Jim had almost asked Bones for a sleeping aid. It had been a hell of a day, and the next few days promised to be no better. He needed the rest, but he resisted asking because he hated being groggy when an emergency came up in the middle of the night. It turned out that he made the right choice when someone came banging at his door in the middle of his night cycle.
Jim stumbled to his feet calling out, “Come in.” He had learned early on in his captaincy the importance of never being caught with his pants down in an emergency, literally or metaphorically, and that experience had broken any urge to sleep in the nude. However, he still couldn't stand sleeping in a shirt. The collar always ended up strangling him. Therefore, he was standing sleepily in the doorway wearing only a pair of pants when Scotty came in.
“When did you last sleep, Mr. Scott?” Jim asked, taking in the slightly wilder than usual manic energy the man emitted.
“Um … not quite sure, Captain,” Scotty said after a moment's thought. “I've been monitorin' the engines, and I think I may ha' sorted out wha' happened to Mr. Spock.”
“Do tell,” Jim prompted, collapsing into a chair and running a hand through his sleep mussed hair.
“I couldn't find anythin' in the equipment,” Scotty began, proffering a PADD. “Dr. McCoy and some of the scientists ha' been checkin' the samples brought up from Sardina III, and they ran a full check on Mr. Spock's DNA. Lieutenant Han seems ta ha' found'n answer.”
On the screen of the PADD were two DNA strands. Neither looked particularly familiar to Jim, but there were similarities highlighted between the two.
“There's somethin' in the local life that seems to have an attractive property to other DNA. A feather must'a been stuck to his shirt, or caugh' in the transporter beam. The attractive property caused a glitch in the pattern buffers tha' blended the feather's DNA with Mr. Spock's. He's lucky it was a feather and no' a flower or seed. If a crewman had come up carrying a plant sample ...”
“Sounds like a miracle no one was hurt worse,” Jim said with a shudder.
“Aye, Captain. I'm preparin' a report for Starfleet. Until we can reprogram the transporters to block that attractive trait, no one can transport from Sardina III.”
“Are we sure this stuff is contained?” Jim didn't want to think about anything from that planet wandering through the air ducts of his ship.
“We used full decon measures on the away teams, and all samples have been kept contained,” Scotty assured him. “Any possible leak is bein' treated like a chemical spill.”
“Good to hear it,” Jim said, letting out a small sigh of relief. “So, now that you know what happened, any chance of fixing Spock?”
“Well, that's a mite tricky,” Scotty hedged, looking nervously away. “Theoretically, I might be able to reprogram the transporter's pattern buffer to clean out the additions from Sardina III ...”
“Except?” Jim prompted when Scotty trailed off, his muscles tensing as if in preparation for a fight. He knew this wasn't something he could fix with his fists, but it was a habit he hadn't managed to break yet.
“Well, Mr. Spock's DNA is rather unique already. I'm not sure … If he were pure Vulcan we could pro'ly make a guess, but with his hybrid mixture I couldn't be sure I was pullin' out the right bits … Not for certain. If I had a sample to compare to ...”
Jim felt his heart sink for a moment, but then he realized the answer. Leaning back he let out a laugh. “If you had a sample of Spock's DNA from before the change, you think you could do it?”
“Aye,” Scotty said, looking more than a mite confused. “But I already asked the doc. There's no sample in the system, and Mr. Spock has had his quarters cleaned since.”
“Ah, but we're going to Shi'masu, and they have a perfect sample waiting for us,” Jim said excitedly.
“Captain,” Scotty protested, “I've considered that, but Ambassador Sarek only provides half the sample. Even if Mr. Spock's mother was still alive I wouldn't feel confident trying to make a guess at how the DNA combined. If I pull the wrong bits out, I'll kill him.”
Jim grinned. “But I'm not talking about Ambassador Sarek. Remember that Vulcan you met on Delta Vega?”
“The one who claimed t' be a time traveler?” Scotty asked. “He's related t' Mr. Spock?”
“He is Spock,” Jim corrected. “From an alternate universe one hundred and twenty-nine, er, twenty-seven years from now.”
