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Papa Spock

Chapter Text

“If you will excuse me, gentlemen, I must see to an experiment in progress,” Spock stated stiffly as he started gathering the remnants of his luncheon together. A definite chill settled on the table after he spoke.

“Oh, you have to leave so quickly?” Kirk, sitting beside him at the small table in the mess hall, asked. His disappointment was quite evident. "But you haven't even finished your meal."

“I have consumed sufficient nutrients to strengthen me throughout the rest of my shift, Captain. Thank you for asking." In spite of his will not to do so, his eyes swept across the table to the third man who had not asked or did not even seem to be acknowledging his presence or the imminent prospects of his departure.

"You really must leave so soon?" Kirk insisted.

"Yes, I would like to check on that hydration experiment in the science lab before resuming my duties on the Bridge again. The experiment is at a critical juncture and must be evaluated periodically. It will take only a few moments, but I do not wish to be shirking my assigned duties, either.”

Kirk gave him a languid smile. “You know, I'd think, that the universe wouldn’t end if you were a few moments late back on the Bridge, don't you? I believe that the rest of us could muddle through somehow until you reappeared.” Kirk meant it as a gentle, but kidding reproof.

The other guy didn't.

“I don’t know about that, Jim,” McCoy piped up from the other side of the table. “Officers have to be an example of devotion to duty and punctuality. And I’m sure that Mr. Spock here is determined to bust his butt to be all things to all men, especially if he can be a model of perfection for them. You don’t wanna be interfering with any of that kind of dedication to duty now, do you?” he asked with a languid smirk.

Then with a great amount of pleasure, McCoy took another bite of pork chop which had arrived on the Enterprise as a special treat for the omnivores and carnivores on-board. McCoy was seeing to it that he got his share of the delectable delicacy, and Kirk had been, also. Kirk just hadn't been making such a show of his pleasure because he did not want to be so callous to Spock's sensitivities.

McCoy held no such qualms.

Spock visibly flinched, either from McCoy’s cutting remark or from McCoy’s obvious enjoyment of first-class protein from animal flesh. Whether Spock’s reaction stemmed from a combination of both troubling aspects of McCoy's behavior could not be clearly ascertained. Meanwhile, Kirk gave McCoy a look halfway between anger and disappointment. In contrast to Spock's, Kirk's reaction was clearly obvious. McCoy had stirred Kirk, but not in a good way. Not even a pork chop could soften Kirk for what he had just witnessed.

“I do not wish to interfere with your use of the science lab, Doctor,” Spock explained after he had managed to collect himself. “That is why I will try to be as unobtrusive with my presence as possible.”

“Don’t worry,” McCoy answered as he gnawed on the pork chop bone as shiny grease coated his fingers and lips. “You’ll know if I’m ever annoyed with you.” He paused, then raised his eyes and shot a look at Spock. "Or your presence." Then he resumed gnawing.

Spock did not know how to answer. He and Kirk both knew that McCoy was not shy about expressing his displeasure with anything or anybody. And McCoy was not softening anything from this display of ill manners and just plain bullying.

There was nothing left for Spock to do but to leave. “I will see you on the Bridge, Captain,” Spock mumbled as he stood.

“Take your time,” Kirk mumbled back, still aghast at McCoy's behavior.

As Spock gathered his meal debris, he glanced at McCoy who was concentrating on his food. Finally Spock ventured, “Until dinnertime, Doctor.”

“Yeah, umm,” McCoy mumbled back. “Whatever.”

Spock slunk away as unobtrusively as possible.

Kirk leaned across the table and hissed, “What the hell was that all about?!”

“Don’t know what you mean, Jim,” McCoy answer nonchalantly.

Too nonchalantly, Kirk figured. McCoy knew exactly what Kirk was getting at, but was going to be a little snot about it.

“That wasn’t very nice what you were doing to Spock. You were being downright rude.”

“It doesn’t bother him, Jim. He doesn’t have any feelings to be hurt.” McCoy shrugged. "Ask him yourself. He's always blathering away about his stiff upper lip and stoic nature. His feelings? Forget them. He has."

"He's got them, Bones."

"I know, even if he won't admit it. He takes pride in beating the little bastards back so he doesn't have to deal with them."

“He’s got a terrible battle with himself, and we need to help him all we can.”

McCoy set aside the pork chop bone. It was scraped clean anyway. And even McCoy apparently drew the line at cracking the bone apart and sucking out the marrow, although he was certain that it would be a tasty treat. The doctor in him cautioned that pork chop bones would be hard on his teeth. Besides, he was a little put out by Kirk calling him to task about Spock. “Look, I’ll work with him, but I’m not gonna adopt him!”

“I’m just asking you to be decent.”

McCoy deflated. “I don’t know why I act that way. I'm generally better with my fellow man, especially if I know he's having personal problems with himself."

Kirk relaxed, too. He felt he was finally reaching McCoy. "I know you are. That's part of your calling as a doctor to respond to emotional as well as physical ailments. I know you're fair and kind as a person." He sent a warm grin McCoy's way. "Heaven knows you've done your share of free charity work with me."

"Maybe you gave me a good reason."

Kirk's grin deepened.

McCoy stirred himself. "And maybe it’s because I sense he’s got some sort of shield up to ward me off.”

“Can you blame him?”

“He’s the one with the burr up his ass, not me. He’s not exactly warm and fuzzy to me.”

“He’s probably afraid to approach you. I know I would be if you treated me like you treat him.”

“I just don’t see how a guy as outgoing and charismatic as you are can be drawn to him.”

“It took awhile. We had to learn to respect and trust each other. That didn’t come easy. And now it’s hard to explain, but it’s there. And it isn't going anywhere-- for either one of us.” He grew thoughtful, then his face creased in a smile.

“What are you grinning about?”

“You made me think of my grandfather and a poem he taught me. It seems to cover this situation.”

“What poem is that?”

“’You ask me why I like him;
Nay, I cannot, nay, I WOULD not say.
I think it vile to pigeonhole
The pros and cons of a kindred soul.

“’You wonder he should be my friend;
But then why should you comprehend?
Consider this, a new surprise;
My eyes, remember, are not your eyes.’”

At that moment, a crewman stopped and asked Kirk a question. Finally, Kirk turned and finished the old poem.

“...You ask me Why?
Supposing I said, Because.’”

Suddenly Kirk sat upright, threw his hand out like a Shakespearian actor, and got a steely look in his eyes.

“’Enough! Enough of questioning!
We two are friends tell everything.
But if you must know, this is why:
Because he is he, and I am I.’”

"Wow! That's quite a poem."

"I know. Quite a message, too."

“Why did you leave out part of the third verse?” McCoy wanted to know in the hush that followed Kirk’s recitation.

“Because I’ve forgotten some of it,” Kirk answered sadly. “And my grandfather isn’t around to tell me what words are missing. It was written sometime in the 1890’s, I remember.”

“An oldie, but goody,” McCoy mumbled.

“Yeah,” Kirk said with a bittersweet smile twisting his handsome face in remembrance of the old poem and of his grandfather so many years gone.

“I’m glad you’ve got that strong of a friendship with Spock. I’m happy for both of you,” McCoy said softly without any malice or sneering. He was clearly envious, too.

“Give him a chance, Bones. He might surprise you. You’re both good people, and no one can have enough friends.”

McCoy gave him a warm-hearted smirk. “Even if his ears are pointed and his skin is green?”

“Go by his heart and his good intentions and his loyalty. Then you won’t even notice his ears or his green color.”

“I don’t notice them now. It’s his damn contrariness and those shields I was talking about. He won’t let me in.”

