Spock had not appreciated being dragged back to Sickbay. Which wasn't to say he had enjoyed being on the Bridge. He had barely maintained control as the burning in his veins heightened every time someone around him moved. However, he had positively disliked being run through the doctor's tests. At least on the Bridge he had his duty as a distraction. He was aware of the source of his condition and there was nothing Dr. McCoy could do.
There was nothing anyone could do.
Meditation was said to help soothe the burn, so Spock was meditating. He had turned the lights down to near dark since being left in the iso room, and turned the temperature up. There was just enough room to sit on the floor and still spread his wings enough that they almost didn't brush the floor.
It was less than soothing. He was more enwrapped in frustration than calm, making it almost a relief when the doors opened to permit the captain's entrance.
“Uhura said no,” Captain Kirk said softly, leaning against the wall by the door. It took only seconds for him to begin visibly sweating.
“Captain,” Spock hissed, uninterested in hearing of his failures. He could not control himself, could not choose a bondmate, could not keep Vulcan's secrets. “If that is all you are here to say ...”
“Jim. I'm not here as your captain,” Captain Kirk interrupted. “And no, that's not all I'm here for. Though I do wonder … But, what's important is that we are on our way to Shi'masu. We'll be there in a little over three days.”
Spock frowned, his brow furrowing as he struggled to think clearly about the captain's words. Perhaps the doctor was right to relieve him of his duty if his mind was so fuzzy. “To achieve that time frame we must be traveling faster than recommended warp speeds for this sector.”
“Scotty's testing the engines at warp eight. Or he will be soon.”
“Captain,” Spock protested.
“Spock,” Captain Kirk snapped back. “Your life is on the line. Bones is looking at ways to help you last that long, but with those wings in the mix ...”
“I see,” Spock cut in, and he did. Somewhat. “I do not see how it is worth risking the entire ship to try and preserve one life.”
“Scotty's watching things carefully,” Captain Kirk said. “Of course, the risk would have been less if we'd changed course last night.”
Spock could not meet his captain's eyes.
“Why didn't you contact me immediately? As soon as Uhura said no? We've been essentially flying away from Shi'masu for ten hours we didn't have to.”
Because Spock had not wished to admit to his continued failings.
Captain Kirk sighed, a sound that usually meant he was disappointed in someone's behavior. Spock had heard that sound before, but never had he been the cause. “Fine, we'll talk about it when you're back to yourself. But, Spock, please remember you are important to me, both as my first officer and as my friend. If something else comes up, please, come to me.”
Spock looked at his captain, his blue eyes more serious than Spock had seen them before. Even in the midst of battle, Captain Kirk's eyes were usually light and filled with humor. Today there was only concern in their depths. “Starfleet will not approve of a change in course,” Spock protested, but it felt a rote attempt. “The Delgasian investiture ...”
“You'll be dead before we get there. I'm supposed to just show up and apologize that the other big hero of the battle with Nero isn't here because I let him die of something perfectly curable illness?” Captain Kirk snapped. “That would just go over great.”
Spock's brow furrowed as he thought. He found he couldn't quite remember everything about the Delgasian society, though he knew he had been researching it in depth for some time.
“Besides, you're important to me,” Captain Kirk said firmly. “Starfleet will understand. I just don't understand why you're not important enough to Uhura,” Captain Kirk muttered, looking away from Spock's puzzled gaze.
“Lieutenant Uhura's attraction to me is extensive,” Spock corrected. “However, I did not inform her of the extent of the risk to me.”
“What?” Captain Kirk howled. He surged forward, falling to his knees before Spock.
“I did not wish her to make a choice in desperation,” Spock hissed through gritted teeth. While at a distance the Captain's presence had been tolerable, he was radiating emotions as strongly as Nyota had the last few days now that he was close. Close enough to touch. “She needed to think logically about her decision, not emotionally.”
“And logically she's not ready,” Captain Kirk growled. “She's making a mistake.”
“Perhaps so, from your perspective,” Spock countered, though on one level he agreed. He had hoped … but hope did him no good in this situation. “It is possible I could have explained better, but I will respect the decision she made. It was the best she could make, logically, from her perspective.” It was all he could do.
“Even if you end up dead?” Captain Kirk asked.
“Yes,” Spock replied calmly. He amazed even himself that he managed to hold such a relaxed conversation when his mind was buzzing so hard with distraction and desperation. But, he was Vulcan, and he would die as a Vulcan if he must.
Captain Kirk sighed and rubbed a his hand over his face. “Is there anyone else aboard the Enterprise that you'd consider?”
