Jim stood beside the front door watching the movers load Spock's belongings onto the truck. He couldn't quite wrap his mind around the fact that it was happening. Two years and this is how it ended. Jim wanted to kill Nero again for this alone. It wasn't a surprise. They'd been fighting over it for the last three months but Jim had still clung to that last shred of hope that Spock would change his mind. That Spock would choose him.
Jim snorted and clenched his hands into fists. He should have known better. Even with Ambassador Spock's assurance that his presence was not necessary, Spock had remained adamant that he assist with the efforts on New Vulcan. Jim had known better. Spock was now just another name on a long list of loved ones lost to him.
The last of Spock's things disappeared behind a steel door and Jim felt his heart stutter in his chest. He suddenly couldn't breathe as the movers climbed into the vehicle and pulled out of the academy's housing lot. Jim watched the truck until it faded from view, then he stumbled into the apartment. These small rooms had been the first home he'd ever known but now they resembled the disheveled barrenness of his youth. So much of his life had been about Spock and his books and meditation accessories and Vulcan collectibles, but now the only reminder of Spock was the scent of incense that lingered on the air.
Jim crossed the empty living room to the bottles of alcohol that littered the floor from when the housing department had cleared out all the furniture that had been in Spock's name. Jim sat down against the wall, the fading sunlight splashing across his chest from bare windows and reached blindly for a bottle. Any bottle. Tearing through the seal, Jim felt the first sip burn down his throat and followed it with another sip, then another and another until he had to reach for a second bottle.
When the sun was gone and three bottles lay empty beside him, Jim was finally able to escape from the pain of being left. Of always being left. But he didn't forget.
Jim knew he shouldn't answer. It was a very, very bad idea. He could hear Bones in the kitchen cursing at the unhealthy contents of his fridge and just knew Bones would kick his ass if he picked up. But...
"Hi." Jim whispered into the phone, his lungs already burning from the effort of remembering to breathe.
"Jim." Spock's whispered response ripped through him like a tidal wave and Jim found himself on the floor, his forehead pressing against the table leg.
Silence settled through the line until Jim was sure they'd lost the connection. Then he heard Spock take a deep breath as if he were the one who needed to steel himself for this call.
"How are you?"
"You know me. Just peachy." Jim focused on his breathing, tried to keep it steady so he wouldn't hyperventilate like last time. "I thought you said you wouldn't call again."
"I apologize. I needed-"
Jim listened to the silence stretch thin between them again and sighed.
"You can't keep doing this to me, Spock." Jim fisted his hand in his jeans desperate for something to hold on to.
"I know. I do not understand why I called."
"I'm sure you don't."
"I will go."
It was the last thing Jim wanted but exactly what he needed.
"Yes." Jim hadn't expected Spock's cry or the anguish he'd heard in it. Spock's ragged breaths sounded over the line and Jim wanted to reach out to him. He wanted to soothe and calm. He wanted to touch so badly his hands trembled with the need. "I'm here."
The silence returned as though Spock were holding his breath. Jim could feel it permeate his head, then his body until he felt light enough to float off the floor.
"Happy birthday, Jim." The connection was cut and Jim slammed back to earth, gravity pressing and pulling until he thought it would flatten him.
The shaking started as his vision blurred and his pain dripped off his chin to dot his jeans.
"Son of a bitch!" Bones' arms wrapped tight around him but Jim felt nothing except the aching hole that used to be filled by Spock.
Jim watched from the rumpled bed as Spock dressed himself. This shouldn't have happened. He hadn't expected to see Spock on some piddling ass moon so far from New Vulcan. If the Enterprise hadn't been redirected at the last minute to drop supplies, if this moon didn't host a small Vulcan research outpost, he wouldn't be in this situation. But it had, it did, and he was.
He didn't even know how it happened. He had been heading back to the ship and then Spock was just there, beautiful as ever. The next thing Jim knew they were in Spock's room, clothes gone, and it had felt like it always had. As if nothing had changed.
"Jim, I am sorry."
"Uh-huh." Jim could hear how contrite and confused Spock was but didn't have it in him to care. This was a set-back. A major one. He'd managed to go three months without an episode and from the stinging burn radiating through his chest he knew he'd just placed himself back at square one.
And it pissed him off.
"I did not mean-"
"Well you never do, do you?" Jim jerked on his pants and scanned the room for his command shirt.
"I do not understand how this happened."
Jim grabbed his shirt from the kitchen floor and yanked it over his head. His boots lay too close to Spock but it was necessary to retrieve them. Jim held his breath to avoid pulling more of Spock into himself and scooped them off the floor before retreating back across the room to the rumpled bed to pull them on.
"That makes two of us. Look, I gotta go. We're headed out soon and the ship can't leave without its captain."
The disappointment laced through those words spiked Jim's rage and for a moment he let it fill him.
"Just," Jim cut himself off by biting his lip. He shook his head against the thoughts beating against his skull and finished putting on his boots.
"Nothing." Jim bit the word out as he stalked toward the door.
That one word was enough to snap his resolve. Jim spun on his heel and let his temper fly.
"What the fuck are you even doing here? Aren't you supposed to be off repopulating your species?"
