Table of Contents
Kirk fixed his eyes on the three men who moved into the doorway of the store room, blocking his view of what was outside. All three looked tired, thin and unshaven, with expressions ranging from tired desperation to outright hostility. Their clothes were dirty and creased, as if they had not been changed in weeks.
Spock took half a step forward, closing the distance between himself and his captain, unsure as to whether he was moving for his own protection, or for Jim’s. Blind or not, he knew he would be a force to be reckoned with in a physical fight. He could see nothing of the men’s clothing or expressions, but he could feel the thick haze of anger and exhaustion in the air. Despite the strength of those emotions, the repressed fury from Kirk’s mind almost overwhelmed his perception of them.
‘Would you care to tell us what you mean by assaulting us, dragging us here and locking us in?’ Kirk asked icily. Spock had heard that tone of voice many times before. It meant that his captain was white-hot with anger, and at his most dangerous.
‘Out,’ a rough voiced man said shortly. ‘Get out there.’
There was a brief hesitation, then Kirk said quietly, ‘They’ve got my phaser, Spock.’
Spock reached out silently and cautiously for Kirk’s arm, but was stopped by the sharp crack of a stick across his forearm.
‘Watch it, Vulcan,’ one of them said – a man with a thinner, higher-pitched voice. ‘Keep your hands by your sides.’
‘I cannot see,’ Spock said in a brittle tone. ‘I need guidance.’
‘Oh, that’s what this is for,’ the man replied, tapping something to the ground. ‘They let blind people into Starfleet now, do they? No wonder it’s going to hell.’
The sense of Kirk’s anger increased palpably, but fortunately he had the restraint not to do anything foolish. Spock realised the stick that had hit him must have been his own cane – and also that either these men had not been part of the crowd that assaulted them, or that they had not heard him announcing his blindness to them. He pressed his lips together. He wanted to ask for the cane, but he did not expect to be given it, and he did not want to beg for it. The sense of curiosity he could feel in the room had suddenly increased, and he did not enjoy the sudden scrutiny.
‘I need guidance,’ he repeated. ‘Will you allow me to hold my captain’s arm?’
‘Go on – just don’t try anything,’ the man said.
He reached out again, holding Kirk’s arm perhaps a little tighter than was necessary. He felt irrationally vulnerable. He could feel Kirk’s tight sense of worry through the touch, and he could not help but be angry at himself for provoking that concern.
He sensed the space getting larger as they left the storeroom, as if they had entered another room rather than a corridor. His suspicion was confirmed as one of the men said, ‘Sit down over there,’ and Kirk led him on a rather circuitous course through the room. He held his right hand out despite the injury to his finger and felt the corners of what he presumed were desks as they moved.
‘Here, Spock, sit down,’ Kirk murmured, putting his hand to the back of a wooden seat.
He sat, laying his hands on his thighs as Kirk drew up a chair beside him. The men stayed on the other side of the room. He could sense that they were highly nervous – of their captives or of the situation he could not tell – but their nervousness made him deeply cautious.
‘First,’ the rough-voiced man said. ‘I know you’re a captain. I want to know your names.’
‘Kirk,’ Kirk said shortly. There was no gain in hiding their identities. ‘This is my science officer, Mr Spock. And you? Are we allowed to know the names of the men who’re holding phasers to our heads?’
‘Brown, Artois, and Shelley,’ the man said shortly, presumably indicating who was who with his body language.
‘Well, Mr Brown. I – don’t suppose you’ve got any painkillers?’ he asked, touching his hand gingerly to the swelling on his head.
The rough-voiced man laughed shortly. Presumably he was Brown, then. Spock sensed that Kirk’s question was angled so that Spock could put the names to the voices.
‘You think we’ve got a painkiller left on this whole damn planet?’ he asked.
Kirk paused, then gave a tired laugh. ‘No, I guess not.’
‘Painkillers are not effective against the creature’s exertion,’ Spock said tonelessly.
‘That don’t stop you trying, Mr Scientist,’ the thinner-voiced man snarled.
‘No,’ Spock said quietly.
‘Spock was infested by one of those things for almost a week,’ Kirk added, hoping that might garner some sympathy from their captors. ‘He’s blind because we tested the light treatment on him that killed the creatures.’
There was a long pause, then Brown said, ‘That’s lovely. We’re very grateful to him. But it don’t mean a goddamn thing right now.’
‘What do you require of us?’ Spock asked. He did not relish using his blindness as a bargaining tool.
‘You know how long it is since we’ve had a Fed ship come here?’ Brown asked. He seemed to have slipped into the role of spokesperson for the small group.
‘Four years, six months, fifteen days,’ Spock said smoothly. His precision did not seem to help. ‘Your last official radio contact was one year, three months, seventeen days ago.’
‘We’re supposed to be a Fed colony,’ the man said bitterly. ‘You don’t think we merit more visits than that?’
‘Deneva voted for secession almost ten years ago,’ Spock said flatly. ‘You agreed to limited contact at five year intervals. If I recall correctly, you wanted contact intervals of fifteen years.’
‘No,’ Brown said sharply. ‘The slime-ridden, money-grabbing government wanted it. They never asked us about contact. They never asked us about secession. And you – you have a duty to – ’
‘We have a duty to listen to the elected government of the planet,’ Kirk cut across crisply.
‘We were infected for eight months,’ he snapped. ‘You think it’s all right to leave humans to suffer that kind of pain for eight months?’
There was a long silence. Spock could feel a tight pain and regret emanating from Kirk. Obviously it was at least that long since he had had contact with his brother – and perhaps he had died as a result.
‘What do you want from us?’ Kirk asked finally.
There was another silence. The tension in the room was palpable.
‘They do not know,’ Spock said quietly to Kirk. ‘They have no logical plan or intentions.’
‘Shut up,’ the thin-voiced man snapped suddenly, his voice full of uncontrolled anger. ‘Shut up, get up, come over here.’
Spock clenched his uninjured hand in his lap. He had sensed that it was best to remain quiet. He should have listened to his intuition.
‘You will need to help me,’ he said reluctantly.
‘No. Just come over here and stop your smart remarks to your friend there.’
Spock pressed his lips together, then, in deference to the phasers he knew they had, he stood and began to make his way towards where the man had spoken from. He felt a desk in front of him, and moved along to the end of it, then stepped out into open space, knowing that soon he would meet another desk or chairs or, considering the state of the storeroom, anything that could be strewn on the floor. He moved with painful cautiousness, and he could feel the men becoming more impatient with his slowness. He felt a stab of anger at being seen like this by strangers, but he pushed it away, trying to focus only on his task.
He stumbled into something that felt like an overturned chair, and felt his way around it, then felt another desk in front of him. It seemed to be taking an age just to cross what he estimated to be about seven metres of classroom. Every time he was forced to move around an obstacle he had to reassess his position in the room, and reorient himself to his goal. Finally one of the men exhaled noisily and came over to him, taking hold of his arm and steering him through the room.
‘They don’t like non-humans much – you’d be best staying quiet,’ he said in an undertone, then said in a louder voice, ‘Come on, over here,’ as he pulled him around a desk.
This was the man who had barely spoken until now. The other two voices were the same ones that Spock had heard talking outside when they were locked in. Perhaps this was the one who had been moving objects in this classroom earlier. His mental emanations seemed less angry than the others. But then another hand grabbed at his arm and pulled him roughly across the last metre of floor, and he felt the pressure of a phaser touching his side. He knew before he spoke that it was the thin-voiced man – his fingers matched his voice, pinching and bony where they clenched on his arm.
‘What do we want?’ he said tersely. ‘We want food, we want medical supplies, we want our government to acknowledge that we need more Federation help. One million people aren’t enough for an independent planet.’
Spock raised an eyebrow, but he was unwilling to speak in his precarious situation. Kirk laughed bitterly, however.
‘For a start, you’ll be lucky to have three quarters of your population left after what’s happened. Thousands of people have died. Secondly, even if your government’s survived they’re certainly not active right now. Thirdly, you’re getting food and medical supplies. You’ll get more once relief ships get here. Holding us here isn’t going to get you anything you’re not getting already.’
‘I’ve not seen any food,’ the man hissed. ‘I’ve not seen any of your men handing out anything.’
‘We’re having to prioritise aid to the sick and vulnerable,’ Kirk said firmly. ‘We’re a ship of four hundred and thirty. We don’t have the resources to feed this many people. Maybe you should do something, Mr Artois. Gather people together, gather the remaining food together, ration it out.’
‘There isn’t any remaining food,’ Artois blazed, his voice roughening with the force of his anger. ‘Not in this part of the city. We’ve been searching for days.’
‘Well, if that’s true I’m sure we can get you some ration packs,’ Kirk said reasonably.
‘If it’s true?’ Spock felt the phaser pressure a little harder into his ribs, and he closed his eyes, willing himself to stay relaxed. It was likely this man was not familiar with such weapons, and he knew that it was possible he would be shot entirely by mistake. ‘If it’s true?’
‘All right,’ Kirk said quickly. ‘It was just a figure of speech. Now, if that’s all you want…’
‘Oh, we want more than that,’ Artois said, his voice now dangerously calm. ‘We want the Federation to agree that our government made an illegal decision and take back control of this place.’
‘But we can’t – ’ Kirk began.
Artois’ hand pushed suddenly at Spock’s back, and he stumbled forward, holding out his hands before him.
‘Kneel down!’ Artois said, almost in a scream. ‘Kneel down there now.’
Spock didn’t have to see it to know that the phaser was still pointed at him. He knelt swiftly, putting his hand to the floor in front of him. There was a noise of fumbling, of something being thrown and clattering onto the floor near Kirk.
‘Call your ship, tell them to give our demands to the Federation council – or I’ll spill some of that lovely green blood on the floor here.’
Spock tensed, overwhelmed by the sense that something was being held above his head by the man.
‘Hey now, come on,’ the calmer one of their captors said. Spock presumed this was the one called Shelley, since he had now put names to the other two men.
‘Put that down,’ Kirk said almost simultaneously in a low voice.
‘We weren’t going to hurt them bad,’ Brown put in. ‘Put it down, Jed.’
‘I’m beyond caring,’ Artois hissed. ‘Now go on, Starfleet-boy. Call your ship.’
‘Even if I do – ’ Kirk began.
‘What should I break?’ the man said menacingly, cutting across Kirk’s protest. ‘Arm? Leg? How’d he like a broken jaw? Will he know which way to move to try to dodge it when I swing?’
The silence stretched out. It seemed to last for minutes, but Spock knew that in reality it was only ten seconds. The whole time he could feel the oppression of that something being held over him, and the only warning he would have of it hitting him would be the noise it would make as it swung through the air. Then there was the noise of a communicator chirruping, and Kirk said in a tight voice, ‘Kirk to Enterprise.’
‘Captain!’ Uhura’s voice replied. ‘We’ve been trying to locate you. Your communication cut off. Did something happen?’
‘In a manner of speaking,’ Kirk said wryly. ‘Who’s in command, Lieutenant?’
‘Mr Scott, sir.’
‘Let me speak to him.’
There was a short pause, then the voice of the chief engineer saying, ‘Scott here, Captain. Are ye all right?’
‘Commander Scott, Mr Spock and I are being held hostage on Deneva,’ Kirk said succinctly. ‘Our captors request that we contact the Federation council and demand that they bring Deneva back under Federation jurisdiction.’
He could see little sense in prevaricating or attempting to get hidden messages through to Scott. There was very little chance of anything happening swiftly in response to the men’s demands, whereas there was a high chance of Spock being seriously hurt if their captors detected any deception.
‘Oh,’ Scott said slowly. ‘Do they now?’
‘Scotty, they’re threatening to injure Mr Spock,’ Kirk said seriously.
‘Och, well, I’ll pass on their demands, Captain,’ Scott said carefully. ‘Are ye both all right?’
‘We’re not too bad – so far,’ Kirk said, casting his gaze at the heavy metal bar that was being held above Spock’s head. It was doubtless that it had the potential to seriously hurt him if the man holding it decided to strike him with it.
‘But you could be,’ Artois said softly.
‘But we could be,’ Kirk repeated. Spock was kneeling motionless, his face expressionless, but Kirk knew him well enough to see an unusual degree of fear in his bearing. He knew the Vulcan had little fear of pain, but vulnerability was a different matter.
‘Do what you can, won’t you, Mr Scott?’ he asked, trusting his chief engineer to understand the double meaning of his question.
‘Aye, of course,’ Scott replied. ‘I’ll update you within the hour. Scott out.’
‘Does that satisfy you?’ Kirk asked tartly, closing the communicator. ‘Will you stop threatening my science officer now?’
He locked eyes with the man behind Spock. He held the bar steady for a moment, then lowered it slowly and put it down on a nearby desk. Kirk began to move, then looked at Brown questioningly. He hesitated to give Artois too much credence as group leader – he seemed too unstable. Brown nodded slowly.
‘Come get him if you want. Just don’t try anything.’
Kirk rose swiftly and went to Spock’s side, touching his arm as he got to his feet. He could feel the tension in the Vulcan, that slowly dissipated as Kirk touched him.
‘All right, Spock?’ he asked in a low voice.
‘Quite,’ Spock nodded, his voice perfectly steady. ‘I – regret that my disability is providing such a point of leverage, Captain.’
‘It’s not something that can be helped, Spock,’ Kirk murmured, moving him away from their captors slightly. ‘I’m just sorry I got you into this.’
‘You have got me into nothing, Jim,’ Spock told him. ‘I requested to come with you. I understand the risks of such situations. My blindness does not affect – ’
‘All right,’ Brown cut over Spock’s words. ‘You’ve got the ball rolling. Get back in that room now.’
Kirk hesitated, glancing over to the open door to the storeroom. He didn’t relish the idea of being shut back in there, with nothing but old text books and a flickering electric light as distractions.
‘Tell me,’ he said, focussing on Shelley as the most rational of the group. ‘This is a school, isn’t it. Don’t you have replicators here?’
‘Yeah, there’re replicators,’ he nodded. ‘In the canteen.’
‘Then why are you going hungry? All you need is some matter with the right chemical elements to feed into it.’
‘We know that,’ Brown snapped. ‘They’re smashed. Someone smashed them.’
‘Perhaps they could be fixed,’ Spock suggested.
‘By who? Do I look like a technician? Why don’t you fix them, with all your Starfleet training?’
‘I cannot,’ Spock said flatly. ‘I am blind.’
‘You might be able to tell me what to do,’ Kirk offered.
Spock raised an eyebrow, trying to keep expression from his face. They were already in enough peril as it was. It seemed foolish to offer out promises to these desperate people – especially promises relying on his skill at repairing equipment by touch.
‘It’s worth a try,’ Kirk urged him. ‘It’s better than being locked in there, Spock,’ he said in a quieter voice. ‘And depending on how long we’re here, it could be in our own interest.’
‘Point taken,’ Spock nodded slowly. ‘It – is possible. Perhaps if I could feel the circuits, if the power is off…’
There was a long silence, then Shelley said, ‘If they can fix it – we could feed more than just us. Leslie too, Jed. She’s near incapacitated with hunger, isn’t she?’
There was silence again, then Artois said, ‘Yeah, she is. I guess…’
‘It can’t hurt,’ Brown put in. ‘We can bring the units up here – there’s the right power connections in this lab for them, and all the tools, too.’
‘If we agree to try to fix them – will you let Spock have that cane?’ Kirk asked carefully. ‘We can’t use it as a weapon – it’s not strong enough. It won’t hurt you to let him have it.’
There was quiet again, then Artois picked up the cane and threw it. It clattered onto the floor in front of them, and Kirk bent to pick it up and touched it to Spock’s hand. Spock took it wordlessly, but Kirk could read the relief in his frame as he took hold of the one device that gave him a small sense of being able to function without assistance in this place that he had never seen.
‘They’re being held hostage?’ McCoy asked incredulously of the voice at the other end of the intercom. ‘By the people whose lives we just saved?’
‘Aye, Doctor. The very same,’ Scott replied grimly. There was no real tactical need to pass the information on to the ship’s doctor at this stage, but he saw a definite need to pass on the news to Kirk and Spock’s closest friend. ‘They want the Federation to take Deneva back under their wing – but I canna see them agreeing to a demand like that made by hostage-takers.’
‘And you can’t find them?’ McCoy asked, sounding as if he was close to bursting with frustration and anger.
‘The captain’s nigh on impossible to find anyway amongst so many humans,’ Scott told him. ‘But we’ve scanned multiple times, and we canna even pick up Spock’s signs. They must have something blocking out their lifesigns.’
‘Are they in danger?’ the doctor asked, looking towards his medical kit, almost picking it up, and then realising the uselessness of that action while he was on the ship and Spock and Kirk were lost on the planet’s surface. He hated situations like this. Given a living body in front of him, he at least had a chance, but all he could do now was trust to computers and their operators to do their jobs.
‘They – were threatening to hurt Mr Spock if the captain didn’t do as they said,’ Scott said tightly. ‘I got the feeling from the captain that they were serious.’
‘Damn them,’ McCoy muttered, banging his fist hard onto the desk. This was the last thing they needed right now, with the ship flooded with casualties and so much in need of attention on the planet below.
‘Aye,’ Scott said. ‘I’m beaming some teams down to search, and we’re doing what we can to find and pierce their sensor shield. I canna help feeling – well, I canna help thinking we oughtn’t to leave Mr Spock in their hands – not blind as he is now.’
‘No, I know,’ McCoy nodded pensively. ‘Spock would be the first to say it’s not logical, but I feel the same.’
‘In their hands?’ a female voice asked anxiously. McCoy looked up to see Chapel standing in the doorway to his office, concern clear on her face. ‘Where’s Mr Spock, Doctor? What’s happened?’
‘Scotty, I’ll get back to you,’ McCoy said quickly. ‘Let me know if anything changes.’
He flicked the intercom off, and looked up again to meet the nurse’s eyes.
‘Christine, come sit down,’ he said, indicating the chair on the other side of his desk.
‘What is it, Leonard?’ she asked insistently, coming over to the desk but ignoring his invitation to sit.
McCoy took in a deep breath. ‘The captain and Spock beamed down to Deneva to pick up some things for young Peter Kirk. It – seems that they were taken hostage by some desperate people down there.’
‘But he’s – ’ She faltered, then seemed to recover control of herself, and began again, ‘Doctor, are they in danger?’
‘They – were threatening to hurt Spock.’
Chapel sat suddenly, as if someone had stolen the strength from her legs. She clenched her hands, staring at her own fingers as she flexed them open and closed.
‘It can’t be so hard to pick up Vulcan life signs,’ she began hopefully after a moment of thought.
‘Scotty thinks they’ve got some kind of blocking device. We can’t pick up his life signs.’
She fell silent again, biting her lip into her mouth, willing herself to stay composed.
‘Christine, you’ve gotten – close – with Spock over the past few days, haven’t you?’ McCoy asked her suddenly.
She looked down, seeming for a moment that she was going to deny it. Then she looked up and met his blue eyes with ones equally blue, but lightly hazed with tears. ‘Yes, I have, Doctor,’ she said with a tone of defensiveness.
‘Have you slept with him?’
She stiffened, her eyes widening a little. ‘Leonard, we may be friends, but I think that’s pushing the bounds of – ’
‘Hell, Chris, I’m not pumping you for the latest gossip,’ McCoy said in exasperation. ‘Now, just tell me – have you slept with him?’
She nodded silently, her lips pressed together.
‘More than once?’
She nodded again. ‘Why?’ she asked. ‘What relevance does this have?’
‘I know very little about Vulcan relationships, Christine, but I know that if he slept with you he’s likely to have melded with you during – the act,’ he said uncomfortably.
‘Well,’ she began hesitantly. It simply felt wrong to be revealing what had happened between her and Spock in such private moments, even to a friend as close as Dr McCoy. ‘Yes,’ she admitted. ‘Yes, he did meld – just a very light touch.’
‘Well, it may be enough to help. They may be able to throw up screens to stop our machines picking up their life signs – but there’s no better machine than the human mind. Come on,’ he said, grasping her arm above the elbow. ‘We need to get down there and start helping.’
Spock sat on a chair in the lab they were being held in, his fingers lightly touching a jumbled spread of wires in front of him, trying to visualise the internal schematics of a standard replicator and reconcile his memory with the chaos he could feel in brief snatches under his fingertips. The task seemed almost impossible, but at least it had distracted their captors from locking them back in the small storeroom, or from threatening them – and at least it went some way towards distracting him from the overwhelming vulnerability he felt in this situation.
‘This should be the link 17A to the primary molecule resequencer,’ he said, running a wire between his fingertips.
‘Er,’ Kirk began. Spock could feel the bulk of him leaning in close to him, his breath warm on his shoulder.
‘It should say 17A both on the cable and on the connection on the board,’ Spock said patiently. ‘The cable should be light blue.’
‘It is light blue,’ Kirk said. He hesitated, then said, ‘Yes, it says 17A on the cable and the board – but it’s been pulled out at the other end.’
‘Yes, I know,’ Spock nodded, rolling the raw end of the wire between his fingertips. ‘You need to locate connection 17B and link the cable to it, being sure to pass it through the resonance coil just above 34E.’
There was hesitation again, and Spock sighed.
‘Jim, I cannot find the resonance coil myself. It is too small, and feels too similar to other components. You must identify it.’
‘What does it look like?’
Spock pressed his lips together in frustration, resisting the urge to say, it looks like a resonance coil. ‘It – is likely to be grey, about one inch in length, and – ’
‘It’s that, there,’ a voice said from behind him. He had been conscious of someone else behind him, but he hadn’t realised it was not one of their three captors until he heard him speak. This sounded like a teenaged boy – presumably the one who had set up the sensor shield. ‘There,’ he said, taking hold of Spock’s finger and touching it to something. Spock ignored the discomfort he felt at the sudden, uninvited touch and let his fingertip move over the object, feeling the smoothness of the material and the ribbing down its length.
‘I believe the boy is right,’ he nodded. He turned his head towards him. ‘If you could pass the wire through it for me – ? My hand is injured.’
‘Yeah… I’ll need an impulse solderer for the connection at the other end.’
‘There is one on the desk,’ Spock said.
The boy picked up the tool and moved in close to Spock.
‘Does the molecule resequencer look intact?’ Spock asked as the boy worked. ‘If it is too damaged I am not sure I can fix it.’
‘No, I think it’s fine,’ he said, sounding as if he was concentrating. ‘There. That’s that connection. I guess you’ll want to do the heating circuits now?’
‘Yes,’ Spock said, tracing his fingertips over the wires again. ‘Something is missing… The connection wire between the second resequencing module and its power supply.’
‘There’s a good supply in the cupboard over there,’ the boy said, presumably indicating a direction with his body language.
‘We will need at least twenty centimetres of Grade C insulated copper,’ Spock said. ‘It must be Grade C. If it is too fine it will burn out.’
‘I’ll go see what we’ve got,’ the boy nodded, scraping his chair across the floor as he stood.
‘The boy’s good,’ Kirk murmured to Spock as he walked away.
‘His skill is extremely useful in this situation,’ Spock nodded, feeling with great care along the maze of wires surrounding the heating circuits. Whatever Kirk’s motives had been in suggesting he try to repair the replicator, he had certainly succeeding in dialling down the tension for everyone in the room, and passing the time with less tedium. ‘I do not believe I could have managed this without help.’
‘You think the shield generator he built is as skilfully done?’ Kirk asked in a still lower voice.
Spock tilted his head a little. ‘Before I had met the boy, I would have doubted it. Now, however, I am not so sure.’