“How can you be sure they're identical?” Scotty asked, starting to sound excited.
“The universes split apart when the Narada arrived and destroyed the USS Kelvin twenty-seven years ago,” Jim said. “Spock was born before then, therefore both Spocks should be identical on the genetic level.”
“That does make sense,” Scotty agreed.
“So, can you do it?” Jim asked.
“Aye … I think … I started some initial calculations before I realized I dinna have the sample needed … I'll start putting a model together soon as I get back to Engineerin'.” Scotty was already tapping equations into the PADD.
“Get some sleep first,” Jim ordered. “I want that model perfect, and you're exhausted.”
“Aye, you may have a point,” Scotty conceded just before yawning hugely.
The comm interrupted just then. “Bridge to Captain Kirk.”
Jim slapped the comm button on his desk. “Kirk here.”
“Admirals Pike and Mobatsu wish to speak with you sir,” the comms officer on gamma shift announced.
“Pipe them down to my quarters,” Jim ordered and shuffled back into his bedroom quickly to grab a shirt. When Scotty made to leave, Jim waved him back, planting the engineer behind his shoulder. Admiral Pike might respect Jim, but Admiral Mobatsu had a chip in his shoulder when it came to the Enterprise's captain and he needed all the backup he could get. Someone had to distract the jerk from going after Spock and Uhura's relationship. Again.
“Admirals?” Jim said politely as the screen on his desk lit up. “What can I do for you tonight?” he added in explanation for his sleep tousled hair and wrinkled shirt. He wouldn't be surprised to find out that Admiral Mobatsu had chosen this hour to call because he knew it would be inconvenient for Jim. That man was always looking for an opening
“Jim, we're comming about that message you sent to Starfleet a few hours ago,” Admiral Pike began politely. “You've rather stirred up a few people with the way you phrased things.”
“I'm sorry about that, Admiral,” Jim said, though he wasn't sorry in the least. “I just don't see how I'm supposed to arrive at the Delgasian investiture and explain to them that one of the people they specifically requested attend couldn't be there because we let him die in order to arrive on time.”
“Captain, I do not like your tone,” Admiral Mobatsu snapped. “There was no such thing implied in your initial communication.”
“I was not yet aware as to the exact extent of Commander Spock's condition, but I did report it was a medical emergency,” Jim countered peevishly. The admiral existed to get on Jim's last nerve. “If you needed more information, you should have asked before ordering me to disregard the condition of a fellow officer.”
“Captain,” Admiral Pike said in a tone that ordered Jim to calm down. This wasn't his first time playing buffer between the two. “Admiral. Perhaps we should get some details about the Commander's condition before we go jumping to conclusions.”
“Mr. Scott was just informing me he's finally sorted out what happened,” Jim said, turning slightly towards the engineer. “Perhaps you could explain to the Admirals what you just told me.”
Jim leaned back and tried not to smirk as Scotty snowed the Admirals under a million facts. The engineer was happy enough to ramble on in excruciating detail, and Jim did nothing to stop him. He decided to wait until the Admirals caved.
“Yes, yes, that's all very well.” Admiral Mobatsu caved first, a full five minutes later than Jim expected. “Sardina III will be placed under quarantine. But that does not explain how this malfunction has put Commander Spock's life at risk. It sounds to me as thought the transformation is stable.”
“The transformation has triggered a condition which sometime affects the Vulcan people. The details are very personal, very private to the Vulcans,” Jim hedged. “Normally death occurs if treatment is not provided within eight days. Unfortunately, and Dr. McCoy has confirmation from the Vulcan healers, the transformation has sped up the progress of the commander's condition. Spock'll be lucky to last another two days to reach Shi'masu.”
“If this is such a private condition, how are you and your doctor aware of it?” Admiral Mobatsu demanded.
“Dr. McCoy has been monitoring Commander Spock's condition carefully since the transporter malfunction and noticed the initial physical changes that indicated something was wrong. We contacted Shi'masu for assistance and received special dispensation to learn the details,” Jim prevaricated. “If you want to know more specifics, you'll have to contact the Vulcans. All that really matters is Commander Spock will die if we don't get him proper treatment in the next few days.”
