Title: What We Remember Forever
Fandom: Star Trek (XI)
Pairing: Kirk/Spock (friendship)
Warnings: OOC-ness on Spock's part (although by default I'm trying to write him as in-character as I possibly can, so we'll just see how that turns out), references to past emotional child neglect, and – as per usual – MASSIVE FLUFF.
Notes: Yay, new chapter. :D I really hope I didn't end up rushing this one, but for some reason it took way too long to write.
This one's dedicated to KCS, who suggested a segment where Jim's famous allergies come into play. (This, ah… turned out a smidge more angsty than I'd planned… but oh well. More opportunity for a little h/c.)
(in which a scare occurs for everyone)
"Fear makes us feel our humanity." –Benjamin Disraeli (1804 - 1881)
On this particular morning Spock found himself eating breakfast with Jim.
It was to his unspoken surprise that he had run into McCoy, Jim in tow, on his way to the mess. Normally, at least as far as Spock's knowledge went, Jim was scheduled for the morning meal approximately one hour after Spock took his – a time after which Alpha shift had already started. However, seeing as how it was the intention of each of them to partake in breakfast at the current time, it was only logical that the three consume it together.
Of course, Jim's additional insistence that he and McCoy sit with Spock was rather strong.
In due time they were seated at a table within the decently filled mess, Jim settled beside Spock and McCoy across from them. Jim happily began to eat one of the two small pancakes on his plate – only after McCoy had helped pour on an acceptable amount of maple syrup, of course – while the two adults started on their own meals.
Absently glancing over to the bowl in front of Spock, McCoy frowned. "Again with that stuff?"
Spock paused in bringing the spoon to his lips. "Is there a problem, Doctor?"
"That's the only thing I've ever seen you eat for breakfast," McCoy elaborated. "That… that 'soup,' as you call it."
Spock set the spoon down into his bowl, straightening in his seat as if preparing for a debate. "Plomeek soup is a traditional Vulcan breakfast. It contains sufficient nutrients and vitamins beneficial to the maintenance of the Vulcan body. As a physician, I do not see why you would object–"
McCoy waved a hand, palm out, effectively halting Spock's words. "Spock, I'm not criticizing your food choice," he said, closing his eyes in slight exasperation. "I was just curious if you'd ever considered an occasional alternative; fruit or something."
The slanted eyebrow went up and Spock seemed to fall into a state of thoughtfulness. After a brief moment his shoulders shifted subtly, the closest to a shrug McCoy had seen on the half-Vulcan.
"There is no need," came the settled answer.
"Fine, fine, forget I asked. Just eat your godda… ah, your soup." Both he and Spock glanced down at Jim, but the boy was thankfully occupied with his pancakes. McCoy ducked somewhat sheepishly as Spock fixed him with an almost chastising look, diverting his focus back onto his scrambled eggs and toast. The meal continued on mostly in comfortable silence, McCoy casting checking glances onto Jim as the boy ate and smiling in silent approval whenever Jim temporarily abandoned his pancakes for some of the fruit on the side of his tray.
Abruptly the communicator at McCoy's side beeped, signaling the arrival of a message. Sighing through his most recent bite of toast, the doctor reached down for it and flipped it open. He read through it quickly before sighing again and pushing his chair out from the table.
"Duty calls," he explained with a tone of reluctance. "Ensign took a bump on the head down in Engineering. Don't know why those people insist on working so early in the morning down there…" McCoy finished off his coffee in one final gulp before wiping his mouth with a napkin and standing. Jim looked up at him questioningly; the doctor sent a smile back at him before turning to Spock. "When you're done, would you bring him by sickbay before you go up to the bridge?"
"Of course," Spock assured, inwardly pleased at the thought of getting to spend more time with Jim before his shift. McCoy nodded in thanks, waving goodbye to Jim before making his way out of the mess.
Spock continued to eat for another two minutes before he realized that Jim was looking at him. He glanced to the side, discovering that it wasn't actually him the boy was looking at; rather, it was the bowl in front of him.
