Disclaimer: Star Trek is the property of Paramount/Viacom. This story is the property of Johanna Cantor and is copyright (c) 1980 by Johanna Cantor. Rated PG. Originally printed in Rim of Starlight #5.
"Circuits a through f," Spock queried.
"38 a through f ... functioning."
The slight hesitation in the engineer's voice confirmed Kirk's own impression: they were all winding down. It had been grand to maneuver and test, "shaking down" the great ship. But there would be more tests, more missions, more ... time. He closed his eyes for a moment to savor the thought.
"Series completed," Spock announced. "Proceed to--"
"Belay that," Kirk ordered. "Uhura, give me a shipwide." It clicked in.
"All hands, this is the captain. As you all know..." He managed a few words, feeling they could
only sketch his warmth and admiration for this crew and their performance. A redesigned
"All personnel were on duty, Captain."
Kirk grinned at Chekov; he'd finally learned to pronounce that vowel. "All systems on automatic, Security. Skeleton shifts. I want every man off duty at least 16 of 24 for the next two days."
Kirk wheeled, to find Spock and McCoy flanking his chair. Any maybe that didn't feel good! "Commander. Doctor," he said contentedly. "Will you dine with me in my quarters?"
"We'd be honored, Captain," McCoy grinned.
Toasts -- to Decker, Ilia. To Voyager, whatever it might now become. Awe, speculation, but finally just picking up threads -- the chitchat of old friends. Spock, as always, was at a disadvantage with small talk; he grew silent, and Kirk winked at McCoy. "Mr. Spock, how long since you've had a game?"
"I have not played in...since..."
"Well, I have. Bet I can check you in an evening."
"One will get you three," Spock replied deliberately, "that you cannot." And McCoy, who had opened his mouth to protest, closed it again out of sheer astonishment.
Besides, it was probably a good idea. He rose to scan the cabin's cubbies. "You don't have a set. No, I'll get it. I want to stop by Sickbay anyway." On his way out he buzzed Service.
The yeoman was there on the double. "You may clear, Yeoman..."
"Usiletti, sir." The yeoman snapped to a super-correct attention. "Permission, sir?" Kirk nodded, but the young man flushed. "Privilege to serve, sir. Commander," he managed gruffly.
"Thank you, Yeoman," Kirk said, and Spock nodded grave acknowledgement. "Carry on." Usiletti cleared with speed, somehow managing to convey "at ready" even as he juggled plastic and trays. Kirk smiled at his back, but shook his head as the door activated. "They'll have to get over that," he mused. "Not that a touch hurts. But if a crew thinks of command as too superior..." Well, no need to belabor the obvious. "It shouldn't take long."
"No. A few weeks, perhaps."
"Oh, not even that long. As soon as even part of the crew has seen me screw up..." Spock lifted an eyebrow, perhaps at Kirk's choice of idiom, but left it at that. Kirk looked at him, then looked more carefully. "Tired?"
"If you'd rather--"
"It's all right, Jim. I am not ready to sleep."
"No. Me either." Spock nodded, and closed his eyes. Kirk decided the Vulcan was comfortable, just disinclined to talk, and busied himself arranging a shelf.
The buzzer sounded, then McCoy came in with a board and a scanner, which he ran over Spock. "I am resting, Doctor," Spock spoke without opening his eyes. "And I will sleep. But I would like to relax for a time."
"Right." McCoy nodded to Kirk. He's all right, the nod said. A game will do him good. "I'll be in my quarters, Gentlemen." Spock opened his eyes and sat straight to help set up.
"I thought you said you were out of practice," Kirk growled some time later.
"I said I had not played," Spock corrected gently, removing the captured piece. His hand trembled slightly; Kirk pretended not to notice. But as the game went on, it became obvious that Spock's concentration was weakening. His fingers fumbled a piece; Kirk punched stasis.
"You're wearing down," he said. "And I'd be just as glad to stop. Let's call it a night."
"You're tired. Get to bed." Spock stood, then grabbed his temples.
