Original Title: Respect to Friendship

Notes: Part of the Progression Series. Sequel to Boredom in the Face of Klingons.

To Gwen Kathleen: The previous shot was not romance. That is why I did not select the romance genre. It's your call if you don't want to see K/S, but as yet, there isn't any. I wouldn't even call this pre-slash yet. Yes, it's getting there, but if you had read the explanation at the beginning of 'Pain', you would have noticed that love does not appear until the fifth or sixth installment. As you can stop reading at any point, I don't see why this prompts an immediate rejection of the whole series.

Disclaimer: I do not own Star Trek 2009, and I make no profit from this work.


As The Superior Officer

Jim ran his hands through his hair, and waited.

And waited.

And was ready to beam down and knock heads together for this.

They had been exploring a new planet, and hadn't been informed - or nobody had known - that there were locals who weren't all that receptive to the idea of aliens exploring their world. They had received a brief, angry and incomprehensible message...and promptly, the life signs of their entire away team had vanished.

Jim had nearly vomited on the bridge, then and there.

Scans, however, showed no dead bodies. They were missing. Maybe dead, but not definitely dead. And then came the messages. Demands, threats, blackmail, bribes. All to the effect of: leave, or we kill your men.

Five men.

Ensigns Chekov and Ramirez had been sent on this supposedly easy, peaceful walk in the park to extend their field experience. And Jim had felt like being nice to Chekov after a long week and let him have a day 'geeking out planetside' with his mentor. The kid worshipped Mr. Spock so much, it was kind of weird. Lieutenants Glamorgan and Zhao had also been sent, mostly because they'd both had to miss the last opportunity due to having caught the last nasty cold to do the rounds. And Commander Spock had, obviously, led the team. That was what being head of the sciences department was all about.

And now Jim was ready to nuke the whole damn planet if he didn't get his men back now, if not sooner.

He hated losing personnel. Chekov was turning eighteen in a week. He was a kid. Even Jim thought he was a kid! He was a kid even on a ship staffed mostly by people barely out of the academy! Some of them hadn't technically graduated, and they thought Chekov was a kid. How the fuck was he meant to lose a kid to some hostile aliens?

And Lieutenant Zhao? The guy was two weeks away from transferring back to the Academy because his wife had just had their first baby. He'd been ecstatic, showing baby pictures to everyone who'd look, and desperate to get Earthside and hold his baby girl. Jim couldn't - wouldn't - deprive another kid of a father. Especially not a father so eager to go home and be a father.

(Okay, Jim hated to admit it, but he...wasn't too distressed about Glamorgan. Sure, nobody deserved to be captured by hostiles, but...honestly, Jim was getting that stuck-up jerk off the ship as soon as he could anyway. He just pissed the whole crew off. Even Spock, which was usually pretty damn hard. And Jim's job.)

So the last three days had been...trying, to say the least.

The aliens - whoever they were - had clearly had contact before. They spoke broken, odd Standard, but vaguely understandable Standard. In their harsher moments, they made crude references to what they were doing to 'the devil one' (Jim assumed it was Spock, but God only knew what a devil looked like in their society) and how many pieces they'd get him back in.

And then, finally, after nearly three days of no sleep, the sensor array in the transporter started going wild, and crew lifesigns were back, and Jim was calling Sickbay the moment he realised that four of the five forms materialising on the transporter pad were not vertical, but horizontal.

"Don't be dead," he'd breathed before they solidified.

Nobody was dead.

And then Spock upset the collective sigh of relief, by clicking his heels, saying "Captain," in his usual expressionless voice, and promptly collapsing to join the others on the floor.


It had taken three days, but they had finally recovered their people.

And Jim had finally crashed and slept.

Now, twelve hours after retrieving his captured personnel, he found himself in Sickbay, needing to know what had actually happened.

Ensigns Chekov and Ramirez had both suffered minor cuts and bruises, and a broken leg each. Lieutenant Glamorgan had had both legs cleanly broken, but would be fine after several uncomfortable hours under a bone knitter. Lieutenant Zhao was less lucky, with a concussion the size of his native China, and moderate blood loss, but again, he would be fine.

Commander Spock, on the other hand...

Both legs had been badly broken, as well as his left wrist. He'd suffered severe blood loss, had every finger on his left hand deliberately broken, and several inches of skin on his back sheared off like meat being skinned in prepation for food. He, too, had been severely concussed, though whether it was that or the blood loss that had knocked him out in the transporter room, Jim hadn't been told.

But Jim was going to find out what had happened.

Upon his arrival in Sickbay, though, only Ensign Chekov was awake. His leg had been mended, but McCoy was reluctant to let him leave.

"He's in shock," he told Jim. "Whatever happened, it's shaken the kid up badly. He's adamant that he's not leaving until Spock comes round. And, hell Jim, that's going to be several hours."

"I'll have a word with him," Jim nodded, and headed for the Russian. "Hey, Pav."

"Captain," Chekov murmured, not taking his eyes off Spock's biobed for a moment.

"Just Jim. I'm not here as your Captain right now," Jim said. "How you doing?"

Chekov swallowed and shrugged.

"Pav," Jim said gently. "What happened down there?"

Silence.

"Pav, come on. I need to know what happened. And I think you need to talk about it."

Jesus, Jim never thought he'd be the one telling people to talk about it. The only guy on the ship who had him beat for evasiveness was Spock, and he was a freaking Vulcan. And even then, only if Spock really didn't want to discuss it.

"We...we were attacked."

"Uh-huh. By some locals we didn't know were there."

Chekov nodded.

"What happened?"

"They...put us in a cell. A prison. They did not feed us, and no water. After a while...they came back and...I did not understand them," he said apologetically.

