"His body chemistry is pretty messed up."
Kirk looked up from the monitor screen on Dr McCoy's desk to gauge the man himself.
"It's only been a month. Doesn't human . . . Doesn't maturing of this sort take time in most races?"
"Funny you mention human." McCoy pointed at a squiggly graph on the monitor. "He's going through a bit of human puberty as well, just to add insult to injury."
"Why not just give Spock more time? I know his performance is down and the lab staff have mentioned he's been more exacting then usual . . ."
"What do you want me to do?"
"Well the single best thing he could do is sleep."
"Yup. It would fix about half of his out of whack chemistry, just by itself."
"Did you tell him that?"
"Yes. As many times as he'll let me." McCoy turned the monitor away, switched it off. "He insists that he can meditate his way out of it. Despite all quantitative evidence to the contrary. Something I've also pointed out to him. He's being illogically stubborn and who am I to argue with him on the side of logic?"
"He normally sleeps a few times a week?"
"If only. I think once a week at best. Whenever doing so outweighs the inconvenience." McCoy sighed. "I'll admit, he can go a long time without sleep if necessary. Normally."
Kirk put his hands on his hips. "But this isn't normal."
"No." McCoy leaned on his hands on the desk. "And I've officially given up on arguing with him. Captain."
Kirk rubbed his mouth with the flat of his hand. "You're leaving it to me."
"I was hoping to. The only option I have left is to rule him unfit for duty. You, on the other hand ... you can order him around and he'll obey."
"I'd rather not do so if it's personal. If I don't have to."
"It's no longer just personal."
Kirk gauged McCoy again. "Do I have two weeks? Until I can arrange leave? If he's going to put up the fight you claim, I'd rather not confront him on the ship."
McCoy gave a concessionary sideways nod.
Rand made the arrangements. A mountain perch of a cottage with vistas on three sides. Kirk had specified any place far from anything, two bedrooms.
Rand had very matter-of-factually asked who he'd be taking down with him. When he'd said Mr. Spock, she'd replied that it didn't sound like much of a leave. And she meant it. Spock had grown short of patience with everyone, except Kirk. Kirk braced himself for that to come to an end.
The ship established orbit. Kirk ordered Spock to meet him in his quarters after shift.
Kirk released the door as soon as it chimed. Spock stepped briskly in, stood with his hands behind his back. He looked almost normal. Kirk suspected that Spock had resorted to reserving all of his control for him.
Kirk said, "I'm not going to debate you. I'm just going to order you down on leave."
Spock considered this, nodded. His gaze grew a little distant.
Kirk went on. "With me. Twenty hundred. I expect you in the transporter room."
The ensuing nod was weaker.
"That's it," Kirk said. "You can go."
The transporter beam released them in a square central room built of metal i-beams with glass all around protected by an overhang. Sunlight slid across the gray rock face of the adjacent mountain, making the crags stand out starkly. Kirk breathed in, felt his lungs fall short, but not badly so.
He picked up his duffel and took the more exposed bedroom out on its own platform connected by a glass walkway to the main part of the cottage. He assumed the other would be warmer, closer to the gas heater in the main room.
He unpacked his few things, taking his time, enjoying the lack of schedule, of responsibility. He changed into soft workout clothes, took a book back to the main room. After some fiddling, he turned on the flame in the heater, which was suspended from the ceiling by the metal chimney, and propped himself on one of the two small couches. Spock returned from the other room, hesitated before moving deliberately to take up a meditative posture on the floor.
It was earlier in the day than ship time. Kirk intended to hold off bringing the hammer down until sunset. His tactic of accepting zero argument had worked the last time. He crossed his fingers it would continue to work.
Kirk sat reading, mind drifting often. He poured himself some whiskey, held it out by the heater to warm it. The fumes assaulted his sinuses as he sipped it.
"Would you like some?"
