Ragdoll (ragdoll987) wrote,
Ragdoll
ragdoll987

Time Immemorial - 1/3

Title: Time Immemorial
Author: Ragdoll
Pairing: Kirk/Spock slash
Rating: NC-17
Disclaimer: Not mine, more's the pity.
Word Count: ~25,000

Summary: Sometimes it's not what you remember, but what you forget.  At the turn of a New Year, Jim is struck with amnesia after what should have been a simple diplomatic mission.  And with the help of a few reluctant co-conspirators, he struggles to piece together the clues of the past so he can embrace the future. Written for the 2015 K/S Advent.

Cross-posted to the K/S Archive.

A/N: Thank you to Amanda Warrington for agreeing to beta this at the last moment (and I mean literally; I basically asked her the day it was due to be posted).  She's a miracle worker!




"Jim."

Consciousness came back to him in leisurely degrees, one slow and painful inch at a time.  His brain felt like it was in a fog, and there was a pervasive heaviness to each of his limbs, as if he'd been carefully weighed down with rocks.  He felt like one giant bruise, and also there seemed to be an ice pick buried somewhere behind his left eye.  It didn't seem an exaggeration to say that stabbing himself in the face might have actually hurt less.

"Jim.  C'mon now, kid.  I can see your bio-readings; I know you can hear me."

He hoped vaguely that someone had the name and rank of the Klingon who'd laid him out, because clearly he had some pain to repay.  He hurt.

"Jim."

And apparently the universe loved him, because now he could recognize those dulcet tones, and where there were McCoys, there were hypos.  And where there were hypos, there was pain relief.

"Dammit, Jim.  Stop playing possum and open your eyes."

He tried.  He did.  But his eyelids felt like they'd been glued to his face.  Clearly he wasn't meant to be interacting with the waking world right now.  He opened his mouth to issue a complaint, and what came out was, "Wuh?"

"Well, it's a start."

Seconds later, a thumb cruelly pried open one eyelid - apparently unglued - and he flailed weakly in protest of this horrible abuse.  Holy hell, ow, who left the lights on that high when you were waking up a patient?

"Gah.  Please don't do that again," he croaked, squinting hard.  He recognized the bland gray walls of sickbay.  An isolation room, from the looks of it.

"Don't be such an infant," McCoy grunted, and stabbed him with a hypo.  Jim waited for relief to come, but it didn't.  He flailed again.

"Sadist."

"Only on good days."

Jim  groaned and took a quick self-inventory.  Although he felt a bit like something had chewed him up and then rudely decided against eating him, he was able to flex and roll each of his fingers and toes, all the joints up his arms and legs.  Seemingly no broken bones, which had to be a miracle given how much he hurt.  He rolled to the right, limbs tumbling awkwardly around him in direct violation of his stern mental commands.  Alright, no broken bones, instead they'd all apparently been transformed into jello.  It was a real effort to force himself upright.

"Hold on, wait, just give it a minute - "

Jim waved him off, momentum and willpower keeping him upright.

"What happened?" he croaked.

"Dammit man, I mean it!  Don't overdo it; we only just got you stable yesterday."

"Stable from what?"  He took a few deep breaths, refusing to pant or otherwise keel over in a dead faint, thereby proving his friend's worries correct.

"What do you remember?"

He frowned, absently digging the heel of his palm into his left eye.  If McCoy couldn't hypo it away, maybe he could crush it out.  Seemed reasonable.  He tried searching back through the last few days, but everything was molasses and mud and pain.

"I don't know," he said finally. "Everything's a bit - fuzzy."

"No surprise there, then" McCoy sighed, scanner whirring away.  "I was afraid of that."

"Afraid of what?" he asked, the first tendrils of alarm starting up the adrenaline.  "Bones, what's going on?"

"You were your usual moronic self and ran headlong into the path of danger with no regard for your own safety or the mental health and wellbeing of your Chief Medical Officer, who is unfortunately duty bound to put you back together when you get broken.  Something that happens with alarming frequency.  Surprise, surprise."

"Bones."

But the doctor was already moving away, tapping the communications panel with a finger. "McCoy to bridge."

"Bridge.  Spock here."

"Jim's awake, and he's already giving me a headache.  He's got questions."

"Understood.  I will attend momentarily."

"Right," McCoy said, turning around again with a full medical tray held before him like a small array of weapons.  He had a quasi mad scientist look about him, and Jim put both hands in the air in a classic surrender pose.

"Now, stay right there, Jim.  This shouldn't hurt a bit."

"Ow!  Bones, no!  That's - ow! - that's enough!"

"Buck up, you weren't even close to dead this time - "

"You keep stabbing me and that might change at any moment.  Would you - ow!  - "

Jim couldn't say how many minutes of useless flailing and profanity it took after that before a measured voice broke up the ensuing scuffle.

"Gentlemen."

Jim looked up from trying to dodge various medical instruments and blinked at his First.  He was stood at casual attention in the doorway, which slid obligingly closed behind him as he stepped in.  His gaze locked on Jim, intense and unyielding.

"Spock," Jim said with relief, pushing a scanner away impatiently. "Please tell me what the hell is going on before I murder my CMO in self-defense."

"A not entirely illogical impulse, Captain," Spock said.  Although his expression didn't change, there was relief in his eyes as he looked Jim over.   McCoy pointed a scanner at the Vulcan threateningly, but didn't deign to sally back.

"It is gratifying to see you awake, sir," Spock said.

