For once, the Enterprise was enjoying a fairly routine day. Jim Kirk was secretly glad of it. Yeah, kicking alien ass and being a galactic hero was great, but it was also damned tiring. And frankly, the “WHOOP, WHOOP” of the red alert siren gave him an instant migraine. Today, the only sounds on the Bridge were muted duty-related conversations, the quiet hum and beep of well-maintained equipment, and…
Jim sat bolt upright in his chair, looking around. No one else seemed to have noticed the sound. Maybe he was imagining things.
Nope, not an aural hallucination. Somebody was hiccoughing.
Jim’s head swiveled towards the science station where Commander Spock, Mr. “I’m-So Perfect-No-Instrument-Can-Measure-My-Perfection-And-You’re-A-Flawed- Annoying-Human” was sitting ramrod straight in front of his screen array.
Spock,” Jim said, delighted. “You’ve got the hiccoughs!” Someone giggled.
Spock turned in his chair, his eyebrows set at their patented Vulcan Death Glare angle. “Vulcans do not get hiccoughs, Captain,” he informed Jim in the same tone he might have used to tell Jim he smelled bad. He turned back to his screen.
Half the Bridge crew was laughing at this point. “Spock,” Jim said patiently, “go get a drink of water. Or a spoon of sugar. Or a mouthful of thistles (Jim frequently thought Spock resembled Eeyore just the tiniest bit, at least in terms of his attitude). Or whatever Vulcans use to treat the hiccoughs.”
“Captain,” Spock said in his best “Look Idiot, I Told You This Once” voice, “Vulcans do not get…Hic.”
Jim lost it. He laughed so hard he thought he was going to end up with hiccoughs.
Spock stood, stiffly. “If you will excuse me.” He stalked off the Bridge and into the lift. Just before the doors closed…
Jim probably would have forgotten all about it, except for the next unfortunate occurrence. Two days later, he and Spock were meeting with various crew members who were due for their six-month evaluations. Many Starfleet captains avoided these, making their the First Officers pick up the slack, but Jim liked to connect with his crew, and he knew that left to his own devices, Spock would probably give everyone an efficiency rating of 5 on a scale of 10, thereby leading to an eventual mutiny and Jim being stranded on some snow planet. No thanks; been there, done that. Besides, Jim knew he had a terrific crew, even if Spock was the only one who could do two shifts back-to-back without even a potty break (Jim had privately decided that the Vulcan bladder must be the size of a shuttlecraft bay).
Jim and Spock were meeting with Yeoman Yates, a very nice girl from a very…rural background. Jim knew that Iowa was hardly the cosmopolitan center of the universe, but Bunghole, Arkansas (or whatever the place was called), Yeoman Yates’ home base, made Des Moines look like Paris in the Gay Nineties. Jim suspected that until she had joined Starfleet, Yeoman Yates had probably only worn shoes on Sunday.
“Yeoman,” he said gently to the nervous girl, “Your work is excellent. You simply need to develop a…broader…attitude about the cultural differences among the crew. Not everyone grew up growing tobacco, skinning squirrels, and learning to square dance. You can sometimes come off as a bit of a…”
“Hic.” Spock said. Yeoman Yates burst into tears.
“I ain’t no hick,” she wailed.
The rest of the session did not go well. After he had calmed Yates down and dismissed her, Jim looked at Spock.
“Sickbay,” he ordered. “Now.”
“You’re right, Jim,” Bones confirmed. “The hobgoblin has got a bad case of hiccoughs.”
“He said Vulcans don’t get hiccoughs,” Jim noted. The two were sitting in McCoy’s office, discussing Spock’s problem over a drink.
“Well, most of them don’t,” McCoy agreed. “Their diaphragms are built differently than the human model, so air doesn’t get trapped in there, and hiccoughs don’t happen. Unfortunately for Spock, his diaphragm is a lot closer to the human model, but don’t tell him I said so. He about took my head off and handed it to me when I mentioned that little fact.” He shook his head. “I think he’s been fighting them for days; his diaphragm is inflamed.”
“What can you do?” Jim asked. “I mean, it’s not like they’re going to kill him, but…”
“But he’s not sleeping, and I’m guessing he’s not eating much either,” McCoy said. “I think they’re making him fairly miserable, but of course, he won’t let on. I offered to give him some muscle relaxants, but he gave me that whole ‘the mind rules the body, Doctor; I do not pollute my body with drugs’ speech and left as soon as I’d let him, hiccoughing all the way.”
