A/N: This story is written for and dedicated to JadeMac2442, because she requested it and she rocks the most. Her stories should be required reading for anyone who wants to know how to really write ST Fanfiction (or any fanfiction, really). This one is for you, sweetie, with gratitude!! Hope it lives up to your expectations.

All days are nights to see till I see thee,
And nights bright days when dreams do show thee to me.
~William Shakespeare, "Sonnet XLIII"

"Commander," Chekov said in undisguised excitement.

"Ensign," Spock returned from where he sat in the Captain's chair. He had been acting Captain for the 5.64 weeks of the Captain's disappearance and during that time had refused to be addressed as Captain. There was only one rightful Captain of the Enterprise and Spock knew, as did the rest of the crew, that they would eventually find him and restore him to his rightful place.

"I have found him, sir. I have found him," Chekov said, studying his panel.

"I will alert you when I am in the transporter room," Spock said, hardly waiting for a response before entering the turbolift to go down to the transporter. When he arrived, he told Chekov to send him the coordinates of the Captain's location. Spock used them to rescan the area, finding the faint human lifesigns among the much stronger and numerous avian ones.

"Well?" Dr. McCoy was saying as he entered the transporter room. "Did you find him?"

"I am detecting human lifesigns, Doctor," Spock said, studying the readouts.

"Then bring him up already," McCoy said impatiently.

"There are too many of the natives surrounding him," Spock explained. "I do not wish to bring four of the Avestanvish aboard along with the Captain."

"He's been down there for almost 6 weeks, Spock. There's no telling what kind of condition he's in. What they might have done to him all that time."

"I am well aware of the duration of the Captain's absence, Doctor. Surely you cannot believe you alone have…."

"I have what?" McCoy asked more gently. "Missed him?"

Spock ignored him, still studying the scans that were running. When he decided that there was sufficient distance between the Captain and the closest Avestanvish, he energized the transporter.

McCoy was holding his breath as two figures materialized on the transporter pad. The taller one squawked, flapping its bright green wings, looking for all the world like it was really really pissed. The second stumbled down the transporter steps into Bones' waiting arms.

"Send him back," the Captain rasped before passing out. Spock reversed the transporter, returning the Avestanvish to its planet. Only then could he turn his focus on his rescued Captain, his head cradled in the lap of the Doctor. He wore only the tattered remains of his uniform, the shirt completed gone, the pants reduced to little more than a loincloth. His skin was brown from the sun and marred with numerous angry red lines running up and down his back. There was an almost-healed gash above his left eye and the first three fingers of his right hand were at a disturbingly unnatural angle.

McCoy was scanning him, a concerned frown etched on his face.

"Doctor?" Spock asked, squatting next to them.

"He's dehydrated. He may have a concussion. Some of these lacerations are infected." McCoy touched Jim's head, unaware that he was caressing his hair, his concern manifesting itself in his strokes.

"Are your technicians on their way with a stretcher?" Spock asked in a carefully neutral tone.


"Is there something more, Doctor?" Spock asked, studying the other man's worried face. Spock had become adept at reading the emotions that the humans surrounding him almost never tried to hide.

"No no," McCoy said, looking up at Spock. "I'll take care of him if you want to return to the Bridge."

"I will alert the Bridge and Starfleet. I will then come check on the Captain," Spock informed him, not asking his permission, telling him what he was going to do.

"Alright," McCoy agreed, watching Spock leave.

When Spock reached the Bridge, he made the welcome announcement that Captain Kirk had been recovered and was entrusted to the watchful eye of the CMO. Updates would be provided as they were warranted.

McCoy barely heard the announcement as he waited for two of his techs to carefully place the Captain on the stretcher. Jim moaned very quietly when he was being moved, Bones soothing him as they left the Transporter Room. He held tight to Jim's left hand as they went to MedBay, only releasing his grasp when Jim was carefully transferred to his biobed. It wasn't really the Captain's bed but he occupied it so often Bones rarely had any other patient assigned to it.

When Jim was safely laying on his stomach, the biobed readouts confirmed the information from the scanner. Many of the lacerations on his back were infected, some nearly healed over, some alarmingly fresh and still showing bright red blood in the wounds. Jim's fingers had been broken approximately ten days before, the bones beginning to heal incorrectly. Bones would have to rebreak those to set them properly. He was relieved that there were no signs of internal injuries; dehydration and a lack of food evident and disturbing. With Christine Chapel's efficient assistance, Bones removed the last of Jim's uniform and as much of the grime from his body as he could. Washing away the dirt revealed more shallow wounds, small punctures especially evident on his biceps. And the muscles of his shoulders showed signs of being hyper-extended as though he was held off the ground by his arms for long periods of time.

When the lacerations were healed with the regenerator, McCoy placed an IV on the inside of Jim's left arm, using it to replenish the fluids he had lost. The IV also included the antibiotics his system needed to fight off any infections.

