DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Jacqueline Bielowicz and is copyright (c) 1976 by Jacqueline Bielowicz. This story is Rated PG. It was originally printed in TAL-SHAYA #3, 1976. This story was written as a rebuttal to "The Price of a Handful of Snowflakes" by M. L. "Steve" Barnes.
A TOUCH OF LOVE
by Jacqueline Bielowicz
Just as she had every ten minutes since they brought him into Sickbay, Nurse Chapel checked on Spock. He lay like Death -- motionless, pale, and cold -- his mind shattered or locked away inside its still living shell. When the rescue team had brought him in, McCoy and M'Benga had worked feverishly, dredging up every scrap of knowledge between them. There had been no real physical damage, just a few contusions and lacerations. Almost all the damage had been to his complex brain.
The Klingons had known that Vulcans were more resistant to the mind-sifter than most sentient beings, but had over-estimated the power that would be necessary to extract information from a Vulcan. By the time Kirk and the security team had rescued Spock, they found the Klingons cursing because Spock's brain had "burned out" before he could talk. When McCoy ran brain scans, they revealed that only the autonomic systems in Spock were working, and hope was lost. Spock had become little more than a vegetable.
Now he lay with supportive tubes attached to his body, unknowing as the staff had to perform even the simplest functions for him. Unable to even cry anymore, Christine stared down at him. Sighing deeply, she began her ritual with him. She washed his wasted frame, careful not to chill him. As she was re-dressing him, McCoy came in behind her and watched as she massaged the weakened muscles with her strong, capable hands.
"Why do you do this to yourself, Christine? There are more than enough nurses on this ship to share the load." She remained silent, continuing her massage. He made an exasperated sigh. "And when did you leave him last night? You can't work all day and sit with him half the night. He doesn't even know you're there."
She turned on him savagely. "Don't say that. He *is* a Vulcan. He will heal himself." She turned back to her work. "I know that he will be all right and when he is ..." Her voice tapered off.
"What then, Christine? What will happen if Spock does recover? Will he feel obligated to you because you were the only one who believed?"
Her mouth quirked in a bitter smile. 'Really, Doctor, why should Spock be obligated to me? It is only logical that a nurse should give her best care to a patient. Isn't that what he would say?" McCoy's face gentled as she looked back at Spock. 'No, Doctor, he will not feel that he owes me anything and I don t want him to." McCoy shook his head and helped her turn Spock onto his side. Throughout the rest of the day, Christine made sure that Spock was turned every half hour, doing it herself if there was no one to help. Every time she was with him, she watched constantly for a sign that there was a returning awareness. When the night shift relieved the day crew, she remained behind, eating her dinner beside Spock's bed. As the rest of the ship went into the quiet of sleep, she sat content at the solitude. Now she had him totally to herself. She darkened the room and returned to her chair in the corner. Spock's bed was faintly illuminated by the light from McCoy's office. In the vague light, he looked more normal, as if he were only sleeping. She was lost in her thoughts as Kirk and McCoy stepped to the door. Both men watched the unconscious man, then Kirk turned to McCoy.
"Isn't there anything you can do, Bones? Even a gamble, a hunch. just anything?"
"Jim, there's absolutely nothing else I can do. I only have so much skill, so much knowledge. Then the rest is in the hands of the gods." He hesitated, then said carefully, "It's my recommendation that he be taken to Star Base Four." Christine drew her breath in a gasp, alerting them to her presence for the first time. "Christine, it's after 2300," McCoy began angrily, but she gave him no chance to complete his sentence.
"You can't give up on him! He needs to be here with those who know him, who care about him." Her tears flowed down her face unnoticed.
Kirk's jaw clenched. His eyes misted over as McCoy put his am around her shoulder, holding her gently.
"Christine, we can't do any more for him. Star Base Four has the best hospital facilities in the Federation. They will give him the best of care."
Christine twisted away from him. "Will they? They'll run the same tests you did and get the same results. Then they will give him euthanasia!" Her voice was scornful. She held herself rigid, fighting for control. When she spoke again, her voice was calmer, lower-pitched. "Can't we at least take him to Vulcan, let their doctors try with him?"
The two men exchanged glances, then Kirk answered bitterly, "What good would that do? It is McCoy's opinion that Spock is permanently brain-damaged and the medical evidence supports him." She bowed her head before his pain, unable to think of any more arguments. Kirk's face softened as he stepped beside Spock's bed, looking sadly down on his friend. "If Star Base Four can't help him, Sarek will be able to get him sent to Vulcan. Sarek has more power than I do; Star Fleet won't refuse him."
They remained silent, each lost in his own thoughts. Christine moved to the opposite side of Spock's bed, facing Kirk across the still form. "I'm going with him."
