McCoy had thought once they got Jim back and were back on the ship everything would be okay.
He was wrong.
Jim had experienced a whole new life while he'd been there. And it hadn't been a matter of days, he had lived it for months. A new life, a sense of happiness and completion that he hadn't felt before. He told McCoy it was the happiest he had ever been.
So when Jim had asked McCoy to let Spock know he needed some time and to continue as he was, McCoy's heart dropped.
He couldn't tell a grieving Jim that he was needed on the bridge right now, that Spock had run himself and the ship to breaking point, literally in the ship's case.
Instead, he nodded and told his friend to let him know if there was anything he could do for him. Jim had merely walked away, not saying a word.
Not wanting to let any of the crew know that Spock wasn't at his best right now, McCoy called Spock down to sickbay.
He arrived quickly, looking a little stricken and McCoy noted that he looked around the room before settling.
“I'm sorry, Jim's fine,” he said, realising his mistake.
Despite the distress it had caused, Spock nodded in understanding. “That is quite alright. How can I help you, Doctor?”
“Jim's quite upset as you can understand. He wants you to stay running the ship for the moment. Honestly, he's not fit for duty right now.”
“Of course,” Spock replied understanding.
“I don't think he even noticed we're on impulse power,” McCoy said. He looked over Spock surreptitiously while the Vulcan was distracted by a nurse passing by. Jim wasn't the only one not fit for duty, in McCoy's opinion. If it hadn't been for the ship's vulnerable state, he would have ordered Spock to stand down too.
“Grief will do that to a person,” Spock lamented. “Was there anything else?”
“That's it,” McCoy said. There was nothing he could do for Spock. No adrenaline boost that he'd have been able to issue had it been Kirk in the same situation. He just had to hope that Spock's amazing stamina held out.
Spock heard the door to the turbo-lift open and turned his head slightly.
He recognised the Captain's footfall and knew it was him without turning. The footsteps came beside him and waited.
“Captain,” Spock said.
Kirk was watching from the viewscreen at the ship lazily sailed along. He frowned, confused for a moment.
“We have only impulse power, Captain.”
“Well, is Mister Scott sorting the matter?” Kirk demanded.
“Yes Sir, he is doing all he can to rectify the situation.” Spock insisted. “Mister Scott was well aware of the dangers and consequences of the actions of my orders while in command. He did well to inform me of those dangers, however, I-”
“You did this to my ship? And didn't even think it was worth mentioning?” The gentle fury in those words silenced everyone on the bridge as they all stayed alert to Kirk's mood, working diligently so his ire didn't end up directed at them.
“I believe I just mentioned it, Captain. This is the first time you have returned for duty for me to mention it.”
Spock wasn't wrong but the tension in the room seemed to increase dramatically with the words. Spock vacated the Captain's chair as Kirk loomed over him more than ever. When the science officer at Spock's station went to give up the seat, Spock beckoned them back in place.
“My door wasn't locked, Spock,” Kirk spat out, reclaiming his seat. It was a power move as much as anything. To remind everyone who was in charge.
Kirk never liked to be challenged and Spock knew that Kirk would want to prove his relevance and command position after having been absent for so long. Spock would rather that be directed at him than the more sensitive human crew members.
“Seeing as you caused the issue, Mister Spock, why don't you report to engineering and assist Mister Scott in fixing it,” Kirk ordered.
Spock knew, as well as Scott, that there was no fixing their issue. Kirk, despite wanting to regain his authority over the crew had still neglected to ask what the issue was. If he had asked, he too would have known the issue was not one that could be fixed. In Spock's opinion, and given his overtly emotional displays, Spock did not think Kirk was fit to return to duty. However, that wasn't a matter to discuss currently.
“Yes, Captain,” Spock said and left the bridge.
The crew on the bridge remained tense and a few of them shared concerned looks to themselves. Uhura was the one who felt the need to say something in Spock's defense. “Captain Kirk, with all due respect Sir, I believe that Mister Spock should not-”
“Lieutenant, when I ask for an opinion from my Communications Officer, it will likely be about a communication issue. Not about how to manage your crew. Understood?”
“Yes Sir,” she replied. She knew there was no sense arguing with Kirk when he was like this, but that didn't mean she had to like it.
McCoy didn't expect Spock to stop by sickbay.
“Everything okay?” he asked.
“I have just encountered the Captain on the bridge. I am unsure that he should be on duty. He seems overly emotional and looking for conflict,” Spock informed him.
