“You're an idiot,” Bones informed Jim as he ran a tricorder over his captain. Nurse Chapel had already run a complete scan by the time he arrived, but Bones had just shooed her away and started again.
“You say that a lot,” Jim replied with a sigh. “But you can't tell me you wouldn't have done the same.”
Bones glared at him, but in the manner that implied he knew Jim was right and didn't like admitting it.
“See,” Jim crowed quietly. “Spock's alive. I'm fine. It all turned out really.”
“You are not fine,” Bones snapped. “You've got bruises on your hips, shoulders, neck, and ribs, bite marks on your neck and shoulders, and then there's the internal abuse ...”
“Love bites,” Jim cut him off, “hickies, and the soreness that comes with good sex. Nothing worse than you've seen on me a hundred times before, and a hell of a lot better than a few others.” And a lot better than he'd expected, really. The reports he'd read talked about the violence of pon farr, but Spock had been considerate and gentle, taking every precaution to ensure there was nothing worse than bruises and soreness. Perhaps it was because it wasn't Spock who'd been gentle. They had been gentle together.
Yeah, and trying to think that way made his eyes cross and his brain feel fuzzy. More had come across in that time than shared sensations and a few current thoughts, but this was not the time to try and make sense of it all. Of that he was certain.
Bones snarled, pulling Jim out of his thoughts. The doctor put back the dermal regenerator, unused, with a vindictive look and grabbing a more powerful tricorder and scanning Jim's head.
“You know, if you're going to insist on redoing everything twice, you could at least pass the time by telling me what happened the last two days,” Jim growled after Bones gripped his chin to hold his head in place for the scan. He couldn't help that the stupid thing made his brain itch.
He glared, but Bones began talking. “I told Mr. Scott he was in charge as soon as I left you and Spock to your … activities. He accepted that I'd taken you off duty because you were emotionally compromised with worry about Spock. The rest of the crew seemed to accept it after I had to do the same with Uhura two hours later.”
“Good cover,” Jim admitted. “Did you tell Uhura …?”
“Hell no,” Bones snapped edgily. “Someone else can explain things to her. I'm staying out of it.”
“Damn,” Jim muttered. If Uhura hated him before, he was so screwed now. Maybe he could get Spock to explain ...
Bones tapped something into the tricorder as the scan finished but continued speaking with a distracted air. “Scotty got the ship moving again in about two hours, made it to Shi'masu inside of twenty-four. He then came to me, worried about Spock. He didn't think it was wise to transport him until the excess DNA had been removed.”
Jim winced. He hadn't thought about that, but it made sense. If the Sardinia III feathers could make more of an impact on Spock's DNA through repeated transportations, who knew what he'd end up looking like.
“But he was willing to pretend he'd transported you two down for Spock's treatment and not ask what really was going on,” Bones continued. “Ambassador Selek came up so Scotty could get a DNA sample for his transporter model ...”
“Is the ambassador still here?” Jim interrupted.
Bones ignored his friend, pinning Jim's head in place and beginning the scan again. “Scotty's finishing the repairs to the warp engines. Something about upgrading the plasma conduits. A couple of Vulcan engineers are helping. The Council called shortly after I told the healers you and Spock were back to normal and requested the two of you show up at sunset. That's in about eight hours.”
“How many times are you going to repeat that scan?” Jim grumbled as he filed away the information Bones had given him. He'd have to talk to Scotty, but from the sound of things, everything was well under control. Ignoring the cold pit in his stomach at the thought of facing the Vulcan Council and undergoing rel-san-vek, he glared at Bones and his stupid tricorder.
“Until I'm convinced that green blooded hobgoblin didn't completely screw up your brain chemistry,” Bones replied. “The Vulcan healers I spoke with were quite concerned about the risks.”
“Did you ask Ambassador Selek?” Jim asked.
Bones muttered something under his breath.
“What was that?” Jim said, a cocky lit to his voice. He had a good feeling.
