The Debt

Chapter Two

Commander Spock's quarters was only a metre smaller than Jim's. That knowledge could only be gained by someone who spent enough time in both areas to tell the minute differences in floor planning. Though probably more of a size constraint and not for much else, the metre was more likely to be a disposable technical error since any other starship command team would tell you that the rooms were practically the same. And truthfully, they were the same in regards to build, though each was considerably different when compared to personal choices in decoration.

Though Jim had seen enough of Spock's quarters to make a technical manual on vulcan interior design preferences, and could have spent all day charting how many vulcan weapons a wall could get away with before becoming a potential ship-wide threat, the fact was that he wasn't in there at the moment to care to do so. Never mind about boring himself with tedious vulcan knickknacks (he just concluded that all vulcan artifacts were made with the premeditated motive to be scary as shit). And the thing was, he was supposed be there—right now—but he was not. And it wasn't because of something captain related, as Spock often let slide should it interrupt any of their—ahem—activities. Nope, actually, Jim wasn't in the vulcan hell simply because he didn't feel like it.

Spock had ordered him there over an hour ago and Jim just straight up said 'fuck it' and ran off somewhere into the ship. Of course, Spock didn't know that, or didn't know it at the time, but it was probably clear the moment he went to his quarters and saw that his fuck toy decided to make a break for it like that shit was on fire.

Jim wasn't concerned with the consequences at this point. Nothing seemed worse than waiting for his 'master' to come and drill him into the floor for the second time that day.

Today, Spock must have been in a pretty bad mood because maybe Jim wouldn't have run off had the first two payments not been so damn rough.

The morning sex was the first tip off. Typically, Spock would go into their shared bathroom, get in the sonic shower and order Jim to wait by the sinks until he was finished. After that, he'd lift him up on to the bathroom wall and have his way. Jim, naturally, would shower next. But today, he hadn't waited at all. Feeling a little more adventurous than usual, he ordered Jim to come into the shower while he was in it and suck him off. It wasn't so bad until it turned into another face-rape. Jim's jaw was still stinging from what he thought was a pulled muscle.

Then the pre-lunch sex. Often quick and simple. All Jim had to do was either hold up or lie down and let Spock do his thing. Roughly ten to twenty minutes, then he could go have lunch and get back to work. But again, today, Spock didn't feel like keeping moderate routine. In place of faceless, meaningless sex, the commander had called him down to one of science labs. Once there, Jim found himself as an addition to an ongoing experiment.

Apparently, the commander was doing a paper on electrical circuitry using a new green energy that would recycle far better than their current system. It still had some bugs to work out. Logically, the only way to test that the boards were working properly was to attach them to Jim's body. Shit. For half an hour Jim lay strapped to a counter-top while Spock maliciously let equal small and mild currents run through his nipples, belly button, fingers, and toes. Not enough to actually cause any damage, but enough to make Jim's eyes wet from frustration and anger. The closest feeling Jim could match it to was probably tiny jellyfish stings igniting all over his skin. Baby jellyfish, that didn't know when to end their victim's suffering yet.

Once released, Jim felt like a battery-operated toy that had just lost its juice. He tingled in strange places and wondered distantly if that had been a form of sex or if Spock just wanted to observe how long a human male (with a case of extreme stubbornness) would last until his resolve broke into tears. Either way, he was more than happy to get out of there. Thinking back on it, he thought he may have broken something on the way out. He'd been in that much of a blind hurry.

And finally, at shift's end, was the after dinner sexcapade. Now, this one was almost always naturally brutal compared to the others, so if Spock was in a bad mood, damn it if he didn't have the right to think showing up for this one might kill him. It seemed like a good idea at the time—just fucking run. Hide in numbers. Busy himself until he dropped from fatigue and they kept him in sickbay. Anywhere was better than Spock's quarters. And Jim, yeah, he was determined. So the first place he thought that would be a great place to hide ended up being a good idea, because it had kept Spock off his tail for over an hour.

That place was the ship's botanic garden.

