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Captain’s Log, Stardate 5263.7

My first officer, Commander Spock - my friend, Spock - is blind... Blind and seriously ill from his injuries. He has been ordered transferred to Earth for treatment there. I can’t say anyone is happy about that decision. My crew believes, as I do, that once Mr Spock leaves the ship he will not be allowed to return... The Enterprise will continue on the vaccine mission to Rigel, as scheduled. I am satisfied the mission should be trouble free. That is why I have applied for leave on Earth, and am leaving the ship in the capable hands of my chief engineer, Mr Scott. I have the feeling my first officer will need me far more than my ship.


Spock was still unconscious as he lay on a gurney on the Enterprise transporter, awaiting transport to the Multi-Species Hospital. McCoy couldn’t help fidgeting with the restraints that held the Vulcan firmly to the bed, pacing up and down, checking Spock’s condition, repositioning the suitcases - anything to delay taking an ill patient away from his sick bay, his ship. It only added to his nerves that the ambassador’s party had beamed down a few minutes ago, and the widow’s final message had been a cold reiteration of her earlier statement - Spock would die.

    ‘Sir, are you ready?’ Lieutenant Kyle asked at last. ‘The hospital keep calling.’

    ‘I guess - ’ he began.

    ‘Not quite ready,’ Kirk said, coming through the transporter room doors. He elbowed through with two large suitcases, and heaved them up onto the transporter. McCoy stared at him - it was usually so hard to get Kirk off his ship for anything more than a few days. ‘I’ve got Starfleet appointments on Earth,’ he explained briefly, ‘and then I’ve got leave coming.’

    ‘And so have I.’

    Kirk and McCoy both turned – McCoy’s mouth gaping in surprise. Uhura was struggling through the door with four suitcases attached to an anti-grav, and an odd shaped case over her shoulder.

    ‘So I guess you fixed the month of leave just in time?’ Kirk asked.

    She smiled. ‘I think your persuasive powers with Fleet Command are better than you know, Captain. And I haven’t been on holiday in a *long* time,’ she said as if she meant it, lugging the first case up onto the transporter. ‘I think Lieutenant Kelly is just about up to looking after my communications department.’

    ‘You both got leave?’ McCoy asked incredulously. ‘Jim, you must be a miracle worker!’

    ‘Well, that vaccine mission hardly demands my presence, Bones. I think Starfleet are eager to let me use up some of my leave time before I demand it all in one chunk and disappear to Alpha Centauri for a year.’

‘But why Uhura?’

    ‘Because I want someone with us who knows about legal affairs when the inquest comes round,’ Kirk told him.

    ‘Well, if she knows about anything, she sure knows how to over pack. What’s that?’ McCoy asked, pointing to the peculiar case.

    ‘Doctor, did you think of packing for Mr Spock?’ she asked, straightening up, and as McCoy gaped she said, ‘That is his lyre. Two of these cases are his clothes and some things he might need. He’s not going to be unconscious until the inquest, Doctor. I’ve booked into your hotel, Captain - the room next to yours and the doctor’s.’

    ‘Yours and the doctors?’ McCoy asked suspiciously of Kirk.

Kirk shrugged. ‘I heard you make your booking, and changed it to a double suite.’

‘And I have a double suite too,’ Uhura told him, ‘so we can be sure there’s room for Mr Spock when he comes out of hospital.’

    ‘Spying on your doctor?’ McCoy said to Kirk with mock shock.

    ‘Captain’s prerogative,’ Kirk said. He glanced at the stretcher on the transporter platform, at Spock’s unconscious face. His only excuse was that his best friend was blind, and he could not simply warp away in his starship leaving Spock to wake up alone and in the dark. ‘Come on, Bones - we’ve got to get Spock to that hospital.’

    He waited for the others to assemble themselves, then ordered, ‘Energise,’ and watched the walls of the transporter room dissolve and reassemble into the pastel-hued walls of the transporter chamber in the Multi-Species Hospital, San Francisco. They were met by uniformed orderlies, who began to help McCoy manoeuvre Spock’s stretcher from the transporter.

    ‘Will he be okay, Bones?’ Kirk asked as McCoy checked over the Vulcan’s readings.

    ‘He won’t get worse, Jim,’ McCoy replied. ‘Hopefully he’ll start getting stronger. Why?’ he asked, turning suspiciously to see that Kirk hadn’t moved from the transporter.

    ‘I just wanted to make sure he’ll be okay until I get back.’

    ‘They have a doctor here with ten years experience working with Vulcan patients,’ McCoy said, still with the suspicious tone in his voice. ‘Where are you going?’