McCoy exploded, "Christine, face reality. He won't even know you are there. Don't ask for that kind of hell."
Christine eyed him coldly. "I'll resign my commission if necessary. Star Base Four would be only too glad to get a civilian nurse with my qualifications."
Kirk had been searching her face intently. "That won't be necessary, Nurse. Put in a proper request for detached duty. I'll approve it."
Kirk walked back to the doorway, putting a hand on McCoy's shoulder. "And you, Bones, will agree. You know there's no use arguing with a woman in love."
McCoy still looked angry, then his shoulders slumped in defeat. "All right, all right! I can't fight both of you." He glanced over to Spock with tired eyes. "If he would only give us a sign, some signal, some signal I could ..."
His despair echoed around the darkened room. There was nothing left to say. Christine watched as he and Kirk left the room, then reached for Spock's hand. Bending over him, she whispered directly into his ear.
"Help me, Spock! I believe in you. Show me one thing that will make them believe in you. You are strong enough. I know you have the will. I can't do it alone. Reach out to me. Let me know you are there!"
She waited breathlessly, searching his face for the smallest sign. There was nothing. Exhausted, she sank to her knees and leaned her face against his clasped hand. And the night burned on.
* * *
The Enterprise was six hours out of Star Base Four. There had been no change in Spock except that physically he was weaker. His body was emaciated despite the supportive liquids that dripped into his veins. Christine was once more with Spock, turning him and massaging the flaccid muscles.
"We will soon be at Star Base Four, Spock. They'll have therapists, specialists who can help you. They have to be able to help you," she whispered in an undertone.
Like a dying sigh of the wind, she heard, "Hriss..."
Electrified, she gaped at Spock's face. It seemed little changed, but under the surface, there seemed to be a tension there hadn't been before. She bent over him, intense. "Spock? Spock, say it agin."
She knew he could hear her, that he was trying to reach out. Then suddenly the tension was gone. He had reached the end of his strength. Christine reached out and covered him warmly, a gentle smile on her face. "That's all right, Spock. You have done enough. Now the rest is up to me."
She went searching for McCoy, finding him in the lab. "Doctor, Spock spoke to me! He knew I was there and he tried to communicate with me. It didn't come out clear, but it was a definite attempt."
McCoy looked skeptical. "Are you sure? Are you sure it's not just your imagination?"
Christine drew herself up straight and crisply replied, "I am giving you a professional report, Doctor. The patient Spock has had a change of condition. He showed a response to stimuli. As I see it, it now becomes an issue of re-testing him."
McCoy pondered a moment, studying her carefully. He broke into a big grin. "My God, I hope you're right, Christine. I'd feel better about leaving him at Star Base Four if I knew there was some hope for him." He punched the intercom button. "M'Benga! Get in here. We are going to run Spock through another battery of tests."
The feverish activity started again. A complete series of neurological tests were performed. Each piece of data was checked and rechecked. As the results showed no change, McCoy's skepticism increased. Finally, in desperation, Christine called to Spock but this time there was no answer. The medical staff finalized their reports and drifted out of Sickbay until only McCoy and Chapel were left. Christine read the final report, then slammed it down on the desk in frustration.
"He is in there. I *know* it!'
McCoy watched her with sympathy, wanting to ease her torment. "Christine, sometimes when we love someone, love them a lot, we have a tendency to lie to ourselves. We want our loved ones to be safe, to be happy, and when this doesn't happen, we ... well, fantasize the desired condition. You wanted Spock to respond so much, that when air came out of his lungs in an unusual manner, to you it became an attempt on his part to communicate with you. But it didn't happen."
Christine turned away from him, but he grasped both her arms, forcing her to face him. "Christine, you just have to accept it. Spock is as good as dead. I don't like it; none of us likes it, but *we* have accepted and you will have to, too."
"No, Doctor." Her voice was firm. "I don't have to believe it and I won't. Spock is in there somewhere. I don't know how to get him out or why he doesn't just bring himself out, but I won't give up. If it takes forever, I will help him release himself. Can you imagine the kind of hell he must be going through? The part of him that is his essence trapped in a body that won't respond. But I know he can come back and I won't quit until I find him a path out. Now, if you will excuse me, I have to finish packing."
She marched out of Sickbay. McCoy stared after her, then dropped into his chair and sank his face into his hands. "Oh, God, if there was ever faith healing, now is the time. But You will have to use her faith. I'm all out."
Star Base Four was basically a research center. Scientists from all over the Federation were gathered in a gigantic complex geared solely to studies of all kinds. Since the main financing for the base came from Star Fleet, it was also the main hospital for critically injured Star Fleet personnel. One area of the hospital was totally committed to brain injuries and it was here that Spock was assigned.
