Spock knew that it was not logical to stay in this room for the night. Like it had not been logical to stay the other nights. His only logical argument was that he knew he could not control himself if he left the room unattended. And it had a calm atmosphere, perfect for his meditation, even if it was a bit too cold for his Vulcan constitution. It didn’t matter because Jim’s comfort was his priority.
He had tried to leave the room before, once. He had wanted to be sure that Khan received the proper punishment. It appeared that Spock’s testimony had been crucial but he had not succeeded in keeping his emotions completely under control. After the hearing, Nyota had held his trembling body the whole night. But it was only in the morning, after coming back to this hospital room that he finally found some calm. The regular - and present - beeping of Kirk’s heart, the loud whisper of the respirator, pushing oxygen and life into the recovering body, and with the concrete knowledge that Jim was not dead, Spock had been able to meditate to the point he fell asleep without realizing.
On the sixth day, Jim could breathe by himself, although he was still unconscious. Dr McCoy was almost as present as Spock, leaving the room only a few minutes to check on other patients. In the end, Nyota had succeeded in dragging the doctor to his home so he could have some actual rest.
Spock knew he was neglecting her, even more than after the destruction of Vulcan. He was not sure what was different this time for not finding any comfort in her arms. Was it the… hope? No. The knowledge that his captain would live? He took this opportunity to meditate deeper about the situation.
In hindsight, Spock knew Kirk had faced a no-win scenario, he should have been dead. His sacrifice leading to a possible victory for his crew, but more importantly, its survival. And still, without even knowing it, he had beaten the odds and he would soon be awake and alive.
Spock had refrained at the beginning from touching his captain’s mind, at least as long as his mental shields were too weak to risk it, but on the 12th day of keeping vigil by Jim’s bed, he felt strong enough. Jim groaned. And it worried him. So, logically, he decided to lightly touch Jim’s mind. Just to be sure. Slowly, he caressed Jim’s psy points with his fingers.
What he saw was pure chaos intertwined with darkness. It took all his control to find a spark of calm in Jim’s mind. Gently he touched it, caressed it, reassured it. Then when the chaos had calmed, he withdrew from the meld. Every twelve hours from then on, he touched and calmed his captain’s mind. He, too, slept much better.
When Jim finally woke up and could stay conscious enough to have visitors, Spock knew he should leave the room. He actually had, for a while, letting the rest of the crew come see their captain and bring him gifts and relieved words. Jim was getting better and stronger faster now that he was awake. And still, Spock had to make a very conscious effort to leave him at night. Nyota’s company was still an insufficient comfort and they talked about it. She cried and argued it was not logical. But Spock could not continue to use her like this. It was not fair to her, even though she was ready to make the sacrifice. He did not want anyone else to make sacrifices for him. She smiled despite her tears. She did not talk to him for a few days and when she came back to him, she told him they were friends, and he found comfort in her words.
Some nights, he stayed with Kirk. They would play chess on his bed until they got caught by McCoy. Sometimes, when his captain had nightmares, he would touch his mind, just enough to help him to calm down and rest better.
Sometimes just holding his hand was enough. This was how he kissed him the first time. His index and forefinger had caressed Kirk’s to soothe him in his sleep. Spock had jerked away from his captain the second he realized what he was doing and even hours of meditation would not take his shame away.
The second time was after Jim finally left the hospital. Spock drove him to his apartment and Jim invited him to enter for a moment. Spock watched as Jim stretched his arms and looked around him like he had not seen his home in centuries. He then turned to the Vulcan, his face calm, smiling gently and offered him a cup of tea. Spock watched each of his moves. There was a new fascination in looking at Jim moving. It had been something Spock had often done before but now, after death had put an unbearable stillness in his captain’s body, Spock found a comfort in every move Jim made.
Said man came back from the kitchen and indicated to Spock to take a seat, which he did. Spock took the hot cup and sipped the sweet mint tea in silence.
“I heard you and Uhura broke up,” said Jim, and if it startled Spock, he succeeded in not showing it.
“Yes. We ended our relationship.”
Kirk hummed sympathetically but did not look away, his eyes fixed on Spock with the same intensity he had the day he asked him if he knew why he saved him from the volcano, before Starfleet high council, before Pike’s death. Waiting for something from him. Spock was not sure what.
