DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Johanna Cantor and is copyright (c) 1977 by Johanna Cantor. Rated PG. Originally printed in Rigel #3.



The Captain Minds the Store

Johanna Cantor



"Come on, Spock, let's go mind the store." Kirk shook his head slightly at McCoy, and shepherded Spock into the lift. Spock was under control again now -- a little rigid, but impassive. The captain was still feeling the effects of the drug, to say nothing of the fight. But he must get Spock back on duty as soon as possible.

In the turbolift, he considered his problem. Bless T'Pau. Her intervention had gotten him off the hook with his own crew as well as with Starfleet. But he must make sure there was no gossip.

"Spock, how did T'Pau know--" Kirk broke off. Spock was studying the elevator panel just a little too intently. "Are you sure you're all right?" Spock only nodded, swallowing hard. But when they reached the bridge, he led out.

The same bridge crew turned to greet them. Checking quickly, Kirk saw it was still some time until end of shift. The discovery surprised him; he seemed to have lived through days in the last few hours.

Spock crossed immediately to his station, acknowledging the smiles only with a quiet nod. Behind him, Kirk shook his head and put a finger to his lips. He got seven nods of comprehension, then seven backs as the crew returned to their jobs. Kirk sat cautiously, scanned the status report, and gave the order to break orbit. The image of Vulcan on the giant screen shrank, then disappeared. Spock did not turn.

Rising, the captain moved toward Uhura's station, where he could watch Spock without being obvious. Spock was cataloging -- absorbing activity where mistakes could easily be corrected. Kirk nodded inwardly and spoke: "ETA Altair Six?" Sulu supplied it. "Good. Uhura, start scheduling me, will you?"

The protocol of the required calls lasted nicely until end of shift. Kirk signaled it with a long sigh of relief. "Anybody else ready for a drink?" Holmes, at the Engineering station, started to decline, but Kirk signaled him to come along.

Settled in one of the small lounges, he tested the social atmosphere cautiously. Spock was silent and drinkless, but of course that wasn't unusual. Kirk caught his First's eye and raised his glass in a toast. "Quite an afternoon," he said lightly.

"Indeed, Captain."

"It's a shame you couldn't stay longer, Mr. Spock." Uhura was watching Kirk closely for any signal. "I hope you found your wife well?"

"I have no wife!" Spock snapped. Then he shook his head at his own abruptness. "I divorced her this afternoon."

"Oh! Oh. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to pry."

Spock shrugged. "It will soon be common knowledge."

Silence fell, and swiftly grew awkward. Finally Uhura said gently, "You've been away."

"Yes. For some years. When we met today, I found the situation was not as I had thought."

"Mm. Well, certainly we've all had that experience."

"Yes," Kirk joined in. "It's almost an occupational hazard of space service."

Uhura rose abruptly and set down her glass. "Well, she's a damn fool. Good night."

Spock watched her go, then turned to Kirk, eyebrows elevated.

"It's only natural that she should be interested, Mr. Spock."

"I understand that, Captain. But she seemed angry. I do not--"

"She doesn't like to think of your being hurt. None of us does."

Damn. He'd gone too far. Spock's eyes unfocused, then closed. Then the Vulcan rose, excused himself formally, and left. Kirk swore again, but he'd unmistakably been shut out.

"Let's go eat," he said tightly.

He'd done the job, at least. Now that the bridge crew knew Spock had run into a painful personal problem, they'd avoid discussing it. He got what satisfaction he could out of that. But none of his usual off-duty activities held any attraction for him this evening. He prowled the ship for a while, but finally used an increasingly sore knee as an excuse to page McCoy. The doctor was in Sickbay, so Kirk went on down.

"What can I do for you, Jim?"

"I must have wrenched my knee."

"You did. I gave you an injection to clear up the inflammation. It should be gone by tomorrow. I gave you a local, too, but it's probably wearing off. Want another?"

