Jim Kirk drummed his fingers on the arm of his chair in a steady, agitated rhythm. A quick one-two-three followed by a short pause, then one-two-three-four and pause, before returning to the short, sharp three count. In front of him, the screen didn’t change. There was nothing to watch, nothing to see, and nothing to distract him from the slow-burn of anxiety. One-two-three.
Kirk considered his question, reconsidered, and began the unsteady rhythm again. “Never mind. Wait.” He rose, studied the view screen for another moment, and gestured. “Come with me.”
“Sulu, you have the conn.”
Kirk didn’t glance behind him to make sure that Spock was actually following him. He could sense the Vulcan just behind him, walking in perfect step as they entered the lift. His fingers were still moving, now tapping silently against his thigh. He knew that Spock noticed the not entirely unconscious act, catalogued it, considered the implications, and drew his own conclusions before the lift’s door closed.
“Captain, did you wish to speak to me?”
“Yes. What is going on?”
Spock’s eyebrows came together in a question. And maybe a little bit of…chastisement. “Sir?”
“With…look, I know you haven’t seen him, but what is going on with the other Spock?”
“I’ve seen him.”
“What do you mean?”
“I have spoken to the other version of myself several times.”
Kirk blinked. “What? Who let you do that?”
“I was not aware that I was forbidden from speaking to him.”
“You’re not forbidden. Well, not in so many words. I just thought…”
Spock watched him patiently, waiting for him to finish. “Yes?”
I thought the universe would implode wasn’t exactly a dignified response. “Nothing. Look, what is going on?”
“With the other Spock?”
“Yes, with the other Spock. What is going on? What’s the emergency?”
If it were possible for Spock to look pensive at all, he did so now. “Sir, I do not think it is my place to discuss it.”
“What? There literally isn’t a better candidate on the ship.”
“Except for the other Spock.”
“I don’t think he’s in any condition to talk to me.” Which was a complete understatement. The older Spock—the much nicer Spock—had been alternately comatose and delirious since joining them on the Enterprise. Sarek had made it very clear that Spock needed to be left alone to rest. Dr. McCoy had absolutely refused to be dismissed, and insisted that the older Spock needed medical care and he would be the one to provide it. Though he did agree with Sarek’s orders of solitude and rest.
“Have you spoken to Dr. McCoy?”
“And he has not provided an answer for your questions?”
Kirk nearly growled with frustration. Did Spock really think they would be having this conversation at all if Bones had provided the answers he was looking for? Also, why was Spock asking so many questions? He was supposed to be the one with the answers. Answers Kirk intended to learn.
The doors slid open, and Kirk led Spock off the lift. He didn’t know where he wanted to go, but he knew he needed to keep moving. It occurred to him that he could march into sickbay and demand an audience, or at least some sort of explanation.
“But you know what’s wrong with him, don’t you?” Kirk asked.
“I do not know the specifics, Sir.”
“Then tell me what’s wrong with him in general. This conversation isn’t going to be over until I have the answers I want.”
“It’s a highly personal topic for Vulcans.”
“What is a highly personal topic for Vulcans? Look, I’m worried about him, okay? And everybody being all weird and secretive is not helping.”
“Nobody is being all weird and secretive, Captain.”
“You are. And I want an explanation. Now.”
“Very well. I didn’t mean to disobey any of your orders, but the issue is one that is very…personal for Vulcans. I believe that he is suffering because of his bond mate.”
“I have no idea what that means, Spock.”
“When Vulcans mate, they do so for life. There is a very intense telepathic bond between the two mates, and when it is disrupted, it can cause a sort of madness.”
“Disrupted how? Is it because of what happened to…” Kirk stopped. He didn’t like to reference the destruction of Vulcan in front of Spock, if he could help it. Not because Spock ever reacted visibly when the loss of his world came up, but because Kirk thought it was insensitive at the least, if not outright dickish.
“I do not know. But that is why Sarek instructed McCoy to keep him sedated as much as possible. When he is awake, he’s in pain.”
“So is Uhura your mate?”
For a brief moment, Spock actually looked flustered by the question. “I do not wish to discuss it.”
