The terror burst through Spock’s mind with the violence of a wave, and he snapped his eyes open to a sea of blackness that only intensified the fear. He was lying in cold sweat, shreds of the nightmare still hanging in his mind. He was screaming for Jim. There had been vivid, abnormally bright images of Jim dying in the phaser room, held down by a strange writhing tangle of green snakes, red blood washing over the walls, the floor - the whole room was red with blood and fire. He could see, but everything was darkness, and his blood covered hands wouldn’t stop slipping from Jim’s dying body...
There was a rush of footsteps into the room, and arms pressed firmly around him, holding him still. He instinctively pressed into that warmth and gasped for air, his head against a shoulder, against someone’s neck, trying to control the gasps that emerged as sobs. He still felt tangled in the nightmare because he couldn’t open his eyes to daylight, and he clasped on to the dear reality of this human body, desperate for someone to put a light on. He could feel silk against his face as the person cradled him against her chest, and he suddenly knew it wasn’t Jim - of course it wouldn’t be Jim.
‘It’s all right,’ Lieutenant Uhura’s voice said softly. Her mind was emanating concern and warm friendship. Her hand stroked up and down his back gently, then came back to hold him tightly. She began to repeat, ‘Shh, shh,’ as if she were soothing a baby to sleep.
Spock tried desperately to hide, to eradicate, the surging fear, but it wasn’t all right. Nothing was all right. He had heard the light go on, he could hear the faint buzz of power, but he could see no light. There would never be any light. There was just the gaping void in his body again, the terrible emptiness. It would be such a relief to plunge from the balcony, to let death end the void in his chest. But he had made a promise, and he had to try to restore calm.
Uhura’s arms loosened and let him lie back down onto the mattress, then her soft hands slipped into his and he tightened his fingers around them, holding on as if his life was dependant on the grasp. He lay for a long time in silence, inhaling and exhaling very slowly, breathing out the fear and pulling in calmness and stillness. Uhura sat silent, waiting until he was calm and ready to speak. The dream still felt more vivid than reality, and his head throbbed, but he managed gradually to force the images of blood and fire into the background.
‘Thank you, Lieutenant,’ he said at last. He relaxed his grip on her hands to let her pull away, but she kept the contact.
‘Would you like me to get the captain, sir?’ she asked gently.
‘There’s no need to disturb him - he will be sleeping,’ Spock replied, resisting the need to speak to Jim just to reassure himself that the dream had been just a dream.
‘You can talk to me about the dream,’ Uhura offered softly.
‘There is no need,’ he said. He drew his hands stiffly from hers and pulled the blanket up over his arms to hide the trembling that would not stop. ‘There was no logic to it.’
‘Dreams don’t have to be logical, Mr Spock,’ Uhura reminded him. ‘It doesn’t mean something’s wrong if they’re not.’ There was a long, tired pause, and Spock heard her trying to yawn silently. ‘Will you be able to sleep, sir?’
‘I should be able to.’
‘Should?’ Uhura echoed doubtfully. ‘I’ll get a dressing gown and a blanket and settle down in the reclining chair.’
‘Lieutenant, there is no need for you to - .’
‘Indulge me, Mr Spock,’ she said warmly. ‘Just for tonight. Is there anything I can get you to help you sleep? Would a warm drink help?’
‘Banahl root tea may help, if the replicator can produce it. It has a sedative effect.’
‘I’ll go find out, sir.’
Spock lay and waited for her to return, silently grateful at her intuitive and diligent care. Nothing would have induced him to ask her directly to sit with him, but he needed that firm anchor to reality. Night had always been a useful, contemplative time, and it was a shock to suddenly find sleep so terrifying - an irrational fear that his well-trained mind should have been able to eliminate, but couldn’t. He would have to put himself through stern meditation practices to correct this error. But then, in an equation that suddenly occurred to him and made no sense, if he couldn’t see, he didn’t care.
That thought would have to be corrected too, before the insidious loss of control went too far. But not tonight. Tonight he just wanted to sleep without the odd terror of nightmares or irrational feelings of depression.
Uhura returned quietly with a cup of gently steaming tea, which she carried over to the Vulcan and put in his hands carefully.
‘It’s hot, but not too full,’ she warned him, holding her hands over his until she was sure they had stopped shaking.
She left him sipping at the drink, and went to recline the easy chair as far as it would go, laying out a soft pillow and blankets on it. At she shook out the coverings she stole a quick glance at the Vulcan, and her worry over him increased. His expression was not of logical and intelligent calm. His face was a white mask that showed the remains of shock and repressed anger, slowly melting into a more disturbing apathy.
