|Lieutenant Nyota Uhura
Gaila takes the last of the onion rings with a glare at Admiral Pike when he looks as if he might dispute custody. Rolling his eyes, the Admiral turns his attention to his other companions as he picks up his beer. "You know, when you said dinner, I assumed you meant someplace that wasn't so much like work." His eyes flicker over the myriad cadets and officers. Even in civilian attire, it's easy to tell who is who; the officers avoid their table after acknowledging Pike; the cadets are oblivious to them altogether.
"I like it here," Gaila offers, dipping the onion ring into one of the small containers of condiments she'd ordered, bright orange-red and faintly sweet, that she had said was a Andorian delicacy. Nyota had avoided it due to the effect it had on human digestive systems, preferring an ancient Terran recipe of Japanese origin that to Spock's palate was extremely spicy, and a salty mixture that originated in the United States of Africa that she'd introduced to Spock when she'd been his student. It is, he admits, a preference of his own as well.
"You're up to something," Admiral Pike says without surprise or rancor. "Pass me the fries, Nyota."
"Maybe we just want to spend time with our favorite mentor," Nyota answers, taking one herself before passing the basket. "It's been a while since we could catch up."
Admiral Pike raises his eyebrows in polite disbelief as Gaila gives him the ketchup. "So nothing to do with Cadet T'Prina waking up today?" he says softly. "No, don't confirm; good thinking, all of you, if you think she'll be able to get him to talk."
"She will," Spock answers as one of the waitresses brings another vegetable tray and reaching for a krupenta slice. "You will observe, I assume?"
"Every time they talked to him officially," Admiral Pike says, with the faintest emphasis on officially that escapes no one's attention. "Spock, not that I doubt Cadet T'Prina is extremely competent--she's Vulcan, after all--but--"
"She will understand what her actions will accomplish," Spock answers. Nyota nods.
"Her bondmate's family is known to be aligned with the war effort," Admiral Pike answers, voice low enough to go no farther than the table. "And at Starfleet, her sympathies have generally fallen in line with official colonial attitudes and policy--"
Nyota leans forward. "That petition for a stay on the exception to the Grayson Test--has the Federation Council made a date to hear the official speaker?"
Admiral Pike frowns thoughtfully. "Not yet; the filers state that the speaker is medically unavailable--" Pike stops, eyes widening. "T'Prina?"
Admiral Pike lets out a breath in a low whistle. "I thought you were crazy when you approved her internship. Her family was extremely politically conservative on Vulcan; the only reason she applied to Starfleet was due to the strong encouragement of Elders to get more Vulcans into Starfleet to keep their political influence in the Federation. I'm surprised, to say the least."
Spock reaches for a round red tomato. "I am not."
Admiral Pike gives them all a bemused look. "You aren't."
"Nope." Nyota smirks as she picks up a slice of krupenta. "She met Jim."
Dr. McCoy accompanies Admiral Pike back to his apartments in the city for what Spock assumes will be an evening of sampling various synthehol beverage mixtures along with the chess they admit to. As they arrive in the Starfleet officer's quarters, he hesitates, turning to Nyota. "I understand if you have other plans for the evening--"
"I was going to ask you if you felt like guiding me through the advanced meditation techniques you taught me," Nyota answers. "But it looks like I don't need the excuse after all."
Spock can't make himself disregard his own relief. "I--thank you."
Nyota smiles as she enters the code to enter the building. "I'm glad you feel like you can ask. And I do need help with it; I keep breaking concentration fifteen minutes in and it's getting frustrating."
As they enter Spock's quarters, she finds the meditation rugs and the small brazier that Spock uses to focus on occasion. Seating herself, she looks up, head tilted. "You really want to ask about Leonard, don't you?"
Startled, Spock almost turns the heat too high; Nyota laughs, leaning back on one arm as he settles himself.
"You can ask," she says, still grinning. "I promise not to take it as prurient jealousy."
Spock hesitates; a part of it is, in fact, prurient jealousy, and it is beneath him to acknowledge the emotion exists, much less that he feels it. Looking at her over the brazier, he sees understanding as well as amusement.
"I know you, you know," she says, as if she was able to follow his thoughts as she could on the rare times they had melded. "It's okay. I wasn't exactly completely unmoved with you and Jim, you know."
He hadn't; he's not sure if the relief he feels is appropriate. "I--am happy for you, if you and Dr. McCoy--"
"We bonded over the antics of our best friends," she says lightly. "It's been a lot of bonding. You both get up to a lot of antics."
Spock doesn't smile, but a part of him wants to.
"He's a good man," she says, looking distant for a moment, a secret smile curving her mouth. "No, that's--he's brilliant. I don't know where it's going, or even if it will go anywhere, but I like what we have. It's--different." Her eyes focus on him again. "He's not the reason you and I didn't work out. Not in any way. It was a while after you and Jim that we decided to see how we did together as more than friends."
Spock takes a breath. "I did not believe you had--"
"No. I meant, it wasn't because you were Vulcan that we didn't work out. And I know you suspected it. I just didn't know how to explain."
"You should not feel you have to."
Abruptly, she pushes the brazier aside, reaching for his hand; surprised, he lets her take it.
"It wasn't because I wanted someone human," she says steadily. "It wasn't because I knew you had feelings for Jim; they weren't a threat to you and I. And you know I have feelings for you now. You wouldn't ask, so that's why I'm telling you. Don't ever think it was who and what you are that was unacceptable. Vulcans do this differently from humans, I know. We don't know instantly on a meld whether it will work. We have to find out the long way. And I think we both knew at the end it wasn't going to work for us; I broke it off because we both deserved to find someone that could. You just--got ahead of me there."
