Spock’s cheeks were hollow and slightly green tinged. Carefully, Jim stroked the damp hair back from his face. Never during their ten years together, had he seen Spock sweating like this; it wasn’t in Vulcan biology. Sometimes, after a particularly hard workout or fight, a light sheen could cover his forehead and neck. Never like this.
In his sleep, Spock’s head turned restlessly from one side to another and Jim let his hand slide down to the green flushed cheek. The skin was so hot. Sleeping with Spock wrapped around him had never been unbearable, despite the resemblance to a sauna. During nighttime now, Jim had to get up every hour to walk around in the too warm room. Not that he slept well anyway, terrified as he was.
It went downhill very quickly. Spock had been mentioning headaches and tiredness almost daily for a couple of weeks, and Jim had been on him to visit sickbay. One day though, ironically enough the day Spock had agreed to see McCoy, Spock just toppled over. A yeoman saw him, luckily, and Bones was there in minutes.
“I’m not sure what’s wrong, Jim,” the Doctor said, “I suspect it has something to do with his mixed biology. I’m going to contact a healer…” The rest was details and blood tests but all Jim could hear was the seriousness of Bones’ tone and what was this about contacting a healer? Since when did Bones contact a healer?
He wanted to see Spock, and after some hassle he was finally let in. Spock didn’t look different; he was sleeping, maybe even in a healing trance. And Jim thought everything would be all right. Spock would be fine. Spock was always fine.
Spock was not fine. He did not get better. A deep, smoldering rage was constantly eating at Jim. He was on Bones constantly, and the doctor never had anything new to say. It was just variations of words that couldn’t fool Jim.
One day, a month after Spock’s lapse, Bones allowed the Vulcan to move back into his and Jim’s quarters. That was when Jim realized they were losing. They were having a fight with death, and they wouldn’t win.
Afterwards, he would thank whatever god there was that Spock hadn’t been around to see it. Bones and Jim had the conversation in the doctor’s office, the conversation where McCoy simply confirmed what Jim had known all along. And Jim just lost it. He had to let it out. He yelled; demanding solutions. When none were forthcoming he swept everything off the desk with one angry motion, and then slammed his fist into the wall, shouting anew. There was a ringing in his ears that wouldn’t stop.
“Jim, Jim,” Bones finally said, when blood drops colored the wall. “Jim, stop it, please.”
He wrapped both arms around Jim. It was so familiar; they had been friends for ages. Jim knew those arms, knew that smell; a combination of hospital and McCoy. After a moment he slumped against the other man and started to cry. He cried and cried until his throat was sore, his eyes red and bloodshot, and the shoulder of Bones’ tunic was soaked.
“I don’t know what to do,” he muttered. “Fucking hell. I don’t know what to do.”
McCoy answered that sometimes the hardest thing to do was nothing, and at that moment Jim resented him for it. In fact, he hated him for it. What the fuck did Bones know? Who had he lost? What did he know about this kind of grief?
When Spock returned to their quarters, Jim went to him and suddenly realized how little time he had spent with his lover lately. He had been visiting Spock often, but he had rarely really stopped. His head had been spinning with thoughts, and when Spock had been awake and coherent the talks they had shared lacked meaning. They had spoken to each other, but Jim had listened without hearing and talked without speaking.
Now, Spock was awake and his eyes were warm and loving. The bond between them lay open, as it had the whole time, Jim realized as he sat on the bed. If he had been a Vulcan, he would have listened to the bond much sooner. Of course, if he had been Vulcan, his feelings probably wouldn’t have ruled him as they had.
Jim took Spock’s hand.
“Hey,” he said.
“Hello, T’hy’la,” Spock answered, and Jim saw the slight twitch at the corner of his mouth.
Despite the fact that Spock looked exhausted and hollow, the bond sang of love and welcome and understanding.
“Jim. Please do not worry,” Spock said.
Jim only buried his face in the crook of Spock’s neck, abruptly realizing that he didn’t really want to talk or listen. He just wanted everything to be fine. But it wasn’t.
He stopped pestering Bones. He stopped being the Captain; Scotty and Chekov divided his duties between themselves, without Jim even asking. He stopped being anything except Jim and Spock’s lover and stayed at Spock’s side around the clock.
One evening he lay awake, with Spock’s head on his chest, too hot and just as sweaty as Spock. He found himself wishing he had done something more of the last time they made love. It wasn’t even making love, just a quick fuck before going off to their shift two mornings before the day Spock passed out in the corridor. It was the first morning in a week that Spock hadn’t had a headache and they had happily, though speedily, indulged. Now, he wished he had taken his time; not cared if they’d be a bit late. Sulu would’ve been all too happy to sit in the Captain’s chair for a bit, anyway.
