Kirk sat on his bed, head in his hands. There was paperwork waiting for him, he knew, and if he wasn’t going to do that he should've just called it a night and gotten some sleep.
He didn’t move.
It had been a bad day.
He had no idea how long he continued to sit there before the entrance to his quarters chimed. He forced himself to straighten, then said “Come in.”
His door slid open to reveal Spock, his hands clasped behind his back. He entered and walked around so that he was facing Kirk.
“Are you quite all right, Captain?” he asked.
“I’m fine, Spock,” Kirk answered, trying to muster up a smile.
“I do not believe that is true,” Spock said, his tone even. Kirk wasn’t really surprised that he had failed to convince Spock, and for some reason the thought warmed him.
“Okay, probably not,” he granted. “But I will be fine. It’s a cliche, but somehow things always do seem more manageable in the morning. Not that there’s ever really morning on a starship, but the principle still applies.”
He expected Spock to leave, having done his due diligence in ascertaining Kirk’s wellbeing. But instead, Spock sat down next to him. “Nevertheless, as it is not yet the morning, I would like to offer my assistance. If you care to talk…” Spock trailed off, clearly giving Kirk an opening to speak.
“There’s not much to talk about,” Kirk said, his voice hard even to his own ears. “They died.”
“Their deaths were not your fault,” Spock said, and Kirk knew what he meant, that there was nothing he could have done to prevent it, not with the information available at the time, but -
“I’m the Captain. It’s always my fault,” Kirk said bluntly. He felt a telltale heat prick at his eyes and he turned his face away, not wanting Spock to see as he blinked away the threatening tears.
Which is why he didn’t realize what was happening until Spock had wrapped his arms around him.
“Spock?” Kirk asked uncertainly, holding himself very still.
“I have noticed that humans often derive comfort from physical contact with those they are close to,” Spock explained, and Kirk could feel the words being spoken as much as hear them. “Given your own tactile nature, I hypothesized that this would apply to you. Was I incorrect?”
“No,” Kirk admitted, “not at all. But I don’t want you to do something you’re uncomfortable with out of a sense of obligation.”
“There is no obligation, other than that which I freely accept as your friend, to help when I can,” Spock said. “And this is not a hardship,” he added, his voice a touch lower.
Kirk slumped against Spock’s chest. He wanted to tell Spock how much those words meant to him, how deeply he appreciated Spock’s presence, but he didn’t have the words for it - and even if he had, he doubted he could’ve said them through the renewed tightening in his throat. Instead, he tucked his face into Spock’s neck, looped his arms around Spock’s back, and let himself be held.
It should have been strange, Kirk thought, as the minutes stretched on and neither of them moved. While Spock was right that Kirk was a tactile person by nature, they had never touched like this - deliberately, fully, without pretense. But it wasn’t, because this was Spock. Spock, whom he trusted more than anyone, whose boundless loyalty he sometimes didn’t know how he’d earned, who had offered this willingly. Spock, whom he loved.
When his exhaustion finally caught up with him, he didn’t fight it. His eyes drifted closed, his weight pressed more solidly against Spock. “Jim,” Spock said quietly, “you require sleep.”
“I know,” Kirk said, or meant to say; what came out was more a wordless mumble of assent. Spock pulled away and carefully levered Kirk down so that he was lying on the bed. Then he lifted Kirk’s feet onto the bed as well, gently tugged off his boots, and pulled the blanket up to Kirk’s shoulders.
Kirk thought that would be it, but a hand brushed his hair out of his face. He blinked his eyes open and saw Spock standing over him, pulling his hand back. On instinct, Kirk reached out to grab it; Spock immediately stilled. “Thank you,” Kirk said, looking up to meet Spock’s eyes. It wasn’t enough as a response to what Spock had done for him, but no words would’ve been. He gave Spock’s hand a squeeze, then released it, his eyes already closing again.
“Sleep well,” Spock said, barely more than a whisper, and Kirk heard soft footsteps moving towards the door.
He was asleep before the door closed behind Spock.