Spock tightens his grip on Nyota's hand, not able to articulate what he thinks he wishes to say. "Tomorrow," he says slowly, "I would appreciate your company; I require consultation with the Vulcan Embassy." Her expression settles into understanding. "I will need my father's assistance."
"No problem." Pulling back, she reaches for the brazier, then looks at him with a mischievous smile. "Just one more thing," she says, leaning forward, eyes intent. "Tell me Jim was jealous. At least a little."
"I do not think it would be appropriate to reveal Jim's personal feelings."
"That," Nyota says, mouth curving in a smile, "is not a denial."
Spock considers his answer. "No, it is not."
On returning to his quarters after completing his dawn meditation three days later, Spock sees a Starfleet cadet waiting at his door.
"Commander Spock," the cadet says as Spock comes into view, looking frantic; even his tentacles seem to be vibrating. "Admiral Komack and Admiral Pike request your presence immediately. Please come with me."
That is unexpected. "Very well, Cadet. Have you been waiting long?"
"They couldn't reach you in your room, so I volunteered," the cadet says. "Cadet Ddgrr, Commander."
Spock recognizes the name; it's a cadet from one of Jim's advanced combat classes, a very young Denebian third year.
As they leave the personnel quarters and emerge into the green courtyard between the buildings, Spock enjoys the relative lack of students and faculty this early in the morning; it had not been particular edifying to be the center of surreptitious attention whenever he emerged in the public eye.
"Permission to--" the cadet hesitates. "Um, I’m not sure how to word this. To ask a question, I guess?"
"Of course." Spock suspects he knows what the question is.
"How is Captain Kirk?"
"He is currently stable, though still comatose." Spock thinks for a moment before adding, "Healer Sorin is overseeing his care and is doing all he can to discover how to awaken him."
The cadet swallows, though Spock can't be sure; Denebian physiology can be somewhat bewildering, and they possess neither saliva as hominids define it, or throats, per se. "There's--talk about--that he's not going to--"
"His condition is serious," Spock answers. "But Healer Sorin believes further treatment is warranted."
The boy is silent for a few seconds; Spock doesn't need to read his thoughts to know what he wants to ask.
"He is alive," Spock says quietly. "And he will awaken."
Almost imperceptibly, Cadet Ddgrr relaxes. "Thanks," he breathes, not looking up. "I--there are a lot of rumors."
"A lot," Ddgrr says, with the faintest emphasis that captures Spock's full attention. "You know how it goes. Everyone's talking and no one knows where it's coming from."
"I remember from my time stationed at the Academy," Spock answers, intrigued despite himself. "It was always--difficult to tell truth from speculation."
"And sometimes, from what people are making up altogether." Ddgrr stops himself. "I--a lot of us are pulling for Captain Kirk, Commander."
Spock looks at the earnest cadet, ignoring the faint pang. "Thank you, Cadet."
As they ascend the stairs, Ddgrr pauses before reaching for the door. "Cadet T'Prina is with them. That's all I know for sure." Cadet Ddgrr opens the door as two members of Starfleet security approach. "Komack's pretty unhappy, but Admiral Pike said to get you anyway. Good luck, Commander."
Cadet Ddgrr was accurate; Komack is extremely displeased and does not bother to conceal it. It is sometimes a surprise to Spock that he has advanced so quickly in the admiralty; he is not subtle.
Admiral Pike, however, controls his expression admirably; only the amusement in his eyes is any indication of his feelings. "Commander Spock," he says, with a slight emphasis on his title, "thank you for joining us despite the early hour."
"I apologize I did not respond earlier; I was meditating in the gardens," Spock answers with a salute to both men. "How can I be of service?"
"Cadet T'Prina insists that regulations require the presence of her commanding officer," Komack says flatly. "As Kirk's still unavailable, that's you."
"Cadet T'Prina is a model officer," Spock answers mildly. "Where is she?"
"She and Sorin are in there, along with her bondmate," Komack says, thumb pointing toward a conference room to the left. "She seems to think she can get Rayiyah to talk and wants you to observe. Under the circumstances, Spock, I'm sure you'll agree that I be present."
"We'll both be present," Admiral Pike interjects smoothly before Komack can continue, gesturing toward the door as he directs his chair from behind the small desk. "If you would, Spock?"
T'Prina's relief when she sees him is almost palpable; her shields are still very weak. Spock's unsurprised by Healer Sorin's presence; he would insist, and Starfleet would have no grounds to deny him as T'Prina's physician of record, no matter his presence on the Enterprise during the retrieval of Captain Kirk. He doubtless insisted that Torren accompany T'Prina as her bondmate to assist him, and potentially to give her the familiarity of his mind when her own was only so recently damaged.
"Cadet, Healer, Torren," Spock says to each in turn. "I understand you are going to attempt to speak to Rayiyah."
"I am, Commander." Her expression doesn't betray her personal thoughts, which must displease Komack. "I was present during his negotiations with Captain Kirk. I predict I shall be able to convince him to cooperate with Starfleet."
Komack's expressions sours further. "You must be very persuasive, then, Cadet. Whenever you're ready. I don't have all day."
"May Healer Sorin accompany me?"
"No, and not your bondmate, either." Komack points at the observation window. "We'll be watching through here and two security are going with you--"
"I would prefer to be alone, Admiral," T'Prina says after Admiral Pike gives an almost infinitesimal shake of his head. If Spock hadn't been watching for it, he never would have seen it, nor the flicker of her eyes toward him. "If Technician Rayiyah feels less threatened, he may more easily part with information."