She pushed all her worry aside though, shaking it out with the blanket so that she could turn back and speak to him without adding to his depression. She hesitated for a moment with her hand on the light switch, but darkness could have no effect on the Vulcan, so she turned it out and went back over to him in the pale moonlight. Out of the window she could still see a few lights blazing across the city; other people who could not sleep.
‘I’m going to settle down to sleep, sir,’ she told him. ‘I’m in the corner of the room, to your right. Just call me if you need to - don’t worry about waking me up.’
‘Thank you, Lieutenant.’
‘Just sleep,’ Uhura said to him softly, taking his empty cup and touching his arm briefly. ‘And try to have sweet dreams.’
‘I shall endeavour to have no dreams at all,’ Spock promised her.
Spock woke slowly, becoming gradually aware of noises in his room. He lay still under the warm blankets, listening without opening his eyes, training his ears to identify the source of sounds as easily as if he had looked. That muffled, flapping noise was blankets being shaken out and folded up. The creaking was the back of the reclining chair being swivelled upright. Footsteps left the room, then returned accompanied by a clinking noise that defied his interpretation, and the clinking object was put down on a surface.
He stopped listening to consider his physical condition. He felt stiff and aching after yesterday’s exercise, and extremely tired from his lack of sleep. The nightmares had been annoyingly persistent, waking him every few hours, but he refused to ask McCoy for sedatives and go back to drugged sleeps. The only element of the dreams which still disturbed him now was the recurring vision of green snakes. Some people might say that snakes were a sign of madness, and he preferred not to think about that.
Something dropped onto the floor. Spock turned his head to the noise, asking, ‘Lieutenant?’
‘Oh, I’m sorry, Mr Spock.’ Uhura’s mellow voice was apologetic. ‘I didn’t want to wake you just yet.’
He sat up, uncomfortable at his position here in bed with Uhura standing in the room. With the clarity of hindsight, he should not have allowed her to see him as he was last night either, no matter how terrifying the dream had been.
‘Did you drop something?’ he asked.
‘I knocked your comb off the dressing table.’ He heard her pick it up and put it back on the surface with a click. ‘I was trying to be quiet...’
Spock reached out to his bedside table and pressed the soft button on the talking clock he had been given in the hospital. The computerised voice told him flatly that it was four minutes after nine.
‘I meant to wake at eight, Lieutenant,’ he told her, troubled at his own lack of discipline. ‘You have done me a service. Are the curtains open?’
‘Yes, sir. The sky’s clear, with just a few clouds - it’s a warm sunny day,’ she said, anticipating his question.
Spock raised an eyebrow, wondering if the lieutenant had been taking lessons in mind reading. He had never been a great believer in intuition. It was easier to believe that Uhura knew him so well that she could anticipate his questions - although that was rather disturbing in itself.
‘A fine day, then,’ he nodded, then added quietly, ‘Lieutenant, thank you for your attention last night. I regret you were put to so much inconvenience.’
‘That’s all right, sir,’ she said, sounding glad that he had chosen to bring it up rather than wait for her to say something.
Spock nodded silently, ending any more discussion on the subject. He was deeply grateful for her diligent care, but he preferred to leave the subject alone now day had come.
He leant back against the headboard and closed his eyes, and a sudden flash of remembrance came into his mind before he could control it. His hands were touching something, slick with blood, feeling angles and hardness. His hands slid along it, and it stretched further than he could reach. There was a sick smell of blood, blood everywhere.
‘It was a beam,’ he said slowly.
‘Pardon, sir?’ Uhura asked, and Spock realised he had spoken aloud.
‘A beam, Lieutenant. Something pinned the ambassador to the floor. I believe it was a supporting beam which fell from the ceiling.’
‘Yes, sir. That’s what it said in the report,’ she said slowly, as if unsure of what to say about his sudden odd memory. There was a deep silence, then she said, ‘I brought a tray in with your breakfast, Mr Spock.’
‘Thank you - but I shall eat at the table outside,’ Spock told her. ‘Would you carry the tray through for me?’
He folded back the cover and swung his legs slowly out of bed, oblivious to her faint disappointment.
‘Mr Spock - ’
‘I am no longer an invalid, Lieutenant,’ Spock said firmly. ‘I shall eat at the table outside. I also want you to show me how to work the replicator, so that I may prepare my own meals in the future.’
