Hey ya'll. I'm back, and I got this done so ya'll wouldn't go crazy...really sorry about that. Anyway, I hope ya'll like the chapter, and I can't wait to hear from ya'll! Thanks so much!
Leonard gathered what he needed as quickly as he could, and probably broke a few speed regulations taking his aircar to the closest transporter station. He didn't notice anymore anything about the weather he'd been appreciating only a little while ago. The beginning of the sunset was beautiful, but he didn't care now.
It frustrated him that even with all of their technology—technology like transporters he didn't entirely trust, at that—it still took him more than half an hour to get back to San Francisco and to Jim and Spock's apartment. He only had access to civilian channels just now, after all. It could have been instantaneous had he access to a ship in orbit, but he didn't. Not now.
He thought how having one's mind race wasn't really a cliché; it happened. It was happening to him now. The only thing that came to mind as he tried to understand what might be happening to Spock didn't make any sense. The Vulcan had been with Jim, not…anything else.
Still, he worried. Leonard worried and he ached and he wished he could reach inside himself and turn everything off, but he wasn't a Vulcan. The idea that they could was really a myth anyhow. What Spock had done those years ago hadn't turned anything off. It hadn't gotten rid of anything. All it did was bury it all, and not forever. So there was no point in wishing that. It was never going to happen, and wishing would never help.
No one answered the door of the apartment when he rang, but that didn't surprise him. The door snapped open for him after the second ring, but no one was on the other side.
A call of 'in here' from Jim echoed by a faint moan brought him to the bedroom. He tugged his medical tricorder out as he went, and found human and Vulcan on the bed. McCoy stopped inside the door, but only for a moment—enough to take it in and steel himself. Spock looked awful, half curled against Jim's shoulder as he was; Jim hardly looked any better from the worry on his face, dripping from his posture.
"I'm sorry," Leonard said quickly. "Stupid civilian transporter stations…"
But Jim smiled at him faintly anyway, because Jim knew how much he still hated transporters even as often as he'd used them. Still he'd come. Leonard just nodded and moved in with the tricorder and medical scanner, having been anxious since the call to know what the hell was going on. Maybe he was still a little out of balance over…everything. But he knew he did not want anything to hurt Spock. He didn't want that in any way, ever. He didn't want Jim hurt either, for that matter. But curled there, both of them were hurting.
"Well?" Jim asked. He didn't sound any more patient than McCoy felt. On the contrary, he was clinging to his bondmate while an exhausted Spock attempted to look less affected than he apparently was.
Halfway here Leonard's conscience had finally moved aside enough for him to think straight—to formulate some other hypothesis. Even then, he'd only manage to conjure up one other possibility. He hoped to god he was wrong, and he expected to be.
The only thing was, he wasn't.
Though that didn't mean it made any sense.
"My god…what the hell?" he muttered. He had an uncontrollable urge to smack the tricorder in hopes it would give him a more understandable reading.
"Bones?" Jim all but shouted. "What? What's going on?"
Spock shifted. He tried to sit up and he failed. He moaned again and settled in Jim's arms. Leonard watched Jim make a face at that, and winced himself.
The doctor took a steadying breath. "Look…this is gonna sound bad, but I think I can fix it, all right? I can stop it. I'll just need a little time—"
"Bones, what is it? I'd like to know why I've been sitting here holding him for almost an hour."
"Jim, I am—"
"You're far from fine; be quiet."
Leonard's eyebrows went up when Spock gave a weak almost-smile at that—before the expression collapsed into a half-repressed grimace.
"I don't know how it happened, but somehow his cells have become unstable again—like they were on Genesis, only less severe. You're aging, Spock—not rapidly, but faster enough than normal that the continual changes within your cells, and your body as whole, are painful. It's not natural; that's why it hurts. Usually none of this happens fast enough for us to feel it."
He couldn't help but flash uneasily back to Genesis—the flames and the noise and heat and the shaking ground—and Spock, mindless, crumpled on the ground screaming as his body reshaped itself in minutes from that of a young teenager to the age he was now.
"What?" Jim barked. "But how is that possible? Those Vulcan healers told us he was just fine, physically; that he shouldn't have any problems. He was fine. I don't understand."