"That's fine; they can observe here with us and get in there if you have any trouble," Admiral Pike says before Komack can respond. T'Prina gives them both a grave nod before turning her chair toward the door that a security officer opens for her. Spock approaches the window to watch with Admiral Pike as she takes her place at the table and places a datapad in front of her.
"Bring in Technician Rayiyah," Komack says into his communicator before coming to the window as well. "No security, by request of the cadet and approved by Admiral Pike."
Admiral Pike hides a smirk as the second set of doors to the observation room open and Technician Rayiyah enters alone. He looks more tired than Spock would have predicted, wearing a standard Starfleet coverall as well as a pair of restraints on both hands and feet. Spock doesn't doubt there's also been a tracker added somewhere on his person.
Rayiyah blinks at the sight of T'Prina, and abruptly, he asks a question in swift, colloquial Romulan. The universal translator struggles to translate anything but T'Prina's, then Captain Kirk's names, but T'Prina's answer is in standard. "He is still unconscious, Technician Rayiyah, but stable. I observed him one hour before I requested this meeting. On my behalf, I thank you for your inquiry. Starfleet Medical has stated I will be released within the next three days, barring unforeseen complications."
"What the hell is wrong with the translator?" Komack murmurs.
Spock answers him. "The Romulan available in the core matrix is still rudimentary, and Technician Rayiyah is currently utilizing the less formal Remus dialect."
"We understood him fine earlier." Komack glares at the back of T'Prina's head. "How's she know it?"
"She spent several days in his company," Spock answers. "As a Vulcan, her memory is flawless and she adapted her Romulan to his dialect."
T'Prina says, almost as if she had heard them, "If possible, Technician, speak the primary Romulan dialect for the benefit of my superiors. The translation matrix has not yet been updated with the Remus dialect, though I expect that Lieutenant Uhura has already begun the additions."
"Very well." Folding his hands on the table, he glances once toward the location of the observation window before focusing on T'Prina. "You understand my wariness in speaking before Captain Kirk is available, Cadet."
"I do. That is why I asked to see you. As a cadet, I cannot offer the same assurance that Captain Kirk did. However, as citizen of the Vulcan colony, I can. I have been authorized to speak on behalf of Ambassador Spock of the Vulcan Colony, who has extended the same terms granted to you by Captain Kirk."
Rayiyah's eyes flicker to the observation window. "Captain Kirk's bondmate?"
"No, though they share the same clan," T'Prina answers easily. "As it is close to the end of his wife's gestation, they are currently on route to Terra for Starfleet Medical to oversee the birth of their second child. He has offered his aid and assistance, as well as to speak on your behalf before Starfleet and the Federation Council." T'Prina pushes the datapad across the table. "The Vulcan Elders have appointed him liaison for all Romulan defectors to the Federation, with the ability to offer sanctuary to those who wish to seek it with us. Ambassador Sarek, Vulcan representative to the Federation Council, introduced and passed a motion before the Council that recognizes Ambassador Spock as the Federation's official representative for Romulan citizens in the Federation as of three hours ago."
Komack blinks, leaning forward with a shocked expression. "How the hell did she pull that off? She's been awake for three days!"
Locking his hands behind his back, Spock doesn't permit his expression to change as Rayiyah reads through the datapad warily.
"This is what I understand Captain Kirk would have requested on your behalf," T'Prina says. "I am acting as his representative, as his bondmate would if he were not currently restricted from contact with you and your colleagues." T'Prina pauses to take back the datapad. "If you wish, I can act as Ambassador Spock's representative until he has arrived and is able to take his place with you."
Rayiyah nods slowly. "Yes. I would--prefer your assistance, Cadet T'Prina. Thank you."
T'Prina slides the datapad back across the table. "Please indicate here that you accept me as Ambassador's Spock's representative and through me, the offer extended by Ambassador Spock on behalf of the Vulcan Elders. That will permit me to be present at your future interviews with any member of Starfleet and for you to request my presence at any time you require."
Rayiyah studies her thoughtfully, meeting her eyes before murmuring something that the translator is unable to interpret. T'Prina inclines her head. Rayiyah presses his finger against the screen to indicate his agreement before giving her the datapad.
"I would like Admiral Komack and Admiral Pike to join us now, with your permission. It will expedite the process if you can explain to them as well as to me the events surrounding the capture of five experimental Starfleet vessels, as well as the abduction of Captain Kirk and myself."
Rayiyah licks his lips nervously, eyes flickering toward the observation window. "You--trust them?"
"Admiral Pike was advisor to both Captain Kirk and Commander Spock and was instrumental in training them as Starfleet officers. There is no higher compliment to his competence or his integrity that can be given." T'Prina waits, showing no signs of impatience as Rayiyah considers.
"Will--will security be present?"
T'Prina doesn't give so much as a twitch to indicate everything that single question means. "They are required, but specific officers can be requested. If you will trust me, I will speak to Ambassador Komack and gain permission to ask for them to attend you. Do you wish me to do so?"
"Yes, please." Rayiyah almost slumps in relief. "Thank you, Cadet."
"If you will excuse me, I will make your requests to Admiral Komack. I know you are aware of the observation window to our right; I will be in that room and you will be left alone until I return."
