Characters: Spock, Kirk, McCoy, various
Word Count: 7527
Warnings/Spoilers: Here be crack, people (as much as anything in this universe is, really), and fluff, and a touch of h/c, and heaven only knows what else. Read at your own risk.
Summary: Five times Spock's Vulcan characteristics saved his human crewmates, and one time those crewmen's human characteristics returned the favor. And I did try to not always take the obvious route with this, though some cliches are only to be expected. :P
A/N: This has been a long time in coming, as I struggled to find my way back into this fandom via some medium other than an epic-length kidfic. Dedicated to my good friend and fellow fan writer_klmeri, for reasons she already knows. :)
Five times Spock's Vulcan characteristics saved his human crewmates, and one time those crewmen's human characteristics returned the favor
VI. His reflexes
The mission, one supposedly of peaceful negotiation between the two warring tribes of G'rathta, a small satellite orbiting an uninhabited planet in the Oduran system, was a complete disaster even by Vulcan standards. Judging from the outraged bellowing that had emanated from Spock's communicator before it had been lost in the rubble, Captain James T. Kirk was utterly furious over the Federation's not informing them that the two tribes' idea of peaceful negotiation was to see which tribe had the most men left standing after an all-out war– and the Captain had beamed a six-man team down directly into the middle of a cross-fire utilizing the Oduran equivalent of Terran twentieth-century machine guns and hand-grenades.
The Commander had immediately ordered the landing party beamed back up, but not in time to save Ensign Hobbs from being shot in the chest by three bullets from an approaching group of screaming natives. The young man dropped like a stone, lifeless and bleeding badly onto the sandy soil, and the others instantly scattered for cover in evasive maneuvers. Spock was about to do so himself, but resisted the logical urge of self-preservation long enough to punch the emergency recall button on the dead man's communicator before retreating from the cross-fire; by now, months after the Galileo disaster and his first command under Kirk's new Enterprise, he understood the human need for closure. And for Jim's sake if nothing else, he would not leave a crewman's body behind to be mutilated by these barbaric warring factions.
The next few minutes were utter madness, for they had been ordered to leave their weapons aboard ship as a gesture of goodwill; Kirk had protested this restriction vigorously but Starfleet Command had been adamant on that point. There was nothing more to do but keep running and ducking for cover while Commander Scott attempted to lock onto their signals, and he made certain the terrified landing party did so. Meanwhile, Spock remained behind to snatch a grenade from a fallen G'rathtan soldier and lob it to cover their tracks with an avalanche of rock and rubble from the nearest deserted building.
It was a full thirteen-point-four minutes before Scott got a positive enough lock on them to beam them up, but in that time he had, at least, not lost another crewman.
One was enough.
It was with some understandable human trepidation that he stepped off the Transporter Pad to meet the worried gaze of his commanding officer; this was only the fifth mission Kirk had given him command of, and he had lost another man; for, through no fault of his own, the fact of death remained irreversible, and as commanding officer he bore the responsibility for his men's – the Captain's men's – safety.
The medical team standing nearby looked askance when he informed them they had had no further casualties but merely whisked the landing party off to Sickbay; he in turn fell into step beside Kirk, eyes fixed on the floor.
"That was a disaster," the Captain snarled, obviously still furious. "You all could have been killed thanks to our incomplete information and lack of defense! If they think I'm going to just send back a report and not blister those insufferable, arrogant –"
"Captain," he remonstrated as they entered the turbolift, for his mental shields were already dangerously weak from the suffocating, guilty knowledge that his mission had killed a very young man, full of hope and life. As First Officer, he was in charge of crew evaluations, and he well knew every detail of Hobbs's file; every commendation for exemplary diplomatic work, every recognition of his promise and potential, a potential cut short by Spock's inability to protect his landing party.
"Sorry," Kirk was growling as he twisted the lift handle and gave the order for Sickbay. "But seriously, Mr. Spock – any of you could be dead now thanks to some admiral's idiocy…Ensign Hobbs nearly was killed, and –"
Spock's head jerked up, an eyebrow raised in question. "He is not dead?"
"No, he – you thought he was?" Kirk blinked in sudden realization. "Spock, I'm sorry…no, he was pretty close but McCoy got him into surgery fast enough after he materialized; he'll be on his back for a while but he's going to be fine last I heard."
Spock closed his eyes for a moment at the words and their accompanying smile of reassurance, more thankful than any Vulcan had the right to be at the knowledge that his failure had not been so complete.
"Although, if you hadn't had Scotty get him back up immediately, he'd probably be dead now," Kirk added quietly as they exited. "He has you to thank for his life, Mr. Spock. And so do I."
V. His diplomatic immunity
Though well-immersed in the world of politics from a very young age, as son of the Vulcan ambassador to Terra, Spock of Vulcan had an intricate knowledge of the Federation's inner workings.