"Steady!" Kirk caught his elbows. "Easy. Sit down." He pushed Spock back and whirled for his desk. I'll be in my quarters-- McCoy had expected trouble. He placed the call.
"On my way," McCoy said immediately. "He'll be all right, Jim." The doctor was there in minutes. "Well, Spock. Catching up with you?" he asked kindly. Spock did not reply, and McCoy put a steadying hand on his shoulder as he scanned. "Okay." He produced a loaded hypo. "This will help." Spock only nodded. But a few minutes later he straightened. "Good," McCoy approved.
* * *
"You said there were indications of neurological trauma," Kirk voiced his worry. "Is he--"
"Now didn't I tell you he'll be all right?" McCoy reproved. "It's nothing he can't handle. He needs rest. Food. A little care. Now that the excitement is over -- come on, Spock." Spock started to rise. "I want you in Sickbay."
Spock froze. "Doctor--"
"I want you on the monitors, Spock. Don't worry. People'll leave you alone. And if it's Chapel you're worried about, don't. She's not only crazy about that guy, they're talking about--"
"Doctor, please," Spock interrupted. "I must sleep."
"Does he really need monitoring, Doctor?"
McCoy looked down at the trembling hands, and relented. "All right, your quarters. I'll be in and out, just occasionally, to check on you. Agreed?"
"Thank you, Doctor. I appreciate the trouble I am --"
"All right, all right. Don't try to make it into a dissertation. Grab an arm, Jim."
"Bones--" Kirk reproached, but Spock rose, reaching to them. They steadied him and walked him to his quarters.
* * *
McCoy shook his head at the standard bedsack. "Get a thermal, would you, Jim?" When Kirk returned with it, Spock was climbing into the sack. McCoy tucked the thermal around him. "There. Comfortable?" Spock assented, obviously being polite about it, and McCoy grinned at him. "Well, Chapel gave you enough dalphiline to make a corpse order breakfast. You needed it then. But I'm afraid the bill's due."
McCoy sighed elaborately. "You received a powerful stimulant to help you overcome the effects of that meld. Now the stimulant is wearing off. Understand?"
"Understood." Spock closed his eyes wearily.
"Bones, he will be--"
"Yes, for the third time!" But McCoy relented again. "He's exhausted, Jim. He's been pushing himself too hard for a long time – that Koliwhatchamacallit, I suppose. He's got to rest. Eat. Play some chess now and then..." Spock turned away slightly. "You hear me?"
"Of course he hears you," Kirk snapped, coming to the rescue. But McCoy disarmed him with a wink, and reached to give Spock's neck a rub.
"You'll be all right now." McCoy's voice was more kind than professional; he felt a slight tremor under his hands. "What's the matter?" Silence. "What's the matter?" he insisted.
"Come on!" No response. "Spock, tell us. Let us help. You need contact. Feeling. Vejur showed you that."
"But not how to handle it," Kirk put in sympathetically. He moved toward the head of the bed. "The Kolinahr would have been the solution, wouldn't it? You find it difficult to deal with humans, and painful to deal with your own human side. Among the masters, you wouldn't have been exposed to that, or to Vulcan problems either. You'd have been at peace. Isn't that it?" Spock nodded, covering his eyes with one hand. "And besides," Kirk added gently, "you'd have been freed from your cycle, wouldn't--"
"How did you know that?" Spock rasped, sitting bolt upright. McCoy grabbed him. "How did you--"
"I didn't. It was just a guess."
Spock blinked, trying to pull himself together. He lay back and was silent for some time. Then, very tentatively, he said, "Captain, you will not... Jim, if anyone ever learns that -- that..."
Kirk gaped at him, then rose in fury. "Are you asking me to keep your confidence?! Allow me to assure you, Commander," his voice grated, "that the personal affairs of my crew are--"
"Jim!" McCoy protested.
