Spock, to Jim, was a very interesting person. This was true for a number of reasons. Probably a big one was the fact that they'd supposedly been 'bestest best friends forever' in another time, and he liked the older version of Spock, so he couldn't help but wonder what the hell was up with this one. Another reason was that Spock was just… well… it was like labeling a button 'Do Not Press'. There it was, all big and red and giving no indication of what it did. Just 'Do Not Press'. Spock was like the living equivalent of that button for Jim. He was immaculate and composed and logical and purposefully controlled.
It was humanely impossible not to want to press that button. The universe was asking for far too much if it thought for an instant that he was capable of those levels of self-restraint.
And he was good at pressing Spock's buttons. Which was lucky, because ever since they'd met it seemed like there were a lot of crises which required him to piss Spock off, and he totally had that super power. The destruction of his planet had left him emotionally compromised and unable to make the decision that would save Earth? No problem, just stick him in the same room as Jim for five minutes. Alien spores that could only be killed by anger had infected his first officer's brain? No problem, just stick him in the same room as Jim for five minutes. Everyone had been infected with crazy drunk disease and Spock couldn't stop crying about Vulcan and his dead mother? No problem, just stick him in the same room as Jim for five minutes.
General consensus aboard the Enterprise was that Spock was incredibly composed and reasonable and impossible to crack unless your name was James T. Kirk. In which case, it only took, yeah, about five minutes. Even he couldn't usually get it to work without trying, though.
So it was kind of a surprise when the door to Spock's quarters flew open, and there was a flash of silver and hot liquid and the next thing he knew something sharp had collided with his chest, causing a resounding explosion of pain and sending him tumbling against the nearest wall, orange soup spilling across his uniform and a tray and bowl clattering to the floor.
Needless to say, he was a little shocked. He was even more shocked when he heard Spock's voice snapping, almost snarling, and saw Nurse Chapel go racing out of his room looking frightened and surprised.
"If I want your help I'll ask for it!" Spock said, storming after her, looking pissed as hell and actually using contractions.
Then he saw Jim.
He came up short, eyes widening. Everyone who'd been moving through the corridor was staring. Nurse Chapel had plastered herself to the nearest wall, and Jim's chest hurt because Spock was fucking strong, and he'd flung that tray pretty hard. At least, he was pretty sure Spock had thrown it. They were outside his quarters, and he was the one who looked pissed, and Chapel just wasn't giving off 'throwing stuff' vibes. But his first officer sure as hell was, and his bruises were inclined to agree.
For a moment, behind the confusion and curiosity at wondering just what the hell was going on, Jim felt briefly annoyed. Pissing off Spock was his talent, dammit. What could Chapel have done?
"…Captain," said Spock after a moment, sounding strained and awkward and like he was trying to pull himself back together again.
Jim realized that he was still more or less leaning against the wall, cringed around his bruised chest and gaping a bit. He closed his mouth and made an effort to straighten himself back up, because that wasn't exactly a dignified pose. "Hey, Spock," he said.
There was a tense, uncomfortable moment of silent indecision between all three parties. Spock tried to put his lid back on himself. Chapel just seemed shocked. Jim's ribs throbbed painfully.
"…Didn't feel like soup?" he settled on at last.
Spock's expression looked less neutral than it did tense and unhappy. Without further comment, he stepped back, and the door to his quarters slid shut. Jim blinked as the familiar 'beep' of the lock clicking into place resounded through the corridor. Technically it was a pointless gesture on his first officer's part, since there were such things as override codes, and captains generally had them on their own ships, but the message was pretty clear.
He hadn't even apologized for hitting Jim with his soup, though, so screw him if he thought he was going to get his privacy respected.
Jim glanced over at Chapel, who had eyes the size of dish plates. "What'd you do?" he asked, trying to think of something which the friendly nurse could have done to merit that sort of reaction. She just didn't seem the type to start badmouthing Spock's mother, though, and short of that, he couldn't really think of anything which would merit his explosion.
"Nothing!" she said, shaking her head and glancing at his soup-soaked uniform. "Dr. McCoy just mentioned that he hadn't been eating lately, so I thought I'd bring him some food…" she trailed off.
Most of the crewmen in the corridors were still staring curiously. Jim glanced up and around at them, frowning a little, and then sighed and planted his hands on his hips. His bruised chest strained painfully with the gesture, but he'd dealt with worse. At least it wasn't his neck this time. "Alright, show's over," he said. "Mr. Spock's clearly just going through Vulcan PMS. Nothing to see here."
Heh. Vulcan PMS. That was a good one, he'd have to remember that for his first officer's next tantrum.
At the suddenly authoritative tone to his voice, everybody suddenly became busy in a hurry, and soon enough the corridor had cleared of lingering watchers. Chapel hesitantly moved over to pick up the fallen tray and call for maintenance. Jim left her to it. The fabric of his soaked uniform shirts clung heavy and unpleasant to him as he moved over to the override for Spock's door and typed in the codes. He'd change later. For now, he wasn't going to do the sensible thing and leave well enough alone.
