DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Cheree Cargill and is copyright (c) 2001 by Cheree Cargill. This story is Rated PG.
PATTERNS OF FORCE: THE HEALING TOUCH
Stardate: 2535.1. First Officer Spock recording.
I would never have believed I could withstand such pain and still maintain my composure. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the Captain flinch every time the whip lashed across his back. I knew that no more than five seconds later it would carve another furrow across my own. The wielder had established a steady rhythm by that time.
There was a precise pressure, as well. The man using the whip was practiced at this sort of thing. He had done this often and was a master at it. The braided leather raised a long, bloody welt, but never quite cut deep enough to open the flesh. It was just enough to make the nerve endings scream with the assault.
I bore it stoically, determined that I would not allow my tormentors the satisfaction of seeing the pain they were causing me. I chanted over and over to myself, I am a Vulcan. There is no pain. It was my mantra to endure the torture and, after each recitation, I awaited the punctuation point of the whip searing yet another fire-branded stripe down my back.
I was more concerned for the Captain. His skin was sheened with sweat and the abuse was beginning to wear him down. He was criss-crossed with the red hatch marks of the whiplashes and I knew that he would go down on his knees if this kept up much longer. He was a strong, resourceful man, but no one could withstand this type of maltreatment for long.
For me, being stripped half-naked by these malicious strangers was almost as bad as the beating. I was unused to baring my body and felt that violation keenly. They poked and prodded at me, making crude comments about the greenish hue of my skin, finally laughing uproariously as they speculated about my genitalia. I half expected them to divest me of my trousers in order to inspect me. I believe they would have if the colonel had not arrived then and ordered them to begin the torture. In defense, I withdrew into myself to mask the shame I felt and was thus more able to handle the beating when it began.
In the end, the Captain and I survived it and were able to escape after a time, joining with the Zaon resistance fighters to attain our goal. Ultimately, our mission to Ekos proved successful, although John Gill was killed in the process. That is a great misfortune. I had hoped we would be able to recover him without undue violence. I recall his history lectures at the Academy, their brilliance in bringing the past alive for me, and in showing me that every action leads to a reaction, although not necessarily equal or opposite. I had never before studied history in quite the way he presented it and I found myself finally understanding why Earth's history had followed the path it did.
But at the finish Professor Gill did not learn the lesson he most often taught: "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it." In his case, he repeated it on purpose and it proved his undoing. I shall grieve for a good man lost and for the lessons he did not learn.
When the Captain, Dr. McCoy and I beamed back up to the ship, we were still dressed in the archaic Ekosian uniforms and we all three headed immediately for sick bay. The Zaon resistance fighters had wrapped bandages around my torso and Jim's, but during the activities of the evening, those dressings and the wool uniforms had rubbed our injuries raw and, by the time we arrived back on the ship, both of us were in considerable pain, the whipmarks now bleeding and soaking through both bandages and uniform tunics.
Dr. McCoy led the way into sick bay, stripping off his Ekosian uniform jacket and simultaneously calling, "Chris! Where are you?!"
Nurse Chapel appeared immediately from his office and looked startled to see us. "Doctor, what--" she began.
"You help Spock," he interrupted her. "I'll take care of the Captain." We were directed into the infirmary and to separate beds.
As I sat down on the diagnostic bed and shed the gray tunic I wore, she caught her breath at what must have been revealed to her. The bandages were drenched with blood. I could smell it as the air hit my back, the coppery odor pungent to my nostrils. She hastily glanced at McCoy to see if he knew what shape my back was in, but the doctor's attention was focused on the captain's body. It was in an identical state except that the blood was red.
In an instant, she was all business, totally professional as she turned back to me. As she began cutting the bandages away, I couldn't help but flinch as the cloth pulled away from the open wounds.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Spock," she said softly, continuing to work. "I'll be as gentle as I can. What happened down there?"
"The Ekosian military found our presence objectionable," I replied.
"I can see that. What did they use on you?"
"I believe the term was 'bull whip'. I found it quite as effective on Vulcans as it undoubtedly was on cattle." I sucked in my breath with a sharp hiss as she eased the bandages away from a particularly raw section of my back.
"Beat the shit out of you two is what they did," McCoy interjected from where he was removing similar wrapping from Kirk.
The captain wasn't so unemotional about it as I. He had his teeth clenched tightly and was gripping the side of the examining table on which he sat.
"An emotionally over-wrought description, Dr. McCoy, but that is the gist of it," I replied.
Nurse Chapel had the bandages cleared away now and she was gently touching here and there on my back, evidently probing how deeply the whip had cut through my skin. My mental shields were not as firm as they should have been, for I could feel the alarm and agitation that reverberated through her fingertips into my psyche. It lasted only a few seconds, then she turned away and retrieved a tray with instruments and medications laid on its sterile surface.
Again, with a completely professional demeanor, she said in her soft, throaty voice, "I'm going to have to clean these wounds, Mr. Spock. There's no way around it. It's going to hurt."
"It already hurts, Miss Chapel. Please proceed."
It had taken all of my control to sit motionless while she did so. The pat of the cotton against my flayed skin, the cold bite of the cleanser as it touched the open sores... It was nearly more than I could stand. Worse than the whipping, in fact, for my flesh had now been abraded by the uniform cloth and battered by all it had been through.
And yet, during it all, her gentle hands touching me conveyed something I'd never felt before. I felt her concern and compassion for me, the love and anguish she was feeling as she attended to my needs. For a moment, concentrating on the emotions that flooded into me from her fingers, I very nearly forgot my pain and soreness. I felt only the overwhelming warmth that was Christine standing behind me, tenderly smoothing healing ointment into each livid stripe, bringing with it blessed relief.