"Can't say it's good to be awake, yet," he returned, and Spock nodded, looking upward at the bio-readings as he shifted into parade rest, calm and composed.  Jim smiled to see it, thinking that at least when the rest of the world was falling apart he could count on Spock to remain just as he was; a rock-steady presence.

When the Vulcan looked over again, he didn't try to hide his grin, and gestured lazily for him to speak.

"What do you remember?" Spock asked.

"Why is everyone asking me that?  Why don't you tell me what I should be remembering, and we'll go from there." He made it less a question and more an order.  Dread was starting to settle low in his belly.  He tried again to thread his thoughts backward over the last few days - clearly something had happened to put him in sickbay - but it remained an ominous, groggy blank.

"The Ze'brak had warned us it was possible your recollection of recent events may be unclear," Spock said.

"I have no idea what that means," Jim said. "Who - what - are the Ze'brak?"

Spock cut his eyes to the side, shared a speaking glance with McCoy, and then returned to studying Jim.

"Very well," Spock said quietly.  He proffered a PADD from his right hand, which Jim took automatically.  "Perhaps we should begin at the mission briefing."

And so they did.  The mission briefing which had taken place fifteen days earlier, and of which Jim had absolutely no recollection.

Well, shit.

--------------

"So what you're saying," Jim summarized, a few harrowing tales of heroics and warfare later, "is this was supposed to be a diplomatic milk-run to provide moral support for an - apparently - peaceful planet, whose government was ushering in a new age.  And instead it turned into an insurgent uprising, and almost a civil war, with the Enterprise caught in the middle."

"Not precisely," Spock said.

"Right.  And in the end, the bureaucrats came out the de facto victors, as they so often do, and we were credited for peacekeeping efforts.  And then I was invited to their supposedly top-secret signing of the peace accords."

"Not precisely," Spock said.

"And then the ceremony got blown up," Jim continued, ignoring him.  "And me along with it."

"You were injured during the ceremony, yes.  The Ze'brak utilize weapons with a unique energy signature.  Although it has an effect similar to that of a phaser set to stun for the indigenous population, their records indicate that non-indigenous humanoids often experience an unusual disruption effect."

"Let me guess.  It's been known to wipe out a few memories here and there."

"Indeed," Spock said, dryly.  Jim quirked a smile at him, grimly amused.

"Can it be reversed?"

"According to historical and anecdotal reports, the effects appear to have been permanent for all non-indigenous exposed.  However, there is no record of any current member of the Federation ever coming into contact with this weapon.  Further investigation is warranted.  At present, there are simply no facts with which to speculate."

Jim took this in quietly, then gestured him on.

"You were struck twice in what appears to be a cross-fire.  In addition, the Ze'brak council chambers are lined with a metalloid ore which is purposefully designed to block outside signal and transmissions.  We were initially unaware you were in danger, and once informed, were unable to transport you out."

"Of course, because that would have been too easy," Jim muttered. "What happened to the security detail?  There was a security team, wasn't there?"

"There was.  Lieutenant Hendorff credits you with providing cover fire during the initial confrontation, and intercepting an energy discharge meant for another.  The council chambers sustained heavy damage and a primary load-bearing support column collapsed during the engagement.  You were separated from the away team and out of contact for seven-point-two-six hours before you could be safely reached.  Fortunately, yours was the only significant injury amongst the away team.  However, two council members were severely injured in the attack; one remains in critical condition."

"Alright," Jim said, thinking.  "Did the accords at least go through?"

"They were signed and witnessed prior to the attack.  You have been unconscious for four days, Captain.  The planet has begun legal proceedings to address the insurgent presence and restore peace among their people."

"Fantastic," Jim sighed. "A species with space flight, interested in Federation membership, and only now putting out the fire of civil war.  Why do I have a bad feeling about this?"

"As you are aware, Captain, space is not limited to peaceful travellers," Spock noted.

"No  kidding.  Send in the Klingons," Jim muttered, then held up a hand when Spock opened to his mouth.  "No, I know, that was inappropriate.  Sorry.  This is clearly why I normally leave the diplomacy to you, Spock."

"A wise decision," Spock said.

"Okay.  Bones," he called, drawing his friend away from the bio-monitor.  "Please tell me I have a clean bill of health and I can go.  I'm starving."

"Not yet, Jim.  I still need to do a full cognitive evaluation.  Those weapons fried a few circuits in your brain; that's not something you just shrug off."

Ah, well.  He'd known it was too good to be true. He counted backwards.  Out for four days, plus the fifteen days before that he'd forgotten, that would make -

"Damn," he realized.  "I missed the party."

"The party, sir?" Spock asked, one eyebrow arching upward.

"I was looking forward to it, too.  And I missed the caroling duet you and Uhura were putting together.  Shit."  Annoyance surged through him.  He'd affected a nonchalant attitude about all the festivities, but in truth he'd been secretly looking forward to spending the crew's first deep-space Christmas together.  And he'd been anticipating some truly hilarious moments from the Spock-and-Uhura caroling ensemble.  Well, Uhura was going to carol; Spock was probably going to provide backup on his lyre, or maybe a makeshift drum.  Possibly a tambourine.  And he'd missed it.

"Well, that's one way to ring in the New Year," he sighed, frustrated.  "Forgetting it ever happened."  Actually, if he substituted alcohol in place of the energy weapons, that sounded remarkably like more than a few of his youthful indiscretions.  Really, depending on the New Year's party, a little forgetfulness in the morning could practically be a godsend.

