"Hey," Jim said when he finally decided his eyes would really and truly open. Spock was watching him in the near dark of the room with an expression of tenderness that went straight to his heart. He felt a blush color his cheeks and he smiled at his friend.

"How are you feeling?" Spock asked in little more than a whisper.

"Okay. You know," Jim said with a shrug. "What time is it?"

"0214," Spock said.

"Oh. Have you slept?" Jim asked, yawning.

"I meditated while you slept. It is of no concern," Spock assured him.

"Mmm…." Jim agreed. "Has Bones been by?"

"He has not. Dr. M'Benga told me before he left that Leonard was still asleep," Spock said.

"Good," Jim said with a nod. "Tomorrow. Or later today I guess. Would you do me a big favor?"

"Of course. You need not even ask," Spock assured him.

"Will you check on Bones? I mean, he acts all tough and grumpy. But… well… you know. I just want to make sure he's really okay."

"I will check on him," Spock agreed. "Your disappearance was difficult on him. Although he never complained, we all knew he was tremendously worried."

"That's what best friends do," Jim agreed with a crocked smile.

"Indeed," Spock said, his warm brown eyes studying Jim. "Are you hungry?"

"No. Not right now. I think mostly I need to go back to sleep."

"Very well," Spock said, shifting a little closer to the bed. "I will be here when you wake again."

"I know," Jim said with a sleepy smile. "And I appreciate it more than you realize."

"I have some idea," Spock said, taking Jim's left hand into his, holding firmly.


"You know full well he'll be madder'n a wet hen if we don't wake him up," Bones' voice was saying the next time Jim woke up.

"Who's mad?" Jim asked in a groggy voice.

"You will be if you don't have the chance to tell the away-team good-bye," Bones said, smiling at Jim. "It's 7:45 local time. They're leaving in a few minutes."

"Oh," Jim said, more awake at the news. He gingerly slid up the bed until he was mostly sitting. Holding onto the covers as he sat kept him, or at least his pajamas, covered. Surrounding his bed were the members of the away-team, looking as calm and ready as they always did.

Pike smiled at Jim from where he stood just next to his bed. "We'll probably stay on the planet so don't expect us back for several days."

"That makes sense," Jim agreed, smiling at them. "Jason, I'm glad they are taking you."

"As am I, sir. Not many quartermasters are included in away-teams," Jason said.

"You aren't just any quartermaster," Jim assured him. "You have fashionable snowboots to wear?"

Nyota lifted one of her pant legs to show him the sensible and decidedly not stylish snowboots they had all been issued. "Jason tried. This was the best he could do."

"Next time, Nyota. I promise," Jason said with a laugh.

"I'll hold you to that," Uhura said, winking at Jason. "Hikaru is still complaining about the frozen ice planet."

"Hikaru," Jim said, shaking his head. "What good does it do to complain? At least you aren't being stranded there."

They all laughed at Jim, Spock looking suitable contrite at the words.

"Scotty said the same. Pavel wanted to go," Hikaru said.

"I did. I do. But I understand," Pavel said from where he was standing right next to Sulu as though he couldn't bear the idea of Hikaru leaving him. Jim had some idea of how he felt.

"Of course," Jim said with a nod. "Behave yourselves. I expect you to listen to the Admiral just the same as you'd listen to me."

"Maybe a little better than they'd listen to you," Chris suggested.

"Admiral," Jim said in mock indignation. "I'll have you know I have the finest crew in all of Starfleet. Of course they listen to me. Mostly."

"Uh huh. It's the mostly part that concerns me," Chris said with a laugh.

Jim shrugged at that, checking unnecessarily to make sure the away-team had all the information they needed as well as all the supplies. Satisfied they were indeed ready, he wished them luck and watched them leave MedBay.

"You're not worryin' about them, are you?" Bones asked, studying Jim's reflective face as he unnecessarily straightened the covers on the bed.

"No," Jim said a little too quickly. "Not any more than usual."

"Yeah. I get that," Bones assured him. "What do you want to eat for breakfast?"

"Mmm…I have no idea. Pancakes?"

"All right," Bones said. "I'm not sure you're going to eat a lot of them but I'll get them."

"And a banana?"

"Naturally," Bones agreed. "Spock, if you'll come with me, you can bring the Captain his coffee."

"What'd I do to deserve your sarcasm?" Jim asked innocently.

"General principle," Bones informed him before leading Spock out and across the MedBay.

"Was there something you wished to tell me?" Spock asked when they stood by McCoy's personal coffee maker. No replicated sludge for him.

"No. Why?" Bones asked, looking up at Spock with a small frown.

"I thought perhaps the coffee was serving as a 'cover' for a discussion just between the two of us."