The door slid open, and he felt Chapel's gaze on his back as he walked in, and let it close again behind himself.
Spock was sitting at his desk, holding the stylus for a datapad in one hand. When he saw Jim, his fingers twitched, and the stylus snapped. His expression was decidedly dark.
"There is such a thing as privacy, Captain," he said.
"Yeah," Jim agreed. "But you're acting weird and I out-rank you, so I win." He moved a little closer, until he was at the side of the desk, not much more than an arm's length from Spock. "So… want to tell me what's got you all pissy?"
It wasn't the anniversary of Nero's bullshit, was it? He thought about it, but no, that was still months away.
Spock rose abruptly from his seat, moving so that he was almost clear on the other side of the room. Away from Jim. He was rigid and sharp, his motions lacking their usual fluidity. Wound tighter than Scotty's warp coils. "I require a leave of absence," he said, his fingers still clutching the pieces of the broken stylus, moving them behind his back.
"…You want a vacation?" he asked, his tone disbelieving. Well. That was completely random and unexpected.
Spock answered with a single, sharp nod.
"I am not requesting on behalf of another crewmember." His tone of voice was a little cutting, proving that he was still largely in his bad mood.
"But – you. Vacation? You?"
Seeing Spock pissed was fairly uncommon. Having him ask for time off, on the other hand, was unprecedented. Getting him to not work was unfathomably difficult. Hell, sometimes he didn't even seem to sleep at all. Jim had been a little freaked out by that until he'd learned that Vulcans just required less rest than humans.
"If it is about leave time, I believe I have accumulated sufficient-"
"Oh fuck you, Spock, you've got enough days off to retire on them if you want to," Jim exaggerated, shaking his head at his first officer. "You know that's not what's weird here."
Something flashed in his first officer's gaze, then, as he turned sharply towards him. It was almost his 'and now I'm going to strangle you' look, a lowering of his brows and a darkening of his eyes. "I do not require your interest in my personal motivations," he said, and Jim paused, because it had been a while now since Spock had told him to stay out of his business. After all, they'd sort of become friends. Pretty much. Or at least, Jim insisted they were friends, and Spock tolerated it. "You are my captain, nothing more, and have the authority only to approve or deny my request. You will therefore refrain from expressing interest in matters which do not concern you."
This wasn't just cranky Spock. His behavior seemed incensed, almost hateful. Jim blinked, frowning and feeling a sense of dread mingling with concern. Maybe some kind of alien had taken over Spock's mind? Or he'd been replaced with a malfunctioning robot copy? That would make sense. It would explain why he wasn't acting anything like himself, and it wasn't like it hadn't happened before.
After a moment, Jim moved over to the com system, and opened a channel to sickbay. "Bones?" he asked.
Spock stiffened. There was a brief pause, the shuffle of movement, and then his friend's gruff voice drifted up in distracted reply.
"Something's wrong with Spock. I'll be bringing him in for evaluation," he said, and shut down the channel just as the doctor started asking him questions.
He was getting the death glare to end all death glares.
Jim paused, meeting it head-on. When he spoke up again, his voice was low. "Am I going to need to get security, or are you going to obey orders and come with me?" he asked.
For a moment, he honestly wasn't sure what the answer was going to be. But then Spock inclined his head, and stiffly preceded him from his quarters.
The trip to sickbay was uncommonly tense and silent between them. Jim kept shooting Spock alternately suspicious and concerned looks. Spock was walking as far away from him as he reasonably could, radiating a general sense of tension and inapproachability as he kept his hands clasped tightly behind his back, and his eyes fixed dead ahead.
A somewhat confused Bones met them at the entrance to the medical bay. He took in Jim's soup-stained clothing, and both of their tense postures, and his confusion changed to annoyance. "What in the hell did you say to him this time?" he asked, as Spock moved with pointed steps over to the nearest examination station, and stood there like a man condemned. Grim and silent.
Jim frowned. "I didn't do anything," he said. "That's why we're here. He's flipping out and demanding a vacation and I want to know if he's a robot or something."
Bones gave him a skeptical look. "You think he's a robot?" he asked. "Well damn, Jim, anyone who's spent more than five minutes with him could have told you that."
"Funny, Bones," Jim deadpanned. "But seriously. He's busted. Fix him, or figure out if I'm right or not so I can go kick someone's ass and get the not-crazy Spock back."
Something of the seriousness to his tone must have worked, because the doctor just gave him a mildly surprised look, and then started running scans on the ramrod-straight science officer. Spock remained disquietingly silent for the entire process.
"What happened to you, anyway?" Bones asked after a few minutes, frowning at his readings.
Jim blinked, and then glanced down at himself. "Got nailed with a flying soup tray," he answered, which was the wrong thing to say, because then a few minutes later Bones was scanning him and grumbling over his bruised chest, and Jim was rolling his eyes, because that was nothing and could he please go back to scanning Spock, thanks?
"Sit down. Might as well take care of your bruise while the system processes Spock," Bones reasoned, and he was frowning, which meant that whatever he was getting from his scans didn't look good.