The door to the garden was automatic like the rest of the Enterprise's doors. That didn't stop Jim from barging in like he was being chased (he wasn't, but it was a wise assumption) and slam it shut with his entire body. He'd run all the way from the turbolift the moment he was sure his shift was over and he could safely avoid contact. Cargo-layovers didn't leave much for a captain to do, so he could avoid duty for a few hours and with that—Spock. All he had to do was lay low. Simple, right?

"Oh! Welcome, captain!" Heart attack was an understatement for what Jim felt course through his chest. Considering that if Spock caught him now, he might as well be dead, he felt justified to react with an over-dramatic twirl in the direction of the voice with his hands ready to punch something. What greeted him wasn't Spock (thankfully), it was the helmsman Lt. Sulu, and planting a strange purple-dotted flora at the moment.

"Oh, it's just you, Mr. Sulu." He breathed under his lips. "Er—yes, thank you. Uh," he paused, judging Sulu's progress with the plant, "need any help?"

Hikaru Sulu stared at him for a moment before he gave a gentle laugh. "With Abbey? No, sir. She's just getting her first taste of synthetic soil, is all. Beauty, isn't she?" Like a mother cooing at her baby, Sulu reached up and tickled the flowering dotted bulb with his fingers. Surprisingly, the bloom reacted by sneezing rainbows of glitter. Jim was uncertain if flowers were supposed to do that, while Sulu continued to laugh and pet 'Abbey' like he was praising a cute little dog.

"She's two years old today." Sulu went on to say. "Had her since she was just a tadpole seed." Yeah, Jim didn't know shit about plants.

"Tadpole seed?" He approached Sulu and his plant, which began to look bigger as he got closer. It must have been at least four feet tall with a soccer ball sized bulb.

"Well, they're not really tadpoles, sir," Sulu went on, stroking the deep red/purple stem of Abbey whilst lightly pruning her of smaller leaves, "they just look like them because they have a long tail that sways when a certain temperature is exposed to them." That actually sounded pretty cool, given that Jim had never heard of a seed like that before.

"Does the swaying do anything?"

Sulu nodded. "It enables them to move to warmer soil. Some UnguisPurpura seeds have been observed traveling over eight-hundred kilometres to find warmer soil. They're tough."

"I see." Jim smiled. "Where are they native?" That simple question opened up a plethora of all kinds of information. No one had ever taken as much interest in botany as a hobby quite like Hikaru Sulu, as far as Jim knew, and he'd personally requested Dr. Burkes for his astute knowledge in the field. And all that was strange to Jim because how Sulu described his knowledge was exceptionally fun and he couldn't think of a reason why Sulu didn't have his own galactic gardening show by now. He made Jim want to take up flower-potting as a hobby. Hell, maybe start the Enterprise gardeners club. Wouldn't he just look silly in a large straw hat topped with a bonnet?

"…and that's why you shouldn't give water to mimosian plant nymphs." Sulu finished and Jim chuckled, slapping Sulu on the back as both men had a go. He could have been in conversation with his helmsman for hours and he wouldn't have noticed. Who knew his pilot knew so much about flowers?

"Goddamn, don't let anybody ever say you can't make dirty jokes about plants." He smiled, both he and Sulu taking a bench somewhere in the centre of the garden. They'd walked as Sulu gave him the grand tour, from the simple Earth rose ("…known on Earth as a romantic symbol even though its prickles hurt very much when left un-thorned…") to more majestic beauties like the Denebian doryx ("…ever seen a passion flower on Earth? Same thing, except these will give sweet honey drops in exchange for a kiss…"). It was amazing that Jim had been down there a dozen times and never understood the true beauty behind the ecosystem artificially created and maintained there. His compliments to the botanists and hobbyist alike. It was a calming scenic walk and a science program all wrapped into one. When the laughter died down, Jim flicked his eyes up as he noticed a purple dotted plant sneezing rainbows somewhere next to the artificial pond.

"Does she always do that?" Jim asked. Sulu looked to where he was watching and shook his head.

"That's not Abbey, if that's what you mean. She's near the side gate because she's more domestic than Ryuujin over there. He's a bit nasty. Likes to blow his pollen on anything that gets within range."