“He said that nothing could mess up your mind more than it was naturally,” Bones finally said audibly.
Letting out a bark of laughter, Jim asked, “And what does your tricorder say?”
“That your brain chemistry is a disaster,” Bones snapped. “But that's normal based on previous scans. In fact, I think your serotonin levels have evened out a little.”
Jim blinked and furrowed his brow in thought. Brain chemistry was not an area he'd put a lot of research into. “Is that good?”
“Actually, yes,” Bones replied, finally setting the tricorder aside and letting Jim sit up. “Serotonin levels effect appetite, mood, aggression, and sleep. Medications with serotonin have been used to treat psychiatric disorders and sleep disorders for centuries. If this lasts, you might actually become a more well balanced, sane person.”
Jim snorted. “And pigs will fly.”
“After all we've seen, I wouldn't be surprised,” Bones countered teasingly.
“So, you done?” Jim asked, prepared to make a run for the door even if the answer was no.
“Yes,” Bones replied with a sigh. “You're right. The injuries are minor and will heal fine. You're fine, he's probably fine. But be careful, will you? If you stay bonded, I don't know what the side effects will be, but I also don't know what the side effects will be if you break the bond. I know you did what you had to in order to save his life, but ...” His hand gripped Jim's arm tight even as his words trailed off.
Jim could almost hear the words unsaid, and it brought a spot of warmth to his chest. I don't want to lose my best friend. “I'm gonna be fine, Bones. Promise.” Jim gripped Bones' arm back, their stance echoing one of those ancient human 'fellow warrior greetings' he'd seen in the movies as a kid.
The moment was broken when Jim, feeling something coming, turned towards the doors. A moment later, the door whooshed open letting Spock into Sickbay. Bones raised an eyebrow at Jim's actions, but quickly centered his glare on the half-Vulcan. Fond as Jim was of Bones, and Spock, he was happy enough duck out of the room while they were both distracted.
He was planning to go to the Bridge to finish getting updated and take command again, but as soon as he hit the hall he spotted Ambassador Selek and his feet froze to the floor. “Ambassador,” he managed to say in a fairly moderated tone. He was amazed to note he could feel Spock behind him in Sickbay, and a faint echo of the same mind in front of him.
“Jim, it is good to see you face to face, old friend,” Ambassador Spock replied.
“And you. Though I could wish it were under other circumstances,” Jim said with a weak smile.
“I must agree,” Spock. “Though one must admit that circumstances have come to a positive end.”
Jim swallowed nervously. “Awkward with a lot of complications would be the description I'd use.”
Spock's lips quirked. “Perhaps. Give things a little time to settle.”
Shifting his weight uneasily, Jim watched Spock in silence for a minute. As far as he could tell, the calmness the Vulcan exuded was truth, not a facade, and for the life of him Jim wasn't sure how that could be. “I suppose you want to do something about those extra memories,” Jim suggested before acknowledging that was almost as awkward a topic of conversation. Especially in the middle of the corridor.
“No,” Spock said gravely. “Under the circumstances that would be best left for a later visit. Your mind has undergone a number of changes in the last two days and it would be best to let matters stabilize before attempting another major change.”
“Ah,” Jim breathed, repressing a sigh of relief. While he didn't think about those memories that often, they were something he tended to savor. While he would never be that James Kirk, it was nice to know that somewhere there was a him who had a father, a loving family, who was calmer and more confident, and yet who was still him. Perhaps he was destined to be captain of the Enterprise, to know Spock and Bones. And, just maybe, even with the differences, he was still destined to be that loved, to have that level of companionship. When he was down he could pull up those memories and remind himself that some of that could still be in his future. He wasn't quite ready to give that up.
“So … um … is there something I can help you with? I don't mean to say hi and run, but I've been out of touch for two days ...” Jim hemmed and hawed uneasily, feeling more like a sheepish schoolboy than a starship captain.
