Actions

Work Header

The Steadfastness of Stars

Chapter Text

_______________________________________________________

  “Would it be too childish of me to say: I want? But I do want.”

-Sylvia Plath

___________________________________________________________

 

Spock had his arguments and his calm, cool statements all laid out in a neat and precise line before the call from his father ever came. 

No, he would not return to New Vulcan. Yes, he would continue his employment on the Enterprise, and would be on board her when she was released to the stars again. He was committed to this once more, committed to his exploration of the galaxy, delving into new parts of the universe and discovering everything there. 

Vulcans, he reminded his father, had explored the galaxy before any other species. It was this path that he chose to keep to, as a proud Vulcan and an avid scientist. 

All this he said, and it was precisely what it should have been: logical. Clean. Meticulous. His father expressed his understanding and, even rarer, his pride at Spock’s decision and reasoning. He was a merit to the Vulcans, and would continue to be from wherever he chose.

Spock could almost hear his mother’s voice, echoing his father’s sentiments as he walked back to his quarters that evening: whatever you choose, you will have a proud mother. 

It was his mother’s heritage that he thought of that evening, when he locked his door behind him. He settled down to meditate and confronted the reality of this situation—the reality of what had cemented him back into his Science blues.  

All those impersonal, perfectly logical reasons for remaining with Starfleet, and he couldn’t make any of them hold a candle to the switch that had flipped his decision, the exhausted, battle-weary question that had pulled him back and cemented him in— 

“What would I do without you, Spock?”   

He was interrupted.

“My apologies, Commander Spock.” Nyota’s voice was light and teasing, her earth-colored eyes warm against a cashmere sweater. “Are you free this evening?”

Something blue flashed through Spock’s mind; a suspiciously familiar shade, but Spock had become so good at ignoring it that he hardly noticed it anymore. Jim Kirk had lived so close in physical proximity to Spock for so long that it was natural and expected for him to have moved into Spock’s thoughts. 

Presumably, anyway. 

He took his coat down from where it hung next to the door—it was expected to be especially cold that night. “Of course, Nyota.” 

______

 

Jim Kirk was standing on the balcony of a sixth floor in Yorktown, waiting for it to snow. 

He had his back to the railing, elbows hooked carelessly onto it, head flung back to watch the thick, rolling clouds. They were the kind of clouds that formed a fat, misshapen blanket: he could still see the sky on either horizon, the last rays of the sun, as if the blanket wasn’t quite big enough to cover the whole bed. 

He remembered the last time he had seen it snow. Starfleet Academy, just over five years ago. He’d had a girl then—a real, long-term one, not just one to take mutual pleasure in for a night before both of them carelessly and freely let each other go in the morning. They’d competed for top of their class for months before they’d gone onto their separate emphasis tracks and parted ways academically—and personally moved into the same bed.  

Bilquis, her name was. “Bilquis. Like with a Q.” She’d had a cloud of dark curls, and the snowflakes had gotten caught in that hair, on her tiny pink tongue that darted out to taste them, on the hands that held his— “I’m from a planet that is always covered in snow like this,” she’d told him. They had split amicably two days later, the snow still on the ground.  

He remembered when the thing that he thought was love was easy, and warm. Easily satisfied, easily given—a warm bed, sheets twisted, a careless hello, and sometimes an even more careless good-bye. Sometimes it hurt, sure. But there was always something new to learn about, to devour, and whisky, and distractions—and the stars. You couldn’t really be in love, Jim had decided, when you were in love with the stars. It trumped all other loves. When the stars had you, even love was bearable. Even love was trivial. 

That is, until you started seeing the stars in somebody else. When you could see the ever-shifting light of the stars in somebody else’s eyes, that was the real trouble. That was when you knew you were fucked.

He wondered what trick of the universe it was that he had found love and love-making so incredibly simple and light until he had actually gone to the stars—when he’d actually finally been immersed in the ocean of space that love had hit him so hard that he sometimes thought that he could feel it in his spine, in his fingers, in his elbows.  

