A Friend in Need
Kirk stifles a yawn as he shovels another forkful of rice into his mouth. He's not even hungry, but McCoy has already gotten on his case once this week about missing meals and he isn't in the mood for another lecture.
Someone sits down opposite him and he glances up to see Spock. He gives the Vulcan a tired smile as he continues the process of mindlessly conveying food to his mouth. His eyes drift shut briefly and he forces them open to see Spock looking at him with mild concern.
"You need to rest, Jim," Spock says. "You have been working far too hard recently."
Kirk sighs. "I'd love to, but I have about a million things to do." He scoops up another forkful of rice, stares at it for a long moment, then puts it down again, deciding that he's eaten enough. "Half the crew are out with this virus, and most of the rest are running close to exhaustion trying to keep everything running. Thank God we're not on a mission." He rests his head on his hand tiredly as he looks at Spock.
"Indeed," Spock replies. "Which is why it is important that the captain remain healthy."
Kirk feels a smile tug at the corners of his mouth. "And what about the first officer? Are you going to put aside your duties to go get some rest?"
Spock's response is so predictable that Kirk nearly recites it along with him; "Vulcans do not require as much sleep as humans." He takes a drink of water and adds, "I will be spending the evening in the lab. As you mentioned, many of my staff are currently on sick leave, and there are several experiments that require attention."
"Hmm," Kirk replies non-committedly. He stretches, trying to relieve his sore muscles, and stands. "Well, I have to get back to work. Have fun in the lab." He grins and leaves before Spock can tell him that fun is an emotion.
Kirk finds himself having to hold back a shiver as he walks down the corridor to his quarters, and makes a note to get Scotty to check the temperature controls. His cabin is better, but he turns the heat up anyway in an attempt to banish any remaining chill. Then he sits down at his computer and gets to work reading through status reports.
It's tedious, mind-numbing work, made all the worse by the fact that he's developing a headache. The screen blurs briefly, and Kirk rubs his fists into tired eyes, stifling a yawn. He spares a longing glance at his bed, then, with a sigh, gets back to work.
Much as he tries to ignore his discomfort, it only grows. His headache gets steadily worse and his eyelids steadily heavier. And there is definitely something wrong with the temperature controls; he's turned the heat up twice already and he's still cold.
The screen blurs again and Kirk momentarily gives up. He has a bottle of headache pills in the bathroom. He'll work better once he's taken a few.
The room spins as he stands up, and he only makes it a few steps before his legs give out and he falls to the ground, unconscious.
* * * * *
Spock is making notes on the latest stage of his experiment when he feels something tug on the edges of his consciousness. He ignores it, focused on jotting down another observation, but it comes again, stronger.
Spock frowns. He has experienced this sensation before; it means Kirk is in danger. But Kirk cannot be in danger; they are on the ship, far away from any source of peril. Even Kirk would find it difficult to get into trouble on the way to his quarters.
Still, given past experiences, Spock is reluctant to ignore the feeling. It isn't as though checking on Kirk will do any harm, after all. He is loading a few reports Kirk requested earlier onto a data-chip so that he will have some reason to visit his cabin, when the uneasy feeling suddenly spikes, bringing with it a need to get to Kirk right now. Spock grabs the data-chip and bolts for the nearest turbolift.
He signals for entry at Kirk's quarters and is not reassured by the lack of reply. He glances left and right, then taps in the code that will open Kirk's door. If there is no emergency, he will have some explaining to do, but by now he is certain that is not the case.
He enters the room and immediately sees Kirk lying unconscious on the floor. Spock drops to his knees beside the still form and quickly presses his fingers to Kirk's neck. To his relief, he feels a steady pulse under his fingers; Kirk is alive, at least. But then Spock registers the unnatural heat of Kirk's skin and realises that he is running a dangerously high fever.
Spock pulls away long enough to contact sickbay, then returns to his spot at Kirk's side. "Captain," he says quietly, shaking Kirk's shoulder. "Jim. Wake up."
Kirk does not respond.
For lack of anything better to do, Spock gets a damp washcloth from the bathroom and dabs Kirk's face with it before draping it over the back of his neck in the hope of bringing his fever down.
The door slides open precisely three point one minutes later to reveal McCoy, accompanied by a nurse pushing a stretcher. Spock moves out of the way as McCoy rushes over to Kirk and begins scanning him.
"How long has he been like this?" he demands.
"I do not know," Spock replies. "I entered the captain's quarters approximately four point two minutes ago to give him some reports he asked for, and found him like this." He feels a spike of – not fear – discomfort as McCoy frowns at his tricorder. "Is his condition serious?"