Because Christine was already acquainted with the case, the medical staff was willing to assign her as Spock's main nurse. She settled him in a three room suite that contained all the latest in medical equipment. The patient room was a light green, windowless cubicle with artificial environment controls that would adjust the room to any species in it. Christine supervised Spock's transfer to the bed and turning the temperature up to 100 degrees F., left him to rest. The second room was a day room where the mobile patient could receive therapy and have a change of view. The last room was Christine's quarters, complete with monitoring equipment.
Christine unpacked, then activating the computer console, made a complete list of all the personnel on Star Base Four who might be able to help Spock. She was relieved to find there were several Vulcan healers listed though they were all medical. She reviewed the testing schedule and after checking the monitoring devices on Spock, went to bed. She'd have to be at peak level for the long haul ahead.
The next few weeks were a great deal like the past weeks on the Enterprise. She still had the physical care of Spock plus escorting him to the various testing centers. She was careful not to overtax herself, willing to delegate some of the tasks to other nurses so she wouldn't tire. On rare occasions, she would force herself to leave him to take long walks in the fresh air or work out in the base gym. But still she spent the majority of her time with him.
Because of the expanded facilities, the tests were more extensive. But the answers were the same. Even the Vulcan healers could offer no hope. Sareth, the most experienced of the healers, had attempted a mind-link. When he withdrew shaken, he explained, "There is extensive damage to the psi-centers. I find absolutely no contact such as you describe in your report. Though there were signs of the most primitive mental processes, there is no sign of cognitive brain activity."
"Doctor, I know he is still mentally alive," Christine insisted.
"What is your evidence?"
Christine was at a loss for words. What could she tell a Vulcan? That she had a "feeling" or that it was "woman's intuition?" She had to have stronger evidence than that. When she did not answer him, Sareth continued. "Unless you can give me solid evidence, I will recommend that Spook be granted euthanasia." Then he left her.
Christine stood beside the bed, looking over Spook. "They don't believe me, Spock. I can't get them to listen to me." Her voice fell silent as she reached her lowest ebb. Time passed as she stood beside him, trying to figure some way she could get someone to believe her. Finally, she placed her hands on the pillow on either side of his head and spoke slowly and distinctly. "We are going to work, Spock. We are going to work as we never have before. You will be getting every kind of therapy that has ever been used on brain-damaged patients. There will be no quitting, not even relaxation. You will work from your side and I will work from mine. You will trust me as I trust you. I will accept nothing less. On that you can be sure." Then she left him to begin her research.
She solved her first problem when she got permission to work with Spock. That consent was given mostly because she badgered the head of the hospital until he agreed for the sake of a little peace. He did restrict her time, limiting her to two months. Each day, Christine would put Spock's body through a rigorous set of exercises. She dredged up every form of stimuli she could find in the medical histories. Drugs, light, electrical shocks, all under meticulous supervision of a doctor.
Christine dropped her earlier resolve about limiting her time with Spock. Her sleep lasted only until the nightmares forced her from her bed and back to work. Her face became pale and drawn; her eyes were haunted. Tension and lack of meals caused her flesh to melt off her. Those around her tried to make her slow down, but she was driven by a ticking clock. There were times when she was sure she was getting a response -- the twitch of an eyelid, the faint movement of a limb -- but the doctors called it nothing more than involuntary muscle spasms. However, they spurred her on to greater effort. Her time limit was rapidly approaching.
A week before her deadline, she was taking one of her rare walks through the arcades of the base. A headline on a street corner news service screen cut through her mental fog and she dashed over to read the accompanying story. It announced the arrival of T'Lara, Vulcan's most gifted psi-healer. She was to hold a series of seminars on psi-healing for telepaths. Christine held her breath, rapidly thinking. Somehow, she had to convince T'Lara to aid Spook. Without allowing herself time for second thoughts or doubts, she set out for the visitors' quarters.
Even when she was directly in front of T'Lara's door, she had no idea what arguments she would use to convince T'Lara. The Vulcan healer answered her ring. She was shorter than Christine. but with a stronger appearance. Like most Vulcans, her age was not apparent, but Christine guessed she was somewhere near the end of her middle ages.
"You are Nurse Chapel," T'Lara stated. "You have come about Spock. Sarek has already approached me concerning his son." She led Christine into the spartan living quarters. The desk in the corner had reports stacked on it and T'Lara picked up one, holding it loosely in her hand. "I have studied the reports, especially Sareth's. Why do you think Sareth is in error?"