"Nope. Jim loves his coffee. It'll take a few minutes to get the pancakes," Bones said, turning to study Spock. "He's fine. It will take a little while but he's going to make a full and complete recovery. You know that, right?"

"Yes," Spock said, looking at the coffee warming his hands.

"Spock," Leonard said, an unusual hand on Spock's arm in an expression of comfort and companionship. "I know this is hard on you. You've hardly slept since Jim disappeared. I know you are barely eating. And I understand. I'm thinkin' he can be released to his quarters this afternoon. That will help you both."

Spock nodded at that, looking into the all-seeing hazel eyes of the Doctor. "His absence was… difficult."

"I know," McCoy said warmly but not overly sympathetic.

"It was equally difficult for you," Spock suggested.

"Differently. I love him with all my heart but I'm not in love with him. It's two different things," Bones said.

"Indeed," Spock said. "Jim had asked that I speak with you. To see how you are faring under the circumstances."

Leonard laughed quietly at that, shaking his head. "That's Jim. Worryin' more about me than himself. I'm fine, Spock, I promise you. If it gets to be too much, I know where to find you."

"And you will?"

"You can bet I will," McCoy said. "Now. Get that to Jim before he comes crawling out to find out where you are."

Spock nodded and returned to Jim's recovery room, carefully handing Jim the coffee until he was sure it was secure in Jim's left hand.

"Mmm…. Thanks," Jim said with a bright smile.

"You are very welcome," Spock said, watching him with undisguised admiration in his eyes.

"Did Bones drag you off to talk about me?" Jim asked.

"That was what I thought," Spock said. "He simply wanted to get you the coffee as quickly as possible."

"Oh good. I thought maybe there was something wrong he didn't want to tell me about."

"There was no ulterior motive," Spock said. "He thinks you may be released to your quarters this afternoon."

"I hope so," Jim agreed. "Did you encourage that decision?"

"It was his idea. He said that we will both be better off in familiar surroundings," Spock said.

"That's for sure. I'm sorry I said that about the away team being stranded on the planet," Jim said, looking at Spock from under his lashes.

"You do not need to apologize," Spock said warmly. "It is comforting to me that you are able to joke about it. I have tried unsuccessfully to convince myself that I do not harbor any guilt over what I did to you."

Jim laughed softly at that, shaking his head. He smiled as he met Spock's eyes that held his own. "We both did and said things we now regret. I think it's natural, given the circumstances. Things weren't exactly normal were they?"

"Nor have they been since," Spock joked, surprising Jim.

"Well, normal has varying meanings," Jim reminded him with a laugh. He smiled over at Bones when he entered with a tray that smelled unmistakably of pancakes and bacon. It made Jim's stomach rumble to have the food so close.

"You may get sick from them," Bones said. "They're heavy after eating so little. If it happens, don't worry about it. And don't be surprised."

Jim nodded absently, waiting as Bones cut the pancakes up into bite-sized portions. It would have taken Jim quite a while to manage such a simple task with his left hand. He was glad to see that Bones had put extra syrup on the pancakes, more than he would have normally allowed Jim to eat without comment.

"I got it from here," Jim said, taking the fork from Bones in an impatient move.

"Not too hungry, are you?" Bones scolded mildly.

"Mmhuh muhhn," Jim replied.

"What? I got no damn idea what you just said," Bones said.

"'Good pancakes,'" Spock translated for him.

"How in tarnation do you know that?" Bones asked him.

"He doesn't," Jim said. "He's making it up to annoy you."

Bones looked from Jim to Spock, his eyes narrowing as he studied Spock. When Bones didn't say anything, Spock shifted uncomfortably.

"Got you worried now," Jim said with a smile.

Spock raised one eyebrow and looked back at the Doctor without further comment.

"Man these are good," Jim said into the silence, ignoring the staring match going on not five feet in front of him. "How about some more coffee?"

"I will go," Spock said, practically fleeing the room.

"I think I won," Bones said in satisfaction.

"Maybe. Won't be long before he evens the score."

"Oh, don't think I don't know that," Bones said, watching Jim eat with great enthusiasm and no delicacy. "How are those doing on your stomach?"

"So far so good," Jim said, eating another slice of bacon. "Where's Scotty?"

"Engineering. Or the Bridge. Why?"

Jim shrugged one shoulder carefully. "I haven't seen him in the past two days. Have I?"

"I don't think so. Do you want me to ask him to come up?"

"If he has time. You know," Jim said.

"Yes, I do know. I know you care more about your ship than you do about yourself. I know you care more about your crew than you do yourself," Bones said affectionately.

"It's my job. It's what a Captain does," Jim reminded him.

"No, it's what you do," Bones said. "I'll go call him."

"'Kay," Jim agreed, smiling at Spock when he returned with his cherished coffee.

