DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Beth Carlson and is copyright (c) 1983 by Beth Carlson. This story is Rated PG-13. Originally published in AKobayashi Maru@, 1983.

 

The First Half of the Battle

 

by Beth Carlson

 

At last the chasm between reality and rationalization narrowed and Kirk leapt at the chance to leave the bridge.

It had been hours since the beam‑up, hours during which Kirk had found himself cemented to the bridge by duty. A planet in the process of deciding whether or not to join the Federation was to be, by regulation, afforded protection. And, regardless of how he felt, personally, about its inhabitants, the planet below them had needed protection from the Romulan flagship that had appeared from nowhere. Jim Kirk, by regulation, had that responsibility.

The winged warpaint flashing, the sleek white lady answering. The two ships had spent precious hours playing tag in primal shows of dominance, the Romulans never quite attacking -- only testing, baiting. At last, having shown courage -- from everything the Federation knew about the Romulans it seemed that -- they made final swoop at the starship, a promise to return for their prey when the competition was not so stiff, and left. The planet was the issue, and in time it might be had without loss. In that, the Romulans could be a most patient people. Cool logic and the cat‑like ability to wait for a weakness in the opposition had won them as many worlds as had violence.

Kirk knew the games and played them well, but the games were over, for now.

AUhura, you have the con. I'll be in Sickbay."

AYes, sir.@

As they passed, he felt her grasp his arm firmly and looked down at her. Both forced a smile that they did not feel and want their separate ways. The warmth and pressure of her hand lingered on his arm as the levels flitted past, the turbolift coach speeding its way to deck six.

Physical action had dulled the ugly gnawing in his gut a little, but not enough. He still felt as if something hideous was after him ‑‑ and everything that was his. If he was too late ... If duty had robbed him of this ... He quickened his steps as he reached Sickbay and headed for the ICU.

McCoy heard him pass the sterilite beam at the door and looked up from his work. ANo, Jim. Not now.@

Spock looked so white, so battered -- so still. Kirk was frozen in place.

AI said not now, Jim.@ McCoy looked haggard. AI don't have the time to usher you out myself. Don=t make me call in a tech.@ At the pleading look in the large hazel eyes, the doctor's voice softened. AJim. I can't cope with both of you right now, please. Wait in the office. He wouldn't know you were...@

The man in the doorway tried to comply but failed to stem the tide of pain in his face and his eyes threatened to overflow. He nodded and finally forced his feet to move.

Watching him, McCoy felt a lancing pain across his already aching chest. AAw, hell. How do I know what he knows? Come on in. But just for a minute.@


Kirk came to the bed quickly and reached out a hand. There wasn't anywhere that wasn't bruised and bloody, that didn't look like it hurt. He settled for a small uninjured space on the Vulcan's bare shoulder and placed his hand there. AI=m here, Spock.@ It was all he could get out before the lump in his throat stopped him. He stood there a long moment staring into the bruised face until he could continue. ABones needs me to leave so he can concentrate on you...@ Again his voice deserted him. AI'll be nearby. As near as I can, whenever I can get away from the bridge.@ There was complete stillness. ASpock?" It died in his throat.

AJim.  I told you...@ McCoy began gently ‑‑ and then rephrased. AI=m sure he heard you.@ His own eyes were full and he turned away and blinked hard for a moment. AHe just can't respond. Go now. I=ll call you if anything happens.@ The physician steered him toward the door. AWait in the office sleep-room.@

Kirk heard the sterilite as he passed through it, but he was still looking back. "Jim..." McCoy began again, and with a quick nod, Kirk tore his gaze away and headed for the office, the vision of Spock still vivid in his mind.

McCoy's office was lighted, but he made his way to the darkened sleep-room with its bed, chair and desk. There, in the darkness, was a tall thin figure in white sitting on the edge of the bed, elbows on widespread knees, head bowed over the styrofoam cup she held between her hands. She looked up and a warm smile formed. "Jim ‑‑ sit down." She indicated the easy chair across from her.

He sat on the edge of the chair. "He wouldn't let me stay."

The brief smile returned to the narrow face. "He kicked me out about ten minutes ago. Threatened physical damage to my person if he saw me again within the hour." She reached over and flipped on the small bedside light. Two officers found sitting alone in a small dark room with a bed would offer more to the ship's grapevine than she cared to give.

ANo wonder he kicked you out; you look like hell.@ He looked at her, concerned.

AThanks a lot,@ she smiled. AI might say the same for you.@

AAnd both of us'd be right. Have you been here the whole time?@ It was a foolish question and she didn't answer but asked a question instead.

AAny response to you?" Hope hung in her words.

ANo,@ came the whisper, and the hope shattered like crystal, littering the silence with sharp edges.