    ‘I was ordered to report to Commodore Connor’s office at headquarters as soon as I arrived on Earth. I’ve already disobeyed that order by coming here first.’

    ‘Connor?’ McCoy asked suspiciously. ‘Isn’t that - ?’

    ‘The one who spent all evening insulting Spock at the Altair conference?’ Kirk nodded. ‘Yes, Bones, it’s that Connor - but don’t worry - I’ll defend Spock’s honour,’ he said with a mixture of humour and seriousness. ‘Bones, I have to go.’

    ‘Jim,’ McCoy started, and Kirk could see the beginnings of a protest. Lieutenant Uhura was simply looking at him with an expression of reproach, worse than all of McCoy’s protestations.

    ‘Call me at Connor’s office as soon as he wakes up again,’ Kirk cut through. ‘I have to go.’

******
   
    Commodore Connor’s office was an odd haven of Britishness in the American built complex of Starfleet Headquarters. It even smelt different to the rest of the building. Perhaps part of the reason for that scent was the antique pine furniture which filled the office - for some reason the commodore had seen fit to decorate in the retro style of the mid to late twentieth century. Jim found it strangely reassuring, however, to see furniture made of wood instead of standard Starfleet plastic, with books and note pads made of real paper strewn about the shelves.

    ‘Well, Jim?’ Commodore Connor said, turning from the panorama of the bay that was available from his window.

    ‘I know, I’m late, I should have come here rather than going to the hospital first,’ Kirk said as the door closed behind him.

    ‘That was a *well, Jim, how’s that Vulcan twin of yours?*, not a *well, Jim, why are you late?*. I know you’re attached to that walking computer-bank for some reason,’ Connor said with a smile. He went over to the sideboard and poured two glasses of rich red Earth wine, handing one to Kirk. ‘Sit down.’

    ‘Commander Spock is still unconscious. He’s being treated,’ Kirk replied. ‘But he should never have been taken off the Enterprise,’ he said with an edge to his voice.

Jim had always liked Bob - he was relaxed, intelligent, threw a hell of a party - but he could not understand, and did not want to understand, the open rudeness with which Connor treated Vulcans, especially Spock. Since the discovery of his odd dislike Kirk had never been quite happy trying to act at ease with the man.

    ‘Spock has to be here for the inquest - you know that, Jim.’

    ‘Are you sure it’s not just that they want him off the ship as soon as possible?’

    ‘So cynical!’ Connor said with a smile. ‘Why would we want him off the ship? I know your infamous first officer is a top-class scientist. I’m sure it won’t be long before he’s up and about and poking his Vulcan nose into the investigation.’

    Kirk put his glass down abruptly, the wine almost spilling on the sheaves of paper that littered Connor’s untidy desk. ‘Bob, you can be damn insensitive when you feel like it.’

    He bristled as the commodore laughed at his anger.

    ‘Come on, Jim - he’s a Vulcan. He’ll be well in two days and standing in here logically explaining why he should be the one to conduct the investigation, despite being involved knee-deep in the cause of it.’

    Kirk stared at the man for a moment in stunned amazement. ‘Bob, did no one tell you that Spock was blinded in the explosion - permanently blinded?’

    The man’s expression changed - he put his own glass down, and stared at it for a few seconds before meeting Kirk’s eyes again, utterly serious now.

    ‘No. No one told me, Jim. How bad is it?’

    ‘Complete, utter, total blindness,’ Kirk said bitterly. ‘Irreversible, permanent.’

    ‘God, that makes things awkward.’

    ‘I thought you didn’t want him ‘poking his Vulcan nose in’?’

    ‘That doesn’t mean I want him blind.’ He went back to the window and leant against the sill in the warm spring sun, folding his arms across his chest. ‘Jim, let me be blunt with you. We have a very sensitive situation on our hands. The Pernician negotiations were touchy enough as it is. Now the ambassador’s dead, and your Vulcan first officer is the only person who was in the room with him when it happened.’

    ‘What are you suggesting, Bob?’ Kirk asked impatiently.

    ‘We all know that the Pernicians don’t like the Vulcans, and that the Vulcans consider them to be a disruptive influence. As far as we can tell, the explosion would not have happened if Commander Spock had not used a non-standard tool to open a perfectly normal hatch that should be opened easily by hand.’

    Kirk stared at Connor, for a moment wondering if he was suffering from some kind of aphasia that made him hear the wrong words.

    ‘You think that Spock somehow set up this explosion?’ he asked incredulously, as the meaning of what Connor had said sunk into his brain.