He scrubbed a hand over his face, blowing out a hard breath, and looked up to see Spock scrutinizing his him intently, a frozen cast to his features.

"What?" Jim asked, cutting his eyes to McCoy, whose mouth was half-parted on a word unsaid, clearly surprised.  "What is it?"

"It would seem that we have erred in accepting the Ze'brak's records at face value.  And Dr. McCoy has neglected to ask one of the most fundamental questions of any recently roused patient," Spock said, a thread of something forbidding and brittle in his voice.  McCoy clattered out from behind the monitor, a frown bisecting his brow.

"We knew he'd have amnesiac traits," McCoy snapped.  "I haven't tested his orientation yet because you said he wouldn't remember anything from the past couple weeks, you sanctimonious, green-blooded - "

"What is the last thing you remember, Captain?" Spock interrupted, while McCoy raised yet another scanner up into his face, and Jim pushed it away, a roiling feeling gathering in his gut.  "What is the current stardate?"

"Seeing as I'm the one with amnesia, Spock, why don't you tell me?"

Spock reached out and gently turned over the PADD Jim held limply in his grasp.  A moment later, an elegant finger rested along the entry information for the mission briefing.  And for a moment the numbers simply did not make sense to Jim's highly overtaxed brain.

"Shit," he said.

"Shit," McCoy agreed, and then stabbed him in the arm with a hypo.

--------------

One year.  Twelve months.  Fifty-two weeks.  Three-hundred and sixty-five days.  Eight-thousand, seven-hundred and sixty hours.  A stupid number of minutes Jim wasn't going to bother computing.  And that was just the passage of one Earth year; there were probably a million different calendars Jim could have used to calculate just how very screwed he was.  But Earth had always been the planet to screw him over best, and Jim was determined it should have a footnote in the latest fuck-up that was his life.

How did one measure a year?  Not by the passage of time, really, but by the things experienced in it.  And Jim could not remember any of his experiences in the past eight-thousand and forty Earth hours, the past three-hundred and thirty-five days Earth days, the past eleven months of his life.  It was November, one year further in the calendar and counting, and his brain could not account for any of it.

And while Jim wouldn't mind forgetting a few years here and there (some very specific experiences in his teen years would have been nice), this would have been the second year of their deep-space mission.  And knowing that it had passed him by, with him currently none the wiser, gnawed away at him like the phantom pain of a missing limb.

Fuck-up did not even begin to cover the massive bullshit happening in his life right now.

And rage did not even begin to cover the well of anger and grief he could not quite fight back on learning about it.

He gave it two days and then signed himself out of sickbay against medical advice, and no amount of McCoy's requests, demands, cajoling, or eventual threats could dissuade him.  He had to get out of there.

"What's the point in staying there, Bones?  Do you have some magic cure for amnesia you haven't bothered to share yet?" he asked flatly, making his grim way down the corridor and ignoring his crew sneaking surreptitious glances at him at every turn.  They ran into three crew members Jim didn't recognize, and each new face was an additional bleeding wound, a new knife to the gut, another memory he should have, and didn't.

"It doesn't work like that, Jim, and you know it!  But you shouldn't be alone right now - your body's healed, but we have no idea what the long-term repercussions could be - "

"Pretty sure I'm living with them right now," he snarled.  Angry; he was so angry.  And McCoy didn't deserve to bear the brunt of it, and that was why he needed to get back to his quarters where he could hole up and lick his wounds in private, and he needed to do it right now.

"That's not what I meant  - "

"Bones, please," Jim said, coming to an abrupt stop and jerking his head sharply at crew members lingering in the corridor until they scrambled to vacate.  When they were relatively alone, just a few poor souls hurrying by, he forced himself to turn and face his friend.

"It's already been two days of constant tests and no answers.  Tell me what you could possibly do in sickbay that won't be better done with me sleeping this off in my quarters.  Tell me what can be addressed with observation and time that can't be accomplished by this monitor on my wrist."

"Jim," McCoy said quietly, intently. "Listen to me.  I mean it.  You shouldn't be alone right now, alright?   You've just had some pretty shocking news.  You should have someone with you while you work through this."

"There's nothing to work through," Jim said. "How can anyone work through forgetting eleven months of their life?  I'm going back to my quarters to sleep, and I'll come by for my scheduled check-up tomorrow as we agreed.  You can't ask for more, and unless you think I'm a danger to others, you have no cause to keep me in sickbay.  Do you, doctor?"

The clench of McCoy's teeth was satisfying in a way that fed Jim's anger, but made him clench his own teeth in guilt.  Maybe he couldn't remember the last eleven months, but he did remember Khan, and Spock ("I'm not going to take ethics lessens from a robot!"), and the whole debacle that followed, and how he'd taken out his unwitting anger on the people around him, and in the end only managed to hurt himself.  He'd made a personal resolution that that would never happen again.  It wasn't the sort of resolution that anyone could live by without lapses, but that didn't mean he got a free pass just because he'd recently been royally screwed.

"Sorry," he said, before McCoy could deliver the blistering reproach Jim could see brewing.  "I'm sorry.  I just - I need some space, Bones, alright?  I need to not feel like a test subject for a while, and I need to get some actual, uninterrupted sleep."

McCoy deflated, air escaping from him like a popped soap bubble.  "Yeah," he said, resignedly. "I know."

"It's not like I'm going to go rushing off to the bridge," Jim said. "If there's one thing that's clear, it's that I've been compromised.  Spock's Acting-Captain right now, and that's the way it should be."

