"You're up late."
Uhura looked up from the crossword puzzle she'd been staring at for the last hour to find the Chief Engineer standing beside her table in the mess hall with a tray of food. "Am I?" she asked, looking around futilely for a clock. She always wanted to see a clock on the wall, and as far as she knew, there wasn't one anywhere on Enterprise. It never kept her from looking though.
"Aye," Scott said. "I'm just off the middle watch."
"It's four in the morning?" she asked. "Shit."
"Mm. That's more or less how I feel about it, but at least I can go to bed now. If you go to bed now, you'll get, what? Two hours of sleep, maybe three before you have to be up?"
"Thanks for clarifying that," she said.
"Oh, any time. Mind if I sit? You look like you could use a friend. Or maybe a sandwich." He picked one of the five sandwiches up from his plate and offered it to her.
She stared at it for a minute, then took it.
"Can I get you something to drink with it? Warm milk if you're intending to go to bed, coffee if you mean to pull an all-nighter?"
Going to bed didn't seem like a good idea at this point, so she nodded. "Coffee," she said.
"No," she said with a smile. "Thank you though."
"Any time." He went to get her a cup of coffee and she peeled back the top slice of bread to see what was in the sandwich. As best she could tell, it had a little bit of everything, including pickles, cabbage, mustard and pastrami. Scott returned with a cup of coffee for her and a handful of creamers and sweeteners.
"I forgot to ask how you take your coffee," he said.
"Two cream, one sugar," she replied, sifting through the stack of packets he'd piled on the table.
"Creamy creamers, or powdered creamers, or French vanilla?" he asked, separating them for her. She started to reach for one of the cups of plain cream, but he shooed her hand away. "Ah-ah-ah!" he said. "Fixing your coffee the way you like it is part of getting it for you. Allow me."
He stirred the cream and sugar into the cup and then presented it to her as though it were a work of art.
"Thank you," she said, taking a sip. "Perfect."
"You see, you don't get to be Chief Engineer unless you learn how to mix things," he told her.
"And you don't get to be Chief Communications Officer without learning how spit something out. Why don't you tell me why you're sitting alone in the mess hall at four in the morning?"
"It's nothing, really," she said. "I just couldn't sleep."
"If you can't go to sleep at ten, it might be nothing. If you can't make it by four, it's something. I'm good at listening, lass."
If Spock had called her 'lass' or any equivalent of the word, she had a feeling that she would take offense. Though why she was comparing Mr. Scott to Spock was beyond her. Except perhaps because Spock was on her mind.
"Well, let's see if I can't work it out then," Scott said. "I'm fair at trouble-shooting, too." He took a bite of one of his sandwiches and munched pensively for a moment. "The obvious question here is why you're alone, instead of with Mr. Spock. No, don't look at me like that. The whole ship knows. At least, the whole ship knows the two of you are an item. So, assuming Mr. Spock is not the problem, I'd expect him to be attempting to solve it, either here with you or with you in your quarters or his. Since he's not here, I'm going to guess that he's the problem."
Uhura took a cautious bite of her sandwich, prepared to be overwhelmed by all the pungent flavors. It was surprisingly inoffensive. Much more adventurous than her typical turkey on wheat. Certainly more flavorful than the Plomeek soup that Spock promoted.
There she went again, comparing Mr. Scott to Spock.
"It's not likely that Mr. Spock is the problem all by himself," Scott said. "More likely something he's done. Isn't that usually the way it is with a man and a woman? But then, Mr. Spock doesn't strike me as the type to do something to cause you sleepless nights. If he did, all you'd have to do is tell him, and I'm sure you'd find out it was a misunderstanding. Of course, part of the problem with misunderstandings is that they arise because we don't talk to each other, but you strike me as the sort who'd sort something like that out all right. You wouldn't have made it this long with a Vulcan without realizing that he can't be expected to get everything right that you'd expect from a human man. So, I don't think it's something he did. I think you'd resolve that. Where does that leave us, then?"
Uhura looked at him over her coffee cup.
"Something he didn't do?" Scott guessed. "Something he didn't do more than once. Something you're starting to doubt he'll ever do. Or maybe something he does if you ask, but you're getting tired of asking."
Uhura ate another bite of her sandwich.
"I know," Scott said. "He doesn't bring you cabbage and pastrami sandwiches with pickles and mustard."
She nearly choked. "Well-reasoned, Mr. Scott," she said.
