All of the biobeds in the front rooms of Sickbay were occupied. Doctors McCoy and M’Benga, along with two shifts’ worth of nurses, were scurrying among their patients with various hyposprays and medical instruments. Every member of the morning’s abnormally large landing party had received either burns or blunt force trauma when an unanticipated geological anomaly had unleashed a geyser of molten pergium (mercifully, the nonradioactive variety) into the air only a few hundred meters from their research site. The spontaneous eruption had superheated the atmosphere around them for a split second and sent nearby rocks—and the crew’s research equipment—flying toward them as projectiles.
Thankfully, the whole team had been just far enough away from the small explosion that there were no casualties from the fireball, blast winds, substantial fissures in the ground, or the larger boulders that had been propelled airborne closer to ground zero. But a few personnel had lost consciousness in the fracas, and although no one had sustained any permanently damaging physical effects, the psychological fallout from the event would likely be felt across the Enterprise for a good long while, as McCoy might have said if he’d had the opportunity to stop and chat about it.
And of course Captain Kirk happened to be one of the wounded. He had beamed down to the planet with the junior science and security teams, leaving his first officer to man the bridge in his absence. Based on all the readings, the surface was presumed to be stable and, as Kirk had put it, the perfect place for the younger crewmembers to get some experience in the field.
Commander Spock supposed it was just bad luck, then, that the field in question ended up literally exploding mere minutes after they’d set up their base of operations, and with only three or four seconds’ warning. It was either that or poor reconnaissance, for which he was personally responsible.
“I thought I told you to stop that,” the half-naked Kirk said sternly from his prone position on the biobed in the private room behind Dr. McCoy’s office. He’d been following Spock’s train of thought ever since he’d insisted on rolling up his husband’s blue sleeve and pressing the lengths of their left arms together, claiming a desperate need for the skin-to-skin contact. “None of this is your fault, sweetheart. There were absolutely no signs that could have allowed us to predict what happened.”
Spock hummed dubiously in the blessed quiet of the secluded room, savoring the feeling of Kirk’s large, soft hand gripping his upper arm tighter than before. He rubbed his free hand over the rest of his Human’s muscular exposed arm and visually surveyed his injured figure for the umpteenth time in the twenty-eight minutes he’d been sitting next to the biobed.
The right side of Kirk’s torso had taken the brunt of it. According to McCoy, his wounds were mostly superficial. He had earned a few scrapes and bruises from the rock fragments he’d flung himself in front of to protect an ensign from the science department (an action for which, regardless of its inherent valor, Spock had immediately and thoroughly chastised him upon his arrival at Kirk’s bedside). The worst of his burns were only second-degree, and they were contained to the areas that had been directly exposed to the blast—namely his neck, hand, and a little portion of his midriff where his uniform had no doubt ridden up when he’d shielded his face and bodily defended the others.
The prognosis was good: he was expected to recover within thirty-six hours, as long as he remained in Sickbay and obeyed the medical staff’s orders. His ribs, shoulder, and right arm lay motionless in their sparkling bandages. The sight of those dressings never got easier, no matter how frequently Kirk took damage in the line of duty. Spock knew McCoy was by far the best physician they could have asked for, and he trusted the Southerner implicitly with the lives of every soul aboard their ship, his own included. But he also knew he would never be able to see his bondmate in such a condition and not feel his heart constrict with dread.
“I’m fine,” Kirk said, his voice considerably more tender. He sounded as carefree as ever, pretending with practiced grace that he was in hardly any pain at all. “Honestly, it really doesn’t hurt that much. Especially now that you’re here with me.”
The acting captain looked up into his lover’s glittering eyes. Kirk was giving him his most adoring, radiant smile, the one he was fully aware made Spock’s pulse stutter from the sheer beauty of the wrinkles it created around his eyes, the glow it cast from his smooth cheeks, and the love he masterfully projected from every cell of his skin despite his lack of telepathic abilities.
“And I promise I’ll behave and do everything Bones tells me to do,” he added, letting his glance fall to where Spock was caressing his left arm. “Ohh, kitten… that feels so nice.” He sighed happily and his eyes closed, those elegant lashes fanning out over his cheeks and mesmerizing the Vulcan. “Mm… so good.”
Leaning close in the amorous haze surrounding them, Spock was just about to press his lips to Kirk’s when he heard a sniffle behind him.
And his instincts took over.
Without even knowing what he was doing, he draped himself across Kirk’s body defensively, somehow managing to avoid disturbing any of his bandages. At the same time, he pivoted to bare his teeth and snarl through them at the intruder.
A few moments of strained silence passed, and none of the three men in the room even so much as blinked.
Finally, a startled but all-too-amused-looking Dr. McCoy said, his tone cautious but kind, “Spock… did you just hiss at me?!”
The commander could feel the blood rushing into his cheeks, betraying his embarrassment at the bizarre (albeit involuntary) display of territorialism. And the irony was not lost on him of his hypocrisy, his having protectively thrown himself over Kirk mere minutes after reprimanding him for having done the same thing for that ensign on the planet’s surface. Spock’s eyes, unseeing, flitted all over the empty space between the end of his nose and the blanket covering his spouse’s legs.
“I…” Spock said, still not moving from his position curled around Kirk, his voice unrecognizable even to himself. “Doctor, I…”
“Honey?” Kirk said behind and beneath him. A tentative hand hovered over Spock’s shoulder in his peripherals before settling there and easing him back out of his hunched stance.
The warm, soothing touch of his mate significantly calmed every receptor of Spock’s entire nervous system just as if Kirk had taken over his internal organs and magically waved away all of his tension. He felt his startle response fading, the apprehension of some unknown threat dissipating as Kirk’s gentle hand breathed comfort and safety into his body.
