Jim looked proudly over his command crew gathered in the conference room. They had the youngest average age of any command crew in Starfleet and had the longest list of awards and honors after just two years in space. In some ways this mission was another honor. The Delgasians didn't have a lot of respect for the Federation, but they had specifically requested to meet these people.
Spock and Uhura looked a little tense but were settled in their usual places so last night couldn't have gone too badly. Well, Spock was standing, but he'd usually chosen to stand since the transporter accident.
The last to arrive was Jim's favorite security chief, Lieutenant Hanson, aka Cupcake. Initial annoyances aside, the man had worked hard to rise quickly through the security ranks and Jim was glad to have Hanson watching his back.
“Thank you all for coming,” Jim said to open the meeting. “I know you're all on different shifts right now. We'll be transitioning to one shift so we're all ready and awake when we go down to Delgasian IV. The PADDs before you contain information on the Delgasian culture, technology, and other interesting factors. You all get to take a crack at looking at it just in case a different perspective nets us a new angle on dealing with the Delgasians.”
Jim gestured at Uhura and began the lecture. “The Delgasian system sits in the Klingon Neutral Zone. The natives of Delgasian IV are a warrior race. Their culture is historically focused on inter-clan battles and identifying the best fighters through hand to hand combat. Since they unified under planetary leadership, the Delgasians have been seeking alternate battlegrounds. This, combined with their focus on warrior's honor, has drawn them towards the Klingon Empire.”
“It is our crew who has the best chance of forming an alliance with the Delgasians,” Spock said, picking up the thread of the lecture. Jim wanted to grin proudly at Spock's choice of the mutual possessive but resisted for the moment. “Only the survivors of the battle with Nero are to be allowed to interact with the Delgasians on this trip. It is imperative that we make a positive impression.”
“But we're not all warriors,” Bones cut in. “I spent the trip fixing people, and Scotty spent the trip fixing the ship.”
“But we wouldn't have succeeded without everyone,” Jim answered. “Delgasians respect the warrior band, which includes healers and techs. They've made most of their advances in the last fifty years by selling their services as mercenaries in exchange for technology. If they didn't have good techs, they'd never know if the deal was worth it.”
Spock turned to Jim with an eyebrow raised in the manner that seemed to imply he was impressed. Well, Jim hadn't had anything better to do last night than read up. It was a good way to keep himself from trying to listen in at the bulkhead to see how Spock was doing.
“The captain is correct,” Spock said. “It is our successes together that the Delgasians respect. They have requested detailed reports from Starfleet regarding all of our actions during the battle with Nero.”
“All of us?” Chekov asked. His voice had settled in the last two years, but his wide, innocent eyes still showed pain when he thought of those days. It was clear he'd never quite forgiven himself for failing Spock's mother.
“They have been expressing interest in the work you and Mr. Scott have been doing to improve transporter function and speed,” Spock said. The words made Checkov blush.
Spock admitted the briefing had gone well. The command crew of the Enterprise was young but well trained and worked smoothly together. He agreed with the Admiralty that, despite their youth, this crew had the best chance of impressing the Delgasians. Unfortunately, he was still uncertain that they could impress the Delgasians enough.
While the others filed out of the briefing, Spock continued to flip through his PADD, looking for some aspect of Delgasian culture that might provide an appropriate approach. Caught up in retrieving the research team from Sardina III with a full range of data he had not taken the time to do so previously. Amongst other distractions.
The fact that he was also avoiding the crowds in the hallway as the command crew left was irrelevant.
“Spock?” A familiar hand on his sleeve drew his attention from his research.
“Lieutenant?” he said, meeting Nyota's eyes. Even with her hand on his sleeve, he felt he could sense her emotions pressing on him through the three layers of cloth.
“I know it's a little early, but would you like to join me for lunch before we start on the Bridge?”
Spock felt his stomach churn at the thought, and he was unable to discern if it was the thought of food that upset him or the idea of spending time close to Nyota and her vibrant emotional state. Lust, curiosity, worry, desire, anger. He could feel it all radiating out from her even when she released his arm.
“There is much I must attend to before I begin my shift on the Bridge,” he said. The words were something of a prevarication, but as fire seemed to race through his veins he knew he needed to leave.
As he turned to depart, he caught a glimpse of a frown on her face.
Bones caught Jim by the arm in the corridor after the briefing and pulled him away from the others with an urgent glare.
“What's wrong, Bones?” Jim asked, his levity hiding the shiver Bones' expression was sending down his spine.