Aware that Spock's attention was now on him, Jim spoke up. "What's that?" He reached up to point at the bright orange liquid in the bowl for clarification.
Spock's facial features softened, recalling that Jim hadn't been paying attention to his earlier conversation with Doctor McCoy. "It is plomeek soup," he answered dutifully.
"It is a Vulcan plant." Spock made sure to keep his answers short for Jim's sake.
"Like a flower?"
Spock looked away in thought before conceding. "It is a flowering plant, yes. It is used to make many varieties of consumable fare, such as soup and tea, and it is very healthy."
"Can I try it?"
The corners of Spock's lips twitched and his eyebrow went up. "I do not think you will like it," he said carefully. "Its taste is quite bland to humans."
As Jim looked up at him pleadingly, Spock considered. That Jim would find the soup's flavor distasteful was assuredly guaranteed. However, at the same time the opportunity was given for Jim to learn something for himself through trial-and-error, and the scientist in Spock could not deny him that opportunity. Although he was positive the child would dislike the taste, Spock would let Jim ascertain the fact for himself as a learning experience. What true harm could it do?
"Very well." Seeing that there were no utensils to spare, Spock took up a small amount of soup within his own spoon. Making sure it would not drip, he guided the spoon toward Jim and held it out for him to take. Instead, Jim's hands took hold of Spock's, gripping it as an anchor as he leaned in to take the soup into his mouth. Spock lifted the end of the utensil in order to pull it cleanly out and watched for Jim's reaction.
Jim smacked his lips lightly four times before scrunching his face into an expression of dislike.
"That's not tasty at all," he whined softly.
Perhaps it was the choice of wording, or instead the sight presented as Jim smacked his lips more as if trying to rid his mouth of the remaining flavor. Whatever the reason, Spock felt a pit of warm amusement start growing within him.
"I did warn you," he said, reaching over to pull Jim's glass of water closer. Something bubbled in his abdomen, and he added, "Perhaps you should taste it again, just to be certain."
Jim quickly shook his head, grabbing the glass Spock had moved over and drinking from it. Were he more human, Spock believed he may well have expressed physical amusement at the sight. Making sure Jim didn't drink too fast, he turned back to finish the rest of his soup. Beside him, Jim set the glass down and started resuming his own meal.
It was after only after two minutes that Spock noticed that Jim's pace had eventually slowed to a stop.
Spock turned to regard him, seeing Jim paused with utensils in hand, his breakfast not even half-finished. He was staring at a point slightly off from his plate, head just barely lolling forward. The half-Vulcan frowned minutely.
"Jim?" When the boy didn't respond, Spock felt himself sit up straighter in sudden alertness. "What is wrong? Are you choking?"
Jim shook his head, albeit slowly, as if trying not to jar it. "I feel dizzy." The verbal answer was low and soft, almost forced. Spock reached out and rested a hand lightly over the boy's back.
"Perhaps you should return to Doctor McCoy sooner," said Spock quietly, more to himself, but suddenly the muscles beneath his hand were ridged and tense. The fork and knife fell from Jim's hands as they lowered to grip the sides of the table. A sudden, high-pitched gasp forced its way from the child's mouth, and Spock felt something horrifying settle over him when he realized that Jim was having difficulty breathing.
"Jim." He kept his voice controlled as he reached out to cup the side of the boy's neck, tilting the panicked face toward him in an attempt to ascertain what was wrong. "Jim."
Tiny hands came up to clamp themselves around Spock's wrist, petrified blue eyes gazing up at him with pleading confusion.
For a brief, tense moment, Spock was on the Enterprise's bridge one point four seven years prior, bent over a helpless Jim Kirk as he lay feeble on the helm console, slowly suffocating to death.
His chair fell backward onto the floor with an unmistakable crash as he stood up. Spock could feel the eyes of all the occupants of the mess fall onto him with the sound, but he paid them no heed. Jim was in his arms before anyone could speak, and he turned to face the nearest crewmember.
"Alert sickbay immediately. Tell Doctor McCoy I am on my way."
