As always I'm sorry for the long wait (the long, LONG wait). I haven't given up, far from it. But the last few months I've had to battle a temp job, as well as newly developed problems with anxiety and depression. I've had panic attacks and bitter days and it's been rough to say the least. But I'm doing better I think. It's been hell on my focus for writing this though, and I've been trying to write other things that could maybe make me money.
Speaking of which, I've also been trying to finish a book and I hope to be publishing it on Kindle soon, with the hope of getting some paper copies printed after that. I'll have more information later.
I also want to thank everyone who kept reading and reviewing, and especially those that gave their support through PMs. That meant a lot and it finally pushed me to finish this chapter. Big thanks to mtcbones and priestessofnox!
You can also thank Tishbing for inspiring these next couple of chapters, she threw out the idea of bringing in an old TOS episode to revamp. I changed some names around to fit in with the new timeline, but I also try to stay as close as I can to the original story (which was damn hard since Lenore has to stay on ship XD) It's a long ass chapter too to celebrate the return! Huzzah!
Lenore sighed as she sat down in her office, rotating her ankles in her boots. She was now six and a half months, roughly 22 weeks, along in her pregnancy. Which meant that her stomach was a good inch or two past her bust line at its widest point and she was about sixteen pounds heavier. This made getting around a lot harder and staying on her feet for long periods of time uncomfortable. Luckily her staff was more than willing to let her go take breaks in her office regularly.
The baby was grateful for the rest too. It'd been kicking at her the last half hour in protest until she sat down. She sighed and rubbed over the swell. "Still wondering if we should find out if you're a boy or a girl…Speaking of which, it's about time for another ultrasound." She smiled a bit, thinking that this far along they'd be able to see more of the baby's features. I'll have to schedule it for a time when Spock can come. She chuckled a bit more. She and Spock had been dating for a little over two weeks and in all honesty it had been a long time since she felt this happy. Spock continued to be very accommodating to her with her condition. He helped get her meals, walked her to and from work, ensured she was comfortable and cuddled with her in the evening as they did reports or looked over news from Earth and New Vulcan.
But…if she had one complaint, it was that they had yet to go beyond cuddling. She'd done the research and listened to some of her nurses, she knew sex while pregnant wasn't as big of a deal as she might've thought at first. And by God, she was horny. It was embarrassing in a way but she found herself thinking of sex a lot during the day. Oh she had a healthy sex-life once before settling down with Jason. They may have gotten married after her initial four year university, and been high school sweethearts, but they'd had their long breaks. Her mother had talked to her about experimenting and though it had made her hair curl in embarrassment, even more so was the fact she had experimented when she was younger. She'd gone off to college single and for the most part had remained single with enough one night or two nights stands to make Jim nod in approval. There had been perhaps one exception, but that hadn't lasted long and her proactivity in the dating pool had certainly helped with her anatomy quizzes in xenobiology, that was for sure.
The in her senior year she'd reunited with Jason on a trip home one Christmas and from there things were history. A history she didn't want to repeat.
Except for one aspect, and that again was the sex. Probably the only place she and Jason hadn't had a problem, at least until the very end when grief over the loss of her father had destroyed her drive and he'd gone looking for someone else to take the burn away. The divorce shot her drive to shit further for another few months, nearly a year really.
Eventually though she stabilized mentally and emotionally and her hormones kicked back into the picture. She was a grown ass woman, she was single, she had needs and by God she was going to fulfill them. One night when Jim was off at a training camp she took the night off from studying, actually put on her female uniform and dolled herself up and went out. Part of her thought there was no way a woman on the precipice of her thirties going to the clubs in San Francisco where there were cadets and civilians would get much attention. She had been wrong. Apparently that thing about women hitting their sexual peak in their late twenties to thirties was true. She'd gotten several drinks sent her way-always careful because she wasn't an overly trusting idiot-and then chatted up by some rather appealing people of various species. Her tongue was still sharp, the softness of her youth too scarred now, but when she wanted to be that wit could be rather charming it seemed. Even on the younger boys. She'd charmed a young Selenian into the bathroom, getting a small thrill from being nearly in public, and a good time was had by all. She kept her stepping out to the weekends and focused on her studies, but it certainly helped her relax. And eventually if she missed a weekend it wasn't a big deal. After all, you didn't always need a partner to relieve a little stress. That's how it went once they were on the ship really since it was a bit more cramped and prone to awkwardness with one night stands, so some alone time was the better answer.
Now though there were days she felt like one big ball of hormones and no amount of 'self help' was doing it for her. She was dating, she should logically be getting some, to use one of her new boyfriend's favorite words. Yet for all their time together, not once had they gone farther. It seemed like any time they were about to something more than make out like teenagers they would be interrupted or, more frustratingly, Spock would pull back and make some excuse.
That's just dandy for my self-esteem…
Lenore glanced at her computer when it beeped to show she had an incoming message. She flicked the call button and Jim came up on screen in his quarters. "Hey Bones. We've got our new marching orders for the day. Delivering some supplies to an outpost, but first heading over to planet M-113. There's some archeologists studying a bunch of ruins and stuff and they need to have their yearly physical. We're the closest available ship in the region-as usual given our still limited numbers-so we'll be doing a quick run while we're nearby."
She nodded, already making a note of routine vaccinations. "Sounds like fun. I won't be part of the landing party though you realize."
"Yeah, I got that. I'm sending over the biology report for them though. It's a Dr. Nelson Crater and his wife, Dr. Rachelle Crater."
Lenore's eyes widened and she sat up again. "Nelson Crater?"
"Uh, yeah. You know him?"
"Just a sec." She pulled up the biology reports on screen next to Jim's video feed. There were no pictures present, but she read quickly over the history. University of Georgia, then Arizona, Professor for a couple of years then getting this job up here. It's gotta be him! "I'll be damned…"
"This is Nelson," she laughed a bit. "I went to college with him…must've been more than a decade ago. He'd been studying to be an archeologist, so I just thought it must've been him."
Jim stared a moment before grinning teasingly. "You're ex-boyfriend, huh?" Lenore blushed and looked at him sharply, which made him laugh. "You got that look on your face I've seen before on people talking about their exes. Usually the one that got away."
Lenore sighed a bit. "A good way to put it…"
Jim frowned. "Hey, I didn't mean to bring up a sore subject…"
"No, it's okay. Nelson was older, graduating with plans to get his PHD at another school better for his dream."
