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Trade Winds

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Six Weeks Later

Archanis System

2500 light years from Vulcan

 

Jim forced himself to stay still in the Captain’s chair. Everything was fine – no need to panic. It was a totally normal mission. The away team's communicators were cutting out, and that was fine, and Jim wasn’t even bothered by that. They were in a mountain range. Things could be expected to get spotty.

Spock and his team were tracking down some sort of flower that produced spores the Federation was interested in. They’d only been planet-side for three hours. The estimate had been five. He should really relax.

Enterprise to away team,” Nyota said calmly into her receiver. “Please respond.”

No answer. She repeated the message a few minutes later. They couldn’t have been attacked – the planet was uninhabited. Just thick vegetation. And cliffs. Cliffs made of crumbling rock. And loose dirt that had never been trod on by a humanoid foot before, ready to fall away at any provocation.

“It is not protocol, Captain,” Spock had said yesterday on the bridge, when Jim had suggested tagging along. And Jim hadn’t even argued. Since when did he not argue? 

“Chekov,” he asked. “Can you try to get a lock?”

Chekov’s fingers moved feverishly over his panel. He shook his head. “Negative, Keptin. Ionic interference. We will have to wait for them to move to higher ele-wation.”

Jim sighed and tapped his foot. “You still don’t know where it came from?”

He shook his head again, a jerky movement. Jim forced himself to be quiet so he didn't freak the kid out even more.

He was sure the tense quiet on the bridge was entirely due to his nervous twitching, and not because anyone else thought something was wrong. It was definitely in Jim's head. Spock would hate his worrying.

Vulcans possess strength three times that of a Human, Jim, he would say. I do not require protection.

Nyota's periodic transmissions were the only sound in the whole atrium. The ADD wouldn't be restrained, and Jim's heart was flying. He couldn't think of the last time he hadn't been on an away team, but it had happened. He'd been fine, then. Now shouldn't be different.

Just as he thought that, the small twinge in his chest he thought was his pulse stuttered, and then fell out of step.

He stood.

“I’m getting something,” Nyota said at the exact same time, pressing buttons. What she was hearing cut into the speaker system.

Screaming.

Everyone looked up at the ceiling, even though the speakers were set all over. Human instinct - 'find the source of that noise, because someone is getting fucked up and I don't wanna be next'.

Chekov was already trying to lock in as the signals started coming through clear enough to beam their party up. Sulu, too.

Jim leaned in over Nyota's back, craning his neck to talk into her receiver without slamming their skulls together.

"Away team, what's happening?" He yelled.

“We – found it!” Someone said brokenly. Not Spock. “They were moving – “

It turned to staticky gibberish, then cut out completely. Jim swirled, hopping over the rail to Chekov. The targets on the map spanned a short patch of forest, searching, then shot into place. Chekov squeaked.

“Got them, Keptin!”

“Everyone?”

“Aye, sir!”

“Beam 'em straight to Sick Bay,” Jim ordered, already in the turbolift. "Sulu, Security Code 24."

Code 24 meant training all their sensors on the scene of the accident to look for foul play or perpetrators. Inhabitants they hadn't been able to see before. Natives who had never seen a space man before.

Nyota jumped into the lift next to him, throwing a look that dared him to argue. He didn't.

"Captain," she started, and then didn't say anything after. The turbo doors parted, and Jim broke into a sprint. They could hear the screaming all the way from there. He just barely avoided smacking his face on the Sick Bay doors when they opened too slowly.

He was stopped right away by two big security guys. Frederickson and Ulat.

“Get him out of here!” Bones yelled, further inside, a mask over his face. Jim looked at who he was bending over - Ensign Gorvrosch - and then around at the others. The Junior Head of Science (Spock called her reliable, the highest of compliments) wept and tried to escape as masked nurses slipped thick binds around her wrists. There was blood pouring from her inner arm. There were more security there, helping keep the thrashing crew people still.

"Captain," Ulat said, trying to push Jim back into the hall. "Please - "

Jim knocked him with his shoulder - ouch - to try and see - 

“Spock!”

“Captain,” Frederickson said, more urgently. “The air isn’t safe.”

“Then get him a mask!” Nyota snapped, somewhere behind him.

Spock was on a bed, pushed all the way to the back wall. No one was tending to him at all. He was the only one completely still, no flailing at all. But he was awake. Jim felt him. The bond was almost always silent on his end nowadays, but as soon as he saw Spock it pulled.

He wasn’t entirely sure what happened next. Ulat ended up on the floor and Jim was free enough to run across the room, shoulder twinging in pain.

Bones turned with inhuman speed and caught him around the waist, anchoring them both to Gorvrosch's table. “Jim! They might be contagious, you moron.”

He was close enough to see green blood pooled under Spock’s shirt, over his hip. Maybe he felt Jim, too, because his eyes cracked open. Bleary, blinded by pain.

His hand opened, moving half an inch higher in the air. He was reaching out.

Jim shoved Bones away and closed the distance, grabbing Spock’s wrist and holding those shaking fingers to his face.

Bones' angry yells faded away. The screaming became background noise as the meld kicked in. For one moment, there was complete silence. Then a white-hot pain seared into his mind. It consumed him like all the other melds, but there was a lack of composure on Spock's end, and instead of the gentle warmth Jim expected, he was sucked in and just as quickly pushed back.

He was disoriented, and the pain stopped as Spock's hand fell away. Bones made up for that by marching Jim backwards and slapping the ever-loving shit out of him.

It helped speed up the process. Sound rushed in and he could feel his heart trying to beat out of his chest.

“What did he just do to you?” Bones growled.

Spock’s eyes were shut again, his arm hanging off the bed limply. “Carnivorous plants,” Jim muttered.

What?”

“Spock got a scan in just before they were attacked. Stingers. Located under mobile tree roots. The toxin is targeting the basal ganglia and limbic systems.”

They were just words to him, but Bones sprang into action, pushing Jim sharply away so he reeled into the wall. He sagged against it. The lights were very bright, suddenly.

“Alkysine!” Bones yelled. The nurses scattered to follow orders as he worked on Spock himself, inserting a tube into his inner elbow. “Intravenously, not misted!”

“One round for everyone but Spock,” Jim cut in, Spock's message still spinning around his head. “He’ll need 200mg’s extra of cortical – “

“Analeptic,” Bones finished, nodding and stabbing something into Spock’s neck. “Yes, Spock," he muttered lowly, "thank you.”

How he knew what had passed between them, Jim had no clue. But he was glad it wasn’t being questioned.

He stared at the tube of liquid going into Spock’s bloodstream, trying to get a grip. There was no more foreign pulse in his chest, or anything else abnormal from the bond. Spock's breathing appeared even.

The screaming slowed down as everybody got their drugs. It didn't feel so urgent anymore, as the nurses worked on treating wounds instead of just restraining patients. Bones lifted up Spock's shirt, revealing the upsettingly deep puncture that still oozed blood. Jim had to look away.

Only then did he see Nyota. She had put a mask on, and urged him to do the same. The clasps sealed shut against his ears, fresh air clicking on and regulating his own breathing.

"Did he hurt you?" She asked, running a hand over the side of his face.

Spock's skin knit itself together under Bones' lasers.

“Is he in pain?” Nyota said.