“He’s probably thinking the same things about you.”

“We have nothing in common.”

“Outside of me?” Kirk asked with a grin, then he sobered. “Find something, Bones. It’ll be worth your while. I guarantee it.”

McCoy doubted it. But for Kirk, anything.

 

 

So the next day McCoy approached Spock in the Science Lab.

“Oh. Doctor. Are you wanting to use the facilities now?” Spock asked, rather startled. “I will finish quickly so that you may have the laboratory to do your own work.” His hands trembled as he rushed to put away his instruments.

His fumbling cut McCoy to the quick. Jim had been right. McCoy had been putting unreasonable demands on Spock.

“Wait, Commander. Don’t hurry.”

Spock looked up, surprised. “Pardon?”

McCoy bit his tongue to keep back the sharp retort or any others he felt rising to be handy and ready for his immediate use. “Look, I, ah… don’t have exclusive rights to the labs. Not even the one in sickbay is mine exclusively.”

“Oh, Doctor, I would never assume to practice in the sickbay lab--”

“Well, you can!” McCoy barked.

A test tube almost slipped out of Spock’s hand.

“Look, I’m… sorry I come off like such a jerk,” McCoy began softly.

The figure of speech threw Spock, and he looked confused. “I do not understand, Doctor.”

“I know you don’t.” McCoy breathed deeply for strength. “But I will try to make allowances and help you.” McCoy expected to feel put out for having to make an extra effort with Spock. But for some reason, he did not. In fact, he got a warm and fuzzy feeling, and that surprised him.

McCoy glanced toward Spock’s experiment. “Would you like to explain what you’re doing here?”

“You would be interested?” Spock asked in amazement.

McCoy bit back several snappy retorts. Baby steps, he reminded himself. Maybe later, when he and Spock got more familiar and at ease with each other, he could go back to the snappy retorts. But not now.

There probably would be time in the future for a lot of things he hadn’t even thought of, too.

And there was.

And that was how they started to really become friends instead of just officers serving together.

Chapter Text

Sometimes Jim Kirk subscribed to the saying that it was better to let sleepy dogs lie. He could just hear his old Iowa grandfather urging him to use caution in regards to his two closest friends. Of course, Grandpa was fifty-six when he'd first uttered that platitude and had seemed, to his young grandson, to be going on ninety. But Grandpa was also highly respected by the surrounding rural community, so there had to be a good reason for that. And young Jim was just wise enough himself even at that age to be prudent. It had been only one of the few brakes he put on himself, though. Because Jim Kirk was generally "hell bent for election" as he'd heard his grandfather remark many a time about someone's reckless behavior, generally young Kirk's.

So Kirk could just hear Grandpa urging him to give Spock and McCoy some time and space. He knew it wasn’t a perfect relationship between his friends, but then what relationship ever was? After awhile, the two had found something resembling friendship that seemed to work for them even though it was lopsided at times and convoluted at others. As long as it made sense to them and were generally peaceable with one another, Kirk was happy. He was happiest when his little starship hummed along on a even keel, and tranquility between Spock and McCoy seemed to help a lot with his happiness.

One thing, they now seemed interested in the other's opinion, even if it was only for the purpose of striking up a hearty opposition to that opinion. Kirk could swear that Spock kept trying to bait McCoy into an argument, especially if he couldn’t get McCoy involved in a dispute in any other way. And McCoy sometimes seemed to be trying to bring Spock to task for not responding to his emotions any more than Spock ever did.

Each had an uncanny ability to find the main weaknesses in the other one, be it emotionally or socially. Sometimes their bickering bogged down or even got out of hand to the extent that they needed a cooler head to intervene. Then Kirk got the unwelcome task of getting them to bring their controversy to some sort of settlement that both could live with. When possible, he would lead each to realize how peace could be restored. He refused to be their parent, though. He tried valiantly to stress that rule. They had to solve squabbles for themselves. But sometimes they still needed his gentle, but sure guidance.

If nothing else, Kirk reasoned, it gave him good practice with the use of his diplomatic skills. If he could keep these two from killing each other, he figured he just might have enough ability to keep the rest of the adverse individuals in the universe at peace among themselves. Other times, he thought that the universe would be easier to handle. Because these two guys were his friends, and that made everything suddenly very personal among the three of them.

Occasionally, Kirk figured that Spock and McCoy’s bickering could try the patience and wisdom of even someone like King Solomon, Confucius, and Abraham Lincoln all rolled into one. If those great thinkers could’ve been reduced to frustration by Spock and McCoy, then someone like Jim Kirk shouldn’t feel so badly if he slipped up once in awhile when dealing with them.

But Kirk was not always filled with vexation when dealing with his friends. He knew that Spock and McCoy were both capable of setting aside their personal fights with each other to work together and, more importantly, to protect each other when need be. In fact, they could be downright adamant about defending each other, which sometimes gave Kirk its own special brand of angst for him to deal with.

He just wished they had something special to share with each other that no one else could quite understand, something like what Kirk shared with his closest friends.

Kirk and McCoy had been classmates together and had become old drinking buddies with a history. There’s a special camaraderie between guys that have old school ties together.

Kirk and Scotty shared a love for the engines that drove the Enterprise and made her a grand lady of the universe. Because they worked with the nuts and bolts of her and cleaned and greased her, they had an intimacy with her that none of the others shared.

Kirk and Spock couldn’t have been different in personalities. One thing they shared, though, was an overwhelming belief in themselves and their own opinions. How they had learned to bend to include the other guy was a love story in itself, and Kirk felt warm-hearted every time he thought of the special love that connected him and Spock now.

Kirk just wished that Spock and McCoy could eventually find something that would unite them. Otherwise, they were going to miss out on a friendship that each deserved.

Still, he was hesitant to throw them deliberately together. His philosophy was: Why tempt Fate? So he always had second thoughts before forcing them together.

 

 

That was why Kirk thoughtfully fingered the comm for a long moment before he pressed it. Did he really want to involve McCoy? But he knew it was for the best. “Bridge to Sickbay.”

Almost immediately, he was answered. “McCoy here. What do you need, Captain?”

Just the sound of McCoy's voice reassured Kirk, but he still felt apprehensive. He knew he was right in sharing his concerns, though. “Listen, ah, Spock just left here. Said he wasn’t feeling well. Decided to go to his quarters to rest awhile.”

“In the middle of his shift?”

Kirk could just see the frown on McCoy’s face. He knew McCoy was just as puzzled as he was by Spock’s actions.

"That's right."

“That doesn’t sound like Spock,” McCoy continued. “He’d keep serving, even if he had to drag a broken leg behind him. And then he'd apologize for his slowness and awkwardness and groans of pain slipping out from between his clenched teeth.”

“I know. That’s what has me concerned. This has been coming on him for several days now. He hasn’t been feeling his best since that giant flower sneezed on him the other day down on that jungle planet.”

“Yeah, I know that I shouldn’t have laughed about that, but I couldn’t help myself. He just looked so stupefied with that white goo running all down his face. If I hadn’t known better, I would’ve thought we were back on Guakos and the Egg Shitters were attacking us again. But the goop that hit Spock this time didn’t have any yolk in it. It was all white and reminded me of something that generally shows up at bedtime, IF you know what I mean.”

Kirk frowned. “Do you mean--”

“Yeah. THAT stuff. The stuff that makes an opera singer outa any guy lucky enough to get to share it."

Kirk felt uneasy for Uhura's presence behind him, although he could hear her talking to someone on the radio herself. Kirk knew that McCoy wouldn't blatantly embarrass her.