"Ah…" he said in understanding. "So you two broke up rather than do the long distance thing?"
"Yeah." She snorted with a smile. "But you know, part of me wonders every now and then when he comes to mind what could've been if we tried. If maybe I'd have been Mrs. Crater rather than Mrs. Curtis…"
Jim frowned more. "…We might not have met if you did. And you probably wouldn't have met Spock or…"
Lenore blinked out of her wistful thinking and smiled at him slowly. "A good point there, kid. And no…well, I regret staying with Jason as long as I did, but I'm perfectly happy now. Sorry if it seemed otherwise, it's just an old line of thought from my darker days. It would be nice to see Nelson but no point in troubling him to come aboard and I can't go down after all."
"Yeah, well, probably good you're not going down to see him. I wouldn't want to make Spock jealous."
"Ha, like that would happen," she laughed.
"You would be surprised," her captain replied with a wry smile. "In any case, I guess select one of your underlings to come down with us and give the shots."
"Don't say underlings, it's like I'm a super villain. And what do you mean 'Us'? Jim, you aren't—"
"It's just a bunch of old ruins, Bones," he said with a flippant smile. "It's not like I could get hurt."
"Jim, with your luck you would get hurt on a planet of teddy bears."
"Thanks for that nightmare fuel of giant teddy bears trying to kill me," he muttered. "I gotta run and get ready, we're going to be swinging by the planet in like two hours doing warp 3."
"Right, fine. If you get hurt though I'm going to say I told you so."
"I wouldn't expect any less," he smiled, clicking the receiver out.
Lenore sighed and sat back for a few moments, worrying her bottom lip as she thought back over her time with Nelson Crater. He'd been sweet, gentlemanly, and handsome. All the things she'd hoped for in a man. Breaking up with him was probably the roughest breakup she could remember—cheating husbands aside.
Pulling up her computer, she went into her private storage drive on the ship's hard drive. She hadn't looked at the photos there in a long time, at least any beyond photos of her family. But she knew buried far back were pictures from college. She smiled wistfully when she found a picture of her and Nelson at school sitting together at a campus café. It was odd seeing herself younger, brighter and cheerier, with her hair cut shorter and her make-up heavier in an attempt to seem more mature. Next to her with his arm around her shoulders was Nelson. His hair was dark and wavy, smoothed back from his head, and his skin a sexy olive tone. He was well built having enjoyed being active in tennis and swimming. His eyes were blue she remembered, and they squinted when he smiled like he was in the picture. He had a strong jaw covered in a fine layer of five o' clock shadow and straight, aquiline nose that fit his face perfectly. She sighed, remembering things like his deep voice and laugh and the way he always held her hand when they walked across streets.
After a bit of hesitation she brought up the writing program on her computer and began typing out a message. It took her a while to get it to a point she didn't feel too awkward, pushy, stalkerish or anything, and made sure to outline she was happily in a relationship so that he wouldn't get the wrong idea. It was just her being polite doing this. It had nothing to do with the fact she did kind of miss his laugh.
Finally she realized she was losing time and saved what she and stood to look out into the sick bay proper. Her nurses on call were milling about, treating the minor day to day injuries and ailments or organizing their supplies and calibrating their equipment. "I need a volunteer for a planet-side mission in the next couple of hours," she called. "Nothing that should be too dangerous, just a routine trip planet side to give a couple of people at a research outpost their designated physical. Any takers?"
"I'll go down," Chapel said with a smile, no one else really fighting for the chance. "I've heard the ruins are interesting."
"Alright, but just remember it's not a field trip."
"I know, doctor," she said.
Lenore nodded and gestured for her to come into the office. "Here are their files, not much in the way of previous ailments so I'm not expecting any problems."
"That's good to hear," Chapel said, taking the files. She blinked as she looked down at the pad. " 'Dear Nelson, It's me Lenore. I know we haven't spoken in—"
Lenore blushed and quickly grabbed the pad she was reading off of. "Dammit! Stupid synch option, always doing that…"
"You know someone down there, Doctor?"
Lenore nodded a bit, blushing slightly. "Well, Dr. Nelson Crater is an old friend of mine. I haven't seen him in a while and though I'd like to, I obviously can't go down planet side. So I just wanted to send him a message."
Chapel smiled a bit. "That's nice…why don't you call him though?"
Lenore blushed a bit and looked down. "Well…it's just…it's been a long time, like I said, and I'm not exactly who I was back then…"
The nurse's eyes widened. "Doctor…was this an old boyfriend?"
"That obvious?" she asked ruefully. She blushed more when she saw the worried look on her face. "Now don't go thinking anything bad! Spock's my man and I'm not doing anything risqué. That message is perfectly innocent, I promise. But…well, as much as I'd like to say hi to Nelson, he'd be a pretty harsh reminder of my 'glory days'. Last he saw me I was a hot little twenty year old. I'd just kind of like him to keep remembering me that way…bit of vanity I know, but I can't help it. Guess I just want to brag a bit that things are going my way too though even if I don't see him in person."
Chapel smiled a bit in understanding. "I get it, Doctor. I promise I didn't think you'd…you know."
"Yeah…No way in hell I'd mess with a married man even if I wasn't pregnant and taken though, just to be clear," she said gravely.
"I never thought you would, Doctor. I just didn't want to cause any trouble between you and Spock. You know how men can be with the "exes". Though his weren't exactly easy to deal with either, were they?"
She chuckled and nodded. "No kidding. Which is why I'm not going to bring it up. I'm just being polite with the message, really."
"Okay, I get it," she nodded. She glanced at the computer and smiled. "Is that him? Is that you?" she asked, a bit more surprised.
"Ah," Lenore blushed, realizing she'd left the picture up as well. "Well, yes. Glory days, like I said."
"Doctor, you look great still! It's just odd to see you with short hair like that. And I've got to say, this Professor Crater is quite handsome in his youth. You have great taste," she smiled, giving her a sly look.
Lenore blushed more but then smiled and swatted her gently. "Okay, that's enough teasing of your superior. Go ahead and take off to go rest and then get ready."
"Thank you, sir," she nodded, handing over her padd. "See you later."
"See you later," she smiled, going back to her office. Sitting down again with a sigh, she shook her head at herself. Lord, what possessed me to write that message? Oh well, no harm done. Not like I'll actually see him again, right? Right.