He also possessed an intricate distaste for the sordid world of politics and all they entailed, and it had been that attitude which had first caused the fissure which grew to a chasm between himself and his proud father. Spock regarded diplomacy as a necessary tool, but preferred to leave such negotiations to those imminently suited to them; he, a scientist, preferred to deal with scientific variables, rather than the unpredictable beings who required diplomatic intervention. Sarek had been much displeased to learn that his son intended to enter Starfleet as an officer and a scientist, rather than following in his footsteps as an ambassador; and though in years to come Sarek's views would change, Spock's preference for remaining firmly in the background would not, not for decades.
He had been quite pleased to discover that despite his brash and somewhat impulsive reputation, James Kirk was a stellar diplomat and indeed one of the finest negotiators Spock had ever met, especially from a species so known for their volatility. Kirk could, so Spock had overheard a gleeful crewman say once, bluff his way in and out of a Klingon bar brawl with no one the wiser, and the human certainly possessed the wit and charm to soothe all manner of savage species when he so employed those traits. Spock could remain safely in the background of the Enterprise's missions, only emerging when his Vulcan control was more suited to negotiations than Kirk's more involved methods.
But this time, he was faced with the painful, dirty world of politics, a world of gritty nepotism and partiality which was thoroughly distasteful to both his human and Vulcan halves.
James T. Kirk and the co-pilot of his shuttlecraft, the Ptolemy, had disappeared near Neutral Zone territory on their return from Starbase Alpha Six, where as the only ranking captain in the sector Kirk had been summoned to serve on a court martial tribunal. While perfectly qualified to pilot a shuttle himself, Kirk had taken a young crewman named Robertson with him, a troubled young ensign who was on his last reprimand before being transferred, for unresolved anger issues that were causing Dr. McCoy no end of concern. Kirk had intended to use the short trip to try to get through to his troubled crewman, suspecting the young man's cabin-mate's death two weeks before in an Engineering accident to be the catalyst for his lack of respect and insubordination.
It was a human weakness, that illogical inability to simply dismiss incompetence without first attempting everything in one's power to change the situation; but it was an attitude which Spock reluctantly supported, especially in a commander such as James Kirk. The man's crew followed him out of love and loyalty, and it was that individualized attention which in turn engendered that loyalty.
Spock could hardly begrudge Robertson the days spent in Kirk's company – but if the young man were responsible for the captain's shuttle disappearing during its return flight, Spock would personally see him demoted and dismissed in disgrace from Starfleet, politics or no politics.
As it stood, Kirk and his co-pilot had now been missing for six days, seven hours, and forty-three minutes – and Starfleet Command was currently on the channel, informing him and his alpha shift Bridge crew that they were to declare the captain missing in action and proceed on their mission to pick up colonists from the doomed world of Beta Ceti IV.
"Sirs," Spock said, with admirable calm, considering that he would much prefer to utilize Kirk's particularly human brand of diplomacy, usually involving the losing of tempers and rash profanities, "to abandon the search for the Ptolemy is to condemn the two men aboard to certain death. Even had they been fortunate enough to make a successful landing on one of the only four planets in this sector capable of sustaining human life, the shuttle would not have been equipped with more than seven days' worth of survival kits."
"Understood," Admiral Komack agreed grudgingly. "But if you have been unable to locate them in a week's time –"
"It has been only six days, Admiral."
"Six days since they left Starbase Alpha Six, Commander Spock," the man snapped, clearly irritated at the interruption, "and if you've in that time received no distress beacon from the shuttle, then we are forced to end the search and declare them missing, presumed dead."
The entire bridge crew looked at each other, horrified, before glancing surreptitiously at their acting captain, sitting stiff and tense in a borrowed chair.
"We don't make this decision lightly, Commander," Admiral Barnett interjected gently from further down the table. "But the situation on Beta Ceti IV grows more desperate each day that passes. We all are well informed of Captain Kirk's ingenuity; surely he would have been able to contact you in this interim had he been capable." The elderly man's eyes softened with shared grief and resignation. "The Enterprise must end the search. I'm sorry, Mr. Spock."
"I wish it logged that I protest this course of action most strenuously, Admirals." Head held high, Spock ignored the shiver that ran through Sulu and Chekov, closest to his tone and therefore able to distinguish the ice that threaded it with menace.
"Noted," Nogura stepped in, not unkindly. "You will be temporarily field-promoted to captain, Commander Spock, until the Enterprise completes her next mission and is able to dock at a Starbase for re-evaluation procedures."
Spock stood, stepping with precision down the command dais to stand in front of the viewing screen. "I make one final appeal to you, Admirals. I believe Captain Kirk to still be alive; I as acting captain and first officer of the man in question respectfully request that you permit the Enterprise to extend the search."
"Request denied, Captain Spock."
