Omicrap I wrote something short! *gasp* It tis a K/S oneshot. All of my other stuff right now is mainly S/Mc, which is great and I love it but this plot bunny wouldn't leave me the crap alone. Therefore before I could move on it had to come out. Grr. I'm not even sure there's a point to this besides cuteness and angst and h/c and a shallow attempt to be deep (Oxymoron anyone?) in a fic I wrote in about three or four hours. Oh well. Anyway, I hope it's all right, and I can't wait to hear from ya'll. Thanks! :)
The paperwork seemed endless. It didn't matter that Starfleet rarely used real paper anymore. It seemed endless anyway, whether it was a PADD screen or a computer console, and these days Captain James T. Kirk hated it even more.
Every day there was paperwork, and every day it reminded him of the first report he'd falsified…nearly four months ago now. He'd been court-martialed, once, for being suspected of falsifying a report when, in fact, he hadn't. Now he'd done it. There had been more since then, and all for the same reason. He and Bones both were doing it regularly, all for the same damned reason.
Both of them were reporting regularly, ever since the disaster on Deneva, that first officer Spock was recovered and perfectly fine.
At his desk in his quarters, Jim signed his name to the second-to-last report for the day; today nothing was false at all in any of them. Still, he wondered how long this could go on. Granted, this time if he (and/or McCoy) were court-martialed they'd have Ambassador Sarek, his wife, and half of Vulcan on their side, but anyway…
He couldn't let it bother him. That wasn't what was important now.
As Jim scrubbed at his face the main door slid open; Spock, back from his duty shift on the bridge. As soon as the door shut behind him his shoulders slumped tiredly. Jim called his name in concern but the Vulcan said nothing as he moved slowly through to the bedroom of the quarters they now, for the most part, shared.
The captain sighed. He had one more report to review. He'd do it, and give Spock a few moments. He turned his attention back to the PADD in his hands, but it was increasingly difficult to concentrate.
There. Done, he thought finally, signing on the dotted line one last time. He let the PADD drop to the desk and got to his feet.
In the bedroom he found Spock not changed and kneeling on his meditation mat, but curled on his side on the bed. His boots and blue uniform tunic had come off and were piled against the wall by the bed. All of this was warning enough; Vulcans were not messy, and Spock always meditated upon return to quarters after a work day. Jim had known that even before they were together.
But he knew what this meant, too. It was like this, every few days now. If Spock was meditating after his shift, he was managing. If he wasn't—especially if it escalated to carelessly discarded articles of clothing—then something needed to be done.
Jim watched him for a moment, and the Vulcan's back was to him. He watched it rise and fall, hoping as he always did that maybe it wasn't as bad today as it always was when he saw Spock like this. But the rise and fall of his breaths was uneven, and only growing worse. The sounds were becoming harsh, just as they always did.
The captain sighed silently and backtracked for a moment to his computer. He called down to sickbay, and McCoy's face appeared on the screen.
"I'm bringing him in tonight."
There was that flash on the doctor's face—that almost-wince he'd managed to whittle his reaction down to by now—and Bones nodded. "All right. I'll call you when I'm ready."
Jim nodded in thanks and cut the transmission.
It wasn't good at all today. By the time he made it back to the bedroom Spock's harsh breaths were clearer and more uneven. He shuddered a little, once or twice. His arms were wrapped around himself and Jim could see the fingers of one hand digging into his black undershirt.
Jim toed his boots off and eased onto the bed behind the Vulcan. He clasped a shoulder. "I called Bones."
"Yes," was all Spock said. It wasn't an agreement or an argument. It just was. Jim let out a breath and pulled another pillow closer for his own head as he slipped his arms around Spock and lay down with him, holding him. He hooked his chin over the Vulcan's shoulder.
There was nothing else he could do. He knew that. He could lie here and hold him, but that was all. That didn't mean it was any easier now, after nearly four months, than it had been the first night he held a shuddering Spock in his arms.
During the incident at Deneva there had been none of that. Spock had not stopped once, fighting for control over the pain the neural parasite had inflicted on him. And then the thing was dead. Supposedly. He was free. They freed the people of Deneva, too, with the discovery that ultraviolet light was deadly to the parasites. Spock was temporarily blinded from the first experiments to discover which spectrum of light would do the trick, but he'd recovered. He was fine for a while.
It wasn't long after they left orbit of Deneva, the colonists back on their feet, that they discovered that Spock was no longer fine.