Everything is based on assumptions, McCoy thought helplessly as he looked about himself on beaming down. They had to assume that Jim and Spock were still on the same continent, they had to assume that they were in the same city, they had to assume that their captors were weak enough in their defences that a rescue could be carried out.
Deneva did not look encouraging on this visit. Last time it had been like a film set waiting for the props people to do their jobs before the actors could come in. This time the streets were strewn with looted debris, windows were broken, doors kicked in. Redshirts from the Enterprise seemed to be swarming about the place, peering in through doorways and down alleys, swinging tricorders in wide circles, searching for any reading that might suggest a Vulcan and a human in confinement. He wondered bleakly whether this situation would have ever arisen if the ship’s security forces had been deployed with such enthusiasm to help the survivors of the parasite infection.
He looked sideways at Christine. As she had dozens of times before where Spock was concerned, she looked composed and calm, containing her worry in a sheath of professionalism. But he had seen that professionalism crack. Hell, he had seen it crack just a scant week ago when they had operated on Spock to try to remove the parasite. Now, her emotions were closer to the surface than ever. But still, her face was composed and her bearing was steady as she took in the scene around her.
‘You’d make a Vulcan proud,’ McCoy muttered, not unkindly.
She looked at him, and said questioningly, ‘Doctor?’
‘That poker face,’ he smiled, nodding his head towards her.
‘I have a lot of practice,’ she said dryly. There was a grim tone to her voice, but no trace of her earlier shaky anxiety.
McCoy nodded again, the startling realisation coming over him of how similar she was to Spock in many ways. He had seen her bury her emotions, again and again. He had seen her push aside personal feeling to perform her duty, tending to the injuries of her friends and comrades, even pulling up the sheets over their faces and manoeuvring the dead weights onto trolleys for the morgue, without her emotions interfering once with her ability to do as she needed to do. Inevitably he saw those bursts of joy or tenderness or sadness at times – but never to the detriment of her abilities as a nurse.
He smiled at her again, touching her arm briefly in reassurance, then looked about until his eyes fixed on Security Chief Giotto, who stood some way away staring at a datapadd.
‘Commander!’ he called in a ringing tone, raising a hand.
The chief looked up, then jogged over to him.
‘Doctor, it’s not advisable for you two to be here,’ he said without preamble. ‘We’ve already got one hostage situation.’
‘Well, we are here,’ McCoy said gruffly. Giotto always managed to rile him somehow – perhaps it was that stalwart adherence to the law of the phaser that irked him, or that he always looked straight to the captain without considering any other advice, no matter how expert. ‘With full clearance from Commander Scott as acting captain. We might have another way to find Mr Spock.’
‘All right, Doctor,’ Giotto conceded in an unconvinced tone, looking over towards a small group of his men. ‘You use your medical scanners, we’ll use our security ones. We’ll see who finds them first.’
‘Fine,’ McCoy nodded. He wasn’t about to correct the security man, and tell him that in fact they would be using the Vulcan ability to form strong mental links during sexual contact to aid in the search.
‘You’re armed with a phaser?’ the chief asked.
‘Of course,’ McCoy nodded, touching his hip to be sure, then glancing sideways at Chapel. She was wearing a wide black weapons belt about her usual nurse’s uniform, and although her medical kit was fixed to one side, on the other side her hand was resting on the butt of her phaser with a determination that chilled him a little.
‘Fine. Report in every half hour.’
‘Mr Scott has already requested that,’ McCoy said, a little stiffly.
Giotto nodded again, then turned back to his men and jogged back over to them. Chapel caught McCoy’s eyes, and the brightness that he was used to lit her face for a moment as she smiled and said, ‘Subtle, isn’t he?’
‘As a Klingon battle cruiser,’ McCoy grinned back.
He had spent many hours in the last few days wondering what it was in Christine that had attracted Spock to her. He had settled for her intellect, her dedication to duty, her ability to control herself when needed – all things that Spock would admire. But perhaps it was also that same trait that seemed to attract Spock to Jim – the ability to smile and light everything up around her as long as the smile lasted. Perhaps, without the ability to make such gestures himself, Spock simply liked to be around someone else who could.
‘Come on,’ he said, touching her arm warmly. ‘Let’s find somewhere quiet and calm, and you can see if you can hear him.’
‘How about over there?’ she said, nodding her head towards a bench a hundred yards away that was both struck by the sun, and shaded from the eyes of most of the security personnel by a high concrete planter behind it.
‘Looks perfect,’ McCoy nodded, wondering just what was perfect for what they were about to attempt.
‘Do you have any ideas on what to do?’ Chapel asked as she sat on the sun-warmed bench. ‘I’ve looked at lots of texts on the Vulcan mind techniques, but you’ve spent more time with Mr Spock than I have.’
‘He doesn’t exactly go around melding with everyone he sees,’ McCoy said dubiously. ‘It’s a private business. It usually involves a desperate situation or a very close relationship.’
A slight smile quirked at the corners of Chapel’s mouth as he said that, as if he had just given her a compliment.
‘Just – try and find out where they are,’ McCoy said. He didn’t want to think too hard about the physicalities of the relationship that was obviously going on between two of his close friends.
She closed her eyes, her forehead creasing with the depth of her concentration. Eventually she shook her head in frustration. ‘I don’t know how to do this,’ she said wretchedly. ‘I don’t know how to make the connection.’
‘Well, it looks like you’re trying to contact him with your facial muscles,’ McCoy pointed out. ‘Now, Spock never looks like he’s making a physical effort. If anything he looks more relaxed – glazed, even.’
‘It’s – a little like trying to wiggle your ears,’ she explained. ‘You try, but every muscle but those ones start working.’
‘Then maybe you shouldn’t try so hard, Christine,’ McCoy said softly. ‘Just open your mind and let him come in. If I know Spock you’re probably somewhere in his thoughts right now. He’s capable of holding so many things in his head at once. Just try to find that part of him that’s thinking of you.’
‘All right, Leonard,’ she said with a smile. She closed her eyes again, and let her mind relax…
In the lab, Spock straightened up suddenly, his eyes widening instinctively as a certain knowledge entered his mind. Nothing as crude as words, it was an intense perception of Christine Chapel’s mental being, running into every thought in his head and replacing it with the essence of what she was. Then, just as quickly, it was gone, leaving him with a buzzing nothingness something like white noise.
Kirk’s voice cut through the haze, asking anxiously, ‘Spock? Did you touch something? Did you get a shock?’
Spock blinked, forcing himself back into this reality, saying, ‘Oh – er – it was a wire, Captain. I pricked my finger.’ He could not tell Kirk what had really startled him – not under the watchful eyes of their captors.
‘Let me see,’ Kirk said quickly, touching his hand. Spock let him lift it and examine his fingers carefully. ‘No blood.’
‘No,’ Spock said distractedly. ‘No, it startled me – nothing more. Francis,’ he called to the boy beside him. ‘Would you put my hand back to the pattern buffers? Circuit 7C.’
‘Sure – it’s just here,’ the boy said, touching Spock’s finger to the correct circuit.
Spock was still feeling wire by wire through the internal electronics of the replicator, determining what was and was not damaged, and how to fix it. The boy Francis was invaluable. He freely admitted he would not have been able to fix it himself, but he understood just enough about the workings to help Spock and to fix what the Vulcan could not manage without sight.
Spock slid his fingers along another wire in the sequence. They were close to finishing their task. This area of the replicator was relatively undamaged, and he was performing little more than a fingertip check, automatically comparing what should be there with what was there.
He set a part of his mind to continuing his task, and simultaneously relaxed his mental barriers, reaching out for that mind that had so obviously been reaching out to him. He caught the tendrils of her thoughts, slipping past him like mist. He latched onto them, focussing his mind, trying to grasp the thoughts as he would grasp the hand of someone falling from a cliff. Carefully he eased his mind closer, and closer, until suddenly….
He was overwhelmed with a relief that was not his own, and a happiness that felt like bright sunshine, and an abrupt unbounded urge to laugh out loud with the release of tension.
Christine, he thought steadyingly, impressing upon her the need to focus and control her thoughts. Gradually he began to pick up an idea of what was in her mind as the swell of emotions settled. The fear and joy and anxiety slipped away from the solid substance of what she was trying to communicate to him. She was sitting in a warm breeze and warm sunshine. She was with McCoy. She was searching for him. She needed to know where he was.
A feeling of helplessness washed through his mind at that, although his hands kept moving over the replicator wires without pause. He was sitting in semi-darkness, in the place where he had woken up from unconsciousness. He was not the one to ask.
Her reassurance came like a warmth spreading through his thoughts. He saw what he had already told her – the replicator he was working on, the lab equipment, the hollow sound that footsteps made on the floor in the large room. The scents of cleaning fluid and solder and wooden furniture.
‘Hey!’ Francis said suddenly, gripping his wrist and wrenching it away from the wires. ‘You almost touched a capacitor.’
Spock blinked, then realised that in his preoccupation he had begun to rewire a damaged part as if he could see what was in front of him. Perhaps he would have been able to safely reattach the capacitor, but he could only be grateful to the boy for his observance.
‘Thank you, Francis,’ he nodded, removing his wrist from the boy’s grip. ‘Perhaps you could attempt that part for me?’
‘Spock, what were you thinking?’ Kirk asked as Spock moved sideways to let the boy in. ‘You could’ve killed yourself!’
‘I – confess I was not concentrating on the task at hand,’ Spock said sombrely. He could still think of no way to communicate what he had sensed to his captain. He sat in silence for a moment, then said casually, ‘The sun is bright, is it not? It must be a cloudless day?’
‘Yeah, pretty much so,’ Kirk said. Spock could tell from his voice that he had turned his head towards where he suspected the windows to be. So that much was settled. They were in a room with windows.
‘But windy. I think I can hear wind in the trees.’
‘Maybe,’ Kirk nodded. ‘We’re just above the tree-tops, and I don’t think they’ll be very happy if I start standing at the window. I can see a wind-turbine going at a fair lick on the building opposite though.’
Spock raised his eyebrow at the amount of information he had garnered from that one statement. They were above the first floor level, they were reasonably close to another building, and there was a wind-turbine on top of it. Perhaps there were wind-turbines on every building, but if not the information could be vital. He considered asking the boy what the name of the school was, but he could already sense the suspicion from their captors. Asking innocent seeming questions about the view was one thing, but asking for concrete names and places was quite another.
‘This is a physics lab, is it not?’ he asked. The fact he could not smell chemicals and that there were the correct tools to fix the replicator pointed toward that fact.
‘Hey!’ Brown said suddenly. ‘You’re asking too many questions. What does it matter what kind of lab it is?’
Spock raised an eyebrow. He didn’t want to give an emotional excuse, but it was one this man might understand. ‘I am almost totally blind, sir,’ he said coolly. ‘Is it beyond you to imagine that I might wish for some description of totally unfamiliar surroundings?’
‘Maybe so – but you’re too sharp,’ he said, moving closer. ‘I’d rather you were kept in the dark. You’re fixing that replicator. If you want to ask questions, ask about that.’
Spock pressed his lips together, then turned back to the replicator. ‘Francis, what progress have you made?’ he asked quietly.
‘Capacitor’s back in,’ he muttered, sounding as if there was something held between his lips. ‘Just – ’ His voice suddenly became clearer. ‘Just fixing the connection to the primary power switch. We – are in a physics lab,’ he added in an undertone. ‘It’s the Advanced Study lab. I take classes here three times a week. And – I’m sorry you can’t see.’
‘It cannot be helped,’ Spock said truthfully. ‘If you have reattached the primary power switch, we should be finished,’ he said. ‘Unless I have overlooked something?’
There was a long pause, and Spock could feel the boy’s focus and concentration increasing. Then he said, ‘Nope, I think that’s all fixed.’
Spock nodded, standing so he could run his hands over the front of the unit, reassuring himself that the control mechanisms were not damaged as well.
‘Then perhaps you could attach it to the power supply and attempt a replication?’
‘Yep, hang on,’ he muttered, manoeuvring the unit across the desk. ‘Better stand back – it might spark…’
‘Perhaps the captain should – ’ Spock began, moving cautiously backwards until his hands touched the next bench behind him.
‘No, it’s fine,’ the boy said. A low electrical hum began simultaneously with the sound of a plug clicking into its socket. ‘We should try some replications.’
Spock nodded, then turned to Jim. ‘Captain, perhaps you and Francis could attend to that? I have found this process – quite tiring.’
‘Of course,’ Kirk said understandingly. ‘You sit there for a bit, Mr Spock. Rest.’
Spock nodded, grateful that his excuse was accepted without question. He leaned back in his chair, closed his eyes, and focussed his thoughts again on that mind that sought his own mind out.
On the bench in the warm sunshine McCoy watched his head nurse intently, trying to work out what might be going on in her mind. Vulcan melding techniques had always made him uncomfortable, and the vacant look on Christine’s face did nothing to dispel that feeling. He held out a scanner towards her, watching the readings as they came up. Pulse – slow. Breathing – slow. Brain activity – feverishly fast… No wonder Spock went on so often about the dangers of the meld with minds that were not Vulcan.
‘Christine,’ he said finally, in a low voice. She seemed not to hear him, and he put a hand on her arm, shaking her lightly, and saying forcefully, ‘Nurse Chapel, report.’
She uttered a startled, ‘Oh,’ blinking slowly, before her eyes drifted closed again.
‘Christine, have you got him?’ McCoy insisted.
‘He’s – not alone,’ she began slowly, as if she was talking in a dream. ‘Three men – angry men – and the captain, and a teenaged boy. The boy’s not a threat. The men have - phasers, and – some more physical weapons – perhaps a makeshift club or something. Brown, Artois, Shelley.’ She was silent, then continued, ‘He thinks they’re in a school building. He’s pretty certain of that. He’s in a physics lab with wooden desks and chairs. There’s sunlight coming in from his left – it’s warm as well as lighter. The captain says it’s almost cloudless. They’re on the second or third floor – just above the tree-tops, the captain says.’
‘Are they even in this city?’ McCoy asked, suddenly realising how big their task could be if the hostage-takers had access to transport.
Her forehead furrowed for a moment, then she said, ‘He – thinks it’s most likely, but they were both unconscious when they were brought there. It’s – it seems to be the same time of day. He thinks the brightness of the sun there would correspond to what we can see. The captain says there’s a building opposite with a wind-turbine on top of it. Oh…’ She shook her head, uttering a noise of frustration.
‘What is it, Chris?’ McCoy asked.
‘I’m – no – he’s frustrated, because he can’t help but put an image to the things he’s describing, and he knows it can’t be the right image,’ she said. ‘He’s afraid it’s going to confuse matters. It’s – it’s odd. The classroom in his mind has Vulcan writing on the board…’ She turned her head slightly, looking as if she was trying to recall a stray memory. ‘He’s trying to shut down his visualisation, but – it’s part of how he’s communicating to me. He’s giving me images and feelings…’
McCoy put a hand on her arm reassuringly. ‘Just – tell him he’s doing well,’ he said, suddenly struck with a surge of affection for both the Vulcan and the woman beside him. ‘Tell him to keep trying. Let us know all he can.’
The trial of the replicator was met with startling success. Better even than scavenging around for suitable material to put into the matter converter, Francis had disappeared into the school’s kitchens for ten minutes and come back with a bag of replicator pellets – completely inedible in their raw state, but with all of the precise elements needed to produce human food by replication. He had filled up the hopper with pellets, shut the cover, and picked up the first of a stack of discs he had found.
‘Would you like to, sir?’ he asked Kirk a little diffidently, offering him a bright yellow disc. He had struck up a remarkably good working relationship with Spock, but he still seemed nervous of the good looking, charismatic starship captain. ‘It’s just something simple, for testing.’
‘Of course,’ Kirk said with a smile, touching the necessary buttons, and waiting as the hum built and faded away.
He opened the hatch and took out a plate containing nothing more than a crusty bread roll – but it was the most perfect bread roll Kirk had ever seen. He picked it up, and split it in his hands, forgetting for a moment that they had rebuilt the replicator at phaserpoint and only caring that they had done it. The roll was still a little warm from the processing, and smelt of fresh baked bread. He turned to Spock with a smile on his face.
‘Spock, you did it! It works perfectly!’
The Vulcan did not respond, and Kirk stared at him for a moment, then asked, ‘Spock, are you all right?’
Still there was no response. Spock simply sat on the chair, his face slack, eyes closed, his chest moving lightly up and down as he breathed. Kirk put the bread roll back down on the plate, and touched Spock’s shoulder. Still he didn’t respond.
Francis turned to look at him too now. ‘Is he – asleep?’ he asked curiously. ‘Is that how Vulcans sleep?’
Kirk looked at the boy, then looked quickly over towards their captors. Brown and Shelley were sitting together at a table, playing some kind of card game with cards they had made out of the paper from textbooks. Artois was looking their way, though, his eyes narrowing. He stood up as Kirk looked over, moving across the room with the look of a cat stalking its next meal.
‘What’s he doing?’ Artois asked, suspicion flooding his face. He stalked closer to the Vulcan, staring at him.
‘He’s resting,’ Kirk said tartly.
All the same, he glanced at Spock again in concern, aware that the look on his face indicated something far different to resting. The only times he had seen a look like that before was when he was engaged in the Vulcan mind meld. This time, however, Spock was touching no one, moving his long fingers on no one’s face. His hands were resting on his knees, almost totally relaxed, but for a slight tension about the knuckles. His face was blank, his eyelids unnaturally slack, but, like his hands, Kirk could see the hints of a tension in his lips, as if they were pressed together in concentration.
‘What’s he doing?’ Artois repeated, moving closer. He had left his phaser on the teacher’s desk at the front of the classroom, but his eyes lit upon a laser cutter on the workbench, and he picked it up, holding it tensely in his right hand. ‘Hey!’ he said sharply, shaking at Spock’s shoulder. ‘Snap out of it!’
Spock inhaled suddenly, his eyes snapping open, and he gasped as if he had just surfaced from the depths of the ocean.
‘What was that?’ Artois asked aggressively, turning the laser cutter towards Spock’s face, his thumb moving nervously on the control dial.
The Vulcan seemed dazed. He moved his lips, but he didn’t speak. Kirk realised he was barely aware of the seriousness of the situation. He didn’t seem to realise precisely where he was, and he certainly could not be aware of the laser cutter inches from his face.
‘Get away from him,’ Kirk said in a growl, barging Artois sideways with his shoulder. The thought flicked through his mind that this could be an opportunity to turn the tables – grab the cutter and hold Artois as Artois had been holding them, before Brown and Shelley realised what was happening. But abruptly pain seared through his body, and he only connected it with the cutter that Artois held as he collapsed to the floor, the pain causing everything else to blank out around him.
Spock leapt to his feet, coming out of the meld-induced haze as if he had been slapped, turning towards Kirk just as Brown and Shelley closed the gap across the room and grabbed him from behind. He was not entirely certain what had just happened – all he could be sure of was that Jim was gravely injured, and unresponsive, and that he needed help, urgently.
Chapel’s eyes opened wide, and she stared at McCoy in sudden bewilderment, her mouth working before she seemed able to speak. McCoy’s scanner was already warbling, taking stock of her readings, but it didn’t take the scanner to tell her that her heart was pounding abnormally hard against her ribs. The quiet, sun-drenched expanse around her didn’t seem real after the odd, half-blind sensations from Spock’s mind. The sudden emptiness in her mind had left her feeling almost bereaved.
‘He’s – he’s gone,’ she said in a dazed voice. ‘Something happened – to the captain, I think. They’re in trouble.’
‘What is it?’ McCoy asked urgently. ‘What happened?’
‘I don’t know,’ she said desperately. ‘Spock doesn’t know. But he just – broke off. He felt – extreme worry – for the captain, then he broke off.’
‘We need to get the information he gave you to Commander Giotto,’ McCoy said decisively, looking about himself briefly to see if any of the security men were in sight. The place was deserted, so he got to his feet, then looked back at Chapel, who was still sitting dazedly on the bench. ‘Christine,’ he said firmly. ‘We need to find Giotto.’
She looked up at him jerkily, then nodded, pressing her hands against the wooden slats of the bench as much to reconnect herself with reality as to push herself up. McCoy helped her to stand, watching her closely before letting go of her arm. She seemed shaky for a moment, but then she looked at him and gave him a small nod.
‘I’m over it,’ she said in a firm voice. ‘It was just a shock, it ending so quickly.’
‘Come on,’ he said, beginning to jog back towards the spot where they had last seen Giotto. He flipped his communicator open as he ran across the empty plaza, snapping, ‘McCoy to Giotto.’
‘Giotto,’ the man answered instantly. ‘Do you need help, Doctor?’
‘We might know where they are,’ McCoy said swiftly. ‘Can you meet us back at the beam down point?’
‘I’m no more than a minute away,’ the man said crisply. ‘Giotto out.’
McCoy snapped the communicator shut and slapped it back to his hip, meeting Chapel’s eyes. ‘Don’t worry,’ he said softly. ‘I may not always get on with Giotto, but he’s damn good at his job. He’ll find them.’
Not more than thirty seconds had passed before Giotto came pounding out of a building a hundred yards away, his phaser grasped firmly in one hand. He reached the two blue-clad medical officers and stopped, not even panting after his burst of exertion.
‘All right,’ he said swiftly. ‘What did you find out?’
‘A description of the place where they’re being held,’ McCoy replied. ‘We don’t know exactly where it is, but we might be able to pin it down. But the captain’s in trouble – we need to get to them fast.’
‘Sir, may I ask how you know this?’ Giotto asked dubiously.
McCoy hesitated awkwardly for a moment, but he would have to give an explanation in order to make Giotto take him seriously. He glanced at Chapel, an unspoken promise passing between them that he would try to avoid mentioning her relationship with Spock.
‘Spock,’ he said, and Giotto stared at him, puzzled. ‘You know that Vulcans are telepathic,’ he began, and Giotto nodded. ‘Well, it is possible for – close friends, and people he’s melded with in the past – to gain an awareness of his mind if he allows it.’
‘And – he’s given you an awareness of where he is?’ Giotto asked sceptically. ‘Sir, I don’t need to remind you that Mr Spock can’t see at the moment.’
‘No, but he has other senses, and the captain is there to relay things to him,’ McCoy replied, glossing over the fact that Giotto believed it was him who was sensing Spock’s mind.
‘I’m not sure I believe in all this mumbo-jumbo,’ Giotto said honestly. ‘Can we rely on it, Doctor?’
McCoy arched an eyebrow at him. ‘You may not believe in it, Commander – but it’s a scientific fact. Now, every second we argue about this the captain’s life may be in danger.’
Giotto stared at him for a long moment, then nodded, and said, ‘And the description of where he is?’
‘A school building,’ McCoy said confidently. ‘Probably in this area. They’re on the second or third floor, in a physics lab. There’s a building opposite with a wind turbine on the roof, and – ’
He broke off, realising that Giotto was no longer looking at him, but staring over his shoulder.
‘You mean, a school building like that,’ he said, pointing.
McCoy spun. Just a hundred yards away, across the end of a wide street, he could see a huge, triangular, revolving sign bearing the words, ‘New Anglia High School.’ His view of most of the building behind it was obscured by a long, low office block – and on top of that office block a wind turbine turned serenely in the breeze, sunshine glinting off its sleek metal blades.
Jim was unconscious. That was about the only thing of which Spock could be certain. He could sense no conscious thoughts at all from his captain’s mind. He struggled again against the hands holding him, almost expecting them to relent and let go – but they did not. With a surge of unabashed fury Spock wrenched himself free, only just holding himself back from severely injuring his captors in the process. He knelt down, reaching out for Kirk’s chest and wrist simultaneously, feeling for a heartbeat or pulse.
