Breaking Points - Chapter Two
Disclaimer: Not mine, more's the pity.
Summary: When the Enterprise is asked to transport Vulcan colonists to their new home, Spock Prime comes with them. His presence changes everything – even the things Jim isn’t sure he wants to change.
By: Ragdoll / Keshka
Summary: Where Jim starts to realize how unusual it is to dream about dead planets that aren’t your own.
As it turned out, Jim didn’t get much chance to see Spock, either Spock, for the next little while. Where previously he’d been bemoaning the fact that a captain had little to do with new requisition assignments for quarters, supplies, and other eccentricities, that was before the paperwork hit his desk. If he’d known that taking on two hundred passengers was going to make this much of a mess out of his in-box, he might seriously have considered disobeying Starfleet orders and going AWOL just to save himself some grief.
The following day, after numerous checks and rechecks of ship's systems and passenger compliment, the Enterprise left the Antares system, en route to the new Vulcan colony. Jim was curious enough to want to know more about the location that had been chosen, but he was far, far too busy to have time to explore it at his leisure. Spock, thankfully, was seeing to all the practical needs of their passengers while Jim handled the official half of it; for the most part, this meant he and his First only saw each other for the next two days like ships passing in the night. McCoy made for a great distraction, as Jim had always known he would, and he’d never been happier for his friend’s penchant for nagging and otherwise pointed sarcastic comments.
Although, after the tenth rendition of ‘those pointy-eared hobgoblins are mucking up my sickbay’, even he had to admit that it was getting repetitive.
It was morning, a day and a half following their transfer of the Vulcan colonists, before Jim had more than even a cursory moment to relax. He celebrated by spending the first hour of his bridge shift actually lounging in his command chair, doing as little as possible, instead of frantically attempting to scribble his signature to five different datapads at once, as he had been for the last thirty-six hours.
“Status, Mr. Sulu?”
“No change, Captain. All indicator lights are normal, all departments report optimal performance levels.”
“Thank you.” Usually an adrenaline junky of the highest order, Jim was more than happy to take a long breather and settle into a mission of relative peace and lack of paperwork from here on out. Life just didn’t get better than that.
Looking at the rest of his bridge crew, Jim was reminded again of how lucky he was, in both his personal and professional circumstances. Captain of the Enterprise. Damn. He’d never have thought, as little as four years ago, that his life would take him places like this. As he watched Chekov man his station, Jim couldn’t help but grin, silently entertained by his youngest officer’s enthusiasm. He tracked the ensign with his eyes for a moment, remembering that at the age of seventeen he’d personally been in the process of completing his small stint in prison for two counts of grand larceny. Ah, the follies of youth.
And it occurred to him that McCoy might have something to say about that. Reminder to self; don’t tell Bones.
Distracted, Jim felt his concentration lapse. There wasn’t anything important required of him at the moment, and he let himself drift in daydreams and possibilities. But as his unfocused eyes passed over his tactical officer, something very – odd – happened. A strange filament cast a shadow on the ensign, like an afterimage flickering in and out over his vision. He blinked rapidly to dispel it, but the fuzzy overlay didn’t disperse; if anything, it worsened.
He sat very still, making no move to rub at his stinging eyes and breathing deeply to appear in control of himself. A captain who wasn’t in control of himself wasn’t fit for duty on the bridge of a constitution class starship. Spock had driven that point home with brute strength.
What was this? He sat tensely, only command training keeping him from panicking as the washed out double-images worsened. He was almost beginning to get motion sick looking out of his own eyes. He closed them.
It’s not real. I haven’t had enough sleep. Take a second to reorient and everything will revert to normal.
He opened his eyes quickly at Spock’s query, trying not to appear as though he’d been napping on the bridge, but also healthy enough not to give any indication of trouble. Relief rushed through him. The strange visual phenomenon was gone.
“Sensors are detecting an asteroid field obstructing our flight path. Recommend we take a full sector scan and alter course to avoid it.”
“Logical, as always, Spock,” he murmured, in a faint imitation of his usual good humor. “Mr. Sulu, see to it. Mr. Chekov, assist Mr. Spock, if you would.”
Two ‘Aye, sir’s’ chorused, and he watched as the ensign stood from his console, hurrying to the upper deck with all the haste of a new cadet determined to impressed his superior officers. As he passed by the command chair, Jim smiled at him, a small smirk of encouragement, and found it returned with a shy, happy grin.
