Both Sides Now
Jane frowns. She's supposed to be signing off on the latest round of status reports, but her concentration keeps wandering. In more ideal conditions the source of the distraction would be the attractive Vulcan sitting next to her, but unfortunately Jane's thoughts at present are much less appealing. With a shake of her head she shifts closer to Spock and forces her attention back to her work.
"Is something wrong, Jane?" Spock asks a few minutes later, just as Jane is considering throwing her PADD against the wall in frustration.
She freezes, as if caught. "Wrong? Why do you say that?" But even as she says it she knows it's useless. She never has been able to hide things from Spock, even before they were lovers.
Spock frowns. "You seem unusually tense," she replies. "Does it have anything to do with the distress call we received earlier today?"
And there it is. Jane loves Spock, but sometimes she wishes she were a little less perceptive. "Maybe," she mumbles reluctantly. "It's complicated."
Spock reaches out and runs her fingers over the back of Jane's hand. "I would like to help, if you'll let me."
Jane turns her hand over and captures Spock's fingers with her own. "All right," she says softly. "I'll tell you." She takes a deep breath before beginning slowly, "The head of the research party, Doctor Lester? I know her, or at least I did. At the academy. We… we were together." She looks up at Spock, trying to gauge her reaction, but the brown eyes give nothing away. "We were in the same year, both on the command track, and I… loved her. And it was great, for a while. We even talked about trying to get posted together when we graduated." Jane shakes her head. "Then she failed one of the psych tests. Just barely, but it was enough to put her out of the running for command. She switched to the science track and tried to get me to do the same, but…." She gestures in agitation. "I couldn't. I've wanted to be a starship captain for as long as I can remember. I couldn't just give it up."
Spock squeezes her hand gently and Jane gives her a grateful look before continuing, "After that things went downhill pretty fast. She resented me for doing what she couldn't, and I probably wasn't as supportive as I could have been. Eventually we got into a big fight where she accused me of caring more about my career than I did about her, and I told her if that was how she felt she should just leave. And she did." She shakes her head, wincing at the memory. "She ended up dropping out of the academy not long after that, and that was the last I heard of her. Until now."
"And you are… nervous about seeing her again?" Spock asks.
"I wouldn't say nervous," Jane protests, but then shakes her head with a laugh. "Okay, maybe you're right. I just wish I could stop thinking about it." They won't even reach the planet for another eleven hours, and she's already wishing it was over.
She's about to go back to work, but Spock takes her PADD away before she can. "What are you doing?" she asks.
Spock raises an eyebrow as she puts the PADDs aside. "I am attempting to help you 'stop thinking about it'," she replies, pulling off her blue uniform shirt and dropping it by the side of the bed.
"Oh," Jane says with a slow smile, and begins shimmying out of her own shirt. "In that case, continue."
By the time Spock has finished 'distracting' her, any worries about Janice are gone.
* * *
They reach Camus II, the source of the distress signal, early in alpha shift. Jane braces herself before beaming down, telling herself it's just like any other mission. Besides, it isn't like she's alone; she has Spock, and McCoy, and she trusts them more than anything. Whatever happens, she'll deal with it.
When the landing party materialise on the surface they are met by Doctor Coleman, who tells them that he and Janice are the only ones left, and she is very ill. "The rest of the expedition is already gone," he says. "There was nothing I could do."
Jane glances at Spock. Hardly a good start to the mission.
Coleman leads them a short distance to a bedroom, where Janice is lying unconscious. Even after more than fifteen years Jane recognises her instantly, although she's very pale and clearly unwell. "What's wrong with her?" she asks, before the memories can overtake her.
"Exposure to radiation," Coleman replies.
"What kind of radiation?" McCoy asks, stepping forward to examine her more closely.
Coleman shrugs. "Nothing I've ever encountered."
Jane frowns. That doesn't sound good. But before she can comment, Janice begins to stir. Jane's thoughts scatter as Janice's eyes open and focus squarely on her. "Hello, Janice," she says, trying to look sympathetic. "Try not to overexert yourself," Jane adds, as the eyes narrow. "You're very ill."
Her attention is diverted before Janice can respond. "Captain," Spock says, studying her tricorder. "I'm picking up very faint life readings approximately seven hundred metres from here." She looks up, and Jane can see the concern in her eyes. "They are fading. Help will have to be immediate."
Jane turns to leave, but Janice pulls on her arm, muttering something. "You should stay with Janice," McCoy says. "Keep her calm."
Yes, because that'll work, Jane thinks in frustration as she watches the other three leave the room. She turns back to Janice to see the other woman regarding her with barely hidden disdain.
"I'd hoped never to see you again," Janice says.
Jane refrains from telling her the feeling is mutual. "We were the only ship in the area," she says instead. "We came as soon as we could."
Janice rolls her eyes. "Of course you did. The great Captain Kirk and her crew, riding to the rescue." Before Jane can respond, she continues, "I read about you, you know. Youngest captain in history, commander of the flagship, everyone's golden girl." She snorts derisively. "If they only knew."
Jane sighs. Same old Janice. "I didn't come here for an argument," she says.
Janice snorts again, turning her face away.
Jane spreads her hands, taking a step forward. "It's been fifteen years, Janice. How long are you going to keep hating me?"
Janice turns to her, eyes blazing. "For abandoning me when I needed you most? Let me think." Then suddenly the anger is gone and she looks on the verge of tears. "I loved you," she says. "We could have roamed the stars together, just the two of us. It would have been wonderful."
Jane shakes her head. "We'd have killed each other."
"Maybe that would have been better," Janice replies.
Jane's skin itches and she turns away, wishing Spock and the others would return. In an attempt to avoid further conversation, she begins to explore the room. Her attention is caught by the far wall, which is covered in strange markings, and intrigued, she moves closer. She's a few feet away when she sees movement out of the corner of her eye and is suddenly pulled against the wall. She struggles against invisible bonds as Janice gets out of bed and comes over to her, trying desperately to remain calm.
Janice flips a switch on what Jane suddenly realises is a giant machine, then comes to stand next to where Jane is pinned, helpless. She watches as Janice flips another switch, and then everything shifts. She doesn't have words to describe it; it's like falling, dying, being torn apart. And then suddenly it's over, and she feels like she's going to pass out.
She takes deep breaths, fighting to stay conscious, but it's not enough. Her last sight as the world goes dark is her own face staring back at her.
* * * * *
Spock and the others arrive at the point her tricorder indicated only a few moments after she first picked up the reading, but they are already too late. Spock watches as Doctor Coleman and McCoy examine the dead man, debating the cause of death, before carefully clearing her throat. "I believe we should return to the captain and Doctor Lester," she suggests. From what Jane has told her – and not told her – she does not want the two of them left alone any longer than necessary.
"I suppose you're right," McCoy sighs. "Nothing more we can do here."
They are about halfway back when Spock experiences a brief dizzy spell. It's gone as soon as it appeared, but the dread that accompanies it makes her speed up, intent on getting back to Jane as fast as possible.
But when they finally re-enter the room where they left Jane and Doctor Lester, everything seems fine. Jane is standing by Lester's bed, as they left her, and Lester herself is resting quietly.
Jane looks up as they enter. "Doctor McCoy," she says, and Spock relaxes a little at the familiar tone. "Your report?"
McCoy sighs. "We were too late. There was nothing we could do."
Jane nods. "Radiation?"
McCoy frowns. "Actually, I believe it was celebium. However, Doctor Coleman disagrees." His expression makes clear what he thinks of the other man's opinion. "And we must be certain because the treatment for celebium is quite-"
Coleman interrupts before McCoy can finish. "Doctor McCoy." He walks over to stand by Jane and Doctor Lester.
Immediately McCoy's attention is diverted. "Did you notice any unusual symptoms while we were gone?" he asks, frowning.
Jane shakes her head. "No, nothing at all. She was unconscious the entire time."
"Doctor Lester is near death." Coleman puts in.
McCoy glances at Jane. "We should beam her up to the Enterprise."
"I don't know about that," Coleman says, but Jane ignores him, pulling out a communicator.
"Captain Kirk to the Enterprise. Captain Kirk to the Enterprise."
