“It’s like he doesn’t react to anything. Emotionally, he’s not there. It’s like he’s – “
Spock interrupted. “Deceased?”
“Don’t say that.” McCoy turned aside, pretending to focus on the medical scanner. He’d had to learn how this one functioned as it wasn’t the same version as what he had on the Enterprise. But the item on-screen had nothing to do with the topic under discussion. “Checked out, is what I was going to say.”
“He did die, Doctor, and he knew he was dying, that there was no hope. We should have considered a side-effect from so major a transformation.”
“There wasn’t time for that. No time. And we wanted Jim back.”
“Yes, and we’ve got him. But what do we do with him?”
“He’s the captain.”
“Physically, I concur, but mentally…”
McCoy was looking around again. Though the topic was James Kirk, he was feeling a bit dazed as this room was unfamiliar to him, and he wished he was aboard the Enterprise. He could locate anything in his Sickbay. Instead he was trying to work with his patient within facilities that were a temp assignment, until they got their Enterprise back. That’s what he needed, what they all needed, to go back to work.
But Spock was standing by, so he’d better get to it. “Okay, mentally, he’s all there. Psych exam, everything, perfect. But that’s the surface, conscious layer. There is no brain damage to point to. And we got rid of the radiation through the dissolution process, so he can’t be expecting that to happen again. It’s not possible.”
When Kirk was brought out of his frozen state, he was put into a medically induced coma, even as the tuning robotics kept his limbs and muscles active. His body kept being returned to the therapy pool, as well, the cleansing out through his pores, for the care of his skin. But that was it, wasn’t it? His body.
“Physically, he’s in great shape.”
“The captain is experiencing a trauma, wouldn’t you say, Doctor?” Spock chose deliberately not to speak in past-tense.
“Of course.” McCoy was exasperated, turning again toward the screen which was displaying… what exactly? Just research. Something to keep him busy because otherwise that totally obsessive focus upon his best friend wasn’t healthy.
He’d even tracked down some of that Saurian Brandy Jim was so taken with. Served it up to him on a platter. The man took two sips and forgot about it.
Chess? That was Spock’s game with Kirk, at least on the ship. But McCoy knew for a fact Jim had turned down any gestures from Spock in that direction. Even a 3-dimensional chess set which appeared in Jim’s temp quarters had been moved to free up Jim’s workstation.
And what was Jim doing at his workstation? Unfortunately this was where McCoy’s medical privilege wasn’t granting him access.
If that wasn’t enough, McCoy knew for a fact any number of Jim’s colleagues were issuing invitations to meals and what-have-you. The what-have-you McCoy could guess at, but it was also true Jim used to be open to sexual invites from any number of females – human and otherwise – yet he seemed to be holed up in that loft of his all on his lonesome, day and night. That wasn’t like the man, it really wasn’t. Especially since Kirk stifled his sexual urges when on board ship, so when Leave came he was as primed as a torpedo ready for launch, sperm-inhibitor pre-ingested.
Hell, McCoy was meant to be on Leave as well. Instead he was in the Medical Facility of STARFLEET Command, concentrating on making his number one responsibility an easy return to command operating at one hundred percent efficiency.
And he wasn’t the only loony officer from the Enterprise who was taking up space working. He knew Chief Engineer Scott was off being introduced to whatever new engineering marvel was coming down the pike, attending lectures and demonstrations. A good thing they got together for a drink now and then.
McCoy hated to think there was a permanent splintering of this rather exceptional group of command officers that Kirk had assembled. They’d become his family. The head of the family was Kirk, the benevolent yet stern task master who led with his charisma as well as his intuition. Then there was Spock with his massive intellect who indulged human extravagances while Spock’s girlfriend – Uhura - was the big sister who shook her head over her crew of boys. Sulu and Chekov – well, they were ambitious, talented and hero-worshipping kid brothers, Chekov being the runt of the litter. Scotty rounded it out. He wasn’t bridge crew. But he was the talented engineer whose contraptions saved the day – most times. The engineer was even now trying to figure out a way for a man to be released from radiation isolation, so it never happened again what happened to Kirk.