"Perhaps…the intense emotion of the Pon Farr…" Spock trailed quietly.
"How could that do it? Just because you're a Vulcan doesn't mean—"
"It might," Leonard cut in. "Damned Vulcan logic…every scan told them he was fine, so of course there was no logic in wasting time or anything else devising any way to be certain his regenerated cells would remain stable. And now, obviously, they're not. As closely as the Vulcan mind is tied to the Vulcan physiology who knows what the hell can happen. Maybe I'm just surprised it took this long for something to happen."
Jim was half frozen, mouth open. "But…then…then what? What do we do?"
"There's nothing you can do, Jim. I need to take a few samples of his blood and get the hell back to my lab. I think I know what I need to do here…but I won't know for certain until I can make a more detailed analysis. And then it'll just…take a little time. A day or two, maybe. I'm hoping not more."
"Is he in any immediate danger?"
"No, but he will be if something isn't done," Leonard huffed. "It'll probably get worse." He snapped the tricorder shut, replaced the medical scanner attachment in its holder, and began to dig out sample vials and a hypo. Usually he was far more organized, but he'd been in a hurry. He still had everything he needed, and there would be more equipment in his lab at Starfleet Medical across the city.
"Doctor…how quickly, to be precise, has my aging accelerated?" Spock asked then. For a moment there was silence; from the look on Jim's face it seemed that was the detail he hadn't really wanted to know.
McCoy swallowed a bit. "I uhm…I don't know, Spock. It's hard to tell from just a tricorder scan…"
Leonard almost smiled. Almost. It wasn't so long ago he sat on the edge of Spock's console in their stolen Klingon ship, urging him teasingly to learn to guess. To remember how.
"It may take a day or two for you to gain something like a year, and it may only take several hours. I'd say it's…something like that, though. I can't really say more. Determining those specifics is less important than stopping it."
The Vulcan grunted quietly in thanks and nodded once in understanding. Jim, for a brief moment, seemed that much closer to panic just before his commander's instincts reeled him back in again and his face straightened. Instead of panic, then, it was anger in his voice.
"You're telling me he could lose years before—!"
Leonard lashed back against the painful, worried tension he was feeling himself. "He's a Vulcan, Jim! He's got plenty of them."
He didn't really mean that, of course. This bothered him just as much as it did Jim, but he didn't take kindly to feeling accused. Jim, of course, didn't mean to make it sound that way. They both knew these things, but they shouted anyway. It was something they'd long ago accepted in each other.
"That didn't stop him from dying before!" Jim growled now.
Spock tried to get up again. Maybe it was that he didn't want them to argue, or may it would have gotten worse anyway but his breathing rate was increasing to compensate for the pain. Leonard reached out to help catch him before he could collapse again, and this time he indicated to Jim that they should just lower him to the pillows. Everything in Leonard twisted because he hated seeing Spock that way, because there were unpleasant memories he was flashing back on, and he knew he would never be entirely done with loving this stubborn Vulcan no matter what he told himself.
They were both calling to him. The Vulcan's eyes fluttered and his voice rumbled softly as he tried to answer them. "I…I am…"
Jim swallowed. "Can you do anything for him now?"
"I can knock him the rest of the way out. That'd be about it," McCoy had to admit.
"That is not necessary," Spock spoke up, a little more clearly now. The Vulcan didn't say any more than that, but his fingers found Jim's sleeve and closed around the fabric, and the meaning was relatively clear.
Jim looked up, gave the doctor a helpless glance, and sighed. "All right…"
Leonard took the samples he needed, and then tugged his friend from the room for a moment. "I'll do everything I can…as quickly as I can."
"I know, that, Bones. I know you will."
"Just stay with him. Take care of him. It really will get worse before it gets better, probably. Not that it'll ever get better on its own."
Jim nodded wordlessly, obviously distracted and for good reason. Leonard left then, while he could, because he had a job to do. He left an extra hypo with a sedative on the kitchen counter on the way out just in case, and went.
Jim was lost, for a little while at least. When he shook himself back to his senses Bones had gone, and he felt badly that he hadn't said anything more. He wanted to apologize. He wanted to thank him.
