Actions

Work Header

Sha Ka Ree

Chapter Text

Pulmonary Embolism, the scanner had read. Complication from infection. Undetectable until it was too late.

Spock said Pike’s breathing had become labored before his heart had simply stopped, and he delivered the news with as much emotion as the medical scanner screen he read from.

Jim was frozen still, chest tight, glad he couldn’t see Pike’s face, glad he hadn’t been awake when it happened and simultaneously hating himself that he hadn’t been awake when it happened.

Spock was still speaking, Jim realized, and he attempted to catch back up, eyes following Spock as he stood and moved toward the cave wall where he’d set the stretcher.

“We have many hours before dawn, but once the sun rises we should begin preparations. I believe one of the panels from the shuttle’s forward console will function as a makeshift shovel. If you will assist me in moving the Captain we will find an appropriate place in which to bury him.”

Jim gaped at him. “Are you joking?” He labored to his feet, pushing past the pain, and strode forward. In a flash of burning impulsiveness, he grabbed Spock’s shoulder and pulled him forcibly away from the stretcher, then turned him around to face him. The Vulcan barely reacted.

“This is hardly a joking matter, Mister Kirk.”

“Captain Pike is dead. He’s dead. And you aren't even-- You served with him for four years-- doesn’t that mean anything to you?”
“There is no point in emotionalism,” Spock said, voice hardened by Jim’s accusation. “We have known since the crash that his time was limited, and now the situation has reached its logical conclusion.”

Jim leveled his eyes at Spock, fury boiling away his grief.

“You can’t possibly be this cold.”

“I am attempting to give the captain a proper burial. I believe that is all that we are capable of providing. Will you assist me or no?”

That gave Jim a moment’s pause. He couldn’t tell from Spock’s stony face if that was said out of a desire to honor and mourn his captain, or if it was said out of a sense of practicality.

Either way, the anger was unlikely to fade. He held onto it like a lifeline. In a sick way, he was grateful for his rage, as it was easier to feel than the crushing weight of despair that settled on him when he looked at Pike’s still form.

“Fine,” he said after a moment. “But-- what do we do until dawn?”

He didn't think he was capable of moving onto the next thing. Of just… burying him. But Spock was. Spock made it look easy. He couldn’t believe he had started to think Spock felt more than he let on. In the face of this, Spock should be distraught. Jim was, and he’d hardly known the man.

“We wait. There is little else to be done.”

It took a few minutes for Jim to collect himself, during which Spock tightened the bindings of his makeshift stretcher. Dawn, then.

They would wait.



It took a couple hours, all told, to bury Captain Pike. Jim's leg gave out partway through digging, so he had to sit beside Pike’s body while Spock finished. Jim occupied himself with silently stewing.

They didn't speak. Jim did manage to help Spock fill the hole, but with every shovelful of dirt his heart sank a little deeper. The finest captain in Starfleet was in this grave, he kept thinking. The finest captain in Starfleet with the spotless record and the loyal crew and the responsibility of the Fleet’s flagship on his shoulders-- and here he was.

Was it Jim’s fault? Somehow? If Spock hadn’t reached out to save him, would he have saved Pike instead? If Jim had gone to help Carter instead of sitting frozen in his seat, could they have stopped the shuttle falling apart? There wasn’t enough time , his mind tried to tell him, it all happened too fast , but Jim Kirk did not believe in no-win scenarios, so losing--

Losing felt like this . Like grief and guilt and anger. And maybe he had to admit now that he was far angrier at himself than he was at Spock.

They had chosen a spot only a few yards from the shuttle, where the sand was stiff enough at the base of a large tree to hold the grave’s shape. They would have to cover it, of course, but Jim already saw some rocks up the slope of the mountain that would do-- when his leg had time to rest. Dawn was only now breaking in pink light against the mountain slope, dispelling the chill that still clung to the air. In spite of their exertion, Jim felt himself shivering where he sat upon the cool, soft ground.

No sooner had Spock patted the last grains of sand into place than he stood, brushing off his slacks and looking to Jim, who did not meet his eyes.

“I will now begin the process of rebuilding the shuttlecraft,” Spock said in clipped tones. “If you require time to mourn, you may do so.”