“I have a confession to make, captain.” he said suddenly, putting his cup back on the table. He knew that it was not a safe move but now more than ever he wanted to be honest with his captain. Kirk continued to smile to him, a small nod urging him to keep speaking.
“Sure, Mr. Spock.”
Spock took a small breath.
“You and I are aware that Vulcans and Humans show affection differently. Especially between… lovers.”
Kirk nodded and his smile extended a bit, “Yes, I am aware of that.”
“Then you understand that certain gestures have different meanings and some behavior that may appear to you of none importance would have a much bigger significance for me.”
Kirk nodded again, staying calm, like he was waiting for a wild cat to decide if he would trust him enough to let him pet it. Though Spock was feeling the same, what he was about to say could make his captain retract from him in a wink. His voice was calm, controlled when he said:
“Captain, by Vulcan standard, I kissed you while you were asleep and I wish to apologize for the intrusive nature of my behaviour and promise you that I will never act this way again without your full consent.”
Kirk’s smile faded, his brow furrowed while he processed the information. Then his face relaxed, his mouth forming a silent “O” and his smile finally came back. Spock tried to restrain a wave of relief.
Kirk’s smile widened.
“I have some notions of Vulcan culture but you excite my curiosity Mr. Spock. How do Vulcans kiss?”
His captain did not seem upset by his misconduct, and Spock raised -maybe too fast- his right index and forefinger between them. Kirk mimicked him and Spock’s heart beat faster. Slowly Spock approached his fingers to Jim’s and he forced himself to breathe when they touched. He stayed still for 2 seconds, a chill running through his arm to end in his head. He could feel and hear the hum of Jim’s mind, awake this time, warm and bright, peaceful and curious. Spock trembled when he moved his fingers against Jim’s and pinched his lips when Jim moved with him. Spock had only kissed a Vulcan once, T’Pring, when he was 7, and he did sometimes with Uhura, but Jim was… Jim’s mind was humming and his fingers did not stay still very long, but twisted around Spock’s, scratching feathery his nails against Spock’s skin, gliding the pads along the length, reaching the palm and circling on it lightly…
It was such a messy kiss, so open, so different, so intense, so human… Spock had to look away from it and his eyes caught Jim’s. They kissed, eyes locked, a moment longer, and withdrew their fingers gently, with a final caress that left Spock’s core shaking.
They stared at each other for a few seconds, Spock trying to calm himself, the fading presence of Jim against his mental shields warm and soft. When Spock spoke, his voice had a small rasp in it: “I know that a Vulcan kiss is not as intense for Humans as it is for Vulcans…”
Jim’s face brightened with a luminous smile.
“Are you proposing to me a human kiss, Mr Spock ?”
His own lips twitched. “It is only logical to offer you a cultural equivalent, Jim.”
“Of course, Mr Spock,” Jim said, his vibrant smile metaphorically melting Spock’s stomach. He leaned toward Spock and they kissed for the third time.
It started like the previous one: soft, a bit timid. But soon Kirk’s hands grabbed him and he kissed the breath out of him. There were lips, tongues, saliva drooled on their chins, a mess on their mouths and Spock felt the shiver in his mind before it shook through Jim’s body. In response, he closed his arms tightly around his dear captain and held him. The kiss was broken when Jim could not contain his physical emotional reaction and sobs made his chest thrash, his body tremble, made him cling desperately to Spock’s shoulders, his wet face hidden in the crook of his neck. Spock closed his eyes and kept him there, clumsily riding the strong waves of relief, fear, sadness, happiness, emptiness, and pure emotions he had not the words for, crashing against his mind from this man whose strength and life were only coming to his realization. Spock was not the only one who had thought he had lost everything in the core chamber.
Temple against temple, he lowered his shields and let his mind join Jim’s once again, bringing him solace, and love and presence.
He knew Jim stopped counting after this one, but each of the 18 562 vulcan and human kisses they exchanged during the following year were perfectly engraved into Spock’s memory. And sometimes he thought he should apologize to Jim for using the word “friend” when he died in the core of the Enterprise. But Jim would smile and Spock decided it was not a lie. Indeed, t’hy’la includes the word friend.