Disclaimer: I do not own anything to do with Star Trek, although it would be pretty fantastic to have that opportunity. :p

Author's note: Ok, this is my first attempt at this type of fic, so please let me know how it turns out!

Looking up from my research briefly, I permit myself a moment to gaze upon the environment of the planet Neural. Like many of the planets that we investigate during our missions aboard the Enterprise, it is starkly different to Vulcan; the green shrubbery replacing the looming red stones that belong to my home planet. Yet despite this greenery, this area that we are cataloguing possesses a temperature which is remarkably close to that of deserts on Earth, making the atmosphere much more comfortable for my desert bred body. Although I would never admit it aloud, especially in the presence of Doctor McCoy, it is a relief to experience a warmth which is more similar to that which I am accustomed to; this away mission lacks the usual battle to regulate body temperatures that inevitably accompany 'trips' to colder planets.

Realising that I have drifted into thought I shake myself mentally. Behind me, I hear Jim finishing his transmission to Doctor McCoy, a hint of amusement hidden beneath the command exterior. Hearing a snap as he closes the communicator, I attempt to force myself to concentrate as I sense him moving closer to me, closing the gap between us. I am suddenly aware of the way which Star Fleet issued boots crunch against the undergrowth; a fact I paid little attention to until now.

I continue to stare unconvincingly at the ground before me, barely taking in the prints that lie deeply embedded in the soil which I had just been studying. My performance at concentration is undeniably false, and I know that Jim sees straight through my charade. I hear him come to a halt behind me, and I give in, turning around to face him.

I quickly turn back to face the print, illogical though the sudden action may be. "Large prints," I gesture towards the paw shapes which are clearly visible from Jim's vantage point above me. Inwardly, I wince at my unfailing ability to always highlight the obvious. "The ape like carnivore in the reports?"

He hears my question, and acknowledges it with a single thoughtful word; "Yes." There is a short pause before he continues and I listen attentively, although I continue scanning the horizon for further signs of this creature. "It's the Mugatu. No problem," he drawls, although there is a hint of anxiety buried in his voice, so soft that I am unsure if it truly exists. "Those prints are several days old. They seldom stay around in one place."

His statement is confirmed as I complete my scrutiny of the nearby landscape, and stand up to face him. "Aside from that," I remark as I straighten, "you would say it's a Garden of Eden?"

I can deduce from his voice that his lips have turned up into a smile. Stubbornly, my gaze continues to sweep the surrounding area before coming to rest on him. "Well so it seemed to the..." the amusement in his voice grows as he continues to speak, "...brash young lieutenant Kirk in command on his first planet survey."

"Class M in all respects. Quite Earth like." Not for the first time, I pause to appreciate the difference in appearance between this completely alien world, and Vulcan. In fact, the resemblance to Earth is uncanny.

"Except these people stayed in their Garden of Eden; bows and arrows for hunting...and absolutely no fighting among themselves." His tone is so wistful, so contemplative, that I finally turn to face him, ignoring my continued observation of the planet. "Remarkably peaceful...and tranquil."

As if to defy his description of the planet, a shout sounds from behind us. Simultaneously, as one, we both turn towards the disturbance. We share a brief glance born of years of working together, deciding in that split second to abandon our assignment for the time being in favour of discovering the cause of the shouts. Deep within his eyes, I see the curiosity and thrill for danger that has informed me many times in the past of a dangerous situation to come. His 'intuition' as he calls it rarely fails.

I follow behind him as he jogs up the slight hill towards the noise, dutifully protecting his unguarded back from any unforeseeable danger. Although I can run faster than the average human it is my duty, my obligation and my decision, to protect the man in front of me from harm.

Far below us and crouching behind shrubbery with what appear to be weapons are several villagers, keeping themselves hidden skilfully in an attempt to ambush the figures that are slowly making their way through a winding path just in front of them.

"'Bows and arrows' Captain?" I fail spectacularly to remove the irony from my voice as I turn to face my superior officer.

Unaware that I am studying him, he shifts his feet to gain a better view of the scene before him, his expression one of both amazement and bemusement. "Villagers with flintlocks...that's impossible." His eyes are now fixed steadily on the weapons which he now sees, his voice sounding distant as he is momentarily lost in recollection. "They hadn't progressed nearly that far."

I clear my throat slightly to gain his attention, but he does not hear; a sure sign that his mind is elsewhere. Resorting to more human measures I point and deliberately draw him back into the conversation. "Captain look..." I let the sentence hang in the air between us as he follows my finger, his serious eyes now resting upon the people walking along the path.