Strange. It was the damnedest thing, and surely only a bit of daydreaming, but for just an instant, he could have sworn that the face looking out at him from his tactical officers person, smiling so gamely, was someone quite different. Someone much more settled and comfortable, if no less enthusiastic. Someone much older.
But it was only for an instant.
Dinner that night was a boisterous affair. With a skeleton crew on the bridge, he had the maintenance workers prepare the food processors for a veritable feast of Human cuisine. He intended it mostly as a reward to his crew for a job well done, but also as an invitation to the various Vulcans aboard ship who might be tempted to mingle or otherwise interact with the officers of the Enterprise. Not many made public appearances – and Jim didn’t press it, aware that though the Humans on board knew of the great tragedy that had struck their guests, none of them could really understand. He couldn’t hold it against them that they preferred their solitude and their silence. He couldn’t say he’d feel any differently if it were him in their shoes.
He tried not to feel disappointed that Sp- er, Solkar, well, (oh, the hell with it) that the older Spock hadn’t made an appearance, but then, he supposed it wasn’t the safest thing in the world, considering that his efficient Vulcan First was also in attendance at the dinner.
He wondered what would happen if those two came face to face, how the older man might attempt to hide his identity from his younger self. He smirked to think of the ensuing argument that might follow – “You are mistaken, I assure you that I am not you, and fail to see the logic in accusing me of such a thing.” “Your argument lacks the benefit of facts; the similarity in our facial features alone precludes-“
He grinned. Yeah, that sounded about right.
He did notice T’Pela make a brief round of the affair, and several other Vulcans he’d made quick note of over the last few days, but T’Sai was not in evidence, nor Stolvik. He wondered about the child and hoped sympathetically that she was getting the help and comfort she deserved. Of course, hoping that a child receives emotional sustenance from a group of Vulcans seemed the height of idiocy, but then, they were her native species. What did he know about Vulcan grieving practices?
Lost in thought, he murmured a polite word of apology as he bumped into two Vulcans on his way to the refreshment table. Really, the whole ship was feeling rather crowded these days, in a not entirely unexpected fashion.
In fact, this entire gathering of foreign bodies reminded him of another occasion of overcrowding, and he grinned as McCoy’s voice rattled through his brain, full of gruff irritation and annoyance.
“…one-hundred and fourteen delegates aboard for two weeks, thirty-two of them ambassadors, half of them mad at the other half, and the whole lot touchier than a raw antimatter pile!”
He grinned, remembering the occasion. Bones had been in his best dress uniform, pressed bright blue and hating it, grumbling the entire way –
The smile faded from his mouth, reality returning with a crash. That wasn’t right. That wasn’t even possible. McCoy and he were good friends, but up until this crew assignment they’d been cadets, completely unblooded, and assigned no uniforms aside from their neutral red.
He’d never seen McCoy in dress blues before.
Vertigo struck him, followed closely by a sense of dizzying disbelief. The decking under his feet felt unsteady, unreal even, and if the automatic door hadn’t been quite so close, he might have fallen as all the strength in his legs abandoned him, leaving him to clutch at its dubious support while he regained his balance.
“Here now, what’s this? Cap’n? Are ye’ all right?”
“Scotty,” he said, turning carefully so that he could retain his hold on the door and still shift to face his engineer. Dizziness threatened to jump him from behind and he had to take quick sips of air to get enough breath for a response. “Fancy meeting you here. I wasn’t even sure you knew the Enterprise had rec. rooms, let alone where they were located. How did you manage to pull yourself away from your beloved warp nacelles?”
“As lovely as those little darlin’s are, sadly they’ll no’ fill a man’s stomach, no matter what other grand things they c’n do. Beggin’ yer pardon, sir, but it looks t’ me like you could do with a spot of food yerself.”
“Actually Scotty,” Jim forced himself to grin, “I think it might have been one spot too many for me tonight. Think I’ll head back to my cabin and sleep it off.”
“Aye.” Scotty nodded sagely, like a man who’d had a bad spell or two often enough to know the warning signs. “Well, the night is young. Ye’ll have t’ join us later, assumin’ you manage t’ shake this wee spell.”