According to STARFLEET Command no ship – not even Enterprise - was to have access to Khan or his crew’s life-saving blood. When the logs had been dispersed amongst Command there was a rumble that what the crew did to save Kirk was not to be considered the norm, in fact should never happen again. When McCoy wondered why that was he was told because the danger of dealing with Khan and his crew wasn’t worth the risk. McCoy was reminded no one of any crew was indispensable, not even a commanding officer.
“We must bring the captain back to himself.”
Spock’s observation brought McCoy’s thoughts back to the present. “Yes. How?”
“I have an idea.”
Spock went to the captain’s temporary quarters, a loft. Even here, Spock was granted immediate access, as was McCoy, the same as it would be were they on the Enterprise. The captain, as was routine at this hour, was behind a desk, apparently focused upon something. Spock took his usual position just a few feet from the work station, as if he were in the captain’s quarters and this was mere ship’s business. The normality of his stance was reassuring to Spock and he hoped it was to Kirk.
“Yes, Spock, what is it?”
“Captain, there has been observation your responses and demeanor are atypical of late.”
“You mean since – “
“You telling me I need a vacation? That’s all McCoy talks about.”
“Negative. But also possible.”
“May I remind you I am already on Medical Leave? And if I take off, I might never make it back.” Kirk smiled gently to make it less harsh. “Have you and McCoy considered this?” It was a subtle threat, not quite a direct hit.
“The likelihood of that occurrence is not under consideration.” That much was true. STARFLEET wouldn’t surrender Kirk, neither would his officers and crew, that much already demonstrated.
“Then what are you talking about?”
“If the issue is the trauma surrounding your death, it would be possible to obtain any missing or confusing data that is prohibiting the return of your natural exuberance, your curiosity.” Your charisma, your charm, your humor, Spock wanted to add. Not to mention the vitality James Kirk normally brought to any endeavor.
“One of McCoy’s brain scans, targeting the subconscious?” The good doctor had already hinted at this possibility, and naturally Medical and Science officers were in cahoots.
“Or a Vulcan mind meld, if you prefer.” Spock was reluctant to suggest this alternative, but the captain’s brain was familiar to him. If there was something lurking in the subconscious, some association or memory holding the captain’s personality hostage, he’d learn of it, which could make him a fellow prisoner in Kirk’s death – and whatever the aftermath was. But knowledge was to be gained here, so Spock forgave himself his curiosity.
Most sentient beings believed in an afterlife, a product of refusing to believe in the annihilation of oneself. And Kirk expressed that fear, himself, in the moments before his death. However, what was caging Kirk now? The fact he’d faced nothing, or the fact he had and he’d been returned from whatever that was? Was Kirk’s memory lacking any data, or was it an intentional blocking to save his sanity?
“I’m sure McCoy prefers his own contraption.”
“And yet that contraption would provide a permanent record being placed into your psych file.”
“You’re right about that. I’d like to consider your offer, Mister Spock. I have found myself going through my log tapes, to find my way back, but I can’t do it on my own.” That much was easy to admit. It was made fairly apparent, since he woke up. He’d been curious and polite to everyone, but distant, even to himself.
A few days ago he’d had a communication from Admiral Topak. She was congratulating him on his success on saving his remaining crew, and the Khan disposition in general. There was to be another commendation for his file, and another medal was en route, and he could request a formal ceremony or it would be dispatched to his location. He selected the private option.
“I see you normally opt for private over ceremony.”
“I’m usually unavailable.”
“Yes, but your ship is in repair status. You are at STARFLEET HQ.”
“I’ve got good accommodations here.”
“That’s settled then. Close Record.” Her tone softened. “Jim, you’re not yourself, even I can see that. And I can’t say I understand it, as no one else has been in your position.” She gave a small smile. “A resurrection, truly. A very talented team put you back together.”
“They had to go to more work than usual this time.” A lot of work, a lot of that inventive magic his friend and physician – McCoy – was capable of. “Commander McCoy should receive a commendation. This discussion wouldn’t be happening without him.”
