“Captain, the shuttle craft Galileo reports it has docked successfully,” Chekov reported.
Jim let out a mental sigh of relief. Wouldn't do to show the crew that he was worried, but the Galileo was the last one up from Sardina III, a full thirty minutes ahead of Spock's estimate two days ago. They had plenty of time to make it to the Delgasian system. “Full decon for the Galileo and its cargo,” he ordered.
“Already underway,” Spock answered. When Jim turned his head he was once again surprised by the spray of white feathers that extended from his first officer's back. When he wasn't looking, it was hard to remember that anything had changed. Spock seemed just as focused and efficient as ever, idiots in the corridors notwithstanding. But when he did look, Jim couldn't seem to see anything else for at least a minute.
“Excellent,” Jim said. “Set course for the Delgasian system, warp five, Mr. Sulu.” Not that Jim was really looking forward to making nice with the soon to be invested Dergin of the Delgasians. He hated playing politician. Oh well, at least chances were no one would get hurt on this mission, not with all the other groups who were sending representatives. And they might have a chance to get one over on the Klingons.
“Warp five, aye,” Sulu replied. It took him only a moment to finalize the course he and Chekov had input earlier. Then the lever went up and the Enterprise leapt forward, the stars becoming long lines in the view screen.
“Captain, I would like to oversee the unloading of the specimens from Sardina III,” Spock said.
“Of course, Mr. Spock. I think we can live without you on the Bridge for a bit,” Jim said lightly. This time he expected the wings when he looked at his first officer, but not the odd feeling of warmth in his stomach when he caught Spock's brown eyes looking back. Huh. That was unusual.
Jim didn't have much of a chance to analyze things before Spock strode to the turbo lift, his wings rustling slightly with each step.
Spock carefully observed the decontamination procedures and discussed the quarantine protocols used by those inside the shuttle craft before they were permitted to leave the shuttle bay. He was pleased with their excellent adherence to protocol. In fact, he was about to return to the Bridge when the team xenobiologist, Lieutenant JocelynHan, approached him.
“Commander Spock, I would like to take some recordings of your wings,” Lieutenant Han requested. “I studied several of the avian species on Sardina III ...”
“And you wish to observe if there are any similarities between my wing structures and those you observed on the planet,” Spock finished for her.
“Correct,” Lieutenant Han said. “If it is possible that something from the planet is the cause of your transformation, those similarities would be a clue.”
Spock saw the logic of her request. He could not deny that. Unfortunately, he also could not deny how very little he wanted anyone poking around near his wings. Retaining his control when touched was becoming harder with time, not easier. But it was a logical request, and he was a Vulcan. “Very well,” Spock said. “Where do you wish to perform your examination?”
“The Xenobiology Lab will have the equipment I need.”
Lieutenant Han needed some time to set up the required equipment when they arrived in the Xenobiology Lab. Spock took the available time to try and prepare himself for the necessity of contact.
He was not successful.
A moan rang through the room the first time Lieutenant Han touched him. Hands clenched, he hung his head and struggled to hold on while she continued in a brisk and efficient manner. His only comfort was that she was wearing some kind of glove that prevented any telepathic bleed over.
“I apologize,” Lieutenant Han said, her actions never stopping. “I will complete all tests that require contact as quickly as I can.” Her hands traced the muscles and veins in his wings.
Fire was running through Spock's veins, starting in his wings and surging through his other limbs before pooling in his core. He was fully aroused, physically and mentally.
“I'm almost done, Commander,” Lieutenant Han said, though not soon enough. “I just need a feather sample. I know that won't be easy for you, but may I?”
Spock sucked in a pained breath at the very thought, but nodded.
“All right, I've selected the feather.”
The vibration of her grip ran through his right wing and made Spock's penis harden and throb in a most distracting manner.
Biting his lip, Spock managed to refrain from making any noise. However, he did not refrain from reacting to the sharp surge of pleasure/pain that washed through him. For over a minute after the removal of the feather, it was all he could do to stay on his feet with the residual sensation washing through him in waves.