He should have explored Spock slowly, taken his time to relearn everything once again. Instead, it had been a ten minute fuck before they went for breakfast. Still, lying there, he tried to recall that last time. Spock had woken him up with a wicked glint in his eyes, a glint Jim had learnt to recognize and appreciate. That glint was followed by two minutes of foreplay before Spock was on top of Jim, pressing their cocks together. A slow kiss and a quick washing up, and they had been on their way.
Suddenly, Jim recalled the low whimper Spock had emitted when he came. That same whimper he sometimes gave when they were kissing, a sound that always said he was enjoying himself.
Slowly Jim stroked a hand down Spock’s side. He smiled in the dark, even though his eyes burned.
It was the fifty-sixth day after Spock fainted in the corridor when Jim thought; It may be better to let him go.. As soon as the thought entered his mind, he became horrified. There must be a cure, somewhere, and if there wasn’t Bones had to create it. No matter that Spock’s biology was unique, there had to be something. A miracle.
Then he looked at Spock in the bed. He was lying on his back, his breaths so slow and shallow that they barely moved his chest. There was constantly a sheen of sweat covering him, no matter how many hyposprays Bones gave. The last week he had often been incoherent when he awoke, mumbling for a few minutes before he slipped into unconsciousness again.
Let’s say they found the cure in a year, and managed to keep Spock alive. Just only that, alive. Would it be worth it? What would the consequences be? Spock wasn’t scared of dying. Days ago, they had spoken about it.
“Jim,” Spock whispered, “Death is the end of a journey, and while mine soon ends, yours continues. I would want you to live on until your journey finishes.”
“I’m not sure I know how,” Jim said and he felt his throat tightening. “You are the other half of my soul. Upon your death, our katras will reunite. I feel nothing but peace in passing away with that knowledge.”
“I’m not sure I know how,” Jim said and he felt his throat tightening.
“You are the other half of my soul. Upon your death, our katras will reunite. I feel nothing but peace in passing away with that knowledge.”
It had been clear that Spock thought it true. Jim wasn’t so sure, but Spock’s firm belief made it seem like it was a chance it might happen.
That may even be sooner than later. Because of their strong bond there was no guarantee that Spock wouldn’t take Jim with him when he passed. Death… Jim didn’t want to die, he wasn’t ready; there was so much left to see and do. But neither did he want to live without Spock.
Two days later. Bones came around for the third of his five daily checkups, Spock wasn’t awake. The periods he was became rarer and rarer. Jim watched silently from his desk how Bones took his tests and administered his hyposprays, before he gently patted the Vuclan’s arm and straightened.
“Spock thinks death is the end of a journey,” Jim said, when the other man turned around. “And that our katras will join when I die too.”
The two of them hadn’t really talked properly since that day when Jim broke down in the office; Jim hadn’t been sure if he wanted to hear anymore words of wisdom. Now, he needed another view.
“Maybe,” Bones said. “Jim, I’m a scientist; I can’t say I believe in souls and any afterlife.”
“But what do you believe?” Jim pressed.
Bones looked at the form on the bed, and sighed. “Well, when there is nothing to do or when that person is old and ready… it may be… better. Hell, Jim! I don’t mean to sound like a vet with a dog. I just… Let me put it this way, I think everyone has their time. Not like fate or anything, but when my time comes I think I’ll embrace it.” He gave a dry chuckle. “But then, how can anyone know?”
“Spock isn’t afraid,” Jim said. “I think he’s only afraid for me.”
“Well, there you have it. But what is it you’re afraid of, really?”
Being without him. Living without him.
Spock told him he loved him. He said he wished him to be happy. And he offered a very small smile that day. That day when Jim thought, “Is it now?” every time he saw a hitch in Spock’s breathing.
Jim pressed their foreheads together and just breathed. Perhaps a tear or more slipped past his closed eyelids. A hand came up and cupped the back of his head. Jim was sure he should reply, speak of his love and all the things they had done together, but his throat was so tight. And he was sure Spock could feel everything he felt, could feel Jim though their skin contact and the bond. If not, the words had already been said hundreds of times, and Spock never forgot anything. Wherever Spock went, he would remember. He would leave on that journey with every memory of their life together tucked safely inside his soul. That was Jim's only consolation.
Two long days after that, Jim stood staring into space. He couldn’t go into their shared quarters, not yet. Now and then, he found himself wishing that the bond had taken him with Spock. Mostly though, he just felt numb. Space looked large and dark and endless. The stars that shone seemed very far away, out of reach.
As he stood there, he thought of Spock’s katra drifting around in the universe. Not alone, but waiting. A full mating bond can’t be broken completely, a small string always stays. Jim had desperately searched for that string, but he wasn’t as sensitive as a Vulcan. He refused to think that it didn’t exist. When his time did come, Spock must know to pull on his end of that string.