One day early. I used a picture from Into Darkness, but I liked it. It showed them both in uniform. I debated whether to have sex, but ultimately didn’t.

“Spock…what are you doing here?” It was the only thing Jim could think of to say and yet the words sounded wrong. His gaze dropped to the thing Spock held in his hand. “What’s that?”

Spock looked down at his fist, loosening it as he did so. “A…locket.”

Jim took a step forward, an automatic movement, because Spock was in distress. He hated to see Spock upset. “Are you…are you all right?”

“As I understand the question,” Spock said slowly. “The answer is no.”

“What’s wrong?”

Spock blinked rapidly and held out his hand toward Jim, the hand that held the locket, attached to a heavy ornate chain. “I was given this.”

Jim frowned. “By?”

Spock shook his head, his gaze unfocused. “My counterpart. I should…I will send it back. He should have it.”

“Spock, you aren’t making any sense.”

“There is a recording of his…bondmate on it. His T’hy’la.”

“He used that word the other day,” Jim whispered.

“For?”

His frown deepened. “Me.”

But Spock only nodded. “Yes. You. Because you are my T’hy’la. Just as you were, your counterpart was, for him.”

“Okay. But what is that?”

“There are no standard words that can explain it properly.” His fingers closed over the locket that Jim had not touched, and he drew his hand back. “The closest would be, perhaps, a soulmate.”

At that Jim laughed, which drew Spock’s surprise gaze to him.

“Sorry. I just…there’s nothing funny here. I get that. It’s just the idea that I would be anyone’s soulmate is really absurd let alone yours. I think we just, we were super attracted to each other physically, and then we fell in love because we like so many of the same things and we were both in Starfleet. Soulmates suggest some kind of pre-destiny and that’s way too much pressure to put on you. I don’t know what their relationship was before us, Spock. I know they were together because of some of the things he showed me and what he told me. But you don’t have to think you have to stick with me because of something they had or believed.”

“I felt it myself.”

“You…what?”

“Jim, there is nothing I can ever say or do to make up for my actions against you on the Enterprise.”

“You weren’t yourself.”

“That can and does not provide me any excuse. I allowed my emotions to overwhelm my sense of self, to overrule logic, and even my affection for you. That is hardly the actions of a logical Vulcan or even an appropriate Starfleet officer.”

“Well.” Jim took another tentative step toward Spock. “You’re human too. And that was…a lot to deal with. For anyone.”

This time he placed his hand on Spock’s arm, the one not holding the locket.

“When I think of my actions, I feel nothing but shame.” Spock exhaled long and slow. “I have felt that you and I were more than mere lovers, when we-we touched, but I never thought to analyze it closer in any way, because…”

When he didn’t continue, Jim figured he could probably guess the reason. “It was hard for you to think that what you and I had rose to the level of such serious lifetime commitment.”

The fast blink again. Jim thought, nailed that.

“Why are you here?” Jim asked again. “I thought, well, that we had said pretty much all there was to say. You’ve left Starfleet. You’re going to join the colonists, aren’t you?”

“I am here because my mother advised that she had gone to see you in the hospital and—”

“I told her not to.”

“She made it clear that you were under a number of misconceptions.”

Several heartbeats passed.

“Was I?” He realized he still had his hand on Spock’s arm but he didn’t release it. In fact, he curled his fingers around the soft yarn of the sweater.

“Jim, I…” Spock’s gaze strayed to the couch.

They’d chosen it together from a discount place a few blocks from the Academy. And why Jim thought about that day, he couldn’t say. But he’d been so hopeful then. So in love. Life was very much simpler that day.

“May we sit?”

Part of him wanted to say, no, just go and live your new life, but Jim would never let anyone call him a coward. Whatever this meant, he would hear it.

He nodded and finally removed his hand from Spock’s sleeve and walked over to sit on the couch. When Spock joined him there, he was somewhat surprised that Spock sat very close to him, as he always had, nearly on top of him, with no space between.

Spock looked at the nails of his hands, clutched in his lap. He looked there, anywhere, Jim supposed, but at him.

“When I refused to look too deeply into my deep affection for you, the feeling that we were very much more than we ought to be, as I had experienced, it was not at all a reflection upon you.”

“No?”

“As you are aware I had a brief relationship with Nyota when I first arrived. It was the most affection I had ever received from another besides my mother. As a child I was betrothed to T’Pring…”

“Yeah, you had told me.”