Something in me wished we were alone so that I could close my eyes and sigh with contentment. I felt all my worries melt away underneath her touch, all my hurt begin to dissipate. I had never felt so ... cared for.
And it made me wonder. Did she touch all of her patients in this manner, or were these feelings just for me? Cautiously, I opened my mental shields a little wider and allowed her emotions to flow into me, analyzing them.
What I found almost reflexively caused my eyebrow to lift in response. Yes, she was as tender or as tough with her patients as she needed to be, but this was different. In this case, there were deeper feelings there and they were for me. For me personally. And I saw in the psychic impressions that flooded into me that when she thought of me, it was not as the First Officer or that Vulcan or any other label that would build a wall around me. She thought of me as "Spock" and that I was a person to her.
That gave me pause for a moment. I remembered back to the incident at Psi 2000 when she had declared emotional attachment for me. I dismissed it then as a symptom of the illness that ravaged the ship and wondered if my own illness had responded to her in a way wholly inappropriate. She had been nothing but completely professional since that time and I sensed that she was as ashamed of her actions as I was surprised and disconcerted by them.
But now I understood that the illness had brought out feelings for me that she had kept carefully hidden. I appreciated her discretion, but I knew now that they were still there within her. Her touch told me everything.
The feeling of panic came back and I straightened my back, feeling the wounds protest the movement. "Thank you, Nurse," I said. "That will be sufficient."
"I'm not done yet, Mr. Spock," she protested.
"Keep your butt on that bed!" McCoy ordered harshly, as he labored over sealing the gashes and bruises on the Captain's back. "You're not released from this sickbay until she has synthiskin applied to every one of those cuts." He pinned me with a baleful eye that dared me to move and I couldn't help glancing up at Christine.
She was standing there with an expression of barely concealed amusement and patience. I sighed melodramatically and settled back onto the diagnostic bed. "Very well, but I hardly think it's necessary."
"It'll feel better," she commented, as she picked up the synthiskin applicator from the instrument tray. "I promise. This part won't hurt."
"It is not pain that I fear," I replied, submitting with a modicum of good grace. "I am merely anxious to remove this uncomfortable clothing and once more get into my duty uniform."
I could almost feel her warm smile radiating out through her fingers. "In that case, you'll feel even better after I'm through and you also won't have to worry about accidentally ruining your tunic by bleeding on it."
She began the meticulous process of laying down the thin strips of synthiskin over the wounds, sealing them and protecting them from further injury and infection. I had to admit that it felt quite pleasant and once more I was treated to the unexpected sensation of her loving touch moving gently but firmly over the bare skin of my back.
The feeling conjured an unexpectedly erotic flush through my body. I had never been touched like this. Never experienced a woman's fingers moving over my naked skin or felt the unmistakable knowledge that she wanted me. My thoughts flashed without warning to my betrothed wife. Except for the Bonding, T'Pring had never touched me in any manner. I could not fathom her doing so. Touching was an intimate act between a husband and wife and there was no intimacy between us.
Not like this. Christine was touching me in a way that T'Pring never would, caressingly, tenderly, even while doing her job in her usual straight forward way. Inadvertently, I closed my eyes for a second and my exhale came out sounding very much like a sigh.
I felt Christine pause and then her hand rested lightly on my bare shoulder as she leaned to study my face. "Mr. Spock? Are you all right? Did I hurt you?" she asked.
Quickly I straightened. "No, simply a reflex, Nurse," I responded smoothly. "That last was rather tender."
"Well, one more and I'll be all done." She went back to work and once again her hands guided the applicator over the welt, sealing it. Then she stepped away. "Okay, all finished. Let me give you an anti-inflammatory and you can get down." Almost before I could protest, the hypospray hissed against my bicep and she moved around the bed, her warm smile lighting her face.
"There. You let me know if those give you any problems," she said.
I hesitated for a split second and my eyes met hers. She didn't look away, but held my gaze and I tried to read there in those azure depths what I had felt in her touch. But her mental shields now were worthy of any Vulcan's and I saw only friendliness and professional detachment.
"Thank you, Nurse," I replied, slipping down off the elevated bed. "A most thorough job."
She nodded in acknowledgment and then picked up the tray, taking her leave of sick bay. I walked over to stand beside the Captain and watch Dr. McCoy finish applying the snythiskin to his back.
"Okay, you're good to go, Jim," he finally said, straightening. "Just take it easy and don't pull those loose." He dumped the applicator on his tray and went to the sink to wash. "Now, if you feel anything like I do, I'm all for getting out of these Nazi rags and back into some civilized clothing!"
Kirk stood slowly, testing the healing patches on his back. "I'll second that motion, Bones! Then I'm up for some real food!"
"I'll second the second!" McCoy answered emphatically. "Moved and carried!"
I picked up the green-stained tunic of my Ekosian uniform and began to put it back on, grimacing a little in distaste at its soiled condition.
"For Pete's sake, Spock, what are you putting that bloody thing back on for?" McCoy demanded, fists on his hips.
"I have no wish to parade half-clothed through the corridors on my way to my cabin," I responded, then glanced over at the Captain, who was standing bare to the waist. He was grinning in delight.
"Oh, why not, Spock?" Jim asked. "Give the girls a thrill."
I stared at him with a show of affronted dignity. "Really, Captain!"
He and McCoy chuckled and preceded me out the door. As I followed, I couldn't help notice that Christine was standing in the doorway to the lab. And I could have sworn that she did a quick glance down my chest before returning her eyes to my face and smiling secretively.