"I do have my moments," he said, then turned serious. "Really, though, what is it? You'll feel better if you talk about it."
"No," she said. "I'd feel like I was betraying him."
"So it is Mr. Spock."
She looked down at the table. "Not exactly," she said.
"It's something Mr. Spock isn't doing."
"Look, why don't you tell me, and I'll pretend like I don't know who you're talking about. How's that?"
She looked at him for a moment, so very tempted.
"We're not talking about anyone here but you, right?"
"Come on. You feel—feel free to fill in the blank here…"
"Frustrated?" she offered.
"Good. You feel frustrated because…?"
"Very well. You feel frustrated because someone… did? Didn't do? Said? Didn't say?"
Uhura put down her sandwich and leaned her head into her hand. "He won't let me in," she said. "I know he's upset. I can't even begin to imagine what he's been through. His planet destroyed, his mother dead, command of the Enterprise stolen right away from him—don't get me wrong, I know that Kirk is a good captain and… oh, God, I hate to admit it, but probably better suited to it than Spock, but that's got to be a blow, right?"
"It'd be a blow to me," Scott said.
"It's just everything, all at once, and he won't let me in. I keep telling myself that I have to give him space, but how much space does he need?"
"Maybe it isn't so much a question of how much space he needs as how much closeness you need?" Scott suggested. "You know, I'd be happy to crucify him on your behalf, but sometimes relationships don't survive tragedy and this is why. Have you stopped to consider how you feel about seeing an inhabited planet destroyed? I don't know how I'd feel, but I'm pretty sure I'm glad I only had to hear about it."
Uhura blinked rapidly and looked away. "I don't have any right to feel anything about it," she said. "He lost his family and his home."
"And you're a compassionate woman. Of course you have the right to be affected by it. It's your compassion that lets you see his perspective in the matter, and you know the stakes were higher for him, more personal, but that doesn't lessen the impact on you."
A tear slid down her face and Scott made a glottal sound and moved around the table to sit beside her. "I'd tell you not to cry, but I think maybe that's what you need," he said, pulling her into his arms.
Her silent tears turned into pathetic, shaking sobs almost as soon as her head hit his shoulder, and he just tightened his arms around her.
"There, there, now," he murmured into his hair. "You cry as hard as you want to. I'll hold you together."
Spock woke with a start, his heart racing, his breath ragged, shaking and sweating all over.
He wanted to tell himself it was just a dream, but it wasn't just a dream. It was a nightmare, and a real one that played over and over in his head every night. It was the implosion of a planet, collapsing into a singularity at its core, the rocks and mountains caving inward and sweeping with them everything in on the surface.
It was the moment when his mother turned to him, realization in her eyes, and his hand outstretched as she was swallowed and he dematerialized.
He kept seeing it over and over, again and again, every time he closed his eyes. He didn't think he would ever master these emotions, wasn't sure he wanted to. The soul-crushing sorrow was all he had left of her.
Still shaking, he rolled out of bed and stumbled to his washroom to splash his face with cold water. He fumbled in the dark for the light, then squeezed his eyes shut and turned away from it. Only slowly could he open his eyes and see himself in the mirror.
His face was unnaturally pale, tinged with green, dark circles under his eyes from lack of sleep. During his shifts, he frequently administered himself an energizing agent so that he wouldn't look so sickly if someone happened to look at him instead of avoiding him.
For the most part, he was glad that everyone was avoiding him. No one knew what to say, and he certainly didn't. He was just as glad to not have to listen to their fumbling attempts at sympathy. None of them had any inkling what it was like, and he didn't wish any of them to ever find out.
He scrubbed vigorously at his face, then decided it didn't matter. No one was ever up this early anyway, except whoever was on duty and they were usually unhappy enough about it that they didn't pay him any mind. He squeezed his eyes shut and wondered what his life was coming to when he knew the habits of the crew at four-thirty in the morning.
Throwing his towel aside—he'd pick it up later—he fumbled his way to the wardrobe and reached for a uniform. His last clean uniform. His quarters were a disaster, and he was going to have to do something about it before someone saw. He was going to have to do something about his laundry tonight or he would be sitting at his station naked tomorrow.
He ought to visit sick bay before he went to bed tonight. All he had to do was ask and he'd be given something to help him sleep. A night of dreamless sleep was probably the one thing he needed most.