Spock quirked his lips in another hint of a smile, seeming amused at Jim's attitude if the captain was reading him correctly. “The Enterprise will be leaving orbit in thirteen point four hours, after Mr. Scott completes his warp engine repairs. Before then, you and Spock have a very important decision to make, and I thought you might appreciate someone knowledgeable to speak with.”
Jim's mouth opened to reply, but he froze before a single sound left his throat. His lips closed and his brow furrowed as he studied the Vulcan before him. First instinct demanded to tell Spock where to shove it and get on with his duties, except the older man had a point. It would be nice to speak with someone, if only for a moment. “Not here,” he finally said, and turned away. The Ambassador could follow if he really wanted.
When Jim stepped into the nearest open conference room, Spock was right on his heels, as he had been the whole way, as Jim had known he was. It was that latter part that was bugging the captain.
“I know I'm bonded to my Spock, this universe's Spock,” Jim said quickly. “But should I be able to feel you?”
Spock looked surprised, then thoughtful. In silence, he sat down in one of the chairs and studied Jim carefully. “All Vulcans can sense each other through irak-nahan, thought their mental abilities. This is not to say they are in constant communication, just that they know each other's presence, may pick up strong thoughts or emotions if they are present. There is a distance factor involved in this, but also a critical mass factor. I once felt a ship of Vulcans die from half a sector away.”
“So … what you felt when you saw your planet die …?” Jim asked, collapsing into a chair.
“All we survivors felt their deaths.” Spock nodded sadly. “But that was not the point I was endeavoring to present. Family members know each other's minds more intimately than strangers and so can sense more. I myself am more than family to your telsu, your bonded, and so through him you are more sensitive to me. Unless you have been hiding an unusual degree of psychic sensitivity for a human, it is unlikely you will be aware of any Vulcan beyond immediate family.”
“And after rel-san-vek?” Jim asked hesitantly.
“With the bond broken it is unlikely you'd be so aware,” Spock replied. “Is rel-san-vek what you desire?”
Jim studied his hands clasped before him on the table. “It's not my decision,” he said softly.
“Why not?” Spock asked gently.
“I all but forced him into this,” Jim snapped, finally expressing his anger, though most of it was directed at himself. “I waited until the last minute. He was already in plak tow before I even suggested it. I have no right to trap him in a relationship he doesn't want.”
“That is a logical point, but does not touch on one important factor. What do you want?”
“What does that matter?” Jim muttered darkly. He had hoped that speaking about this would help settle him, but right now he just felt more and more wound up and upset.
“It matters a great deal,” Spock disagreed. “The bond you share with Spock carries emotions most strongly. If you feel trapped by it, dislike it, then Spock should know in order to make the logical decision. If you welcome it, desire to retain it, then again, Spock should know. This is not a matter for which there is a simple solution to be found based entirely on logic. Instead, emotion must be considered, and hopes and dreams, for both of you.”
As he considered the Ambassador's words, Jim also watched the older Vulcan. Memories filtered up through his mind of Spock, this Spock rather than his Spock, arguing firmly of the superiority of logic. But at the same time, he remembered Spock reaching out, speaking of the importance of friendship, of emotion. Could those memories of experiences his Spock had not had still be a clue for how to handle this situation?
And how much was this Spock trying to manipulate the situation, and why? There was a decided twinkle in his eyes as he discussed emotions and hopes and dreams.
“What about Starfleet regulations? Or the fact that Spock will probably be required to have a child someday to help the race?” Jim asked, trying not to sound like the whiny child he felt like. Part of him wanted to throw a temper tantrum, to beg and plead that Spock stay with him. But he was an adult now and knew one could not have everything at once.
“Those are also factors that must be considered,” Ambassador Spock agreed. “I have already discussed some of them with Spock, and our father and the Council will discuss others. If it is, as you insist, his decision, then he needs to consider all the variables. However, one of those is what you want.”
“I don't want to give him up,” Jim admitted in a rush of words that was half sob. “I never planned ... never expected ...” He didn't know how to express what he now felt.