‘Yes, sir,’ she said, with more professionalism than friendship in her voice.
‘That does not mean that I do not appreciate your help, Uhura,’ he told her, realising how his statement must have sounded to a human. ‘When I truly cannot manage, I shall accept it without question. However, I need to become self-sufficient so that I can manage in my own quarters. You can understand that?’
‘Of course I can, Mr Spock,’ Uhura told him, her voice warm again. ‘Would – er – would you like me to lay out your clothes?’
‘That would be helpful,’ he nodded. ‘Choose what you think best – I am not sure of what is in the cases.’
‘I’ll do that in a moment,’ she nodded. ‘I’ll just take your tray through now.’
She picked up the specially prepared tray to take it through to the other room. Spock reached out to find his cane on the bedside table, then stood up slowly. His whole body still felt leaden, the residue of so long in a hospital bed. He would have to work at regaining his fitness. He heard Uhura pause, and her feet turned on the carpet, as if thinking about offering help. But as he shook the cane out straight with a snap of his wrist she turned back to the door.
‘I shall come through in a minute,’ Spock told her.
‘All right, sir. I’ll take the tray through to the table,’ she said. ‘Oh - and when you come to it, it’s toast at two o’clock, some fresh fruit at six, and soya strips at ten. There’s also a glass of orange juice, and a butter dish on the tray. I wasn’t sure if you wanted it on your toast.’
‘Thank you,’ he nodded.
He listened to her leave, carrying the clinking tray, then he moved along the edge of the bed to find the cases on the floor at the foot. He popped open the lid of the first case and felt inside. There was a garment under his fingers, warm, soft, immaculately folded - but almost impossible to tell from any of the other folded wads of material. He withdrew his hands and sat back on his heels, wishing for a moment that he had a more varied wardrobe. He could not dress before Uhura picked out the clothes for him.
He moved the two cases up to the head of the bed. He had felt drawer fronts in the large block of furniture by his bed, and now he drew one open and slid his fingers in to feel the wide, deep, empty space. He couldn’t choose his clothes, but he could unpack them and store them in these deep, hollow drawers. With some help he could arrange them all, one type of garment in each drawer, the colours arranged in separate piles. For now the most he could do was separate the garments - the colours meant nothing. The task gave him a chance to spend a few minutes in meditative silence before going back into the company of humans.
That done, Spock went through to the table where Uhura had put his breakfast. The cool, smooth table-top felt like glass, and as he sat at it he wondered if it was clear or opaque. Last night Uhura had said it was coffee-coloured, but she had gone into his room, and he could not ask her if it was clear. The whole of breakfast was full of these fascinating tactile detective games. As he tried to spread butter evenly without applying it to his fingers, the door opened noisily and someone barged into the room.
‘Morning, Spock,’ McCoy said cheerfully. He strode across the room and ordered eggs, bacon and coffee from the replicator, mindless of how unpleasant Spock found the smell. How was it that McCoy could do that so mindlessly when he would need someone’s hands guiding his to the buttons and someone’s eyes to tell him what each one was marked?
McCoy deposited his tray on the table with a clack and seated himself near the Vulcan, then proceeded to arrange his meal with a series of clatters and clinks.
Spock stayed silent, giving the doctor time to apologise for his intrusion. When no apology came he said diplomatically, ‘If your own replicator is out of order, Doctor, I am sure that it can be repaired in no time.’
‘No - it’s fine - just came to have breakfast with you. Jim’s gone for a run, so - ’ Then his conversation was stifled as he pushed a load of food into his mouth.
‘More than two thousand years of so-called civilisation, and yet you still eat seared flesh like savages,’ Spock commented, listening to the noises of chewing and swallowing. ‘It is amazing that you have survived for so long.’
‘Yes, and your mother’s one of those flesh-eating barbarians,’ McCoy reminded him.
‘And she quite logically left Earth to wed a Vulcan. Doctor, I am not even dressed yet,’ Spock protested, abandoning any attempts at subtlety. ‘You did not ask to come in.’
‘I don’t mind seeing you in pyjamas, Spock - don’t worry - I’ve seen you in worse states. Anyway, they look just like the rest of your clothes. Have you got a morbid fascination with black?’
For a moment the smell of bacon seemed horribly close to the smell in the phaser room as he had felt flames eating at his skin. Nausea rose, and he quelled it.