Finally, Kirk spoke again. AHave you eaten anything?@

She reached over to the desk and lifted the lid from a tray to show him a roast beef sandwich. "He said, 'get something'. He didn't order me to eat it.@

ASo I will. Eat. "

AIf I eat, I'll throw up.@

He smiled. AOrder rescinded.@

AThanks.@ She lifted the tray and put it into his lap. AYou eat. My orders.@ Kirk looked doubtful. "We all handle emotional stress differently, Jim. Munch. You're entitled. Besides, when did you last eat?@

He sighed his acquiescence and lit into the sandwich. It felt good to eat, felt good to feel the moist bread between his fingers, to smell the pungent odor of mustard.

Christine took another sip of coffee and lowered her head again, exhausted.

He studied her bowed head for a long while as he ate and then put down the remnants of the sandwich, surprised that he'd eaten so quickly. He brushed his hands clean and reached across the small space to lay his hands on shoulders that were -- as they often were ‑‑ hard with tension. She looked up at his touch and found him smiling at her. "Lie down and let me rub your shoulders. I'll bet you have a hell of a headache.@


ANot too bad. And how would that look?@

AI don't give a damn how it looks. Just do it.@ He grinned. AThat's an order, Doctor.@

Christine smiled with affection. "Jim,@ she began with the rush of love clear in her voice."One day you're going to back that royal tail of yours into grinder.@

He grinned conspiratorially and confided, "I know. But not today. I@m saving a really big screw‑up for that day.@

She laughed at him and nodded, standing up to lie down on the daybed. It did feel good and she groaned inadvertently.

AThat good, huh?@

AIf you only knew...@

He chuckled and then there was silence. By that brand of nonverbal knowing common to Humankind, both of their minds had drifted back to the thin, dark‑haired man lying in the ICU. After several minutes, Kirk stopped rubbing and Christine rolled over and sat up near his place on the edge of the bed.  Their eyes met and Kirk found that he had to swallow the thickness in his throat before he could speak. "There wasn't anyplace to touch him ... only his shoulder.@  He looked away to hide the tears that welled up.

The brokenness she glimpsed in his face caught at her and she grasped his head to hers for a moment. AI know.@

Kirk took a long breath and then pulled back, not wanting to fall into the gulf of warm comfort. It was too alluring ... to cling ... to cry ... to escape. Just for a moment. But he was a grown man. Kirk. Captain. And he would not allow himself that comfort.  It flitted through his mind that his own self-concept ‑‑ that part of him that he continually built himself upon ‑‑ was a thief.

Christine  released him, absolving him from the moment, and sighed. ASometimes it helps him to be touched, I think ... maybe I only want to think that.@  Her voice drifted in thought. ASometimes it seems like only one more thing for him to have to shield against, to filter out. It's hard to know when to touch and when not to."

He'd never thought of it that way and it hurt him to think that his touch might have hindered Spock's concentration on healing himself. He looked away.

"Jim." Her hand turned his face back to hers. "I=m sorry. I didn't mean ... I'm sure your touching him today only helped him, encouraged him. I know it did.@  Blue eyes searched his, seeking the warm glow that would tell her that he accepted truth in her words ‑‑ if they were true or not.

It took a long few seconds for him to fully convince himself. Finally, he couldn't handle any longer the thought of having done something hurtful to Spock, and the need to accept some comfort over the pain won out. He believed, if only because not believing was unbearable.

AI guess so." He re‑seated himself in his own chair and watched Christine's legs unfold and her feet find the floor again. Silence engulfed them for another endless time as Christine stared at her fingers and Kirk closed his eyes. The scene of Spock's body flying backwards with the force of the explosion played itself back in his mind for the hundredth time and he opened his eyes again. Instead, he stared at the foot of the daybed, trying to follow a ridge of the corded bedspread with his eyes from the end, to Christine's thigh, and back again.  Each time, his vision would blur from fatigue and he would have to begin all over.

"Damn!  I don't understand those people." Christine's voice startled him. AWhy bother to have a diplomatic party beam down just to meet them with a mine field? It doesn't make sense!@


AI guess it does if between hearing great things from traders about the Federation and the arrival of their emissaries you happen to have a visit from a freighter‑load of renegade Romulans. When we told them we couldn't land, they must have realized how big we were and gotten scared. For all they knew we might have been planning to bring down an army. They saw Spock and that was about all it took for them to decide that they couldn't trust us." He looked down for a moment.  "When Spock reached up to adjust his translator... They just pushed a button.@  For some reason he couldn't stop repeating the story. It was as if he hoped repeating it would make it less bewildering, but it didn't.

Christine shook her head. ASo senseless. Of all the people in the universe to fear or hate, the least...@ Her voice stopped and her eyes widened. AOH GOD!@ She had bolted for the door before Kirk isolated the alarm sound in his mind. He was right behind her.

They slid into the room between carts and personnel. Kirk flattened himself against the far wall. If he was silent and stayed out of the way, maybe no one would notice him and make him leave. On the bed, the Vulcan's body was totally still.  McCoy was leaned over him, the heel of his hand shoving into the right side of the Vulcan's ribcage with a hard steady rhythm. ACome on, Spock!" he grunted. ADon't stop now!"

