“How can you ‘assist the captain’?” McCoy snorted, settling back in his seat. “Well, if this were a normal pregnancy, I’d tell you to massage his feet and never mention his weight gain.”
“As this is not a normal pregnancy, what do you suggest?”
McCoy shrugged. “Honestly? Rub his feet, and don’t mention his weight gain.”
Spock refrained from frowning. “I would appreciate more relevant suggestions, Doctor.”
“What do you want me to say?” McCoy threw his hands up in the air. “Pregnancy is hard enough on healthy women who have partners supporting them. Jim’s going to struggle with this pregnancy, both mentally and physically. What he needs is for you to be there for him—which means rubbing his feet and telling him he’s not fat.”
“You are trivializing the situation.”
McCoy gestured at the office around them. “I am a doctor.”
If Spock were human, he would probably have rolled his eyes at the statement. “That is how Starfleet classifies you.”
He shook his head. “You don’t get it. I’m Jim’s doctor. When I talk to him, I’m worried about what he’s eating, whether he has morning sickness, and if he’s going to die because of this baby. When he talks to me, he’s worried about me thinking that his complaints about his aching back mean something is seriously wrong. M’Benga faces the same issue. So long as he is pregnant, we are his doctors, not his friends.” McCoy sighed. “Right now, you are the only other person who knows about this pregnancy. He needs you to be his friend. Not his science officer. Not his first officer. Just his friend.”
Spock understood what McCoy was saying, but he was the first officer. The ship’s business was a part of his daily life, and not something he could ignore. “I cannot set my duties aside for the duration of the pregnancy.”
“And I’m not asking you to. I’m just asking you to make time for Jim as a friend.” McCoy smirked. “And to rub his feet.”
Unable to determine whether his final statement was sarcasm, Spock simply nodded. “Very well. I will attempt to do so.”
McCoy wagged a finger at him. “Don’t try. Do it.” He pointed at the door. “Now go check on Jim. He spent most of the afternoon in here pestering my nurses, so I’m guessing he’s lonely.
With a brief nod, Spock left. He headed for Jim’s rooms. It had been nearly eight hours since he left the bridge. Spock hoped he had taken at least some of that time to rest.
He stopped at Jim’s door and pressed the buzzer.
“Come in,” Jim called through the intercom.
Spock opened the door. Inside, Jim was attacking a punching ball on his desk with all of his might. His bright red cheeks and heavy breathing made Spock doubt this was the beginning of his workout. “Jim!”
Jim paused and grinned. “Hey! Are we out of the ion storms already?”
“You should be resting.” Spock stepped forward and stopped the punching bag, which was still swaying on its stand from Jim’s last blow.
“Well, hello to you too.” Jim pulled off his light boxing gloves and threw them on his desk. “How has my day been? Well, I spent most of it bored out of my mind, so I decided to work off some steam by punching something. Oh, but apparently I’m not allowed to do anything fun anymore.”
“The embryo is monopolizing your body’s nutrients.” Spock watched as Jim grabbed a towel and began to wipe the sweat off his face and arms. Jim’s tight sleeveless shirt showed off his well-defined musculature. He was in good health, but that could change at any moment. “Sweating leads to a loss of important electrolytes. You could injure yourself or the embryo by exercising with such intensity.”
Jim draped the towel around his neck. “I know.” He pulled out a chair and collapsed into it, loose-limbed and relaxed. “But women have been sweating while pregnant for millennia. If they can handle it, so can I.”
“You lack the physiological adaptations that allow women to carry children safely.”
“Yeah, because I’m a man!” Jim burst out of his chair, his hands balled into fists. “Though I shouldn’t have to tell you that. You’ve seen my goddamn penis!”
Spock had certainly seen his penis, and every other part of him as well. Memories of Jim’s warm, pliant flesh rose to the surface of Spock’s mind. He pushed the thoughts away, though it wasn’t easy with Jim standing flushed and sweaty before him. “I know that you are male. I would not concern myself with your health if you were female.”