"Sit the hell down, Jim. I don't have time for your crap. It'll take two minutes if you cut out the bitching right now and let me treat you like a normal human being."
Really not good news then. Jim's nerves were rising as he frowned, but took a seat, pulling his shirts off and exposing the livid skin underneath them. It looked about as bad as it felt, although having a stripe essentially running across his chest was kind of funny. Bones took a look at it, shook his head, and moved off to retrieve a bruise treatment kit.
Spock was staring at him from the corner of his eye.
Curious, Jim returned the glance – his first officer had studiously avoided looking at him since they'd left his quarters.
"See something you like?" he asked jokingly, flexing his muscles a little.
Spock's response was immediate – he actually flinched and turned away so that his back was to Jim, his movements sharp and quick, hands clenching and eyes darkening in the instant before they were wrenched from view.
Apparently his mood hadn't improved any in the last few minutes.
Jim frowned at his first officer's back until Bones returned, and then the bruise on his chest was treated, and he was being instructed to leave sickbay.
"But I want to know what's wrong with Spock," he didn't whine. Even if it sounded an awful lot like whining.
"And I'll tell you as soon as I know what's wrong with Spock," Bones said back, throwing a clean shirt at his head. "In the meantime, I don't need you crowding my medical bay and making a damn nuisance of yourself. Besides, there's such a thing as doctor-patient privilege, so unless Spock asks you to stay, you've gotta go."
Jim knew it was a long shot, but he still threw his most convincing, hopeful gaze over to his first officer. Spock was still studiously avoiding looking at him, though.
"…I request that you leave, Captain," Spock said in a strained voice.
He'd known it was the likely response. It still disappointed the hell out of him. He tried being stubborn about it and playing his 'but I'm the captain' card. He still found himself herded out of sickbay two minutes later anyway, shirt in hand and a displeased frown on his lips. His mind turned over every possible theory he could think of for what might be wrong with Spock as he made his way to the bridge, back to duty. Alien disease. Alien possession. Android copy, although Bones probably would have figured that one out as soon as he started running scans. A really, really bad case of the Mondays. Or maybe all of the stress from everything had actually just caught up to him.
Maybe he did need a vacation, and Jim was just being an ass.
Well, if that was the case, then it wasn't anything new. He could apologize and see him safely off to some shore leave facility somewhere, and that would be that. A week – or however long – would sail by, and when Spock got back he could return to himself and Jim could go back to finding some kind of challenge in getting him to crack.
Because it just wasn't any fun when Nurse Chapel of all people could do it without even trying.
When he got the bridge he found out that they'd received new orders from Starfleet. They were to proceed immediately to some moronic diplomatic farce on Altair VI. Fighting off a disgruntled sigh Jim ordered their course change. He hated that kind of stuff – it felt like a massive waste of time. But, at least, the one bright spot would be that Altair VI had supposedly kickass shore leave facilities. So presumably Spock would get to have a nice vacation, if that was really what he needed.
Jim was still largely convinced it was more brain spores or something, though.
He'd never say that the next few hours he passed on the bridge betrayed his nerves, but that was only because he was too jittery to notice. He ranged about, sitting in his chair for brief periods before wandering, restless, over to other stations. He hovered around Uhura for a while, and wondered if he should tell her about Spock. The two's romantic relationship had more or less fizzled out, although they were still good friends. She would probably want to know.
Spock could tell her himself if that was the case, he ultimately decided. Hopefully without flinging any soup trays while he was at it. Then again, Uhura was a little more… steely than Chapel. So her reaction would probably be pretty interesting to see. He entertained himself briefly with thoughts of his communications officer flinging dishware back at Spock until his shift ended, at which point he promptly made for sickbay again. There'd been no calls up for him, but he was tired of waiting around.
When he arrived he was greeted by an interesting sight. It sounded like Bones was in his office, going by the rustle of movement he could vaguely hear. Spock, on the other hand, was in one of the medical alcoves – crowding Chapel like a drunk and, as near as Jim could tell, doing a bad job of trying to come on to her. For her own part, the nurse looked simultaneously hopeful and confused as hell. Jim didn't blame her. Her little 'crush' on his first officer was probably the worst kept secret aboard the ship, and near as anyone could tell, Spock was doing the Vulcan equivalent of letting her down gently. Which was to say that he was ignoring it. Usually. Except for now, obviously.
Jim was starting to think that maybe Chapel had been replaced by some kind of mind-controlling robot. He made a mental note to have Bones scan her, too, and then cleared his throat as loudly as he was able to. The blonde nurse looked over at him with an expression that was mostly relieved, though. Spock just tensed up again.
"I, um, I should go… to do… things," Chapel said, shooting his first officer another perplexed glance before she moved away, one hand pressing nervously against the side of her skirt.
Spock watched her go, his gaze flicking momentarily over to Jim, and then fixing itself onto the wall just past his shoulder. He clenched his hands behind his back again.
The words which were supposed to come out of Jim's mouth were 'are you feeling any better?' or maybe 'has Bones gotten the results yet?'.
"I thought you weren't into Chapel," he blurted instead. His mouth had apparently decided to mutiny.