"Then I respectfully tender to you my resignation of Starfleet commission, Admirals, effective immediately." Ignoring the startled gasps from all around him, Spock continued, words clipped with calm efficiency. "Lieutenant Uhura, so note this in the ship's log."
"What are you playing at, Commander?" Komack demanded, half-rising from his chair.
"And also note, Lieutenant," Spock continued, completely ignoring the furious glares being directed from at least half of the bemused admirals, "that as a civilian and son of the Vulcan ambassador to Terra, I am granted full diplomatic immunity aboard any registered Federation vessel. Furthermore," and he felt a twinge of human satisfaction at staring down a dozen incensed humans, with their petty ideals and codes, "according to Clause 14-A, Subparagraph B of the Starfleet Diplomatic Code, as such I am empowered to appropriate command of any Federation vessel at my discretion for purposes such as emergency rescue operations."
"So logged, sir," Uhura's calm voice sounded behind him, an undercurrent of respect and even amusement tingeing it.
"Commander Spock!" Komack spluttered indignantly, arms waving in a helpless gesture of furious frustration. "You cannot –"
"I believe you will find that I can, sir," Spock answered coldly. "You leave me no choice, Admiral. We will of course contact you when I have deemed my requirement of this Federation vessel has ended. Enterprise out."
"Don't you dare cut this transmission, Commander, or so help me –"
"Oh, dear. I'm afraid I've lost the signal, sir," Uhura murmured blandly, fingers dancing over the controls.
Spock's eyebrow inched upward.
"Does zhis mean we are not to call you Commander now, sir, but Ambassador?"
"Ensign, your time would be far better spent in calculating probable locations for the captain to have landed the Ptolemy under adverse conditions on the closest of the Class-M planets."
"Aye, sir. Right away, sir."
All things considered, Spock rather thought he could be forgiven the human emotion of surprise, when his mental shields registered the intense swamping wave of respect and affection that suddenly flooded against them, coming from the members of this most loyal of crews.
And when they finally located the Ptolemy, wrecked beyond repair but a frantic Ensign Robertson having kept his injured captain alive for nine days with no supplies, Spock decided that perhaps, just perhaps, he should be more open to the value of diplomacy and knowledge of politics.
(Jim's delighted laughter when he woke up on the thirteenth day to an incensed call from the Admiralty and a very annoyed transmission from Ambassador Sarek, eased the distastefulness of the matter significantly.)
IV. His touch-sensitivity
It was no secret in the galaxy, that Vulcans were touch-telepaths, though the somewhat mystical ability was highly exaggerated amongst those more immature beings who liked to speculate about matters in which they were uninformed. True, certainly, that touch was the primary sense for a Vulcan; there were far more nerve endings in the fingertips than any other species possessed in that location, which aided in the healing arts and in the more sensitive elements of touch-telepathy.
However, Vulcan fingertips were not as…sensitive, as the more romantic of stories would lead gullible species to believe; were that in any way true, a Vulcan would be unable to function properly in normal society. The ozh'esta between bond-mates, for example, was not the sexual act many uninformed beings assumed; it was, literally, a finger-embrace, similar in gesture and significance to a human kiss on the forehead or cheek.
While certainly, a Vulcan was able to perceive more through touch than a human would, that was akin to a human having optic surgery done to correct vision – it was merely a matter of perceiving more detail, of 'seeing' more clearly. An enhancement of a sense, rather than the addition of a new sense.
Spock had soon found that touch-telepathy, however, could be both a gift and a curse. Humans, especially, were a most tactile species, and much of their human language came in the form of body language; gestures and motions and touches, which his senses had been ill-prepared to handle when he entered Starfleet Academy. He had soon found refuge in intense meditation, building sufficient sensory walls around himself so as to function properly in society, and with time the discomfort had eased.
Aboard Pike's Enterprise, he soon became relegated to the stereotypical Vulcan everyone believed him to be; and that was perfectly acceptable to him. No longer need he brace himself for the ridiculous familiarity and its accompanying touch that unsuspecting cadets had been all too free with; no longer need he shore up his shields every waking moment to barricade himself against the human need for touch.
And for eleven years, it had been complete, calm perfection.
Then, the Fates had decided to deposit a strange young human into his life – a dynamic, charismatic young man with a dangerous smile and a more dangerous command style, a human who in the space of very short weeks charmed his way straight past those shields and turned Spock's entire world on its head.
Unexpectedly, Spock of Vulcan realized one day that he had surrendered to this human without a shot ever being fired.
And, strangely enough, without the human ever once breaching that touch-privacy.
Jim was a tactile human, that much was obvious his first hour aboard. A clap on the shoulder here, a friendly elbow there, countless gestures to his crew that showed he was one of those accursed humans who felt the need to physically connect with people to show appreciation or affection.
And yet, he never once violated Spock's personal space in such a manner.