Jim grimaced, which she took as his answer, casting Spock a heartbroken look.

The tricorder in Bones' pocket started lighting up and beeping. He fumbled to get it out while gloved up.

“Falling heart rate!”

The nurses converged. “It’s his healing state!” Jim yelled, Nyota holding him back.

Bones took a hypo from Christine, but didn't use it right away. “He tell you that?”

Jim nodded desperately. “Characterized by slowing heart rate and rapid decrease in neural functions.”

That was the last of it. Spock's words were all out, and Jim was alone in his head again. He really hoped that was by design, and not because Spock couldn't - 

"Fine." Bones grimaced and made a pleading motion to Nyota.

“Captain,” she wound her arm through Jim’s and pulled. He only resisted for a moment, watching Christine wheel Spock into a closed off room. His arm hung limp off the side. “Jim.

Tinny alarms rang in his ears once they were in the quiet of the hallway. “The fuck is a healing state?” he asked. 

"I don't know." They were outside of Medical, but Nyota still pulled him. Farther and farther from Spock. "Spock made you say all that? Did you know he could do it?"

Jim nodded. Sevek had done the same thing during their meld. Copy-paste Vulcan messages.

“You were screaming.”

He looked at her, surprised and trying not to show it. "Okay, so what? He was in pain."

She just nodded. Jim bit his tongue, parsing that fact. He didn't remember screaming. It had only lasted a second, after all.

"They'll live," he informed the bridge crew tersely. Everyone let out a big sigh of relief, Nyota fielding the rest of their questions with what she knew.

"Trees?"

"That eat people?"

"Please tell me someone got a scan."

"Actually." Jim zoned back in at that last comment, answering Sulu before Nyota could. "Spock did get a scan. Has that been sent up yet?"

"I don't think they've had the chance," Nyota muttered behind him. He ignored her and hit the comms button on his chair.

"Kirk to Scott."

"Keptin!"

He raised an eyebrow at Chekov, who was half-standing over his station, undecided on something. "What?"

“The interference. It read as ionic before, but now I believe…” He trailed off, sitting down with a thwump. “I believe it is organic."

“Scott, here," the chair comm fuzzed in. "What’s going on?”

“Uh.” Jim blinked. “I need the most recent scans from Spock’s tricorder. It'll be somewhere in Sick Bay.”

"I can do that," Scotty said. The line closed.

"Chapel says air scans were clear," Nyota called. Jim ripped his mask off, hearing her do the same.

"What did you say?" He asked Chekov, rubbing his jaw. "You think...what?"

It came up on the viewscreen. A simulated projection of the mountains where the attack happened. Clouds of darkness drifted over them where the scans weren’t - or hadn't been - coming through. "Playback of precisely twelve minutes ago," he said.

“Not registering as anything we know.” Sulu added, changing fields so Jim could see one particular grouping, half-blocked but quickly clearing. “The sensors were trained on these trees during the security check, and guess what? The clouds came from them. It's not ionic interference at all."

Jim watched the clouds drift quickly across the screen. “We were in orbit for twelve hours before beaming down. This just started.”

“Approximately thirty-five minutes ago, Keptin.”

“B.I.D. activity, maybe?” Jim speculated. “Isn’t it midday down there?”

Sulu shook his head. “Six hours into a twenty-hour day, in that hemisphere. It's morning.”

Jim didn't know nearly enough about botany to have a response. Their best guy was in a goddamn healing coma. The least Spock could have done was tell Jim how long it would last.

“Interference is ending,” Chekov announced, switching to a live feed. The blank spots on their feed were almost completely gone. “Emission cycle lasted thirty-six minutes.”

Thirty-six minutes. That short, and it only happened when their team was on the ground. Jim never trusted coincidence. “You're sure that's what blocked our comms?”

They both nodded. There was a short silence, where Spock should have put in his input.

“Keep an eye on them," Jim decided. "I want that area scanned to hell and back.”

____________________________

 

He went to Sick Bay as soon as shift ended (actually, a few minutes before), making for Spock’s room. Bones was in his way almost immediately.

"I was just about to call for you."

"What the fuck?" Jim asked, exasperated. He was trying to be sneaky, but it seemed there was some kind of Jim-alarm installed in Bones' office. "What do you want?"

Bones had that look – jaw jutted out, eyes angry. Jim was too confused to dodge the hypo.

“Ow!”

“Go. Now.” He pushed Jim into the little white room with flashing lights.

“Bones!” He shut his eyes against the burst. “I thought the dye had to set, first!"

There was no answer, and the door opened two flashes later. Jim pinched the bridge of his nose. He’d just been feeling normal again, and now there were bright spots behind his eyelids. Something knocked his shin as he stumbled out.

“Are you done?” He snapped, shouldering past the asshole in his way.

“He’s not awake." Bones stayed at his heels, following him into Spock's little room, lowering his voice. "But he's stable. I'd be more confident if I knew what this 'healing state' is supposed to accomplish."

Spock was dressed in a Medical gown, arms at his sides, face smooth and composed. A thick gray blanket had been thrown over his lap. 

"You didn't know? I thought the High Council was telling you stuff, now."

“I thought so, too. Bastards.”

Spock’s hand was cold. Maybe not cold, but not nearly warm enough. The faintest prickling crawled over Jim's palm. He exhaled. Spock was in there. 

“Jim.”

“Oh. You’re still here?”

Bones crossed his arms. "You let him do...that to you." He gestured at Jim's head. "I saw it."

"So. What?" Jim said through his teeth. Why was everyone suddenly questioning it? Nyota should know better than anyone about melds, and Bones was taking scans of Jim's brain every other week. "He saved everyone! It was necessary!"

"So why were you begging him to stop?"

Jim opened his mouth to retort, couldn't, and instead asked - "How long did it last?"

"About a minute. You started hollering near the end." His uncertainty reflected in Bones' face. "It doesn't usually go like that, I take it."

"The meld can't hurt me," Jim said, turning his back to the door.

"If one synapse is out of place on these scans, he'll be in serious shit with me, Jim. I mean it."

Jim snorted, waiting for the sound of Bones closing the door. "Hear that, Spock? You better wake up soon and beat his ass."

Spock's face didn't change, his hand didn't twitch. Jim sighed, pressing his lips to Spock's knuckles and closing his eyes. Finally, he was coming down from the adrenaline. Hours of anxious unrest had taken it all out of him, leaving a hollow feeling inside.

It wasn't the first time one of them had almost died. It wouldn't be the last. Jim knew the risks of the job, so why was this day so much harder? Their botched mission two weeks previous hadn't been this upsetting, and they'd nearly been blasted to shrapnel by Kingons. If the Constellation hadn't swooped in and saved their asses, it would have probably been over for real.

He didn't cry. Not really. He just sniffed and wiped his eyes on his sleeve, and then he felt better. The tingling in his hand and Spock's was the next best thing to Spock being awake. It would be fine, and getting to watch Spock sleep was a bonus - Jim hadn't seen it since Setlik III. Spock always woke up first and fell asleep second.

His pulse was very fast, which was normal. Jim turned his hand over, stroking along his palm and remembering the nights on Setlik.