Rayiyah hesitates, then nods. Gravely, T'Prina moves her chair back from the desk and toward the door. Komack signals for security to open the door. As she comes through, she looks at Admiral Komack and says, "If there is no objection to Rayiyah's request--"
"Cadet," Komack says, surprising Spock with his smile at T'Prina, "I have no objections at all. Crewman, close the door and tell everyone to stay out until I say otherwise, got it?"
Very faintly, Spock thinks he sees dissatisfaction on the crewman's face as he agrees.
"You can go," Admiral Komack adds casually. "We'll be fine until approved officers show up."
"Admiral," the man objects. "My orders--"
"Tell your commander I want to talk to him later while you're at it," Komack says, moving so T'Prina has a clear view of the observation window and Rayiyah inside. "That was an order, crewman."
"Yes, sir." As the door closes behind him, Admiral Komack goes to the small desk that security usually occupies and leans back against them, hands braced on the edge. "All right, you have my attention, Commander. You wouldn't call in Sarek unless you had to." His eyes flicker to T'Prina, looking amused. "Nice phrasing, but I know for a fact you've spent most of the last three days sleeping, and that Ambassador Spock isn't due for another month."
"He is on route as we speak," Spock answers, saving T'Prina from having to dissemble. "The Vulcan Elders agreed to offer Rayiyah sanctuary, which I believe Captain Kirk meant to solicit my assistance and that of Ambassador Spock to achieve."
"Same clan, huh?" Admiral Komack's smile fades. "What did you have to give them? And don't tell me you didn't have to trade for it; Rayiyah's Romulan. There's no way they agreed like that."
There is no value in prevaricating; Komack is intelligent enough to make the connection when he consults Starfleet's networks. "Cadet T'Prina has withdrawn her petition that stays the implementation of the exception to the Grayson Test," Spock answers. Beside him, he hears Admiral Pike hiss softly in surprise. "And I have agreed to neither pursue further actions against it nor to encourage others to do so provided the exception is not modified further from its current form."
To Spock's relief, Admiral Komack does not comment further, turning his attention to T'Prina. "What security?"
"I am not familiar with security personnel outside the Enterprise or those few cadets who have already graduated and have been assigned to their ships." Carefully, T'Prina doesn't look at Spock. "Do you have any recommendations, Admiral?"
Admiral Komack fixes his gaze at the wall just behind Spock's shoulder. "There are two officers here, actually, waiting for their next assignment. To the Enterprise, come to think. You approved their transfer, didn't you, Spock?"
Spock nods wordlessly.
"Be good experience for them. Any objections, Cadet?"
T'Prina glances at Spock for agreement, then nods. "No, Admiral. Thank you for your assistance in this matter."
"You sure you're up for this?" he says sympathetically. "You're still under medical care, and you're no diplomat."
"Neither is Captain Kirk, Admiral," T'Prina answers. "It is my privilege to be permitted to do what I can to assure his intentions are fulfilled."
Admiral Komack jerks his head toward the door. "Go and keep our Romulan company until those security officers are tracked down, Cadet. I'll call when everyone's here so we can start the official interview."
"Yes, Admiral." With a salute, T'Prina goes to the door that Healer Sorin moves to open for her.
Komack looks at Spock. "I need to talk to Commander Spock. Don't worry, Healer Sorin; it won't take too long and we can see her just fine if she suddenly has seizures or whatever."
When the room is empty, Komack sighs. "We need to talk."
"I understand this does not clear the Enterprise of charges for searching for Captain Kirk despite our orders."
"Damn right it doesn't." Komack glares briefly to make his point. "But. This is George Kirk's and Commander Winona Kirk's youngest kid we're talking about. If this goes to court martial, Starfleet is going to have to argue in front of the entire Federation that we were unwilling to track down the man whose dad was among Nero's first victims and who stopped Nero from destroying the Federation. And we want to lock up his Vulcan boyfriend who lost his entire world as well as his mother for going after him. And by the way, they just brought home a shitload of Federation citizens that were written off and stopped a goddamn war. Win or lose, Starfleet loses."
That is accurate; honesty is not something he has experience with from the majority of Starfleet admirals.
"Not that it would stop me," Komack continues. "Me, I don't give a shit about politics. I'd call it and let the cards fall as they may; there's a better than average chance you and the rest of the crew would probably get no worse than a reduction in rank, and maybe it would clear you altogether. Those calling for a court martial now would be quick enough to find in your favor if the public goes against Starfleet during the trial, and I'm quite aware supporters of the Enterprise crew are already working that angle for all its worth."
"Admiral," Spock begins, "I would not attempt to influence--"
Admiral cuts him off with a gesture, rolling his eyes. "Spock, don't even. Yeah, you wouldn't do it yourself; you don't need to. You have a lot of friends and up until now, a flawless record with Starfleet. You and Jim have built up a reputation in the Federation these last two years, not just in Starfleet." Komack's expression changes into something that's both exasperation and affection both. "And I'll admit it; I don't want to be the one to face Commander Kirk and tell her we court martialed her son's crew for rescuing him and stopping a war. She's been in deep space exploration; the woman believes in regulations even less than Jim does, and that's saying something. See, Spock, you don't need to turn public opinion at all; Winona will talk about her poor fatherless son growing up to defeat Nero on every public channel in the Federation while holding a picture of George and that'll do it."
"You, quiet. You seem to be a good negotiator, so lets see how you horse trade with an admiral." Komack crosses his arms. "You'll amend your testimony of all mention of our Orion being a double agent and possibly being responsible for Captain Kirk's abduction. It never goes public; I classify every reference to it."
Spock stiffens. "I cannot do that, Admiral."