Outrage flooded him like a tidal wave and he felt his eyes narrow into dangerous slits. “You aren’t even going to say something? He was your captain. He deserves a few words of respect.”

Spock looked back down at the grave, and Jim searched his face for some indication that he felt something-- anything.

But his expression may as well have been carved out of stone.

“It would be appropriate,” he agreed. Turning back to the small mound of sand, he was silent for a few moments. When he finally spoke, it was in the same clinical tones he'd been using all morning.

“Today we lay to rest Captain Christopher Pike, serial number T364-281LR, captain of the Federation Starship Enterprise . He will no doubt be remembered as a fine officer and a--” Spock hesitated minutely, but just enough for Jim to notice, “friend.” Spock finished. He cast his eyes back to Jim. “Is that sufficient?”

Taking a deep, steadying breath through his nose, Jim shook his head in disbelief, “That’s fine, Mister Spock,” he said. The words felt clipped and stilted coming out of his mouth.

“Very well. I will make my way toward the other crash site and begin transporting what materials are still usable. You may remain for a time.”

“We aren’t going to discuss this?” Jim asked, gesturing first to Pike, then to the space between the two of them, where Jim sat on the warm sand and Spock stood still as a statue.

“Discuss what, Lieutenant?”

“Our situation!” Jim shouted, unable to contain it anymore, scrambling to his feet. He took a few purposeful, faltering strides in Spock’s direction. “The fact that it’s just you and me and a whole, empty planet, stuck two-thousand years in the past with no way to get home--”

He heard his voice breaking and pulled himself back together, straightening his spine in a mirror to Spock’s. “We need to focus on survival before we focus on the shuttle. We have to be prepared to be here as long as it takes. I’m not backing down on this one.”

Spock squared up to him, unwavering. “As I have said, the sooner we repair the shuttle the less time we will need to devote to such measures. I suggest prioritizing, Mister Kirk.”

Jim scoffed, “Okay, Commander, tell me-- if we happen to find a way to that metal deposit, and if it happens to have every scrap we need to repair this shuttle, how quickly can we do it with the equipment we have?”

“I estimate 11.8 months,” Spock responded without missing a beat, “with limited equipment and breaks regulated to sleeping and eating.”

That number was higher than Jim thought, which was, well, discouraging. But it proved his point better this way.

“All right, then how do you suggest we survive 11.8 months, plus however long it takes to make it through the mountain, if we devote all our time to the shuttle? We need enough resources to support us while we repair it!” He cast a hand in the general direction of their crash site.

Spock’s eyes were hard, voice losing some of its practiced calm, “We are capable of surviving the way we have thus far. The sooner we begin, the sooner we may finish. I fail to see how you do not understand this fact, as I have repeated it multiple times. These are my orders, Lieutenant.”

“Orders!” Jim threw his hands in the air and looked wildly around them. “Look where we are! I’m not following your orders if you insist on putting a hunk of metal before our lives! I don’t know where you get the right,” he continued, an ugly thought forming in his mind even as he spat it at Spock’s feet. “It’s like you were just waiting for Pike to die so you could take command.”

A heavy pause fell between them. When Spock spoke, it was with intentional calm. “I am doing what must logically be done so that you and I do not face the same fate. Christopher Pike was an excellent captain, and his loss will be felt strongly.”

Jim didn’t fail to notice, Spock didn’t say by whom.

And suddenly, it made sense. “I get it,” he said, some-- if not all-- of the fury fading from him. “This is how you deal with things. You throw yourself into something else and put your whole brain into it so you don’t have to think. Trust me, I’ve been there. But, listen, you have to think right now. Consider what our lives are going to look like for the next 11.8 months if we go forward with this plan of yours.”

Spock pulled himself straighter, but did not respond.

Jim shook his head and gave an exasperated huff. “Fine, you go tend to your shuttlecraft. I’m going to start figuring out how to cut down these trees so we don’t freeze to death.”

He turned before he could make himself watch for Spock’s nonexistent reaction, snatched his crutch from where he’d abandoned it in the sand, then stalked in the direction of the cave. Spock thankfully did not try to stop him.

As Jim walked off, as angrily as he could while practically hopping on one leg, he tried not to imagine 11.8 months and some change without a single person for company. No one but Commander Spock, who may as well have been a computer himself.