McCoy must've figured out what Kirk's silence meant, so he said something to cover up his suggestive words. But what he said wasn't much better, but it did offer a guess as to what the muck flung onto Spock could've been. "Or it could've been something less romantic. Maybe the flower could've just been taking a dump and thought that Spock looked like a handy toilet.”

Kirk made a face, thinking how horrible it would've been if Spock might've gotten covered in excrement. He didn't know if that would've been worse or McCoy's first guess of semen. One thing, it made their original assumption of flower snot seem like a wonderful choice.

Then Kirk considered something else. “Well, it might’ve had something in it that is causing an allergic reaction now. Can you go see how Spock is doing? It might help just to have someone fussing over him. I know it does me.”

“Yeah, but you ain’t Spock. And he ain’t you. He’d probably just rather lie in the dark and relate to his morbid furnishings. But I will go check him out. I hate to think that I missed something when I originally checked him over.”

“I know you would. That’s why I thought you’d like to take care of this personally.”

“Thanks. Why didn't he show up in sickbay so I could've taken a good look at him?"

"I suggested it, but he thought it was unnecessary." Kirk grinned. "I can understand his reluctance, though. It's a failing shared by the both of us."

"I know," McCoy growled. "And it's a juvenile attitude from both of you. And it isn't a very good example for the crew if the officers won't help support the medical department."

"It isn't that, Bones. We just hate to be sick."

"Nobody likes to be sick!" McCoy roared. "I'll take that back. Yeah, there are. Hypochondriacs. Lonely people wanting a little attention. Masochists."

"Spock doesn't fit that description."

"I know. He's just plain sick. And bull-headed about needing help. I’ll make the Vulcan accept my visit, or he’ll wind up in isolation.”

Kirk grinned. “For what?”

“For being a poor patient! If something’s gonna be for his good, he’s gonna have to accept what I tell him or else!”

"Just take care of him, Bones."

"Well, of course, I'll take care of him! He's my patient!" Righteous indignation rang in his voice. "There shouldn't be any question about that! I don't care if he is stubborn and mule-headed, I'll still take care of him! McCoy, out!"

He should've known better, Kirk thought as he switched off his comm. McCoy and Spock had a rocky relationship between them, but they would always protect each other. Sometimes Kirk couldn't quite figure out what their relationship was, but it seemed to work out for them. So Kirk generally left it alone and only had to referee them once in awhile.

Kirk hoped that this wouldn't be one of those times.

Meanwhile, McCoy would get Spock back on his feet, and everything would hum along on the Enterprise just the way that Kirk liked it. Kirk settled back into the command chair and watched the universe rushing toward him on the forward viewing screen. Just the way he liked that, too. Looking forward, not backward. No backtracking. Ever forward. Exploring.

"Steady as she goes, Mr. Sulu," Kirk purred, just having to say something to convey his sense of well-being. For he loved the feel of the forward thrust of the Enterprise engines as they propelled the mighty starship along, and he loved being in this starship with this crew. They had become his family as no other group of people had, not even his blood relatives.

"Steady as she goes, Captain," Sulu purred back, full-well feeling and understanding Kirk's contentment. For Sulu felt it, too. With a warm smile, he glanced at Chekov beside him. Chekov felt the contentment, too, for he did not even have to look at his instruments to know that they were on course in their allotted spot in the universe at that given point in time.

All was well on the Enterprise, and all on board hoped that it would continue to be so.

Chapter Text

Kirk wasn't particularly concerned about anything being wrong when neither Spock nor McCoy showed up at the mess hall for their meals that evening. He was more annoyed than anything, because he didn't like this disruption in his routine. But he chided himself. He needed to be more flexible. Surely tomorrow would find Spock back on the Bridge, and he and McCoy both taking their meals with Kirk as usual. Until then, Kirk could enjoy the unaccustomed quiet without their constant bickering as he ate.

Then he realized that he was not enjoying the solitude as much as he thought he would.

McCoy probably had gotten involved with an emergency, although Kirk had heard nothing of any emergency. And Kirk should have been notified if anything dire had occurred since he was captain. Maybe McCoy had gotten bogged down with administrative red tape or maybe even a (yawn) inventory. And Spock might have opted for some very light nourishment in his quarters and an early night. All should be well with those two by morning, and then everything should get back on track with the officers of the Enterprise.

Kirk began to feel uneasy, though, as he ate his meal. He shook it off. It was probably because his buddies were absent.

Thankfully, Kirk’s meal was anything but solitary. First, Scotty dropped by.

“Aye, Captain, got a minute?” the chief engineer asked with a grim frown and intent face.

“Got more than that,” Kirk answered with a grin as Scotty parked his tray of food. “What's up? Is there a problem in the Engine room?”

Scotty stared at him. “How did you know that?”

“Psychic, I suppose. That, and you don’t know the meaning of leaving your work at the office the way you should.”

“Aye, and you’re the one to be talking big. Seems like you carry the heart of the Enterprise with you wherever you go.”

“Just like someone else I know does,” Kirk answered with a soft smile. “Okay, we both know that we both love her the way nobody else does. Now what’s the problem with our girl?”

“Our lady is traveling a little sluggish.”

“Oh? How long has that been going on?”

“Ever since we left that jungle planet a few days ago. That place seems to have had an adverse effect.”

“Hmm. There's a lot of that going around,” Kirk remarked, thinking of Spock's mysterious ailment.

“Pardon?”

“Nothing.” He looked up, then raised himself slightly off his chair as did Scotty. “Ladies! Won’t you join us?”

“Thanks,” Uhura answered as she slid into a chair across from them. Chapel quietly followed.

“Well, how are you charming ladies this evening?” Kirk asked with an enchanting smile that warmed the ladies as well as his eyes.

“Fine, thank you, Captain,” Uhura answered, but quickly got down to why they were there. “We would like to know about Mr. Spock. How is he by now?”

“I’d like to know that myself, ladies. I haven’t heard from Dr. McCoy. Have you had any contact with him in sickbay?” he asked, turning to Chapel.

“He hurried in once, looking quite furtive, and ducked into the supply room. I heard some drawers being opened and closed and some muttering which I believe I wasn’t supposed to overhear.”

She blushed, and Kirk thought about what Uhura had possibly overheard McCoy saying over the comm when Kirk had called McCoy about Spock. It couldn’t be easy for women serving alongside plain-speaking, emotional men even if the men tried to control their language. Occasionally, inappropriate words were bound to slip out. This the ladies did their best to ignore, because the ladies realized that the men were trying as hard as they could to be gentlemanly. Sometimes, tongues just slip. And McCoy’s tongue was apt to slip more often than most men’s.

“Well, perhaps it was for the best that he didn’t explain,” Kirk said, trying to put himself above the minor annoyances that seemed to be nipping at him. A sluggish engine, a First Officer down with a mysterious malady, a doctor muttering obscenities around ladies. All would correct themselves in due time, Kirk was certain. Because he was commanding the best ship and the best crew in the universe, and there was nothing they couldn’t do together!

 

 

Then that feeling of contentment on the Enterprise burst, and McCoy was the one who broke it. And Jim Kirk didn’t like it one bit that McCoy did that. In fact, he was a little bit annoyed by it.

In fact, he was a whole lot annoyed by it.

And McCoy did it with just a few fevered words, and for one blazing moment Jim Kirk thought that a latter-day and crazed Paul Revere had landed on his doorstep. Whatever McCoy was supposed to be representing, his news couldn’t be all that bad, no matter if his demeanor said otherwise. McCoy was just over-emoting again, even if his words were enough to put a permanent chill around Kirk’s heart.