‘He’s alive,’ he said in a falsely calm voice. ‘But he needs help. He is in shock.’
Spock’s sudden burst of action seemed to have snapped the others in the room out of their shocked paralysis.
‘What the hell did you do that for?’ Brown asked Artois in a panicked voice. ‘You could’ve killed him!’
‘Where is he bleeding?’ Spock asked from his place on the floor. He could smell the strong tang of iron-based blood in the air. Kirk began to stir under his hand, and he pressured firmly on the captain’s shoulder, trying to keep him still and quiet. For Kirk to have passed out from the pain or shock it had to have been a serious injury.
‘He tried to attack me – ’ Artois started, ignoring Spock.
‘Where is he bleeding?’ Spock asked again, in a voice that was not much louder, but had enough force in it to instantly cut through the argument going on about him.
‘From his leg – his thigh,’ Shelley said quickly. ‘It’s bright red, spurting. That means an artery, doesn’t it?’
Spock closed his eyes, a ripple of emotion passing through his face.
‘Help me remove his trousers – we can use the fabric.’ After a moment of silence, he said in that forceful voice again, ‘Help me, or he will bleed to death.’
The silence continued for another beat, then Brown snapped, ‘Jed, see if you can find that doctor.’
‘There is a doctor here?’ Spock asked, lifting his head, but he was ignored again.
The question was rhetorical anyway – presumably they did have a doctor here. He ripped the bandage from his broken finger, hoping to gain more manoeuvrability in that hand without it. He began to unfasten Kirk’s trousers, hurriedly stripping them off and tearing one of the legs from the rest of the fabric.
Kirk moaned softly, and Spock said firmly, ‘Jim, lie still. I am helping you.’
‘He’s looking after our people,’ Artois hissed over his head. ‘He’s looking after Leslie. I won’t have him – ’
‘If Kirk dies, there’ll be hell to pay,’ Brown snapped back. ‘What do you think you get for murdering a Starfleet Captain nowadays? Mental retuning? Life in a Fed prison, maybe?’
Spock ignored them, folding the torn fabric into a thick pad. ‘Francis, help me,’ he said in a low voice, sensing the boy very near to him. ‘Where is the wound?’
‘Here – right here,’ Francis said, guiding his hands to halfway up Kirk’s inner thigh and helping him to press the pad it firmly over what was obviously a severe wound.
Spock pressed his weight down on the pad. The men around him seemed to be holding their breaths, waiting to see what would happen. He had no doubt that the injury, however it had been caused, had at least in part been an accident.
‘What injured the captain?’ he asked, not turning his head away from Kirk.
‘A laser cutter,’ Francis murmured.
‘I didn’t try to – ’ Artois began defensively. ‘He grabbed my hand. My thumb was on the switch…’
‘That is irrelevant,’ Spock said flatly. ‘The wound will be clean, at least. Is the damage confined to his thigh?’
‘Yeah, I think so,’ Francis told him. ‘He’s lucky it didn’t go higher.’
‘Illogical as the concept may be, Captain Kirk does seem to be blessed with an inordinate amount of luck,’ Spock nodded. He frowned. The pad under his hands was soaked with blood, and still blood was seeping from between his fingers and dripping onto the floor. ‘This is not working,’ he said flatly. ‘He needs a tourniquet. Francis, put a firm pressure on this pad for me.’
‘Of course,’ the boy murmured, and he slipped his hands under Spock’s as Spock moved his away. ‘Do you think you can – ?’
‘I have had a certain amount of medical training,’ Spock nodded, although he imagined the boy’s question had more to do with his blindness than with his level of first aid experience. He felt for the rest of the ruined trousers, and tore a long strip from the remaining leg. ‘We need to bind this above the wound,’ he said. ‘Help me position it. Keep one hand on the pad.’
He began to ease the band of fabric under Kirk’s leg, conscious of the pain he was causing to his friend just by touching him. Francis’s hand touched his as he moved, ready to help him pull the band into position. He was concentrating intently on what he was doing, but he could feel Francis’s squeamish nervousness through the contact, and a part of his mind was also very alert to what the men above him were saying.
‘Go and get the doctor, Jed,’ Shelley was saying firmly to Artois. ‘He’s not tending to sick right at this moment. No one down there’s critical. There’s not so much he can do anyway – you know he said that. He’s not used to that kind of medicine…’
‘Frankie, you go,’ Artois said suddenly, turning to the frightened boy.
Francis didn’t respond, he was focussed so intently on helping the Vulcan. ‘That’s it, there,’ he muttered to Spock as they pulled the strip of fabric up to the junction of Kirk’s leg and hip. ‘Tie it there.’
Spock nodded briefly, winding the bandage around the leg two more times before he tied off the strip, and then tying another knot a little further along the loose ends.
‘Give me my cane,’ he said, and the boy did so without question. Spock pushed the folded cane between the two knots, and began to twist the tourniquet tighter and tighter. ‘Lift the pad,’ he said. ‘Is he still bleeding?’
There was a moment of silence, then the boy said, ‘It’s eased, I think’
‘I can take it now,’ Spock said, keeping one hand on the cane to keep the tension, and feeling for Francis’s hand on the pad.
‘Frankie,’ Artois repeated, and Francis stepped away from Spock as the Vulcan slipped his other hand over the pad.
‘I’m going,’ the boy said, leaving the room at a run.
‘And get that damn Starfleet top off him,’ Artois continued to the others as the boy left. ‘I won’t have that doctor talking… Get the Vulcan into that room.’
Spock suddenly felt the muzzle of a phaser touching his back, and he stiffened.
‘I cannot leave the captain,’ he said in a level voice.
‘You will leave the captain,’ Artois replied softly. ‘And you will stay absolutely silent, or someone will die. I don’t know whether it will be you, or him – but someone will die.’
Spock pressed his lips together. He had done all he could for Jim, but he was highly reluctant to leave him alone with these men.
‘Someone will have to hold this tight and keep pressure on the wound, until you have found the doctor,’ he said without moving.
‘I can do that,’ Shelley said, kneeling down beside him.
‘If you cannot find the doctor, you will let me tend to the captain again,’ Spock said, in a tone that made it a statement rather than a question.
‘We don’t want him to die any more than you do,’ Shelley said grimly.
Spock raised an eyebrow. He could not imagine that these men’s interest in Kirk’s continued life was stronger than his own. But he let Shelley’s hands slip into the place of his, and stood up slowly. If he was going to trust any of these men to take care of Jim, Shelley at least seemed the most stable of the three. A hand grasped his arm from behind, steering him forcefully around and forwards towards the storeroom that he and Kirk had woken up in hours earlier.
Kirk lay still on the floor, not conscious of much more than the searing waves of pain radiating from his thigh. His only other thought at that moment was an intense jealousy of Spock’s pain control techniques. But perhaps…
He focussed himself carefully, thinking to himself as he had heard Spock say, There is no pain. He tried to feel other things – like the odd creeping numbness and aching where Spock had tied the tourniquet, and the fact that the rest of his body felt relatively well.
Then, barely conscious that he was speaking aloud, he said forcefully, ‘Dammit, there is pain…’
‘You’d expect it to hurt,’ a calm male voice said near his face. ‘You’ve severed the femoral artery and two or three muscles in your thigh. Don’t ask me to name them – I don’t remember most of my anatomy as well as I should. But that pain’s telling you something.’
‘Is it?’ Kirk murmured, wondering briefly when the Enterprise had gained another doctor, and one who freely admitted remembering so little about human anatomy. He would have to talk to Bones about –
‘Yes,’ the man said in a firm, quiet tone. ‘It’s telling you it’s downright idiotic to get in a fight about replicator rations, especially with a man with a temper like Jed Artois. Now, if you’ll just lie still – ’
Kirk’s eyes snapped open abruptly as he remembered precisely where he was and what had happened. Francis was kneeling behind him, his face looming upsidedown over him, and the boy gave him a wan but encouraging smile. The doctor tending to him, a dark-haired, middle-aged man, had his gaze focussed entirely on the point in Kirk’s thigh that throbbed with pain. Kirk opened his mouth to speak, but then his eyes fell on Brown standing behind the kneeling doctor. Brown was holding a jumper in his hand, but the rounded end of a phaser just showed through a fold in the material. Brown flicked his eyes to the store room door, then back at Kirk, and Kirk pressed his lips closed again. Spock was nowhere to be seen, and neither was Artois. He had to assume that Artois was in the storeroom, threatening Spock in the same way that Brown was threatening him to keep him quiet.
‘I’d give you something for the pain,’ the doctor continued, ‘but – ’
‘There isn’t a painkiller left on this whole damn planet,’ Kirk finished for him with a faint smile.
‘Precisely. I’m going to take this tourniquet off now,’ the doctor told him clearly. ‘I’ve mended the artery, at least. I’ll leave the muscles until you can get some better treatment, otherwise you could have permanent trouble there. It might feel a bit strange as the blood comes back in, though.’
Kirk nodded mutely, thinking that it could not feel much stranger than it did now, with the mixture of sharp pain and odd numbness.
‘Where’d this come from?’ the doctor asked in a tone of light curiosity, as he extracted the cane from the tight twist of the tourniquet. ‘I haven’t seen anyone with visual impairments since I came to this place.’
Kirk parted his lips, but he didn’t know what to say. Brown was still pointing the phaser at him. He closed his mouth again, shaking his head wearily. Seeing the cane just redoubled his concern for Spock.
‘I’m sorry – I suppose you neither know nor care where it came from,’ the doctor said, pressing a hand to his shoulder reassuringly. ‘Listen, you’ll have to lie still for a few more minutes while I get a bandage on this wound, then we can try to get you more comfortable, somewhere else.’
‘Somewhere else?’ Kirk echoed, at the same moment that Brown’s expression became even more grim.
‘Oh, of course, the beds in the nurse’s room are being used,’ the doctor muttered, opening his bag and rummaging through the contents. He drew out a thick roll of bandage, and removed the transparent wrapping. ‘Well, I’m sure we can make you comfortable here.’
‘I’m sure,’ Kirk nodded, unable to keep sarcasm from his voice as he looked at the hard wooden benches and chairs around him.
‘You know, you look very familiar,’ the doctor said as he began to wrap clean white bandage about the wound. Kirk winced as the man lifted his leg a little, but he had resolved to suffer the inevitable pain in silence. It was getting harder as pins and needles merged into nerve-itching cramps as his leg revived. ‘Have we met before?’
‘I don’t think so,’ Kirk said, then suddenly thought, ‘Oh, but my brother works – worked – ’ He caught Brown’s eyes, and trailed off. ‘No, we haven’t met,’ he finished, his tone edging into sullen.
‘I’m sure – ’ the doctor began, then said suddenly, ‘You look just like George – ’
And the door burst open, admitting what seemed to be a horde of red-shirted Enterprise security men. Phasers fired almost instantly, and both Shelley and Brown crumpled to the floor as the bright bursts of energy swelled through their bodies.
‘No, don’t shoot,’ Kirk snapped quickly, holding up a hand as he saw the phasers turning towards the doctor and Francis, who still knelt beside him. Although the security men were obviously eager to continue their job, they were reluctant to fire on bodies so close to the captain. ‘They’re friends.’ He flicked his gaze quickly to Francis, and asked him, ‘I’m guessing you are a friend, Francis?’
‘Yeah, I guess,’ he smiled, looking nervous all the same. ‘I stuck with them cos there was nowhere else to go – but I didn’t expect them to start kidnapping people…’
‘Jim!’ a voice hissed, and McCoy pushed through the crowd of security men, Chapel just behind him. His face changed from concern to downright shock as he saw the amount of blood on the floor and spattered and smeared around where Kirk lay. ‘Are you all right? What happened?’
‘I’m fine – this gentleman’s a doctor,’ Kirk said quickly, indicating the man beside him. It was obvious that he was in pain, but a moment’s pass of the scanner told McCoy that Jim was not in any immediate danger.
McCoy looked around quickly, then back to the pool of blood, noting that at least there was no green mixed in with the red. ‘Where’s Spock?’
‘In there,’ Kirk said, nodding his head towards the storeroom door. Luckily the security team’s entry had been relatively swift and quiet, and the sounds seemed not to have penetrated into the storeroom. ‘But he’s not alone,’ he said, turning his attention to Giotto now, who stood above him with his phaser still held ready to use. ‘Man by the name of Artois. I’d say he’s pretty unstable.’
‘All right – every one try to stay quiet,’ Giotto said swiftly in a low tone. ‘I’ll open it. Jones, Matthews,’ he said, gesturing to two of his men. ‘Back me up.’
Without further hesitation he moved to the door at the other side of the room. McCoy took one more look at Kirk to be sure that he didn’t need urgent help, then followed the two red-shirted subordinates. Giotto scanned through the door with his tricorder, then stood for a moment with his ear against the panel. Then he straightened, touched the handle, and in one swift movement opened the door and fired. There was the thud of a body hitting the floor, and Giotto pushed the door open to its widest.
McCoy pushed past him, instantly taking in the sight of a thin, wiry man unconscious on the tiles, and Spock tied up on the floor at the edge of the room, looking more alert and on edge than he had ever seen him in his life. His blue shirt had been torn into strips, some of which bound his hands tightly to the metal shelves beside him. Another strip had been tied firmly about his head, holding in a ball of the torn fabric that had been stuffed deep into his mouth to prevent him from calling out.
‘It’s all right, Spock, it’s us,’ McCoy said swiftly.
Even as McCoy moved towards him, Chapel pushed past him with an determination that he dared not argue with, and knelt beside the Vulcan, her eyes seemingly taking in every inch of him with more intensity than a medical scanner.
‘Are you hurt?’ she asked instantly, her voice admirably steady, and Spock shook his head mutely. She was drawing scissors out of her medical kit even as she spoke, and began to cut at the fabric tied about his head.
McCoy bounced on his toes for a moment, torn between Spock, who seemed to be shaken but unhurt, and Jim, who was obviously more severely wounded.
‘Spock, Jim’s all right,’ he told him, ‘but I need to get back to him. I have to – ’
Chapel had just prised the fabric out of Spock’s mouth with her fingernails, and as Spock gained the ability to speak he said swiftly, ‘Go, Doctor. I will be fine.’
McCoy stared at him for one more long moment, then nodded, and said, ‘All right, Spock. Christine, do something about that finger on his right hand – it looks broken.’
He turned away from Spock before he could think twice, and went swiftly back to where Kirk was explaining what had just happened to the bemused doctor beside him.
‘Spock’s fine. What happened to you, Jim?’ he asked quickly, glancing at the other doctor, and then back at his captain.
‘A struggle with a laser cutter,’ Kirk said succinctly. ‘I managed to push his hand down, but it went off by accident – went straight through my leg. Severed the femoral artery, by all accounts. Spock managed to staunch it until the good doctor here arrived.’
‘And you’ve closed the wound?’ McCoy asked, looking at the other doctor. ‘I’m Dr McCoy, by the way – Chief Medical Officer on the Enterprise.’
‘Oh, I’d heard it was the Enterprise that came to our aid,’ the man nodded, looking as if light was suddenly dawning. He looked at Kirk. ‘Then you’re – You are related to George Kirk?’
‘Captain James Kirk,’ Kirk nodded, a half-smile touching his lips. He had almost forgotten that Sam was not his brother’s first name. In an odd way it gave him comfort to know that if his brother’s name was going to trip so lightly off people’s tongues, it would not be the name that belonged to his tongue. ‘George – was my brother.’
‘Was,’ the doctor echoed. That had become a common enough word on Deneva to not need to question the captain further. He shook his head, turning back to McCoy. ‘I’m sorry, you were asking me about the wound. I’ve healed the tear in the femoral artery. I haven’t attempted the muscle damage with the available equipment, in these non-sterile conditions.’
‘Good – we can deal with that on the Enterprise,’ McCoy nodded. ‘Would you like to finish off this dressing, Doctor – er – ’
As McCoy hesitated the man said, ‘Oh, of course – I’m sorry. Dr Helsand,’ extending his hand in greeting.
‘Well, Dr Helsand, if you want to finish,’ McCoy repeated. ‘Continuity of care, and all that, since you were – ’ He broke off abruptly, staring at the man. ‘Doctor – Helsand?’ he asked. ‘Dr Mark Helsand?’
‘Yes,’ the man said with a bewildered smile. ‘I didn’t expect my name to be known by people out of the field – ’
But McCoy had already turned away from him, looking toward the storeroom where Chapel was still attending to Spock, with a curiously eager expression on his face.
‘Spock,’ he called urgently, ‘Spock!’
Almost instantly Spock appeared at the door, Chapel gripping his forearm and holding a roll of white tape that seemed to be attached to his hand, obviously trying to stop him moving while she attended to his finger.
‘Just a few more seconds,’ she protested.
‘That is enough,’ Spock said firmly, moving her hand aside and tearing the tape off from the roll. ‘Doctor, what is the matter? Is the captain – ’
‘Jim’s fine, Spock,’ McCoy said, hurrying across the room to him. ‘Spock, I want you to meet someone.’
‘Doctor, this is hardly the time,’ Spock began in exasperation, turning his head as Nurse Chapel took hold of his hand again and started trying to bind his broken finger back to the sound one next to it. ‘Christine, I assure you – ’
‘Spock,’ McCoy said more firmly. ‘I’d like for you to come and meet Dr Mark Helsand.’
Chapel abruptly released Spock’s hand. Spock stepped forward slowly, reaching out wordlessly for McCoy’s arm.
‘Help me, Doctor,’ he said to McCoy, but Helsand was already coming across the room towards him.
‘You – have trouble with your eyes, sir,’ Helsand said in a curious tone. ‘And the cane that was used to tighten the tourniquet – ’
‘Was mine,’ Spock nodded. An odd, tight expression had come over his face at the mention of the doctor’s name. ‘You are Dr Helsand?’
‘Yes, I am,’ Helsand nodded, still with that curious tone. He was studying Spock’s face and bearing intently, as if he was trying to work out what degree of blindness he was suffering.
‘Spock has a half-human, half-Vulcan genetic make-up,’ McCoy said succinctly. ‘He was infected here on Deneva. We treated him with one million candlepower per square inch of white light to rid him of the parasite. His inner eyelids closed to try to protect him, but the light was so intense that it damaged them – it burnt them into his eyes. He was left with no more than a very little light perception.’
‘Doctor, I take it from your reaction that you know what I am?’ Dr Helsand asked him carefully.
‘You are an ophthalmologist, recently specialising in the study of the inner eyelid in Vulcanoids,’ Spock said before McCoy could speak. ‘We have been looking for you, Dr Helsand. Your wife told us – ’
‘My wife’s – alive?’ the doctor asked, almost in disbelief.
‘Your wife and your daughter,’ McCoy nodded with a smile. ‘They’re both just fine. They’re on the ship.’
‘On the Enterprise?’ the man asked, glancing up as if he would be able to see the great white ship above him. He abruptly looked back to where Kirk lay. The captain was listening to every word, but it was obvious from the pale, tight expression on his face that he was still suffering from pain and blood loss. ‘Dr McCoy, I think for all our sakes – not least your poor captain – we should beam up as soon as possible. We have a lot to discuss.’
‘I don’t know how you can stand waiting,’ Christine Chapel murmured as she plied a bone-knitter up and down Spock’s finger, glancing at the live scan at regular intervals to be sure that the bones stayed in alignment.
‘I am Vulcan,’ Spock said calmly, a muted look of amusement on his face at Christine’s inability to control her impatience. ‘I have practised mental discipline surpassing the restraint of minor emotions for over three decades. Dr Helsand, like you, is human. He believed his wife and child to be dead. I am content to wait to speak to him regarding my sight.’
Christine paused in her ministrations, and Spock could feel her gazing at him. He allowed himself a moment of sentimentality, seeing in his mind her blue eyes and the bronze-gold waves of her hair about her face. He did not admit to the spark of impatience deep within him to find out if he would be permitted to see that in more than imagination. It was something that he could control with much more ease than she was obviously experiencing.
‘I’d just want to – know,’ she said helplessly.
Spock raised an eyebrow. ‘It is highly unlikely that we will know anything for certain after one consultation, and even less likely that anything will result from that consultation for some time.’
‘No, I know,’ she said sadly. ‘I do know that. I’ve been a nurse for long enough…’
‘That is why it is best to put all thoughts of it aside, and concentrate only on our present duties,’ Spock reminded her. ‘Have you finished with my hand, Christine?’
She glanced up at the scan again, seeing that the lines of fracture were only evident as hair-like lines across the bone now.
‘Almost,’ she said, putting the bone-knitter down and tending to the external cuts and bruises that the rock had caused. ‘There,’ she said finally, sealing a white dressing over the finger. ‘Take care of it – it’ll be fragile and feel bruised for a few days. Since you can’t see, I want you to have the cuts checked every day. You can pick up odd bacteria from alien soil. And what about this on your forehead?’ she asked, carefully peeling back the dressing that Kirk had applied so many hours ago. ‘Let me guess – a sharp corner at head height – a wall cupboard?’
‘Very perceptive,’ Spock replied, raising an eyebrow. ‘I did not realise you were so proficient at forensics.’
‘It’s a classic, angular shape,’ she murmured, carefully lifting the dried blood away with a wet swab. ‘Not like a wound caused by violence. I saw plenty of them at Dekalan.’
‘Of course,’ Spock nodded. He felt a discomfort that he did not want to admit to every time his situation was placed alongside all those other cases of blindness in the galaxy. He heartily did not want to become just another part of that particular demographic. ‘It was an open cupboard door in the captain’s brother’s home.’
‘I see. And you didn’t lose consciousness at any time?’
‘I did not,’ Spock said.
‘Well, it doesn’t need stitching,’ she told him, touching the cut gently. ‘I’ll just put some cream on it to help with the bruising, and re-cover it for you.’
‘And then you will be done?’ Spock asked quickly.
‘And then I’ll be done,’ she nodded. She looked at him in amusement as he turned his ear toward the examination room, where Kirk was having his leg treated and his head wound seen to. ‘I – er – thought you could suppress minor emotions like impatience?’ she asked him softly.
Spock turned his head sharply back towards her, raising an eyebrow. ‘It is quite logical to be concerned about one’s commanding officer,’ he said.
‘It’s also quite human,’ she smiled. ‘There,’ she said, pressing a dressing over the cut and turning to wash her hands. ‘You can go check on the captain now. You’re all done.’
‘Thank you, Christine,’ Spock nodded, getting to his feet. He turned towards the door, then asked, ‘My cane – was it brought back to the ship?’ He felt so much more intensely disabled without it.
‘I’m not sure,’ she said honestly. ‘Here – take my arm, let me take you through to the captain, then I’ll go look for it.’
‘Thank you,’ Spock murmured, reaching out to her arm. It was so much easier to take guidance from her when the only emotions involved in the contact were a reciprocal sense of caring, instead of a medley of awkwardness and guilt.
Kirk had just been moved through to the ward as they entered, and Chapel took him over to the bed where the captain lay, before taking her leave of him with a soft touch on his arm, and returning to her duties about the ward.
‘Doctor?’ Spock asked curiously. It was frustrating not being able to take in Kirk’s condition merely by glancing at his colour, and the monitor above the bed. He knew that the captain was conscious, because he had heard him speaking to McCoy, but he could glean no specifics of how well he was recovering from his injury.
‘Minor concussion, with no serious repercussions,’ McCoy said, sounding satisfied with the job he had just completed. ‘The leg’s the more severe injury. I’ve tidied up what Helsand did, and sealed the laceration. He’s going to have to wear a support on it for a few weeks, and take it easy. But he’ll be fine, Spock. Just fine. Your tourniquet saved his life.’
Spock nodded. ‘I had presumed as much,’ he said succinctly.
