He entered his dark, empty quarters without any enthusiasm.

“Lights fifty percent.”

They came on instantly and even at fifty it seemed far too bright for his tired eyes.

“Dim lights to twenty-five percent.”

He stood in the middle of his quarters for a while, probably no more than minutes though, before finally deciding he could stand with a shower. His clothes were soiled with…with…

The door chimed and before he even thought about answering it, the door opened, and Spock stepped inside. He still wore his own soiled and messy uniform, and his eyes looked wider in his paler face than usual.

Jim stared at him, recognizing that his eyes were pooled with tears, but unable to do much about them.

“I promised his mother.”

“Captain?”

He blinked, dislodging a few tears with his lashes, feeling them wet his cheeks. “Ensign Styles. We…she was there, you know, when we picked him up when the Enterprise was ready to go out again. She told me to take care of him, make sure he returned safe.” Jim lowered his gaze to the floor. “I didn’t do that.”

“Jim.”

Spock was there in a second, less than, maybe, and he had his hands on Jim’s arms, on his forearms, holding him in place, but not tight, with complete and utter gentleness. He raised his gaze to Spock’s and what he saw there mirrored his own thoughts and feelings, somehow.

“Styles was not your fault and both he and his mother understood Starfleet service. There was nothing you could have done to save him from what occurred except perhaps leave him off the landing party and he desperately wanted to be on it.”

“I know, but I—”

Spock simply shook his head. His thumb came up to brush a tear off Jim’s cheek. “What did you dream of?”

“About us?”

“Yes.”

“It was stupid, really. And the only reason it really stands out was because it wasn’t a bad dream. A nightmare, you know? Which is what I have all the time. Not all the time, but—”

“Jim.” Spock shook him, but again, with extreme gentleness.

“It was you and me, just dancing, at a cotillion. Do you know what those are?”

Spock nodded.

“All dressed in old-fashioned clothes like you’d wear to one, I guess, and you were leading. I think I tried to, but you took over, whatever.” Jim smiled a little. “Then you moved us off the dance floor to the balcony outside and then we—”

“We?” Spock prompted.

Jim briefly closed his eyes, squeezing out a few more teardrops. He smiled again and opened his eyes. He put his hand up to Spock’s face. “We kissed. And kissed. It was…the best kisses of my life and it was all a damn dream, Spock. Then we started to remove our clothes, right there on the balcony, and then-then I woke up. And we went on the mission.”

“I see.”

Jim pushed away then, out of his hold, putting distance between them. “And now? I’m just dog-tired. Wiped out emotionally.” He shook his head, then frowned. “Was there something you wanted?”

Spock nodded. “Yes.”

“What?”

“You. To tell you that…I’m here for you. That I made a mistake walking away out in the corridor. But I won’t walk away like that. Not again.”

Jim swallowed and took a step closer. “I really need a hug.”

And he was even a little surprised when Spock stepped closer, wrapping an arm around his waist and pulling Jim against him. It was kind of too snug and even kind of awkward. But it was the best damn hug he had ever felt. He closed his eyes and leaned into Spock.

“Thanks.”

“You are welcome, Jim.”