Spock regarded the captain with one slightly skewed eyebrow as he finished delegating tasks on the bridge. "Captain, I still think this is not the best idea…your insistence to go on away missions has a tendency to create more problems."
"It'll be fine, Spock," he said. "It's just an archeological dig and we'll be down there for like an hour or less while the doctors get their physicals and shots. I just want to go planet side for a bit. I love the Enterprise like the fine lady she is, but now and then I crave ground under my boots, you know?"
"I suppose I understand," he murmured. "But you tend to go planet side whenever possible."
"I get my cravings satiated whenever I can, Spock. Be thankful I don't do drugs or other illicit activities."
"Quite thankful, Captain," the Vulcan agreed.
Kirk smirked a bit. "Keep an eye on the place while I'm gone, Spock. No wild parties, no booze, no crank calls to command. Not without me."
The Vulcan merely arched an eyebrow at him in his usual way to note his Captain was being strange and took his seat at the helm. The Captain left and Spock opened the channel to the ship. "Captain and away team about to disembark. Prepare to stand by."
"Aye, Mr. Spock, ready and waiting for them," Scotty's voice said over the comm.
"Very good, Mr. Scott."
Sitting back, he tried to relax. It was difficult at times during his work to do so. In fact he'd dare say some days it was impossible. It was why he was growing to appreciate his time alone with Dr. McCoy. Spending their time together simply in each other's company was enough at times to ease him into a peaceful state. When he had time to hold her, breathing in her scent and feeling her close and feeling the swell of her stomach, he could only describe a feeling of tranquility that he'd never really felt before.
He felt other things too though. Desires he'd only ever given into a handful of times in his life-once in his formative years, a few times with Nyota, and of course the now infamous time with the Harakellian fertility drugs-were at times running beneath the currents of his mind. Now he was feeling them much more frequently. These feelings he equated to his close quarters with Lenore, who by and large didn't hide her feelings and had been feeling…amorous. He couldn't say it was all her doing though. Her feelings were only a catalyst for his own desire. But there were problems stopping him, one of them being there was another current he felt when they were close now.
Their child's brain had started to develop around 12 weeks he knew, and he could at times feel the tingle of mental waves that were faint and indistinct. But now at 22 weeks he could feel the very light, very subtle waves of brain activity. Though illogical by some degree, it made the idea of intimacy…awkward. It was a subject he was hesitant to really explain though, so whether by accident or not he tended to avoid the subject entirely. He had a feeling though such methods were becoming annoying to Lenore however.
And he was not immune any longer to his desires. He wanted to touch her, fondle her, worship her. He needed to do that. But he couldn't. These strong feelings had him confused and afraid that, with his strength, he might hurt her or their child. He needed his control, but his control was slipping. He was worried at times he might slip into Pon Farr, but knew it was unlikely. He had a slim to none chance of ever going into the plak tow, and there was no reason to with a woman carrying his child nearby. But the raw feelings there, so new and so terrifying, kept him wary. I have to find a way to either explain my trepidation or get over it…I don't believe both of us can subsist on this sexual tension for much longer.
"Scotty to bridge, away team ready to beam down."
"Understood, Mr. Scott."
It was a few moments later Captain Kirk's voice came over the intercom. "Kirk to bridge. We landed safely all accounted for. Nurse Chapel, Crewman Devereux and I are going to head to camp."
"Very good, Captain," Spock said. "The channel will remain open if anything should happen."
"You worry too much Spock," he laughed.
Spock's eyebrows ticked but he didn't bother arguing. Instead he grabbed his padd and set to work on some of his own paperwork for upcoming projects while they waited. He perked up when a message came in on his padd from Sick Bay and opened it up.
I've got an ultrasound scheduled for the end of our shift and 07:00. The baby's features should be more identifiable, I hope you can make it. We can also find out the sex if we want, up to you. I hope you can make it.
It was signed with Dr. McCoy's usual popped in signature for the messages but he felt his mouth tick slightly. It was as excited as he let himself get in public, but getting to see his child's features made him feel almost giddy, as the humans called it. He quickly typed back.
He paused and erased that.
I will make time and meet you in Sick Bay at 06:55. I believe after much consideration finding the baby's sex might be beneficial to preparation, as we discussed before. I will see you then.
He sent the message off and continued on with his work, though had trouble concentrating now. It was only morning still, he had to wait a long time to go and see Lenore. His mouth ticked again, realizing it was as much about seeing her as his child. It was also worrying in a way. He found himself often slipping into such reveries, moments when he could clearly feel his own emotions skimming the barrier of his control. I must meditate later…I must get myself under control, I cannot slip in such a manner…
He also noted something as he went over Nyota's reports. "Ms. Uhura. You have an error in your frequencies column of your communications report."
Uhura, who had been coming back from looking at the navigations map with Sulu, paused and gave Spock a wry smile. "Mr. Spock, sometimes I think if I hear the word 'frequency' one more time, I'll cry."
Spock blinked at her. "Cry? Why should you cry? You are a communications officer, it is illogical-"
"It's a joke, Spock," she sighed. "I was just trying to make conversation."
"Ah…I don't believe I have an answer."
"Oh you do alright. I'm 'illogical', right, for feeling too much a part of the computer console?"
Spock let a small frown tug at his mouth. "You are very much not a computer, Uhura."
She smiled. "I know…I suppose I miss the days when we talked more though."
Spock nodded slightly. "If you should need…someone to talk to, I am still glad to listen. Even if I cannot relate well to what you need to say, or cannot tell you what you would like to hear."
She smiled and nodded. "You trying is at least something…your going to have to work on that empathy thing though. McCoy and your baby might need a bit of it."
Spock frowned slightly again and looked down. "I…must still uphold my Vulcan training, Uhura. Dr. McCoy understands that and accepts it."
She sighed and turned to head back to her seat. "I know, but it was always one thing that bugged me when we were together…you never just talked about things like your home, your family…Even if I accepted it too, it still bugged me you seemed to know more about me than I did about you. Then again, I get the feeling what you have with Dr. McCoy is different," she smiled. "I'm a little jealous. Just a little."
Spock opened his mouth to respond when the ship communications came on with a short whistle. It had been less than an hour and Spock wondered what could've happened. "Transporter room to bridge. Landing party returning. They report one death."