Kirk felt his own heart stop, his throat constricting. Spock was dying. He was really dying.

Christine, having gathered a handful of articles from several carts, was tossing them on the bedside stand. Hands that could be infinitely tender and gentle lifted the dark head almost roughly as she yanked the pillow out from under it.  The pillow hit the floor. In only another fraction of a second she had Spock's head back and was feeding a long airway down his throat as she steadied his chin with her left thumb. That accomplished, she secured it quickly with tape and turned to grab for more supplies. A nurse attached a rubber bag to the airway and began pumping it by hand as Christine disinfected a spot on the Vulcan's remaining free arm. She slid an inch‑and‑a‑half long needle that looked almost half the diameter of cocktail straw into the vein and taped it, hooking the tubing up to  bag of yellow fluid. From nowhere came a med‑tech who raised a pole from the head of the bed for the bag to hang on. It was all happening so fast. Christine looked up. AReady.@

"On three ‑‑ two cc=s.@ McCoy's eyes were narrowed with tension.

"Two cc's on three,@ she repeated back, inserting the needle of a syringe into a connection in the tubing near Spock' s arm.  By his head, the nurse continued to breathe for him with the bag.

AOne C two C three.@

Christine injected the pink liquid from the syringe. "Nothing."

Kirk felt himself gagging on the back of his own tongue and made himself relax his throat; one false move and some pimple‑faced med‑tech would notice him and usher him out.  And he couldn't leave now. He forced another silent breath.

AOne more.@ McCoy=s voice sounded like metal against wood.

"Done."  Christine's jaw clenched harder as they waited. The swish of the bag forcing air into the Vulcan=s lungs and the sounds of the monitors were the only noises in the room.

McCoy's arms were giving out and a med‑tech assumed the heart massage smoothly.   ANothing.  Damn!  One more.@


Christine' s jaw flexed as she emptied the syringe into the tubing. The machine blipped with the reaction to one spontaneous heartbeat. The two sets of blue eyes met and McCoy motioned for the tech to stop. Silence. The swish of the bag. The null sound of the heart monitor. The dark eyes of the tech rested on McCoy. He was waved to wait. Kirk held his breath, his chest threatening to explode.  A second ... and a third heartbeat registered, then a flutter of them together.  A silence, and then one more.  All eyes were on the indicators. Another beat and then another and another in regular sequence. The tension in the room broke and Kirk breathed in a great greedy gulp of air, blinking back tears.  The regular sound of the strong Vulcan heart pounding was music. Voices broke into a mumble of relief and bodies and equipment began filtering our of the door.  The figure on the bed was still as McCoy rested his hand on the battered chest waiting for sign of breath. The nurse lifted the bag a few centimeters from the airway to allow air in. When no air passed, she lowered it again and forced several breaths into him. Suddenly the dark eyes sprang open and Spock was an eruption of panicked fight, every muscle in revolt against whatever nameless monster violated his body.

"Hold him, for godsakes!" McCoy's voice matched Christine's reaction of throwing her  weight across the dark bloody figure, hands on his shoulders, knee dug into his thigh. The nurse at his head struggled to both hold down his head against the tremendous neck and shoulder muscles and to untape the airway and remove it so he could breathe freely. McCoy and three techs joined Christine in trying to hold him flat enough to get him into restraints.

Kirk could bear it no longer. He came from his corner and wound his way to the bed between bodies. "Spock!" He caught a flailing hand and gripped it hard. "It's okay, Spock," he shouted over the din. AYou=re okay. Settle down.  It's Jim.  I'm here. Spock! You're going to hurt yourself! Stop it!" The hot hand clamped onto his with a crushing force and, as the airway left the Vulcan's throat, he gasped at the air. The wild eyes found Kirk for only a second before the stress of his fight took him back into the darkness. His grip went limp and Kirk looked frantically at McCoy.

"He=s okay, Jim.  Unless he did more internal damage.@  Christine was running a scanner over him and McCoy, waiting for the results, looked at Kirk. AWhat in the hell are you doing in here, anyway?" he barked, almost running his hand through his hair, but then, thinking better of it, wiped the dark blood and ointment from his hands on a corner of Spock's sheet. Still, it wasn't clean, and only added to his frustration. He needed to run his hand through his hair.

"He's okay,@ Christine breathed. "The adhesive you put in at the spleen is still secure and there's no new bleeding into the gut area.@ Her voice cracked. ASo far, so good.@

McCoy closed his eyes for a second to breathe in relief, then opened them with a weariness that demanded he close them again, but he didn't. AJim, how did you get in here?@ His voice was gentle now and Kirk smiled.