"You have to. Because I already did it." Komack's expression doesn't change. "You're going to sign the amended testimony and agree to forgo pursuit of the matter entirely. It's like it never occurred to you."
"I respectfully refuse, Admiral."
"Right, you would." Komack pushes off the desk, joining Spock to watch Rayiyah and T'Prina. "So you're willing to take down the entire crew for something that there is no way you will ever be able to prove, and without the uniform that would give your accusations any weight with either Starfleet or the Federation."
Spock takes a breath, letting it out carefully. "Someone in Starfleet was working on behalf of the Orion Syndicate. They used our contact with them to capture five Federation vessels as well as attempt to assassinate Captain Kirk to begin a war. I cannot--"
"You have to," Admiral Komack answers flatly. "You don't like it? Deal with it. You can't prove it. If there was a chance you could pull it off, I wouldn't be standing here, collaborating in perjury and conduct unbecoming, you get me, Commander? Admiral Pike's with me on this; after we're done with Rayiyah for the day, see him, but he's going to tell you the same thing. You have no proof. And if there had been proof, it's dead and gone, along with our Orion spy."
Spock blinks. "You believe he was assassinated to cover--"
"I didn't say anything like that," Komack answers, still watching T'Prina. "I said, there's no evidence of collaboration with the Orions, and that's exactly what I told the admiralty when I reported to them." Komack glances at him briefly. "For reasons you don't have the security clearance to know, I was also appointed to oversee our surveillance of Starfleet Security's contacts with races known to be hostile to the Federation. From now on, Starfleet Security reports to me, and Lieutenant Gaila, for one, better thank her lucky stars. They weren't happy with her."
"I see." Spock watches Rayiyah gesture energetically as he speaks to T'Prina.
"You know, this isn't the only thing I have to do today. Admiral Green's decided it's time to retire and for some reason, I'm in charge of organizing his party."
Spock looks at Admiral Komack's profile, startled. "I was unaware Admiral Green had planned to retire. He was promoted only five years ago and is in excellent health."
"Stress of the job," Admiral Komack answers lightly. "He's been in the service most of his life. He thought it was time he tried something new."
Perhaps he was mistaken; Komack's lack of subtlety might have been a deliberate choice.
"Go by my office; my assistant's getting everything organized for my new duties. He'll have the datapad for you to sign off on. We'll conclude the inquiry tomorrow and put the crew on leave while the ship gets a full refit."
Komack pauses, adding almost casually, "I thought Green might appreciate Phillips coming by for the party. You remember him? Still in Guinness six years running; I checked. I always thought he and Green had a lot in common. Now send Pike and the others back in. I don't have all day."
"Yes, Admiral," Spock answers automatically, shutting the door firmly behind him. Admiral Pike's eyes meet his in unmistakable question. "Admiral Komack has asked me to attend to--paperwork in his office. I will return when it is complete."
Admiral Pike relaxes in his chair, eyes closing briefly in unmistakable relief. "We'll wait for you, Commander."
Healer Sorin meets him that evening at the doors of Starfleet Medical, long after most visitors would be refused access, waving him inside. They pass various medical personnel on their way to the turbolift, where Sorin enters the code to reach the floor that houses patients in intensive care.
When the doors close, Healer Sorin says, "I have received notification from Astrei Hospital that they will be pleased to admit Captain Kirk. You should have received the same, as well as the required consent forms to give your bondmate into my custody as both guardian and physician. Have you responded yet?"
"I had planned to this evening," Spock answers. "However your message seemed to indicate that my presence was required immediately."
"It is." As the turbolift stops, Healer Sorin enters a second code, letting them into the reception area. The nurse on duty glances up, eyes flickering to Healer Sorin's identification, then at Spock. "Healer Sorin, Commander Spock," she acknowledges, giving Spock a modified salute in respect to his rank. "Is there anything I may assist you with?"
"Privacy while we attend Captain Kirk," Healer Sorin answers. "Please route any requests for my assistance to the physician on duty. We do not wish to be disturbed for any reason."
Passing her station, Healer Sorin leads Spock on the familiar route to Jim's room at one corner of the building. There's a wide window that overlooks the grounds and permits natural light; at this hour, the window is covered. Sorin turns the lights on and indicates that Spock should sit down after shutting the door and engaging the privacy lock.
"Has Jim's condition changed?" he asks, looking at Jim, still and pale on the bed. Spock can sense no changes in him, and the readings do not appear any different than they have for the past two weeks in Starfleet Medical.
"No, but I have--" Healer Sorin hesitates, looking uncharacteristically agitated. "I decided not to approach you until I had analyzed all the data I have collected on Melody's condition and that of the other patients at the colony once more. I believe that there may be a way for Captain Kirk to regain consciousness."
Spock straightens. "How?"
"I have speculated that the reason that I have been unable to awaken Melody is because her mind is not able to adjust to the lack of a bond and without it, she is unable to reconnect with her body after the damage. While Captain Kirk's condition is similar, his bond is active."
"We already attempted a meld," Spock begins slowly; there had been several attempts, and not all of them in Healer Sorin's presence or with his knowledge.
"We attempted it with you alone, with my presence only providing strength, as is common when treating bonded couples," Sorin answers. "This time, I will join you, using your bond to direct you on the correct paths to his. You are not a Acolyte trained in the exploration of the mind; I am. Think of yourself as someone searching in an area with no light and only one safe path; I will be the illumination for that path for you both. I believe that his current state is due to not being able to find the correct path of return; with my assistance, he will be able to find you, and you will be able to guide his mind back to consciousness."