    ‘Well...’ he shrugged.

    ‘Spock tried to save the ambassador’s life! He risked his own life!’

    ‘But he didn’t die, and Necuhay did,’ Connor said pointedly.

    ‘He lost his sight,’ Kirk pressed. ‘Spock is a scientist. He knows about chemical reactions, which is what made him go blind. Do you even know how important sight is to a Vulcan?’

    Connor leaned back in his chair and contemplated Kirk’s face. ‘Have you ever heard about a small, nasty group of Vulcan fanatics called the ke-shar? They’re prepared to do almost anything, sacrifice almost anything, to preserve logic in the Federation. It’s rather irregular, Jim, for the first officer of a ship to be fixing a minor problem. What was he even doing in there?’

    ‘I sent him there, okay?’ Kirk exploded bitterly, more angry at himself than at Connor. ‘I sent my best officer to have his sight blasted out of his eyes! That damn ambassador insisted that I went to fix the fault. I sent Spock in my place, and if I ever find who gave him that pad...’ He paused to take a breath, to control his feelings as Spock would warn him to. ‘Someone gave the ambassador that report knowing that he’d insist on helping with the repairs. Someone set up his murder - but it wasn’t Spock.’

    ‘Then we’ll have to think of other suspects,’ Connor said reasonably. ‘And have a talk with Commander Spock.’

    ‘I doubt the doctor will let you see him for a few days,’ Kirk said seriously. ‘He’s barely been conscious since the blast, and he doesn’t seem to remember much about it. Bob, was that a royal ‘we’, or are you pulling me in on this investigation?’

    ‘Jim, you’ve been given a month’s leave - that’s a long time for a starship captain to be away from his ship. I suppose the extent of your friend’s injuries is some explanation, although I’m not sure why you imagine a Vulcan could appreciate - ’

    ‘For God’s sake, Bob,’ Jim cut in impatiently. ‘God knows, you’re a friend of mine, you have been for three years, but I can’t sit here listening to you talking about Spock as if he’s some kind of monster.’

    ‘I’m just saying that if you’re going to be on Earth for a month, Starfleet wants you to be available. This is a very serious matter, and it happened on your ship, under your command.’

    ‘I came here to support Spock. He’s going to need a friend, not a captain constantly off on ’fleet business - that’s why I took leave.’

    ‘I’m not asking you to live here, Jim - I simply want you to do some work for us when we need you to. You’ve already got your doctor and your communications officer here to support your friend. A month’s leave is a long time when you’ve just had an incident like this on your ship.’

    ‘And if I don’t agree, my leave will be rescinded?’ Kirk nodded slowly, sick at this form of blackmail. ‘Okay, Commodore - I’ll do it. Just don’t call me up in the middle of the night.’

    ‘We’ll try not to,’ Connor said with a tight smile. ‘You’re dismissed, Jim.’

    Kirk nodded, and got up to go. As he reached the door, Connor said, ‘I’ll send Commander Spock a card - which hospital is he in?’

    ‘The Multi-Species hospital - that small place down by the sea. I’m sure Spock will appreciate a nice picture of the bay, or maybe a star-scene,’ he added with acerbity.

    ‘Okay - bad choice. I’ll ask my PA to think of something.’

    ‘You do that, Bob,’ Kirk said stiffly. ‘I’ll see you.’

    As he left he wished that Starfleet doors could slam. As it was, the door simply slid closed behind him, annoyingly silent. Even his impulse to hit his fist into the wall was curtailed, when he realised Bob’s brilliantly beautiful secretary was still sitting in the outer office watching him with a sympathetic smile on her face.

******

The sick bay felt very warm. As Spock came closer to consciousness he became aware that the room was almost as warm as Vulcan, the air as arid. Then he must be quite seriously ill. McCoy didn’t alter the air-conditioning for every non-human patient. But there was not much pain as he lay still - just an exhaustion that pervaded both body and mind.

    He lay for a long time listening to the noises around, outside his room. Occasional footsteps clicked past, quiet conversations moving with them that he couldn’t quite hear. Doors opened and shut, there were clatters and rustles, hundreds of minute noises that a human would never be able to discern. He wasn’t in sick bay. The sounds weren’t right.

    He stirred in the bed, and found that the movement of his skin against the blankets wasn’t as painful and rasping as it had been before. The burns were healing, and where previously broken bones had throbbed there were only dull aches. His body felt stiff and unused, as if he had been immobile for months. He couldn’t quite remember how long it had been, or what had happened to leave him lying in a strange place, burned and aching.

