Starships tended to be cold.
There were several reasons for this. Starships operated in space, of course, and space is very cold. Starships were quite large, and large spaces take a great deal of energy to heat. Most of all, starships needed power for so many functions—navigation, exploration, weapons, computers—the list went on and on. So while life support obviously received priority when power was allocated to ship’s systems, environmental controls were normally set fairly low, at least in the common areas.
Spock had grown accustomed to the Enterprise’s chill. He wore the very latest in Starfleet-issue thermal wear; he kept his own quarters at a more comfortable temperature, and he devoted at least part of every night’s meditation to regulating his physiology as best he could to not react to the uncomfortable ambient temperature. However, the fact remained that Spock was still cold. He accepted it and moved on. In the past 11 months, 26 days, he had learned to accept a great deal, all of it—unpleasant.
“He is one cold bastard.” McCoy watched Spock dump his tray and leave the Main mess, barely acknowledging the greetings of Chekov and Sulu, who were coming in.
“Jesus, Bones, nice un-judgmental tone there,” Jim said.
“Well, what would you call someone who never smiles, whose conversation never varies from work, and who has no friends and no interests except computer chips and asteroid dust?”
Jim sighed. “Lay off, Bones,” he replied. “I know Spock isn’t one of your favorite people, but he’s a good officer, and he is a Vulcan. He’s not going to respond to things the way you think he should, and he’s not going to be interested in sing-alongs and water volleyball teams.” Jim got to his feet. “Quit trying to force him into a mold, Bones. He doesn’t fit.” Jim dumped his own tray and walked out, leaving McCoy staring behind him.
Well, he thought, I guess Spock’s got one friend. McCoy shook his head in rueful amusement. Jim Kirk, rescuer of stray kittens and snooty half-Vulcans.
The door to his quarters chimed, and Spock glanced up from his computer. “Come.” The door slid open to reveal the captain, who hesitated for a moment on the threshold.
“Spock? May I come in?” Spock gave him a quizzical look.
“I already granted you permission, sir,” he contented himself with observing.
“Yeah, but I know how much Vulcans value their privacy.” Indeed, in the ten months since they’d come aboard the Enterprise as captain and First Officer, Jim had never been in Spock’s quarters, despite the fact that they were next door to his own.
“You may enter,” Spock replied quietly. Jim stepped in and looked around as the door shut behind him.
“Nice digs—quarters,” he amended with a chuckle when he saw Spock’s perplexed look. And they were nice—sparse and ruthlessly neat, of course, but still elegant. There were a couple of pieces of what Jim would guess were Vulcan pottery displayed on a shelf, along with a few Vulcan weapons on one wall. Jim looked at those artifacts, feeling a sudden wave of sadness. It was nearly a year since Nero had destroyed the planet Vulcan and killed almost nine-tenths of the population. That was why Jim was here tonight, in fact.
“Spock, I got your memo refusing leave on Vafer-Tor,” he said. Vafer-Tor was the new planet the Vulcans had chosen to colonize.
“I don’t understand,” Jim continued, sitting down in the chair on the other side of Spock’s desk.
“Was my message unclear?” Spock asked.
Jim shook his head. “That’s not what I meant. I thought…the one-year anniversary…well, I thought you’d want to go home for that,” he said awkwardly. Spock never talked about the loss of his home world—and the loss of his mother. Not since that night on earth, when Jim had brought him in out of the rain on the grounds of Starfleet Academy, had Spock made any reference to the tragedy.
Spock shook his head. “There is no logic in requiring the Enterprise to perform ferry service for me,” he said firmly. And Vafer-Tor is not my home, he added silently. Spock had only been to the new colony once, when the Enterprise had brought supplies and colonists to the new world. There was nothing there that spoke to Spock of his lost home—or his lost family. Spock’s father, Sarek, had re-married, with what Spock privately thought was tasteless haste. However, Sarek’s Time had come, and a new bond mate was a biological necessity. T’Saaria, Sarek’s new mate, was already expecting a child—a son, Sarek had proudly informed his son during their last link call. Soon, Sarek would have everything he’d had before Vulcan’s destruction. Spock sometimes wondered if his father still grieved at all. He had no intention of going to Vafer-Tor and finding out.
