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Rating: PG-13, for mild medical ickiness.
Disclaimer: Unfortunately, Star Trek and its universe are not mine! They belong to Paramount / Viacom. No infringement intended, no money being made.
This story is the first in the First Times series.
Jim Kirk considered the past week as one of the most awkward times of his entire life.
There had been the pon farr business, of course. To see Spock like that... He, who was usually so calm and steady, had had this terrifying gleam in his eyes – he did not recognize his captain and friend, had only wanted to kill him... Jim remembered shivering when faced with this crazed, murdering, frantic frenzy shining in the fevered eyes of his First Officer. Spock, who tried so hard to be Vulcan, his self-control betrayed by what he had chosen – by his very Vulcan-ness. The one thing he must have expected from his human blood, escaping the Blood Fever, he was denied. Oh, he also remembered that smile in Sickbay – but after that, Spock had become distant: no more chess games, no working out together, no meals shared in the mess, he did not even call him 'Jim' anymore – it was duty, duty, and only duty.
To be honest, Jim had not tried to mend the fences. He could not reconcile his former perception of a basically sexless, controlled Vulcan and this day of madness and heat, when he had grappled with a wild, enraged beast on the red sands of Vulcan. He could not come to terms with Spock betraying him, betraying himself – for it was not really Spock, was it? It was... a beast with his friend's face? Or a hot, searing sandstorm which had eroded in a few days' time all that shrouded the truth of Vulcan's heart to reveal this seemingly logical people were raging, fierce and fearsome...
Still, Altair VI was now waiting for the Enterprise's senior officers to beam down and join the ceremonies, and then the crew would have a few days of shore leave. Maybe there would be time to talk with Spock then.
Mingling with the officials, listening to speeches, making amends for being late, smiling at the ladies, waving a glass in his hand and being generally the congenial, easy-going Captain Kirk – how it bored him. Absent-mindedly, he would touch some Altairian stomach in the greeting fashion of their people whose hearts were low in the belly, shake hands and gesture in the manner appropriate for each race.
From the corner of his eye he followed his officers doing the same. Bones seemed engaged in a conversation with a doctor posted on another starship, a charming female Andorian whose antennae were twitching for some reason – Bones' 'old country doctor' routine, probably. Sulu was bent over some plants in the park chatting with someone else, probably a botanist given the enthusiasm they both showed over a single, plain-looking flower, and Uhura was singing a few Earth songs to the great delight of the people of Altair. Jim himself envied Scotty whom he had left in command of the ship. And Spock...
Spock seemed to be even more guarded and aloof than usual. He stood under a tree, thinner than ever, his face drawn, apparently engrossed in the intricate dance given by Altairians in honour of their Federation guests. Once it was over, one of them, presumably the leader, approached him and touched his stomach. Spock seemed to stiffen for an instant, and then he returned the gesture. Hypocrite, to pretend to dislike being touched while you are quite happy when it happens, at times, Jim thought. And that dancer was quite pretty, he wouldn't mind admitting to want to do a bit of belly-touching with her. He turned his attention back to the dignitaries twittering on about Federation membership and the wonderful opportunities it represented for their people, and went on making the appropriate noises at the proper times.
Back in his quarters on the ship, the ceremonies now thankfully over, the Captain of the Enterprise debated what to do with the four days of shore leave he had, beginning the next day. He felt restless, and decided some time in the gym could work out the tension accumulated in two days of diplomatic cheerfulness, platitudes and requisite grovelling – it was Spock's fault that they had been late. And how, one might ask, had he been repaid for risking his career for one he thought his friend?
Jim Kirk therefore arrived in the gym in quite a bad mood, which did not improve when he saw the Vulcan was already engaged on one of the machines. Kirk felt some anger that the Vulcan should seem to think a machine was a better opponent than himself – but after all, that must be consistent with his preening after being compared to a computer, as Bones was wont to do.
Spock was parrying the blows faster and faster when, all of a sudden, he received one right in the gut and crumpled to the deck. The machine was still raining down blows on him – why was the safety disengaged? Jim cut it off and walked to the unmoving form.
'Why did you disengage the safety? Do you think that's responsible behaviour, Mr Spock? Setting a good example, are we, Commander.'
Jim was looming over Spock, and had no intention of checking on him. The blows had been strong and fast, but he had seen his First Officer receive worse and then get up and dust himself off as if nothing had happened. Jim decided he was simply trying to rebuild his Captain's trust by exaggerating his weakness and get him to care for him. Well, not this time! It wouldn't work.
'Commander, I want an answer. Now.'