 


 

It would have been logical to take the tricorder with him, or the phaser for that matter. It was decidedly illogical to leave those items behind simply because he did not want to cross paths with Kirk again.

But that was precisely Spock’s reasoning. The human’s words had been ill-conceived, arrogant, fussy and-- frankly-- cruel, and Spock wanted to allow himself a moment to dwell on them.

He had not left Pike’s grave right away. Rather, he attempted to center himself there. Tried to categorize his emotions, understand them, purge them.

Anger surfaced as he stood staring at the ground, anger at Kirk for being unreasonable, anger at himself for allowing the Lieutenant to walk off without a reprimand, anger at Pike for leaving him here to figure this out on his own.

And, yes, maybe that was the crux of it. He was angry at Pike, more than anything else, because Spock did not know how to do this. Spock did not know what was right or what path to take. He did not know how to convince Kirk to follow him. He did not know how he could save them on logic alone. In spite of himself he recognized that Pike’s human emotions had made him the excellent captain that he was.

Spock, on the other hand, did not know how to “follow his gut.” Logically, all their energy should go to repairing the shuttle. It was true, but was it right?

He did not like indecision.

With a genuine sigh, Spock had cast one last look at Pike’s grave, stuck a strip of bare bark into the ground to identify it, and moved forward.

Moving forward was all he knew to do.

Thankfully, he did not need the tricorder to locate the shuttle, as his memory was perfect, but it was possible that in that moment, he forgot that there were other, more practical uses for the device.

 

 

The walk was long, but Spock found himself soothed by the loud silence of the forest. Nothing commanded his attention, but everything received it. He took special note of the dark purple veins within the trumpet-shaped petals of flowers, how the size of them increased the farther he made his way between the trees. He ran his fingers along the stony texture of the trees’ bark and noticed more readily the sink of sand beneath his feet, guessing at its mineral composition as he walked. His eyes followed the paths of wandering insects, watching them burrow into the dark hollow of the flowers.

It was serene in its own way, though he became conscious of the danger as he walked. Embarrassingly, it was a good two miles into his trek before a stray thought reminded him that this was where they had registered lifesigns of larger mammals. Not this precise location, but certainly this deep into the trees. It was far too late to return for the tricorder, so he kept himself aware, glancing between trunks and keeping his ears open for the sounds of approaching footsteps or breaking twigs.

There were none.

When he did arrive at the shuttle, he felt the same unease and disgust as he had the first time at the sight of the bones. The day before, he’d simply found the medkit and hurried back to the cave, unwilling to linger.

This time, he had to linger. There were five phasers stored in the back compartment that might still have a charge, two engineering jumpsuits in the alcove that would function as an extra set of clothes, or protection, plus the shuttle itself, which they would need to transport for optimization of repairs.

Unfortunately, looking at how close the trees grew this deep into the forest, they would likely have to transport it in pieces.

As he surveyed the scene, he considered the importance of these items to their eventual departure from this planet, and their survival in the meantime. Then, his eyes fell to the bones still scattered in the clearing, and he considered their importance.

With a flash of clarity, Spock rearranged his priorities. He arrived at the decision quite logically, but he had to admit that Kirk’s face came to mind, and he did consider that this simple action might help ease the lieutenant’s less than warm feelings toward him.

He made his way to the shuttle, clambered inelegantly into it (resting as it was, angled atop fallen trees), and grabbed one of the engineering jumpsuits. Tying it into a sling, Spock returned to the clearing at large.

With a deep breath, he began to collect the scattered bones, one-by-one. He knelt and sifted with his fingers through the leaves and debris, swallowing his emotional reaction to handling the bones of those that had been alive only four standard days prior.

No, he reminded himself. They had died 154 years ago, victims of a similar fate to their own. He did not know why they had traveled farther into the past than his half of the shuttle, but it was a mystery he would solve. For his own sake, for Kirk’s sake, for Pike’s sake, and for theirs.

Some minutes passed as he dug through dead flower petals and broken twigs, combing the clearing for any trace remains. It was likely that the bodies had been scavenged by local wildlife before they rotted away, so there was no full skeleton here, not even a skull, but there was at least something. Something he could bury and honor the lives lost.

