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Title: Diplomatic Choices (5/5)
Series: Insontis II
Characters: Kirk, McCoy, various
Word Count: 3100 (this bit)
Rating: K+
Warnings/Spoilers: Lack of real plot, ghastly amounts of fluff, etc. If you're in search of story with depth and substance, this is not the universe you're looking for. *Jedi hand wave*
Summary: In which appearances are not always what they seem.
A/N: Last bit of this arc; new one starts next time. Thank you to all you lovely people who continue to read this nonsense; your reviews absolutely make my day.


Chronological Order of This 'Verse:

When I Was a Child
Impeccable Aim
Lesson One
A Matter of Genetics
Taking Sides
Fangirls
Out of the Mouth of Babes
A Two-Way Trust
Lesson Two
Unleashed
Family Interlude
Artistic License 
Blackmail Potential 
Captain Sunshine
Sunshine and Darkness
Ducks in Space
Smart is Sexy
Lesson Four
Never Too Young
The Sincerest Form of Flattery
Lesson Five
Persuasive Arguments
A Decided Lack of Amusement  (1/4)  (2/4)  (3/4)  (4/4)
Catch a Falling Star
An Infernal Device
Lesson Six (and Seven, really) (1/4) (2/4) (3/4) (4/4)
The Second Time Around 
Lessons Eight and Nine 
Lessons Ten and Eleven (1/2) (2/2)
Outside the Box
Comprehension (1/4) (2/4) (Interlude) (3/4) (4/4)
And So It Begins
Fear Is Only Embarrassing in Public
Never Tease a Vulcan
Best Destiny (1/4) (2/4) (3/4) (4/4)
Parting Ways (1/6) (2/6) (3/6) (4/6) (5/6) (6/6)
The Wounds of a Friend (1/4) (2/4) (3/4) (4/4)
Lessons Learned

--

A Child of Two Worlds
First Impressions
Instincts
Lesson One, of sorts
Communication
Lesson Two
Lesson Three
Trust (Lesson Four)  (1/2)  (2/2)
Oversights and Undershirts
Learning Diplomacy
Lesson Five
Puppy Eyes and Panic Attacks
Taking Responsibility
Diplomatic Choices (1/5)  (2/5)  (3/5)  (4/5)  (5/5)




Three days of this.

And there are four more to come, unless he can find something extravagant to bribe Scotty into endangering his precious engines enough to cut down that travel time. The captain is not likely to come up with such an underhanded tactic, so it falls to him to make the noble sacrifices necessary to save all their sanity. If that means threatening Lieutenant Kalov in SS&R until the man caves and discloses the location of their latest stash of contraband smuggled aboard from Starbase Thirteen, well. It is in a very good cause.

Strange, how they all only notice just how finely balanced the chain of command is on this ship, when one link in that chain is broken. Jim is and has always been the fulcrum upon which balances McCoy and Spock's relationships – he is the compass which guides them both, the tie that binds all three of them together in something so frighteningly inexplicable even the Insonti people could not fully explain it to them.

And that compass is swinging wildly now, lost as it is without its own tether to the realities of command and personal life. Jim was the perfect parent those first few weeks, the epitome of what Spock needed – stern as a Vulcan when necessary, and loving as a human in his own undemonstrative way – and the child had responded beautifully to it. But something had changed, these last days, and the man has been by his own admission metaphorically drowning, lost in a sea of uncertainty. The change has been a little alarming, though not entirely unexpected; the burden of command is one he has always been able to share with the Vulcan in question, and Spock's absence has left multiple voids across the ship, the magnitude of which none of them truly realized until the event happened.

Thankfully, Spock seems entirely unaware of these facts, blithely going about his life with the childlike enthusiasm and curiosity that had endeared the little monster to everyone aboard within minutes – and both he and Jim would have it no other way; gods forbid their now fun-sized First Officer ever feels anything but welcomed aboard this ship, in any form.

But this has to stop, because he's not sure any of them, Jim especially, are going to survive another four days spent in passive-aggressive custody battles with their resident Vulcan visitors.

From that first evening, Spock had all but attached himself like a Euridian leech-worm to the ambassadorial delegation – even, for insane reasons known only to Spock, the stern Dr. T'lar – and to Solvak in particular, following the ambassador around the ship with wide-eyed fascination, asking questions about anything and everything both Vulcan and political and everything in-between.