“Captain, I will not trap someone in a relationship they are neither prepared for nor understanding of simply because a malfunction has prematurely started my mating cycle.” Spock's expression was firm and confident. He just hoped Captain Kirk didn't catch his left hand clenching and unclenching at his side.
Captain Kirk looked disapproving but did not argue further. “Then we'd better get to Shi'masu soon. You will accept a Vulcan mate?”
“Of course. A Vulcan female will be prepared for what is to come. It is a logical choice.” Even if the idea of taking a stranger into his bed, into his life, held no emotional attraction to him.
“It's only logical if you can hold it together that long.”
Spock could only shrug, though he regretted the action as soon as the feathers of his wings rustled through the air.
“I contacted Shi'masu already. The ambassador promised to find someone appropriate, who'd suit your tastes.”
“You have spoken with the ambassador?” Spock asked, his eyes fixed on his captain.
“Who else would I call about this?” Captain Kirk replied blandly. “Who else would I trust?”
Spock had to admit that contacting his alternate self was a logical choice. That did not mean he was completely at ease with the number of people now aware of his condition.
“Look, Bones has some new info from the Vulcan doctors. He should have something to help soon. I've got a ship to run, but you focus on holding on.” Captain Kirk's hand reached out, as though he intended the usual pat on the shoulder that often ended their conversations. But he froze, hand half extended, then pulled it back. “Just hang on.”
Spock failed to formulate a response before the captain had retreated out the door.
Bones caught Jim between the iso room and the hall door.
“Have you looked at this?” Bones demanded, waving a PADD under Jim's nose.
“No, you got first dibs,” Jim said with a shake of his head.
“He really could die. In fact, based on his numbers this says he's lucky to be alive.”
Jim pushed the arm holding the PADD out of his path. “I don't need numbers to tell you that.”
“Where are you going?” Bones yelled as the hall doors opened.
“To see just how fast Scotty thinks this ship can go.”
“We'll have t'watch the plasma conduits for overheatin',” Scotty warned, showing Jim the calculations he'd prepared. “But I'd like t'see if we can do i'.”
“Do we have spare parts for if anything blows?” Jim asked, skimming the calculations. He understood the basics of warp theory and the engines that ran the ship, but the level that Scotty ran at was a whole 'nother thing.
“Sure,” Scotty said cheerfully. “Take a few hours t'make any replacements long as we stop soon as or before somethin' goes.”
“I'd rather not burn anything out, but we're desperate and we'll have to try it sometime,” Jim muttered. “Your team ready to do this?”
“Aye, Captain,” Scotty said excitedly. “I set up a roster in the hopes you'd ...”
Jim cut him off with a gesture and walked to the nearest comm panel. “Bridge, this is Captain Kirk.”
“Lieutenant Sulu here, Captain.”
“Increase speed to warp eight,” Jim ordered.
“Warp eight, aye, Captain.” Sulu sounded a little uneasy, but Scotty's readings showed that unease induced no delays. The power consumption quickly rose as the hum of the engines shifted slightly.
“You watch those engines closely, Mr. Scott,” Jim ordered as he cut off the comm line. “I want to know if anything changes.”
“You'll know as soon as I do, Captain,” Scotty promised. “But, Captain … much as I enjoy the chance to test out those nacelles, why the rush to Shi'masu?”
“Side effect from the transporter malfunction,” Jim hedged. “Spock's in need of some help Dr. McCoy can't give.”
“Ah, damn,” Scotty muttered. “I'm still working on what exactly happened then. You sure the Vulcans can help?”
Jim nodded, shuffling words in his mind so he could explain without giving too much away. “As I understand it, the change in his system triggered a condition that's well documented ...” He shrugged like he didn't really understand. “Vulcan healers know what to do, but we don't have the right equipment here or something.”
“Tell Dr. McCoy ta let me know if I can try and jury rig anythin' for him,” Scotty requested.
“Will do,” Jim agreed, heading for the door.
“And I'll let you know soon as I get somethin' from those transporter simulations,” Scotty called after him.
As the door slid open again, Spock was unable to hide the shudder that ran though him. Air pressure shifts were enough to cause flares now. He was beginning to wonder how the Vulcan race had ever survived long enough for Surak to be born.
“I've got a compound that might help alleviate the symptoms,” Dr. McCoy announced as he stepped inside. “But based on your accelerated progress, I don't think it will help for long.”
“Whatever assistance you can provide will be appreciated, Doctor,” Spock replied, slowly working his way to his feet. Facing the captain while sitting on the floor had been acceptable, but for some reason facing the doctor so was not. It was not a logical conflict. Perhaps it was a side effect of the pon farr.