“You said it's not even certain that Commander Spock will live to reach Shi'masu,” Admiral Pike said.
“Are you saying that because we can't be sure I should just assume he won't make it?” Jim asked angrily.
“I don't want to,” Admiral Pike said. “Commander Spock is an excellent officer and I remember him fondly from our time working together. But to risk an interplanetary incident over something so uncertain ...”
“Admiral, how much do you know about the Delgasians?” Jim asked, barely keeping from trying to reach through that screen and throttle the one man in the admiralty he'd though it safe to consider a friend.
“I've done some research,” Admiral Pike admitted.
“Then perhaps you are aware of the extensive importance Delgasians put on clan, on the warriors who fight by your side?” Jim said pointedly. “They question the sanity of most races in the Federation, and have in fact spoken out about negotiating with the Klingons instead of the Federation because at least the Klingons respect the warrior bond and the importance of honor. Do you really think it will aid our negotiations if I tell their leaders that I let my officer, my fellow hero from the battle against Nero, die, didn't even try to save him, because I felt it was more important to arrive on time?”
“That is quite enough,” Admiral Mobatsu snapped, slapping one hand against the table before him. “You have no right to dictate Starfleet policy ...”
Admiral Pike cut Mobatsu off with a hand on his arm. “Dictate, no, but Captain Kirk does have a good point when it comes to the Delgasians. Our reasons for sending the Enterprise was in part to try and convince the Delgasians not to make an alliance with the Klingons. They respect the Enterprise because its crew has proven themselves in battle. They will respect us more if we delay to try and save Commander Spock than if we hurry to be on time.”
Admiral Mobatsu glared at Admiral Pike. “Fine, but I want confirmation of this mysterious condition from the Vulcans,” he finally snapped.
“I'm sure Ambassador Sarek or Ambassador Selek would be happy to assist you,” Jim offered. That got an odd look from both Admirals.
“I would not dare consider interrupting such important members of the Vulcan government,” Admiral Mobatsu said looking quite appalled.
“I think they would be quite insulted if you did not, if Vulcans can feel insulted,” Jim countered. “Ambassador Sarek is Commander Spock's father ...”
“And you are personally acquainted with Ambassador Selek,” Admiral Pike interrupted, glancing at Admiral Mobatsu as he waved at Jim not to say anything further. Apparently Admiral Mobatsu didn't have clearance for that story. Interesting.
“He is family as well,” Jim said simply. “A … cousin I believe.”
“Ah, yes, a cousin,” Admiral Pike said with a look of relief. “We'll contact Shi'masu and get back to ...”
Admiral Pike was cut off by a communication beep from his personal comm. “Admiral, T'Pau of Vulcan High Council is requesting the presence of the Enterprise immediately.”
“Why tell me?” Admiral Pike asked curiously.
“The communication was seconded to you by order of an Ambassador Selek.”
“Thank you,” Admiral Pike said before shutting off his communicator and shooting a significant glance at Jim. “Seems you do have friends in high places,” he said.
“Is that sufficient to authorize my decision to head for Shi'masu?” Jim asked.
“I doubt anyone will willingly refuse T'Pau, even now,” Admiral Pike said, a curl to his lips. “You'll get you official orders soon, but assume it will be what you wanted.”
Admiral Mobatsu looked livid but refrained from protesting. It seemed even he wasn't inclined to argue with T'Pau.
“Thank you, sir,” Jim said formally. “Kirk out.” He cut off the connection with a sigh of relief and slumped back into his chair.
“I assume I dinna actually hear a lot o' that,” Scotty said dryly.
“Probably best,” Jim agreed.
“Fair enough. I'll get some sleep and then get on that model,” Scotty said, patting Jim on the shoulder.
“Good choice,” Jim said, pushing himself to his feet. “I'll get some more sleep myself.”
