Title: Step by Step
Characters: Kirk, Spock, McCoy
Genre: H/C, fluff, gen
Word Count: 3378
Warnings/Spoilers: Not a blessed thing.
Summary: Even sick as a dog, Jim Kirk is a very lucky man. You don't just luck into things as much as you would like to think you do. You build step by step, whether it is friendships or opportunities. - Barbara Bush
A/N: Fills one of my st_20_fics table prompts, "Most admirals don't have a lick of sense, anyway." (though most of the fics on that table are written in a third-person crewman's POV, this is not, that's just how it worked out). Also answers a writing prompt given to me by writer_klmeri: The first time Kirk tried plomeek soup - and he didn't like it. Not that that's the proper thing to say to a Vulcan when that Vulcan is possibly, minutely, on the verge of looking concerned Jim might actually be dying. Note to self, Kirk. Talk to Doctor McCoy about his penchant for exaggeration. Here you go, m'friend. :)
Captain James Tiberius Kirk, youngest captain in all of Starfleet, and by far the most successful due to hard work, diplomacy, and innovative thinking (well…that plus the fact that he is the only captain in the 'Fleet who has a Vulcan to watch his back), does not believe in Luck.
It is astronomical misfortune, and not bad luck, which means he happens to catch the one rare 'flu strain out of two hundred known variations in the galaxy, which is highly resistant to the standard all-inclusive yearly vaccine for 'Fleet personnel. Dr. McCoy, to make matters worse, is more amused than anything else by his complaints in the first twenty-four hours, and tells him he is a doctor, not a miracle worker, and that the captain needs to just take it easy and stop comm-ing Sickbay every hour for another anti-nausea and energy hypo because the stuff can become addictive in those quantities.
It is Admiral Cartwright's pigheadedness, and not bad luck, which means that he unfortunately cannot take himself off duty for the typical five days necessary for this incurable strain of 'flu to run its course. They are running under a partial blackout along the very edge of the Neutral Zone, skirting the Romulan and Klingon territorial intersection closer and closer every moment they remain on their present course. The mission, also unfortunately, cannot be delayed; a Priority One distress call, namely an emergency supply run to a satellite colony which experienced a meteor shower that knocked out all their power sources and matter replicators. Under such diplomatically volatile conditions as their current location, the captain is not to leave the Bridge unless he is in serious danger of death or incapacitation; obviously, the Admiral Cartwright believes that simply feeling sick does not qualify. (Kirk rather thinks he is fast approaching the dying stage, or at least the stage where he wants to die, but that is not apparently good enough for the unsympathetic-powers-that-be.)
It is loyalty, and not bad luck, which means his First Officer from his seat at the Science station remotely changes the volume settings on the command chair, and thereby startles him out of the first actual sleep he's had in two days by sending him a not-really-all-that-subtle message that blasts a notification chirp loud enough to perforate his eardrums in the middle of an impromptu nap on the Bridge.
It is his utter weariness, and not good luck, that means his oh-so-innocent-looking First gets off with nothing more than a dirty look and a return text message, asking if Spock wants to spend the remainder of their five-year mission demoted to gamma shift in Waste Recycling and Processing.
And then it is total, blatant disregard for regulation, and not any kind of luck, which means that halfway through the third day in which he spends his designated shift white-knuckling his armrests, trying to mask coughing fits, and concentrating upon not falling over the moment his will-power weakens, he is all but hauled out of said chair by his First Officer and forcibly escorted to the turbolift.
Spock meets his protests (pretty feeble ones at this point, if he can admit that to himself) with a long-suffering shake of the head and a subtle hand to balance as the captain lists dangerously to one side.
"Mr. Sulu is more than capable of overseeing the remaining twelve hours of our journey through this sector of the Neutral Zone, Captain, after which time the regulations change to permit you off-Bridge duty. Do not touch anything, Lieutenant," he adds dryly, as the young pilot grins and (after casting a dubious look downward, as if to evaluate the germ content of his prospective seat) sits in the center chair. "And notify me if there is any change to sensors, however minute."
"Cartwright's going to have kittens, Spock," he moans, leaning more heavily than he would like on the wall of the lift, which is actually quite soothingly cool against his head. He stifles another hoarse cough into his sleeve, and closes his eyes.
Spock turns the directional handle, which closes the door with a pneumatic thump of finality, and does not bother to engage in the usual banter about illogical human idioms. "I believe the admiral, as Dr. McCoy phrased it this morning in his succinct summary of my duties for the day, will get over it, Captain. You are unwell, sir."