“We have to get Spock back to that jungle planet, Jim! And we have to do it now!”

Kirk studied the fiery-eyed medic standing just inside his quarters, looking like he was in a fight-or-flight stance. Anything but the non-action that Kirk was displaying. So McCoy's angst angered Kirk, too, and spurred him to question, “What? No ‘good evening, Jim. How’s it hanging?’” He turned aside. “No ‘got a little drinkie for a guy really needing it, because this day has been a ball buster thought up by Lucifer himself?’”

“We don’t have time for nonsense!” McCoy roared as he followed Kirk.

”Kind of dramatic, aren’t you?” he asked in a teasing voice that barely hid the flash of anger he’d felt flaring through him. McCoy was a good man and an outstanding doctor, but sometimes he could tend to exaggerate. Kirk had a feeling that this was going to be one of those times.

McCoy's eyes flashed dangerously, but he was too stunned by Kirk's nonchalance to say anything.

“Wanna have a drink of bourbon first and tell me what’s going on that has gotten you so upset?” Kirk asked casually as he reached for a handy bottle of McCoy’s favorite drink of choice. “Surely there’s time for something to fortify us before we have to start tearing off across the universe like the Hounds of Hell are nipping at our asses and wanting to get a closer sniff.”

McCoy slapped Kirk’s hand away from the bourbon bottle and his eyes snapped. “Damn it, Jim, we don’t have time for that now! Not for drinking or smart-ass talk! We have to get going! Now!”

“Spock, you say?” Kirk asked casually.

“Yes! Spock! The guy you wanted me to check over! Remember now?!”

“Of course, I do,” Kirk replied as he slowly poured himself a healthy shot of the bourbon. Just because McCoy was acting crazy was no sign that everyone had to join in the general madness. “Spock can surely wait a few minutes while we fortify ourselves to face this dire circumstance that has descended upon us without any forewarning.” He gave McCoy a lazy grin. “Can’t he?”

“No, he can’t!”

“Whatever can be the emergency? Spock left the Bridge under his own steam only a few hours ago. How could his condition have deteriorated so quickly?”

“It has!”

“Come on, Bones, don’t you think you’re overstating the situation a little? I realize you’re gonna do your best for him, even if you guys have a personality conflict sometimes. You don’t have to prove your earnestness to me. I know you’re gonna help him as much as you can.”

McCoy rubbed a shaky hand over his forehead. “It isn’t that! I’m not even thinking about that! It’s different now!”

I’ll play along, Kirk thought. “How different?” he wanted to know.

“Spock is dying, Jim! Dying! And we have to try to help!”

“What's that you are saying?” Kirk asked casually. Too casually, McCoy should have realized, for Kirk had a zinger waiting. “Spock's dying, and you want us to try to help him? How? To die?”

“Of course not! Stop being obtuse!”

On some level, Kirk realized that McCoy felt like there was an emergency. But on another level, Jim Kirk was still annoyed with McCoy’s theatrics. A professional doctor should be more objective and reserved, not this quivering mess about to fall apart in front of him.

Kirk sobered. “I’m no more simple-minded or dense than anyone else, Bones. But nobody deteriorates that quickly. Not unless he was shot or hit by some deadly force. And that had to have happened to him after he left the Bridge.”

“Nothing like that happened to him. He'd already been compromised! It’s crazy, Jim. Crazy! And I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t checked my instruments and results several times. But it’s true!” He grabbed the shot of bourbon out of Kirk’s hand and threw it down his throat in one gulp. He didn't even blink as the sting of the strong drink burned through his system.

That's when Kirk decided to take McCoy seriously.

“Mind filling me in?” Kirk tried to ask in a calm voice so McCoy would take the hint and calm down, too. “What’s Spock’s problem?”

“You’ll think I’m crazy,” McCoy muttered as he set down the shot glass.

“Try me.” At this stage, Kirk was wanting to wring it out of McCoy, but he forced a calmness on himself that he didn’t feel. At this point, McCoy would only feed off any angst that Kirk contributed to the conversation. And Kirk didn’t want to make this situation any more confusing.

“Spock said that he’s felt lethargic and queasy ever since we left that jungle planet. It came on him slowly, but has become more pronounced today. He can barely keep his eyes open, and that’s odd because Vulcans don’t require the same amount of sleep as we Earthlings do. And he hasn’t been able to keep anything on his stomach. I understand that even vegetable broth and crackers have been coming back up.”

Kirk frowned. “That doesn’t sound good. Maybe that goo that got sneezed on him has caused an illness akin to influenza.”

“I wish it was something as simple as that. I wish it was something that he could wear out in a few days of rest and eating light. But his condition won’t go away as easily as that. This is something more traumatic and invasive and could endanger his life." He suddenly looked very exhausted. "It's wearing me out trying to deal with it. And frankly, Jim, I... I just don't know what to do to help him.”

Kirk’s frown deepened. “My god, Bones, what in the hell is his problem?!”

McCoy gave him a tired, wistful smile. “He’s pregnant.”

Chapter Text

There aren’t too many things in the universe that can render Jim Kirk speechless. After all, he knows his way around more than one star system and has heard and experienced about everything. So nothing much surprises him. But McCoy’s announcement did just that. Finally, Kirk managed to utter, “Ah…. Excuse me? What did you just say?”

McCoy continued to give him a wistful smile. “I know. That was my reaction, too. Pretty unbelievable, right?”

Kirk frowned. "Unbelievable isn't the word for it," he muttered as his glazed eyes reflected the effort he was having in trying to process McCoy's news. Then his frown deepened as something very logical surfaced in his computer brain. “But Spock can’t deliver offspring, Bones,” Kirk protested in a loud whisper as he leaned forward in confidence. It was as if he feared that someone might overhear, but it was more like he couldn't believe what he was saying. “He’s a guy. He ain’t built for giving birth. To anything.”

“First thing I thought of, too.”

“Anything I know of with the higher animals-- woman, dog, cow, elephant-- give birth the same way it got in there.”

“Yep.”

Kirk got a look of disgust. “Does that mean that whatever is inside of him will be coming out of his nose?”

McCoy shrugged. “Beats me. I have no idea what will happen. That’s why I need to get him back to that planet. I’m hoping that someone or something on it can help get this mass out of him safely. Get it out before it tears the hell out of him by deciding to come out on its own when we’re least expecting it. For all I know, he could give a helluva sneeze one day and become a proud papa.”

“Can’t you just operate and remove the mass before it reaches the end of its gestation cycle?”

“For one thing, I don’t know how long that gestation cycle is. For another, I don’t know what sort of danger Spock will be in when the mass is removed by an unnatural means. I don’t know how it has compromised his system to protect itself against premature abortion. And there’s more. There's a moral issue we have to consider, too.”

“A moral issue?” Kirk asked with a frown.

“It’s a living creature in there. Or more than one.”

“It’s a plant! It’s, it’s a parasite! Growing on a host! Something like Spanish moss!”

“Actually, contrary to popular belief, Spanish moss is not a parasite. It’s an epiphyte, meaning that it gets its nutrients from the air and rainwater. It just happens to grow on larger trees in the tropics and the subtropics on Terran. That's why the mistake about it being a parasite persisted for so long.”

“How come I just got the feeling I am talking to Spock?” Kirk muttered, even though he knew the answer to his own question.

“We don’t know how much awareness this species of plant has. Or belief system, for that matter. It might be religious as hell. And whatever its morality, you can just bet it has some definite leanings about its own mortality and that of its children. Just because it’s a plant doesn’t mean that we can decide if it should live or die.”