“Commander, are you all right?” Lieutenant Han was directly in front of him when Spock managed to open his eyes, fortunately not touching him at all. It was only when her eyes flickered down that he realized his pants were damp and quickly cooling.
“Under the circumstances, I am quite adequate,” Spock replied. He was displeased by how shaky his voice sounded.
“I'm so sorry, Commander. I never intended ...”
“It was necessary,” Spock interrupted. “If you have all you require, I should return to my quarters before returning to the Bridge.”
As he turned to leave, he realized the feather in her hand, the one she was gently stroking as though it were the softest thing in the world, was his.
Spock wanted to return to his quarters. He needed time to re-center himself before returning to duty. His relations with Nyota had never shattered him so completely, physically or emotionally. However, it was going to take far too long too return to his quarters in his current state, and require passing far too many crewmen. Sickbay was closer.
Nurse Chapel was in the main room when Spock stepped through the doors. She took one look at him and pointed to one of the private rooms at the back. “I'll get Dr. McCoy.”
Content enough simply to sit and allow himself to finish shaking, Spock would have been pleased if Dr. McCoy had taken his time in arriving. He did not.
“What the hell happened this time?” the doctor snapped as soon as the door to the private room shut behind him. At least this time, when that sentiment left his lips he was not inclined to touch.
“Lieutenant Han requested tests and a feather sample in case my condition relates to something from the planet,” Spock replied, his voice still tight with his discomfort. “I simply require a little time to recover myself.”
“Is that all?” Dr. McCoy asked, his expression as disbelieving as his voice.
“And a new pair of pants,” Spock admitted, averting his eyes.
Dr. McCoy's head rocked back on his neck. “Damn, how sensitive are those things?”
Spock felt the tips of his ears warm with a flush of blood. “Very.”
“Damn, she must have done a number on you.” Dr. McCoy shook his head and tapped his chin. “Well, since you're here, we'll clean you up and do a full scan. Make sure she didn't do any damage.”
“That will not be necessary,” Spock protested.
“Ah, doctor's orders,” Dr. McCoy said, raising a hand to hold back all protests. “But clean pants first. Be right back.”
As soon as Spock had clean pants on he was more than ready to depart immediately, but Dr. McCoy would not let him pass.
“I am adequate now,” Spock protested.
“You're due back here in half an hour anyway,” Dr. McCoy countered. “Besides, I want to see how this influenced your hormone levels.”
Spock could only sit stiffly and wait for Dr. McCoy to finish.
“Your hormones levels have spiked even higher, and your adrenal system is running hot,” Dr McCoy finally announced after the last test.
“This surprises you?” Spock said, eyebrow touching his bangs.
“That depends.” Dr. McCoy's eyes flickered down Spock's body. “How much sexual activity have you participated in since the accident?”
Spock swallowed sharply, his fingers tightening into a fist that he kept out of sight next to his leg. “None.”
Dr. McCoy raised an eyebrow in surprise. “Nothing?” Spock shook his head. “Not with Uhura? Not alone?”
“I have been managing my condition as a Vulcan,” Spock said, his voice as stiff as his spine, even to his own ears.
“Huh.” Dr. McCoy stared for a minute before finally shrugging. “Well, maybe this will actually help. We'll know if your numbers go down by morning.”
Spock simply nodded, unable to verbalize a response. He wanted to believe his numbers would go back to normal now, but given the way his wings were still throbbing and bursts of heat were running through his veins, he doubted the likelihood.
A knock on the door interrupted them then. “Hey, Bones,” came Captain Kirk's voice through the door.
Dr. McCoy rolled his eyes but released the lock on the door.
“Hey, Spock. You never came back. Wanted to make sure everything was all right.” Captain Kirk's eyes went straight to Spock. There was something in his eyes that told Spock that the captain had heard about the incident in the Xenobiology Lab.
“I am adequate,” Spock said.
“For now,” Dr. McCoy cut in. “I'm not happy with his hormone levels.”
Captain Kirk looked thoughtful for a moment, then shrugged. “You keeping him?”
“Not tonight,” Dr. McCoy said. “As long as he comes back in the morning.”