“Don’t forget to have one in my honor, Mr. Scott.” Jim flashed a shadow of his usual grin at the engineer, turned smartly, and walked away. The vertigo was gone, swallowed up thankfully while the other man spoke, but the ghost of it lingered in his abdomen, like the aftertaste of a flu he’d never had, or the worst case of stomach-turning panic he’d ever experienced.
Panic, he thought. Am I having panic attacks? It didn’t seem likely. Hell, he’d faced down fantastically strong Romulans, outgunned and outmatched, and come out on top with nary a tremor, let alone a full-blown anxiety attack. That couldn’t be it. This was no longer an isolated incident, but as before it had faded almost before it happened, leaving him confused but without any definite idea of what had truly occurred.
He thought about going to McCoy, but only for an instant. Bones was a good doctor, an excellent surgeon, but once he got his hooks into a patient, only a perfect bill of health would release them. And Jim could just imagine what the good doctor might have to say to his explanation of ‘possibly pain, but more like dizziness, with some truly psychedelic visual effects, and, oh yeah, dreams that are too real to be believed. And no, they aren’t anxiety attacks, and no, I’m not on any medications. Diagnosis?’
Right. So, McCoy was out. Probably it was nothing, anyway. The feeling had already disappeared. Maybe it was just the pangs of settling into his exhilarating, exciting new command. Considering the pressure he found himself under, he supposed anything was possible.
That night, there were no dreams for James Kirk. But the next night was an entirely different story.
It began aboard the Enterprise, as many of his dreams did, but it was both like and unlike any other he could remember having. For one thing, he knew he was dreaming.
There was deck plating hard under his feet. Name plates stamped on every door. A gleaming, familiar starship, an eager crew, a command chair that was he frequently sat in. Faces that he knew, hidden beneath faces that he didn’t. Men and women that lay vibrant and alive in his mind, even as some second sense insisted to him that they were all long dead, their current youthful appearance an illusion. A doctor who watched over him, irascible, sarcastic and biting. A Vulcan who followed him, like a silent shadow, who knew him, but whom he didn’t know.
Images swept by him like the path of a kaleidoscope, too fast for him to catch, though many impressions remained. But pain eclipsed them all, pain like claws sunk deep into his body, tearing at him from the inside. He would have shouted if he could have opened his mouth to do so, but his feet striding along the corridor moved without his permission and his mouth remained firmly shut. Agony was his life, as steady in his lungs as the air he breathed, in his bones like the blood coursing through his veins; agony like the ugliness of failure, a barren life of loneliness, of being the last one left alive. And dying might feel like this, he thought, in a small space where thinking was possible even within the torment. Dying might be better than this.
Beneath the crushing wave of a painfully intense horror, consciousness struck him, an explosion of disorientation; a headache spearing through him like the worst hangover he could ever remember having. Especially since he hadn’t had anything to drink the night before. His morning alarm sounded shrill and sharp in his ear, exacerbating the problem
“Computer!” He barked hoarsely. “Alarm off!” And the noise faded quickly into silence.
Jim rolled over to the side and struggled not to expel what little there was in his stomach. This was not him finding his space legs; this was not a poor reaction to food; this was not a delayed reaction to stress. That dream had somehow, in some inexplicable way, taken elements from his everyday life and – twisted them, until they were completely unrecognizable, something so very close to real and yet – unreal. Vivid. Sharp. Terrifying.
He felt like he had two feet placed firmly in two different worlds – and they were tearing him in pieces.
He thumped off the bed, barely feeling the floor as it rushed up to meet him, and scrabbled for his communicator.
“Kirk to McCoy.”
“McCoy here. What’s up Jim?”
“Are you alone?”
McCoy grunted, sounding cranky and unamused. “Hell of a thing to ask a man just rolling out of bed, oh fearless captain.”
Something in his tone must have given him away as, after a short silence, McCoy rumbled back a worried, “Jim?”
“I need you. My quarters. Come alone. Bring your tricorder.”
“On my way. McCoy out.”
He flipped the communicator closed, considered leaving it at that, but tremors shook through him like a palsy, and even with McCoy’s inventive and miraculous potions, he couldn’t see himself making it to the bridge. Not in this kind of condition.
“Kirk to Communications.”