"Your observation skills are, as always…impeccable, Commander." He gets sarcastic when he's sick, and that's really not fair to throw at a Vulcan who has been ridiculously patient with him already. "Sorry," he sighs, opening his eyes again only to promptly slam them shut when the turbolift walls tilt alarmingly back at him.
"Apologies are unnecessary, sir."
"You're far too kind, Mr. Spock. But if Cartwright gets his back up over this, make sure you come and get me –"
"I shall do nothing of the kind, Captain. Your health is of more importance than the admiral's overblown sense of self-importance and his belief that distant bureaucracy is the most efficient way to run a starship."
His head is spinning from the fever, but he's still able to crack open hazy eyes in surprise, feeling a small grin ease the tightness around his jawline. "I take it that this scientific and totally unbiased evaluation is strictly off-the-record, Mr. Spock?"
The Vulcan raises an eyebrow with an air of total indifference. "As you wish, sir. However, my report to Admiral Cartwright's superiors and the Diplomatic Relations department at Starfleet Headquarters will certainly indicate my assessment."
The lift pings cheerfully to indicate their arrival, and his laugh sounds more like a sob of utter exhaustion under the sound of the doors opening. "If you ignite a diplomatic mudslinging battle over me having the flu, Commander…"
"I, Captain?" Spock's innocent tone is totally void of guile, as if he simply cannot imagine where Kirk got that idea.
His fevered brain can't quite place assignation of blame for who exactly turned Christopher Pike's shy, mild-mannered Science Officer into this awesomely frightening Vulcan commander who has absolutely no qualms about utilizing his diplomatic immunity and connections in Starfleet to further their own ends, especially where his captain is concerned.
The knowledge sends a flash of warmth spreading through him from his heart outward, and it's only when he blinks open his eyes (no idea when they closed, actually, which isn't really a good thing) to see Spock's concerned face inches from his and a glimmering expanse of duranium just behind, that he realizes maybe that wasn't all affection warming his core, and he probably should sit down before he embarrasses himself by passing out in the middle of Deck Five.
Except that he's already sitting down, apparently, because that yawing expanse of silver behind Spock is the lower half of a wall.
"Captain, are you all right?"
He nods mechanically, still trying to figure out when the wall became the floor and vice-versa. The heat has centered in his head now, it feels like, and the hand he raises to rub at his eyes is shaking almost violently.
"You became disoriented and nearly collapsed, sir, most likely due to the fever and exhaustion," Spock explains in answer to his unspoken question, and the silent connection goes both ways because he can read Spock's I-am-worried-about-you-stubborn-illogical-human in the tiny furrow between his eyebrows. "Perhaps I should escort you to Sickbay rather than your cabin –"
"No," he manages to grit out, struggling to his feet with the aid of the solid wall and less solid but more helpful hand from his patient First. "I'm fine, Spock…fine." Brushing futilely at his now-rumpled uniform, he shakes his head (bad idea, it feels like his brain is in danger of being pumped out his ears) and takes a step down the corridor.
An even worse idea, apparently, because it's just his luck (ha, Luck) that his body decides to make the decision for him; evidently not sleeping for three nights running and forgetting to stay hydrated trump stubborn determination. He unfortunately is not given an opt-out for the indignity of fainting into the arms of his longsuffering First Officer.
Lady Luck hates him, obviously.
He wakes up, predictably, to a three-quarters-human, one-quarter-Vulcan catfight going on over his head.
"…old me to get him off the Bridge, Doctor. I did indeed, 'get him off the Bridge.'"
"That meant bring him to Sickbay, you idiot! Do I look like I do house calls?!"
"Your questionable bedside manner suggests you are not even adept at office calls, Doctor."
"If he can't start stomaching food and water I'm gonna need equipment down here, and we haven't got a portable multi-intravenous unit because someone didn't sign off on my requisition forms the last time I submitted 'em for one!"
"That would be because you have already reached your monthly requisition limit, Doctor. For the next three months, actually."
It could be the fever, or it could be that he's so bone-tired he can barely move, but it takes longer than he was expecting to blink back into the land of refereeing-between-two-equally-brilliant-and-annoy ing-department-heads.
"So tell one of your precious Science lieutenants they can darn well wait another coupla weeks for a new microscope or something!"
"I do not show favoritism among my subordinates, Doctor, as that is both against Starfleet regulation and, in addition, quite illogical. Also, were I to for some undisclosed reason show favoritism, Doctor, it would certainly not be toward you."