Jim started to wheeze, and Spock didn't remain to hear the instantaneous acknowledgement the surprised ensign returned. He was running out of the mess in the next second, unmindful to the people who parted around him to give him space, his thoughts only on the urgent task at hand. The boy's grip around his neck weakened as he moved down the hall to the turbolift, which only served Spock to move faster. By the time he was in the lift and waiting the allotted time to transport up two deck levels, Jim's lips were turning blue and he was just barely breathing.
"Keep breathing, Jim," he urged, maintaining his poise even as he felt the boy's little heart hammering against his chest where he held him. "Do not stop; we're almost there."
No sooner had the lift doors opened onto Deck 5 was Spock sprinting out into the corridor, smoothly navigating his way until he'd reached the door into the medical bay.
McCoy was there waiting for him, his face set in a worried frown.
"What happened?" he asked immediately, running forward with a medical scanner and holding it over Jim.
"We were continuing to eat when–"
"Dammit. Over on the biobed – now." McCoy obviously understood what it was that was happening to Jim; his tone was clipped and professional. Spock quickly crossed over to the biobed McCoy was gesturing to.
"Lay him flat," came another barked order. "Chapel, get me a dose of epinephrine, stat."
"Back up now, Spock," McCoy said, softly but urgently. "Back! Kaspari, I need you over here!" The man in question quickly came over just as Christine returned with a loaded hypospray. Spock hovered a ways behind them all, eyes unable to tear away from the sight of Jim lying still on the biobed; the area around his eyes were reddening darkly and beginning to swell, and it was unclear if he was even still breathing.
"Hold him," McCoy instructed, and Kaspari did so. Without another thought, McCoy pumped the injection in. "Come on, sweetheart, stay with me…" With the two men leaning over him, Jim's form was obstructed from Spock's view – he watched as McCoy glanced over at him, then lean in to say something to Kaspari. "Get him out, I don't want him watching this."
The older physician frowned. "Sir, Mister Spock's witnessed much more severe conditions in the past. Surely this won't–"
"I said, I don't want him watching this." McCoy's voice was soft and final, enunciating each word with a tone that brooked no argument. It was clear the two were trying to keep their words private, but Spock's hearing was much too sensitive – he'd heard every word. Kaspari nodded and turned around, walking over with a somewhat apologetic look on his face.
"Commander, I'm sorry," he said quickly but sincerely, "but you need to wait outside. Don't worry, we're doing everything we can." Under normal conditions Spock would have found himself logically protesting his removal; now, he could think of no words at all as he willingly turned and removed himself from the area.
McCoy's commanding voice followed him out. "Dammit. Chapel, prep me some cortisone; start with half a cc and we'll work our way up if need be…"
Spock forced himself to continue moving.
It was only once he'd seated himself in McCoy's office that he felt his control begin to waver.
He shut his eyes and steepled his fingers in front of him and attempted to regain himself, but from behind his eyelids all Spock could see was Jim – Jim in his terrified confusion as he was handled into sickbay, as he struggled to breathe. Spock realized attempted meditation would not work so soon after, not until he knew whether or not Jim would be all right. Under any other circumstances it might have been shameful, having his attention so diverted that he was unable to center himself… but he found himself unable to experience such shame when he thought of Jim. He… Jim was his friend; he cared greatly for him, and the idea of anything serious happening to him while under Spock's care was disquieting.
Thankfully, approximately thirteen minutes later, Doctor McCoy came to alleviate his thoughts.
"Hey," the man said, grabbing a spare chair and pulling it up next to Spock. "I was wondering where you'd gotten to."
Spock lowered his hands to rest on his lap, turning to face the doctor. McCoy's expression was weary, but void of any negativity. It could only mean one thing.
"He is well, Doctor?" Spock asked.
McCoy nodded in confirmation. "He's much better," he said, a reassuring smile on his lips. "The swelling in his throat and face has gone down significantly, and he's breathing much easier now. He'll be just fine." He paused and his expression slowly sobered. "It was an anaphylactic reaction – a bad one. Whatever it was that caused it, it was ingested; there are no marks on Jim's body that say otherwise." He frowned lightly and adopted a thoughtful look. "Did we overlook something? Anything in the makeup of his breakfast?"