He opened his eyes and stared up at the mass of clouds.

Somebody’s quiet laughter sounded, and he tilted his head back up, away from his sky, to look back into the brightly lit building, through the glass doors. 

The glow of the lamps shone on Nyota’s skin, making it look like it was illuminated from within. Her dark hair gleamed warmly, and she turned to make another comment to Spock, who was emerging behind her.

God. Jim winced. He wished he hadn’t listened so aggressively for the news of their split—it made their actual breakup feel more momentous than it had actually turned out to be. Then came Altamid, and Spock flinging himself into danger to go after Nyota, who was apparently wearing a (slightly radioactive) necklace from Spock’s mother. 

Fuck you, life. 

Spock’s hair gleamed a cooler tone than Nyota’s, his eyes dark and calm. Jim was grateful for the shore leave simply because it had taken some of the tension out of his First Officer, if nothing else. Spock seemed cool and collected again, sure of his course—unlike his obvious turmoil and indecision from a mere weeks ago. Spock, thrown temporarily from his path by the death of his alternate self, was once again centered. 

Apparently still on the Enterprise.

Jim couldn’t decide which was worse: watching Spock love someone else but stay by his side, or watch Spock walk away completely. 

Because he was a masochist, he didn’t intend to ever find out how the second option felt. He’d had his glimpses, but never permanently enough to leave a mark.  

Jim closed his eyes again as Nyota turned her face to Spock. It had left him only stunned the first time he had ever witnessed their physical affection, but over the years it had become something brutal, tender as a bruise. It hurt him now, plain and simple, in a way that he had never dreamed of. 

He felt a pale, cold brush on his face: the soft biting touch of a snowflake. It didn’t take long for other cold kisses to follow—the clouds opening, finally.  

He wasn’t jealous of Nyota. He loved Nyota now as much as any of his crew—she was part of his family, and he wanted her to be happy. 

And as for Spock— 

Well. There wasn’t much he wouldn’t do to see Spock happy. 

 He opened his eyes, and mercifully, Nyota was gone, having retired to her quarters. 

Spock, however, had spotted him. He quirked an eyebrow—puzzled, most likely, that Jim would be outside on a night like tonight, with snow now falling thick and heavy around him. Jim shrugged in response, half-grinning at him. 

He could almost feel Spock’s patient exasperation as Spock zipped up his coat tighter and opened the glass door. 

Jim wished he didn’t feel more like Jim when Spock approached him. He watched as snow caught in the dark gloss of Spock’s hair. 

“You are not adequately dressed for this weather phenomenon,” Spock observed when he was close enough, looking very pointedly at Jim’s open leather jacket.  

Jim huffed a laugh, slow and pleased. “I like it when it snows. It feels like Christmas.”

“There does seem to be a shift in the mood of the crew.” 

“Shore leave is good for them.” Jim closed his eyes and leaned back again, tipping his head back, feeling the snow on his face, his exposed throat. “Boosts morale, and all that.”  

“You had an adequately satisfactory birthday?” 

Jim smiled, still with his eyes closed. “Yes. Though you didn’t need to go to all that trouble.”

Spock sounded pleased when he replied, “It was the combined efforts of your crew. I cannot take individual credit.” 

They stood in peaceful silence for a moment, Jim basking in the snow, Spock content to sit and watch the sky. 

Jim couldn’t force himself to think of Nyota. He didn’t care, honestly, when Spock was next to him. 

Fucked. Absolutely. He opened his eyes.

“It’s a little cold out here for a Vulcan,” Jim said, lifting his head and looking at Spock. He lifted one challenging eyebrow, noting the way that Spock seemed to have hunched in on himself for warmth.  

Spock met his eyes evenly. “I am perfectly capable of adapting.” 

Jim chuckled at the unexpressed belligerence. “I was just wondering if you needed to go inside at some point.” 