“I'm worried about that green-blooded hobgoblin you call a first officer,” Bones snapped, softly, and only after glancing around and making sure there were no other crew members within hearing range.
“I heard you last night,” Jim said. He was still trying to figure out what it was about hearing Spock's hormones were acting weird was bugging him. Or where he would have heard enough about Vulcan medical conditions to know there was something to Bones' concerns.
“I thought he might improve by this morning, last night being some kind of peak in things.”
“And?” Jim asked.
Bones shook his head. “Worse than ever. And he won't talk about it. Just says there's no way to prove it's unusual and insists I let him go back to work.”
Jim pressed the tips of his fingers to the bridge of his nose. “Okay … sounds like we need something to confront him with that he can't disprove with logic.”
“I've got some ideas, but I wanted to talk to you before I went digging.” Bones looked uncomfortable with all this, and for good reason. Spock, of all the crew, was usually up front and quite reasonable about his health, unless the problem was emotional. Something was happening outside the good doctor's area of expertise.
“Consider it an order from your captain,” Jim said, clapping Bones on the shoulder. “There's something wrong with him. We just have to get him to admit it.”
With Bones' concerns in mind, Jim made certain to escort Spock to Sickbay after their shift on the Bridge. While on the Bridge, Spock had continued to appear the perfect science officer, as long as no one was near him. As soon as someone got near, he flinched and began to look more and more strained. Oh, if one weren't watching for it no one would notice. But Jim was watching, noticed, and was worried about his first officer and dear friend.
He didn't try to maintain a conversation, but even without the verbal cues it was clear when a crew member touched Spock's wings, and it was happening twice between every intersection despite the glare each passing person got from their captain.
“Do the corridors seem more crowded than usual?” Jim finally asked. The last idiot to touch Spock had had the audacity to wink when Jim glared at him. The next one was going to get the rough side of Jim's tongue.
“It does seem unusually populated for this time,” Spock replied. Then he froze. And growled.
Jim felt his eyes widen in shock as he watched his usually calm, controlled first officer go wild eyed and grab the nearest crewman and shove him against the wall. Vulcan fingers pressed against the man's neck, not his face, but to Jim it seemed like he could see the mental connection being made.
“A bet?” Spock snarled. The last time Jim had heard so much emotion in the other man's voice it had been in an enraged howl as Jim was thrown into the navigation console. “Is this sufficient reaction for you to win?”
Finally shaking off his shock, Jim grabbed Spock's shoulder, doing his best to avoid the huge wings in the way, and pulled back. The crewman was going red and making distressed wheezing noises. “Stand down, Commander,” Jim ordered. He wasn't strong enough to make Spock move if the half-Vulcan didn't want to.
And it seemed he had no desire to move. The crewman had all but stopped breathing and Spock had moved closer if he'd moved at all. Jim was getting desperate. He could call for help, but how many security officers would it take? None of the crewmen scattered about the corridor watching seemed inclined to step forward, all looking equally shocked and wide eyed from what Jim glimpse between jerks on Spock's shoulder.
“Commander Spock,” Jim said in his strongest 'I'm the captain so obey me' tone. Not a flinch. In desperation, Jim wrapped his hand around the edge of Spock's neck in an attempt at a Vulcan neck pinch. He'd seen Spock do them a few times, but seeing was clearly not learning since Spock still stood. But this time he did flinch.
It took Jim only a split second to realize he was touching the skin of Spock's neck with the side of his hand. Jim quickly slapped his hand around the back of his first officer's neck and did his best to think 'Stand down' as loudly as he could.
This time Spock actually shook, a full body shiver from his head to his toes, violently enough his wing feathers could be heard to rustle. Then he stepped back, his hand releasing the red faced crewman, who immediately dropped to the floor as he struggled for breath.
“Commander Spock,” Jim said sternly, his hand almost burning with the heat radiating from the half-Vulcan's skin. The hand that Spock seemed to be almost leaning into.
That thought barely crossed his mind before a look of shock crossed Spock's face and he stepped away from Jim's touch. A blank expression fell across Spock's features, but even Vulcan calm could not hide the terror in his brown, almost human eyes. He was frozen another moment before he muttered, “Excuse me,” and stalked off. No one tried to stop him, or touch him. The crewmen between him and the turbolift almost plastered themselves to the corridor walls to get out of his way.
