"Mr. Chekov, plot a course for Starbase 17," I said to the navigator. Mr. Scott had brought the engines back on-line barely in time to allow the Enterprise to escape before the Tholian's web had closed, and the ship needed many repairs. "Estimate time of journey at full impulse power."
"About four days to Starbase 17, Mr. Spock." Perhaps, if it were not such a happy occasion, I might have reproved Mr. Chekov for answering so imprecisely.
I nodded, and looked around the bridge. "Lt. Uhura, please collect any additional damage reports and feed them directly to my library computer."
"Mr. Spock, I've already checked. No additional damage."
Mr. Scott turned around in his seat. "We have enough residual damage to keep us busy for the next few days, Mr. Spock."
I nodded; the ship was not back to "normal," but there was nothing that required my immediate attention. My duty did not require me to stay on the bridge. I stood up. "Very well, Engineer. Until we have further instructions from the captain, we will proceed with repairs as we have already discussed. "Mr. Sulu, take the conn. I will be in sickbay." I headed for the turbolift without a backward glance.
As I headed down the corridor, I wondered briefly if the turbolift was damaged. It had seemed to be moving more slowly than normal.
McCoy was seated at his desk. As I entered, he leaned back in his chair with a smile. "There you are, Spock. Now that everything is back to normal, I hope that you're planning to get some sleep. When's the last time you slept or ate anything?"
My reply was automatic. "As you well know, Doctor, when necessary, a Vulcan can go without sleep or food for several weeks. I am not here to discuss whether I need sleep or food. I am here to ascertain the captain's condition."
"Yeah, Spock, I sort of figured that out." Apparently, the doctor was too happy to have Jim safely aboard to feel like arguing.
"I'm going to keep him in s sickbay overnight. He'll be okay, but he's severely dehydrated. You can see him, but not for long. And I don't want any discussion of ship's business. No damage reports or anything like that. Do you understand? You can look in long enough for your standard speech about being relieved that Starfleet hasn't lost a valuable officer, but that's it! And, if he's asleep, don't wake him up!"
A moment later, I was standing next to the diagnostic bed where Jim lay. His face was ashen, his eyes were closed, and his breathing was very shallow.
I sat down in a chair next to the bed. He appeared to be sleeping. I remembered my promise not to wake him, but I remembered also my pain at believing him to be dead.
McCoy had assured me that Jim would be well, but I had to know for myself.
I could not deny my need to touch him. I placed my hand on his bare forearm. I could feel his thoughts - not clearly - this was not a deliberate mind touch. But I had touched his mind many times in the more than two years that we had served together and become friends, so it was natural to pick up his thoughts during the most casual touch. I felt his exhaustion and his relief at being alive and aboard his ship, and I also felt his joy that I was beside him.
His eyes opened and met mine.
"Spock." We clasped each other's hand. His hand felt cool, but his smile was very warm. "Spock, it's good to see you."
I felt an unfamiliar tightness in my chest. "Jim." My voice was nearly a whisper, and without thinking, I said, "I believed that I had lost you." Although my statement was simple, I knew that he could see the pain in my eyes. I did not care; he would not consider my pain to be a weakness. He gripped my hand with surprising force before he closed his eyes again.
For a moment, I thought that he had fallen asleep. I had to lean forward to hear his quiet voice when he spoke again. "I thought that I would never see you again. I was all alone out in space. I was worried about my ship." There were long pauses between sentences; he was speaking almost as though talking to himself. "But it was you that I couldn't stop thinking about. That I had never told you what you mean to me."
Although he could not see me through closed eyes, I shook my head. "Unnecessary. You do not need to tell me." I tightened my grip on his hand. "You are very tired. You must rest."
He continued to speak as though he had not heard me. "So much unsaid. I never told you I loved you. First, like a brother, but lately it's been more. Being alone for so long gave me time to think…to think about what I would do differently if I had a second chance."
He opened his eyes and started to sit up. I put my hand on his shoulder. "Do not try to get up. I am here. If you upset yourself, Doctor McCoy will insist that I leave." I was torn between wanting him to go on talking and wanting him to rest.
"But where do we go from here?" His eyes met mine. Had he intended to say any of this before he awoke with my hand on his forearm? "Spock, I want to offer you my heart and my body. I guess something about being alone for all that time is giving me courage that I've never had before."
"You have never lacked courage." My response was quiet, but my mind was racing.