Jim grimaced. "Sounds like someone I know." His mind's eye tried not to picture the other day when Spock forced him to take another cum-shot to the face, open-mouthed and 'begging'. Sulu curiously looked up when Jim fell silent. He nervously laughed. For what it was worth, Jim was a real shitty liar. He tried to cover it up before Sulu could ask. "So what's wrong with Ryuujin?"

Sulu shrugged, "Nothing's wrong with him, he's just a pervert." he provided playfully, almost a little too playfully. "Older than Abbey, I got him as a full grown adult. Planted him four weeks ago where Abbey is now before I moved him over there. It was because he took a liking to Lt. White and kept spilling his pollen on her every time she came in to do routine moisture scans." He smothered a laugh, "Every week I saw her leaving with rainbow-spotted clumps sticking in her hair. Funny thing is, she wasn't the one who asked me to move him."

"Oh?"

"Yeah," he sighed, leaning back and feeling relaxed in his captain's company, "it appears that she has a rare allergic reaction to UnguisPurpura pollen. It could have killed her if someone hadn't told me to move him. I didn't even know! Completely caught off guard when Mr. Spock delivered her fourth sickbay report and he told me to move him."

Jim felt his gut twist. "Mr. Spock? He actually helped someone?"

"Of course!" Sulu told him like the idea of 'Spock' and 'help' being in the same sentence wasn't absurd. "He's a bit silent and doesn't really come here often unless he needs to test some experiment he's working on, but he's always willing to lend a hand. Just the other day he made sure my request for synthetic Vulcan sand was put through. We have a few vulcan vegetables and herbs that are grown right here in the botanic garden. Without the proper soil, they'd die off."

Jim's brow settled. "I'm glad to he's on top of things." Sulu caught the lowered murmur. He sat forward and shook his hands wildly in protest.

"Uh, no offense to you, sir! I mean, I did place that request with you but I figured maybe someone with more time could handle it."

He raised his brows and looked at his helmsman oddly. "More time? Didn't I just spend an evening with you discussing flora?"

Sulu began to blush. The reminder that Jim was his captain was coming back to him. "Well, it's just that…" he searched for words, "I assumed you had little time to look at everything since you've been leaving the bridge more frequently." He sighed. So, people were noticing then. "I'm sorry if that's not the case, I just didn't want to unnecessarily overwhelm you with something that could have easily been approved by someone else."

Jim felt his face heat and his body twitch. "I'm the captain. Everything eventually filters through me regardless."

That made the helmsman jump. "I'm sorry, sir. I spoke out of turn without permission. Apologies." He stood from the bench and gave a salute. Jim stared at him dumbfounded, looking at the guy like he couldn't believe what he was seeing. And that was true in a sense. He didn't mean to get snappy about something as small as a soil request. But then, what else had he missed because of his debt? What else was Spock brushing over him that he was completely unaware? He pressed fingers to his temples and looked away, giving Sulu a reassuring gesture.

"There's no need for that, Mr. Sulu. It's fine. I'm just frustrated from all the time I don't seem to have."

Silence, and then, "That is rather unfortunate," came a sudden calm, monotone voice. It wrapped him in ice and Jim felt his heart stop and his legs lock. He didn't want to look up from the bench. He absolutely wasn't going to. He dared himself to briefly try a glance and immediately regretted it. Vulcan features came into focus. Spock continued like he hadn't noticed Jim's reaction. "I am pleased that you have found time to socialize with the crew, even with your busy schedule, captain. It is a good example to set and strengthens morale."

Taken off guard, Jim did the first thing that twitched into his reflexes. He crossed his legs and leaned back against the wooden bench, lacing his fingers over one knee and forcing a grin to his first officer's direction. "I'm so glad you approve, Mr. Spock, considering you like to hog my time all for yourself."

Spock placed his hands gently behind his back and studied his captain, noting the interested look on Mr. Sulu's face between them. This was common. Most of the crew still thought that he and Spock were on shaky terms after their fight on the bridge during the Narada Crisis. Spock and Jim simply rolled with it. It didn't help, but it didn't hurt either.