Christine stifled a shuddering sigh and looked down at her hands. She spoke carefully. This was Spock's last chance. "First, though Sareth is a very competent healer, he does not have your skill or experience. The full possibilities of the Klingon mind-sifter on a telepath are largely unknown. Spock is the only telepath to have experienced it and though we know how he responded the first time, we don't know what the greater power did to him. That very lack of knowledge demands that Spock get care from the best possible expert. That expert is you."
"And your second reason?"
Christine looked her squarely in the eye. "I have been a nurse for over 15 years. I have had all kinds of patients, even in the psychiatric field. I have a ... hunch about this patient. No, hunches aren't logical. Most of the time they are just wishful thinking, but every now and then, the hunch works out. That is all Spock has left. I know you won't accept my feelings about this, but on the basis of my first reason. I don't see that you have any choice but to try."
T'Lara remained silent, weighing her words. Christine stayed perfectly motionless, though her skin crawled at the delay. Finally, T'Lara nodded her consent. "I will examine Spock. I agree with your first fact, although--" She had a faint smile on her face that had its own brand of charm. "--I will be interested to see how accurate your 'hunch' is."
T'Lara's face became remote. "You are aware that in the case of total brain disability, Vulcan will grant euthanasia?"
Christine didn't flinch, though a great pain ripped through her breast, but answered steadily, "If Spock *is* gone, then he would prefer death with dignity to existence without living. I would accept Vulcan's decision."
T'Lara nodded her approval. "It is well. Take me to Spock."
The two women hurried through the crowded pedestrian walkways. T'Lara, though walking quickly, seemed placid while Christine seethed with impatience. They entered Spock's room and Christine dismissed the relief nurse. T'Lara stood by the bed, her fingers steepled in meditation.
"Reduce the lighting. You will stay with us but keep silent. No matter what occurs, do not interfere unless I call your name."
Christine signified her understanding. She drew back as T'Lara became intent, focusing her concentration to a fine point. In the half-light, she appeared like an image of ancient knowledge. She carefully placed her fingertips around Spock's skull.
"Our minds are one. Your thoughts are moving to mine. We share this time. We work together."
Her voice died away and her eyes closed. Her face became taunt with strain; moisture beaded up on her brow. An eternity passed as Christine waited, watching anxiously. Suddenly, T'Lara stiffened as if electrified. Spock's eyelids flew open and they locked eyes. Christine bit her lip to prevent an outcry. Spock attempted to lift his hands to T'Lara's head but his muscles refused to respond. For a few brief minutes, they stared into each other's eyes. Then, Spock closed his eyes and for the first time in months, slept normally. T'Lara began to sag and Christine caught her, guiding her to a chair.
"Can I bring you something?"
T'Lara shook her head; she looked tired and badly aged. "I need only rest. It was more difficult than I anticipated." She laid her head on the back of the chair. "Your 'hunch' was accurate. I do not know if I can explain this correctly in a manner you can understand." She paused, then continued, "When the mind-sifter was engaged, Spock attempted to retreat from it. As he withdrew into the recesses of his mind, the machine seared the neural endings and he could not return."
She rose slowly to her feet, preparing to leave. As they crossed the day-room, T'Lara stated flatly, "Spock owes his life to you, Nurse Chapel."
Christine replied stiffly, "He owes me nothing. He is my patient. I did what was required. Is he healed?"
"No, we have merely made a beginning. I will have him transferred to Vulcan for full treatment. We will leave at the end of my seminars. Will you come with us?"
"No. My job is done. Now that Spock is under proper care, I can resume my duties. As soon as arrangements can be made for Spock's transfer, I will return to the Enterprise."
T'Lara's eyes were enigmatic as she examined the Human woman. She bowed her head wearily. "As you wish. Live long and prosper." Saluting Christine, T'Lara returned to her quarters.
Christine returned to Spock's room. She noted with satisfaction that his color had improved slightly. Her eyes roamed over his form, all the curves and angles so well-loved. Her throat tightened as a huge fist closed on her heart. The tears welled in her eyes.
"Oh, Spock," she whispered. "This time has been the best ... and the worst of my life. I love you so."
She bent, lightly brushing her lips across his sunken cheek. Then she hurried to her quarters, seeking the privacy she needed to weep.
* * *
In the six months since her return to the Enterprise, Christine had immersed herself in her work. She was recording lab results when she heard the doors open. As no one spoke, she turned around. Spock stood just inside the door. She was delighted to see him looking so well, though thinner. He remained silent beneath her scrutiny, waiting for her to set the pace.
"Welcome back, Mr. Spock. We are ready for your check-in physical. Please report to Nurse Mendez for your lab work."
He hesitated a moment. "Thank you, Miss Chapel." Then he strode into the lab. Christine drew a long breath and returned to her work.