"No, I never lacked courage before, but somehow it would be easier to face a battalion of angry Klingons than this. To actually tell my best friend that I love him. If I think too much about it, I would realize that my odds are better with the Klingons. Maybe I'm a fool to risk your rejection. You might hate me for even suggesting this."
Without thinking, I brushed my fingertips against his cheek. "I will not reject you. And I could never hate you."
He continued in a quiet voice. "I know that I'm no prize, but if you'll have me...I know that I want to make love to you." His eyes met mine. "I honestly don't know how Vulcans view such things...I don't mean to ask you for anything that you can't give me with a clear conscience."
My hand moved from his cheek to stroke back his hair from his forehead. "T'hy'la. There is nothing that you could ask for which I could not give. You must rest. We will talk when you are stronger."
"Okay…later, Spock." He closed his eyes as McCoy's sedatives pulled him down to sleep.
I sat motionless for a minute before I lifted his hand to my mouth and gently pressed my lips against the back of it. I did not release his hand when McCoy walked in the door.
The doctor stood behind me watching Jim sleep. "God, it's good to have him back." McCoy crossed his arms across his chest. "Did you have a chance to speak with him, or has he been asleep the whole time?'
"I did speak with him, Doctor. Thank you." I did not remove my eyes from Jim's face. The doctor stood beside me for an additional minute, but said nothing further before he returned to his office, leaving me alone with my sleeping captain.
As I sat beside him, all thoughts of duty were lost in a whirlpool of memories.
I had waited a long time for him to say such words to me. The first time that I touched his mind, I had found that for which I had not known I was looking. Because I had never had a friend, I believed it to be friendship, but as I grew closer to him, I discovered that I wanted more.
When the mate selected by my parents rejected me, she set in motion a series of unexpected events. First, I "killed" my captain, but after he was restored to me - for which I owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. McCoy - I realized that I wanted my captain as my mate. The realization had initially surprised me, and I had told myself that it was impossible.
However - although I did not fully understand the emotion - I knew that Jim loved me. Both he and McCoy had told me that love was a powerful force. With love, nothing was impossible.
Illogical as it first seemed to me, I decided that I would have him as my own. I did not consider myself a sexual being, and I would have been satisfied with a joining of our minds only, but Jim was very much a sexual being. To truly possess him, I must attract him sexually, as well as mentally. All that was needed was to teach myself to want him sexually and - more importantly - to teach him to want me.
As he was a naturally affectionate person, it was not unusual for him to lightly touch my arm when we were talking. It was not difficult to convey to him that his touch was welcome. I felt considerable satisfaction when he first permitted me to massage his temples to relieve a headache.
I remembered one evening in his quarters when our fingers brushed each other's in the course of a chess game. I knew that he felt the same shock of warmth as I. I had not understood why he had apologized, or why he had made an excuse to discontinue our game. Now I understood that he had been afraid that his feelings for me were not reciprocated. Although he was generally an honest, courageous person, he chose to run away that night.
Now he was not running away.
I was on the bridge two days later when he called me from his quarters. Although, he had appeared on the bridge briefly after McCoy released him from Sickbay, that day he was under doctor's orders to stay in his quarters.
I met briefly with McCoy the previous afternoon, and he told me that he would prefer that Jim take at least a month of medical leave when we arrived at Starbase 17. I said, "I will use what influence I have to convince the captain to take shore leave, Doctor."
As I studied the daily reports, noting the progress that had been made on repairs, the speaker on the arm of the command chair signaled. "Kirk to Spock."
I keyed a control. "Spock, here, Captain."
"Mr. Spock, when you can be spared on the bridge, I'd like to see you in my cabin. There are a couple of things that I would like to discuss with you."
"Of course, Captain, I'll be there in 3.5 minutes." I directed Mr. Sulu to take the conn, and I headed for the turbolift.
I stood outside his door for a moment, experiencing some unaccustomed emotions - anticipation or nervous excitement? I touched the panel.
"Come." The door slid open.
He was turned towards his computer console and did not look up when I walked in. Instead, he held up a hand and said,"Just a minute, Mr. Spock."
I stood at attention in front of his desk, feeling unaccustomed embarrassment. The last time that we had been alone together was two days before in Sickbay, but now he appeared to be completely focussed on ship's business.