"A captain and first officer must work as a close team." Spock went on to say, "It is efficient, even if it is not desirable." Jim was the only one who caught the undertone in that sentence. It spoke volumes to trained ears. To anyone else it would have sounded like Spock's normal bridge voice, talking about the weather on some planet, maybe, but Jim knew. Knew, he was pissed. And foolishly Jim had forgotten about why he'd come to the botanic garden to begin with.

"Humans aren't that difficult, are they, Commander?" Jim asked, trying to sound playful instead of confrontational. More for Sulu's sake than his own.

Spock responded accordingly. "For the most part, they are predictable creatures. I would say that I have had the honour of meeting only a select few that have managed to break all statistics regarding logical function."

Jim snickered to himself. "Doesn't that just break balls?" Spock didn't reply (perhaps confused by the turn of phrase) while Sulu began to laugh. He forced himself into a coughing halt when Spock shot a sideways glance. Well, at least someone thought it was funny.

"Mr. Sulu, is it true that you have a report due this evening for Dr. Burkes?" It was like a sudden light came on in the helmsman. He gasped.

"Thank you for the reminder, Mr. Spock! I'd almost forgotten. Excuse me, sirs." With a quick salute to his superiors, he dashed off, none the wiser that he'd just sealed his captain's fate. Jim felt himself attempt to spring forward, reaching out to stop Sulu before he could get away, but it too late. The helmsman had darted off too quickly. Really, it almost looked like Sulu had wanted to have an excuse to leave. A rock formed in his stomach. Spock had clearly done that on purpose. With no witnesses, all bets were off.

In an attempt to keep himself from sneering in frustration, Jim forced himself to relax on the bench, drop his knees and hands, then peer at Spock beneath harsh brows. "Over one-hundred and eighty-six thousand square metres of starship… and you still found me. I'm impressed."

"You are the captain. It is not so difficult a task to locate such an important superior."

Jim scoffed and looked away, focusing instead on the artificial pond. He felt his stubbornness beginning to ebb under the pressure of Spock's gaze. The vulcan hadn't stopped staring at him yet. When the silence dragged on, Jim looked back at him, eyes hard and meeting coal cruelty. "Why are you here?"

Spock was prepared, of course, just for that. "That is an illogical question." he told him mutely. "You know why I am here, captain."

The captain pushed his fingers through his hair and sighed, giving his bottom lip a small bite. "Come to take me back, yeah?"

The reply was hesitated. "You ran away."

Jim's wasn't. "Admittedly."

"Why?" Jim looked up at him like he had just recited the entire periodic table. Was he serious?Did he really just…?

A burn lined in the pit of his stomach and frothed a wave of emotion at the ignorance. "Why? Why?" Jim gave a startling, airy snort, "You're seriously asking me why I ran away?"

Spock slowly nodded. "That is what I asked."

Jim gaped at him in awe. He fell back into the bench, leaning over his spread knees in frustration. "You're so smart, why don't you figure it out?" Jim shot at him resolutely, suddenly changing his mind and rising from the bench. Spock was four inches taller than him, and though that didn't sound like much, it put Jim eye-level with Spock's nose. Jim wasn't short, Spock was just tall. He confronted him with growing fury. "I mean, it can't be that hard, can it? Here, how about I make it a little clearer for you, oh my dear vulcan master!" He harshly pointed his finger into Spock's chest. "You're a—a—MONSTER!" He bellowed loudly enough for his voice to echo off the distant walls of the garden. "A Grade-A asshole dribbled in vicious bullshit, sealed and resold in the two-faced package of ambiguous vulcan logic!"

Spock remained unmoved by the captain's shout. His face retained its stoic presentation even as Jim's resolve grew into uncontrolled flames. He began counting off his fingers brashly, "You're cold, mean, not to mention cruel; sick, twisted, and I fucking ran away because I damn well felt like it, OKAY?" He shoved Spock harshly, not at all surprised that the taller, denser man didn't budge. "I wanted nothing more than to get away from you!" He threw his hands into the air and spun around to control himself. His breathing escalated and his fingers twitched like they wanted to grab something. It was safe to assume it was Spock's neck.