“Will you not also retire soon?”

Jim tilted his head, feeling as the snow settled and melted in his hair. “I’m thinking.” 

Spock waited, watching him patiently, and Jim knew exactly how this situation would go because it had happened hundreds of times before: Jim would stew about something for a minute until Spock magically appeared to pull him out of his own thoughts, force him to recalibrate his whole life until something satisfactory formed, and then help him solve the problem—all while watching with dark eyes that Jim had learned every nuance of, every minute shift, until they seemed as expressive as any human’s. 

Jim met his eyes, but only fleetingly, because— 

“Were you really going to leave?”

Oops. He hadn’t quite meant it that bluntly— 

Yes, he had. 

He wanted to know, because simply put, he had had no idea how he was going to go on being captain without his first officer. How was one to be a captain without their other half? 

How would he have been able to do it alone?

He would have had the rest of his crew, of course. He could have found a suitable First Officer. 

Then, of course, it became another question, one so difficult to answer that he hadn’t allowed himself to fully form it: how would he reshape his life without someone he had come to view as a constant?  

And even worse: when Spock forgot him, how would he do the same?

Fuck you, life.   

Spock’s face was blank with surprise when Jim finally forced himself to look. Jim had caught him off guard. 

You and me both, my love.   

He’d had a thousand opportunities to ask Spock this, but he’d done it now, when the quiet dripped from every surface, when the world was muffled and still, when it seemed like they were the only two people in the world. 

Jim let Spock think after he got over his initial surprise. Spock always let Jim gather his thoughts, and Jim let Spock gather his. 

“I was,” said Spock at last, simply.  

Jim wondered if that was the full answer, and then realized, just as simply, that he was satisfied with it: I was. As in, no longer. 

Jim looked down at his hands, then said, “I was, too.” 

He knew that Spock had known that; hence Spock’s questioning about Jim’s interview with the Commodore Paris at his birthday party. Further than that, though...they hadn’t had this discussion. A huge separation had loomed, and then all of a sudden, before either of them could properly confront it, it had vanished. Both of them had pulled out at the last second.  

Spock said, still simple: “I know.” It was still calm and measured, and Jim knew what it meant: it was still a was. There was nothing logically to get worked up about, or to resolve, because it was a was. Neither of them were going anywhere, except on the Enterprise, except together. 

Logically, nothing had changed, except the fact that they’d almost parted ways forever. 

Goddammit. 

Jim clenched his hands and wished, for the umpteenth time, that he could have borrowed another heart. That for once, he could love Spock tonight, in the light of the streetlights, in the gentle fall of the snow, and return that heart in the morning. That when the sun came up, and reality put other people back into their orbit, that he didn’t keep loving. 

That he could go just one single second where he didn’t wish that Spock loved him, too. 

The snow fell heavier, and the blanket of clouds closed over the horizon. 

Just till tomorrow, thought Jim, turning to face Spock again. Another heart, just till tomorrow. 

Spock met his eyes and asked, “Why did you consider leaving, Jim?”

Jim blinked.  

Okay.

Maybe not resolved, then. 

Jim gave him a smile, full of self-deprecation.  

You.   

“Thought a change of pace might be nice,” was what he said, and the edge of sarcasm gave his lie away immediately.  

Spock quirked an eyebrow, but before he could ask, Bones was opening the door behind them and saying pleasantly, “You filthy motherfuckers, get in here before I give you pneumonia myself. Jim Kirk, for God’s sake, you’re only wearing a jacket, do you know how cold it is out there? Spock, you’re from the goddamn desert.”

And that was the end of that. 

_____

 

As it turned out, their first assignment upon the re-completion of the Enterprise was to the planet Jadis, which was, in fact, just as cold as that night. And there was snow on it, all the time.

That night of the first snowfall in Yorktown still bothered Spock. He had sorted through it, piece by piece, until he had pinpointed exactly where his discomfort came from: Jim had never told him the real reason he’d considered leaving. 

