“How's Spock?” Kirk asked as he entered Sickbay. Dr. McCoy was busy putting stitches in the arm of a young blonde ensign as she sat on the table. He sighed, a little exasperated at the interruption.
“He'll be fine, he's out for the count for the night but he's in no danger any more from that Vulcanian virus. I sent him back to his quarters to sleep off the medication, no use in him cluttering up the beds round here,” replied the Doctor, obviously deep in concentration. In reality, the reason was quite simply that Sickbay was too cold and noisy to be healthy for Vulcans to sleep in without setting up a special room, but of course McCoy always opted for the grouchier explanation when it came to Spock.
“And what happened to you, Ensign Johnstone?” he asked the young woman sat on the bench. The arm of her red uniform had torn enough so that she was still wearing it while Dr. McCoy worked on the cut. She blushed.
“Well, I was working on some machinery down in the ventilation system, the motor for one of the fans? Then I slipped and fell against a jagged edge of the piece I was working on,” she answered sheepishly. “It won't happen again.”
“It's a bad one, Jim, messy, torn into the muscle too,” continued McCoy, before speaking to the ensign again. “Very delicate stitching work. You're lucky you didn't nick a major artery with where this cut is placed.”
Kirk hovered around them for a few more seconds. “Well, if that's all...” He turned to go.
“Wait, Jim. If you want to know how Spock is doing that badly, you can go and check on him for me. I'll be busy with this for a good while yet, so you'd be doing me a favour. But be sure not to disturb him! If you want to have him back on duty fully awake by tomorrow, he's got to sleep through the night. Report back to me when you're done, alright?”
“Alright,” Kirk nodded, grateful. “I will see you shortly then. I trust that you got someone to fix that machinery in your place, Ensign?” The young Ensign was still looking a little distressed at her failure.
“Yes, Ensign Kaur was working with me-”
“Good work, Ensign Johnstone.” He shot her a smile. She smiled shyly back. He left the room, striding swiftly towards Spock's quarters.
He keyed in the passcode and entered the dark, hot room. Strange artefacts leered at him from the shelves and walls. He had got used to seeing them in the light by now, but in the gloom when his eyes were still adjusting they took on strangely menacing forms. The door swished shut behind him and he stood there for a short time, letting his eyes compose the shadowy forms into coherent shapes. He could hear the sound of deep breathing coming from where he knew the bed must be in the darkness. Eventually, he could see it, with the sleeping figure on top of it. He walked over and crouched down beside Spock's head, studying it. Strange, to see his First Officer's face so relaxed and in tune with the world, even if he did still look ill. Kirk smiled affectionately to himself, satisfied that all was well. He straightened up and turned to leave. As he did, though, he heard a stirring from the bed.
“Cap... tain...?” he heard. The voice sounded worried. It was Spock! A dream? he thought. That was strange. Was he awake? He shouldn't be. He did not think Vulcans could dream. But, then again, Spock was only half-Vulcan...
“J- Jim!” uttered Spock again, sounding distinctly distressed. A nightmare! Instinctively, Kirk flew to his side. Spock was frowning and twitching in the bed. He was throwing his head from side to side as if trying to shake something off.
“It's alright, Spock, it's OK, I'm here,” he whispered, wanting to get through to Spock but trying not to wake him.
“No... don't... I...”
“Shhhh, Spock, it's alright, I'm fine. I'm here,” he continued.
“...Away, can't... Jim...!”
Before Kirk could think coherently about what best to do, he found that his hand had moved to rest on the Vulcan's arm. As soon as he touched the Vulcan's hot skin Spock's other hand flew to his, gripping it hard for a second before relaxing. His breathing slowed once more.
“Yes... you... well.” were his next words, followed by a Vulcan word Kirk didn't recognise. He then turned onto his side, pulling the hand with his superhuman strength more towards the pillow where he let it rest in his, Kirk's thumb-tip barely touching against his lips. He sighed contentedly.
“Jim...” he murmured.
Kirk felt a strange stirring in his heart at the sight of Spock now, so open and defenceless. The sensation felt familiar, as if it was something he had experienced many times but never had time to notice before. When Spock was distressed earlier it rent at his heart that a person he admired so much would have to suffer because of a dream of him, but even now that the dream had passed he found that he still wanted... he wanted... he didn't know what he wanted. To wrap his arms around him, to hold him, to tell him it was all alright one more time. That was all he could come up with. Something stupid like that. Something he would never really do. His eyes were riveted on the long face. He felt each breath brush over the skin on his hand as if it was the only sensation in the world. He didn't move an inch for fear of disturbing the sleeping form. He barely breathed.