He tried to calm himself down. Taking breaths and gulping down whatever had hardened in his throat. His eyes stung. His heart was pounding. Damn it all! He was going to cry, wasn't he?

Before Jim could accept defeat by the painful stress of misery, two strong arms wrapped themselves around his body from behind and held him in place. A wet something began to trace his nape to his ear and Jim shivered from the disgusting knowledge that a hardened object was beginning to throb on his backside. He couldn't move and he couldn't run. Jim sagged into the grip unwillingly.

"You are in pain…" He heard the vulcan ghost into his ear like rough pebbles smoothing over sand. Almost as though he cared. It chilled his spine and made his legs wobble. "…I find that—arousing."

"You're a sick fuck." Jim muttered. His throat felt sore from the yelling. And it hadn't even done him any good. It only made the commander grip him in a vice that was all vulcan strength and prod his ass insistently with a hardened, hidden erection. The same one that made him suffer, that made him weep. That kept replenishing his constant state of despair just when he thought it was all a dream and he could wake up now.

"Are you curious why I did not come for you sooner?" Spock laved at the shell of his rounded ear, enjoying the unwilled vibrations of fear and disgust trifling the captain. He didn't wait for a reply. "I let you escape, James Kirk, because I knew that once you felt safe, anticipation would crumble your strength. You would be vulnerable." Spock began to grope his front and grind his backside in quick successions. Jim felt like he was going to be sick.

"God, Spock, please…" Jim got out, "please, just stop."

"Please, what?" Spock demanded gently while he continued to lick his ear, still riding his captain dry in perfect intervals of bump and grind.

Jim choked on his own spit, feeling humiliated. His strength was draining. It was becoming real that there was no escape. "Please stop, Master. Please. Please, Master, please…"

Spock acknowledged the vague request and stopped moving, however, he didn't release him. "I will not." He told his victim strongly. "You did not arrive for your exchange of payment. This, I will not tolerate. You must be punished to discourage future misbehaviour." Jim sneered in his arms, debating whether to laugh because he figured as much or cry because he imagined more electricity in his future.

With one strong hand Jim was whipped from Spock's front and spun around on the spot. The vulcan took both his shoulders aggressively in each palm and held him in place. They were so close that their noses were touching. Jim tried to keep his pride in tact, while Spock's gaze was determined to shatter it like glass. "The question is now, how should I punish you?" The captain fidgeted in his grip, feeling antsy and angry. The next thing Spock knew, Jim had spit in his face.

"You are stubborn." Spock replied, not bothering to dignify a flinch under the crude gesture. "I think I know of the perfect punishment. If you are going to act like a child, I will treat you like one. A whipping. Yes, logical."

Violently and with about as much pressure as a boa constrictor, he grasped Jim's hand and began to drag him towards the outskirts of the garden. Jim fought against the pull, trying to dislodge his hand from the iron hold. Those fingers might as well have been shackles. He only succeeded at straining his wrist. "Do not fight it, captain. I am three times your human might. Should it be called for, I will drag you out."

"Fucking fuck! No! Let me go!" Jim pulled in the opposite direction, his feet sliding across the garden's slick grass in protest. That was enough to make Spock stop and glance back at his captive curiously.

His eyes narrowed under tilted brows. "No? Does this mean you wish to close your debt?" Jim choked again between the thought of what Spock was implying and about the idea of gnawing his own arm off. Right, yeah, this guy controlled his entire career. A career that he could have gotten on his own—a career that he could lose with a simple standard word. Spock had decidedly taken away that freedom. Give and take. Yet, no fair balance between the two.

As much as he wanted to say yes, he didn't. Mainly because it wasn't true. He was beginning to wonder if his stubbornness was wearing out or that the ship just meant that much to him now. He couldn't say yes. He didn't want to. He wanted to keep the Enterprise… But this… this price…

"Is it worth it?"

In a brief moment of ceasefire, Spock's grip loosened ever so slightly that only desperation could have allowed him to notice it; Jim didn't bother to give either answer. With his own power, he stripped his hand free and began collapsing backwards toward the pond. This caused the first noticeable change in Spock's stoic wall of brutality.