Jim huffed out a breath he hadn't realized he was holding. Spock needed to go to Sickbay, now more than ever. Except it seemed the crewman at his feet probably needed medical help immediately. And Jim wanted to know just what triggered all that.
“Help me get the lieutenant to Sickbay,” Jim ordered, dragging over a nearby engineer.
Bones met them a few steps outside of Sickbay's doors. Jim was actually surprised the doctor hadn't shown up sooner since everything had gone down only one corridor down.
“What happened to him?” Bones demanded, running his medical tricorder over the still wheezing crewman, walking backwards as Jim and the engineer kept moving towards Sickbay. “Someone said something insane about Spock going mad.”
“Pretty accurate description,” the engineer muttered.
“Spock picked up something from our friend here,” Jim cut in. “And yes, he tried to strangle him. So fix him up so I can find out why.”
A bet? The crew had put together a bet about him? They had dared to touch, to desire to caress, to seek such a reaction …
Spock snarled as he left the turbolift at just shy of a run. His quarters were just down the corridor, a corridor that was devoid of people. This was officer's territory and rarely busy. Even so it felt as though he were surrounded and the door was too far away, even when he was standing before it.
The shutting of the doors behind him did nothing to the claustrophobic feeling of being surrounded, but the warmth did mute the shivering that had wracked his frame since the turbolift. No, longer. Since he had …
Thinking about it would only continue the cycle of emotional turmoil. He had to meditate, to rediscover his balance. Then he could continue to Sickbay and see the doctor as required. Yes, soon he would do as ordered, but even Dr. McCoy would understand his need for some time to recover from recent events.
He needed to meditate, but even standing in the middle of the room left him feeling exposed. Moving to the side room that contained his bed seemed to help, provide a feeling of security, though there was no logical reason for such feelings. That feeling of security was followed by a surge of heat that burned through his veins. He shed all three shirts, shuddering as each slid past his wings on the way over his head, before the feeling seemed to settle.
Settling on the floor, he sought to clear his mind. The pressure of his wings against the floor distracted him
Lifting his wings into a new position, he sought to clear his mind. A rush of memories distracted him. Every touch today had been accompanied by a surge of amusement, but only Ensign Forester had retained contact long enough for the reason to come through.
When the memories of so many fellow crew members taking pleasure in his discomfort passed, Spock found himself leaning against the half wall that separated his sleeping space from the rest of his quarters, his knees pressed against his chest, his arms holding his knees tight. He was shaking again.
This time he could not stop.
Bones was delightfully efficient. In less than ten minutes, one Ensign Forester was sitting on a biobed, breathing normally. Well, except for when his captain glared at him and he began hyperventilating.
“Now, you are going to explain what you did to upset Commander Spock,” Jim growled. “And if your explanation is good enough I might not lock you in the Brig for assault on a superior officer.”
That caused the Ensign to blanch pure white. Good.
“A bet,” Forester blurted. “There's a bet … Touch Commander Spock's wings and the person who gets the best reaction wins.”
“You idiot,” Bones snapped. “The commander is a touch telepath. Did you think he wouldn't find out?”
Forester sputtered, but Jim cut him off. “I want to know whose idea this was.”
“I don't know,” Forester protested.
Jim glared. “Then you will tell me who told you, who was there at the time, everyone you told, and anything else you can think of regarding this idiocy,” he ordered, leaning closer to the cringing crewman with each pronouncement. “And if I learn you skipped a single detail you will find yourself shipped out of Starfleet so fast your head will ring.”
“Notice to all crew members of the USS Enterprise from Captain Kirk. Lieutenant Commander Spock is henceforth permitted to break the arm of any crew who dares to touch his wings without permission. All members of the bet uncovered by Lieutenant Commander Spock today will be docked one week's pay, lose their privileges for a month, and be restricted to the ship on the next shore leave as soon as they are identified. Those identified as having actually tried to win will be considered for assault charges. Those who identify themselves and make proper apologies may receive leniency.”
Jim smirked at the ship wide announcement he had recorded earlier. A few engineers walking past him in the corridor looked more than a little nervous. Good. They deserved to be nervous.
Around the corner, Jim found Bones outside Spock's quarters. “Bones?”
“Nice announcement. But if I have to set any arms ...”
“So don't. They deserve the pain and can find their own medical aid,” Jim growled. He would never forget the wild look in Spock's eyes that afternoon.
Bone shook his head. “Not an option,” he said, sounding more than a little disappointed. “But you have a point. I never realized how bad it was getting. Spock kept saying it was getting better.”