“I AM talking to Spock,” Kirk muttered in contrived awe. “He’s just using contractions." He glanced at McCoy. "And your body.”

“I’d like to go back to that planet and study that plant that sneezed on Spock. See what the natives can tell us about it. But we don’t have time to do that, not with Spock in the shape he’s in. It’s our only option, though.”

“You’re talking in circles, Bones.”

McCoy ran his fingers through his hair. “Don’t I know it. I’m just working on gut instinct here, trying to do the best I can for all concerned.”

“Bones, your only patient is Spock. I don’t care about moral issues and the rights of the unborn. When push comes to shove, I want to save my friend. The rights of one plant don't concern me that much. I’ll destroy a whole forest if I have to in order to guarantee that Spock lives. Ordinarily, I'm more humane. But this time, I'm gonna be selfish.”

“So you’d be the obstetrician who’d opt for the life of the mother instead of the fetus if there was a crisis in the delivery room? And you had to choose one life over the other?”

“I’d hate to lose the fetus because it has a life, too. But, yes, I’d save the mother.”

“Even if she was willing to sacrifice herself so her child could have the chance to live?”

“Now we’re getting into a pretty sticky situation. At least we don’t have to worry about something like that with Spock.”

“Oh, yes, we do. Spock wants to save his fetus.”

A lifetime seemed to pass before Kirk could find his voice to answer. All sorts of thoughts and feelings went through his mind until he came up with one simple fact that seemed to have been forgotten in the general hubbub.

“Bones, it isn’t his.”

“He THINKS it is. And he's damn protective of it.”

“He’s just part of a cycle, a host, if you will. The plant apparently needed something mobile to carry the fetus or fetuses around for awhile. Enter: Spock.”

“That’s another theory I’ve come up with. Maybe it's because he's green and mobile. Spock could be just some sort part of a cycle in the plant’s reproductive cycle. Maybe it’s like the cuckoo bird that lays its eggs in the nests of other birds and lets other birds raise its young.”

“You’re sure about this, this pregnancy thing?”

“Jim, it’s like my knowing Death when I see it. I’m sure. Spock is knocked up.”

Kirk passed a hand through his hair, too. “Somehow, that’s a sentence I never thought I’d ever hear.”

“It’s one I thought I’d never say. But I’ve seen the scan. There’s all sorts of activity in his lower abdomen. All kinds of little critters are starting to feather out in his guts. And I had him urinate on a pee stick. Several times. With the same results each time, although I had a helluva time finding the pee sticks in the supply closet. And I sure as hell couldn't ask Chapel where they were. She was too curious enough the way it was about what I was doing in there."

Well, that solved the mystery of what McCoy was searching for in sickbay.

But McCoy wasn't finished with his proof. "And he’s starting to show.”

“Show?”

“He’s blooming. And in more ways than one. Yeah, there’s a prominent bulge. But he’s getting a glow about himself. Jocelyn had that same luminescence when she was expecting Joanna. And that same dreamy half-smile.” He grimaced. “He’s Madonna-like. He’ll probably start performing miracles next, but the greatest miracle is going to be if he survives this pregnancy.”

“Bones, you have to talk to him. Explain how much danger he’s in if he does not allow you to remove that mass.”

“I did. He refuses. Not even logic is reaching him on this. And I can’t press him too much in his present condition. His nerves are on edge the way it is.”

Kirk frowned. “Meaning?”

“He was crying with joy when I left.”

“Crying? Vulcans don't cry.”

“They do now, or at least this one does. You’ve got to understand how out of whack his hormones are right now.”

“I want to see him.”

“Just don’t upset him, okay?”

Kirk frowned. Wasn’t that what he was always urging McCoy to do? Don't upset Spock?

 

 

As soon as he stepped out of their adjoining bathroom and saw Spock reclining on his sofa, Kirk wished he hadn’t insisted on visiting him. Tears sprang into Spock’s eyes at the sight of his captain, and Kirk could see what a fragile condition that he was in.

“Captain,” Spock said softly as he reached up a weak hand for Kirk to take before the normally strong hand could sink back in utter exhaustion. Spock threaded his thumb gently across the back of Kirk’s hand in an intimate manner.

The hand Kirk held felt weak and lifeless, so unlike the virile man whom Kirk knew owned it. That unnerved Kirk to know that a few words and an unheard of diagnosis could alter a person so much in such a little time.

“You came,” Spock mumbled feebly. His pleasure knew no bounds as he drank in Kirk’s being as if some royal personage was gracing Spock with his presence. Stronger men than Kirk would’ve melted under such scrutiny. No wonder then that Kirk did.

“Of course I came,” Kirk answered back softly with all the love he was feeling for his oddball friend shining from his eyes. He hoped that his emotions were conveying themselves to Spock through his hand as well as from his face. He was about to whisper his sympathies about Spock’s life-threatening situation, but in the next moment he was glad he hadn’t. Because Kirk discovered that condolences were the last thing that Spock was wanting to hear.

“Isn’t it wonderful?” Spock asked with his face filled with shining awe. “I am the carrier of new life!”

“Y-yes, it is a marvel indeed,” Kirk managed to stammer, all the while feeling McCoy tense at his elbow. He knew that McCoy was hoping that Kirk would not say the wrong thing now. “It’s so unexpected, too.” No one could surely argue with that assessment, Kirk figured.

“A miracle!” Spock marveled with him. “A miracle indeed!”

“Y-yes,” Kirk reassured him.

“I cannot believe that I have received such a blessing!”

“Yes, it is quite unique that you have become the recipient--”

“I have been selected to perform a holy mission,” Spock asserted with fervor. His black eyes showed the first flash of strength that Kirk had seen in them since he had entered Spock’s quarters. "I am a hybrid and now my children will be, too! Nowhere in the universe will there be anything quite like them."

“Well, ah, we have to be cautious, Spock. We have to think of you, too.”

“Of course! I must remain strong for the sake of the little ones.”

“Well, that’s not exactly what I was meaning--” Kirk hedged.

“I’ll bring you some food,” McCoy said to Spock as he pulled Kirk aside. “And I want you to eat it.”

“Of course, Doctor. If it agrees with me.”

“Seems he’s had trouble with vomiting,” McCoy muttered at the door to Kirk.

“Of course. Morning sickness. It's too be expected,” Kirk answered in a hollow voice. Even saying it didn’t make sense.

“I want to consult someone.”

“Sure, Bones. Anyone you want. A specialist?”

“Yeah. A horticulturalist.”

Chapter Text

But much to McCoy’s chagrin, the horticulturalist proved to be a waste of time.

“Are you certain about your findings, Dr. McCoy?” the nasal voice coming over the comm in Kirk’s quarters questioned. The dubious look on the man’s face also expressed his doubt about McCoy’s diagnosis and even about the validity of McCoy’s reason for disturbing him.

Kirk’s call to Federation Command had produced the name of Dr. Summersfield as being an expert in plant science. Apparently, he lacked imagination, though, for he was having trouble accepting and interpreting the facts of Spock’s case. In fact, he continued to question McCoy’s facts instead of offering helpful information.

As Kirk listened to the exchange, he could tell that McCoy was gradually losing his patience. It was lucky that Kirk had suggested that McCoy contact the specialist from Kirk’s quarters. Otherwise, it was only a matter of time before McCoy would lose his temper. And McCoy wouldn’t care if the whole crew would be listening if he decided to tell Dr. Summersfield just what he could do with his expert opinion. The only thing that made him hold his tongue now was that his need to help Spock far exceeded his desire to correct Summersfield’s snotty behavior.