The force of his release made him trip and fall bottom-first on to the soft surrounding pond soil. He scurried back until his fingers dipped into cool water. Spock's face had gone slightly pale and his brows knitted together.

"Jim," he said seriously and wasn't that a shock since Spock hardly ever called him that, "Jim, you need to get up."

"Fuck you!" He spat.

"This is not for discussion, Jim; you need to move over here." Was his tone taking a slight upturn? Maybe that was just fear in Jim's ears clouding the actual content of Spock's reaction.

Spock reached out a hand towards him, inching his way forward silently. With each step, Jim moved back as far as he could. Great, now his slacks were wet. He continued decline, kicking up muddy soil in his direction.

"You must trust me." Spock began to say, his eyes not wavering from Jim. He completely ignored the flying dirt. "You will be safer with me."

"HAH!" Actual laughter was produced. Jim snuffed it with a jeer, beginning to finally work his legs into a stand. He was slightly wet from the pond's edge and dirty from the mud. "What the hell are you trying to pull?" He demanded while he debated the best escape. "Do you really expect me to be so inept that I can't judge between where I'll be safer and where I won—" He was cut short when Jim heard a loud sneeze behind him. Right after, a cloud of rainbow glitter began to settle all around him. Rumbling shook the ground beneath Jim's feet, forcing him to vibrate up and down a small patch of pond bank. It was one of those moments where what you thought was behind you wasn't exactly what you thought it was.

"Jim," Spock called to him as the captain began to slowly turn around, "No, captain! Do not look at it!" It was too late. Jim's jaw dropped at the sight of the Unguis Purpura Ryuujin. He didn't look at all like how Abbey looked or how he had looked a few minutes ago when he'd pointed him out to Sulu. The red/purple stem had extended and fattened like a thick pig's hide. The leaves shuddered and sharpened like spikes on tree trunks and the bulb no longer resembled a tiny, dotted soccer-ball. The bloom had expanded and was opened wide, tiny daggers that resembled teeth poking forward with vines noodling out of its gaping maw like wormy, thick tongues. Ryuujin was significantly larger than Abbey.

Somehow, Sulu had forgotten to mention these tiny details in his educational tour.

"Spo…ck?" Without warning, Ryuujin heaved up with a groaning screech and threw its bulb forward in an attempt to strike. Jim's reflexes wanted him to move, tried to move, but something kept his legs from working properly. He struggled, feeling his joints ache in protest when a figure tackled him and rolled them safely away from the drooling mouth. Ryuujin snapped at mud and dirt, lolling its head in the direction of his victims whom had fallen into the two-foot pond.

Drenched and immobile, Jim panicked. "Why can't I move! What's going on!" Spock, above him, took him by the collar and began ripping his uniform open unabashedly. This was absolutely the worst time for molesty vulcan being molesty. "Goddamnit, Spock! I know violence is a turn on for you, but this isn't the damn time!" There was little he could do since his limbs wouldn't respond. He had no way of knocking the commander off him. Profanities were all that was left in his arsenal. With unlimited ammunition.

Spock ignored his cries and frantically removed the uniform, throwing it somewhere into the pond. Out of the corner of his eye, Jim saw the plant attempting to reach them, shaking and vibrating as it tried to stretch its roots from the ground like massive swollen feet.

It felt like the entire ship shook when it finally pulled itself free. Jim's eyes widened. The plant snarled and sneezed more glitter, beginning to come at them like a barreling elephant. Each root/foot stomping like steel rods.

A firm hand took Jim and turned him over in the water. He fell on his hands and knees, even though he hardly felt them at all. Then, he felt Spock lean forward and place roaming fingers up and down his spine. They moved erratically and Jim was so pissed that he couldn't understand what was happening. His view was entirely blocked by the on-coming Unguis Purpura.

"Spock," Jim warned as it charged closer, "Spoooock, Spock! Plant! It's like, right there! Do something!" Fingers etched into his back and scratched long lines down his vertebrae. It caught him by surprise, making him gasp in sudden pain. He felt himself begin to burn immediately. Trails of fire down his spine. Jim jumped up from the pond with as much force as a man hell bent on reaching the moon in one go. He stopped, doubled back and noticed that he could suddenly move again. He looked at Spock covered in surprise, "What the hell did you do?" There was no time for an answer when Ryuujin slammed full front on to Spock. Jim didn't see what had happened due to most of the pond water splashing up from Ryuujin's slam.