“Communications. Uhura here.” The lovely face of his xenolinguistics officer flashed into his mind, soulful eyes and unattractive sneer. The sound of her voice raised in song, the ringing notes of a harp carrying it. The lilt of her humming at her station, laughing, his title in her voice, wrapped in concern – “Captain!” – but reality returned, drawn deep like a blade, and he had to stifle a sharp exhalation of breath.
Uhura wouldn’t even tell him her first name, let alone be caught dead in his company at the moment. Respect they might have, but actual friendship would be a while coming. She’d certainly had no chances yet to be concerned for him, even if she could be moved to the feeling. And he had never once heard her sing.
“Captain?” Uhura’s voice was steady, but curious. She was well used to picking out the slightest variations in what to others could merely be termed noise; Jim had no doubt that while his quickly stifled grunt would have been undetectable to most, it rang like a gong for her sensitive ears. As sensitive as her Vulcan lover. Jim spared a moment to admire the thought of the two of them together, the fantasy probably as close as he’d ever get to the reality now. He viciously struck down a faint feeling of envy, what another man might even call jealousy. Jim Kirk did not do jealousy.
“Uhura. Is Spock on duty yet?” If his alarm had just gone off that meant shift changeover wouldn’t occur for another thirty minutes, but if there was one thing he’d learned he could bank on, it was his First’s penchant for overworking himself.
“Here, Captain.” Spock’s even, toneless reply filtered over the communicator, and Jim closed his eyes in relief. The Vulcan's voice washed over him like a balm, quieting down the throbbing behind his eyes, and the unexpected surcease from pain made him slightly lightheaded, almost giddy. Momentarily stunned by his instinctive, unanticipated reaction, he took a long second to gather his voice.
“Spock, something’s come up. The bridge is yours today.”
There was a moment of silence. “Sir?”
“You’re in command, Mr. Spock. Try not to do anything with her that I wouldn’t.”
Oops, he thought, almost giggling in the ensuing silence. That came out wrong. I meant the ship, not Uhura, right?
Another few beats of silence. “I will, of course, endeavor to keep the Enterprise operating at peak efficiency, if with a somewhat more sedate command style than you might prefer. Captain, if there is a prob-“
“Thank you, Mr. Spock,” Jim interrupted as someone signaled at his door for entrance. “That’ll be all for now. Kirk out.”
He hastily clicked his communicator shut, just as the door slid open, the lock having been deactivated by one of the few people aboard whose voice code could override the captain’s. McCoy wasted no time on pleasantries, stalking into the room with heavy, determined footfalls.
“All right Jim, this had better be important. What’s –“ He stumbled to a halt, taking in the disaster of his captain’s bed, the man himself sprawled awkwardly on the floor. With wide, amazed eyes, he moved quickly, dropping down to Jim’s side where he lay, sweaty and pale.
“My God, Jim, what happened? Are you all right?”
“I’m all right, Bones. Now. I’m all right now.”
McCoy had already whipped out his tricorder and was busy taking scans, frowning at the data on his screen. “What the devil is that supposed to mean? Your readings are all over the chart. Jim, tell me you haven’t been drinking this close to shift changeover –“
“No!” Jim was annoyed; he was well aware of his own shortcomings and this, at least, wasn’t usually one of them. “No. Of course I haven’t. Look, I’m having – there’s. Okay. There’ve been a couple times in the last few weeks where I’ve felt – off. Momentarily. Times when I’ve had especially vivid dreams about things that seemed impossible. Or times I seemed to – lose my balance, or feel suddenly out of place, or as though I knew, or thought I knew, something, when I shouldn’t –“
“Scotty mentioned you looked under the weather at dinner last night. This have anything to do with that?”
“Yeah,” he grunted as McCoy prodded him with another scanner. Interesting that the doctor should mention the only odd episode in which he’d featured. “That was one of them.”
“Dammit Jim, I’m a doctor, not a psychic. I can’t know something’s wrong if you don’t tell me. Why didn’t you-“
“Yeah, yeah! I screwed up, all right? I should have come to you from the first, but it didn’t seem that serious at the time. Only, there’ve been other times since then. And each time it seems to get worse, more frequent, so just – look me over and tell me what kind of food not to eat in the future, okay?”
“Jim,” McCoy said, frowning down at his tricorder. “I don’t think this is a case of food poisoning or allergic reaction."