Spock nodded when the doctor leveled a glare in his direction. He knew his orders and would obey as an officer of Starfleet in good standing.
“Chess?” Captain Kirk asked when Dr. McCoy stepped aside for Spock to leave.
Spock considered the offer. It was their usual night for chess. They had not missed a game in several months. On the other hand, he was rather overwhelmed by recent events. However, their chess nights often settled his mind and emotions as much as a night meditating. “That would be acceptable,” Spock decided.
Jim watched Spock carefully for those little winces during the walk to his first officer's quarters, but it seemed the crew was taking the night off. The events in the Xenobiology lab were probably legendary by now. Half the off duty crew would be standing Jocelyn Han drinks for the next week at least. The only good thing about the situation was the lieutenant had the sense to be ashamed about the whole situation and had reported it to Jim herself. Unfortunately, she'd also admitted she and Spock hadn't been the only ones in the lab.
Spock looked … peaked was the best description Jim could find. His skin was tinged greener than usual and his whole body moved more loosely than Jim had ever seen before. He knew there was more to Spock than the stiff necked exterior the half-Vulcan always showed, but that didn't change the fact that no one actually ever saw Spock at less than his best in public. Jim was fairly certain events had caused him to interrupt Spock and Uhura mid-coitus or post-coitus on a few occasions, but that assessment was based on Uhura's expression when they got to the Bridge. There had never been a single sign from Spock. But now Spock looked … no, peaked wasn't the best description. Well fucked was much more accurate, and that was concerning.
They had been walking in silence, but as they approached Spock's quarters, and therefore his own, Jim had to express some concern. “You sure you're up for company? We can always get together another night.”
Spock paused, visibly considering Jim's words in detail. “While the day has been … complicated, and tiring, I believe I will welcome a distraction from recent events for a few hours.”
“Chess it is, then,” Jim agreed. And he'd make use of the time to observe his friend a little, see if he spotted something Bones had missed. The doctor had been concerned about Spock's hormone levels.
Walking into Spock's room was like walking into a sauna without the moisture. That was normal, if startling all the same. Given the temperatures Spock preferred, Jim was sometimes amazed the half-Vulcan didn't freeze to death while on duty.
“Computer, decrease temperature settings to ship normal,” Spock ordered.
“Computer, set temperature at twenty degrees above ship normal,” Jim countered. He could handle a little heat tonight if it meant Spock was more comfortable. Spock deserved to be comfortable in his own quarters after today.
“Captain, that is not necessary,” Spock protested.
“Nonsense,” Jim said. He didn't bother to elaborate, just dropped into the chair by the 3D chess set Spock kept in the corner of the main room. “White or black?”
They settled into the game with the ease of two year's familiarity. Jim was still trying random and illogical tactics to throw Spock off. Spock was increasing the complexity of his plans in order to counter Jim's randomness. Unsurprisingly, Spock won at least seventy-five percent of their games.
Jim knew Spock wasn't fully engaged when he managed to take the white queen in a gambit that the commander had countered successfully for the last month. While Spock plotted his next move, Jim leaned back to study his opponent instead of the board. Spock looked better, more his usual color anyway. But his brow was furrowing in concentration and he'd taken to chewing lightly on his bottom lip. That was not normal.
Just then Jim's stomach growled. Both men shared a startled look that turned to laughter, at least on Jim's part. Spock just raised an eyebrow. “I'm betting you skipped lunch because of the shuttle. What do you say we order in? I don't want to face the cafeteria today.”
Spock looked oddly discomforted, especially since the emotion was so clear on his face, but answered in the affirmative. Not sure what to make of all that emotion, Jim turned away and requested dinner from his yeoman. Might as well see if he could get Rand to earn her keep again. She'd been avoiding both Captain and First Officer since her misstep on the Bridge.
The game reclaimed their attention until the chime of the door rang out. Not looking away from the board, Spock hit the button to allow entrance and called, “Come in,” in a distracted voice.
The female voice in the doorway was decidedly not from Janice Rand. Bad incident on the Bridge or not, there was no reason for the Captain's Yeoman to be quite so emotional. Looking up, Jim saw Uhura, her face as full of confusion and anger as her voice.