“Don’t worry, he’s taken care of.”
He wondered why McCoy hadn’t mentioned it.
“You’re not making log entries.”
“I’m on Leave.” He never made log entries on Leave. Who did?
“And you have Medical concerned. Perhaps Psychiatry, to assist in any adjustment? Or Religious guidance? We want you whole, Captain. STARFLEET needs you. And your department heads need you. They are solely focused on your adjustment.”
“What?” They wouldn’t have been reporting inquiries, would they?
“We are aware of the research, the fact your CMO is spending his leave at STARFLEET Medical. That’s not his history when he is on Leave, as you are aware. They want to know how you feel, and what you feel. Please seek their assistance. I don’t want to make this an order.”
He nodded. “Admiral.”
That was the trouble. Everyone wanted to know what he felt. And how could he tell them he felt nothing? For the only time in his life he felt nothing at all.
Even Spock had now entered his assigned temporary quarters, no doubt after one of his and McCoy’s many discussions regarding their wayward commanding officer. Good God, he was tired of being the center of their universe.
And that commendation and the medal that went along with it? The commendation was a matter of record; the medal was locked into a safe, along with many others, excepting the one which went with his command assignment to the Enterprise.
“McCoy’s getting a Commendation.”
“It is deserved. It is also the result of a fortuitous fluke that he injected a deceased tribble with Khan’s blood and your death coincided with its revival.”
“Quite a fluke. Still, if he hadn’t been doing what he’d been doing – experimenting – I wouldn’t be here now.”
“I’ll think about your offer. Now if you don’t mind, I’d like to go swimming. That’s a luxury we don’t have on the Enterprise.”
Swimming. How abhorrent. But of course this amazingly tactile human was normally enchanted by the prospects of large bodies of water.
“Good night, Captain.”
This was something he missed having on board ship, a swimming pool. Fortunately he found the facility empty. He’d taken a chance in not booking it. But too many people sought him out so privacy away from the loft was at a premium. Being at HQ had its drawbacks and this was one of them. In particular were the stunned looks on people’s faces when they recognized him and their stumbling demeanor when they engaged him.
He removed his robe to reveal his swimming briefs. The water was warm and relaxing. So relaxing. He started off swimming a few laps, definitely proving he was as fit as he ever was – at least physically. He preferred this exercise to what was available to him on-board ship, mainly the gym.
Whenever he could, Jim opted for water-rich planets for Leave. Sad for his Vulcan, but a Leave spent on desert-like Vulcan made up the very last of his dream destinations. What he’d seen of Vulcan so far being more than enough, and that’s even taking out the Pon Farr-killing Jim thing.
Killing Jim. Spock tried to kill him once, and thought he had. But the fever left Spock upon the shock of what had occurred. What Spock thought occurred. There he was again, McCoy and his medical bag of wonders. What a fantastic friend, who saved the day.
Uhura hadn’t been too thrilled with the Spock-T’Pring wedding announcement, though. Evidently Spock hadn’t told her. Funny she even put up with him.
The water was so welcoming, he found himself drifting on his back, a basic floating with the slightest effort on his part. Just this velvet softness urging him to stay, to remain, and in his head somewhere – dismissed – a foggy murmur of voices whose words were… “Stay.” “Go.” “Help.” “Remain.”
Meanwhile he was drifting, drifting, drifting down.
A sudden urgent hum almost stopped Spock in his tracks. It was shocking in its complexity, and the intensity grew with each step.
He halted in his return to his quarters following the troubling dialogue with Kirk.
The door to his assigned quarters was precisely twenty-three meters from this spot.
But something was wrong. And the only time alarm bells – as McCoy called them – went off in his mind was when the danger involved Kirk.
A Kirk who said he was en route to a midnight swim.
The hum was now a persistent pressure, so distracting Spock was now incapable of focusing on anything else. To do so would be the equivalent of deciding what star chart to study while his mode of transportation was veering sharply towards a wall.
Spock turned abruptly.
He would find Kirk in the swimming arena. And he’d better find his captain safe and sound.
