James Kirk woke by degrees, dismayed to find that he could not remember putting himself to bed the night before. He sat up carefully, testing his body for stiffness or pain, but found only the usual crick in his neck from lying on a mattress he had always found too hard. He twisted his head slowly from side to side, wincing as his spine crackled back into place, then stood up and stretched out his limbs.

He felt mentally refreshed, and could only suppose that the successful end to their last mission had caused him to sleep so well, if uncomfortably. He considered that it must have been McCoy who had put him to bed, removing his boots and his shirt, and covering him with a blanket; his last conscious memory was of Bones and Spock, standing together in his office. He made a mental note to thank his 'old country doctor'. However much he disliked the firmness of the Starfleet issue bed, the desk would have been worse.

As he headed for a shower, the door chime sounded, and he reversed his course to admit his visitor. The door slid back to reveal Spock and McCoy, and he smiled in welcome.

"Come in," he said, feeling genuinely pleased to see his friends. "No doubt, you've both got reports for me." He found his shirt folded neatly on a chair and put it on. He retrieved his boots from the floor, where they had been obviously placed with great care - out of the way, yet easily found, and inordinately well-aligned. When he realised neither McCoy or Spock had replied, he turned to see them both standing slightly uneasily, very much subdued. "What's the matter, Bones," he said lightly. "Tribble got your tongue?" He frowned at the lack of reaction. "Spock?"

"Good morning, sir," said Spock softly, linking his hands behind his back. He cocked his head a fraction to one side, regarding his captain curiously, perhaps a little warily.

McCoy spoke at last, a puzzled frown creasing his features. "Are you all right, Jim? Did you sleep okay?"

"Never better. In fact," he said, squeezing his foot into a boot, "I'd like to thank you for that. The desk is definitely lacking in comfort features."

McCoy's frown deepened. Next to him, Spock stiffened and looked away.

Kirk noted McCoy's confused expression, Spock's averted gaze, and suddenly recalled the way his boots had been left, the incredible care which had been taken in folding his shirt so that it wouldn't crease. It should have been obvious, he thought, that McCoy hadn't been responsible for that. The doctor would have seen to his captain's comfort and left, not concerning himself with the minutiae of folding and straightening, order and tidiness.

He turned a fond gaze on Spock, and noticed that McCoy, too, having seemingly come to the same conclusion as he, was silently appraising the Vulcan, a look of mild surprise on his face. It warmed him that Spock had stayed, that he cared, and Kirk now felt a fleeting, icy touch of guilt that he had not considered the possibility at first, and had then unwittingly exposed Spock's moment of compassion to the ever-watchful McCoy.

If he'd been alone with Spock, he would have approached him, laid a hand on his friend's arm, and let his mind tell Spock that he was grateful, but now, with McCoy... his eyes bored into the top of the glossy head, willing Spock to turn, to look at him. Eventually, like something pulled against its will, he did, and Kirk stared into the dark eyes, hoping his thoughts would project. "Thank you, Spock." He smiled, and something immediately softened in the sharp, Vulcan features.

Kirk changed the subject. "So, I take it you gentlemen have come to give me your reports on our last mission. They should prove interesting; Mr Flint was an unusual man." He grinned at Spock. "Fascinating, even, wouldn't you say, Spock?"

Spock seemed to search his captain's face for something, then, apparently satisfied, replied, "Indeed."

McCoy's frown was back. "Rayna was pretty 'fascinating', too, wasn't she, Jim?" He watched Kirk's face closely for a reaction, waiting for the familiar lines of grief, the catch of breath that told of a man who had loved and lost, the pain of loss he'd witnessed too many times before in this one man.

It never came.

"She certainly was, Bones. Lovely, beautiful. Tragic. It was a shame we didn't get to know her better." His tone was wistful, but surprisingly free of grief.

"Are you all right, Jim? That girl..." McCoy continued to probe, "she meant something to you, didn't she?"

Kirk looked startled. "I'm fine, Bones. She was a delightful woman, and I believe I did feel something for her." He gazed away briefly, and McCoy steeled himself for the expected turn of mood, but the hazel eyes returned calmly to his. "She was never meant for me, Bones. She was a being created by one lonely man for himself. I'm sad that her... death has left him alone, but I can't mourn for something that could never have been between Rayna and me."

McCoy looked to Spock, to see if the Vulcan was as confused about Kirk's apparent equanimity as he was, but Spock bore an expression that McCoy could only describe as satisfaction, and a distant portion of his mind noted that with the faintest tinge of suspicion. But as his thoughts just began to coalesce, he became aware that Kirk was speaking.

"...just going to stand there, or are you going to hand over those reports?"

McCoy blinked and handed the padd he'd forgotten he'd had over to his captain.

Kirk noticed his faraway look. "Are you okay, Bones? You seem a little preoccupied."

"Sure," said McCoy, covering for his earlier inattentiveness with a yawn. "Just a little tired, y'know. This Rigellian fever has kept the whole medical staff on our toes."

Kirk nodded understandingly. "You should take your own sage advice, Doctor, and rest." He waved a hand towards the door. "Go, Bones. Take the day off; the emergency's over."

There seemed nothing more for the doctor to say. He took one more searching glance at Kirk, but he finally had to admit that his friend was as well as he seemed. "Well, I'll see you at lunch, then," he said, and the door hissed shut behind him.

Kirk's eyes found Spock's and he took a step closer to his friend. "Spock..."

As if sensing that the conversation was about to get uncomfortably personal, Spock suddenly thrust his padd out in front of him, effectively creating a barrier between them. "My report, Captain."

