Notes: And this one is an apology for the couple of people I apparently made cry with 'Waiting.' I clearly suck at apologies. Established K/S relationship.
Disclaimer: I do not own Star Trek 2009, and I make no profit from this work.
When the Enterprise was finally allowed and able to limp to Thelorius Prime, it was to the collective sighs of relief from everyone on board. It had been a tough three months, and the Admiralty had finally given into Jim's arguments that the crew was in shreds after two accidents in Engineering, two hundred or so cases of clinical exhaustion, and one ensign finally bursting into tears in the middle of beta shift in Xenobiology Lab Four and trying to stab herself with a broken test tube.
Barnett had hastily signed off on the leave request after that one. The ensign in question was his granddaughter.
Jim had taken his last shift off in his quarters to hastily rip through the shore leave rotations with McCoy, transferring off the most worn crewmembers first, and leaving the most stable - or, rather, least likely to have a nervous breakdown - until last. It wasn't until they were discussing the skeleton crew that McCoy brought it up, and left a bitter taste in Jim's mouth.
"You'll have to give command to Sulu or Uhura. I've still got Scotty on painkillers that would knock a Klingon on its ass; he's not fit for duty."
Jim knew that. Oh, the Chief Engineer was cheerful enough, certainly - Sickbay seemed to be some kind of Scottish musical at the moment. But fit for duty? No way. He'd be better off leaving one of the frazzled maintenance and repairs teams in charge. They'd only kill themselves, not the whole ship and possibly a decent section of Thelorius Prime's population.
"And honestly, I'd prefer it if you left Sulu on for the moment. Uhura's not at the end of her rope, but anyone she has to yell at might get there damn fast," McCoy added, and Jim snickered.
"Duly noted," he said. "I'll leave Spock on duty for the first couple of rotations, let everyone else wind down, then get Sulu on to cover for him after..."
"No, you'll get Sulu on right away," McCoy snapped, draining his glass of bourbon and glowering at Jim over the top of it. "I want Spock off-duty as soon as possible."
Jim blinked. "Why?"
"Why? Jesus, Jim, you push him much further and we'll be dealing with a real shitstorm. I know he's got more endurance than the other bridge crew - that's why I didn't pull the medical override on him before now - but he's got to stop. Now. Preferably yesterday."
Jim frowned, the lead pooling in his stomach. He hadn't seen much of Spock on a personal level lately - the Romulan attack had crippled them, in a dangerous part of the so-called Neutral Zone, and they had both been working around the clock, on separate shifts, to hold the ship and crew together long enough to get the hell out. With Jim busy exerting rescue efforts to retrieve their captured men, and Spock hauling ass in Engineering and Sciences (suddenly merged into one huge department to cope with the crisis) to prevent hull breaches, warp core breaches, and any other kind of breaches that caused the deaths of hundreds of people, they simply hadn't seen each other lately.
Normally, Jim would know a lot more (in very general terms) about how Spock was faring than McCoy, but right now...
"I've had him down in Sickbay three times in the last two weeks for stimulants to keep him on his feet. His meal card got used this morning for the first time in almost a week. I have no idea how much he's been sleeping, but he told me himself that he's been restless even when he's spared the moment to sleep - so I'm guessing not much."
Jim chewed on his lower lip. Sheer exhaustion and malnutrition - common in Starfleet for the higher ranks. The stress of the job got to officers even without dealing with crises such as this.
"You can't keep him on duty any longer," McCoy said firmly. "You do, and I'll have him down in Sickbay for an examination that'll get him on the sick lists. And I won't even have to make anything up. The tricorders will take one look at his bloodwork and start crying."
"Why's he so much worse?" Jim asked.
"Because he's been going longer," McCoy shrugged. "The rest of you - even me, I admit it - just drop from the exhaustion. A Vulcan can last longer than we can, but the resultant collapse is even uglier. A human can just sleep it off, but you forget, Jim, Vulcans need to meditate as well. If he's not stable enough to meditate, then everything is just going to get worse. He needs to sleep, then he needs to meditate, and then he can concentrate on making up the calories and getting over the shakes from the stimulants. And Jim? It'll probably be better for him if you go off duty with him."