Everyone froze at that. Spock took a deep breath to center himself as he pushed the relay button. "Acknowledged."
Uhura turned her head to him and frowned. "Spock that…that is part of what I'm talking about!"
He looked at her with one cocked eyebrow. "Explain."
"They just said someone died!" she hissed. "And you…you just sit there, cool as a cucumber! What if it's the Captain? He's probably your closest friend on here, is certainly Dr. McCoy's!"
Spock frowned again but sighed. "Lieutenant, a demonstration of concern on my part will not change what has happened. The transporter room is very well manned, and they will call me if they need my assistance."
Uhura frowned harder at him than he could manage, but just shook her head and returned to her seat. Spock turned his gaze back to the front, arching his brows at the others who had been looking. They quickly got back to work and he tried once more to focus on his work as well as redeveloping his control.
Jim wasn't a huge history buff, but he enjoyed it fine. The ruins held his interest for a time while they walked around, eventually finding a domed outpost building near the edge of the ruins. It was white, and made for a material that was part ceramic, part plastic. They made their way over to it and knocked on the door.
Jim recognized the man that answered as Nelson Crater. He'd hacked into Bones' picture folder once and had seen pictures of them together, tagged with his name. He was older now though, as Jim expected, with patches of gray at his temples and little wrinkles around his eyes. He smiled when he saw them and swung the door wider. "Ah, hello! You must be the men from the Enterprise, it's good to meet you. I'm Nelson. Come in, come in"
"It's good to meet you too, sir," Jim said as they stepped in. The inside was all one room, a large bed in the corner, a small kitchen like area, and the rest taken up by equipment and work tables filled with artifacts dug up from the desert set for cleaning. "I'm James Kirk, Captain of the Enterprise. This is Christine Chapel, our head nurse, and John Devereux."
"It's good to meet all of you."
"You too," Chapel said, and Jim was a bit confused when he noted she was blushing slightly.
"Um, you too, sir," Devereux said, eyes looking him up and down.
"Is something wrong, crewman?" Jim asked.
"Uh, no sir, I…it's just…" He looked at Nelson and blushed. "I'm sorry, but you look just like Indiana Jones!"
Jim straightened. He knew the classic film of course, it was antiquated but still held charm for many audiences. He looked at Nelson, with his longish dark hair, tan skin and rather more Greecian features, and then back to his crewman. "Um…what?"
"I don't see it," Chapel agreed.
"I, but, he looks just like him!" Devereux argued. "Like the sort of archaeologist from movies! Do you have a whip? A fedora?"
"This isn't a movie, crewman…" Jim said, looking at the doctor apologetically.
"It's alright," Nelson chuckled. "I'm flattered, really."
"Yes, well, if my crewmate here is so interested in such things, maybe he should go look at the ruins a bit longer?"
Devereux blushed but then slumped. "Yessir," he sighed, heading back out into the sun and sand.
Jim shook his head a bit with a smile. "Alright. Why don't we get your physical started?"
"Oh, let me go find Rachelle. She's probably out at the dig site, she'd forget to eat sometimes if I didn't keep an eye on her."
"Arlight," Jim nodded. Nelson turned and headed out of the house.
"Devereux must've seen some horrible remake of Indiana Jones," Jim muttered.
"I know. Though Professor Crater is pretty handsome, I'm sure he had his students quite distracted."
"Bit old now," Jim said, eyeing her.
"What? But he looks great for his age. Not even a gray hair to be seen, I wonder if he dyes it…"
Jim blinked again. "Um…he has a quite a few gray hairs, Chapel."
"Yeah, like right around the temples. You know, the old brainy guy look?"
"But…" Chapel frowned, looking confused. "He looked just like he did in Doctor McCoy's picture to me…"
"Maybe the light tricked you?"
"Maybe…but you saw it fine apparently."
Jim shrugged. A few moments later someone else came in and they looked up to see an older woman walk in, her wavy black hair graying and pulled back in a tight ponytail. She had on simple pants, a shirt, boots and a hat against the heat and dusted herself off. She looked up and frowned at them.
"The hell are you?"
Chapel frowned again at the terse and rude greeting but Jim just smiled. He was used to grouchiness. "You must be Mrs. Crater. I'm Captain Kirk. This is Nurse Chapel, we're here to perform your physicals."
"Well you can just go," she said, hanging her hat up. "We don't need you."
"Excuse me?" Chapel said.
"What Nurse Chapel means is a yearly physical is Starfleet regulation, Mrs. Crater. We need to make sure your husband are physically fit."
"We're fine. We don't need you interfering," she snapped.
"We just want to make sure of that," Jim said as patiently as he could. "You two are alone out here, if you have any health problems you can't exactly go get help."
"All we need are salt tablets," she said. "Just get us the damn salt tablets and were fine."
Jesus, does Nelson Crater have a thing for grouchy women? "Mrs. Crater, the sooner we get your physicals done, the sooner we can leave. Unless you want to go up to the ship and be examined by our CMO, Dr. McCoy."
She glared. "You can't make us go."
"I can if I have to. I'm the captain of a starship so-"
"I'm sure you take every chance to show off that fancy gold of yours, hm?" she said snidely.
Jim narrowed his eyes. "You can get your physical here, or up there, or I can call research office and report your refusal. Your choice."
She glared before then tilting her head. "You said your CMO's name was McCoy? As in Lenore McCoy?"
Jim nodded a bit. "Yes. She's apparently and old…friend of your husband's," he smiled.
Rachelle Crater frowned before sighing and going to sit at the bed, motioning for Chapel to get on with it. The nurse frowned but stood by her, starting to run the machine over her. "Why isn't Dr. McCoy here? Nelson has told me about her."
"She's not fit for active duty," Jim said. "She sends her regards though."
"Hmph…too bad. I know Nelson probably would've liked to chat. I don't mind it just being the two of us, but I know he misses having more people around…" She breathed in deeply as Chapel instructed her. "Where is he?"
"He's out looking for you actually. My Crewmate, Devereux, is probably helping."
"Devereux? Someones out there with him alone?"
Jim frowned at the wording but nodded. "Yes…"
"I see…We should probably go get-"
They all jumped when a yell rang out. "HELP! SOMEONE, HELP!"
Jim felt his stomach drop and turned to run out, cursing his luck once again that nothing ever went smoothly.