Unsurprisingly, the corridors were quiet as he made his way to the mess hall for an early breakfast. Maybe after breakfast he'd go back to his quarters and do a little judicious straightening. One of the problems with leaving towels on the floor and not making the bed was that he couldn't let the cleaning crew in. Everything he was doing was making the situation worse.
He was still mulling over the mess in his quarters and the indelible images of Vulcan being sucked in on itself when he walked into the mess hall. Preoccupied as he was, he almost didn't notice the couple cuddling at one of the tables. He passed them before he noticed, then turned around to look at them. The male was the Chief Engineer, and both he and the woman in his lap were still in uniform, and in the middle of the mess hall.
Spock opened his mouth to issue a sharp reprimand, but then he saw who the woman was, and it was like a punch in the chest.
There must be something to the human contention that they can feel someone staring at them, because Nyota lifted her head from Scott's shoulder and her eyes met Spock's, widening in realization. She opened her mouth, but Spock held up his hand and backed away from her. He didn't want to hear it. Whatever it was, he didn't want to hear it. He backed all the way out of the mess hall and into the corridor before he turned around and began to walk blindly and rapidly, not caring where he went as long as it was away from them.
He was shaking as he scrambled down a ladder and through the corridor, feeling his way along the bulkhead because he was too blinded by furious emotion to see where he was going. If anyone was in his way, they obviously got out of the way.
He found himself in the Transporter Room without consciously deciding to go there. Luckily it was empty, except for him and the ghosts he brought with him. He touched the console, then slowly slid down it to sit on the floor, leaning against it, on the side farthest from the door.
His world kept falling a little farther apart.
"I wouldn't advise it," Scotty said, grabbing Uhura's hand as she started after Spock.
"He did not look rational to me," Scotty said. "I think I'd better get the Captain."
"Aye. The Captain needs to know if his first officer is in a state like that. And, frankly, he needs to know when his Communications Officer hasn't gotten any sleep. Why don't you go to sick bay—"
"I'm fine," she snapped.
"Well, why don't you let someone else be the judge of that. It doesn't have to be me."
"Lieutenant," Scotty said firmly. "I'll make it an order if I have to. And I am going to tell Captain Kirk that he can find you in sickbay. I would not want to be lying to the Captain."
She glared at him for a moment, then spun on her heel so fast that her hair arced straight out from her head, but she set off in the direction of sickbay. Scotty watched until he was satisfied that she was actually going, then made his way to the captain's quarters. He hit the doorbell, waited, then hit it again. After a few seconds of still no answer, he hit it again, and again, and then held his finger on the buzzer until an aggravated voice came over the intercom.
"Sorry to disturb you, Captain—"
"Why would you think you're disturbing me at four-thirty in the morning? Unless you're telling me we're under attack—" The door opened and the Captain stood in his bare feet with his arms folded across his bare chest. "In which case, I hope you're telling me why the alert system isn't working."
"We're not under attack," Scotty said calmly.
"Then what is it?"
"It's Mr. Spock, sir. I don't think he's… well."
The Captain's face changed a little. "Is he in sickbay?"
"I don't know, but I don't think so."
"Did you consider waking Dr. McCoy?"
Scotty cleared his throat. "I don't think it's that kind of 'not well', Captain."
"Do you have any idea what time it is?"
"Aye. You said it was four-thirty in the morning when you answered the door."
"Do you know that I'm not entirely awake?"
"I suspected it, sir."
"Then will you kindly speak plainly? What is wrong with Mr. Spock?"
"He seemed… emotional."
"Just now. In the mess hall."
"You know that he and Lieutenant Uhura are—"
"No, I am not aware of anything between my officers and I'll thank you to keep it that way."
Scotty nodded. "Aye, sir. I think somebody needs to find Mr. Spock, and for reasons you'd rather not know about, I don't think it should be me."
The Captain swore, not quite under his breath. "Find out where he is," he said. "Set the scanners to look for Vulcan bio signs, pinpoint his location, and report back to me in five minutes."
"Aye, Captain." Scotty hurried off to comply, but he didn't have to find a scanner. When he went down to engineering, he noticed that the door to the Transporter Room was open, and when he stepped silently inside, he could see a blue-shirted figure sitting on the other side of the console. Just as quietly as he'd stepped in, he stepped back out, went a discreet distance down the corridor and called the Captain's quarters.
"Yes?" the Captain said.