Even if a part of Jim raged against that, too.  It made him appreciate all the more Spock's own grace and equanimity in acknowledging his own compromise, so long ago, and recognizing the need for cooperation.  Jim could only hope to be so calm.  He did not feel in any way calm right now.

"I know," McCoy repeated, with more emphasis.

They both paused, waiting, neither of them backing down.

"Unless there's something else to it," Jim said at last, watching his friend closely.  McCoy gave him a bland look in return, surprisingly opaque.  Must be getting lessons from Spock. "What trouble could you possibly think I'd run into that could be harmful in my quarters or onboard the ship?  Is there something you haven't told me?  Something that's happened in the last year that I should know about?"

McCoy hesitated, and Jim startled, turning his full attention to him.  In the past three days he'd asked all the most important questions - or what he'd thought were the most important questions.  He'd confirmed the information he knew about his crew, his ship, his captaincy, his family, Earth and the general solar system, Starfleet, and the current political climate.  Almost in that very order.  Nothing had seemed glaringly alarming.  He didn't have details, of course, eleven months was a lot of minor changes coming through - the crew changes were really just the tip of the iceberg - but he had the broad strokes.  He tried to consider what he might have missed and drew a blank.

"What is it?" he said at last.

"Nothing," McCoy said, with a rueful twist of his mouth.  "There's nothing.  No, I mean it," he insisted at Jim's frown. "You already know most of it, and what else there is, I'm sure you'll find out eventually.  You'll be going over the mission reports by tomorrow afternoon, anyway, or I'll eat my tricorder."

In truth, Jim hadn't intended to sleep tonight, so he'd be going over them in a few hours, actually.  But he wasn't about to tell McCoy that.

"You don't approve," Jim guessed.

"No.  I think trying to force an organic process by jamming facts into your brain until it gives in is  probably not going to do you any favors."

Jim shrugged. "I have to, Bones.  You know I need to be as prepared as possible if I'm ever going to Captain the Enterprise again.  You heard Spock; there's a good chance this could be permanent - "

"We don't know that - "

"There's something else," Jim interrupted, tired of the whole conversation.  They'd already had it three times this morning alone.

"Not really," his friend told him, shrugging.  "Little things, maybe.  Friends who have come and gone.  Some of the more personal anecdotes that probably don't make it into anyone's logs.  Things that I can't really tell you."

"You can't miss what you never had," Jim said. "Or what you don't remember having."

"Can't you?" McCoy sighed, and left before Jim could ask him anything further.

--------------

In spite of his best (worst?) intentions, Jim only got as far as opening the mission logs and scanning for dates before a wave of exhaustion swept over him, and he found himself staring with longing at his bunk.  Four days in unconscious recovery and two and a half more in endless tests in sickbay did not a relaxing convalescence make.  Even when he'd been sleeping, he hadn't actually managed to really sleep.

He made up for it that night, and was out like a light until morning.  He woke feeling as groggy as a man who'd been sleeping twelve hours ought to feel, head full of cotton balls and half-remembered dreams.  Or maybe memories.  Although he'd like to think that at no point in the last eleven months had they ever visited a planet whose most common form of locomotion was atop what appeared to be giant chickens.  He was calling that one a nightmare, and the mission reports had just better bear that out.

He spent a fruitless hour trying to queue up the mission logs he'd planned to go through, found his concentration too scattered to keep up, and spent another hour prowling around his quarters, checking with perhaps a little too much intensity that things there were much as he remembered them.  Maybe the problem was that they weren't as he remembered them.  They were still his quarters.  But they came with some additions now that hadn't been there before.  Jim wasn't a collector by nature; life had taught him early on that material possessions could be taken away just as quickly as they were given.  But somewhere along the line Jim had apparently picked up a few souvenirs.  Nothing flashy - quite the opposite, really.  A stylus that was both practical and decorative, a book written in a language he didn't recognize, a small piece of volcanic glass with brightly colored striations, a plain ceramic bead, an inactive communicator that had at some point been disassembled and then reassembled.  That one had a place of honor on the ledge above his bunk.  It made no sense to Jim.  He was tempted to throw it away.  He couldn't say what stopped him.

After a dismal morning, he finally gave up the logs as a bad job and headed out for lunch in the mess hall.  He was happy to run into a few familiar faces.

"Keptin!"  "Captain!"  "Sir!"

"At ease, gentlemen," he waved them off, and Chekov, Sulu, and a crew member Jim didn't know lowered themselves back into their seats after having risen to attention.  Jim settled next to them.  He caught the surreptitious glance Chekov gave him, more curiosity than concern, and ruefully wondered just how far the knowledge of his amnesia would have spread after his meltdown in the corridors yesterday.  Gossip being what it was, the details were probably being exaggerated even as they sat there.  By week's end, Jim would be known as the man who'd regressed to a two-year-old, unable to remember even his own name.

"Mr. Sulu, Mr. Chekov," he greeted, settling down with a tray.  He hesitated, but finally turned to face the last member of the group.  "And...?"

The man's face fell momentarily before a rueful smile lifted the corners of his mouth.  "Ensign David Bailey, sir.  I came aboard seven months ago; beta-shift navigator."

"Right," Jim said, feeling oddly guilty, although clearly this was something out of his hands.

"How are you, Keptin?" Chekov asked, leaning forward intently.  Jim smiled at him gratefully.  Chekov was one of those single-minded individuals whose intellect sometimes outweighed his tact, but he could be oddly endearing for it.  He'd made good friends aboard the Enterprise, and Jim counted himself among them.