Jim frowned. "Why? I mean, I get why, but why immediately. One of us has to keep command."
"Not right now," McCoy said. "You didn't see his face when that rescue effort of yours nearly went to hell. I thought he was expressionless before, but damn."
Jim hissed through his teeth. "You're saying he's still agitated?"
McCoy nodded. "You know how we all are. Need to be reassured that things didn't happen. I don't think Spock's any different, and the two of you have barely seen each other since. Don't go overboard, just take a few hours aside with him, get him to wind down. Because if you don't, he's going to collapse, and soon."
"All right," Jim agreed. "First rotation, he's off duty."
"Preferably off the damn ship, but I'll take what I can get.
Jim had a faint idea that he knew another reason for Spock's deterioration that McCoy hadn't mentioned, but kept his mouth shut as he made hurried plans and smashed out the first rotation list. It was most of the crew - Thelorius Prime was well within Federation territory, and not only was a planet fully capable of utterly destroying most races that encroached on its space, but was quite happy to do so. The Thelorians seemed to have a strict list of 'accepted' aliens and stuck to it - meaning that (most) Federation races, humans included, were perfectly welcome and ridiculously secure within their borders.
If not for regulations, it would have been tempting to dry-dock the ship in one of the Thelorian space stations and let the entire crew go down to the surface at once.
Once done, he took the lists to the bridge, mentally steeling himself and putting his 'I am not going to move on these decisions so you can stuff it' face on just as the turbolift ejected him onto the bridge - stepping over an engineer's legs who seemed to trying to repair the completely destroyed weapons console.
"At ease," he called, and attention went back to various stations. Although Spock was in command at the moment, he was at the (severely damaged) navigation consoles with Lieutenant Taylor from engineering, probably discussing the repair schedule. Jim ignored him - for the moment - and turned to Uhura. "Can you broadcast these lists over the internal systems? They're the first and second on-duty rotations. I'll get down to the third and fourth ones once we've taken some of the edge off."
She smiled tiredly at him and nodded, taking the lists and bringing up the system logs.
"Mr. Sulu," Jim added, striding purposefully to the helmsman. "I'm sorry to do it to you, but you're on first rotation here. I've taken you off duty at the second rotation so Lieutenant Commander Maklakov can take over."
"Sure," Sulu shrugged. "I can take it until then."
They engaged rueful grins before Jim turned, told Taylor to get on with fixing the navigation console, and frowned at Spock.
"Commander, you're off duty as of now. Follow me."
"Sulu has command for the first rotation. You, on the other hand, are off duty as of now. Follow me."
"Captain, I must..."
"That's not a request, Mr. Spock."
There was another pause, short and confused, before Spock followed him into the turbolift, and Jim stabbed at the buttons slightly more savagely than decorum required.
"Captain, I am quite capable of..."
"Jim," he corrected. "I'm only on duty as long as it takes to persuade you to step down. And you will step down. You're at the end of your endurance, and it's going to stop right now."
Spock actually frowned at him - not much, but enough to notice - and Jim's heart twitched at the movement. If he was tired enough to not shield the response, then McCoy hadn't been kidding.
"Come on, Spock," he said, unbending and rubbing a soothing hand over Spock's upper arm. "You're exhausted, hopped up on stimulants, haven't eaten in God knows how long, and haven't slept in probably longer. Have you managed to meditate recently?"
Spock considered him for a long moment, then relaxed a fraction and said: "Not in three days."
The turbolift doors hissed open, and Spock frowned when Jim brought him, not to their quarters, but to the transporter room. "Ca- Jim..."
"Just so you know," Jim said calmly, nodding to the ensign on duty. "Bones has given me a whole bunch of hypos that I'm allowed to use on you. Including a sedative that will, quote, knock him out faster than a phaser-blast to the eyeballs."
Spock took the (very poorly veiled) threat in stride, and allowed himself to be drawn up onto the transporter pad.