“We had no relationship and never spoke after the day our preliminary bond was set when we were children. But because of that, I had thought I was bonded to T’Pring, and so my belief that there was something much more tangible between you and me seemed…wishful thinking. I had never felt any such connection to Nyota and I had come to the conclusion that with you it was different because I had accepted the plain fact that I preferred males.”

“Okay.” Jim gave him an encouraging nod, though Spock still would not look at him.

“And then, more recently, I had become aware of rumors that T’Pring intended to end our bond as she had chosen the affections of someone else. I would not have fought her, for it was you I desired anyway.” Spock let out a little sigh of defeat. “T’Pring was among those who perished when Vulcan was destroyed.”

“Spock, I’m sorry.”

“We are both regretful that we could not have saved more occupants of Vulcan or the very planet itself, but there was nothing we could have done differently to alter the outcome Nero had orchestrated. Neither of us share any blame for that, Jim.”

Jim nodded, swallowed.

“And yet, as you aware, I was emotionally compromised. I almost lost my parents and you. I did lose my planet and many relatives and friends. I was not prepared for that. Nor for the loss of my captain to Nero. We train for such scenarios, I suppose, but no training can truly prepare you for it. I was filled with rage and a gaping hole within myself when I sent you away and it nearly cost your life.”

“Spock.”

Spock shook his head. Closed his eyes. “How is your leg?”

Jim placed his hand on Spock’s knee. “Look at me. Please.”

It took Spock several tries, but he finally managed to look at Jim. His eyes were very wet looking, though no tears actually fell.

“My leg is fine. My injuries will heal. I’m a lot better than I was. Bones released me. I’m okay. And I forgive you for sending me off the ship.”

“But—”

Jim reached for and received Spock’s hands. “You made a mistake, Spock. I know you aren’t used to making mistakes, but most of us humans make them frequently.”

“This mistake nearly cost you your life.”

“I know. But I think you learned your lesson that tossing me off the ship won’t work. I’ll find my way back.” He tried a smile.

“It is not funny.”

“Yeah. I don’t know how I would have acted in the same circumstances. You were under a lot of stress and my arguing with you was adding to it.”

“Yet you were right.”

“I know that too.” Jim chose not to add he knew it at the time, as well. This wasn’t about ‘I told you so’. “I forgive you. And someday you’ll forgive yourself.”

Spock moved his head and Jim knew his intention was to look away again, but Jim wouldn’t let him. All this was important. He put his hand up to Spock’s face, framing his jaw, and holding him there.

“When I…I lost complete control and irreparably harmed you—”

“I’m repaired.”

“Please. I need to finish saying all of this. Even before my father said my name, I…our connection burst into full life and I felt it, I knew that we shared a bond then, and even as I was reacting to that, my fingers still around your throat, I felt it…dying.”

“Spock,” Jim whispered.

“It could not stand the strain of what I, of all, would be doing to you, my T’hy’la. I nearly destroyed it even before I almost destroyed you.” Now a tear did fall from his eyes and onto his cheek. “I have never felt such utter and absolute shame and despondency. I should have taken my life rather than live with what I had done.”

“Spock, no.”

“I will not,” Spock said softly. “But the thought did occur, however briefly. It was for the harm I caused you that I thought leaving Starfleet and helping with the colony was for the best.”

“You didn’t even talk to me about it.”

“The shame.”

Jim shook his head and let go of Spock’s chin, returning his hand to rest upon Spock’s knee. “As I said, I’m not sure how I would have acted under those circumstances.”

“I am quite certain you would act as admirably as you always do.”

Jim laughed. “Wow. You are in love.”

“Jim—”

“Do I wish you had made different choices? Yeah. Starting with, I don’t know, you listened to what I had to say instead of instantly dismissing it. I get you didn’t want me to question you in front of everyone, but we could have talked privately. But okay, like I said, I knew you weren’t thinking like you in that moment. But if you hadn’t tossed me from the ship, I wouldn’t have met your counterpart or Scotty, and we wouldn’t have rescued Pike or saved Earth. So, whatever the reasons, it ended up being okay.”

“Jim—”

“No. This time, let me finish. I’m sorry for those things I had to say to you to get you to cede control of the ship to me. I had to make them really shitty and low and I regretted them even as I said them. I never want to hurt you. Ever. But…I won’t and can’t deny that your reaction was even more extreme than I had guessed it would be and the violence of it did scare me a little.”