He paced the familiar halls of the Enterprise, a newfound appreciation for the crisp clean lines of the ship, the orderly precision of the keenly reshaped engines. This was indeed where he belonged, in this streamlined place, where everything ran like clockwork and Jim Kirk was in the center chair, glowing with excitement and radiating the confidence of someone who had come home after a long journey. 

He knew Jim knew why he himself had courted the idea of departing. Logically, anyway, they were the same arguments he’d marched out for his father: to help his species, to be with his own kind—to help them rebuild a fractured legacy, a torn home.   

He went to his quarters after a long shift and shut his doors, preparing for his night. 

To anyone else, he could have listed forty-seven reasons almost immediately as to why it was beneficial and efficient to leave the Enterprise. Jim, however, would have required a different explanation: truth was different from reason, and Jim was the sort of rare person who mandated that the first was more important than the second. He was both relieved and puzzled that Jim had not pressed him for his specifics. 

“What would I do without you, Spock?”

Spock had realized, in the seconds after he’d desperately grasped for Jim’s hands and through sheer willpower pulled his captain to safety, that leaving the Enterprise would mean shattering their partnership, perhaps parting from him forever. 

It seemed foreign to him, then. A possibility that he never even should have entertained, no matter how logical.  

Spock was reminded why he had not discussed his leaving prior to that night with Jim: if he had tried to talk about leaving with Jim about leaving Jim, he never would have been able to do it. Perhaps in logic, in his own mind, but not in practice, not with Jim staring at him, reminding him of every disastrous time they had tried separating their professional and personal lives. 

(And of course, once—never discussed again—when Jim had left first, unintentionally, locked behind a glass door, a factory-strength radiation lock the only thing keeping Spock from fighting his way into the warp core chamber, radiation poisoning be damned—)

Spock forced his thoughts away from that memory. His left hand remembered lining up with Jim’s through the glass. 

No, leaving was not an option.  

But for Jim? 

Spock settled down to meditate. If he considered it, he could tell that he knew to his core that Jim never could have left the stars. They called to him, and even when their song had waned for a little, the universe never would have let go of Captain James T. Kirk. It was a love affair that had, as far as Spock could tell, gone on for Jim’s entire life, and so could not be dissolved—and thus Spock had never doubted that Jim would change his mind and stay aboard his beloved ship.

So what had momentarily distracted him? It was not, Spock knew, a desire for a “change of pace.” He knew how to read Jim as much as Jim knew how to read him. 

A puzzle. Spock would have to ask Jim about it later to find the missing piece, because no matter how much he combed through their conversation in his memory, he could not find the answer. 

The next day, he went about his duties, and the day after that. In fact, he never found time to ask Jim about it before they reached Jadis, despite it taking the better part of two weeks and the fact that most of his evenings were spent in Jim’s company, playing chess or doing paperwork or generally taking care of life aboard the Enterprise. It was a habit both of them had fallen into: it was rare that they didn’t spend at least some of their off time in the same room. 

Spock felt like this was a piece of information to put somewhere, but it was an equation he hadn’t quite found yet. 

He didn’t have time to sort relevant from irrelevant information pertaining to that particular scenario before they arrived at their destination. Even from space, Jadis was white. Spock had to channel his revulsion into something more productive. 

“Goddamn,” remarked Dr. McCoy, staring through the window of the ship at the faintly glowing planet, scowling. “That looks like a bucket of problems waiting to happen. If you get hypothermia or pneumonia, Jim, I’m not clearing you for duty for weeks. Weeks, do you hear me? Plural.”  

“Cheer up, Bones,” said Jim from where he was scanning an information database. Spock was at his right, patiently waiting: he’d already memorized all pertinent sections. “I know somebody from this planet. She’s since become a Starfleet ambassador, she’ll be waiting for us.”

“What exactly is their issue, anyway?” Dr. McCoy was still scowling, and Spock privately agreed with the sentiment. 