Spock's lips quirked and his eyes twinkled, an expression that was for him as broad a smile as Jim ever got. “We never plan these things,” he said lightly. “The tradition of bonding our children at seven ensures that there is someone to turn to when pon farr comes, but sometimes prevents them from finding a truly fulfilling bond. When that is found, should we turn away just because it comes from an unexpected source?”
Jim found himself reaching a hand across the table, almost touching before common sense and his xenocultural classes stopped him. “Were you expecting this?”
Shaking his head, Spock said, “No. I had hoped to see you find a close bond with my younger self, a friendship to last a lifetime, perhaps even achieve t'hy'la as I once did. A full marriage bond is something I never experienced, and never dreamed you might.”
Jim almost asked if the failure came from lack of interest on one of their parts, but he could feel that wasn't it. There were a lot of concerns facing them now, regulations and the like. For the, slightly, more rule following Jim Kirk those might have been insurmountable obstacles. Had he not cornered Spock when he did, Jim knew those obstacles would have been a logical impediment even now.
But what was done was done, and they could only go forward from here. “I should talk to Spock, before we see the Council,” Jim said, almost feeling as confident in the decision as he sounded.
“A wise decision, old friend.”
When Spock stepped into Sickbay and saw Jim still there he was surprised, and perhaps a touch worried. However, it was comforting to see how quickly the captain left as soon as Bones' attention was diverted to Spock.
There was no need to speak while the medical tests were performed. It was the same series of comprehensive tests that the doctor had been performing twice a day for the first four days after the transporter accident. It had been five point eight days since they had performed this dance, but the rhythm was easy to remember. Spock knew how to position himself for each test, and for how long. Bones knew Spock would be where he was needed and how far to step between tests to avoid the expansive wingspan at Spock's back. That part had taken two days to get correct, but fortunately Spock had not been as sensitive to each touch at that time.
Only once Bones picked up another tricorder after what Spock knew was the last medical test did the commander speak up. “Are the test results not adequate?”
Bones grunted and put the tricorder back down. “No, completely adequate,” he replied in what Jim had once identified as a tone the doctor used when mocking Spock's word choices. “Everything's closer to your normal baseline than it was after the accident, not that your baseline makes any sense relative to a normal human, or Vulcan.”
Spock ignored the deprecations about his biology, they being old and well worn complaints from the doctor. “And the captain?” he asked instead of his usual counter arguments. He struggled to repress his eagerness to know the answer.
“Fine is a variable term to describe anyone's condition. I would appreciate a more accurate descriptor,” Spock chided. He had to hide a pang deep in his heart at the similarity to the argument he'd had with his mother so many times. Interacting with his human crew mates often reminded him of his mother and the many human foibles she had tried to explain to him when he was a child.
“He's been well used,” Bones said, “but the bruises and bites will fade. And his brain chemistry has actually leveled out. So he's fine.”
Releasing a soft breath of relief, Spock said, “Under those conditions, I have three requests for you”
Bones raised an eyebrow in an inquisitive look. “Do tell.”
“Facing the imminent removal of my wings, I find I desire to retain several feathers. Would you do the removal?”
“A rather emotional request,” Bone said dryly.
“I am still suffering from k'oh-nar and find myself suffering from sentimentality most strongly,” Spock admitted. He had come to terms with his continuing emotional state, but it was unpleasant to admit to it before others. The doctor was the kind of man to make him suffer for admitting to such a failing for years to come.
Bones looked tempted to tease, his eyes alight with excitement, but he refrained. “How many feathers do you want to keep?” he asked simply.
“Ten would be sufficient.”
“This may not be a pleasant process,” Bones warned.
“I have considered that likelihood, and I find I still desire the feathers.”
“As long as it doesn't trigger another pon farr,” Bones muttered as he stepped behind Spock to begin the procedure.
