And here it is - the last chapter of this little (little by my standards, at least) story...
"It's about time you woke up - I was starting to wonder if those damn feathered freaks had poisoned you both, after all."
Spock had opened his eyes to the sound of McCoy's voice and the harsh white lights that could only belong to Sickbay aboard the Enterprise - and was immediately overwhelmed with confusion.
"Why am I here?" Spock noted with some dismay that his voice sounded somewhat hoarse, as if from prolonged lack of use. He had obviously, he realized, been unconscious for some length of time.
Searching his memories, he could not come up with any reason why he would have been ill or injured - nor was he in any physical discomfort at the moment. He had - yes, he knew that they had indeed gone down to the surface of Siri Prime, and had encountered some of the inhabitants. There had to have been more than that, but, infuriatingly, he could not remember.
Looking around, he noted that McCoy stood alone at his bedside - and Spock felt a sudden sharp spike of anxiety. If Jim were well, he would have been standing next to the doctor, waiting for him to awaken - he always was, any time Spock was injured or ill.
"The captain - where is Jim?" He struggled to sit up in the bed before being defeated by a completely unanticipated wave of dizziness; unwillingly, he was obliged to allow McCoy's strong hands to guide him back down again.
"He's right there," the doctor indicated a nearby biobed, pushing a button to raise the angle at which Spock was lying enough so that he could more easily see the bed to which he referred. As McCoy had said, Jim lay sleeping in the bed - entirely too quietly to suit Spock.
McCoy patted Spock's shoulder absently. "I wouldn't worry too much; as far as I can tell, he's all right. You two were out cold when the Tuhuma sent you back up to the ship - and I don't mind telling you that I was pretty relieved to see you starting to wake up. Tells me that it's probably just a matter of time before Jim does, as well; you know as well as I do that he always takes longer to come out of stuff like that than most people."
"They… the Tuhuma sent us back?" Spock shook his head. "Forgive me, Doctor, but I find that my memory of our visit to Siri Prime is badly compromised."
"Figures," McCoy said briefly. "They doped you both up pretty well - the blue fella who brought you back felt real bad that it seemed to have a lot more of an effect on you two than it does on most of their visitors. Some kind of truth serum, evidently - they gave it to you and Jim, but nobody else."
He went on conversationally, all the while examining the readouts from Spock's biobed minutely. "'Course, we had everybody else from the landing party back nineteen hours before we were able to get to you - I think Sulu was ready to aim phasers on the whole goddamn planet to make them give you two back."
This was really almost more than he could process in his current condition, but Spock had questions that needed answers. "Why was our return delayed?"
"Turns out they were having their version of a world war down there - only it turned out to be the war that wasn't, when it came down to it."
"Well, as far as I can tell, everybody down there has the same mother - same father, too, but it sounds like he was kind of a son of a bitch. He was the one who'd been trying to attack all those years ago - guess they live forever, or something like it - and he took a bunch of the kids to turn 'em into an army. Meanwhile, the mom took the rest of the kids, and they went into hiding - though it was hiding in plain sight, from what Chekov said. Not that I could really understand the kid, the way he went rattling on…"
"Doctor." Spock knew he sounded as frustrated as he felt.
"Oh, yeah. Sorry. Anyway - when the Federation started to contact the Tuhuma a while back, the new signals alerted the dad to where they'd been hiding, and he figured that was the time to make his move and take over the planet."
McCoy shook his head bemusedly. "What this guy evidently hadn't counted on was that his 'great fighting machine' wasn't, so much. I mean, yeah, they were trained and all - but once they saw their brothers, and their sisters, and their mom who they hadn't seen for centuries, they dropped their weapons and just flat refused to fight. All of 'em - both sides - ended up banding together to capture the dad; they sent him into exile on some God-forsaken outpost planet, and now they're all back together again - one big happy family."
He turned to check another array of instruments before continuing. "Not often you hear of a war getting settled in such a sensible way, do you? This sounds like a bunch the Federation could learn from - hope they pay attention."
"Indeed," Spock replied absently. He had stopped paying attention to the doctor, his mind whirling with partially-formed thoughts and unanswered questions.
"How long have we been back aboard the ship?"
"Let's see…" McCoy looked at a chart, then over at the chronometer between his bed and Jim's. "Thirty-two hours, twenty-six minutes… and change. You don't really need to know the seconds, do you?"
Spock was stunned. More than an entire day lost - and next to no memory of what had happened in the day before his extended period of unconsciousness had begun.