“What do you think is causing it?” Jim asked. He’d never admit it to McCoy, but he cared more about Spock than anyone knew.
McCoy wasn’t fooled. “It’s all right; your little darling won’t die from hiccoughs,” he said. “But I don’t know what’s causing them, and if he won’t let me treat them…” he shrugged. “Hiccoughs are often a nervous condition, but as we both know, Vulcans don’t have nerves. Just ask them.”
“Nervous condition, huh?” Jim seemed deep in thought. “Thanks, Bones.”
Back in his quarters, Jim checked the date. Yep. Things were beginning to make a lot of sense. But should he approach Spock? Would Spock listen to him, or would he get all Super Vulcan on Jim’s ass? Jim frankly hated that, but if what he suspected was true, Spock needed to talk to somebody. Jim sighed. Sometimes it was really hard to know how to treat Spock. They were slowly becoming almost-friends, and Jim was fighting really hard (and losing really badly) not to let his feelings for Spock run right over the friends boundary. He cared for Spock, cared more than he wanted to admit.
Jim went into his bathroom to brush his teeth for the night. From Spock’s adjoining quarters, even over the water running in the sink, Jim could hear it.
Enough was enough. Jim rinsed his mouth and stepped through the door into Spock’s quarters. The Vulcan was kneeling in front of that way-cool giant incense burner of his, the one that looked like a Chinese warlord. He didn’t look up as Jim approached. He just stared at the flame flickering in the middle of the statue’s belly and kept hiccoughing.
Jim knelt down next to him, not touching Spock but close enough to do so if he chose.
“I’m sorry I teased you on the Bridge,” he said quietly. “I know it’s nothing serious, but if you’ve been having…” I’m not going to say hiccoughs “these spasms for days, like Bones said, then you’re probably pretty tired of dealing with them.”
Spock nodded, fractionally, and his shoulders relaxed about the same amount, but for him, that was as demonstrative as Jim shrieking at the top of his lungs.
“You know,” Jim continued softly, “I checked my calendar earlier, and I realized something.” He took a deep breath. “In a couple of days, it will be a year since Nero’s attack.” And a year since you lost your mom.
Again there was a fractional nod, accompanied by a soft “hic.”
“When I was a kid,” Jim went on, “I used to get hiccoughs really bad, and no surprise, I got them worse when I was feeling anxious and lonely.” He took a deep breath. “I always got a bad attack when my mom left Earth for another assignment.”
Slowly, Spock turned to look at Jim. “Your mother left Earth frequently during your…hic…childhood?” he asked.
Jim nodded. “Yeah, I guess I never told you about that, but she was gone most of the time.” Jim looked down, the pain still present after all these years. “I look a lot like my dad, you see, and as hard as she tried, I think she just couldn’t stand to be around me much.”
Spock’s eyes softened. “That…hic…was unfair to you.”
Jim shrugged. “Yeah, well, life isn’t always fair. Anyway, I got the hiccoughs whenever she left.”
“How did you…hic…deal with them?” The curious scientist was coming to the fore.
Okay, go big or go home. “I was lucky in one respect,” Jim explained. “We had a great housekeeper, Moira. Whenever I got these attacks, she was always able to make them go away.”
Carefully, almost fearfully, Jim reached over and placed his hand in the middle of Spock’s back. He gently began to rub slow circles across the hard planes of muscle, feeling the heat of Spock’s skin, even through his tunic. He thought Spock might jerk away, but he didn’t. It almost seemed as if he relaxed, just a bit, beneath Jim’s touch.
“She would just sit with me,” Jim murmured, “and talk about nothing important, just letting me hear her voice, and she would rub my back like this until I relaxed, until the spasms stopped.”
For a long time, Jim did what Moira had done a long time ago. He talked about the ship’s poker tournament, the food replicator that kept spitting out meatloaf instead of pound cake, the latest crew gossip about Scott’s newest still. And all the time he talked, his voice a soothing murmur, he rubbed Spock’s back until the last “hic” had died away.
Jim finally rose. “Good night, Spock,” he said gently. “Get some sleep.” He headed for the door.
He froze. Spock never called him Jim. “Yeah, Spock?” He turned. Spock was looking at him. The Vulcan Death Glare was gone.
Jim smiled. “Anytime.” He meant it, and Spock knew he did.
Spock never had the hiccoughs again. But it wasn’t the last time Jim rubbed his back.