Slowly, gingerly, Spock began to turn his head towards the snapping voice.
'The machine... is set to Human standards... not Vulcan.'
'Too good for us, huh. Well, get up and go meditate or something. It's my turn.'
Jim belatedly realized Spock was still huddled on the floor and seemed to be cradling his midsection. Maybe the blow had been more severe than he had first thought?
'There, let me see this'.
'No, it is.... nothing.'
'Spock!' he said, 'let me see'.
With those words he crouched and forcibly drew up the Vulcan's tunic to reveal an angry green, slightly bulging, unnaturally hot bruise.
'Sickbay for you, I think. No, stay down, don't argue. I want my crew to be efficient, which means in good health. I said, don't move!' He walked to the intercom. 'Kirk to Sickbay.'
'Bones, come to the gym, quick. Spock seems to have hurt himself while not respecting elementary safety measures.'
'What the... all right, coming. McCoy out.'
'McCoy to the Captain.'
'Kirk here. What is it, Bones?'
'Can you come over to Sickbay? It's about Spock.'
'What, can't you magic away a couple of bruises? I'm on leave, and I'm beaming down in the morning. So?'
'So, Jim, it's serious. Think of him as your second in command if you wish, but dammit, come to my office. It's the CMO that's talking to the Captain there.'
'I don't have much of a choice when you put it this way, right? I'm coming. Kirk out.'
'So, he needs surgery,' McCoy said blandly.
'Well, then, do it. You didn't have to call me to Sickbay to tell me that. There is more?' Jim added when he saw the frown on the Doctor's face.
'He refused it. He even refused painkillers. He wanted to return to his cabin, we argued – well, you get the picture – and I had to sneak up behind him to inject a sedative when he walked out of the door. He wouldn't have let me otherwise. But I can't do surgery without his consent, and I don't have it.'
'And what if you don't?'
'He'll die in the next few days, of septicaemia. In great pain, I might add.'
'But why is he refusing, Bones?'
'That's why I called you. I don't know. But he listens to you. With me he will only argue, but you can convince him.'
'Bones, we haven't exactly been on good terms since... well, since. He's stubborn, and I won't change his mind.'
'Well, it actually has to do with what happened on Vulcan. I think he doesn't really want to deal with - '
'Deal with what? What about me? What do you think I felt when I got slashed across and punched around and strangled dead by a so-called friend, Bones?'
'Jim, I was there too. I saw him abjectly beg that snotty T'Pau for your life, Jim, I saw his face when he realized he'd killed you, and you and I both saw his face when he realized you were alive. Jim, go talk to him. You're hurt, he's hurt, so you're even now. Go, Jim.'
'But - ' Jim stopped dead. Yes, he was angry with the Vulcan. He was also angry with himself for accepting the fight, angry at T'Pau for questioning Spock's blood, angry at T'Pring for her rejection, angry at Vulcan for inflicting pon farr on its people. He was just plain angry. Unsatisfying, and pointless.
He rose and walked to the secluded room where Spock lay. The temperature had been raised to Vulcan standards, the lights were dim, and the smell of antiseptics made him gag. He walked to the bed and stared down into the pale face.
'Spock,' he said soflty.
The greenish eyelids fluttered and slowly opened. Spock's eyes were glazed, and he seemed to have difficulty focussing on the Captain.
'Spock, why do you refuse surgery? Bones says you'll die. I need you, Spock, you're my First Officer.'
'...Jim? Jim, I... apologize. I did not want... I thought... it would not happen to me...'
The voice was so thin, so weak, his speech slowed by drugs, and Jim could see a faint tremor in his hands. Jim found he did not like seeing Spock in such a state. And it was safe to assume Spock probably did not want to be seen in such a state, either.
'Look, Spock, you get the surgery done, you recover, we talk about it, about what happened, and then everything will be fine. All right?'
'Jim... I do not wish to undergo... what amounts to... useless plastic surgery... no need - '
'Plastic surgery? Anyway, I don't care how you call it, I'm calling Bones, and you're going to tell him you accept surgery, and that's it. Bones?'
'Jim? He's agreed, then?' the Doctor was already calling the nurses and asking them to prepare the surgery room while a hypo hissed in Spock's neck.
When the Vulcan was out, Jim asked what he meant by 'plastic surgery'.
'Well, it's a malformation that's killing him. I can't tell you, Jim, maybe he will but I won't betray a patient's trust if I can help it. Medical ethics. Now let me get on with it. I'll call you when it's over.'