Jim was one of the most considerate of humans Spock had ever encountered, and he knew the lack of physical contact was the captain's way of reinforcing what he'd said the first day aboard; that he recognized and respected Spock's Vulcan nature and would ensure that his crew did the same.
Spock appreciated the gesture more than he could or would ever say, and it was possibly due to this atypical lack of touch that made the first instance so memorable.
That, and the fact that the captain had a mind so brilliantly and fascinatingly chaotic that it would make a distinct impression upon any telepath, touch or otherwise. It was beauty amid chaos, imagination intertwined with organization; the mind that had propelled its owner to responsibility years before his fellows, that had set James T. Kirk firmly on the road to historical fame as the youngest captain in Starfleet.
He discovered this, not in a mind-meld, as some might assume; but in the more prosaic situation of healing, after the events of the Tantalus penal colony; that simple ability to soothe mental distress, an art in which all Vulcans possessed at least rudimentary training.
Spock's horror at what had been done to his captain was overshadowed by the equal one of knowing that he had, for the first time, performed touch-telepathy on a non-Vulcan – a taboo amongst his people, and with good reason. He had opened himself up to a world of danger, both mental and emotional, by entering Dr. VanGelder's insane mind; and all for the sake of his human captain. Even McCoy, who had been watching him with an eerily intense scrutiny, did not fully grasp the enormity of his cultural transgression, the violation of decades of instilled cultural boundaries.
And even after that, he found himself repeating the experience.
All for the sake of a mere human.
Captain Kirk had suffered intense, crippling migraine headaches after the events at the Tantalus penal colony, involving Dr. Adams's abuse of the now-dismantled Neural Neutralizer. McCoy's remedies, usually effective enough against the young captain's not infrequent headaches, had had no effect, much to their combined dismay.
Spock could have predicted as much; the crippling nature of the headaches was more indicative of mental injury than any known migraine trigger. The symptoms were familiar to any telepath, the damage evident.
The only course which would set the captain on the road to healing was equally evident.
Kirk was understandably reluctant to even discuss the matter, though Spock gave him little choice, cornering him in his cabin as the man lay curled up miserably on the bunk, lights completely off and all sound muffled by the ship's sensors. He had learned that the way to deal with this particular stubborn human was to simply eliminate all factors of opposition until the man bowed under the weight of either logic or simple surrender.
McCoy later called it underhanded manipulation (in an entirely admiring tone of voice, which was quite puzzling), but Spock preferred to think of it as selective tactical strategy.
Namely, anyone who has had an intense migraine knows that one would basically commit murder to make the pain stop.
Jim never stood a chance against his arguments – which involved a brief one-sided discussion (and a poorly-aimed boot flung at his head from the man in question) and Spock simply plunking himself down on the bed and placing both hands at the human's temples. Sensitive fingertips immediately discerned where the blood flow was restricted, causing the severe flashes of pain and nausea, and the work of a few seconds of careful manipulation began to have an immediate effect.
The captain spluttered briefly in surprise, but when the instant flood of relief from pain washed over his senses he immediately subsided, hazel eyes fluttering closed in a gesture of total surrender. Fingers still searching out the constricted blood passages across temple, forehead, sinus cavities, Spock took the opportunity to offer the human just a slight dose of healing energy, the lightest of mind-touches, and one which was no intrusion of privacy, only an extended offer of assistance should Kirk's mind recognize it and welcome it.
He should not have been surprised that the captain did, indeed, both recognize and welcome what most species would have regarded as an intrusion; and he could tell from the murmur of sheer relief singing through Kirk's skin into his fingertips that he had accomplished his dual purpose; to ease physical pain, and heal the mental.
Always ethical, however, Spock would have explained his actions more fully, had a gentle snore not startled him out of his impromptu head-massage. He stared incredulously down at the human's limp form in astonishment, marveling at the amount of trust a non-telepath possessed, to appear so vulnerable before a being who could with one well-aimed attack wreck his formidable mind.
Truly, a most remarkable of species, he mused, as he dimmed the lights once more and took his leave.
III. His Vulcan hearing
As Vulcan and not human, Spock was not one who reveled in the opportunity to partake of festivities off-ship.
In eleven years under Captain Pike, he had taken only four days of shore leave, and those had been spent attending a series of scientific lectures on experimental transwarp beaming at a nearby starbase. Since Captain Kirk's assumption of the Enterprise captaincy, Spock had been forcibly coerced into several such shore leaves, more to appease his human captain's hurt feelings at his initial rejection than out of any desire to so accompany such emotional beings in their recreational activities. Spock found himself strangely unable to deny this particular human anything, and the phenomenon would certainly bear more study.
The last such undertaking had been while they were temporarily stationed in orbit around a lush jungle planet. He had been willing enough to beam down with a Science detachment for flora categorization, but somehow that had been translated by the captain into being subjected to a rash exploration of foreign underbrush and Dr. McCoy's ill-tempered grumbling about uncategorized insectoid species, until the captain had been bitten by one such species and had to be beamed back up to Sickbay for detox.