“Chew you out did he?” McCoy asked and Spock nodded. McCoy sighed. He didn't want Spock to be Captain's punchbag but on the plus side, Spock could get the rest he needed now and that was something. “Don't you worry about it, and get some rest, I'll keep an eye on him. In fact, I'll head up there in a few minutes.”
Spock knew McCoy misunderstood the situation and thought that Spock was relieved of duty and was heading to his quarters. If he told McCoy what Kirk had ordered, the Doctor would make matters worse and he didn't think that was what Jim needed right then. He nodded at McCoy and left, reassured that at least help was on the way for Kirk.
He felt the full exhaustion hit him for a moment as he let his control slide for the briefest moment before he got himself back under control.
Engineering was next for him and he headed straight there.
McCoy went to the bridge in the guise of boredom.
He noted how prickly Kirk was and even McCoy's own attempts to tame Kirk's bad mood fell flat. It resulted in Kirk ranting about how the ship was a sitting target, powerless as it was and that he had expected more of his crew.
He let the whole bridge revel in a large dose of shared guilt before he called Scotty in engineering to ask for an update.
Scotty was casual about the whole thing. There was nothing he could do and he knew it. Kirk mistook this for a bad attitude about it and demanded that he run every test he could think of in order to get the ship running again. He tried to object but Kirk cut off communications with him, ending it with wanting to only hear from him once they had exhausted every possibility he could think of, no matter how long it took.
McCoy was disturbed by Jim's behaviour but excused himself and decided he would pay him a visit after his shift finished in private. Things might go a little better that way.
Spock didn't know what was happening, just that everything seemed a little foggy to him and Mister Scott was walking him down towards his quarters as though escorting an intoxicated friend home from a much regaled 'earth night out'.
Despite himself he could not resist and had to endure the odd looks that the pair received walking along as they were.
Spock felt as though he were walking against a flow of water, each step seemed to be hard work and he couldn't understand what was happening to him.
“Come on, Mister Spock,” Scotty encouraged brightly. “Not much further to go.”
When they turned the last corner before getting to the officer's quarters, McCoy spotted the pair and came over to them. “What's going on here?” he asked, instinctively reaching out to assist Spock who was clearly the one who was struggling.
“Not exactly sure, Doctor. Mister Spock was helping me in engineering-”
“What? You were supposed to be resting,” McCoy interrupted, jabbing a finger into Spock's chest despite himself.
“Aye, and the Captain ordered him to assist me in trying to fix an issue that we can't fix! But he won't listen,” Scotty explained. “Anyway, he fell down and didn't seem like he could get up so well. Or.... speak. So I thought I'd bring him to his quarters and call you,” Scotty finished.
McCoy shot an apologetic look to the engineer. “I'm sorry,” he said. “I'll take it from here.”
“You sure. He's heavier than he looks that one,” Scotty said.
Despite his condition, Spock shot what he hoped was a glare at the engineer. But he was too tired for words.
McCoy helped Spock as they made slow progress towards Spock's quarters. “Is this what happens when a Vulcan reaches its limits?”
Spock's answer was for his legs to buckle underneath him, and McCoy couldn't stop him from falling to the ground. A couple of ensigns walked past and gave an odd look to their First Officer sat on the floor. One of them looked back, guiltily and addressing the Doctor asked: “Do you need-”
“It's fine, I've got this under control, thanks,” McCoy said. He gave Spock a few moments to sit before he asked “You think you can make it the rest of the way?”
Spock gave a tug which McCoy assumed was him attempting to get back to him feet. It got Spock nowhere and McCoy heaved him upwards with great effort, muttering how right Scotty had been.
Spock felt a new sense of guilt hit him but his pragmatic self told him there was nothing he could do about the fact that he had much greater bone density. He put on more of an effort to support himself and soon enough they were inside his quarters. Spock grasped onto furniture to assist him over to the bed where McCoy helped him lay.
Without a word, Spock allowed himself to be sucked into a deep sleep.
Kirk had expected McCoy to ask him to come to Spock's quarters, but he quickly guessed why.
He'd called down to Engineering a short while ago and found out that Spock wasn't down there any longer. He was pretty sure that Spock had gone to visit McCoy to tell him what Kirk was doing and they were going to ambush him in private. He was ready for it.
He went in ready to fight and it was knocked out of him the second he got there.