“Something tells me you two need to talk,” Jim said, standing so quickly he knocked his chair over. “Uhura can have my dinner. I'll get something in the cafeteria.”
“That is not necessary, Captain,” Spock said, his voice rough with emotions Jim couldn't name.
In the same moment, Uhura said, “Thank you.”
A quick fumble set his chair upright again before Jim leaned over, patting Spock on the wrist, careful that his fingers touch only cloth. “Yes, it is. So says the man with more experience with human women. I'll see you both at the briefing tomorrow morning.” He smiled at Spock, then walked out, giving Uhura a formal nod.
Spock accepted Captain Kirk's assessment that he needed to speak with Nyota, but he still did not desire to. After the events of today, another emotional conversation would not be conducive to his control. He did not want another experience like last night.
Nyota stood in the doorway, staring, allowing the room's heat to dissipate into the hall for one minute and nineteen point three seconds after Captain Kirk departed. Only then did she step fully inside and permit the doors to close. “Computer, set temperature settings to ship normal,” she ordered, then continued to stare.
Spock suppressed a shiver.
“Why?” Nyota finally asked. “Why won't you let me near, but you can let Joclyne Han do … do ...”
“She had a legitimate scientific inquiry,” Spock said.
“So she can touch you, get you off because it's scientific, but you run out of the room because I suggest dinner?”
Spock struggled for control, his emotions surging in a pattern he could not focus enough to identify. Giving in to the urge, he rubbed his hand over his forehead, an action he had seen Captain Kirk take many time. It seemed to calm the captain, but it did nothing for Spock.
“I left,” he said, struggling to push out the words, “because I did not wish to hurt you. My emotions have been … difficult. I became angry.”
“Then become angry,” Nyota snapped. “I thought we were close enough that you could allow me to see you emotional.”
“The last time I was that angry, I almost choked the life from Captain Kirk,” Spock spat. “I would not see you harmed because I lose control.”
Pressing a hand to her chest, Nyota looked distressed. “I never meant to push you that far.” She stepped forward and claimed the seat Captain Kirk had been sitting in so recently. Spock found himself wondering if it was still warm from the Captain's body heat, or if it had quickly cooled like the air around them. “But part of a relationship is being open enough that I shouldn't have to. You haven't been open with me of late.”
“I regret my failure to fully express my condition,” Spock said, though he was not quite sure how he had failed their relationship.
“Talk to me, Spock,” Nyota begged. “Something is going on with you. I want to understand.”
They were interrupted just then by the door. Spock stood and walked to the door. As soon as it opened, he took the tray from Yeoman Rand and stepped back, letting the door close on her startled face. He turned and held the tray out to Nyota, but she shook her head. He was not hungry either, had not been even when Captain Kirk asked, so he set the tray on the floor by the door and returned to his seat by the table.
“Vulcans follow the precept that the mind can rule the body,” Spock began. He was uncertain how to explain, or even if he wanted to. However, he did prefer that Nyota not be upset with him.
“That's why I'm worried,” Nyota cut in. “You are usually so focused, so controlled. The last few days … I haven't seen you so upset since our first mission. But then, you let me help you.”
“Grief is something even Vulcans acknowledge must be dealt with in order to proceed with life. Turning to friends and family for support and healing is a time honored tradition.” Spock rubbed his hands against the legs of his pants, but that only sent another surge of arousal through him.
“So why can't you turn to me now?” Nyota said, leaning over the table.
Spock took a deep breath and pushed back the arousal that was lurking. “Vulcans achieve physical maturity before they achieve sexual maturity. The latter usually occurs around twenty-five standard years of age. I have never achieved a Vulcan sexual maturity.”
Nyota's brow furrowed. “But you were twenty-seven when we got together … You ...”
“I achieved a Terran sexual maturity in my seventeenth standard year. In this manner, my human heritage has won out over my Vulcan self. My control was imperfect and it became a subject for ridicule from doctors, elders, and classmates.”
“Oh, Spock,” Nyota said, her hand reaching out to grasp his. He flinched away. That made her frown, but she pulled back. “So the fact that we can have a relationship is an embarrassment to you?” she asked sourly.