“You say your patient is Vulcan and that his natural skin tone is green?” Summerfield continued.

McCoy bit his lips together. “Yes. That is correct.”

“Perhaps the jungle plant was confused by your patience's green color and thought that he was some sort of suitable vessel for one of the stages in the reproductive cycle of this particular variety of vegetation.”

McCoy did not even waste breath to explain that that theory had already been proposed and rejected. Instead, he related the reasoning behind the rejection of that theory.

“Mr. Spock’s skin and blood are tinted green by a high percentage of copper in his system, not by the presence of chlorophyll which colors plants. I believe that you should further note that my patient also has bones and muscle tissues in his system, not cellulose as plants do. Therefore, he is definitely of the animal kingdom. I do not hold a doctorate in botany. I'm just an old country doctor. But I do know that my patient is not a plant!”

Kirk placed a steadying hand on McCoy's forearm.

“So noted,” Summersfield confirmed, not realizing that McCoy was mocking him.

McCoy quickly signed off and turned aside. “Ass,” he muttered with disgust. “Probably hasn’t been in the real world for years. The only patient he ever sees is a cadaver, nothing living and breathing.” He grimaced. “And that’s the way I want to keep mine. Speaking of which, let's go see how he's doing.”

Uhura was standing in front of Spock as he lay on his sofa with a light blanket draped across his abdomen and legs. She was softly strumming Spock’s Vulcan lyre and singing a haunting song from the Twentieth Century called “Nature Boy.”

“There was a boy
A very strange enchanted boy
They say he wandered very far
Very far
Over land and sea
A little shy and sad of eye
But very wise was he

“And then one day
A magic day he passed my way
And while we spoke of many things
Fools and kings
This he said to me
‘The greatest thing you'll ever learn
Is just to love and be loved in return’"

In the hush that followed, an enchanting smile wreathed Spock’s face. “That was beautiful, Nyota. Simply beautiful. Thank you for singing it for me. I love the song, but I love you more for giving me this special gift. It comes from your heart, and that is the source of all the greatest gifts that there are.”

Nyota stood stunned by Spock’s words and by how sincerely he had delivered them. But what stunned her more were the tears she saw flowing down his face.

“You are most welcome, Spock,” she finally managed to choke out. “I wanted to do something special for you, but all I’ve done is to upset you.”

“Oh, no, my dear friend. Those are tears of pleasure for you and for your friendship. I appreciate your talent and your gift, also, but I value you most of all.”

Nyota looked confused as Kirk’s hands settled on her arms and turned her toward him and McCoy.

“I didn’t mean to upset him,” she whispered.

“It’s alright,” Kirk whispered back. “You’ve got a good heart. Just sing something naughty and classical. That should perk him up.” He looked at Spock. “Just checking on you. Looks like you’re in good hands.”

“Oh, yes, Lt. Uhura is entertaining me royally.”

Uhura strummed the lyre.

“Sigh, no more, ladies, sigh no more,” she began.

Kirk recognized the song from “Much Ado About Nothing” by William Shakespeare and smiled in approval at Uhura. She continued, and Kirk and McCoy listened to the jaunty tune for a few moments.

“Men were deceivers ever
One foot in sea, and one on shore
To one thing constant never.

“Never sigh not so, but let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny
Converting all your sounds of woe”

Here she paused and raised one eyebrow, Spock-like, and Spock smiled, because he knew the cheeky lyrics that were to follow.

“Into hey, nonny, nonny.”

She started the second verse, but Kirk and McCoy tiptoed away.

Out in the hallway, Kirk hissed. “Tears?! Smiling?! Beautiful sentiments?! That isn’t Spock!” he complained.

“It is now,” McCoy growled. “That’s why I’m in such a hurry to get back to that jungle planet. And this starship feels like it’s flying through firm jello. What in the hell is the hold-up?! Shall we have to get out and push to get any more speed than this outa this thing?!”

“I’ll check with Scotty,” Kirk mumbled evasively, even though he already knew the answer. Heaven help them if McCoy ever got figured out that there was a problem with the Enterprise’s engines. The good doctor would probably insist that they pull into the nearest service station for a tune-up, and that sort of thing just didn’t happen to starships out in deep space.

But there was always a first time for everything, Kirk decided. And he wouldn’t be surprised if McCoy did find a starship service station or even got out and pushed the old girl.

At this point, Kirk was ready to help him.

 

 

From then on, Spock was rarely alone, unless McCoy shooed everyone out so Spock could get some rest. It helped that Spock could begin tolerating simple foods. Some of his other physical problems settled down, too.

That's because his doctor put him on the same regimen as a pregnant woman.

And it worked.

 

Kirk gallantly held the door open as Christine Chapel shyly entered Spock’s quarters with a steaming container on a tray. She had an angelic look on her face as she gingerly walked with her unwieldy burden toward Spock’s sofa.

“What is this?” Spock asked as he sat up with interest as he eyed her offering.

“I have made some plomeek soup for you, Mr. Spock. I thought that you might enjoy it while you are convalescing.”

Spock indicated the small table beside his bed. “How thoughtful, Miss Chapel! Please. Set your burden down,” he invited as she did so. “It must have been time consuming to make a soup for which you know I have a particular fondness.”

“Oh, no. No bother at all. It was my pleasure,” she said, clearly flattered that he realized the effort she had made to please him.

He continued to study the soup container as if it was the marvel of the universe. “And then for you to carry this heavy container through the halls! That is indeed a labor of love, Miss Chapel.”

“Oh, it was nothing,” she mumbled as she stroked the back of her hair with nervous fingers.

“Please, be seated,” Spock offered with a sweep of his hand.

“Oh, I don’t know if it is proper for a single lady to be visiting a single gentleman in his quarters without an escort,” Chapel said with a little frown forming between her eyes that in time would make an unsightly gully if she didn’t stop the nervous habit.

“I do not wish to contradict a lady, but you do have an escort,” Spock said gallantly as he indicated Kirk. “Our captain would be more than willing and able to protect a lady’s honor.”

From everyone but himself, Kirk thought, but decided that remark would only cheapen this sweet scene.

“I just will leave you with your soup, Mr. Spock. And remember that I can make more for you if you would like that.”

“I am certain that I would, Miss Chapel,” he said gallantly.

She blushed.

Kirk didn’t know if he was watching the first stages of teenage love or an elaborate farce, but he did his duty as duenna and chaperoned Chapel safely into the hallway. At least her honor had been protected.

“Thank you, Captain,” she said as she quickly touched his arm.

Kirk grinned. “I’m always available for escort duties, if you have need for such again.”

Chapel blushed again. “Thank you again, Captain,” she said as she squeezed his hand, then quickly fled.

There are still girls like that in the universe, he thought as he watched her scurrying away. And I’m lucky enough to know one of them.

 

Kirk knocked softly on Spock’s bathroom door, then let himself in. He stopped when he saw McCoy sitting beside Spock’s sofa. Spock’s clothing was pushed up toward his neck and his abdomen seemed to be bare. McCoy’s one hand held a tube of lubricant, but his other hand was unaccounted for. It was the location of that other hand that had Kirk curious. And worried. Just what had he interrupted anyway?

And would Spock be up for any sort of hanky-panky when he was in a family way? Of course, old wives’ tales whispered by Kirk’s grandmother’s contemporaries claimed that some women were more sensual when they were pregnant. Kirk always figured that expectant women would have enough miseries to deal with without encouraging any more. But to each his own, he decided.