"My personal affairs are my own," Spock tossed back without missing a beat, the muscle in his jaw clenching, and once again, studiously avoiding looking right at Jim. Which was starting to bother him, because it was like he'd suddenly become hideously deformed or something. Annoyed, he moved himself, trying to get his face lined up with Spock's field of vision. His first officer kept purposefully glancing away.
By the time Bones came out of his office, the end result looked kind of two inquisitive birds doing a really bizarre dance across from one another, with Jim's motions, of course, being dramatically more pronounced.
"…Oh, Jesus…" Bones muttered, tossing his eyes toward the ceiling for a moment before resuming his more serious, doctor's demeanor. He walked over. "Jim, get out. I need to talk to Spock for a minute."
"Have you figured out what's wrong with him?" Jim asked, frowning a little and giving up on trying to make his first officer look at him.
"For christsakes, how many times do I have to say the words 'doctor-patient privilege' to you before they actually sink in? Now get your ass out of my medical bay while I talk to Spock."
Bones was starting to look hypo-to-the-neck levels of annoyed. Jim wisely decided to take his friend's advice and backed out of sickbay, albeit with a few worried glances at his first officer and a lot of discontented muttering under his breath. Because as much as he liked to pretend otherwise, being the ship's captain didn't actually mean that anything and everything pertaining to his first officer was automatically his business.
Besides, if it was going to affect Spock's job performance – and the way he was acting, that answer looked to be 'hell yes' – then he'd need to be told about it anyway.
He lingered outside the door, scowling at the ship's hull and wondering why this would crop up now, of all times. It had been weeks since they'd even had a proper away mission. Something had to be up, at least, or else Bones wouldn't have asked for privacy. You didn't send people away for news like 'yeah, you just need a vacation'. Especially not when the person you're sending away is also the person who approves said vacations. That would just be a pointless waste of time, and no matter what Spock said, Bones wasn't purposefully inefficient.
After a few minutes, he thought he could make out the sounds of raised voices, dulled mostly by the thick walls of the sickbay. He probably would have missed them if he hadn't been standing right next to the door, where the seal on the soundproofing was weakest.
Really, he didn't need a lot of motivation to go back inside. Distantly muffled voices that may or may not have been shouting would do it.
"Dammit, Spock, if you know what it is then tell me, because right now all I know is that you're dying!"
Jim stopped dead in his tracks, just inside, and stared in shock at his friend and his first officer.
"Dying?" he said, looking between the two of them in disbelief. Spock had straightened up and stiffened like a rod again. Bones looked pissed.
"Out! Now!" he barked, but Jim wasn't going to go this time. He marched forward instead, stopping right in front of his first officer and CMO.
"What the hell is going on, Spock?" he said, and in a combination of fear and anger, reached out and grabbed Spock's arms. It would have been hard enough to bruise a human. On a Vulcan it was barely anything, except that it was, because Spock's flesh was so hot it felt like it should have burned his hands, and the reaction was instantaneous. Dark eyes zeroed in on him, narrowing, and one of Spock's arms reached out momentarily and closed around his waist. Jim's eyes widened as the gesture brought him colliding against his first officer.
And then, in a completely contrary move, he was flung away. The force of the move sent him back-pedaling across the floor of the sickbay for a few feet. Bones was staring at them both like they'd grown second heads.
Spock was growling.
Jim froze, as did the doctor, when they both noted the low sound reverberating from the half-Vulcan's throat. It was one of the single weirdest things he'd ever seen, his first officer staring at him, obviously fighting to keep his composure, and growling. It wasn't an even remotely human sound, either. Jim probably would have looked ridiculous if he'd tried something like that. It should have been almost funny.
It very much wasn't. Potentially it might have been intimidating, but the southward rush of his blood seemed to imply that it was, in fact, kind of…
Sometimes there were disadvantages to having part of his brain permanently hardwired to think of sex. Because that definitely wasn't appropriate for the time, place, and situation, and even he knew it was tasteless to go there when Bones was talking about things like terminal conditions.
"Do not touch me," Spock eventually managed to grind out, clenching his fists and squeezing his eyes shut. "In my current state I shall perceive any touch as a challenge."
"Challenge?" Jim asked, trying to put his finger on what exactly was happening here. He thought he might be able to. Something was telling him it was right up his alley.
Bones threw his hands into the air, looking angry and frustrated as he only ever did when someone's life was on the line. "For godsakes, Spock, whatever you know just tell us," he said, thankfully no longer trying to get Jim to leave. He'd apparently given up on that front.
Spock clasped his hands behind his back again, shaking his head slightly – but he answered. "It is… to do with biology."
Well, that was helpfully vague.
Fortunately Jim had a one-track mind.
"Biology?" he said, something clicking together. "You mean sex?"
Bones paused, then, and gave him an incredulous look which clearly said that only Jim would be able to make the immediate jump from one to the other. And that he was probably way off.
The doctor nearly fell over when, after a moment, Spock actually nodded once in agreement.