The doctor was correct. It was not a pleasant experience. Sharp jolts of pleasure mixed with pain ran through Spock as each feather was removed. After the tenth such occurrence, Bones stepped back around the biobed and handed Spock ten large primaries.
“And second?” Bones asked.
“I require a witness for the changes to my last will and testament,” Spock replied, proffering the PADD he had brought along with the updates he had made earlier after his alternate self left his quarters.
Bones shot him a concerned look as he accepted the PADD.
“It is only appropriate to correct for the change in my circumstances over the last few days in the face of the risk I take with Mr. Scott's attempt to correct for the DNA modifications from Sardinia III,” Spock pointed out.
That explanation did nothing to settle the doctor's expression, and it became even more and more expressive as he read through the contents of the PADD. Finally, he asked, “Does Jim know about this?”
“I did not have a chance to discuss it with him,” Spock admitted. “However, he is my married partner under Vulcan law, so it is appropriate.”
Bones' jaw flapped silently for a fifty-six point three seconds before firmly closing with a click of teeth. Refraining from further comment, the doctor signed as witness and handed the PADD back to Spock. “I hope that's not used today,” he commented sharply, expressing what Jim had told Spock was Bones' personal version of concern.
“As do I,” Spock agreed. “However, as there is some risk that it will, my third request is that you be present in the transporter room while I undergo the procedure.”
“If anything goes wrong, there's nothing I'll be able to do for you,” Bones pointed out.
“If the procedure fails, then it is not I who will need your medical expertise,” Spock said, not able to completely hide his concern in the face of such a possibility. “The bond between the captain and myself is new, but it is strong. Loss of one partner in a Vulcan marriage bond has been known to drive the other into such a state of grief that they will themselves into death.”
“What?” Bones exclaimed. His hand reached out and gripped Spock's arm tightly, an action he used most commonly with Jim when the captain was proposing another hare-brained scheme.
“There are techniques to assist the bereaved. Ambassador Selek will also attend. He can form a meld with Jim to keep him from falling too far. However, the more beings assisting, and the closer their bond to the bereaved, the better. You are Jim's friend.”
Still concerned, Bones finally realized his actions and released Spock's arm. “I … right. I'll be there,” he said. “Though I don't know how much help I'll be beyond proffering a hypospray or artificial respiration.”
“So, this is going to work, right?” Jim was leaning over the front of the transporter controls while Scotty reviewed the program he'd input to fix Spock. Jim had asked a few questions to make sure his ship was holding together – just fine – and the engines were being repaired – improved from the sound of it, but he'd sort out the details later – but his main interest was making sure his first officer – and friend, and lover, and husband … not thinking about that right now – was going to be returned to proper health.
“It's never been tried before,” Scotty said with slightly less than his usual arrogant confidence. “And there's nothin' else effected to try it on first. But honestly, Captain, Mr. Spock is all righ' for now, but will he stay tha' way if we dinna fix his DNA?”
Jim sighed and scrubbed one hand over his face. “No,” he admitted. “I'd just rather know we aren't going to kill him while trying to save him.”
“I'm doin' my best, Captain,” Scotty assured him. “I've discussed the program with several Vulcan experts and they're agreein' it's the best option.”
Further discussion was cut off when Spock entered the room, without a shirt. Jim swallowed the urge to let out a wolf whistle when Bones and Ambassador Selek followed Spock in.
“Are you prepared, Mr. Scott?” Spock asked without even looking at Jim.
“Whenever you are, Mr. Spock,” Scotty replied.
Spock strode towards the transporter pad, but Jim stopped him, grasping his hand as he passed. “Spock, are you sure about this?” he asked, kicking himself for sounding like six kinds of idiot as soon as the words passed his lips.
“It must be attempted,” Spock replied blandly.
“We could wait a bit, give Scotty more time to test the algorithm,” Jim suggested. He was ignoring everyone else in the room even though Bones and the other Spock had stepped close.