Spock was aware of the passing of time. Counting the seconds as they passed was the only technique that had brought him enough peace to calm his mind and body in the slightest. It gave a small illusion of control that made him feel that he had a chance of surviving until they reached Shi'masu. Though he logically knew that it had been only thirty-two hours since Captain Kirk had identified his condition, subjectively it felt as though a week or more had passed.
Aware as he was of the exact passage of each increment of time, Spock was prepared when Dr. McCoy arrived on schedule for another check up. He did not bother speaking as the doctor stuck him with another hypo and used his tricorder, just waited. Spock knew that he had improved slightly with the use of the medications suggested by the Vulcan healers and finding a meditation that assisted in modulating his condition. He did not need Dr. McCoy's instruments to tell him his condition.
He did not need Dr. McCoy to tell him it was not enough.
Dr. McCoy's voice finally broke the silence. “The medication isn't working as well as it was yesterday.”
“The documents from Shi'masu said that was likely.” Spock was startled at how dry his voice was. While the temperature in his quarters was higher than usual and he had not partaken of water in some time, that was a condition Vulcans rarely suffered from. Perhaps this was a factor influenced by his human heritage.
“We're more than two days from Shi'masu … Spock, I don't know if you're gonna make it that long. Will you reconsider Nyota's offer?”
Spock did not bother replying. Instead he closed his eyes and took a deep breath. One. Two . Three ...
Dr. McCoy left at one hundred and fifty.
Once Jim woke up again at the proper time, his first stop was Sickbay. He cornered Bones immediately, though the doctor looked like he'd slept even more poorly than Jim. “How is he?”
“I don't know,” Bones snapped, slapping down his PADD in frustration. “His numbers are bouncing back and forth. Every time I medicate him things get better, but not as good and not for as long. It's like his system is building a resistance to the drugs.”
“Already?” Jim asked.
“Sorry,” Bone said, deflating slightly. “I don't like it either, but I've tried every variation the Vulcan healers have given me. I'm trading medical data with them constantly to the consternation of our communications officers and they've all decided that there's nothing else to be done.”
“Damn it, Bones, that's not acceptable,” Jim snapped, turning to pace in the small space of Bones' office.
Bones grabbed his wrist and pulled him into a chair. “Now, Jim, I don't like it any more than you do, but medically I'm running out of options. That doesn't mean we're completely out of options, just that there is a limit to what else I can do. As a doctor.”
Jim stared at his friends, mulling those words over carefully. He was known for his tendency to jump in feet first and sort out the details later, but he had a feeling that wasn't an option this time. He needed to think. Medically there wasn't anything more Bones could do.
“Did you ask him about Uhura?” Jim finally asked.
“Yep,” Bones said with a sigh. “And he made it clear he wasn't sure he'd done the right thing asking her at all.”
“What?” Jim protested. “Why not?”
Bone steepled his hands under his chin in a thoughtful pose he'd picked up recently from Spock. “He pointed out that the mental bond is a big part of taking a mate, and as there are no other compatible telepathic races on this ship, no one here is prepared to deal with that bond. He's afraid he'll traumatize or injure anyone who tries to bond with him. Not to mention that even if they divorce there will still be all the shared memories to deal with.”
Jim wanted to protest, to call that absurd and illogical, but he couldn't. Spock had a point, a logical and good one. But there had to be a way around it.
Well, if there was one, Jim Kirk was the one to find it. That, or he'd get Spock to Shi'masu. Either way, he was not about to lose his first officer, his friend.
“I'll keep that in mind,” Jim muttered. “Thanks Bones. Keep me informed on Spock's condition.” He stood. It was time for him to be on the Bridge.
“Will do, Jim,” Bones replied, collapsing back into his chair with an exhausted look that Jim sympathized with all too well.
Being on the Bridge should have been a relief. It was work, it was a distraction. Unfortunately, it was all the wrong distractions. Uhura keep looking at Jim with a nervous and frantic look in her eyes. The rest of the crew had a distracted and worried air that meant they were wondering if they were going to make it to Shi'masu fast enough to save their first officer. Add in the engineering crew who wandered about looking nervously at engine readings and the atmosphere on the Bridge was anything but relaxing.