____________________________

Everyone was out of Sick Bay by close of Beta. Except for Spock. Jim sat in while they gave their statements, no one able to say anything more than what Spock had already relayed - they were attacked by trees. Big whoop - it was old news by now. Junior Head of Science, Reliable Trinity, was going through Spock's scans, but it would be a while.

Jim took his work into Spock's sickroom, PADD on his knees and his forehead resting on the edge of the bed. Gorvrosch, Nyota and Scotty had all been by, briefly. Now it was well enough into the evening that Jim didn't expect anyone else, and he was considering sleeping right where he sat when a big, sudden inhale of breath had him sitting up so sharply it hurt.

"Hey!" He said. Spock's eyes were open. "You're up!"

"Are you well?" He asked hoarsely, right away.

Jim took his hand. "I'm fine. Everyone is, thanks to you. You're the only one still in here."

“We were taken by surprise." He sounded very together for someone who had been comatose for six hours. Jim would have needed a minute or two. "I was in the process of obtaining a scan – “

Jim shook his head in disbelief. “It’s okay. I already sent it to your department.”

Spock stopped looking around for his tricorder, head falling back. “Thank you.”

“Of course.” Jim fiddled with Spock’s left hand, pancaking it between his own. Maybe he was imagining that it felt warmer already.

“I should not have melded with you as I did.”

Quieter. It sounded like an apology. Jim looked up from their hands, watching him for any sign of distress. “It’s fine. No harm done.”

“Doctor McCoy was right to be angry with me. You could have been very injured.”

“He was just overreact – wait, you heard that?”

“I did.”

Jim felt the color drain from his face. If Spock had heard that, then he’d definitely been present for all of Jim’s not-crying. 

His hand was squeezed, which was hopefully all the acknowledgement it would get.

“Do you believe the meld emotionally unbalanced you?”

Or not. Spock’s blank curiosity stung. “No?”

Curiosity turned to curiosity. "Why would you ask that?"

The door opened, and Jim pulled away. He only did it because he figured Spock would, too, but Spock had actually tightened his grip for a second, like he was trying to hold on. Weird. Very weird.

“Spock,” Bones said in greeting, ignoring Jim entirely but at least not asking him to leave. Christine ghosted in behind him, waving a tricorder over Spock's body. “How ya feelin’?”

Spock folded his hands over his stomach, gazing up steadily. “As you are so fond of saying, you are the doctor.”

“Hardy-har. And I was getting’ all choked up thinkin’ I’d never hear your sass again.”

“There are no traces of the toxin left in my system.”

Bones raised his eyebrows, clearly waiting for Christine’s nod of affirmation. Spock swung his legs over the side of the bed, his bare foot knocking Jim’s knee. “As you can see, I am recovered – “

“Adrenaline levels are pretty high.” Bones took the tricorder from Christine. “Is that part of the healing state?”

“It is of utmost importance that I see those scans – “

“It’s 2300 right now. You can do it tomorrow.” But Bones stepped back so Spock could stand. "You listening to me?"

“I do not require any more rest than rytemk has provided.”

Rytemk. The healing state.

“Christine, would you go fetch Mr. Spock some clothes? And…Jim?”

“What?”  He looked up from Spock’s angular feet.

“Would you give us a minute?”

Bones wanted to talk to Spock. Alone. About what?

Jim was too slow to answer, because Spock threw him an irritated look. “You may go, Captain."

The shortness was a little undeserved, Jim thought, but he stood and left anyway. Spock being a dick so soon after waking up was probably a good sign. Better than the alternative, anyway.

But really, he thought, entering his quarters and shedding his clothes. What the fuck?

Because now he was going to have to go to sleep with all this…unresolved shit. Spock really would work through the night, Jim knew that wasn't an empty threat. He’d go straight to the labs and work on whatever it was he’d managed to collect before a tree almost took him out for good.

Jim finished up one last report before showering and going to bed early, pretending he hadn't left the fresher door open. Just in case.

_________________________________

Sometimes he didn’t see Spock at all in the night. The only way he would know he’d been there at all was if he woke up with sweat still on his skin, leftover from being pressed to a Vulcan-hot body. Spock had a smell, too, that he left behind on the sheets. Cedar and cinnamon.

Spock was quiet as a mouse always, but Jim sometimes still woke up as he slid into bed, waking up enough to turn over and kiss him once or twice. Sometimes their busy schedules lined up perfectly, and they had enough free time for more than just kissing.

When Jim woke up the morning after the tree attacks, he knew Spock hadn't been there. And that was a first of its kind. Jim didn't like it at all.

He reasoned to himself that it wasn't a completely baseless emotion - Spock wasn't an idiot. Surely he knew Jim would want more than just a hand squeeze after the events of the previous day. He understood nuance in Human feelings, even if he didn't admit it. And, thanks to their frequent melds, he was perfectly aware of the nuances of Jim's brain.

He knew that Jim would have wanted to see him. And even if Jim wasn't exactly sure of what he needed (Comfort? Reassurance? Sex?), he was still ticked off at Spock for not providing it.

Of course it was stupid. Very simple, Human pettiness and of course Spock was avoiding that. He probably saw it coming when he had to listen to Jim's pathetic sniffling. No, thanks. He'd rather stay with his precious scans and let Jim think himself to death.

“Captain on bridge,” Sulu called when Jim arrived, shuffling past the lift with an armful of PADDs. “Commander Spock’s figured it out, sir.”

Jim stopped. Spock was there, in Chekov's chair, looking good. Not even tired.

He was ready for work, which meant Jim probably should be, too. "What have you got, Spock?" He said, striding forward to view the screen better. Bowden IV spun there, red near the equator and brown everywhere else. There was a target locked on the spot the attack had happened.

Spock looked up from Chekov's station, face empty. He didn't say anything, and Jim felt more than saw a look pass between Chekov and Sulu. 

Jim stared back, off-kilter. Was that supposed to be an angry look? Spock always answered direct questions. If he was mad at Jim for whatever reason, he would just say something snappy instead of giving him the silent treatment.

"Spock?" Jim tried again. Something snapped into place behind Spock's eyes.

"Diagram four," he said, standing. Chekov took his chair back and hit a button. Bowden IV disappeared, replaced by a scanned image of a tree. It wasn't a picture, but a rough reconstruction pulled together from Spock's scan.

“The tensile root system that attacked our crew seems to draw its movement from neither water release nor nyctinastic pattern.”

Spock sounded normal and self-assured. The turbo lift opened for Bones and Nyota, which he ignored completely.

“The above-ground root structure resembles that of Terran kelp and smaller marine growths. Those similarities in mind, my initial assessment was that such a structure would exist to pull the bulk of the tree closer to the ground. Clearly, that hypothesis must be rejected. These outer haptera,” he dropped one hand to Chekov’s screen, maneuvering the diagram toward the roots, where the inner stalks were much thicker and sturdier, “were capable of not only outward movement, but borderline sapient levels of precision.”

Jim crossed his arms. "The tree thinks."

Spock made a pained face, which meant he thought Jim was over-simplifying. “The vascular tissue does not conduct water, despite the majority of the planet’s flora showing a tendency to such. The fluid could not be scanned to any degree of accuracy, nor can it be deduced.”

The screen brought back the planet’s surface – a recording from the day before, judging by the timestamp. Clouds of darkness gathered at the south border of the forest, moving quickly North.