Spock raises an eyebrow. There's something… off about Jane's demeanour, but she can't quite figure out what. She reasons that it is just the stress of meeting Doctor Lester again, but combined with the strange feeling from earlier it puts her on edge. She stands quietly while Jane gives the command to beam up and have a medical team standing by, but remains watchful, ready to act at the first sign of trouble.
* * * * *
When Jane regains consciousness, she's in sickbay. She lies there silently for a few seconds, trying to figure out how she ended up there. I was studying that strange carving, and then… Janice. She narrows her eyes in frustration as the memory comes flooding back. She did something to me. But what?
She glances up at the diagnostic screen. "Pulse, pressure, blood count, all body functions normal," she murmurs to herself. Well, whatever she did, it doesn't seem to have had much of an effect.
With a shrug, she pushes the covers aside and swings her legs over the side of the bed. But as she pushes herself to a standing position it becomes obvious that there is something wrong. Her body feels strange, like she's off-balance somehow. What the hell…?
Wanting reassurance, she closes her eyes and reaches along the mental thread that binds her to Spock. It isn't a full bond – Spock refuses to do it without a proper ceremony – but it's enough to give them some awareness of each other. But not this time; despite Jane's best attempts she can't feel Spock at all. It's as though their link is blocked somehow.
Stomach twisting with nerves, she tries a more human approach. "Doctor McCoy?" When he doesn't respond after a few seconds, she calls again, more sharply this time. "Doctor McCoy!" Bones, where are you? Usually whenever she gets injured he's right there watching over her, and his absence causes a cold feeling in the pit of her stomach.
She's on the verge of calling again when someone finally enters. Unfortunately it's not McCoy, but Coleman, and the expression on his face makes the cold feeling grow worse.
"Where's Doctor McCoy?" Jane asks.
Coleman smiles. "Not here," he says. "I'm in charge now."
Jane grits her teeth and glares at him. "On whose authority?" she asks, but doesn't give him a chance to respond before continuing, "Last I checked Doctor McCoy was in command of medicine on this ship, and I demand you bring him here right now!"
Coleman merely stares at her, a smile playing around the corners of his mouth. "Doctor McCoy was taken off your case by Captain Kirk."
"I did no such thing!" Jane retorts.
Coleman's smile grows. "Of course you didn't. I was speaking of the captain."
"I am the captain!" Jane snaps, trying to ignore the horrible thought rising unwanted in the back of her mind. She couldn't have. But wasn't I just thinking something felt wrong? She glances down at her hands and feels panic start to rise as she realises they're too pale, the fingers too long. No. This is impossible.
As if sensing the pattern of her thoughts, Coleman says, "This will all go more smoothly if you just accept it, Doctor Lester."
Jane stares at him in horror. No. No! "I am not Janice Lester!" she protests desperately. "I'm Jane Kirk! She must have used that machine to swap our bodies."
"Of course," Coleman replies, clearly unimpressed.
Jane's temper flares. "I'm not making this up!" she exclaims. "She did this to me! She's driven herself mad with jealousy and hatred and ambition, and she's trying to take my place!"
Coleman just looks at her and Jane narrows her eyes. "But you already knew that, didn't you?" she asks. "You've been in on it from the start."
Before he can answer her, Nurse Chapel walks in and Jane's attention is instantly diverted. Oh, please, please.... "Nurse Chapel," she blurts. "I need to see Mister Spock and Doctor McCoy right away. They have to know I'm not Janice Lester. I may be imprisoned in her body, but I am not Janice Lester!"
Chapel glances at Coleman, and Jane's heart sinks. "She is suffering from the delusion of being Captain Kirk," Coleman tells Chapel dispassionately.
"I am Captain Kirk!" Jane responds in frustration, but from Chapel's expression it's obvious that her words aren't getting through. Still, she can't help but try one last time. "I demand to speak to Doctor McCoy!"
"The paranoia has been developing for the past six months," Coleman continues calmly, as though she hasn't spoken. "The radiation seems to have intensified it." He glances at her briefly, then turns his attention back to Chapel. "She must be kept sedated."
Chapel nods. "I'll prepare a mild sedative."
Jane watches her leave with quiet desperation. This can't be happening. She catches sight of her reflection – Janice's reflection – in a mirror and sits down rather abruptly on the bed.
"You are insane, Doctor Lester," Coleman says, with just the barest hint of smugness.
Jane stares numbly into the mirror. No, she thinks, but if this doesn't get fixed soon, I will be.
* * * * *
On the bridge, Spock is not having much more luck. She assumed Jane's mood would improve once they were back on the bridge and away from Doctor Lester, but all indications are that this was a forlorn hope.
Jane seems unusually touchy and argumentative, and in fact snaps at Spock when she questions the order to change course to the Benecia colony. Spock fails to understand the logic of going out of their way to drop off Doctor Lester when the facilities on Starbase Two are far superior, but gives up when it becomes clear that Jane isn't going to listen to her.
Back at her console, she busies herself with routine scans while she tries to understand Jane's unusual behaviour. It isn't the first time Jane has refused to listen to advice, but she is usually at least willing to consider it first. Spock does not want to believe that Jane's personal feelings for Doctor Lester could be clouding her judgement, but it is a possibility she will have to consider. The last time Jane acted this strangely was during the situation with Anton Karidian, and Spock remembers very well how that turned out.
She makes a mental note to talk to Jane as soon as possible. Whatever is going on with her partner, she will find it out, and then, she vows, she will do anything in her power to make it right.
* * * * *
"She should be waking up now."
Jane stirs as the voice disturbs her sleep. She fights her way back to consciousness to find Coleman standing by her bed holding a hypospray. And beside him, Janice. It's a strangely surreal feeling to see her own body from the outside, her own face twisted with triumph and hatred.
"Come to gloat?" Jane asks, pushing herself up on her elbows.
Janice puts a hand to her chest, acting shocked. "Really, Jane. Do you think me so petty?" Turning to Coleman, she adds, "Leave us."
Coleman nods. "I'll make sure you're not disturbed," he says. "But don't take too long. I can't hold them off forever."
Janice waves a hand. "You worry too much. No one's going to think twice about the captain visiting a patient, especially one she has a history with." When Coleman doesn't move, she rolls her eyes. "Fine. This shouldn't take long anyway."
Once he's gone, she turns to Jane, smiling. "I've never seen myself from the outside before," she says, echoing Jane's earlier thought. "Not bad."
She reaches out to touch Jane's hair and Jane instinctively recoils. Normally she could kick Janice's ass without breaking a sweat, but right now, still groggy from the sedative and stuck in a body she doesn't know how to use, she's at a severe disadvantage.
"Oh, relax," Janice says mockingly. "I'm not going to hurt you." She perches on the edge of the bed as if they're sisters sharing secrets. Jane tries not to cringe. "I was going to," Janice continues, in a tone most people would use to talk about the weather. "I'd have killed you back on the planet if your 'friends' hadn't interrupted me. But I've changed my mind since then. The idea of you locked in a psych ward on some out-of-the-way rock is far more interesting."
"You won't get away with this," Jane replies, then grimaces at the cliché. She shrugs it off and continues, "I have the best crew in Starfleet. They'll figure it out."
"I doubt that," Janice replies, nonchalant. "I've been preparing for this for months. You'd be surprised how well I know you." She taps her fingers against her lips thoughtfully. "Besides, even if they did figure out something was wrong, who would possibly suspect the truth?"
"We've seen stranger things," Jane retorts. "And fine, say you're right. Say your plan does come off without a hitch. How long do you think you're going to be able to keep it up? I've been in Starfleet for sixteen years, twelve of them on active duty. You flunked out of the academy and, as far as I know, haven't been on a starship since. You won't last a week as captain. I just pray to God you don't get anyone killed in the meantime."
Colour rises on Janice's cheeks. "I did not flunk out," she spits, rising to her feet. "I left because I was being unfairly treated. But you never cared about that, did you? All you ever cared about was yourself."
Jane feels anger rising in her chest and firmly pushes it down. "That's not true," she says, but she already knows it's hopeless. She hadn't been able to make Janice believe that fifteen years ago, there's no chance of her managing it now.