"About as well as can be expected, really.  I escaped sickbay with all my limbs still attached, and a two-by-two section of skin unmarked by hypos.  I'm calling it a win."

"Glad to hear it, sir," Sulu said, smiling.

"I'm sure you're aware I've been temporarily relieved of duty until the effects of the Ze'brak energy weapons can be analyzed." And that was putting it vaguely, and maybe not at all truthfully.  "Best stick with Jim."

"Of course, Captain," Sulu said, Chekov right behind him.  Jim smiled, flattered and secretly touched.

"Thanks.  Chekov, your name cropped up in the one of the recent mission logs.  I see you've submitted a study for review with the Academy's science department; congratulations.  Care to give me the abridged version?"

And the budding genius was off, words tumbling from his mouth in heavily accented English, with a smattering of Russian and some science mixed in.  He was almost soothing to listen to, carrying the conversation basically on his own.  Bailey looked a little sorry Jim had asked, but wasn't impolite enough to say so; Sulu had the conspiratorial grin of an indulgent friend, and Jim let all of it wash over him, a surprisingly gentle balm to his troubled mind.  He was loathe to admit it, especially since McCoy had pointed it out first, but it was a terrible feeling to be so totally disconnected from his crew, knowing there were things about this ship, things about himself, that he simply didn't know, and ought to.  He was used to combing through the daily minutiae of the Enterprise from the top down, each waking hour happily devoted in its own way to duty.  He felt like he was living in a bubble of silence; totally disconnected, totally alone.

Halfway through an explanation that Jim was only half able to follow - theoretical astrophysics was not his strong suit; give him applied sciences any day - he glanced up and caught the eyes of Spock, standing with a tray in his hands, a small rock in the midst of a flow of people coming and going, parting around him like Moses and the Red Sea.  His gaze was fixed firmly on their table, something unreadable in his eyes.  No, he realized.  Spock's gaze was fixed on Jim, not the table; just Jim.

He blinked, and from one second to the next, Spock slid his eyes away, completely serene.  Jim raised a hand in a half-wave and gestured for him to join them, but it was like Spock could no longer see him, measured footsteps taking him away until he was sat at a table with a crew member in science blues, and Uhura across the way from him.  He didn't look back at Jim again.

Jim felt oddly bereft, and the brief moment of peace he'd managed to find vanished quickly.  He found himself distracted, and had to force himself to concentrate out of respect, nodding along to Chekov's words, shoving the occasional morsel of food in his mouth, until conversation petered into a natural quiet.  The navigator was flushed with enthusiasm, and clearly proud to have been asked about his work.  Jim smiled, and found he didn't even have to fake it.

"I'm not sure I understood more than a word in ten," he admitted candidly, laughing when Chekov blushed and Sulu chortled next to him.  "But I can recognize the achievement, if not the science behind it.  Well done."

"Thank you, sir," he grinned.  They all rose from the table simultaneously, checking chronometers, and it was moments after that that Jim found himself standing alone in a river of people, unfamiliar faces standing out like beacons around him.  He sighed.  He was going to have to take this one person at a time.  He had one new name today.  He could only go up from there.

He made his way to where Spock was sitting, fondly eyeing the straight lines of his back, the severe edge of his dark hair.  Spock always cut an imposing figure, and that didn't change just because he was doing something utterly mundane like eating lunch.  Jim was thankful to have been let into his inner sphere of friends and confidants, and he eyed Uhura in turn, sitting across from the Vulcan.  Jim had his own thoughts about their romance, but it wasn't his place to say, and in the end anyone who could get Spock to relax was a winner in Jim's book.

When he arrived at their table, he laid a companionable hand on Spock's shoulder , and said quietly, "Mr. Spock."

Spock looked up, maybe startled by the contact, maybe just reflexively at the sound of his name, and they locked eyes, Jim with a smile.

It was like connecting with a live wire.

Spock's eyes really were almost black, Jim realized dimly, the smile falling away.  He'd always known so, of course, but - Spock had never looked at him this way before.  Being the centre of that concentrated focus was intense.  It was powerful - and shockingly intimate.  Jim dropped his hand automatically, and took a step back.  The hair on the back of his neck prickled with tension.

What the hell?

And then Spock blinked.  And whatever lay there before, was just - not.  Anymore.  The Vulcan turned away for a moment, laying his cutlery down on the tray, picking up a sanitized cloth and wiping his hands.  Jim felt oddly abandoned and adrift.  He looked to Uhura automatically, a silent question.

She looked back, neutral and impervious, no answers to be found.

"Commander, Lieutenant," he rattled off on automatic, then hesitated. "Acting-Captain," he corrected himself.

"Captain," Spock greeted, looking upward again, and his eyes were their normal gentle selves, intent and curious, but not dark, not hollow pools of energy.  Not - passionate.  Hell, maybe he'd imagined it.  Spock certainly didn't seem to be having the same problems Jim was right now.  He seemed unaffected.

He considered that maybe he'd managed to interrupt Spock and Uhura in the middle of something.  Of course, the mess was not the most likely of places for Spock, of all people, to have anything more than a standard, professional lunch time conversation, but - and there was the woman in science blues sitting with them, as well, so -

Okay, no.  He'd definitely been imagining it.

He spent the rest of lunch trading volleys with the two of them - and the unnamed officer, an ensign, who quickly excused herself early on - and generally enjoying himself.  The peace he'd found with Sulu and Chekov reasserted itself, and although that same directionless anger still boiled through him at times, he walked away feeling like there might be a bit of hope.  He arranged a status update with Spock at week's end, determined to move forward, knowing there was no moving back.  He couldn't change what had been done.  No one could.  But if today was any indication, he could probably live with it.