AI walked.@

McCoy found his own smile. AJim. Take a hike. Get out of here for a while. There's nothing you can do for him right now. He'll be out of it for a long while. I wouldn't say he's out of the woods yet ‑‑ his lower body is still hit or miss ‑‑ but I don't expect any sudden changes.@

Kirk squeezed Spock's hand and got no response. He pulled slowly away, but there was no reflex that asked him not to let go. When he had disentangled himself, he looked back at McCoy. AOnly if you go with me. You need to change and eat."

McCoy looked at Christine who was tending to the re‑opened lacerations on Spock's body. Her white uniform was covered with smears of blood and antiseptic ointment, and she absently drew an arm across her face to push back any strands of hair and to absorb the sweat. Hell would freeze over before he'd get her away from Spock again, he decided, and there was no use in both of them being here. He'd better eat and get some sleep so that when Christine's super‑human dedication ran headlong into her all‑too‑human limit of endurance, he would be there to ease her frustration and to argue her into rest. He looked back at Kirk.

AOkay, Jim.  Chris‑‑" She looked up. AWe=ll be in the galley if you need us.  As soon as I clean up." She gave him a smile of appreciation; he had not pushed at her to leave. He winked back, then turned and led Kirk out.

* * *


It was ten minutes later that a trembling began somewhere deep inside of Christine.  The preoccupation of caring for the man on the bed before her lessened, she was now very aware of how close he had come to dying. Backing away from the pale form, she found her hands cold when she put her face into them and let out a silent sob. It broke the tension and she took a deep breath, then lowered her hands and looked at herself. Her uniform was a mess, strands of her hair hung down in places. She had to clean up. It occurred to her that if she used the bathroom/shower facilities here in ICU, she could be clean in no time and still be close by. Sickbay maintenance would have it cleaned again before Spock would need it... if he ever ... No, she cautioned herself. She would not think of that. Spock was going to live ‑‑ and he was going to walk again as well. She wouldn't give that up without a fight; it was too soon for negative thinking. Reaching for the intercom, she summoned the head nurse and a new set of whites.

AMary, watch him for me. I'll be ten feet away for about five minutes. If he moves, if he makes a sound, if any of the readings even quiver, call me.@

AYes, Doctor.@

ADon't take your eyes off of him, not even for a minute.@

Mary Daniels smiled. AYes, Doctor.@

Christine smiled back and took her fresh clothing from the incoming med-tech. AI=m sorry, Mary. I know you know your job.@

The small nurse gave her another smile. AI know; go shower while you can.@

* * *

ABut he=ll be all right again, won=t he?@ Kirk questioned, grasping for hope.

McCoy had none to give. He took an extra swig of his coffee before answering, then brushed a few grains of sugar off onto the deck.  AJim, I just don=t know.  The longer he lives the better the chance he has of staying alive. There=s just so much trauma a body can take and still keep functioning. And even then C you saw how mangled he is from the waist down. Even with additional reconstructive surgery -- surgeries -- maybe as many as six or eight of them --- he=s still going to need at least a year or more of physical therapy, and God knows what shape he'll end up in.@ The blue eyes filled and he picked up his coffee cup abruptly to cover for it. It was empty. ADamn.@ Putting the cup down, he raised his eyes again to face Kirk. AJim,@ he began softly. "We're talkin' about just keepin' him alive. More than that, I can't tell you. A lot of it depends on him and on how much he wants to live. Pretty soon he'll be strong enough to put himself into a healing trance. That'll help. We can't start any re‑constructive until the internal injuries are healed. But that's up to him. It's his decision. He may not choose to go into trance, once he's aware enough to go into trance, he'll also be aware of the condition of his body."

Kirk felt his own body sag with defeat. It hadn't occurred to him that Spock might not want to go on. He fought the idea mentally. AHe wouldn't do that.@

A...to us?" McCoy added the unspoken words. "Isn't that asking an awful lot of him?"

ABut Vulcans have such a respect for life ‑‑ any life!"

McCoy rubbed his face. "Spock's not always so Vulcan when he's coping with a great deal of emotional stress. His 'double‑Vulcan' routine has always been a lot more of a Human reaction than Vulcan.@

"Yeah.  I know.@ Kirk rubbed his own eyes with his knuckles and then entwined his fingers, resting his elbows on the table and his brow on his hands as he looked down. "I wonder just how much I'd want to go through.@


McCoy looked over at him. AAnd if Spock dies, will I be wondering how long you're going to want to go on?" He watched the tousled head rise and the hazel eyes blink back tears.

Kirk looked at him, noting the tight jaw and the blue eyes. McCoy was trying so hard to conceal his pain and fear ‑‑ and failing miserably. A wave of pain beyond his own aching for Spock overtook Kirk and he reached across the table to grasp his friend's shoulder tightly. "No, Bones. I won't do that to you.@ His voice broke.  ABut, God. I don't know what I'll do if he dies.@

McCoy said nothing. He looked away trying to swallow and patted Kirk's hand on his shoulder. When the intensity drained from the moment, Kirk's hand dropped. McCoy looked back and shook his head in feigned disgust. "Good Lord! We're both getting old and maudlin.  Come on. You need to get some rest.@ He began to gather his tray and trash.