He doesn't bother pointing out, because they both know it, and both know how foolish it really is, that it's just plain old-fashioned jealousy that has him and the captain morosely eating a very late meal in Officers' Mess that evening, three days into their journey.

"He better be gaining some years, is all I got to say," he mutters, poking at his replicated chicken. "If we get to Alba II and he hasn't gained a day I will be havin' words with Solvak."

Eyes darting over a data-padd, the captain snorts. A brief smile flickers across his face before it vanishes just as rapidly as the report he just signed.

"Little brat didn't even have the decency to say how d'you do this morning when I saw 'em during the Biology lab inspection."

"Well, Bones, even a child knows better than to address you before you've had your second cup of coffee." A weary smile, and the padd is clicked off. "That reminds me, I have to get those inspection reports off to Command by 0800 tomorrow, think you can get them written up by then?"

"Already in your inbox." He finishes off his green beans, grimacing at their soggy texture; the replication script needs work. "I will be all too glad to hand that duty back over to Spock, let me tell you."

His eyes narrow, as Kirk absently nods and then moves to take his tray to the recycling chute. Within a moment he returns, sans dinner but bearing another cup of coffee, what has to be his sixth of the day. The slight wince as the man sits is not lost on him, either, and he folds his arms, leaning back in his chair with a pointed look across the table.

"Are you sleeping, Jim?"

"Oh, come on, Bones. Can you not –"

"I mean it, Jim. If this 'headache' of yours is still going on, you need to let me check you out, maybe you picked something up on Vulcan."

An eyeroll, genuinely annoyed. "It started before that, Bones. And frankly, this discussion and others like it are quite likely part of it."

"Don't sass me, I'm on your side here."

Kirk sighs, and pushes his chair back from the table. "I'm going back to the Bridge, Bones. Comm me if…well, if I'm needed."

"Jim, your shift ended two hours ago."

"As did yours, so you don't get to lecture me, Doctor."

He stares at the closing door in irritated consternation, and only then realizes the man left not just his data-padd but also his coffee on the table.

Call it an overreaction, but something…just isn't right.


One of these days, he's going to actually get someone on this flying tin can to listen to him, and maybe that minor miracle will prevent some of this idiocy from happening; but until then? Until then, it's just going to be heart attack after heart attack when these imbeciles scare him half to death.

Nothing throws Medical into a panic worse than receiving a Code Gold – the Starfleet alert for direct danger to the captain of the ship – and on this particular ship, that happens with more regularity than it should. In this case, however, they are on a peaceful cruise through the stars ferrying civilians, for pity's sake; there should be literally no reason for one to be issued, and for one to come straight from the Bridge? It scares the devil out of him, and the three nurses on-call this evening as well.

He makes it to the Bridge in record time, followed closely by one of the nurses, the other two already preparing a triage room just in case. Barreling out of the turbolift, he nearly knocks over Scotty, who had been watch officer for delta shift tonight and who likely had been fighting to boot the stubborn captain off the Bridge after a fourteen-hour shift.

"Easy, Doctor," their Chief Engineer murmurs with a laugh, steadying him with one hand. "'Tis a bit of an overreaction on the part of Mr. DeSalle." Nevertheless, Scott shoots him a knowing look over the stammering Engineer's head. "But 'twas justified at the time."

"What was justified?" he demands, pushing DeSalle aside none too gently, and then sees the object of his frantic attentions halfway across the Bridge. The captain is sitting on the chilled durasteel floor, half-leaning against the library station. He looks slightly dazed and more than slightly embarrassed, pale as death itself and breathing shallowly.

"He bent over Mr. Spock's scanner t'look at our new fuel output reports, Doctor, and when he straightened up, well…" Scott clears his throat awkwardly at the glare shot his way across the bridge, although there is little bite to it, "…his eyes just rolled up and he dropped like a rock, right there on the deck. Scared the holy hells out of poor Mr. DeSalle, who was working the communications board at the time."

Ah, that explains the panicked call to Medical. He waves off Scott and DeSalle, knowing Jim is going to be furious that this happened even in front of a skeleton delta shift crew, and crouches down in front of the man himself.

"You want to explain this to me, Jim?" he asks quietly.