The surface of the water was still. The scene was serene or ominous. At the water’s edge he saw the still form within.
Knowing this moment only required necessary action, Spock jumped in. He quickly retrieved the lax figure by wrapping his arms around the muscular torso and making for the surface. He was sure he’d made it in time, because to lose Kirk again so soon – after such monumental efforts to reclaim that life – would be catastrophic to all the egos involved.
The fact he’d had such a strong link to Kirk, to receive that warning, meant they were bound to each other in ways hinted at by Ambassador Spock. This was confirmation this man was the partner in life he was meant to have, not a woman, but his captain, an all-encompassing loyalty and love for one being. This was his true north, as Kirk once explained the phrase to him he’d come across in a book.
His hands pressed down upon Kirk, and finally the water was sputtering out of the human’s mouth.
Spock only released the pressure to assist Kirk in rolling over to face him, and then he cradled the man as he pulled Kirk to his feet. Although an embrace, the standing position allowed Kirk to retain his dignity even as he regained his composure. But Spock didn’t release him entirely, not even then.
“Maybe you should let me go.”
It took a moment for Spock to realize the captain wasn’t referring to this moment, but when Kirk was on the Enterprise, when that body was on a gurney in Sickbay, before the infusion of Khan’s healing blood.
“I will not let you go.”
Spock’s grip hardened and he pulled Kirk to him. Spock suddenly knew what he had to do, what he had always wanted to do with this man, and likely was the most important step forward in his understanding of his own needs and desires.
He smashed his mouth against the stunned parted lips of the other man.
In anger and admitted desperation, Spock initiated this action. But what reaction transmitted throughout his body was translated to his brain as the comparison between this intimate act of touching Kirk to his reaction when Nyota initiated her contact with him.
When Nyota kissed him he felt comfortable, though a bit detached, as well as aware he was leaving this fine woman and officer in a state of disappointment, if unvoiced disapproval.
There was even that part of him that wondered what all the fuss was about. Why were other species driven to such madness when it involved such benign actions.
But he would never satisfy her, that was obvious, as he never returned the awareness throughout his body, this excitement, with her, that he was feeling with Kirk. With any man? No, it was Kirk that was the sole appeal. Of that Spock was certain.
He wanted his hands on Kirk. He wanted to strip Kirk and himself and have them be together always, as one entity complete.
The moaning from Kirk, however, wasn’t initiated by passion. Understanding, Spock released the human as Kirk gasped for air.
“Drowning nearly twice in one hour.”
Spock dragged the human close again, initiating another press of their lips, what was called the human kiss. Now he had the right partner he understood the appeal.
But he was completely recovered, and Kirk pushed back, with Spock finally releasing him. Kirk was careful to put some distance between them.
Realizing he’d taken a major step in their development without discussing it first with the individual most involved, Spock also took a step back, literally and figuratively.
“I ask forgiveness.”
“Granted. What is this? Shock therapy?” But it seemed to have worked. His senses were less dull, his thoughts more clear. Leave it to Spock, unconventional approach though it was.
“If it serves the purpose.”
“All right. But where is this coming from? You have a girlfriend. You haven’t even liked me most of the time. In fact, you disapprove of me most days.”
“It is complicated. Perhaps that is why there have been mixed signals.”
“Mixed signals? I like that one. But it’s been a hell of a night, Spock. However you do have something going for you. Shock, Spock. I’m either in or out of shock. I mean, I am feeling something. Not desire, if that’s what you’re looking for. Maybe the drowning and… this… whatever… accomplished something. I can’t promise you I’m fully recovered, but I can tell you this is the most engaged I’ve been feeling about anything since I had to live through my dying.”
“Well, let me dry off and I promise I’ll go straight home.”
“I will accompany you.”
Kirk didn’t like the sound of that, especially after that kiss. “Suicide watch, Spock? What if I promise to be a good boy?”
“You can be most creative in your choice of words.”
Kirk laughed. “Hear that? I haven’t laughed since I don’t know when. Maybe I have come back.”
“I think Doctor McCoy would say you have a spark in your eye.”