"Vulcans possess… a biological imperative," he admitting, sounding like each word was being yanked out of his mouth. "It is not something we speak of."
Scowling and muttering to himself, Bones moved over to the nearest work station and started rifling through several cases of vials. "Yeah, well, Jim here didn't exactly go announcing it the entire ship when he had hemorrhoids, either, but he still told me. On account of I'm the goddamn doctor," he scolded vehemently.
"Gee, Bones, thanks for telling Spock about that," Jim said sarcastically, feeling his face heat.
"Turnabout's fair play," the CMO shot back without missing a beat. "If you get to hear about his embarrassing conditions, he gets to hear about yours."
Bones then proceeded to live up to his word by listing every embarrassing disease or injury Jim had ever come to him with. By the time he'd loaded up his hypospray Jim wasn't sure if he should crawl into the nearest corner and die, or just try and laugh it off.
Being a cocky bastard usually worked best for him. He folded his arms across his chest, smirked, and shrugged. "Well, I like to live life creatively," he quipped.
"Right. Now, y'see, Spock, if I can still look Jim in the eye after all of that, I'm not gonna give a rat's ass about Vulcan sex drives. But I'm your doctor. I need to know, especially if it's killing you, for godsakes."
Jim couldn't really tell if Spock was thinking thing over, or just concentrating on trying to maintain his very robotic demeanor. After a minute Bones injected something into his neck, careful not to touch him, and causing the barest flinch around the first officer's eyes. "That should help with that hormonal cocktail that's running your system ragged," he said. "But not by much. The more you can tell me, the more I can do."
Spock exhaled a little, and one of his fists unclenched. He avoided looking at either one of them as he spoke.
"It is called Pon Farr," he said. "I had hoped I would not be forced to experience it. Even the majority of Vulcans do not have to endure it until they are older than I am now. Every seven years in our adult lives we are compelled to procreate, like Earth salmon spawning. Traditionally, any off-world Vulcans would be expected to return to our homeworld, where a situation arranged to compensate for this condition awaits them."
"You mean you need to make a Vulcan booty-call?" Jim blurted.
Both of the other men present gave him distinctly unimpressed looks.
"What? That's what I'm hearing!" he defended.
Spock exhaled again, brows furrowed together. "It is an unpleasant and complex situation, made even more unpleasant and complex by… recent events. Most Vulcan children are betrothed at an early age to ensure that, when the time comes, they will have an appropriate partner for mating. With Vulcan's destruction, however, this system was thrown into disarray. My own betrothed has died. The telepathic bond which marked us for one another was also destroyed. Ordinarily, the existence of this bond would slow the onset of Pon Farr, mitigating the sexual drive of the body by convincing the mind that one has already been mated. Without it my time has come at an accelerated rate. Left unchecked, my condition will prove fatal, as you have already concluded."
After a minute, Jim let loose a low whistle. He was actually more or less relieved to find that this situation had a solution, albeit an embarrassing one for Spock. "So that's why you want shore leave? So you can go hook up with someone?" That explained why he'd been coming on to Chapel, too.
There was another tense exhalation of breath. Bones muttered and ran some more scans over Spock, his face permanently stuck in an expression of displeasure.
"It is not so simple," Spock said, sounding vaguely defeated. "Vulcan… copulation during Pon Farr requires mental contact as well as physical. It can last for several days. A casual encounter would be considered both culturally offensive and distinctly unsuitable. My intent was to attempt to reach the new colony. It is likely they have made provisions for such circumstances as my own there."
Bones' expression darkened. "Spock," he said. "It'd take you days to get a private transport shuttle to Vulcan II from this part of space. By my readings, you won't last much more than a week. That's insane, man. My god. You'd rather risk dying than tell Jim – I mean, Jim – that you need to go have sex? The Enterprise could probably get us there in a day!"
Right. Except that they had orders to proceed directly to Altair VI. Which neither of them knew, but if things were as dire as Bones was suggesting, then maybe that was for the best. Now they wouldn't get in trouble when he re-directed the ship for the Vulcan colony.
After all, he wasn't going to let Spock die.
"We'll head for Vulcan II," he said simply, and with one quiet look at his first officer, turned and left sickbay.
This was going to get him into supreme shit with the admiralty. Jim suspected they were convinced that he was liable to just abscond with the Enterprise at some point, and this wasn't going to do anything to assuage those fears. Plus it was, you know, defying direct orders and all that. Things would probably be a lot simpler if Spock hadn't broken it off with Uhura. Maybe they could just go at it again for old times' sake?
He had a feeling, though, that if that had been an option, Spock would have gone for it already.
A quick trip to the bridge had him changing their course with a very confused Sulu, who, nevertheless, redirected the ship towards the new Vulcan colony. By the time he got back to sickbay he learned that Spock had confined himself to his quarters, and Bones was going over the readings at his desk with a kind of angry intensity that said he'd gotten a problem that he just wasn't solving.
"Damn Vulcan physiology," he muttered.
Despite his normal pro-sex inclinations, Jim more or less agreed with that assessment.