Jim humphed. “Not from what I saw.”
“That green blooded hobgoblin has been lying to me,” Bones grumbled. “Found some extra evidence, too. He hasn't eaten since the day it happened.”
Brow furrowed, Jim tried to remember if he'd seen Spock with food recently. “I ordered dinner last night ...”
“Sent back untouched,” Bones cut in.
“I brought dinner the first night ...”
“Damn, how did I miss that?” Jim muttered. There was something about this that felt familiar, and not in a good way.
“Spock's damned good at prevaricating for a Vulcan who never lies,” Bones said. “You really haven't noticed?”
“When he's working he's fine. And we don't share that many meals normally. Every time I've tried recently we've been interrupted.”
“Uhura … They're having issues I think.”
“I can see how she might be a bit tetchy about the incident with Lieutenant Han,” Bones said drolly. Jim just snorted. He would have hoped that Uhura might be more understanding given what Spock was going through, but it didn't look like that was the case.
The appearance of Nurse Chapel, the divine Christine, broke Jim from that train of thought. She was carrying a tray in her hands with a single covered bowl on top.
“Ah, that it?” Bones asked her.
“Just as you ordered. I just hope it tempts him,” Christine replied, to Jim's bemusement.
“What's that?” Jim asked.
“Vulcan plomeek soup,” Bones answered, waving the nurse towards the door of Spock's personal quarters, pulling Jim back to the corner off the corridor. “I asked her to try tempting Spock to eat, butter him up before I drag him off for more tests. If that doesn't work, I'll try sending Lieutenant Uhura. Or I was going to. Maybe I should send you and come up with something to keep her away.”
“Maybe,” Jim muttered. Something was really bothering him about this situation, but he didn't quite know what. Christine suddenly came running back out the door and barely dodged the soup that followed. A feeling of deja vu hit Jim as he watched. He'd seen this before, and it was not a good sign. However, it was the look of anger on Spock's face as he stood in the doorway that told Jim he had to act now, whether he really had seen this before or not. This was not normal Vulcan behavior, and he now had a bad feeling as to just what it was.
Spock glared at all of them before turning back into his quarters. Jim helped Christine to her feet and quickly sent her on her way despite her protests. “I'll talk to him,” he assured her. That didn't seem to calm her very well, probably because he and his first officer were still better known for being at each other's throats than getting along, even two years after the fact, but it did get her to go away.
“What the hell was that?” Bones asked, waving a frantic hand at the now closed door.
“I have a hunch,” Jim said, smoothing his hands down the front of his shirt. The action was more a nervous gesture than a need to straighten his uniform.
“And?” Bones demanded.
“Can't tell you yet,” Jim said, distracted as he tried to figure out how to approach Spock.
Bones slapped a hand on Jim's shoulder, fingers gripping tightly even as they shook slightly. “As Chief Medical Officer, I need to know if something is wrong with a member of this crew.”
“Bones, if I'm right, this is very private,” Jim said, wrapping his hand around Bones' wrist and gently prying the doctor's hand loose before he cut off circulation. “I have to find out if I'm right before I can go asking permission to tell other people.”
“Ask permission from who?” Bones demanded.
“Spock,” Jim said. “And probably the Vulcan Elders. It's a cultural thing.”
“And how the hell do you know about it?”
Jim smiled wryly. “Classified incident … I'll try and get permission to explain that too. If it's relevant.”
“Captain, I need to know how to take care of my patient,” Bones said, his voice a low, formal growl.
“Go to Sickbay and start thinking of other ways to coax Spock to eat,” Jim suggested. “In the hope that I'm wrong.”
“You want to be wrong?”
Jim swallowed sharply and nodded. He'd be happy to be wrong, from what he remembered.
Bones glared, but Jim wouldn't give in. Not on this. Finally, the doctor huffed loudly and turned for the nearest turbolift. The reprieve was surely temporary, but Jim would take what he could get. Now he just had to figure out how to ask Spock about something no one ever talked about. Or maybe find out that he was completely insane. Either way it wouldn't be much fun.
Taking a moment in the empty corridor, Jim took a deep breath and tried to tighten the mental shields he'd been taught to form during his command track training. They weren't much, no psi neutral species could do much, but if he was right every little buffer he could provide would make this a little easier on Spock.
Finally girding his loins, he rang for entrance. Spock made no acknowledgment. Jim tried twice more and waited ten minutes before using his override as captain. It was an invasion of privacy, but he saw no other option.