Sure enough, Janice just rolls her eyes. "Right." Then a slow smile crosses her face. "But that's not true anymore, is it?" she asks, and a shiver runs down Jane's spine. "You know, I did a lot of research into your time as captain, and almost every article and briefing I came across took time to mention how close you are to your first officer. 'The best team in Starfleet' and all that crap." She smiles. "Sounds like someone who could be a powerful ally."
"Spock would never join you," Jane scoffs.
Janice shrugs. "I hope you're wrong," she says. "Because she can be an ally or an enemy, and, well, I'm sure you know what happens to enemies."
Jane feels like she's been dipped in ice-water, and fights to keep it from showing on her – Janice's, her brain corrects – face. "You wouldn't dare," she retorts. "She's the first officer. There'll be an investigation. You'd be found out immediately."
Janice gives her a smug look. "You forget I'm a scientist. I know at least half-a-dozen substances that can kill without leaving a trace, most of which are right here on this ship." She laces her fingers together and gives Jane a wide smile. "But don't worry. I'm sure it won't come to that."
Terror streaks through Jane's veins. If she knows Spock, she's already suspicious of Janice, which means she's in real danger. She struggles out of bed, but by the time she's made it to her feet Janice is over by the door and Coleman is stepping back into the room.
Janice gives her a triumphant look and leans towards him. "I'm done here," she says. "You can sedate her again." She leaves, and Coleman steps forward.
Jane fights tooth and nail, every instinct screaming at her to find Spock and warn her before it's too late, but Coleman is stronger and before she knows it the hypospray is against her arm and everything is going black.
* * * * *
Spock frowns as she studies her console. Jane's behaviour has been growing increasingly irrational as the morning goes on, and the crew are beginning to notice. Any hope that the situation might sort itself out has long disappeared.
She decides that the best time to confront Jane will be during their lunch break, and spends the rest of the time until then working on a plan of attack. She will have to be subtle; in the mood she is currently in Jane may see any suggestion of emotional compromise as a threat to her command. Spock considers all the options and decides that she will likely have most success appealing to Jane as a partner, rather than as a first officer.
At precisely 1230, Spock steps down next to Jane's chair, prepared to put her plan into action. She does not expect to be greeted with warmth, but neither does she expect Jane to look at her with nothing less than... suspicion when she makes her offer of lunch. She covers it up almost at once, agreeing to Spock's offer almost cheerfully, but Spock is not fooled, and her concern for her partner only deepens.
Jane is reasonably normal during lunch, but the same wariness enters her eyes when Spock asks to speak with her alone. "I should get back to the bridge," she says.
"There's nothing there that cannot wait five minutes," Spock replies. "There are things I wish to discuss with you, away from the crew." Realising that might be taken the wrong way, she softens her expression slightly and adds, "Please, Jane." She hopes that the use of Jane's first name will indicate that this is not an official conversation.
Jane shrugs. "All right," she says, but the wariness doesn't leave her eyes.
Spock leads the way to an empty conference room a few doors down from the cafeteria. Jane turns to her the moment the door closed, crossing her arms defensively. "All right, Commander, what is it? I'm a busy woman."
Spock frowns at the use of her title. So much for her attempts at an informal conversation. Still, now that they're alone, she feels free to drop the professional mask she puts on for the rest of the crew. She moves closer to Jane and lays a hand on her arm, allowing her concern to show in her eyes. "Jane, t'hy'la, what is wrong?" she asks. "You are not acting like yourself."
Jane stares at her blankly, then looks down at the hand on her arm as if she's never seen it before. "What are you…." Then her eyes widen in understanding. "Well," she murmurs with a slow smile. "This explains a few things."
When she looks back up at Spock, her expression is nothing less than predatory. "You don't have to worry about me, Spock," she almost purrs, moving forward until her breasts are pressed against Spock's. "I know exactly what I'm doing."
Spock studies her, unwilling to be swayed so easily. "So you deny that the situation with Doctor Lester is affecting your behaviour? Your decision to send her to the Benecia colony-"
"Is not your concern," Jane interrupts. "Come on, Spock, is this really what you want to focus on right now?" She punctuates the question by reaching up and pulling Spock into a kiss.
It's hard, demanding, with none of Jane's usual tenderness, and despite the hands roaming across her body, Spock finds it hard to build up much enthusiasm. And in any case, this is hardly the time to get distracted.
Still, the contact gives rise to another idea, and Spock carefully reaches out along their link, searching for anything that might explain Jane's strange behaviour. But try as she might she can't pick up anything but surface emotions – mostly lust, and a strange sort of triumph – and finally comes to the conclusion that Jane is blocking her.
She pulls away, fighting back a sudden rush of hurt and confusion. They've been through a lot together, but Jane has never shut her out like this. She feels strangely bereft.
"Why have you blocked off our link?" she asks, and watches as Jane takes a step backwards.
If she had any doubts about something being wrong, they're shattered in that moment. Jane, her beloved captain and partner, looks scared. Of her.
"Are you reading my mind?" Jane asks. "I didn't give you permission to do that. I don't give you permission."
Spock stares at her. "It has never bothered you before. As I recall, you were the one who insisted on keeping the link in the first place." She can still remember Jane's reaction when she confessed, ashamed of her inability to keep their minds separate during their many melds. Can't we at least try it for a while before we break it? It could be useful. Besides, I like feeling close to you like this.
That was just over a year ago, but right now it feels like a lifetime.
Jane doesn't seem to be listening. "Did you see anything?" she demands.
Spock frowns, studying her. "No," she admits, after a moment. "You were blocking me." Jane seems to relax slightly at that, which only makes her more concerned.
"Well, good," Jane says. She smoothes down her uniform, collecting herself, and adds, "Look, Spock, I know you're trying to help, but I'd prefer if you stayed out of my head for the time being. I need to deal with this by myself."
By now Spock's instincts are blaring at her, but she just nods. "I understand, Jane. I was merely concerned for you."
Jane nods and smiles. "I know." She glances at the door and adds, "Well, if that's all, Mister Spock, I should get back to the bridge. Lots to do, you know."
"Indeed," Spock replies blandly. "I have some matters to attend to, but I should be up shortly."
Jane nods once more and leaves. Spock waits long enough for her to get back to the bridge, then heads down to sickbay. She and McCoy do not always see eye to eye, but if anyone can figure out what illness or entity has affected the captain, he can.
And while he's doing that, perhaps she can pay a visit to Doctor Lester.
* * * * *
The next time Jane awakens she finds herself secured to the bed by a strap across her chest. It seems her attempts to avoid sedation were in vain. Well, at least I know Janice didn't decide to murder me in my sleep….
She flinches as she realises she's not alone, but then relaxes as she realises it's only Chapel. A quick glance around tells her Coleman is nowhere in sight, and Jane's thoughts race, trying to figure out how to use this to her advantage.
"I'm sorry about before," she begins with a smile, feigning embarrassment. "I… wasn't myself." So to speak….
Chapel returns her smile, looking relieved. "That's all right," she replies. "What you've been through would've completely broken most of us."
Oh, you have no idea, Jane thinks, but she nods and tries to look properly harmless. "Well, I'm feeling much better now," she says. "But I'd still like to speak to Doctor McCoy, if that's possible?"
Chapel shakes her head. "I'm afraid that's against Doctor Coleman's orders."
Of course it is, Jane thinks bitterly, but she's careful to keep the disgust from showing on her face. Putting on her most ingratiating tone, she replies, "Oh. Well, in that case what about Commander Spock? I'd really like to thank her for her help down on the planet." She's always loathed playing the damsel-in-distress role, but right now she'll try anything that might get her out of here.
Chapel looks a little confused. "Wouldn't you rather talk to the captain?"
Jane bites her tongue on a retort. "I don't want to bother her," she lies smoothly.
Chapel seems to accept that. "Well, I'll talk to Commander Spock. Perhaps a short visit can be arranged." She pours out a glass of dark liquid and holds it out to Jane. "Drink this and I'll see what I can do."