"Yeah. You too."

"I=ll just sack out in the sickbay.@ He took one look at Kirk and added, "You use the bed. I'll use the recliner.@

"No, you take the bed; I=ll...@

"Jim ... I can sleep anywhere,@ he assured with a smile. AIt comes with the territory. A He was rewarded with a big grin from Kirk.

AOkay. You get the recliner.@

* * *

Christine shifted her bedside chair and puzzled over the readings above Spock's bed as they steadily dropped. Half an hour before she had thought that he was putting himself into a healing trance, but these were not the readings of a trance.  These readings indicated nothing but a slow and steady decline into death.  Eventually, he would reach a point of no return. For the third time in the last five minutes she stood and pressed her fingers to the pulse in Spock's neck, unwilling to accept the machine's readings. ADamn,@ she whispered as the readings were proved right. Straightening up, she bumped the bed and a sudden change on the monitors registered. She gritted her teeth instinctively, aware of how much pain a jolt like that would have caused him, were he conscious. At the same time an awareness touched her. The pain monitor had flared ‑‑ as it sometimes did in an unconscious patient, but another monitor had flared as well.  She checked the readings again. Yes, the machine had registered emotional stress! For  what she had just done, she would bet a year's salary that it was anger.  Was he closer to consciousness than the machines could tell? She thought  for moment longer and then intentionally jarred the bed again. Once more the pain monitor flared, as did the stress monitor. Her heart leapt. This time the emotional stress reading had flared even higher, and it showed much more strength in him than they had assumed was there. Why, then, was he purposely allowing himself to die? ADamn you!@ It was more of a bewildered comment than an oath and she found herself smiling at him and shaking her head in spite of herself. The smiled faded as she contemplated the new problems that her discovery put forth; Spock was purposefully bringing his body functions to a halt, but why?

She stood there for long moments trying to decide if he would be able to hear and understand her if she spoke. At last, deciding it was worth a try, she began."Why, Spock?@  There was no change that indicated he'd heard her, but then, neither had he given any indication that he had not. She tried again. ASpock, you can=t just give up.@ A reading dropped half a level. "Okay, okay, so you can.@ She smiled at his stubbornness and at the fact that he had just given himself away. The same reading lifted a level to where it had been before. ABut I don't understand why." There was no change. Suicidal people were often past the point of caring what others thought.


She thought for a moment longer.  ALife is not optional, Spock. I know you believe that. I=ve heard you say it.@

No change.

ASpock, you know I know what you=re doing. And you know it=s wrong. You=re aware of your injuries. Is that why? Move the indicator you used before -- up for yes, down for no -- but bring it level again.@

No change.

ASpock, damn it, answer me or I=m going to rattle this bed until you fall on the floor! I mean it!@

The stress monitor raised all out of proportion with what she interpreted at anger.  AFine. Be as mad at me as you want. But one way or another, we=re going to talk.  And I=m going to talk you out of this.@

The level dropped some; negative. She smiled as she watched it go to its proper place again. AOkay. I get the message. I know how stubborn you can be. But you=re going to have to listen to someone. If not me, then Jim, or Leonard.@  The stress monitor flared anger again as the other reading registered a negative. She felt sick. He was asking her ‑‑ instructing her ‑‑ not to tell Kirk or McCoy.  His plan had been to let them think he had just grown too weak to live. He didn=t want her fouling up his plan. Damn. She didn't want to lose their influence on him. Jim Kirk could talk him into anything. That was probably what he as afraid of. Again, the monitor registered a negative. A clear Ano@.  Backed into a corner, she finally voiced it. AYou don't want me to tell them.@

Affirmative.

AYou do want me to tell them.@

Negative.

Her face wrinkled in disgust. AOh, damn, Spock. That's not fair.@  She knew that as his physician she could no more betray his clear request for confidentiality than she could fly. She couldn't tell anyone. Not even McCoy -- and Spock knew it.  ADamn, damn, damn!@ She stilled the instinctive urge to stamp her foot and instead paused. AAll right. But I am going to talk you out of it.@

Silence. She could almost see that half tilt of the head and raised brow that said, wordlessly, 'indeed?'  A pain filled her at the reality of the man before her ‑‑ still, pale, bloody, barely breathing. AI hate you," she whispered, not meaning it, knowing that he would know it as well. AI always get into these god‑awful situations with you." She took a deep breath to clear her chest. Sooner or later, if she couldn't do something, those levels were going to drop so low... Frustration took her again. Damn him. Why did he make her promise not to tell Jim or Leonard? It galled her that he knew her well enough to know that she would abide by his wishes. That she would not betray his confidences given to her as a physician. Why hadn't she just played stupid? She knew the answer to that. When it had come right down to it ‑‑ she'd been unable to be dishonest with him. Damn him. He'd known that, too. And it was going to kill him.