As he worked, the thought of wildlife eked its way back into his mind. He tried to dismiss it, but he had what he supposed humans would call a gut feeling, a sixth sense. Somehow he knew he wasn’t alone.

Without the tricorder, he did not know where to look for these unknown animals, nor did he know how to avoid them. Senses heightened, he paused in his work, ears open to every gust of wind through the leaves, every snap of a twig and buzz of an insect.

It was a sudden, violent rustle of leaves from somewhere nearby that gave him pause.

Straightening, Spock slowly set down his bundle, eyes scanning the trees. He didn’t know what kinds of creatures he should be looking out for. Something big, his mind supplied, which did not help.

If he’d realized his danger earlier, perhaps he could have prepared himself for it, but as it was, when he heard a rumbling growl behind him, he hardly had a chance to turn before he was knocked off his feet.

Something burst from the trees behind him, bowled him over and straddled him. It was easily six, maybe seven feet in length, four or so in height, thick and muscled and coated in dappled black and gray hair. That was all Spock could make out. Quickly as he was able, he slipped under its splayed, spiked paws and struggled his way behind it, hands clawing for purchase on the sand and soil beneath him. When he scrambled to his feet and wheeled around, the creature stood between himself and the shuttlecraft, where the extra phasers remained in their compartment. Spock began backing slowly toward the trees and the creature whipped its massive head toward him, growling.

That head was a solid block of muscle and teeth, a jaw like an anglerfish closed with an imposing underbite, set upon shoulders as thick and muscular as a bulldog’s. Its eyes, though, were squinted, tiny black globes that seemed unable to focus on him if the sway of the creature’s head was any indication. One small blessing, then, it might be nocturnal, or at least unused to the glare that came through the hole in the canopy.

His eyes darted to the shuttle as the creature approached him, slow on its clumsy paws. If he hurried, he could potentially make it to the phaser compartment with little injury, but there was no guarantee the ancient phasers would still function. Still, it was without a doubt his only chance. Kneeling slowly, he picked up a fallen branch, not nearly large enough to incapacitate the creature, but perhaps enough to function as some form of defense.

Just as he began a countdown in his head, planning to time his run with the fall of the creature’s paws, a sound jolted him from the tension.

More branches were breaking in the trees to his side, far too hurried and loud to be another one of these creatures.

“Spock!” a voice shouted, and the creature turned its head to the noise, a growl tearing from its throat. Spock took the opportunity to dash to its side, then behind, just as Kirk erupted through the thick trees.

The lieutenant’s eyes widened at the sight of the creature, but there was no further hesitation. In one swift movement, he pulled the phaser from his belt and shot. It yelped, a pained, howl of a sound that echoed between tree trunks. Spock lifted himself into the shuttle, dropping his branch and glancing over his shoulder to see the creature approaching its new target. Kirk turned the dial on the phaser and shot again. This time, one of the animal’s legs gave out and it roared pitifully.

Spock punched open the compartment and heard the sound of another shot, followed by an echoing, pained growl. He grabbed the nearest phaser and turned, only to find that the creature had fallen, mere feet away from Kirk, who stood within swiping distance of its claws.

Kirk shot it once more, seemingly just in case, glancing at the phaser then back to the creature’s still form, then back to Spock.

“One stun and three kill shots,” he said in disbelief. His voice sounded almost quiet in comparison to the creature’s roars. Kirk approached the creature gingerly, leaning heavily on his good leg. He seemed to have abandoned his walking stick in his haste. “Resilient for a little guy, isn’t he?”

“Maintain a safe distance,” Spock warned, hopping down from the shuttle and making his way slowly toward the animal, phaser still in hand. Kirk waved him off and knelt beside the body. He touched its head, almost gently, and put his ear to its mouth to check for breath.

“Don’t worry, Commander. It’s down.”

Spock lowered his phaser, which had apparently been unnecessary thanks to Kirk’s overzealousness. In spite of himself, his heart was pounding. The creature had gotten too close to him, and far too close to Kirk.

“Are you all right?” Kirk asked, stepping around the body and meeting Spock where he stood.

“I am uninjured.” Spock responded, and he saw some tension fade from Kirk’s posture.

“Talk about timing,” Kirk said, a smile of relief masking his apparent fear.