Jane knows it isn't Chapel's fault – if their positions were reversed she wouldn't believe her either – but the nurse's humouring-the-crazy-person demeanour is getting on her nerves. Still, she plays along, taking the glass and pretending to take a sip. "It's good," she says. "Thank you."
Chapel smiles warmly. "I just have to step out for a minute, but I'll be right back," she says. "I'm glad you're feeling so much better."
The instant that she's out of sight Jane springs into action, dumping the liquid onto the floor before smashing the glass against the bed to make a knife. It only takes a second to cut through the strap holding her to the bed, and then she's up and out of the room, intending to find Spock, or McCoy, or both. If anyone will believe her, they will.
* * * * *
Spock enters sickbay to find McCoy studying tapes on the computer. "Doctor," she greets. "I wish to speak with you."
He puts down the tapes and sighs. "Let me guess, you're worried about Jane. Well, so am I."
Normally Spock would remind him that worry is an emotion, but right now her mind is on more important things. "You have also noticed her aberrant behaviour?" she asks.
He nods. "You know she took me off Doctor Lester's case? Coleman's in charge now." He shakes his head. "He's not fit to doctor a pigeon, but when I tried to tell Jane that Starfleet ruled him medically incompetent, she just shrugged it off. Insisted it was probably just a misunderstanding. That's not the Captain Kirk I know."
Spock frowns. "Indeed." Jane has never held with incompetence; she holds her crew to her own high standards. To brush aside such an issue as though it were nothing is entirely out of character. "She accused me of spying on her thoughts," she says, clasping her hands behind her back. "I was merely attempting to find out what was bothering her, but she seemed to view it as a violation." She studies the wall, trying to suppress a flash of hurt. "She has always welcomed me in the past. I do not understand what has changed."
She notices McCoy looking at her with something close to sympathy and straightens her back, fixing him with a look. "Do you have any idea what could be causing her behaviour?" she asks.
"Well, there are a lot of things that can cause personality changes like this," McCoy replies. "I'd have to run some tests to narrow it down."
Spock considers that. "I am not certain the captain will agree to undertake such tests in her present condition."
McCoy looks grim. "I'm aware of that. She's already turned me down once. This time I'm planning on making it an order."
Spock nods, then decides she might as well share her own theory with the doctor. "The captain was acting perfectly normally prior to being left alone with Doctor Lester back on the planet. I thought perhaps a conversation with the doctor might shed some light on the situation."
McCoy shrugs. "It's worth a try. You go talk to Lester while I examine Jane."
As if on cue, the door slides open and Jane walks in. "Well, Doctor, I'm here," she says. She is smiling, but Spock notices it doesn't reach her eyes. "Run your tests, if you have to, but I still say it's a waste of time. I-"
She is cut off as the doors open again and Doctor Lester runs in. "Spock! Bones!" she cries. "Don't let them lock me away again. I have to talk to you!"
Bones? Spock thinks. She's never heard anyone other than Jane call him that.
She watches as Jane advances on Doctor Lester, who backs away, looking scared. She raises her hands as Jane pulls her arm back and knocks her out in one punch.
Spock stares in shock. She has seen Jane fight a hundred times, but she has never seen her take down an opponent who was unarmed and unresisting. It is anathema to everything that Jane Kirk stands for. From McCoy's expression, he's thinking the same thing.
"She could have killed someone," Jane says. "I want her locked up." She turns to the security guards who have just arrived and tells them, "Put her in isolation in her room, and maintain a twenty four hour watch. Absolutely no one is to talk to her without my permission. Is that understood?"
"Yes, sir," the guards reply, and between them they take Doctor Lester away.
"I'd like to run those tests now," McCoy says quietly. Jane nods and re-enters sickbay as if nothing has happened. McCoy pauses long enough to exchange worried glances with Spock, then follows Jane.
Spock turns away as the door closes behind them. With Jane distracted, it seems the perfect time to finally have that talk with Janice Lester.
* * * * *
Jane regains consciousness to find herself back in sickbay. "This really needs to stop," she mutters, rubbing gently at the place where Janice hit her. Slowly she sits up, then stands and approaches the door. It opens to reveal a guard – she recognises him as Lieutenant Galloway – whose hand goes to the phaser at his hip the moment he catches sight of her. Sighing, she steps back to let the door shut before rubbing her temples, trying to ease her headache.
Absently, she reaches again for her link to Spock, but it's still blocked. Now that she knows what's going on, it almost makes sense; the link is equal parts mental and physical, it isn't surprising that something like this would mess with it. Still, it's frustrating to be denied even that small comfort.
She's pacing back and forth, contemplating her – extremely limited – options, when she hears voices outside the door. Curious, she stops pacing and moves closer, trying to make out the words. Suddenly the door slides open and, to her relief, reveals the one person in the universe she most wants to see.
"I wish to speak with you, Doctor Lester," Spock says.
Her demeanour lacks any of Spock's usual warmth, but right now Jane doesn't care. It takes a great deal of effort just to keep from throwing herself into Spock's arms. If it weren't for Galloway, who has followed Spock in, she thinks she might do it.
"It's good to see you," she says instead.
Spock raises an eyebrow, but otherwise ignores her comment. "Captain Kirk has been acting strangely since our stop at Camus II," she says coolly. "My observations suggest that you are the cause."
Jane can't keep from laughing at that. "Oh, I am," she replies, shaking her head. "Just not the way you think."
Hastily she sketches out the events on Camus II and everything that followed. Spock listens without interrupting, but gives no sign that she believes Jane's words.
"Complete life-entity transfer with the aid of a mechanical device," she says, when Jane has finished speaking. To Jane's relief she seems to be at least considering the possibility.
Jane nods emphatically. "Yes, exactly."
Spock raises her eyebrows. "To my knowledge, such a thing has never been successfully accomplished anywhere in the galaxy."
"It was accomplished on Camus II," Jane argues, gesturing at her body. "Take a good look. I'm a living example."
Spock just looks at her. "That is your claim," she replies. "You have yet to substantiate it."
She studies Jane for a long moment, then adds, "At this moment Doctor McCoy is examining the captain for psychological changes." Jane's heart leaps – so they did realise something was wrong – but Spock hasn't finished. "Should he uncover anything unusual, that would be acceptable evidence. Your personal testimony is not."
Jane feels a rush of frustration. "Spock, I know you. You've risked your life to help me more times than I can count. The spores on Gamma Trianguli VI, the asteroid on Amerind, the Tholians." She can still remember how terrified she was back then, floating in nothingness, wondering if she'd ever get back to see her ship and her crew. But the thing she remembers most is the awe she felt when she found out how far Spock had been willing to go to save her.
Spock's expression doesn't change. "Those events have been recorded. They could have become known to you."
Jane frowns. I could tell you things no one else knows, she thinks wryly, but she's not sure she really wants to get into that with the – male – lieutenant still watching them.
She decides to take a different tack, and steps forward, into Spock's personal space. Looking her straight in the eyes, she says softly, "You are closer to the captain than anyone in the universe. You know her thoughts. What do they tell you?"
Spock hesitates, then slowly raises a hand. Jane rejoices inwardly, closing her eyes in anticipation as Spock's fingers settle on her face. She feels Spock's mind brush against hers tentatively and surges to greet it, basking in the knowledge that she's no longer alone. Spock!
She's greeted by amazement, as if, even now, Spock can't quite believe it. Jane?
She almost laughs in relief. You were expecting someone else? Quickly she sends Spock her memories of Camus II, of the machine and its effects. She doesn't have the control for it to be more than a blur of pictures and thoughts and emotions, but it's enough for Spock to understand, and believe, and the rush of love and anger and concern she gets in return is almost dizzying.
I was so afraid she'd hurt you, Jane thinks, basking in the return of Spock's mental presence.
My Jane, Spock returns affectionately, then adds more seriously, You have my word that I will fix this.
Jane doesn't doubt it for a second.
Carefully, Spock eases out of the meld and for a moment they just stare at each other. They're less than a foot apart, Spock's hand still resting on her face, and it's Jane can do not to hold herself back, keep from burying her hands in that short, silky hair and kissing Spock until both of them are breathless. She manages to restrain herself, though, and takes a shaky step backwards.