Three days later the Enterprise was in orbit around Vulcan II, and he found himself having one of the universe's most uncomfortable conversations with a rather severe-looking Vulcan woman in heavily embroidered clothes. The fact that he'd beamed down in order to have said conversation wasn't helping matters much, as Vulcan II was about as hot as the original Vulcan was. Which meant, of course, very. Bones and Spock had come along with him – the latter for obvious reasons, and Bones because Spock's condition looked to be getting progressively worse.
"There is little that we can do for him," the woman said, her demeanor nothing less than the customarily severe standard of most Vulcans. She did radiate a general sense of authority, however. Well – that could have been her. It also could have been the fact that she'd come to meet them while being carried on a litter.
Jim was starting to pick up these little hints about how to tell who was in charge from his various diplomatic missions.
Still, her answer wasn't the one he wanted to hear. "I'd think you guys would be all for the procreation thing at this point," he quipped, not feeling particularly culturally sensitive just then. His patience seemed to have gotten shorter as Spock's condition had gotten worse.
The woman – whom Spock had rather haltingly, and with much difficulty, introduced as K'Pow or T'Pol or something – didn't even bat an eyelash at him. "We have begun many projects aimed towards the continuation of our species, Captain Kirk. They are not relevant to this current situation. Spock's genetics are compromised by his mixed heritage."
Bones bristled. "Now wait just a damn minute," the doctor said. "Are you telling me that you're going to let Spock here die because he's half human? That there's something wrong with having human DNA?" he demanded, and Jim could see the Mt. McCoy was getting ready to explode. Not really surprising given that he had troubles with Vulcans even on a good day.
The Vulcan woman's eyebrow ticked marginally upwards at him. "Spock is not viable for continuing the Vulcan race. That does not mean he must be resigned to death," she said, which seemed to settle Bones at least a bit. But not a lot.
"I thought you said you couldn't do anything for him," Jim replied.
"I cannot," the woman agreed. "There are only two known ways for one to break the plak tow which is bringing him his slow death. One is a bonding through mating. The other is a bonding through battle. These are not things which we may give him here."
The implication which lay heavily after that statement was clear. 'We aren't going to do anything for him – so it's up to you'.
"Okay, 'mating' I know about," Jim said, mostly unthinking as he did. He ignored Bones' roll of the eyes and muttering about understatements. "What's 'bonding through battle'?"
He glanced over at Spock, who'd started to sweat at some point and looked absolutely miserable.
"When one engages in an act of physical exertion with one to whom they have bonded, or may bond, the plak tow will be sated. Mating may accomplish this. Fighting may as well," the matriarch explained, and Jim glanced over at Bones, the gears in both of their brains turning at once.
"No," Spock said, surprising everyone. Even the Vulcan woman raised her eyebrows at him. "My blood burns. I am deadly."
Jim looked at him carefully for a minute. Then he snorted. "No offence, Spock, but you can barely stand up," he said. Straightening, he shook his head. "I'll do it," he decided.
"I hope to god you mean fight him," Bones muttered, running a hand over his face.
A sudden rush of interest flooded his body as he considered the alternative, but Jim forcibly pushed it aside. Now was not the time to be a horny bastard. As far as he knew Spock wasn't even interested in men, and he'd probably prefer to fight. Particularly had he been in his right mind.
"Of course I mean fight him, Bones," he said. It shouldn't have been too hard. Spock didn't exactly look like he was in the best condition of his life, and Jim was more than competent at hand-to-hand combat. If the goal was to tire him out, he was sure he could handle it. Even if it was incredibly hot and Spock had been in a strangling mood for the past few days.
That offer seemed to by the invitation to begin some kind of odd ceremony. Jim found himself being led, along with Spock and Bones, towards an open patch of ground with a gong at one end and a lot of rocks around it. There were a few words spoken in Vulcan. Spock made another token objection.
"I will not fight him," he said, and Jim wondered why he was being so stubborn about it.
A sudden sting at the side of his neck distracted him. He glared over at his CMO, who was holding a hypospray and not even trying to look innocent.
"What the hell was that?" he demanded.
"Tri-ox compound," Bones replied unapologetically. "If you think I'm going to let you fight him out here with nothing to help you, you're delusional."
He gave the man a token glare, and the Vulcan woman spoke up again. She said a few more words in Vulcan, and then: "Given that this is a fight of bonding, no weapons will be provided. May you both survive."
"…Both survive?" Jim asked, blinking.
"Such combat can commonly result in the death of one of the participants," he was helpfully informed by the stern matriarchal figure. And then there wasn't much more time for questions, because Spock had moved into the center circle of the grounds, and Jim realized that there was a lot of space that had just been cleared around him, and, yup, they were going to do this thing.
He stood there for a minute.
So did Spock.
"I will not fight you, Jim," Spock said, and his jaw nearly hit the floor, because Spock had called him Jim. Spock almost never called him anything but 'Captain'. In that moment, he came to a startling realization.
This was just like all of those other times. Here was Spock, and for whatever reason, the universe had decreed that it was up to Jim to piss him off. For his own good.
"Your mother wouldn't fight me."