As Jim was still reading, Spock volunteered, “Their planet has experienced subzero temperatures for a period of over a thousand years, and as such, the way of life of the people of Jadis has become dependent on just this phenomenon. Over the last several weeks, however, the temperatures have begun altering alarmingly, and since they fail to fall within the parameters of observed anomalies, have begun to cause structural and ecological damage to the point of concerning permanence.”

“Their weather is changing? What’s happening?”

“It’s warming up, Bones,” said Jim, flicking through his PADD as they walked; Spock was tempted to take Jim’s shoulder and steer him just so he wouldn’t collide with people or objects. “They might have summer and that might literally be the end of the world for them.”  

“So we’re...supposed to do what, exactly?” demanded Bones, still looking thoroughly irritated. “Control the weather? Ask it nicely to cool back down for them?” 

“The people of Jadis have explored all possibilities, including the conceivable but highly unlikely option of sudden global warming,” said Spock. “Such data and research has proved negative, and they have discovered that the anomaly seems to be coming from some source directly on the planet’s surface.” 

“Something’s really fucking hot on that planet that wasn’t there before, and they think it might be man-made,” Jim supplied. “They think somebody’s messing deliberately with their planet.”

“While they are a very wealthy planet, they have successfully made and maintained peace with all surrounding planets. They cannot provide any immediate suspects who would desire to cause such rampant destruction on their population.”

“Helpful,” said Jim. 

“So there’s gonna be a landing party,” grumbled McCoy. “Because we can’t safely take care of it from up here, safely, on a safe temperature-controlled surface.”

“Got it in one, Bones,” said Jim briskly, letting his PADD fall to his side. “I’ll lead it down there, we’ll see what’s fucking shit up, we’ll get out.”

“May I remind you,” said Dr. McCoy, this time directly to Spock, “that you’re a Vulcan?”

“I have not forgotten, Doctor, nor am I likely to,” said Spock. “To what do I owe this reminder?”

Jim snickered and Bones seethed. “ Deserts, Spock,” he snapped. “You’re gonna be fucking freezing.” 

“I am fully aware of the temperature change,” said Spock primly. 

“We’ll bundle him up all the way to his Vulcan eyebrows, Bones, stop worrying,” said Jim, rolling his eyes over his shoulder at his friend. “And if there’s trouble, I’ll just beam him back up.”

“In the event of trouble, I will stay precisely where I am,” said Spock dryly, who was well aware of their track record with “trouble” and their continued likelihood of running into it. 

Jim snorted, obviously following his train of thought, as the call of “Captain on bridge” rang out, and their conversation was cut short. 

 _____

 

 In the end, the landing party was small, to scope things out and obtain further information for Starfleet: the captain, because of his acquaintance with the Jadis ambassador, Spock, and Chekov: as it turned out, and to nobody’s surprise, he was an expert in weather anomalies, specifically relating to subzero temperatures— “Well, I am wery good with weather in general, but I am liking subzero much more because it is more interesting… so I am better with this. If there is something radiating unnatural heat, sir, I can find it.”

 It was then that Spock recalled the climate of the Terran country of which Chekov originated, and concluded that the lieutenant’s analyses would be sound. 

 Spock was sufficiently equipped with heavier winter gear than even the other two, and there were specific heating points throughout that would keep his temperature regulated thanks to Dr. McCoy (“I swear to God if any of you come back so much as sneezing it’ll be the end of that planet as they know it because I’m gonna blow it up myself”)  and still he was wary. He didn’t mind planning for cooler temperatures almost at all times due to his species, but this was an entirely different matter. The Jadis people had adapted even a different lung capacity to adjust for a lower oxygen radius in the air, not to mention a tremendous capacity for withstanding extremely low temperatures. 

All in all, he would be pleased to get this over with. 

Chekov happily chattered away to Jim all the way to the planet’s surface, and every so often, Jim would lock eyes indulgently with Spock over the console whenever Chekov said something Jim found particularly endearing.  