Kirk took it from him and smiled. "You aren't going to let me thank you, are you, Spock?"

Spock couldn't hold his gaze, and the dark eyes found a spot on the wall. His voice was low and a little rougher than usual. "I... apologise for the intrusion."

It seemed an odd thing to say, and Kirk had the impression that Spock's words carried more meaning than was immediately apparent, but he chose to take them at face value. "Spock, I know you don't like to enter someone's personal space, but believe me when I say that I'm very grateful you helped me to bed and tidied up. You must know that I've never considered your presence an intrusion - in any part of my life." He looked straight into the nearly black Vulcan eyes, his face full of affection and trust. "You and I have seen each other's thoughts. Surely, that's far more intimate than what you did for me last night." His gaze held Spock and refused to let go. "I trust you with my mind, Spock. My soul."

Spock winced. He forced himself to look away from such honest awe. "Perhaps you should not trust me so well." He felt a cool human hand rest on his forearm, and despite his very real desire not to, found his gaze drawn back to the man who could always command him.

"Spock, my friend..." He paused, searching for the right words. "Spock, you've proven yourself a loyal officer and a dear friend, but that's not why I trust you - although, it is more than enough in itself." He took Spock's hand and placed it in the centre of his own chest. "You've seen what's inside here, all my emotional human foibles and irrationalities, and accepted them." He moved the warm Vulcan hand up to his head. "You've seen what's in here and treated everything with respect, kindness and honesty."

Spock winced again, tried to look away.

"You forget," Kirk continued, moving his own hand to the Vulcan's shiny head, "that I've seen what's in here, too. I know you better than I know myself. I know that whatever you do," - the hand remaining on Spock's arm gripped tighter - "whatever you do for me is always done with nothing other than my welfare in mind. It's simply not in your nature to be selfish."

Spock closed his eyes and gulped, his Adam's apple lurching prominently in his neck. He knows! part of his mind screamed, causing him to wish he would never have to open his eyes and face what would surely have to be rejection and revulsion, eventually. But the touch on his arm, and on his head, transmitted only warmth and trust and patience.

He opened his eyes to a smile that lit his heart. He let a hesitant smile twist his own lips.

Kirk laughed. "Why don't you go and get some rest, too. You look as bad as Bones."

Spock grimaced good-naturedly at the comparison. "I see no reason for insulting accusations, Captain."

Kirk shooed him to the door. "Go, and let me get on with reading these reports. I'll see you at lunch." Spock could still hear the light laughter after the door had shut.

He headed to his cabin, and immediately encountered McCoy, lying in wait outside his door. Spock's jovial mood crumbled, and he approached warily.

He opted for a neutral path. "Can I help you, Doctor?"

"Mind if I come in for a minute, Spock?"

Spock was very tempted to say 'yes', but instead chose, "If you feel it is imperative to do so."

The door closed behind them, and for a minute they stood mutely appraising the other.

McCoy broke the silence. "Jim seems well, this morning."

Spock nodded blandly. "He would appear to have derived fully the benefits of an adequate rest period."

"With your help."

Spock's eyes narrowed slightly. "It was my duty to see that the captain was made comfortable. He would not have remained so had he slept the night at his desk."

McCoy felt his hackles rise, the way he always did when he tried to talk to Spock. He forced himself to remain calm; he'd get nothing from the Vulcan otherwise. "Spock... I'm not just talking about putting him to bed and you know it. When I left, Jim was pretty cut up over that girl. Today, poof, he's fine. I don't know about you, but that doesn't seem like the normal reaction of a man who's grieving. It's not the normal reaction of that man."

"The human mind has a remarkable ability to repair--"

"Dammit, Spock!" McCoy couldn't contain the hackles any longer and saw Spock start to retreat from the emotional display. He opted for a different tack. "Spock, I'm not accusing, but I'm worried about Jim. You and I have both seen him fall in love and then lose that love too many times to count. Usually, he'll get on with his duty the way he's doing now, but he'll mourn for a while, feel pretty sad for a bit." He eyed Spock. "The fact he's not doing that now means that I have to consider that there is something wrong with him. I don't want to have to perform a psych scan, but--"

"No, Doctor," Spock said, a bit more forcefully that he meant to. He saw that McCoy had noted his vehemence as well, and squashed the irritation the reaction caused. He turned his back on the doctor, and found his gaze drawn to the welcome peace of the Vulcan firepot. His voice dropped to a near whisper. "The captain is well, Doctor. You need not be concerned for him."

"I am concerned, Spock. It's my job to be concerned about him; you know that." He took a step closer to the blue back, saw it tense, then stopped where he was. "If you say he is well, then I believe you, because I know that you care about him, too. I know you'd never let him come to harm."

Spock was glad he had his back to McCoy. This human's trust in him was as painfully real as the other's. It frightened him as much as it warmed him.

McCoy continued, "But it would help me a great deal if I knew why Jim was fine. No doctor likes to work in the dark."

Spock turned at last, met McCoy's worried eyes with a gentle brown gaze. "Is it not enough that he is well?" It was almost a plea.

McCoy sighed, a gesture of surrender. "Of course it is, Spock. But he's my friend; I care about him."

"I know, Doctor. I... I understand."

McCoy tentatively reached out a hand to the Vulcan's shoulder, and was gratified when Spock did not move away, accepting the touch. "Thank you, Spock." He didn't elaborate, didn't need to.

Spock allowed himself to transmit the feelings he had for this other friend, so seldom acknowledged, and as always, channelled through their mutual friendship for Kirk. It was a rare moment of truce. "I believe the correct response," said Spock, "is 'you're welcome'."


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