She shut off her panic and frustration and pain; she had to think straight. Through the years she had been able to con Spock into meals he hadn't wanted, injections... But how did you con a man into living a life he didn't want to face?  Out of habit, she straightened his cover and checked his IV site for inflamation, all the while her brain churning wildly, grappling for something that seemed just out of reach. Rather than wait for her thoughts to clarify, she began with surface logic ‑‑ something Spock often responded to. AStarfleet has pumped a fortune into your training, Spock." He was good at guilt; maybe she could use it. "It isn't right for you to waste it. And before you get off on to it, tell me -- or yourself ‑‑ what percentage of your job you couldn't do in a glidechair as well. That is, of course, assuming the worst outcome of this."

Negative.

AThink of the people who will die because your brain and know‑how weren't available on this ship. And you can say that any good science officer would do, but we both know it isn't true. You are the best. You know that as well as I." She considered bringing Kirk's name into the conversation, but held back. She'd save that for later. She didn't want to give him any reasons to call her overemotional and stop listening. AYou know, too, that ‑‑ even in a glidechair  ‑- they would let you stay on here if they thought you would resign if they grounded you. Starfleet can't afford to lose you ‑- or to offend Vulcan.@

Negative.

"Spock.  Don't let yourself be sucked down into depression without thinking this out.@  There was no change. The pain indicators showed that he was in an increasing amount of pain, but she couldn't give him anything for another forty minutes.  She wondered if he was using so much of his strength slowly fading ‑- for McCoy's sake -- that he had no strength left to shield his own pain or emotions.  That would explain the anger flares. Whatever the reason, every breath now was lancing through him with unleashed fury, the indicator going almost off the scale.

ASpock. Think of your family. This will devastate your mother." Her voice grew soft. "Your father, too, I think." Again, there was no answer.

Tears of frustration and hurt filled her eyes and one rolled down her cheek before she could blink them back. She tried again. "What about Jim? And Leonard?  But especially Jim.@ The emotional stress indicator swung dramatically; she was sure this time that is was not anger. AYou fill hollow places in him just the same way he does in you. You can't just let go ‑‑ just choose to leave him alone."

The strength of all the levels dropped a whole measure and Christine froze. She was killing him herself!  "I'm sorry, Spock,@ she whispered and then was quiet.  The levels did not drop further but remained low. So low that she doubted his ability to raise them on his own. Burying her face in her hands, she turned away; she couldn't bear it. She was losing the most important battle she' d ever waged in her life.  Panic ran rampant inside of her for several seconds before she could control herself and turn back to look at the monitors.

If only she could keep touch with some part of him ‑‑ either the Human in him that didn't want to be left alone in death, or the Vulcan in him that would feel the need to make her see that he had not made a foolish decision. Her last had only succeeded in finding the wounded inner man that hurt too badly to bear confrontation, and sought to pull into a dark place of safety.

Gathering her courage, she pushed strands of hair from her sweaty brow and tried again. This time she steadied her emotions and reached out to touch his shoulder.  ASpock? Do you still hear me?@ Silence. She smoothed her fingers up the back of his neck gently and then back down to his shoulder. Her voice soft and reassuring, she spoke again. AHey. Is self‑imposed isolation a part of your decision as well?@ Silence. AI could get Jim."

Negative.

ASo you=re still there.  I wasn=t sure. You don't want Jim here because you're not sure you could hold onto your decision in the face of his pain." It was more of a statement than a question. He didn't respond. Her hand still rested on his shoulder and she smiled at his silent form. Love for him welled up in her and she quickly removed her hand and stepped back. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to do that to you."


Immediately the machine registered another negative and she stared at the reading a moment.  Was he saying she shouldn't be sorry ... or merely agreeing with her? With a small shake of her head she decided that she didn't want to know.

* * *

McCoy awoke with a start; something was wrong. He peered through the dark at the daybed to look at Jim, but the daybed was empty, a wrinkled spread the only evidence of the captain's rest. It took only another moment to find Jim. As he suspected, the captain stood, slightly hunched, at the door to Spock's ICU room, staring in.  As McCoy approached, Kirk looked up and motioned him not to talk.  Beyond lay the Vulcan, eyes still closed. Christine was standing over him, speaking.

Unable not to ask, McCoy whispered, "What's goin' on?"

"I'm not sure," Kirk whispered back. "She's talking to him and somehow he's answering ‑‑ but  don't know exactly how. I think she's arguing with him. Every so often she gets really frustrated and turns away."

AWell, I'm not going to stand here and wait to find out." He started into the room, but when Christine caught sight of the movement, she looked up. Frantically, she waved them away, a warning look on her face. McCoy stopped in his tracks, his eyes catching sight of the readings. Again, two sets of blue eyes searched one another' s wordlessly. Then, as quietly as he could, McCoy retreated to the door.

AWhat's wrong?"