--------------

A few days passed, and then a week.  Jim attended sickbay for his once-daily check-up, took breakfast in his quarters each day while devouring entire libraries of ship's logs, had lunch in the mess when he remembered to do so, and made it his mission to learn the name and position of at least one new crewmember each day.  The anger waxed and waned, but never went away.  He adjusted.  Sort of.

On his sixth day of freedom, Jim woke to the chime of a guest at his door, raised a groggy head and opened a mouth that tasted vaguely like dirt to blearily ask, "What?"

The chime pinged again, and Jim glanced around in some confusion for a moment.  Oh.  Door chime.  Quarters.  Right.

"Whosit?" he called belatedly. There was no answer, and he cleared his throat, enunciating more clearly for the comm system, "Who is it?"

"It is Spock," a mild voice intoned, filtering clearly through the unit.  Jim hesitated, checking the time (0630 hours), and sitting up.  He shifted his shoulders, hearing the satisfactory pop of joints realigning, and considered throwing on clean clothes.  He'd managed to fall asleep in his off-duty pants and a loose t-shirt last night and, Spock being Spock, the Vulcan was probably pressed and shift-ready outside his door, all clean lines and neatness.  Jim feebly attempted to brush the wrinkles out of his pants, giving it up with a philosophical shrug when they refused to go away.  Well, Spock could hardly expect better from his recently released Captain this early in the morning.  He should be happy Jim was wearing pants at all.

"Come in, Mr. Spock," he called, and swung out to rest his feet on the floor.  He belatedly reached for the door release, but it slid open before he could touch it.  Huh.  Must have forgotten to engage the privacy lock.  He looked up from rubbing sleep from his eyes.  Spock was indeed pressed and shift ready, the blue of his uniform shirt bold against the hallway."Good morning," Jim said, stifling a yawn.  He thought belatedly about how his hair must look and ran both hands through it, patting it down as he went.  He stood on wobbly legs to relocate to his desk.

"Good morning, Captain," Spock said, still mild.

"I know we've gone over this, Mr. Spock, but technically I've been relieved of duty," Jim reminded him. "Just Jim, for now."

"As you say, Captain," Spock said, stepping inside, and Jim smiled almost involuntarily.

"Thanks," he murmured.  Spock nodded, accepting his due, and took measured steps forward.  When he was close enough, he extended a hand, offering a mug which contained, if the heavenly scent were anything to go by, coffee.

Jim accepted it gratefully, savoring the aroma and the warmth of it against his hand.  He took an appreciative sip.  It was prepared just the way he liked he; he glanced a question up at the Vulcan, curious.

"I have taken the liberty of reassigning your yeoman to you; she will be available as of 0600 tomorrow.  Dr. McCoy has informed me that he has 'voluntarily released you from daily medical observation'," Spock noted, one eyebrow raised in turn.

Jim rolled his eyes. "I'm sure Bones let you know that 'voluntarily' is a strong word for it."

"As you say."

"Enough was enough, Spock," he explained, tightening both hands around the mug. "It doesn't take a genius to see the writing on the wall, here.  I've been medically relieved of duty until further notice.  We're leaving the Ze'brak system soon, and it'll be at least another two weeks until my evals are complete.  In the event headquarters is willing to have an amnesiac Captain back in the hot seat, they're not going to do it before I'm pronounced stable, and that won't happen until enough time passes that McCoy is satisfied it's not going to get better - or worse.  And if a week's worth of readings haven't changed my case, another week isn't going to change it further."

"Dr. McCoy does not agree," Spock noted.

"Yeah, well, Bones hasn't quite come around to accepting the permanency of this."

"You cannot know the effects of the energy weapon are irreversible," Spock said quietly.

"We can't know they aren't, either."

"I find it uncharacteristically fatalistic that you are so willing to accept this as truth, where even Dr. McCoy sees cause for hope."

Jim snorted bitterly, feeling the anger stir inside him like a slumbering beast.  Trust Spock to poke the hornets' nest, with only the best of intentions.

"There are a lot of things I'd be happy to forget in life, Spock," Jim said, shrugging. "I wouldn't have chosen this past year, if I could have prevented it, but - I can't change that.  And I can't hope that it's just going to go away - hope like that is crippling.  And from what I've seen so far, at least it doesn't look I'll have lost too much of importance."  He quirked a grin.  "That's what comes from living a life of routine, wrapped up neatly in mission logs, interrupted by the occasional bout of crisis and impending doom."

"I see."

Jim looked up at that, catching the flat, sharp edge to Spock's voice.  He stared, bemused, as the Vulcan straightened into parade rest, hands locked tightly at his back, shoulders straight, eyes fixed on a point behind him.  Jim blinked at him, a flutter of intensity catching him unawares.

"Something I can do for you, Spock?" he asked, testing.

"I do not understand the question," Spock said, stiff and frozen.   It was one of his few tells.  It was strange for a Vulcan to have a tell, but Spock normally operated with effortless control; his approach was mellow and indisputably logical, but not artificially so.  Jim knew that he'd worked hard to find a natural balance in his logic, and his presence and persona were how he reflected that back at the world.  And yet Spock did not look balanced in that moment; he looked - contrived.  Falsely at peace.