Spock was about to ask how Kirk’s timing had been so impeccable when the Lieutenant answered it himself. “I saw that you had left the tricorder and figured you might need it,” Kirk said by way of explanation. “Checked the shuttle sensors to find you and, well, I was worried that creature’s lifesign was too close.”

“Your instincts are admirable, Lieutenant,” Spock said, relief of his own softening his words. “Thank you. Are you unharmed? Your leg--”

Jim waved him off. “It’s fine, I promise. It aches, but I think it’s going to ache for a while. I just couldn’t get here fast enough with that damned crutch.”

Kirk clipped the phaser back onto his belt and held up his tricorder, eyes flicking over its screen. He did not linger on it long. Dropping the tricorder to his side, Kirk seemed satisfied. “Doesn’t look like there are any more of these things nearby,” he said, gesturing to the fallen creature, “and the ones I’m picking up aren’t moving. What do you think? If these are the same creatures we heard howling last night, they’re probably nocturnal.”

“That was my hypothesis. My movement may have disturbed it if we are near its territory.”

“Small blessings, then,” Jim said, casting his eyes around the scene. Spock realized this was the first time Kirk had been here. It was fortunate he’d been able to clear the site of bones before Kirk’s arrival, but the young officer still seemed unsettled by the state of the shuttle.

Just as Spock was about to speak, to maybe thank Kirk again and send him on his way, Kirk’s eyes fell on the bundle where Spock had abandoned it. “I thought you were coming to strip down the shuttle,” Kirk said, the question ‘what were you actually doing?’ implied.

Spock watched Kirk as the man wandered past him, approaching the bones. A strange sense of nervousness gripped Spock then. He didn’t want Kirk to open the bundle without explanation.

“I believed it would be appropriate to gather the remains of the crew.” Spock said, which at least managed to effectively stop the man in his tracks.

When Kirk spoke, it was with the same sense of horror Spock had felt when he arrived here the day before. “ That’s the crew? That little… sack?”

“What is left, yes.”

Kirk was silent, his fist clenching at his side. Spock could not see his expression, but he could imagine it. Pain. Grief. Forehead drawn tight and jaw straight and that all-too-familiar fear swimming behind his eyes like a dam holding back a river. As Spock watched, though, he saw what could only be considered a transformation. Kirk squared his shoulders, straightened his back, and when next he spoke the horror was absent from his tone. “Why is there so little left?”

It was quite fascinating to watch. Kirk’s emotions clearly ran deep, and yet he was able to put them aside when needed. A rare trait in humans.

“Remember, Mister Kirk. These remains have been exposed to the elements for more than one hundred and fifty years. It is fortunate we have anything to bury at all.”

Kirk shot him a look over his shoulder, confusion and suspicion in equal measure. “Bury? I wouldn’t think that would be too high on your priority list,” he said, some of the venom of their earlier argument in his tone.

Spock moved to Kirk’s side, and Kirk faced him. Their eyes met. “I believed it prudent to reconsider my priorities.”

It took a moment for that to sink in, but then it was as though the clouds cleared from Kirk’s dark skies. The hard lines of his face softened. His expression opened into something almost warm, certainly inviting-- offering both forgiveness and respect.

“Funny,” Kirk said, a sad quirk to his lip. “I had a similar revelation.” At Spock’s raised eyebrow, Jim scratched the back of his head and looked toward the ground. “I was going to stay to help you after I dropped off the tricorder. I… I wanted to apologize for what I said. You didn’t deserve that.”

“Nor did you deserve my lack of regard for your opinion,” Spock responded. “It is forgotten.”

Kirk nodded, meeting Spock’s eyes again. “Thanks, Commander.” He paused, and there was a moment of awkward silence. Just as Spock opened his mouth to speak, Kirk continued. “Listen, I was thinking-- and, well, this is proof.” He waved a hand at the creature. “We need to work together. Take care of each other. Find some happy medium. There’s no other way we’re going to make it out of here alive. I mean, we should just…” he collected his thoughts for a moment, then continued with a hard tone to his voice. “No more orders, no more rank. Just…”

“Cooperation,” Spock finished for him. He found the thought of disregarding Starfleet’s clear guidelines disagreeable, but the thought of sharing this burden less so.

“Yes,” Jim said, “exactly.”