“Spock, it’s no trouble for the ship to make a trip to Vafer-Tor,” Jim said gently. “Chris and the brass okayed it, and I’m happy to do it if it will help.”
“I need no assistance, Captain. I am in no distress.”
Jim sighed and got to his feet. “I won’t make you go,’ he said quietly. “But I think you ought to be with your people on that day. Look, will you at least attend the memorial we’re having on board?”
Spock shook his head. “I would prefer not to, sir,” he replied. “I would request that I be allowed off-duty on that day; I would like to meditate in private.”
Jim sighed once more and took a few steps forward, laying his hand on Spock’s shoulder for just an instant.
“Spock,” he told his Vulcan First, “I can’t imagine what you’re dealing with, how you must feel. But I know you do feel; don’t bother telling me otherwise. And I think...I think it’s a mistake to lock yourself away like this. There are a lot of people who would like to help you—Uhura, Sulu, Chekov, even Bones, for all his sniping. They all care about you, Spock; they’d like to be there for you.” Jim gave the shoulder a gentle squeeze before removing his hand. “I’d like to be there for you, too.”
Spock stiffened. “Captain,” he said in a low voice, “I would simply ask you to let me grieve in my own way.”
“Of course.” Jim walked to the door. “I’ll schedule you off for that day,” he said quietly, looking at the silent figure sitting behind the desk. “And if you change your mind, if you need anything, please let me know.” The door swished; the captain was gone.
The one-year anniversary of Vulcan’s destruction came. Everyone on the Enterprise knew what day it was, and even the most unaffected crewmen were quiet and somber that day, everyone mourning the lost of nearly six billion lives and the near-destruction of one of the most advanced civilizations in the Federation. There was a quiet memorial service in the ship’s chapel, and at 15:17 p.m., the moment Vulcan had imploded, there were two minutes of silence all over the ship, every crewman stopping work and honoring those lives so senselessly taken.
Jim worked his shift and spoke at the service. At the end of the day, he wasn’t really in the mood for company. He ordered a light meal served in his cabin and sat picking at his food, frequently glancing at the door that led to the shared bath between Jim’s quarters and Spock’s. There was complete silence, of course; the rooms were soundproofed, and Spock was hardly the noisy type at the best of times. Nonetheless, Jim kept giving the connecting door worried looks.
I wish I could check on him. Hell, I wish there was some kind of ship’s emergency—not that I want trouble, but then I’d at least have a reason to bother him. Jim hated the fact that Spock had shut himself away on this of all days. Jim had contacted Vafer-Tor early that morning and spoken briefly to both Sarek and Selik, Old Spock, offering his respects for the day. He hadn’t told Sarek about his concerns; Spock’s relationship with his father was brittle at best, and Jim didn’t want to go tattling to Spock’s daddy. However, he had discussed Spock with his officer’s older counterpart.
“I’m worried,” Jim said frankly. “He won’t let me in, and I want to help him.”
The old face had been serene, but Jim had seen the worry in Selik’s eyes. “I also desire that my counterpart not withdraw from those who could offer him comfort. And you, Jim, are the first among those. However, such things cannot be forced.” Selik’s face was sad; Amanda had not been his mother, yet she had been, and her loss was a wound keenly felt.
“I can only ask you, my dear young friend, to continue to offer Spock your understanding and care,” he said quietly. “Perhaps someday he will accept it.”
“I hope so,” Jim had replied sadly.
Now he sat toying with a meal he didn’t want, wishing he could simply go next door and wrap his arms around Spock, hold him tightly as he had that night on Earth. Jim had never known that a Vulcan could cry, but he fancied he could still feel the scalding tears Spock had shed on his shoulder. Jim had never thought he’d feel privileged because someone cried in his arms, but it was how he’d felt that night. Lost in thought, Jim jumped as his link rang.
"Scott here, sir.” The Chief Engineer’s broad, genial face looked worried. “Sir, I dinna like to trouble ye, but I be concerned. Mr. Spock’s quarters—the environmental controls hae been set at 12 degrees Celsius.”