‘Dr McCoy, I cannot see - it matters very little to what colour my night attire is dyed,’ Spock said with restrained impatience. ‘The colour is sensible, inoffensive and eminently practical, to those who have the pleasure of observing it.’ He turned his attention back to his meal. If McCoy would not take the hint to leave, he would have to simply ignore and endure.
‘Need help with buttering that?’
‘No, thank you,’ Spock said, laying down the knife and taking a bite of his toast.
‘So how are you this morning?’ A medical scanner whirred as he spoke.
‘Then that is why you are in here?’
‘You look tired.’
‘Vivid dreams? Headache?’ At Spock’s brief nod he said, ‘Your brain’s being deprived of visual stimuli - that can cause withdrawal symptoms in Vulcans. They’ll pass as you adjust.’
‘I do not need your medical toys to tell me that, Doctor. I have suffered headaches for three weeks.’
‘Burns feel okay? Any aches and pains?’
‘I have been discharged from hospital, Doctor,’ Spock reminded him.
‘Because I’m here to monitor your condition.’
‘I am feeling no pain, and only slight aches and stiffness where my bones have healed. Please deactivate that scanner and allow me to consume my meal in peace.’
‘Spock, I’m just monitoring your body readings - it doesn’t stop you from eating, for God’s sake.’
‘Doctor, even consuming a meal is a task which does not come easily to me right now. I would prefer not to be monitored as I do it.’
The scanner clicked off. ‘Okay, Spock - I’ll let you off – for now.’
‘I’ve laid out your clothes, Mr Spock,’ Uhura called, emerging from his room. She stopped and pulled on some garment, saying, ‘Doctor, I didn’t know you were here. Mr Spock, I’ve put your clothes out in order on your bed.’
‘Thank you, Lieutenant,’ Spock nodded.
‘So you don’t mind Uhura walking about in her negligée?’ McCoy asked slyly.
‘Doctor, please,’ Spock said, wishing that McCoy would stop this incessant prodding, just for this morning. He did not feel strong enough in mind or body to parry McCoy’s comments.
‘I’m not wearing negligée, Mr Spock,’ Uhura promised. ‘I was wearing a night dress, and
now I’m wearing a dressing gown,’ she said, sitting down at the table where her breakfast was already waiting.
‘However, Doctor, it would make no difference to me if Lieutenant Uhura was stark naked,’ Spock told McCoy coldly.
‘Crankier than an Aldebaran sewer snake,’ McCoy muttered under his breath, almost silently, but Spock turned to him sharply, one eyebrow raised.
‘I beg your pardon, Doctor?’
McCoy shivered at the icy tone. The impact of that raised eyebrow was worse now than it ever had been. ‘Nothing. Nothing at all... So you’re eating toast this morning? Not very Vulcan.’
Spock clenched his fists underneath the table, feeling tension building to danger point. ‘Dr McCoy, please cease! Can I not eat without you making a comment at every mouthful?’
There was a short silence, and he reached out for his glass of orange juice, feeling for it in increasing circles of his palm on the table.
‘Here, Spock,’ McCoy said, taking his hand to guide it.
Spock resisted the doctor’s hand, pulling away from his touch. ‘I can find it myself, Doctor. If you had not come in and displaced the arrangement of my crockery with your tray then I would not have to look for the glass.’
He found it with another sweep of his hand, and picked it up to go through to his room, before his unreasonable anger at the doctor could explode. But as he moved he slammed into the bulk of an unexpected chair and stumbled, spilling a wash of juice down his clothes.
‘I’m sorry, Spock - I guess I pushed that out of my way as I came in,’ McCoy began, jumping up.
‘Doctor, I suggest you go back to your own room and rearrange your own furniture as much as it pleases you,’ Spock said coldly, all tolerance inside him suddenly snapping. ‘Last night I familiarised myself with the position of every object in this hotel suite, and I will not have you disrupt my routine. Kindly leave me alone.’
McCoy’s hand touched his arm from behind as he turned away, and Spock held himself with rigid tension, willing the doctor to let go before his barely restrained anger burst through as violence.
‘Spock,’ the doctor began.
‘What do you want, Doctor?’
‘I’m sorry I disturbed things for you,’ McCoy said quietly. ‘I didn’t think.’
‘I am sure you did not,’ Spock said thinly, without turning. The anger at McCoy, at the darkness, built to a point that was burning and unbearable, and the orange-filled glass shattered in his fist. His hand began to drip with a mixture of juice and blood, but he felt no pain. McCoy’s soft hand closed gently around his iron-tense arm, and prised his fingers open to clean and treat the cuts.