“I just meant that maybe if Uhura is yours, she’s his as well.”
“It’s impossible to say. Our timeline is now completely different from his, and he is much older. He might have been mated to somebody I’ve never met. Or somebody who did not survive the destruction of Vulcan.”
Kirk frowned. “What is he going to do if that’s the case?”
“That is why he’s seeking out the wisdom of the Vulcan counsel.”
“Are you worried about him?”
“It is not logical to be worried about him right now, Captain. It will not do him, or us, any good.”
Kirk sighed. Spock was right, as per usual. But that wasn’t going to stop him from worrying. He couldn’t comprehend what the older Spock was going through. He didn’t even fully understand why he was suffering at all, but he didn’t want to grill Spock on Vulcan customs. He could, and he could compel Spock to answer him, but he suspected that it wouldn’t actually make him feel better. The reality of the situation was that he was helpless. He could take Spock from Starfleet Academy to New Vulcan, and he could make sure that nothing got in their way or impeded their progress, but ultimately, he was powerless.
He hated that.
“Is there anything else, Captain?”
“No. Just…do you think he’s going to be okay? Tell me the truth.”
“I could only speculate.”
Spock sighed and bowed his head for a moment, as though taking a moment to collect his thoughts. “I don’t know, Jim. I’ve never experienced what he’s going through, and I don’t know how severe the symptoms are.”
“Pretty severe, judging from the message we got from Starfleet.”
“Jim…they’ll know what to do when we reach New Vulcan.”
The promise was meant to be reassuring. It wasn’t, but the fact that Spock tried was enough to make Kirk smile a little. “Thank you, Spock. That’s all.”
“You’re sure, Captain?”
“Yes. Just make sure I’m alerted if there are any changes.”
Spock nodded slightly and returned to the lift, clearly heading back to his position on the bridge. Kirk considered joining him, but dismissed the idea. He was only making the rest of the crew nervous. He didn’t anticipate any problems en route.
He went to his quarters instead, his mind in a fog of anxiety. Spock’s explanation of what was happening didn’t actually help at all. Or it helped a little bit. Spock didn’t really have a lot to say, but he did have an understanding of what was happening, even without all the information. The Vulcan counsel would certainly have all the information, and that would mean they’d certainly have a solution to the problem. Then the older—nicer—Spock will be cured, and things will go back to normal.
Kirk liked that plan. He would just have to make sure it happened that way.
The door to his quarters shut behind him, and suddenly, he wanted to be out of there. Sickbay, or the bridge. Anywhere that wasn’t alone in a room with his thoughts. Instead of walking out, he flipped the switch on his computer.
“Captain’s log. Just had an interesting, albeit unhelpful, discussion with Spock. He claims that the older Spock’s problem is related to the loss of his bond mate. When I indicated that I don’t know what that means, he told me Vulcans mate for life. Unfortunately, he didn’t explain what that really had to do with anything. Is this some sort of psychological disorder? Is this a physical problem? What if his bond mate is dead now? Could a replacement be found? And why is he ill now? Is it related to the loss of Vulcan? Is it…”
Kirk sighed and sank into his chair.
“I’m really…worried. About Spock. About Spock’s future. McCoy and Sarek have made it clear that I should not see him. I haven’t pushed the issue because I don’t want to make things worse. But…” He scrubbed his hands over his face. “How much worse can it get? McCoy is using powerful sedatives on a Vulcan who is, quite frankly, very old. How can his system support that? And what’ll happen if McCoy is forced to stop? How strong is he? Is he a risk to anybody on this ship? More importantly…is he a risk to himself?”
McCoy wouldn’t go as far as to say that, but why else keep a person sedated? Especially somebody like Spock?
“Without any real answers, or explanation, I don’t have many options…unfortunately. Except one. Make sure that Spock makes it to New Vulcan without any sort of delay. If I’m going to be a glorified delivery boy, I’ll be the best damned delivery boy in the quadrant.”
Kirk had more to add, but he was interrupted by the flashing red alert light. “Bridge to captain.” Uhura’s voice. “There is an intruder on board. Bridge to captain.”