“This planet has a high prevalence of geostrophic winds. Irregular, though what preliminary environmental surveys we have access to show at least one seasonal uptake in Pressure Gradient forces across the Northern hemisphere. The time of year would indicate we have found another.”

“You… think it’s related?” Jim questioned, squinting and trying to understand why wind was important.

Spock stared up at the screen, his face lit in shades of blue. “I do not know. Returning to the planet with more specialized equipment should yield the results I need, as well as a pollen sample,” he added, almost as an afterthought. 

“You barely survived the first trip,” Bones pointed out, echoing Jim’s thoughts exactly.

“You have my report,” Spock told Jim, giving no indication Bones was even in the room. “I will retire to the lab if you have no further need for me.”

Jim hesitated before nodding, a heavy stone of doubt settling in his stomach as Spock walked away. Bones joined him at the chair.

“It’ll be hard to talk him out of this,” he said, like he was issuing a challenge.

"Not hard," Jim corrected, leaning on the arm of his chair. "Impossible. You shouldn't have let him off bed rest."

It wasn't about the pollen anymore. Spock had stumbled into something else. Or rather, it had stumbled stinger-first into him. This planet was like a little game of botanical Clue.

“You get a look at what the toxin was?”

Bones shrugged. “I know it was poison. Would have had them brain dead in ten minutes without help, but our drugs knocked it out pretty quick. Anything more in-depth is Spock’s territory.”

Jim pressed the heel of his palm into his eye. “Finish the injury report?”

He nodded. “All done. Waitin’ for your sign-off.”

“Thanks.” Jim sighed. “I’ll do that now.”

_________________________________

 

It took the better part of Alpha to read Spock's proposal, which came in just an hour after he had gone to the labs. Beta was half-over before Jim had read it enough to really understand. Spock's point was that the trees released pollen in anticipation of the planet's high winds. Like any reproductive species, the presence of possible danger to offspring triggered a protective response. Danger, AKA a bunch of humanoids tramping through their forest.

What sent a chill down Jim’s spine was wondering how they would have evolved to that point on a planet without animal life.

And Spock wanted Jim to send him back out there the very next day.

Paperwork, check. Gym, check. He was out of distractions, and it wasn't even Delta yet. Maybe what he needed was a good old-fashioned book. Paper and ink.

The ship's recreational library was on Level Eight, which was quiet (for now - the Beta guys were the real partiers). Jim had gotten Spock down there only twice since their first movie night together. They'd watched Marked City and Rear Window, both of which Spock had quietly disliked.

The Human culture stuff had kind of stalled after Spock's attempt at teaching Jim some meditation tricks. That had gone kind of horribly, through no fault of Jim's own. Meditation was just fucking boring.

He opened the library door without knocking, which was an entirely normal thing to do. It wasn't until the person inside jumped to their feet and squeaked that Jim felt he had done something wrong.

“Keptin!”

“Chekov.” Jim looked around, trying to hide his surprise. Chekov was just in there alone, sitting at an empty table. “At…at ease? I was just looking for a book.”

“Oh.” He didn’t sit. “Me too.”

“…Right.” Jim stepped toward the bookshelf, glancing over the titles with a pair of squirrely eyes on his back. “How ya doin’?”

He rarely saw Chekov outside of duty. Sulu hung around him a lot, but the age difference probably made it hard to really be friends. God knew Jim had trouble with it. He felt simultaneously protective and wary of the little guy, but didn’t want to treat him like a kid. Despite everything, some people (admirals) still treated Jim that way, and he fucking hated it.

“I’m fine,” he answered, still high-pitched. “Keptin.”

“You can call me Jim, y’know.” War and Peace? Who decided a starship full of people would be clamoring to read old snooze-fests like that?

The door slid open quietly. Jim glanced over his shoulder – noticing how stiff Chekov had just gone – at Ensign Robards. From Engineering.

“Captain!” He said, stopping short in the doorway.

Jim was the Captain, yeah, but not such a hardass that his crew members were visibly terrified of him. “Ensign,” he said shortly, taking a book at random and shoving it under his arm. “I’ll just…”

Robards jumped out of his way as he hurried out the door, shaking off the encounter and wondering what the hell he’d just interrupted.

The book was short, at least. The Big Sleep. Fiction. Lucky – it could have been a history text, or a Starfleet manual. Fuck knew they had enough of those laying around.

________________________

 

The faint whirr of the opposite fresher door was his only warning to Spock’s approach. Jim pushed up from his slumped, double-chinned reading position and shut the book on his finger, marking his spot.

Spock walked straight to Jim's terminal and sat, flipping it on without a word.

“I really didn’t think I’d see you tonight,” Jim said.

“Dead end,” Spock grit out. It wasn’t a full sentence, and it was a very Earth term. “The data I am able to analyze is incredibly limited.”

“So what are you doing?”

Spock typed quickly, hunched forward. “I cannot identify the inner fluid. Quite frustrating."

"Really?" Jim asked sarcastically. Spock looked more than just frustrated. "Why?"

"The way it moves and triggers movement...is familiar.”

“Oh, yeah?” He crossed his legs, wondering if it was even worth it to be pissed off. Spock was miles away, mentally.

“To take a liberty, I would compare it to humanoid sash-dvunek.”

“…Which is?” 

Tap, tap, tap. What was he even writing? And why did he have to come to Jim’s room to do it?

"Hello?"

Spock sighed. “Shall I be more clear than even that?”

“Sorry.” If he hadn’t already closed the book, he’d slam it shut. “I don’t have my Vulcan travel dictionary on me.”

“Speak plainly, Jim.”

“Are you using sarcasm these days?He cracked his knuckles, then scratched the skin where his underwear met his thigh. Spock still didn’t look up or elaborate. “’Sash vu-nick'?” He eventually prompted.

Spock did look at him, then, with an incredulous frown and a blink like the words on the screen didn’t want to leave his vision. “Yes. How did you…?”

He swiveled his entire body toward the bed, going still in sudden, deep thought.

Jim’s trepidation from earlier came back full-force, his intuition trying to tell him something wasn't right.

“Lactic acid,” Spock whispered suddenly, looking to Jim in a beseeching way. Like he wasn’t completely sure. “Lactic acid.”

Jim had a disturbing realization. “Sash vu-nick is Vulcan for lactic acid?”

Spock nodded, still frowning

“So you just… forgot the translation?” That happened all the time, for multi-lingual people Jim knew. But never Spock, and Standard wasn’t really his second language.

The idea seemed to surprise Spock as much as it did Jim. He looked like he might say something, but instead turned back to the terminal.

The freak behavior was starting to feel like a sign. One of many that day. “That toxin – “

“Does not remain in my system,” Spock cut him off, with a sharp hand movement.

Jim narrowed his eyes, watching him type for several minutes. 

He tried to get through more of the book (ancient, pre-Warp, and hopelessly misogynistic), but reading always made him tired. He set it on the side-table and shuffled down the mattress. The thick, insulating blanket kept Spock warm enough at night, which was worth Jim sweating to death. It wasn’t long after he closed his eyes that the lights flicked off and he heard Spock messing around in the fresher.

He sighed in relief when a warm, naked body slid into the bed behind him, wrapping an arm around his middle and pressing a nose to his neck. Even if he knew what was coming next.