‘Spock, this isn’t a good solution to tension,’ he said softly.
‘Then offer another suggestion,’ Spock said, his voice vibrating with taut emotion. He could barely feel McCoy’s ministrations. ‘Because all I want is to see, and if there is no logical way of bringing my sight back, then there is nothing left but the vastly illogical, such as trying to carve out these cursed cells with broken glass, or ripping open my veins in the hope that there is an afterlife where sight exists.’
‘Spock,’ McCoy said gently.
‘*Dis*-abled, *in*-valid, useless, helpless - I should not be allowed to live.’
‘Spock, you’re not on prehistoric Vulcan. There aren’t any codes of honour to live out.’
‘There is nothing wrong with my eyes,’ he said flatly, hiding the desperate emotion of that statement. ‘Why can these cells not be removed? Surely they can be removed, scraped off?’
‘Spock!’ McCoy tightened his grip on Spock’s wrist. ‘You know that would destroy your eyes. Spock, I know you must be very angry and frustrated and afraid,’ the doctor began very gently.
Spock pulled his injured hand away from the doctor and clenched it hard. ‘You are attributing human emotions to my condition. I am not human.’
‘No. I’m attributing Vulcan emotions to a Vulcan. I’m not stupid, Spock, no matter how backward you think I am. I’ve researched the effects of blindness on Vulcans.’
‘Really, Doctor? And what did you find?’ Spock asked with dangerous calm.
‘Only that you’re liable to be suicidal. How are you feeling, Spock?’
‘Tired - of your company, Doctor.’ Spock reached out towards where he thought the chair was, and grasped at the air. ‘Where is the bedroom door?’
‘About three metres in front of you, a little to your left,’ Uhura told him quietly from across the room. She had been so silent he had almost forgotten about her presence.
‘Take care of that hand, and it’ll feel as good as new in an hour,’ McCoy said.
Spock unfolded his cane with a deliberate snap and disappeared through his bedroom door, but his sharp, rigid shoulder blades suddenly relaxed and began to shake as the door closed.
McCoy dropped back into a chair and shook his head. ‘Thank God he’s crying at last.’
‘Should somebody be with him, after what he said?’ Uhura asked with deep worry, turning towards the door. An image flashed into her head of Spock lying on the floor with gouged out eyes and slashed wrists, or Spock’s broken body lying smashed on the concrete sidewalk far below his balcony, and uncontrollable grief welled up inside her for her friend.
‘No,’ McCoy said quickly. ‘Leave him be for now.’
‘He said he wanted to kill himself!’
‘He’s not going to kill himself. That dangerous anger’s passed - now he’s just crying, which is far more healthy for him than what he’d do if one of us walked in on him in that state. He has to cry before he can start to accept this.’
‘Then what can we do, Doctor?’ Uhura asked helplessly.
‘Just help him. Talk to him, perhaps give him some anti-depressants, and physical, rehabilitative help. His whole identity’s bound up with his blindness right now. He’s inexperienced, unskilled, he’s still weak. He’s angry. He’s scared, Uhura. And he wasn’t taught anything but walking with a cane in that hospital. He needs to go to a rehabilitation centre.’
‘And are there any here?’
‘He wants to go to one on Vulcan, and I can understand that. The Ban-Shiar centre specialises in teaching how to use telepathic skills to enhance awareness of surroundings - that’s something a human place could never do. For now, we just treat him as Spock, and hope that he comes to accept that he still is Spock, whether he can see or not.’
Spock stood on the balcony of his room listening to the sounds of shuttles and people walking far below, hoping there was no one who could witness the spectacle of a Vulcan shivering with uncontrollable tears. Everything was senseless, he had lost control of his life, lost control of his emotions. He was going slowly mad, just as every other blinded Vulcan did. For a moment he leant into the void over the balcony wall with the perverse thought that if he let himself plunge to the ground the impact as his head hit would jar the sight back into his eyes.
He straightened up and reached a hand out into the air. There was light in that space, it was touching his hand, but he could not see it. He could not even see his fingernails to clean them. He could not look into a mirror and see the hot, illogical tears that were slipping down his cheeks. If he slid a blade along the radial arteries in his arms, he would not be able to see the green blood run out as he died. But he could not see the arteries to insert the blade. He would have to take poison. Poison was relatively easy for a scientist to acquire.
But he had to keep his promise to Uhura, he could not let himself die in madness. He had to focus on something else, but it was so hard, and he suddenly felt so, so tired...