It suddenly hit Spock then, and he felt a fool for not realizing it sooner.
He sat up straighter in his seat. "Doctor, I believe I have the answer to your query." He looked at a point over McCoy's shoulder, for an unknown reason unable to look the man in the eye. "A short time after you departed from the mess, Jim wished to sample my soup. I foresaw no harm in the action, and so I allowed him to."
McCoy's expression softened in understanding, and he nodded slowly. "That must have been it. There's no other way I can see it happening. …It's a good thing you got him here when you did, Spock; otherwise…"
He didn't have to finish for Spock to know the consequence implied. He knew it quite well: Jim could have likely died. Given the rapid speed at which the severe reaction had progressed within Jim's system, that particular, grim outcome would have eventually been immanent.
Yes, Spock had rushed Jim to treatment as soon as he'd realized the danger of the situation…
But that did not change the fact that he had been the initial cause of it.
"Spock," McCoy said knowingly, proving that even now he could pry his way through the half-Vulcan's shell. "You can't possibly be blaming yourself for–"
"I alone gave him what caused his reaction. Therefore, it is my responsibility."
McCoy was shaking his head in disbelief. "You didn't know – how could you have? Spock, the thing about allergies is that you can't predict their development, at least not the ones that aren't already linked to heredity. Hell, some don't even make themselves physically known until adulthood. Now, yes, I know Jim's got a pretty extensive history with allergies, food-related and otherwise; I've got the complete list kept under his files. But the thing is, there is no way to predict just what else Jim might be allergic to, given his hair-trigger sensitivity. Anything could set it off, and the only way to really know if he has an allergy to something is if he has a reaction when exposed to it. And once we know that a substance does cause a reaction, especially one that bad, we can be sure to keep him away from it. That's the cold, hard truth."
Spock's eyebrow twitched slightly, and at the look of inner concentration on his face McCoy knew he'd nailed it.
"I know it's easy to just take the blame yourself," McCoy continued, "especially if the matter concerns a friend or a loved one, but you need to realize that the mistake you happened to make is a common one. It shouldn't even be considered a mistake. You did what any person would do in your place: you let a kid try something new. I would have done the same thing, Spock, and I'm his doctor, for God's sake."
"I believe I understand your reasoning, Doctor, thank you," Spock cut in quietly.
McCoy paused before he snorted softly and felt a half-smirk work its way onto his face. "If that ain't Vulcan talk for 'shut up,' I don't know what is." He was glad to see the half-Vulcan beginning to return to his normal demeanor. Nevertheless, the subtle change only served to show that if there was one thing that pulled at Spock's humanity, it was Jim.
"I assume he is resting now," Spock said, rising and straightening his tunic with a tug to the bottom hem.
McCoy rose with him. "Mm-hm. Kid was completely worn out by the end of the treatment. Once he's completely stabilized we'll move him to his room and he can sleep as long as he needs to. I don't think there'll be any heavy play in his schedule today." Spock only nodded; McCoy smiled. "Listen, we'll keep watch over him down here. You go ahead and go to the bridge; somebody's gotta run this ship, after all. I mean, unless you want some time first. I can understand if–"
"I am of sound mind for duty," Spock interrupted rather shortly, but rather than leaving straightaway for the bridge, he paused. "I trust he will be amendable to visitors by the later hours."
"Sure will. Word about this probably won't get around past anyone who saw it in the mess, as well as probably some of the senior bridge officers, so chances are by the time you come around you'll get him all to yourself."
Spock raised an eyebrow. "Your response contains more information than my question required, but answers it regardless. I will take my leave then. Good day."
As he began leaving, McCoy pushed down the almost natural urge to call out a semi-sarcastic "you're welcome." He'd realized a couple days before that lately he'd been heeding more and more what would get a rise out of Spock, and then subsequently avoiding it. Teasing banter was one thing, but the idea of actually taunting Spock was occurring less and less to him. Maybe he was growing soft – McCoy found the idea plausible and completely blamable on Jim – or he was genuinely starting to like the half-Vulcan.