With a considering breath, Spock glanced at the fallen creature, then back to Kirk’s expectant gaze. Without this young man, Spock would likely be dead. Without Spock, Kirk would likely be dead. Cooperation had served them well so far. “Very well, Mister Kirk,” he said, wondering briefly if this was the wisest decision. The most logical decision. The right decision.

“Jim,” Kirk said. “You can call me Jim.”

It took a great deal for Spock to force the name from his lips, feeling somehow as though he were crossing a boundary. Perhaps he was, but boundaries had different definitions here. “Jim, then. And, I suppose you must call me Spock.”

Kirk-- Jim-- snorted a laugh as though he’d been surprised by that response. “Oh, I ‘must,’ must I? That sounded like it was almost painful for you, Spock.”

“Simply unfamiliar,” Spock said. “I will… get used to it.”

Jim nodded. “Me too.”

There was a moment they stood in simple regard of each other, meeting for the first time as equals. Spock found he did not feel threatened by the thought. In fact he could only describe this feeling as relief, maybe even comfort. Kirk had repeatedly shown his adaptability, capability, responsibility and dependability. Perhaps together they did have a chance.

“We should finish with the remains,” Jim said, voice faltering as the reality of it returned to him. He recovered himself quickly. “But there’s the matter of the dead bulldog…”

It intrigued Spock that their minds had gone to the same comparison for the animal. “We should butcher it,” he suggested, and Jim choked his surprise.

“Woah,” he said, raising a hand as if to slow Spock down, though he wasn’t moving. “I thought you would want to, oh, I don't know, study it?”

“Butchering the animal does not preclude studying it. You expressed an interest in hunting for fur. Now that is no longer necessary. Moreover, its meat could provide you with nutrients that you may not receive from the local plantlife.”

Jim considered it. “It’s rather…” he opened his arms to take in the entirety of the beast, “large, wouldn’t you say? I wouldn’t even know where to begin.”

“Nor would I. However, I am certain we can figure it out.”

“You’ll help me?”

“We are, as you said, in this together.”

Jim nodded, put his hands on his hips and sighed at the creature as though anticipating the work it would take to skin it. “All right. Let’s finish with the--” he cleared his throat, “-- the bones. Then we’ll get to the bulldog. No sense wasting daylight.”

“I might remind you, daylight is one of the few resources we have in abundance.”

Jim shrugged, and the small smile he awarded Spock was a welcome sight. “I never thought you’d be the one of us looking on the bright side, Spock.”

Spock found his name did not sound unpleasant when Kirk said it like that.

 


 

Jim admitted after the near-disastrous process of skinning the animal that he had only read about the process of tanning hide once in his life, and that little had stuck. As Spock had a similar base of knowledge, it took them a great long while to ensure each step was correct. First, they had to scan for salt deposits, thankfully finding one in a cave slightly less than a mile from their campsite.

Even then, after scraping and soaking the skin in salt water, then laying it out to dry the remainder of the day, the product they ended up with was stiff at best, and still smelled of the beast’s thick musk. It was less than ideal.

“Maybe it will loosen up once we wash it. A few times,” Jim said with a defeated shrug, staring at the fur laid out in the heat of the sun. They had spent the last few hours tearing up the beast’s meat, salting it and hanging it on branches outside their cave’s entrance to dry. They’d laid out the fur beside the rather grisly display, hoping to keep an eye on both to discourage any rodents from stealing their bounty, and to keep watch in case the smell of meat attracted any more predators. So far, they’d been lucky. At least in that respect. The heat of midday was starting to sink in, meaning they had more than twenty-four hours of sunlight before the bulldogs, if they were nocturnal, stirred.

“We may try,” Spock responded, “However, I believe it may take quite a bit of effort. Do not concern yourself with it. The fur will still serve its purpose.”

Jim sighed. He was disappointed in himself. It was illogical, he thought with a twinge of wry humor at the word, that he should judge himself for it. The practice of tanning hide hadn’t been used in centuries, except by those who adhered to cultural traditions that necessitated it. All-in-all, it wasn’t exactly a failure, so he tried to give himself the leeway. Besides, it wasn’t like Spock had known the process any better than he had. That in itself was a heartening thought. The Vulcan wasn’t perfect after all.

