It is a week before the dream comes, and later, Jim will be surprised that it took so long.
He wakes sharply in the middle of the night, somewhere between 0200 and 0300 hours, his left hand clawing at the air above his face and his right clenched as though he is groping for a phaser. That is, after all, what his dreaming mind has been making him do.
It is that dizzying moment after waking that is the worst - the moment when he forgets whether the dream is true or false. The moment when Jim doesn't know whether his Vulcan is alive or dead - and the worst moment of all? That he isn't in the bed to provide an instantaneous reminder.
Until now, Jim has never minded Spock's leaving the bed to meditate on the nights when the Vulcan doesn't sleep. Now, however, when his memories rush back and assure him that both of them are alive and well, he curses that alien need for meditation instead of the simple human need to sleep, and he is climbing out of the bed before his thought process gets any further.
Spock is deep in meditation when Jim creeps, silent in the dark, onto the mat and crouches down on the floor with him. He doesn't stir, even when Jim drags the blanket from the bed, rearranges a few candles, and curls up beside his partner, head in that cool Vulcan lap. Jim knows that he runs the risk of falling asleep here and getting a kink in his back, but he also doesn't care.
The dream is still humming along his veins - whispering in the back of his mind that this is gone, that he doesn't really have this - and he curls closer, clutching at the heavy robe. Without the skin-to-skin contact, Spock probably isn't aware of him at the moment, and Jim wages war with himself. The desire to leave Spock to do what he needs to do scraps with Jim's very human, very emotional, very illogical need to be held and spoken to and reassured.
For a courageous five minutes, he resists, then finally slips a hand into Spock's, and feels the gentle start of awareness deep inside the casket of Spock's body. He feels the mental stirring, and then the physical, and then those dark eyes are blinking down at him in curiosity and confusion, the usual stoic mask blurred by the brief disorientation of returning from meditation, and the naturally more relaxed state Spock exhibits in private.
"Sorry," Jim whispers.
"What is wrong?"
Jim shrugs, the motion awkward. "I dreamed."
He squeezes the caught hand, and shivers. It is the same hand that had slipped from his down on that planet, the same hand that had suddenly shot free and sent its owner catapulting towards...towards...
"I dreamed about that planet," Jim continues, breaking off the thought.
Spock hums an understanding, and the captured fingers wind around Jim's in return. Their clasped hands sit still in the folds of Spock's robes, pale against the dark material, the telepathic connection a faint and supportive hum between them.
Jim had nearly lost this.
"I nearly lost you," he murmurs, and his right hand clenches for that imaginary phaser again. "And there...there would have been nothing. Nothing I could have done. If...if..."
Spock says nothing. Finally, he is coming to terms with the human need to speak: to spill out everything in the mind with a verbal outpouring, an emotional tidal wive that drowns those nearby. He is coming to terms with it, after long-term exposure to Jim, and while he is no more comfortable with it than he ever was, he remains silent.
"You let go," Jim breathes, and that is the crux of it. "And if Chekov hadn't been able to...then I would have lost you."
If not for the Russian, Spock would have been killed, and they both know it. The fall might not have killed him, but the injuries he would have sustained combined with the river that had created the ravine in the first place...yes, he would have died. And he had let go so as not to pull Jim over with him.
Finally, in the dark hours of the night, Jim's mind had opted to relive that moment of their hands slipping free, and the yawning, screaming knowledge that they had only come loose because one of them had chosen that option.
That seven seconds of falling, in which Jim had felt the chasm of grief and loneliness and aching, burning, agonising pain opening up to swallow him whole and destroy - and then the whirr and lights of the transporter beam.
The relief had been almost as painful as the prospect of loss itself.
"I would...I would rather have died with you, than gone on alone," Jim whispers. He does not know which frightens him more - that he has somehow ended up in this situation, being this emotionally dependent on one man, and committed to a flight-free life with him...or that he means what he says.
Spock finally stirs again, life coursing through the thigh under Jim's cheek, and intelligence flickering in the fingers that twitch in Jim's grasp.
"But I would not have chosen such," Spock murmurs. "And that time, Jim, it was my choice to make."
In a week or so, Jim might be able to joke about it. Might be able to make the expected quip, might be able to even think about it properly without shivering and feeling those fingers sliding away from his...
He cuts it off, yet again, and turns his head to press a kiss into the cloth above Spock's bent knee.
"I love you," he murmurs, unable to contain the words, and Spock's other hand comes down to stroke his hair in a rhythmic, soothing motion.
"I know," he says, and the reciprocal silent promise echoes through their connections wherever they touch. He never says it, but Jim never needs to hear it.
He saw it, when their hands parted on that planet. Saw it in the sorrow, and the apology, and the complete lack of regret at the decision Spock had made.
He sees it all the time - and that scares him.
Especially between 0200 and 0300, when his mind decides what is relevent for the night, and he has to watch the nightmare over and over again, never knowing whether he will wake to relief and happiness - or soul-crushing discovery.