Spock sank down to the concrete floor, and leant into the corner, pressing his head onto his knees and trembling violently, for once just letting the emotions surge out like floodwaters being released. Time stretched out until he had no sense of how long he had been tucked into this cold, damp corner, and finally he pressed his hands to his face, wiping away the salty water on his cheeks. At least the terrible, destructive anger had dissipated, and there was emptiness. It wasn’t the refreshing clarity of logic, but anything was better than the urge to kill someone or kill himself.
He stood up slowly. Focus. That was essential. He pressed his hands hard onto the wall, and felt the moisture on them begin to seep away into the concrete. He had to focus his mind. How high was he standing? It was hard to judge the distance he was above ground when he was this far up, but the noises sounded at least fifty metres away, faintly echoing off the other buildings around. Slowly he analysed the echoes. He carefully refined his estimate to forty-two point five zero nine metres, and decided the ground below was hard - stone or concrete. Somewhere far away he could hear waves, and crying gulls, closer there were shuttles, human voices and footsteps. The rustling sound of leaves told him there were trees nearby, far below, possibly with animals or birds moving in them.
He clenched his hands hard over the cold edge of the balcony, reminded by a twinge in his left of his unforgivable loss of control. He went back into his room and through into the small en-suite bathroom, where he stripped and stepped into the shower. The douche of hot water helped to push away any last feelings of anger, and to wash away the feeling of tears on his face. He stepped out of the shower feeling emotionally fragile, but at least in control. He dressed carefully, but he couldn’t find the cane that he had thrown aside in anger at his reliance on it. He walked back into the living area with focused calm, slowly and carefully. He could at least allow himself the small satisfaction of having showered, washed his hair, shaved and dressed, encountering no problems at all in the strange bathroom. But he was aware of the worried presences of McCoy and Lieutenant Uhura awaiting him. Their tension created a buzzing web that he could almost feel on his skin.
‘Doctor, Lieutenant, I must apologise to you both for my outburst,’ he said with as much feeling as his tight control would allow him.
‘It’s all right, sir - we understand,’ Uhura said gently. Spock thought that he could hear a tremor in her voice, and realised with a pang of guilt that she had been crying too.
McCoy said nothing - instead he pulled the Vulcan into a warm hug. Spock did not protest, even leant into the hug which felt so reassuring in the darkness. McCoy, too, felt a little shaky, and Spock could sense his highly emotional state. Then he stepped back from the doctor and smoothed down his jacket.
‘God, I need a drink,’ Spock heard the doctor mutter as he stepped away. ‘I’m gonna hit that mini-bar. Want to join me, Spock?’
‘No, Doctor,’ Spock said firmly, afraid that if he began to consume alcohol now, it would be too difficult to refuse another, and another, until all of this nightmare was obliterated by drinking. ‘It is a little early.’
‘I guess you’re right. Just don’t you make a habit of breaking things with your bare hands,’ the doctor told the Vulcan firmly. ‘I know it gives me trade, but I’d rather see as little of that green blood as possible.’
‘I shall try not to,’ Spock said seriously.
‘I’m going to start giving you a shot of luxodin every morning, starting tomorrow. I should have done that from the start - you’re light-deprived, and it might just make things easier for now. I can give you something to help with the nightmares too – not a sedative – just a mild relaxant.’
Spock nodded silently, surprising himself by his compliance. He simply wanted this turmoil to stop.
‘And you should talk to Dr M’Benga when we get back to the ship...’
‘Dr M’Benga, for all of his Vulcan training, is not a Vulcan Healer,’ Spock said with a shake of his head, then he said as if it was a shameful confession, ‘I would rather talk to you, McCoy.’
‘Okay,’ McCoy said. ‘Whenever you want to - I’ll always be around.’
‘Mr Spock, I’ve tried to pick up all the glass I can, but I’ll have to call room service to clean up the stain and make sure there’re no splinters left,’ Uhura said rather hesitantly.
‘I shall take care where I step,’ Spock nodded. ‘I would also rather that the captain was not told of my - lapse.’
‘Of course not, sir,’ Uhura reassured him quickly.
McCoy hesitated for a moment at the Vulcan’s request, but Spock wasn’t on the ship, and there was no crew’s safety to worry about.
‘I won’t tell him,’ he promised, ‘if you think you’re going to be all right now.’
Spock took in a deep breath, then said, ‘I am blind. What is is. There is no gain in arguing with that fact.’ A wholly Vulcan thought. *And I am fooling myself no less than the doctor*, he thought. ‘It will be better when I am fully accustomed with the dimensions of these rooms.’
