We materialize and Bones is already there waiting for us, shoving me hard out of the way to get to the figure lying prone on the transporter platform. They crowd around him, rolling him gently onto his back. Shouting back and forth across him, Bones snapping testily at anyone moving too slow, at those not anticipating his every need. Now at a seriously bugging-out Captain who is asking him to report, silencing me with a brief but eloquent glare.
I watch over the backs of Bones' staff as he tugs the tricorder strap out of the way to administer a hypospray, checking vitals again. He leans over and closes his mouth over the nose and mouth of the figure lying passively between his knees and blows hard, a quick shot of air, again now, harshly demanding that one of his techs provides a verbal breakdown of vitals. All I can do is watch and wait, it's totally out of my control and even the doctor seems to be running out of options as they try to revive the body beneath them. Nothing's working. Nothing. Bones straddles the body in front of him, grabs fistfuls of the uniform shirt, shaking the man like a dog with a piece of rope.
“Come on, Spock! I know it's still you in there. Breathe, dammit.”
He lets go of the shirt with one hand and slaps the man across the face hard,
“Take a breath, there's nothing stopping you. You hear me, you stubborn sonofabitch? You are going to breathe. Wake up!”
Another hard slap, I can't help but wince. Another hypospray, another and, there, the man's eyelids flutter and he coughs once, twice. Gasps for breath, again, and the tech confirms that he's stabilizing. They start to move him, and I follow, barely noticing that I'm still clutching a part of what did this to him. What I did to him.
“I am not able to ascertain its designated purpose but the data I'm receiving suggest that the artefacts are technological in nature, on a microscopic level.”
“Can you hazard a guess?”
The minutest pause before he answers, “The tricorder has not yet accumulated sufficient data -”
and I cut him off, “Relax, Spock, I was just screwing with you. But you almost had it figured out that time, right?”
“Haven't you listened to a single goddamn word I've said? His entire genetic code has been completely rewritten! Even if it is Spock, it's not our Spock. The only way we can be completely sure that he, whoever the hell he is, has any connection to Spock will be when he's ready to tell us.”
“And that will be when?”
“Your guess is as good as mine.”
“Thanks, Bones. Helpful as ever.”
“I'm sorry, I must've been out sick the day they handed out crystal balls.”
We both look down at Spock lying on the biobed in front of us, cradled in the stillness of sedation and a low-level security field. It's every bit as unsettling as it was the first time I saw him, this un-Spock. He's human, utterly human and it makes him look strangely vulnerable even though his body's still the same tautly-muscular frame it always was. But the differences are startling, his skin a pale pink as if it's never seen the sun. Dark hair like Spock's and in the same style, but with a hint of brown now and with none of that shine or smoothness. This is human hair, ruffled and coarse, disordered. His ears are just regular human ears like mine and it's the oddest sensation looking at the one turned our way, my brain struggling to fill in the missing point.
But the biggest change is in the eyebrows, which are heavy and thick, none of that abrupt flick upward, all the elegance gone. They seem to dominate his face, almost shocking in the way they sit there, brutish in comparison with those they've replaced. The other features, the nose, the high cheekbones, the mouth all make him recognizably Spock but, still, it's not Spock, not in the slightest. This face is a crude replication, a study a student might complete in trying to copy a masterpiece.
“Any news from Engineering? You'll make me a happy man if you tell me we can just beam him on down there and reverse this.”
“No, nothing so far. Scotty's tried reconstructing it all, tried every power source they could come up with. I think he's running out of ideas. We need Spock on this one. I need him awake, Bones.”
“I know my job would get a lot simpler if I had a spare Vulcan around to try a mind meld and tell me what's going on in that head of his. Lord only knows what's running through his mind right now, his hypothalamus keeps lighting up like the fourth of July. I'm keeping him sedated until I can dig a bit deeper.”
“But you'll let me know the moment he's conscious?”
“No, Jim, I was planning to just let you go hang, just for the hell of it. Will you go get some sleep? You're of no use to anyone until you do and you're beginning to piss me off. Take this, it'll knock you out for a few hours, give us all a break.”
I shake my head, “I'll try it the natural way. Thanks, Bones. Keep him safe.”
“Jim - nobody blames you. Accidents happen, Starfleet wouldn't give me this pretty blue shirt if they didn't.”
I shake my head. “Not on my watch, not to my crew. Not to him. I'll check in later.”
“And get some sleep before you start hallucinating!”
“It looks old.” My thumb finds a smooth nub almost hidden within the whorls of raised metalworking. I hardly even trace over it before I detect a barely perceptible huff of interest from my first officer. It's practically an excitable yelp on the Vulcan scale of spontaneous expression.
“Intriguing. Captain, a local power source appears to have been activated.”
I luck out, Bones is off duty so I don't have to dodge his hovering hypospray or undoubtedly belligerent opinion on how poorly I'm looking after myself at the moment. He'd be correct, my body's running on low level panic more than anything else but I can't make myself relax, not while Spock's here like this. I nod at the nurse, make my way over to his bed, get the surprise of my life when his eyes pop open and he turns his head to look in my direction.
His face contorts as if he's in pain, his back arching off the bed as he reaches out and clutches at my arm. His mouth opens with a croak and now he's babbling, it's nonsensical and I cover his hand on my arm with mine, lean across him to hold both of his arms.
“Spock, it's me. It's Jim. Do you recognize me? Spock?”
His head begins to thrash back and forth, his fingers tightening on my arm almost painfully, the displays above the biobed going nuts with all sorts of urgent-sounding beeping and chiming and flashing red lights. I can hear the nurse hailing McCoy from her station before she strides in to give me a seriously dirty look and administer a shot to Spock, which calms him in an instant, the frantic, thrashing body relaxing back to the bed. I make myself scarce before Bones gets anywhere near, dimly aware in the back of my mind that I'm now probably persona non grata in two of my own ship's departments, which is pretty nice going.
“Spock! Get out of there!”
His eyes open wide and he reaches out to me -
I wake in a cold sweat, heart pounding against my rib cage. Check the time, it's been under an hour and, for the third night in a row, I shove myself out of bed, knowing that it's no use. I'm not going to get any sleep while I have that replaying in my mind over and over again, nothing's going to help until I can start to unravel this mess. I check in with Bones who has nothing to give me other than a few pithy phrases over my lack of sleep, threatening to hunt me down with a tranquillizer if I don't sack out for the rest of the night. I cut him short, make to call on Scotty instead but think better of it. Get dressed, make my way to engineering myself. There's got to be something we're all missing. There has to be.
Purse my lips. Try again for the fifth time.
“Spock, this is the Captain.” I drum my fingers on the arm of my chair. “I give up. This is ridiculous.” I get to my feet. “Spock's still in his room?”
He's not answering his door chime either so I order a security override, murmur Mohammed, get ready to meet the mountain under my breath. There's a furnace blast of hot air as the door opens and I step inside the darkened room, immediately aware of my forehead prickling with sweat.
“Spock? Can we turn down the heat? It's hotter than a Taurasian jiggy bar in here.” I pluck at my uniform where it's already beginning to cling to me, scanning the room for him but I'm distracted by the, well, chaos is the only word for it. Furniture upended, fabric torn from the walls to join the fragments of broken artefacts and Vulcan objets d'art littering the floor. I pick my way through his quarters, stepping over food trays that appear to have been carelessly thrown down to join piles of discarded clothing. I finally discover him shivering in his bed, curled up on his side in the foetal position, covered to the tip of his nose in several blankets.
“Spock? Why haven't you been answering your hails?” The only answer I get is a slight movement, his body further tightening in on itself. “I need you to report on your condition, Bones already told me all everything he can. I know you're awake, come on. Sit up.”
I start to pull the blankets back a little and he clutches at them, eyes open now, those heavy eyebrows drawn together in consternation.
“Captain, give me – one moment.”
He slowly begins to uncurl, tucking the blankets around himself tightly. I help him swing his legs over the edge of the bed into a sitting position and the shock of it hits me once more that this is not Spock, can't possibly be Spock as his shoulders are slumped, none of that upright bearing or ramrod spine. His hair is sticking up in all different directions, his beard growing in dark against that unnervingly pink skin. This Spock is hunched over, shivering violently, eyes red-rimmed and dull, barely looking in my direction.
“You're still feeling the cold?”
“I am . . . unsure.”
“What does that mean?”
He tugs the blankets even closer around himself, takes a moment before answering.
“The sensation is familiar, one that I would describe as experiencing 'coldness', but raising the ambient temperature or employing the use of these,” he indicates the covers with a twitch of his shoulders, “does not provide the desired effect.”
“And what does the good doctor say?”
“That my body temperature is within normal parameters for an adult Human male.”
“Well, that's good. Isn't it?”
His face crumples slightly, a twist of his lips. “I remain . . . uncomfortable. Dr. McCoy is adamant that there is nothing physically at fault with me except exhaustion. I am currently at a loss to know . . . what to . . . do.“
His voice trails off and a shudder runs through him, his eyes closing tightly. When he next speaks I have to lean forward to catch it all, muttered as it is under his breath, eyes still closed, his body turning away from mine.
“It is not the cold. It is the – I find myself unable to -”
“Come on, Spock. Out with it. You can tell me.” A deep breath, as if in preparation, a pause as he collects himself with effort.
“It must have occurred to you, Captain, what effect the turmoil of Human emotions would have on a Vulcan mind. Because my mind remains as it was, Vulcan, searching for a return to the c-control I once had. To logic.” He opens his eyes and I nod to confirm that, yes, I'd thought about it.
“But you've experienced emotion before. We're both well aware of that.”
But he's looking somewhere over my shoulder and a tear spills down one cheek. He ignores it, dismisses my point with a frustrated shake of his head.
“These Human thoughts, these feelings, they are intolerable. They are anathema.” He breathes slowly, deliberately, trying to calm himself but it's clearly not working.
“I cannot stop attempting to – wanting – I cannot stop . . .”
He shakes his head, wipes shaky fingertips across his cheekbone to brush away another stray tear. There's a tension in him now, a simmering anger in his voice that perhaps explains the chaotic mess all around us.
“I am unable to control my baser urges, Captain. I am unable to meditate and find myself consumed by momentary rage, disgust with myself, with this new body. It seems so extraordinarily pungent” with a curl of his lip, “I am unable to cleanse myself to a satisfactory standard. As a Vulcan my state of cleanliness was of no primary concern – If I was unclean, I bathed. It was simple. But nothing in you, in these bodies, can be simple. It is as if I am under a constant onslaught of the senses.”
“You are. We all are. Even Vulcans are.”
“Vulcans do not respond emotionally to physiological stimuli. This body, this,” He taps his head frustratedly with one finger, “Human brain, assigns emotional responses to every activity, every bodily function. I cannot escape from it, much as I have tried. I am unable to achieve any measure of peace. I am unable to function as I once did, as I have over the span of my life to date. All I can do, it seems, is feel, and evidently to try to express those feelings: I am spouting inanities at you now and it is as if am unable to stop. It is,” he bears his teeth, almost growls it, “the purest torture.”
“Well, sure, it's not your customary reticence but, Spock, you've been traumatized. It's healthy to get it out. You're familiar with the concept of Catharsis, right? You never know, it might help.”
But he's shaking his head again,
“No, all I desire is the ability to control this new self for long enough to investigate the incident and the Aurigian technology, and to reverse its effect. But, given that I am unable to control myself long enough to even clothe myself without submitting to uncontrollable fits of rage, I fear I will be of little use in terms of discovering a means of re-transmigration.”
I sit down next to him on the bed. “We're on it, you have to trust that. We'll leave no stone unturned to get you back to the old Spock we all know and. . . respect. You must give yourself more time. We have an entire childhood to get used how our bodies function but you're having to go through it instantly, without any preparation. That'd be tough on the best of us. Look at it this way, you're at least through the infant stage. Judging from the state of your quarters, you've got to be getting close to teenagerdom.”
He doesn't answer and it seems like he's focussing on the tips of his fingers, steepled shakily in front of him. I watch him for a moment, his whole body quivering as he fights for control over his mind. I get a sudden brain wave, an idea I'm sure Bones won't approve of but I think it's one of my better ones. I jump off the bed, clap my hands together, which makes him start.
“Come on. We've got to get you out of here and out of that head of yours for awhile. Get up, we're leaving.”
“Captain, I am unsure as to whether or not I am ready to interact with the ship's crew. I would not be able to predict my responses to them.” He looks around at his torn drapes, the destruction of his personal belongings. “I am concerned for myself, and others.”
“It's okay to be nervous, Spock.”
He looks almost horrified.
“I am merely attempting to assess a potential hazard and bring it to your attention.”
“Fine, fine, you're not nervous. We'll deal with whatever if and when it arises. Now, shall we?”
He looks down at his blankets in obvious dismay. It's almost childlike.
“I am inadequately clothed if I am to leave my quarters.”
That and a quick glance at one long thigh uncovered to his hip confirm that he's either naked or as good as beneath the blankets he's so been wrapping around himself since I've been in his room. I drop into reverse, almost tripping over the broken remains of the vessel that used to hold the acrid Vulcan incense he seemed to favor.
“Oh, sure, okay, I'll let you get dressed. I'll start to pick up a little out here.”
“Captain, I am unsure – I require your advice. What should I wear? I cannot wear my uniform while I remain off active duty and my Vulcan garments seem . . . inappropriate in these circumstances.” He sounds torn, desperate. I finally understand his dilemma, why the simple act of dressing might send him into a half-naked huddle.
“It's okay, Spock, you sit there and try to, I don't know, relax. I'll find something that'll do. After that we're getting out of here, you need a change of scenery.”
I pick up a little as I wait, not wanting to disturb the remains of his more personal items but I'm happy to recycle the food trays. I turn the heat in the room down a few clicks while I'm at it after noticing both my shirt and undershirt are pretty much drenched with sweat. Maybe he's right about us being pungent. I replicate replacements and am halfway through a long glass of water when he returns, hair brushed neatly forward in his customary style, although his human hair is refusing to co-operate and is beginning to flick upwards at the crown. More control lost, I wonder how much just that one insignificant detail cost him or how long he spent trying to get it to stay put.