Spock had merely shaken his head at the illogic of humans, and had continued with his Science department's studies of the native flora.
This particular instance, he was even less enamored with the idea of spending a night on this particularly revolting planet, a sordid specimen of human recreation involving far more indulgences than even his extensive mental shields could countenance. Captain Kirk had insisted upon his beaming down with their shore leave party, due to the ruler of the capital city's insistence upon their entire command chain being shown the natives' hospitality. To refuse would have been the height of offense, and he knew Kirk well enough to know the captain would never have forced him to come to such a place otherwise.
Nonetheless, he was exhausted long before the partying humans had succumbed to the night's pleasures and retired themselves. As second in command, in accordance with native custom, he shared outer chambers with Dr. McCoy and Lieutenant-Commander Scott, while the captain, also in accordance with custom, retired to his own private chamber within those rooms.
Scott had, however, retired for the night with a woman from the evening's festivities, leaving Spock alone with a slightly tipsy and more than slightly grumpy Chief Medical Officer, whose snoring was currently wreaking havoc on his acute Vulcan hearing. Captain Kirk had paused long enough to check that his First was fully functional after the draining evening, before stumbling to bed himself, alone. Whatever misgivings Spock possessed about the human's openly sensual habits, the captain steadfastly refused to entangle himself in any engagements which could prove politically disastrous, and this night was no exception. Soon, the captain's light was extinguished, fading into a soft glow, and Spock assumed he had fallen asleep along with McCoy, who was now snuffling into his pillow across the outer chamber.
Spock himself was merely drowsing, lying on his sumptuous bed, reluctantly appreciative of the fine linens and comfortable accommodations. He was trying to relegate McCoy's heavy breathing to the back of his mind, when a soft sound registered on the periphery of his consciousness.
Eyes snapping open with the instantaneous awareness of a trained Starfleet officer, he raised himself on one elbow, intent upon silencing McCoy if the human had begun the increased offense of mumbling in his sleep.
But the doctor had not moved, only his nose and closed eyes visible under a pile of silken sheets and plush blankets; the only sounds emanating from him were rather heavy breathing and the occasional creak of the bed shifting beneath him.
Another sound, a soft thud, reached his ears then, barely audible over the ridiculous cacophony being produced by this one incorrigible human, and he rose silently as a cat from his bed.
"Doctor," he whispered quietly, intent upon ascertaining the source but aware that to do so alone might be foolhardy. Perhaps he was being overly suspicious; and yet, these humans with whom he served seemed to attract trouble like a heavy gravitational force.
Perhaps he should be grateful that this particular human did not appear to be attracting such trouble at the moment, as he received only an annoyed swat of the hand and a sleepy "Go back t'bed, hobgoblin" muffled into the pillow. Were McCoy in any danger, he no doubt would simply be oblivious until attacked.
He was about to peer into the corridor outside just to satisfy his mind as to the security of their quarters, when another muffled thump broke the silence of the room, this time followed rapidly by a stifled sound from inside the captain's chamber.
A nightmare, perhaps; though he was aware from experience that the captain tended to dream silently, even in nightmares. A slight frown began to form between his furrowed brows, as he crossed the room in four long strides and opened the thin, tapestry-covered door that led to Kirk's sleeping chamber.
For only an instant, shock froze his limbs; then instinct and adrenaline took over, and he moved with a deadly, fluid grace toward the struggling figures on the bed, one of whom was the captain, who was soundlessly choking, trying desperately to wrench some sort of ligature from around his throat.
Thus distracted, Spock barely saw a second assailant leaping at him from the side, shadowed in dark robes and a hood he recognized from one of the rebel factions who had threatened to disrupt the festivities earlier in the evening, but he whirled in time to effortlessly dispatch the man by two rapid self-defense moves that hurled the would-be assassin into the closest stone wall.
The resounding crash as a candelabra fell along with him roused the physician in the outer chamber, for he heard a sudden strangled bout of swearing that indicated McCoy was alert and on his way. Spock turned his attentions to a third cloaked figure as the glint of steel suddenly flashed over his head. He knocked the dagger aside with one hand, easily dispatching the man with a nerve pinch, and then bolted for the bed, where the third assassin was still grappling with a feebly struggling James Kirk, half-tangled in the tapestry hangings around the luxurious bed.
"What the –"
From the doorway, McCoy's outraged bellow was cut off as Spock's first assailant – now clearly recovered, and obviously of greater strength than a Terran human if his recovery time were any indication – flew at him with a snarl. The physician's eyes widened and he dropped below the clawing grip, using leverage and one hooked ankle to twist the man's legs out from under him, felling him on the way with a vicious chop to the back of the neck. Spock spared only a moment of admiration for the peaceable human's expertise, for he was far more engaged in hauling Jim's assassin off the gasping captain below. He slammed the man into the wall with far more force than was truly necessary, and felt not a twinge of guilt.