“You are angry.”

Jim wasn't even sure if he still was. “Maybe,” he breathed. “Just a little.”

Spock didn’t say anything. So annoying.

“I thought you were going to die." It was difficult to get the words out. “You almost did die.”

“I made certain the away team was as prepared as was possible concerning what we knew – “

“I’m not blaming you for it,” Jim snapped. 

Spock pulled him so they were touching from chest to foot. His hand flattened out over Jim’s stomach, which all meant he was trying to get more skin contact. Like it helped him figure out what Jim was saying without having to do something so undignified as ask.

“I just kept thinking about who they would send to replace you.”

Spock’s hand went still over his ribs. “Indeed?”

“Yeah.” It was mollifying to hear a twinge of hurt in Spock’s voice. “They’d probably send someone really easy to work with. Nice, engaging, understanding. I’m sure they’d get along great with Bones, too, which would take a load off my shoulders.”

So much of their skin was touching – Spock knew he was kidding.

“And I would absolutely hate them,” he finished anyway. Spock exhaled and held him tighter.

“You do not think me nice?”

The weight in Jim's chest lifted at that. “No. Christine is nice. Nice is…personal.”

Spock’s long eyelashes tickled his neck. “You do not think me engaging?”

“Only when you want to be.”

“You do not mean it.”

And maybe he didn't. Since they’d been…being together…Spock hadn’t once used his Vulcan-ly charms to sway Jim’s opinion on anything. Instead, they argued as much as they always had on duty. Once, a few weeks ago, it had been so bad Spock didn’t speak to him for two entire days save what was absolutely necessary for work. Jim, fed up, had purposefully pushed a little too far one afternoon...the aftermath was, objectively, bad.

But the during had been so good. Being fucked (their first and - so far - only time) by a thoroughly pissed-off Vulcan had been crazy good. But also intimate, and perversely tender, and something like total enlightenment. He didn’t think Spock had been prepared for how much it would be, and he’d kind of spiraled.

Of all the things Jim had expected from dating a Vulcan, apologizing through a locked fresher door because the sex was too good was not one of them. He wondered if Vulcan couples fucked each other silently and without emotion. Then he wondered if all Vulcans were as good at it as Spock was.

Thinking about that made Spock tighten his arm in question as he felt Jim's sweep of remembered arousal. He really shouldn't even consider it. It was so late.

“Who’s our youngest crew member?” He asked instead, willing his dick to stay limp. They could think about sex when Spock was no longer in danger from killer trees.

“Lieutenant Chekov.”

“Second youngest?”

There wasn’t even a beat for Spock to think about it. “Ensign Robards.”

Jim snorted. “Do you know the age of everyone on the ship?”

“That would not be a productive use of my time. Ensign Robards’ lack of experience has come to my attention often enough that I took note of his file. He is twenty-two years old.”

So Jim had interrupted something. They were the two youngest people on board – it made sense they would be aware of each other.

“Has he done something to warrant your notice?” Spock asked, probably wondering why the hell Jim was thinking about Chekov while they were in bed together.

“Just gossip. Nothing you’d care about. I wish you did, though…I bet you hear all kinds of things with those ears.”

“I do,” Spock said cryptically.

Jim wound their fingers together and closed his eyes. He couldn’t shut his brain off, and he knew Spock wouldn’t really be asleep until long after Jim was. He only slept about three or four hours, the rest of the night spent in silent meditation. Which sucked, because it was the only time he ever took the shields down and Jim was asleep for it.

His thoughts turned to the not-meld from earlier. How disturbed everyone else was by what they'd seen. It made him wonder if he normally said things out-loud and mentally while they were melded. It was like learning he was a sleepwalker or something.

“Did you know it would hurt me?” He asked.

Spock didn't answer immediately. “I was not in my right mind. It was ill advised.”

“But…” Jim started, and felt Spock tensing up a little. “That was all in my head, right? It couldn’t leave, like, real damage, could it?”

There was another hesitation, then Spock pulled back as far as the mattress would allow, tugging on Jim’s shoulder. He rolled onto his back, allowing Spock to watch him with his night-vision. 

“It could. Were I not in full control of myself.”

Jim touched his thigh. “I didn’t know it was a matter of skill.”

“It is. Vulcans have to train for many years in youth, usually with a parent or tutor. It is not common practice to ever utilize mind melds with an alien.” Jim smiled at being called the alien for once. “As it can easily leave them with permanent psychological disability.”

He stopped smiling. “Is that so?”

“Fortunately I had the unique opportunity of having a father familiar with the art.”

“And a mom to practice on,” Jim finished. Spock moved his hand to Jim’s throat, wrapping around without exerting any pressure. Jim swallowed, feeling his resolve against sex start to crack.

“I do not suggest you allow me to meld with you again while I am in such a state – “

“Like I’m gonna let you die if I can help it!”

“It would be better.” Jim’s protest was cut off as a hot tongue grazed the skin behind his ear. Fuck. “I could not live with myself if I harmed you in any way.”

His leg stretched out, falling across Jim’s waist and pinning his erection. Jim turned his face to press their mouths together. Their first kiss of the day, he realized.

Any way?” He teased. "Because I can think of one thing that hurts really, really good."

“James,” Spock said, exasperated, but also like he might want that again, too. "T'nash-veh."

He kissed Jim again, roughly, then moved his leg so he could touch Jim's dick with gentle strokes. He groaned, reaching for Spock’s groin, but there was nothing there.

“I only desire to pleasure you,” he whispered, low an grumbling in Jim’s ear.

“Fine.” Jim licked into his mouth, gasping and thrusting into his hand. “This doesn’t mean I’ve approved the beam-down tomorrow.”

Spock didn’t answer, but sat up so he could jerk Jim off and cover his mouth at the same time, and for once Jim was really okay with being told to shut up.

___________________________

 

“What do you mean, weird?” Bones asked, eyes narrowed over his coffee mug. Jim glanced around, making sure no one was within listening range.

“He forgot English last night.” It was the most descriptive he could get with his concerns without talking about how oddly aggressive the one-sided sex had been. Good, obviously, but Spock had never bitten him before. Not so hard, anyway. He rubbed over the bruise on his hip, pushing around his toast on his plate. “Just a word, but still.”

“Could be nothing,” Bones said, like he knew there was something else. Jim shrugged. “I didn’t see anything wrong with him physically. But you know him better than I do. All you have to do is call it off. We can send someone else.”

“Yeah.” And then Spock would probably have another tantrum about boundaries, because Jim’s only real evidence against him was sexual. He would brush off the forgetting-Standard thing as simple exhaustion. “Or you could just make something up. Take an ink stylus to his brain scans? Create a tumor?"

“No.” He stole Jim’s toast, giving a wide, early morning yawn. “You two are attached at the hip. Just ask him if there’s something wrong.”

“Oh.” Jim widened his eyes. “Thank you, Bones. I’ll just ask.”

“Whatever’s going on,” Bones said, a touch of sternness, like Jim was insulting him by insinuating Spock left Sick Bay with something still wrong. “Has nothing to do with the damn trees. If it’s a lover’s spat – “

He grimaced as Jim did a half-spit take, water dribbling down his chin as he coughed. “Dear God don’t call it that.”