“I believe that I am ready, Captain.”
“Jim. I'm off-duty as of five minutes ago.”
He inclines his head,
“Jim. You made a comparison between my current situation and childhood. I hope that you do not feel that you must spend your personal time 'baby sitting' me.”
I laugh, clap him on the back.
“Wouldn't miss this for the world, buddy. Let's go.”
He quirks an eyebrow at the touch, at the endearment and it's no doubt supposed to be imbued as usual with a touch of sarcastic condescension, but with that spare, elegant brush-stroke replaced with this bushy and all too human equivalent, it's just not the same, like trying to write calligraphy with a yard brush. My heart breaks for him a little, Spock's eyebrows were his own personal semaphore.
He hesitates almost imperceptibly at the door before stepping through it, walking perhaps a touch closer to me than he would usually but otherwise, he's managed to somehow regain a modicum of the old Spock. That tightly-controlled posture, eyes focussed ahead, hands tucked neatly into the small of his back.
“You don't want to know where we're going?”
“I admit to some curiosity, but I am confident it will soon become clear. The possibilities are, after all, finite.”
“You know, you still sound like a Vulcan.”
“It is a matter that I have found surprising, Captain.”
“Jim. I appear to have retained many personal attributes . . . forgive me, it remains difficult for me to order my thoughts verbally. I have not been able to identify any obvious gaps in my knowledge or abilities, beyond the necessity of familiarizing myself with the workings of the new body and its functional capacity. Doctor McCoy had me complete various final year Academy tests while I was still in sickbay and my scores were of a similar standard to those of my original results. Much of what I was, who I was remains unchanged. It is, simply put, astonishing.”
“You didn't think a human brain could possibly retain the sum of your knowledge? You really don't think much of us, do you?”
“Perhaps Vulcans and Humans are not so dissimilar. You were already half-Human.”
“A fact of which I am aware, and for which I am grateful. If the impact of this has been so,” a slight pause and he tucks his chin into his chest a little, “difficult for me to process, think what the effect would have been had I not been accustomed to having to strive to retain my logic, my control. For one unused to such a struggle . . . I am still at a loss with how best to manage my current circumstances but at least emotion was, to a significantly lesser degree, known to me.”
It's the first time I've heard Spock, the younger Spock at least come close to acknowledging his emotional self since that day he beat the crap out of me, the first time he's been anything like as honest with me on a personal level. His habitual honesty was always startling, at times a little disturbing as I'm just not used to that level of directness. But if you asked him a direct question, especially concerning matters of emotion, he'd verbally scuttle off sideways like a crab, managing to hide behind the shield of his perfect logic and those ever-supercilious eyebrows. He's now unarmed, stripped of his usual protective armour so this is a strange, oddly-intimate exchange and we walk on in silence until we reach the turbolift. I start us off towards sickbay and he frowns as we drawn closer,
“Do we have a specific reason for visiting Sickbay? I do not feel I am in current need of Dr. McCoy's attention. I have spent a substantial amount of time in sickbay over the last eight days and he last visited my quarters eighteen hours ago.”
“You're not visiting him. I am.”
“I didn't think for a moment that you would. He's calmer now,” I nod towards Spock across the room where Nurse Chapel's checking him over, “but I'm not kidding. He's trashed the place, he couldn't even dress himself. You saw it. He needs a break, Bones.”
“Then I'll give him a sedative. Dammit Jim, I'm a doctor, not a barkeep. You don't think Spock's been through enough recently without pouring a quart of bourbon down his throat on top of it all?”
“I seem to recall that's how you deal best with stress. Just hand it over.”
“Is that an order?”
“If it needs to be.”
“Here, I can only hope you choke on it. Speaking of which, it wouldn't be responsible of me as his doctor to allow him to get inebriated at this stage of his care without medical supervision.”
“Fine. I'll ask Christine to join us.”
“Like snooky, you will. I'll be there in twenty minutes.”
Bones and I crack up, leaning into each other laughing so hard I have tears running out of my eyes and I clutch at my stomach while Scotty grins and refreshes our glasses, and it happens, right then. We all stop, pause to witness the impossible. It begins with a sudden, surprised snort, continues in a low rumble that eventually relaxes into a proper belly laugh. He's laughing so hard now I can see all his back teeth.
Looks like Scotty won the impromptu Make Spock Laugh contest Bones and I started halfway through the bourbon. This is after finagling his way into my quarters with a bottle of 50-year old Islay malt, I swear that man can detect alcohol fumes like a shark with a drop of blood in the middle of an ocean. We all stop laughing, just look at Spock, I think my mouth's hanging open but I'm too drunk to tell anymore. Him laughing, really laughing is perhaps the most bizarre thing I've ever seen and I work in outer space, I've seen some pretty weird shit in my time. He even repeats a line to himself sotto voce,
Snorts again, wipes over his face with a hand and raises his glass of malt to Scotty in toast.
“Congratulations, Mr. Scott. An engineering joke, no less. To the victor the spoils.”
They clink glasses, drink.
“And a toast to the Captain; you were correct, Jim. This,” he waves his hands around vaguely, slopping his drink, eyes slightly crossed, “is pleasing. I am finding the sensation of, how did you put it, being drunk out of my mind very tollel – tollro – agreeable.”
“Then you admit it?”
He tries to focus on me, squinting slightly, I can see it's a struggle.
“That humor is not curious, or fascinating, or intriguing, or any of those other snotty things you used to say about it. That humor is potentially,” I have to gesticulate with a finger at this point, the emphasis of which is perhaps slightly ruined by me spilling half my drink down my shirt, “one of the most important things. In the entire universe. All of it.”
“S'true.” Bones nodding sagely, hugging the bourbon bottle to his chest. “Imma doctor, I know, stuff. Very important. For health.”
Scotty starts laughing and Bones smacks his arm with the back of his hand, joins in himself with what can only be described as a chortle, which only serves to make Scotty laugh harder. Spock's shaking his head, about to disagree with me but Scotty jumps in,
“No, wait, Spock, wait a sec. I've got another one. Thissun'll have you wetting yourselves. A wee Glasgae woman goes into a butcher shop. The butcher has just came oot the freezer and is standing hands behind his back, his rear end aimed at an electric fire. The wee woman checks oot the display case then asks, 'Is that your Ayrshire bacon?'”
He waits to deliver the punchline with a grin,
“'Naw,' replies the butcher. 'It's jest ma hands'!”
I howl with laughter, collapsing against Bones again who has lost it, spluttering into his drink. It takes Spock a little longer to parse it but then he's laughing again, almost hiccuping with it, puts his face in his hands, shoulders shaking, Scotty beaming and red in the face.
It takes a few minutes for us to settle, I must be further gone than I'd noticed as it takes Scotty nudging my knee and pointing to Spock for me to realize something's up. He's still shielding his face with his hands but something's changed, his body hunched in on itself in a similar manner to how he'd been at first, since the change. We've obviously pushed him too hard and my heart sinks. Fuck. He was doing so well. I shift away from Bones, run my hand up Spock's back for a second before it's shrugged off with an agitated twitch.
“Hey. You okay?” He shakes his head, scrubs at his face with his hands. “Spock? What's the matter?”
His hands drop away and I see that he's not weeping or whatever else I may have imagined. He's angry, practically spitting with it, his body quivering.
“I am – I find this – this is insupportable. The sensation of intoxication had been quite pleasant but now I am - furious. I wish to, I want to strike something. Or someone. Repeatedly.”
We all shrink back a little, Scotty clearing his throat.
“Aye, the grain'll do that. Time to get someone to bed, lads.”
He doesn't complain, working his jaw but still almost meekly allowing Scotty and I to haul him up, swaying slightly where we're supporting him under the armpits while Bones goes on ahead to open his door. We wrestle him into bed, his eyes already closed, that weird hybrid face relaxing into sleep before Bones and Scotty have made it out the door, no doubt off to finish the rest of the Islay. I take a minute to replicate a glass of water and some crackers to leave next to his bed, something to take the edge off what no doubt's going to be a killer hangover before he can make it down to sickbay in the morning. It makes me wonder if he's even aware what a hangover is. I'm drunkenly considering leaving him a memo, the floor weaving beneath my feet when his hand comes out, clasping my lower arm, his eyes opening and fixing on mine with surprising steadiness.
“Jim. I hope I have not . . .”
I wait for a moment but there's nothing forthcoming,
“I am concerned I may have embarrassed you, and our companions this evening. I am still finding it difficult to control -”
“You didn't embarrass yourself. You just let it all hang out a little, that was the whole point.”
He soundlessly mouths the idiom in a worried fashion before understanding dawns and he smiles faintly.
“I believe I would find it distressing, to embarrass myself. In front of you.”
Then his hand slackens on my arm, his eyes rolling back in his head before they close and he comprehensively passes out. In front of me? Because I'm the Captain? Apparently he failed to notice that I'm almost as wasted as he is. I study his face, searching out the stuff that makes him Spock still, the broad, smooth forehead, that pugnacious nose, his curving upper lip over the cushiony swell of the lower.
The one sober part left in my brain points out that I'm standing over my incapacitated first officer and staring at his mouth. Scotty was right – time for bed. I only bump into two pieces of furniture on the way out and stub my toe hard on my own desk once I've kicked my boots off into random areas of the room. I fall flat face down into bed, which spins beneath me like the first day of anti-grav training for a second before blackness beckons and I join Spock in the bourbon's warm, embracing oblivion.
“You've got to be kidding, I can't do that to him.”
“It's not a decision we've taken lightly.”
“I realize that but -”
“Captain, please. Allow me to finish.”
“I'm sorry, sir, of course.”
“You must understand that we can't keep an entire starship waiting around for one person, considering this trade agreement breaking down could potentially effect billions.”
“Damn, I know, I guess if you put it that way. Is there any way to ensure we're not diverted in our return?”
“I'll do my best but, Jim, there's a limit to how long the Enterprise can remain at AH and you're fast approaching it. We'll need to transfer him to a starbase and onto a science vessel if the matter doesn't progress expeditiously. We can't have the fleet's flagship waiting on Spock.”
I pinch my eyes, try to will away the remaining hangover, the one that found me waking five minutes before I'm due on the bridge, lying a puddle of my own drool, in the center of my floor half-out of my pants, naked ass saluting the ceiling.
“Understood. It's not going to be popular, like you have no idea. At all.”
“I didn't think it would be. We're not here to be popular, Captain, you know that.”
“Man, I'm not looking forward to this.”
“C'mon Jim, it goes with that fancy chair you're so in love with.”
“It is one heck of a fly chair.”
“Absolutely, I miss it a little myself.”
“Okay, here goes. You may have a mutiny and my blood on your hands after this. So as long as you're comfortable throwing me to the ravening wolves, and with my potential demise at the hands of an angry crew . . .”
“You know, I'd mourn you but ultimately, I think I'd live through it.”
“That's pretty cold, Admiral.”
“What? What about -”
“Listen, Captain -”
“But we haven't -”
“Have you even talked to Spock about -”
I testily hold up a hand and they all stop instantly, I'm almost impressed with myself. Only Chekov's kept whatever he has to say to himself, I make a note to award him an extra merit in my next staff review.
“That is quite enough. I'll ask for comments if and when they're required.”
I decide against sharing that we'll be back in a couple of days at most as the mission's just a babysitting job that wouldn't even have come our way if we hadn't been in the same sector. Besides, half the bridge crew questioning my order like that has knocked my nose ever so slightly out of joint and I'm not in the mood to be placatory. Screw 'em. I'd also rather not have to consider how temporary our eventual return may be.
“Course plotted and laid in, sir.”
It's like everyone's eyes are boring little tiny hot holes in me. I shrug it off.
“Alrighty then. zXalyxAl Maz, warp factor five. Mr. Sulu, if you will.”
Turn in my chair to see Uhura out of the corner of my eye. She's quite unashamedly shooting eye daggers at me, her fingers drumming on the edge of the comms console. I let her stew for a few minutes before swinging around fully,
She takes a breath before answering, straightens and relaxes her fingers. It's considerate of her as her voice is calm, professional when she addresses me, and completely at odds with the flashing in her eyes that speaks of potentially permanent harm to various parts of my body.
“Captain – have you alerted Commander Spock to our departure?”
“Not yet. Actually, that's my next stop.”
She's right, I can't leave him hanging just because I'm in a temporary snit. She nods as her gaze follows me up out of my chair towards the turbolift. I turn, opening my mouth to ask Ops where Spock is when the turbolift doors open, negating the need.
“Spock? You're a mind reader, I was just coming to find you.”
A mind reader? I sense Uhura stiffen in her chair behind me and, hell, I'm with her. I'm some kind of genius, I couldn't have rammed my own idiotic foot further down my throat if I'd tried. Luckily he looks several shades too pissed to have taken in what I said. Tension is radiating off him like heat distortion, his hands clenching and unclenching rhythmically at his sides. I wave a hand at bridge security who are looking all antsy at having non-active personnel on the bridge as I don't want this to escalate any further if it can be avoided. Last thing I need is Spock in the brig, he's already on my mind enough without that particular piece of pathos weighing around my shoulders. He pushes past me onto the bridge, not even noticing security hovering behind him at a distance as he grabs the rail behind my chair, his knuckles white.
His teeth are gritted and he spits out the word, almost making me flinch.
“We'll discuss the matter off the bridge.”
“Why have we -”
“In my quarters, Spock.” I take his elbow to direct him back into the lift but he shakes me off, cheeks flushing, furious eyes almost managing to push me back a step.
“I demand to know why have we left the Aurigian system.”
“Don't make demands of me on my own bridge. You will calm down and we'll discuss it further -”
“No. We need to – This is unacceptable. This is quite unacceptable!”
“Spock, try to focus -”
“I have. No. Focus.”
“Breathe. Like Bones said, in through your nose, out through your mouth. Concentrate on your breathing.”
“I cannot concentrate. This rage, I cannot focus, why do you insist upon . . . Why are you doing this? Why are we leaving, why would you condemn me so?”
I try to keep my voice calm and low, my body language nonthreatening.
