DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Toni Cardinal-Price and is copyright (c) 1979 by Toni Cardinal-Price. This story is Rated PG. It was originally published in Starborne.

In Palaces of Sand

Toni Cardinal-Price

He stood silently next to the bed, a tall, thin statue in blue. Not even a muscle twitched in his grim face, his haunted eyes staring at the prone figure before him. The figure stirred, uttered a small cry. The man in blue reached out long fingers to grip the hand of his beloved captain. Eyelids fluttered once; again. They opened to reveal glassy hazel eyes.

"Spock." The reclining figure smiled warmly, affectionately and his face brightened with unconcealed joy. "I knew it ... I knew you'd make it through all right. Thank God!"

Long fingers tightened on Kirk's hand as the figure in blue sat slowly in a chair next to the bed. Concerned eyes glanced at the indicators above the Captain's head, then returned to rest lovingly upon Kirk's face.

"It's okay, Spock," Kirk said quietly, his words slightly slurred from medication. "McCoy's taking good care of me. I'll be back on duty before..." The words trailed off as the hazel eyes closed momentarily in a spasm of pain. Then they opened again and the smile was determinedly renewed. "I'll be back before you know it."

The silent figure beside the bed nodded once, his head lowering slightly. The eyes darkened painfully, but continued to stare at Kirk.

"It was close, Spock," the captain said after a moment, his easy smile fading. "Too close." His hand moved, closed over the long fingers at his side. Hazel eyes seemed to focus for a moment. "I thought ... I thought I'd lost you and..." His voice wavered. "...and I was scared, Spock. I was petrified." The hand tightened its grip, squeezed hard for a moment, then relaxed. "But it's all right now. You're here ... you're here." Hazel eyes dimmed slightly but the gaze remained lovingly upon the seated figure. "Thank God you weren't hurt badly, Spock. When I saw the explosion, I ... I thought..." He swallowed hard, shook his head once, then forced a grin. "But I knew Bones would make everything all right. I knew he'd fix you up ... make you well. Good old Bones... good old..." The words trailed off as the Captain's eyes blinked sleepily, then slowly closed. "Tired, Spock..." he mumbled quietly. "So ... tired. Later ... later we'll ..."

The figure beside the bed stiffened, held that position for a moment, then leaned over his beloved Captain's form and put his arms around him, holding gently but firmly. He lowered his cheek against Kirk's chest and rested it there, clinging to the unmoving form. After a very long moment one of Kirk's hands moved up to touch the head on his chest. His fingers stroked the soft hair, traced the thin face, caressed the furrowed eyebrows and encountered ... wetness. The fingers brushed the tears away and a tiny, loving smile formed once again on Kirk's lips. "Ahh ... Spock," he whispered, almost inaudibly. "It's all right now, Spock. It's all right. Don't ... don't ... we're here, together. I promised nothing would ever separate us, remember? Shhh... it's all right. No more ... No..." Again the words faded, the caressing fingers halted. With a deep sigh, the Captain went limp.

The figure remained for a long while, face pressed against Kirk's chest, arms holding him. Then there was a touch upon his shoulder and, pulling reluctantly away, he looked up into the tortured eyes of Christine Chapel. "Doctor," she said softly, unsteadily. "How long?"

The figure in blue drew back, stood slowly, wearily. His eyes lifted to scan the indicators above the bed, then he shook his head. "I don't know, Christine. Could be days ... perhaps hours. At least he's only in minimal pain."

"And you?" Christine's voice drifted into his numbed brain. "Doctor, how long can you go on like this? You haven't left his side since ... since the explosion three days ago. Since Mr. Spock..."

"I'll continue for as long as it takes, Christine," he returned, looking at the nurse through blurry, haunted eyes. "It's ... it's the least I can do. I can't let Jim know that ... that Spock didn't make it. That I ... I couldn't save him." His voice broke; another tear started down his cheek. "And in a little while ... it won't matter anymore. Jim always said he ... he wouldn't want to live without Spock." He drew a deep shuddering breath. "And he received enough internal radiation poisoning in the explosion to insure that." He tightened his lips to stop their trembling. "So I'll continue the charade, Christine. If he sees Spock when he looks at me, believes Spock is alive ... then I'll go along with it. For as long as it takes. At least he'll ... he'll die ... peacefully." It was all he could say. The tears overflowed now, streamed down his face, and he felt Christine's arms around him, holding him, comforting him. They wept together in their mutual grief.

Then, finally, he drew back, met the nurse's tortured gaze, and looked grimly back to the figure on the bed. Kirk was stirring again. In his drugged delirium he called Spock's name, reached out his hand.

Turning from Christine, McCoy drew a sleeve across his steaming eyes and, once more, sat down beside the bed. He reached for Kirk's hand, clasped it tightly, then did something Spock would have done - something he, himself wanted to do. He lifted Kirk's hand and tenderly placed the palm to his lips. He held it there ... and waited.