“Spock?” he called as he stepped into his first officer's rooms. The temperature inside was higher than ship wide norm, higher than even Vulcan norm, but he didn't change it. He didn't want to do anything to make Spock more uncomfortable right now.
“Please go,” Spock called gruffly from his bed chamber.
“I can't do that,” Jim said.
“You most certainly can,” Spock countered, appearing in the doorway. “I am not due on duty for ten standard hours, and even the captain has no say in how I chose to spend my off hours.”
Jim took in the lack of shirt, the way Spock's shoulders were set, the way his hands were clasped behind his back almost defensively, the strong green tinge to his skin, and didn't like what he saw. “Well, technically Dr. McCoy could order you to Sickbay, but I drove him off so we could talk. I could order you to talk with me, Spock, but I'd rather not. So I'm going to ask first. Is there a chance this is pon farr?”
Jim knew how far gone Spock was by the extent of the visible reaction on his first officer's face. He positively winced, then his face filled with rage. “How do you know about that?” Spock demanded.
“Calm down,” Jim snapped back, not continuing until the look on Spock's face told him the half-Vulcan had taken a metaphorical step back. “You told me you met your future self back on Earth?” Spock nodded. “There was a lot for him to tell me when we met on Delta Vega, and not a lot of time. He used a mind meld.”
Spock looked appalled. “That is a very private technique. To use it with an alien, and one he had just met ...”
“But to him I was not someone he just met,” Jim corrected. “To him, I was, and still am, an old friend. At least, I think so. He told me what happened in the future, just as I reported to Starfleet. However, a few other things slipped through in his haste. I get occasional flashes of his life, and the other Jim Kirk.”
“I see,” Spock said formally. “You should speak with him about removing these remnants of memory. To leave them behind was quite improper. However, I do not see how this is relevant at this time.”
“It is, because that scene in the hall? I've seen it before,” Jim said. “Or rather, the other me had. When the other you went into pon farr the first time.”
Spock's eyes dropped to the floor, his face drawn with concern.
“I wonder if whatever's going on with those wings jump-started things,” Jim suggested.
“Are you saying I was not this age when my other self first suffered pon farr?” Spock asked, sounding a little more like himself as basic curiosity overrode anger.
“Umm, no. I don't think we met for a few more years in that universe,” Jim said, his brow furrowed as he tried to piece things together. “I don't really know for sure. I just keep getting bits and pieces. I'm guessing a lot.”
“Then perhaps it is not pon farr,” Spock said hopefully.
“And perhaps it is,” Jim said gently. Stepping forward he pulled one of Spock's hands out from behind his back, trying to keep his thoughts calm and ignore the way his friend flinched at the contact. As soon as he released it, it began to shake wildly. “What does your logic say?”
Spock's shoulder heaved as he let out a great sigh. “That this is pon farr and I have been a fool to ignore the likelihood the last few days. My reactions this afternoon were not logical.” His other hand grasped the shaking wrist, but the tremor was still visible in muted form.
“We know now,” Jim said firmly. “The question is, what do we do now that we know?”
“I must take a bondmate,” Spock said, sounding less than enthusiastic.
“What about ... umm … T'Pring?” Jim asked, dredging up the name from somewhere in his brain. He didn't want to think about it too closely. The other Jim Kirk's memories of the female Vulcan were not warm and fuzzy.
Spock just shook his head, and Jim knew she hadn't made it off Vulcan.
“I grieve with thee,” Jim said. “Surely there are un-bonded females on Shi'masu.”
“There is another option,” Spock said. His body was beginning to quake with nerves, or so Jim would have thought were Spock human. “Lieutenant Uhura.”
Jim chuckled. “Of course. I should have … right, I'll find her and send her by. You two can talk and decide.”
“Thank you, Captain,” Spock intoned. “But it is late. This can wait until tomorrow.”
“No, it can't,” Jim countered. His hand reached out. He wanted to touch, to comfort, but he resisted, dropping his hand again. The last thing Spock needed now was to deal with another's emotions beating on already weakened shields. Again. Jim had already pushed enough. He wanted to apologize for not noticing sooner, but didn't know how. “Unless you think you'll need a chaperone …?”
Spock shook his head, but turned away as he spoke. “I am not yet that far gone,” he said dismissively.
“If you say so,” Jim said softly. “Seems to me we've waited too long already.”
With that, Jim turned and walked out, not waiting for Spock to lay out another argument. Time was of the essence. Jim felt that now, even if Spock didn't.