Jim frowned. That was just above 50 degrees in the Fahrenheit figures he still thought in—way too cold to be comfortable for a Vulcan.
“Malfunction?” he asked.
Scott shook his head. “Nae, sir; the controls hae been overridden by Mr. Spock’s voice command. I cannae budge them, and he is nae responding to my calls.”
“I’ll look into it, Scotty. Thanks. Kirk out.”
“That tore it. Jim strode through the adjoining bath and without hesitation punched in the code that only he knew—the Command code that would override any door on the ship. The door slid open, and Jim stepped into Spock’s quarters, the chill hitting him like a cold autumn wind.
“Spock?” He looked around and then hurried past the divider between the rooms, finding Spock kneeling on the meditation mat he often used, dressed only a in a thin black silk robe, his feet bare, his hands, clasped in his lap, white and bloodless-looking. His eyes were closed, and he didn’t open them when Jim came bursting in.
“Spock!” Jim hurried to the Vulcan and pulled him to his feet, slinging Spock’s arm over his shoulder and practically dragging him out of his cabin and into Jim’s.
“Computer,” Jim said to the air,” raise cabin temperature to 25 degrees Celsius.”
“Acknowledged,” the computer’s musical voice chimed, and warm air began circulating at once. Jim eased Spock down on his couch and hurried into his bed room to open a closet and rummage on the top shelf, pulling down a quilt his grandmother had made for him a long time ago. He headed back out into the other room and flung the quilt around Spock’s shoulders. The Vulcan’s eyes were open now, but he was simply staring blankly, and as the quilt settled around him, he made no move to clutch it to himself.
Oh, fuck it. Jim sat down next to Spock and pulled off the quilt, re-wrapping it around them both and taking Spock into his arms, tucking the Vulcan’s cold hands between their bodies and then just hanging on, rocking slightly, Spock’s head heavy on his shoulder.
“Come on, Spock,” Jim coaxed. “Come on. It’s okay. We’re going to get you warm. Can you feel it? Nice warm air and a quilt all the way from Iowa. Come on, buddy.” He cradled Spock in his arms, gradually feeling the frozen stiffness ease, feeling Spock begin to shiver faintly. Jim rubbed his arms and back, pulling the quilt tighter around the two of them, letting his body and the heat of the room gradually warm Spock’s icy flesh.
“Jim?” The voice was faint and tired.
“I’m here, Spock.” Jim gently stroked the head that lay tiredly on his shoulder.
“Yeah, I know. Scotty told me you cranked up the A/C in your quarters, so I came to check on you.” Jim passed his hand over that glossy hair again. “Can you tell me why, Spock? It was way too cold for you.”
“I…I wanted to numb the pain,” Spock replied in a low voice. “It is a mourning ritual—the cold seals away the pain and grief of loss.”
“Oh, Spock.” Jim felt Spock’s body press closer to his, almost as if he was trying to burrow into Jim. “My poor friend, I don’t think it works that way for you, not for this grief. I think you’ll always feel this pain. But you need to let someone help you carry it. Don’t lock yourself away from the warmth of a friend. You need that; it will soothe the pain better than solitary confinement in a freezer.”
“Perhaps…perhaps you are right.” Spock’s voice wavered. “Jim…oh, Jim; she is dead.” With that, Spock began to weep silently, his tears once again wetting Jim’s tunic. Jim didn’t say anything else; there was nothing more to say. He just sat with Spock wrapped in the quilt, wrapped in his arms, and let his friend cry for the woman who had loved him.
Finally, Spock was quiet again, limp in Jim’s arms. Jim rose carefully to his feet, still supporting Spock, and walked him to his bunk, easing him down onto the mattress and covering him with the quilt.
“I want you to sleep here tonight,” he said quietly. “Your cabin’s freezing, and you shouldn’t be alone.”
Spock nodded, eyelids drooping. “Jim?” he whispered.
In the act of turning away, Jim turned back. “Yes, Spock?” he asked gently.
“Would you…stay with me?”
Everything in Jim responded to that. “Sure. I won’t leave.”
For the rest of the night, Jim lay in his bunk, holding Spock’s quilt-wrapped body, watching the Vulcan sleep, keeping the cold away.