"Scotty here. You might find what you're looking for in the Transporter Room."
"I'll be right down."
Jim was a little closer to being awake by the time he got to the Transporter Room, but not much. When Scotty handed him a stack of neatly folded tissues as he passed, Jim wasn't sure that being awake was going to be helpful. He hoped to hell that Scott was anticipating an allergy attack, because he hated tears.
As soon as he walked into the Transporter Room, he knew he wasn't facing an allergy attack. For one shameful moment, he considered turning back, calling McCoy to come deal with this problem, but he reminded himself that he hadn't gotten where he was by copping out. Steeling himself, he sealed the door and walked around the console to crouch in front of Spock.
Spock looked up at him, blinked a few times as though not convinced he wasn't dreaming, then started to scramble to his feet.
"Don't get up on my account," Jim said, easing himself onto the floor beside his first officer. "You okay?"
Stupid questions usually get stupid answers. Spock nodded. "I'm fine," he said, as though his cheeks weren't wet and his nose weren't dripping. Jim silently handed over one of the tissues that Mr. Scott had so thoughtfully supplied him with.
Spock just stared at it.
"That's for use on your face. I suggest you start with your nose." Jim settled in next to him, shoulder-to-shoulder, staring straight ahead while Spock wiped ineffectually at his face. Jim handed over another tissue. "Do not make me blow your nose for you."
The look Spock gave him might have vaporized a lesser man, or even a comparable man if it weren't a quarter to five in the morning and that man wasn't sitting on the floor with a sniffling Vulcan.
"What are you doing here?" Spock asked at last.
"Just passing through," Jim lied. Spock lifted an eyebrow. Jim shrugged. "Hey, it's as good a lie as you telling me you're fine."
Spock cleared his throat and indicated the tissues Jim still had in his hand. "May I please have another of those?"
Jim handed one over. "Care to discuss it?"
"What?" Spock asked as he applied the tissue to his eyes and sniffled again.
Jim waved a hand in his general direction. "Whatever this is."
Spock leaned his head back against the console and closed his eyes. "I had a bad dream."
Fair enough, Jim thought. "Did it involve Lieutenant Uhura?"
"Yes," Spock said, then frowned. "No." He opened his eyes, a crease in his brow. "Tangentially."
Jim looked around the Transporter Room and his eyes settled on the platform. He suspected he knew what the dream involved, and he didn't even need a psychology degree for it. "You know, I don't have the slightest damn clue what you're going through, Spock. But I can see that you're hurting."
"Thank you for not saying you understand."
"That's not something I'd want to hear if I were in your shoes."
Spock stared straight ahead. "What would you want to hear?"
"I don't know," Jim said. "Maybe that someone cared. Maybe that someone was there. Maybe I wouldn't want to hear anything, but maybe I would need to hear something."
"Such as… locking the world out doesn't change anything. Such as… my grief was affecting my duties and I was going to have to find some way to come to terms with what had happened. Such as… I was relieved of duty today."
Spock jerked away from him. "I beg your pardon?"
"You don't need to report to duty today," Jim said. "Actually, I'm not a doctor, but based on appearances I'd say that the only place you need to report is sickbay."
"I could make it an order."
"I could refuse."
"I could have you bodily removed to sickbay."
"I could kill the person who tried it."
"I could have you court martialed."
Silence. "Yes, you could."
Jim wondered if that meant he'd won, then discarded the thought. "Or I could have Dr. McCoy come to your quarters."
"I'd rather he not."
"Then I'll have him come to mine."
Jim was getting up. He braced his hands on his hips and looked down at Spock. "I say this with all possible respect and love. You look like shit, Spock, and you don't smell much better. When's the last time you showered?"
The parts of Spock's face that weren't already green from crying turned green.
"Why don't you want McCoy in your quarters?"
"I just don't."
"Up," Jim said, extending a hand. Spock just looked at it. Jim bent down and grabbed Spock's arm and hauled him up from the floor. When he was sure that Spock was going to remain standing, he bent back down and picked up the used tissues. "Go," he directed.
"Mine or yours?" Spock's speech was starting to slur a bit.
"Your choice," Jim replied, tossing the tissues and pausing at the comm panel. "Kirk to sickbay."
"Sickbay here, Captain," said a female voice.
"Is McCoy there yet?"
"He's with a patient," the voice said.
"Tell him to report to my quarters with all due haste."