Okay, so not his best line ever. But it was hot, dammit, and sometimes just going tried-and-true was the right move to make. Besides which, Spock clearly wasn't on his own A-game either. This was exemplified by the fact that the line actually worked.
Jim, knowing what he was going for, ducked and got his neck the hell out of the way.
Spock was quick, though. He may have been out of it but he was by no means physically impaired, even if he was sweating and there was a certain mad, clouded look to his eyes. A hand closed over the collar of Jim's shirt and then they were grappling with one another, Spock's unyielding Vulcan muscles reminding him just why it was generally a bad idea to pick a fight with him. Jim had gotten a little more practice in since the first time they'd done this, though, and knew a little better what to aim for. When Spock went for his neck, he brought his arms up to block him. When he aimed a blow to his gut he twisted, getting it to glance off of his chest instead. His first officer was strong, but not actually trained in combat. It worked to Jim's advantage.
That us, until he got himself pinned near one of the rocks, and felt a pair of familiar, vice-like fingers close over his shoulder. Too close to his neck. He kicked out, but the angle was too awkward to land much of a blow. His mind was working quickly, fully in combat mode, and the only thing he could really think was that he had teeth and there was an ear and he was probably going to get strangled if he didn't do something soon.
So he did.
His mouth closed around the hot, soft cartilage, and his teeth bit down hard enough to have drawn blood on a human. All at once Spock stiffened, and for a moment Jim was simultaneously worried and hopeful that he'd actually managed to hurt him.
Then the grappling continued, but it took Jim a minute to realize that they'd apparently shifted gears somewhere in all of that, because Spock was pulling at him and grabbing at him but it was no longer exactly hurting him, even though it was still rough, and his first officer's face moved to the corner of his neck and he felt the strangest little spark of contact and then – yes, that was a tongue, and yes, it was apparently licking him.
Which wasn't normally considered a standard part of fighter's etiquette unless you were eight and trying to gross someone out. Although that definitely wasn't the effect it was having on Jim just then.
So, yeah, he could kind of see how, given the circumstances, wires could get crossed in all of this. And frankly he wasn't as perturbed by the idea of having sex with Spock as he could have been. Maybe should have been, even. But exhibitionism had never been his particular kink, and at the rate things were going Bones, that Vulcan woman, and the four others that had turned up with her were about to get one heck of a show.
After a minute he managed to get an opening, made a little easier by the change in Spock's chosen tone of aggression, and managed to put some space between them. The fine sands below his feet shifted in a sudden billowing around his feet, and his breath was ragged and uneven as he skittered to a halt near the sidelines. At some point in all of that his shirts had gotten torn to pieces, and the sun hit hard against his uncovered skin.
He was immensely grateful when the Vulcan woman called for what essentially amounted to a time-out. Spock actually halted in his advance, although he began to pace back and forth against the sands. Jim dropped to one knee near Bones, gulping in air and trying to regain his equilibrium. The look Spock was giving him kept sending all the blood rushing away from his brain, too, which wasn't helping matters much.
"Jim, you can't keep this up for much longer," Bones said, producing his hypospray again. This time the tool's appearance didn't pass unnoticed.
"What's that?" Jim asked. A moment later, the Vulcan matriarch echoed his sentiment.
"Tri-ox compound," Bones said. And if Vulcans didn't have such good hearing, Jim would have then asked him what it really was before he injected it into his neck. But as it stood he just had to trust him, because whatever he'd put into his bloodstream, it wasn't more tri-ox.
He actually felt kind of worse when he stood back up to go round two.
It was decidedly awkward. Spock seemed like he couldn't quite decide if he was supposed to be fighting Jim or doing something a little more recreational with him. Jim wasn't sure which attitude to encourage, either, since one would potentially get him killed and the other would probably just get him killed later, after Spock had come back to his senses. So they more or less danced in between, and for a while it seemed to almost work. But then Jim landed a good hit on Spock's ribs, and the half-Vulcan's indecision tipped for a moment into retaliatory violence.
For his own part, Jim had gotten slower. When the hands closed around his neck he internally cursed as he felt his air supply begin to cut, and his vision waver. He gasped, clawing at the impossible fingers on his throat as he tried and failed to breath. Cold panic closed in around him for a moment – and when it did, he felt the grip around him slacken, beginning to let go. But by then it was already too late. He was spiraling away into the darkness.
He thought he heard Spock say his name, the word surrounded in a roar of flames, but he couldn't answer him.
When he opened his eyes again, his first thought was gratitude for the welcome cool of the air against his skin. He knew straightaway that he was in sickbay, the scent of the place was distinct enough for him to recognize it immediately. His eyelids felt heavy, and his skin tingled in a sleepy, indistinct sort of way.
He shot up, and then immediately regretted the move as a wave of dizziness hit him. There was a crash and a soft 'thud' as he tumbled off of the medical bed, the floor spinning past his vision and a sheet tangling around his legs. He blinked, and thought he heard the sound of footsteps. Looking up he realized he was in one of the alcoves, with the privacy curtains pulled around it.