Lenore sighed as she pulled the sheet over Devereux. She'd seen worse fates, but the mottled blotchy skin and still form was still a sad sight for a cadet so young. She'd been worried when she'd heard someone in the landing party had died, her fear going between Jim and Christine. That it was Devereux was a bitter relief—as horrible as it was to call it 'relief'. The crewman was a good kid. He enjoyed their shore leave stops a little too much, but otherwise a good kid. Now he was dead, purple blotches all over his face and body stiff, as if he'd been in extreme pain as he died.
"What happened?" she asked, looking at Jim and Christine.
"We didn't see it," Chapel said, looking sadly at the covered body. "I was looking over Mrs. Crater for her physical…"
"Start from the beginning, please," she said, sitting down with them.
"We got there fine," Jim said, rubbing over his temple. "We looked at the ruins a bit, and then found the camp. Professor Crater, Nelson that is, met us there. He said his wife was out cataloguing a few finds, we introduced ourselves. I recognized him from your pictures—"
"When did you see my pictures?" Lenore asked suspiciously.
"Details," Jim waved. "Devereux said something odd I know, about him looking like…ahem…"
Chapel sighed. "He said he looked like Indiana Jones…"
Lenore blinked before shaking her head. "Not any version I've seen…"
Both Jim and Christine glanced at one another before going on. "It slipped out, and then he started about whips and fedoras."
"I sent him outside," Jim said, his face darkening with guilt.
Lenore frowned and put a hand on his knee, patting it gently. "It's not your fault, Jim."
He made a noncommittal noise and sighed. "Professor Crater went to go find his wife. Before he came back though she showed up on her own."
"She was a bit uppity," Chapel frowned. "Told us to leave, got very up in the Captain's face. Quite rude."
"She was a bit…straining," Jim admitted. "But settled down when Nurse Chapel started to examine her. Just a few minutes later we heard a shout for help and rushed out. We found Devereux outside on one of the rocky outcrops. This plant—Dr. Crater called it a Borgia Plant—in his hand. Professor Crater was trying to examine him but it was too late. He said he'd been looking for his wife and when he saw Devereux he was going to say he didn't take offense to what he said earlier, but then he saw he had the plant in his hand and he took a bite out of it before he could stop him. He fell, convulsing in pain, and then…"
Lenore nodded, but was frowning. "Never heard of this 'Borgia Plant'…"
"It's probably native to the planet." Jim turned to the computer nearby and opened the channel to the bridge. "Mr. Spock?"
Spock's face came on screen and it seemed more relaxed than usual. "Captain. You are…alright?"
Jim smiled. "I'm fine. It's Devereux who didn't make it."
"I see. Unfortunate," he said, nodding.
"Yeah. We think this is the culprit," he held up a jar with a sample of the plant. "Borgia plant. Know anything about it?"
"Just a moment…Sulu?"
Sulu stood and came over into the screen. "Yes?"
"You are one of our ships' main horticulturists; do you know anything of the Borgia Plant of this planet?"
Sulu looked thoughtful. "If I remember right, it's native to the planet but it's been shown to have a similar genetic structure to the nightshade family. Like deadly nightshade, I believe can cause alkaloid poisoning. It's chemical structure common to most class M planets."
Lenore frowned. "But that wouldn't cause the strange mottling on his body and face," she said. "And my scans didn't pick up any sign of poisoning, never mind what I can tell you from my own two eyes."
Jim frowned and turned to Spock again. "Stand by, Mr. Spock."
"Yes Captain." His eyes ticked briefly to Lenore before the signal was closed.
Chapel was frowning as well. "Professor Crater swears he saw him eat the plant."
"And I swear he couldn't have, there's no sign of alkaloid poisoning in his system," she said with a frown.
"There were bits of plant in his mouth though," Jim reminded her. "He-"
"He couldn't have swallowed it," Lenore said, crossing her arms. "My tests would've shown if he had. There was nothing in his blood, he must've been dead before it was put in his mouth somehow."
"Then what kills a healthy man-"
"I will tell you something else," she steam rolled on. "This man shouldn't be dead." Jim flinched but she went on more gently. "I can't find anything wrong with him. Everything I see says he should just get up and walk right out of this room."
They all paused and glanced at him, as if expecting him to rise like a zombie. He didn't and they breathed a sigh of relief and disappointment. "But what could've done it?"
"I don't' know," Lenore sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose. "I'll run the tests again, maybe I missed something…"
"Or someone's lying," Jim muttered.
"Nelson would never lie," Lenore said, straightening up. "He especially wouldn't like about something like this. I may not have seen him for 12 years, but he was always honest and upstanding, a literal boy scout. I—"
"Lenore, I don't care about the fuzzy lens of your past romance, okay?" Jim snapped. "One of my crew is dead, and I want to know why!"
Lenore jolted a bit, surprised by the outburst, and Chapel looked between the two of them. "I…Yes, Captain, of course," the doctor said.
Jim frowned apologetically and stood. "I'm going to go back to the bridge, let Spock get back to his real work."
"Alright," both women said, nodding to him as he headed for the door.
Chapel looked after him sympathetically and looked at Lenore when he left. "You're right…he does take it hard when he loses a crewman."
Lenore smiled a bit and nodded, the sting of the rebuke already fading. "Yeah. We're…well, his family. He doesn't want to lose us."
Chapel smiled and nodded. "You know, Professor Crater looks very good for his age. I swear he doesn't look older than thirty."
Lenore chuckled and sighed, rubbing over her stomach. "Good for him."
"His wife is still a bit of a shrew…" she muttered.
"Well, that gossip is none of our business," she said. "C'mon. We have a cause of death to find."
When Lenore and Chapel did find the cause of death, they were both taken aback. But it was the only possible cause of death to their poor crewman, and a second test confirmed it. She called the Captain, asking he come down so they could tell him in person rather than broadcast it over the ship. Jim strode in quickly, and Lenore was surprised to see Spock behind him.
"Oh, hey," she said, smiling a little.
"Hello, Doctor," he replied. Lenore tried not to frown, knowing they had to be professional, but she did prefer it when he called her by her first name rather than her title. "You have found a cause of death?"
"We did, yeah," she said. She went over and pulled up Devereux's readings. "Take a look and tell me if you see what's wrong with this picture."
Both Captain and First Officer leaned in to have a better look. Spock was the first to Speak up, his eyebrows raised slightly. "Fascinating…so improbable we almost didn't check it."