Okay, so he hadn’t either, but hearing it like a death knell from his chief medical officer made this entire unknown situation too real. If nothing else, it pounded home that Bones couldn’t give him reassurances right off the bat; no pat explanations, no painful quick-acting shots to cure this. There was something really wrong with him.
“What do you think it is then?”
“I don’t know yet, Jim. I’m going to have to take you to sickbay.”
He’d been afraid of that. “C’mon, Bones, I’m not exactly dressed to impress today.”
“Only male nurses on today, Jim boy, so don’t worry yourself over it.” He frowned at his friend, wondering if McCoy were really so oblivious that he’d somehow managed to miss the two TA’s Jim had bedded in the whirlwind of his Academy training; both of them of a distinctly masculine variety. Not to mention the third-year cadet just before the day of his second Kobayashi Maru.
No, the man couldn’t have failed to notice, but Jim wouldn’t put it past him to pretend that he had. The better to jump Jim with that information when it would serve him best to knock his captain for a loop. Good old Bones, he thought. If the man weren’t terminally straight we’d have gotten it on years ago.
He supposed that their friendship could easily be explained as the one relationship in his life that he hadn’t managed to screw up by sleeping with the man.
“Sickbay seems a bit extreme Bones; just shoot me up with one of your noxious hypos and let me enjoy my sick day, would you?”
“Jim, I don’t think you understand. I haven’t seen readings like this since my dissertation on the development of the Human nervous system compared to the development of-“
“What?” The doctor snapped, busy tapping instructions into his tricorder.
“Get to the point.”
“The point is that you’re coming with me, and if you don’t get some clothes on it’ll be more than just your flavor of the week that gets an eyeful.”
Jim rolled his eyes, heaved a longsuffering sigh and got dressed. There was just no reasoning with McCoy when he got like this.
Sickbay was quiet, and thankfully empty, only a single nurse recalibrating the medical sensors; a female nurse, contrary to McCoy’s insistence. Jim turned a hard glare on the other man.
“Please; like you’d have come if you thought there was some woman to impress with your pathetic attempts at charm.”
“Just run your damn tests, will you?”
McCoy did, for once without his usual conversational repartee, and that worried Jim more than anything. In three years of Starfleet training, he couldn’t remember the last time he’d worried his friend into withholding his sarcastic tongue. Not that he didn’t usually worry him to the point of insanity, but it was the kind of worry that an owner might give to a sick dog, or a parent to their erring child. Sharp, to the point, and invariably having no impact whatsoever.
He gave it a good try, but Jim had always known he was never made for patience, and after thirty minutes of silent, concentrated testing, he lost his temper.
“Damn it, McCoy! If you stick me with that thing one more time I’m going to pick up this biomonitor and hit you with it! If you don’t have some idea of what’s wrong with me by now then obviously there can’t be anything wrong with me!”
He gripped the aforementioned monitor threateningly, but for once his antics garnered no reaction. No smile and certainly no put-upon sigh or woebegone lecture about how many other thousands of things McCoy could be doing if not for James-bane-of-his-existence-Kirk.
“Jim,” he began.
“No,” Jim interrupted. “I know that look. Whatever it is you’re contemplating – however long you’re thinking of trying to confine me to sickbay while you work your miracle-medical-magic, count me out. Believe me, thirty minutes in this room of horrors is more than enough punishment to teach me for whatever crimes I might have committed. Maybe even some I haven’t committed yet.”
“Jim, this is serious.”
“Bones,” he rolled his eyes upward, as though petitioning for divine assistance. “You always say that, Jim, this is serious –“
“Jim, will you just – shut up a second, would you?”
Hearing his tone, truly angry rather than merely exasperated, Jim shut up.
“Physically I don’t like your readings, but they’re within Human parameters. Your neurological scans are the ones that worry me. Each of these tests has a margin of error, but you’re well outside the established norm on at least three of them – and that’s not counting the ones I haven’t had time to run yet with you threatening to destroy my sickbay. Jim, how long have you been feeling like this?”
The captain wracked his brain, trying to process everything he’d just been told. “I don’t know. I – guess since about the time I assumed command of the Enterprise.”
“Before or after we dealt with that Romulan nut job?”
Jim hesitated, thinking. It was possible some of this had cropped up before he’d been given official captaincy of the Enterprise, but he couldn’t say either way with one hundred percent certainty. Things had been so chaotic then; he barely remembered the series of events, let alone how he’d felt while living them.