“Whatja doing, guys?”

McCoy held up his lube-coated hand. “Rubbing his belly. It soothes him.”

“Do tell,” Kirk said skeptically.

For a change, McCoy didn’t grab the bait. “I can feel the little critters. Wanna feel?”

Kirk mentally shrugged. He’d accepted stranger offers in his time.

“Wow, that’s them?!” he asked in awe.

“Yeah,” McCoy answered, grinning. “Active little bastards, aren’t they?” He sounded proud, almost as if he was responsible for them. “What are you doing here?”

“Seeing if Spock wants to play some 3-D chess.”

“Gonna let him win again?” McCoy mumbled in Kirk’s ear as he stood.

“I’m just off my game.” It wasn’t like he was spoiling Spock the way everyone else was or anything like that.

“I bet. Hey, when you gonna get this old tub to that jungle planet?”

“Oh, I forgot to tell you. We’ll be there tomorrow,” he said casually and grinned at Spock.

They were treated to the proper rant that Kirk knew that McCoy could provide.

Nothing like the old favorites, Kirk thought as he winked at Spock.

Spock winked back.

Chapter Text

“You are quickly returned to our planet, Captain Kirk.”

Kirk studied the elderly High Priestess and had a sneaking hunch that his return wasn’t that much of a surprise to Zardonia. “We had to return on urgent business, Your Highness.”

“And what is that, may I ask?”

“This is Mr. Spock, my First Officer, who has fallen victim to a strange malady that we believe was contracted on your planet. The problem is unheard of in our medical annals, and his physician Dr. McCoy does not know how to alleviate the condition. So we were hoping that your experts might have some advice on how to help Mr. Spock.”

“Indeed,” Zardonia answered as she took a sly, assessing glance at Spock’s bloated abdomen. “It appears that it is high time that someone should step forward who can relieve your crewman of his ‘strange malady.’ Has your education never informed you of the nature of your crewman’s indisposition?”

Kirk felt irritated, but visibly kept his composure. He, like McCoy, must remember that the important thing was to help Spock, not get some momentary revenge. That’s when Kirk realized that assholes can come in either sex. And Zardonia was being as smug and arrogant in her knowledge as Dr. Summersfield had been vague and petty in his.

“My Chief Medical Officer has diagnosed the problem, but does not know how to deliver offspring from a male.”

“Tell me, Captain,” Zardonia continued. “When you where here before, did you enjoy the fruits which you gathered in our dense jungles?”

“Yes, we did,” he answered and wondered why the conversation taken a side-path. “Fresh fruits were a welcome change to our diets.”

“And you took them with the promise that you will spread the word about our native bounty, agreeable climate, and productive soils, did you not?”

“Yes. And we will keep our promises.”

“This will be done in the hopes that new settlers will come to help populate our planet since our numbers are so few here.”

“Yes.”

“And you entered areas that might not have been approved for your searching, did you not?” There was a new edge to her voice that hinted at some irritation from her.

“We meant no harm, Your Highness, but we are explorers. And we might have strayed because your jungles are so beckoning and exotic. What else could we do but slake our curiosity? In that process, though, we believe that Mr. Spock was impregnated by a plant that sprayed some sort of thick matter on him.”

“Thereby is the harm that you thought you did not cause!” she snapped and lost all control of any diplomacy, good manners, and womanly charms she might have possessed. “That thick matter was the plant's seminal fluid and was intended for one of our native animals to carry for awhile! But instead, your crewman took it! You disrupted the cycle of one of our sacred flowers with your trespassing!”

“We didn’t know,” Kirk mumbled.

“And neither did our plant. Your Mr. Spock is green. That is probably what confused our flower.”

McCoy turned his back on Zardonia and muttered into Kirk's ear, “If you ever let that jerk Summersfield know he was right about that part of it, I’ll never speak to you again.”

There were times that Kirk might consider never hearing McCoy's voice again to be a blessing, but this wasn't one of them. Instead, he looked humble at Zardonia. “We plead ignorance, Your Highness. But is that any reason for my crewman to pay the ultimate price? He is my friend. But beyond that, he is a being who has the right to live. And his children have the right to live. Help us to save their lives as well as his.”

For the first time, Spock spoke. “I am prepared to give my life if it will guarantee that the children I carry will have the opportunity to survive.”

Zardonia studied him. "You are an honorable man, Mr. Spock, and quite worthy to be chosen for your noble task."

Spock bowed his head humbly. "You flatter me, madam, but it is a father's duty to do anything for his children."

"Wisely said," she answered.

“But we’d rather not sacrifice him,” McCoy spoke up before Kirk could. “I could’ve removed the fetuses when I first discovered their existence, but I chose to wait for other options. I did not want to cause harm in my endeavors to do good.” He crossed his fingers behind his back and hoped that the High Priestess never realized that he would’ve ripped those kiddies out of Spock before they had grown another inch. He would’ve sacrificed their lives for Spock’s in a heartbeat if Spock would've let him. McCoy was realizing that Spock was important to him, too.

Zardonia considered all she had been told, then spoke. “I believe that you and your men are in earnest, Captain Kirk, and meant no real harm. Although many aspects of your story would suffer with closer examination, I believe that you are good people at heart and are honest for the most part with what you say.” Her eyebrow raised slightly. “I know what lives adventurers lead, and I understand many things that an isolated person should not comprehend. Therefore, I am believing your story as you have related it to me and will try to help Mr. Spock.”

Kirk let out his breath. “Thank you, Your Highness.”

“There is a surgery that might insure the deliverance of the offspring without too much danger to the host.”

Kirk grinned with relief. “That’s what we were hoping to hear, ma’am.”

“Mind you, it is a procedure that is not performed all that often and is probably not even approved by many in the medical field.”

“If it’s a viable way to solve our problem, I’m all for it.”

“The surgery is done without instruments. I will reach inside the body of Mr. Spock with my bare hands and withdraw the living embryos,” she declared dramatically. “There will be some blood, but I will not use anesthetic, and my point of entry will leave no scar.”

McCoy spun around, pulled Kirk aside, and whispered hotly to him, “Jim! That’s psychic surgery! And it’s a fraud! It’s a pseudoscience and will kill Spock! You might as well let me cut him open with a hacksaw and do my best for him!”

“That’s all we’ve got, Bones. You or her. I’m not saying that she’s not a quack, but this is her home planet. Maybe we ought to let her try. It’ll take some of the pressure off you.”

“I’m not worried about the pressure! Or the responsibility! I’m worried about Spock!”

Kirk clapped McCoy on the shoulder. “I know. Let’s let him decide, okay? It’s his body.”

McCoy flinched, then nodded. Kirk knew that McCoy needed to know he wasn’t fully responsible, even though McCoy was willing to shoulder everything. But it wasn’t fair to McCoy.

Spock agreed to undergo Zardonia’s treatment. McCoy bit his lips together, but stayed silent.

Spock had stipulations. “I would like for my captain to stay with me during surgery.”

“It is permitted,” Zardonia said.

“And Dr. McCoy.”

McCoy spoke up. “Well, of course, as your doctor, I would be honored to be with you so that I can observe and learn.”

“Would you also be with me as my friend?” Spock asked wistfully.

Tears bit at McCoy’s eyelids. “Well, of course, I would.” Then he could say no more because he was overwhelmed that Spock would include him under those circumstances.

McCoy drew Kirk aside. “You gonna be able to watch an operation? There will be blood.” He bit his lips together. “And heaven only knows what else.”

“I’ll muster through. I’m just hoping I don’t embarrass myself by passing out or wetting my britches.”

