Jim was still cold.
They’d been back on the Enterprise for almost six hours, rescued from the frozen hellhole that was Rura Penthe. Jim had gotten fresh, warm clothing, a cup of piping hot coffee, and a thermal blanket wrapped around him, but he was still cold. He shivered slightly as he hurried through the Enterprise’s corridors. He’d be all right; sooner or later the chill would go away. He hoped Bones was okay; it had been a near thing for McCoy; he was frailer than Jim had ever seen him, and the biting cold had been hard on him as well.
Jim slowed to a walk as he neared Spock’s quarters. He still wasn’t sure what he was going to say to his mate. Everyone who had witnessed Spock’s confrontation with Valeris, his Vulcan protégé who had turned out to be a cold-blooded killer, knew that Spock was deeply wounded by this turn of events. But Jim knew every one of Spock’s expressions, subtle as they were, and he knew that Spock was more than angry, more than hurt. There wasn’t much time; the ship had to get to the site of the peace conference and save the new Klingon chancellor from assassination. But Jim needed to talk with Spock.
Spock lay on his bunk in the dim cabin, staring at the ceiling, trying to find his calm center, trying to master the rage that made him want to go down to the brig and paint the walls with the blood of his protégé, the woman who had almost gotten his t’hy’la killed, the student who had betrayed him, betrayed them all, so horribly. His mind played over the moment he had flicked on the light in Sickbay and seen Valeris standing there with a phaser, ready to kill again to protect herself and her co-conspirators. She could talk all she wished about ‘protecting’ the Federation, but her motives were entirely selfish. Spock recalled how he had batted the phaser out of her hand, knocking it clear across the room, hearing it break as it hit the far wall, and how he had fought the temptation to treat her the same way, to backhand her into the wall as well, longing to hear her shatter like the phaser casing.
Then, on the Bridge, he had been forced to meld with her to obtain the information they needed to stop another tragedy. Spock knew why Jim had asked him to force her mind; Spock knew he’d had no choice. There was no time for niceties, and there was no force that could make a Vulcan speak. Spock had done what was needed, what Jim required him to do, but it had sickened him. He’d come back to his quarters and taken a rare water shower, the spray turned as hot as the ship would allow. But he still felt soiled, grimed with the filth and slime of Valeris’ thoughts. And he was cold, so very cold. He lay wrapped in his thick meditation robe, his arms crossed over his chest, the heat turned up in his quarters until he was certain the paint was about to melt, but he still ached with a bitter wintery chill.
“Spock?” Jim stepped into the cabin, basking in the heat. Spock’s quarters were often uncomfortably hot, but not today. Jim sighed with relief as the warmth seeped into him, and he reached for the wall panel to bring up the lights.
“Please, do not.” The voice came from the far end of the room, startling Jim. He peered through the gloom, seeing Spock lying motionless. For just an instant, Jim felt a chill run through him that had nothing to do with temperatures. Seeing Spock lying there so still, dressed in that fawn-colored robe, brought back memories of the fal-tor-pan on Vulcan, that day and night when the priests had fought to reconnect Spock’s mind and body, when Jim had paced and prayed to whoever would listen, hoping to have his love back again, as Spock lay on that slab, so still and pale. “I prefer the dark,” Spock said hoarsely.
Jim made his careful way across the room and sank down at the edge of the bunk, gently taking Spock’s hand in his. The flesh felt chill against Jim’s palm, and he folded his other hand around it, gently chafing the slim hand between his palms.
“How can you touch me?” Spock asked, his voice scarcely more than a whisper. “How can you bear to look at me after what I did to you? This is my fault; it is all my fault.”
“Oh, Spock.” Jim’s heart ached as he heard the self-reproach in Spock’s voice, saw the pain in the dark, shadowed eyes. “Ashaya, is that what this is about?”
Spock shuddered with a cold that no environmental control could ease. “My…my arrogance, my hubris…I almost got you and the doctor killed. You could have died on Rura Penthe, died as convicted criminals, beaten by guards or knifed by inmates, thrown out to freeze in the wasteland…”
“But we didn’t die,” Jim said gently. “You saved us, Spock, just as you have a hundred times before. Come here, ashaya,” he coaxed, gently urging Spock to sit up. “Come here.” He wrapped his arms around his mate, feeling Spock’s arms go around him as well. Vulcan strength, even in middle age, was a fearsome thing, but Jim had no fear. Spock’s strength would always be used for him, never against him. Jim laid his head on that dearly-loved shoulder, feeling warm for the first time in what felt like years.
“It’s all right,” he murmured. He could feel Spock shake his head.
“No; I had no right to speak for you, no right to involve you in this…” he felt Jim’s hand stroke his hair.
“It’s all right,” Jim repeated. “You were right, my love. I was poisoning myself with hate.” Jim felt faintly sick as he remembered their argument back at Starfleet headquarters, remembered himself saying of the Klingons, “They’re animals. Let them die.”
“You saved me in more ways than one,” Jim continued gently. “The Klingons—they’re not animals; they’re people. They live and love and make mistakes, just like we do.” He eased back, cupping Spock’s face in his hands. “I lost sight of that, but you never did. Your loving heart, your loyal soul, is the reason that I’m as good as I am.” He smiled wryly. “Even though I could be better, but then, I’m only human, love, as you’ve reminded me before.” He leaned forward and gently kissed this man who meant so much to him. “You’re only human too, you know,” he teased gently, relieved to see that faint twitch at the corner of Spock’s mouth.
“I believe I am insulted,” Spock said softly, but with love shining in his eyes. Jim drew him back into his arms.
“You’ll have to live with it,” he replied tenderly. They sat together for a few moments.
“Jim,” Spock murmured at last. “Valeris—when I touched her mind, she…”
“Yes?” Jim waited for a moment, but Spock didn’t speak. “Love, what is it?” Jim drew back, looking at his mate’s bowed head.
“She…she believes our relationship is…perverse,” Spock said at last. “She…desires me for herself; that is why she has been my protégé, not because she wanted to serve our people or Starfleet, but for the most base of reasons…” he broke off, astonished. Jim was…chuckling.
“Oh, ashaya.” He hugged Spock tightly. “You’ll never realize just how attractive you are, will you, how many people—male, female, human, Vulcan, and everything in-between—want you. I’m sorry for Valeris. She has nothing now, and she could have had an honored career, could have had you as a friend and mentor. I don't care what she thinks of me, of us. She's not worthy of you; she was never worthy. But even if she was the most wonderful protégé you could have, I’m not giving you up, not even to a hot Vulcan chick a fourth your age,” he teased again.
“Valeris is only a third my age,” Spock replied with dignity, that corner of his mouth curling up yet again. Jim planted a quick kiss on that tiny smile.
“Vain Vulcan.” He rose pulling Spock up with him. “Come on, ashaya. We’ve got to go save the universe—one more time.” They left Spock’s quarters, heading to the Bridge in perfect sync.
Neither of them felt cold any more. They carried their warmth with them.