“After,” he said, but even he could hear the doubt in his voice.
McCoy eyed him. “Did you experience anything recently that could account for this? Any contact with anything, aside from the obvious, that might have pushed your stress levels to a breaking point, any particularly foreign substances you’ve ingested that might not react well in a human body? Think.”
“No. No, nothing like that. It’s been food right out of our own processors, and you know me Bones; stress is what I live for.”
“I’ve patched you up enough times to know it’s the adrenaline, not the stress, that you crave.” The scowl turned in his direction made Jim grin, even in the face of the unknown quandary facing him. “Well, what about any alien contact. Have you had any late nights with anyone of another species recently, or contact with someone outside what you might call your normal experience? I realize your list will be about five times longer than the average crewman, but do try and think about it.”
“No,” Jim growled, wondering if Bones had any spare hypos he could retaliate with. “We’ve only been out of spacedock barely more than two weeks Bones, and before that was Nero and his unholy quest for vengeance, when have I had time to –“
No, there hadn’t been any late nights with anyone of alien origin; no late nights at all, in fact, with anyone of any origin. But there had been one fortuitous, freezing afternoon, in the midst of chaos, when he’d encountered someone, certainly not his average one-night-stand, but someone who had touched him in a way – that no one else ever had.
And it could certainly explain the aberrant neurological readings. In fact, it might actually account for any and all aberrant readings, for all he knew. Contact with telepathy, a species-specific trait lacking in Humans, was notoriously unpredictable, and more than that, tended to produce a variety of unusual reactions.
He was going to kill Spock. Both Spocks. But especially that Spock first.
“Jim? Jim, you have that look. What are you thinking? What happened that you think could explain this?”
“Explain what?” Oh, Christ, telepathic contact with a time travelling carbon-copy of his Vulcan First, and here McCoy stood, sensors at the ready, on the verge of blowing the whole thing wide open. Why hadn’t Spock warned him that there could be consequences to their attempt at expedient information exchange? Hell, why hadn’t he warned himself? Most relatively sane human beings would balk at sharing mental headspace with a man they’d only met for five minutes (although Spock had saved his life, so maybe his stupidity could be justified – a little), but not James T. Kirk. He’d always known his leap-without-looking attitude was going to come back to bite him, he’d just thought it’d be with literal teeth, not mental ones.
If McCoy got even the slightest inkling of this, any of this, he was going to be well and truly screwed.
“Bones, I – there is something, something just came to mind, but I can’t tell you about it just yet, I have to –“
“Can’t tell me about it?” McCoy sputtered, mouth agape. “Jim, I’m chief of medicine on this ship! You’ll damn well tell me what it is or I’ll have you strapped down to that biobed so fast your head will spin!”
Oh, for love of – this was going to get ugly quickly if he didn’t nip it in the bud.
“Bones, I will, I will, just – give me twenty-four hours to confirm my hypothesis, okay? Just twenty-four hours, and I’ll tell you everything I know.” Everything I’m able to tell you, for all our sakes, but especially for the sake of my poor ringing ears if you got wind of the whole thing and the fact that I haven’t already informed you.
“Twenty-four hours, Bones. A day. Give me a day.”
McCoy stared at him, vacillating between being a friend and his duties as chief medical officer. “I don’t like this. These readings are really dangerous Jim. You could be –“
“Doctor McCoy, as captain of this ship, I hear what you’re saying and I do appreciate it. But I need one day from you, and then I promise – I’ll fill you in.”
McCoy was silent for so long that Jim wondered if he might have pushed his hand too far. Maybe he shouldn’t have mentioned the captain bit. Maybe it had reminded McCoy that as senior medical officer he had the right to demand anything pertaining to health, from anyone on this ship. Up to and including his commanding officer.
“All right Jim,” his friend said at last, and the sudden relief that flooded him was like the sweetest drug available in sickbay. “One day. No more than that.”
“No more,” he agreed, then turned and left.
He had a certain aging Vulcan to strangle.
End Chapter Two.
A/N: I don't know if I like this chapter - not much happens in it except plot advancement! Which is a good thing, I guess but... ah! To make up for it, I'll post the next one early, either Sunday morning or evening. It gets really interesting from here. Hope you liked it anyway!