“That's a little overdramatic, Commander, considering you don't have all of the salient facts. Hardly a logical response. You still possess logic in abundance, you just have to find it, concentrate on it. Come on, Spock, you can do better than this. Find your logic.”
“There is no logic within this, this thing, this primitive shell!” He breaks away from me, beats at his chest with a closed fist like he's trying to break through his sternum to pound at his heart. Then he covers his face with his hands for a split second before he brings his fists down hard on the security station in frustration and, whereas before it would've crumpled under the force of the blow, now he lets out a whimper of pain, his knees buckling as he clutches at his right hand.
“Well, that was pretty stupid, you must've bust a few bones, I heard the crack from back here. Come on, let's get you to sickbay.”
He's blinking back tears of anger and sudden, unexpected pain, four fingers on his right hand in particular blooming an unhealthy deep red and beginning to swell alarmingly.
“No, Captain, please, let me. Here.”
Uhura almost elbows me out of the way in her hurry to get to him, still finding the time to fire a snotty look in my direction, wrapping an arm around his shoulders, cooing softly and sympathetically into his ear. Funny, I was so sure all that was over months back. At least, that's what the ship's scuttlebutt told me and, with hindsight, it's usually been pretty accurate on that sort of thing.
“Remain at your station, Lieutenant, I need to discuss the matter of our destination with the Commander anyway. I'll take him down.”
She chews on her lips for a second, pets over Spock's bowed head, smoothing out his ruffled hair.
“I'll check on you later, okay? I'm so sorry.”
I grab his armpit, haul him up and he stands slightly hunched over, cradling his hand with the other to his chest protectively. He's gone into that compliant, subdued state that he seems to switch over into after too much emotion, more than a little overwhelmed I'd guess, and allows me to start leading him back over to the turbolift. I glare around the bridge, make meaningful eyebrows and they all seem to understand my unspoken command as normal activity resumes, a low hum of conversation that I'm sure will turn to the subject of Spock's outburst the moment the lift doors close behind us.
“You do realize, of course, that if you ever speak to me like that in front of a single crew member ever again over this whole issue, you'll be lucky if I merely confine you to quarters. I should've knocked you on your ass.”
“Yes, Captain. I apologize.”
“Your behavior was -”
“My behavior was inappropriate and unwarranted.”
“Inappropriate, hell yeah. Unwarranted? Perhaps not, I'd have been pissed in your situation, I understand that. But that's no excuse, Spock, you've got to start getting some kind of a grip on this or I'm just going to get Bones to tranq you into a trouble-free coma. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes, Captain.” He hangs his head, holds his hand closer to his chest. “However, a drug-induced coma may not be such a dire punishment, compared with the alternative.”
“Seriously? Surely not. You want Bones to zonk you out? Damn, being human's not that bad, Spock. I always thought you were a little more – wait a sec.”
He looks up at me, twitches an eyebrow, a half-smile and it dawns on me.
“Ohhh, that was a joke. Of sorts. Good one.”
“No, I don't believe that it was.”
“Better than most of mine.”
He considers it briefly, purses his lips. “True.”
“Hey. The brig is still an option, mister.”
He seems to try to stretch out his fingers in his right hand but only his thumb moves and he winces deeply.
“Hurts like a bitch, I'll bet. You'll survive, I've bust myself up worse than that just taking a shower.”
“It has become clear to me over the last fifteen months is that hyperbole does not always apply to your narratives where one might assume it would.”
“Is that a compliment?”
“It is not. Captain, do you intend to discuss with me the reason behind our sudden departure?”
“Sure. Once your hand's been dealt with and you're in less pain.”
He nods, his mouth turning down, a set to his jaw. He's so much easier to read like this, his emotions and thoughts broadcast throughout every muscle and tendon in his face as he's not had the practice in hiding everything like the rest of us. I'm almost beginning to prefer it to before, when the little of what I managed to read from Spock was just guesswork and instinct. I suppose I must be lazy.
He thrusts the stimulator at Spock with some unnecessary force, pressing a hypospray into his neck with a hiss, some of the tension relaxing out of Spock's body a second later.
“Doctor, I assure you that personal injury was never my intent.”
“Intent be damned, it's your actions that count. You have to remember you're no longer covered in that inch-thick gator hide that doubles as Vulcan skin. You'll bruise like a overripe peach, just like the rest of us, so start acting like it. No more hissy fits.”
“That's enough, Bones, we all have off days. Scoot, I need to talk to your patient.”
“Scoot? You're telling your CMO to scoot. In sickbay. My sickbay.”
“Looks that way, doesn't it.”
The look he gives me promises a painful retribution in the near future but he checks over Spock's hand gently under the warm, slightly-pink light of the stimulator, gives an experimental bend to one finger, nods then folds his arms and stalks off muttering under his breath. I ignore him, lean against the end of the biobed, watching Spock as he begins to stretch his fingers out gingerly, working the whirring gadget back and forth over his hand.
“May I assume you're still curious as to the reasons behind our leaving AH?”
“Curiosity would not the primary emotion aroused by our departure, no, Captain.”
“So you don't want to know?”
He looks at me, those brown eyes infused with an intense mixture of impatience, a little remaining pain, frustration and just a touch of humor.
“I believe you have had me wait long enough to have made your point. I was in error to demand information from you in that manner, I admit it, and am sorry for it.”
“Glad to hear it. Because, if you'd kept a lid on it in the first place and allowed me to explain, I'd have been able to tell you we'll be back in a day, two at most. We just have to help settle a little trade dispute between two matriarchal cultures, and you know I'll be all on top of that one within minutes of arrival.”
“'On top of'? Am I to surmise you mean in the literal sense?”
He stretches out his fingers fully, switching off the stimulator while I blink in surprise – it's not like Spock's never expressed an opinion about me before, he used to have the very vaguely disdainful remark perfected, always the sort of thing that would've make me look like I was completely overreacting if I'd called him on it. But this is an entirely new subject.
“I'm not sure that's fair.”
“Your reputation around the Enterprise, one might say within Starfleet itself, taken in context with your course of action on the Lierdrian peacekeeping mission, to give but one example, would suggest otherwise.”
“Well well well, I never would've taken you as someone who'd listen to idle gossip.”
His eyes meet mine again, calmer, more composed now.
“It would be remiss of me as First Officer to ignore a Captain's potentially questionable conduct. I try to keep informed on what rumors circulate about any of the senior staff and would investigate more thoroughly if I believed any issue worthy of further attention.”
“And what exactly do you think happened on Lierdria Beta? What's the grapevine told you about that one?”
“I believe that your successful attempt at establishing a diplomatic relationship with and therefore placating Pah/telria may have been due in part to your forming a brief sexual liaison with her.”
“Wait, you think that I – Spock, she was, like, half a horse! Or, at least, something very similar. Why the hell would you believe something like that anyway?”
“You deny that you enjoy possessing a certain notoriety within the ship's crew? One that suggests a potential mate's quadruped nature wouldn't necessarily negate the possibility of sexual relations.”
“What? No! Where are you even getting this from? We flirted, Spock. I charmed her. I didn't - ugh. Even I have a line I won't cross.”
“Perhaps if you do not wish your crew to reach their own conclusions as to where that line lies . . .”
“I should watch making flippant comments about being on top, gotcha. Goddamn it. A fucking horse.”
He shakes his hand out one final time before fluidly pushing himself off the biobed. Seems he's getting used to the new body finally, maybe the booze did actually help go some way towards resolving that disconnect between body and mind. I give myself a mental pat on the back for being brilliant.
“I do not believe that those circulating the rumor felt it was the horse doing the fucking.”
He can't help it, he's too pleased with himself for jumping on the punchline and this broad, slightly silly grin halves his face suddenly, a low chuckle as he laughs in surprise and pleasure at his own joke.
“Nice, Spock, very nice. That's lovely, that you choose this specific topic to develop a sense of humor over. It was a little funnier than your last attempt, I'll give you that.”
I walk him back to his quarters as he pulls himself in tight again, arms folded behind his back, upright posture as I bounce a few ideas off him about the upcoming mission, reassure him further that he's still the ship's priority as far as the crew and I am concerned. He dismisses it with a brief acknowledgment and an unsubtle change of subject. We agree that he'll continue to work with Scotty on the Aurigian technology that we're currently keeping stowed behind about a million security fields until our return, at which point I'll give consent for him to revisit the surface himself, something I've been avoiding so far due to his state of mind.
We stop at his door and he gives me a brief, lobsided smile as though he can't help himself, thanks me for my patience and for accompanying him to sickbay. I decide against the discussion I'd planned, that he needs to begin spending some time considering what he'll do should the change be permanent, that we'll need to discuss his options and whether any of them involve his continued presence on board. The likely idea that they won't, that he'll be transferred in a short second if I can't fix this, condenses into a familiar hard lump deep in my gut. But his mood seems to be settling, as if he's on an upward swing now, I don't want to do anything to jeopardize that. I guess that's a good thing. I sense he might welcome some company as he hesitates in his doorway but I excuse myself, make my way back to the bridge.
“Hey, watch it, I'm eating.”
“Get a load of this, the wee lass managed it after all.”
The mess goes pin-drop silent the second after she leads him in from the door. A flush starts sweeping up his neck from the gray tunic he seems to have now adopted permanently, but he sets his jaw, refuses to look down and just strides through the mess with every bit of calm intent he always had, Uhura at his heels with a hand lingering by his upper arm. Although I doubt there's even a third class tech aboard who doesn't know the ins and outs of what happened to him, this is the first time most of them will have seen this new Spock as he's barely ventured out of his quarters since the occurrence and a buzz of whispers skitters around the room.
I nod a respectful Nice job at Uhura when she catches my eye. Her lips compress into a thin line, a tightness around her eyes but she returns it, shrugs a little, refocusing on Spock with a worried look. He's freshly shaved, his hair still brushed forward in his customary Vulcan style, perhaps regaining a little of that deep shine, I speculate internally as to whether she helped him with it but the idea of Spock sitting between the knees of a hairbrush-wielding Nyota makes my mind derail before I can examine it too closely.
I'm not sure if it's my imagination but he seems to have regained some of the muscle mass he'd lost during that first week, where he could barely seem to make his body function. Bones even had to dull his nerve responses for a couple of days after Spock had regained full consciousness just so he could get used to the different sensations involved with swallowing water, then food, coping with a different body to balance and direct, an alien nervous system that must've been disorienting, everything suddenly an unknown quantity. It's where I got the whole childhood analogy from, he was almost like a toddler for a day or two, fussy and overwrought, frustrated and unable to fully control his own movements, let alone his emotional responses. But now, he seems to be getting a little of his old intensity back, that hot, inflexibly-held dignity and bearing, the low pitch vitality that always seemed to seep out of his very pores.
“Gentlemen, if I may . . .”
He always sits with us, I'm not sure why but I think we all expected him to go sit alone with Uhura on one of the few empty tables this time. She hovers by his side as he slides into place with his tray,
“I'll just be over there.”
“Yes, thank you, Lieutenant. Your support has been invaluable.”
“Anytime, you know that.”
She waits a moment longer before giving his shoulder a light touch, shooting an impenetrable look my way and going over to sit with Sulu and Chekov. I know she blames me for what he's going through. I doubt we'll ever be exactly close but we'd reached some sort of unspoken understanding before this all happened to Spock and, now, it seems like we're back to square one. Her briefing on zXalyxAl's distinctive use of divergent intonation in its two dialects was concise and icily delivered, if flawless. I can't figure out if it'll make things better or worse if I tell her I blame myself, too. I err on the side of caution, keep it to personal log entries.
“So, I see you're not planning on testing the limits of the human gustatory cell anytime soon.”
A heavy flicker of eyebrow in response to Bones' own,
“I find the vegetable broth adequately sustaining, doctor, in addition to the nutritional supplements you have prescribed.”
“You wouldn't need them if you'd just eat a regular diet. Get some meat on you, I bet you'd like barbecue. There are few things a human male will inhale faster than a sticky barbecued rib in a dark bourbon sauce.”
Scotty and I nod our agreement enthusiastically, I even push my pasta away as now I just want a big rack of ribs, a bib, a stack of wipes and an ice cold beer.
“You are aware that I do not -”
“I know all that vegetarian bullcrap but don't you see, Spock, you're a scientist and you have the greatest opportunity in the world right in front of you, and you're determined to throw it away on broth? How many of us will ever be handed the chance to experience another body, to experience the universe through a new set of eyes, a new set of tastebuds?”
“And if the change is permanent, doctor? I will be able to record the experience at my leisure.”
“Oh, we'll have you back being a pain in the ass hobgoblin before you can blink, count on it. But, dammit man, will you forgo the chance to scrutinize how much of our internal, our spiritual lives are bound in the external, in the physical, just because you're in one almighty piss over what happened? You have a responsibility to explore this new life, this new you, perhaps even to discover where the soul exists, even, while you still have the chance . . .”
“No, captain, the doctor makes a valid argument. I am a scientist and this is, I must assume, a vanishingly rare chance to study the various effects of transmigration on the subject. I concede the point, doctor – it would be negligent of me not to commit to examining the differences between this body and that of my Vulcan self.”
I wait for Bones' reply, which will no doubt contain smart-assed fake amazement over winning a point off Spock, but it doesn't come. He's glaring at a point over Spock's head, more of a frown really, his mouth working wordlessly before he pushes himself up, almost upsetting his tray.
“Scotty, we need to -” He breaks off, narrows his eyes at Spock and I across the table from him, back to Scotty. “Can you help me with something in sickbay? One of the . . . beds has been acting screwy all damn week and your techs just don't know how to take care of them.”
“Sure, doc, just give us a wee while to finish ma -”
“Scotty, now. If you would.”
They both excuse themselves and I watch them leave, Bones' hands already beginning to illustrate what is undoubtedly some kind of masterpiece and something he'll congratulate himself over for years. Perhaps, hopefully, it's the spark of genius we need to shed some light over Spock's situation. Bones is a work of Art when he's like that, every neuron firing simultaneously with that furiously working jaw, expansive cursing and swooping brows, I'm almost sorry to see him go.