McCoy had a chair pulled up beside Spock's bed, monitoring the Vulcan. He couldn't be sick or he'd be in sickbay, Kirk knew that much. “What's going on?” he asked, keeping the harsh edge to his voice.
“Why don't you take a seat,” McCoy offered.
Kirk relented and took another seat without moving it closer to Spock. “Is this going to take long?” Kirk asked.
“I know you're upset Jim. That's why I've left a lot of this slide. I can't imagine how hard that was for you down there, but we went through something up here as well. We didn't know where you were Jim. You could have been dead for all we knew, and because of the asteroid, we had to leave you. Spock had to choose to leave you.”
“I would have done the same thing,” Kirk said.
“Of course, but it doesn't make it easier, does it? The guilt. He pushed so hard to try and stop that asteroid colliding with the planet. He pushed the ship as much as he could desperate to try and solve the issue as best he could. And he failed. We were virtually stranded, low power. It took 59 days for us to get back to you. He wouldn't eat or sleep because he was trying to figure out how to save that planet, but he did it. He worked out the symbols, saved you and the planet. But what did it cost him?”
“He was fine on the bridge earlier.”
That was it. McCoy was through being nice. “No, he wasn't! He was holding himself together so that you had the time you needed to heal despite never once looking outside of your self to see if your crew was okay. Well, he wasn't okay. He needed you. And you failed him.”
Kirk was taken aback by McCoy's harsh words. The anger. “Bones, I-”
“I have nothing else to say to you right now, Captain. If you don't mind, I'm going to monitor my patient.” McCoy turned from Kirk and let him know that for now, the conversation was over.
Spock slept well for two hours before waking confused and groggy.
He wasn't sure why McCoy was in his quarters and, honestly, he couldn't remember why he was in his quarters but he knew this wasn't right.
Engineering. He was supposed to be helping Mister Scott. The Captain had ordered him to help. He sat up swiftly, McCoy barely being able to stop him but Spock was weak and only managed a few steps before he found himself fighting a losing battle.
McCoy wrestled him into a chair rather than having to lift him off of the floor again.
“I- I should be in engineering,” Spock said. He had got out of the habit of resting and now he'd had a little, he thought he was ready to go again.
“No, you're fine,” McCoy said. “But you can eat. It'll make you feel better.”
“And don't say you're not hungry! You haven't eaten in two months pretty much. Of course you're not hungry. Your body is used to you starving it.”
Spock looked at McCoy with confused brown eyes. “Look, I can understand the need to keep going when your stressed and that for a Vulcan, the lack of sleep and food is a reasonable sacrifice for you. But that stress is over now. You can relax. You did your job and you did it well. Reset that brain back to normal.”
Spock stood up. “I need-”
But he didn't know what he needed. He needed to do something, to be useful. He couldn't just relax. There was always something to be done.
“Lay back down, okay?” McCoy insisted and guided Spock back to the bed. Spock let himself be led to the bed and sat but didn't lay.
McCoy's communicator sounded and he pulled it out. “McCoy,” he said. He was silent for a few seconds before he asked. “Is it an emergency?” He was quickly told about a medical emergency and knew he needed to attend to that first. “I'll be there in a minute,” he said and closed the communicator. “Spock, I have to go for a short while. I'll be back as soon as I can. Just get some rest, okay?”
Spock nodded and watched McCoy go. He stays there a moment before his brain latched onto what McCoy said. There was an emergency on the ship.
There was no time to rest.
McCoy realised he had a problem with Spock when he returned after his trip to sickbay and found Spock had gone.
He used the ship computer and located him to an empty meeting room. Inside, he found Spock attempting to use the table to get himself up off the floor.
“What part of 'stay here' did you not understand?” McCoy asked.
“You never told me to stay, you told me to get some rest.”
“Well besides from being pedantic, Spock, this is not getting rest,”
“I could not rest,” Spock admitted.
“Then let me help you,” McCoy said. “Let's start by getting you off the floor, huh?” He grabbed hold of Spock under the arms and helped him sit in the chair. “This is what we're going to do. I'm going to get you something to eat. It'll give you a boost of energy. Your exhausted and at least for you, you're weak. That'll probably give you enough energy to be able to get you back to your quarters. Then, we can have a nice discussion about what it is I can do to help you, okay?”