He finally turned to me with a warm smile. "Sorry, Spock. Have a seat. I have just a couple of things that we need to go over. I wanted to apologize for not pulling my weight; I know that it's causing you extra work."
I sat down and met his eyes. "No apology is necessary, Captain. Dr. McCoy put you on light duty. Is there anything that I can do to speed your recovery, sir?"
His eyes met mine with their usual warmth and candor, but he appeared troubled. "Thank you, Mr. Spock. I'm fine."
Did he remember our conversation in sickbay? My expression was carefully neutral. "What did you wish to see me about, Captain?"
His smile faded, he looked down at the desk and then back up at me. "Spock, I was going through the logs about the incident with the Tholians. I am not quite sure how to say this."
"It is not like you to be at loss for words, sir."
He stood up suddenly, walked a couple of paces, ran out of room, turned, and paced back. Because the only space in the room for pacing was in front of his desk, he paced behind my back. I continued to look straight ahead, waiting for him to continue.
"Listen, Spock, don't think I'm not grateful to you for saving my life. But you took a big risk with my ship. When I leave you in command, you're responsible for over 430 lives. Also, I would expect you, of all people, to be aware of our diplomatic responsibilities when dealing with non-Federation ships."
I had not expected this. Although McCoy and I had disagreed about the correct course of action, I had not doubted my decisions. I found it unsettling that I had disappointed him. "You believe that I acted inappropriately, sir? Is this a formal reprimand?"
He stopped pacing for a moment. "No, Spock, this isn't a formal reprimand. But I am concerned about whether you handled your command responsibilities appropriately. We have been friends a long time, but I'm also your captain. And part of my responsibility is to prepare you for a command of your own." He paused. "When Starfleet Command reviews the log…well, I may be required to reprimand you formally."
I disregarded my initial impulse to remind him that I did not wish a command of my own. Also, I considered apologizing for my actions, but I knew that he was not asking for an apology. "If you believe that I have acted inappropriately, I would expect you to reprimand me. You must remember that, as a Vulcan, I would not feel any resentment towards you for doing your duty. It would not affect my performance as your first officer. "
He shook his head. "Believe me, Mr. Spock, I would never let anything get in the way of what I see as my duty. No, I'm not reprimanding you at this time, but I want an explanation."
I nodded. "You are my captain. In making my decisions, I considered the most logical alternative, but I also considered what you would have done in the same situation. Perhaps it is not a fair question, but what would you have done if I had been lost, and you were making the decision?"
He looked surprised at the question. "Of course, I would have had to weigh the risk. If I believed rescuing you would risk the ship, I would have to choose the safety of the ship."
I was mildly amused by his response, but I suspected that it would offend him if I let it show. "Sir, I could cite several occasions on which you risked the ship to rescue members of your crew."
He frowned. "As I said, I would have to weigh the risk."
"In the midst of the crisis, you would have believed that you could save both the ship and the crew member. As I did. Considering the situation in hindsight, I understand why you agree with Dr. McCoy that the risk that I took was unwarranted. Although he grieved over your loss, he strongly advised me to take the ship to safety. However, I rejected his advice. When I understood that it was my duty to listen to his counsel, it was already too late."
He had stopped pacing, and perched on the edge of his desk, directly in front of me. "You did view my last orders, didn't you, Spock?" I watched the emotions that shifted over his face - puzzlement, hurt, and triumph all at once.
I nodded, remembering listening to the tape. I had been impressed that he had so exactly identified what was going on between the doctor and myself. I had silently vowed to do what he asked, and McCoy had apologized for blaming me for what had happened to the ship and to Jim.
"You were correct. Dr. McCoy and I were 'at each others throats.' Your advice to each of us was sound. We stopped arguing and worked together to find a solution."
He rubbed a hand across his jaw. "Yesterday on the bridge, you both denied viewing my last orders. Why? Spock, I don't remember you ever lying to me before."
I felt vaguely ashamed. "If you recall, sir, it was actually Dr. McCoy who lied. I merely failed to correct his lie."
"Spock, you supported his lie by what you said."
"I am sorry, Jim, if it hurt you. I cannot explain why, but it appeared logical to present a united front with Dr. McCoy."
I was relieved to see the stormy look on his face clearing suddenly. "You know, Spock, it's almost worth it, if I can see the two of you working together." He touched my shoulder gently before standing up to return to the chair behind the desk. "Okay, I accept your explanation that you did your duty. We just have to be prepared for questions from Command."