Spock slowly raised his head. Kirk saw rare fatigue in his movements. He was still twice as efficient as a human officer, but Kirk strongly suspected he wasn't fit for stressful duty.
"No thank you, Captain."
Kirk resumed his seat, sipped from the tumbler as the sun turned pink, rose up the mountains to highlight only the summits.
The sky deepened, formed a graduated sweep from left to right out the windows of the cottage. It was a spectacular place. The kind of place that let you feel as free and open as a starship did when standing on the observation deck or close to the viewscreen on the bridge.
The room grew too dark to read. The light from the heater became brighter than the windows, reflected overlapping little orange-tipped blue flames in the glass.
Kirk shut his book, stood up, stepped around the heater and stood a few feet before where Spock knelt on the softly padded floor.
"Mr. Spock." Kirk waited for Spock to raise his head. "It's night. I'm ordering you to sleep."
Spock's right brow went up in annoyance. "I am not-"
"I didn't ask for your opinion, Commander. I gave you an order."
Spock closed his mouth, studied Kirk for many seconds. His other eyebrow twitched upward as well, making his expression severe. He pushed to his feet. He looked around the floor as if searching for something, nodded, and departed the room.
Kirk's eyes were heavy. It was after oh two hundred ship's time and he too was in need of leave. He wanted more whiskey, but held off. He moved to the other couch, put his head down by the window, and watched the stars appear. They sparkled into perception in the darker side of the sky, appeared rapidly everywhere as his eyes adjusted and the sun sank away, drawing the glow with it. The star's arrangement was wholly alien and disconcertingly unmoving. He was static. He sat atop a mountain and saw the sky as a dome, was glad he would confidently return to the sky, as nice as this view was.
Kirk heard a garbled shout, in Vulcan. He hadn't meant to close his eyes, let alone sleep. Spock had shouted 'stop' in his sleep, in a gargled, desperate voice.
Kirk rolled to his feet. He'd known this deep down, but hadn't admitted it consciously. He'd been doing what he had to do, not trying to prevent the inevitable.
The shades had been pulled down in Spock's room, making it cave-like but considerably warmer. The lights came up to low dim in response to Kirk's entrance. Spock lay in the middle of the large bed in his black thermal shirt, left hand reaching out, hand in a claw shape, head tossed up and to the right, his legs frozen in mid-thrash beneath the blanket.
Kirk climbed onto the bed and crawled across to Spock's side, took him by the shoulders. Somewhere in the back of his mind he heard McCoy's gravely voice warning him this could be dangerous, that Vulcans could not easily distinguish dream from reality, which is why they could be loath to sleep.
"Spock. It's all right." Kirk decided shaking him wasn't the wisest. He stroked Spock's arms instead.
Spock tossed his head, raised his arms, grabbed hold of Kirk's loose t-shirt with convulsive hands. A harsh breath later, he opened his eyes, released his hands, dropped his arms. The cascade of neutralization continued through him and he fell fully lax. Kirk felt the cords of arm muscle fading under his fingers, loosened his own grip in response.
Kirk continued to gently hold Spock's arms just below the shoulder. He expected Spock to turn his face away, but he didn't. He stared up beyond Kirk, at the ceiling.
"It's all right," Kirk repeated softly.
Spock closed his eyes a long moment, opened them again, still looking beyond Kirk. Spock's hands opened and closed, then rested limp against his abdomen and the bed. Spock moved his eyes, stared at Kirk's chest. He remained that way, unresponsive, breathing more at human normal at altitude.
Kirk slowly let go of Spock's arms and shifted back to sit on his feet. He encircled Spock's forearm in a confident grip. Despite the skin contact, he couldn't sense anything from Spock.
"You need to sleep," Kirk said.
Spock tossed his head side to side. His voice was low and harsh. "I cannot."
"I'm not giving you a choice."
Spock's eyes rolled back, closed a long time. "I cannot relive that again." His hands again clenched and unclenched. Kirk wondered what it meant.