"Jim?" Bones asked, and he blinked a little dazedly at the nearest curtain, where the voice appeared to be emanated from.
As he was about to answer he heard the soft whoosh of the bay's doors opening, and the clipped sound of light footsteps across the floor.
"Doctor," Spock said, and Jim felt a sudden wave of relief at the sound of the familiar, if strained, voice. He closed his eyes and inhaled. Good. He was fine – and hopefully that stunt hadn't been for nothing. "I trust you will see to the arrangements for the captain. I intend to turn myself over for appropriate disciplinary action."
"My actions have been inexcusable. I shall place Mr. Scott in command of the ship before I remove myself from duty…"
Jim straightened up, pushing his way past the curtain, and staring at the back of Spock's head. His hands were clasped so tightly together that his fingers were almost completely white in colour.
"Scotty'll kill you if you put him in command for more than a day, you know," he quipped. "He hates leaving engineering."
The lines of Spock's body changed, and Jim watched as his head turned, eyes wide with shock and some unnamable emotion. It made him grin as he turned to walk around him, realizing that, for whatever reason, his first officer had thought he was dead. It was the only explanation for his reaction and for what he'd just said.
"Captain…" he breathed.
Then, suddenly, Jim found a pair of hands gripped around the top of his arms, and the universe stopped as his immediate line of vision was filled with Spock's face. And, most specifically, Spock's smile. It changed his entire face. This wasn't just a slight twitch of the lips or turn of a corner, his cheeks had lifted and his grin was broad, open, showing white teeth and reaching all the way to his eyes.
"Jim!" he exclaimed with feeling, his tone almost laughing in relief.
Jim knew he had a brain. It was up there. It did his thinking for him at least fifty percent of the time. Much more than that when he was on the bridge. Considerably less when he was drunk. There had been things which had turned it off before in the past, but a smile had never been one of them. And yet, for the life of him, Jim couldn't find a single thought or word or anything of any coherence for that moment. Which was kind of amazing, because he'd figured out that he could get to Spock.
He hadn't quite realized until then that Spock could just as easily get to him.
The moment was short-lived, though, as his first officer realized that he was making an emotional display – one distinctly different from his normal variety – and promptly reined it in a little more. His hands slid from Jim's arms, and he looked over at Bones and Nurse Chapel, his self-consciousness apparent before he regained his customarily reserved expression.
"…I cannot help but notice, Captain, that you do not appear to be dead. Contrary to Dr. McCoy's earlier assessment of your status."
"Sorry, Spock," he said jokingly, feeling very vaguely drunk. He opted to conclude that that had more to do with whatever drugs had been pumped into his system than any unexpected facial expressions which may have been lobbed his way. "Better luck next time?"
Spock's eyes narrowed, and for a minute, Jim thought he was going to grab him again. Then Bones cleared his throat.
"I didn't like the way that fight was going. Figured if I could end it soon, I should, so I injected Jim with a nerve-paralyzer to simulate death. I wasn't sure if those other Vulcans down there would let it end otherwise. No offence, Spock, but if it came down to you almost killing him or having some willing parties draw straws for having weird alien sex with you, the straws seemed like a better option," he explained. "But you sure calmed down quick enough when you thought Jim was dead."
"…Yes," Spock agreed. "When I believed the captain to be dead, the plak tow subsided. I cannot say why. Perhaps the exertion of combat had its intended effect."
The tension returned to his shoulders a bit, then, and after several moments, Jim watched his first officer excuse himself from sickbay. He frowned at his departure.
Some things weren't adding up. Like, for example, hadn't Spock said that this whole Pon Farr thing needed to go on for days? So how could it be over? Jim had figured he'd need to wrestle with him a few times before it would be done. Hopefully not necessarily on the colony, but if sand or something had some kind of mitigating effect on the whole thing, well, so be it. And then there was that whole business about 'bonds' and whatnot.
He didn't feel like he had a bond with Spock. Well, not one that hadn't been there before, anyway.
"I don't know, Jim," Bones said beside him. "I don't buy it. Maybe the worst of it's over, maybe he's not in danger of dying any more, but he's not back to normal. He didn't even stay long enough for me to scan him," he noted. "I'd keep him off of active duty for a while."
Jim nodded, thoughtful, considering the strange rush of things he'd been bombarded with. He'd be in shit with Starfleet, his first officer might still potentially be unhinged, and he'd kind of really enjoyed some parts of that little grappling session more than he should have.
Making up his mind, he moved over to one of the medical stations and started rifling through one of the side cabinets.
Bones raised an eyebrow. "Mind if I ask what you're doing?" he said, folding his arms and adopting his whole 'I'm CMO, dammit, you can't just paw through my stuff even if you are the captain' pose.
With a cheeky grin, Jim found what he was looking for, and waved the bottle of lubricant at his friend.
"A good captain is a thorough captain," he said, giving the bottle a toss and then catching it again. He headed for the doors.
"…DAMMIT, JIM!" Bones exclaimed, gripping his forehead in one of his hands. "Why the hell didn't you just do that in the first place, then?!"
"To be honest? I'm not really sure anymore."