admiral’, but it was still not his smile. “I wish to speak with you.”
Jim shrugged coldly, the hope gone from his eyes and replaced with something else… something Spock could not identify. “Go ahead.”
Spock’s eyes flicked to Dr Taylor and then back to Jim. “In private, if I may.”
Jim nodded and turned around to regard Dr Taylor. He gave her that smile again. “I’ll catch up with you after the trial.”
She opened her mouth as if to object, but instead nodded. She glanced uncertainly at Spock, and then smiled at Jim. “Alright, I’ll talk to you then.” And she turned and made her way down the hallway.
Jim watched her leave and then finally turned to Spock. “What is it?” he asked impassively.
“I find your interest in Dr Taylor…” Spock struggled to find the correct word. “Unsettling.”
Jim snorted. “You wouldn’t be jealous, would you Spock?”
The words stung. Not because of the implication that he, a Vulcan, would be experiencing an emotion, and not even because it was absolutely the truth, but because it was not something Jim would say, not like that. Dr McCoy would poke and prod at him for trying to be too Vulcan in his view, brutally exposing every failure at covering up his emotions. But Jim was different, gently peeling away the layers of Vulcan restraint with just as much care given to those layers as to the core beneath. The man standing before him was not the Jim he remembered, and he didn’t know how to react.
After a few moments of silence Jim finally spoke. “Till death do us part, Spock.”
He shrugged and turned to leave, but Spock grabbed his arm and whirled him around. “That is the Terran tradition.”
“I honoured the Vulcan tradition as well. I did what your father asked; I returned your Katra and your body to Vulcan. I fulfilled my obligation as your husband and as your t’hy’la. I’m a widower now.”
Feelings were still new to Spock since the fal-tor-pan, but he identified the ones he felt now immediately – hurt and betrayal. His Vulcan half willed him to suppress them, but instead he held onto them as though they were all he had. Perhaps they were. Why was Jim saying such things? The Jim in his memories would never hurt him so, would never speak of their connection as an obligation. “I am not dead.”
Jim gave a half smile accompanied with a small laugh – a laugh! – as he turned and looked down the hall where Dr Taylor had just left. “Neither am I.”
The remark sparked a burning rage deep within Spock that he didn’t care to control. He gripped Jim tightly by the arms and shoved him roughly against the wall. He lifted his hand to Jim’s face to initiate a mind meld, desperate to find the man from his memories buried somewhere within this stranger. “Open your mind to me.” He demanded.
Jim’s hand flew up to stop him. “Don’t!” he said defiantly.
“I am stronger.” Spock reminded him, though he did not push his hand against Jim’s as hard as he could have.
The statement was met with a challenge, the fury in Jim’s eyes mirroring that which Spock felt in his own gut. “You wouldn’t dare.”
Spock pushed his hand harder towards Jim’s face, just a little. A reminder of his superior strength. “You are not the man I remember. I would not force this upon him.”
As Spock moved to close the distance between his finger and the pressure points on Jim’s face, he saw something change. The ferocity melted into desperation. “Wait! Please wait! I am him! I’m sorry!” Spock relaxed his arm and pulled it back. Jim was drawing shaky breaths in and out. “I am. Please don’t.”
“Explain.” Spock demanded.
“I, uh…” Jim’s eyes darted away. His voice was still shaky, but Spock gripped him tighter, unwilling to let him go.
“Jim…” he said more gently, willing the words to pass over his t’hy’la’s lips.
When Jim’s eyes finally met his, Spock saw the shimmer of unshed tears. The words tumbled out in a sob. “I hadn’t expected it to hurt so much.” Spock frowned and tilted his head, waiting for Jim to elaborate. “It’s not like when I lost Sam, or Edith, or Gary, Miramanee, even David. They were flesh wounds. They healed and barely left a scar. But this… Our link was severed. Like losing a limb. Oh God, it… it hurt.” Spock pulled Jim into an embrace as he wept. He had learned from Dr McCoy that Jim had not even cried at the funeral. Of course Jim was hurting. But it was not a logical thing. Should the pain not have disappeared when Spock had returned to life? But even as he thought it, Spock knew that emotions were more complicated than that.
After a while, Spock pulled Jim back. “We can re-establish the mind link between us.”
“No!” The grief in his voice was overpowered by his determination. “Spock… How can I do that again knowing what I’ll be doing to you? Assuming we both live our average lifespans, you’ll outlive me by half your lifetime. You’ll feel the same pain when I die.”
“I will die without the link.”
Jim hesitated. “You…” His expression flashed briefly with disgust before it filled with remorse. “You were with Saavik for your last pon-farr, when you were on Genesis. She’ll live far longer than I will. You could…”
“I have no wish to be with Saavik.” Spock interrupted dismissively. It was Jim, it had always been Jim, it could only be Jim, who would complete him. “Please… let me enter your mind.” Overwhelmed with the desire to do something, anything, to feel Jim’s thoughts again, Spock lifted his fingers once more to his face. Jim flinched and stopped him again. “No.”
He pulled back. “I do not understand.”
“If I feel you there in my mind again, I don’t think I’ll have the strength to say no to you.”
“Then do not say no.”
“I won’t put you through that, what I went through. Re-establishing the link only to have it severed again.” Jim tried to push him away, but there was no conviction in his actions. “I won’t.”
“It is a small price to pay.”
“You don’t know what it feels like.”
“It does not matter. I have always known that my life would be an empty one. I accept that. But I would gladly endure excruciating pain for half a lifetime if it came with memories of the other half shared with you. Please…” Spock once again positioned his fingers millimetres away from Jim’s face, but held them there. True to his word, he would not force this. It would be up to Jim. “Please,” he repeated, “allow me…”
“You’re a better man than I am.” Jim whispered, not moving to connect them, nor recoiling away.
“I am not. You would push me away to protect me. I still wish to connect us, even knowing the pain it might cause you. I could again be the one to die first.”
Jim closed his eyes. “Please don’t.” But even as he begged, he leaned into Spock’s touch and forged the connection between them.
In an instant, Spock felt the familiar presence of Jim in his mind, just as he himself filled the spaces he had once occupied in Jim's mind. Parted from me and never parted. Never and always touching and touched. He was no longer empty. Suddenly, the memories he had been sorting through since the fal-tor-pan all fell into place. It made sense. He was filled in all of the places he yearned to be filled, and he sensed the feeling of completeness from Jim as well.
Jim shook his head and then rested it on Spock’s shoulder. “I shouldn’t have done that.” Yet even through the guilt Jim felt at his own weakness, Spock sensed his contentment at once again being reunited with his t’hy’la. He pulled back and looked at Spock. “About Gillian…” But there was no longer a need for words between them. Spock conveyed his understanding and offered to let her know that Jim was not available, though Jim suspected that she already knew.
Jim’s thoughts then turned to the trial, and what punishment Starfleet would deliver for the crew’s numerous crimes. Spock expressed his intention to stand beside Jim and accept punishment along with his shipmates. Jim objected, but Spock said simply “I belong at your side, as I always have, and always will.” Jim was touched, and speechless. Spock recognised another feeling as well, one that Jim could only express one way. The brilliant smile seemed to engulf his entire face as it radiated from the inside out. It was his again, that smile, and Spock would save the image along with all the others in a special place in his memory, knowing that when Jim eventually did pass on, those smiles would keep him company until his own death.