Ooh, Vulcan burn. He can't help but snicker, although both his amusement and Bones's spluttering are somewhat drowned out the next moment by an awful hacking cough that suddenly chokes out everything else, including his ability to breathe.
Hands on his arms, an arm behind his back, propping him up into a nearly-sitting position to clear his airway.
"Aw, come on, Jim! Don't make me haul an oxygen kit up here!"
He manages to get a hand up to halt the tirade of medical concern/bullying which is the most comforting thing he could hear at moments like this, and a minute later he can breathe again. His head feels oddly heavy, everything muffled through a fog, but he is awake and at least mostly aware of his surroundings.
Said surroundings being his two watchdogs picking up right where they left off without a pause for breath, now that they are assured he isn't going to choke to death in front of them.
"If he is having this much difficulty breathing, after only three days of this illness, Doctor –"
"If you'd got him down to Sickbay like I asked you to, he'd'a been on oxygen and a vitamin drip this whole time!"
"Doctor, I was unable to even remove him from the Bridge until I was able to negotiate Mr. Scott's assistance in…making unexpected upgrades to our communications systems."
"Do what now?"
"We needed to be unable to receive any further transmissions from Admiral Cartwright for the next twelve hours. That was only accomplished this morning, and when I received confirmation that the upgrades were well underway and Starfleet notified of our…technological difficulties, I then proceeded to follow your instructions."
His head jerks up at that, ship-business for a moment driving back the fog of illness. "Wait, wait…are you saying you and Scotty sabotaged the comms systems so that Cartwright won't know I'm not up there?"
Spock looks down at him, eyebrows raised innocently. "I said nothing of the kind, sir. You are, undoubtedly, suffering from mild disorientation due to an elevated internal temperature. I would suggest you not concern yourself further with pondering potentially erroneous interpretations of our conversational variances."
He squints upward at the solemn features of his First Officer, frowning, because Spock just used more multi-syllabic words than are probably in the ship's whole entire language banks and there's just no way his foggy brain is going to follow that right now, thank you. And so, he only rolls his eyes, slouching down against the pillows McCoy is still fussily piling behind his back.
"Whatever," he mutters, swatting away a wandering hand that ignores his irritation, checking his pulse in the old-fashioned way.
"Don't you whatever me, Jim-boy."
"Shut up, Bones. And stop poking me! I'm sick, not dying."
Not unsurprisingly, his personal torturer-slash-chief medical officer ignores him, and pokes a bony finger into his blanket-covered chest.
"You are way beyond just sick now, Jim, because you've let this snowball for the last three days by not taking care of yourself! Now you're not gettin' rid of me or Spock until you've got something in your stomach and I'm satisfied you're not gonna fry your own brain without medical supervision tonight!"
He scowls, though the effect is considerably lessened by the enormous sneeze that works its way violently out of his lungs, probably taking bits of them with it. McCoy jumps backward, startled, and he grins into the paper tissue Spock silently hands him. The tissue is then followed by three entire boxes of the same, stacked neatly on the low shelf behind the bed.
He's about to make some comment about it being overkill, when another sneeze fairly rockets out of his lungs, jerking his head back with enough force that it actually hurts; and he had a headache the size of a small planetoid already.
His moan of pain (and the accompanying Klingon swearing) seem to at least dissipate the bickering that had been his wakeup call, and in the next five minutes it's almost creepy (okay, it's really creepy) how well McCoy and Spock have him situated upright with a few books at his elbow, music cued up on his bedside monitor, all data-padds containing official work very much out of reach, and an honest-to-gods bowl of soup sitting on an appropriated Sickbay tray-table across his bed.
The bowl steams cheerfully up at him, spoon twinkling invitingly at four-o-clock and an embarrassingly tall pile of paper napkins at nine.
He eyes it for a second with well-founded skepticism, and then gives the yellowish, milky liquid a curious stir.
"Mr. Spock is learning about human customs when we suffer unfortunate illnesses, Captain," McCoy's voice drawls from slightly behind him, and the hint of mischief in the tone is a warning all its own.
Now suspicious, he cranes his neck to look, and is met with a grin over the top of a cocktail shaker. Blue eyes twinkle at him as McCoy gives the electrolyte/fruit juice/protein powder mixture an expert shake.
"So of course, I instructed him that when suffering from non-life-threatening illnesses, most humans revert back to instinctual basics that can stem from childhood; one of those being that of comfort foods. Mr. Spock ventured to agree with me, citing instances from his own childhood, and oddly enough both our cultures agree on the usual food of choice."
"Soup," he answers cautiously, venturing a glance at his silent First, who is now finding objects on the desk to be of great interest.