Dr. McCoy stepped up and pressed a hypospray to Spock's neck. “Let me know how that works,” he said, running his medical tricorder over Spock.
Spock took a deep breath as the doctor's medication circulated through his bloodstream. Illusory though it was, it seemed as though he could feel the particles of medication slipping through his veins. Where it traveled a feeling of moderate coolness seemed to blanket the flames of pon farr. As he began to feel better, he realized just how poorly he had been feeling. And for how long. “It is an improvement.”
“Your numbers are better already,” Dr. McCoy agreed, studying his readouts. “But I don't know how long that will last. You're confined to quarters until we get to Shi'masu, doctor's orders.”
“That is an acceptable precaution,” Spock said. He was tempted to ask to remain here rather than face the corridors to return to his quarters. His wings twitched slightly as the doctor moved, but there was a noticeable decrease in the erotic effect on him. This was not to say it was eliminated, the feeling was still pronounced with every shift, but it was lessened. For the moment, he felt rather more clearheaded than he had since before meeting with Lieutenant Han.
“I'm tempted to keep you here, but it's better to limit stimulus and you'll get more privacy in your own rooms. You've been meditating?”
“Yes, Doctor,” Spock answered.
“The information the Vulcan doctors sent indicate that's a good idea, so keep it up.” Dr. McCoy held out a PADD and Spock took it. “That's everything they sent. I don't know how much they told you as a kid, so read through it and see if anything helps.”
“It is not discussed extensively, even amongst ourselves,” Spock said.
“Well, now is a good time to learn. While that hypo is fresh I'm going to escort you to your quarters. Though the idiots should stay away after the captain's threat last night.”
“I did notice an improvement this morning,” Spock said. He found that fact a relief but also took dark amusement from the nervous looks on the faces of those he passed.
Jim swung by his quarters on the way back from Engineering. The privacy gave him a chance to record a message for the other Spock. He made sure to include three points: one, Uhura had said no; two, they were proceeding at warp eight and would arrive in approximately three days; and three, Spock looked like shit.
His brain had been pulling up memories of Spock going through pon farr, probably from echoes of the other Jim Kirk's memories, and none of it was comforting. If Jim was right, Spock looked about two inches from falling into the plak tow, but sounded way too coherent to have slipped all the way just yet. He hoped.
It took a lot to resist the urge to ask Scotty if there was any chance of getting to warp nine and instead went to the Bridge, his message on a data card.
“Please transmit this to Shi'masu, care of Ambassador Selek,” he asked Uhura, handing her the card.
“Of course, Captain,” she replied, giving him a funny look. If she had said yes, Jim might have stopped to explain, but she'd said no. At the moment, Jim wasn't particularly happy with her and didn't feel like being closer to her any more than he had to.
The rest of his shift held promise to go quietly, but that calm was interrupted as his relief arrived.
“Captain, there's a message from Starfleet,” Uhura called, her voice calm but her mouth pinched unhappily when he turned to look.
“Play it, Lieutenant,” Jim said with a resigned sigh.
“Enterprise, your request to change course immediately to Shi'masu for a medical emergency is denied. Your presence is required at the Delgasian system for the investiture of the new planetary leader. Permission to visit Shi'masu will be given after the Delgasian services.”
Jim scowled at the speaker by his chair. Well, he wasn't going to take this sitting down. He turned to Uhura and said, “Lieutenant, please tell Starfleet that their denial of permission is being ignored. Commander Spock won't live to reach the Delgasian system in his current condition, let alone last through the investiture and the return journey. Therefore, with the encouragement of the Vulcan elders, we are proceeding to Shi'masu at maximum warp.”
Uhura blanched, her eyes widening in surprise at his words. A quick scan of the rest of the Bridge crew showed similar reactions on their faces, though a few were nodding as though they had suspected it was that bad. “Captain?” Uhura gasped.
“Send it, Lieutenant. That's an order,” Jim snapped before handing over his post and stalking off the Bridge.
Uhura appeared at the door of the turbolift just in time to slip between the doors before they shut.
“Did you send that message already, Lieutenant?” he snapped harshly at her pale face as he paused the lift.
“Captain,” she said worriedly. “Jim, do you really think Spock could die?”
“A Vulcan in pon farr who doesn't mate or fight for a mate within eight days dies,” he said harshly. “And the fight isn't always enough.” A corner of his conscience pointed out he should be more gentle, but most of him was angry at her for putting his friend at risk.
“Spock just said he'd hit sexual maturity. He never said anything about it killing him,” Uhura protested.
“Then either you didn't ask the right questions or you didn't let him explain. Vulcan sexual maturity is complex, dangerous, and highly embarrassing.” Jim let out a huff of air. “It's the one time when they lose control of their emotions, and after the first time it happens every seven years. That's why mature Vulcans are always married.”