Kirk whirled on him, silencing him with a look. "Damn it, Spock! You trusted me once! What have I done to--"
"No, Jim," Spock protested. "Jim!" Kirk shut up, and Spock nodded gratefully. "I do not fear that..." His voice trailed off, and he tried again. "It was only that..." He shook his head hopelessly. "I beg forgiveness; I was startled," he concluded formally. Kirk turned on his heel and started out of the room. "Jim!" Kirk halted. "Jim, if anyone on Vulcan ever knew that you had learned that, through your friendship with me, the..." Spock thought furiously. "The next canopy erected over the Keeper of ShiKahr would be made of my hide!"
Kirk managed a grin, but McCoy was howling. "I can just see it!" he gasped, tears of laughter rolling down his cheeks. "Vulcans, knowing that a human knows -- ho ho! I bet even most Vulcans don't know there's a way to escape the cycle, let alone--"
"It is known," Spock corrected him stiffly. "But it is so difficult to attain that-- Doctor! I would take it as a personal favor if you would stop--"
"Oh, damn it, Spock, I'm not laughing at you," McCoy prevaricated. "Only, if it worries you, let me assure you that the personal affairs--"
"All right, all right." McCoy subsided, wiping his eyes. "Canopy of the Keeper of ShiKahr," he chuckled, then stopped. "You know, Spock, you're not so bad at dealing with humans as you think. That was a master stroke."
But Spock was studying Kirk, and he knew it hadn't been good enough. "Perhaps it does seem you have changed, Jim," he said quietly. "but I know you would never--"
"How?" Spock turned away, but it seemed so important that Kirk couldn't let him off the hook. "How?"
"Seems to me the way he handled this mission--" McCoy began loyally.
"Not this mission," Spock agreed,
frowning. "Not anything, now. It only seems..." Kirk waited.
"You gave up the
"It was a mistake," Kirk said. Then he shrugged. "That's all. I made a mistake. I thought I wanted ... some things I've never had. I couldn't know that they don't compensate for..."
"Well, I don't see anything wrong with a man's wanting a little peace!" McCoy put in. "A home that doesn't travel allover the galaxy. Maybe someone to--" He stopped abruptly.
"No." Spock didn't see the doctor's confusion. "But when one has such capacity to serve, to move aside, to personal--"
"Well, look who's talking!" McCoy snarled, unexpectedly flicked on the raw. "Spock turned to the wall. "Very true, Doctor."
"Hey listen," Kirk rallied. "Does it strike you gentlemen that this is illogical? We're all tired. Spock's supposed to be resting. We're supposed to be making him comfortable, not--"
McCoy rose abruptly. "I want you asleep, Spock, and I mean sleep. If you require sedation--"
"Unnecessary, Doctor." McCoy nodded and stalked out.
Kirk watched him go, troubled, then looked down to meet another pair of troubled eyes.
"He's right, you know." He managed a smile. "We all need rest. Rest, a little time. We need a shakedown cruise, even more than the ship."
Spock looked at him another moment, then nodded. Kirk sat down again. "You get to feeling better. Then I want to talk to you." Spock queried silently. "About this idea you have that you can't handle your human side. You can, you know. You did it for years. And well, too. Look at Sulu and the others, when you came on board. You're a good man to serve with, Spock. No, don't shake your head. It's true. You can do it. Sure, there are problems; there always will be. But everybody has problems relating to people. Spock, you've spent years learning how to maximize your Vulcan potentials. But have you ever even tried to capitalize on your human--"
"You don't know that." Kirk rose. "Get some sleep. Things won't look so difficult when you feel better. Good night."
"Good night." Spock waited until the door closed to add, "Captain. Captain," he repeated aloud. It felt good to say that. Good to feel a hand on his shoulder, to see a smile. To stand at his captain's side, and serve...
Logically, he began to cast an equation. The advantages were many, beginning with the services he could render. The Federation needed conscientious service. But the problems for him, especially the problem... He shuddered suddenly, and pulled the thermal over his bedsack again. McCoy was right; he did need sleep. To react so emotionally was a sure sign that his controls were down. I'll think about it tomorrow, he decided, then wondered if that were the correct decision. Procrastination -- a human failing. On the other hand... He decided to worry about that tomorrow too. But he did reach to flick off the study lights and activate his off duty signal before he settled himself to sleep.