He doubled over in the turbolift after their shift. The same shift at the beginning of which they'd left the planet. The shift at the start of which Spock had reported to the bridge, a grinning McCoy on his heels, and announced that he could see once more and all was well.
It was only he and Jim in the 'lift, and the moment they were inside and the door was shut Spock was folding against the wall and Jim was catching him.
"Spock! What the hell—I thought Bones said you were all right!"
"I was. I do not understand," the Vulcan gasped. "Perhaps I…should report to sickbay…"
It was nothing like the levels of pain the parasite had subjected Spock and others to—nothing quite so dire—but it had caught him off guard, he confessed later. He had not expected any more pain. Then it was there.
Pieces of the parasite had survived, Bones discovered after thorough testing. Not enough to think it really had any sort of consciousness remaining—and certainly not with the rest of its race obliterated with the hive-like mind they seemed to have had—but the small remnants were somewhat viable nonetheless.
"Damned Vulcan physiology!" the doctor swore. "He's stronger than we are…his nervous system and everything else, too, and the thing was tied into it. It allowed some of it to avoid destruction somehow. God knows I don't know how. They're just…disparate pieces, acting without instructions. They can't do anywhere near what a complete entity was capable of, but they're causing him pain just the same. Not constantly, and again, nothing like the levels the victims were experiencing on Deneva, but it's there."
But there was no way yet, to remove them. They were so small, so sequestered away and buried within the Vulcan's nervous system that it was impossible. Treatments of the ultraviolet light could weaken them for a time…provide Spock with some relief…but that was all. And they had to be careful administering the treatments; too much exposure to concentrated ultraviolet could also be dangerous. He could handle more than a human, hailing from Vulcan with it's hot, bright sun, but there were still dangers.
"Well at least if he gets cancer from the exposure we've cured that," Bones grumbled. Bones grumbled nearly everything, but it was a cover for caring so much and captain and first officer both knew it.
"You stayed on the bridge too long today," Jim said now. "Your shift was actually over an hour or two ago, wasn't it?"
"There were tasks to be completed."
"You pushed yourself too hard again...or just too long; you know what I mean. When you do that you end up like this sooner than when you don't."
'Like this' was, basically, out of energy to fight the pain. It wasn't that it was so great, Spock attempted to assure him often; it was simply that it had gone on for so long. Jim wasn't sure how far he bought that, but it had to be at least half true or even Spock wouldn't have lasted this long.
But he also knew it had to be worse than what a human could bear on a daily basis. Even now, in the twenty-third century by the Terran calendar, there were medical conditions that were not curable. They were fewer and farther between, but they existed. There were still individuals that lived with chronic pain for various reasons, but there were also more sophisticated medications and other ways of dealing with such things.
For Spock, none of those things were of any use at all, and he needed Vulcan discipline and meditation techniques and mental controls to keep himself from being impeded in his duties and daily life.
Jim wondered why he tried to so often to reason out just how badly Spock was being affected; to imagine what it must be like. Maybe it was because he felt so helpless. He could only sympathize. He couldn't empathize. He could only be here, and take care of the man he loved.
At least for Spock that seemed to be enough.
The Vulcan was silent now, after Jim's gentle scolding. Usually he protested—something about duty and logic or sometimes about appearances to the crew and keeping up his usual tendencies to avoid suspicion—but today he said nothing.
"Spock? Is there something else?" Jim asked quietly.
Spock started to shake his head, but instead he moaned softly and curled farther in on himself. Jim moved with him, closing his arms tighter around him. It didn't end there. It seemed the pain was worsening. It did that briefly sometimes, when the remnants of the parasite inside him were gaining strength. It was a sure sign that Jim had done the right thing informing the doctor that Spock would need a treatment tonight.
When they did it they did it once sickbay was mostly empty and the night shift had just begun. The fewer people who could suspect anything, the better. Aboard the Enterprise the senior staff knew of Spock's condition, and that was all.
Beyond the six of them and Spock, it was only Spock's parents and those at the Vulcan Science Academy also working on the medical problem that knew. Bones had realized almost immediately that he would need help if this were going to be solved; if Spock were going to be saved from living this way the rest of his life. Once the situation was clear Spock had, still somewhat reluctantly, provided them with his parents' contact information. The captain and doctor had both heard of the famed and respected Ambassador Sarek of Vulcan, but they hadn't any idea before then that the man was Spock's father.
Spock did not want to be forced from the space service over what was happening to him. He was convinced that until a solution could be found he could keep himself under control to a degree that he would never put the ship in danger. After his successful efforts at Deneva under even greater duress Jim had finally agreed with him. He'd convinced Bones of the same.