"I don't know yet," McCoy replies sharply. He rifles through his selection of hyposprays and presses one against Kirk's arm. "This should bring his fever down, but I need to get him to sickbay."
Kirk comes to briefly as they are moving him onto the stretcher, but he is confused and does not seem to recognise any of them. The sensation is unsettling, and Spock is mildly relieved when Kirk drops back into unconsciousness.
He follows the stretcher down to sickbay, but does not go in. He still has work to do in the labs, and Kirk would not want him to shirk his duties.
Back in the labs, he forces himself not to think about Kirk, lying there in sickbay, and continues with his work as if nothing is amiss. It is only when McCoy contacts him one point six hours later to say that Kirk's fever has broken and he is resting peacefully, that he allows his attention to stray, briefly, from the data in front of him. Kirk will recover. His friend will be fine.
It worries Spock that he cannot imagine a world where that is not true.
* * *
Spock is still at work several hours later when the intercom beeps. He jots down a final observation before striding over to answer it. "Spock here."
It is McCoy. "Jim's awake," he says. "He wants to see you."
Spock still has work to do, but he cannot refuse a request from his captain. "Indeed," he says. "I shall be there shortly."
He gets Ensign Peters to watch over the one experiment that cannot be left alone, shuts down his computer terminal, and heads down to sickbay.
When he gets there, he finds Kirk and McCoy having a heated discussion about whether Kirk is well enough to be released.
"You know what your fever was when we found you?" McCoy is saying. "Forty point nine. You're lucky your brain didn't melt. Alkatiaan fever is no laughing matter, Jim."
Kirk opens his mouth to argue, but then he catches sight of Spock and his expression brightens. McCoy looks round to see what he is looking at and rolls his eyes. "There you are." He gestures at Kirk, still addressing Spock. "Try and talk some sense into him, will you? I've got patients to see." With that he leaves.
Spock approaches the bed, studying Kirk for signs of illness. He is unusually pale, his eyes dark with exhaustion and his temples damp with sweat, but it is still a considerable improvement from the last time Spock saw him. "How are you feeling?" he asks.
"Like I've been chewed up and spat out," Kirk says, rubbing his hands over his face. "I just want to go back to my quarters and sleep."
"You cannot sleep here?" Spock asks.
Kirk gives him a tired smile. "Would you want to sleep here?"
Spock glances around them, taking in the noise and chaos of the other patients. Kirk has a point, but Spock can still remember the fear of finding him, feverish and unresponsive, on the floor of his quarters. "You were very ill," he says, aware that it is not actually an answer to Kirk's question.
Kirk stifles a yawn. "That's what Bones said. He's already given me a long lecture about putting my work ahead of my health." He gives Spock a brief smile and adds, "You're in his good books for once, though. According to him, you may have saved my life."
Spock swallows. "I… I am not sure I would go that far." That would mean that Kirk was truly in danger of dying, and that thought is unacceptable.
Kirk shrugs. "All I know is what he told me. If you hadn't found me when you did…." He trails off and waves a hand. "Well, I guess it doesn't matter. You did find me." He frowns, then, and adds, "The thing that puzzles me, however, is that I know I heard you say you'd be in the labs all evening." He tilts his head, studying Spock with an expression he can't identify. "So, Mister Spock," he asks slowly, "what exactly were you doing in my quarters?"
Cornered, Spock's first instinct is to fall back on the half-truth he told McCoy. "I came to give you the reports you asked for."
Unfortunately, Kirk is much less willing to accept that answer. "Yes," he says, "that's what McCoy said. But it's not the whole story, is it?" It comes out more a statement than a question, and Spock sighs inwardly. Once Kirk has scented a mystery, he will not rest until he gets to the truth. "Come on, Spock," Kirk coaxes, as if reading his mind. "I admit I'm not at my best right now, but I know when there's something you're not telling me. What is it?"
Spock takes a breath, glancing around to make sure that they are alone. "I knew you were in danger," he admits. "When I was in the labs, I… felt it."
Kirk stares at him. "You felt it? How is that possible?"
Spock avoids his gaze. "I believe that our frequent melds have created a… resonance between our minds."
"A resonance," Kirk repeats.
Spock nods. "A very basic one. I cannot pick up on your thoughts or emotions, merely a vague sense of your wellbeing." He clasps his hands behind his back and adds, "Do you recall the incident with the Tholians?"
Kirk runs his hands over his face. "How could I forget?"
Out of the corner of Spock's eye he sees Kirk shudder at the memory, and feels a brief twinge of guilt for inadvertently causing his friend more pain. "That was the first time I felt it. All logic said that you were gone, and yet I knew that, given the chance, I could save you."