Spock blinks, as if coming out of a trance, and drops her hand. "I believe you," she says quietly, "but my belief is not acceptable evidence. Evidence must be factual." Her eyes betray her words; to Spock, Jane's word is evidence.
She's right, though, if they're going to convince anyone else they're going to need hard facts.
"Doctor McCoy may be of help," Spock suggests, and lays a hand on Jane's arm. "Come with me."
As Spock turns towards the doorway, Galloway steps in front of them. "I'm sorry, sir," he says," but Doctor Lester cannot leave here."
Spock raises an eyebrow. "I plan to accompany her. She will not be left alone."
"You're asking me to violate the captain's orders," Galloway argues.
"The captain did not give those orders," Spock replies calmly. "Therefore there can be no violation."
A look of pure disbelief crosses the lieutenant's face at her words. "You're as mad as she is!" he says. "I won't allow it. You're to leave here at once." He crosses his arms.
Spock tilts her head as if thinking it over. "Certainly, Lieutenant," she says. "We must all do our duty."
Jane realises what's about to happen next a second before it does. Spock goes for the neck pinch with her right hand, and Galloway blocks it, but he doesn't expect the second attack from the left. Unfortunately he manages to call for security before he falls unconscious.
Jane helps Spock pull him into the sickbay room, but they don't even make it out of the doorway before the other guard arrives. Spock steps forward and attempts to convince him that everything is under control, but when that doesn't work she again goes for the nerve pinch. It turns out to be unnecessary, however, as it has barely taken effect before McCoy and Janice show up with more security guards.
Jane feels Spock's fingers curling around her own as Janice glares at them. The captain in her protests that she doesn't need anyone's protection, but the rest of her knows how hard it is for Spock to show her affection in front of others, and is grateful for the gesture.
"Phasers," Janice orders, and Jane tenses in spite of herself. She's spent enough time unconscious for one day.
Spock glares at Janice. "Violence is unnecessary," she says coldly. "We offer no resistance."
Janice narrows her eyes and stalks over to the communication point. Not taking her eyes off of them, she toggles the button and announces, "Attention, all personnel. First Officer Spock has been placed under arrest. She has conspired with Doctor Lester to take over the ship from your captain. A hearing will be immediately convened to consider the charges and specifications of a general court martial on the charge of mutiny."
* * *
The trial is to take place in Briefing Room 1, but Jane isn't allowed to attend. She fought the decision, of course, demanded to stay with Spock, but even now Janice still holds most of the cards, and all Jane's arguments were in vain.
So instead she's locked up back in sickbay, trying to stay calm while her very future hangs in the balance. McCoy's tests were inconclusive – a fact that Janice informed her and Spock of rather smugly – which means that her only hope is Spock's testimony. She has faith in her crew, but without actual evidence – and, as much as they both might wish it, Spock's word isn't evidence – she doesn't know how much they can do.
She is pacing back and forth, trying, and mostly failing, to keep her mind from dwelling on worst case scenarios, when the door slides open. Turning to look, she sees a young Ensign – Lemli, her mind supplies – standing in the doorway.
"You're wanted in the courtroom," he says, not bothering to come closer.
Jane goes over to him, heart speeding up. "Why?" she asks. Surely they can't have come to a decision already?
Lemli gives her a suspicious look. "Commander Spock asked for you as a witness," he replies. "Come on."
Jane follows him, lips curving a little. Nice work, Spock. If she can face Janice in front of the others, she might be able to provoke her into revealing herself. It's a small hope, but right now she'll take it.
She isn't pleased to see Doctor Coleman fall into line with them as they leave sickbay. "You know, Janice," he murmurs, putting a barely-noticeable stress on the name, "this would be so much easier on you if you'd just accept it."
Jane gives him her best captainly glare and doesn't answer.
They reach the briefing room a few minutes later. Jane takes a second to centre herself as they approach the doors; no matter what happens, she's not going down without a fight.
Her eyes go to Spock as she enters the room, slipping into their usual non-verbal communication as easily as breathing. A look that asks if Spock's okay, a barely noticeable nod followed by a raised eyebrow returning the question.
Ask me in a few minutes, Jane thinks, and turns her attention to Janice.
But for once Janice's attention isn't on her. "Doctor Coleman, if you are required, we'll call you," she says. Jane glances back in time to catch his frown, clearly he wasn't expecting that. Good riddance, Jane thinks as she strides forward to take the stand. Janice might be crazy, but Coleman has no such excuse. When she's back to normal she's going to make sure he's locked up for a very long time.
Janice steps forward, smirking slightly. Jane makes a note not to smirk in future; it doesn't suit her face at all. She tilts her head up in defiance and meets Janice's gaze. "You wanted to see me?"
Janice nods. "We are all aware that you have been subjected to inordinate emotional stress," she begins, and the fake concern in her voice makes Jane want to throttle her. "I had hoped to avoid any further stress on you, but Commander Spock," -her gaze flicks to Spock with barely-hidden distaste- "disagreed. It is her opinion that your testimony is important in determining the merits of her case, and so, since we are solely interested in arriving at a just decision, I need to ask you a few questions." She pastes on a comforting smile and adds, "I'll try not to upset you."
Jane has to bite her tongue at that remark, but manages to keep her face expressionless.
"Now," Janice continues, "you claim that you are Captain Jane Kirk?"
But Jane isn't about to play into her mind games. "No," she says with a hint of asperity. "I am not Captain Kirk. That is very apparent." She takes a breath and continues, "I claim that whatever makes Jane Kirk a unique being – her spirit, her soul, whatever you want to call it –is being held here in this body."
Janice blinks and Jane feels a moment of satisfaction at temporarily wrong-footing her. But Janice quickly regroups. "And the corollary of your claim is that Doctor Janice Lester's "soul" is being held in this body." She gestures to herself with raised eyebrows.
Jane takes a breath, nodding. "That is correct."
Janice gives Jane a mocking smile. "And was this "switching of souls" arrived at by mutual agreement?"
Like you don't know, Jane thinks bitterly, but manages to stay calm. "No," she says. "It was brought about by a violent attack by Janice Lester, and the use of equipment she discovered on Camus II."
"Of course it was," Janice replies with mock-sweetness. "And can you tell me why Doctor Lester would agree to this ludicrous exchange?"
Jane straightens her back. "Yes. To get the power she craved. To attain a position she hasn't earned and doesn't merit. And as some sort of vengeance against Jane Kirk, a woman she once claimed to love." She glances around at the assembled crewmembers and adds, "If it were up to her, the real Captain Kirk would be dead right now."
Anger flashes in Janice's eyes and Jane's heart speeds up as she realises she's touched a nerve. That's right, she thinks, show them what you really are.
But Janice manages to rein herself in. "Do you have any witnesses to this story?" she asks, back to her former slightly-mocking tone.
"No," Jane replies. "Janice made sure of that."
Janice opens her mouth, but Spock cuts in before she can speak. "If I may, I believe there is only one issue here; is the story of life-entity transfer believable?" She glances around the room and makes brief eye-contact with Jane before continuing, "This crew has been to many places in the galaxy, and has been witness to many strange events. They know that what seems to be impossible often is possible, even if we cannot always explain it."
Janice turns her mocking gaze on Spock. "Mister Spock, have you ever heard of an event such as described by Doctor Lester?"
Spock stares at her coldly. "Not precisely," she replies. "However, I can cite precedent for such an occurrence. On Stardate 4768.3, the Enterprise came across a planet containing the thoughts and memories of three advanced beings. These beings were able to take over the bodies of other sentient beings and control them as though they were their own."
Jane nods. Of course, why hadn't she thought of that? Still, given what had nearly happened to Spock, it's hardly one of her best memories.
Janice seems wrong-footed for a second, but manages to recover. "But, as you state, those were highly advanced beings."
Spock accepts the comment, but Jane can see several of the crew exchanging glances and can't help a slight rush of hope.
Janice must notice it too, because she abruptly changes the subject. "In any case, if we assume for a moment that you are correct in your belief, do you expect Starfleet command to place this… person… in command of the Enterprise?"