Jim grinned, his anger gone. “You’re worried about my health?”
“Of course. If you were incapacitated, I would have to assume command of the ship, which I have no interest in doing.”
“Oh.” Jim sighed. “I guess all first officers worry about their captain’s health.” He collapsed into his chair, but his shoulders remained stiff.
His words reminded Spock of Dr. McCoy’s suggestion. The sight of Jim sweaty and flushed mid-workout had distracted him.
“I am also concerned for you… as a friend.” Spock stumbled over the words. Friendship, as a concept, was appreciated in Vulcan culture, but in reality few Vulcans cultivated close relationships with anyone outside of their family. Spock had never called anyone a friend before, not aloud. Perhaps he felt closer to Jim than Jim did to him. McCoy could be incorrect; Jim might not want more than a professional relationship with Spock.
Jim’s face lit up. “So, we’re friends?”
“Humans define friendship as holding regard for someone whom you get along with.” Spock took a deeper breath than was necessary. “As I hold more regard for you than for anyone else, I would in fact classify you as my ‘best friend.’”
Jim smiled so brightly that Spock found himself unable to breath. He forced himself to take another deep breath.
“Me too.” Jim relaxed in his chair, the lingering stiffness in his shoulders disappearing. “Come on, sit down. Tell me about your day. How were the ion storms?”
Spock perched in in a nearby chair, his mind racing. He had done as McCoy suggested, only to have Jim turn the conversation straight to business matters. Spock had admitted something personal, and Jim had given a trite reply and moved on.
In his dealings with humans, Spock found that they avoided conflict. Perhaps Jim had simply said “me too” in order to avoid upsetting Spock by revealing that he didn’t consider them friends. Not that he would have. Spock was Vulcan. He didn’t experience emotions.
Dr. McCoy was wrong. Jim had enough friends. He needed Spock to be the first officer, to keep the ship running when he couldn’t. And that was precisely was Spock would do.
“We entered the storm field at twelve-hundred and thirty-two hours. Mr. Chekov plotted a course that would avoid the worst storms while adding only thirty point three minutes to our journey. Following his course, Mr. Sulu guided us through the storms without incident. We cleared the field at nineteen-hundred and nine hours. One external sensor required recalibration at that point, which was completed in five point two minutes. No other damage was reported.”
Jim rolled his eyes. “I didn’t ask for a technical report. Tell me how you guys did. Was anyone nervous or upset?”
Something in Spock’s abdomen untwisted as he evaluated Jim’s response. What he had understood to be an inquiry about business matters was in fact about personal matters. “Ensign Singh asked to be excused from the bridge at thirteen-hundred hours. She claimed to be experiencing motion sickness.”
“There was no ‘claiming’ to it!” He chuckled. “I was in sickbay when she came in. She managed to throw up all over Bones before he could get an anti-emetic in her.” He grimaced. “I really hope I don’t end up with morning sickness.”
“Are you aware that ‘morning sickness’ can in fact occur at any time of the day?” Spock had discovered that fact when researching the particulars of human pregnancy. The fact that the nausea maintained the name despite the fact that it was not limited to a specific time of day appeared to be another human quirk. On Vulcan, nausea caused by pregnancy was simply termed ‘pregnancy nausea,’ which made far more sense.
“You’ve been studying up on pregnancy?” Jim’s mouth quirked into a half-smile.
Spock nodded. “Indeed. The biological processes of Humans and Vulcans are quite similar, but I wanted to determine how your pregnancy might differ from those I have observed in the past. I was surprised to learn that you will not develop any defense mechanisms.” He had vague memories of a distant cousin’s pregnancy on Vulcan. She had grown long, claw-like fingernails, a defense mechanism that most women in their peaceful society chose to eliminate. His cousin had kept hers, and she had used them indiscriminately.
He still had a scar on his left hand where she smacked it when he tried to take the last frilte-cookie.