"What?" Jim asked, squinting more as if offended the screen wasn't out right telling him the problem.
"Sodium Chloride," Spock said, pointing to the read out. "There is no trace of it."
Lenore nodded. "This man has no salt in his body at all. A normal, 70 kilogram, or 150 lb man should have enough chloride and sodium ions in his body that, if we removed and bonded them together, he'd have approximately 95 grams of salt. That's 8 table spoons. And it's all gone!"
Jim blinked and then looked at her in shock. "I…but how is that possible?!"
"I have no idea," she sighed, shaking her head. "I don't know what to tell you other than it's gone."
"He would die almost instantly," Spock added, frowning more.
"But there's not a mark on him!" Jim said.
"Aside from these," Lenore pointed out, pulling back the blanket to show the red rings around his body. "These red rings are the only marks on him."
"But you said that was skin mottling?"
"I assumed it was," she said slowly. "That was an error on my part, sir...another one."
Jim stared a moment before smiling a little. "I'm not keeping score, Bones." He put a hand on her shoulder. "You in the mood for an apology?"
She smiled and poked him in the ribs so he let go, Spock looking between them curiously. "Nah. Forget it. You're right, I was probably letting my past color my perception of Nelson. Haven't even spoken to him in person, he might've changed in the last decade."
Spock arched his brow. "Changed? You are familiar with Professor Nelson Crater?"
Jim blanched a bit and laughed, Chapel also looking suddenly worried. "What? No, uh, they're just…old friends."
Lenore rolled her eyes. "Jim, it doesn't need to be a secret." She looked at Spock and said as matter-of-factly as she could, "Nelson and I were old college sweet hearts."
Spock straightened slightly, his brow doing an odd skip. "You courted him?"
Lenore blinked. "Um, we dated, yes…"
Spock's face got even colder, if that was possible and Lenore stared in surprise. Wait…is he actually jealous? She tried not to smile, thinking it almost funny. Holy shit, I thought that Vulcan control would put a stop to that. I shouldn't find it endearing, but it kind of is…
"Captain," Chapel suddenly piped up before she could say anything. "There was one thing Mr. and Mrs. Crater were very adamant about needing, remember?"
Jim blinked but then his eyes widened. "Salt tablets…they kept requesting salt tablets…"
Lenore was surprised, and then frowned more. "That's odd given the circumstances."
"Indeed," Spock agreed.
"I think I'd better head down and ask a few more questions…I'll get together some men to go down with me."
"Very good, Captain," Spock nodded. "I volunteer if you find it necessary."
Jim smiled a bit and nodded. "I'll keep that in mind, let me go work out who all else should come." He turned and headed for the door. Chapel mean while took a look at the both of them and quickly scuttled away to finish up reporting their findings.
Spock turned to look at Lenore, his brows drawn down. "You did not mention before you had a previous affiliation with Professor Crater."
Lenore blinked at the sudden topic. "Er, well, I didn't know we'd be going to see him till this morning and I haven't seen you since…"
Spock nodded slightly and looked down at her. "Have you been in contact with him?"
"I don't see how that's any of your—" She paused in telling him not to monitor who she talked with before smiling, shaking a bit with suppressed laughter. "Oh my god, you really are jealous!"
His cheeks flushed and he snorted derisively, though she could tell his hands were tightened behind his back in agitation. "Jealousy is illogical."
She smiled, deciding to take pity on him. "I agree with you there, but you seem to keep feeling it," she smiled, stepping forward. "First that little misunderstanding with the Laramores, now this. Do I have to really say there is no reason to be jealous of Nelson Crater? Because there isn't. I am hopeless devoted to a certain persnickety hobgoblin and am not intent on sharing or being shared." She slipped her arms around his neck. "No matter how much he frustrates me, my hobgoblin is totally worth it."
Spock flushed more but his body relaxed, melting from iron into a slightly softer solid under her touch. "I see. That is…gratifying to here that you are devoted to me."
"Who said I was talking about you?" she teased.
"Doctor…" he replied in a gruff warning.
She snickered and leaned up, kissing the corner of his mouth. "Take a joke, Spock."
He huffed quietly. "I do not find such jokes funny. I endeavored very hard to win your favor, I don't…" He trailed off, his problems with emotions once again tying his tongue in his mouth.
Lenore got this gist of it though and smiled warmly. She leaned up and kissed him fully then, smiling when he kissed her back and brought his hands around to rest on her hips, just to the side of her belly. She pulled back and kept smiling at him. "I know. I did message Nelson, but just to be friendly. No reason to be jealous."
"I see…you did not video call him?" he asked, trying to mostly sound curious. Lenore wondered why he was prone to jealousy, she never really expected it of him and thought the whole issue with the Laramores was because they actually wanted to give her a husband.
"Nope, no reason to. Mostly…well, I wanted him to remember the young pretty me," she admitted. "But also, no reason to see him. Like I said, I'm happy how I am. No reason to venture all the way down memory lane." She tightened her hold slightly, Spock steadying her since she was on her toes to match his height. "Not giving this up, Spock. You're stuck with me. Or should I say you're stuck with us?" she smiled, lightly pressing her stomach against him.
Spock tensed suddenly before pulling back slightly. "I…I do not consider myself stuck, I am quite happy to be where I am."
Lenore frowned a bit as he pulled away and caught his hand. "You could show it a bit more…"
"I like it when you call me Lenore when we're alone," she said quietly enough only he could hear, squeezing his hand. "And I like a lot of other stuff we do when we're alone. I get that you're still Vulcan, I said I'm fine with it. And I am. But it seems like lately you keep…keep pulling back even when you seemed fine with how far we've been going right up till it gets really serious. And it's not like we aren't putting the cart before the horse here!" she growled. She sighed again and looked him in the eyes. "Spock, I want—"
He held up his other hand, a slight flush on his cheeks. "I…may we speak of this later? Once things have calmed?" Lenore glared at him and he leveled his gaze at her to show he was sincere. "Please."
She sighed again and let go of his hand, taking her own hands back to wrap around herself with a disappointed look. "Okay, fine…but we are having this talk. A woman has needs, Spock."
Spock winced but nodded. "I understand."
"I wonder if you do," she muttered.
Spock hesitated before leaning in, resting his forehead against hers. "I don't mean to frustrate you so, Docto…Lenore. I will explain later, I promise."