“How do you know this?” she demanded. “We were together for years and Spock never mentioned this. It's not in any record I've seen on Vulcan.”
“They don't talk about it,” Jim admitted, struggling to calm himself. “Even their children rarely know what to expect in anything but general terms. I found out by accident. It's a long, complicated story, and you don't have high enough clearance.”
“I don't understand,” she whispered, seeming to fold in on herself. “Why didn't he tell me it was so dangerous?”
“Because he wanted you to make a logical choice, not one driven by worry,” Jim admitted. “I asked.”
“I could still ...” she began, but he cut her off.
“I'll ask him,” he offered, “but you've already refused for good reasons. I don't know that he'll accept a change of mind at this point. He's not being all that logical. He's too deep into the condition.”
“But,” she protested, tears building in her eyes.
“I'm not going to let him die,” he hissed. “But for that I need you to send that message to Starfleet and inform me if we get anything else from Shi'masu. I'll talk to Spock, but I need you to do your job until he decides.”
That got through, at least somewhat, and she dashed the tears from her eyes. “Yes, Captain,” she said softly, turning around and triggering the doors to let her back out on the Bridge.
As soon as she was gone, and the doors closed again, Jim collapsed into the wall of the lift with a pained sigh. Damn Spock for not telling her the whole truth. And damn him too for going off like that when she was in earshot. He was an idiot.
Jim found Bones hunched over a PADD in his office, shoveling food distractedly into his mouth as he read. The doctor looked up as Jim came in, his eyes quickly taking in his captain's expression and interpreting it correctly as only a longtime friend could.
“What did you do this time?”
Jim chuckled and collapsed into the chair across the desk from his friend. “I might have blown up at Starfleet and mentioned that Spock will be lucky to make it to Shi'masu even at the speed we're going now.”
Bones raised one eyebrow, a trick he'd learned all too well from Spock. “And? That's the truth.”
“I might have done it while Uhura was still at the comm,” Jim admitted in embarrassment.
“Good,” Bones said firmly. “Spock should have told her the truth. Now she knows.”
“She wants to ask Spock for another chance,” Jim added, tilting his head back to look at the ceiling.
Bones harrumphed. “Don't think she deserves it, but might as well ask.”
“I told her I'd bring it up.”
“Leave the man alone,” Bones ordered. “I'm checking on him in a couple hours. I'll bring it up.”
Jim looked at his friend with curious appraisal. “You going soft on me, Bones? Since when do you offer to help out like that?”
“Just don't want any more stress on him than we have to provide,” Bones grumbled. “His numbers look better this afternoon, but he's not improving as much as I want. Before I got those med recs from the Vulcans I'd been wondering if he'd last out the day. Now ...”
Jim sat up straight, deeply concerned at Bones' words. “It's really that bad? Already?”
“I'm exchanging records with a Vulcan healer, but he agrees,” Bones said apologetically. “Even with the medication, I'm not sure Spock'll last two days, let alone three and change.”
“Damn it!” Jim snapped. “If Uhura hadn't been so practical … There's got to be someone on this ship he'd find acceptable.”
“I'm going to ask that too, though I dislike the stress it'll probably induce,” Bones said. “The documents your ambassador sent include mention of … um ...” He flipped through the screens on the PADD for a moment. “Rel-san-vek. It's some kind of divorce ritual, so it's not like this has to be absolutely permanent no matter what that green blooded hobgoblin implied.”
“Rel-san-vek,” Jim muttered to himself. So divorce was possible. Maybe, just maybe there was an option in that. “You'll discuss it with him?”
“In two hours,” Bones promised, checking the nearest chrono. “I want to keep my visits regular to minimize disruptions.”
“Please tell me you have some way of remotely checking on him?” Jim pleaded.
Bones pointed at a readout on his desk that showed heart rate, respiration, and several other esoteric measurements. “Rigged that when I let him go back to his quarters. I'm going to get him through the next three days if I have to bed him myself.”
Jim raised an eyebrow of his own at that pronouncement. “Why, Bones, I didn't know you felt that way about Spock.”
“Don't give me that, kid,” Bones snapped, and Jim knew just how deep he'd hit. Bones almost never called him kid anymore. “I just don't want to lose a patient.”
“If you say so,” Jim replied teasingly.
“Eh, get out, you. Eat and rest before you collapse too,” Bones ordered.
“Yes, doc,” Jim said, snapping off a salute as he stood. But he paused on his way out and turned back. “If you need to bring another doctor in, someone to spell you ...”