"What about his fingers?" Nurse Chapel asked after she had covered the Captain with a soft blanket. She was studying the Captain's face with a worried frown, his complexion pale beneath the newly acquired tan.

"I'll rebreak and set them when he can tolerate it. He's been through enough for right now. And if he does have a concussion, I don't want to risk sedatin' him."

She nodded at that, looking over with McCoy to watch Spock enter the Med Bay.

"How is the Captain?" Spock asked, his hands clasped behind his back as he looked down at the sleeping Human.

"Still unconscious. He has some hyper-extension in his shoulders. He's severally dehydrated and he's lost almost 20 pounds. No internal injuries. He may have a concussion but I don't know for sure. I've healed the laceration over his left eye and most of those on his back. They appeared to have been made by… talons or claws."

"Talons?" Spock repeated absently.

"Yeah. I think the Avestanvish did it. How else would he have gotten those injuries?"

"Not from living in the trees?"

"No resin. No botanical residue," McCoy said with a shake of his head.

"I see," Spock said, still studying the Captain.

"What did Starfleet say?"

"We are to divert to Starbase Skynyrd. Admiral Pike is still there and wishes to come aboard," Spock explained.

"When will we get there?"

"In 7.9 hours."

"Jim will be conscious by then," McCoy confirmed.

"You did not repair his fingers?"

"Not yet," McCoy said, explaining as he had to Chapel.

Spock nodded, looking up at the Doctor. "Is there anything else we can do?"

"No. Not right now. He'll recover, Spock. It'll take some time but he'll be okay. Do you want to stay with him?"

"That is not necessary, Doctor. As I am still on duty, I will return to the Bridge. You will alert me when he regains consciousness."

"Of course," McCoy said. "You heartless hobgoblin," he added to the closed doors.

Contrary to what McCoy believed, Spock was shaken by his visit to the Captain's bedside. In the 1.84 years they had served together, Jim had become more than Spock's commanding officer. He had become Spock's friend, the closest and most important friend Spock had ever had. The Captain's absence had been extremely difficult for Spock, an emotional reaction for which he berated himself. That did not change the fact that Spock had had too many sleepless nights since the day they had been on Avestanvish for what was supposed to be a quick, uneventful visit.

Starfleet had requested that they stop at Avestanvish to determine if the rumors of vast deposits of ryetalyn were true. The outbreak of Rigelian fever was threatening to devastate the population of Kelel-eld, a planet that had petitioned for Federation membership. If Avestanvish did have ryetalyn, they were to try and mine sufficient quantities to manufacture the antidote. Those orders were based on the erroneous report that Avestanvish was uninhabited.

The Captain had beamed down with Spock, the planet geologist Lt Elmraya, and one security guard, just in case. Less than five minutes elapsed from the time they materialized until they discovered that the planet was not, in fact, uninhabited. The towering trees that covered much of the surface were home to enormous birdlike creatures with wingspans of 11 meters. This fact they discovered only when the birds made a noisy and abrupt appearance, swooping down from their perches high above their heads and buzzing the away team. The Captain in his bright gold shirt was their primary target and he was in the process of ordering emergency transport back to the ship when one of the birds grasped the Captain in its tremendous talons and flew off into the trees, leaving behind his communicator.

The security guard automatically drew his phaser but Spock prevented him from using it, pointing out that the chances of hitting the Captain were too great to risk it. Six additional members of security, dressed in only black shirts, beamed down to join the search for the missing Captain until they ran out of time. It was imperative that the supply of ryetalyn they did have be delivered before the epidemic was irreversible.

It was not easy for Spock to order the Enterprise away from Avestanvish but Starfleet gave him no choice. They spent three anxious weeks at Kelel-eld fighting the outbreak of Rigelian fever and were then ordered to its planetary neighbor of Gahnilaj, inoculating as many of its citizens as possible from the fever. Finally, after nearly five grueling weeks, they were allowed to return to Avestanvish to search for the Captain.

Starfleet had asked each day if they had met with success. Spock wanted to tell them that repeatedly contacting him did nothing to help the search and surely they knew he would inform them the moment they found the Captain. All of these somewhat inappropriate thoughts he kept to himself, repeating each day that, no, they had not yet been able to retrieve the Captain. They had been orbiting and scanning the planet for 5 days when Chekov finally announced he had found faint human lifesigns.

Spock shook himself mentally, silently scolding his subconscious for dwelling, again, on the circumstance of the Captain's disappearance when he needed to be concentrating instead on running the Enterprise until her rightful Captain could resume command.

TBC - yeah, I'm breaking my rule again (although I did take out of my profile). But it's going to be really long, I can already tell. And I don't want you to have to read it all at once. Sorry. Hope you like it. Please let me know? Love those reviews!!