There was a pause, which Spock knew McCoy would usually have filled with, Why, you pointed-eared, green-blooded – , or some other similar, unfinished phrase. He could almost feel the doctor working out what he could say without the guilt he felt at Spock’s blindness getting in the way.
‘Well, no matter what logical motivations were behind it, I’m very grateful, Mr Spock,’ Kirk said, breaking the silence in a voice that was only a little weaker than normal.
‘It is not always easy to separate logical motives from emotional ones, when the aim is saving a life of a friend,’ Spock said honestly, stepping a little closer to the bed where Jim lay. ‘When will the captain be permitted to leave sickbay?’ he asked McCoy, before the two men could give a reaction to his statement.
There was a pause, then McCoy said, ‘I’d rather he stayed confined to bed for twenty-four hours. So, knowing Jim… I guess he’ll be out by dinner tonight.’
‘Have you made any arrangements for consultation with Dr Helsand, Doctor?’ Spock asked, trying not to sound too anxious.
‘Tonight, twenty hundred, in my office,’ McCoy said succinctly. ‘I’d like for you to be there. I guess he’ll want to examine you as soon as possible.’
‘Of course,’ Spock nodded.
He moved back half a step as McCoy’s medical scanner began warbling.
‘Until then, Spock, I want to you to go to your quarters and rest,’ McCoy said firmly. ‘Both you and Jim are recovering from stun exhaustion. There’s no need for you to be in sickbay for that, but you do need to take it easy.’
‘Doctor, I assure you, I am quite recovered from the stun,’ Spock began to protest.
‘Shift’s about to change,’ McCoy continued innocently. ‘In about – er – three minutes, I’m going to sit down, off duty, and enjoy a Altairan whisky with Jim. Nurse Chapel’s going off duty too.’
Spock suppressed reaction. It was obvious that both Kirk and McCoy knew about his nascent relationship with Christine. There was very little logic in denying it, or hiding it behind closed doors. That did not make him any more comfortable in discussing it, however.
‘Go on, Spock,’ McCoy said kindly. ‘I can see her from here, hovering in the anteroom, and there’s only so long she can spend pretending to check the supplies in the cupboard there. Go let your hair down.’
Spock turned his head towards the doctor, beginning to ask quizzically, ‘Let my – ?’ before shaking his head, and turning back to the door.
Kirk watched him as he disappeared through the door, and smiled. ‘Bones, I didn’t know Cupid resided so firmly in your breast,’ he said in an undertone, conscious of the Vulcan’s excellent hearing.
‘Well, I can’t do anything but encourage it, Jim,’ McCoy said, sounding a little self-conscious. ‘It’s certainly gone too far now for them to turn back – and besides – you can’t really object to something that makes two separate crewmembers simultaneously happy.’
‘That’s true,’ Kirk nodded, raising his voice to normal as the door to the corridor closed behind his First Officer and the ship’s head nurse.
McCoy briefly checked the clock, then reached for a tray containing a bottle and two glasses from the shelf by the bed. He deftly uncorked the bottle and filled the glasses with the richly coloured whisky, then held one up to the light, briefly studying the distortions in the swirling amber liquid
‘Altair’s finest, Jim,’ he said, handing the glass over to Kirk. ‘I’ve had this at the back of the cupboard in my office for six months. It spent thirty years maturing in an Altairan wine-merchant’s cellar before that.’
‘What are we celebrating, Bones?’ Kirk asked, raising the glass to his lips and letting a tiny amount of the liquid settle through his mouth. The burning taste at least helped to distract his mind from the dull throbbing in his bandaged left thigh.
‘I don’t know that we’re celebrating anything yet, Jim,’ McCoy said honestly. ‘Apart from getting you two back safe from a hostage situation, of course. But I thought you could do with it. Call it – an unorthodox prescription.’
‘I heartily approve of that type of prescription,’ Kirk smiled. He took another sip, and then his face became serious. ‘What about this Dr Helsand?’ he asked curiously of McCoy. ‘Do you think he’ll be able to help Spock?’
McCoy sighed, shaking his head. ‘I hope so, Jim. I really do. I’ve looked him up in my medical computer. He’s renowned – at least in his circle. Prolific. Very well respected, very innovative. Of course, he’s primarily a researcher, not a practitioner, but he’s fully qualified…’
‘And he has been studying the inner eyelid,’ Kirk pointed out.
‘Two years ago, yes,’ McCoy nodded. ‘Most importantly, he’s actually had some surgical experience with it on Rigel. But Rigelians are not Vulcans – and Spock’s not all Vulcan either.’
Kirk turned his glass in his hands, watching the liquid as it washed about the clear bowl, leaving a transparent residue that crept back towards the body of whisky as if magnetised to it. So many tiny, insignificant details of the visual world were lost to Spock now. He doubted that Spock would attach great importance to the ability to see whisky moving in a clear glass – but he knew that the Vulcan wanted with every cell of his being to be able to see such things.
‘I hope to God he can help him,’ he said finally. ‘I hate it, Bones. I hate seeing Spock like that, knowing how much he hates it too. I would go to almost any lengths to get him his sight back.’
‘And what if it’s not possible, Jim?’ McCoy asked plainly, setting his glass down on the ledge by the bed. ‘If it turns out there’s nothing that can be done, and you have to keep seeing Spock like that?’
Kirk looked at him sharply. ‘Then I get used to it. We all get used to it. We find some way of rearranging his place on the ship around the disability, and we support him for as long as he needs us. But I’m not going to give up on him until we know there’s nothing that can be done.’
After a long moment, McCoy nodded. ‘No,’ he said. ‘I’m not giving up on him either, Jim. I have to be realistic about his chances, but I can’t accept that Spock’s never going to fix me with one of those x-ray looks again. We’ll just have to hear what Helsand says,’ he shrugged. ‘By ten tonight we should know a hell of a lot more than we do now.’
Spock stepped through the door of McCoy’s office just as the minute hand on the clock clicked decisively to the twelve at the top. McCoy smiled at the sight of him, as punctual as he had ever been despite his inability to easily check the time against external sources. His smile faded a little as he saw the Vulcan’s face, however. He had never, in all his time serving alongside Spock, seen him look so honestly nervous.
‘Spock, come sit down,’ he said quickly, getting to his feet and starting towards him.
Spock nodded stiffly, raising a hand to stop him from coming across the room.
‘Thank you, Doctor. Unless you have rearranged your office, I don’t need help.’
‘Fair enough,’ McCoy said amicably. ‘I’m still waiting for Helsand.’
‘Yes, I thought you were alone,’ Spock nodded.
The Vulcan unfolded his recovered and scrupulously cleaned cane to feel for the chair he was making for. McCoy guessed that meant someone had brought him to the door – presumably Nurse Chapel – but he had obviously chosen to meet the doctor alone. Perhaps he was afraid of exposing his anxiety to anyone but those necessary to the meeting.
‘Humans do not seem to value punctuality,’ Spock said as he found the chair and sat down. ‘Particularly doctors, I have observed.’
‘We don’t all carry clocks around in our heads,’ McCoy said, keeping his tone as friendly as possible. It was obvious that Spock’s worry was being transformed into ultra-Vulcanness, as it so often did, and he felt inclined, on this of all nights, to humour him. ‘And here he is,’ he said as the door hissed open. He stood up to greet the doctor who hurried through the door, smoothing his unruly hair with one hand as he entered.
‘I’m sorry for my tardiness,’ the man began. ‘I was putting my little girl to bed.’
‘Oh, that’s fine,’ McCoy said quickly, casting a glance at Spock, who had stood up as well. The Vulcan’s face was unreadable.
‘Dr Helsand,’ Spock nodded as Helsand came across the room.
‘Commander Spock,’ Helsand replied crisply, looking the Vulcan up and down as if briefly assessing him as a patient. His gaze lingered for longer on Spock’s eyes, and then broke away again. ‘I imagine you want to get round to business without all the social niceties?’ he asked with a smile.
‘I would prefer that,’ Spock said in a perfectly level voice.
‘Understandable,’ Helsand nodded, meeting McCoy’s eyes as he spoke, a silent understanding of the Vulcan patient passing between them.
Of course, McCoy realised, Helsand must have dealt with plenty of Vulcans during his research into the inner eyelid. He must be quite used to their ways. Presumably he had also dealt with many people, Vulcan or not, who were blind and impatient to see.
‘Then, if Dr McCoy doesn’t mind, we can go straight into the examination room and I’ll have a look at your eyes,’ Helsand continued. ‘The sooner I’ve seen the damage the sooner I can tell you if there’s a chance of my techniques helping you. I assume you’ve set up your ophthalmological equipment?’ he asked of McCoy.
‘It’s a permanent fixture at the moment,’ McCoy said grimly, coming around the desk and gesturing towards the door. ‘Shall we?’
It took only a few short minutes before Dr Helsand had adjusted the equipment to his preferences, and was looking closely through the scope in the darkened room. Spock was sitting unnaturally still on his chair, his face pressed against the scope, hands gripping uncharacteristically tightly on the sides of his seat. It was obvious he was listening intently to everything going on in the room, but he could not speak, for fear of moving against the eyepiece.
‘Classic inner eyelid malfunction,’ Helsand murmured as he switched from looking at the right eye to the left. ‘Equal on both sides, obscuring all useful vision, letting through a minimum of light. You see here,’ he said to McCoy, beckoning him to look through the scope himself. ‘There should be a slight pearlescence to the membrane – a reflective quality. In this patient there’s none of that. The membrane’s fused into the clear surface of the pupil, the pearlescent cells are damaged and blackened, no longer reflecting light.’
‘Yes, I see it,’ McCoy murmured, bending to see what Helsand had described. ‘It’s just what I’d noted in all my examinations. But I didn’t get the sense from the Vulcan healers that there was such a thing as classic inner eyelid malfunction,’ he said curiously.
‘There isn’t, on Vulcan,’ Helsand said, straightening up and swinging the scope away from Spock’s face. ‘You can relax now, Commander,’ he said to the Vulcan. ‘I’ve taken all the readings and images that I need for now. Can we have the lights up?’ he asked McCoy, and the doctor touched a switch on the wall. Both he and Dr Helsand blinked in the sudden bright light. Spock did not react.
‘As I was saying, you don’t see this often on Vulcan,’ Helsand continued. ‘I believe the intense brightness of the Vulcan sun provokes far more use of the inner eyelid on that planet, and so it has evolved to be more effective. Commander Spock’s inner eyelids don’t appear to be quite normal, probably due to the human influence in his genome. They are rather thicker, and of a rather more reactive tissue type, than the majority of Vulcans’.’
‘And you have seen similar problems in other species with the inner eyelid?’ Spock asked curiously.
‘Similar, yes,’ Helsand nodded, reseating himself opposite Spock. ‘Genetically, you are quite unique, Commander, but I have seen comparable symptoms in others. Of course, the majority of cases I’ve looked at have been congenital, but there have been a few cases of malfunction in later life.’
‘What were the parameters of your study, Dr Helsand?’ Spock asked curiously.
‘The inner eyelid as affected by genetics,’ Helsand said, a look of academic preoccupation coming over his face. ‘I’ve been studying the way the treatment of the blind in different cultures has affected the evolution of the inner eyelid. Fascinating - fascinating - the way cultural stigma or acceptance can cause the medical problems of similar species to diverge so wildly. Do you know that in the Salarsians the inner eyelid has completely atrophied due to their practise of instantly banishing the blind to the mountain regions to survive as they may?’
‘And on Vulcan,’ Spock prompted, trying to distract the man from such disturbing subjects and recall him back to the more pertinent area of his own inner eyelids.
‘Well, just as on Salar, the Vulcans didn’t stand for weaknesses such as blindness, and so a large amount of problems with the eyelid were simply – evolved away.’
‘Vulcans do not stigmatise the blind,’ Spock pointed out. ‘They have not done so for a number of centuries.’
‘No,’ Dr Helsand nodded. ‘But that means very little in evolutionary terms. Two thousand or more years ago it was a different story. Those suffering visual impairment were cast aside, neglected, even put to death. Then there were the early logic reforms, post Surak, and it was deemed best that the disabled did not breed. It’s only in the past five hundred years that your people have come to accept disability, Commander, and that, I’m afraid, is why your people are so hale and hearty.’
‘Yes, I am aware of my planet’s history,’ Spock said in a rather quiet voice. It had been hard enough, different as he was, growing up on Vulcan, without the added stigma of blindness. Although the people as a whole did not discriminate, as individuals their prejudices could be quite stifling.
‘Oh, believe me, Commander Spock, Vulcan is far from the worst,’ Helsand reassured him. ‘There are the Romulans, and the Helkarians – ’
‘I believe that the Romulans still have very little respect for those suffering disability,’ Spock said flatly.
‘And the Helkarians still tend to – cull – ’ Helsand trailed off awkwardly.
‘Kill would be the verb I’d use,’ McCoy said angrily. This entire discussion was leaving him with a bad taste in his mouth.
‘I – find it’s hard to study the genetics of a culture if you’re making moral judgements on them,’ Helsand shrugged.
‘Quite correct, Doctor,’ Spock nodded.
‘But anyway – that’s irrelevant, to a point,’ Helsand said. ‘The Rigelians, Mr Spock, have a long history of caring for and accepting the blind as a viable part of the population. They also have an inner eyelid They have a fair amount of trouble with it. There’s an inherited condition quite prevalent on Rigel – around one in every five hundred – where babies are born with the inner eyelid unfurled and fused inside the eye. Often it resolves naturally – but in a certain number of cases the child is left blind. But there are techniques – ’
‘Now, wait a minute,’ McCoy cut across. He was deeply wary of anything that might raise Spock’s hopes needlessly. ‘Dr Sirkan of Vulcan said that there was nothing that could be done to separate the tissue so long after fusion.’
‘Vulcan medical practitioners are well known for their adherence to doctrine,’ Spock said in a level tone, his fingers steepled before his face. A large part of him wanted to tell McCoy to cease his interruptions and let Helsand speak, but he reined in his impatience, letting none of it reach his face.
‘Yes, and they don’t easily acknowledge the similarities between Rigelian and Vulcan biology,’ Helsand added. ‘Commander Spock, I’m not saying that I can definitely help you,’ he said, turning very obviously to the Vulcan alone. ‘Your problem is due to an extreme exposure to highly unusual magnitude of light, and your genetics are – unique, to say the least. I have never examined a case quite like it. But there is a chance that Rigelian techniques will work on you. I would need to give you a fuller examination, and work out which treatment, if any, would be best suited to your problem. If we decided to operate, it would be best to get you to facilities on Rigel, where they have specific centres set up for this type of ophthalmic surgery.’
‘I see,’ Spock said, but McCoy could recognise the pensive look on his face as he said it.
‘I agree with Dr Helsand, Spock,’ he said quickly. ‘We just don’t have the facilities on the ship for specialised eye surgery, and I doubt they have them on Deneva, either. It would mean waiting a little longer, but we have to give you the best chance.’
‘Yes, I understand that, Doctor,’ Spock nodded. He paused for a long moment, rubbing his thumb over his fingers in what McCoy recognised as a classic sign of worried preoccupation.
‘What is it, Spock?’ he asked.
Spock raised his head, saying slowly, ‘My concern is that, once off the ship, Starfleet medical processes will not allow me back unless my sight is fully restored.’
‘That’s not going to happen, Spock,’ McCoy said firmly, looking at Helsand for support. He could understand Spock’s fear. The Enterprise was the only home he had known for over a quarter of his life. Everything he had was centred here.
Helsand looked at Spock, then back at McCoy, before saying carefully, ‘I think Commander Spock is right to be concerned. It is very easy for patients to lose control of their treatment when surrounded by doctors who know better – especially when the patient is blind.’
‘Then we’ll get cast iron guarantees from Starfleet first,’ McCoy said firmly. ‘If Dr Helsand can’t help you, Spock, then it’s pretty certain that you’ll have to leave the ship for a short time, for rehabilitation training. I’ve looked into it, and there are some excellent places. You’d be there for about a month, but you’d come out almost completely proficient in everyday life. But we’ll get all the guarantees we can that you’ll come back to this ship when you’ve done that. I know from experience that you’re perfectly good at holding your own against doctors, and as for regulations and Starfleet paper-pushing, you know they won’t win a fight against Jim.’
‘Your confidence in both me and the captain is admirable,’ Spock said darkly.
It was obvious to McCoy that Spock’s own confidence was deeply shaken by his blindness. The last thing he wanted to do was to leave the familiar haven of the ship, no matter what the gain of leaving.
Helsand looked briefly between Spock and the doctor. ‘I think we’ve done enough for tonight, gentlemen,’ he said, getting to his feet and gathering up the discs of data he had taken. ‘I need to study these scans, and there’s no need for either of you to give up any more of your evening. Mr Spock, I will speak to you again tomorrow, take some biopsies, perhaps do a more detailed exam under sedative. I’ll have a clearer idea then of how to proceed, and I can talk it through with you step by step.’
Spock nodded distractedly, barely acknowledging the man’s ‘Good night,’ as he walked through the door and left the Vulcan and McCoy alone again.
‘You go ahead, Doctor,’ Spock said after a moment’s silence, waving a hand towards the door. ‘I would like to sit for a while.’
‘You don’t want to talk through this with someone?’ McCoy asked amicably, resting his weight on the edge of his desk.
Spock raised his head. ‘My options seem very plain, Doctor,’ he said in a voice that was a little too loud and a little too steady. ‘If Dr Helsand can carry out the surgery, it will be carried out on Rigel, at such a time as is convenient to both of us. After that, I will either return to the ship, or I – will not.’
‘There are – emotional implications,’ the doctor said carefully.
‘They are irrelevant,’ Spock said shortly.
McCoy opened his mouth to argue, then closed it again. It was obvious that Spock was not in the mood to talk over the emotional implications of the possibility of his blindness being untreatable.
‘You will inform the captain of Dr Helsand’s opinion?’ Spock said, tilting his head upwards. ‘I’ve no doubt he will be interested.’
‘You’re not going to go see him now then?’ McCoy began, then cut off, as a very slight tint of green touched the tips of the Vulcan’s ears.
‘No,’ Spock said carefully. ‘I have made – other arrangements.’
McCoy let a smile spread over his face, in the full awareness that had Spock been able to see him, he would have kept his emotional reaction firmly to himself, considering Spock’s current sensitivity. Of course, if all were normal, and he wasn’t walking on eggshells, he would have, perhaps not tormented the Vulcan about his relationship with Christine Chapel, but at least left him with a few barbed comments every now and then.
They were naked again, tucked together again into the snug width of Spock’s bed in his quarters, he quietly comfortable in the warmth compared to the chill of the ship, she with the cosy sensation of lying very near to a blazing fire. The warmth was spreading not only from the temperature of the air in the room, but also from that unique warmth that radiated from every inch of the Vulcan’s skin.
‘So, Dr Helsand thought it was possible to help you,’ she said tentatively.
Spock was lying motionless on his back, giving the appearance of being utterly relaxed, sightless eyes seeming to gaze at the red-draped ceiling above. There was a slight spicy scent of incense in the air, drifting from his meditation statue. The heat, the barbaric weapons on his wall backed by yards of red fabric, the exotic ornaments and furniture, all gave an atmosphere of alien passion that seemed so divorced from the cool, sleek, logical face that Spock presented to the world outside his cabin.
Spock stirred slowly, turning his head towards Christine so that she could feel the hot moisture of his breath on her face.
‘It might be possible, yes,’ he said. He seemed curiously reluctant to speak about the consultation, beyond the few bare facts that he had given her on meeting her in his cabin.
‘Spock, you seem – ’ She hesitated, then decided just to share her opinions without worrying about how it might offend him. ‘You seem – frightened, or – ’
Spock moved suddenly, turning onto his side and propping himself up on an elbow. The blanket fell from his torso, revealing the dark curls of hair on his chest almost down to his navel. She closed her eyes briefly. It was still so hard, in these early stages of their relationship, to catch these glimpses of him without becoming impossibly aroused. There was something intoxicating about the very darkness of him – his ebony hair, the brown depths of his irises, long black eyelashes framing those eyes, the black down that sat like a haze over the muscles of his chest and arms and legs.
‘I am not frightened,’ he said eventually – but his tone sounded a little too certain.
‘Then – talk to me,’ she said, reaching out to stroke her fingers across the firmness of his chest. ‘You are – troubled. You can’t deny that.’
Spock closed his eyes briefly, letting himself feel the delicate spider trails of her fingertips through his chest hair. If only he were human, and could silence everything by resorting to impulsive, careless intercourse.
‘That’s not really how humans work,’ Christine said softly, and he realised with a slight jolt of shock that he must have projected that thought through the link they shared. ‘We don’t really drown all our sorrows in sex, you know.’
‘If you could sense that thought, then surely you can understand what troubles me, without resorting to discussion,’ Spock said rather blackly, in the full knowledge that that particular thought had passed to her because it so deeply involved her.
Christine raised an eyebrow, then took up the challenge that he had not really meant her to take seriously, touching her hand to his face, and opening her mind. She saw him, lying in an alien hospital, trapped in his white bed by his utter ignorance of his surroundings. She saw him being told by an anonymous voice that the operation had been unsuccessful, or that it was impossible even to try it. And then – finding himself elsewhere, in an unspecified, unfamiliar place, the hands of strangers touching him, patronising figures trying to teach him to cook, to clean, to walk through a city he had never seen with a cane that tap, tap, tapped at every step. People he didn’t know touching him, always touching him, because he was blind, and they didn’t realise how their touch bothered him, letting their emotions and pity seep into his mind. Arguing with a minor, faceless Starfleet official about his ability to return to his position on the Enterprise. The incapability to simply take a shuttle and return by himself. Sitting a room in a home of which he had no visual image, a stark place furnished around the needs of blindness, travelling out daily over the one route he was confident of, to his work teaching at the academy, or data sorting, or –
The images began to come so thick and fast that she lost the ability to process them, and she let her hand slip to the mattress, refocusing her eyes on his face. Spock’s own eyes were closed now, his face strained with the emotion that he was fighting to control.
‘That’s not the way it will happen,’ she promised him in a low voice. ‘Worst case scenario, and you don’t come back to the ship – you’ve forgotten to put me in that little house, and you’ve forgotten that you have skills and abilities far beyond teaching or data sorting. And you know that if you’re cleared to work on an active starship – and there are some blind people working on active starships – then there are plenty of positions you could take here. There’re always people wanting to be transferred, or waiting for promotion, and so few qualified people to take their spots. But you know that every important officer on this ship – the captain, Leonard, Mr Scott, just for starters – are behind you staying on in your current position. Leonard says the captain’s always being harried by the upper echelons to play it safer – to stop having the captain and the first officer of the ship going together on dangerous away missions. You’re a commander, a delegator – it’s not like you’re one of the security grunts who scout out situations and shoot at people.’
Spock opened his eyes, suddenly amused by her revelation of the opinion she held of the security officers on the ship.
‘Oh, come on,’ she said at the expression on his face. ‘I spend half my duty time patching up ensigns who’ve raised their phaser to a Klingon before discovering their intentions, or taken on a creature with three rows of serrated teeth in a fist fight.’
‘You become voluble when you have a point to make, don’t you, Christine?’ Spock asked, with a tone of subtle humour.
She took in a deep breath, almost ready to make a tart retort. Then she said pointedly, ‘Well, you seem a little less – preoccupied.’
Spock nodded, turning onto his back and then sitting up in the bed, running his hands over the tactile patterns of the blanket. ‘Perhaps what presents itself to me as logic at the moment, is too far influenced by pessimism. You have helped me to rationalise the probabilities I am facing. There is a degree of probability that my sight will be fully restored by Dr Helsand.’