Jane narrows her eyes. Right now I'd settle for getting you out of command. A shiver runs down her back as she contemplates just what kind of havoc Janice could wreak with the power of a starship on her side.
If Spock is having the same thoughts, she wisely doesn't voice them. "I expect only to reveal the truth," she replies.
"And if the truth reveals that I am not really the captain?" Janice glances at Jane, then raises her voice before continuing, "She would not be allowed to serve as captain, therefore you would be the captain! That is your plan!"
Jane notices a few eyebrows raise at Janice's outburst. Possibly she realises it, as her next words are delivered more calmly. "Spock, give it up," she says, almost pleading. "You must see how ridiculous this all is? Give up now and we can forget any of this ever happened."
Of course, Spock doesn't fall for it. "And what will become of Doctor Lester?" she asks, clearly unimpressed by Janice's theatrics.
Janice looks put-out, but quickly covers it with a smile. "You have my word that Doctor Lester will be well cared for. It is a debt I owe her from the past."
Jane doesn't miss the barely concealed dig in that sentence. I was a fool to think I owed you anything, she fumes.
Spock's gaze doesn't waver. "No," she says coolly. "I will not 'give up'. I intend to stand by the charges I have made. You are not Captain Kirk, you do not belong in charge of the Enterprise, and I shall do everything in my power to stop you."
Janice actually looks shocked for a second, and Jane almost snorts. You honestly thought Spock would choose you over me?
She watches as Janice visibly gathers her control before turning to the lieutenant currently in charge of recording the trial and ordering, "Lieutenant Lysa, play back the last sentence of Commander Spock's tirade."
Lysa does so, and Spock's voice rings out. "You are not Captain Kirk, you do not belong in charge of the Enterprise, and I shall do everything in my power to stop you."
"Thank you, Lieutenant," Janice says, before turning back to Spock. "Do you understand the nature of your statement?"
"Yes, I do," Spock replies calmly. "And I stand by it."
Colour rises in Janice's cheeks as her temper finally runs out. "It is mutiny!" she cries, banging her hand on the table. "You all heard it! Mutiny, and encouragement to mutiny! On the basis of these statements, I call for an immediate vote, by the powers granted to me as captain of the Enterprise. A recess is declared, to be followed by a vote."
* * *
Unfortunately the recess doesn't mean a break from Janice. She spends the recess at the computer with Lieutenant Lysa – doing what, Jane can only speculate – pausing only to threaten Jane with a phaser-stun when she tries to go to Spock. Jane drops back into her seat and tries to console herself with trading sympathetic glances with Spock when Janice isn't looking.
It helps a little, but she can't keep her mind from dwelling on the possibility of living out the rest of her life in this body. The very thought makes her want to vomit, and she crosses her arms across her chest tightly. It won't happen, she reassures herself. I know my crew, and they can't possibly believe Janice over me. Not with the way she's been acting.
She tries to hold on to that thought when the other crewmembers begin to file back in. Scotty and McCoy are the last to return, and it's at that point that Jane finds out what Janice has been doing for the past ten minutes.
The two men have barely sat down before Janice orders, "Play the tapes of the conversation in the corridor."
Jane's hands clench into fists. Spying now, Janice? I suppose when you lie, cheat, and steal so easily you assume everyone else does as well.
Lysa obeys the order and Scotty and McCoy's voices ring out. "Then's the time we move against her. We’ll have to take over the ship." "We're talking about mutiny, Scotty." "Aye. Are you ready for the vote?"
"That's enough," McCoy says. "We know what was said."
Jane's chest swells with pride at her crew. I knew they wouldn't believe her! She makes a mental note to give all of them commendations once this is all over.
Janice seems less impressed. "Enough to convict you of conspiracy with mutineers," she says, her expression belying the lightness in her tone. "And you're so charged." She pauses a moment, as if for effect. "The sentence, death."
Jane moves to protest, but Chekov gets there before her. "Starfleet expressly forbids the death penalty," he says, sounding as if he can't quite believe what he's hearing.
Janice turns on him in anger. "Are all my senior officers turning against me?"
As if to answer her, Sulu speaks up. "General Order Seven is the only exception, and it doesn't apply here."
Beside him, Chekov nods. "The penalty for mutiny is court-martial."
Janice raises her voice. "Thank you, gentlemen, but I am responsible. The execution will be immediate, and I will have no more arguments. Go to your posts."
Chekov and Sulu glance at each other and then slowly rise from their chairs and leave the room. Jane watches them go. She's almost certain by now that they're no longer under Janice's influence, she just hopes they'll buy her enough time to fix this. She has no desire to see her friends and officers killed by, in the most literal sense, her own hand.
Once Chekov and Sulu are out of sight, Janice turns to one of the guards. "Mister Lemli, take them to the brig and prepare for execution." Lemli briefly hesitates. "Go!" Janice orders, with a touch of anger, and he apparently decides it's easier not to argue.
Jane finds herself once again being escorted around her own ship by armed guards, and notes wryly that it's becoming a habit. At least this time she isn't alone. She glances over at Spock and manages to take a little comfort in that.
* * *
Once they are locked up in the brig and the guard has left, Jane turns to Scotty and McCoy with a tired smile. "Don't worry," she says. "We'll find a way out of this." She leans against the wall and adds, "I'm grateful for your support."
McCoy tilts his head as if seeing her for the first time. "Jane?"
Jane manages a small grin. "Hi, Bones."
He shakes his head. "I feel like I'm dreaming."
"I wish this was a dream," Jane mutters darkly.
She feels Spock's fingers brush against hers and relaxes slightly, turning to give her partner a grateful smile. "I said I would fix it," Spock says quietly, "and I intend to do so."
"I know," Jane replies, giving Spock's hand a quick squeeze. "I'm glad you're here." She turns to Scotty and McCoy and adds, "All of you." She glances at the guard standing outside the brig, then leans forward and lowers her voice. "Now, how about we start thinking of a way out of here?"
She's watching Spock and Scotty attempt to remove a wall panel when a wave of dizziness hits her, followed by an almost unbearable pain. The brig seems to waver in front of her eyes, and suddenly she's on the bridge, in the captain's chair. She can see Chekov and Sulu looking at her strangely, but before she can do more than stare blankly at them the image wavers and she's back in the brig, with Spock and McCoy supporting her.
"Are you all right?" Spock asks softly.
Jane nods weakly. The pain and dizziness are gone, but the experience has left her drained and she leans heavily on Spock as she rubs at her temples. "Yes, I just…" She looks up to see the Vulcan observing her with concern. "For a moment I thought I was up on the bridge," she admits. Almost like I was seeing through her eyes.
From the look on the others' faces, they've made the same connection. "Perhaps you were," Spock says thoughtfully.
McCoy's eyes light up. "Then it's possible the transference can be broken," he breathes.
Jane straightens, trying to damp down the hope rising in her chest. "Well, if it happens again I'll fight to stay there."
"The bridge is where you belong," Scotty puts in, and Jane smiles at him. I always knew I had the best crew in Starfleet.
Spock steps forward, folding her arms behind her back. "We must be ready to seize any opportunity to break out of here," she reminds them. "I suggest we plan."
* * *
Janice shows up with Coleman while the four of them are still discussing their options. "In an attempt to avoid further… conspiracy, I am removing you to separate cells," Janice says. "If you resist, you will be sedated until you learn co-operation. Doctor Lester will be first."
Jane glances at Spock, who gives a barely perceptible nod. Guess it's now or never, Jane thinks, and steps forward, trying to look meek and submissive.
"Follow Doctor Coleman," Janice orders, and Jane obediently steps out into the corridor, muscles tensing as she prepares to make her move.
But Coleman strikes first, unveiling a hypospray and grabbing at her in an attempt to inject her. She elbows him in the stomach and spins round, taking several long steps back in anticipation of another attack. She doesn't know what's in the hypospray, but whatever it is it can't be good.
Coleman lunges at her again and she dodges, desperately drawing on training meant for a body both shorter and stronger than this one.