“Every day we wait means the probable return of pon farr,” Spock pointed out quietly, though Scotty probably heard every word. His fingers tightening against Jim's as he spoke. “Mr. Scott assures me all the preparations that can be made have been. The only remaining step is to test the procedure. In case of failure I have updated my will, and Dr. McCoy and Ambassador Selek have agreed to assist you. I see no logical reason to delay further.”
“No reason?” Jim gasped. He certainly didn't agree on that. There were a lot of reasons, most of them desperately needed to be discussed between himself and Spock. But Spock was Vulcan, or had been raised to be so, so maybe he didn't feel the need to discuss the emotional ramifications of the last few days the way the human Jim did.
“Jim,” Spock said. Jim was startled to hear a note of pleading. Looking into Spock's eyes, Jim saw nervousness, and suddenly realized that the Vulcan had steeled himself to do this, now, and further delay was eroding what precious little control he had regained since the plak tow faded.
“All right,” Jim said. He squeezed Spock's hand tight and did his best to project confidence and love down the fledgling bond between them. Then he let go, and stepped back until his spine bumped against the transporter console. He ignored the way Ambassador Selek's arm brushed against his and Bones set a supportive hand on his shoulder.
Spock stood frozen for a moment, and Jim felt all his emotions reflected back to a degree he'd never expected. Then, without a word, Spock stepped forward onto the transporter pad and nodded to Scotty.
Scotty glanced at Jim for approval, which Jim gave, reluctantly, before beginning the procedure. Spock quickly disappeared in a sparkle of white light, and Jim felt his stomach clench. There was a numb place in the back of his mind and it scared him more than he wanted to admit.
Ten seconds passed, then fifteen, then thirty. The transporter pad remained empty. Heart thudding as Bones' fingers tightened with each second that passed, Jim called out, “Mr. Scott?”
“He's in the pattern buffer … runnin' the algorithm fast as I can ...” Scotty replied in a tense and distracted tone.
“How long …?” Jim couldn't stop himself from speaking again. That numb spot was still there in his head. It didn't yet feel like Spock was dead, as far as he could tell with limited experience, but the sensation was still unnerving. He'd have to ask the ambassador if that was a normal artifact of transportation. Later. When he could think straight again.
“Almost … there.” Scotty's eyes lit up as he reversed the controls and slid the handle. White sparkles filled the pad again, but did not quite coalesce into solid form before beginning to fade again.
“Scotty!” Jim bellowed in protest, his eyes, his whole being focused on the figure that wasn't quite re-materializing.
“A glitch,” Scotty said, sounding more than a little stressed.
Jim heard the click of buttons being pushed and switches being flipped before suddenly the transporter's hum increased and the sparkles brightened. This time when the lights faded Spock was standing there, whole, breathing, and without wings.
A sigh of relief was echoed by all watching.
Bones was the first to step forward, scanning Spock thoroughly with his medical tricorder and taking a blood sample. As he glared at the readouts from his tests, Ambassador Selek stepped forward and offered Spock a gray, rather ratty looking sweater. Oddly enough, Spock's lips twitched in a near smile as he pulled on the sweater, and Jim felt a definite feeling of joy echoing through the corner of his mind that was no longer numb.
“Doctor?” Spock asked pointedly, still standing on the transporter pad.
“It'll take time to do the DNA analysis, but the initial tests indicate you're back to normal, hormone levels included,” Bones replied with a frown.
“Mr. Scott, if you would transport me down to the planet,” Spock said.
“We can't be sure that's safe until the DNA analysis is back,” Bones protested.
“It will take longer to run the test than we have time to remain in orbit, and I have matters to attend to on Shi'masu,” Spock countered. “One time through the transporter should do nothing worse than put me in the state I was before. A shuttle craft could be used then to transport me back to the ship. For now, I must attend to business on Shi'masu.”
Jim wanted to protest, to insist that Spock remain, but he had no right to force Spock to stay, to speak with him. He reminded himself he'd promised he'd support Spock's decision. “Let him go,” he ordered.