Christine was silent, and Spock became aware that now his own disquiet had been alleviated, there was a heavy cloud of apprehension from the woman beside him. He relaxed his mental barriers again, but all he could sense was a vague but all consuming sense of dread that had come over her, mixed with a deep, terrible guilt.
‘Christine?’ he asked after a moment of waiting for her to speak. The guilt she felt was so deep that it blurred his sense of her thoughts, and he could not imagine what it was that had suddenly made her feel that way.
The silence stretched out again – but eventually she spoke.
‘Would you even be here now, with me, if you hadn’t been blinded?’ she asked uncertainly.
He was lightened by a sudden understanding. The very humanness of the humans around him sometimes took him by surprise. It was quite logical for her to be worried that him regaining his sight would alter a relationship that had begun during those first, helpless days of his blindness. There was no need for such guilt.
‘I feel just terrible, even thinking like that – ’ she began.
He reached out to stroke her cheek with a feather-light touch. Her face felt much longer – much more like the face of a Vulcan woman – than it had seemed by sight. Perhaps her hairstyle had altered his perception of her looks. It was yet another reminder of the vast difference between the world of sight and the world of touch.
‘No, I imagine I would not be here like this,’ he said honestly. ‘But that does not mean that I’m only here because the association is useful to me. If I had not been blinded we would not have shared those moments that enabled me to lower my barriers and accept and return your feelings.’
‘But what about when you get your sight back?’ she asked, the guilt making her voice small and hesitant.
Spock raised an eyebrow, a part of him buoyed by her automatic assumption that he would regain his sight.
‘Christine, I cannot make cast iron promises about the future,’ he said. ‘We live in an uncertain world – we both know that. Two weeks ago I did not dream that I would be living without sight. There was an even greater chance that I would not have survived the parasite’s infection. Death is a day by day risk of my job.’
‘Yes, I know,’ she said in a haunted tone, and Spock was reminded of all the times she had tended to him in sickbay, sometimes uncertain as to whether he was going to live or die. He had never quite appreciated how difficult that must be for her.
‘But if I regain my sight, I do not intend to simply forget that this ever happened,’ he continued. ‘My every intention would be to continue as we have been doing.’
She turned to him, laying a hand on his chest. ‘Really?’ she asked, in a voice now threaded with hope and happiness.
‘I would not lie to you. Is there logic in repeating a statement that you obviously heard perfectly?’ Spock asked, raising an eyebrow. ‘Christine, I would never intend to hurt you, in any way,’ he said firmly. ‘I am a Vulcan. I do not make fickle associations. I do not expose deep, private emotions to people whom I intend to discard at a moment’s notice. I do not share my mind and my body for a casual fling.’
She did not reply, but this time the only emotions suffusing her mind were happiness and contentment. She moved closer, wrapping her arm about his torso and resting her head on his chest, letting the warmth that pulsed there creep into her own skin.
‘Perhaps it is time now for impulsive, careless intercourse,’ he suggested, touching his lips to her hair. ‘Such spontaneous acts do help to cement relationships, do they not?’
Deneva revolved serenely on the viewscreen, an orb of blue and green against the black emptiness of space. The satellites were gone now, all hauled back into the cavernous shuttle bay by tractor beam, dismantled back to their composite pieces and awaiting recycling into the next necessary object. Stars pricked through that darkness about the planet, but against the brilliant light of the Denevan sun they seemed unreachable beacons, made insignificant by their very distance.
The serene planet held its own deceptions. There was no hint from this altitude that chaos and pain had ruled there for over eight months. There was no way of seeing the thousands of fresh grave cuts from space, or the broken windows and wrenched doors, or the piles on every corner where the remains of the creatures had been swept by those strong enough and motivated enough to hold a broom. The only sign from up here of the trouble was at night, when those familiar with the view of Deneva from space saw fewer lights twinkling in the cities and on the highways than they were used to. That was all.
The most pertinent of those small, invisible signs to Jim was the emptiness of the home of Sam and Aurelan Kirk, where every garment, every ornament and picture, even every piece of moveable furniture, had been carefully packed up by the most trusted of the ship’s security team, sealed into boxes and beamed directly into one of the cargo bays. They would travel with Peter Kirk to Earth, where he would stay at first with his grandmother, and then with one of his elder brothers, and everything in those boxes would be subjected to the weary, heart-aching process of being sifted for meaning and worth. Perhaps half of it would end up in the recycling vaults, but at least Pete and his brothers would have the chance to choose which tattered scrap of fabric or creased childhood book held meaning, and which was just, after all, garbage.
Kirk sat in the command chair, his mind revolving over the fate of the things in those boxes. If only he could take a month – a week even – away from the ship, he could kneel with Sam’s children, sifting through their contents. But there was really no need for him to be there at the sorting. Spock would tell him that it was illogical to place sentimental importance on inanimate objects. Spock, with his Vulcan weapons on his walls, and the Vulcan blanket from home folded over the end of his bed, and his red drapes to recreate the blazing warmth of the Vulcan sky. If Spock was allowed to crave these physical pieces of home, surely he was? Sam had always been the hoarder. Jim had spent a lifetime of moving about, leaving things behind, never accumulating too many possessions. Sam had moved to Deneva, and settled there. Did he still have those old toy cars they had played with as children, that Sam had always been jealously possessive of despite being old enough to know better? Did he have the birthday cards and little homemade presents that Jim had made for his worshipped elder brother? Did he –
Kirk realised that he was staring at the screen and not really seeing it. There were times and places for his grief to surface, and this was not one of them. He recalled himself to the bridge around him, and looked sideways, realising that Scotty was standing only a few feet away, watching him with an expression of mute understanding. As he saw Kirk looking at him, he moved a little closer, and Kirk stood up, sensing his desire to speak without being overheard.
‘What is it, Scotty?’ he asked, trying vainly to bluff his way through the fact he had been caught very close to breaking down on the bridge.
‘Just a word, sir,’ Scott said very quietly. ‘If young Peter needs any distraction on the journey back – if you need a wee minute to yourself – I’d be happy to take him and show him about the engine room, explain the warp nacelles – that kind of thing.’
Kirk smiled. It wasn’t quite in Scott to invite his captain back to his cabin for a drink and a chat. There was always an old-fashioned barrier of rank between them – perhaps a residue of his British heritage. But he was reaching out in the best way he could in offering to take the pressure for a few hours of caring for a bereaved and confused child who would never see his home again.
‘Thanks, Scotty,’ he said appreciatively. ‘That would be a help – a very great help.’
With little Pete on the one hand and Spock on the other, both so different, and yet both so desperately in need of company and reassurance, he was beginning to despair of how to split his time. Spock, at least, had Christine Chapel to turn to – but, dammit, he wanted to spend time with his friend. He wanted to be there for him. Pete, though, had no one. He had absolutely no one, and … much as he loved him and cared for him, Jim did not want to spend every off duty hour with a child, especially not one so inextricably connected to the one person he so regretted not spending enough time with before it was too late.
Just that morning Kirk had found himself captivated, staring at the boy, trying to see glimpses of Sam in him. He could see Aurelan there well enough, in the tint of the hair and the shape of his lips and his rounded cheeks. But Sam… Was it so much harder to see Sam in him because that was what he wanted so desperately to see? Was it fair to Pete to bewilder him by standing there transfixed, searching for traces of his brother in a child’s face? It was all just genetics anyway – just cells told to cluster in a certain way. Sam was gone, and no matter how many features or mannerisms Pete may have in common with him, that would not change the fact that he would never see his brother again.
‘He might want to go to the Academy later on, sir,’ Scott was saying. ‘Looks like a bright lad.’
Kirk took in a deep breath, digesting that idea.
‘I hope he decides not to,’ he said finally, staring down at the braid on his own sleeves. Three golden stripes, binding him to his duty. He looked up into Scott’s concerned face. ‘If there was no other choice, Scotty, I would have had to give the order to destroy this planet,’ he explained, nodding at that beautiful globe on the viewscreen. ‘I – don't want him to ever have to make that choice.’
Scott nodded his head, understanding deep in his brown eyes. ‘Yes, sir,’ he said simply, then returned to the upper floor of the bridge to continue the checks for leaving orbit.
Kirk straightened his top, recalling himself to duty. Yeoman Zahra was standing patiently near his chair, datapadd in hand, awaiting his dictation. He could get this over with, get the ship out of orbit and on course for Earth, and then excuse himself, and sit down for a few quiet moments in his cabin.
‘Yeoman, record this for Starfleet Command,’ he began briskly.
‘Ready, sir,’ she said, turning her eyes to the padd.
‘The alien creatures on Deneva have been destroyed,’ he began, but he was cut off as Zahra exclaimed;
‘Captain, look! Mr Spock!’
Kirk followed her outstretched finger, seeing Spock and McCoy coming through the doors of the turbolift. Spock had spent little time outside his cabin or sickbay in the last few weeks, and had not been seen on the bridge since the night that he had saved Elena Shumaker and her shipmates. He was standing a little apart from McCoy, cane in hand, very obviously managing without the doctor’s guidance.
‘Spock,’ Kirk said warmly, turning away from the yeoman. The recording could wait. ‘Come to say goodbye to Deneva?’
Spock raised an eyebrow. ‘I see little need to give parting salutations to a planet,’ he said. But all the same, he was there, offering no other excuse for his presence.
Kirk looked over his shoulder at the science station, where Chekov was sitting idly in his chair, gazing at the planet revolving on the viewscreen. There were no duties that needed performing there while leaving orbit. ‘Chekov, would you?’ he asked, nodding at the chair, then at Spock.
‘Oh, of course, sir,’ Chekov nodded, jumping up hastily and swinging the chair in Spock’s direction. ‘Would you like to sit, Mr Spock?’
Spock turned his head sharply towards the Russian, looking for a moment as if he was about to refuse. Then he nodded, and walked over to the chair, finding it with his cane and sitting down silently. The seat felt so familiar to him – but he was suddenly aware of the hopeless impossibility of using any of the equipment behind him without extensive adaptations.
‘I presume we are still in orbit?’ he asked very quietly of McCoy. The doctor had followed him across the bridge and was now standing by the science console. Spock could just visualise him, leaning casually against the console with no regard for the controls there, arms folded, watching the bridge proceedings with that vaguely suspicious expression he wore when confronted with any technology that was not connected with sickbay.
‘Yeah – De Salle’s just entering the course, I think,’ McCoy murmured. ‘Deneva’s still up there on the screen. Looks like a clear day for most of the planet.’
Spock nodded, silently grateful for the doctor’s attempt to fill in what he could not see. Clear day or not, he could not help but think that the inhabitants of Deneva would still have troubled minds, on their first day of managing without the assistance of the Enterprise. A dozen smaller ships were now in orbit, synchronised on the other side of the planet to stay clear of the great starship’s departure route. The Federation had shipped in food, medical supplies, and hundreds of people to help. The government was reforming itself, stability was returning. But still, there was a certain reassurance brought by the presence of a ship of the line, visible in the night sky as the brightest star, protecting the vulnerable planet from whatever threats might come from space.
At the centre of the bridge, Kirk raised his voice. ‘Ahead warp factor one, Mr Sulu.’
‘Warp factor one, sir,’ Sulu replied crisply, and simultaneously the ship gave a subtle shiver, and Spock felt that indefinable hum that meant that they had attained warp. The logical sequence of events was so familiar that it seemed to be burnt into his mind. Warp one to leave the solar system. Warp three for fifteen minutes to identify any problems that might cause danger at higher speeds. And then six, or perhaps even seven, in order to cover the distance between Deneva and Earth in the swiftest and safest way. In deference to Kirk’s loss, Peter’s need, and the Enterprise’s prolonged and harrowing stay at Deneva, they had been allowed to divert the ship there, and to stop there for three days, during which Sam and Aurelan Kirk’s bodies would be laid to rest in Iowa, where Sam and Jim’s mother still lived. And then… Officially the Enterprise’s schedule lay bare. All Jim was waiting for was the word from Dr McCoy, to say whether a trip to Rigel would be necessary or not. He and Spock had come to the bridge to tell him just that – but it could wait until the solar system was cleared, and the ship was established on its course.
‘Jim’s just finishing up the final report with Yeoman Zahra,’ McCoy murmured again at his side.
‘I’m sure he will let us know when he is free,’ Spock said in a level voice.
They fell silent again. After a few moments curiosity made Spock turn around in his chair and lay his hands on the familiar controls of his science console. His memory was such that he could lay an image of what had always been there over the invisible console that he could only access in snatches under his fingers. His memory did not, of course, tell him which lights were on or off, what each instrument flashed onto its screen, what hid in the blue glow of his viewer.
He felt an earpiece under his hand, presumably laid down on the console by Chekov, and he picked it up and slipped it into his ear, hearing the familiar voices of his science team at their various stations about the ship. It seemed so long since he had sat in this chair…
A hand fell on the back of his chair, and Kirk said, ‘Spock?’ then asked softly, ‘How does it feel? It’s been a while.’
Spock pursed his lips, removing the earpiece and placing it back on the console.
‘I am – uncertain,’ he said honestly. He turned back towards the bridge, and got to his feet. ‘Captain, Dr Helsand shared the results of his tests with the doctor and me this morning,’ he continued in a low voice. ‘He – believes that there is a chance of an operation being successful.’
Kirk’s joy burst like sunshine around him. He had felt a similar reaction from Christine when he had told her the news earlier. In human minds there seemed to be no distance at all between there is a chance and Spock waking fully and perfectly sighted from a flawlessly executed operation.
‘That’s wonderful, Spock!’ Jim said, patting a hand to his back. ‘Listen, why don’t you and Bones come down to the rec room, and we can make a proper celebration of it over lunch?’
Spock hesitated. After the prolonged series of tests Dr Helsand had needed him for, and preferring to spend his evenings in seclusion with Christine rather than out in public, he had stopped pushing himself to grow used to managing outside familiar areas. He had felt in limbo since Dr Helsand had held out the first spark of hope.
‘Of course,’ he said after a moment’s pause, turning towards the turbolift. ‘You’re finished here, sir?’
‘Nothing Scotty can’t handle,’ Kirk assured him, catching Scott’s eye across the bridge. ‘You have the chair, Mr Scott,’ he said as they reached the lift, standing aside for Spock and McCoy to pass in front of him. ‘Gentlemen?’
It wasn’t until Kirk was in the turbolift that he fully registered that Spock’s mood was far from joyous. He exchanged a glance with McCoy as they stood on either side of the Vulcan. Kirk had not expected smiles of happiness from his friend, but he had at least expected that sense of lightness that Spock always seemed to radiate when he was pleased. Instead, the Vulcan seemed unnaturally quiet and pensive as the lift descended through the levels of the ship, as if all of his concentration was turned in on one great problem that was churning in his mind. He had seemed that way ever since they had located Dr Helsand – but Kirk had expected the mood to lift once the ophthalmologist had pronounced the operation possible.
Spock slipped into the toilet on the way down to the rec room, and Kirk took the few minutes alone with McCoy in the corridor to question him about the Vulcan’s worrying quietness.
‘He just seems – withdrawn,’ Kirk shrugged, glancing at the door into the washroom. ‘More and more withdrawn every day. I don’t know. You’ve spent more time with him recently than I have. Am I imagining things?’
‘You’re not imagining anything,’ McCoy said seriously. ‘He’s scared to death, Jim. Spock’s been like a lab rat for the past three weeks. Helsand’s been running exhaustive tests on him because his tissue type is absolutely unique. The human factors bring in all sorts of variables that Helsand’s never worked with. He can’t be sure exactly how Spock will react to the drugs he’ll need to help peel the eyelid tissue away, or how the tissue will react to them. And of course, he can’t access the drugs until he gets to Rigel.’
‘But he thinks it’ll work?’ Kirk asked anxiously.
‘To a point,’ McCoy nodded. ‘Spock’s been pushing Helsand on the figures all week. He hadn’t even said whether he thinks it’s worth an operation until now. This morning he finally gave out. Twenty-seven percent, Jim,’ he said flatly. ‘That’s the best he could give him. And within that twenty-seven percent there’s the chance of cataracts, or scarring, or only a partial removal of the eyelids.’
‘He’s scared of the operation failing,’ Kirk murmured. ‘He’s scared of losing his last, best chance. I can’t blame him, Bones.’
‘No, neither can I,’ McCoy nodded. ‘I wish in some ways we could get it over with sooner rather than later. How long have we got to Earth, Jim?’ he asked curiously.
‘Eight days,’ Kirk told him, glancing up as the washroom door opened and Spock came out, his head cocked sideways to hear precisely where his friends stood. The change of subject had been well timed. ‘Deneva’s a long way out, Bones.’
‘Approximately seventeen hundred light years from Earth,’ Spock supplied as he fell in between Kirk and McCoy. ‘Shall we, gentlemen?’
He seemed to have shaken off some of his preoccupation while he was alone in the washroom. Perhaps he had brought some of those well-learnt disciplines to bear. Perhaps he even had used the toilet as an excuse to gain some time alone, to gather back control over his faltering emotions. Whatever it was, Kirk could only be glad of the change.
‘And how long are we at Earth for?’ McCoy asked, touching Spock’s arm lightly to orient him as they began to walk.
‘Three days,’ Kirk said quickly, hoping to gloss over the subject of why they would be at Earth. He had no desire to talk about the double funeral. ‘I was going to arrange shore leave for as many people as I can. They don’t get the opportunity to see home that often…’
‘And then – ’ McCoy glanced at Spock, then continued, ‘How long to Rigel?’
‘Four days,’ Kirk told him, noticing that Spock’s face had taken on a certain blankness again. ‘Maybe a little longer if Fleet require any stop-offs along the way.’
‘Of course,’ McCoy nodded, leaving the rest unspoken. Taking into account preparation time on Rigel, it would be perhaps three weeks before Spock’s operation could take place – and that was only if they were allowed to go directly to Rigel.
The first day docked at Earth had been a quiet one for Spock. Christine had been off ship visiting family, as had McCoy. Scott was taking the chance of having access to the space docks to attend to a myriad of tiny touch-ups and checks to the outside of the ship, so a large amount of the technicians and engineers who were not on shore leaving were crawling the hull like ants. Almost a third of the ship’s complement had beamed down to take advantage of the rare chance to visit their various familiar places on Earth, so the corridors stood silent and empty. And Jim…
Jim had been off the ship almost all day, organising events, and spending time with his mother and Peter and his two older nephews. He came back from that first day sombre and exhausted, and Spock found very little to say to him, but he had determined to sit with him through the evening to give him the company that he judged him to need. Jim had, at least, seemed to take some comfort from his presence, and Spock had spent most of the evening playing chess, sipping at Saurian brandy, and resolutely avoiding speaking of what was to happen tomorrow. It wasn’t until the following morning that Kirk finally brought the subject up. He came round to Spock’s quarters while the Vulcan was still eating his breakfast, apologising for the intrusion, and then standing near Spock’s desk seemingly unable to speak. There was something about the noise Kirk made when he moved that made Spock certain that he was not in uniform, which was unusual in itself.
‘Captain,’ Spock prompted him finally as he put his tray aside. ‘Did you wish to ask me something?’
‘Spock, I’d – ’ Kirk hesitated. There was an unusual aura of awkwardness hanging over him. ‘I wondered if you would – ’
‘I would be happy to stand with you at the funeral,’ Spock said softly, guessing that this was what Jim was attempting to ask him.
‘You’re sure, Spock?’ Jim asked him, surprise edging his voice. ‘You’ll be surrounded by emotional humans, and – ’
‘Jim, if you are content to bear with my current problems, I would be happy to stand with you at the funeral,’ Spock repeated. ‘It is this afternoon, is it not?’
‘Yes, but I need to beam down this morning. I said I’d be there in about half an hour. There’s a lot of organisation, and mom needs the support…’
‘I have no prior arrangements,’ Spock reassured him. ‘Are you intending to wear dress uniform?’
‘No, I think we’re all going for black,’ Kirk murmured. There was very little of the captain about him at this moment. He just seemed like an ordinary, tired, grieving human, and Spock reached out a hand to his arm in a brief touch of reassurance. The fabric of his sleeve was thick and less tightly woven than his uniform would be. Presumably Jim was already in his mourning clothes.
‘Black,’ he nodded. ‘I have a black suit that should be suitable. If you could find it for me – ? It should be in the bottom drawer.’
‘I’ll have a look,’ Kirk nodded, moving over to the chest of drawers.
‘Will Dr McCoy be accompanying us?’ Spock asked curiously.
‘No,’ Kirk said. Fabric rustled as he searched through the drawer, and then brought something out. ‘He’s got a full schedule, and he offered to – er – sort things out at this end. He’ll be – ’
‘Of course,’ Spock murmured, guessing that McCoy had volunteered to essentially perform the task of undertaker, preparing the bodies in the morgue for burial, arranging them in the coffins and having them beamed down at the correct time. He did not envy him his task. In that brief glimpse of Sam Kirk’s face down on Deneva the most distressing thing had been how very like Jim he had looked.
‘Here’s the suit,’ Kirk said quickly, patching over the awkward silence by pushing the clothes into Spock’s hands. ‘That’s the jacket. Is that the one you meant?’
Spock ran his hands over the jacket, feeling the details of the collar and front fastenings. He was starting to notice a difference between the feel of the same type of cloth dyed with different colour dyes, as well as a subtle change in smell. It did not tell him what colour the item was, but it did help to distinguish items that were the same. He could tell, at least, that the trousers that Kirk handed him were the correct ones to go with this jacket.
‘I believe so, thank you,’ he nodded. ‘Shall I meet you in the transporter room in half an hour?’
Kirk hesitated, then said, ‘If you don’t mind, Spock, just come round to my room when you’re ready. The sooner we get down there the better.’
Spock felt intensely useless as he sat on a chair in Jim’s childhood home, listening to the oddly muted bustle around him. There were not many people here as yet – just Jim’s mother, the boy Peter, and Peter’s two elder brothers, who seemed to be tall, deep voiced young men in their late teens. He had been briefly introduced, but the two older boys in particular seemed to not know what to say to their uncle’s Vulcan friend beyond effusions of gratitude for his part in Peter’s successful treatment. Spock had found himself very quickly shown to a seat by Jim’s mother, presumably in deference to his blindness, and he had stayed there while everyone else was assigned tasks about the house.
There was obviously a lot going on, but Spock heard very little speech from the people who kept coming in and out of the room. Jim and his nephews were helping Mrs Kirk prepare the house for the wake, clearing furniture away from the centre of the rooms, putting away vulnerable ornaments, and preparing food. Spock did not dare to move about in a place that he did not know, in which the layout was constantly changing, but finally, when he sensed Kirk re-entering the room, he got to his feet.
‘Captain, there must be some task that I can perform,’ he said in a low voice. ‘Let me help.’
Kirk hesitated, then said in a tired voice, ‘Come into the kitchen, Spock. Mom’s bought about a metric tonne of cookies that need putting out on plates.’
Spock nodded, reaching out to Kirk’s arm to take guidance through the unfamiliar house. Jim had told him that the place was around three and a half centuries old, built of wood board, a large amount of which was still original. He could smell the wood everywhere, and hear it in the hollow noise that people’s feet made on the floor. It was unusual to be in a place that did not have perfectly level floors and automatic sliding doors, with loose rugs and moveable furniture and ornaments, and he found navigating somewhat unnerving.
‘Mom,’ Jim said quietly as they entered a room that smelt of a medley of different foods. ‘Spock offered to help with putting out some of the food. I thought the cookies – ’
‘Yes, I guess having him put together ham sandwiches would be a faux-pas,’ the woman murmured from the other side of the kitchen.