"Is there not a Terran expression, `All's well that ends well'?" I suggested, allowing him to see the hint of a smile on my face.
He returned the smile. "How about, 'No harm, no foul'? We'll see."
I started to stand up. He was beginning to look tired, and I did not wish to overtax him. "Was there anything else, Captain?"
He waved me to sit down again. "Actually, there was. I was looking through the duty rosters, and I saw that you scheduled both of us to take two weeks of shore leave after our arrival at Starbase 17. I am a little surprised that you would presume to schedule my shore leave, Mr. Spock."
I sat down again. I had not considered my action presumptuous, but I realized that it would have been logical to discuss it with him. "I agree that it is not something that I would normally do. However, I had a discussion with Dr. McCoy yesterday, and he wished to relieve you of duty for a month. I believed that you would resist, so I offered him a compromise of two weeks. I agree with him that you require rest. Mr. Scott is more than capable - and is actually a logical choice - to be in command while repairs are effected."
He frowned and massaged the back of his neck. "So, you offered to drag me off for shore leave, because you and Bones thought that I would resist?"
I steepled my fingers in front of me. "Jim, I also believed that it would be beneficial for the two of us to have some time away from the ship." I paused, trying to find the words. "To work out our relationship."
"Our relationship, Spock? I don't understand. We're already the best command team in the Fleet."
Did he not remember our discussion in sickbay two days before? I felt myself go cold. Of course, I had to accept his change of heart, but we had come so close... I found myself speechless for a moment.
When I recovered, I said, "In truth, Jim, I had planned a trip that I thought you would enjoy. It was intended as a surprise for your birthday, but, if you would prefer to go alone, the rest will do you good. I will remain aboard."
His frown dissolved into a smile. "Are you kidding, Spock? I would be very pleased to go on shore leave with you. I can't remember you ever suggesting it before. Usually, I have to beg you, but we always have a good time together, don't we?"
"If there is nothing else, Captain?" I gripped my hands tightly together.
"No, Spock. You can go. Thanks for coming by." He stood up and watched me walk to the door.
"Captain." I did not allow myself to think further until I had left his quarters. I stood in the turbolift, and for a moment, I forgot to name my destination. I was a fool. Some risks are worth taking, but I had been unable to take this one. Perhaps an opportunity would again present itself when we were alone together on shore leave. However, such opportunities are rare. I deeply regretted that I had not prompted him to remember his declaration of love.
After Spock left me, I tried to turn my mind back to my work, but I couldn't stop thinking of him and the stricken look on his face when I told him that he'd acted improperly in the incident with the Tholians.
Jim, you're an insensitive jerk. That man saved my life. And I repaid him by threatening him with a reprimand? And if that wasn't bad enough, then I had questioned him about scheduling shore leave together. Well, it caught me by surprise. Like I said, he'd never initiated it before.
I had to pace my quarters to work off my sudden nervous energy. I couldn't get the picture out of my mind: Spock's face had lost all expression, and he couldn't wait to get out of my quarters. I'd been so careful over the last two years to make him feel comfortable enough to be my friend, and then I'd pushed him away.
I rubbed the back of my neck, trying to think. I could be pretty charming when I want to be. Maybe, if I invited him to dinner in my quarters tonight, we'd play a game of chess, and I could break through that brick wall again.
These things are awkward, of course. Starfleet isn't wholly a military organization, but we do operate by some of the traditions of the old US Navy. An invitation to dinner from the captain is regarded as an order. I didn't want him to feel like it was an order, rather, an invitation from a friend.
I couldn't exactly call him on the bridge to ask him. That really would feel like an order. Instead, I recorded a message for him to find when he returned to his quarters after his shift.
I was tired, so I decided to take a nap. It's certainly not something that I would usually do, but I was under "doctor's orders" to rest as much as possible. McCoy wouldn't have to know that I was actually paying attention to his orders.
When I woke up, I didn't get out of bed immediately. Instead I lay there thinking about the dream that I'd just had. I was in sickbay, Spock was holding my hand, and I was telling him that I loved him.
The dream wasn't that farfetched. I did love him. But I wasn't about to screw up our friendship by telling him. In my dream, he'd been pleased when I told him. But that's all it was. Just a dream. In real life, he was my best friend, my best officer, and I had to look somewhere else for love, but sometimes I wished...