"Kill her!" Janice yells, as Jane once more manages to dodge Coleman's attacks. "Kill her! "
Out of the corner of her eye, Jane sees Janice go rigid a second before the pain and dizziness hit her. For one horribly disorienting moment she feels like she's seeing things from two perspectives at once, but then everything comes back into focus and she's suddenly across the corridor from where she was, staring as Janice – Janice – starts to sob. Hastily Jane looks down and nearly sags with relief as she sees the familiar black-and-gold uniform.
She feels a hand on her arm and looks up into Spock's questioning gaze. She manages a nod and a small smile. "It's over." She slumps back against the wall, letting it sink in. It's over, it's over, it'soverit'soverit'sover-
Several metres away, Janice thumps the wall and dissolves into tears. "I've lost," she sobs. "I'll never get to be captain now, and it's all your fault!" She glares viciously through her tears, and screams, "I want you dead! I want you dead! "
Jane feels Spock take a protective step towards her, but she doubts Janice could make good on her threats, and a quick look round shows McCoy carefully destroying Coleman's hypospray. She lays a hand on Spock's wrist and watches as Coleman approaches Janice and pulls her into his arms. "I still love you," he murmurs.
Janice buries her face in his shoulder and continues to sob.
"Put Doctor Coleman in the brig, then take her to sickbay and have her locked up," Jane orders, finding it hard to even say Janice's name.
Coleman looks up from comforting his murderous paramour. "I'd like to stay with her," he says. "To take care of her."
Jane considers it for a moment, then nods. They'll still be locked up. "Have at least two guards on their room at all times," she tells McCoy.
"Of course," he replies, then turns to Coleman. "Come with me."
Jane watches them go, feeling suddenly tired. "We were happy once," she murmurs, shaking her head. "How did it come to this?"
"I do not believe we will ever know the answer to that," Spock replies, and Jane is forced to agree.
Shaking her head, she gives Spock a wan smile. "I guess we'd better get up to the bridge before the whole crew mutinies." She sets off and feels her smile become more genuine as Spock falls into step next to her. "Oh, and Mister Spock?" she adds, glancing up to meet the other's eyes. "Thank you."
Spock's expression softens, lips curving gently upwards. "Of course, Captain."
* * *
Jane spends the rest of the day visiting every part of the ship, trying to reassure her crew that she's back to normal. They're back on course, heading for Starbase Two at warp six, and according to Chekov and Sulu they'll only be around twelve hours late for their rendezvous with the Potemkin.
McCoy has been making noise about dragging her into sickbay for an examination, but it's only once she's sure that Janice's little stunt hasn't totally ruined her reputation that Jane finally heads down there. What she really wants to do is to spend time with Spock, but the Vulcan will be on duty for at least another two hours, and even sickbay is better than being alone with her thoughts.
She tenses up involuntarily as she enters, looking around for any sign of Janice. She doesn't realise how wound up the situation has left her until McCoy appears at her side and she jumps.
"Easy, Jane," he says, raising his hands. "It's just me."
Jane manages a weak smile. "Hi, Bones." She glances round again and lowers her voice. "Where is she?"
"Locked up in a private room with guards on the door," McCoy reassures her. "Coleman too."
Jane nods. "Good." She shakes herself a little, trying to relieve some of her tension, then straightens into her best captain's pose. "You wanted to see me?"
McCoy nods. "I'm surprised you showed up," he teases, but Jane isn't in the mood for jokes.
"Yes, well, I'm here now." She takes a breath and tries not to fidget. "Let's just get this over with."
McCoy must recognise something in her tone, because the next time he speaks, he's all business. "Right. Lie down on the table, and we'll begin."
The tests are all ones she's done before, many times, and she sails through them all with flying colours. But then so did Janice, Jane thinks, a little bitterly.
"Well, I can't find anything wrong," McCoy concludes. "Anything to report on your end?"
Jane shakes her head. "I'm all right." Absently her eyes stray towards the back of sickbay, where the private rooms are kept. When she looks back at McCoy, his expression is far too sympathetic for her liking.
"Do you want to talk about it?" he asks.
Jane considers it for a moment, then shakes her head. "I just want to forget about it," she says. Against her will, she starts to shake. "When I think of how close she came...."
McCoy lays a hand on her shoulder. "It's fine. It's over now, and you're fine. She didn't do anything."
Jane nods, taking slow, even breaths until she starts to feel calmer. "I know. I know. I just can't stop thinking about it." She glances towards the back of sickbay again and frowns. "Maybe if I could talk to her, I could at least try to understand-"
"I don't think that's such a good idea," McCoy interrupts.
"No, probably not," Jane agrees. "But I have to do something."
McCoy studies her for a long moment. "There's no way to change your mind?" he says with resignation.
Jane shakes her head.
"Then I'm coming with you." When Jane looks at him sharply, he adds, "I'm not leaving you alone with her. Not again."
"Fine," Jane says. "Come on."
She pushes herself off the table and heads over to the private rooms at the back of sickbay. It's immediately evident which one Janice and Coleman are in, as there are two guards armed with phasers standing right outside.
Jane strides up to them, McCoy in tow. "I'm here to see the prisoner." The guards exchange looks. "That was an order, gentlemen."
The guards stand aside, and McCoy enters the code to open the door. One of the guards enters, keeping his phaser trained on the two prisoners within. Jane and McCoy follow him in, and Jane gestures to the other guards to stay outside before turning to deal with Janice.
The other woman is sitting on a bed on the far side of the room, but when she sees Jane she leaps up and charges towards her, rage etched into every line of her face. "YOU!" she yells. "HOW DARE YOU!"
Coleman catches her round the middle and drags her back just as the guard is preparing to fire. Janice struggles against his hold, but finally slumps against him, still glaring at Jane like she's trying to incinerate her with her eyes.
Jane swallows. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea. "I was hoping we could talk," she says, taking an uneasy step forward. "I'd like to know more about what happened on the colony." She has her suspicions about the 'radiation sickness' that claimed the rest of their research team.
It's clear that she's not going to get any answers from Janice, however. "Talk? After you took away the only thing I've ever wanted?" Jane opens her mouth to point out the flaws in that argument, but Janice hasn't finished. "You and your Vulcan pet," she spits, before he expression turns calculating. "She thought I was you, you know," she says. "Not for long, of course, but long enough."
Jane clenches her hands into fists. "What did you do to her?"
Janice leans back against Coleman, smirking. "Nothing she didn't want."
Jane feels sick. She wouldn't have, she thinks, unsure whether she means Janice or Spock. "You were right," she mutters, turning to McCoy. "This was a mistake."
She leaves the room without a backward glance, barely able to keep from trembling. Once they're back in the corridor, with the door safely locked, McCoy lays a hand on her arm. "Jane, she's lying. Spock wouldn't do that."
"She might if she thought it was me." Jane shakes the hand off roughly, and adds, "And I could have done without our relationship being broadcast to all and sundry." It's an open secret at this point, but she'd like to at least have the illusion of privacy.
McCoy raises his hands in surrender. "I'm just saying maybe you should talk to Spock first. For all you know you're getting worked up over nothing."
Jane sighs, shoulders slumping. "Maybe you're right." She starts to pace back and forth, needing to be active, to move. Every part of her feels wound tight as a spring, ready to explode at any moment. "But she's on duty. I can't drag her away just because I'm feeling neglected." The very idea is abhorrent; they agreed when they became lovers that they wouldn't let their relationship interfere with their duty. The good of the ship must come first, always.
"It isn't a weakness to ask for help," McCoy tells her, and Jane rounds on him.
"It is when it affects the running of this ship," she retorts. "I told you, I'm fine. I'll be fine."
McCoy studies her for a long moment with an expression that says he wants to say more but knows it would be pointless. Finally he just shrugs. "All right, but I'm keeping you off duty until tomorrow at the earliest. We still don't know what kind of unknown side effects the transfer may have had on you."
Jane considers the merits of arguing and decides it isn't worth it. "Fine," she says, giving him an annoyed look. "If anyone needs me I'll be in the gym." Might as well try and burn off some of her excess adrenaline.
McCoy nods. The sympathetic look is back, but Jane pretends not to see it. "Try not to overdo it," he cautions. "And come back if you feel anything at all strange. Nausea, dizziness, headaches…. If you so much as sneeze, I want to know about it."