Spock allowed a hint of a smile to touch the corners of his mouth. Jim’s mother was obviously tired, and distracted by grief – but she simultaneously reminded him of his own human mother, and of Jim, and he appreciated her ability to use humour even in this most unpleasant of situations. She had treated him with nothing but kindness and patience since he had stepped through the door, despite him being a stranger – and a stranger who could help very little. Jim’s entire family seemed nothing but grateful to him for the bravery of testing the treatment that saved Peter Kirk’s life, and no protestation of the simple logic of his actions could persuade them otherwise.
‘Petey,’ Mrs Kirk continued, and Spock realised that young Peter Kirk was in here helping too. ‘Would you help Mr Spock put out the cookie? You can read the packets for him.’
Spock stood at the counter arranging cookies as Peter Kirk handed him the packets, gaining an odd degree of pleasure when Mrs Kirk praised him for the neatness of his arrangements. Could it be, he wondered, that he missed his own human mother? It had been too long since he had spoken to her. Perhaps, after he had been to Rigel, whatever the outcome, he would call her…
He gathered as he stood there listening to snatches of conversation that the gathering would be largely Jim’s side of the family, although Aurelan Kirk evidently had a few family members on Earth who would be coming. Jim had perhaps been right to worry about the emotional human presence around him – even the air seemed to hold a feeling of muted, grey sadness, and every time Jim’s mother touched his arm or Peter Kirk touched him while handing him something, he was assailed with waves of overwhelming grief.
‘Spock, would you come with me for a moment?’ Kirk asked finally, on one of his many trips into the kitchen.
Spock finished dropping the last few quartered tomatoes into a wooden bowl – he had progressed from putting out cookies to preparing salad – and nodded, wiping his hands on a cloth and then turning to take Kirk’s arm. He followed his captain across the room, and as Kirk opened a door the scent of sun-warmed grass hit him.
‘Three steps down here,’ Kirk murmured, as they stepped out of the door onto a wooden porch. Spock followed him carefully, and his feet touched hardened earth covered with a soft layer of grass. ‘Spock, I’ll be helping to carry Sam’s coffin,’ Kirk said as they moved a little way from the house. ‘We’ll be going in the car together, but would you go with mom into the church? She doesn’t mind helping you.’
‘Yes, of course,’ Spock nodded quietly, but he was forced to ask, ‘You said - the car?’
‘Mom thought Sam would like traditional ground cars,’ Kirk said quietly. ‘He always liked antique motor transport. They’ll be arriving in about ten minutes to take us. Pete’s going with his brothers in one, and you, mom and I are going in the other.’
‘I see,’ Spock nodded. He wondered whether he would have been in the family car if it had not been for his inability to manage without help. Jim, perhaps, would have wanted him at his side anyway. ‘I would volunteer to help with the carrying of the coffin, but in my current predicament – ’
Kirk actually laughed at that – just a small, short laugh, but it at least seemed to relieve him momentarily from the overwhelming grief he seemed to be experiencing.
‘I was not intending a joke,’ Spock began, and Kirk put a hand on his arm.
‘No, I know, Spock. I appreciate it – I really do. I would have liked to have you alongside me. I was just visualising – ’
Spock nodded, imagining the macabre consequences of a stumble or slip while carrying a fully laden coffin. It was a mark of Kirk’s profession that he could see humour in such a thing, even when the coffin would contain his own brother.
The funeral was worse than Spock had imagined it could be. The church was crowded with people, and he had ended up pressed against Kirk’s side in the pew, with a female alongside him who spent most of the service weeping softly. Jim had cried too. Even though Kirk had stayed rigidly still beside him, he was certain of that fact. He could not say whether or not tears had slipped down his face, but he had been inundated with the dark, drenching emotion of grief from him and from everyone else around him. All he could to was to touch his hand to Kirk’s arm to try to give him some reassurance of his support, and raise his mental shields to a level that almost prevented him from being aware of anything around him. He had only realised that the service was over when Jim left him again to help carry the coffins to their places of burial. He had taken Mrs Kirk’s arm for guidance out into the graveyard, but found himself supporting her as much as she was guiding him. He had never before been surrounded by so much unrestrained human grief.
He arrived back at the family home resolving to never, ever attend a human funeral again – at least, not one that was populated by anyone other than controlled, disciplined Starfleet personnel. The mood seemed to lighten when everyone was back in the house, eating food, talking and reminiscing, but there was still a veil of emotion in the air that seemed to dull his senses and make him feel twice as blind.
He sat for a long time on a chair at the side of the room, alternately being ignored and being inundated with praise from strangers for helping to save Peter Kirk’s life. Jim was constantly required to help his mother and to speak to various relatives and friends, and had very little time to spare for him. But eventually young Peter Kirk came up to him and said tentatively;
‘Sir – Mr Spock?’
Spock turned his head, strangely relieved that it was someone familiar rather than another faceless relative. ‘Yes, Peter?’ he asked
‘Uncle Jim asked me to come and get you, sir. He’s out in the garden. He didn’t want to come in, because Great Aunt Tilda keeps – ’
‘Thank you, Peter,’ Spock nodded, getting to his feet. He stood for a moment, considering how to proceed with a guide so small, then asked, ‘May I put my hand on your shoulder, Peter?’
‘Sure,’ the boy said, and Spock touched a hand to his slim shoulder, letting the boy guide him with an exaggerated degree of care out through the kitchen and down the wooden steps. Peter took him across an open grassy space, and then into the shade of a tree.
‘Uncle Jim,’ he called. His voice seemed very small in the open space.
‘Oh, Spock,’ Kirk said in a distracted tone. ‘Thanks, Petey.’
Peter smiled in reply, and Kirk caught himself again searching for Sam in that face, and failing.
The moment faded away as Spock let go of the boy’s shoulder, and Peter turned and ran back to the house.
‘I’m sorry I put you through all of this today, Spock,’ Kirk murmured after a moment of silence. ‘I shouldn’t have – ’
Spock turned to his captain, suddenly remembering just what, and who, he had been there for. All the grief to which he had been subjected dwindled into insignificance against the thought that he had made it just a little bit easier for his friend.
‘Jim,’ he said softly, reaching out for his arm. ‘I came here of my own accord. I was glad to be here for you.’
‘It helped,’ Kirk said quietly. ‘Do you mind taking a walk, Spock?’ he asked after a moment. ‘I don’t feel like standing still.’
‘Of course,’ Spock nodded. It had been his first time off the ship since the disastrous expedition to Deneva, and it was refreshing to spend time outside in the warmth of the sun and the soft breeze, especially after the claustrophobic grieving masses in the house.
They stepped onto what felt like a dirt track, and Spock found his attention largely taken up by concentrating on the inconsistencies in the ground. Gradually, however, he grew more used to the rough surface, and began to take in the noises of birds calling and flying, and the dry rustling that Kirk told him was the wind through nearly ripe wheat.
After a while of walking, as they topped a small rise in the ground, Kirk gave an oddly harsh laugh, and Spock turned to him, one eyebrow raised in a question.
‘This is the best view of the whole place, Spock,’ he said in a faintly bitter voice. ‘I was just thinking how this is the first time you’ve been to my home – and you can’t see it. I’m sorry, Spock. I wish you could.’
‘My situation cannot be altered,’ Spock said flatly. ‘Regret is largely pointless.’
Kirk regarded him for a moment. ‘Spock, you know that’s not true,’ he said, the bitterness fading from his tone. ‘You know that this operation is going to work, don’t you?’
Spock closed his eyes, inhaling deeply. ‘Optimism cannot grant me better odds.’
‘Neither can pessimism,’ Kirk reminded him. ‘I know you, Spock. You’re terrified that you’re going to wake up from this operation just as blind as you are now. You’re terrified that you’re going to lose everything you know. But constantly telling yourself that the operation won’t work isn’t going to help. At this rate you’re going to convince yourself that it’s not even worth having the surgery.’
‘Captain – ’ Spock began, turning to him.
‘You can tell me about logic and discipline until you’re green in the face, Spock – but don’t tell me I’m wrong,’ Kirk said firmly.
Spock pressed his lips together. Then he said, ‘Captain, is it possible that you are pursuing this subject in order to avoid the one subject you wish to avoid? That houseful of people behind us, and the reason that they are there?’
‘All right, you caught me,’ Kirk said roughly. ‘No, I don’t want to stand there and talk to fifty distant relatives and friends about how my brother died. I don’t want to see my mother sobbing, looking ten years older than she should, or my nephews wandering about not knowing where to turn because suddenly they’re orphans.’
‘That does not change the concrete facts,’ Spock said flatly.
‘Spock, if you’re telling me I should face up to my problems instead of running away from them, perhaps you should clean your own house first,’ Kirk said sharply. ‘Or do you want me to go back there now and be the starship captain, the hero, the life and soul of the party?’ he asked recklessly, stepping away from Spock’s hand. ‘Do you want me to leave you here to work out your problems while I go face up to mine?’
Spock seemed to freeze as Kirk walked away from him, his face losing all expression. It was very rare that Jim truly lost his temper, and Spock could not be certain that in his anger he would not leave him here.
‘Jim,’ he said in a deadly serious tone. ‘It is unlike you to be cruel. I need your help to return to the house.’
There was a long pause, during which Spock heard Jim’s footsteps slow to a stop, and then his feet scraped in the gravel as he turned.
‘Spock, you underestimate yourself,’ he said finally. ‘You’ve gotten into that habit recently. You’re quite capable of following this track back to the house.’
There was silence again. The wind rustled the nearly-ripe wheat. Every now and then Spock caught the sound of a door closing far away, or the hum of an air-car. Above that, focussing his hearing more than anything else, he could hear Kirk’s breathing, sharp and fast, but gradually calming. Finally Jim moved closer, and Spock could sense that the flame-like surge of anger had subsided.
‘I’m not firing on all cylinders, Spock,’ Jim said in a tone of apology. ‘This – really has not been the best day for me. It’s – hard – being here, where we grew up. Sam and I used to play here. Sam set up that rope swing on that tree, right here,’ he said, presumably indicating something that Spock could not see. ‘We used to swing out and land in the wheat – oh, about this time of year, when it was full-grown and golden. Drove dad mad…’
There was another long silence, then Kirk said, ‘I can’t believe it, Spock. I carried his body today, felt the weight of it. I watched his coffin drop down into the earth, and I still can’t believe it. Sam, gone, just like that. He had so much time left in his life…’
Spock was silent for a time. Then he said carefully, ‘I am not human, Jim. I don’t know how to offer platitudes on the death of a loved one. But – I do understand.’
Kirk looked up at him, feeling his understanding as much as hearing it in his words. Spock had told him that when they had first found Sam’s body, and he had dismissed his sympathy, so caught up in his shock that he could not bear to let another person’s compassion touch him, lest it make Sam’s death real.
‘I know, Spock,’ he nodded. ‘I know.’
‘Captain, I have been considering my options regarding this operation,’ Spock said, sensing that it was time to turn the subject away from death. ‘It would be a far more efficient use of Starfleet funds for Dr Helsand and me to find passage on a ship that is already destined for Rigel than to divert the entire Enterprise to that destination.’
Kirk regarded him, with a sudden, deeper understanding of Spock’s motivations over the past week. All of his brief, burning anger had gone now, taking the sharper edges of his grief with it, and it had left him with a clearer view of his friend’s distress.
‘You really are scared that this operation won’t work, aren’t you, Spock?’ he asked. ‘And you’re convinced you won’t be able to stay on the ship. So you’re withdrawing yourself bit by bit from everything you care about. You’ve been staying away from your friends and colleagues, from the rest of the ship – and now you want to leave the ship entirely, have no one you care about with you on Rigel – so no one will be able to see you when you’re told the operation didn’t work.’
‘What will there be left for me on the ship, if the operation does not work?’ Spock asked quietly. ‘Do you truly believe that Command will let me stay, blind as I am?’
Kirk looked at him again, seeing the despondency in Spock’s bearing beyond the emotionless mask of his face. In his black suit, with the black cane in his hand and his dark, sightless eyes, he presented an impossibly grave picture.
‘I’ll do you a deal, Spock,’ he said with a smile. ‘Just leave off making any plans until after the operation. Give me and McCoy the privilege of being your friends, and being there for you.’
‘And your part of the deal?’ Spock asked curiously.
Kirk hesitated, as if trying to think of something to say. ‘I’ll face up to my responsibilities, and brave the friends and relations. We can go in and get something to eat. I’m starving.’
It was evening, and the summer heat was evaporating up from the grass now instead of pulsing down from the sky. Spock, seated on an aged wooden bench in the farm’s large garden, could feel the damp warmth rising to his palms as he held his hands out before him. The noise of wind in the wheat had died down, and what light filtered into his eyes was tinted with the rich flame of sunset.
‘I always liked this time,’ Kirk murmured beside him. ‘It looks like the sun’s setting fire to the wheatfields. I don’t think about it on board ship, but when I’m here, I realise how much I miss it.’
‘I have never before been to Earth and been denied the sight of its sun,’ Spock said, startling Kirk with the overtones of emotion in his statement.
‘Can you see anything right now?’ Kirk asked curiously, turning to look at the Vulcan.
Spock turned his head towards the setting sun. His gaze did not falter as it passed over the dazzlingly bright orb.
‘A certain redness, redolent of Vulcan skies. Nothing more specific.’
The house behind them was almost silent now. The guests had returned home hours ago, leaving a degree of chaos in the farmhouse. Spock had stood at the sink meticulously washing all that would not fit in the dishwasher, while Jim and his family roamed the empty rooms, gathering crockery, tipping leftovers into the composter, and cleaning up spills and crumbs from the carpet. Apart from the total lack of decoration in the house, they could almost have been clearing up after a party.
Peter had long since gone to bed, exhausted emotionally and physically by the long day just gone, and Mrs Kirk had followed him soon after, but the two elder sons of Sam and Aurelan Kirk were still sitting inside, and Spock and Kirk had thought it prudent to leave them to their grief. This was why they were now sitting on a bench in the growing chill, while the sun slipped below the horizon.
‘It must be getting cold for you out here,’ Kirk said finally, glancing at Spock. The Vulcan was dressed for a warm summer day, not a cool, clear evening.
‘It is tolerable,’ Spock said quietly.
Neither of them had spoken about either Spock’s operation or the sharpness of Kirk’s loss since they had argued on the dirt track, and both were content to leave it so. A quiet sense of acceptance seemed to have fallen over both of them, and neither wanted to disturb it. There was something strangely therapeutic about just sitting here surrounded by nature, after the sterility of the ship. Kirk was sleeping here tonight, and so had nowhere to go, and Spock – was waiting.
Finally Spock heard a low hum, and Kirk saw a gold sparkle coalesce before them, gradually solidifying into a tall, copper-haired female figure, clad in an ankle length dress of translucent blue swirls, shimmering over a more solid, but astonishingly sparse, blue minidress beneath. Rings sparkled on more than one of her fingers. Kirk drew breath at the sight. He passed her almost every day in the corridors, but he had not realised that his ship’s head nurse cut such a striking figure when she was out of uniform, with her hair styled high on her head to increase her already ample height.
‘Captain,’ she nodded as the beam released her. ‘Spock.’
Spock got to his feet instantly, moving toward her voice.
‘I’ll see you tomorrow, Spock,’ Kirk called, and he half turned around to his captain.
‘Good night, Jim,’ he nodded.
He suspected that Kirk knew more about his plans for the evening than he himself did, since Christine had presumably cleared the leave with him. At this point all he knew was that Christine had called down to say that she would meet him at the house. Jim’s mother had taken the call, and Spock had had no opportunity to question the nurse about her unexpected beam down.
‘Night, Spock,’ Jim replied. ‘Miss Chapel, the skimmer should be at the end of the drive in about two minutes.’
‘The skimmer?’ Spock asked quietly as he reached Christine. The familiar scent of her perfume, and the softer scents of her human body, drifted around him as he touched her loose, silken sleeve.
‘Well, air-taxi,’ she amended, letting him take her arm. ‘A skimmer wouldn’t cover the distance required in the time we’ve got, but an air-taxi’s far more discreet than beaming up to the ship and down again together.’
‘I see. Perhaps you would confide your plans to me?’ he asked as they walked away from the house. The path they took was the same he had walked with Kirk to the funeral cars earlier – a firm, stone-laid surface that was far easier to navigate than the dirt track out to the fields.
‘My plans?’ she asked lightly. It was obvious that she was smiling. ‘A hotel, dinner, a bedroom with a spa bath and a emperor size bed – and no interruptions, no red alerts, and no ship concerns for either of us.’
‘A – hotel?’ Spock asked slowly. As pleasant as her surprise sounded, he did not want to have to learn a whole new set of surroundings just for one night.
She put her hand over his, registering the uncertainty in his voice. ‘Don’t worry – you won’t be lost. Dr McCoy told me a little anecdote a few weeks back,’ she said.
‘Did he?’ Spock asked, a certain amount of suspicious curiosity in his tone. ‘I do not see the relevance – ’
‘He said how last year both you and he were called on last minute to present lectures in the Serving Officers week at Starfleet Academy.’
‘We were,’ Spock said, his voice growing ever more suspicious. ‘The ship made an unexpected trip to Earth. We were able to attend when previously we had thought it impossible.’
‘He said it was at the height of the vacation season in San Francisco, and there was very little accommodation left. He said the only room that turned up for both of you was a luxury suite in Le Salon Bleu. Apparently you refused to sleep for six nights – but you did use the room.’
‘That is true,’ Spock nodded. ‘Although I did take the opportunity to sleep once, when McCoy was lecturing. It is – almost impossible to sleep in a room where the good doctor is turning and muttering and snoring in his bed.’
Christine laughed at the image of McCoy acting precisely as so many humans did in their sleep, and Spock sitting at the side of the room, disapproving, and despairing of getting any rest.
‘Well, I did a little checking,’ she told him. ‘Room 325, ocean view, spa bath?’
‘Yes, I believe so,’ Spock nodded.
‘Well, luckily, it’s not the height of the season now, and the room is free. I booked us in for tonight,’ she told him. ‘I figured that if you’d stayed there for a week last year you’d be familiar enough with the layout. I called them up, and they haven’t changed the room since.’ She saw the slightly confused look on the Vulcan’s face, and smiled. ‘Spock, over the last month or so you’ve been subjected to immeasurable pain and exhaustion, blindness, and a hostage situation. This is what we humans like to call a break. Since the Captain’s going to try to get to Rigel as quickly as possible, I thought we should take the opportunity for this – moment of sanity – before the medical procedures begin. I know it’s only one night, but – ’
Spock turned to her, a smile touching the edges of his lips. ‘A lot can be achieved in one night,’ he told her. ‘Can I hear the air-taxi?’ he asked, turning his ear towards the soft sound of an engine.
‘You can,’ she nodded. ‘It’s just set down. They promised no longer than half an hour to make San Francisco, once we’ve lifted off.’
Spock stood with his hands on the balcony rail, aware of the varied sounds of the city at his back, and of the gentle, pulsing, swooshing noise of the ocean before him, crashing its waves onto the yielding sand. He could smell the salt water in the air, but that scent was faint against all the mingling odours from closer by – the scent of vegetation, and of dampness on tarmac, layered over with many varied scents of foods and alcohol from nearby restaurants, and the occasional tang of sweat or drift of perfume from passers-by.
He found it curious that the last time he had been in this room it had been with McCoy, and that he had been able to stand on the balcony and see the water undulating to the horizon. Of course, it must be approaching darkness over the ocean now, despite the extra daylight they had gained by their swift flight west. He could imagine the many lights in the street below, glittering from the buildings to the left and right, and pin-pricking the ocean where boats moved on the water. Logical or not, he found it immensely reassuring to be able to visualise the room behind him and the scene before him, and he was grateful to Christine for the lengths she had gone to to secure that for him.
He turned back into the room, hearing Christine shutting the door as she came out of the bathroom.
‘I thought we could take dinner in our room, if you wanted,’ she said as she came to him, the scent of soap and fresh cosmetics hanging around her.
Spock paused, then said decisively, ‘No. I am quite content to eat in a restaurant of your choice. I think I am capable now of a passable standard of neatness, and I – would be honoured to be seen with you.’ He touched her arm, toying with the sheer fabric of her over-dress. ‘I imagine you must look – quite stunning tonight, Christine.’
‘Well, I don’t know about that,’ she demurred.
‘The fabric of this garment feels quite expensive,’ he pointed out. ‘I don’t imagine you would waste money on such a garment if it did not look well on you. It is a dress, is it not?’
‘This is an ankle-length sheer over-dress,’ she told him, lifting the flimsy fabric so that it rustled through her hands.
‘It is transparent?’ Spock asked, raising an eyebrow in intrigue. He let his fingers slip over the thin, silky material, trying to imagine how it must look.
‘Pretty much. It’s a loose feather pattern in varying shades of blue – a little gold and green thrown in too – but it’s see-through.’
‘And beneath?’ Spock asked curiously.
‘A deep blue minidress, scoop-backed, no sleeves. I know you can’t see it, but I still wanted to look nice for you.’
‘I appreciate it,’ Spock nodded, letting his fingers run across the surface of the dress, feeling the shoulder-straps of the minidress underneath it. ‘I’m sure it will prove interesting to investigate the layers – later. For now, where do you wish to dine?’
‘If you don’t mind, I know a nice place about ten minutes walk from here. They do the best seafood, and some lovely vegetarian selections too.’
‘That sounds fine,’ Spock nodded. ‘Are you ready now?’
‘Just let me pick up my wrap,’ she said, turning to pick up a dark blue shawl and draping it about her shoulders. ‘Oh, and I picked up this coat from your quarters,’ she said, putting a charcoal grey coat into his hands. ‘I thought you might need it once night fell.’
‘This is the dark grey wool mix?’ Spock asked, running his hands over it. He carefully oriented the coat and put it on. ‘There. I am ready. Shall we?’
Spock was grateful that it was night-time and the street was quiet as they walked together along the sidewalk after their meal. Although he had kept his cane collapsed and in his pocket, he imagined that it still must be very obvious that he was blind, as he walked holding on to Christine’s arm. There had been enough subtle reaction to it in the restaurant, and he did not want to parry any more curious questions. He knew from experience that his was a very recognisable face in this Starfleet-centred city, and while the news of his blindness had, so far, been confined more or less to the ship, it would not be long before whispers of it were travelling around Headquarters, and the Academy campus. He didn’t look forward to the idea of his parents being told of it through careless gossip.
‘You seem preoccupied,’ Christine murmured as they walked.
‘Strange places take far more concentration than familiar ones,’ he reassured her. ‘That is all.’
‘I’m sorry about all that in the restaurant,’ she said quietly. ‘I – didn’t quite expect you to be recognised by so many people.’
‘We spend so much time in deep space,’ Spock shrugged. ‘It’s rare that we come to Earth, and we forget just how well-known the Enterprise and its personnel are here.’
‘How well known you and the captain are, anyway,’ she corrected him. ‘I don’t think they would have been able to tell me from Adam – or from Eve, at least,’ she laughed.
‘Eve, I believe, was naked. I imagine the local gossips would have been fascinated to see me both without sight, and dining with a beautiful woman,’ Spock said with a hint of mischief in his tone.
‘Then you really don’t mind?’ she pressed, unable to keep the anxiety out of her voice.
‘No, I really do not mind,’ he said, shaking his head.
He stopped on the sidewalk, turning her to him and taking her arms in his hands.
‘You may, Christine, be forced at some point to accept that I am content with this relationship,’ he said softly. ‘I do not want to hide in corners. I am not ashamed.’