I took a quick sonic shower in an effort to clear my head. I had just put on a fresh uniform when my comm unit chimed to signal the arrival of my yeoman with dinner.
"It's good to see you eating so healthily, Captain." She bustled around my work area laying the dinner plates.
"Thank you, Yeoman Barrows." My tone was friendly, but I turned away to make it clear that I wasn't interested in further conversation. "That'll be all."
She looked a little disappointed. What did she think? That I was going to invite her to stay for dinner? It should be common knowledge that James T. Kirk didn't go in for shipboard romances.
"Yes, sir. Enjoy your dinner."
When the door chimed again, I was pleased to discover that it was Spock. As I let him in, I said, "Good, I'm glad you came. I was a little afraid that you wouldn't."
He lifted an eyebrow at me. "Really, Captain? Why would I choose to disregard your invitation to dinner?"
I felt a little embarrassed at that, and my recovery wasn't any better. "I didn't want you to think it was an order. I wanted to apologize. I was kind of hard on you this afternoon."
He stood very still, looking at me with the non-expression that he sometimes gets. His hands were held behind his back, and I wondered if he felt as nervous as I did. Of course, he didn't. Vulcans don't get nervous. Besides, what was there to be nervous about? We were just two friends having dinner.
Maybe I should have been nervous about afterwards when I was going to challenge him to a chess game. Well, that wasn't anything to be nervous about either. It didn't matter who won. I would still enjoy the game. Not that I don't have a fierce desire to win, but, when I play with Spock, even losing is enjoyable.
"To apologize for doing your duty as my captain is not logical, sir."
"We're off duty now. And if you don't call me 'Jim,' I'm going to suspect you of holding a grudge about our discussion this afternoon."
"'Grudges' are not logical," he said. "Jim." His slight smile showed only in his eyes.
Dinner went well. We both seemed to relax and we were soon talking as easily as ever. Sometimes it seems like all we talk about is the ship, but other times we remember that we have a lot of other interests in common. We ended up talking about our last shore leave together when he took me camping on Vulcan.
As I was putting aside our dinner dishes I said, "I don't think I should go to Vulcan with you anymore. Every time we go there, I almost end up getting killed."
His eyes flickered with some unidentifiable emotion when I said this.
"I hope that, with experience, you are becoming more prudent, and, therefore, less likely to risk your life to prove how indestructible you are. In addition, I have gained the experience to be more cautious where your well-being is concerned."
"In other words, Spock, if I'm not smart enough to look out for myself, you'll watch out for me?" I smiled as I began to set up the chess game.
"I believe that is what I said." There was a definite flash of humor in his eyes.
"So what trouble do you anticipate me getting into on this shore leave that you've planned?"
He seemed to hesitate before answering. No, that must have been my imagination. "If your question is a clumsy attempt to elicit additional information, you will not succeed. I have already partially spoiled your birthday surprise by revealing that I am taking you on a trip."
I laughed at that. It warmed me inside that he knew that I'm just like a little kid when it comes to surprises. Suddenly, I remembered something that I want to ask him.
"Speaking of birthdays, Spock. Yours is just four days after mine. I wanted to get you something special." I reached across the table to lightly touch the back of his hand with my fingertips. "I want you to know how important your friendship is to me."
He looked down at his hand and then raised his eyes to meet mine again. "I had understood that gifts are intended to be unsolicited. That it spoils some of the meaning if the recipient tells the giver what to give."
I waved my hand to dismiss that idea. "Who told you that? A woman, I'll bet. Some women have this idea that you should be able to read their minds, and if they have to tell you what they want, you don't really care about them. Sometimes it just makes sense to come out and ask."
He raised an eyebrow, maybe at my comment about reading minds. Maybe at my explanation of "what women want."
When he didn't respond, I put my hand on his again. He didn't show any reaction to my touch, but his eyes continued to rest on mine. "I want to give you something special. Your heart's desire." As soon as I said that, I felt a little foolish. No doubt, my Vulcan friend would find the expression illogical and puzzling. "What I mean is - "
"I am familiar with the expression." His response was maybe a little too quick for normal Vulcan politeness. "It refers to that which is highly prized or longed for. It is a somewhat emotional expression, of course." He seemed to hesitate. "You are offering me my heart's desire, Jim?"
I nodded, a little taken aback by how easily he appeared to understand. He's full of surprises.