Bones would be back. He would have his chance. For now all he could do was what the doctor had asked him to do.
Spock seemed more calm and coherent when he made it back into the bedroom. Jim laid down close beside him, and the Vulcan turned his head.
"How are you doing?" Jim asked quietly.
"Control returns slowly…Soon I will be more able to…make it easier to bear…" Spock answered haltingly. Jim knew what he meant. As the effects of the Pon Farr receded his mind returned to him. Soon he would have at least some control of his mental abilities, if he wasn't beginning to already. Now that the panicked adrenaline of several minutes ago at Bones's announcement was wearing off, he could feel it too. He could feel the heavy bond of the time of mating weakening further, and returning him to fuller awareness again as well.
Maybe it had been less than two hours since they woke to this, but already it seemed an eternity.
Jim nudged his feet beneath the blankets and pulled them over himself again. He found his bondmate's hands clenched against the mattress and took them, pushing closer until their foreheads brushed. In response Spock turned more into him.
"I'm here," Jim murmured. "Are you sure you don't want something? I think Bones left a hypo on the counter if you decide you want it. Just…until you can do more yourself…"
He wasn't simply being stubborn. There were reasons he didn't wish to be unconscious now, and Jim understood that. "Okay…"
They were touching. Spock could feel his thoughts and his worries, and he didn't attempt to meld in his current state but Jim could feel him react to them.
"Would it be so awful for the length of my life to be not so different from the length of yours?"
Jim blinked. "What?"
"You do not wish for my life to be shortened…you worry that something will change…that a more drastic increase may occur before Doctor McCoy can halt the acceleration."
"Of course I'm worried! You're a Vulcan…damnit, Spock; you're only fifty-five! That's not even really middle age for a Vulcan. That's nothing. You're supposed to have closer to two hundred years, not one, like us...like humans…I want you to have that time."
"For what purpose?"
That question brought him up short for a moment, and he didn't like this conversation at all. "Because…you're supposed to have it. You deserve it more than anyone I know, Spock." He knew it meant he wouldn't be here for much of it. He was only human. He could still have several more decades, but that could still be scarcely half of his bondmate's lifespan.
They'd known all of that. They'd discussed it before…or rather pointedly not discussed it.
"The things you could do with it…I don't know. Maybe I feel like you're supposed to make a difference." He paused. "More than we already have, I mean. More than me…"
Spock blinked in confusion, like he didn't know how to respond to that. "I am not certain that I share your convictions…"
Jim huffed in tired amusement. "It's all right…you don't have to, to make it true. If it is, I'm sure it'll happen anyway."
Still the Vulcan's frown deepened instead of easing, as if he had something to say he wasn't sure he wanted to say. "Jim…"
"What is it…?" he urged gently.
"It is not important." Spock let out a breath and grimaced again. He shuddered, just enough for Jim to worry. He held his bondmate in closer and closed his eyes.
Leonard McCoy did not sleep for three days. He called Jim every few hours to check on Spock, and to keep them updated on his progress. Thankfully there wasn't too much change, and eventually the Vulcan was able to control much of the pain on his own. Still, it didn't seem like either of them of were really getting any sleep, either.
It took longer than Leonard thought it would. Then again, though the danger wasn't as imminent as it could be the stakes, still, were high. He had to do this right. He couldn't bring himself to really sleep but he rested, to keep himself alert. He couldn't afford to screw this up.
The thought of anything happening to Spock again was…
He'd meant what he said before. He couldn't stand to go through that again. He knew Jim couldn't, either.
Part of him was afraid, when he started, that he was wrong. That he would fail. He and Spock had failed three years ago to find a way to give Jim and Spock a child of their own, and he was afraid he would fail now. He was not nearly so confident as he had led Jim to believe in the interests of keeping them all sane.
As he sat slumped at his desk catching a quick nap on the second day, it did not help to catch sight of a certain storage tape sticking out from under a stack of PADDs. A tape he'd nearly forgotten about; research from the project on Vulcan three years ago. It was research he'd gone back to in the recent past, wondering again if perhaps there was possibly something they had missed. It seemed cruelly unfair that there wasn't a way.