Some time later, he had no idea how long, he suddenly realised his face was much closer than he remembered to that of the asleep Vulcan. He drew back, alarmed at himself. He shook his head vigorously to clear it, to think sensibly. Moving in this way caused his leg, which he somehow hadn't noticed he had been holding in a distinctly awkward position under himself, to reveal a bad case of pins and needles. Wincing, he tried to extricate his hand from Spock's unconscious grasp in order to stretch out properly and go and get on with his duties. Who knows how many had piled up in the time he'd been here? He was the Captain, and was probably needed somewhere in the ship. He should go and check on that machinery in the ventilation system. He needed to report Spock's condition to Sickbay, too. He had stayed much longer than he should have, that was for certain. With as much patience as he could muster, he started to try and slide his hand from under Spock's as carefully as he could, trying to keep him soundly asleep.
Spock's breath caught in his throat at the movement of skin against skin. Kirk froze for a few tense moments. Thankfully, Spock relaxed and started breathing easily once more. Kirk also let out the breath he had been holding. Then, he swiftly and efficiently moved his hand out, standing up and stretching his leg several times to get the blood flowing again. How on earth had he not noticed? He looked back down at Spock. He had moved his now empty hand towards his mouth in an incongruously infantile gesture. Kirk smiled to himself, feeling a wave of protective affection for his First Officer. He lingered for just a moment longer, absorbing the memory before forcing himself to finally leave. He tried not to think of how alone Spock seemed in his large dark quarters.
The outside world of white corridors seemed too bright for his eyes as he reopened the door. He remembered he was meant to report to Sickbay. That morning seemed like a world away. Now his mind was spinning, wondering why what had just transpired was affecting him so profoundly. Well, his duties would stop that quickly, nothing occupied him so thoroughly as the smooth running of his ship. Self-exploration was not a task best accomplished while on duty, he told himself angrily. Now what was he doing? Oh yes. Sickbay. He corrected his course and eventually came to the familiar doors.
“I only need another minute or so on this, then I can use the dermal regenerator, Miss Johnstone,” McCoy was saying as they swished open. Glancing over his shoulder to see who had entered, he exclaimed “Jim! You sure were gone a while. How is our pointy-eared friend?”
“Spock... is fine. Still asleep. I didn't wake him up.”
McCoy frowned at the unfamiliar tone of his voice. Gesturing to the Ensign to wait where she was sat, he laid down his instruments and led his friend into one of the nearby unoccupied sick rooms. He shut the door behind him.
“What's wrong, Jim? Is it Spock?” Kirk swallowed.
“Spock...” he started, before deciding on: “Do Vulcans have nightmares?” McCoy blinked incredulously.
“What, that's what's got you looking so glum all of a sudden? You walked in on Spock having a nightmare?” His friend nodded, not making eye contact. McCoy sighed, clearly relieved that it seemed to be nothing serious.
“Full Vulcans don't dream full stop. However, we both know Spock isn't a full Vulcan. Yes, he does get nightmares.”
An awkward moment passed, before Dr. McCoy started chafing to get back to his work once more. He slapped Kirk's arm before shooting him a reassuring smile.
“Come on, don't worry about it, Spock is strong, and he will cope. We've all had nightmares before. Now I have a young lady out there waiting for me to give her some final stitches. I shouldn't keep her any longer, so what do you say we save this talk for some of that Saurian brandy in my office once my shift ends?”
“Perhaps,” replied Kirk, still looking a little lost in thought, before snapping back to himself. “Actually, on second thought, I might just go to bed tonight. I must be tired, that's why I'm feeling strange. Some other time, eh, Bones?”
“But of course, why not?” replied the Doctor. He tried not to look at his Captain suspiciously, keeping his face carefully blank. That nightmare must've been something awful, he thought. Or he revealed something that disturbed Jim... Or maybe Jim is realising something...
Kirk exited the room, giving a polite smile to the Ensign, before leaving Sickbay to busy himself with his duties once more. With a despairing sigh, McCoy settled himself down back to his work.
“He really was gone a long time,” ventured the Ensign. “At least half an hour, maybe more.” The real question she was asking was implicit in her statement. Dr. McCoy rebuffed her.
“He's the Captain. He's got things to do coming out of his ears. He was probably held up on the way.” Even as he churned this out a new thought struck him. What if, all this time, Kirk really was with Spock? That really was an awful long time to just be worrying about some nightmare. He resisted the urge to roll his eyes to himself. They're just a pair of lovestruck fools, he observed to himself, not for the first time. He finished work on the Ensign's arm, applied the dermal regenerator and after giving her strict warnings not to use that arm too strenuously for a week, let her run off to share her new bit of gossip with the rest of the crew. Oh well. It was only adding fuel to the existing rumours at any rate. And there were certainly plenty of those floating about the place. He went into his office to pour himself a small glass of Saurian brandy. Really, those two and their damned indefinable relationship. They would be the death of him.