"Where did Leonard go?" Spock asked.

"To find Scotty. Only because I haven't talked to him in a couple of days."

"Indeed," Spock said, his usual fall-back response when he had nothing of substance to contribute. But he had learned that Humans expected a response and perceived silence as insouciance or rudeness. It had taken some time before he fully understood the need for verbal responses and now that he did, he made certain he provided one whenever it seemed appropriate to do so.

"Spock," Jim said. It sounded as though he may have said it several times before Spock actually heard him.

"Yes," Spock said, focusing on Jim.

"You were a million miles away. When I'm back in my quarters this afternoon, I want you to get some sleep too. Consider it an order," Jim said.

"I will sleep," Spock agreed. "However as you are relieved of command, you cannot give actual orders to me at the moment."

"Maybe not technically," Jim agreed with a smile. It brightened even more when Bones arrived bearing coffee. "Thank you."

"Scotty will be here in ten minutes. He apparently disassembled a bulkhead? I really got no idea," Bones admitted.

"Sounds like something he would do," Jim had to agree, waiting as Spock peeled his banana for him.

"If it were required, you might be called upon to effect repairs to the Enterprise," Spock said to Bones. Jim suspected it was merely his attempt to even the score so he wisely stayed out of it.

"Oh sure," Bones grumbled, crossing his arms over his chest. "Then you can perform surgery. And Scotty can do physicals."

Spock raised one eyebrow at that, not otherwise responding.

"You two stop it," Jim requested mildly, deciding to intervene before it escalated. So much for neutrality.

"Sure," Bones said, shaking his head. "Unless you need me, I'm going to do rounds."

"I'm fine," Jim assured him, finishing the last pancake.

"You want some more?" Bones asked, taking the empty plate.

"Nope. I'm good. Thanks," Jim said, sipping his coffee.

"All right. After Scotty leaves, Jeffers can come and help you walk. And put you in the whirlpool if you want," Bones told Jim.

"I'd like that," Jim agreed. "Then I can be released to my quarters?"

"Yeah yeah yeah. I'm tired of tending to your every need," Bones claimed even they all knew it was a bold-face lie. "Once he's in his quarters, you are going to yours. And you are sleeping," he informed Spock.

"As I have already assured the Captain," Spock said, with the slightest emphasis on Captain, purely, Jim knew, to annoy Bones. Bones snorted and left without another word. When Jim laughed, Spock raised that one eyebrow, using it to convey all the information he needed.

It wasn't too much longer before Scotty arrived, a streak of grease across his nose. He was still wiping his hands on a cloth that was surprising clean. "Keptain. Mr. Spock," he said in hearty greeting.

"Hi Scotty," Jim said in delight. "What's new with my ship?"

"We're shipshape and Bristol fashion, sir."

"That is good to know," Jim said with a nod. "What have you been up to?"

"I am recalibrating the sensors. I am determined that we can find Human lifesigns more readily with a wee bit of tweaking."

"And this in some way accounts for the grease across you nose?" Spock asked.

Scotty laughed at that. "No, not exactly," he said, giving it a swipe with the cloth and succeeding in smearing it rather than removing it.

"What exactly is the grease from?" Jim asked in suspicion.

"It's just as well ya' don't know, Keptain," Scotty said with a wink.

"Yeah, I'm sure you're right," Jim had to agree. "Tell me about your recalibrations."

Scotty explained what he was doing, not because Jim didn't trust him. But because he knew the Captain understood the ship only slightly less well than he did himself. And there was no part of the Enterprise that was not of interest to her Captain. "So I believe if I reverse the polarity of the hyrcium beam, it will intensify the search parameters by a degree of 4," Scotty said.

"4.958 to be precise," Spock said.

"So you agree, sir?" Scotty asked Spock hopefully.

"I concur," Spock said. "Would you care to have my assistance as you complete the task?"

"Aye, that I would," Scotty agreed enthusiastically. "Can you spare him, Keptain?"

"Of course," Jim agreed with a smile. "I'm going into the whirlpool soon. Then I hope to be released to my quarters."

"Perfect," Scotty said. "You want to come with me now?"

"Certainly," Spock said. "Providing you do not require my presence."

"Go," Jim said. "I'll see you in a bit."

"Indeed," Spock agreed, following Scotty out.

In not many minutes Bones came in to check to see what had transpired. "You throw them out?"

"No, they've gone off to see if they can out-geek themselves," Jim laughed. "But if you tell them I said that, I will strand you on the next ice planet we come across."

"You'll do no such thing," Bones responded. "I'm gettin' ready to send Jeffers in. You want to soak for a while?"

"Absolutely," Jim agreed, waiting for the therapist to arrive so that he could luxuriate in the hot hot water.