“I’d like to try again, if we could,” Jim suggested, glancing back at Spock, who raised his eyebrow. “I mean, not now. Even this--” he gestured to the meat, “is enough to last us a while. But once it runs out, maybe we can go hunting.”

“As I do not eat meat, I hope a hunt will not be immediately necessary.”

“You don’t eat meat?” Jim looked at the now-intimidating amount of soon-to-be jerky hanging on the low, thin branches of the trees. Spock had been so dutiful in helping Jim carve up the animal, he couldn’t believe the Vulcan didn’t have a stake in this. “No offense, Spock, but now might not be the time to stick to principles. You’ll need the nutrients.”

“Vulcans have adapted to a plant-based diet. In honesty, the meat would likely make me ill.”

Jim hummed, glancing back at their work. “You didn’t have to help me, then,” he said. “We spent the whole day on this.” Once it got too hot, Jim was going to have to retreat into the cave to sleep. He wouldn’t be able to help Spock with the shuttle until he’d awoken and Alpha Novus V began to move into dusk. Suddenly, a strange feeling of guilt gripped him. Had he been too petulant? Too insistent earlier that they refocus their attentions? Spock had had a plan, and Jim had trampled over it. Granted, he didn’t agree with the plan, but the fact that Spock had dropped everything--

“Given the events of the morning, it seems appropriate to consider our survival first and foremost,” Spock responded, something soft in his tone that drew Jim’s eyes toward him. In the hours since they’d buried their captain, Jim had somehow managed to change Spock’s mind. Or, maybe, he’d just managed to open it. Before Jim could speak, Spock continued. “Alone, it would have taken you well into the worst of the day’s heat to butcher the animal, given your injury,” he said, voice returning to that practiced, hard timbre Jim was more familiar with. “Lending my assistance was logical.”

So, not an emotional reaction to the death of his captain or his own near-death experience, of course. It had been ‘logical.’ Jim was starting to suspect that ‘logical’ was just an excuse, something Spock used to cover up his real motivations.

But, so long as Spock’s logic aligned with Jim’s own, he decided he couldn’t bring himself to say as much aloud. “Well, thanks all the same,” Jim said. “This evening, we’ll focus on the shuttle.”

“That is an adequate compromise,” Spock responded.

Jim didn’t know how to feel about this man, his straight-backed stance and the careful clasp of his hands. He spoke with no emotion, but clearly felt something, and he had devoted a day to Jim’s benefit, despite a desire not to.

“Are we going to be able to do this?” Jim asked suddenly, catching Spock off-guard if the widening of Spock’s eyes was anything to go by.

“Do what, precisely?” Spock asked. He shifted on his feet, subtly, but enough for Jim to notice. Who knew he had the ability to make the unflappable Vulcan uncomfortable with a single, pointed question?

“Work together. Alone. For a year. I’m not saying we can’t,” he rushed to add, “I just want to start on the same page. All we have right now is each other.”

Spock lifted his chin slightly, regarding Jim, looking at him like he was seeing him for the first time. “I believe we can. At any rate, we must. If it eases your worries, am not uncomfortable with the thought of relying on your help.”

Jim took in a breath, weighing Spock’s words. He wondered if it had cost Spock anything to say as much. As far as he knew, Vulcans were staunchly independent. Not to say that they didn’t value community and tradition, they absolutely did, but in matters of work (especially with humans) they tended to stay isolated. In any case, it didn’t cost Jim anything to return Spock’s sentiment.

“I think I can rely on you too,” he said. “So let’s make a deal.” He approached Spock and held out his hand. “We’ll get off this planet. Together.”

Spock regarded Jim’s gesture, somewhat stiffly, then tentatively reached out. When their hands clasped, Jim felt a strange hum through his arm, but it was gone-- along with the heat of Spock’s fingers-- in a moment.

If Spock had an explanation for the feeling, or for how brief the contact had been, he did not offer it. Instead, he turned his eyes back to their task.

“You should rest,” Spock suggested. “I will remain here and keep watch.”

Jim didn’t like the idea of leaving Spock to do all the work (such as it was), but he reminded himself with a sick, sinking feeling that he would have a long time to make up for it. At least, he thought, tracing the lines of Spock’s strong profile with his eyes, he would not have to do it alone.