Lenore looked up at him and found she managed to lift the side of her mouth up in a smile. "Okay. Better get going, I'm sure Jim will want you on that away team…be careful?"
"I will be." He rested a hand over her stomach a moment before turning and heading out the door. Lenore sighed and sat down.
"Everything okay, Doctor?" Chapel asked, poking her head in and trying not to look worried.
"Yeah…just trying to be patient."
"Still learning new skills, impressive," she smiled teasingly. Lenore gave her a flat look before smiling as well and moving to go about her business. I hope Spock will be okay down there…
She jumped a bit when she heard her computer go off and went to go look. She was surprised to see she had a message from Nelson Crater.
I am happy to hear from you, and happy to hear how well you are doing! I've often thought of you over the years and wondered how you're doing. I understand in your condition you can't come down to see me. It's a shame, I would love to see you again as well, but it can't be helped. I'll write a longer note when I get the chance, perhaps we can start catching up. With the horrible incident earlier my wife and I are a bit shaken up and being run ragged, so I can't seem to find the right words now. I hope you find whoever or whatever is responsible for your poor crewmate's death.
She smiled a bit to herself and sighed, putting the message away. I am happy. I have a great job, I'm going to have a baby, and I love the man I'm with. That's enough.
Spock had heard from Chapel and Jim that Mrs. Crater could be difficult. She thought the two years with no one but her husband for company had made her irritable and unable to function around normal people. She was proving them right at the moment as she stood imperiously before them in their camp made from a sturdy hybrid of plastic and ceramic, kept shady in the hot arid temperature of M-113. The desert like setting gave him a moment of homesickness for Vulcan, but he pushed it deep down inside of him and buried it, as he always did. Control, he reminded himself. The stone ruins around the camp looked to be quite old, from a time long forgotten by even the planet as the sand tried to cover it up. It was fascinating, but there were more pressing matters than looking over the remnants of a lost civilization. They brought with them one science officer and one command officer with them, both of whom remained outside to guard the area around the camp and ruins.
"I'm beginning to feel harassed, Captain," Rachelle crater said with an annoyed look. Her husband was nowhere in sight, and Spock felt that might've been for the best. Knowing Dr. McCoy had once been intimate with him somehow burned him inside. He'd never really experienced jealousy, not like this. Something drove him to want to keep Lenore away from any other potential suitors even in her condition. Sometimes Jim was even too much, and it was getting to be hindering to his duties. He was worried he might somehow step out of line for it, with either his captain or the doctor. He somehow doubted she would appreciate his suggestion of remaining in quarters till the baby was born. And possibly after. This was certainly another thing to struggle with: moving between the volatile emotions of desire and jealousy as well as the fear that, with his strength, he might actually do harm to Lenore unintentionally or not. He needed his control, and he feared it was slipping.
Jim's annoyed huff in deep through his nose drew his attention back outward, a glare leveled at her the woman in front of them. "We're trying to figure out what killed our crewman, Mrs. Crater."
"We told you, it was the Borgia Plant—"
"No it wasn't," Jim snapped. "Our CMO found no trace of poison in him. What she didn't find was salt. He had no salt anywhere in his body. He died from salt depletion, a sudden total loss of it. Something I'm told is downright medically impossible. Now Spock has looked at the plant in question and confirmed it is the Borgia Plant, but that is not what killed my crewman. And considering you and your husband seem to really want salt tablets, well, we're a little…curious."
Spock had seen his captain angry in the past. It usually had to do with someone threatening his ship or his crew, so it wasn't surprising he was becoming increasingly agitated with Mrs. Crater. Even Spock felt an odd sense, an intuition really despite his lack of love for 'gut feelings', that the Craters were hiding something.
"Your esteemed physician can't figure out we need salt tablets," she said with a sneer. Spock felt a bit of ire rise at that but kept it to himself.
"We understand salt is a precious commodity on a planet like this, Doctor," the captain said. "But we have a mystery. And I don't like mysteries, I like to know what the hell is going on. Especially when it concerns my crew."
Mrs. Crater snorted and went over to a cabinet nearby. She opened it and pulled out a bottle. "Nelson and I started out with 25 pounds. This is what we have left." She handed him the bottle filled with white tablets, only a handful left at the very bottom. "What's so mysterious about that?"
Jim looked it over before opening it and pulling one tablet out for a closer look. Spock took it from him before he could try and pressed it to the tip of his tongue. He nodded to Jim's curious look. "Salt."
Jim nodded and handed the bottle back to the older woman, who put it back in the cabinet. "One of our duties as part of Starfleet is to ensure the safety of anyone under our protection. As such I think it's best you and your husband join us on the Enterprise, until we know what killed that crewman."
Mrs. Crater's head snapped up and her eyes widened. "No! You can't do that," she said quickly.
Captain Kirk arched his eyebrows and glanced at Spock, who was also watching the exchange. "I can and I will."
"But it will interfere with our work!"
"How? You've been here 2 years, will a couple of days make that much of a difference?"
She grew silent at that, but still looked at him defiantly. Jim eyed her before turning away and taking out his communicator as he walked back over to Spock. "Uhura?"
"Please have quarters arranged for Mr. and Mrs. Crater, they'll be joining us for a while. Any new findings?"
"Not yet, Captain. But Sulu does confirm that the sample you brought back is definitely Borgia, as were the remnants in his mouth. However, both he and the medical staff agree, it doesn't look as though he chewed the plant as much as it was shoved into his mouth and he was forced to bite down…"
"But his death was not due to poison, we've already ruled that out," Jim sighed.
Spock glanced up and then straightened when he realized they were alone. "Captain, Mrs. Crater is gone," he said quickly.
Jim whirled and cursed under his breath, rushing to head out of the domed house. Spock followed quickly, grabbing his phazer to be at the ready. "Doctor Crater! Doctor!" Jim yelled.
Spock kept his eyes scanning around but paused when he saw one of their other people lying down in the sand near some rocks, his blue uniform noting him immediately as Spock's subordinate. "Captain! Over here!" He rushed over, kneeling down. All around his face were the same ring like bruises as Devereux that made him feel his stomach clench. "It's Sturgeon…" He reached under his neck, checking his pulse, but found no beat beneath his fingers. "He's dead…" Spock said, gripping the phazer tighter.