Spock nodded even though McCoy knew he was reluctant. Spock never wanted to be in need but shit happened. He struggled and strained to help Spock up before he left to get something for Spock to eat. He grabbed the only sedative that he knew worked for Spock from sickbay and then headed back. He half expected Spock to have left but was pleased to see he had remained in place this time, although the thought crossed his mind that maybe Spock couldn't move right then.
Spock ate with all the enthusiasm of someone who was eating the last part of a six-course meal. McCoy encouraged him to eat what he could but didn't pressure him to eat any more than he was comfortable with. When Spock pushed the dish away slightly, McCoy knew he was done. He disposed of the bowl of food. “Okay, so, we just need to get you to your quarters and then you can get the rest you need,” McCoy said.
Spock went to answer but was interrupted by the door opening and Kirk stepping inside. He looked at the pair of them in turn and his expression went from remorse to confusion and then anger in quick succession. He scoffed loudly. “I actually believed you,” Kirk said, directing the comment to McCoy. “I actually thought you were being honest with me and I'd been a jerk and then I catch you have clandestine meetings? Maybe you preferred Spock's leadership to mine, huh Bones? Out with the old, in with the new?” Kirk ranted.
“You're ridiculous, Jim! Can you even hear yourself?”
Jim laughed in McCoy's face. “Oh c'mon Bones, you told me he was exhausted, and a few hours later he's looking fit as a fiddle about as far from his quarters as he can be. I'm not that surprised with you Bones, but I am with you, Spock. I thought you had some sense of decency.”
Spock didn't try and defend himself against Kirk's tirade, but once he was finished Spock merely said: “The doctor did not lie.”
“I want to know what's going on,” Kirk demanded.
“I understand now,” Spock said standing. He supported himself on the table as he stood up but did his best not to look weak. It was a matter of pride. “Your anger is with yourself. For what you lost, for the loss of an ordinary life over an extraordinary career. The loss of love, a woman, and a child. A family that you craved. Despite all that loss, it is easier for you to direct your anger out at us than carry it yourself. I understand, Jim.”
McCoy stepped towards Jim. “We're here for you, Jim. You can talk to us.”
“Are you staging some sort of intervention here?” he asked, exasperated.
McCoy's temper flared as quickly as Jim's at the Captain's inability to grasp the fact that this was about Spock and not him. “What is wrong with you Jim? There's no secret agenda here. Not everything is about you and quite frankly, I'm sick of explaining it to you. If I see more of this paranoid behaviour I'm going to-” But McCoy didn't get to finish that thought as Spock went crashing to the ground behind him.
McCoy and Kirk had carried Spock to sickbay. McCoy said that although he wasn't greatly concerned about Spock's condition, he did just need rest and food, sickbay was a lot closer than Spock's quarters.
McCoy could see guilt plainly visible of Jim's face and he insisted on staying with Spock while McCoy got some rest. He had three short hours before he relieved Jim, telling him that he needed his own rest to tend to the ship's needs.
Kirk nodded sadly as he headed out, pausing at the door. “Do you think it would be okay if I stopped by after my shift?” he asked.
“Sure,” McCoy said. “But he'll likely be sedated. I want to make sure he gets the rest he needs this time. Sometimes that means taking drastic measures.”
Kirk nodded and hesitated. “He did this for me?”
McCoy knew what Jim was asking. “It's his job and he would die to carry out his duties to the best of his abilities, you know that.” Bones considered it a little more. “And besides from you, there was a planet of people that would have died.” McCoy sat down beside Spock's bed. “I don't think I helped much. I was on his case all the time. About leaving you on that planet about the asteroid. Scotty was pretty miffed about what he did to the ship, too. We all pushed him in different ways. And he did his best. He made the only decisions he could have made.”
“I just hope that he ends up understanding that,” Kirk said.
“He does. He was logical as ever. It's just when things aren't going how you'd hoped, you doubt whatever motivates you. Logic, love, fury.”
Kirk looked at the peacefully resting First Officer. “I'll sign him off duty for a week. If you need longer, you've got it.” Kirk turned to leave.
“Oh, and Jim? How about you come down to my office after your shift tomorrow and we can have a proper discussion about what happened to the two of you over the last couple of months. I think it might do some good.”
Jim smiled. “I think so too.” This time he left.
McCoy turned back to Spock checking the fluids were working correctly. He picked up the hypo ready to administer it.
“Really Doctor, is that quite necessary?” Spock asked.
McCoy pressed the hypo against Spock's neck. “You bet your ass it is.”