"What else is required?"
"Nothing. I have cleared my normal evening schedule in anticipation--"
"I am ready." Turning toward the bed, Spock looks at Jim's expressionless face, hair neatly combed back in a way he would hate if he could see it.
Gentle fingers touch his face, resting over each psi-point as Sorin's voice washes over him. "My mind to your mind. My thoughts--"
--to your thoughts.
Almost immediately, Spock feels Sorin's mind join with his, more deeply than any but a bondmate can achieve. At Sorin's silent direction, Spock reaches for Jim's psyche, touching the mindless spark effortlessly and following the link of their bond toward it. Vaguely, Spock is aware of Sorin's guidance; if asked, Spock would describe it as walking through Gol long after the sun had set, with the stars obscured by the rare clouds that gathered before the heavy spring rains that occurred only once every millennia. Without guidance, it is easy to become lost in the desert; even the most experienced dwellers therein leave markers to indicate the safest routes to take, invisible to those not of the desert clan.
As expertly as a desert hunter, Sorin leads him toward Jim's mind, following a course only he can identify. It's more circuitous than what Spock had attempted, but Jim's presence grows slowly brighter, and for the first time, Spock senses a faint, surprised awareness of him.
There aren't words here, but there is a question, faint and uncertain. Spock projects warmth and welcome toward it, trying to capture Jim's undivided attention and prevent the potential for retreat as they draw closer.
Sorin eases them forward more slowly, focused on that bright point that's everything Jim is and will ever be. It's farther than he was able to achieve on his own, and yet Jim still seems impossibly far away, as if they're no closer than they were watching him from beside his bed.
The brightness shifts minutely, awareness growing into interest cut with curiosity as it drifts toward them. Spock controls the urge to simply reach for it, though it feels as if he could; this isn't something that can be forced.
Then, shocked, iknowyou.
The brightness curls into itself, vanishing abruptly; Spock can't control his own panic, trying to pull free of Sorin to follow, but the strong mind locks him to their path, refusing to permit him escape. Patience projects through him, twining their minds more tightly.
Jim Spock thinks desperately, searching the darkness. For a moment, there's nothing--nothing--in the place Jim occupies in his head, a hollowed-out emptiness that he can't imagine wishing to endure even for a moment longer. Better that he lose himself here searching for Jim than return to that. Better that he--
It is not Sorin.
I know you.
They pause, surrounded in lightless dark, waiting, and Spock almost wonders if he and Sorin's mind created that voice out of their own hope. The emptiness seems to grow by the second, but Spock ignores the sharp ache of it, his own grief, concentrating the entirety of his self on the darkness around them, searching for a single spark, the faintest trace of Jim's presence.
Abruptly, it blinks into existence so close that they can almost touch it, and for a moment, he can almost see Jim standing there, suspicious and curious by turn, looking at them like he does at the vastness of space that no Federation ship has ever mapped, planets that no one has ever seen, the universe that he's waited all his life to explore.
Come with me.
Jim's suspicion increases, but so does the curiosity. Spock shows him the Enterprise, the bridge filled with their crew, his family, pulling his own memories as well as Jim's and feeling Jim follow them with impersonal interest, as if they belong to someone else entirely.
This is you.
Brushing aside the memories, Jim's attention focuses on Spock, a question forming between them. Why are you here?
Spock hesitates, considering and discarding a thousand answers to find the one that answers what Jim is asking. To find you.
This one requires no thought at all. Because you are here.
Jim considers the answer carefully, flickering through the offered memories before his attention shifts to Spock again, searching for something that Spock isn't able to interpret. Slowly, almost thoughtfully, Jim drifts closer, wavering just out of reach; it takes everything in Spock not to reach for him, not yet.
There's a gossamer touch against his mind, following along the edges of their joined minds, humming between them. Jim stops, bemusement and curiosity chasing each other through his mind, and Spock finds himself remembering the first time he touched Jim's mind; even the madness of pon farr had not diminished the brightness he'd discovered there, and with it the acknowledgment of feelings he'd long denied even to himself.
Spock feels something that's very like Jim's smile when they're alone, easy and unguarded, open with affection the way Spock can never be. You followed me here.
Spock thinks their lives since they met could be summarized in those four words. I would follow you anywhere.
Something like laughter trembles against his skin as Jim says, I think it's my turn to follow you, then.
Slowly, carefully, Spock reaches for him, and Jim lets him, as easily as he commands a ship into unknown space, as easily as he transports to an unknown planet, as easily as he first opened his mind when they bonded; Jim has never been afraid of what he did not know.
I trust you. Show me what you got, Spock.
Spock feels Sorin's withdrawal distantly; more distantly, he's aware of the presence of his body surrounding him and starts to fight it, unwilling to abandon the warmth of Jim's mind now that he's found it.
No. Sorin's powerful mind forces him back; slowly, he feels his flesh encasing him, thick and unwieldy, separating him from Jim in thick layers of the material world until his eyes open abruptly, forehead pressed to Jim's warm hip beneath the sheet and every muscle aching.
Lifting his head, Spock blinks the world into focus and sees light limning the shaded window; his time sense tells him it's been over twelve hours since they began.
Sorin's fingers drop from his face, and the remaining threads of the meld vanish; for the first time in what feels like all of time, Spock feels alone in his mind.
"Spock," Sorin says as Spock struggles to straighten, panic stripping away the last vestiges of control. "Spock, calm yourself. He is sleeping."