Kirk began choking in great, hacking breaths behind him, coughing so painfully Spock's own diaphragm twisted deep inside him with sympathetic fury.
"Starfleet sh'kratha," the assassin hissed in his face, eyes blazing with maniacal fury. "Long live the Republic!"
Behind him, Jim choked again, a painfully small gasp of air.
"Aw, c'mon, Jim, breathe for me, will you!"
His fingers tightened around the native's throat, cutting off any further diatribe with ruthless efficiency.
"Spock, just clock him one and get your skinny backside over here!" McCoy bellowed from behind him, the sudden words the only thing which prevented his outraged blood from exacting the vengeance demanded by the Ancient Ways.
The assassin dropped to the ground a moment later, still and limp, and Spock crossed to the bed to find the physician half-cradling the captain, whose lips were only just starting to lose their hypoxic tinge.
Hazel eyes flicked to his face, still dazed but unmistakably shining in silent gratitude.
"They must've been waiting in here for Jim to get back, and we never would've known until it was too late. How on earth did you hear 'em, Spock?" McCoy asked incredulously.
"Above the painful cacophony with which your snoring vocal cords favored me tonight, Doctor, I quite frankly am myself surprised."
Jim's breathy giggle washed over him with a wave of affectionate relief, soothing the fractured tension of the last ten minutes.
"These people are trained assassins!"
"Nin-jas," Kirk managed to grind out, grimacing as the word rasped in his abused throat.
"Shush, you," the doctor muttered fondly, pressing the captain back to the pillow with a firm hand on his forehead. "Next time we do something like this I swear I'm gonna fix you up with a glorified baby monitor. Ninjas, my sainted aunt. If it wasn't them it'd be you choking to death on some alien fruit or something."
The bleary-eyed glare he received was not in the least threatening.
"Never thought I'd be grateful for those pointy ears of yours, Spock," McCoy added, grinning up at him.
"Indeed," he replied blandly. "Nor I equally grateful for your human ability to metabolize an excess of blood alcohol in so short a time span, Doctor. Truly, a skill to be lauded."
The captain gave them both an exhausted grin before his eyes fluttered closed, breathing shallowly but regularly.
"I'm gonna go call Chapel to beam down an oxygen kit," McCoy murmured, pulling the tangled blankets back up over the drowsing man. "You want to toss these three to the wolves, then?"
He did not bother to pretend incomprehension of the metaphor; it was quite apt, considering how the Security force stationed in the hall were likely to see the situation.
Truly, these humans were a most emotional species.
II. His love of fuzzy animals
It was not, by far, the strangest thing to happen aboard this ship.
It did, however, certainly bypass the usual level of interesting phenomena and elevate itself to a level all its own in fascination.
Everyone involved, it seemed, found the situation cause for great amusement. Including Dr. McCoy, who seemed no more concerned about the situation than he would had it been a discussion of the latest medical journal or something equally inane in the course of events.
To the unfortunate captain of the Enterprise, however, it was a most serious matter, and Spock actually felt a twinge of human sympathy when he was apprised of the situation after the landing party had beamed up and requested a private debriefing with him.
Spock stared at the stocky orange cat which had beamed up instead of their captain along with the much-amused landing party, and received a slitted green-eyed glare in return, along with the flexing of sharp front claws in the direction of their laughing CMO.
Obviously, though currently occupying the body of a feline, Jim was quite aware of what had happened, and was not pleased.
"Gentlemen, I presume there is an explanation for this…transformation?" Spock asked, in an endeavor to bring some semblance of professionalism to their debriefing.
"Besides the usual Jim sticking his nose and hands into something he shouldn't?" McCoy drawled from across the table. "Knew we should've brought along his Vulcan babysitter to – ow! You little monster!"
The cat had growled deep in its throat and swiped angrily at the doctor's unprotected arm.
Beside the doctor, Lieutenant Uhura stifled a laugh and instead reached out to hesitantly rub under the cat's chin. The cat purred loudly, rubbing its head against the lieutenant's arm, and stretched its back out in a gesture of luxurious relaxation.
"Oh, of course he loves you," McCoy grumbled, eyeing the swishing orange tail. "Gonna charm everyone on this ship before we figure out how to change him back."
"Doctor," Spock said reprovingly, in a desperate effort to regain control of the situation. "How, precisely, did the captain come to be in this…predicament?"
"Flirted with the wrong High Priestess," McCoy drawled, grinning. "Apparently, these people are capable of anamorphic transmutations. Handy little ability to get rid of people y'don't like, now isn't it Jim?"
Jim meowed indignantly, tail swishing.