    He stretched out again, and opened his eyes slowly.

    Nothing changed.

    He blinked slowly, apprehensively, then blinked again.

    There was nothing but a thick blackness that stayed with him whichever way he looked. Nausea rose as a vague memory seeped back into his mind - one with no form or detail, but just one fact.

    *There was an explosion, and now I am blind.*

    The statement sunk like something cold through his mind. For now, there was nothing more than that in his memory. The events before, the cause of the explosion, what had happened afterwards, were all a blank. He remembered brilliant light and fire expanding towards his face, nothing more. Such amnesia was frustrating, but perhaps for now it was best not to remember. He needed to focus on his present situation, not the past one.

    He slowly, painfully, lifted an arm, tried to spread out the fingers of his hand before his face, but they were too stiff to move. Instead he waved his whole hand before his eyes, searching for some change in the tone of what he saw, some glimmer of light or darker shadow. There was nothing, no change, no hint of light in the encompassing darkness. His hand was invisible even a centimetre from his eyes. He was in an unidentified location, and he could not even see his own fingertips so close to wide-open eyes.

    A surge of panic began to wash over him, the feeling of sickness rising to his throat. He clamped down on the emotion ruthlessly. He didn’t know where he was, but he seemed to be in a safe environment - a hospital environment. All he had to do was find the requisite bell-push, and a nurse would come to him. But still, he was quite blind... The realisation of that fact felt like ice water trickling through his veins.

    *There is someone watching me.*

    That abrupt certainty helped to push the coldness away until he just felt a numb sense of loss. He focused on hearing, interpreting the small sounds and locating them. Some of those tiny noises he had heard must have been in this room. After a moment he could hear the soft rhythmic swish of breathing, very close to him, a subtle noise like a quiet-running medical scanner near his eyes. There was a scent of alien perfume, and make-up. Logic dictated that it would be a nurse checking on her patient, but he had lain listening for a long time and heard no one enter. The scrutiny felt somehow hostile.

    ‘Please identify yourself,’ he said.

    The anonymous visitor straightened up and soft muffled footsteps moved away hurriedly. Spock wasn’t sure why the word Pernician came into his mind at that moment. There had been Pernicians on the ship, and the visitor had been leaning over him with a cold feeling of satisfaction.

    *The Pernician ambassador died*, he remembered slowly.

    A door handle clicked, then clicked again, and the footfalls faded away. As they went Spock realised the importance of that clicking noise - the doors were manual, so he was definitely not on the ship. The heat was that of Vulcan, but the oxygen mix was richer, and the gravity was Earth standard. He tried to sit up, but tiredness pushed him back onto the pillow. It would be impossible to follow someone in this total darkness anyway. It had taken a moment to realise that outside this dark room there would be no normal, light, reassuring world.
   
He reached out to the intercom, instinct taking over, but this wasn’t the ship, and his hand swept aside cold glass instead. The glass clattered and splashed onto the floor, and all he could feel through his burned, painful fingers was a smooth table surface. He lay back against the pillow and laid his arms flat on the bed. He suddenly felt tired, oppressed by the strangeness of his situation. His usually eidetic memory had let him down - besides that, he did not understand why he was not on the ship. Nothing was right. Suddenly he was not even sure if there had been someone in his room. He had been waking, his mind had not been clear, and even now nothing made sense.

******
   
    The door clicked open again, and Spock turned his head towards the noise, instinct asking, *Jim?* before his Vulcan restraint could quell his need for his friend. He listened as the distinctive clack of Starfleet boots moved toward his bed. It could be any Starfleet officer, anywhere. He prepared to lower his mental shields just long enough to sense more about this new visitor, but then the steps stopped with a surprised, ‘Oh!’

*Lieutenant Uhura*. Although the utterance had been brief, that was definitely her voice.

    ‘Mr Spock, you’re awake,’ she said, drawing out a chair and sitting down. As she came closer he became aware that he could smell her familiar scent of perfume and makeup. He could hear her effort to keep negative emotion from her voice, despite the pulses of sadness he could sense from her.

‘Obviously,’ Spock nodded, still puzzled. He was not on the ship, and yet for some reason part of the ship’s crew was here with him.

‘How are you feeling, sir?’ she asked him with soft concern.

    Spock blinked, and turned his head back so that it lay straight on the pillow. He knew how he felt in the physical sense, but in the mental sense his feelings and lack of them were an unintelligible blur. The strongest, most easily recognised feelings were emptiness, and a kind of pain that he assumed was grief. Part of him was appalled at being seen like this by the Lieutenant - but part of him was just quietly grateful at her familiar presence in this strange place.