Spock had not said goodbye to Nyota, but, he reasoned, they would be back soon anyway, and it would not be missed. 

He had not spoken to her for several days, either. He had simply not had the time.

Spock then wondered why he was attempting to force a relationship when clearly it was just that: forced. 

Although he had several unsolved equations in his life of late, this one wasn’t unsolved: it was wrong now, where it had not been previously. It had become tilted; some variable had shifted, and it did not equal what it had before. 

Troubling. Knowing Nyota, she had most likely arrived at that conclusion already. He would speak with her about it when they arrived back at the Enterprise.  

When the doors opened, Spock blinked in the brilliant reflective light pouring off the snow, and then his shoulders tensed as a blast of frigid air washed into their transporter. 

“This is,” said Chekov, slowing for breath for what seemed like the first time after disembarking the Enterprise, “wery, wery cold.”

Jim snorted and strode forward. Spock, after a soft exhale that was almost a sigh, followed. 

Chekov made a sound that successfully conveyed his displeasure and trooped after them, out onto Jadis. 

If Spock had been inclined to appreciate cold temperatures or terrains whatsoever, he would have been almost in awe at the landscape that spread out before them: a sweeping panorama that spread out in all directions, a large forest of wide, austere trees, holding majestic sway until the mountains jutted in from the distance, all snow-capped and blue, and everywhere else: white. 

It cloaked each evergreen needle individually, sat thick on the ground, clung like pale moss to the damp black bark of the trees, and there was a peculiar type of silence that Spock had never experienced before. The snow was muffling the world, and it was lovely in an eerie, sharp way. 

A path had been tramped into the snow by numerous tracks, and a few yards away, underneath snowy shade of a massive pine tree, three people waited: the Jadis embassy, the Starfleet ambassador among them. They were all wrapped in heavy blue cloaks, with hoods pulled up around their dark heads, golden eyes glinting. Beyond them, above even the tallest of the trees, the city speared the sky, glistening blindingly.

Spock was mentally running through the traditional greeting of the Jadis people when the leader, a woman with cloudy black hair cropped close around her head, threw back her hood and walked forward without her companions, her face alight with something like delight—her skin shone even darker than Nyota’s, and it gleamed against the white of the snow. 

Spock had a moment to be baffled before Jim strode forward and let her fling her arms around him, chuckling. 

Spock blinked. Every muscle in his body hardened, and it wasn’t because of the cold. He exchanged a purposefully blank look with Chekov, but Chekov’s openly confused face showed that Chekov knew no more than he. 

Spock turned back to face Jim and the woman he now recognized as Ambassador Bilquis from the information database. He stared at them, waiting coldly, and knew that his eyes were as frigid as the landscape around him. 

“James Kirk,” said Ambassador Bilquis fondly, framing his face with slender hands, “let me look at that face.”

“Q, you got a haircut,” Jim replied, touching the feature in question. Spock’s jaw felt like a steel spring, clenched and coiled. 

She grinned, wolfish and lovely. “You got a ship." 

“Gorgeous, isn’t she?” Jim’s smile was as blinding as the snow around him as he flung his head back to catch a faint glimpse of his ship in the jagged sky visible to them. “Course, you should see her up close. Breathtaking.”

“Still like a kid at Christmas with those stars up there, aren’t you.” Bilquis rolled her eyes. “All right. We’re being rude. Come and introduce me to your First and this darling young man here.” 

She had turned that smile on Spock and Chekov, and Spock stared back, so cold and frigidly that the smile, instead of faltering, became something more calculating.

Jim met Spock’s eyes. He tilted his head, looking momentarily startled, before lifting his eyebrows questioningly. 

Spock merely stared back, then returned his gaze to Bilquis. 

Chekov was bright red at having an endearment directed at him from a stranger. He stammered through his introduction while Bilquis laughed delightedly.