“I've asked Christine to spell me, but all I told her was what to look for. She's got another readout.”
“All right. Good thinking, Bones.”
Spock's frustration levels were rising. He had turned the ventilators as low as he dared, all but cutting them off in his main room to minimize the air currents. He had dispensed with the fire pot as the heat differential was inducing difficulties, shed his shirt because it rubbed his feathers, and tried every meditation pose he'd ever studied. Still, he could not clear his mind. Pon farr's progression was rapid, impossibly so. His veins burned with fire, filling his mind with its roar. He could not escape the throbbing that seemed to begin in his feathers and radiated through the rest of his body.
So entrapped in his frustration, Spock didn't know if he was relieved or angry when he heard the door slide open.
“Time for more medication,” Dr. McCoy announced. This time Spock did not bother to rise from his meditative pose. Holding still was more important than how he appeared before the doctor.
The hypo pressed quickly against his neck and the tricorder created a breeze as Dr. McCoy used it's more accurate sensors to check his condition. The only reason he held still against the stimulus was the improvement from the medication rushing through his veins.
“I still don't like your numbers,” Dr. McCoy said.
“But they have improved,” Spock said firmly.
“Somewhat,” the doctor conceded grudgingly. “But Shi'masu is still a long way away.”
“I am aware of the timeline of our voyage,” Spock said, struggling more than he wanted to admit to keep his voice level.
“Spock,” Dr. McCoy protested. “Look, is there anyone you would consider for koon-ut-so'lik? Male? Female? Something else? What are your requirements? I don't like your chances of surviving the journey.”
“Gender is irrelevant. I will not disrupt someone else's life because an accident has disrupted my mating cycle,” Spock said, his tone sharper than he'd meant it to be.
“Uhura knows you're dying,” Dr. McCoy said quickly. “Jim let it slip. She expressed hope you might give her a second chance.”
“She made a logical decision,” Spock insisted. “She should not allow sentiment to change her mind.”
“Damn it, Spock,” Dr. McCoy snapped. “You shouldn't have to die because a transporter hiccup disrupted your mating cycle.”
Spock identified the mocking element to the doctor's choice of words and tone, but he also caught the undertone that he had come to identify as worry. “Doctor, do not worry yourself in this. It is my choice to wait. While almost any mate is acceptable to sooth the drives of pon farr, I will not permit my biology to trap an unprepared partner in a relationship.”
Dr. McCoy glared. “Ambassador Selek sent a lot of information my way, and I've read all of it. You Vulcans do have a form of divorce, so don't tell me that this a lifelong bond that you'd be trapping someone in.”
“Doctor,” Spock said, struggling to remain calm in the face of the doctor's challenging tone. “It is not the length of the relationship that concerns me. If those files are complete, then they mention that in addition to the physical requirements of mating it is necessary to forge a mental bond.”
“I saw mention of that,” Dr. McCoy admitted.
“Vulcans are prepared from childhood for this bonding. Nyota and I have shared some mental communication which would have made the bonding easier on her, but it still would have been difficult. The mating bond shares everything, experiences, memories, dreams. There is no one on this ship with experience in that level of union. Without proper preparation, the experience could be quite traumatic, and what is shared will not be forgotten simply because the bond is broken. I will not cause such trauma to any of my shipmates, no matter what the consequences will be to me.”
Dr. McCoy sat silently for several minutes, his features shifting through a number of expressions as he considered Spock's words. Finally, he seemed to settle on grudging admiration and a good measure of frustration. “All right, I get your point. I don't like it, but I get it. You sure you won't give Uhura another chance?”
“She made a reasonable decision when we spoke,” Spock insisted again, though part of him protested letting such an excellent potential mate slip through his fingers. “I do not wish her to change her decision because of what amounts to emotional blackmail. Captain Kirk should not have told her.”
“He shouldn't have had to,” Dr. McCoy protested. “You should have told her the truth.”
“I did,” Spock said, his brow furrowing as he tried to remember just what he had said. “At no time did I lie. I just did not tell her every detail.”
“Like that this could kill you? Given your propensity for giving every detail in a report, no matter how irrelevant, from you such an omission is tantamount to a lie.”
“If you insist, Doctor,” Spock conceded, though he did not agree. He was in no state to develop a proper argument. Right now, he was not entirely certain that his refusal of Nyota was not an emotional reaction to her rejection of him.
“Fine, whatever. Get some rest, or as close to rest as you can manage in your condition,” Dr. McCoy ordered. “I'll see you in four hours.”
“There is no need to disrupt your rest,” Spock offered.
Dr. McCoy just shot him a sharp look and repeated, “I'll see you in four hours,” before leaving.