He went to an armchair and sank down into it, letting the coolness of logic settle through his body.
‘Adaptation is the only option, Doctor,’ he said. Even if he did not believe what he had said, he could try to live by those words until another option came along.
Kirk stepped out of the shower towelling water out of his hair, glad to have finally washed away the heat and sweat of running through the length of Golden Gate Park. As he stepped out of the room he almost bumped into his first officer, who was standing very stiffly just outside the bathroom door as if he was waiting for him. The Vulcan stepped back smoothly, relaxed, and said, ‘Good morning, sir. I trust you found your run stimulating?’
‘Er - ’ Kirk wrapped his towel around his waist, then realised the absurdity of the action when the Vulcan could see neither his nakedness nor the towel. ‘Very - but I haven’t been running all this time. I’ve been sitting in the Beach Chalet talking to a beautiful woman - and don’t give me that eyebrow - even a Vulcan could appreciate that kind of sculpture.’
‘Possibly, Captain,’ Spock said without conviction. ‘But I think personality will have to suffice for me now.’
For a moment Kirk thought the Vulcan looked pale and rather fragile, but maybe that was just his imagination.
‘You know, I should have asked you if you wanted to come,’ he said, feeling suddenly guilty at the omission. Any other time he would have asked him, but everything seemed so different now.
Spock shook his head. ‘Although a run would be pleasant, my exertions yesterday seem to have exhausted me. Perhaps another time.’
‘Sure. Sit down, Spock,’ he said. ‘There’s a chair to your left. I’ll go put some clothes on.’
A look of muted embarrassment crossed the Vulcan’s face, and he stepped back as if to leave. ‘I did not realise - ’
‘It doesn’t matter, Spock - sit down.’ He disappeared through his bedroom door to get changed, and came back in his Starfleet uniform to see the Vulcan sitting very straight in the armchair, his gaze seemingly intent on the opposite wall. He was the only person who could make an armchair look like an office chair.
‘You are not on duty, sir?’ Spock asked as Kirk sat down.
‘No, I just - ’ Kirk paused, looked down at his top, then back at Spock’s dark, still eyes, before asking curiously, ‘Mr Spock, explain how you can tell that I’m in uniform?’
He made a small shrugging movement with his hands. ‘The noise that particular type of fabric makes as you move. There is also a certain scent to the material, unique to the ’fleet cloth. I had not noticed these things until very recently.’
‘Well!’ Kirk said slowly. Sometimes it was more amazing what Spock did perceive than what he could not. He contemplated the Vulcan’s face, and noticed that he really did look pale and drained. Years of close friendship with the Vulcan had shown him that while Spock did not present emotions to the world, the repression often transformed them into a fatigue different to a simple tiredness of the body. ‘Spock, are you all right?’
‘Only tired, as I said, Jim,’ he admitted. ‘I had an unsettled night - and then was forced to endure McCoy at breakfast this morning - ’
Kirk laughed at that. ‘Bones can be - ’
‘Extreme, overwhelming, intrusive...’
‘And a damn good friend.’
Spock inclined his head to one side, considering. ‘Yes. McCoy is a good friend - but please do not tell him that.’
‘Of course not,’ Kirk smiled.
‘I think that the good doctor is on the verge of calling in psychological help for my condition,’ Spock said wryly.
‘Don’t be silly!’ Kirk said with a laugh. He paused, then asked more seriously, ‘Why would he do that, Spock?’
Spock gave a minimal shrug. Kirk got the impression that if he could see he would be looking away. ‘Perhaps because I am entangled within my own form of madness.’
‘You’re blind, Spock - you’re not mad,’ Kirk protested.
‘The two are closely linked in my society.’
Spock exhaled softly, and Kirk looked up instinctively to meet blank eyes, with no opening in their onyx sheen for reassurance through a glance. Damn that explosion, that stupid, interfering ambassador...
Spock sat motionless for a few moments, then shook his head tiredly. ‘Jim, my life seems to have no cohesion at the moment.’
Kirk reached out to touch his hand - that would have to do in place of eye contact. He didn’t want to face another uncharacteristic outburst of emotion from his Vulcan friend. But these were hardly characteristic times. Spock seemed to take comfort in the touch, at least.
‘Your life will have cohesion again. You have to give it time. Just time.’
To his relief, the Vulcan simply nodded. He looked tired, but not close to emotional collapse. ‘I have little choice but to give it time...’