His backside landing on the chair he’d leapt from so suddenly, the dazed Vulcan felt Kirk’s hand migrate down his arm and grab his palm securely. McCoy carefully stepped into his line of sight on the other side of the biobed, smiling softly as he held his datapadd against his chest, one hand freed and at the ready in case Kirk indicated that he needed any assistance.
“It’s okay, honey, it’s just Bones,” Kirk murmured, knowing as they both did that McCoy disliked them having telepathic discussions when the three of them were otherwise unaccompanied. Kirk had once told Spock he suspected the emotional Georgian enjoyed the level of trust in and friendship for him which they advertised by occasionally allowing him to witness some of the intimate endearments and verbal exchanges they kept private from anyone else in the crew. Spock had, of course, been more than happy to oblige them both since that revelation, wanting nothing more than to please his husband and to form a reliable connection with the man too routinely charged with keeping that husband alive and healthy.
“Doctor,” Spock began again, his vision starting to clear. “I apologize for my behavior. I am not sure what… came over me.”
“It’s alright,” McCoy said casually. “Actually, I should probably apologize to you—I was so wrapped up in my padd here that I forgot to announce myself when I came in, and since we’d left the door open I guess there was no way for you to realize I was here.”
“It’s nobody’s fault,” Kirk said, breaking into a smile. “It was just an accident. Just one of those things that happens when you sneak up on a stressed-out cat.” He squeezed Spock’s hand, then let go to run his fingers along the shell of his pointed ear and through his hair.
McCoy snorted. “Hell, I’ll have to remember that in the future.” He had diverted his attention to reading Kirk’s vitals on the display over the bed and making some recordings on his padd.
“And you have nothing to be embarrassed about, mister,” Kirk said to his spouse. He sat up and kissed Spock’s cheek, quickly relaxing back into his pillow at the exertion. He continued his strokes along the sensitive skin behind Spock’s ear, though, and they felt heavenly.
I love you so, so much, my sweet ha’su, Kirk said through their bond, apparently unable to contain himself but unwilling to share that pet name and that sentiment with anyone but the commander.
Slowly, Spock let his guard back down and sensed the usual purring response welling up inside him at Kirk’s kiss. There was a lingering sensation of his wonderful lips on the Vulcan’s skin; tingles were spreading throughout him in powerful gusts from the stimulation to his scalp; and his closeness had caused the intoxication that always overtook Spock’s consciousness from the scent which clung to the captain everywhere he went (and which Kirk facetiously called his “Man in Love cologne”).
Fighting to keep himself from displaying another of his feline tendencies so soon, Spock cleared his throat to obstruct the budding vibrations within it and said, “A Vulcan should have more awareness and better control over his body than I have just exhibited.”
Kirk rolled his eyes, but Spock ignored him.
“I hope you understand, doctor,” he went on, “that I would never intentionally… hiss at you. I know that you are not a threat to myself or to my bondmate.”
“Aw, thanks, sugar,” McCoy said with a giggle even as he kept writing on Kirk’s chart. “I won’t take it personal. I know you didn’t mean anything by it.” Looking up, he winked at his friends. “Well Jim, you’re doing just as well as everybody else. Only those sunburns and some minor barotrauma, no internal ruptures or hemorrhaging. Bit of a miracle, if you ask me. Looks like I’ll have you and the rest of the landing party out of my hair in the next twenty-four to forty-eight hours.”
Spock and Kirk shared a relieved unwinding of their guts through their marital link.
“Thank God,” Kirk said. “And thank you for looking after us all.”
“It’s nothin’, really,” McCoy said affably, making his way around the foot of the biobed and toward the door. “Besides, M’Benga, Chapel, and the others are doing just as much as I am. Saving lives is just another day at the office for us, y’know.” He snickered to make light of his humility. “Just try not to blow yourselves up anymore, alright?”
Kirk laughed, the sound absolute music to Spock’s flushed ears.
“Leonard,” Spock said just before McCoy made it to the threshold.
The room became almost eerily quiet at the first officer’s rare use of McCoy’s given name.
Turning to look at the doctor with as much sincerity and contrition in his gaze as he could summon—a skill he’d been refining with help from his beautifully compassionate Human lover—Spock swallowed hard before speaking again. “Thank you for always taking such expert care of my beloved James.”
Both McCoy and Kirk looked surprised. Perhaps they’d been expecting Spock to apologize another time for his ridiculous hissing spectacle. Kirk grabbed and squeezed his hand where it rested on the bed beside his hip.
Smiling wide, McCoy walked back over to where Spock was sitting and patted his shoulder. “It’s my pleasure to take care of both you idiots,” he said, genuine affection in his bright eyes.
The corners of Spock’s lips curved as he looked up at his and Kirk’s closest friend and confidant, and he hoped the man could sense how grateful he was from his body language. For all that he teased McCoy over his frequent reckless outbursts, he had to admit that the doctor was nonetheless rather skilled at interpreting his nonverbal cues—sometimes almost as skilled as Kirk.
McCoy turned away after a long, comfortable silence, heading back out to make the rounds through his busy (but finally less chaotic) Sickbay. At the restored privacy, Spock shared a loving, electrified look with the captain, whose hand was busy massaging an impassioned ozh’esta into his fingers.
“Remember, though,” McCoy called from just outside the open door. “If y’all get up to any of your typical hanky panky in there, I’ll know about it!”
Spock blushed all over again while Kirk simply chuckled and pulled him in for a chaste kiss.