Bones gave him a strange look, but Jim was too busy hacking his lungs up to care. His comm clicked on before either of them could start making fun of the other.

“Captain to ready room,” came a muffled voice. Jim dug it out of his pocket.

“Spock?”

The other side clicked in just in time for them both to hear the end of a sigh. “Yes. Would you meet me in your ready room?”

Jim put it back, thinking. “Come with me.”

“No.”

“Please? I need to know I’m not being crazy.”

Bones heaved a huge, reluctant sigh and stood.

“Hear about the trees?” Jim asked as they made their way up.

“Besides tearin’ holes in the crew?”

“Spock said they were…like muscles. Human muscles. Or something.”

He looked over. Bones was pinching the bridge of his nose. “Trees with muscles. Fuckin’ love that.”

Spock stood at the head of the table in the ready room, arms crossed. As soon as he saw Bones, his tense expression changed into something really very hostile.

“I paged the Captain,” he said flatly. “I was not under the impression that this ship was run by two.”

Bones squeezed Jim’s arm hard, turning to go. “He seems fine to me.”

“Wait!” Jim called after him, watching the door slide shut and dropping his arms. “Nice one, Spock. Remember what I said about ‘engaging’?”

“Why were you with him?”

Jim turned on his heel, really and truly confused. Because the way Spock had said it was more like ‘why were you with him’, and Jim didn’t know what to say.

“Excuse me?”

Spock was breathing hard, but he closed his eyes and seemed to force calm before opening again. “I need to discuss the details of the survey.”

Jim felt his eyes go wide. If the sex was sign number three, then this was definitely four. Spock never started a sentence with I need. Four seemed like a good number to stop on. “Spock, listen - “

“Time is of the essence,” Spock leaned down to hit a button on the console, showing a thermal imaging map of the Northern hemisphere. “I believe I have isolated the attack to thermal activity within the trees only present while the spore is being released. Over the past twenty-four hours, this specific range has displayed – “

“Why did you call me in here?” Jim asked suspiciously. Spock’s hand, where it hovered over a dial, clenched into a fist. “We could be doing this on the bridge.”

The start of Alpha had come and gone, and Jim was just realizing how abnormal this all was. “I know you think you’re fine, but…”

“But what?” Spock asked quietly. Jim bit his cheek, then squared his shoulders.

“I don’t feel comfortable sending you down there.”

Slowly, Spock turned towards him, fixing his eyes on the wall. "You are uncomfortable with it?"

"Yeah," Jim said, squinting.

"Are you certain that your concern is of an entirely professional nature?"

There it was. The 'boundaries' card. "You want professional? Maybe you should have thought about that before using my brain like your own personal voice-mail. And you've been acting off, okay? I know you know I'm right.”

Spock stared at him, then took a careful step around the corner of the table. Jim fought the urge to back away. 

“Are you saying this at the suggestion of Doctor McCoy?”

“It doesn’t matter,” Jim said, only growing more sure of his decision. “You’re not okay – “

Spock’s face had remained utterly blank, so it was wildly unexpected when their mouths crashed together. Ditto that when Jim was picked up and set on the table top. There was a halting kind of protest in there just before his brain stalled out. He groaned and locked his knees around Spock, throwing himself into it before the inevitable, Captainly instincts kicked in.

“Wait,” he said, just barely escaping the thrall of Spock’s tongue.

Spock was kissing him. In public. Semi-public, anyway. Jim vaguely recalled the protocol surrounding this. On-duty sex was…problematic. On-duty sex with Spock, however, was really…kind of…

Wait,” he said again, jerking back with a little more resolve. Spock moved like he might pull him back up, but stopped abruptly, looking at the hand that hung in the air between them, still half-reaching for Jim’s collar. It was shaking.

Horrified, Jim caught it, squeezing and subtly edging Spock away so he could stand again. Bones' advice seemed less far-fetched, suddenly. Just ask.

“What is this? What’s going on?”

Spock looked at his own hand, eyes widening enough for Jim to start to worry.

“Spock!”

He blinked, finally, head shooting up like Jim had startled him. When their eyes met, he inhaled sharply and pulled his hand away, backing all the way to the wall.

“Who do you want to send down in your place?” Jim asked flatly, leaving no room for argument.

Spock's tongue flashed out over his lower lip. “I will postpone the expedition.”

“Okay.” Jim was late. He should be on bridge. “I'm ordering you back to Sick Bay. Understood?”

Spock stared at him. Jim straightened up, remembering the last time one of them had tremors and a lack of sense. “Do your eyes hurt?”

“My software update would not allow a repeat gas leak. Hydrogen does not affect me as it does you.”

“Something else, then. Something that affects you this time.”

Spock’s eyebrows went up at that, but his eyes were clouded and far away. “Perhaps.”

Jim resisted the urge to reach out. “Do you want me to come with you?”

For the briefest of instances, Spock looked very fragile. Jim thought he must be concussed, and wondered how Bones could have missed that. “That is not necessary.”

“Okay.” And Jim never wanted to hear about ‘boundaries’ again – it took everything not to walk Spock back to their rooms and force him to lie down. “I’m canceling the mission.”

Spock nodded, eyes still not really there, and left. Jim took a second to calm down before running to the bridge. No one asked after his absence, and it wasn’t unusual for Spock to spend days in the labs.

“No expedition,” he said, standing over Sulu’s shoulder to watch what he was doing. Spock seemed to have left he and Chekov orders to watch the thermal map intently, recording small shifts in temperature not only in the air, but within the tree trunks as well. “Would you let Spock’s team from yesterday know?”

“Yes, sir,” Sulu said. Jim sensed the question at the tip of his tongue, asking why Spock wouldn’t tell them himself, but he bit it back. Jim clapped his shoulder. Good man.

Jim sent Bones a message, asking him to relay ASAP if he found anything wrong with Spock.

They witnessed another massive release of pollen matching Spock’s prediction to the minute. They couldn't exactly scan anything while it was going on, but Spock's hypothesis was that just after the release, the inner temperature of the trunks would be too low for them to move. Some complicated botany shit like energy allocation and turgidity. If he wasn’t being so strange, Jim really wouldn’t doubt sending them back down. It looked like he’d figured it out pretty soundly.

If it was anyone else, a little bit of disorientation the days after a near-death experience would be normal. Expected. That Bones would clear him for beam-down in the first place spoke to how much they all tended to expect from Spock.

Jim briefly wondered if he would have noticed the small lapses in usual behavior before, and realized that yes, he absolutely would. How many times had he just looked at Spock in the mornings after Vulcan, and known it would be a bad day? Lots.

They did their best to get through the pollen cloud that blocked the sensors, to no avail. They would need to collect a sample to really unders,tand what was going on. Someone would have to go back down, if he decided their safety could be reasonably more secure than the last time.

He returned to his chair after the pollen storm had ended - thirty six minutes exactly - and saw that he had a message from Bones.

Spock never came in. Too busy to chase him down. Your problem.

A few people stood at attention when Jim burst into Botany. He waved them off, heading straight to the back where he knew Spock's office to be.

He was there, sitting and staring off into space. Not even working, and not reacting at all to Jim's approach.

"Spock," Jim hissed, slamming his hands down. Spock flinched and blinked. No tell-tale signs of illness. No yellow circles under his eyes, or paleness past the usual.