Near the doorway, Spock paused before turning to regard him. "Doctor," he said, his stiffened demeanor appearing to soften. "…Thank you."
McCoy eventually nodded. "Likewise."
Without another word, Spock left for the bridge.
The ridged control Spock had regained in order to adequately perform during Alpha shift quickly began to break down once he entered Jim's room later in the afternoon.
Jim was asleep – safe – but he looked so worn and pale. Spock lingered in the doorway for a minute before walking over and taking a seat by the child's bed. The knowledge that Jim had nearly been lost so easily reared itself anew, and Spock had to close his eyes momentarily. The unpleasant thought of Jim – particularly this Jim, such a vulnerable child – dying seeped through his conscious, and despite McCoy's earlier words Spock could not help but feel some small sense of responsibility for what had occurred. Yes, it was rather illogical as the doctor had insisted, but…
Pushing such thoughts aside, Spock reached out and placed his hand over the top of Jim's head, letting his fingers simply rest on the soft hair. He sat quietly, now merely content that he was likely the last visitor Jim would have for the afternoon and thus would not be disturbed.
Jim began waking under his touch, curling into himself slightly before slowly fluttering his eyes open. Spock pulled his hand back.
Catching sight of the half-Vulcan, Jim smiled through his sleepy haze. "Hi, Spock!" As enthusiastic as he must have been, Jim was still too weak on a physical level, and his voice carried just above a whisper.
"Hello, Jim," he greeted in return. "How are you feeling?"
"'M tired," Jim said, rubbing at the corner of his eye. "Bones said I ate something bad for me."
Spock felt something heavy blossom in his abdomen. "Yes, that is true."
Jim looked up at Spock as if studying him. He suddenly seemed to hunch in on himself. "Was it my fault?" His voice was tiny and hesitant.
"No, Jim." Spock's spine straightened immediately and he leaned forward just slightly to offer some comfort. "Of course not. You did nothing wrong. My soup was the cause; you are allergic to the base ingredient of it. That is what caused your reaction. It was not your fault."
"Oh." Jim seemed to contemplate the information. He frowned in a manner similar to when he'd first tasted the plomeek soup. "That's okay. It was yucky anyway."
For the first time since breakfast in the mess, Spock felt himself truly lighten. The corners of his lips curled up into a small smile. "Perhaps so," he agreed. Not quite on impulse, Spock reached out and caressed Jim's hair again, as if to reassure his eyes that the boy was indeed still safe in front of him. Jim latched onto Spock's hand and cuddled his face against it.
"Bones said you saved me," Jim murmured against Spock's skin. The commander resisted the urge to raise his eyebrow; he should have known Doctor McCoy would pass such responsibility onto him. Although the simple fact was not entirely accurate – the doctor had played a crucial role himself, after all – Spock found himself grateful for it.
"I suppose I did," he responded quietly, and suddenly Jim was reaching for him. Spock stood up and leaned over the bed, allowing the child to reach up and hug him.
"Thank you," came the shy whisper in his ear. From the area of his heart onward, Spock felt a flow of warmth expanding within him. He wrapped his hands around Jim's shoulders and ducked his head in, lightly pressing his nose into the junction of the boy's neck and shoulder.
"You are most welcome, Jim," he whispered in return.
They remained still for a short time, and Spock admitted to himself that the continuous contact was rather soothing, although soon he found he could not differentiate which of them was providing the comforting gesture and which was receiving it.
Perhaps they both were.
"Big kitty," he murmured, cuddling closer to the half-Vulcan, and Spock realized he was unconsciously purring. He shut his eyes and let himself continue, relishing the sleepy laughter as his throat reverberated against Jim's cheek.
Still tired from his previous ordeal, Jim fell back into sleep fast. Spock carefully pushed the boy back to lay against his pillow, then pulled away to maintain quiet vigil in the bedside chair for minutes longer.
Eventually satisfied with his watch, Spock quietly stood and left the room, casting a parting glance to the sleeping Jim before heading to his own quarters at a calm, steady walk.