Spock resisted the human urge to pinch his forehead in an effort to stave off the headache that was building (as well as the human urge to slam said head into the duranium table top).
"Surprisingly enough, sir," Lieutenant Uhura interjected, trying not to laugh, "the event did not break down the negotiations despite the captain's…overenthusiasm. The people of Aatonia seem to only find the situation amusing, rather than offensive. If the communications I've been receiving from the Priestess's High Council are to be believed, the effect is only temporary, and they are still interested in completing the dilithium mining contract with the Federation."
That was, at least, one less item he would have to care for.
"Then, gentlemen, I would suggest we proceed as scheduled in the negotiations. Lieutenant Uhura, perhaps it would be best if you were to assume the captain's place in a diplomatic capacity. Please assure the High Priestess that there was no offense meant by the indiscretion, and that we harbor no antipathy against their people."
"Agreed, sir." Jim meowed in protest, but was soon silenced by a tap on the nose from their Comms Chief. "None of that, now," she scolded, smiling.
The cat's green eyes crossed in shock, nose twitching.
"Doctor, I trust even with your limited capabilities you are capable of monitoring the captain's condition for potential harm?"
McCoy's lips pursed sourly. "I'm a doctor, not a cat-sitter. 'Sides, there's only one person in this room I know of who's a known sucker for fuzzy animals."
Everyone else very carefully did not look in the Vulcan's direction.
Pointed ears slowly flushed in silent mortification.
Jim growled and swiped once more at McCoy's unprotected arm and then pranced – there was no other word for it – over on padded paws to rub his head against Spock's steepled hands. Loud purring filled the briefing room, and Spock's ears turned a darker shade of green.
"Well, I'm sure, bein' of felinoid ancestry yourself, that you'll have a lot to talk about, Mr. Spock," was McCoy's parting jab, delivered over a hyena-like cackle of laughter as he followed a grinning Scotty into the corridor. Uhura winked at him and soon followed, shaking her head tolerantly at the men's antics.
The doors slid closed behind them. Spock looked down at the smug cat sitting on the table, golden head cocked to the side.
"No amount of ingratiating behavior will convince me to write the reports for this incident, Captain."
The cat head-butted him playfully, batting at his sleeve with a gentle paw and worrying a loose string out of the sleeve seam.
Spock silently sighed, and began mentally composing the reports to Starfleet.
Fortunately for him, he remained unaware that the internal room cameras had been turned on, and that the entire Medical component currently on duty in Sickbay were crowded around the monitor, watching their stern First Officer drag a piece of blue string across a briefing room table for a mischievous orange cat to joyfully pounce upon.
I. His physiology (lower body temperature) Or, the one in which cuddling is logical
Despite rumors that flew among Starfleet cadets and even crewmen, the Enterprise was not as accident-prone as many seemed to think. Granted, they had their share of weird transporter malfunctions, alien entities taking over, computers running amok, critical systems malfunctioning at the worst possible times…okay, so perhaps the rumors were slightly based in truth, but those things happened on all starships of any size.
They just seemed to happen on a more spectacular scale, on the Federation's flagship. (Part of this, it was rumored, was due to Montgomery Scott's unique methods of overhauling and jury-rigging vital systems at various times to perform the impossible; the captain always shrugged and insisted plausible deniability when this was brought up in briefings.)
And in this instance, spectacular was indeed the word for it, for as a whole the ship had never been in such unpleasant circumstances.
They had been adrift before, without engines, stranded in the middle of uncharted space. They had been flung back in time by gravity wells, been forced to slingshot around stars to even attempt to find their way home. They had been infested with tribbles, held alien energy beings aboard in the form of computer viruses, been overtaken by malevolent entities. Had the inertial dampeners damaged in a battle with the Romulans, and been forced to float about the ship for three days until the gravity was fixed. They had even been forced to ration food once, stranded far from a starbase and crawling along on impulse power only.
But never, in their five-year-mission, had they completely lost all environmental controls, ship-wide.
It had started gradually, as these things do; a noticeable drop in temperature on the Bridge had been the first indication. Close to the outer hull as she was, the Bridge often was the first indicator that something was systemically amiss aboard. In this case, it was actually Spock who gave the first indication that the temperature was below the norm.
The captain had been leaning over his First, squinting at the diagrams Spock had pulled up regarding the supernova they were currently approaching. Spock pointed out an anomaly on the diagram, not realizing Kirk was also reaching for the same sector. Their hands brushed for only a second, whereupon the captain jerked back with a sincere apology.
There had been no harm done, and Spock said as much. Kirk's eyes then narrowed, and he leaned against the console, voice pitched low enough that none of the other crew could hear.
"Your hands are like ice, Spock; is it too cold up here for you?" he asked, brows furrowed.
"The Bridge's current temperature is at this time lower than that to which I am accustomed," he replied, non-commitally.