"May I tell him the nature of the emergency, Captain?"
Jim looked at Spock, who was leaning heavily against the console. "Tell him to bring a sedative. Kirk out." He grabbed Spock's arm and draped it around his shoulders, holding his hand firmly. He slid his other arm across Spock's back to hold him up. "Come on," he muttered, turning sideways to open the door.
"I can walk," Spock muttered.
"I know," Jim replied, steering them towards the corridor where both of their quarters were.
Spock stumbled a few times, but he mostly walked of his own accord. It was slower progress than usual, and McCoy was already waiting when they arrived.
"What the hell is going on?" McCoy asked, rushing to help Jim with Spock.
Jim nodded at Spock. "I need you to declare him unfit for duty today."
"Done," McCoy said. "Are we taking him to his quarters or yours?"
"His," Jim said, at the same time Spock said "Yours."
Jim looked levelly at McCoy. "His," he repeated. "I'm sorry, Spock, I want to see those quarters."
"You know, you don't need me to declare him unfit," McCoy said as Jim overrode the security code to let them into Spock's quarters.
"I know, but if I do it, it goes on his permanent record. If you do it, it goes on his medical record, and there's a difference. Get the light, will you?"
McCoy let go of Spock to turn the light on, then looked around and said, "Holy mother of God."
Jim stared at one of the worst messes he had ever seen, which was saying something. Not once when he was at the Academy had his room ever passed inspection, but this was beyond anything he could have imagined.
Clothes were strewn over every surface, apparently wherever Spock had been when he'd taken them off. There was a pile of towels in the corner, some apparently added while they were still wet if the smell of mildew was any indication. There were no fewer than four bowls in the room, one which was filled with molding soup. Several glasses—some empty, some with rings denoting where the liquid in them had evaporated—sat or lay on shelves, tables, or on the floor. The bed wasn't just unmade—the sheets weren't even on the mattress. Spock's sidearm was on the floor by the bed, and when McCoy picked it up, Jim shuddered to see that it was set to kill and the safety was not on.
"Told you not to come in here," Spock muttered.
Jim closed his eyes for a moment, then nodded at the door. "My quarters," he said.
McCoy helped navigate them down the corridor. Jim's bed was also unmade, but at least the sheets were on it and had been fresh before he slept in them last night. Between them, they got Spock settled on the bed. He was already passed out. McCoy took a quick scan and shook his head. "Sound asleep. I guess he doesn't need a sedative after all."
"Will it hurt to give him one anyway?" Jim asked.
"Well, no, but—"
"Then do it. I don't think he's been sleeping."
"That's not the only thing he hasn't been doing."
Spock murmured something incomprehensible and his forehead creased. "Give him the sedative," Jim said.
McCoy complied without further protest. "If we were to move him to sickbay I could have someone give him a bath," he suggested.
"He'll take one when he wakes up," Jim replied. "Come on."
They went back to Spock's quarters and Jim cursed. "How the hell did this happen without me realizing it?"
"We see what we want to see, Jim."
"I don't want to see this now."
"You want to help him, don't you?"
"Then you want to see the situation clearly." McCoy was gathering dishes into a pile.
"This isn't like him," Jim said.
"No, it isn't."
"Scotty said this was because of something Uhura did—"
"Uhura said she didn't do anything," McCoy interrupted. "By the way, she isn't reporting today either."
"Good, why don't we just declare it a holiday for the whole damn bridge crew."
"I gave her something to help her sleep, too."
Jim sighed, stripping the bedding from the bed. "Fine. And I don't think this has anything to do with her. Not much at least."
"His mother?" McCoy guessed, gathering clothes from the side of the room he was in.
"I found him in the Transporter Room," Jim said.
"I knew I shouldn't have let him talk me into letting him back on the ship on the basis of his psychological evaluation."
"If he weren't here, where would he be?" Jim asked. "We'll get him through this."
They continued cleaning for a few minutes, doing what they could to straighten the room before Jim called the cleaning crew in and instructed them sanitize every inch of it. He sent the mountain of laundry—which consisted of almost every article of clothing Spock seemed to own—down to the laundry service, and sent the dishes to the nearest waste receptacle. After a moment of poking at Spock's toiletries, he swept all of them into the waste receptacle, too, and sent a message to the quartermaster to replace them. An hour later, the cleaning was well underway, and Jim returned to his own quarters for a shower before he went to the bridge.