“It is … different,” Spock said, struggling to find the right words in a mind that was fogging with distractions. “Vulcans do not date. In most families, a marriage bond is formed between future mates at seven years of age. When sexual maturity is reached, the bond is finalized.”
“You're married?” Nyota asked, leaning back in her chair.
“No,” he said firmly. “Human sexual maturity does not have the characteristics necessary to trigger the finalization of the bond. Additionally, T'Pring made it clear long ago that she would not accept me if the time ever came for us to finalize our bond. Yet, in order to ensure the alliance between our families she refused to break the betrothal. My estrangement with my father made requesting the bond be broken difficult, but I had been petitioning for five point three seven years. The matriarch of my line had agreed to facilitate the breaking of our bond … I was due to return to Vulcan for the ritual during the next school break.”
“What happened to T'Pring when Nero came?” she asked softly.
“She did not escape Nero's attack,” he said. He felt this lips twist into a frown and a sour feel built in his stomach, not for T'Pring specifically but rather for the horror of all who lost their lives that day.
“Spock … I'm sorry. But I still don't understand what this has to do with us, now.” Nyota had crossed her arms and wore an expression of displeasure that normally sat on her face when the captain had done something she found particularly distasteful.
“My control is failing again, as it did when I was seventeen,” Spock snapped. He could no longer seem to modulate his tone. “I must maintain my control or I lose all right to call myself Vulcan. That is intolerable.”
Taking a deep breath, Nyota dropped her hands to her lap. She stared at him for a long moment before she spoke. “I see. Well, no, I don't see. I know control is important to you, but you've always been willing… We've been together three years and you've never mentioned any of this before. Why?”
“Marriage as it is structured and its relation to sexual maturity are remnants of our violent past. Vulcans do not speak of them unless there is no other choice.” Spock took a deep breath, repressing the urge to shiver, both at the temperature of the air and the arousal still pooling within him. “I had expected that we would discuss such things eventually.”
“But not yet, apparently,” Nyota said. Her lips were pursed in a manner that did not bode well for her mood.
Spock dredged up a response that the captain had used a few times, with varying degrees of success. “You had not asked.”
She winced, but her lips relaxed. “I want to help you, with this and with everything in your life.” Her hands reached out again, but stopped in the middle of the table without touching him. There they rested, palm up. “Will you let me?”
It took a great deal of effort to place his hands on top of the table, to set them palms down so that the tips almost touched hers. He should have touched. It was an intimacy he had not refused her before Sardina III. But he could not stand to do so, not now. “I would appreciate that,” he said softly.
Despite his attempts at reconciliation, her eyes were sad. They appeared fixed on the small distance between their hands. “You said you permitted Lieutenant Han to touch because she had a legitimate reason. Is loving you enough of a reason?” Her hands lifted, hovering over his own without making contact.
“Under most circumstances ...” The words trailed off. He knew what the words should be, but at this time they did not feel correct. Feel. There were all too many feelings within him at this time. Even with some distance between their hands, he felt as though she were pressing her skin to his, fire racing through him from the point of contact. He pulled his hands away.
“But not now,” Nyota said sadly, withdrawing her own hands once his were safely in his lap.
“Today has been … difficult,” he admitted. “Had the lieutenant not worn gloves, I do not know if I could have ...” His voice cracked with emotion, and he was appalled to realize the limited human tear ducts he had inherited from his mother were overproducing.
“I'll let you meditate,” she offered, standing. Her expression was an odd combination of yearning and discomfort. For a moment Spock was tempted to touch her, to attempt to understand what she was expressing, but common sense overruled before he could move.
“That would be appreciated,” he said, his voice sounding stiff even to his own ears.
“Right. Goodnight, Spock.”
“Goodnight, Nyota,” he replied even as she slipped out the door. This time when the cold seemed to seep into his bones, he let himself shiver.
“Computer, environmental controls to Vulcan standard, plus ten degrees,” he ordered as he moved to take a meditative posture. That should be sufficient to restore his comfort levels. He would remember to put on an extra thermal layer before his next shift.