I turn back to Spock, clap him on the shoulder, grinning as he turns his head to give a slight, withering look to my hand as he customarily does. Some things never change.
“So! We need to challenge your tastebuds. What was the last thing I tried to get you to eat? There was something I ate recently that I swore made you even greener for a minute.”
“I believe that it may have been curry, Captain, but I'm not sure that -”
“Curry! Yes! Something vegetarian. Garbanzo beans and spinach! Wait here, I'll be back in a sec. This is going to be awesome, we're eating all our meals together for the rest of your humanity. I can totally help with this, I'm all about the three Fs.”
He looks weary and I'm sure I can see him mentally fighting the effort to cover his face with one hand and ignore me completely.
“Should I inquire -”
“Fighting, fucking and food, Spock, the great human triumvirate. I can get you started on one, at least. Maybe two, if you're lucky.”
That's the thing about Spock, he's too smart and it's bare nanoseconds before a catalog of appalled emotion flickers across his face along with a growing blush and I snort, leave him to it while I grab his tray and take it over to the recyclers. He's certainly more fun to tease like this. I think I'm possibly going to miss that most.
“You are absolutely determined not to have the slightest bit of fun with this, aren't you?”
He ignores me, twiddles something a microscopic amount on the tricorder, fingers flying elegantly over the personal console on his desk, making another note. I lean back, cross my ankles up on his little table, fold my arms across my chest.
“Think of all the different things you could be experimenting with right now. Think of what I'd be experimenting with, if our positions were reversed. You know I'd be trying all kinds of new crap, for giggles.”
“And what happened to chatty Spock? You were so much more talkative up till now. I liked chatty Spock.”
He gives me a long-suffering look, sets his jaw.
“I have been experiencing a certain loquaciousness. I believe it is due to becoming psi-null, as I am suddenly reliant on verbal communication in order to connect with those around me. Humans are effectively imprisoned within the fragile vessel of their skull without method or means for the more eloquent intercourse that is the meeting of minds, nor the ability to sense the discarnate presence of those in close proximity. Hence the need to reach out with the grating verbosity that is the ever-present mark of your species.”
“See? Chatty Spock, always ready with a pithy insult. I take it you're missing your telepathy? You sound pissed.”
The look he shoots me could halt even Sulu's most enthusiastic hookweed rhizome in its tracks.
“I imagine there have been studies that indicate a tendency towards periphrasis in telepathically-void cultures. I have made a note to discuss it further with Dr. McCoy.”
“I'm sure he'll look forward to it.” I lean forward, poke at his knee with a finger until I'm brushed away. “Come on, try the pizza. The Italian sausage is calling to you, you just can't hear it because you're psi-null. And the anchovies? Even replicated, they are little salty fishbombs of Heaven. There is nothing else in the entire galaxy that tastes like an anchovy half-covered with melted cheese and a glob of herby tomato sauce.”
“I am gaining experience in naming my emotional responses to external stimuli. For example, I am quite certain that the primary emotion generated by your description -”
“Let me guess: Anticipation. Enthusiasm. Eagerness?”
“Disgust. I intend to remain vegetarian.”
“Come on, you're a man now, the red blood of Neanderthals running through your veins, you at least need to gnaw on a bison leg or something. Plus I'll consider myself personally remiss if you get through this whole experience without any personal acquaintance with bacon. Oh, fuck the stew, Spock, at least try the nachos.”
A heavy eyebrow flickers in my direction but he complies, reaches out and picks out the cleanest chip in the stack. I guess the whole curry experience has made him a little gun-shy. I grab another chip, digging in to cover it liberally in black beans and guac, thrusting it under his nose.
“Trust me. I promise you'll like it.”
He hesitates, looks at my fingers with distaste for a second then obediently opens his mouth, eyes narrowed with apprehension as I shove the chip halfway in. Chews for a moment then his eyes widen slightly as the salt of the chip mixes with the deep savory flavor of the beans and the hints of chili and lime in the guac, all framed perfectly within the sublime satin creaminess of the avocado. I'm drooling on myself just with the idea of it and reach across, grab a slice of pizza and start to chow down.
“Mmrm. That's pretty good, you don't know what you're missing. I guess you could try a slice with black olives and green peppers but it just wouldn't be the same.”
“Nachos. The beans are – I am unsure as to the flavor. Perhaps . . . no, I am quite unable to tell which of the various components I am tasting at any point in time.”
He makes a note on his console and scans himself, watching with a deathly serious face as the readings pop up on his tricorder.
“That's the whole point. It's a recipe, you're supposed to taste all the ingredients as a whole. Sort of. Or something. I don't know, I can cook eggs and burn toast, that's about it. But they're all supposed to compliment each other, rather than trying to figure out what all the different stuff is.”
“Intriguing. Both the human parietal lobe and thalamus register the sensory input of taste in the same manner as that of the Vulcan brain but to a lesser degree, as expected. It is as all current research suggests but the effect on the subject is not at all as one might suppose. It is quite different. Startling so.”
“So this is you, startled?”
“If you are unable or unwilling to assist me seriously in these matters -”
“Unwad your panties, I'll be good.”
“The best I'm able to hypothesize at this time is that our understanding of the method of functionality in the central nervous system of the humanoid genus is flawed. That Vulcans operate at a higher level of sensitivity than Humans is widely accepted, and has certainly been my experience so far. However, we assume that heightened sensory perception leads in turn to a heightened sensory experience of our environment, but it is clearly not that simple. I find that the reduced amount of sensory perception allows me to experience these flavors, for example, in a wholly more satisfactory manner, much in the way the ship's default environment has become more comfortable to me as a Human than as a Vulcan.”
“So it's yummier because you're tasting it less.”
He pauses in stuffing another heavily loaded chip into his mouth.
“Quite. Very - yummy.”
Then he munches down on the chip, his eyes closing as he chews with an expression of bliss sliding into place across his face. His tongue parts his lips, searching out stray particles of flavor and I sit there, pizza forgotten, tongue almost unconsciously mirroring his own as I watch him licking his own mouth thoroughly. Talk about startling effects. He looks – I decide not to think too much about how he looks, eyes closed with pleasure, tongue slicking back and forth across his short upper lip. I swallow heavily, grateful that he keeps his quarters so much cooler now than before, cross one leg over the other to disguise a sudden hard-on and return my attention to my slice with as much determination as I can muster, doing my best to ignore the traitorous voice in the back of my mind wondering if he'd enjoy other sensory experiences more now than he did as a Vulcan.
I was totally over my Spock crush. Dammit. It was a long time leaving and an excruciating pain in the butt while it lasted, so I do not need to go developing yet another one just because he went and swapped species on me. I try to distract myself with another bite of my slice but it tastes like I'm chewing on old padd casing so I swallow, toss the remainder of the slice back to the plate in front of me. If Spock turning Human has ruined pizza for me, he's not going to be the only one feeling pissed.
“I'm with you so far but I'm not sure how this translates into -”
“If the change happened at a cellular level, it's because the entire body willed it so, that Spock's systems collaborated with whatever the Aurigian technology was triggering inside him. There's no one part of the brain or body that some sort of tech could stimulate for this effect, I'm sure of it, it would require the vast majority of a humanoid brain and bodily systems to process this level of transformation. This isn't something that was done to Spock: this was something that Spock participated in, no matter how unconsciously or unwillingly. All the whojamawhatsits on AH did was force his body to choose – hobgoblin or human. Scotty beginning to think Spock's biofeedback might be what triggered the mechanism in the first place so it's all keyed in with Spock himself.”
“This is pretty exciting, Bones. You're sure we're on the right track?”
“Oh, this dog'll hunt. We just need to get back to AH to test it out.”
“We're wrapping things up with zXalyxAl, all factions seem to be working a little more happily together, we'll be a couple of days if that. Can we run a simulation on this in the meantime?”
“There's too many factors involved. Besides, I'll need Spock dirtside to get all the Aurigian thingmajigs up and running again if Scotty's right.”
I look over his report again, smile at him, clasp a hand on his shoulder to squeeze my approval.
“Nice job, Doctor. If this runs, they'll be naming stuff after you.”
“Damn right, they should, I'm a goddamn genius.”
“Even a blind hog finds an acorn now and then. Or, so I recall somebody telling me once.”
“Sounds like a wise fellow.”
“Get Spock up here and go through it with him, and make sure you can describe his exact face the second he figures out that his body chose Human over Vulcan because I'm going to miss it. I've got to get back to zXalyxAl before they start chucking snarZxalls at each other again.”
“Trust me, you don't want to know.”
I'm halfway out the door when he calls me,
“Jim, if Scotty's right about Spock inadvertently triggering the systems . . .”
“Yeah, I caught that. Thanks, but I quit mentally flogging myself a few days back anyway.”
“Better. Gotta love command training, right?”
But we're here, finally, a celebration as we wrap things up and I feel like personally gagging each and every one of the representatives here just in case it all kicks off again. We're all walking on verbal eggshells and that's never been one of my better skills. I'm a bull in a china store at the best of times, I know that about myself and it's a personal mark of pride but it's been something of a disability through this whole thing. I'm not one of nature's born diplomats, put it that way.
“Absolutely, High Enginewoman xXalon, it has been . . .” Fuck, even the minute pause is cause for offense in this culture but better I take a moment's mental composition than the flying snarZxalls again or, infinitely worse, the wrath of Uhura, who has worked long, frustrating hours trying to beat all this stuff into my head. “It has been a privilege, a blessing and my personal honor to have been permitted involvement in, and also, of course, in our generous invitation to, the ongoing, enthralling and certainly crucial negotiations between two such grand, beautifully-developed, and historically-seated societies. I have gained insight, knowledge, experience beyond measure and, uh, a newfound respect for the design, manufacture and export of super-specialized diachronic geological technologies.”
I think I broke a sweat with all that and I long to rub a knot out of the base of my spine caused by these stupid little stools that throw everyone's posture right out of whack. She bows her head graciously on that long, skeevily-slim neck that simply does not look strong enough to bear the weight of her big, bulbous head, which reminds me of little else other than a large, ripe watermelon, green-striped and smooth. I lift my cup to toast her in reply and almost heft it through the ceiling again like I did the first day, still not used to the lower gravitational field this planet produces. Low-grav planets never fail to make you feel like a superhero, high-grav ones beating the crap out of your protesting muscles as you struggle to do more than collapse into the nearest chair. It makes me realize how weak Spock is now, how exhausting everything must seem compared to before. He must feel like he's got the personal strength of a spogfly. He hasn't even mentioned it, I'd have bitched for days. Yet again, it all comes back to him.
“Captain James Tee, I would like to present to you for your enjoyment, satisfaction, delectation and certain near-instant devotion to a local delicacy of ours, very rare, much sought-after, only prepared for, offered to and consumed by those in public office, or otherwise enjoying a public status deemed worthy and of caliber high enough, and certainly ceremonial in nature, in the offering to you, that you will mostly definitely find yourself feeling gratitude and perhaps shyness but there is no need, Captain James Tee, you may allow yourself to enjoy without prejudice or undue humility in this instance.”
I zone out approximately three words into her sentence, musing on Spock still, wondering what else he's going through that I haven't considered yet. Reach out and take one of the little pink jellied things and cram it into my mouth, chewing absently. It's sort of lemon mixed with dirt lightly misted with a hint of old fish. Not so bad, pretty bland. Not great, though. Then, oops, my lips start tingling and I know Bones is going to kick my ass all around sick bay for this one as he's told me countless times to not eat food stuffs on away missions without someone scanning them first, med staff for preference. I turn to Uhura and grab her arm but my tongue's swelling, my airway beginning to close off my more frantic grunts and I can see horror, the barely-controlled panic rising in her eyes as she grabs her communicator to order an emergency transport. My throat, eyes, skin, everything on fire and I gratefully black out as I feel a hiss of a hypospray and the transport start to kick in.
“How can you be sure his body needs the rest when you have not attempted to rouse him long enough to assess his functional wellbeing?”
“Wait a goddamn minute – you're questioning my medical expertize? There, man, there! Just check his readings, or is that not scientific enough for you, either? I never thought I'd say this but you were so much less of a pain in my ass when you were stuck in pointy-ear mode.”
“Bones . . . Bones, what. Augh. Dry throat.”
“Jim?” Hands, grabbing my shoulders. “Jim! You are – I have been so –”
They let loose and I open my eyes, see a flushing Spock pulling back from me. Wait a minute. Spock? Blushing? I blink rapidly, trying to clear my head, which is still all fuzzy, my mouth feeling like it belongs to someone else. Bones elbows Spock out the way, bending over me to check in my eyes and have a feel of glands or something, fingering my neck. I get the impression he's only halfway off giving into temptation and strangling me once and for all.
“An hors-d'oeuvre? Seriously?”
“I know, I know. I didn't want to screw up the trade agreement and she was blahing on and on about it being this huge-ass honor . . .”
“Like keeling over in anaphylaxis and convincing each side that the other had poisoned you wasn't going to put a damper on the party. This was bad, Jim, your hypersensitivity's getting worse. We're going to have to consider that gene therapy.”
“Yes. You should. You must. Why have you not?”
Spock, again, all stern and frowny, hovering slightly behind Bones.
“What's he doing here, anyway?”
“Like I've not been asking myself that since the moment we dragged you in here.”
“Did I really screw up the agreement? Tell me I didn't, God, I'm not going through all that again . . .”
“No, I think it helped, far as I understand it. According to Uhura, almost inadvertently causing the timely demise of Captain James Tee via deadly canapé has culturally embarrassed the zXalyxAlians to such a degree that they're glad to see the back of us. We're never to darken their doorstep again. We're rerouteing back to the Aurigian system, Sulu okayed it with Pike while you were out.”
“Thank fuck for that, goodbye to planet yaketty-dullsville. I think you meant to say untimely demise.”
“I know exactly what I said.”
“If I may interject: Captain, I am glad to see that you have recovered. Doctor, thank you for your . . . tolerance. I am reminded that I have an appointment with Mr. Scott, I must – I will perhaps see you for our evening meal.”
“Sure, Spock, sure. I should've escaped Bones and his nagging by then.”
