Disclaimer: I do not own Star Trek or any of its characters. I'm simply writing this for fun, not profit.

"I think something's wrong with Kirk."

Spock's eyebrows arched delicately on his brow as he turned to face Lieutenant Uhura, stony-faced and serious, not a hair out of place. "That precludes the possibility for numerous answers," he responded, clipped and unkind. "To which fault are you referring to?"

"You know," Uhura said, the stiffness in her voice departing from her normal cool professionalism as she added, "You've seen him."

"So I have," Spock confirmed, turning to look at the monitors at the bridge. Most of them seemed to be intact and well, their attendants ready and already punching in numbers with the quiet certitude of experience. Were the mission not borderline psychotic, he might have described the setting as clean, calm, and clinical, perfect conditions for hunting down a singular war criminal.

Khan is no singular threat, Spock reminded himself. There were other lives at stake - hundreds on this ship alone - and they couldn't force the Kling on's hands, either. The threat of open war was too great and obvious to tread heavily. They would need stealth, speed, and competency.

Looking at the bridge, he was reassured. Meeting Nyota's - Lieutenant Uhura's - unforgiving eyes, he was not.

"See him to the medical bay. Bones wants to check him out," Uhura ordered.

One eyebrow crept slightly higher on Spock's forehead. "You overstep," he reproached, approaching the higher deck where the captain's empty seat waited. "As first officer, I yield no authority to you," he explained, tapping out one of the perfunctory launch checks for the main bridge. Not a panel out of place. Fuel tanks full, shields intact. Every manned station seemed to be duly watched, and each engine had been checked twice for efficiency. The only peculiarity aboard just so happened to be its captain.

"Spock." Something about Uhura's voice turned his head long before her hand crept into his vision, stilling his methodical survey of the ship's main wards. "Please. He's your friend, and mine."

The way that she said it . . . changed something. He closed his eyes briefly, barely a flicker of weakness before he opened them again and closed out of the main program, reverting to the locked boards as he turned to face her head on once more. "Lieutenant," he said, almost gently. And then, softening, he added, "Uhura. I will have the Captain looked at."

A flicker of a smile. "Thank you." She strode off without another word, but he could argue with fair certainty that the brush of her shoulder against his in passing was not merely accidental.

Sparing one last look at the hands on the main bridge (human vernacular; if he wasn't careful, his own bearing would mimic that of Captain Kirk's before long), Spock departed, the sliding doors shutting quickly behind him. No one dared interrupt him in this cell of silence, descending rapidly to the main bay and stepping out into the throngs of cadets running through the final launch sequences.

Admiral Marcus' orders made him more suspicious than he liked. Though he considered a certain amount of fear and uncertainty normal in any given situation, particularly volatile ones, the tense feeling in his gut was perilously close to intolerable. Open revolt would be his only resort if he lost his tenuous grip on his emotions; first officers were supposed to obey their captains at all costs, alongside the rest of the crew. Even if his instincts rebelled, then he knew that he would have to swallow the urge to commander the ship himself (mutiny would almost assuredly get him expelled from Star Fleet) and suffer it. There were always alternatives. If worse came to worst, then he would intervene before such a worst case scenario occurred.

In the midst of the frenzied start-up activity, he noticed a blur of movement out of the corner of one eye, immediately angling to the right as he saw Captain Kirk walking briskly down the hallway, almost out of sight. One scrutinizing look was all it took to determine that he was limping, right leg dragging as he hopped-walked his way down the deck. Spock kept his strides short, trailing after him stealthily and observing for the ten seconds it took to calculate that something was deeply, unpleasantly wrong with him.

"Captain," he called, halting him before one of the elevators as Kirk stiffened, turned, and offered him a hard stare. Then he smiled, but the gesture was belated, uncharacteristically so, and Spock's mouth flattened in suspicion. "Are you well?" he asked bluntly, knowing that subtlety would more likely than not be lost on him.

Kirk let out a soft, almost braying laugh as he said, "You? Concerned about my welbeing? Lighten up, Spock, we've got a whole ship to worry about." He punched the button to hail the elevator, stepping inside of it seconds before the doors closed - behind Spock.

"Though I would not presume to know the intricacies of mocking colloquialism," Spock said, very quietly, as he pressed the intercom button and stopped the cube from moving upward or downward, "I do believe that your sarcasm is a self-defense mechanism, in which case I am not only right but sorely so."