"This 'truth serum' that we were given by Tuhuma - I do not understand." Spock could not imagine having taken such a thing, or having allowed Jim to take it; somehow, it must have been forced upon them.
"The fella who came back with you both - Iniwa, his name was. Nice guy - kinda unnerving, how damn blue he was, but that's just me."
"Right. Anyway, he told me that y'all were told that drinking the potion was required of you as leaders - and you couldn't go to their big ceremonial dinner without it. Said you went over it with the tricorder for a long time before you'd let Jim near it - and then you drank most of it yourself to keep Jim from gettin' too much of it."
The doctor looked at Spock with grudging approval. "You couldn't have done any different, not once the instruments told you it wasn't dangerous. It was part of the mission; there wasn't any avoiding it. You did the best you could when it came to takin' care of Jim - couldn't have done it any better myself."
He patted Spock's shoulder again - leaving Spock to wonder if the doctor recalled how very little Vulcans appreciated being touched.
"Are we still orbiting Siri Prime?"
"We sure are," the doctor confirmed, "and now that the threat of war is over, we're their welcome guests. Been sending down a few landing parties to see the place - haven't been down myself, of course, since I've been here with you two, but I hear it's gorgeous. Chekov's afraid that Sulu will get all wrapped up in studying the plants down there and forget to come back to the ship." He chuckled at himself. "Like we'd ever see the day that Sulu would forget to come back to Chekov. That'd be about as likely as Jim forgetting to come back to you."
Spock had turned his head so quickly toward the doctor that he found himself briefly dizzy again; he was not at all certain that he had heard McCoy correctly. "Yet again, Doctor, I do not understand."
That earned him the first full-fledged glower he had seen from Dr. McCoy since he had awakened.
"Of course you don't," he grumbled exasperatedly. "And I'm damned if I'm explaining it to either of you."
Spock was left to contemplate McCoy's words, knowing that any further questions he had would now likely go unanswered.
"Oh, before I forget," the doctor said suddenly, rummaging in a small bag near the foot of the bed, "that fella Iniwa left you something - said you should keep it as… wait. What did he say? He said you should wear it in good health, and keep it to remember your time with them. Nice enough souvenir, I suppose." He pulled a length of silky dark-gray material from the bag, handing it to Spock - then yanking it quickly from out of his grasp again after only a few seconds.
"What the hell did they put into this thing?" McCoy was suddenly irate. "You no sooner touched this than your readings went berserk - what are they trying to pull, here?"
"No, Doctor. It is not as it seems." Spock's eyes were squeezed shut, and he seemed to be fighting harder than ever to regain his equilibrium.
"Fine, then suppose you tell me - what's going on?" McCoy demanded.
"He gave the garment to me to remember my time with them." He sighed heavily, rubbing a hand over suddenly weary eyes. "Once I touched it… all at once, I remembered."
"And you wish you hadn't." It was a statement and a question, all at once.
"I honestly do not know what I wish, Doctor."
After an hour or so of observation, McCoy was willing to release Spock from Sickbay - "as long," he insisted, "as you go straight to your quarters and lie down, or meditate, or whatever you do to calm the hell down."
It would, Spock realized, take a good deal more than meditation to calm himself - and he scarcely knew whether such a thing would even be possible.
It had all come back in a rush of memory, sensation, and emotion - Jim had said he loved him. He had kissed him, caressed him, and shown him pleasure in ways he would never have dreamed possible. Just the thought of Jim's mouth as he had trailed hot, wet kisses down his chest and stomach before taking…
Stop, Spock. Stop, now.
Jim had yet to awaken from the Waamini - and once he did, it was highly unlikely that he would remember their time on the planet's surface. Before he had left Sickbay, he noticed that Jim's blue robe was still in the bag at the foot of his bed; without really knowing why, Spock had taken it with him.
Did he not wish for Jim to remember? After all, the Waamini, though it had temporarily destroyed their inhibitions, still caused them to reveal their deepest feelings - and Jim had said he loved him. He had told him repeatedly, and then had shown him in every way possible - and there was no reason for Spock to disbelieve him.
Moreover, Spock had told Jim he loved him - did he not wish for Jim to remember that?
Rolling over onto his stomach, he buried his face in his pillow and tried to sleep - though he knew there was a very high likelihood that he would not succeed.
Vulcans, it turned out, do occasionally dream after all.
And - as Spock learned to his enduring discomfort and humiliation - fantasize.