Malformation? A lethal malformation that had gone unnoticed for years? On a hybrid, yes, but a carefully genetically-engineered hybrid from Vulcan's Science Academy, who had been very closely tested and checked and studied for years, until the scientists and doctors eventually declared he would live a fairly normal Vulcan life, albeit probably slightly shorter than average.
Jim stared at the door. He could still remember the huge number of medical files about his Science Officer McCoy had showed him once, pointing out that they represented only the public and published research. The Doctor only wanted the Captain to understand that Spock was terra incognita for him, but also for Spock himself - always the special case, similar to none other, different from everyone, Vulcan or Human. It would seem that particular curse had struck him again.
A few hours later, Jim found himself back into McCoy's cluttered office. The Doctor was clutching a glass in one hand and scribbling some notes on a PADD with another when the Captain entered.
'So, it went well. I could even save his penis.'
'His...' Jim felt himself blush. Spock. A penis? Saved? As in, it could have been... lost? Cut off? Amputated? McCoy had spoken of septicaemia... it could have rotten away? Urgh. He swayed and try not to think of it anymore. He wasn't successful.
'Here Jim, sit down and drink this. Lots of people have penises, Jim. I've got one too. No need to blush like some coy Victorian maiden, Jim. And I'm sure yours is well attached, don't worry.'
'Yes. Well. Um... Can I see him?'
'No. He's entered some sort of healing trance, apparently, and is not to be disturbed until he's woken up. At least from what medical data I've found about Vulcans, but with Spock you can never be sure.'
'Why didn't he do this trance before? And how long will he be out?'
' I don't know, Jim, I really don't know. As for the trance, it can't do much about infections, but anyway he probably wouldn't have tried.'
McCoy paused to sip his brandy. He watched the Captain over the rim of his glass. Jim looked worried, even if he did his best to look as if he did not care. Ah, well, anyone, including grumbling Doctors, can get a soft spot for Spocks afflicted with fits of craziness. He went on.
'He was conscious for a few minutes after the surgery and he said he never agreed to it, actually. So you know I know you tricked me. But he still thanked me, which must mean he was still half unconscious. And he said I could answer whatever question you asked, because you're the captain and you'll want to know, and he'd rather not answer them himself. I just know you're brimming with questions, Jim, so fire away.'
'So. What was it? Exactly?'
'Well, as I told you, a malformation. But it didn't get apparent until his first pon farr'.
'Yes, well, he couldn't help it, could he. Anyway. Before pon farr, Vulcan males have no apparent sexual organs, it's all inside their bellies.'
'But how do Vulcans pee?'
'They don't. Anyway, at that time, because of all the hormones, what was until then only a small lump of flesh becomes a kind of pouch with the penis in it, and it comes closer to the skin, and a slit forms on the crotch. That's where the penis comes out of when it's time to use it. Except that Spock had no slit, his pouch was not close enough to the surface, and it had all become infected because it was growing with no room to grow in, and some tissues had been ruptured. It's repaired now, I've drained the area, and he'll be fine in a few weeks.'
'A bad case of blue balls, then?'
'First, Vulcans have no balls, and anyway they wouldn't be blue. It's not very nice to make fun of it, you know.'
'He still should have come to you.'
'Yes, he should, but after the disaster on Vulcan a few days ago I suppose he was reluctant. Not his smartest move, but I guess I can understand.'
'Vulcans seem to have real issues with sex, huh. Ashamed of it, nothing till pon farr, and this pouch... Funny stuff.'
'And I haven't told you all I've found on the subject, either. You seem quite interested, if I may say so. Do you want the data?' McCoy had a devilish gleam in his eye, and Jim decided he did not wish to stay any longer than necessary.
As he walked back to his quarters, he tried not to think about what the Doctor had told him... but still, Vulcans were weird.
For the next four days, Jim hiked through some of the Altairian natural reserves, and came back to the ship every night. Even on leave, he still was the Captain, and he wanted to keep in touch with what was happening on the ship. He trusted Scott, but the Chief Engineer was probably more interested in the repairs and upgrades than in the routine administrative stuff, and anyway Jim did not feel like sleeping alone in a bed not his own. Well, maybe if some young lady would come his way... but no, after all, he found he felt like a bit of real solitude after the cramped quarters of a spaceship, his spaceship, where he must always be ready to answer her call. He needed some time all for himself, alone with his thoughts and without the pressures of captaincy.
He checked on his First Officer everyday, but he still had not seen him since that afternoon in the gym. McCoy said he was getting better quickly, but that he was still in that trance of his.
On the fourth night, though, he had a message from McCoy telling him he had sent the Vulcan back to the privacy of his quarters to recover quietly. And that he should have a talk with him to clear the air of what had been left unsaid after Vulcan.