"Okay," Jim said slowly.  They'd only seen each other in passing occasions over the last week - a Captain's duties were never light, and right now Spock was acting as both Captain and First Officer, with bridge crew shuffling to fill accordingly where needed.  Jim had no doubt that Spock's free hours (which he usually spent whiling away in the science labs, so not really what Jim would call down time) were few and far between.  They hadn't had much chance to catch up.

"Have a seat, Spock," he said, gesturing, and the Vulcan did so, still and quiet.  Jim felt positively rough in comparison.  He stretched, hearing more joints pop and crackle, and knuckled his eyes until he was seeing spots.  He looked up and caught Spock staring at him again.  Jim flushed.  Feeling rough, indeed.

"Status report?"

"The Ze'brak have reached a tentative political equilibrium since the accords were signed.  No further incidents of violence have been noted.  No further records or information have been made available to us.  Ship operations are unchanged.  Mr. Scott reports that engines will require a maintenance period of no less than ten hours in the next thirty-day cycle.  Communications continue to be affected by the Ze'brak metalloid used in their ship design.  The Federation has requested samples and are entering into negotiations for mineral rights; we have been asked to facilitate initial discussion in this regard.  The compound could have significant scientific value for defense purposes."

"Are the Ze'brak amenable to the idea?"

"They are to consider it during their next council session, which will take place thirteen days after the Enterprise is scheduled to depart.  Further communications on this matter will be deferred to a diplomatic vessel en route."

"Ah," Jim said, smirking. "And we'll be off to the nearest Starbase, where I'll be politely invited to have my head examined."

Spock inclined his head, some of the stiffness leaving him.

"How about you, Spock?" Jim asked softly.  "How are you doing?"

And there it was again.

"I am well, Captain," Spock said simply.

"Right." Jim eyed him.  He didn't sense any hostility, but then again, this was Spock.  Most of the time, even when he was ready to burst out of his skin and choke the life out of smart-mouthed cadets, his temper boiled low.  Until it didn't.

"Anything you want to tell me?"

"No," Spock said.

That was blunt to the point of being deliberately non-communicative.  It was oddly reminiscent of McCoy's closed-mouth dance from last week.  And yet Spock was here, as he might have been a year ago, with a simple offering of coffee and quiet conversation in the morning before a shift.  It was all very normal; almost disturbingly so.

And yet something was also clearly not normal.  Even if Jim couldn't quite put his finger on what it was.

"Alright.  Do you have time to fill in some of the gaps in the mission logs, for context, before you head out on shift?"

"Of course," Spock said.  And that was the end of that.

--------------

The persistent feeling of not-normal continued, and its cause continued to elude Jim as well.  Nothing he did seemed to dissipate it.  He wondered if he'd been lying to himself about living with this.

The logs helped centre him, but not as much as he might have hoped.  Jim had initially tried listening to his personal logs first, thinking this would give him the best learning opportunity; then he'd tried just the Captain's logs, and then he'd decided to avoid listening to his own logs altogether until he absolutely had to.  It was frankly disturbing to watch himself debrief missions he couldn't actually remember experiencing.  He'd also never realized just how expressive his face was; he watched his own animation, punctuated by lively hand gestures he hadn't been aware he used, and the sense of displacement was incredibly strong, and damned disconcerting.  He turned to other mission logs to fill in the gaps.  Unfortunately, his crew didn't always share Jim's apparent enthusiasm, and many of the reports were dry, seeming totally removed from the excitement of the mission, or captured in a mind-numbingly thorough Vulcan record.  The sound of Spock's voice, speaking with a familiar metronome cadence, had more than once sent Jim into a meditative state from which he did not return until the following morning, usually with his face stuck to the desk, the murmur of Spock's words still tickling his ears.

As far as bedtime stories went, it wasn't a bad way to go.

Two days before their scheduled departure, Jim was asked to return to the Ze'brak homeworld on invitation from the council.  It wasn't what anyone would have called a fun trip.  McCoy especially.

"You've gotta be kidding me," he said, with the air of someone who'd heard the greatest joke in the history of the universe, and did not find it at all funny.  "You want to go back to that planet?  That planet where they lit you up like a Christmas tree and managed to scramble around your brains enough to knock all sense out of them?  That planet?  Really?"

"No, Bones, a different planet, one with sunshine and daisies, where we've never been before.  Yes, that planet.  Really."

"Don't get smart with me, kid, I know where you sleep."

"The Ze'brak want me back down there so they can extend their formal apology.  Headquarters is in agreement.  Believe me, this is not my favorite thing ever."

"Having relieved you of duty as your CMO, I could bar you leaving the ship, under medical orders.  Somehow, I don't think revisiting the site of your head injury is a good step for any amnesia victim."

"Worked with a lot of us, have you?" Jim said amiably, and even managed a smile. "I appreciate the offer.  But I'd rather get this over with and get the hell out of here."

"So why don't we just skip this part and jump right to the getting out of here?"

"The Ze'brak have agreed to early concessions with regards to mining rights, Dr. McCoy," Spock said, looking up from the transporter controls. "But they have declined to enter into formal negotiations with the Federation until such time as the Captain accepts their apology.  Unfortunately, it is not possible to 'skip this part'."

"I can't believe that you, of all people, are actually willing to send him down there again, Spock," McCoy said incredulously.  "They didn't exactly send him back in proper working order last time, you know!"

"Hey," Jim said.

"I will be accompanying the Captain to the planet, and intend to remain by his side until we return," Spock said.  "If you feel so inclined, you are of course welcome to join us, doctor."