Kirk made himself relax, assuming that would help Spock. "You mean the marriage challenge, I assume."
Spock nodded vaguely.
Kirk said, "We never talked about it. I wanted to let you cope in your own way."
Spock stared at the center of Kirk's chest again. Kirk kept expecting him to look away in embarrassment, but he seemed too far gone even for pride, which alarmed Kirk more than the nightmares.
"Tell me about your dream," Kirk said. "We apparently need to talk."
Spock searched the ceiling with his eyes.
Kirk said, "You are dreaming the actual events, I assume?"
"Not any more. It has become tainted with other nightmare elements. And I have difficulty upon waking sorting out the memory of the dream from actual recent memory."
Kirk gripped Spock's arm harder. "I'm sorry, Spock."
Spock made a disbelieving face. "It is hardly your fault."
"It is at least a little. One always has options. I let my pride make my decisions for me."
Spock scoffed, it was such a natural sound from him, Kirk wondered that he hadn't heard it more. "It is I who--" His face flickered with pain. The hand resting on his abdomen clenched and unclenched.
Kirk took the hand up in his own, held it casually. "You keep doing that."
Pain distorted Spock's brow, narrowed his eyes. He exhaled audibly. "When I came to awareness--" Again, his hand clenched, this time around Kirk's hand. Spock closed his eyes and held them closed.
Spock turned his head away. "Please leave me, Captain."
Kirk was relieved to see Vulcan pride kick in. "I can't do that."
Kirk adjusted his position to sit more comfortably with his knees in the air, relaxed. He took up Spock's hand again without even a quiver of resistance from Spock.
Kirk waited, finally said, "You came to awareness . . ." Kirk remembered losing consciousness with a leather strap around his neck, airway cut off, strap pulled snug by Spock's hands. "I know it's painful to remember what happened, what you did in madness, but I promise, everything's all right now."
Kirk gripped Spock's hand, raised his other hand in demonstration. "Look at the evidence."
Spock's brow actively rose and fell as he talked. "That does not alter the fact of my actions."
"You weren't in control of your actions."
Spock twitched out a head shake. "A Vulcan is always responsible for their actions."
"We can argue this at a better time. Right now you need to sleep."
Spock turned his head away suddenly. "I cannot bear--."
Kirk squeezed Spock's hand again and let go. "I have an idea."
Kirk crawled to the head of the bed and pulled a pillow out of the cabinet headboard. He plumped it beside Spock's and curled up on top of the covers, knees toward Spock.
Spock had turned back in curiosity to watch this preparation. Kirk relaxed into the pillow and blindly found the crux of Spock's elbow through the blanket and rested his hand there, keeping the material between them so Spock wouldn't have to shield his mind.
Kirk sleepily said, "I'll stay here. I think your subconscious will sense me and temper your dreams appropriately. Okay?"
Spock remained tense. Kirk could feel it in the arm he held. Spock didn't move or relax for a long time. Kirk too could not relax, but he kept his eyes closed, tried to clear his mind. The automatic lights dimmed to darkness.
Eventually, Kirk sensed Spock's head rest back, felt the tension fade out of his arm. Spock's breathing slowed over long minutes.
Kirk risked opening his eyes to study Spock's profile by the light trickling in from the heater in the main room. He didn't do this long, fearing his attention would rouse Spock if he wasn't fully unaware.
Kirk woke with a start to the sound of his name. The room had cooled considerably, and he'd curled up tight in his sleep.
Spock fidgeted, called out, "Jim," faintly again.
Kirk hoped he was remembering finding him alive in Sickbay. Kirk raised up on his arm, tempted to shake Spock awake. But Spock's breathing remained slow, and his fitful movements quieted. He was still deeply asleep, so Kirk withdrew the hand he held out.
Moving with great care, Kirk shifted the covers to get beneath them, slowly rested his head on the pillow again. He didn't want to put a hand on Spock's bare arm, lest his emotions invade Spock's unprotected mind. Instead he shifted his workout pants covered knee to barely touch Spock's leg.