I looked down, and I contemplated Jim's hand resting in my own. Then I slowly lifted it to my mouth. I turned it over to put my lips on the pulse point on his wrist. "You are my heart's desire, t'hy'la."
His face flushed slightly, but then he closed his eyes. I sensed that he enjoyed the physical contact. I also sensed that he had imagined much more between us than this simple kiss. I let go of his hand reluctantly and stood up.
His eyes opened, and he looked at me with a dazed expression. "Spock?"
"I have told you what I wish for a birthday gift. Naturally, I will treasure any gift that you choose to give me."
He nodded wordlessly. He made no effort to stop me when I left his quarters.
As I stepped out into the corridor, I could not imagine going back to my quarters to attempt sleep. I was amazed at my boldness, amazed at the feelings of desire I had experienced when I kissed his hand - and the answering desire in his mind.
I had been told that humans often enjoyed anticipation more than an actual event. I had to agree that the anticipation was indeed pleasurable.
Wordlessly, I watched Spock walk out of my quarters. God, his dignity staggers me.
I realized that what I dreamed - my declaration of love in sickbay - actually happened. When he came to my quarters this morning, he thought that we were going to discuss our plans to 'do something about it.'
Instead, I yelled at him for saving my life and told him that he was presumptuous to schedule me to go on shore leave with him. I was damn lucky that he would even talk to me again after I treated him like that and then slapped him down. Much less give me another chance.
That was the most elegant proposition that I'd ever received. He told me I was his heart's desire.
I understood him perfectly, of course. When he told me that he would accept any gift from me, I knew that he was telling me that it was okay if I turned him down. And maybe that's what I should I have done. How could I risk his friendship? God knows, every romance I get myself into, I manage to screw up. Sure, I stay friends with most of them - well, the ones that don't end up dying anyway.
And that was another thought. I couldn't imagine losing him as my friend, but we're in a risky profession. It's not inconceivable that he could end up dead at my orders. Imagine if I really let myself be in love with him. Well, more in love with him than I was already. Could I continue to do my duty? And treat him like my first officer even if he were my lover?
What was that old expression? Be careful what you wish for...
Standing beside Mr. Scott in front of a diagnostic panel in Engineering, I did not need to turn to know that Jim had walked in. As Mr. Scott nodded a greeting, I said, "Captain, Mr. Scott and I were just about to run the efficiency tests which I discussed with you earlier."
He moved to stand beside me. "Very good, Mr. Spock. I'll be interested to see the results."
Mr. Scott moved off to another panel. "Give me a minute, Mr. Spock."
When we were alone, he turned to me. His voice was for my ears alone when he said, "I just came from a meeting with Commodore Mendez. He's done a cursory review of our logs, including our repair needs. He agreed that there was no problem with the two of us leaving the ship for two weeks."
I looked at him intently. "Did you expect that he would not approve? It would be unusual, I believe, for a starbase commander to overrule a starship captain on the question of shore leave for his officers and crew."
"I agree, but for the captain and the first officer to both take off during a refit..." He shook his head.
I could clearly read his feelings of responsibility for his ship warring with his desire to take shore leave. We were scheduled to leave the next afternoon.
"We have taken shore leave together before. There is nothing different about this shore leave. Also, the required repairs are not extensive, and Mr. Scott is ahead of schedule. Be assured that we will time to review ship's status when we return."
He smiled. "Of course, you're right." Together we turned back to the diagnostic panel. "Now tell me again what we're testing."
I began to explain, but only half of my mind was focussed on the testing. The other half was distracted by his nearness, the slightly musky scent of his body, and the clean scent of his hair. I noted that he had taken the opportunity on the Starbase to get his hair cut. I had an odd impulse to reach out to touch the nape of his neck - first with my fingers and then with my lips.
I was intrigued by my enjoyment of the fantasy. I could not recall thinking such thoughts before. I felt somewhat divided - part of me was the half-Vulcan, half-Human experiencing the unaccustomed emotions; part of me was the scientist observing my reactions.
He appeared unaware of my scrutiny and listened to my explanation without questions. When Mr. Scott said that all was ready, I keyed the panel. There was no perceivable change in the readings. I was unprepared when Jim placed a hand on my arm, saying, "I don't see." The physical contact caused heat to flow through my body and into his. I saw the surprise in his eyes, and I felt his sudden vertigo.