He didn't want to lose his first officer, in any case. And certainly not when that first officer was also his lover.
They never meant for it to become this complicated, and even though it had been clear from the beginning that a cure would be elusive, they had hoped it wouldn't last this long. But here they were, four months later. Spock was no closer to permanent relief, and Jim and McCoy and a large number of Vulcan citizens were still keeping his secret—preserving his dignity and the life he had chosen in Starfleet as he had it.
To Sarek and the other Vulcans at the Vulcan Science Academy the medical issue had been entrusted to, it was logical. One of their own should not be forced from valuable service and the place he had found based on human underestimation of the abilities of their race…as would likely happen if Starfleet Command got wind of any of this.
To Jim and Bones and the rest of the Enterprise senior staff and Spock's human mother it was a matter of family and loyalty and love.
"Jim…" Spock said at length. It seemed the pain had ebbed again, and he lay in the captain's arms trying to bring his breaths under control.
"What is it?"
"I am a burden to you…"
Jim shook his head against the Vulcan's neck. "Don't say that."
"I am. It was foolish and selfish of me to insist that I wished to remain aboard. You…all of you…you have gone to too much risk for me."
Spock shifted onto his back, and Jim pushed back enough to allow him the room to do so and propped himself up on an elbow. The Vulcan's eyes were distant and troubled, and still dark with pain. As soon as it seemed to be getting easier for him, it was becoming worse again.
Jim found one of his hands and tugged it gently up to the Vulcan's chest, entwining his own fingers with Spock's. Spock was already shaking his head.
"Do it. It'll be a few hours before we can get you to sickbay."
Spock shook his head again, even though he moaned.
"You need it. Unless you think you can start meditation on your own."
"If I had believed I could…I would have done so," The Vulcan admitted reluctantly.
"It's all right. I'm done for the day. I have nothing to do but be here, Spock, and I don't want you lying here suffering when I can help. How many times are we going to have this conversation?"
Spock nearly smiled at that. He looked at Jim for a long time, and so much was said between them without a word.
He closed his eyes, then, and the fingers twined with Jim's tightened ever so slightly as he concentrated what little he could by now.
When he was like this—when it had been too long since his last treatment—he lost the ability, eventually, to meditate to help him to control the pain. He could not initiate it on his own at all. But if he did this, if he linked their minds in this soft way—just by hands, not quite a mind meld, but enough to provide him with support—then Spock could draw from Jim's strength and mental stability. He could draw it around him and use it, temporarily, to help him protect himself.
It drained Jim somewhat. When they did this he was left tired for a while, and that was why Spock did not like to do it. But sometimes there was really no choice.
He felt the connection begin, and the tapping of his reserves. He felt his energy become one with his lover's. Jim let his elbow out from under him and lay down again, his head on Spock's shoulder now. They were as close to one as they could be without a full mind meld. The energy flowed between them, a cycle, and with Spock using it he would be able to rest in the hours to come.
The Vulcan's breathing was already evening out. Jim called for the computer to lower the light level, and he kissed Spock's temple beside him—the silky black hair there. Spock turned his head slightly into the touch.
Jim woke to someone shaking his shoulder.
"Jim. Come on; wake up."
The captain blinked and looked up in the dim light that he suddenly realized was much brighter now. "Bones?"
He and Spock must have drifted off, at some point. He was pleased his help had served to relax Spock enough that both of them could reach sleep, but apparently they had missed McCoy's call.
The doctor stood over the bed now.
"I'm ready for Spock in sickbay, and you made me come all the way down here not answering; it's already late enough as it is, you know."
He complained, but Jim saw the concern in his eyes, and the relief, too, when the doctor glanced at the sleeping Spock.
"Sorry," Jim said. He nudged the Vulcan beside him gently. His own movements were a little sluggish as he'd expected, after sharing his energy, but he'd slept, too. That helped. "Spock. Wake up. Bones is ready for us."
It took a few tries to rouse him, but that was all right. It meant a deeper sleep that he'd been in, and getting enough real sleep was one of Spock's problems these past months. Vulcans didn't always need much, but in his condition he needed more and he wasn't getting it more often then not.
While Bones talked to Spock to bring him more fully to wakefulness, Jim shoved the Vulcan's boots back on for him, and smoothed the wrinkles out of the blue tunic as best he could and handed it to him. Spock pulled the shirt over his head and nodded tiredly that he was ready to go.