The monitors show a sharp spike; Spock numbly recognizes Jim has entered REM sleep and forces himself to calm, using every control he learned from before even his first memory, centering himself until everything within stills. Jim's sleep murmurs through the back of his mind, familiar and welcome. For a long moment, Spock simply allows himself to feel it before he opens his eyes on Sorin.
"I can sense him. He will awaken in four hours."
Sorin nods approvingly. Without the distraction of his own uncontrolled feelings, Spock can see the toll the night has taken on Sorin; the dark eyes are bloodshot, skin tinged the green of fresh bruises beneath his eyes, and his movements are slow and precise, as if each one must be considered carefully before attempted.
"There is a cot in the corner," Sorin says; though his voice is even, Spock can hear both his exhaustion and his satisfaction from the night's events. "You will be unable to return to your quarters before you fall unconscious; I suggest you rest there. I will leave orders you are to be left alone, as your bondmate requires your presence."
Spock does not think he would be able to go so far as the turbolift; even the cot seems a greater distance than he feels he can cross easily. "I thank you, Healer Sorin," Spock says finally.
"I will take my rest in the on-call room with orders to awaken me when Captain Kirk awakens."
Sorin waits only long enough to instruct the nurse and Spock to find the cot before he opens the door; Spock is asleep before he hears it close again.
Spock awakens at the first stir of Jim's mind, pushing himself up as the hum of the monitors indicate Jim has awakened.
By the time Spock reaches the chair at the side of Jim's bed, the blue eyes blink open, narrowing slightly in irritation. "Spock," he says, voice a thready whisper, "turn that goddamn thing off."
Reaching for the hand weakly pushing at the sheet, apparently in preparation to attempt to handle the situation, Spock waits until Jim turns his head, looking at him for the first time in weeks. "I will instruct a nurse to lower the volume, Jim."
Jim's mouth quirks in a faint smile, returning the pressure of Spock's fingers before his expression dissolves into confusion. "You're--are you smiling?" Weakly, Jim pulls his hand away, fingers brushing clumsily against Spock's face. Catching his hand again, Spock steadies it, feeling Jim's unspoken questions fill his mind. "Seriously. What--happened?"
"Your presence was missed, t'hy'la," Spock breathes. "That is all. You require rest."
Jim projects suspicion at him, slipping his fingers through Spock's before his eyes fall shut. "Don't. Go anywhere."
Spock nods, lacing their fingers together and resting their joined hands on the bed. "There is no where else I wish to be."
Jim awakens and sleeps at random intervals for the next two days; while Dr. McCoy assures Spock that this is normal, Spock suspects from the pattern of Jim's thoughts that some of it is to escape the rounds of examinations and testing from the medical staff during every waking moment. On sharing this with Dr. McCoy, the doctor had stared at Jim's sleeping body with a resigned irritation that Spock had interpreted as agreement.
On the third day, Jim is permitted to have three visitors, each restricted to ten minutes and watched by a sharp-eyed nurse for any sign that Jim's strength is being overextended before hustling them away with strict orders for Jim to rest. Her poisonous glances at Spock tell him she wishes she could do the same to him, but regulations and Healer Sorin deny her the opportunity to do so. Spock is content to look his invulnerability to her displeasure from the far side of Jim's bed as he keeps abreast of Starfleet's current activities via Pike's extremely thorough communications.
When the door closes behind her as she ushers Commander Scott away, Jim rolls over in bed and reaches out to slam a hand down on the datapad, turning it off. "Get me out of here, Spock."
Spock represses a sigh. "Jim--"
Jim removes his hand; in the middle of the datapad screen is his codepicker. Spock picks it up to look at the tiny screen; the interface is set for Starfleet Medical. "Your choice."
After a moment of thought, Spock takes the codepicker, leaving the datapad on his chair as he stands up. "I will indicate to the nurse on duty that you wish to sleep without interruption. In three minutes, the southern emergency exit will be unlocked and disabled. Enter the stairwell and wait there."
Jim grins. "Medical transporter is the third screen. I looped the monitors here while you were reading. Munroe never noticed." Jim frowns. "Chapel would have noticed."
"Chapel knows you very well." Pocketing the codepicker, Spock turns off the lights before opening the door. "Do not be late."
Jim projects a mental smirk as Spock closes the door carefully behind him, making his way to the nurse's station. "Captain Kirk has indicated that he requires rest," Spock tells Commander Monroe, the nurse assigned to Jim. Her face goes through a series of expressions that seem to indicate satisfaction that she was correct in regard to Jim's strength and pleasure that Spock is finally in agreement that the only way Jim can possibly rest is in utter isolation. "He has stated that his sleep is currently uncertain; I think it best if he is not disturbed until he awakens."
"I'll order it now," Commander Munroe seems to purr, looking pleased with him for the first time in memory. "He's not due to be checked for at least three hours."
That is extremely valuable information; Spock makes his way to the turbolift, waiting patiently until he reaches the ground floor and nodding his acknowledgment of greetings by the medical staff. Turning right as he goes out the wide doors, Spock walks quickly toward the door that leads to the visitor gardens and takes out the codepicker, entering the coordinates for the garden before giving the order to energize.
Jim materializes on the bench Spock had occupied only a few days before, looking around him curiously until he finds Spock. Grinning a little manically at the freedom, Jim shakily gets to his feet as Spock approaches, reaching for him and pulling him into a surprisingly heated kiss, continuing it until his limited energy forces him to sit before he falls.