A moment later, they were on the planet's surface, in a designated 'tourist entry point' street that was filled with hotels. It was on the outskirts of the city, however, so it was much quieter than Jim's usual holiday destinations.
"You're getting off the ship," Jim said, showing a remarkably ability to state the obvious, as he hooked a hand under Spock's elbow and led him into one of the many hotels. "I made all the arrangements, and if you so much as voice a protest, I will hit you with that hypo."
Spock nodded, and retreated to merely watching as Jim checked them in and took him in a large, if slow, lift to their room.
"You okay?" Jim murmured as the lift spat them out into a wide, lavishly-carpeted hallway with five or six numbered doors.
"Merely, my ass," Jim muttered, fumbling with the key before letting them into the room.
It was an expansive - and therefore, probably expensive - room, with a small balcony overlooking the seafront and a gentle breeze wafting through the open windows. The door to an ensuite stood closed, and the carpet was thick and curled around the soles of their boots eagerly. The bed was easily the largest double bed that Spock had ever seen - fully able to accommodate six or seven grown men, and covered with enough blankets, throws and pillows that he was faintly concerned one or both of them would suffocate.
"Nice, huh?" Jim locked the door behind them and toed off his boots before frowning at Spock. "Bones said you need to sleep. Like, need to sleep. Feel up to a hot shower before that? Proper water one?"
The fatigue was creeping back in, but the idea of a hot shower was understandably appealing after the last two weeks of desperate ship repairs and various mild electrical burns.
"Come on," Jim's voice had dropped to a low murmur, soothing and steady and welcoming. If it were possible to do so, Spock would quite contentedly curl up in that voice and never re-emerge.
...He was more exhausted than he had quite realised.
"Come on," Jim murmured again, tugging at the hem of Spock's shirt. "Off. Let's get you sorted."
He efficiently stripped them both on their way to the shower (walk-in, more like a small room in itself than a shower cubicle) and left their scattered clothes all over the floor. The bathroom was equipped with obscene amounts of fluffy towels, and Jim grinned at Spock's mildly curious expression when he stacked a pile of them up.
"No point in giving you a hot shower just to let you get cold when you get out, is there?" he asked, and pushed him into the cubicle.
Jim cranked the water right up to his own tolerance level, and Spock actually sighed at the felt of steaming hot water drumming into his stiff muscles. After a moment, Jim's hands, already slick with water, came up to massage away the ache, digging into the knots and breaking them expertly.
The water drummed the exhaustion deeper into Spock's bones, and he placidly allowed Jim to manhandle him and wash him, putting up no resistence and offering no assistance. He watched, almost detached from the situation, and listened to the continual murmur of Jim's voice in idle rapture.
"Let me get at your hair," Jim murmured, drawing Spock's head down onto his shoulder, and smiling when heavy arms came to wrap around his waist. "Still alive, then? Thought you'd gone to sleep on me like that, you know."
He kept up the chatter, massaging Spock's scalp the same way he'd massaged his neck and shoulders, until he felt that familiar rumble of pleasure in the middle of Spock's chest. It always turned Jim to goo, that he could do that to this impassable, unflappable, indestructible Vulcan, and he smiled hard enough to hurt his face.
"I'll be right back," he whispered, once all the soap and shampoo were rinsed away, and eased himself free. Spock's eyes were barely open, and the exhaustion was written plainly in every single line of his body. Jim hesitated, biting his lip. "You'll be alright for a moment?"
Spock nodded, so Jim hastily slipped from the shower, wrapped a towel around his waist, and darted back into the bedroom. He bumped the thermostat up by ten degrees, and peeled back the many covers on the bed, before returning to the bathroom to retrieve his drained partner. Spock was still upright, but his eyes were completely closed, and he was resting the fingers of his left hand on his temples.
"Hey. You okay, baby?" Jim asked, switching off the water and wrapping a large towel around Spock's waist, before enveloping him in an even larger bath sheet and beginning to rub him dry.
"I wish...to sleep, soon," Spock's voice was very quiet, and his head came down on Jim's shoulder again, as if he were too tired to even hold it up any more.