Then, of course, Spock was dead, and there had been no point anymore. Except that now he wasn't dead.
He would be again, though, if something wasn't done.
Leonard growled quietly to himself, shoved the tape in a drawer, and went back to work.
It took more than three days before Bones returned to the apartment, but as little as Jim understood what was happening himself he didn't blame the doctor for needing the time to find a solution.
It was the middle of the night when the bedroom door slid open. Bones had called not long ago, and Jim had kept the volume down on the computer console. In the bedroom, Spock had finally reached a level of control that allowed him to slip into an uneasy sleep. It was better than nothing, and Jim didn't want to disturb him. He told McCoy to just come in when he arrived, and went back to the bed when the call disconnected.
He sat up and quietly ordered the lights up a small degree as Bones came in.
"Huh," the doctor huffed softly. "He really did manage to sleep. Thank god."
"You've got it?"
"I've got something." McCoy went around the bed, and there was already a hypospray in his hand. When he injected it Spock opened his eyes tiredly. "Hey…"
"Yeah…and hopefully I did my job."
The Vulcan raised an eyebrow at that, and looked for Jim. Jim squeezed a shoulder to let his husband know he was right there.
"How quickly should it work?" Jim asked.
"The…discomfort seems less…" Spock ventured.
Bones smiled in relief, and glanced at his tricorder. "Seems it is already." He scanned the readout more extensively. "It'll be a few hours before your cells are entirely stable again, but after that you should be fine, Spock. I think it's doing what I wanted it to. It's working."
Jim released an uneven breath. "Thank god…" he leaned closer to kiss his bondmate's forehead in relief, and he didn't realize Bones had disappeared until he straightened again. "What…? Bones?" He glanced at Spock again. "I'll be back."
He was not going to miss his chance this time. He hurried from the bedroom to find McCoy halfway to the front door.
"Bones, wait. Where are you going?"
The doctor paused and turned back. "You both need sleep, Jim. I'm getting out of your way. And make sure you both eat something if you haven't. You probably haven't. Especially Spock. He needs to get his strength back.
"All right, I know—"
Jim tried to think of something appropriate to say, and nothing quite fit. He was glad Spock was all right, and he was just glad Bones was here, and there was so much more. He closed the distance between them while he tried to think, and his friend watched him skeptically.
When he still could think of nothing good enough to say, he threw his arms around McCoy instead. Bones returned the embrace more quickly than he'd expected. It didn't last an overly long time, but it said what they couldn't articulate.
"Thank you," Jim said finally.
McCoy nodded. He smiled a little, and then motioned toward the door. "Like I said…I ought to get out of your way for now."
"Sure…just come back," Jim agreed. He was much more serious than joking, but the doctor still smiled again, and it was a good sign. It was more the Leonard McCoy he was used to.
When he turned around after the front door of the apartment closed again, Spock was in the door to the bedroom.
"What are you doing up? You shouldn't be up yet."
"Doctor McCoy did not make that stipulation."
"Well I did." Jim went to him and helped him to the couch. He wanted to get him right back to bed, but he supposed the Vulcan probably was tired of the bed. He was tried of the bed.
Spock actually leaned on him, which told him how worn out he really was. Jim lowered him to the couch cushions at the end and sat beside him. Spock slumped, and Jim frowned and studied him in the light. Whatever small amount of years he had or hadn't aged it wouldn't be nearly enough to matter to a Vulcan. His fears had not become reality. If there was any change it was his imagination, and he knew that. That didn't make him any less concerned.
"Are you all right?" He touched a weathered cheek, and his bondmate nodded into his touch.
Jim chuckled quietly. "You could use a shower. We could both use a shower."
Swept eyebrows went up. "Yes."
The human chuckled again, but neither of them got up. Not yet. There would be time for that once they'd really rested, and for now the couch was good enough.
Leonard walked home to his city apartment with a smile on his face, planning to go back out to Georgia in the morning and bring the rest of his bags home.
The week or more before Jim first called him had been nice. He'd needed the time to himself, but it was time to return to reality. Tonight he didn't know how he could have considered not coming back.