In an attempt to ignore it all, Jim pulled out the PADD where he'd loaded the info Ambassador Spock had sent and started reading, pausing only when a yeoman asked him to sign something.
The one good thing was that mid shift Uhura had informed him, “Starfleet has ordered us to proceed to Shi'masu at maximum speed and then on to the Delgaisan system once Commander Spock is stable again.”
Well, that took long enough. Maybe Admiral Mobatsu had been pulling strings in the background after all, trying delaying tactics or something. “Glad they're finally seeing reason,” Jim grumbled. Sulu gave him an odd look, but Jim just snapped, “You have your orders, Mr. Sulu,” and went back to his reading. There had to be a something in there he could use to help Spock.
The next communication to come to Jim's attention came conveniently right at the end of his shift. Jim handed the Bridge to his relief and took the call in his ready room.
“Ambassador?” Jim said, surprised to see Ambassador Spock on the screen.
“I have seen the updates from Dr. McCoy,” Spock said. “I had a … hunch you might wish to speak.”
Jim chuckled. “You know me too well, old friend.”
“Experience is a good teacher,” Spock agreed. “How are you … holding up?”
Jim scrubbed his hands over his face and melted back into his chair. “Could be better,” he admitted. “Though Scotty says he might be able to fix the wing thing if we can keep Spock alive long enough to reach you.”
“I received a message from him. I will be happy to offer a DNA sample to help out.”
“It is logical.”
Jim laughed. “There is nothing logical about this whole situation,” he countered.
The corner of Spock's lips quirked up in a hint of a smile. “That is true.”
“Spock ... you probably know Spock better than I do. Is there any way I can convince him ...” Jim stopped, reassessing his choice of words. “Is there anyone on this ship that you know of that he might consider ...?”
“You wish to find him a bondmate,” Spock said, not asking so much as verbalizing what Jim could not.
“Yeah,” Jim sighed. “I don't want him to die.”
“My relationship with my crew mates was not the same as his relationship with you all now. Too many things have changed.”
“Surely you have some idea,” Jim pleaded. “Uhura's begging for a second chance but Spock says no.”
“Her reasons for refusing were logical,” Spock said pointedly.
Jim rolled his eyes. “That's what he said when Bones asked. When I asked if he would accept anyone else, he just said he wouldn't accept someone unprepared and unknowing, and when Bones asked he said he feared traumatizing someone inexperienced with telepathic communication.”
“It sounds as though he has laid out his requirements. You can compare those requirements with a list of the crew and eliminate those who do not fit.”
“That doesn't sound like much help,” Jim grumbled. He was trying to make sense of the look on Spock's face. It was one he had never seen before on a Vulcan, or half-Vulcan as the case may be. He felt like he was missing something that should be obvious. “You couldn't just suggest a few names?”
“You are smarter than you pretend to be, my friend,” Spock said, and this time Jim recognized the hint of a smile. “I have faith you will find a solution.”
“I hope you're right.”
Scotty stopped by Jim's quarters again, though this time he timed his arrival not to fall while Jim was trying to sleep. Jim was just rereading the files on pon farr and quickly invited the engineer in.
“I'm just here for an update,” Scotty told him hurriedly. “The model's looking good, but some of the plasma conduits don't look so hot. Or rather they look too hot.”
“How bad?” Jim asked, leaning forward and resting his elbows on his knees.
“Not bad enough we have t' stop,” Scotty assured him. “In fact, I'd like to keep going as long as possible. The numbers we're getting will help us redesign the conduits to handle the greater load.”
“Do you think it'll get us to Shi'masu?”
“Not sure, Captain. Pretty near, I'm hopin', but I canna make promises a' this point.”
“Damn,” Jim muttered, scrubbing his hands over his face.
“I know how important this is,” Scotty assured him. “We're all doin' the best we can.”
“I know, Scotty. I know,” Jim reassured him. “I'm just scared we're running out of options.”
Scotty couldn't reply to that, and Jim couldn't blame him. Being captain of a starship was a pain and a half on a good day. On a bad day it was impossible. This was shaping up to be a very bad week.