"If we had some privacy--"
"You would quickly fall asleep," Spock answers, steadying Jim against him so he will not tire himself further. Jim's eyes narrow, but he does not dispute the statement, frowning down at the hospital pajamas and robe he'd had the sense to put on before he left the room. "You are stronger every day."
"And correspondingly more bored by the second." With a sigh, Jim leans against him, eyes taking in the garden. "I used to get Bones drunk here when we were at the Academy."
"I do not think there are many places in Starfleet that did not host your attempts at intoxication," Spock answers, ignoring the fact that Jim has also has met several lovers here without any objection to the lack of privacy.
Jim tilts his head back, smirking. "Kids do crazy things."
"You graduated less than three years ago."
"Kids grow up fast these days," Jim says with mock-sobriety. "How much longer am I going to be locked up in Medical anyway? Munroe acts like eating on my own is still a monumental effort that she can't be certain won't end in my death by exhaustion, so the answers I'm getting from her indicate the rest of my life."
Spock considers. "If your condition continues to improve, I think Healer Sorin will agree to release you in two weeks time."
"Seven, released into my bondmate's custody and under his direct supervision, per Starfleet regulations regarding domestic partnerships, Vulcan marriage, and your realization that you don't have my codepicker right now, but the one I had Scotty grab from our quarters before he visited today. By the way, happy anniversary or birthday or something."
Taking it back out, Spock studies it; the case is identical, but on closer examination, it lacks the faint scratches and signs of constant use. "Fascinating."
"And don't ask where mine is; you'll find out a week from now if you aren't there signing me out of Medical while Munroe glares at us both."
Putting the codepicker away, Spock thinks Healer Sorin will not be difficult to persuade. "Very well."
Jim thinks his satisfaction before pushing himself away, bracing his hands on the edges of the stone bench to look at Spock, smile fading into seriousness. "I have the bare bones of what happened after T'Prina and I were beamed off the Soli. Give me the rest."
Perhaps he should have expected Jim's unusual tractability would come to an end. "There has been--a great deal," he admits.
"How long do we have?"
"It will be approximately two hours, thirty-five minutes, and twenty-eight seconds until the doctor arrives to examine you."
Reaching for Spock's hand, Jim shifts closer, pressing it against his face. "Then you'd better show me now so you can help me integrate it before we go back."
"You are not yet strong enough--"
"I'm a Starfleet Captain," Jim answers. "It's my job to be strong enough. I need to know."
Spock hesitates even as his fingers move slowly into position. "Jim--"
"Spock." The blue eyes meet his. "Show me."
Jim's mind opens at the first touch. "My mind to your mind," Spock breathes, unable to hide his own pleasure as Jim's mind surrounds him. "My thoughts to your thoughts."
Yeah, Jim says just before Spock reaches for the memories, fingers curling between Spock's. I missed this too.
Dr. Valdez seems to believe Jim's explanation for his higher than normal respiration and faint flush.
"…and Spock came in time to help me back to bed," Jim says guilelessly. "So I've accomplished going to the bathroom all on my own. Toddlers everywhere envy me my new skill set."
Dr. Enrique Valdez, head of Starfleet Medical for the last ten years and holding the rank of Commodore, makes a note on the datapad. At well over six feet, Dr. Valdez towers over the majority of the human medical staff, as well as most of those that belong to other species. Spock suspects from the faint flush visible on his face despite dark olive skin and the escape of black hair from the band he uses to confine it at the nape of his neck that Dr. Valdez was not originally scheduled for duty this evening and only just arrived. "Getting back seems to still be a bit of a challenge, though. I'll order the nurses to allow it, provided someone is here to assist you to return to bed."
Jim pretends to take the restriction grudgingly as Dr. Valdez completes his examination. "Well, first, your recovery is slightly faster than predicted by Healer Sorin and Dr. McCoy. Please continue to do so; there's a very good bottle of whiskey in it for me if I win the current pool. Second, I'm removing the restrictions from your meals; order whatever you want and eat as much as you can. You lost more weight than I'm happy with and you need to get it back. As for three," Valdez pauses, a sudden amused smile curving his lips, "next time you want to go play outside without permission, wash your feet when you get back or get some slippers and recycle them."
Jim's eyes widen. Jerking back the sheet, he sits up, pulling one foot up to look at the faintest traces of dirt in betrayal. "Huh."
Dr. Valdez gives Spock a grin as he turns off the datapad. "I'm also ordering you moved down to the first floor; your vitals are strong enough that you don't require constant monitoring in intensive care. There is also a window that will be more convenient to utilize than a transporter."
Jim's eyes narrow. "Okay, I give. How'd you know? Because you know what, you didn't even look at my feet."
"Intuition, knowledge of your reputation, and most importantly, Scotty and I were enjoying an evening with some colleagues in the city when he received your message."
Jim sighs, dropping back onto the pillows. "He seriously needs to realize his tolerance is not as great as he thinks it is."
"He doesn’t believe me either," Dr. Valdez answers sympathetically, tucking the datapad into his lab coat. "Now I suggest you get some rest so you'll be ready for your move tomorrow. Have a good night, Captain Kirk, Commander Spock."
After Dr. Valdez leaves, Jim's energy seems to abandon him. Rolling onto his side, Jim looks at Spock for a few minutes, blue eyes filled with the unhappy knowledge of what had occurred in his absence. "Sleep with me tonight."
Spock studies the narrow hospital bed for a moment. "It would be more feasible if we placed the bed against the wall.
Jim sits up, pushing the blankets to the foot of the bed. "I like how you think. I'll lock the door."