Regardless of the strangeness of his interaction with his first officer, the relief that was flowing through his body was tangible. Maybe he was back, permanently. All cylinders were GO.
He even got his nerve up to ask an obvious question. “Since when did you want me?” It was vanity speaking, but necessary if they were to continue this unusual relationship they had. He knew what he felt in that kiss, and it wasn’t detachment from that end.
“Perhaps from my first sight of you. I was quite stunned by your appearance and unprofessional demeanor. Now I put my irritation down to my growing awareness of incompatible superficialities.”
To Kirk, that was a mouthful. But leave it to Spock to make it convoluted.
“Good. It’s only physical. You’ll get over it.” Or learn to deal with it, as they all did.
“I don’t know what’s been wrong with me either. I’ve always been the most alive person I’ve ever known.”
Spock would rather be speaking of his newfound feelings, particularly the awareness of certain physically desirable attributes and actions. However the captain was changing the subject. And considering the near drowning it was best to humor the human, at least for the moment.
“Perhaps it is the burden of saving so many lives. Often, it has been - literally - a galaxy of individuals.”
“That’s what the job pays me for.”
“But not with your own life.”
“Yes, even that.” Kirk said it as if that only occurred to him now. Maybe he was guilty as so many younger men were, of feeling they’d live forever, that they were indestructible. He hadn’t yet reached that point when he realized no matter how much he exercised or trained or triumphed over the enemy, at some point even something as banal as aging would get the best of him. “The notably rebellious but legendary Captain Kirk almost drowned in a bathtub. Guess I’m not immortal after all.”
“Considering recent events…”
Kirk laughed. He shouldn’t be laughing, but it was weird to talk about his own mortality when he’d just been brought back to life. Again. But he was laughing. He found his first officer amusing. He couldn’t recall the last time he felt as if a burden had been lifted.
“Don’t tell McCoy about this. We’ll never hear the end of it.”
“As your physician he should be made aware of all....”
“No. I’ll never hear the end of it. And then I will be committing suicide - deliberately.”
“And we’ll forget the rest of this too. You most definitely don’t want McCoy knowing about that.”
This sounded so like Kirk that Spock felt they’d overcome the obstacle. Their captain was back, this Kirk was a return to the man he’d been before Khan, before dying.
At the loft’s entrance, when Kirk didn’t invite him in, Spock wasn’t concerned as he knew he had a destination of his own. However –
“What is the official story?”
“The official story – Mister Spock – is problem solved because Tomcat Kirk met up with an old girlfriend. That he’d understand.”
“Better that than McCoy pestering us both about this – episode – for the rest of our lives.”
He was granted access due to his girlfriend having her door coded to respond to his voice.
The Lieutenant’s quarters were smaller than the captain’s.
Nyota Uhura was sleeping but roused on his appearance at her bedside.
“I have something to tell you.”
She looked at his sad face and thought, not again, not Kirk. They couldn’t go through that again. Losing that man whose existence was their center had splintered their group in that short time before he recovered. Now they only awaited their Enterprise and their nucleus would be back in action.
“Kirk is recovered but I have found in his loss and return that I have a bond with him – an attraction – that I have not had with any other. I have shared this knowledge with him.”
She took a sip from the glass that was on the table next to her bunk. “That must have been a surprise.”
“Indeed it seemed to shock him back to awareness. I believe he is completely recovered.”
“Good for you. No, I mean that. I can’t say I’m not hurt.”
“I inevitably hurt you. Many times we are at cross-purposes. You and I - ”
“Not a surprise. Remember, I was there when he died. I saw you. I knew then what he meant to you and that you hadn’t known. Bringing him back was something for all of us, but especially for you. That broke your own madness.”
“Our relationship is more suitable.”
“I know. And I kept trying to make it happen. But it couldn’t, could it? Not when you were already there with Kirk. If only we’d both known, we would have spared ourselves some heartache. So how is Kirk?”
“Well, considering Kirk, he could choose to be in denial for a long time.”
“I can wait. I have waited.”
“Good luck, Spock.”
“Good night, Nyota.”