"I'm not sure.  But if his readings go any lower he's going to be dead. Christine's going to have to keep trying whatever she's doing. I hope to God it works.@

Kirk took a shuddered breath. He wished he could hear Christine.

* * *

Christine' s brain was going into overload; she hurt and she was so tired that she couldn't think straight, but she tried another avenue. "Spock, there's hardly anything you do now that you couldn't do as well from a glidechair if you had to ‑‑ and I'm not willing to accept that you're not going to walk again. The only thing you couldn't do would be planet landing party duty.@ She paused. AI know that's important to you. I know you watch Jim like a mother tiger.@ A reading quivered and she smiled. "You do, you know.@

Affirmative.

Her smile broadened, then faded. ABut other than that, once you find your limitations, if any, you'll be able to resume your duties. You seem not to have any injuries to your reasoning processes. And when you couldn't breathe, your hands and arms proved more than adequately sound.@ She paused. Why couldn't she get through to him? "Spock, you can't throw your life away like this! It's not right.  Jim and Leonard want more than anything to be able to take you somewhere and get you well so you can come back here again."

Before the entire sentence was out, he had reacted with a strong negative and a stress reading that surprised her with its strength. "Spock?" His readings fell and quivered from the strain. "It's okay. Shh. Relax." She stroked the side of his head. "It's okay.  It's okay." Slowly the readings raised, his breathing deepened, heartbeat steadied.  AI hit a nerve, didn't I? Okay.@ She sighed. AHelp me figure it out. You don't want to be taken off of the ship." No answer. AYou don't want to come back." No answer. "You don't want Jim and Leonard to take you."

Affirmative.

"Why?" She thought for long moments. AYou're afraid you won't be able to come back and they won't either." No answer. "You're concerned that might happen,@ she restated.


Affirmative.

Once again she stroked his head, then removed her hand. AThey're capable of making their own decisions, you know."

Negative.

"And I think you are scared,@ she added, softly. There was a flare on the stress monitor and she smiled a little and added. ANo. Not of the pain or the work."  She took a deep breath and noticed that it was finally the time when she could give him something more for the pain. She slid the needle into a connection on the IV tubing and spoke as she depressed the syringe. AI'm giving you something more for pain. It should work very quickly.@  She waited a moment, watching as the pain indicator lowered substantially. "Better?@

Affirmative.

"I think you're afraid of the loss of dignity, of being seen learning to make your body work again, sweating, failing. And you will fail. Over and over and over again. So many times you'll wonder if it's worth it." There was silence as she was quiet to let it soak into hin. There was no response from him. AI think, too, that you're afraid of the emotions that will invariably be there: hope, frustration, anger, desolation ... just plain hurt when, after months of work, you still can't see an end to it. It's going to take a long, long, time, Spock. You know that, don't you?@

Affirmative.

Her heart did a somersault. He had responded in a positive manner to her assumption that he was going to try. Even his energy readings had lifted some. Out of habit she schooled her face into not showing too much of her elation, then grinned.  Hell, he couldn't see her; he was still only semi‑conscious ‑‑ or whatever this weird thing he was doing could be called. Very gingerly she tried to broach the subject of Kirk and McCoy again. ALet me call Leonard and Jim. They=re scared half out of their minds for you.@

Negative.  The energy levels dropped even lower than before.

"Spock?" The panic in her voice matched her feelings. Slowly the readings leveled, no longer dropping, but still very low. Her feelings of relief were quickly subjugated by anger. "Damn you, Spock! Will you quit this?" The anger and tension welled up in her and she turned away from him, fists clenched at her sides, eyes closed. After a moment, when she could finally work her feelings down to a rational point, she turned back to him. "Why? You can't just die and not face this. Sometimes you are so shit‑headed stubborn I could scream! I could grab you and shake you until your teeth rattle!@

Negative.

It had only been a restatement of his own decision, but its timing made her smile in spite of her anger.  AWe=re getting nowhere fast. You don=t want Jim and Leonard to take off time to go with you.@

Affirmative.

AAll right.  I=ll make sure they don't." She could hear his next argument, even though there was complete silence.  AYes, they will listen, and abide by your wishes.  Don't you think that the fact that you almost let yourself die to make sure they didn't come will convince them of how serious you are? Or aren't they supposed to know that part? You can't have it both ways, you know.@

There was silence and she leapt into it before she lost momentum. AI'll make sure they stay here. I'll take you to Starbase 8 myself ‑‑ and if you go noble protective on me I swear I will shake you!" The aggressive tone of her own voice surprised her. AAgreed?@


Negative.  Her eyes closed with frustration. She had to think quickly.  No, she told herself, she wouldn't jump to conclusions. AYou don't want to go to Starbase 8?@ She prayed that was it, and not that he was objecting to her.

Affirmative.

She heaved a silent sigh. AYou don't want to be where anyone might know you."

Affirmative.