The water settled quickly and the commander and plant toppled into the remaining. Jim could see Spock was holding its mouth open with nothing but his hands. Green blood trickled from where the teeth had managed to sink in. Vines from the mouth whipped along Spock's body and gripped him lewdly. Jim stood back and looked on completely horrified. On one hand, he was anxious because he didn't know such a thing existed on his ship (wondering distantly how the hell it'd gotten approved)—but on the other, Jim's conscience was beating at him for actually enjoying the prospect that Spock may die from this, or at minimum be maimed. He stood there longer than he should, just watching Spock and the plant roll in the water. Spock was strong, but he was losing the battle.

Should he help? Should he do anything? Wasn't this what Spock deserved?

Seconds ticked by. With a bitter groan, Jim fought with himself until finally, he concluded that he couldn't live with himself if he didn't act as the damn captain he was suffering to be. Revenge be damned, no one deserved to die. Not even sadistic, controlling, cruel, twisted vulcans bound in unbalanced debt games.

"Son of a fuck me." Jim ran after the rolling pair and managed to tackle the bulb just as it tried to snap at Spock. 'Tackle' actually wasn't the right word for what Jim did; there just wasn't a single word to describe punching a plant in the bulb and taking a full chomp on his left arm. The pain was unbearable and crunched like plywood.

"Captain!" Spock called, trying to get himself free from the tongue-like vines.

At that moment, the garden doors could be heard bursting open in the distance. After a few seemingly endless seconds, several security officers and a few from the biology labs came running to their assistance. The pain in his arm blinded Jim from most of what happened next. He saw much controlled panic, heard a few phasers, blurs of moving colour, and finally stayed conscious long enough to witness Dr. McCoy and his team's arrival.

It could have been anything. Fatigue, blood loss, fear—it didn't matter if it was one or a combination that did it. When McCoy's running feet could be seen stomping through the puddles towards them in what looked like a fading tunnel vision, Jim let himself relax and be taken by the inviting black.

Please…

Someone… help me.

He woke in the kind of fog that told you that you might have been slipped something the night before. Pressure. Heaviness, then voices.

"You completely disregarded my order,"

"Damnit, Spock, wake the whole sickbay why don't you!"

"This does not concern you, doctor."

"The hell it doesn't! Sulu shouldn't even be in here while you'reboth still healing!"

"The captain has yet to regain consciousness. As second in command it is my duty to—"

Jim rolled over and groaned on what felt like the unforgiving matted and crinkly surface of a sickbay biobed. The voices echoing into him had suddenly stopped.

"Jim! Jim, can you hear me?" The voice was brash, except it was not laced with the usual cynical evil and the promise of midnight milkings. No, this one belonged to a hot-headed and angry friend that, even with his temper, wouldn't hurt anyone. In fact, it was his job to heal them.

Leonard 'Bones' McCoy.

He opened his eyes weakly into the bright lighting of a sickbay room. It stung. Bones's worried face was the first to come into focus, then the distant shadows behind him turned into Commander Spock and Lt. Sulu. Both were looking on curiously, despite that there appeared to be a heated argument going.

Bones smiled, obviously relieved by Jim's waking. Coincidentally, Jim had a short-lived pang of disappointment that they had survived. "How are you feeling?"

Jim flicked his gaze over at Spock before returning back to McCoy. He smirked, biting his lower lip. "Abused."

McCoy didn't catch the silent plea. Instead, he took it as the many flippant comments Jim routinely made after suffering an injury of some kind. "Well, after what that thing did to you, I'm not surprised in the least. The fact that you and Spock got away with only minor lacerations and fractures is in itself astounding." He shook his head and pointed vaguely at Jim's left arm, which he noted, was wrapped in bandages and had a small wheeled device circling over it. It was a healing rotator. Often used on damaged tissue that had potential to become scars.