Jim and McCoy walked on either side of him just to be certain he was all right, but he made it to sickbay just fine. He knew where to go, of course; to the small quarantine chamber they used to expose him to the ultraviolet rays.
It was all very routine by now. He climbed into the chair. Bones gave him the goggles the doctor insisted he wear to protect his eyes from the repeated exposure, and he put them on. They shut him in. Bones activated the ultraviolet for the prescribed length of time, and that was that. The payoff was that the Spock they released from the chamber moved more fluidly, stood straighter, and seemed more at ease…there was either no pain or very near to it.
It would only last for a few short days, but it was better than if they had no way to help him at all.
Jim walked with Spock back to their quarters, the container of preventative and repair ointment the doctor gave them to rub into Spock's skin after treatments in hand.
Officially it wasn't "their" quarters. Officially Spock still retained his own. Before this they'd only been together for scarcely as many months as all of this had lasted. They had been far from any sort of cohabitation decision. Then Deneva, and Jim had insisted that Spock stay with him until they found a solution. He needed to be looked after; he didn't need to be alone. Since then more and more of Spock's things had found themselves moved. The arrangement was born of necessity, but they'd found they preferred it.
They sat on the bed when they returned. Spock pulled his shirts off and then his pants and both of them worked at applying the prescribed ointment. They had it down to a science by now. It didn't take nearly as long as it once had.
Both of them were exhausted. Jim expected them to curl back on the bed and get back to sleep once that was done, but tonight Spock pressed him into the pillows and kissed him and refused to release him.
"Spock…are you all right?" Jim asked, somewhat breathlessly.
"I would like to be with you…"
He wasn't going to protest that. Still, for a moment Jim was concerned—Spock needed his rest, after all—but something in the Vulcan's eyes told him that right now Spock needed him more than sleep.
Bones worked on the problem himself as often as he could, as fervently as he could. He conferred with the Vulcan Science Academy whenever he had anything worth conferring about. It took nearly two more months, but finally the day came that the doctor ran onto the bridge all but bouncing on his toes.
"Jim, that communication we received this morning…I need to talk to you and Mr. Spock. Now."
Uhura, of course, having received the transmission, knew where it had come from. She was the first to adopt a hopeful expression, and then Sulu and Chekov and Scotty from their stations turned around to see it, and it began something of a staring contest that rounded the bridge as they all looked at each other.
"Mr. Scott," Jim said evenly. "Take the con."
Bones only waited until the turbolift doors closed before he launched into it.
"They've confirmed my latest round of tests. They repeated the simulations, and it looks like we've come up with something. Now it's not simple. It's a delicate balance of suppressing Spock's immune system enough to weaken the remnants of the creature, increased and focused amounts of ultraviolet, giving him the right cocktail of drugs to keep that from harming him but allowing it to harm the things…all of that and more. A technique or two we had to invent ourselves, to boot. But it should work if we do it right."
"How soon?" Jim asked immediately.
"I'll need a couple of days to make sure I'm ready. I have to do this on my own, with my staff and not theirs from the Science Academy. I have to make sure everything's in order."
Jim looked at Spock, and he expected to see relief or hope or some such thing on the Vulcan's face if he was betraying anything at all.
Instead, Spock was clearly trying to hide the fact that he was terrified.
"Spock…?" He felt between them for the Vulcan's hand and squeezed it. "It'll be all right."
Bones winced and tried to help. "I'm not saying this isn't tricky, but my staff and I know what we're doing, Spock."
The Vulcan cleared his throat. "I am certain of that, Doctor. I have no doubts in you or your abilities or your staff."
"Then what is it?" Jim asked gently.
The lift slowed to a stop and opened, and thankfully there was no one in the corridor. Still, Jim released Spock's hand as they exited the lift. It wasn't as if there was anyone on board who didn't know about them, or that there was anything in regulations against their relationship, but they had a professional example to uphold in public after all.
Bones was studying Spock, and he had that look that suggested his psychology side was taking over. "Jim…why don't you take him back to your quarters. I don't want either of you back on duty today. Maybe you both just need to…digest."
Jim nodded, and Spock followed him without argument as they parted ways with the doctor.
"Spock, what's wrong?" Jim asked once they were alone.
The Vulcan stopped in the middle of the main room of their quarters, and for a minute or two he merely stared at the floor. For moment his breathing became uneven, but then he was in control again. Whether it had been emotion or pain Jim did not know.
Finally Spock looked up. "What if the procedure is not successful?"
"Then they'll find another way. Eventually. Maybe soon. But they will."