"Dammit!" Jim hissed. He looked around. "Where's Breuner? Breuner!" He shouted, looking for their other man, the one in the yellow uniform they'd brought down with them. "Breuner, where are you!?"
"I'm here, Captain." They turned to see their fellow crewman climbing up to them on the rocky outcrop. "I'm sorry. I found Sturgeon dead, and I rushed to try and find what did it. But I didn't find anything," he said. He sounded…off to Spock however. Breuner was known to be quite lively, yet the way he spoke now seemed stilted, strangled. There was none of the human vibrancy in it.
"Are you alright?" the Captain asked, perhaps also feeling something was off.
"I'm just…I feel as though I should've been able to keep this from happening, sir. Keep Sturgeon alive."
Jim frowned and sighed. "It's not your fault. We'd best beam back aboard though. Mr. Spock, I want you to do a sweep of this area when we're up there, find Mr. and Mrs. Crater ASAP. And search for any other life signature that might be around here," he added.
Jim pulled out his communicator and flipped it open. "Kirk here, beam us up."
Spock strode off the platform once they were reformed, heading back for the science stations where he could scan the planet. Neither he nor the captain, who was making arrangements to grab Sturgeons remains from the planet, noticed Breuner looking around with shifty eyes and slink off into the halls…
Chekov was balancing his and Sulu's lunch's on his arms. They were eating late due to the unfortunate circumstances planet side. Sulu was staying in the botany lab after examining the plant tissue from the planet, deciding he needed a bit of time to relax among his flora specimens. Chekov preferred spending his lunches with the navigator because he didn't give the youngest member of the crew as much flack as the others for his age. He had a feeling being able to save both he and the Captain back during the Narada incident had something to do with that, but Sulu was also fun and enjoyed talking to him he thought.
He exited the lift and started down for the labs, pausing when he noticed someone at his side. "Ah, hello Mr. Breuner," he smiled. "Is everything alright?"
"Fine…just fine…" the other man said. His tongue was darting out over his lips quite often, eyes staring at his tray, and Chekov frowned. He followed his gaze and either he was staring at his asparagus or at his salt shaker. Neither seemed wrong to him, so he looked back.
"Er…that's good," he said. "Um, I should go though." He quickly started making his way towards the lab and tried not to feel too on edge when he realized Breuner was following him. Quickly he ducked inside the botany lab and rushed carefully over to Sulu. "Ah. Lunch is served."
Sulu looked up and smiled, feeding a slug looking thing to one of his carnivorous plants that at it greedily. "Ah, great. I was starting to think Gertrude would be the only one eating."
Chekov chuckled and set the tray down on a table. "Sorry for the wait." He looked at the plant and smiled. "Hello Gertrude. You look very nice today."
The flower—which was large and hot pink and while carnivorous, not as scary as those plants from weeks ago—seemed to preen under the attention and coo at him.
Sulu chuckled. "Don't give her a swelled bulb." He paused and was staring behind Chekov.
The younger boy turned and tensed when he saw Breuner there, wide brown eyes staring at them. "Ah…hello again, Breuner…is something wrong?"
Breuner didn't answer but came closer slowly, looking at them both intently. Chekov kept a wary eye on him, getting more and more worried as he came closer.
"Breuner, man, are you okay?" Sulu asked. "You're acting…off."
The crewmen stared, nostrils flaring a moment before reaching up a hand towards them. It was then Gertrude, showing she was more animal than plant, began shrieking. They all jumped and Breuner retreated quickly before running out as if being chased.
Sulu quickly went to the flower. "It's okay, it's okay…That was freaky. Gertrude is sensitive to people, I've never seen her freak out like that before."
"Breuner was freaking me out to," Chekov said, his accent thickening as he tried to get his heart under control. "He was, how you say, getting his freak on."
Sulu snorted and started laughing, dispelling the tension a small bit. "No Chekov, that is not what we say in this situation…"
Outside, Breuner stumbled a bit, nibbling at his finger. The hall was now empty and he cast his eyes around desperately for someone, anyone. When the turbo lift stopped at the end of the hall he paused, one woman catching his eye as she stepped off.
Uhura was reading over a report as she walked, the language lab down the hall past some of the other labs on this side of the ship. She paused and looked up when she noticed someone in her way and stared for a moment. It was an oddly familiar young crewman, with dark skin but light eyes and hair, standing in front of her in the now empty hall.
"Hello," he replied with a smile, his voice deep and captivating.
Uhura tilted her head slightly. "Do I…Do I know you? I don't think I've seen you on the Enterprise before."
"You've seen me often," he smiled, moving closer. "When you are lonely, your memories turn to me, this face, this voice."
Uhura felt herself blush but also a bit of annoyance at the man. "Oh, so I think of you when I'm lonely, hm? I'll admit, that's a better line than I've heard in a while."
"It's not a line…" He suddenly rattled something off in another language and Uhura gaped. Without really thinking she gave a reply in the same language, smiling happily.
"You know Swahili…?" she asked wonder. So few new the language, the language she practically grew up with and that she feared would one day vanish.
"I know many things…" he smiled, moving towards her again. "What else would you like me to know?"
Uhura stared, her back hitting the wall when she took a step away. Something was off, she knew, but she felt suddenly like she was out of her body, floating slightly as she stared into the man's eyes. His hands were coming up towards her face, but they felt wrong. They felt like tentacles, not hands. But she couldn't turn away.
"Lt. Uhura, report to the bridge," the comm suddenly said, making her jump and tear her gaze away. It rang for her again and she breathed deep.
"I…I need to go." She got passed him, quickly heading for the lift again. Looking back, she felt oddly relieved when he wasn't there.
The man meanwhile was staggering back around the deck. He found another lift and, after a quick look at the directory, took it up to the area where the crew's quarters were. Several people were milling about but none were alone and he groaned quietly in frustration, he moved around them, trying to find a quiet, secluded place. He paused however when he saw the name on one door.
Commander Spock and Dr. Lenore McCoy, CMO.
A little light next to the second name noted she was inside while the first name, the man with the pointy ears from the planet, was not. The name rang through his head and he smiled, letting his form shimmer and melt slightly before pressing the door buzzer.
The door opened and the woman there stood and gaped a moment at him in shock. "N…Nelson?"
"Hey there, Sugar plum," he grinned, his fingers flexing behind his back. "Long time no see."