Spock, somehow, found that he was capable of desiring this mission to be over even more. He kept watching Bilquis, refusing to meet Jim’s repeated, confused looks. 

When Bilquis moved over to him, he greeted her with a single word: “Ambassador.”

Jim’s eyes narrowed at him over her head. 

Bilquis’ smile remained on her face, cool and impersonal. “Boys. If you’ll follow me.”

As she led the way back to her companions, Jim pressed his shoulder into Spock’s as they walked and said, “What?" 

“I am unsure of the nature as to what you are referring to." 

“Spock. What.”

“You are acquainted with Ambassador Bilquis?”

“Yes, I told you that. Are you mad about that? ” 

“I am not experiencing anger.”

“That’s some bullshit, you know you have a look you get when you’re peeved about something.”

“Once again, I am unsure as to what you are referring to." 

“It’s that look. Right there.”

“Coming, kids?” Ambassador Bilquis called breezily. Her two companions had taken up position on either side of her—almost like bodyguards, Spock noticed. 

“We went to school at the same time, we were together once,” said Jim dismissively. “Spock, what’s the source of this planet’s wealth?”

Spock blinked. Blinked again. 

Trying to process several channels of information at once, he said haltingly, “Their tremendous quantities of valuable stones. Before this ice age, there was a period of volcanic activity that created immense stores of all manner of precious jewels, and the Jadis people are experts at mining and setting them.” 

Spock fought the bizarre urge to ask Jim what, specifically, “together” meant. He was having a difficult time fathoming precisely why he wanted to know—he’d seen Jim flirt with other women in passing—but that phrase coupled with their familiar and tactual greeting made something inside of Spock move uncomfortably. 

“So this planet is basically a giant treasure chest.”

“.....something of the sort.” 

Jim was looking around at the vast snow-filled landscape when he said, “Any criminal space activity around here lately?”

“None at all." 

Jim glanced at him, then squinted. “Since when?”

“Over a decade,” answered Spock. “I did not check beyond that because I deemed it irrelevant to our current situation.”

Jim’s eyes narrowed further. “Klingon warfare came pretty close to around here not too long ago. Maybe five years. That should have been reported; it was on other planets in this sector. You’re telling me it wasn’t?”

Spock flicked dutifully back through his memory, though he already knew the answer. “No suspicious activity has been reported in the vicinity of this planet at all.”

“They’re not that far away from danger zones. This isn’t even a peaceful part of the galaxy.”

“I, too, found it odd, but reasoned that perhaps they did not find any tactical relevance in reporting it.”  

Jim stared around the frozen landscape, trees spiking the sky. Spock was abruptly very aware of the heavy silence that lay around them. “Well,” said Jim, after a moment, “I find that suspicious.” 

Spock was once more reminded that while he viewed technological databases as a solid foundation for any mission, Jim viewed them as corruptible information—due to their differed earlier life experiences, Spock had no doubt.  

After a moment, Jim called, “Mr. Chekov?” 

Chekov, who had been chattering happily to an indulgent Bilquis, paused long enough to say, “Yes, Captain?”

“Status report. Get the Enterprise on the com, please.”

If Spock were human, he might have been able to find it within himself to shiver from trepidation instead of cold when Chekov’s face turned first confused, then concerned.

“Uh. Sorry, sir. Communications have been halted, I cannot reach the ship.”

Shit,” muttered Jim. “Bilquis? What’s going on?” 

Bilquis had stopped a few feet in front of them, and she and her companions were watching Chekov, Spock, and Jim.

“Sometimes our weather interferes with communication,” she said calmly, but Spock watched as her eyes swept the snow-covered trees carefully. Her companions were gripping something under their cloaks: weapons. 

Why were they so readily armed if, as they reported, they had no enemies to contend with? 

“Do you think it’s the weather?” Jim’s voice was just as calm as hers, but Spock could hear the tension boiling underneath. 

There was a flash of something to his left, and Spock had time to think Jim before a shock of blinding fire threw him backwards.