AMy God, Spock. There's a whole galaxy of medical centers you could go to. We'll get one somewhere way out on the edge. Maybe not even a 'fleet' center. If Jim and Leonard can't pull that off and get Starfleet to pay for it, I don't know who could." There was silence. "Then you'll go?" she ventured, trembling.

It took almost a minute and a half. Affirmative.

Christine felt as if warm oil had been poured over her. Suddenly the room was a blur and tears began to find their way down her cheeks. Her body betrayed her with a small sound of relief. And, embarrassed, she tried to explain it away. "I=ll be with you in a moment, Spock, I'm being emotional.@ She looked up to see Jim and McCoy looking concerned. She waved them to stay back, and then, grinning through her tears, gestured an 'okay' sign to them, enjoying their reaction to it.

"Spock."  She was almost afraid to ask. "Do you have objections to me going with you? I know we both know how I feel about you ‑‑ but I am a professional.  I'm a doctor first. You know that. You need someone along that knows your physiology ‑‑ and your psychology. And I don't think you're going to get Jim or Leonard to let you go without them if you're not with someone you know.  And as for me, this ship is not my whole life as it is theirs. I can work and be happy anywhere. If I can't get back on, it won't be the end of the world. But I do want to help you get through this."

Affirmative.

AYou'll let me come?@

Affirmative.

She didn't bother to hide her sign of relief. "This is going to be a long haul, you know," she repeated.

Affirmative.

"And we're not always going to like each other a whole lot. I can be a real tyrant at times."

Affirmative.

She laughed and put her hand on his shoulder, wanting him to pick up her feelings.  "But you are going to walk again.@ Her voice held not a shred of doubt. If they had to move heaven and hell, he was going to walk again.

His emotional response reading flared. Affirmative.

* * *

Six days later the sickbay was quiet as Christine finished logging several reports near Spock's bedside.  Across the room McCoy and Kirk finished up another hand of poker.

McCoy grinned. AYou now owe me more than you'll ever earn at your present pay‑scale even if you live as long as a Vulcan."

Kirk wrinkled his brow. AWould you settle for my picking up your tab on our next shore leave?"

McCoy snorted. AI=ll think about it."

"I=ll let one of you do the honors." Christine offered from across the room. "He's coming around."


McCoy, quick witted as usual, looked toward Kirk as they came to Spock's bed. "My shore leave tab and you hit 'im this time."

Kirk reacted with a smirk but complied as Spock made the usual request. When the Vulcan stopped his hand, Kirk took his hand in his own two. AHello. How are you feeling?"

"Yeah, welcome back, Spock,@  McCoy said. The dark eyes focused on the doctor, who was running a hand scanner over him.

Spock moved his tongue around in his dry mouth and Christine lifted his head, sliding a straw between his lips. When he had taken several sips of the water, she removed it. He took a deep breath and faced Jim, a questioning look an his face. AI believe the term is ... 'like hell'?"

Kirk chuckled and patted his hand.

AYou look like it, too,@ McCoy ribbed.

AThank you, Doctor McCoy,@ Spock responded, dryly. "It is strange that I always seem to feel poorly when I am in your facilities."

McCoy grinned.  He didn't even try for a rejoinder. AWell, you know, you'd look a whole lot prettier if you'd get some more rest. You're a couple of days away from even lookin= at travel brochures.@

ATravel brochures?@

AFor out‑of‑the‑way medical centers. You know, I=m not sure I=m thrilled with you taking my best doctor, either.@

Spock looked bewildered by his words. AI -‑ admit ‑‑ that I am not entirely sure to what you are referring. Much of what has happened is vague in my mind. AIt...@  His face winkled in thought for a moment. ABits and pieces are coming back.@ He paused again. "I seem to recall someone swearing at me.@ He eyed McCoy.

ANot me.@

Kirk assumed a look of innocence and shook his head.  Spock craned his neck to look at Christine past McCoy. She was busily re‑arranging some articles on his bedstand and emptying his beside trash bag ‑‑ which had almost nothing in It. The silent stare brought her eyes up to meet his almost shyly. He looked puzzled and she, embarrassed, quickly looked away.

AWell, Spock,@ McCoy began, breaking the silence. AIt's back to sleep with you.@ With that he pushed the contents of a hypo into Spock's shoulder. The Vulcan's eyes swung back to the man wielding the hypo, then looked to Kirk, in frustration.

Sleep looming up to greet him, he sighed and gave into the reality of the situation. AGoodni..." and he was out. McCoy grinned at Kirk.

AYou love doing that, don't you?@ Kirk accused.

McCoy bounced on the balls of his feet and kept grinning. AThere are certain advantages to the job."  He looked back at Christine. "And certain disadvantages. You're going to have one very stuffy, straight-laced, super‑Vulcan on your hands when he remembers it all.@

She gave him a sigh and a worn but knowing smile. AI know. Believe me, I know." She shook her head and gave a chuckle as she turned and walked toward the door. There was one thing for sure. It wasn't going to be boring.

 

THE END