Jane holds back a sigh. "I'll keep that in mind." McCoy opens his mouth to continue, and she adds hurriedly, "Thanks, Bones. I'll see you later," before making a quick exit.
In the back of her mind she notes that she'll probably end up paying for that later, but right now she's just happy to be away from sickbay, and that ever-present look of sympathy in McCoy's eyes. She's never wanted anyone's sympathy, and she doesn't want it now.
What she does want is Spock, but she stands by her decision. It isn't right to drag Spock away from her duty, no matter how bad Jane might be feeling. She does allow herself a brief moment of weakness, looking inward and finding the link that binds her to Spock, but once she's satisfied that it's there, strong and healthy as before, she pulls back. It's only a few more hours, she tells herself firmly. Besides, the sooner we make it to Starbase Two, the sooner we can get rid of Janice for good.
With that in mind, she heads down to the gym.
* * * * *
Spock frowns as she stands to look through the scanner. They're on their way to rendezvous with the Potemkin, Doctor Lester is under guard in sickbay, and Jane is safe. Logically, she knows that all of this is true, but she cannot keep the thoughts from circulating in her mind. If she had been slower to realise something was wrong, if Coleman had been quicker with the hypospray, if there had not been a way to reverse the swap…. Jane is safe, but she could so easily not have been.
The part that concerns her the most is that she did not immediately notice the swap. Jane said that Spock knew her better than anyone else in the universe, but if that is true, should she not have known that the person talking to her, smiling at her, touching her, was not Jane? As much as she tries to put it out of her mind, the thought that if Janice had been just slightly more adept at impersonation she might not have noticed at all keeps gnawing at her.
She aches to go to Jane, especially since, with Jane back in her original body, their link is no longer blocked, and Jane's restlessness and agitation is coming through quite clearly. If it were up to her she would be there in a heartbeat to comfort her partner, but her duty right now is to the ship, to the mission, and for Spock to ignore that would be the last thing Jane would want.
Despite this, she keeps absently reaching for the link as she works. The familiar presence is soothing, and Spock finds herself wondering, not for the first time, what it would be like if she and Jane were to bond fully. She did not realise how comfortable she had become with Jane's presence in her mind until Janice's actions brought it into sharp focus. Their period of mental separation, brief though it was, was distinctly unpleasant, and not something that Spock would like to repeat.
She muses that a full bond might even have been strong enough to withstand Janice's life transference technology, and allowed her to catch on to Janice's plan a great deal earlier; possibly even early enough to prevent the whole situation. After all, hadn't she felt that something was wrong, even from the beginning?
Spock shakes her head a little, to clear it, and refocuses on the readings coming through her console. There is no logic in dwelling on things that cannot be changed. All she can do now is try and deal with the consequences.
* * * * *
Jane spends an hour or so venting her anger and frustration on a variety of innocent gym equipment, then heads back to her cabin for a shower. Her spirits have lifted slightly, but they dip again as she strips off her uniform and shoves it firmly into the disposal, drawing comfort from the idea of it being burnt to ashes in the incinerator. Intellectually, she knows that there's no difference between that uniform and any of the ones in her closet, but she doesn't care. It has Janice's touch all over it, and no amount of cleaning will take that away.
That done, she turns her attention to other matters. The next obvious task on the agenda is to record the day's events in her Captain's log, but just the idea of having to talk about it again, even to a computer, makes her feel sick. She puts the task aside and begins with a much less demanding one – reading and signing the backlog of reports currently stored on her computer. It's dull, tedious busywork, but it occupies her thoughts, and right now that's all she needs.
She's so firmly ensconced that the sound of the door opening actually startles her. She looks up and feels a rush of pleasureaffectionrelief at the sight of Spock.
"Is it 1600 already?" she asks, abandoning her reports and standing to greet her partner.
"1612," Spock corrects, taking a step towards her. "How are you feeling?"
Jane gives a huff of laughter. "Honestly? I don't know. Bones checked me out and there's nothing physically wrong, but other than that I don't know how I am. How do you even deal with something like this?"
"With help from those who care for you," Spock replies, reaching out to take Jane's hand in hers. "If there is anything I can do for you, you have only to ask."
Jane smiles, but her mind flashes back to Janice's words. You and your Vulcan pet. Swallowing, she pulls her hand out of Spock's grip and steps away.
Spock frowns. "Jane, what's wrong?"
Jane chews on her lip. "Did you and Janice...." She trails off, unable to finish the question.
Spock looks puzzled for a moment, then understanding dawns. "No!" she blurts. "Jane, t'hy'la, no. I would never do that." She moves forward and once again takes Jane's hands in hers.
Jane looks at their joined hands, wanting so badly to believe her. "But you thought she was me," she protests.
There is a pause, as if Spock is considering how to respond. Finally she says, "She attempted to… seduce me, but the person she turned you into was not one I would choose to be intimate with."
Jane gives a surprised laugh. "I'll take that as a compliment."
When she looks up she sees an answering amusement in Spock's eyes. "It was intended as such."
With a sigh, Jane steps forward and wraps her arms around Spock. After a second she feels Spock return the embrace, and lets herself relax into it, enjoying the warmth and closeness. For the first time since Camus II she feels truly herself again.
"I wish I could just hate her," she mumbles into Spock's shoulder. "It'd be easier."
"You are a better person than she is," Spock replies.
Jane manages a half-smile. "That's the thing, though. She wasn't always like this. I mean, I knew she was jealous of me, but the Janice I knew would never have hurt people like this. I don't understand." She shakes her head. "I don't suppose I ever will." She pauses for a long moment, then says abruptly, "I tried talking to her. When I was in sickbay. It... didn't go well."
Understanding shows in Spock's eyes. "That is why you asked if she and I had been intimate?"
Jane nods, giving a huff of laughter. "She said... well, it doesn't matter. And I know I shouldn't have believed her, but she just rattled me."
"That is understandable," Spock replies. "I trust you do not desire further contact?"
Jane physically shudders. "No. At this point I'd be happy never to see her again. The sooner she's off this ship, the better." She takes a deep breath and makes an effort to focus on Spock's arms around her; the warmth of her touch. "Let's not talk about it any more," she says. "I can think of much more interesting things we could be doing."
She pulls away slightly, out of Spock's grip, and reaches up to pull her into a kiss. It starts off slow and soft, a gesture of comfort and caring, but rapidly becomes more heated. Jane presses herself closer, feeling Spock's arms go back round her, and slides her own hands up into Spock's hair. Running her fingers through that soft dark cap and messing up its perfect lines has always been one of her favourite things to do, and Spock has always been more than happy to let her.
Breathless, they break apart, and Jane smiles. "I've wanted to do that since you melded with me in sickbay," she admits. "If the guard hadn't been there I would have."
"I experienced the same urge," Spock replies, lips curving. She reaches up to stroke Jane's face, and Jane leans into the touch, rubbing her cheek against Spock's hand before covering it with her own.
"I don't know what I'd do without you," she says. "And I don't want to find out." She takes a breath and blurts out, "I want you to bond us."
Spock's eyes go wide and she starts to pull her hand away. "That is not a decision to be made lightly," she says.
"And I'm not making it lightly," Jane replies. "I mean, yes, it'd be nice to have one good thing come out of this mess, but that's not the reason I said it. I love you, and I want to spend my life with you. We can have the big ceremony on Vulcan, I'll even get down on one knee if you want, but today showed me how it feels to be cut off from you, and I know I don't ever want to feel like that again." She takes both of Spock's hands in hers and puts on her most charming smile, the one that Spock can never resist. "Marry me?"
Spock is silent for a long moment, before her expression softens into one of open affection. "We will have the ceremony on Vulcan," she replies. "You do not have to get down on one knee, but you will have to accompany me when I inform my parents. And I am leaving it to you to inform Starfleet. If all that is acceptable, then I would be… happy to be your wife."
"Deal," Jane agrees with a smile. She steps forward and wraps her arms around Spock, holding her tightly. "I love you."
She feels, more than sees, Spock's answering smile. "And I you, t'hy'la."