And so it came that Jim Kirk found himself staring at his First Officer's door, trying to compose himself and not to think about that last conversation he had had in there, when he had discovered the reason for Spock's strange behaviour which shamed him so. Taking a deep breath, he signalled and, as always, the door opened immediately.
'How are you, Spock?'
The Vulcan grunted as he tried to sit up on his bed to greet the Captain, but he found himself held down by a broad hand.
'Lie down, it's not like I ask proper military decorum of my friends when they're ill.' He watched the pale face closely.
'You don't look that good, Spock – have you tricked Bones to get released? Or have you argued with him so much he had to send you away?'
'Captain. I apologize for the inconvenience caused by my unfitness for full duty, but I am nevertheless well enough to resume at least some of my duties - '
'Spock, we have to talk. Look at me, Spock, don't shut me out. Spock... Listen, it's true that I was angry for a time, but I know you didn't intend it to turn the way it did – no, listen to me. It's all right now. I don't want to lose my friend, Spock. Can you understand that? I was worried, you know. Just don't let yourself die for something stupid, all right? Whether pon farr or some other illness, talk to me before it's too late. Or talk to Bones, or to whoever you want – just get help, you hear me? You don't have to be alone, Spock.' Jim sat down on the bed.
'Captain.' The Vulcan looked up into hazel eyes. 'Jim... I thought I would be spared this, that it could be the one thing I could thank my Human blood for... but it will come again, sooner or later, and Jim, I do not want it. I will find a way, but I will not go through this again. I will not inflict this on anyone again. Do you understand me?' He was feverishly gripping Jim's forearms, leaning up towards the Human, and Jim wondered to what extremity his friend could be led to if he had already found death an acceptable alternative.
Slowly, as if with a skittish colt, he eased Spock's hands away from his arms and held them in his own, intertwining their fingers, drawing soothing small circles with his thumbs on the palms and then on the back of the fine-boned hands, a small smile on his face and not a care in the world – only the both of them, together. Spock's urgency faded into a quiet, peaceful half-wake, reclining on a dark red pillow, his eyes slitted open on his Captain, and eventually he eased into sleep.
Jim thought he had never seen the Vulcan fall asleep but here, under his amused gaze, amidst rust-coloured draperies that would probably not be conducive to an earth-born, red-blooded Human's peaceful repose but must remind Spock of his homeworld, he seemed to melt down into his bed. Vulcans, whose blood was green, must see it as a violent shade, just like for Jim it was a peaceful, fresh colour – how could they share so much while being so alien to each other? So close, brothers of two bloods, and entire star systems between their respective planets...
After days of shielding and avoiding, he could now feel their minds being drawn back together as before, growing as attuned as they were - before. Their hands touching, their minds basking in each other's, Spock more relaxed than he had ever seen him – how could they ever have been at odds?
And then, Spock sighed.
It was not the sigh of the contented dreamer who finds a better position under the blankets, nor the deep breathing of peaceful slumber. It was an almost vocalized sigh, it was almost a moan, it was almost a syllable – and Spock's lips, not quite enough parted to form an 'o', did not close again. He felt Spock's fingers twitch in his hand, as if to make sure they were securely held and would not be lost.
Jim sat there, unmoving, watching a greenish flush creep up those pale cheeks, watching Spock's head toss slightly for a moment on the pillow, and suddenly he understood why Nurse Chapel had had a crush on him – helpless, as he must have been a few times in Sickbay, unconscious and unguarded, he was another man.
He reached out to smooth down Spock's somewhat dishevelled fringe back on his forehead, and paused a moment on the straight upward line of the eyebrow, on the fine ear-tip, on the warm cheekbone.
Spock's eyes fluttered open and focussed on his Captain's face.
They stared at each other for a moment, both of Spock's hands in one of Jim's and his face slowly stroked by Human fingers, up and down, from temple to cheekbone, from cheekbone to the corner of his mouth, and then the whole palm would for an instant cool his skin. And then it would start again.
'Jim...' As if he could not help himself, excruciatingly slowly, the Vulcan was leaning more and more into the hand that petted him, and the only thing that mattered now to them both was that strange moment in time when they could go both ways, choose to go back on the path of friendship or try something new, something hard, something wonderful and difficult and frightening.
Spock breathed, 'Jim... Among Vulcans, touching fingers is as intimate as touching lips is, among Humans.'
And Jim slowly bent forward, let his hand slip from Spock's cheek to the back of his neck, squeezed slightly the long-fingered hands in his care, and touched lips with Spock.