"One of those men walking into ambush is Tyree..." realising that I do not understand his reference, he expands. "The friend I lived with here."

Before us, the scene unfolds quickly; the armed villagers raising their weapons and preparing to fire, the travellers stopping on the route back to their community. They are 'sitting ducks' as Doctor McCoy would no doubt say at this moment.

Without hesitation, Jim draws his phaser, prepared to fire it at the villagers. I hastily interrupt him before he has a chance to do so, knowing that he has violated the Prime Directive one too many times in previous missions, and that Star Fleet is still closely observing him in order to make sure that he does not do so again.

"Captain, use of our phasers is expressly forbidden." Looking slightly mollified by this reminder, he reluctantly replaces the weapon to his belt.

I continue to watch him curiously as his gaze darts between Tyree and the villagers several times. From the expression that is currently gracing his features, he has formulated a plan, and sure enough he picks up a stone that lies by his feet, hesitating slightly as if daring me to object. I draw several paces closer to him to convey my approval, and he smoothly draws back his arm, aiming for a point just beyond the attackers.

The gunshot that follows the landing of the stone is enough to start me guiltily from my observation of him, and I internally berate myself once more for failing to be completely alert in what could rapidly become a dangerous situation.

Glancing at the man to my left to see if he noticed the slip, I am relieved to note that he is instead watching Tyree and his men flee for cover with a satisfied smile on his face, which rapidly fades as he notices the villagers watching us. From their stormy expressions, it is clear that an escape attempt may be necessary, and Jim nods urgently to me, already moving even as he pulls his phaser out of his belt once more for defence. Barely sparing time to nod back in acknowledgment of his silent order, I allow him to run in front of me, once more making the decision to protect him from those who are pursuing us.

My own well being is a lower priority at this moment, as it is within my prerogative as First Officer to ensure that the Captain arrives safely aboard the ship. This is what I tell myself, but I am aware that there is a deeper, more emotional reason for my actions.

We reach the site of my earlier inspection in what appears to be a very small amount of time, jumping over slight mounds in the earth in our haste to reach Doctor McCoy and the beam up point. Jim suddenly turns to look backwards, towards the villagers who are still pursuing us, and I almost run into him. Following his gaze, I notice with some alarm that the distance between us is closing. I silently urge Jim on, and as though he could hear me, he takes flight once more.

My feet impact with solid ground after a brief leap through the air as we bypass the rest of the path and opt instead for jumping straight off the edge of the slight hill. I can hear the heavy breathing and footsteps of the first villager even as we sprint in the direction of the beam up point, and adjust my course so that I am more fully protecting Jim's exposed back.

Even as I do this, I hear a gunshot from just behind me and keep my attention focused on my Captain, who mercifully appears to have barely escaped the stray bullet. In accordance to the shot, I move a few millimetres to my right, knowing as I do so that I am now more likely to be injured than I was before. Yet I also know that it greatly reduces the risk of Jim sustaining injury. I flatten the survival instinct which is ringing alarm bells within my mind, and remain in my current position, swallowing apprehensively as I picture the villager raising his weapon to aim once more. I resolutely keep my focus on Jim, my reason for protection.

In the near distance, I see McCoy start from the unexpected sounds of chase, and start to rush to our aid. Kirk shakes his head slightly at him, and he obediently stops, opening his communicator instead. His expression, although slightly disgruntled that he cannot help us while we are in danger, is worried for our well being. I am not sure how I manage to discern this whilst running from potential attackers, yet evidently this is the case.

Breath now beginning to rasp in his chest from the extensive sprint, Jim turns sharply with the path, and I follow him, losing sight of McCoy as he continues to raise the alarm for the Enterprise. I can hear the footsteps of the villager drawing closer, and force myself not to increase my pace, to remain behind Jim.

There is an ominous ceasing of footsteps behind me, and I know that the man is stopping to aim, to pull the trigger at any moment. Involuntarily, I speed up slightly, my legs pumping furiously in their attempt to escape danger, but it is futile if I am to protect the man before me.

I resign myself to what must surely come at any second, and feel the bullet slam into my back, tearing through flesh. Although this action is expected, nothing can prepare me for the surprise and pain as impact is made with my body. My legs suddenly stop working, the previous energy sucked away like water into the cracks in desert soil, and I stumble. I continue to battle the pain even as I am skidding along the floor, rolling over once and coming to rest face down in the brownish grass.

Through the haze of pain, I am comforted by the fact that the last thing I saw before tripping was a gold shirt running into the distance.