He nods, once to me, again to Bones then hightails it out of sick bay as fast as I've seen him move, outside of an emergency. I look up at Bones in confusion, who just hikes an eyebrow,
“You wouldn't even believe me if I told you.”
I say it like it's a joke because that's how I am, but I was touched. I still am, probably more than I should be.
“It has been an emotionally-wearing day. My reaction to your condition was perhaps a touch over-emphasized due to that, nothing more.”
“'Histrionic and screechy' is what I heard.”
“I have yet to fully master the emotional, not to say, the hormonal turmoil that is the Human condition –”
“You and me, both.”
“If I may finish?”
“Sorry. Go ahead.”
“On overhearing a report of your medical emergency, I was already suffering a surfeit of emotionality from a conversation with Dr. McCoy concerning the possibility of re-transmigration into my former self, and therefore was ill-equipped to deal with whatever natural emotions occurred to me as your first officer and – friend, on witnessing you in a unconscious state. That I may have reacted in an inappropriately –“
“Unprofessional manner at the sight of your prone form on the biobed can be attributed directly to the fact that I am not naturally adept at dealing with the Human emotional state.”
“Aww. And here was me thinking it was because you cared.”
I was. A little. After what Bones had said about the clutching at me and the intense, aghast grimacing and fury with Bones himself for not fixing me instantly . . . He pauses in his examination via fork of the plateful of Eggplant Parmigiana I've dumped in front of him along with a steaming roll of garlic bread.
“Of course I care for your well being. It would be remiss of me as –“
“Not the 'first officer' bullshit again, please.”
“As your friend, to do otherwise, and I believe we are friends. Admittedly, this was the first instance in which I have had such an emotional response to your physical state. Given the regularity with which you put yourself at risk, I am uncertain that I would have been able to continue as your first officer and retain full mental health, had I been human all along.”
“Are you saying I'd have caused you a breakdown by now? Because you may have just stumbled onto the first thing you and Bones are able to agree on.”
“That Dr. McCoy manages to remain your closest friend while regularly treating you for various life-threatening conditions, primarily caused by your obstinate disregard for personal physical responsibility, speaks highly of his professional boundaries.”
“I'll tell him you said that.”
He nods tightly, “Please do so, if you wish.”
Purses his lips as he considers the forkful he's holding up, takes a wary sniff and reaches out to tug the tricorder an inch closer to himself, like it's his comfort blankie or something.
“Just eat the damn eggplant, quit fussing over it. I'm going to have some wine. You want some wine? It'll go with the garlic.”
“Yes, please. The events of today have left me feeling – I am unsure, but it is unsatisfactory.”
“Ah, you just want a nice little booze buzz. See? You're already getting the hang of the whole Human thing. As is a duck to water, so is a human to borderline alcoholism.”
And so here we are, his mouth smeared with garlic and red wine and I can't stop looking at it the whole time he's telling me about his mother. Two bottles in and we're both more than a little wobbly, his eyes wet but he doesn't bother to brush the tears away or be embarrassed about them. Maybe he's hasn't noticed. I force myself to stop looking at his mouth as it's just plain wrong to be thinking the stuff I'm thinking when he's opening up to me like this. He seems to have come to a natural pause, gazing off into middle distance like he's lost in a memory, a hint of a smile warming his face.
“She sounds – amazing doesn't seem quite enough. Extraordinary, maybe.”
“She was, I am only just realizing how much so. Intriguing, how a change of perspective has such far-reaching effects, I am recalling details of my past that I have formerly been ill-equipped for gaining a true, deeper understanding of. That she managed to love my father, love me, to accept a life on Vulcan at all . . . it has not been until now that I have been able to appreciate her achievement in retaining so much of herself. Vulcans are not . . . we do not mix well with other species, as a rule.”
“I can't think why.”
A twist of his lips in my direction as he scrubs a tear away with a knuckle and sniffs, drinks more from his smudgy glass. Swirling the wine within it, looking deep into the deep red, so dark it's almost purple.
“That she kept her dignity, her passions and her humor alive in such an environment, all the time carrying this overwhelming burden of emotion and feeling and – all of it, none of us could share it. We wouldn't have wanted to. We would have thought less of her if she'd tried. Even my father, during their more, hmm, intimate moments, could not have known her or understood her to the degree she'd have wished. For my own part, I simply feel that I could have – that maybe I could have been more . . .”
“Human? More like her? Sounds to me like she thought you were perfection itself. She was your mom. Moms hate the idea of anything about their kid changing.”
“Perhaps. She would have liked you. Very much.”
“I believe so. I know so.”
I finish my glass, not sure where to go with that. “Another bottle? This one's done.”
He sighs, heartfelt and long. Looks at me from beneath those heavy eyebrows whose existence still unsettle the ever-loving crap out of me after these few weeks.
“I believe that I am sufficiently inebriated at this time. I feel curiously maudlin. I was given to understand that 'getting it off one's chest' led to feelings of relief where negative emotions are concerned but I am not feeling relieved. Not at all.”
“Spock, you were talking about your mom who you're missing like crazy. You're not supposed to feel good about that. That's supposed to feel shitty. Who's been counseling you in matters of the heart, anyway?”
“Lieutenant Uhura has been good enough to monitor my wellbeing. She feels that I am unable to do it myself and has been quite clear in the matter of my supervision.”
“I can imagine.” I twirl my own wine, wincingly aware of the plaintive note of forced nonchalance in my voice when I ask,
“So, you two, you're dating again? If things broke off at all, I'd heard . . .”
“No, we are friends. Nyota ended our relationship, such as it stood, twenty three weeks ago. To the day, I believe, although my recall is not as it once was.”
“May I ask why?”
A pause as he stares at his glass. It goes on too long and I'm beginning to think he's not going to answer, that'd I've overstepped from friendly inquiry into plain old nosiness and am already forming an apology on my lips when he speaks, voice hesitant as if he's not sure about what he's saying.
“She felt I had formed, or was in the process of forming, an attraction to another crew member, one that I was unable to control. She was correct, to some extent. It was regrettable.”
“No. You? No. Get the fuck out. You cheated on Uhura? And you lived?”
“I do not cheat. Nor do I wish to pursue this topic of conversation further.”
He drains his glass, gets to his feet a little unsteadily.
“You do realize that 'Get the fuck out' wasn't an order.”
“It is late. I require more sleep.”
“Sleep's such a pain in the ass. You're happily trogging along, getting stuff done or having a good time or whatever then this little voice reminds you that you have to drop everything and go zonk out pointlessly for half a day just in order to be able to function normally. It's such an inefficient system, you must hate it. But look at it this way – at least you're not a koala.”
He stares at me, blinks his eyes once and turns away, not even bothering to follow it up. I walk him to the door,
“Okay, so you're not biting. But you have got to tell me who it was.”
“The pants you wanted to get into. I have to know. Have to.”
“No, you do not.”
“Oh, but I do. Besides, that's the buddy system. We get a little drunk together like this and you tell me stuff about who you're attracted to, then we discuss how hot that person is, which parts of her in particular you're attracted to and I offer my opinion on those parts, perhaps some others, too, then I offer to be your wingman and we figure out how to . . . make the magic happen. I can get you in there, bud.”
“Good night, Jim. It has been, as it always is, an experience.”
“Fine, okay, whatever. Hey, thanks for telling me about your mom.”
I reach out, squeeze his upper arm because, hell, I'm touchy feely and half-drunk and he has a really nice upper arm. Lightly muscled under the gray sleeping tunic that he hasn't decided on a replacement for. He looks down at my hand where I'm touching him and, if he'd still been Vulcan, I'd be thinking right now about removing my hand or possibly having it removed for me, permanently. But that's not what I'm thinking and my fingers tighten a little as his eyes trace the length of my arm from his up to my face. A very slight smile, his eyes narrowed, looking into mine and there's this moment where I'm wondering if I'm going to kiss him or if he's going to beat me to it.
But his eyes drop as he steps back from me, my hand falling from his arm as he steps out of the door.
A terse nod from him in reply and he's gone as the door slides back into place behind him.
I give up on sleep or a decent orgasm or even a little clarity, tug on a robe and start trying to get some work done instead after a good forty minutes of trying everything else. But the door chimes and, when I look up from my desk, it's him, standing in my doorway, one hand on the door frame like it's holding him up or holding him back, something. And he's looking pretty much like he has done in every single masturbatory fantasy I've ever had of him, gritted jaw, cheeks flushed and eyes all dark with out of control – it looks like arousal, I can't pretend otherwise and I honestly don't want to. He looks pissed and hot and like he's planning on doing stuff with his teeth. Holy fuck. Holy fucking hell. I get to my feet.
“Spock? What are you –“
“No.” Striding across the floor between us, hands clenched at his sides and I wonder briefly if he's planning on hitting me or something. “No talking from you. I can't stop, all the time since I left here, I haven't been able to – no. No more talk.”
Coming around from behind the desk and I meet him, right there in the middle of my quarters as his mouth goes to mine immediately, no pretense that this is anything other than, well, whatever the fuck this is. Opening my mouth for him and his tongue shoves in against mine, his hands already stripping me out of my robe, which strikes me as unfair because I'm naked now while he's clothed but then he sucks on my tongue as his hands reach down to cup my bare ass and pull me tight up against him and I cease to give a fuck about anything but his tongue in my mouth, his body hard against mine and his fingers stroking softly down my ass crack.
I tug at his pants, getting them unfastened with, frankly, impressive speed, shoving my hand inside making him grunt with surprise into the kiss and I take over, sliding my tongue past his and into his mouth to taste what I want, working my way into his underwear with my fingers to stroke a thick, heavy hard-on, feeling him shudder against me.
“Bed, Spock. Bed.”
Muttering it against his lips, his teeth which clash against mine as he bites at my mouth, his hands everywhere, stroking over my chest to pinch at my nipples, then down over my stomach as a knee pushes mine apart. Then hands again, cupping my balls, stroking, fuck, everywhere as his tongue curls its way around mine. Finally I have to shove him away with a hand at his chest,
“Spock. The bed. It's not exactly a mile away.”
His eyes, focusing now on my face, looking into his as we gaze at each other, hands occupied and I squeeze him gently, grinning as his eyes stutter closed briefly, opening again to burn their way into mine.
“Come on. Let's work expeditiously and get you naked as we go. Deal?”
One more last deep, wet kiss, then his face solemn and cheeks flushing pink as he looks at me steadily.
“You will need to let me go. I am unwilling as I am unable to make a move to the bed while you are holding onto my penis.”
I smother a laugh as a bubble of humor pushes its way up out of the heady arousal currently filling my chest, drop my hands and step a foot away. In all the times I've imagined this, it never once occurred to me how the very literal nature of Vulcan discourse might play within a sexual scenario. It's potentially a bigger turn-on than I'd have thought.
Still so serious, he reaches down, grabs the hem of his tunic and whips it up and off, over his head. I gawp like a dumbass because, goddamn, Spock has a chest of hairy awesome muscular rowrr, little flat nipples playing peekaboo at me through it all and I clear forget about the bed, step back up to him to bury my nose in the center of it all while my fingers search out his tits to pinch and twist. Biting my way across all this beautiful fuzz and satin-smooth skin and up his neck while my hands go down to start shoving his open pants down, so dizzyingly turned on by this, by Spock and his taste, his scent, but his hands cover my own.
“Jim. Wait, Jim, you were right, the bed.”
“The more logical option?”
“More comfortable than the floor is liable to be, certainly.”
“Well, then. You know the way. After you.”
So I get to check out his ass all the way through to my bed, all firm and tight as he toes out of his boots and shucks off his pants, apparently without self-consciousness, turning towards me as he kicks off his shorts, dick diamond-hard, jutting high out of a dark, tightly-curled bush. He's so fucking beautiful, breathtaking and I'm aware I'm doing it again, staring at him open-mouthed. I have no idea how similar he is like this to how he is as a Vulcan but, human and naked, turned on and perhaps even blushing a little under my scrutiny, he's a fucking work of art. I cover the space between us fast, slamming into him hard enough to lift him up off his feet and onto the bed, crawling over his body with mine, skin against skin as his fingers thread through my hair, guiding me into another kiss.
It's nothing like I imagined and everything I'd hoped. He makes the same stupid, out of control noises I'd make as I mouth my way down his body, suckle on his balls, hitching his legs wider as I nose through his pubic hair to rub my face over his dick, coating myself in his scent. He cants his body against mine, a hiss as I start to lave at his cock with my tongue, his fingers wrapping around me and I grunt around his dick as his lips close warm and wet over my cock and it's so easy, his dick fucking gently into my mouth while I rub a spit-soaked finger over his asshole and slide deeper still into the back of his waiting, moaning throat. I press down harder on him, forcing him to the back of my mouth, tonguing at his piss slit making him gasp on me then tighten his lips and I feel it start to build, a pulsing thread of heat that builds deep in my nuts and I can tell he's getting close as well, his cock drooling precum over my tongue with each deep suck.
It's not what I want, some anonymous sixty-niner no matter how beautifully he sucks dick. I pull out of his mouth frantically, grabbing at his body as I pull him up and against me, lying on my side to face him as I take his spit-slick cock in my hand and start jacking him off fast, watching his face as he bites his bottom lip hard with a muffled groan. This is what I wanted, Spock's face as he loses it, eyes closing as he gasps my name, one hand tight on my shoulder as he echoes my movements with the other, long fingers tight on my dick as I lean in for a wicked hot kiss. He tastes of me, Spock's mouth and tongue are covered in me and I curse into his mouth, so close now, stomach and legs tightening and my toes curl and my fingers, everything clenching hard as his blurred, beating hand draws me out, over from infinite hesitation into a pounding, powerful climax, face buried in his neck as I shoot hard and long over his fingers and hip. He milks me through it, the rumble of a low moan through his chest as he calls out my name, shivering beneath me with the power of it, crying out again and his cock pulses against my hand, his jizz warm and wet on my stomach, coating my hand as I keep pumping him dry.