McCoy slapped his shoulder. “You’ll be fine. Just remember that Spock is the important one.”

Kirk studied him. “You’ve changed your opinion of him. You’re treating him better.”

“He’s needed me lately. But this isn’t Spock, not really. I’m hoping that when his pregnancy is terminated, his hormones will calm down and we’ll get the old Spock back.”

“Even if you lose him as a friend?”

McCoy pursed his lips. “He needs to be who he really is, not some fawning, pale shadow of his former self. He was a pain in the ass, but I miss his obstinacy and piss-ant attitude. I want that guy back, even if I never have another moment’s peace with him.”

Kirk’s eyes sparkled. “I’m sure he’d feel the same way if you were acting out of character.”

“Let’s not get sticky about it. Spock isn’t out of the woods yet. His fate is in the hands of an old woman who looks like she should’ve retired about ten years ago.”

Kirk grinned. “My best advice is not to let her hear you say that. You might find out why she’s still practicing.”

 

 

McCoy and Kirk stood on either side of Spock’s head and placed reassuring hands on his bare shoulders. McCoy intently watched what Zardonia did, but Kirk had occasion to glance away more and more as the operation proceeded and more “capsules” appeared out of his abdomen.

It was a simple procedure, really. Several times, Zardonia rubbed and indented the side of Spock’s lower abdomen with her bent knuckles. Then the knuckles seemed to sink into the flesh as a thin line of green blood appeared to be wiped away by Zardonia’s assistant.

Zardonia pulled the two pieces of flesh apart and reached inside. The outlines of fingers could be seen running under the skin, and that was when Kirk had to look away for the first time. When he looked back, several glistening capsules lay on the table. They were oblong like ant eggs and transparent enough to show seedlings bobbing inside them. Spock’s “children,” Kirk realized.

 

 

Later, when the operation was finished, Zardonia rubbed the edges of Spock’s flesh back together until the flesh showed no evidence that it had ever been disturbed.

“Amazing,” McCoy muttered under his breath.

“I hope you have learned something, Dr. McCoy,” Zardonia said with satisfaction.

“Yeah, don’t let a flower sneeze on you on this planet.”

Kirk punched him in the ribs.

“Sorry. Guess I’m a little jealous. I’m supposed to be the product of a fine medical school and have access to all of the latest technology. And still, I cannot do what you just accomplished. I appreciate what you did for us.”

“I am glad that I could.” She looked down at Spock. “And how are you feeling?”

“Surprisingly fit. I feel like my old self again.”

“Hallelujah!” McCoy muttered and Kirk smiled indulgently.

“You saw your children?” she asked Spock.

“Yes. Quite beautiful. So shimmery in their sacs.”

“Yes, they are in this stage. But they have not reached their full potential. They are intended to go into another transformation. You realize this, don’t you? That you were just a phase of their development?” Zardonia had said the last two sentences in a hard voice as if she had to be firm, for her and for him.

Spock frowned. “Are you certain? They are so young.”

“It is for the best. The young must be returned to their origin.”

Spock felt the hands of his friends on his shoulders again and slowly nodded his head.

Chapter Text

Days later, when Spock was stronger, he, McCoy, and Kirk stood in a summer meadow on the jungle planet and marveled at all of the beautiful flowers around them. Contented birds sang in the nearby leafy trees. A gentle breeze sloughed through the encroaching grasslands, creating wave after sensuous wave of undulating patterns across the top of the vegetation. Scattered throughout the grasses, countless golden flowers danced in the breeze, proclaiming to all who saw them their joy in being alive and bountiful.

The meadow felt like a good place to live. It felt like a place of perpetual summer where Death never visited and which offered a sanctuary for all in need of shelter and comfort. It felt like home.

"It's nice here," McCoy said with satisfaction and contentment. "I'll be sorry to leave this beautiful planet."

"Yes, it is beautiful here, Bones. But Scotty says that the Enterprise should be ready to continue our journeys now," Kirk informed him. "She's orbiting smoothly, thanks to all of the help that we got from this planet's engineers. I know that Scotty and I have passed many enjoyable hours going over every inch of the engines and her innards." He smiled. "It was almost a vacation to put on work clothes and get myself all greasy and dirty while you saw to Spock and got him better."

McCoy smiled and exchanged a glance with Spock. There was no sign of the old reserve or animosity between them. In fact, there was a new ease and unity that made anyone around them feel comfortable.

"It gave us a chance to get better acquainted," McCoy said. "I think we even learned a thing or two about each other."

"I figured if you'd spend a little time together, it'd be a good thing. Familiarity doesn't always breed contempt."

McCoy arched an eyebrow. "It isn't going to cure his hardheadedness, though." There was no malice in his grin.

"It will be a work in progress," Kirk supplied.

"Yeah, that's what he is, alright."

Kirk didn't correct McCoy's change in pronouns from "it" to "he." Kirk knew that McCoy was gently teasing Spock who was intently staring over the field of golden flowers. One day soon, Spock would rise to McCoy's bait. One day, Spock would be ready to do things concerning outer space and Starfleet and even the Enterprise. But not now. It was still too soon. In the meanwhile, Kirk and McCoy and the rest of the crew would protect him very carefully, because that's what a family does when one of its own is hurting and fragile.

"After his hormones got calmed down, Spock was even able to get control of his emotions again," McCoy explained. Then he just had to tease. "That was a welcome relief. At least he doesn't start crying each time I bring him a special treat anymore. Or even if I show up unexpectedly." Then McCoy sobered. "He does that now only at the sight of his children."

"I fear that I always shall, Doctor," Spock answered.

"Don't apologize! That's unconditional love. And a father is allowed," McCoy declared stoutly.

Spock and McCoy looked at each other in complete agreement.

All of which Kirk could not properly appreciate because he wasn't a father yet. So he changed the subject. "We should have all of the contaminants cleaned out of the Enterprise by now. And we're hopefully averting the danger of collecting more contaminants with the filters we have installed." He glanced around himself. "Hard to believe that such beauty before us could have such ill effects on man or machinery, but it does. And just like beauty anywhere, we just had to learn how to handle it." He sighed. "But it sure can produce a pleasing feast for the eyes. Spock, you did good to give them life."

"Thank you, Captain. I did only what any father would do for his offspring. I gave them a chance to fulfill the promise of their potential." A contented smile drifted across Spock's face as he surveyed the floral display dancing in the breeze before him. “Yellow is a happy color for my children. It suits them. They are so beautiful since they have blossomed into their full potential,” Spock remarked as the caressing breeze and warm sun struck his face and caused him to squint. “They are happy here.”

“Yes, they are,” Kirk agreed. “They are prospering well and are providing enjoyment for all who see them.”

“That’s all we can expect, Spock,” McCoy said gently. “We prepare them for their world, and then we have to let them go so they can live their lives.”

"It is good to know that wherever I go, they will be here because I gave them life."

"Kinda validates our own existences, doesn't it?" McCoy asked him with a wistful smile.

“We share a bond, Doctor. For we love them enough to give them their freedom.”

“That’s right,” McCoy said as he lay a soothing hand on Spock’s forearm. "And only fathers such as you and I are can fully understand that."

McCoy and Spock exchanged looks of full accord. Proud, but sad smiles curved slightly along their lips.

Kirk smiled. His friends had found their common ground. It was too bad that a certain amount of heartache had to go along with their knowledge, though, but maybe that's what makes fathers so special after all. They're willing to do whatever extra needs to be done.

They aren't supermen. Just loving guys who try their best to do what is right for their children.