He touched a finger to the underside of her chin, tilting her face upwards. He stroked the fingertips of his other hand lightly over her face, touching her lips, before moving forward to touch his own lips to hers. That most illogical sensation descended again – the feeling that he was falling into a realm where sight and sound had no place, and all that mattered was the soft sensation of her lips against his, and the taste of her mouth and the air that she breathed. He was becoming accustomed to that feeling, and each time it came about him it became easier to dismiss his automatic objections to the irrationality of it.
‘I would rather we were in our room now, than out on the street,’ he said huskily as they broke apart.
‘That can be arranged,’ she smiled, letting him take her arm again. ‘It’s only a block away – and I think that spa bath’s waiting...’
Christine had been right. Some kind of wonderful, illogical transformation had taken place in Spock’s mind for that one night of careless luxury in a San Francisco hotel. He could not quite see why eighteen hours or so away from the ship and from any of the troubles attached to the ship could effect more of a change in his mind than a period of focussed meditation. Despite that, he beamed up with a sense of lightness in his being that pushed the dark discontent toward the edges of his mind. He could not say that the constant blurred darkness no longer bothered him, but he could, at least, look on the future with a greater degree of optimism than before. There was, after all, a chance that Helsand’s operation would work for him – and if it did not, he was continuing to learn and adapt every day, perhaps well enough that Starfleet would allow him a continued role on the Enterprise.
By the time they beamed back aboard, the last of the handful of refugees from Deneva had left the ship, Peter Kirk was with his family on Earth, and everything – or almost everything – was back to normal. Spock was relieved that Jim seemed to be coming to terms with his brother’s death. The short time on Earth seemed to have done wonders for him, too, as if the funeral had somehow managed to seal off the immediacy of his grief.
‘I have been off duty too long,’ Spock confided to Kirk over a glass of Saurian brandy. It was evening on the ship, and Kirk had been talking through the long shift on the bridge he had just finished, trying to keep Spock up to speed on ship business. ‘I am fast running out of ways to occupy myself on the lower decks.’
‘Sentimentality, Spock?’ Kirk asked with a smile. ‘You miss the bridge – that’s what you’re saying.’
‘Not sentimentality,’ Spock corrected him gravely. ‘Perhaps – concern for how long I have been away from my post.’
Jim took a sip from his glass, letting his gaze settle on the Vulcan’s blank eyes. He was getting too used to seeing Spock sightless. Everyone was getting too used to it. He had got to the point now where he would turn to the science station expecting to see Chekov in his gold shirt, not Spock in blue. Even though Spock was sitting in on briefings and consulting with those in his department, it could not compare with the reassurance of his presence on the bridge.
‘We were – what – a month at Deneva, after we killed the parasites?’ Kirk asked, putting his glass down on the desk beside him.
‘Twenty-seven days, to be precise,’ Spock nodded.
‘And just over a week to Earth, three days in dock, two days so far to Rigel. Spock, you’ve been blind for – almost a month and a half,’ he said in astonishment. ‘I didn’t realise how long it had been…’
‘I imagine my blindness holds a higher priority in my own mind than in yours,’ Spock said wryly. Each second that ticked away was another that he could add to the total in his head.
‘Maybe it does. Do you have a schedule for the operation yet?’ Kirk asked him.
‘Assuming we arrive on time, without diversion, I will beam down with McCoy and Dr Helsand on the morning after our arrival, for the primary consultation. The doctors on Rigel will wish to carry out a series of tests to determine the best possible procedure for my type of injury. Those will be out-patient appointments, of course. When those tests have been completed, a date will be set for the operation itself – as soon as possible, I am told. There is a short recovery period, but there is a possibility that I could return to the Enterprise for that, if we are pressed to move onto a new mission.’
‘Well, we’re cleared for two weeks,’ Kirk told him. ‘Rigel’s got a first-class maintenance facility, so Scotty’s got some essential maintenance scheduled on the warp drive. We’ll be immobile during that work at any rate.’
‘That is reassuring,’ Spock nodded.
Kirk knew that was as close as Spock would get to admitting that he wanted his friends and his home close by when he underwent the operation. Although something seemed to have brightened in the Vulcan since the visit to Earth, it was obvious that the coming surgery filled him with trepidation.
‘It’ll be all right, you know, Spock,’ he said softly, putting his glass down again so that he could touch the Vulcan’s arm reassuringly. ‘We’ll be at Rigel before we know it – and then the operation, and then – ’
‘Perhaps, I will see,’ Spock nodded.
‘No perhaps about it,’ Kirk said stoutly. ‘I’m looking forward to having a game of chess that I don’t have to describe move by move, Spock. You can’t let me down.’
The ship arrived at Rigel precisely as scheduled. Somehow, it seemed that someone had caused all of Starfleet to hold its breath – at least as regarded the Enterprise’s mission status. It was almost unheard of for the ship to pass from one place to another without some small but vital errand being tagged onto its duties. Even during the transit from Deneva the ship had acted as a transport service, ferrying the few dozen people who could no longer stand to live there to their new homes. This time, Spock could only imagine that Kirk had managed to use his admirable skills at persuasion to clear absolutely everything from the ship’s schedule. For that, he was grateful.
The first few meetings with the Rigelian doctors were unnerving, to say the least. Spock had McCoy at his side, and Helsand, but he found it quite discomforting to spend so much time in an alien hospital environment where he was forced to rely totally on others for guidance, and where absolutely no one had remembered faces that he could attach to the voices. Every person he met seemed fascinated by his mixed heritage and the structure of his eyes, to the point of forgetting that they were dealing with a person rather than a collection of biological oddities.
The extended interviews and examinations, the hours of leaning into optical scopes or lying on his back with Rigelian doctors bending over him, at least had the benefit of filling up his time. It felt as if very little time had passed between arriving at Rigel, and the date being confirmed for the operation. Tomorrow. Tomorrow he would lie in that alien hospital, and be anaesthetised, and lie in oblivion on an operating table while Helsand and one of Rigel’s most prominent ophthalmologists stood over him, doing all they could to remove the useless inner eyelids that were obscuring his vision.
He stood in front of his suitcase, considering what else to put in for his short stay. Ordinarily he might have included a book, but there seemed little point in doing so this time – even if the operation did work, he had been warned against straining his eyes in the early days. He was uncertain as to how many clothes to put in. Would he be bound to wear hospital garments, or, since he was not ill, be allowed to wear his own clothes? Would he be treated as if he was ill, despite the fact that only his eyes were malfunctioning? Hospitals often did so…
‘Just put in enough for four or five days,’ Christine said softly over his shoulder. ‘It doesn’t matter if you don’t wear them – and I’ll be there to help you pick them out if you need me to.’
Spock turned toward her, and nodded, allowing a small smile onto his face. ‘It is really not necessary for you to take leave,’ he said quietly, although he both knew that she would not agree with that statement, and he did not want her to agree with him.
‘It is very necessary,’ she said. ‘Perhaps it’s not necessary according to logic – but it is necessary according to me.’
‘Yes, I know,’ Spock nodded. While Kirk and McCoy would be visiting around their scheduled duties, Christine had been granted a week’s vacation, and would be able to beam down and be at his side whenever hospital visiting hours allowed.
‘You’re nervous about the operation, aren’t you?’ she asked softly.
Spock paused in folding a pair of trousers, his hands betraying him by gripping tensely at the dark fabric.
‘There is little logic in feeling nervous about an operation that I must have.’
‘That doesn’t mean you don’t feel nervous,’ she pointed out.
Spock tilted his head in acknowledgement.
‘However, it is imperative that I undergo the operation. It is imperative that it work.’
‘The doctors’ reports have been very favourable, haven’t they?’ she asked him, picking up the padd that held the data, and scanning her eyes over it. ‘It says here, tissue type – receptive, reaction to drugs – positive.’
‘Yes, that is true,’ Spock nodded, beginning to fold the clothing again, and laying it very carefully on top of the other items in the suitcase.
The positive side of being forced to act the guinea pig again, and be subjected to dozens of tests again, was that the doctors on Rigel had managed to push the odds up above fifty percent. Finally there was a greater chance that he would wake up from the operation able to see, than that a doctor would be there to tell him he would never see again.
He shut the lid of the suitcase, and held out both hands to her. She took them, stroking her thumbs softly over the backs of his hands.
‘I promise,’ she said firmly. ‘It will work.’
Spock shook his head. ‘That is not a promise that you can make.’
‘Maybe not,’ she told him. ‘But I know it’s true, anyway. It’s illogical, I know. It doesn’t make sense. But I know it’s true.’
‘My entire way of life is dependent on this operation,’ he said quietly. ‘You know that there is a possibility that my eyes will only be further damaged by the procedure.’
‘Yes, I know it’s possible,’ she said soberly. ‘I know it is. Spock – ’ She looked down at his case, and about the room. ‘Spock, you’re all sorted here. Will you come for a walk with me? There’s somewhere I wanted to take you.’
‘On the ship?’ Spock asked curiously.
‘On the ship. Come on. It won’t do you any good sitting in your room going over and over something you can’t control.’
‘Logical,’ Spock murmured.
Despite what he had said in San Francisco, he was not totally at ease with being seen about the ship with Christine, and being exposed to all of the gossip the relationship would kindle. But there was only one way to deal with his unease, and that was to push it away, and continue with Christine as if they were the only two people in the world whose opinions mattered.
He felt on his desk for his cane, and extended it to its full length, then turned to Christine.
‘Where do you wish to take me?’
‘Wait and see,’ she smiled. ‘It’s a surprise.’
Spock deliberately tried not to keep track of where they were walking, in order to make Christine’s surprise as effective as possible. He was not sure of the purpose of surprises, but he was willing to go along with it purely for the pleasure that it would bring the woman beside him.
When a door finally opened before them and they walked through he stood still for a moment, taking in the warm, humid atmosphere and the many scents of plants about him.
‘We are in the ship’s botany department,’ he said. ‘This is usually Mr Sulu’s province.’
‘We are,’ she said in a satisfied voice. ‘Mr Sulu has been working on something that I wanted to show you. I don’t know if they’d have the same resonance for a Vulcan, but I love them.’
She touched his arm again, walking across the room with him to one of the inner chambers. As the door opened, Spock was surrounded by a dozen different but related scents, billowing around him like a blanket. The room was warmer than the one they had just left, and a gentle breeze touched his face and ruffled his hair. Presumably Sulu had altered the temperature and set up a fan to simulate natural growing conditions. For a moment the combination of warmth and scent and soft wind conspired to transport him to another place. Without sight, he could almost be standing in a garden.
‘Roses,’ he said in wonder. He took a step forward, reaching out a hand, although evidently he was not quite close enough to the flowers to touch them.
‘I wasn’t sure if you’d recognise them,’ Christine said, happiness filling her voice as she took his arm and steered him closer to the raised beds. ‘I think they’re absolutely beautiful, but I didn’t think Vulcan was quite the place… They’re here, just in front of you.’
Spock reached forward, until his hands encountered a hard, thorn-studded stem and a mass of surprisingly cold, smooth leaves hooked with tiny claws up their spines. He moved his fingers upward, searching, until they touched the head of a rose blossom, packed tightly with masses of soft, scented petals. He bent forward, inhaling the scent and recognising it almost instantly.
‘Your surprise is more resonant than you could have imagined. My mother has grown a rose garden at our home since the early days of her marriage,’ Spock explained, feeling out for more blossoms. It was a little cooler than it had been in his mother’s sheltered garden on Vulcan, but the scent and the breeze together brought a thousand memories into his mind. ‘My father actually had soil and minerals and the young bushes transported from Earth. I used to spend hours sitting on the stone seat in the centre of that garden, practising at my meditation. This is a Princess Abigail, is it not?’ he asked, drawing a flower to his nose. ‘Deep pink, with streaks of red at the centre of the petals?’
‘It’s not labelled – but the colours are as you describe,’ she said.
‘It is a Princess Abigail,’ Spock said with certainty, smelling the flower again. ‘And this,’ he said, moving sideways to touch his hands to the blossoms on another bush. ‘A Golden Lady. Deep yellow flowers, orange at the centre.’
‘I think you’re right,’ she smiled, moving closer to him again. ‘I’m glad you like it,’ she said, touching a hand to his shoulder. ‘Most couples on this ship seem to head for the observation deck, but I thought in the circumstances…’
Spock straightened from the plants, and turned to her. ‘Ordinarily, I would spend a very large amount of my duty time studying the stars. This is somewhere – entirely different. What has prompted Mr Sulu to grow roses?’ he asked curiously. ‘Is he conducting a study?’
‘He’s been trying to persuade the captain to have more plants in the recreation areas. I think roses are the first weapon in his arsenal.’
Spock lifted an eyebrow at the laughter in her voice. ‘Roses as weapons,’ he murmured. ‘That is an – interesting tactic, considering the captain’s romantic inclinations.’
‘Your mother’s garden must be beautiful,’ Christine murmured, reaching out to touch the roses herself. ‘With that Vulcan sky behind it.’
Spock cast his mind back to the last time he had stood in his mother’s garden, with the slight shimmer of the forcefield above him, protecting the plants from the worst of the Vulcan heat. The sky had been dark orange, streaked with red, and with tiny ribbons of evening cloud that caught tones of vermilion and fuchsia and bronze-gold from the dying sun. The roses had surrounded him, the scent muted in the cooling air. His mother had stood next to him, not quite touching him, in the Vulcan way, but he could feel the pain radiating from her mind.
It had been four years ago that he had last made a fleeting visit to his parents’ home. Even fifteen years after his decision to join Starfleet, his father’s disapproval had been so thick in the air that it was almost impossible to spend time inside the house. His mother had tried and tried and tried to effect some kind of reconciliation, but it seemed impossible. Spock would not consider giving up his life’s career, and his father would not bend to accept it. But he had noticed how there were new lines on his mother’s face, and how his father seemed a little slower in his walk, and a little stiffer in his movements. He did not want this disagreement to act as a barrier between them for the rest of his father’s life.
‘I hope the garden is still as beautiful as it was the last time I saw it,’ he said, with the regret fully evident in his voice.
‘I – forgot about that,’ Christine said quickly. ‘I’m sorry. Have you not been there since – ’
Spock turned to her, reaching out to find her arm. ‘I last visited four years ago, when the ship was at Vulcan for five days.’
‘I remember that,’ Christine realised. ‘It was – some kind of conference, wasn’t it? Something about engineering?’
‘A conference of the foremost warp engineers in the Federation,’ Spock nodded. ‘As I recall, Mr Scott was in his element, with seven men and women at the top of their field to which to show his wee bairns.’
‘Oh and I – ’ Christine’s voice faltered, and Spock nodded slowly, remembering.
‘You saw me in the corridor just after I beamed up from seeing my parents,’ he said, remembering how her face had lit up at the sight of him, and how he had noticed but, as always, had pretended not to notice. ‘You asked me if I had enjoyed my time at home. I – ’
‘You looked at me, with that cold look in your eyes that you get when you’re not happy,’ Christine continued for him. ‘You – asked me if it was relevant to the ship’s medical department to know whether or not you had enjoyed your vacation.’
‘I am sorry, Christine,’ Spock said softly. ‘I’m afraid I’ve hurt your feelings too many times in the past, haven’t I?’
‘Oh, I always knew it was just the Vulcan way,’ she said, looking sideways at the roses in their prim white containers. ‘I just – It was crazy, but I used to miss you terribly every time you left the ship. I was so glad to see you back. You looked so well after all that Vulcan sun…’
‘It is not the Vulcan way to hurt people unnecessarily,’ Spock said, touching her cheek to turn her head back towards him. It had been obvious by her voice that she had not been able to look at him as she spoke. ‘Perhaps – it is a half-human way… My parting with my parents had not been pleasant. Each time I visit I harbour an illogical hope that my father will change his mind, and each time I am disappointed, and my mother is disappointed – and my father is – like a wall of stone… I saw you in the corridor, so pleased to see me, and – you represented everything that I fight to resist. All that in me that is human.’
‘Being human isn’t all that bad, you know,’ she said with a sad smile, looking up at his face that was expressionless despite the emotion behind his words.
‘It is on Vulcan,’ Spock said grimly. ‘I spent each day as a child trying to become as Vulcan as those lucky enough to not have mixed blood. Fighting guilt at the human emotions I must keep at bay. Feeling guilt at allowing myself to succumb to such an illogical emotion as guilt. And then – I look into my mother’s face, and see the pain caused to her by the rift between myself and my father. I would look into your face, and see the pain that would be caused to you if I allowed myself to accept your love. Are human emotions worth all that pain?’
‘Perhaps you should allow yourself to experience some of the good emotions, not just the bad ones,’ she told him softly. ‘Happiness, hope, love, lust.’
Spock quirked an eyebrow upwards. ‘I think I have experienced my fair share of those emotions recently, Christine,’ he said, with a muted smile.
‘Exactly,’ she told him, folding his hand in hers. ‘And the sky hasn’t fallen in, and you haven’t stopped being Vulcan, and – and your father hasn’t called up the ship to tell you how illogical you’re being,’ she finished wickedly.
‘That is true,’ Spock nodded. He reached out to the roses again, and snapped one off from the plant a few inches down the stem. ‘I may incur Mr Sulu’s wrath,’ he said, holding it out to her, ‘but rank must have some privileges. Is it a pleasant colour?’
‘It’s beautiful,’ she smiled, taking it from him. ‘Dark red, like ceremonial velvet.’
‘Perhaps tomorrow, during the operation, it may provide you with some of that illogical human hope.’
It was early the next morning when Spock found himself in the Enterprise transporter room, awaiting beam-down for his operation. In one hand he gripped the handle of his suitcase – the other was curled lightly about Christine’s upper arm, his fingers relaxed only by a considerable effort. He could feel through the contact that she was more nervous than he was about the impending surgery – perhaps it was her nervousness to some extent that was rubbing off on him. One of the continual problems of close association with humans was their tendency to project emotions which he then had to separate from his own.
They had been in the room for less than a minute when the door slid open again and two sets of footsteps hurried through.
‘All right,’ Kirk said briskly as he entered the room. ‘Shall we go do this, gentlemen?’
It was obvious that he, too, was nervous, and covering it as he so often did with bravado and verve. McCoy, evidently, was too caught up in his own thoughts to mutter more than a cursory greeting to Spock and Chapel as he stepped up onto the transporter pad.
‘Good morning, Dr McCoy,’ Spock said with a raised eyebrow as he followed Christine’s arm up onto the transporter. ‘Are you quite all right? It is not you performing or undergoing the surgery, is it?’
‘Just a human thing called compassion,’ McCoy said irritably. ‘Perhaps you should try it one day.’
‘I am grateful for your compassion, Doctor,’ Spock said in a more tolerant tone. ‘But your apprehension, from your position as a surgeon, doesn’t fill me with confidence.’
‘That’s the thing about us emotional humans, Spock,’ McCoy said tartly. ‘Our feelings don’t always have a logical basis. I know the operation’s gonna go fine. I know you’ve got two of the best eye surgeons in the quadrant operating on you. But I’m not in control of it, and I don’t like it. Just allow me to be worried for you, okay?’
‘If you really wish to expend energy on such things, I cannot prevent it,’ Spock nodded.
‘All right, you two,’ Kirk cut in before McCoy could reply. ‘Enough. Energise, Lieutenant,’ he said, raising his voice to the transporter operator, and the hum of the beam began.
Spock tried to cover a small stumble as the beam released him. Try as he might, it was almost impossible to beam anywhere without the moment of materialisation throwing him off balance. Every single time he had beamed down to the hospital and back to the ship in the past week he had found himself disoriented, and it didn’t seem to be a problem that could be solved with practice.
‘Small room, six pads,’ Chapel murmured to Spock as he turned toward her. ‘No steps.’
Spock nodded briefly, reaching out again for her arm. He had been able to glean the approximate size of the room from the sounds and sense of enclosure about him. The transporter room for the ophthalmic surgery patients was obviously a more private place than the communal transporter point for outpatient appointments. The fact of the lack of steps was intriguing, though. Was it a concession to frailty, or to blindness? He still felt deep unease at being a part of that demographic.
As they stepped forward from the transporter Spock’s feet could clearly feel a tactile strip on the floor to mark its edge. Presumably the ophthalmology department was quite used to dealing with blindness.
As they left the pads a woman stepped from behind the transporter controls, and said crisply, ‘Commander Spock, for the 0900 operation? Would you like to come over here and get signed in? Are you able to sign your name by conventional means?’
Spock nodded curtly. ‘Quite able, if you show me where.’
He felt Christine’s reassurance through the contact with her arm. He was quite aware that his own sense of apprehension at the impending surgery was impacting on his emotional control.
‘May I ask what I’m putting my name to?’ he asked as a pen was put into his hand. The padd he was handed was completely smooth, with no kind of tactile writing on it. Obviously they had realised there was little point in providing him with anything written in Rigel’s own version of tactile print.
‘It’s purely a sign-in form,’ Christine said, looking down at the padd. ‘It states the time, the surgery you’re going to have. Removal of the nictitating membrane in both eyes, to be performed by Dr Rudrik Isan, with the assistance of Dr Mark Helsand. That’s all.’
‘I see,’ Spock nodded.
‘Just here,’ she said, moving the pen he held to the correct place on the padd.
As Spock was signing his name carefully on the padd the door opened, and he felt a more familiar presence entering the room. He turned his head curiously toward the footsteps, asking;
‘Oh, and Dr Isan,’ Helsand’s voice replied. He sounded, as always, a little distracted by something. Spock could only hope that his focus intensified once he was actually engaged in surgery. ‘I beamed down a few hours ago to prepare, Commander. We’re all set up for you.’
‘Of course,’ Spock nodded. He turned towards the other man, saying, ‘Dr Isan, good morning.’
‘Commander,’ Isan said briskly.
Spock had sat through numerous consultations with this man over the past week, and he had always presented himself with the same brisk, businesslike attitude. Spock had never felt like anything more than an unusually interesting medical problem to the doctor. The man’s attitude suited Spock perfectly, but he could tell that his bedside manner did not sit so easily with his human companions.
Isan looked about the room, assessing Spock’s small party, his eyes lingering over Chapel’s nurse’s uniform.
‘Were you hoping to assist, Nurse – ?’ He looked at her questioningly.
‘Chapel,’ she said quickly. ‘No, I’m not – but I’d very much like to observe.’
‘A lot of people do. Your Commander Spock is quite a unique specimen.’
She glanced quickly at Spock, sure that he would not be pleased with being described in such a way, but his face held nothing but a look of polite interest.
‘And Dr McCoy,’ the doctor continued. ‘You wish to observe too, I’m sure.’
‘Well, of course,’ McCoy nodded with a friendly smile. ‘I’m more than interested in the outcome of this operation.’
‘Well, then. The sooner the better. Just a few preliminary checks, Commander Spock, then we’ll be ready to begin.’
Spock lay flat on a relatively comfortable mattress that smelt of antiseptic and cleaning fluids, under a sheet that clung too firmly to the contours of his body. The light that Dr Isan flashed into his eyes made him blink sharply as his damaged eyes tried, and failed, to react to the brightness. He felt curiously alone, despite the fact that this antechamber to the operating room contained Dr Isan, Dr Helsand, and at least three other nurses or technicians. The room was filled with quiet bustle and murmuring conversation, none of which seemed to concern him as a person, but only as the subject of a task to be fulfilled. Only Dr Isan was paying him any attention at this point in time.
‘Your eyes will need time to heal after the operation,’ Dr Isan was saying. He put the optical torch down with a snap onto a hard surface. ‘Strictly – and I mean strictly – no meditative healing processes. If you try to accelerate the healing you may scar. Your eyes will be paralysed and the irises held quite still until total recovery has been confirmed. That means absolutely no removal of the bandages until a doctor judges you ready. All scans will be taken with non-visual means. Is that quite clear to you, Commander?’