It was another nineteen hours before Jim finally awakened. McCoy, stopping by Spock's quarters to examine him yet again, assured Spock that Jim had not suffered adverse effects from the Waamini, other than the slight initial disorientation that he himself had experienced.
"I sent him to his quarters to get his bearings - don't know how long that'll take. When he's cleared for duty again, I'll let you know." He looked at Spock, long and searchingly. "And I didn't mention it to him, but I know you took the other robe - which I'd bet money was Jim's, wasn't it?"
Spock's downcast eyes were answer enough, and McCoy sighed gustily. "Don't know what you're afraid of, Spock. I don't know what the hell happened down there - don't want to, frankly - but I know the two of you well enough to know that you're both good men. You wouldn't have done anything down there that you needed to be ashamed of."
He waited for Spock to look up to meet his eyes again. "I also know the two of you well enough to know what kind of truth you two might have told one another when you didn't have any choice."
Spock opened his mouth to reply, to argue, to… he did not know what he would have said when the doctor raised a preemptive hand to stop him.
"I've been Jim Kirk's best friend for enough years now that there are things I know without him ever having to tell me. And one of the things I know is that although he'd die sooner than make you uncomfortable by admitting it, he's in love with you. And I'm sure as hell not your best friend - God forbid - but it doesn't take a particularly perceptive person to figure out that your whole 'unemotional Vulcan' act goes right out the window when it comes to Jim."
He sighed yet again. "Can't fool me - and I don't rightly know why you seem so anxious to fool yourself."
He had turned to leave the room when a flash of blue in Spock's closet caught his eye. "You can't even leave Jim's robe out of your sight, can you?" McCoy shook his head bemusedly. "Y'know, Spock, there's no shame in being happy if you can. Hell, it's right there - he's right there. Just be happy, Spock. It's not that hard."
Perhaps not - but it seemed easier still to avoid the confrontation he knew was coming with Jim.
By dint of carefully monitoring Jim's location aboard the Enterprise, Spock managed to be where Jim was not for 30.6 hours before Jim finally called him on his communicator.
"And exactly where would 'here' be, Spock? Because try as I might to find you, I haven't seen hide nor hair of you since we were on Siri Prime - and you know damn well we need to debrief after that away mission." He could not tell from Jim's disembodied voice whether he was angry, or upset, or simply confused - but it was plain that he was not happy.
"I am currently on Observation Deck Three, Captain." When his actual presence had not been required elsewhere for active duty, he had been spending a good deal of time here over the past few days; there was very little to do in terms of real work as they continued to orbit the planet, and Spock had found his quarters - and even the bridge - to be too confining. He found some slight measure of respite from his rushing thoughts up here in the near-darkness, watching the cool black of the sky punctuated with the vivid sparkle of stars and the bright smudges of faraway galaxies.
"So I see." Somehow - had he turned off his own location device? - Jim had managed to come up behind Spock without warning. But even without turning around, Spock could feel Jim's presence - the smell that was fresh and uniquely Jim, the vibrant energy that seemed to fill any space that Jim entered.
He did not know how much longer he would be able to fight these feelings that compelled him toward Jim - and he truly did not understand why he felt it necessary to try.
Spock turned, then, to face a toweringly angry Captain James T. Kirk.
"Explain your actions, Commander," Jim ground out. "You've intentionally avoided me for days, and I demand to know why."
Spock was grateful that the Waamini was well out of his system. "I believed, Captain, that you required rest after your ordeal on Siri Prime, and -"
"Bullshit," Jim spat. Spock could scarcely remember the last time he had seen that look of cold fury in Jim's eyes.
"I beg your pardon, Captain?"
"You heard me. I said, bullshit! Try again, Commander - and see if you can't manage the truth this time." Spock was startled to see a stricken look flicker across Jim's face. "Or is the truth just too damn distasteful?"
"Jim?" Spock was lost, now - something was wrong, and he had no idea what it was.
"C'mon, Spock. Bones told me this morning that you'd forgotten everything that happened down there - that it took you holding the Tuhuman robe again for you to remember it all, and that you freaked out but good once you got the memories back. That you made off with my robe, thinking I'd need it to remember as well."
Spock nodded silently, unsure of how to reply.
"Well, surprise, Spock." Jim's tone was scathingly sarcastic, and there was an expression in those vivid blue eyes that Spock had never seen there before - dark and unfathomably painful - as he continued speaking.