Another possibility is suddenly revealed to me; the continued chase on the part of the villagers. They were chasing both of us, as both of us were responsible for revealing their position, and I am suddenly aware that Jim is alone, without any protection, and being chased by several armed men. It is with this thought in mind that I struggle to control the pain which now rages around my wound, and I am suddenly all too conscious of the blood which is even now trickling from the point of entry.

I cannot move.

Not even a single muscle will obey my commands, and I begin to feel the darkness closing in on me. I hear footsteps rushing towards me, from the direction where Jim had last been running. Knowing that he has willingly brought himself back towards the danger, I close my eyes and gather my strength in an attempt to move once more; knowing that while he remains on the planet it is still my duty to protect him.

I feel arms about my waist urging me gently to move, and I summon all my energies into doing so, pushing myself painfully onto my hands, a slight groan of pain escaping my agony tightened lips. I attempt to follow through with the action, to raise myself onto my hands and knees, but suddenly find myself lacking in strength, even as Jim senses this and draws me carefully yet quickly into his lap.

"Spock?" His voice is quick and sharp, slightly out of breath from running. Eyes half closed and arms going limp from the pain in my back restricting my movements, all I can do is relax into his comforting warmth. I do not even have the strength for an immediate reply, and this weakness disturbs me.

"Your phaser..." His voice is becoming increasingly distant against the roaring in my ears, and my chest constricts uncomfortably as I battle for consciousness.

I breathe deeply against the exhaustion enveloping me, causing another ripple of agony to wash through me as I aggravate my wound. Stunned, all I can do is stare at the blood which stains the front of my shirt, and clinically note that the bullet has gone clear through my body.

I dimly hear footsteps behind us, and am suddenly reminded of the fact that we are being pursued. My thoughts have become increasingly sluggish, but one prevails above all. I search futilely for my phaser, too weak to move from Jim's grasp or stand up to continue our escape. I catch a glimpse of something in the grass directly in front of me, and Jim follows my gaze.

I fight to prevent myself from collapsing back onto the ground as he abruptly removes his support from behind me to retrieve the phaser, my head spinning from dizziness. My head lolls back and I catch another glimpse of our attackers. Still struggling to remain upright, I hear a shuffling to my left and am reminded of Jim, who has just found the weapon.

Removing my hand from my waist where it had involuntarily draped as a shield against the pain, I reach out to stop him from firing at the villagers, my shaking arm coming to rest lightly on his right hand. He must not violate the Prime Directive; his career would be jeopardised. We can find another way out of this situation.

"No Captain." The rasping tenor of my voice and fact that this is the first instance I have spoken since getting shot surprise him, and he stares at me. "I can travel," I assure him, eyeing the weapon with distaste.

He gives me a doubtful look, but we have little time for debate. Jumping to his feet, he comes behind me once more and starts to lift me up. At the same time I push up weakly with my legs in an attempt to get into an upright position, knowing that I will have to run eventually if we are to escape. Despite my mind's commands, my legs almost buckle and it is only Jim's reassuringly strong hold that keeps me from falling back to the ground.

With no choice now but to lean on him for much needed support, I squint against the beckoning darkness and exploding hurt that movement has beckoned, forcing myself to stagger forwards. Like a whisper against my ears, I hear the footsteps of the villagers resume as they see that we are escaping. This fact barely registers through the fog which now clouds my mind, and I have to concentrate simply to place one foot in front of the other.

Now staggering drunkenly and barely able to feel the warm hands that hold me close to Jim's chest, my head lolls forwards, dimly aware that we have reached McCoy and that he is turning towards me in concern, his plant samples lying forgotten where he left them.

As I lose even more of my strength and collapse into Jim, I hear both him and McCoy shouting frantically above the yells of the villagers who persist in pursuing us. The arm's grip around my waist tightens, and I moan slightly at the agony this provokes. I feel Jim stagger slightly under my rapidly becoming dead weight, and sense him looking at the top of my head in concern as he senses the extent of my condition. I groan once more, nausea clamping down on my stomach and the darkness swirling dizzily around me.

My right leg has completely given way now, and as I feel my left leg give in under the strain, I feel the hand of Doctor McCoy close around my upper arm to provide me with extra support.

As the familiar sensation of transportation takes a hold on me, I can only reflect on the fact that I have managed to protect Jim, although at the cost of injury to myself.

My mouth twitches upwards slightly into a small, internalised and satisfied smile, and I allow myself to lean into Jim as I lose all awareness.

Author's note: Thank you for taking the time to read this. Please tell me what you think or give any suggestions for improvement that you can think of!