"I think the only one of us that is sore is me," Kirk said, his expression so flat and unamused that for a moment Spock might have mistaken the thinly veiled reference to his health as an unsubtle jab at his mood. He reached over to press the up button, Spock's hand reflexively blocking its path over the keyboard. "I need to get to the bridge," Kirk continued. There was steel in his voice, now, and Spock knew that if he pushed the issue, then he might not be happy with the results. Demotion. Expulsion. Unpleasant but bearable scenarios. Proceed.

"You need to rest, Captain," Spock said.

Kirk met his eyes and Spock almost moved his hand. Almost.

Then something flashed across his face - exhaustion, pain, anguish (the rapidity with which humans expressed their emotions on a second-by-second basis was too fickle to fully understand) - and he leaned back against the far wall, caged, cornered. "What do you want from me, Spock?" he asked, hoarser than before and infinitely weary.

"I want you to be a captain," Spock replied coolly, at once, dialing in a lift sequence that made something darken in Kirk's eyes before he nodded once. Spock had no doubt that he thought that they were going to the main bridge to assist with the launch sequence, his surprise showing on his face when the doors slid open to a dark, half-lit hallway.

"Lights at seventy five percent," Spock ordered quietly, placing a hand on Kirk's shoulder to steer him down the hallway.

Kirk went without a word, clearly too stunned to speak, before asking, "Where are you taking me?"

Spock didn't answer at first, leading him down the hallway and into an empty room, a blank, untouched room with a single hovercot in one corner and a large black bag next to it, dozens of cabinets worked into the fabric of the walls.

"This is the commander's chambers," Kirk mused, stepping into it and not flinching when the door slid shut behind Spock. "Come to dissect me?" he added, half-teasing, half-tired as he ran a hand against the bed. "Don't you have cushions on Vulcan?" he asked, wincing as he realized his mistake, reaching up to pinch his brow.

Spock ignored the jibe - doubtless it would only lead to more anger and frustration, unneeded animosity - before stepping towards one of the lower cabinets and unlocking it, pulling it outward and examining its contents briefly. "Since you seem cognizant I presume that your decision not to seek medical treatment is your own," Spock said, pulling out a simple scanning orb, an inch long on all sides. He approached and, when Kirk didn't shy away, held it up to his temple, looking at the first three readings and frowning.

The sensor was an imperfect device, only calculating the split second reactions of a patient's bodily readings. It was useful to take down quick statistics but could be fooled by irregular anomalies, such as breathing or heart rate. Kirk's readings were already abnormally low, almost abominably so: heart rate low, breathing low. "Perhaps I spoke too soon of cognizance," Spock remarked in a low voice, setting the sensor aside and holding out a hand, fingers extended. "May I?"

Kirk eyed him warily. "I know you've received combat training, Spock, and I'm pretty sure with your Vulcan finger trick you could have me on the floor in two seconds if you want. Have at it." He waved one hand airily.

Spock obliged, pressing his fingers gently against the sides of Kirk's face.

Intense, immediate, almost overwhelming exhaustion flooded him. He could feel his breathing laboring in his chest, his legs trembling underneath him. A creeping headache was slowly spreading from the back of his skull outward, making his entire head ache unbearably. When he pulled back, staring at Kirk blankly, he said simply, "You are unwell."

"I've undergone trauma, Spock," Kirk retorted, as though this should be the end-all argument. "I don't need to be in top form to captain my ship." He made a move toward the door and staggered, wincing slightly as he righted himself.

Spock did not move for one long moment, putting the sensor back into the drawer and pulling out a hypo instead.

"What is that?" Kirk asked warily, at once edging back so that he was against the door, ready to defend himself if need be. Spock couldn't help but be mildly impressed: the sheer depth of his stubbornness was so overwhelming as to be worthy of applause. "If that's a sedative, Spock, I swear to God - "

"We cannot launch without our captain," Spock interrupted curtly. "This is a mild energizer. It is concentrated caffeine. It will sustain you for twelve hours." Looking him over once, unhappily, he added, "If you continue to refuse to seek medical treatment, I will have no choice but to bring you to Dr. McCoy myself. Understood?"

Kirk inclined his head, once, without saying a word. Even though he flinched when Spock injected the serum, the look that he gave him as he stepped back into the elevator moments later was enough.

Thank you, Spock.

Spock remained one step behind him as he emerged on the main bridge, already barking orders, a bit more color in his cheeks. Uhura glanced at him once warily and Spock looked away, pointedly keeping his eyes from her.

A ship needs her captain, he told himself, as Kirk took to the con and sent them into warp towards their destination. What I did was logical.

Still, he couldn't help but feel wary as they took off, missing Montgomery's expertise and keeping a close eye on Kirk's erratic behavior.

Twelve hours, he thought. And then he will rest.

It had to be enough.