Kirk frowned. "That's automatically regulated…sure you aren't getting sick?"
Spock refrained patiently from indulging in a human sigh. "Computer, what is the current temperature of the Bridge?"
"Working. Bridge is currently at twenty degrees Centigrade."
Kirk stared at the console, and then turned back to his chair with a commiserating pat to Spock's tense shoulder. "That's a good two degrees lower than it should be. Uhura, get me Engineering please."
Engineering was unhelpful; the Enterprise's environmental controls were slipping, and at the moment Engineer Scott could tell no one the reason. All across the ship, the temperature was dropping, slowly but steadily, enough so that some crew members were already being given permission to bunk down in the engine rooms, where the heat from the warp core and matter/antimatter drive would at least keep them from freezing to death should the temperatures drop dangerously low.
The Bridge grew steadily colder, until Kirk dismissed his alpha shift crew to put on more suitable clothing, for once disregarding regulation in favor of having his people functional. Spock returned last, looking rather miserable in several layers of thermal underclothing under a fleecy tunic in the same shade as his uniform.
Kirk took one look at him and sent him back to work in his quarters; even though Deck Five was scarcely in better shape, the cabins there at least held blankets.
Before twelve hours had passed since the detection of the problem, the ship had been put on auto-pilot and all non-essential personnel relocated for their own health to conglomerate in the warmer areas of the ship. Ship's night fell, for all but the poor Engineering staff who were working around the clock to find the glitch in the computer's environmental control programming.
Too proud to go squash into a cramped space with his lower decks crew (he did have some dignity, at least), the captain of the Enterprise sat nobly in his cabin, steadily freezing to death in heroic solitude, until a convulsive shiver finally broke his firm resolve.
Padding through the shared bathroom on triple-socked feet, he stumbled into Spock's cabin without preamble, trailing two blankets behind him like a derelict cape.
"Can your mental shields stand up to a night of shared body heat?" he demanded bluntly as soon as a dark head could be seen in the sleeping alcove.
He stopped short in surprise when the familiar head of their CMO jerked up from a medical scanner, relief flooding the physician's lined features.
"Jim, thank goodness you're here – get into that bed stat, unless you want a green-blooded icicle for a First Officer come morning!"
"Um." Despite the fact that he'd entered with that precise intention, it still seemed a bit…indecent, when phrased like that.
"Jim, for Pete's sake, he's in the first stages of hypothermia and even a Sickbay-issue thermal blanket isn't doing the job! I was about to get in there myself with him," here a shiver not related to the cold shuddered through the physician's frame, "but this is even better. He's more used to you, so it won't be as disruptive to that hibernatin' state or whatever it is he's buried his brain in. Now get, Jim."
"I'm blaming you if he doesn't like it in the morning," Kirk warned.
"Oh, whatever. He'll probably never even know we were here," McCoy muttered, throwing another thermal blanket on over his two COs after the captain's undignified scramble under the sheets.
Two hours later, Spock's temperature was still hovering dangerously low, and Jim was snoring fit to wake the dead (always did when he was cold, McCoy had learned from the times spent in a Sickbay biobed), and he himself was freezing his tail off watching over his patients.
"Aw, heck with it," he finally muttered, scrunching himself in on Spock's other side and praying fervently that Vulcans didn't roll over in their sleep, because he didn't much like the idea of being squashed by that much bone and muscle mass.
Sometime during ship's night, Scotty worked a miracle and got the heating fixed aboard ship.
Fortunately for all of them, it was their discreet Chief Engineer and not some random crewman who, somewhat worried after those hours of no communication, finally discovered the small puppy pile of commanding officers in the First Officer's cabin.
Scott hid a grin and only raised an eyebrow at the now very awake, very uncomfortable, First Officer in question.
"Ah…well, sir. Reportin' the glitch fixed now, sir," he whispered, shifting his weight to the other foot nervously under Spock's icy stare. "Anythin' else –"
"Thank you, Mr. Scott."
One of the blanket-buried lumps squirmed for a moment, and a sleep-slurred "Quit hoggin' the blankets, hobgoblin" drifted out from under the thermal covers.
Spock's eyes closed in mortification.
"Mr. Scott, you are dismissed."
"Aye, sir." The engineer grinned widely. "An' I'll be sure t'disavow any knowledge of what's gone on in here tonight, shall I?"
"Dismissed, Mr. Scott."
"Aye, Mr. Spock, soon as I check the wall controls t'make sure she's workin' all right." He moved quickly to inspect the controls, fiddled with the settings and ran a quick wiring test to ensure the glitch had been eradicated from the programming.
Satisfied, Scott then turned to report all in working order, but stopped his mouth just in time; Spock was fast asleep once more, apparently having given up trying to understand his strange predicament.
And for all his righteous indignation, it appeared that even a Vulcan understood that cuddling was logical, under certain extenuating circumstances.