"I remembered it all - everything, Spock - right away, soon as I opened my eyes. Remembered telling you I loved you - remembered hearing it back - remembered… hell, you know what I remembered. And then I woke up by myself in Sickbay to find out that the man who'd said he loved me wasn't there waiting for me to come back - that instead, he'd run in the other direction as fast as he could. That he couldn't bear to be anywhere near me."
Spock felt a cold dread creep through him - he had been a coward, and had allowed his fear of the unfamiliar - of feeling so deeply, of expressing emotions so freely as he had - to make him try to distance himself from what he and Jim had shared. Now through his own thoughtlessness, he had hurt Jim deeply, and made him think that somehow he was not loved. This was utterly unacceptable, and Spock knew that he needed to do anything - say anything - to remedy the situation.
He straightened almost imperceptibly, taking a deep breath and releasing it on a sigh. "You have mistaken the motives behind my recent actions, Jim."
Jim's voice was cold in response; he was, Spock saw, doing his best to look and sound scornful and angry, when it was suddenly now so obvious to him that Jim was confused, upset, in pain. "I've mistaken your motives, have I? I'd say your motives seem pretty clear, wouldn't you?"
"Has it ever occurred to you, Jim, that you are, in fact, far braver than I?"
"No. Not ever."
The immediacy, the stark certainty of Jim's reply would have been comforting to Spock in another setting; as it was, he now accused himself even more bitterly of cowardice, knowing that Jim thought him to be brave.
"I find myself thinking of what Iniwa said to us at one point: 'Hiding is shameful, and not for the strong, or the brave.' And yet in my own fear and uncertainty, I hid from you, Jim - and I caused you pain, and for that I am ashamed."
The anger had left Jim's face, leaving only a vulnerability that very few people ever saw there; Spock knew only that he wanted that look to go away.
"I can only ask you to forgive me; do you think that is possible?"
He shrugged with an attempt at nonchalance. "I don't know why not," Jim replied quietly. "I know you didn't mean to hurt me."
"And yet you do not understand," Spock went on, frustrated at his own inability to express himself.
"Understand what, Spock?" Jim still looked as though he were waiting for something awful to happen - and that simply could not continue.
"Understand this." Without further thought, Spock seized Jim by the shoulders and swung him around so that he was pinned against the Plexiglas of the window. "Every word I said to you on Siri Prime was nothing but truth; never in my life have I loved another as I do you. Every kiss, every touch, every… everything, Jim, was from the very core of my being; I cannot begin to tell you how deeply, how utterly I love and desire you, now and forever."
Suddenly, he crushed Jim to his chest with Vulcan strength, holding him as though he could never let go. "Understand that now that I have you, and I have your love, I will not do without them ever again." He leaned back slightly then, bending down to claim Jim's mouth in a kiss of fierce possession.
Jim froze, stunned for a brief moment, before responding to the kiss with a low moan into Spock's mouth that made him feel as though his very blood were on fire. Before long, the savage clash of teeth and tongues had turned into a frantic ripping away of clothes as the two wrestled one another for dominance, first against the window and then, moments later, on the floor.
Much later, they lay sweaty and tangled together on the floor of Observation Deck Three, with only the sound of their gradually quieting breathing breaking the silence. Spock was only beginning to wonder about prosaic details such as where the various pieces of their uniforms had gone; after all, they would eventually have to leave the deck, and it would be unseemly for them to do so in their current state of undress.
At just that moment, they both heard the beeping of a code being entered at the door.
"Did you not use your Captain's code to lock the door?" Spock was fairly sure Jim had done so - though he had to admit that his concentration had been focused elsewhere at the time.
"Yup - it's Bones. Medical override - I'm guessing the nosy bastard's making sure we haven't killed each other." Jim blushed slightly - endearingly, Spock thought - at the prospect of McCoy walking in on them like this.
Jim looked around briefly - just long enough to note that any of his clothing was hopelessly out of reach. "Great - so what the hell are we going to tell him?" Best friend or not, it was going to be really awkward.
Spock leaned down to kiss Jim's lips once more with infinite tenderness.
"We will tell him, ashayam, the only thing that is ever required - the truth."
And they lived happily ever after, eventually even managing to get it on in an actual bed or something. :-)
Thanks so, so very much to all of you who alerted, favorited, and (especially) reviewed this story - it was really exciting to get such a great response from you all, and I truly enjoyed hearing from everyone!
Hugs, P.S. - Feliz cumpleaños a mi querida Problematique! See? I actually finish a story, just for yooooooooooouuu. XOXO
P.S. - Feliz cumpleaños a mi querida Problematique! See? I actually finish a story, just for yooooooooooouuu. XOXO