McCoy snarled something not fit for polite company, berated Jim a few more times, and absented himself from the transporter room in a storm of angry hand gestures and death omens.

Needless to say, things were off to a raring start.

"Captain Kirk," the Grand Consul addressed him, hands pressed forward in this planet's version of an Earth-type bow, "please accept our most profound apologies for the injury you have sustained at the hands of our people.  We take full responsibility.  We do not know the laws and customs of your kind, but we are eager to learn.  My people plan to pursue Federation membership one day, and we hope this incident has not destroyed all chance for peace between us.  We will submit to any punishment you deem appropriate."

The words were diplomatically appropriate, but also sincere, from what Jim could tell.  No wonder he was top dog around here.  It took realm talent for a bureaucrat to appear that sincere.

"No punishment is necessary, Consul Ti'r'nan.  Your apology is accepted," he said, and even managed to mean it.  The political niceties took over from there, and somewhere in the midst of diplomacy, Jim found himself staring out a window at a pile of rubble some ways off the beaten track.  He would have liked to say it looked familiar, but it didn't.  It did, however, look very, very broken.  He tried to imagine what it might have been like, trapped under that rubble, knowing his ship could neither speak to him nor beam him to safety, whether he'd been stunned and unconscious that entire time, whether he'd ever woken.  The amnesia was supposedly related to the energy blasts he'd taken, but being crushed underneath a pile of stone and metal probably hadn't helped.  Who knew when it might have kicked in.  One thing he hadn't asked for yet was his medical report from the rescue team who'd found him.  He wasn't a squeamish person by nature, and he'd been through some pretty tough times in his life, but the thought of having gone through it and to not even know it, to have come out the other side with only a gap in recollection to tell him there was something wrong -

He felt strangely violated.  Maybe it was better to remember tragedy after all.  Pain had changed his course in life before; he couldn't imagine what kind of man he'd be if he didn't have it with him.

"Captain?"

Jim turned, losing sight of the rubble, and found Spock at his shoulder, a cautious tilt to his friend's stance.  He felt himself unbend a little in response to the Vulcan's presence, some primal part of his brain linking Spock with safety; he felt the tension he hadn't even been aware he was carrying gently slip away.  The Vulcan raised a hand, as though to reach out, but hesitated, and moments later it felt.  There was a question in his eyes, a silent offer of support.

"Just thinking, Spock," Jim said, giving him a shadow of his usual grin.  He felt a bit like an imposter, play-acting at being Captain when in fact he'd been relieved of duty.  Accepting apologies as his due from someone who'd personally done him no wrong.  He was a caricature of himself, a puppet dancing to an unknown tune.

There were dark thoughts to be having when he was meant to be greasing the wheels of diplomacy.  He just couldn't seem to summon the fire of his usual charm and wit.

Spock stepped close enough that their shirt sleeves were brushing.  Jim could hear the rustle of him tugging his uniform shirt into place.

"There is no cause for concern, Captain," Spock said softly, almost unnaturally gently, and Jim was amused and appalled to realize that his Vulcan friend was trying to soothe him.  "This building was created prior to the planet's industrial age; the walls are made of common composite stone.  I have scanned for metallic elements; there are none.  The Ze'Brak have increased their security measures in light of recent events, and I have taken the liberty of assigning additional personnel to patrol the building.  Logically, we are as safe as is possible in this moment."

"Thank you, Spock," Jim said, genuinely touched to realize the lengths his First had gone through to ensure their well-being.  "It's not that.  Well, not really."  He turned his head, not quite far enough to view the rubble again.  "I suppose I must have felt safe before, too.  And yet, here we are."

"I will not allow harm to come to you while it is in my power to prevent it," Spock said, and Jim snapped back around to stare at him.  The Vulcan, too, was looking at the ruins of the former council chambers.  There was no expression on his face, and yet he managed to look somehow fiercer for it.  He was clearly prepared to follow-through on his words.  Spock tilted his head downward, acknowledging Jim's surprise without quite reacting to it.

He's worried about me, Jim realized, and smiled, affection blooming suddenly and sharply inside him.  It was always surprising how in-tune Spock was to Jim's state of mind; his calm and his logic were like a balm to Jim's careworn soul, even in the most trying of times.

Jim smiled at him for a long time, long enough that he turned to look, blinking at the sight that greeted him.  Jim tried to dial it back, but screw it, they were friends, and friends talked.  Spock was worth talking to.

"Spock, I  - "

"Captain Kirk!"

Jim scowled, and blew out a heavy breath.  He turned to see the Grand Consul's aid hurrying toward him.  "If you will attend, sir, we are to sign your Federation's request to open trade relations.  Your approval is needed."

"Yes, of course," Jim said, even though technically it should have been Spock, as Acting-Captain.  Headquarters had bowed to the Ze'brak's request to have Jim sign, and so he would.  He turned back to Spock to excuse himself, and found the Vulcan with his eyes closed, still like a statue, face carved in granite and stone.  There was a small dip between his eyebrows and a distracted cast to his face.  He was clearly focused inward, distant and removed.  For the first time in a long while, Jim found he could not read him.  He may as well have been made from the Ze'brak's metal alloy, he was so opaque, so alien and other in that moment.

Jim took a step toward him, but -

"Captain?"

"Yes," he said slowly, waiting for Spock to look at him, acknowledge him, connect with him as they had before, as they always had. "I'm coming."

But Spock did not open his eyes before Jim left, and in the end Jim wasn't sure what he would have done if he had.


Part 2
Tags: fanfic, k/s advent, star trek, time immemorial
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