Kirk woke again, opened his eyes to find Spock gazing at the ceiling.
"What time is it?" Kirk asked.
"It is oh seven hundred forty one ship time."
"You got a few hours sleep. Feeling better?"
Kirk curled himself to sit up. "Mind if I open the shades?"
"If you wish."
Kirk found the remote built into the headboard lid. The world outside the windows shown with stars, but the air had a gloamy soupy quality as if dawn were approaching.
Kirk reached for the pillows and turned around on the bed, propped himself up in the direction of dawn with the free corner of tangled blanket over his midsection. He remained casual as if hanging out like this with Spock was perfectly normal.
The sky began to lighten and the thickly strewn stars grew sparser and the cloud of the Milky Way core faded out. Every time he saw that sinuous glow, he felt honored to live as he did, when he did. He could go up there and travel among those lights where the Milky Way never faded with the dawn.
Spock sat up on one elbow. "I am allowed to rise?"
"If you promise to sleep tonight as well." Kirk wondered at himself, at how hardnosed he was being. But he wasn't going to negotiate on certain points and it was easier to just make that clear. "I'll be here. That seemed to help."
Spock sat up fully, expression vulnerable. Kirk glanced at him, then back out the window there the peaks in the east were turning blacker with with the glowing sky behind them. Spock's head bent lower.
Kirk said, "You're still tired."
Spock nodded vaguely. Kirk worried that Spock's pride seemed to have fled again. Kirk never imagined he'd see that. He felt like prodding him until it asserted itself, even if it upset Spock in new ways.
"Want to talk?" Kirk propped his hands behind his head. "Or perhaps I should say: are you willing to talk?"
"I do not think there is anything in need of stating. There are no words that can change what occurred. No matter Dr. McCoy's tricks, the events that transpired remain the same." Spock held up his hands, dropped them onto his blanketed legs, palms up, fingers locked in a half curl.
Spock's voice was barely audible and broke before the last word. "I killed you."
Kirk pulled his hands free from behind his head and reached out. "Spock."
He took Spock by the arm, hooked a hand behind his neck, pulled against rigid resistance. Kirk sat up instead, meeting Spock face to face but offset on the bed, still holding to him, but keeping some distance between them.
"Spock. I don't know what to do to convince you." He pulled harder, with immensely affectionate energy. "Spock, please give in. It's all I've got and I have to do something."
The rigidity drained from Spock. He came forward toward Kirk's chest. Kirk leaned back on his stack of pillows, bringing Spock upper body with him.
Spock arched downward, rested his forehead on the the seam between Kirk's chest and his arm, keeping their bodies apart. Kirk rubbed his hands around Spock's upper back, over the slick thin fabric of his thermal shirt.
"Spock." Kirk let every bit of the pain he felt out through his voice. "Spock. Nothing has changed. I am still alive. I am still your brother."
Kirk searched inside himself. "You are still the other half of my soul."
Spock's eyes reflexively closed at these words. He leaned forward and slowly rested his head against Kirk's chest, facing away. He shifted his legs to the side and rested more heavily. Kirk could see in the reflection of the window that Spock clenched his eyes closed against a lot of emotion.
Kirk fingered the hair on the back of Spock's head, then made himself stop, rested his hand on a lean shoulder blade instead. He had found the right words. Nothing either of them did mattered, because nothing could alter the fundamental nature of what they were to each other.
Kirk's eyes grew heavy even as the sky became a washed out cyan. He put his arms in a position where they wouldn't slip down if he relaxed, let himself doze.
Kirk roused. The room was bright. Clouds drifted by as a broken up blanket below them. Spock raised his head, apparently waiting for Kirk to move first. He looked away, a green tinge to his ear and jaw line.
Kirk sat up, patted Spock on the shoulder as he got up. "That's more the Spock I know." Kirk crab crawled off the bed. "I'll make breakfast. Not sure what we've got, but Rand said it was stocked."