"No, it's not that bad. I didn't realize you'd already treated it."

Both men fell silent, neither wanting to raise the subject on both their minds. But finally McCoy said, "Spock left just a couple minutes ago."

"Is he all right?"

"Seems to be. The process is reversing itself. There's a drug that relieves the side effects. He brought me the makeup, and I synthesized it for him."

"Is he feeling bad?"

"I think so. I tried to get him to stay here, but he insisted on leaving. I'm afraid he suspects I might keep trophy-hunting."

"Never mind, Bones. He wouldn't have had to come to you for the medication, you know."

"If he'd just let me--"

"I know. But probably there's nothing either of us can do. He'll just have to work it through himself."

"Jim, go to him. Stand by, at least."

"I'll try. "

Unfortunately, Kirk mused some minutes later, you have to find a man before you can stand by him. Spock was not in his quarters, and he'd refused to answer one page The captain couldn't page again without making it obvious... Kirk hesitated, remembering. Then he headed back toward Sickbay, to the small offices off the main entrance.

Spock rose as Kirk activated the light, but averted his face as Kirk studied him.

"Sit down. I'll get Dr. McCoy."

"No."

"Spock, you're in pain. Here, sit down, man."

Spock sat, but kept a restraining grip on Kirk' s wrist. "I am not in pain. It is only that I cannot school myself to accept--" He broke off, but his grip did not loosen. Gently, Kirk removed Spock's hand, holding it in both of his. Spock seemed to relax slightly, but then he withdrew his hand and turned away.

"Spock, you look exhausted. Go to bed. Bones can give you something--"

"I require nothing. But the corridors--" Spock stiffened to control a shudder.

"Okay, come with me. I'll do any talking."

The two officers strolled back to Spock's quarters without incident. Kirk acknowledged the greetings of passing crewpeople gaily, Spock gravely, but without apparent difficulty. But as the door closed, he whirled to confront his captain.

"Why are you limping?"

"Wrenched knee. It'll be okay tomorrow. Hey! Take it easy."

"I did not know you."

The pain in the whisper hit like a blow and Kirk took a moment to calm himself. "I know that." He moved to Spock and spoke with exaggerated clarity. "You are not to blame for what happened. Logically, none of it was your fault."

Spock's eyes held his captain's for a moment. Then they closed. Kirk took Spock's shoulders and eased him into a chair. The Vulcan put a hand to his forehead, but then the fingers moved into the meditation position. Kirk sat down and closed his own eyes, knowing that he must not intrude.

"Captain? Are you all right?"

"Fine, Mr. Spock. Feeling more yourself?"

"Yes, sir."

"Good." Kirk hesitated, but then continued. "Can you handle this, then?"

"Yes. There is a process called weaving. Logic is used to link painful memories with--" Spock shut his teeth on a yawn. "Forgive me. I--"

"Never mind. Spock, will you go to bed before you topple over?" Kirk rose and took Spock's elbow, guiding him into the inner cabin. "Are you sure you're all right?"

Spock nodded, allowing Kirk to steer him toward the bed. He lay down and stretched out with a sigh. His eyes closed wearily, but then snapped open. "Captain?"

"Yes?"

"Why did you accept challenge?"

"I thought I could just let you pin me. My fault, for rushing into a situation with inadequate data."

"But I do not understand why--"

"Well, we thought Stonn might defeat you, because of your depleted condition."

"Stonn." Spock's tone was almost a snort, but then he turned away quickly. He began to breathe deeply, in a rhythmic pattern, and Kirk tensed, recognizing a Vulcan exercise for the control of pain. But before he could make up his mind to call McCoy, Spock was asleep.

For a long time, Kirk stood in the darkened room, listening to the easy breathing. Finally, soothed, he tiptoed into the outer cabin. There he gave the computer his emergency code before letting the back of Spock's restchair all the way down. It really made a pretty good bed, he thought, as he turned in for the night.

THE END