"Captain," he said, and stood like they had a meeting scheduled or something. "Would you escort me to Sick Bay?"

Jim nodded, even though that’s exactly what he was planning on whether Spock wanted it or not. They walked out together. He didn’t realize he’d reached for Spock’s arm until it was jerked out of his grip. 

"What the fuck is this, some kind of power move? Because I think I gave you a direct order," Jim whisper-yelled, punching for the lift with his entire fist. "Is this your macho-Vulcanism thing with Bones? He's your doctor, whether you like it or not. And I'm actually your Captain, so the next time I tell you - "

"What did yo tell me?"

He sounded unsure, so Jim spelled it out for him. "I told you to go to Bones. You ignored me. We all caught up now?"

"I ignored you," Spock repeated, calm as ever. "It would seem so."

"Why?"

Spock stared at the lift wall silently, parsing something out. Jim hoped it was a fucking good explanation.

"I have no memory of speaking to you this morning," he said.

Jim - for a second - thought Spock was joking. Then Spock looked at him, and Jim believed. When the lift doors opened, he took Spock by the elbow and took off, ignoring a muttered protest.

“Bones, get in here!” He yelled, steering Spock into an empty room and sitting him down on the same cot he had vacated the night before. Spock had stopped resisting. 

“Jim?” Bones stepped inside, eyes moving to Spock suspiciously. “What is it?”

He pointed to Spock’s general un-Spockness. “I ordered him here this morning. And he says he has no memory of our conversation.”

Bones frowned between them. “Is this true, Spock?”

Spock nodded, but his expression had changed. Instead of vaguely confused, his eyes had gone completely blank. Jim glared at him while Bones retrieved a tricorder from the main room.

“Is he concussed?”

“…No,” Bones said, scanning Spock. “Unless he hit his head on something since I saw him last.”

“Did you?” Jim asked harshly. Spock glanced at him and shook his head. “So what changed?”

Spock must have known – frankly, he should have already been diagnosing himself. He was obviously aware of how bad memory loss was, and his silence was fucking frustrating. Angry, Jim opened his mouth to ask again, but Bones put a hand on his shoulder.

“Let’s just calm down.”

Jim snorted, leaning over his shoulder to look at the results he couldn’t understand. “What is that? What's it saying?"

Bones set his jaw, elbowing Jim out of his personal space. “You told me it was your healing state. You said it would go away.”

"I assumed it would," Spock said. "I hoped it would."

Bones paled, lowering the tricorder to his side.

"What the fuck is going on?" Jim exploded, sick to death of being out of the loop. Bones raised his eyebrows at Spock, who said absolutely nothing. "I swear to Christ - "

"Jim," Bones said with forced calm. "Spock's adrenaline levels are off the charts. I don't even know how he's conscious right now."

Jim leaned toward the tricorder, squinting, but a hand closed around his arm and jerked him to Spock’s side with bruising force.

“Ow – Spock – “

“Be silent,” Spock breathed, clutching him close. Bones watched the contact but didn’t comment. “It is pon-farr.

Bones didn’t look surprised, but Jim was confused at Spock's tone.

"Pon-farr. Okay? Good. So this has an explanation," Jim babbled, relieved. "Why didn't you guys just lead with that? Jesus."

Bones looked again at the readings. "If that's really what this is..."

Spock got to his feet, still holding tightly to Jim. "You are aware of your obligations."

"What are his ob - ow," Jim hissed as Spock's fingers contracted.

Bones looked at Jim. "I have to contact the High Council. Any Vulcan crew members experiencing the onset of this thing - "

"We must go," Spock said urgently.

"Wait just a minute, okay? I gotta give you something for the - "

"There is nothing to be done. I am taking medical leave - effective immediately." He moved toward the door. Jim planted his feet.

"I think you should stay here, Spock. Let Bones treat you - "

Spock turned to him with strange, frightening speed. "He is no longer my physician."

"What?" Jim and Bones said in unison.

"It is my right," Spock said, speaking to Bones but looking at the floor. "I defer to whatever doctor is appointed to me by the Council."

"Well, the Council ain't here, are they? While you're on this ship - "

“I will not listen to anything you say. You may place me under arrest if you wish. Otherwise, step out of my way.”

Spock!” Jim yelled, confusion bleeding over to anger. “You can’t talk to him like that!”

Spock's hand went even tighter. Jim was losing feeling in his fingers. "I cannot stay here, James. I must speak to my counterpart."

Jim didn't know which to respond to first - the fact that Spock had just blatantly referenced his future-self in front of Bones, or that he had said Jim's full name in mixed company.

Bones chose for him. "Who?" He asked, squinting. "Counterpart?"

"His dad," Jim lied. "He means his dad."

Spock moved again. Jim had to put serious effort into not being dragged along with him. "You must set course for Vulcan."

Jim stopped fighting for a second, having to brace himself against the wall. "You mean New Vulcan."

Spock stopped, too, his eyes going wide. Jim shared a look with Bones, the gravity of the situation falling between them.

"Why don't you sit - " Jim started.

"I cannot stay here."

Jim blew out a frustrated breath. "So go! And please don't take my arm with you."

"You cannot stay here, either," Spock snapped. Jim considered slapping him. "I should not be alone in my current condition. Please."

The 'please' did it. Jim closed his eyes, way too much happening at once. Pon-farr, Spock told him (after a lot of prodding) was a cycle of Vulcan adulthood that essentially equated to a week of meditation with elders. A brainstorm. It had made sense at the time, sort of. Vulcans were so obsessed with control that it made sense they would have to freak out every now and then. An evolutionary compromise. But Jim thought it would just be some general irritability on Spock's part. Not...dementia.

He also said that it wouldn't happen for several years. Five or six, if Jim remembered correctly.

No, Jim didn't think leaving Medical was a good idea, at all. "What happens now?" He asked. "We get you to New Vulcan, and the elders...?"

"James," Spock said again, in a pointed way. Jim opened his eyes. Spock looked uncomfortable.

"Jim," Bones began, but Spock gave him a look of such intense fury he went silent. And then his face turned red.

It was easy, suddenly, to step into Captain mode – like these were two fighting crew members and not his best friend and his…his Spock. He put a firm hand on Spock’s shoulder, making sure he had his full attention before speaking.

“Go to the hall and wait for me.”

It was a pleasant surprise that it worked. Spock's fingers slid away from his arm, and he left.

“Did you know it would be this bad?” Jim asked. Bones suppressed whatever vitriol he'd been about to throw at Spock, and shook his head. “Do you know anything that we’re supposed to be doing?”

Bones took a deep breath and raised the tricorder. “If this gets any worse, I think it might kill him. And he's right. I can't do a thing about it. The orders they gave out about this were to get the sick person to New Vulcan as soon as possible. It's got its own code in the Fed Regs now."

“How long?” Jim asked, still Captaining. 

“A week,” Bones hedged. “Or less.”

Jim swiped the back of his hand over his brow. “What, um, what happens when you talk to the Council? What’s the protocol, here?”

“I’m supposed to contact them first, then they’ll go to Starfleet and explain. You should go.” He nodded to the door. “Try to keep him calm. Asleep would be best.”