I float back to the bed slowly as muscles begin to relax, my sticky hand gently disengaging from his softening dick with a little pat because it always feels a little impolite just to drop stick and run. My face is still in his neck, his chest billowing beneath me where he hurriedly catches his breath, skin glowing with a red sex flush and slight sheen of sweat. He smells of sex and warm, all salt and Spock, it's delicious. I rub my face further into his skin and Mmmm a little. I'm all cum-happy, relaxed and Spock's an awesome furry pillow of naked skin, one leg thrown over mine so I trail my fingertips up over the lean hair-fuzzed thigh, all the way up to let my fingers splay over the white velvet of his hip, the start of his cute little ass cheek. I could stay like this forever. Fuck the starship. Fuck the galaxy. This is good. This is the best thing ever.
I'm about to sink into my customary post-sex nap when a more alert part of my brain tells me that Spock's unnaturally still under my head. Not, like, sleep-still, more as if he's frozen in place and that can't be good. I chew on the inside of my bottom lip a second, wonder if I should ignore my instincts and go with the nap, because a post-sex nap is absolutely my favorite type of nap and one which doesn't happen nearly as often as I'd like it to. But it's Spock and, against my better judgment, I push myself up, prop up on an elbow to look down at him.
“Okay. You're clearly not dealing well with this.”
His eyes glittering and wet, full of confusion, fixed up on the ceiling somewhere like he's looking for an answer or some kind of revelation. Jaw working as he worries at his top lip with his bottom teeth, making that short upper lip curl into a perfect Cupid's bow.
“Come on, Spock. Talk to me. What's running through your mind? I can take it. Even if it's something along the lines of 'Wow, that was horrendous, Jim Kirk has lame moves, I'm so disappointed.'”
“No. No, it was nothing you did. Or didn't do.”
He tries to force a smile, eyes still fixed as if he can't bear to look at me, or can't trust himself to.
“But . . . ? Come on, you're starting to freak me out a little.”
“I'm sorry, I should have realized – this was physically very pleasurable, Jim, please believe that. If anything, the few orgasms I have experienced as a Human male have been more physically intense than those I've achieved as a Vulcan and, now, here with you, it would not be an overstatement to say that I have never felt . . .”
“You came really fucking hard. I noticed.”
It works, he blinks and smiles a little, pulling out of whatever he'd got caught up in. Strokes up my arm with his fingertips as though he can't help himself.
“Indeed. However, this was my first sexual experience as a human. It was – different to that which I am accustomed to.”
“Vulcan physiology's not so dissimilar to ours.” I color a little and hope he doesn't think to inquire how I might know that, because explaining that I'd read pretty much everything I could get my hands on after we met would be somehow way more intimate than having had his dick in my mouth. He doesn't follow it up, though, shaking his head with a touch of annoyance.
“It is not physiological sexual response that concerns me – as I have said, my climax was wholly satisfying in a purely physical sense. But, as a Vulcan, I shared myself telepathically with my mate during sexual contact. It creates a connection quite unlike . . . this was not – it reminded me of all I have lost.”
“So, you're telling me I gave you the best orgasm of your life but that the sex itself depressed the crap out of you. Ain't that dandy. Bit of a kick in the balls, I've got to be honest.”
His leg pulls away from me and he's pushing up off the bed, face set in stone as he whisks his clothes up from the floor, tugging on his pants first, one leg at a time.
“Oh, come on, Spock, I'm a little more resilient than that. I was kidding! Come back to bed. Spock, get your ass over here. I'm more than willing to make it an order . . .”
But he comes back over anyway, tugging on his shirt and wiping the uneasy smile off my face with a nuzzly, regretful kiss, then leaning his forehead against mine, a low mutter.
“This was a judgment in error. An intensely pleasurable one but, I cannot stay. This was a mistake, this will not work for me. I am sorry, Jim. I must go.”
“You don't have to go.”
But he stuffs his feet into his boots and then leaves without another word, without a backward glance, simple as that, the door closing behind him, his cum still cooling on my stomach.
I can't help thinking this all would've been easier if he'd been Vulcan all along and rejected the fuck out of my sorry ass. At least then we could've pretended like nothing happened and I could've nursed my hurt pride in private but no, life's never that simple. Spock still can't control his emotions to any meaningful degree and reacts to me like a heartsick teenager every time we're in the same room together. We seem to have quit our evening meals by mutual, unspoken consent and he looks up as I enter the mess, blushing deeply with a look of upset as he near buries himself in his meal and refuses to look my way again, not even when I mutter a low Evening everyone to his table, get nods from Uhura and Sulu, a slightly nervous smile and an answer from Chekov, then completely ignored by Spock. It's a snub I shouldn't let go.
Nothing much goes unnoticed on a little self-contained biosphere like a starship and I'm aware everyone's wondering what's happened. It's not like Spock's popular, precisely, his Vulcan self isn't exactly approachable and, as far as I know, Uhura and I are his only friends. But still, they're protective of him, curiously so. We all are, I know, I do it myself. So, again, I feel the force of several of his closest colleagues' pique directed at me. I don't know. Maybe I'm imagining it and it's my own need to punish myself for a lapse in judgment that I'm going to regret for God knows how long.
Except I don't regret it, not like I should. I wanted him so long and, yeah, it was stupid but part of me can't help wishing that it was as great for him as it was for me. It felt right. Doesn't hurt that I came so fucking intensely that I still get hard thinking about it, every time. The way he tasted, that hot, drugged light his eyes took on as they looked at my naked body. Everything, I obsess over every detail and can't stop myself. Much as I realize that it was stupid and I should've put a stop to it, knowing he's not himself and not able to deal with anything, much as I know all that – I want more. I want it again, I want him. It doesn't stop, no matter what I tell myself. So I walk away and feel his eyes on my back as I do.
Bones is sitting by himself frowning at one of a stack of padds in front of him. I slide into place opposite him,
“What in the wide world of sports have you gone and done now?”
“You noticed? I thought you were reading.”
“I think the earless, eyeless Jinoan Mung tribe noticed and they're two goddamn parsecs thattaway. What did you do? Or, should I ask, who did you do?”
“You want graphic details?”
“That's right, laugh it up because this is so goddamn hilarious. What the hell did you think you were doing? Have you no concept of how vulnerable he is right now? Christ, I know you're a horny bastard and I'm never quite sure whether to be insulted or relieved that you've never jumped on me but, honestly, Jim. This is not one of your finer moments.”
“I know. I have no excuse. Except that, strictly speaking, it was him jumping on me.”
“Not exactly, no.”
“Didn't think so. He's your first officer, Jim. Your incapacitated first officer!”
“Keep your voice down.”
“Like this delicious little tidbit hasn't already made its way down to Engineering and back by now.”
“I know. I know, I do. Question is, what do I do about it?”
“You keep it in your damn pants and hope like hell Scotty and I can make with the magic wand once we reach AH and turn him Vulcan again, then we can all get back to normal. Or whatever it is that passes for normal on this goddamn boat, anyway.”
“Keep it in my pants. Right. I can totally do that.” Out the corner of my eye, I notice Spock staring at me from under his eyebrows, eyes dark and intense for a moment before he drops his gaze and returns to his soup. That's all it takes – I have to pluck at my pants and try to create a little room.
“Nope. Could be he stays the same, could be he comes back one hundred percent Vulcan. I don't know, he could get turned into a Vermicious Knid, those Aurigian doohickies may be entirely capricious and change whatever the hell they want to on no more than a whim. This isn't exactly my area of expertise.”
“But you think nudging it in the right direction -”
I point at the medibox of hyposprays Bones has put together.
“With the replicated DNA of his former self? Might do it. As might the Vulcan shot. Hell if I know, I'm afraid this is a 'stuff a firecracker up your ass and pray it's not the fourth of July' situation.”
“Your colorful aphorism is not entirely reassuring, Doctor.”
“Spock, this thing could decide to turn you into a little pile of lightly-smoking ash, for all I know. It might behoove you to stay human.”
Spock's face flushing as he ducks his head, eyes flashing my way once, his voice dropping to a low rumble. “That is not an option I am willing to consider.”
“Didn't think so, and something tells me it's not supposed to do actual bodily harm. I've been wondering if it's actually a form of primitive genetic sequencer, one designed to fix abnormalities.”
“Hey, it might sort out my allergies.”
“Might fix your hair to look like a cat's been sucking on it, too. Do you never listen to a word I say? That thing could be dangerous, I'm not risking it just because you insist on sampling the universe via your mouth.”
Spock turns puce while I take a sudden interest in the toes of my boots. Bones looks back and forth between us, scowls. Even more.
“Oh, that's just peachy. Wonder if that Aurigian thingumy is able to wipe that mental image out of my damn head. You, go fly the ship or whatever the hell it is you actually do. Spock, we've got a meeting with Scotty.”
I watch them leave, Spock's broad shoulders hunched, his hair scruffier than it's been for a few days. It doesn't even make me think of sex, or getting him naked or everything else that's been plaguing me, running through my head like this constant porno that I can't switch off. This is worse. It makes me want to tug him to me and hold him close, thread my fingers through his scruffed-up hair and tell him it's going to be okay. Even though I know that, no matter what happens on AH, nothing's going to be okay between us again. I fucked up and I'm not sure I can see my way out of it this time.
“Chekov, report. What the hell is all that and can we get past it to dirtside?”
“Mineral storms in the ionosphere, a lot of geomagnetic discharge, Captain. Transporters would not be able to function unless activated at a mesospheric level or below.”
“Awesome. Sulu, what are the odds of a shuttle making it through?”
“Slim-to-none, sir. The level of ionic perturbations is off the chart, probably magnetospheric sprites but there's a lot of them and they're notoriously unpredictable. It could get nasty. Like, blow us out of the air nasty.”
Spock's standing to my right, arms tucked into the small of his back. He'd appeared on the bridge as we established orbit around AHIII and I didn't have the heart to order him off. I can feel the tension in him, the tight ball of hope and worry and fear that must be tying his gut in a knot in the same way it is with mine. But he's doing a great job of hiding it. Probably a better one than I am.
“I'm sorry, Spock. Looks like we're going to have to wait it out. Soris, any idea of when the storm's going to burn through?”
She looks over at Spock before back to her console and I can't blame her, I'd be nervous about manning the science station with him hovering a couple of meters away, too.
“Current indications suggest several days at least, sir. It's planet-wide, possibly a seasonal phenomenon as the planet's just entering its spring cycle.”
“Perhaps Mr. Scott will have some suggestions regarding the potential use of transporters despite the storm, Captain.”
He sounds pretty calm, considering. I'd be jumping up and down tearing my hair out if it were me.
“Go for it, talk it through with Scotty, take Chekov down with you. Report soon as you've come up with any plan of action.”
“Of course. Ensign, if you will?”
They exit the bridge, Chekov already starting to verbally throw ideas past a frowning Spock at a terrifying rate. God, that kid's creepy smart. I focus back on the storm, the thick arms of twisting, churning hundred kilometer an hour winds covering entire continents, the black circling heart of the largest one almost directly beneath us. I get Ensign Soris to launch a few sensor probes, knowing that there's not much more any of us can do but sit on our asses and wait. It doesn't feel like enough.
It doesn't even take him ten minutes. I should've known.
“Captain, I, uh. We have an unauthorized shuttlecraft launch. Bay two.”
“Spock. That fuh - Uhura, hail him. Get his ass back in here. Soris, get a hold of him.”
“He's beyond the scope of the tractor beam, Captain.”
“Shuttlecraft Moore, this is the Enterprise, come in. Shuttlecraft Moore, please confirm your status and return to the Enterprise. Come in, Shuttlecraft Moore, you are instructed to return to the Enterprise, please acknowledge.”
She takes a breath, settles herself in that regal way she has about her sometimes.
“I'm sorry, sir, he's closing me out.”
“Give me a channel.”
“Hailing frequencies open, Captain.”
“Spock? Turn around and get back in here. You're going to get yourself killed, blasted into little biddy space dust. Nothing's worth that, not even . . . Dammit, Spock. Answer me.”
“I'm sorry, sir. He's blocking our signal now.”
“Helm, keep an eye on his course best you can.” I thumb the comms control on my chair. “Mr. Scott?”
“Can I assume that you've not seen Spock in the last ten minutes?”
“Nossir, not a peep.”
“Figured as much. I need you to figure out a way to transport through all the mess down there, and I need it now.”
“Captain, Ah cannae -”
“Don't have time, Scotty, just get it done.”
“Aye sir, ah'll get back to you.”
“Do that. Kirk out.”
One last thing. I turn to security, rubbing a hand over my eyes briefly.
“Someone had better go find Chekov. He'll probably be slumped unconscious somewhere between here and shuttlebay two. Get him to sickbay, report once he's been found.”
“Yes sir, right away.”
The shuttle's well out of visual range now, plunging into the maelstrom below. I'm simultaneously furious, worried out of my mind, disappointed in myself for not realizing he was pissed enough to do something as idiotic as this and wanting to jump into a shuttle myself to go fetch him back. I'm going to kick his ass around the entire saucer section for this. Because he is going to be back. I have to think that, I have no other option. I concentrate on Uhura's voice, steady and sure even though I can see her hand shaking against her ear. Come in, Shuttlecraft Moore. Commander Spock, this is the Enterprise calling, please acknowledge.
“Captain, I think . . .”
“Yes, Soris? Report.”
“I'm not sure but I'm getting slight readings of . . . one second, I'm sorry.”
I stand, fold my arms, resist the compulsion to jiggle.
“Yes sir! It's the Moore, sir, it's on its way back out of the clouds.”
Hot, liquid relief flows down my spine until my legs get woolly and I have to sit. Have to. Which is ridiculous as he could still get blasted to kingdom come by one stray blot of superlightning. Not even his Vulcan reflexes are equipped to deal with that, let alone his sluggish Human senses, the ones he's still struggling with. No matter what a effective pilot Spock may be, he's flying on sheer dumb luck now, and I've never been much sold on the concept of luck. I'm so mad at him I could spit, my fists curled at my sides and this is one thing I can't fight my way out of. I hate him for it, viscerally, actively hate him in this instant.
“When are we likely to have visual?”
“Should be just a few seconds more, sir.”