‘It is quite clear,’ Spock murmured. His mouth was dry, whether because of nervousness or the pre-anaesthetic drugs he could not tell. Although his body was almost totally relaxed, his mind felt alert almost to the point of distraction.
‘Then we’ll administer the anaesthetic,’ Dr Isan said, and a hypo hissed against the bare skin of his upper arm. ‘And perhaps in five, or six hours…’
The world blurred out around him…
…and reformed, first as a series of subtle sounds and smells. The tap, tap, tap of shoes on a hard floor. The scent of antiseptic again, and of Christine’s perfume, and of – of Jim, close by to him. No time seemed to have passed at all – but there was an odd sensation of soreness behind his eyes, total lack of feeling in the eyes themselves, and the cling of soft, tight bandages hugging his face.
‘Captain,’ he murmured, but very little sound came out. He coughed a little, then asked again, ‘Jim?’
‘Here, Spock,’ Kirk said immediately, putting his hand to Spock’s shoulder. ‘Miss Chapel just stepped out for a moment – just this second. It’s just you and me.’
Spock nodded, digesting that simple information that seemed oddly hard to process. The drugs from the surgery were evidently still slowing down his synaptic responses.
‘You’re in the recovery room,’ Kirk continued. ‘It’s a private room – just the bed, some chairs and some monitoring equipment. They said you’ll be moved once you’re over the anaesthetic.’
‘The operation,’ he murmured.
‘Went as well as they could have hoped,’ Kirk told him, and Spock could hear the gladness in his voice, tempered by that slight reluctance to build the Vulcan’s hopes. ‘They managed total removal of the inner eyelids, so you’ll have to take a little more care with bright light from now on, but no more than the average human. They can’t be sure how well your eyes have reacted to the removal until you’ve had some time to heal, but they’re – very hopeful.’
Spock raised a hand clumsily to touch the bandages about his face. They felt thinner under his fingers than they had seemed at first, but there were thicker pads laid over his eye sockets. The sensation of numbness beneath the pads was quite odd, almost as if his eyes had been removed.
‘Dr Helsand thought it might be possible to take the bandages off after four or five days,’ Kirk continued. ‘You’ll probably only have to stay in for two nights – and that’s just their standard post-operative procedure.’
‘That is – ’ Spock’s voice gave out again, and he coughed uncomfortably.
‘Here, Spock,’ Kirk said quickly, and Spock heard glass clinking against glass, and liquid pouring. ‘Have some water.’
Spock reached out for the glass, and took it carefully, letting the water wash across his throat in a wonderful, cold wave that seemed to bring the tissue back to life. He coughed again, then tried his voice.
‘Thank you, Jim,’ he nodded, passing the glass back again. ‘I was attempting to say, that is a better prognosis than I was given to expect.’
‘McCoy seemed pretty pleased with it, anyway. No you don’t, Mr Spock,’ he said firmly, as the Vulcan began to sit up. He reached out to Spock’s shoulder, but he didn’t need to restrain him, since Spock fell back to the pillow looking distinctly nauseous.
‘They said it’s best you don’t try to sit up for a few hours,’ Kirk told him. ‘The drugs they had to use might affect your balance until they’re out of your system.’
‘Yes, I would say that is quite correct,’ Spock said dryly, resting his head into the pillow and waiting for the odd sensation of being in a boat at sea to subside.
‘Just lie still,’ Kirk said firmly. ‘They’ll give you your first post-op check in a few hours, and let you know more about how the operation went. There’s nothing you can do for now, anyway.’
‘Yes,’ Spock said, taking care not to upset his equilibrium by nodding. ‘That is very true.’
It was the most frustrating fact about this whole process. No mental disciplines or stoical philosophies could do anything to alter the simple truths of biology. His only option now was to wait, and be patient.
After six days of sitting and waiting it was only Spock’s discipline that kept him from unwinding the bandages himself. After two nights in the hospital he had opted to undergo his post-operative checks as an outpatient, and every time he beamed down for examination steady healing was observed by the doctors. He was certain that he barely needed even that cursory medical attention. In analytic meditation he could tell that the tissue of his eyes was healed. The soreness that had grown as the drugs wore off had faded away again, and in all respects his eyes felt totally normal. The only way to tell if they were normal would be to remove the bandages, but that was the one thing that was forbidden to him. It was ten times more frustrating walking about blindfolded than walking about blind.
The ship had left Rigel that morning, sent on an urgent mission to intercept a Klingon threat to Avilla Prime – all the more reason why Spock felt the imperative to discover whether or not he could see, and could return to duty. His treatment was now in McCoy’s hands. He was about to enter sickbay for the regular examination that, up till now, had taken place every morning on Rigel, in the presence of either Dr Helsand or Dr Isan.
As he entered sickbay he could feel the presence of Christine. She was on duty that morning, and had left him just before six to start her shift. Whatever her duties were at this moment, she must have managed to manipulate them to allow her to be there for him when he came for his checkup. She knew as well as he did that this was the first day that there was any likelihood of the bandages being removed.
‘Mr Spock,’ she said quickly, coming to him as he came through the door.
There were other people present nearby, and her voice held the crisp note of duty that it always did when she was in the sickbay instead of the privacy of either of their quarters. Spock could not help but admire her discipline – it seemed to be a trait that few of his human shipmates could manage when they were engaged in relationships with other crewmembers. This morning, however, he could detect another layer of crispness in her voice – as if her tone was verging on brittle. Something was obviously bothering her, but it was beyond him to tell what without asking her or touching her mind.
‘Dr McCoy’s ready for you in the examination room,’ she continued. As she touched his arm Spock felt the swell of affection that she was keeping from her voice. Still, behind it there was that pervading, prickly sense of unease, deeply buried as if to keep it from his senses. Then she said in a softer tone, ‘He’s hopeful about removing the bandages. You’ve been healing very well so far.’
‘As am I,’ Spock said, aware that his voice too held a greater level of tension than it should. He turned toward the examination room without preamble.
‘Do – you mind if I come?’ Christine asked, an odd note of uncertainty in her tone.
‘I don’t see a logical reason for a nurse to be present,’ Spock began, turning back towards her. ‘However – I would welcome your company.’
‘I’m glad,’ she said with a smile in her voice. She touched his arm, and he turned back to the examination room.
‘Dr McCoy?’ he asked as he entered the room. He could hear and sense McCoy in there, fiddling with something on the other side of the room.
‘Ah, Spock,’ the doctor said quickly, putting something down on the table with a clack. ‘I guess Christine told you?’
‘That you hope to remove the bandages?’ Spock asked in a level tone. ‘She mentioned the possibility, yes. Where do you require me?’
‘Oh, the usual chair,’ McCoy said in a distracted tone.
Even as Spock sat he heard the warble of a scanner very near his face. McCoy’s impatience, at least, was enough for both of them. He would have no need to break his impassive unemotional façade to hurry the doctor. He sat motionless while McCoy went through the now familiar list of checks and questions.
‘Okay,’ the doctor said finally. ‘I’m going to go for it, Spock. Are you happy with that?’
‘Perfectly,’ Spock nodded.
‘Okay,’ McCoy said, his tone slowing a little. He drew up a chair and seated himself opposite the Vulcan. ‘Understand, Spock, that if I see any sensitivity in the tissues on exposure to light, the bandages will be going right back on.’
‘Yes, I understand,’ Spock said levelly.
‘You’re going to see more light than you could see before,’ McCoy told him clearly. ‘That’s about the only given in this situation.’
‘And the variables?’ Spock prompted him.
‘Essentially there are three different symptoms, which could occur either separately or together. There’s a possibility of scarring in the cornea, which would lead to blurred vision. There could be a reaction to the chemicals they used to target the inner eyelid, darkening the cornea – which would be something similar to the blindness you’ve been experiencing, but with greater light perception. The third option is a different type of scarring that would leave your iris unable to react to light, meaning you’d have great difficulty in varying light levels. None of the scans indicate any of that, but I need to observe the reaction of your eye in actual light, free of paralysis.’
‘Then may I suggest that you proceed, Doctor,’ Spock said, careful to keep all impatience out of his tone.
‘All right,’ McCoy murmured. ‘Let me give you this,’ he said, touching a hypo to Spock’s arm. ‘Metacansine, to counteract the paralytic agent keeping your eyes immobile. It’ll begin to take effect instantly, but the paralysis will take a few hours to wear off totally. Now,’ he said, carefully touching his hands to the bandages about Spock’s head and slipping the cold blade of a pair of scissors under the fabric. ‘Just a quick cut here… Christine, dim the lights, will you?’
‘Of course, Doctor,’ she replied, moving to the door. She had been absolutely silent until now, and when she spoke there was nothing in her tone but the professional response of a nurse to a doctor.
‘Okay,’ McCoy murmured again. ‘Keep your eyes closed, Spock.’
He peeled the cut bandages away, and carefully removed the pads from Spock’s eye sockets. There was an odd, naked feeling as skin was exposed to the air that had been covered for a week.
‘All right,’ McCoy said. ‘It’s very dark in here, Spock, so when you open your eyes you won’t see anything. Christine’s going to raise the light level slowly, just to help your eyes get used to it. Let me know straight away if you feel any pain. It’s very important that you don’t strain them if they’re not ready. Understand?’
‘Perfectly, Doctor,’ Spock nodded.
‘Okay. You can open your eyes now.’
The sense of tension in the room was almost physical. Spock lifted his eyelids slowly. They felt odd and sluggish after the drugs that had kept his eyes and eyelids paralysed. The darkness did not lift.
‘Okay, Christine, start turning the lights up now,’ McCoy continued. ‘Very slowly.’
Spock blinked. He – saw. He actually saw the brightness growing as the light levels were slowly raised. He blinked again, as what was before him gradually began to resolve as the room grew lighter and lighter. All the while he could hear McCoy’s scanner whirring.
The first thing that his eyes caught with any degree of clarity was the bright blue of another’s eyes, bending close to him. He couldn’t quite focus on the face surrounding those eyes, but the colour was momentarily mesmerising. He caught the joy as it rose, and carefully parcelled it away at the back of his mind.
‘Why, Nurse Chapel,’ he said in a measured tone. ‘Your face is not at all as I remember it.’
A darkness opened up in the pink face as its owner guffawed with laughter.
‘Spock, they gave you a sense of humour along with your sight,’ McCoy said in amazement.
Spock blinked, resisting the urge to scrub his hands over his eyes. They were prickling as if the wind had blown dust into his face.
‘Sight is a noun that deserves qualification,’ he said seriously. ‘I can see colours, and a rough impression of your facial features, Dr McCoy. But my vision is far from perfect.’
‘Any pain?’ McCoy asked seriously. ‘You’re registering as perfectly healed on the scanner. There’s good reaction in your irises, despite the effects of the paralytic.’
‘There is no pain,’ Spock said truthfully. ‘Only some minor irritation at the surface of the eyes.’
‘Let me put some drops in,’ McCoy said, picking up a small white phial from the surface by the chair. ‘Your eyes are very dry. Tilt your head back so you’re looking at the ceiling.’
Spock raised his face, silently relishing the fact that someone could employ the present participle looking in relation to him with any kind of literal meaning. McCoy’s hand laid over his forehead, one thumb raising his eyelid as he dropped stinging liquid into the Vulcan’s eyes. Spock blinked swiftly, feeling the gritty sensation gradually fading away. The view before him began to resolve a little more, until he could read the anxious expression on the doctor’s face.
‘It is – improving,’ Spock said cautiously.
‘Helsand said it might take a bit of time for your vision to recover properly. The paralysis drug needs to wear off completely, and your eyes have been unused for a while. They’re out of shape, just like any other part of your body would be after so long. But – Spock, you can see.’
The joy in McCoy’s voice expressed every ounce of Spock’s own, inexpressible joy. He looked down at the cane that was so intimately familiar to his fingers, that he had never seen before, trying to reconcile its appearance with its texture. He turned his attention to his own hands – to his knuckles and smooth fingernails. His vision was not perfectly clear. He could not yet make out the whorls and patterns of his fingerprints – but he could see his own hands, the blue of his shirt sleeves, the gold bands denoting his rank… The colour, the visual texture, the three dimensional, far-reaching scope of the sense… It was fascinating to the point of distraction.
‘Well,’ McCoy began, suddenly sounding awkward. ‘I’ve done all I can for you now, Spock. Check in with me in a few hours to let me know how your sight’s improving. I’ll – er – leave you two alone for a bit.’
Spock raised his head, startled. He had almost forgotten Christine’s presence. She was hanging back at the side of the room, silent, and her face was too blurred to make out any expression on it.
‘Yes. Er … thank you, Doctor,’ he said falteringly, dropping his gaze back to his hands and the cane he did not need. He heard, rather than saw, McCoy leaving the room, and he murmured, ‘Computer, engage privacy lock.’
He raised his head again, seeing that she was still standing immobile at the side of the room, her hands clasped together as an indistinct mass over her stomach, her dress a block of bright blue between the copper of her head and the two flesh-coloured columns of her legs.
‘I’m so pleased for you, Spock,’ she said finally, taking a step forward. When she spoke, he could hear the smile in her voice, threaded through with – the slight shakiness of some undefined emotion.
Spock got to his feet, moving towards her until he was close enough to make out her facial features more clearly. But he suddenly faltered, unsure of how to meet her eyes. His father had told him time and time again that his eyes were his failing in attempting to mask his emotions. Something seemed to happen when his eyes met the eyes of others that opened up a channel to the interior of his soul. It was so much easier to deal with emotion when he knew that that part of him, at least, was veiled to outside scrutiny.
‘It has changed things, hasn’t it?’ she asked, in a voice of ghostly sadness.
‘Yes,’ Spock said softly, examining his hands again. He put the cane aside, experiencing the strangeness of seeing the clack the object made as it touched the table. ‘It is inevitable that it would change things.’
‘I was telling the truth,’ she said. He could see now that her hands were clasped together so tightly that her knuckles were white – eight blurred rosettes of whiteness against the pink of her fists. ‘I am so happy for you. But – I’m just – sorry for…’
‘Christine,’ Spock said softly, taking her hands, feeling the backs of her fingers and her smooth fingernails, and letting his eyes follow the path of his fingertips. ‘Did I not say to you, I do not make fickle associations. I do not share my mind and my body for a casual fling? Whatever my emotional failings, they are my own.’
He finally looked up, seeing that the blue of her eyes was misted with tears. He touched a hand to her face, tracing the dampness on her cheek, then threaded his fingers through the hair at the edge of her face.
‘I have been waiting for what seems like a very long time to see this,’ he said. ‘I anticipate seeing it with the clarity I am used to. At the moment I am – rather severely myopic.’
He drew her face closer to him, touching her lips with his own in a momentary kiss that turned into something deeper and longer lasting as he closed his eyes and let go of his emotional restraint. He had adjusted to enough changes in the past few months. It was only a matter of time before this change, too, became an accepted part of his life.
Forty-eight hours after the bandages were removed, Spock sat in his quarters, staring with fascination at the various devices that had seemed so important to him in his blindness, that now had no use for him at all. When he ran his fingertip over the Braille cards that Christine had made up for him, so long ago it seemed, his mind could not quite conceive of how he had even begun to learn to read that type, that was so clear with sight, and so indistinct under his fingertips.
It had been as little as two hours ago that he had, at last, been able to look about his quarters with perfect clarity of sight. His eyes had been improving all the time, but it was a combination of McCoy’s eyedrops and a period of carefully controlled meditation in a darkened room that had finally dispelled those last inconsistencies of focus. When he glanced to see the time now there was no need for him to peer close to the numbers to read them. They said, very clearly, 7:14 – even looking from his position sitting behind his desk to the clock on the opposite wall.
Fourteen minutes past seven.
Christine’s shift was due to have ended at seven precisely. But then there was the time that it would take to walk from sickbay to his quarters, and, of course, humans were invariably late. They found themselves involved in a task they could not drop, or talking to a colleague or friend about inconsequential subjects and then, they would say, time just got away, as if it was a substance to be held rather than a quantifiable scientific dimension. But they would be at Avilla Prime in just half a day, and he found himself anxious to make the most of this particular period of time before the current calm and stability on the Enterprise was upset again.
Spock shuffled the Braille cards together into a neat pile, and then dropped them into the recycler beneath his desk. There was little use in keeping them. If they had any sentimental value, it was only because of how long Christine had spent making them for him – but her motives were encapsulated in her, not in pieces of textured card. He had little desire to keep reminders of that dark time.
He went to his small cooking alcove, and began to fill the water heater for tea. He counted almost instinctively, even as he watched the clear, glistening water fill the container.
As he was pouring the freshly boiled water into the teapot there was a buzz at the door, and he said sparsely;
The door swished open as he was giving the leaves a single stir in the pot, and he turned around only as it closed. If he had been holding the pot at that point, he would have been in serious danger of burning himself.
She was wearing a sleeveless dress of fresh, leaf-green fabric, that seemed to cling to her body like paint every place that it touched, and hang as insubstantial as a veil of morning rain wherever it did not. The colour was echoed by the long, multi-jewelled earrings that trailed almost to her shoulders, and set off by the copper-bronze of her hair that was woven and plaited intricately about her head. He could not imagine that that sleek fabric would stand any underwear to interfere with its smoothness, and he could not see a single line on her body that hinted of anything of the sort.
Spock stood with his lips parted for a long moment, then shook himself, and said honestly, ‘There are many words coming to me, but none of them have a logical basis…’
A smile touched her lips. He took a step forward, staring at the minute details of her form. This was the first time that he had truly seen her – clearly enough that he could see the flame-like striations of her irises in varying shades of blue, the shaded darker band about the edges, the fathomless black of her pupils. The curls of her eyelashes reflected in her eyes, each loose strand of copper hair glittered about her face. The green gems in her earrings sent sparks of refracted light dancing across the white skin of her neck.
‘You – are allowed to speak,’ she suggested softly. ‘Even if you don’t say anything logical.’
‘I do not wish to speak,’ Spock said, almost in a whisper.
He touched his hand to the back of her neck, tracing the tips of his fingers across her skin even as he gently moved her closer, orienting himself this time by letting his eyes settle on the soft, red pillows of her lips, before closing the distance and letting his own lips caress hers. He searched into her mouth with his tongue, his fingers roaming into her hair, destroying the carefully arranged braids and strands by slow degrees.
Finally he drew away, holding her shoulders at arms’ length and letting his eyes feast on her again, the way the diaphanous fabric of her dress shimmered over the firm curves of her breasts, caught the hard buds of her nipples, clung to the angles of her hips.
She met his eyes, smiling again, and said softly, ‘One fastening, at the back.’
Spock moved around her silently, drawing in breath as he saw that there was almost nothing to the dress from neck to waist. The thin bands of the high collar fastened at the back of her neck, but below that, the entire length of her back was bare, almost down to her buttocks. For a single second an entirely irrational flame of jealousy speared through him that human men must have seen that long, tantalising view in the corridors, before he had set eyes on it here.
He touched his fingers to the fastening at her neck, loosening it, but he held it together in one hand, waiting until he had moved back to face her to let go.
The dress fell in one fluid movement, like a drench of water slipping over her body and leaving her dry, and perfect. He could not quite believe that someone had designed a dress at once so perfect while worn, and so perfect in its removal. It must, surely, have been designed by a man...
It was as he had suspected. She was entirely naked, and she stood there unblushing, with nothing but the long, multi-faceted earrings and high-heeled, narrow-strapped shoes to adorn her body, the dress lying around her feet like a green pool. His eyebrow twitched upwards as he remembered with some amusement the parallel with the first time he had been with her in this way, when she had stood there before him, he fully dressed in his uniform, and her as naked as she was now.
This time, however… He let his eyes drop from her face, to see the perfect contours of her breasts, centred with dusky pink areolae dimpled with arousal, and peaked with nipples that he wanted nothing more than to take into his mouth and caress with his tongue. He saw the soft flatness of her stomach, the hollow of her navel, the width of her hips – everything leading him relentlessly down to the soft beginning of dark curled hair that he had felt, stroked, tasted, but never seen.
He stopped himself from reaching out, realising again that he was fully dressed, and that he very much wanted to be as naked as her. It took only a few seconds to divest himself of his clothing, leaving it scattered about himself on the floor, in the careless luxury of knowing that he could, at any moment, just glance down and see where it was, rather than concerning himself with tripping hazards and keeping order.
Then he let loose his control, stepping forward to her, devouring her with his eyes, his hands, his teeth and tongue, tasting and caressing every part of her, making her shiver by kissing the nape of her neck, the undersides of her wrists, the taut bones of her hips. By some magic they reached the bed, and he sank over her on the soft mattress, parting her thighs to kiss her there as she arched her back and moaned softly in pleasure and anticipation. He could not stop himself staring at the very human pinkness there, at such a visible sign of her desire for him as she flushed with blood. He traced his tongue along the ridges and valleys, able for the first time to connect that vivid, visual colour with the heat and soft pulsing of the blood that was causing it.
She moved her leg, gently rubbing her shin between his legs, sending stronger and stronger impulses of desire through the taut skin of his scrotum and the length of his yearning, blood-stiffened penis. It was as if she had activated a magnet in the centre of her being, and transformed that length of his to steel. He could not stop himself from moving forward, translating his kisses and probing tongue to the stiffness of her nipples and the tendons of her neck and the lengths of her collarbones, while his penis sought out its harbour almost of its own accord.
She gasped as he entered her, wrapping her arms about his back, pulling him closer, revelling in the heat of him and the power of him as his hips began to set up their own rhythm, back and forth, leaving her sanctuary and then plunging back as if he could not bear to be separated from her. She stroked her hands down his back, finding the strong muscles of his buttocks, feeling their tension and effort each time he thrust himself forwards.
And then all ability to hold on, to think, almost to breathe, disappeared, as their minds came together, his orgasm building into hers, until she could not be sure who was feeling which exquisite pleasure, whose ecstasy was being cried out aloud.
She came back to herself, and she let her eyes focus on his head. It was pressed so close against hers that all she could see was the curve of his ear, its elegant, tapering tip, and his ebony hair curving away from her across his scalp. He stayed silent for a long while, the only sign of life in him being the deep, controlled breaths as he let his heart rate slow back to normal. Then, he rolled onto his side, and let his eyes meet hers, a hint of a smile on the edges of his lips.
‘I had a finely detailed schedule planned for this evening,’ he said lightly. ‘An hour on the observation deck, dinner at eight, coffee… Humans have such a propensity for upsetting the order of things...’
‘And aren’t you glad?’ she asked him with a smile.
Spock glanced through to the floor of his living area, where that sleek green dress lay amid the scattered pieces of his uniform, and then back at her naked body, her dishevelled hair and flushed cheeks.
‘I did not say it was regrettable,’ he nodded.
‘You can see, perfectly, can’t you?’ she asked, touching a hand to his cheek, then tracing her finger along one upswept eyebrow. ‘Those beautiful eyes – they see me, don’t they?’
‘I would dispute whether my eyes were beautiful,’ Spock said. ‘But yes, I do see you, perfectly, as you say.’
‘Dr McCoy said your readings were so good this morning. He expected you to have regained normal vision by this evening. That’s why I risked the dress. I hoped…’
‘Dr McCoy was quite correct,’ Spock nodded. He stroked a hand down her arm, and then pushed himself up on an elbow, fixing his dark eyes on her blue ones. ‘When the bandages were removed, you thought for a moment that this was at an end, did you not? Do you think, perhaps, that we are actually at a beginning?’