"Asleep. Sure." Jim didn't really want to walk through the door. He was terrified.

"I'll tell the Council," Bones said. "Maybe they'll give me a good excuse to tell the crew."

Jim groaned. He had to lie to the crew! "I'll be back."

Spock was waiting in the hall, thank God. They walked silently back to their rooms, Jim stewing on his anger. And his fear and worry, but mostly anger.

"Okay," he said, when they were behind closed doors. Spock went to his bed and sank onto the side of it, fisting his hands on his knees. "Talk."

"I..." Spock started. "I apologize. Please understand that the stress this day has caused you in no way compares to my feelings on the matter."

"I don't need an apology. You didn't tell me it would be this bad."

"I did not know."

"What?"

"I have never - " Spock looked at him, and then away. "I thought there would be more time."

"Well, why is it happening now?" Jim asked. Spock's excuse of time had gotten Jim to drop the subject, but now he was kind of fucking upset that he didn't know anything he was supposed to be doing.

"I do not know."

"What is the Council gonna do?"

"I do not know."

"Well, I know that when Humans kept getting headaches for hundreds and hundreds of years, they invented aspirin. They figured it out. Why does it feel like you don't know what's going on?"

Spock stood abruptly, his hands still in fists. "I will go to Vulcan. I will meditate. It will not be easy, but when it is done I will return in improved health. That is what I know."

He was lying, Jim realized. "You don't know," he accused. Spock opened his mouth, a worried crease forming between his eyebrows. Jim stepped closer. "You're scared."

"I am not," Spock argued. "I am simply...not prepared."

"For what?"

"You should not return here," he said, nodding decisively to himself. "I will require solitude for the remainder my illness."

Jim couldn't believe it. "Starfleet gave me access to your medical records," he said. "After some Vulcans enrolled at Starfleet, they decided that your doctor should know about this. And they decided that your ...that I should know about it, too. There's a Regulation for the situation. That's how much thought they've put into this. And all you know...is that you need to meditate."

It just didn't add up. Spock knew everything about everything, including how to treat wounds from a carnivorous tree on a nearly uncharted planet.

Spock's silence was infuriating. "I'm going with you," Jim announced. That got a reaction - Spock frowned.

"No," he said.

"Yeah," Jim said with more resolve. "Why shouldn't I?"

Spock cast his eyes around. "You have yet to reach a successful meditation by Human standards, much less that of Vulcan. It is a ridiculous notion that you would accompany me."

His hands were still shaking, Jim realized. "How do you feel?" he asked, stepping closer again. He took one of Spock's hands in his own, prying it out of a fist. "This is like Setlik III all over again. Should we meld?"

They usually did about once a week, less often now than at first. Jim had gotten pretty good at it.

"We cannot," Spock said, his voice soft and dazed. He pulled his hand away. "The Fires."

"The what?"

"I burn," he whispered. Jim gaped as his distraught expression. "It is not safe for you."

"What does that mean?"

"Go," Spock told him, sitting back on his bed. "I will sleep."

"O-okay. I'll take care of it, alright?" He said, deciding to leave this for now. Spock nodded. "I'll bring you dinner, later."

"Just...change our course, Jim," he said tiredly.

Change course. That freaked Jim out, too. Spock would never turn away from something like this - the trees and their mysterious lactic acid. But he was. He was dropping it cold.

"I'll be back," he assured, going ignored. "ASAP."

 

___________________________

 

Everyone was just staring at him. Jim rolled his eyes, gripping the back of his chair so hard it hurt. It was like he'd just done a cartwheel instead of giving very clear orders.

“Last I checked, I was sort of in charge of this thing, so...” He waved his hand in the air.

Sulu snapped out of it, first. “Heading, Captain?”

That seemed to jar everyone into motion. Chekov ran back over from talking with the Gravity Chief, falling into his seat and getting everything in order. The thermal images disappeared.

“New Vulcan,” Jim said heavily, already turning to Nyota, who had big eyes. “Orders will be through soon.”

“What’s happening?” She mouthed, clearly less concerned by the lack of orders than their new destination. Jim really wished he could tell her. Maybe she would know something about it. 

He decided on ignoring it for now. The turbolift had just opened, showing a grim-looking Bones. Jim went over, feeling everyone’s eyes on his back.

“Course changed?” Bones asked him in a low voice. Jim nodded. “ETD?”

“Now.”

That seemed like the answer he was looking for. “Get us goin’. Come see me right after shift.”

Jim didn’t like the urgency in his voice, but the crew were probably not going to let them whisper to each other in the lift all day. “Sure thing.”

Whatever it was, Bones couldn’t send it over the database. The Starfleet orders came in about an hour away from Bowden IV. All it said was that the Enterprise had been suspended from the mission, and that they would be relieved by the Elcün. It didn’t give any reason for it, and Jim was hard-pressed to commit to any one lie until he’d talked to Bones. So the bridge was just full of uncertain, awkward silence. Everyone was assuming the worst – that something bad had happened to the colony.

It didn’t help that Spock was mysteriously absent.

New Vulcan was relatively nearby. Four days away at Warp factor five.

“Take us up to Warp Nine,” he told the helm. Everyone responded as they should, but Jim still felt that he'd lost a little bit of their trust.

 

__________________________________

 

“I talked to that M’Benga,” Bones said immediately, yanking Jim into his office and shutting the door. “Guess no Vulcan doctor could be bothered.”

Jim tugged at his collar. He was sweaty and anxious and worried about Spock. “And?”

Bones sat heavily behind his desk. “And…he said it's routine.” He sighed sharply. "Everything. All of Spock's symptoms, the memory loss..."

"What else did he tell you?"

“Well, I’m not Spock’s physician during this mess – M'Benga sort of shut me down once I mentioned that.” His voice was more hurt than he would ever admit to. “Which he can decide, by the way, I checked with M’Benga about it. It means I’m not your doctor, either.”

“What? Yes, you are.”

Bones should look more irritated, Jim thought. But he only looked…tired. “I'm sorry, Jim. You just gotta go along with it.”

"Fuck that. Fuck this. Why do I need a doctor, Bones?"

Bones stared at him for a long time, brows furrowed. "Shit."

"Bones."

"What did he tell you, Jim?"

Jim swallowed, tasting bile. "He said he needs to go to New Vulcan - well, no, actually he kept saying Vulcan - and meditate. Like it's a...big psychic migraine, or something. At least that's what he said. Weeks ago. But now it seems like he has no idea what's going on, or what to do. He said it was years away, and now it's here without warning. I think...well, he seems afraid."

As he talked, something strange worked over Bones' expression. Confusion, then deep thought, then he leaned down for the whisky. And poured Jim three fingers. Three.

“Jim,” he said, while Jim gave the glasses a nervous look-over. His voice had taken on a light, careless tone. “Spock threatened to kill me earlier.”

Right when he’d taken a sip. Jim slammed a fist down, fighting the whisky that singed his trachea. Twice in one fucking day Bones had made him choke to death. “He what?!”

“Right before I came up to bridge, I stopped at his quarters. See, I was fairly certain you didn't have the full story, so I thought I'd ask him about it and see if he didn't have his own reason for keeping' things from you.

“What are you talking about?”

“I don’t know a lot about pon farr, Jim, but it sure as hell ain’t no migraine.