Jim sighed. “Nope. We get fat and slow and clumsy.”
“In the first six months of your pregnancy, you should only gain twenty pounds. Excessive weight gain is unhealthy.”
With a shrug, Jim pulled the towel from his neck. “Tell that to my body. I’m up five pounds already, and I’m always starving. I’ll be the size of a car by the time I give birth.”
“You would have to weigh a thousand pounds in order to resemble even a small vehicle,” Spock said absentmindedly. Jim didn’t appear to have gained any weight. Though, his slumped position could be hiding any rounding of his stomach.
Laughing, Jim threw his towel into a corner. “If that’s your way of telling me I’ll still look handsome when I’m the size of a blimp, then thanks.” He stretched his arms above his head, pulling his shirt tight.
His stomach was still flat, Spock noticed. Then he realized he was staring a little too intently at Jim’s body, and he looked away.
Jim lowered his arms and yawned. “Crap. I’m exhausted, but I can’t seem to get a good night’s sleep. I keep waking up in the middle of the night because I need to piss or my back hurts or I’ve got heartburn.” He yawned again, then shook his head. “But who cares about me? How are you doing?”
Spock blinked. Was his question merely a social nicety, or was Jim legitimately interested in his life? “I am operating at eighty-nine percent efficiency, which is eight percent below average.”
“You’re taking your break-up with Uhura hard then?” Jim leaned forward, his blue eyes boring into Spock.
“I have not thought about our parting in six point nine days.” He had been too busy thinking about more important things, such as Jim’s health and the approaching ion storms. Uhura functioned well on Delta shift, and their paths rarely crossed.
Jim’s eyes widened. “Really? I thought you two had been close… like, really close. Soul-mates close. Isn’t that what you meant by ‘sworn one’?”
“No. A sworn-one is merely a ko-kugalsu… fiancée in your language.”
“What do you call a soul-mate?”
The word came out almost reverently, and Spock had to quickly stifle the rush of emotion that followed it.
Jim tilted his head to one side. “T’hy’la?”
He did not suppress the feelings fast enough. At Jim’s cautious repetition of the word, Spock’s heart leapt in his chest, his pulse increasing by a full ten percent.
Though t’hy’la meant many things to Vulcans—friend, brother, lover—to Spock it meant one thing.
In a deep corner of his mind, one he rarely dared venture into, Spock dreamed of one day finding his t’hy’la. The person with whom he would share everything. As a child, he assumed that everyone had a t’hy’la. He had believed he would grow up and find the person who would love him like his mother loved his father… and like his father had loved his mother, in his own Vulcan way.
Then he grew up and he realized that ‘t’hy’la’ was merely a concept. Relationships didn’t require two people to be soul-mates.
Spock’s parents had been both best friends and t’hy’lara. Their marriage, though not perfect, had been stronger than most. And that deep corner of Spock’s mind still dreamed of finding the person who would be his best friend and his t’hy’la.
Jim was Spock’s best friend. They were as close as brothers. He was carrying his child. Friend, brother, lover—they were the definition of t’hy’lara.
Impossible. Spock clenched his teeth and focused on Jim.
Jim, the man he raped.
They could never be t’hy’lara. Not after what Spock did.
“Would you like me to massage your feet?” Spock asked abruptly.
Jim blinked for a few seconds. “Well. Talk about a subject change.”
“Dr. McCoy informed me that such an act would be appreciated.”
“Oh, it would be!” Jim toed off his shoes. “As long as you don’t mind?”
Spock shook his head. Though Vulcans avoided touch, they weren’t averse to it. He moved his chair forward and took hold of Jim’s left foot. Starting below the big toe, he began to knead the flesh in small circles.
Jim’s eyes fluttered shut and his breathing began to slow. He sank down in his chair, radiating relaxation. As he moved, his shirt pulled tight across his abdomen. The area was softer than before. There was no bump yet, but there would be soon.
Administering a foot massage was the least Spock could do after what he did.
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