I was unable to move. Mr. Scott looked over and saw Jim go pale. The engineer ran over and grasped him by the arm. "Captain, are you all right? Maybe you should sit down." Mr. Scott looked at me reprovingly. "Mr. Spock, can't you see the Captain isn't well?" I knew that, at that moment, the engineer agreed with Dr. McCoy's general assessment that I was the most "cold-blooded" man that he'd ever met.
Jim and I had been looking at each other, but we broke our eye contact to look at the engineer. Jim grinned and rubbed his hand across his temple. "It's okay, Scotty. I just got a little dizzy. I'm okay now."
Placing my hands behind my back, I said, "I was monitoring the panel, Engineer." It was clearly a prevarication; I had been looking at Jim instead of at the panel, but Mr. Scott did not appear to notice. "I did not immediately notice the captain's distress. Captain, perhaps you should check in with Dr. McCoy. In any case, he will need to clear you before we can leave the ship tomorrow. Mr. Scott and I will complete this testing."
I sensed that Jim was too embarrassed to argue. "Very well, Mr. Spock, Mr. Scott, I'll leave you to finish this. But McCoy can wait until tomorrow to check me over. I'm fine now."
The next afternoon, Jim was on the diagnostic bed with McCoy hovering over him when I walked into sickbay. "You check out okay, Jim." The doctor glanced at me. "The captain is fine, but I want him to be careful. Keep an eye on him, Spock."
"It is my intention to not take my eyes off him, but it may be difficult."
Jim grinned at me. "Are you saying that I'm difficult to look at?"
I lifted an eyebrow at that. The opposite was certainly true. "No, Captain, I was referring to your tendency to be quite independent."
"I'll work on that, Mr. Spock."
McCoy led the way to his outer office. "Spock, what I can't figure out is what you offered Jim to even convince him to take two weeks of shore leave. It's like pulling teeth to get him off the Enterprise for that long."
I realized that McCoy didn't notice Jim's blush, but I found the slight change in his skin color to be aesthetically pleasing.
McCoy didn't wait for my answer. "So what are you two planning to do for two weeks. I guess if you just play chess, that shouldn't be too physically taxing."
Jim glanced at me. "I don't know, Bones. Spock hasn't told me anything about what he's planned." The blush did not fade. "Well, very little anyway."
When McCoy stopped at his desk and turned to look at me questioningly, I said, "I have rented a house on a beach, Captain. You once mentioned your fondness for building sandcastles with your brother. I thought, perhaps, you could teach me."
McCoy lifted his eyebrow, and Jim raked his hands through his hair. "I was ten years old when I did that!"
McCoy grinned. "I'm sure you'll remember how to build sand castles, Jim. Sounds like you're in for a very different shore leave than what you're used to."
The doctor then looked from the captain to me. "Your birthday present to Jim is a two week vacation at the beach? And what did Jim get you?" McCoy answered his own question, recalling the joint birthday celebration that our officers had held for us the day before. " A water bottle! Spock, I think that you should make Jim chip in on that beach house rental."
Jim looked away with a faint smile on his face as I responded to McCoy. "I have been told that when giving and receiving gifts, it is the thought that counts. Also, I understand that it is inappropriate to comment on other people's gifts."
McCoy actually flushed at that. He recovered and, with an apologetic look in his eyes, he said, "Very good, Mr. Spock, building sandcastles sounds like a relaxing activity. Don't forget the sunscreen."
The doctor then sat down behind his desk. "Okay, you two have fun. I've got some work that I have to finish here before I can go on shore leave myself."
"See ya, Bones." Jim turned to look at me. "I'm ready, if you are."
When we were alone in the turbolift, his eyes lit up with amusement. "Sandcastles, Mr. Spock?"
I kept my expression carefully neutral. "As Dr. McCoy said, I am sure that you will remember how to build them." I paused and allowed a faint smile to appear in my eyes. "I hope that you were not offended by Dr. McCoy's attack on your gift to me. I found the water bottle to be a most appropriate gift."
He allowed his smile to turn seductive as he looked into my eyes. "Like you said, Spock. It's the thought that counts."
"I have always admired the way that you think, Jim."
Dr. McCoy could not have known that a water vessel was considered a highly prized love token between Ancient Vulcan lovers. I wondered how Jim had known this, but I felt certain that I would find the opportunity to ask him in the next two weeks.
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