Spock nodded, his Adam’s apple sliding down his throat

“But as I said before, I know you aren’t an abuser and that normally you would never raise a hand to me. I know you, Spock. I do.”

“If I had killed you…”

“You didn’t.”

“No. But my actions were unforgiveable. Even if you had not been my T’hy’la.”

Jim watched him for a moment. “But I am?”

“Yes. The ease of your meld with the elder me is explainable due to our connection.”

He eyed Spock. “You call that easy?”

Spock blew out a breath. “Not the contents of what he shared with you, no.”

“He told you?”

“Many things, that among them. I learned for certain you were my T’hy’la on the bridge, however, and yet he also confirmed it with his words and the locket he temporarily entrusted to me.”

“You never melded with me,” Jim pointed out. “I never really thought about why, but now, I can’t help but think about it.”

“I wish I had. Likely I would have discovered our true connection had I done so. Imposing such a thing on a strong, independent individual such as you, I thought…it was rather amazing to me that you were even willing to be with an anomaly such as me, I dared not think to subject you to melds you might find intrusive. The depth of my feelings for you was something I had never experienced and I wished to remain…cautious.”

“Spock, you aren’t an anomaly.”

“In fact, I am. That is something I have had to accept. However, if I had communicated more thoroughly with you when we were together, many of our misunderstandings and troublesome outcomes might have been avoided.”

“We both could have done better there.”

Spock shook his head. “There is nothing you have done wrong, Jim. You share no blame.”

Jim decided not to argue. He was tired of arguing. Tired of battles. And certainly tired of them with Spock. “What happens now? Are you going to the colony?”

“I cannot,” Spock said softly. “I have no desire to be parted from you. And as it happens I am not currently needed. My elder has already chosen a suitable planet for the colony. My parents intend to be a part of it, as well. And other Vulcans, who were fortunate not to be on the planet when it was destroyed, are also coming forward. Perhaps someday my assistance will be required in some way, but for now, I wish to do what feels right.”

Jim smiled slightly. “What feels right?”

“Advice from the Ambassador.”

He moved his hand from Spock’s knee, up his arm, and then down again, to trap Spock’s hand in his, rubbing their fingers together first.     

“You resigned though, right?”

“I have…withdrawn my resignation,” Spock replied. “Though I am not at all certain I will be allowed to serve on the Enterprise.”

Jim stared into his dark eyes. “It’ll work out.”

“Jim.”

“It will.”

Spock closed his eyes and hung his head. “I will be paying for the harm I have done you for a long time, ashayam. Anywhere you go, I will follow you. But I will spend the entirety of my life reassuring you that you are my priority and I will protect you.”

“I don’t need a protector, Spock. I need a partner.”

Spock opened his eyes and looked at Jim. “Perhaps both?”

“We’ll work on it,” Jim whispered. He moved even closer, though honestly there was no space between them to speak of, and he moved against Spock until the Vulcan’s arms, finally, at last, came around him.

It felt like he had never been hugged before, stupid he knew because he had, but it had been far too long since Spock had held him. He had thought Spock never would again.

“Taluhk nash-veh k’dular.”

“Yeah?”

“Very much so. For a while, I allowed myself to forget. I will never again.”

Jim leaned into Spock, softly kissing his lips. “I love you. I’ll always love you. I loved you before I knew what love was and I will love you when the universe no longer exists.” He kissed him again, then rested his forehead against Spock’s. “And I don’t know if pre-destiny is at play or soulmates or just because you’re you and I’m me, but I can’t and don’t want to escape the truth of it.”

“Then you will forgive me?”

“Yes, Spock. I forgive you.”

****

Jim sat in the captain’s chair, perhaps clutching the arms a little harder than he should, but he was there. He was captain. It was like a dream.

“Mr. Sulu, prepare to engage thrusters.”

Suddenly the turbolift opened. Jim turned the chair to see Spock walk onto the bridge.

“Permission to come aboard, Captain.”

Jim could hardly contain his smile. “Permission granted.”

Spock approached, to stand next to Jim. “Reporting as first office, sir.”

“Welcome aboard, Commander. It’s my honor. Mr. Sulu?”

Sulu grinned. “Thrusters on standby.”

Jim watched as Spock looked around the bridge, gaze resting briefly on a smiling Uhura, then returning to Jim, brown eyes soft and warm.

“Take us out.”

“Aye, Captain.”