Kirk's eyes are not quite focused, dark in a too-pale face, and he shakes his head slightly, obviously attempting to look annoyed but failing miserably. "Haven't eaten much today, Bones, between that and the headache, that's all – just a dizzy spell."

"Uh-huh." He takes the man's fingers briefly – cold as ice, and Jim always runs hotter than a star – and then slides to check his pulse the old-fashioned way. Erratic, far too fast. "Try that again, the truth this time."

The captain's eyes dart around the Bridge uneasily, and he sighs; that ridiculous command image will get them all killed one of these days, when his superiors decide they need to hide a serious injury for sake of appearances.

"Sickbay, and you're not leaving until I say so. Don't make me sedate you to get you down there."

A spark of defiance lights briefly in the man's eyes, before it seems to go out under the weight of exhaustion. "Fine." Kirk starts to struggle to his feet, only taking Scott's hand after a moment of hesitation. McCoy shoots DeSalle a warning look, which makes the man scramble back to his chair with a murmur and the rest of the delta crew look back to their consoles.

"Scotty, take the conn and rearrange the roster for tomorrow to take Captain Invincible here off of alpha shift duty?" he says dryly, and their Engineer chuckles, turning back to the comms station before the lift doors hide them from view.

"I am fine, Bones," is the surly rejoinder snapped across the lift a moment later.

"Right. Because you pass out on your own Bridge every day, Jim."

"I told you, I –"

"Are going to let me run some tests on you and see if you picked up something, at least! Come on, Jim – you remember what happened when you contracted Vegan choriomeningitis! If it's something like that I would never forgive myself, and Spock would kill me, nine-year-old or not."

Kirk's weak laugh sounds more pathetic than anything else. "Bones, I know when I'm sick. I'm not."

"Then what is this?" He is genuinely curious, and alarmed – because the man appears to be quite serious.

An exhausted sigh. "I…don't know, Bones. I really don't."

The lift doors open to deposit them on Deck Four, and he follows Kirk out, frowning. "You don't know?"

"If I did, I would have come to you. I'm not stupid enough to risk my command ability over something so ridiculous as a headache."

"It's not just that, and we both know it." He gestures for the man to precede him into Sickbay. "You haven't been eating, you haven't been sleeping, you don't go anywhere but the Bridge and your cabin – and it's been getting worse."

"None of which are sufficient reason for you to be keeping me prisoner here, Doctor."

He snorts, and follows the man inside. They are met with controlled chaos, the Gold Alert obviously having been canceled from the Bridge, and he is surprised but not shocked to see a couple of familiar figures waiting just outside his office door.

"Great," Kirk mutters under his breath. "Just what I need right now."

McCoy elbows him as he passes to set up an examination bio-bed. "Hey there, kiddo. You heard the alarms goin' off, I'm guessing?"

Spock's eyes are wide with what is obviously relief at seeing them walking and apparently undamaged.

T'lar eyes them both with what looks like controlled boredom. "We were passing the Engineering Section when the alert was sounded, Doctor." To her credit, she appears to have patched up her relationship with Spock, and he's pretty surprised to see that she's the one waiting with him and not Solvak. "I take it that your crew is prone to overreaction as are most humans, Captain."

Kirk merely raises an eyebrow, unprovoked. "I believe we would both agree, Doctor, that overreaction in saving a life is preferable to carelessness, causing the cessation of it."

T'lar inclines her head. "Indeed." She glances downward at the child beside her, and then back up again. A hint of disapproval tinges her voice when she continues. "Spock expressed concern for your well-being when the alarm was sounded."

Spock's ear-tips turn a light green, and he seems to shrink in his chair. McCoy sends the woman his best glare, which goes completely ignored, and moves a medical scanner into place over the captain's heart area.

"The cause was sufficient," Spock ventures almost timidly, but with enough conviction that it produces a raised eyebrow from the elder Vulcan.

"A convenient excuse for your lack of discipline, Spock." A stern look downward. "The Vulcan Way uses no such justifications."

Spock fidgets in his chair. McCoy pauses, scowling, but is forced to turn his attention back to his patient as the captain suddenly pales and sways on the bed, eyelids fluttering unsteadily. "Whoa, there. Easy, Jim. Here, lie down for a while."

Spock's little head appears over the edge of the bio-bed, brow wrinkled with concern.