He let every ounce of his bitterness spill into his words. It took him back to the last argument they'd had, the one that had ended when Spock had quietly apologized and left their apartment for good.
"I am assisting with genetic manipulation to assist with healthier, safer deliveries for hybrid pregnancies." Spock's quiet, cautious tone buffeted Jim's shattered emotional control. He wanted to hurt Spock. He wanted to see pain etched across his guarded face so he could feel less of a fool and maybe not crumble so completely from this encounter.
"Yeah, I'd heard about the sudden increase of interspecies marriages. Good on you," Jim said sarcastically and aimed a disabling blow at the man who had once loved him. "You find someone yet so you can stop fucking me around?"
Jim's anger fled with the soft gasp of his name. His eyes stung with shame and he needed to escape the stifling confines of this room that only reminded him of what he could never have.
"Forget it. I gotta go."
Jim left and didn't look back.
It had taken thirteen days and seven hours to reach the colony and he'd barely slept the entire journey. His hands shook around the cool fingers in his grasp.
"It's okay. I'm here. I made it."
"Jim." The quiet rasp and fragility of his limbs, the bruising along his jaw and neck that showed where the crane had hit him when it collapsed all conspired to eradicate the man Jim knew, to leave in his place this frail, fading stranger.
"Spock. You're not alone. I'm here."
He couldn't restrain the sob that escaped and Jim buried his face into the shoulder that he had leaned on these last two years.
"Don't leave me, Spock. Don't leave me alone." A gentle hand carded through his hair before losing strength and dropping away.
Jim clung to the hand he held and rocked himself as he added another Spock to the list of people loved and lost.
It wasn't hard to hack into Uhura's private terminal. The woman was brilliant but she didn't have Jim's experience with computers. He wouldn't have been driven to this deed had she not been so obviously hiding something from him. The looks she'd been giving him were laced with pity and he would know why and damn the consequences. Finding nothing on the ship's servers, he redirected his search to Uhura's private accounts.
And sure enough, there it was.
It wasn't from Spock. Instead he'd found a missive from Ambassador Sarek directed to Uhura and himself inviting them to Spock's bonding ceremony.
Well, it was what he'd wanted. It was better this way. He could finally move on now. That's what he kept telling himself as he walked back to his quarters and pulled the dusty bottle from the back of his closet. As the whiskey burned through him he toasted his loss with a sob.
Jim shifted his feet and stared at the transporter pad while he awaited the arrival of his new First and Chief Science officers. He’d already greeted the new batch of security and medical staff. The disaster of Callern Fell had cost him eleven crew members to death and sixteen more to transfers and mental breaks. It had been a clusterfuck of monumental proportions.
Everyone was on edge and eager for the much needed downtime they'd been rewarded for living through their last mission. All they needed to do before shore leave could commence was officially welcome the newest members of the Enterprise's crew aboard. Jim had been pissed as hell that the Admiralty hadn't allowed him to promote from within to fill the highest ranking positions. He'd never guessed it was because they were sending one man to fulfill both roles. Had never dreamed that they'd send Spock.
Jim stared in shock at the figure that materialized before him. He aimed a bewildered gaze at Scotty behind the controls before turning back to the man now standing in front of him.
"But you resigned." Jim gaped at the vision before him because surely he was hallucinating. The Spock he remembered was never this thin. Spock's face never used to be gaunt and shadowed.
"The Admiralty was quite eager to reclassify my departure as temporary leave." Spock’s voice rumbled out of him, low and hoarse.
"But why?" Jim was aware that Scotty was backing out of the room, leaving him alone with his delusions. He just couldn’t force his eyes away from the being before him clad in Science blue.
"Because I wished to return."
"Why? You chose someone else."
"No. My father chose because I would not. I could not because, Jim, I finally understand."
Jim was too everything to speak as Spock reached down and entwined their fingers.
"If you will still have me, T'hy'la."
Jim looked at their joined hands. It felt real. It couldn't be real. If it was then he'd be yelling and breaking and Spock would be walking away. The vision's fingers tightened around his and Jim looked up into hopeful brown eyes.
"Which means you're not leaving?" Jim felt a flicker of hope alight within him.
"Correct." Spock raised a hand and ran it through Jim's hair and brought their foreheads together. Jim's eyes fluttered shut at the rush of emotion that swept through him at the contact. He could feel Spock’s sorrow and sadness, his hope and fear, and laced through it all was acceptance and love.
"You're not going to change your mind?"
Jim felt Spock kiss his forehead, then his ear before he whispered his answer.
A thrill shot through Jim and emboldened by Spock's words he murmured his next question against the exposed skin of Spock's neck causing him to shiver.
"You want me?"
"You love me?" Jim pulled back to look at Spock, needing to verify whatever answer was given. Spock disagreed with the motion and crushed Jim in an embrace.
"I never stopped, Jim. I will never stop."
Jim returned the embrace and soaked in the feel and scent of Spock, smiling until the stretch of it hurt his cheeks. He suddenly couldn't wait for shore leave to start and pushed Spock back a step before grinning up into confused eyes.
"Then welcome aboard, Commander."
Beta'd by notboldly50295