The collective weight of our focus, everyone on the bridge watching the viewscreen intently, barely breathing.
“Mr. Scott. Tell me you've got something for me.”
“Ah've got a theory, Captain, nothing more. If we can wait till Chekov's awake to check over my equations . . .”
“No time, Scotty. Meet me in transporter room 1.”
“Security, you're with me. Mr. Sulu, you have the bridge. Alert me soon as we've got visual confirmation of the shuttle's location.”
I'm shaking with barely repressed fury, every step towards the transporter room building it higher and higher and I don't bother to try to breathe it out. Fuck him. He deserves this, every bit of it. Everything blurs past me as my heart pounds in my chest and my breath echoes around my body, in my ears, too loud. Soris's confirmation via comm that they can see him in the little shuttle that's about as much protection from a lightning hit as a pair of copper-lined pants, that he's up there on the viewscreen, bounced around by impossible winds and turbulence. The probe picks up the shuttle's co-ordinates time and time again as he's buffeted about, readings going screwy and unreliable each time there's another burst of electrical discharge across the storm's boiling clouds. I watch a drop of sweat break out on Scotty's brow as he pinpoints Spock once more, only to have him slide out of his fingers like so much dry sand. So angry now, my shirt's sticking to me and I have a sour taste in the back of my mouth, thickening my breath until my own voice muddies, hoarsely giving the order to energize immediately that Scotty yelps triumphantly, Gotcha!
White light, circling endlessly and I can't breathe until it begins to solidify. It's him, the height's there, the breadth of shoulder and tight little hips, but I can't – I don't know who it is, yet. Then the lights of the transporter pad catch on gleaming, shining hair, down further, forming the curved profile of an elegantly pointed ear. Damn him. He did it. His eyes, dark and knowing and utterly blank. I look into Spock's eyes as the rest of him comes into being and realize that I'm in dangerous territory here. I'm feeling too damn much and all of it is focused on him.
“Escort Commander Spock to the brig.”
I can't look at him as he stands in front of me.
“Of course, Captain. I expected no less.”
Allows himself to be led away by Security. I remember somehow to pat Scotty on the back and congratulate him, and the words taste like dust in the back of my mouth.
“Captain.” He inclines his head once.
“Don't fucking bow to me. Explain yourself. Tell me why the hell you didn't discuss that little jaunt with me first?”
“Because you would have said no.”
“You're damn right, I would've.”
“I apologize for my actions and will, of course, submit to whatever line Starfleet decides to take in terms of my discipline.”
“You're booted. You know it.”
“If regulations are followed to the letter, I do not doubt it.”
“You should have talked to me about it. Perhaps I could've -”
His head tilts almost imperceptibly, his face like it's carved out of marble. I'd forgotten how beautiful he is like this, the peerless, sublime lines of his face, the spare elegance of his expression. I want him so bad right now I have to curl my hands around the seat of my chair to stop myself reaching out.
“I did not wish to put you in the situation of having to make a problematic choice. Your position as my commanding officer -”
“It's my job to make tough decisions.”
“And you would have turned down my request as being too high risk.”
“I would've, yes. You couldn't just have waited a couple of days, Spock? Two days and all this could've been avoided.” Two days and you wouldn't have risked your entire career and we wouldn't be losing you.
“With hindsight, I concur. It was highly illogical of me to risk my life rather than submit to an interval of what, in context, should not have been an unacceptable duration. However, I do not have to remind you that I was not thinking logically. I was – feeling that the situation was intolerable and needed immediate correction. Therefore, two days was too long a time to wait, given the alternative.”
“The situation. Your humanity? It had got so bad you were willing to risk your life to end it? Really, Spock? That surprises me, it does. I never took you for a quitter.”
For the first time, I've shaken him. I can only tell by the way his eyes shift a millimeter from mine, a slow blink.
“I was in pain. I am not able to remember the finer details but something that I do recall with startling clarity is that I was experiencing overwhelming mental pain. I was ill-prepared to manage it, and unable to control my emotions. I had to stop it. It was very clear, at the time. Less so, now. I do not believe that I have the emotional eloquence to describe what drove me to take such a risk but I must emphasize, it was a risk I deemed valid.”
“Oh, Spock. I wish I'd . . . I'm sorry.”
The fight pours out of me. This was on my head, all of it. I slept with him because I'm so out of control in lust with him, and freaked him out so bad he flew through a fucking mineral storm to get away from everything I made him feel. I did this. I fucked up worse than I thought. I broke one of my only friends.
“You do not need to apologize. The fault does not lie with you. It was my decision and I am sorry for causing any additional work for the ship's crew.”
“Hmm. Well. So you're back to your old self. Does it feel good?”
“It does not feel of anything much in particular, Captain. Which is, in itself, satisfactory.”
“You look like shit warmed over.”
“Thanks, Admiral, you really know how to turn a guy's head with that silver tongue of yours.”
“Hey, I'm goddamn charming. Listen, take a break until we get back to you on this. Let Spock out of the brig, he's got what he wanted, he's not going to be any more trouble now. Crew members in the brig are good for nobody.”
“Tell me about it.”
“You're too involved in this, Jim. You need to step back.”
“Yeah. I know.”
“What if Spock's not booted? It could happen, you have to admit there were some serious mitigating circumstances in play, he could potentially retain his full commission. Am I going to have to transfer him anyway?”
“I'm not entirely certain what it is you're asking.”
“Sure you are.”
Am I? I don't know. All I'm certain of is that I ache all over like I've been going through third year combat training all over again and that my head is buzzing with too many thoughts to categorize into any order whatsoever. I inform the bridge I'm off duty, check everything's okay. Comm down to the brig, instruct them to let Spock out on inactive duty, have him report back to them every eight hours until we've got more of an idea what Starfleet are planning to do with him. I hardly dare hope that this might just get swept under that big, galaxy-sized rug Starfleet has for stuff like this. The stuff that no regulation manual's ever going to be able to cover, instead stamping it with a big weird-shittery label and archiving it where nobody's going to look. Maybe Pike's right, maybe Spock's going nowhere in a hurry. I can't tell if I'm want that or not. I go stand under a shower for ten minutes, let the sonics beat some of the stress out of my muscles, the fuzz out of my head. Then fall into bed and dream of a laughing Vulcan Spock whose eyes turn the color of a bruise as he wraps arms of churning cloud around me.
“No, you did not. May I come in?”
“Huh. I meant to. I was tired.”
“As you have not, if I may be permitted -”
“Sure, Spock. Come on in.”
He halts in the middle of the room while I throw myself back into my desk chair. Stands there, looking around as if he's never been in here before.
“Relax. Sit down. No, sit, don't perch.”
It's that way he always looks like he's sitting on a throne. I'm staring at him, doing the same thing that I did when I was still getting used to Human Spock, trying to fill in the blanks. The slight scruffiness of his hair, now back in that glossy cap that dares not quirk a stray hair in a single rebellious direction. The fuzzed jaw, gone. The constantly changing, emotional mouth now immobile, beautifully rendered in subtle shades. Perhaps most of all, the eyebrows, how stupid am I that I miss those great, ridiculous hairy things. He's so unapproachably flawless like this. Perfection, completely exquisite and so far out of my reach that I remember now why the crush I'd had on him was such a fucking nightmare while it lasted. Realize that whatever's going on with me now, it's worse than a crush. The impulse to touch him is almost unbearable.
“What are you here for?”
His eyes burn into mine, totally relentless, utterly still.
“I am concerned that it would be a mistake for us not to discuss the intimacy we shared two nights ago. I am uncertain if you wish to pursue a sexual relationship with me now that I am returned to my former self and require some clarity on whether or not I am to acknowledge how our relationship may, or may not, have changed. We have, I believe the term is unfinished business, do we not?”
Shit. Way to knock the breath out of my lungs. I gape at him, lost for words.
“Uh. You mean, you want . . . ?”
“I am aware that my response to our sexual activity may have caused you some emotional discomfort. That I was unable to conclude our intimacy to a mutually beneficial . . .”
His voice trails off, his eyes dropping to look at his hands, the mask of perfection shifting. His voice lower.
“I regret that I may have inadvertently hurt you, above all people. You are my friend and I do not have friends. You have come to hold a level of significance in my life and I would welcome the opportunity for more, should you reciprocate my feelings on the matter.”
“Your feelings? Not very Vulcan of you.”
Fuck my smart mouth. His eyes shift downwards further still before he pushes himself to his feet, lithe and controlled as he ever was.
“I see that I am mistaken in my belief that we might have a consequential discussion. I will not speak of our intimacy again unless you prompt me to do otherwise.”
“I see no benefit in continuing with this conversation. Such as it is.”
It takes my hand on his arm to halt his exit out the door.
“Please. You caught me off-guard, that's all.” Let myself take his other arm, turning him towards me. The solidity of this new body, such depth of mass in the lean muscle that I realize means he's letting me pull him my way, that I could no sooner force him to face me than I could bump-start the Enterprise. “I do . . . reciprocate. Spock, I want you.”
“Do you?” Like we're discussing my opinion on a potential improvement to the duty roster, eyes steady on mine, giving nothing away.
“Yeah. I do.” Time to do what I do best, jump into it without thinking because, fuck it, thinking's not doing so great for me so far. I step into his body, slide my hands up his arms to his neck. Rub my thumbs along his jaw and, still, nothing, just that serene, unchanging face watching me. Lean in and brush my mouth against his, barely a touch. His eyes don't close, but neither do mine. Kiss him again, press my chest against his and open his mouth with mine and he allows it, there, his eyes drooping shut as my tongue strokes over his. I close my own, thrust deeper into his mouth and his control finally crumbles.
It's as sudden as it is unexpected, his hands at my hips pulling me closer into his body as his mouth opens wider against mine with a gust of hot breath. I moan into it as he takes over the kiss, hands in his hair that sinks, heavy and soft, between my fingers and his hands cup my ass, lifting me against him as his tongue pushes into my mouth. God, this is . . . inevitable, somehow. I feel almost drugged, tug at his hair as I suck his tongue deeper against mine, the taste of him, Spock's heat and strength. It flares between us, and there's so much the same about him, as much as there is different. His scent, heady and warm, the feel of his dick, thick and heavy in his pants thrusting against mine. I grunt into the kiss, pull out of it, wanting to look at him, to witness his perfection covered in disarray.
His mouth, messy and wet, eyes almost black, narrowed and fixed on me through a veil of inch long black eyelashes. He looks hungry, almost fierce and that's enough, more than enough. I shove my face into his neck to lick and suck, tugging at his tunic until he moves away to pull it up and over his head.
“Oh, thank fuck. Thank fuck for this, I would've really missed this.”
Nose in his chest, all that beautiful fuzz still there and his hands find my head, cup my jaw as I nuzzle my way across to lick heavily over a taut little nipple. I work on his pants, the fastening with one hand, reaching down further to rub over the hard length of his dick and he spits out my name like a curse word, tugging me up from his chest to shove his tongue down my throat while we wrestle our way out of our remaining clothes. I'm so turned on I ache with it, pulling him down to the floor on top of me, marveling at the sheer weight of his long, lean frame. As he covers me, my legs wrapping around his, touching him nakedly from shoulder to hip and suddenly there it is, a sense of Spock skittering around the edges of my consciousness like an itch I have no way of scratching. More, I moan it into his shoulder, reaching down to take his dick in my hand, hoping like hell he'll understand.
His mouth, his sharp white teeth nipping at my chin, along my jaw to my ear. A low, husked murmur,
“Are you aware of what it is that you are asking?”
All I can do is nod, hiss as I squeeze his cock against my own and feel a hot, wet drop of his arousal land on my stomach as his hips rock against mine, his fevered breath sparking nerve endings like a shower of embers down my neck and across my chest, adding to the insistent throb deep in my nuts that tells me I'm likely to last for an embarrassingly short time. I'm already close and we've barely started.
“Come on Spock, do it. I want it, fuck, I do.” I'm practically whining, I've never been this turned on, this desperate for something. I want him in me. His hand ghosting over my face as I rub my mouth in the palm of his hand. But then his fingers spread to span my face and I'm falling into him, into a storm cloud of arousal heat want need desire, oh fuck, this fierce, passionate need that's pouring out of Spock and into me until a building, burning fire of possession and hunger sends my skin up in flames. Holy shit. I feel him everywhere, his dick thrusting against mine as our precum mingles to coat us both, the touch of his skin against mine, his hand cradling my face, the brush of his chest hair as his body moves above my own, my legs spread wide as I fuck up into my hand against him. His scent and heat all around me and his mind, God, Spock's in my head and I could never have guessed at everything that lies behind that inscrutable, impassive gaze of his, the depth of emotion, all of it focused on me. It's too big to put a name to.
He stiffens above me, his rhythm faltering as he pushes further into my mind, laying me open as I start to feel it coming on me, that buzzing slow build in my muscles as they tighten everywhere, everything in me reaching out and he's steady as a rock, his mind and his body my anchor as I start to lose it more comprehensively than I thought possible. One last desperate gasp of breath as he moves deeper still, sliding into somewhere that lays it all out clear for me, for us both, that I'm hopelessly, entirely in love with him and I'm crucified, helpless, shooting between our bodies, long and hard as I roar into his hand, feeling his inhumanly hot cum striping my stomach barely a second later as he climaxes with a long, building growl. I feel it pound through me, a hot, heavy wave that pulses through every last atom in my body, every last corner of my mind. Everything that I was before now is gone. It's like nothing even existed before this moment.
Am I dead? Fucking hell. I came so hard I think I died. Did I pass out? A hot puff of air against my neck, the closest thing I've experienced to a Vulcan laugh as a featherlight blanket of indulgent humor settles around me. Oh, yeah. I've got company in here. Hi.
“You are in love with me.”
“Fuck. Don't spoil it all now, I'm busy afterglowing my balls off here.”
“May I presume that this means I am welcome to seek a lasting romantic partnership with you?”
The meld slipping away as he caresses my face gently before drawing his fingertips down my neck, along my collarbone to trace the length of my arm, finally sliding two fingers against mine, lifting them slightly.
“Spock, as long as you shut the fuck up and let me have my sex nap this time, you can do whatever the hell you want.”