"Spock tells me he would have been killed had you not intervened."

Spock made a distant disgruntled sound. "I said no such thing, doctor." McCoy waved him off.

"Well, that's not exactly what he said, but the basic gist of it." He leaned forward within whispering distance of his captain and chuckled, "You know how he is. Damn stubborn vulcan. Can't even get him to thank you!"

Jim gritted his teeth and forced a smile. "I can't imagine why." McCoy pulled away. From there, he began checking his stats and making notes on his dataPADD.

Jim sat back, feeling his bed begin to incline behind him. Nurse Chapel was beside him, her pearly smile letting him know he was safe. For the time being. When the bed was sufficiently lifted, she excused herself and left. Now Jim could get a look at the whole room. Spock and Mr. Sulu weren't as far away as his mind led him to believe. It looked like they had shared one room together.

"What happened?" Jim suddenly asked, feeling his arm tingle from the healing device. At that, he saw Spock stiffen under the few bandages placed on his hands and naked, hirsute chest, and Mr. Sulu's cheeks deepen considerably. No body answered him for a few tense moments. When Spock looked like he was about to explain, Sulu spoke up.

"It's my fault, sir." His voice shook. It took him a lot of strength to admit that. "R-remember when I told you that Mr. Spock had ordered me to move Ryuujin?" Jim absently nodded. "Well, I wasn't being completely honest, sir." He dropped his head low, ashamed. "He'd actually ordered me to dispose of him entirely. You see, Lt. White wasn't just being pollinated by him—he'd been trying to bite her. I didn't think it was—ah—serious, you know, little nibbles here and there, and I didn't think it could get as serious as this. I should have gotten rid of him as per Mr. Spock's instruction. I didn't mean for anyone to get hurt."

Jim breathed and forced himself to look at his first officer. Behind closed doors and from the eyes of witnesses, they were players in a sick game of fuck and destroy, however, in the line of duty and with the watchful eyes of bystanders, they were a team. Always they were a team. Even if they didn't like the idea, as Spock mentioned once before. Captain and first officer in public—Master and slave when the lights went low.

Practice enabled him to keep his voice smooth. "Is what Mr. Sulu says true, Mr. Spock?"

"Yes, captain." He offered seamlessly without the amount of trouble Jim faced transitioning between public and private affairs. "Unguis Purpura is known to be carnivorous once fully grown. This is why I made it clear to Mr. Sulu that both specimens were to be removed from the ship." Jim saw Sulu choke. After a full evening of discussing nothing but botany, Jim understood just how dearly the helmsman felt for what others took for granted. They were special to him like children to their parents. His love for them had blinded him of the dangers they held.

Regardless, Jim, as captain, knew what he had to do. It really hurt him to say it, knowing that Mr. Sulu deep down hadn't meant any harm. "Mr. Sulu, you're to be on probation for the next two weeks. Confined to your cabin for meals and recreation."

"Y-yes, sir." Sulu said dully.

"Also, I want you to inform Dr. Burkes and his assistant to remove the remaining Unguis Purpura from the side gate and the centre structure of the botanic garden if it is still present." Sulu gave a grave nod in understanding. "Well, go on then." Jim told the helmsman. "You're dismissed." He left without another word, his cheeks beginning to puff and his face retain the flustered colour of humiliation. That made Jim feel terrible. To him, it felt like he'd just ordered his helmsman to go murder his family. Once he was gone, Jim blinked up to his doctor, his concerns voiced.

"Do you think I was too harsh?"

McCoy shook his head. "I don't see why you'd think that. The plants were obviously a danger and he knew it. Appropriate action if you ask me." Jim nodded to himself, looking back at his arm. The evidence didn't lie. McCoy took the device away gently.

"It'll be sore for a few days," Dr. McCoy began to say, "but nothing a little bed rest won't cure. And,"

"And?" Jim asked, seeing that McCoy was giving him a suspicious glare.

"And," He paused, checking Jim's chart again. He looked over the rim of the chart with a pure seriousness only a doctor could fathom, "will you care to explain how you managed to get those nasty gashes on your spine?"