He leaned back into the chair, falling silent. Kirk could see the processes working in Spock’s face as he pulled on whatever logic he did have to bring himself out of this slump. It was hard for Spock when he found his logic faltering, but Kirk was glad the Vulcan had the deep resources of his philosophy to pull on when he needed it. Spock sat for a few moments, toying purposelessly with the folded links of his cane.
‘Captain, I had a dream last night,’ Spock said abruptly. He stopped, considered, then said, ‘No. That is not accurate. I had a nightmare - many nightmares.’
His hands twisted on his folded cane as if the memory still disturbed him. Kirk waited. It was obvious that Spock was not just telling him for the sake of small talk.
‘I believe - that my subconscious mind was trying to tell me something about the explosion, but I cannot decipher the signs.’
‘Spock, I didn’t know you believed in dream interpretation,’ Kirk said, half smiling.
‘I do not subscribe to the views of Freud, but I do believe that sometimes the mind creates images in dreams which have significant connections to the real world.’
‘And what did you dream of?’ Kirk asked, leaning forward.
Spock hesitated, embarrassment flitting across his face.
‘Amongst other things, green snakes, Captain, filled with danger.’
‘Spock, snakes are symbols of fear for lots of people.’
‘Yes - Lieutenant Uhura also pointed out that cultural stereotype,’ Spock said gravely. ‘Perhaps they meant nothing. Captain, I came here in part to tell you that I have had a communication from Commodore Connor at Starfleet Headquarters. He requests a meeting with both of us at 1500 hours on Tuesday.’
‘1500?’ Kirk sounded doubtful. ‘I’ll be across state in the morning - I might not have time to get back here for you. Maybe Bones or Uhura can - ’
Spock shook his head. ‘I was not asking for your aid, Jim - I can take a shuttle-cab. I was merely informing you of the meeting.’
‘Are you sure?’
Spock raised an eyebrow at his anxious question.
‘Okay,’ Kirk laughed. ‘I’m silly and overprotective, and you can manage just fine on your own. I’ll meet you at his office, then.’
Spock nodded, almost began to speak, but then seemed to bite back the words.
‘Go on - spit it out, whatever you’re going to say,’ Kirk smiled.
‘I am rather reluctant to do so, after your assertion that I can *manage just fine on my own*,’ Spock said, with a hint of a smile on his lips that Kirk was relieved to see.
‘You’re allowed to depend on me too - I’m your friend. Go on - ask.’
‘I must have more practice with my cane, Jim, and for that I will need someone to accompany me. I shall need to take a rest first, but - would you come with me for a walk?’
‘Sure! You’re asking me to indulge in one of my favourite pastimes, Mr Spock. But you’re sure you won’t get tired?’
‘I am only a shuttle ride away from the hotel, wherever I am. I must re-build my endurance, and I wish to familiarise myself with travelling in more unpredictable environments than city streets. But I shall need your guidance, and your patience. My presence may - cramp your style?’ he asked, cocking his head to one side with the colloquialism.
‘You’re not going to cramp my style, Spock. Where do you want to go?’
‘I know you are fond of Yosemite, and I have heard it is an area of outstanding beauty. You have asked me to come there before, and I have always declined the invitation...’
‘Y-es,’ Kirk said cautiously, half thinking of rough ground and obstacles, half thinking this was a hell of a time for Spock to first experience the wonder of the place, through eyes which could not see. ‘Spock, wouldn’t a walk through the Golden Gate Park be easier?’
‘Easier, yes, but very little use for learning to use a cane on uneven ground. I believed there were some paths at Yosemite, Jim. Was I incorrect in my assumption?’
‘No, of course not,’ Kirk nodded. ‘And you’re right - it is a beautiful place, not just visually. We can hire a shuttle, make a day of it - ’
Spock arched one eyebrow. ‘You mean to drive, Captain?’
‘Well I’m certainly not going to let you!’ At Spock’s expression of doubt he suddenly remembered. ‘Spock, that was a twentieth century automobile on Sigma Iotia, for God’s sake. It doesn’t make me a bad driver!’
‘Perhaps, but I prefer to remain intact, Captain. There are regular shuttles, and using public transport is another area where practice would be beneficial.’
‘Okay,’ Kirk nodded. He would have to get used to helping Spock with shuttles and uneven ground, at least for a while. And it would be a relief to get out of the city for a while, to do what he so often did on his vacations - go for a walk out in the wilds with his closest friend.