"I know, I know," Jim soothed, briskly rubbing him dry. "You did real good, you know that? Took on everything, kept going even when you couldn't, kept it together. I'm so proud of you."
He kept up the litany as he walked the near-unconscious Vulcan into the bedroom and, in a swift motion, stripped him of the towels and poured him into the bed, burying him effectively under the mountain of pillows and covers.
He was fairly sure that Spock was asleep before his head hit the pillow.
Jim, being one of the humans that couldn't go as long as a Vulcan, had crashed some twenty hours earlier and slept like the dead for six hours, so now he took the time to unwind in different ways. While Spock slept, Jim took his own long, hot shower (though he was too tired to pay attention to his dick, which was trying to demand compensation for the lack of activity with the wet, naked Vulcan of fifteen minutes ago) and had the first shave he'd managed in days.
He'd taken their bags to the hotel before even retrieving Spock from the bridge, and now he thanked himself for at least trying to unpack. He found a clean pair of boxers with no effort, and kicked their dirty clothes into a pile in the corner to be dealt with later - much later. If ever. The only thing he kept a close eye on was the small medikit Bones had given him - this he set on the bedside table, ready for use should Spock's brain go back into 'on duty' mode at any point in the next forty-eight hours.
An hour after putting Spock to bed, Jim found himself on the balcony, in a cool Thelorian summer evening, watching the sea ebb and swell, with a cold, real beer in his hand instead of the replicated crap you found on starships. Thank Christ for Thelorian - bigger drinkers than bored Klingons at a wedding.
A pained noise caught his attention, tore his heartstrings, and had him back in the bedroom before he even truly registered it.
Spock was shifting restlessly - not quite tossing, but it wasn't far off - in the bed, a faint frown on his regal features and one hand rising out of the covers to search for something, grasping at the air pathetically. He made the noise again - a noise Jim had never heard from him - and Jim climbed up on the bed, rising to his knees to lean over him.
"Spock? Spock, wake up, sweetheart. You're just dreaming; come on," he urged, taking that questioning hand and stroking his other hand over Spock's forehead and hair. "It's alright, I'm here. Come on, wa- that's it."
He smiled encouragingly when bleary dark eyes caught his. Spock was still exhausted, and barely aware - Jim was vaguely impressed that his brain had had the coherence to form dreams. McCoy had mentioned his restlessness; this, then, had to be it.
"Jim. Jim - I could not find you. You..."
"It's alright," he cooed, squeezing Spock's hand. "It's all right now. I wasn't far away; I came right back. I'm here now."
He waited until the dark eyes sharpened just a little, and the fine tremor in his hands ceased. Eventually, Spock swallowed and let his head fall back onto the pillow.
"You with me?"
"That's it. You want the sedatives? They'll help you sleep properly."
Spock shook his head, eyes flickering around the dimly-lit room before closing again. "I..."
"What do you need?" Jim prodded, still stroking the dark hair.
It was a decisive word, but Jim wouldn't have dreamed of questioning it anyway. He'd suspected this, as had the doctor, and he was wholly unsurprised. So he simply nodded, and slipped under the heavy blankets. The most he was settled, Spock moved, coming to rest over Jim like yet another blanket, head planted firmly over Jim's heart. Everything else seemed to be irrelevant - he didn't hold on particularly, or cling to Jim at all. Rather, he curled into a position comfortable for both of them, let out a long breath, and stilled.
"Better?" Jim murmured. One hand came to rest on the side of Spock's head, fingers ghosting over the hair and thumb rubbing the exposed ear rhythmically, and the other clasped Spock's where it had settled on the mattress by Jim's ribs.
"Yes, thank you."
"Go back to sleep. I'm here now, and I won't go anywhere."
Spock said nothing, but Jim waited until he felt the last of the muscle tension dissipate, before allowing him to relax. He fell asleep to the sound of Spock's breathing, to the warmth of his skin, and the weight of his bones pressing Jim down into the mattress and leaving him quite trapped without feeling pinned at all.
After such chaos, a simple bliss.
And a simpler recovery.