"The translator didn't work?"

"No," he said. "It was an unknown language or dialect. But they were threatening us. They broke our legs. When Lieutenant Zhao struggled, they beat him, and Mr. Spock..."

He choked.

"Go on, Pav," Jim encouraged gently.

"He was...angry, sir. Very angry. He...he attacked one of them. He...said something in Vulcan and they seemed to understand him. They left."

"...That's not the whole story, Pav."

"When they came back," Chekov was shaking now, trembling and wrapping his arms around himself, "they spoke in Standard. They offered Mr. Spock a deal. They would leave us alone for a chance to study him."

Jim felt sick.

"He took the deal, didn't he?" he murmured.

Chekov nodded. "They tortured him, sir. They tortured him, and they would leave him with us sometimes and he would...he went into convulsions, sir, and we could not help him."

Which, Jim thought, explained Chekov's state of shock. Being unable to do anything to help his idol had to be crushing for the kid. Especially as Spock was getting hurt in order to protect them.

"Then they came back and said that we could go, if Mr. Spock could stand," Chekov breathed. "I do...I do not think they meant for him to manage. When he did, they were angry, and they...they gave him something else. And then...when we beamed up, he..."

"He collapsed."

Jim remembered that scene well enough without Chekov's assistance. They had beamed the lost party up, with Spock the only man standing. He had promptly collapsed, whacking his head hard off the transporter platform, and gone into what Jim would usually have called a full-on epileptic fit. McCoy had been beside himself, scanning and screaming his head off for a nurse and a hell of a lot of drugs with names Jim didn't know.

Spock had fitted twice more before they could get him to Sickbay, and then he'd gone into cardiac arrest. Which, Jim reflected, Chekov had probably seen. And the fourth - and, for the moment, final - fit that had had McCoy cursing in languages Jim didn't know the doctor spoke.

"Yes, sir," Chekov whispered.

He hadn't taken his eyes off the Vulcan for the entire time he'd been speaking to Jim.

"Okay," Jim said. "Listen, Pav. I want you to take the next two days off. Loaf around, relax, whatever. But no work, no reporting for duty, and no physics meets with Scotty. Those aren't secret, by the way, I totally know about them."

Chekov's mouth twitched.

"And listen. Don't beat yourself up about what happened. You couldn't have done anything for Spock. Hell, the only people on the damn ship who could have done anything are M'Benga and McCoy, and even they wouldn't have been able to do much without Sickbay's resources. Not against mystery drugs."

"I...I would still like to stay here, for a while, sir," the ensign managed eventually, and Jim shrugged.

"Okay, whiz kid. But only for a bit. Or I'll call Sulu to haul you off, and believe me, he isn't in the best of moods himself."

He left Chekov there, reasonably certain that the kid would be okay, and went to find McCoy.

"Chekov just told me what happened to Spock," he said.

McCoy grunted.

"He's going to be okay, right?"

"Hell if I know," McCoy said. "He's got so many drugs in his system, I don't even know where to begin. I'm hoping he can rid of most of them himself. I've got him on anti-convulsion medication and a light sedative, but...hell, Jim, I don't even recognise some of the compounds they've been using on him."

Jim sat down heavily. "Chekov said he did it to protect them."

"There's the irony of it," McCoy said. "The beating, most humans would have actually died. He's got bruised ribs, but the effort you need to put in to bruise Vulcan ribs, you'd've punctured a human's lung. But the drugs? The ones I do recognise are fairly benign with us. Couple of basic sedatives, one that's effectively aspirin. The worst is a nerve stimulant. It makes humans sensitive, but guess what it does to Vulcans?"

"Sends them into fits?"

"Got it in one," McCoy grumbled.

"So, what? We just wait?"

"Hell, Jim. Waiting's all we can do."


Roughly a day and a half after recovering the away team, Spock came round. McCoy called Jim down to Sickbay and took him aside when he arrived.

"Don't overload him," he said. "He's purged a lot of it, but not all. I don't want him back on duty until he's completely clean. I still have no idea what we're looking at in long-term results or side effects."

Jim nodded, but his attention was already drifting towards the Vulcan sitting on the side of the biobed eyeing the scanner Nurse Chapel was waving over him as if it were a Romulan hand grenade.

"Jesus, fine. Go on," McCoy muttered, waving him away.

Jim was gone in a moment, appearing beside Spock like a ghost and frowning at him.

"Captain."

"You used yourself as bait to keep the hostiles from attacking the other crewmembers."

"Yes, Captain."

"Why?" Jim demanded.

"I was the superior officer on the mission."

"And that's an excuse?"

"It seems to be an excuse for your similar behaviour in insisting in receiving the brunt of hostile treatments."

McCoy snickered. "He's got you there, Jim."

Jim felt grudgingly irritated, but it was an odd irritation. He was frequently annoyed with Spock, but it was not usually mixed with such...relief. With such...affection? He was relieved, he had to admit it. He was relieved that they hadn't killed the Vulcan, and...perhaps not merely because he didn't like to lose members of his crew.

"If that is all, Captain?"

"No," Jim found himself saying. "You're off-duty for the next four days. Minimum. You'll be cleared for duty after that only if Dr. McCoy says so."

Spock inclined his head.

"And," Jim said, "you will accept the thanks of not only myself, but the whole crew for what you did, even if we don't like it."

"Captain?"

Jim fixed him with a glower. "You nearly killed yourself to protect your colleagues. We won't forget that, Spock. But equally, we don't like to lose a friend, no matter how noble their intentions."

It was not until much later, well after the danger had passed and their objectives had moved on, that Jim realised he'd called Spock a friend.

And moreover, Spock had not corrected him.