Kirk just stares at him silently, brow furrowed in thought. "When were you going to tell me about this?" he asks. Then realisation dawns. "You weren't going to tell me."
Spock shakes his head silently.
Spock shifts uncomfortably, the question edging into areas he would prefer not to discuss. "At first I did not understand the nature of the awareness. I assumed it was temporary, confined to a single incident. By the time I realised that was not the case, many weeks had passed, and the connection had grown strong enough that I was unable to break it." He takes a breath. "I did not want to make you uncomfortable, so I blocked it off as best I could. It seems I was not completely successful."
"Good thing too," Kirk says.
Spock looks at him for the first time since he first brought up the connection between them. To his surprise, Kirk does not look angry or betrayed. He looks almost thoughtful.
"I apologise," Spock says. "I should have told you."
"Yes, you should have," Kirk replies, but there's no heat in his tone. He studies Spock contemplatively. "Can this… connection be broken?" he asks.
Spock firmly clamps down on the flash of disappointment that Kirk's words cause. His captain has every reason for wanting the connection broken. "Yes," he says. "It will require a visit to a healer." He grips his hands a little tighter as he adds, "I will make the necessary arrangements at once."
"Hold on," Kirk says, raising a hand. "I didn't say I wanted to break it. I just asked if it could be done."
Spock blinks. "You do not want to break it?"
Kirk tilts his head as if considering. "Get rid of the thing that probably saved my life, and from what you've told me, more than once. Hmm. Doesn't sound very logical does it?"
Spock relaxes at the familiar teasing. "No," he agrees. "It does not."
"And if I'm reading you correctly, you don't want it broken either," Kirk continues, watching him carefully. "Am I right?"
Spock pulls in a breath and nods. "I would prefer to keep it, yes."
"Well, then," Kirk says, as if it's been decided. "Problem solved." He tilts his head in contemplation. "You said you blocked it off, right? Can you remove the block? I want to feel it."
Spock nods slowly. "You may not feel anything," he warns, and carefully lowers the shields he has built up between his mind and Kirk's.
This close, he picks up a vague sense of illness and exhaustion, and has to force himself not to probe further. Instead he pulls back and watches. Most humans would not be able to pick up on such a weak connection, but Kirk is not most humans.
Sure enough, it takes a moment, but then a look of awe spreads over Kirk's face. "I can feel you," he says. Then he smiles. "You're worried about me."
It takes effort not to jerk back at that. Spock raises his shields again – although not quite as far as before – and raises an eyebrow. "You are unusually adept for a human," he says. He hesitates briefly, before adding, "If you wish to keep the link, it would perhaps be advantageous for me to teach you how to shield."
"I'd like that," Kirk says, still smiling. Spock allows the corners of his mouth to turn upwards in response.
At that point McCoy returns. "Well, you're still here," he says to Kirk. "That's a good sign." Looking at Spock, he adds, "Sorry, but you'll have to leave now. Jim needs his rest."
Kirk gives Spock a beseeching look, and, after the conversation they have just had, Spock is loath to deny him. "Doctor, I believe the captain would rest better in his quarters."
McCoy looks between them and sighs. "I don't know why I expected you to side with me over Jim," he mutters. "All right, fine." He steps out briefly and reappears with a med-bay bracelet. "But I'm keeping tabs on you." He fastens it around Kirk's wrist and adds, "It's keyed to my voice-print, so don't go getting any ideas."
"Who, me?" Kirk replies innocently.
McCoy fixes him with a glare. "I have several dozen other patients to see to, so I'll let Pointy Ears here take you back to your quarters."
With a grin, Kirk throws back the blanket and begins getting out of bed.
Spock glances over as McCoy steps closer to him. "Keep an eye on him," he murmurs.
"Indeed," Spock replies, just as quietly.
A short while later, after McCoy has given Kirk a lecture about getting some rest and coming back immediately should his symptoms return – and don't even think about work, Jim, or I'll drag you right back here – they are finally allowed to leave. Kirk seems steady enough, although he is obviously exhausted, but Spock makes sure to keep close, just in case.
He leaves Kirk sitting on his bed. "You will call me if you need anything?" he asks.
Kirk smiles. "Something tells me I won't have to."
Spock allows his lips to curve upwards slightly in response. "Sleep well, Captain."
He wonders, as he makes his way back to the labs, if Kirk will ever stop surprising him. Probably not, he decides. Still, when he compares his fears about Kirk's reaction to his friend's easy acceptance, he thinks he wouldn't have it any other way.