Chapter 5: Epilogue
The ensign minding the transporter console looks up nervously to check whether or not I'm talking to him. I'm not. Spock carries on gazing placidly in the direction of the transporter pad.
“I said quit it.”
“Captain, I assure you -”
“Vulcans do not smirk.”
The ensign, still looking our way, colors, buries his head back in his preparations. I fold my arms, turn to give Spock my full scrutiny. He tilts his head my way, one brow very slightly raised, an expression of bland inquiry in place. But, as I stare at him on and on, refusing to capitulate . . . the corner of his mouth curves the most minuscule amount.
“There! I knew it. Smirking. Cut it out.”
He continues to look at me for a scant moment before quirking the eyebrow a shade higher and turning back to the transporter.
"I shall endeavor to do so."
And I know it, he's thinking about it, smirking over it and it's making me think about it, too. Not even forty minutes ago, breathing a hot cloud against my ear as I gasp and moan under him, pants around my ankles while Spock holds me down with that impossible, inhuman strength of his, fucking me into the table with the punishing rhythm of an impeller pump until I come so hard it takes a further five minutes after he withdraws for my butt to quit squeezing in on itself. So now I'm deep into hard-on avoidance because I really don't want to have to welcome his father aboard the Enterprise while I've got an erection the size of the port nacelle tenting out my uniform pants. Nothing's working, my asshole clenching in memory and in the hope it's getting more of the same treatment later on and I'm achingly hard just because Spock won't stop not-smirking.
I don't want to welcome Spock's father on board, period. Nice co-incidence, that the Ambassador needs transport and ambassadorial support for talks on Gamma Cephei Three the second the Enterprise is in the general vicinity of Earth and, conveniently, headed over towards that sector. The orders for which just so happen to come through a few short days after Spock tells his dad about us. Nosy old bastard's coming on board to check me out. I don't do well with meeting parents. Not least to say, last time I saw Sarek, his son was busy beating the fucking crap out of me after I said shitty stuff about his feelings over his dead mom. Sarek's dead wife. Excellent, another high point in my life coming back around to bite me in the ass.
Odd that this should've been the one point of contention between Spock and I. I always thought Starfleet personnel having on-board relationships must be in-fucking-sane. Let alone those people who date inside their own section. The idea of spending twenty-four hours a day every single day with a person, potentially for years and years and years, the same conversations aimed at the same face . . . or worse, after the break up and they just won't go away, there when you work, there when you eat, there again when you wake up and drag yourself back to your station, knowing their eyes will find you out across the room, hating you infinitely until by degrees you lose your mind and want to leap out the nearest evac tube into welcome oblivion.
But seeing him on the job is somehow okay, and the break up never came, the book Scotty's running that I'm not supposed to know about offering more and more desperate odds to keep the crew involved as people seem to realize we're actually pretty compatible. On the bridge, he's work-Spock. Gorgeous, hot, edible work-Spock whose ass I never fail to check out thoroughly every time he bends over the science station, but work-Spock all the same, a distance to him that we both maintain. Off-duty, in my quarters that we pretty much share now, he's relaxed, tactile, my-Spock. I'm with him perhaps twenty-two out of every twenty-four hours, basically whenever he's not in his quarters meditating, and that we are together so constantly has yet to be anything other than totally awesome. I can't get enough of him, not ever. It shows no signs of wearing off and that surprises the fuck out of me.
But, man, this whole Sarek thing. The closest we've ever come to a proper, couples-type argument has been over this whole Sarek thing. Which isn't very close as Spock's not much of a one for petty arguments, but it's caused tension and I'm not comfortable with weird couples tension stuff.
“Unbeknownst to my father, you are a member of his house now. It is disrespectful of me and, by extension, you, that we do not share the occasion of our bond with him.”
“I don't see the big deal. Why does he even have to know? It's not like I'm rushing to tell my mom. If ever.”
“I do not believe that five months of our being in an intimate relationship would qualify as 'a rush' within any reasonable scale of measure. In addition, I harbor no illusions that my father will not be informed of our bond now that Starfleet is aware of it.”
“Chris guessed, that's totally not my fault.”
“I am uncertain if or why you feel we should hide the nature of our relationship, especially in light of the fact that it is common knowledge on-board the Enterprise. However, if you do not wish to hide, there is no issue at hand. There is no fault to assign where no problem exists.”
“It's not that I want to hide, exactly. I just – I want some private stuff, a little space, just us.”
“I can assure you with absolute certainty that my father will have no desire to encroach on our privacy. I will inform him this evening unless you are able to provide me with some reason I can begin to understand as another other than pointless procrastination. Jim - ”
The closest he ever comes to a pet name for me. It sounds like an endearment, every time he says it with that softening of his eyes, the one I'm sure I'm not imagining. His fingertip touching mine across the chess board between us, the low hum of his reassurance through my mind.
“It would be illogical of him to fail to recognize the compatibility of our natures that led to our bond, and my father's logic is impeccable. You do not need to fear his disapproval.”
I nod my consent to the ensign when he confirms Sarek's ready to embark, feel Spock straighten tighter, even more upright on what must be an atomic level because he was already as rigidly held in that ramrod pose as I've ever seen him. The swirling lights begin to coalesce into the forms of Sarek and his assistant and then, there he is. Glaring at me. Motherfucker is totally glaring at me. At least it makes Captain Happy wilt so thoroughly that I'm not sure he's ever coming back out again.
“Ambassador, welcome aboard the Enterprise. We're honored by your presence on board, and to provide your transport to Gamma Cephei in addition to whatever support we are able to contribute towards success of the peace talks on Three.”
Polite. Respectful. Keeping my distance and not offering any physical greeting such as a handshake. A flawless Vulcan salute. Fucking nailed it. He looks at me like I'm something scraped off the hull. Salutes me in return,
“Thank you, Captain Kirk. I come to serve.”
“Your service honors us.”
He nods his head curtly.
“Of course, the opportunity to spend some time aboard Starfleet's flagship, and with my son and his bondmate, is a welcome one. I am grateful that you have made the Enterprise available to my purpose in this matter.”
I blush like a teenager at the word bondmate as if he's caught me with my hand down Spock's pants or something.
“Not at all. Happy to, uh. Assist. Although traditionally the Captain should accompany you to your quarters, I thought that perhaps you would prefer Spock to show you the way?”
“I am sure my son has duties to attend to.”
“Not at all, Father, I have cleared my duty schedule in preparation for your arrival.”
A Vulcan salute from Spock, efficiently returned.
“An unnecessary action, a reunion could have waited until your shift pattern allowed.”
Spock blinks twice in a row. That's not a happy Spock. I suppress the urge to touch his elbow in support.
“The fact remains that I have no pressing duties at this time and am therefore able to show you to your ambassadorial quarters.”
“If you will come with me . . .”
It's not like I expected them to throw themselves into each other's arms for a teary embrace or anything but something tells me that was a pretty cold greeting even as far as Vulcan manners go. I chicken out of it all, excuse myself on the grounds that I'm needed on the bridge, which is total bullshit as there's nothing happening up there and I should really stick to the Ambassador's side for a few hours, at least as far as protocol goes. Spock looks at me as I leave him with an apologetic smile. I don't even get an eyebrow quirk back. Not a happy Spock at all.
“The homosexual nature of my relationship with Jim does not negate the possibility of future offspring.”
“Indeed.” In this instance, No shit, son. One thing about having Sarek here, I'm getting better with my translation skills. “However, that you have chosen to remain in Starfleet and bond with a fellow crew member would appear to indicate that your near-future plans do not include the possibility of settling on New Vulcan with a Vulcan bondmate to assist with the rebuilding of our species. I asked you once which destiny you would decide upon – am I correct in my assumption that this is the path you have chosen? Here, with this man?”
His knee presses lightly against mine under the table, an illogical gesture that I doubt means much to him but he does it for me and I hide a sudden grin in my napkin.
“Then I must remind you – your genetic legacy is significant to the archive's future success due to the severely depleted nature of the Vulcan species' genetic diversity, regardless to how you may choose to procreate with your current bondmate.”
Wait a second now. Current? Way to be a jerk about the whole aging thing.
“There are many on New Vulcan who would disagree about my inherent genetic value, due to my dual heritage.”
“You may find that number greatly diminished, in that there are fewer Vulcans alive to retain old prejudices. Baseless discrimination has rather less breathing space on New Vulcan than on our last home. Captain, I am led to believe that you hold an unusual amount of confidence in your opinions, for one so young. Do you not have your own view to contribute to conversation? You did seem to be attempting, in your fashion, to generate social discourse during the earlier stages of our meal.”
I don't bother to hide my smile this time. If he's going to out and out be an asshole, I'm suddenly way more comfortable.
“Please, call me Jim, I'm off duty.”
“Jim.” Like I've waved a freshly-laid shit under his nose.
“Yep. That's my name, don't wear it out.” He looks momentarily confused so I take the opportunity to plow right on. “Sure, Spock should totally donate his spunk. That's some quality jizz he's got. I mean it. Kudos, babe.”
Spock closes his eyes briefly, lets out a breath in an almost-sigh. Sarek simply stares at me.
“Plus, look at him. You did a great job. Nice genes! He's gorgeous. Like, white hot, smoking hot. And so insanely smart, it's damn sexy. They should make lots of little Spock babies. Pity I can't have some myself, because I'd be more than happy to contribute to the cause. So yeah, in answer to your question and to provide you with my no doubt confident, nay, some might go so far as to say arrogant opinion in the matter, yes, Spock needs to go spooge in a bio-sampler for the future of New Vulcan because he's goddamn awesome and your race would be all the poorer for the lack of his genetic contribution. Hell, his genetic contribution is the only one that matters. I'll even go help him donate, if you know what I mean.”
They both look at me in silence. But, somehow, not the silences I was expecting. Spock's radiating a touch of annoyed resignation along with a deep hint of humor, love and more than a little pride, all of it slithering along our bond into my head if I focus on him enough. But Sarek's the surprise. His face is doing a fantastic impression of a Sphinx with a pineapple stuffed up its ass but, still, he's got this vague sense of approval about him, like I finally justified my existence by the smallest possible amount. It's a start. I remind myself that I didn't get where I am today by being on my best behavior. Clearly today was the wrong time to start.
“I remember. Mother used to show me –“
“Yes, of course.”
The little human Spock, turned back and forth by the fingers of Sarek's hand on the tiny hologenerator. It's mine, lifted by Scotty out of the security field for me without asking, handed to me with an embarrassed smile and a shrug as he waved away my stunned thanks. It's not that I miss this Spock, not exactly, because I see him every day in Spock's near-invisible flickers of emotion, in a look of modest consternation over a troubling sensor reading or in the way his eyes heat up as I strip out of my shirt. But he meant something to me, this human Spock that his father's scrutinizing with such intense detail. I wouldn't be here without his existence, feeling Spock's heat all up against my side where he's sitting a couple of inches from me, knowing it'll be wrapped around me tight in an hour or two, his mouth in my neck as we press closer into each other, his hand reaching to cup and rub . . . dammit. His eyes slide my way with a slight frown. I cross my legs, clear my throat.
“You never told me that. About your grandpa's eyebrows.”
“I was occupied with other concerns at the time.”
“Was he so dissimilar? My human son . . .”
A hint of wistfulness? I know I'm probably imagining it, projecting my own, perhaps.
“He was, and he wasn't. We even talked about it, at the time, how much of himself he retained. You remember?”
Spock nods tightly.
“Humanity was tough on him, I'll grant that maybe it's an acquired taste. Personally, I'm a huge fan. But, to give him his due, Spock handled the situation with more grace and strength than any other person I know could have. Myself included.”
Sarek clicks off the generator, handing it back to me, taking care not to touch my skin as he does so.
“Perhaps you underestimate yourself. I imagine strength of will would be important in such a situation, along with a certain sense of self. You appear to possess a healthy amount of both.”
“You almost sound like you approve.”
“My approval does not enter into the equation. You are bonded to my son. He has chosen you, as you have chosen him, and he appears to be settled and satisfied with your relationship. It is not my place, nor desire, to hold an opinion on his life choices or their consequences.”
“And yet, I'm pretty sure you do.”
Spock like a statue beside me, barely moving as he stares at his fingertips.
“This will perhaps mean more to my son than it will to you. But, on our brief acquaintance, along with that which I have heard of you from my Starfleet contacts – I note that you have a certain similarity to Spock's mother about you. She too had what many Vulcans chose to describe pejoratively as a 'well-established personality'. It was one of her greatest assets and she never failed to take pleasure in what she believed was a grand compliment. If you do seek my approval, be assured, it is yours.”
Christ. From a Vulcan, from Sarek, it's practically gushing. That he would in any way compare me to her . . . I look at Spock, gazing at his father, who glances back at him. I don't know how to begin to unravel the layers of unspoken communication behind those blank stares. I don't try.
The first time he showed me this, I was singularly unimpressed and held onto my preference for a tongue down the back of the throat for the longest time but now, it's total bliss and I'm one hundred percent converted. Lying against his chest fuzz, one of his arms around me, hand holding mine palm-up while he traces my fingers with the fingertips of his other. I close my eyes, feel him all around me, his heat, strength, the depth of his regard, his absolute devotion. I'm wrapped up in him. It's almost better than sex. Almost.
“I wish to discuss what my father said about my mother and how you remind him of her.”
“Uh-huh.” I'm not feeling terribly talkative.
“There is no greater praise. I cannot overstate how much it meant. He likes you. Very much.”
“He doesn't know me.”
“He will, in time. He is correct – I had not considered it myself but you do have much about you that reminds me of her.”
“How very Freudian of you.”
“May I remind you that Freud's theories applied only to the Human mind, and were widely debunked by Polayni, Popper, Grunbaum, Nagel, Cioffi, MacMillan and Pizenbauld by the mid twenty-first century.”
“Whatever, Oedipus.” I lift his hand and press a kiss to the palm. “Besides, we both know you got in touch with your Human side. Literally.”
“That we do.” His arms tighten around me, his nose in my hair. “A fact for which I am enduringly grateful.”