"I'm good," Kirk rasps, pinching the bridge of his nose. He blinks for a moment before turning his head, and smiles at the child standing there. "Hey, you."

Spock blinks solemnly at him, before reaching up and hesitantly touching his hand for a brief instant, gone the next.

The panel over the bed bleeps at them, and he scowls, standing up to adjust the neural readings.

"You okay, Spock?"

"I am well, Captain-Jim."

"That's good." A soft sigh. "Sorry I haven't checked on you like I should have."

"Spock is quite intelligent, advanced for his age. He has no need of your human oversight," T'lar interjects severely.

Back to the stately Vulcan, Spock actually, honest-to-God rolls his eyes, to which Kirk obviously tries desperately not to laugh.

"Doctor McCoy, what are the captain's symptoms?" the child inquires, with adorable solemnity.

"Well, since the man's an idiot and won't tell his friendly family doctor, I can only guess based on these readings," he drawls, arms folded, and shoots a scowl at the captain's head. "But I'm guessing nausea and lack of appetite, crippling headaches, general malaise and extreme exhaustion, insomnia... Am I missing anything, Jim?"

A glare is his only answer.

"And when did these symptoms begin?"

"About two weeks ago," Kirk sighs. "Completely out of the blue."

McCoy glances up in time to see T'lar's eyes sharpen in what looks like mild interest. He cocks his head. "Something you want to say, Doctor?" he asks.

T'lar glances between the prone human and their small First Officer, slender brows drawn in thought. "Captain," she inquires, and the animosity has vanished from her voice, "you say these symptoms began completely unexpectedly?"

"Correct."

"How old were you at the time, Spock? In this…unique process?"

"Two weeks prior to this day I turned eight years old, T'lar. I am now but nine and three months."

"Well, thank God for gaining a few months at least," McCoy mutters to himself.

T'lar looks slightly surprised at this point, and she moves closer to the bed, almost cautiously. "And at any point in this time period, Spock, have you found yourself adrift in your mind, seeking to bond with another Vulcan?"

Spock blinks, puzzled. "Negative, T'lar. I have felt no such need."

"Wait just a darn minute," he interjects, with growing dread. "Are you saying –"

"These symptoms are textbook symptoms of a closed or unreciprocated mental bond, Doctor." The woman's eyes are glinting with interest, and what looks like grudging respect. "Such a thing is nearly unheard-of in Vulcan culture, as to refuse to reciprocate such a gift is the utmost in rejection. But if the bond was inadvertently created by a child, who was unconsciously seeking to form the usual mental anchor all Vulcan children create at eight years of age…"

Spock's eyes widen. "T'lar, I did not. I have not the ability."

The Vulcan female glances down at him with what – shockingly – looks to be mild amusement. "Spock, I assure you, you are far too balanced a hybrid child to not be tethered by a most powerful mental anchor. I could not determine to whom, and this is why I accompanied you here today – I intended to discuss the matter with your Doctor McCoy, against my much better judgment in these matters."

"Hey!" His splutter is interrupted by a very confused Jim Kirk.

"There has to be some mistake, Doctor. Spock couldn't possibly have bonded us without my knowledge," he says feebly. "Could he?"

T'lar gives the eyebrow-equivalent of a shrug. "A brief kash-nov, a mind-touch, will avow the truth in a moment, Captain – if you will permit me?"

Kirk's unease is palpable, and she shakes her head with a slight twitch of the lips. "Your distrust is natural, Captain, but I assure you, my skill in this matter is not inconsiderable; that is why I was chosen for this mission to the telepathic Alban peoples. And a brief glimpse only is required."

"I suppose we need to know," he sighs, glancing up at McCoy.

"I don't like it."

"None of us do," Kirk snaps, for a moment sounding more like himself. "But it is necessary. Very well, Doctor, I consent."

T'lar nods gracefully, acquiescing, and after a moment of silent preparation she gently places one hand in the mind-joining position, speaking a quiet phrase in Vulcan. After only a few seconds she straightens back up, looking down at both Spock and his human captain.

"Well?" Kirk demands.

"You are telsu," she says simply.

Dead silence.

"Huh. Guess I can delete all that information the Lady Amanda sent me before we broke orbit."

Spock's wide-eyed expression may as well have shouted well, crap to the entire ship.

July 2017

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