Well…yes he did. Part of him was a coward. He was afraid to face what it would be like; the three of them working together again now that they all knew the truth about the past.
He realized now, though, that he was more afraid of not facing it. He was more afraid of never seeing Spock, or Jim…because they were his family. They were all he had, but that wasn't why he needed then. There was Scotty, and Nyota, and Hikaru and Pavel, but the friendships he shared with them weren't the same as what he had with Jim and Spock. They would never be.
So when Starfleet called, he would be there beside them. There was a future to face, and he wasn't going to miss it.
He wasn't quite ready to whistle or any such thing, but maybe there was a silent tune in his head as he walked. He was still smiling to himself as he reached into a jacket pocket to check on the tape there that he'd brought from his desk.
Leonard returned the second day after he had left. Spock called for him to enter from where he sat at his desk in the corner of the main room.
Jim, for his part, was asleep on the couch. The doctor's eyebrows went up in curiosity at that as he came in. "Is he all right?"
"He is resting. It became the better part of two weeks in total during which he did not receive proper sleep. He is still recovering."
McCoy perched on the arm of a chair at the edge of the living room arrangement that left him facing the Vulcan at his desk. "Should I come back later?"
"You may, though you are also welcome to remain here now."
"Aren't you working? You look like you're working. I suppose I should have called first."
"I am merely reviewing Starfleet protocols. Supposedly my memory has returned completely, but it is prudent to be certain."
"I see. Maybe I should be brushing up myself."
Spock raised an eyebrow. "You have made your decision, then?"
The doctor only shrugged in answer, but with the small smile he gave it was more than enough.
Leonard laughed, and behind him a yawn came from the couch. The doctor turned, and they watched Jim sit up on the couch.
"Good afternoon, Captain," McCoy teased.
"Bones?" Jim was still rubbing his eyes. "Oh...good; there you are."
"Did you need something?"
"No…just saying." Jim yawned again and straightened. "You know what we should do?"
"We should go camping."
"We should what?"
Spock watched them bantering—his bondmate and his closest friend, the equilibrium between them all well and truly returning to normal. He realized he very much looked forward to being in space with them again. He had not known until this moment how much he had missed that in recent years. If there was ever such an appropriate time to return to their roots, it was now.
"I'm serious. It'd be fun. I've always wanted to camp somewhere like Yellowstone, or—oh, Yosemite! I think I'd like to take a crack at El Capitan…"
Jim still thought camping was a good idea, but now it would have to wait until their first shore leave. There hadn't been time. Now they were back in uniform, back at Spacedock…about to find out what sort of ship they'd been given and where their lives were going now.
It was hard to determine the general mood in the cabin of the shuttle as they followed a guide to their post. Normally they would have been informed of their assignment officially, before now, but apparently Command thought making them wait like this was fun.
Bones stood with his arms crossed. "The bureaucratic mentality is the only constant in the universe. We'll get a freighter."
Sulu grinned from behind Scotty. "With all respect, Doctor, I'm counting on Excelsior."
The engineer turned on him incredulously. "Excelsior? Why in god's name would you want that bucket of bolts?"
Jim shrugged from the front of the huddle—all of them gathered around the wide front port of the shuttle. "A ship is a ship."
Scotty shrugged. "Whatever you say, sir. Thy will be done."
He looked back at Bones. He exchanged a glance with Spock between them. They looked at each other. The three of them, at least, seemed of the same mind. As long as they had a ship, as long as they were out there together; it didn't really matter, did it?
Jim smiled to himself, though it froze in place when suddenly it seemed they were headed straight for the ship Sulu had wished for. It didn't make any sense…and there were incredulous looks around the cabin until the shuttle angled up and over the Excelsior's hull.
None of them expected what waited for them on the other side.
A Constitution-class ship. None had been made in years, but it was the most recent line; that meant it was bigger than the original Enterprise even though it shared the same basic design.
That would have been more than enough, but this ship had been refitted and rechristened.
The words USS Enterprise NCC-1701-A shone across the saucer section.
Jim couldn't swallow his grin, and the sense of a full circle nearly overwhelmed him.
"My friends…we've come home."