The Vulcan's calm seemed momentarily disturbed again. Jim watched him, saw him fighting with himself presumably over whether or not to say something in particular, and he realized that Spock had become increasingly quiet and worried-looking in recent weeks. Whether he meant to be obviously worried-looking or any such thing or not.
"Jim…I…" He stopped and looked away. His hand balled into fists at his sides.
Jim moved close enough again to rest a hand on his shoulder, and Spock still did not quite look at him, but he spoke.
"If it does not succeed I am not certain that I could survive the partial death of hope. I…am afraid of what will become of me if I must remain this way for any greater length of time."
It was the most Spock had admitted aloud about any of this, at any time. He always seemed convinced that he must be strong no matter the hardship or the pain. He must be Vulcan, whether or not he was able to admit at least to love as he had once, to bring them together.
"Spock…Spock, you're the strongest person I know. If anyone can survive this, you can. You have." He took both of the Vulcan's shoulders now, to make him look at him. "Don't doubt yourself. And if anything happens…if this doesn't work…I don't know what's going to happen, but I know you'll have me. And if it's ever too much for you it would be too much for anyone. You've done everything you can. You have nothing to be ashamed of."
Jim kissed him tenderly, and Spock held onto him for a long time.
Jim thought that was it. He believed there to be no more issues to work out. But the night before the procedure was to be attempted Spock was tense in his arms. He was in more pain by then, two days later, but that wasn't the reason for his anxiety.
Perhaps it was only the same things he'd said? But it felt like more.
There wasn't time to ask. Morning came too quickly even though both of them hardly slept.
That evening they stood on the small observation deck near their quarters. Spock had come here from sickbay, and Jim could only follow him. He stood back now, watching the Vulcan at the wide window-like viewport. He stood with a hand against the transparent surface and the other clenched behind his back. His shoulders were tense.
As long as he had known Spock, and all the long months they had been together now—those first few happy months and the difficult ones that followed—Jim didn't know how to approach him right now.
The Vulcan's bunched shoulders shook, and Jim moved closer out of instinct. When he was close enough to see the reflection of Spock's face he could see the dampness in his lover's eyes. He reached for Spock's shoulder and squeezed it, and the Vulcan flinched a bit as if only just realizing the captain was there.
Then Jim almost smiled. "Relief is a perfectly normal emotion, you know. I sure as hell wouldn't blame you for it now."
Spock swallowed, hard. "I once found fascination in the stars. Comfort, even. As a child. What I found in them did not leave me. But the last six months robbed me of it. The pain…the worry over control…I could not have simply seen the stars. There was very little that I could find simple satisfaction in. I was frightened that what had happened to me would eventually rob me of much more than that."
"What do you mean?"
Spock looked at him then, almost tentative. "If I am to bond with anyone permanently, I had come to realize I wished it to be you. Then the incident at Deneva occurred, and my condition continued. I…I realized also that no matter what I feel for you, if I were to remain that way indefinitely I could not ask you to tie yourself to one so burdened. I could not ask you to shoulder that burden for so long. You had done so much for me as it was."
Jim shook his head in mild amusement even as he grinned at realizing what Spock was saying. "I would have done it anyway."
Spock blinked. "You…?"
"If we had never fixed this, it wouldn't have mattered. This ship used to be the most important anything in my life, but it's you now. It will always be you, Spock. If I'd had to I would have resigned with you and I would have taken you home to Vulcan, or home with me to Earth, and I would have taken care of you. And now you're going to be fine. I would have done anything I had to do, but now all I have to do is love you."
He paused. "Is that what you meant, then? You were afraid you would lose me, too, if it never ended? You were never in danger of that, Spock."
The Vulcan swallowed again, and a tear escaped. "Jim," he said roughly. He was all but shivering now, and Jim knew where this was going. He was glad he'd locked the door; he knew that Spock wouldn't want anyone else to see him this way.
"It's all right, Spock," he said softly.
Nothing quite like this had happened before. Jim had never seen Spock really cry, but he was certainly crying now. He folded the Vulcan into his shoulder and held him there. He was sure it was something they would never speak of, but only because it was private; he hoped, at least, that he'd managed to communicate that there was no shame in the exhaustion and the relief.
As Spock calmed he stayed close, pressed into Jim and comfortable being there. "I love you," the Vulcan said, near his ear.
Jim knew it, but it was nice to hear it; Spock wasn't the type to say it aloud often. "You'd better. You're stuck with me," he chuckled softly.