The kitchen emerged from the floor of the main room at the push of a button. Kirk found fresh bread and a rack for toasting it on the heater. Kirk made toast, put out butter and jam.
Spock emerged in a heavy robe. He figured out how to raise the low table by the couches to eating height. Kirk brought a stack of toast to the table, grabbed the butter off the heater before it could melt completely.
"This is a treat," Kirk said as he buttered his toast.
Spock finished a slice of toast with raspberry jam rather copiously spread on it, folded his hands in his lap.
Kirk bit into a second slice, relishing the hot melted butter tinged with strawberry that oozed out of it.
Spock said, "You are not personally disturbed by events?"
Kirk put his toast down, wiped his hands. "You mean on Vulcan? No." He tilted his head. "I was, just a little, right after, but not anymore."
"I am relieved to hear that."
"I'm curious. If I may? Are you allowed to go without a betrothed? Or will your parents arrange a new one?"
Spock lowered his head. "I am still out of favor with my father. I have not had any contact with them. I suppose T'Pau could conceivably arrange something."
"Is that what you want?"
"I do not know."
Kirk nibbled on his toast. "If you need help in the dating department, let me know."
Spock raised an annoyed right brow.
"Just mentioning it."
Kirk didn't want to let this door close on the conversation they badly needed to have. "McCoy said your body chemistry won't be settling down for a while. Maybe six months or more."
"I don't envy you," Kirk said. "It's distracting and annoying at best."
"It requires that I sleep more. That is, indeed, very annoying."
"If you need me, call. I mean that. I'm tempted to order you to, but I won't do that to you. Even though I worry your pride will keep you from doing so."
Spock said, "It is my duty to assure that you are well rested."
Kirk tipped his index finger at him. "Knowing you are okay lets me sleep well." Kirk spread more strawberry jam on what was left of his toast. "McCoy will be keeping track of you. So if you don't call, I will know. Eventually." He didn't eat more right away. "I really don't mind," he said with soft affection.
Spock nodded faintly, kept his gaze down.
"I know you dislike needing anyone. Believe me, I understand that. But if you can't get critical rest, then it's logical to address that. The safety of the ship is higher priority than your pride."
Spock furrowed his brow.
Kirk said, "You don't have to like it. You just have to accept it. Until you're all right." He let affection rule his voice again. "It's important to me."
Spock looked up.
Kirk said, "You're important to me."
Spock's voice was quiet. "I find that I can now accept that. Events have made it clear that the reverse is also true. And I seem to have proclaimed our friendship to my grandmother, of all beings."
Kirk held out a hand, brushed Spock's arm. "I'm not fishing for you to open up verbally, unless you want to. I do want you to let me help you." Kirk withdrew his hand.
"I will try, Captain."
"Are we back to captain, already?"
"I am more comfortable with it at this time."
"Then captain is fine."
"You are requesting that I allow you to be my captain in all ways."
Kirk suppressed a smile. "More ways, maybe. But, yes, I suppose I am. I take the responsibility just as seriously."
Kirk looked out the window at the blazing sun. "The wind is low. Want to go for a brief hike?"
"The trail chiseled into the rock is only two klicks long. The views are supposed to be spectacular though."
"I would enjoy that, Captain."
Kirk downed the rest of his toast by folding it into one big bite. The butter had congealed, stuck to his tongue. He licked his fingers. "We can beam to a longer trail if you like."
"If the wind makes this one impassable, then yes. Otherwise, I would like to explore this one."
"Bring your tricorder down?"
Kirk gave him a warm smile. "Let me get my coat, and let's go."
"His body chemistry is pretty messed up."
Just a short piece I needed to get out of my system. Hope you enjoyed. If you like this kind of quick, undeveloped piece and want more, let me know. The short cuts at the beginning feel like cheating to me, but the story doesn't have enough heft to support more build-up.