"Soup, Jim. Whatever-the-heck plomeek actually is, I hope it tastes like chicken noodle because that's what you're getting. Now eat up like a good little boy, so he didn't go to all that trouble for nothing."
Spock fires a withering look over his captain's head. "Doctor, really."
"I'm just sayin'."
"You do indeed, say a great many things, Doctor. In fact, one might go so far as to – Captain, are you quite all right?"
Through a heroic effort which saps nearly all his remaining energy, he manages to smile up at his First's raised eyebrow. "Quite all right, Mr. Spock," he rasps, thankful that the congestion will mask any aberrations in his voice. "Thank you," he adds in a not-quite squeak, as he is totally unable to fabricate a more elaborate statement of gratitude.
Behind him, he hears a muffled snort, and then the doctor moves around him, giving the drink canister one last shake. "Spock, would you get us a coupla wet towels from the bathroom? Nothing like the old-fashioned methods to get a fever down."
The Vulcan nods solemnly, and vanishes into the adjoining bathroom.
He drops the spoon with a wet plop, splashing yellowish droplets all over the tray. "Holy mother of…Bones, give me that!" He snatches the drink mixture and chugs several ounces in one swallow, hoping the slightly bitter taste of vitamins and juice mix will mask the plomeek.
"Not a fan, then?"
"I can see why he threw it at the wall when Christine tried to take it to him last year…"
McCoy's laughter is valiantly stifled in his sleeve. "It can't be that bad, Jim. Vulcan food is known for being pretty bland to other species."
He glares watery-eyed up at his CMO, sinuses still burning. Hey, at least he can breathe now, which is actually a small favor. "You put him up to this."
"So to speak," the doctor admits cheerfully.
"I will kill you in your sleep. As soon as I can stand up without throwing up."
"You do that. In the meantime, you better choke some of that down before Spock gets back, or you're gonna hurt his non-existent feelings."
The whimper which escapes is not precisely his proudest moment, but after three days of being sicker than he can ever remember being, and now this on top of it all…he rather thinks he's entitled. However, in the thirty seconds before Spock returns, he manages to choke down two-thirds of the bowl and only stops because he's totally run out of the protein juice chaser and there is no way in the seven hells he's taking another spoonful of that stuff without it.
Besides, he's getting oddly sleepy again.
Spock takes a look at the mostly-empty bowl and then looks ridiculously pleased with himself, so much so that it's actually pretty adorable and maybe it was worth having several of his taste receptors literally burnt out of his head for all of eternity.
"I had not anticipated the mild tranquilizing effects taking place that rapidly, I must admit," he hears Spock say in a tone of mystification, as his eyes start to close lazily.
"…Uhm. About that."
"About that, Doctor?"
A snort of laughter. "Spock, there's not a human alive that can really stomach that stuff…didn't your mother ever tell you it's not compatible with human taste receptors?"
A very startled pause.
"So…I drugged his drink, because I thought there's no way in the scientific world he was gonna manage to choke that stuff down, not even for you." Fondness tinges the words, as McCoy sighs. "Shows what I know."
"You are saying, Doctor…"
"That because he didn't want to hurt your feelings, he basically got a double whammy with the sleeping pills? Pretty much. So it's your fault, y'see."
"Your logic is completely non-existent, Doctor. Your withholding of medical knowledge is to blame."
"Yeah, whatever, Spock."
"A most impressively quick-witted response, Doctor. I salute your mental acuity."
Oh, for pity's sake. He cracks open one eye, glares blearily at both of them, and points a finger in the vague direction of the door, before his hand swan-dives floppily back onto the blanket. "You ladies take it outside, would you? Tryin' t'sleep, here."
It is not an order, indeed barely has the force behind it to make it a request, and that's bad for his captainal dignity – but apparently even drugged and sick and trying to not be sick due to the evil-soup-from-hell he's still got it, because there is a muttered apology (Bones, because Spock wouldn't call him a moron) and a gentle tug to replace the blanket over his exposed arm (Spock, because even McCoy's hands aren't that cold).
He smiles to himself as they totally disobey orders and don't leave, instead just retreating to his working area. The dull murmur of scientific discussion is as recognizable and familiar as their bickering, and he can tell he will be asleep in seconds in the knowledge that all is well and in control aboard his ship.
It's fortunate, he thinks fuzzily, just before dreams usher him away, that Fate decided to present one mostly-deserving captain with two so trustworthy subordinates-and-friends.
Oh, who is he kidding.
He's a very Lucky man, and he knows it.