Jim lowered him slowly into the cool bath, taking care not to let him slip. Spock was trembling so severely from the fever that he doubted his own ability to move without help, so he begrudgingly let Jim take control.
“How’s that?” the captain asked in a soft whisper.
Spock let himself sink deeper into the cool water, even dunking his face under the surface to let it pull some of the feverish heat from his already burning cheeks. Some of it was the fever, yes, but he also had to admit to himself that at least part of it had to do with being completely naked like this in front of Jim, the human’s gentle hands running along his back in little soothing circles.
He wished he could sink deeper into the water, as if into a great ocean, if only to hide his shame. But this was a bathtub, not an ocean, and he wasn’t going anywhere. After only a few seconds, he had to come up for air -- he had never been particularly good at holding his breath for long periods, and even less so now -- as he trembled and shook and gasped in response to the turmoil raging within his fevered body.
Finally he pressed his hands into the floor of the bathtub, pulling his face free of the soothing water to take a breath.
“It is helping,” he replied, tucking his knees underneath his body to settle back into a more comfortable position.
It seemed as if Jim’s hands were everywhere, one running along Spock’s shoulder in a soft caress, the other tucking a piece of dripping hair behind his ear.
It struck Spock suddenly how unlikely, how unbelievable this all was. He shifted his weight to sit back in the water, pulling his knees up in front of his body and wrapping his arms around them. The thing about fever, in Spock’s experience, was that one always felt simultaneously too cold and too hot. He was burning up inside, but the cold water had already caused him to start shivering.
But again, the fever was not the only cause for this reaction.
“Why do you love me?” He had not quite intended to say it out loud, but that was the trouble with the pon farr -- it made you do things you otherwise might not have. He wished, irrationally, that he could take back the words the moment they exited his mouth.
Jim’s hands came to a stop, then moved away entirely; one of them coming to rest on the edge of the tub.
“What did you just say?” Jim said, dumbfounded.
Spock looked up at him over wet knees, eyelashes heavy with water droplets.
“Why?” Spock asked again. “I can think of no logical reason for your willingness to engage in this endeavor. I am not yet in the final stage of the pon farr, I am not yet...” he faltered, voice catching in his throat at the thought of what was to come. “I am not yet ready to mate. Your presence here is not... required.”
“Oh it’s not, is it?” Jim said, raising one eyebrow in a playful expression of flirtation with which Spock had become quite familiar of late. It induced a reaction in him that was almost entirely alien -- his sex organ twitched between his thighs, causing him to hug his legs even closer to his now quaking body.
Jim chuckled, apparently finding this all very amusing. He raised one hand and began combing Spock’s bedraggled hair between deft fingers, smoothing it back into place.
He leaned in suddenly, whispering softly into one now very green ear -- “What is required, Spock, is that I do everything I can to help you through this. So that’s what I’m going to do.” He leaned back just far enough to make eye contact. “Got it?”
Spock nodded, unable to speak. His t’hy’la was so close, and Spock burned within; something deep inside of him crying out to seal the fledgling lifebond it sensed in Jim.
“Anyway,” Jim said, lifting Spock’s chin with one well-placed finger, “It’s simple logic -- why I love you. It’s basic mathematics.”
“Mathematics?” was all Spock could say.
“Yeah,” Jim said casually. “A simple equation. I mean, Spock, I must admit I’m a little confused -- I thought math was supposed to be your strong point.”
“I...” Spock stammered, unable to fully articulate his thoughts with Jim’s face this close to his own. “I do not understand.”
“Well,” Jim sat back, eyeing Spock up and down as if appraising what he saw before him. Spock’s cheeks burned a little greener and this time it definitely had nothing to do with the blood fever.
“It’s the slope of your shoulder times the angle of your neck.” As he spoke, Jim trailed one finger along Spock’s shoulder, across his chest, and up the line of his throat. “The depth of your eyes,” here Jim stroked a featherlight touch across Spock’s temple, “plus the width of your lips.”
Jim pressed the index finger against Spock’s now pliant lips. Spock sighed at the touch, willing himself not to take the finger into his mouth.
“Oh, and did I forget to mention?” Jim leaned in close, pressing a chaste kiss on Spock’s lips, before pulling back to smile with that characteristic warmth and adoration.
“Wha--” Spock managed to say, “What did you forget?”
Jim chuckled, “Oh, well -- just the most important parts of the equation... the sum of your incomparable intelligence plus the totality of your compassion and honesty and commitment to the pursuit of knowledge. All divided by your truly astounding ability to quote Shakespeare in a way that will always, without fail, bring me utterly to my knees with love for you.”
He looked up at Spock with that gleam of mischief in his eye that made Spock avert his eyes in embarrassment. That this man should love him so, should speak of him so highly, was impossible to process. It should not be. Joke though he might about this supposed mathematical formula, there was no quantifiable reason for Jim’s obvious affection for him.
But that, Spock knew from experience, made it no less real, no less lasting, and no less wonderful.