“Well, keep going as long as you dare,” Jim ordered, “but stop or slow down if we have to. No use killing anyone else to try and save one person.”
“Aye, Captain,” Scotty said sadly.
Jim tried to sleep, he knew he needed it, but he just found himself tossing and turning. Giving up, he dressed and headed out.
In the corridor, he paused in front of Spock's door. He wanted to talk to his friend, ask advice from the logical well who'd been his support since becoming captain. But that wasn't an option tonight. Spock was in no state to proffer advice on this matter, and even if his logic weren't disrupted by pon farr this was likely a matter for which he'd have no suggestions to make. But Jim still missed his friend's voice. He couldn't even just go in to talk to Spock since the door was locked on Bone's authorization to ensure no one disturbed the Vulcan while he struggled to stay alive.
Finally Jim tore himself away from the door. If he walked the corridors for long then he'd run into someone, and they might call Bones. Bones would order him back to his room and dose him up. Yes, he needed sleep, but right now it seemed he needed to think.
Think. There had to be a solution, a way to save Spock. Maybe they'd make it to Shi'masu in time. Maybe. But just in case, Jim needed another plan. He didn't believe in no-win situations. The engines might overheat, or Spock's condition might deteriorate further. There had to be another option.
To avoid the rest of the crew, Jim headed to an observation deck. The view of the stars rushing past at warp speed was soothing and Jim sprawled in a chair to watch.
With his eyes on the stars and his body relaxed, Jim set his mind to Ambassador Spock's words earlier. He appreciated the older man's trust, but wished that just once the other Spock had chosen to speak in something other than riddles. Well, if he really did have the right variables …
Spock, his Spock, had said he wanted someone who understood what they were getting into. He was the only Vulcan on the ship, so that was out. If Jim remembered the roster's and histories he'd studied in the two years since he was granted command, none of his crew had even had much experience with Vulcans beyond their first officer. So that was out. But Jim knew, both from the documents he'd been reading and from the memories that Ambassador Spock left behind. And Bones knew because of what he'd been reading. And Uhura knew because Spock had told her, or at least some of it. Maybe. So that left him three people.
Factor two that Spock had requested was someone familiar with telepathic contact. The only other telepath on the ship was a Deltan engineer, and her oath of celibacy was on file. Jim doubted she'd even consider the matter as it was well known that Deltan's considered most other races as sexually immature. Humans were in that list, and Jim had a feeling Vulcans were too.
Jim couldn't remember any references to any crew members having interactions with telepaths, other than the Vulcans rescued during the battle with the Narada. He could take another look, but he doubted he'd find anything helpful. That just left Uhura, probably, and Jim himself.
And Spock said no about Uhura.
Jim shifted uneasily in the chair as he realized what he was left with.
Damn. Bones and himself. Well, really himself. He was the only one with telepathic experience, and what an experience. Well, it was an option.
Wait, what about gender … was gender a factor? The files from Shi'masu hadn't said anything about it, but Spock might have a preference. Except survival was the goal, so maybe not. It wasn't like Jim expected to be a perfect, lifelong mate. He just needed someone to keep Spock alive for now. So, in that case, the question really was, was this an option Jim was willing to take? After all, Uhura had been in a relationship with Spock for two odd years and still wasn't ready to be married. Was Jim?
He cared about Spock. He considered his first officer a dear friend, maybe someone he might call a brother. In time. They had known each other two years. From having started out as enemies they had come a long way, with a few nudges from the good ambassador. But while divorce might be possible, it would only be after the potential damage was done. Could he let Spock go digging through his brain while they fucked for a day or two? Could he open himself up that completely? It could completely change their relationship, depending on how Spock viewed what he found. Would it ruin the future?
It was a struggle, but he tried to think about the matter logically and ignore the fact that he'd never nailed a Vulcan before. He was a serious Starfleet captain now and that list he'd started back in Iowa was irrelevant.
Spock was important to Jim. That was a fact that could not be discounted, could not be denied. It wasn't logical, but it was fact. Jim just had to decide whether he could better live with bonding with his best friend and maybe losing him, or letting him die and definitely losing him.