    ‘I believe my injuries are healing,’ he told Uhura. It was the best way to answer her question without bringing the distressing subject of emotions into it. No verbal explanation could adequately describe what he felt. ‘I am cold,’ he said as an afterthought.

    ‘I’ll find another blanket,’ she said, and she moved away from him, opened something with a catch, then laid another covering over his body. It helped the physical chill but did nothing for the ice inside.

    ‘I believe I knocked over a glass,’ he said after a pause. ‘Could you – ’

    ‘Oh ... down there.’

    And he heard Uhura moving, fetching something, setting the glass back on the table. She wiped a cloth on the floor, poured water, then set the water container back down again. All those sounds were clear, distinct, but formless.

    ‘I’m sorry you had to wake alone, sir,’ she said as she sat down. ‘I’d just gone down the corridor for a few minutes. We’ve been taking it in shifts.’

    Spock didn’t answer, unsure of what to say – unsure of who ‘we’ meant. He could not imagine that having Lieutenant Uhura there as he woke would make waking to blindness any easier. In fact, he was grateful he had been alone for that terrible moment of realisation.

    ‘I brought a selection of audio books, some music - and your lyre,’ she said with a forced change of subject, a forced brightness. ‘I know how monotonous it can be being confined to bed for a long time.’

    Catches were opened, and he felt the weight of the instrument settle onto his blanket. He lifted his hand and tentatively reached out to the warm polished wood.

    ‘Thank you, Lieutenant,’ he said, letting the tips of his fingers brush over the taut strings. A very faint burst of notes hummed into the air, but his burnt fingers throbbed at the touch, and the terrible fact that this darkness was permanent overwhelmed everything. This mundane conversation did not even seem real.

    ‘It was a kind thought, Lieutenant, but I cannot play the instrument. My hands – ’

    ‘Of course.’ She sounded ashamed, as if she had only just realised the lyre would not make things better. ‘I’ll put it down by your bed in its case. It’ll be safe there until your hands are healed.’

    ‘Undoubtedly. Thank you.’

    ‘Is there anything else you need, sir?’

    ‘My location,’ Spock asked. ‘This is not the ship?’

    ‘No, sir. You’re in the Multi-Species Hospital in San Francisco. The air-conditioning in your room is set to mimic Vulcan. You’ve been here for two days.’

    Spock lifted his eyebrow at the revelation that he had been sleeping for at least two days.

‘The time?’ he asked. The darkness around him and the stock sounds of a hospital afforded him no clues at all as to the time of day, and he was finding it unaccountably hard to correlate the shipboard time and his knowledge of earth’s cycles to work it out himself.

‘Just past fourteen hundred.’ There was a pause, then she said, ‘Fourteen sixteen, sir.’

‘Why am I not on the ship?’ was the next question he asked. Worse than waking to darkness, was waking to darkness in a completely unfamiliar place. He had no frame of reference but the bed he lay in and the position of the door.

    ‘Starfleet Command are holding an inquest into Ambassador Necuhay’s death, and they insisted on your presence. The Captain did his best to keep you on the ship, sir, to testify via subspace, but they just wouldn’t listen. But Captain Kirk and Dr McCoy beamed down to be with you.’

    ‘The captain is here too?’ Spock asked, only narrowly managing to hide the wave of relief that information provoked.

    ‘Yes, sir. He’s been sitting here for the last twelve hours or so. He just went back to the hotel for a shower and something to eat.’

‘I do not understand, Lieutenant,’ Spock began. ‘The ship is not here, but the Captain, First Officer, Chief Medical Officer and Communications Chief *are* here? Starfleet Command authorised this?’

‘Well – ’ Uhura began, almost guiltily. ‘For a start, Dr McCoy was ordered to come along with you. And the Captain and I both had leave stacked up, and the Captain can be very persuasive when he needs to be. No one wanted to leave you on your own in a hospital full of strangers. And the Captain thought I could be of help with the inquest. I’ve had some legal training.’

    ‘Lieutenant, you never cease to surprise me,’ Spock said, raising an eyebrow minutely. Then his brow furrowed, and he tried to sit up. ‘Who is in command of the Enterprise?’

    ‘Mr Scott, and he can manage just fine,’ Uhura assured him. ‘It’s a low risk mission. Lie down, sir,’ she urged him gently.

    Spock sank back to the mattress under her pressuring hands. Her hands stayed for a moment, then they let go, and he didn’t try to sit up again. The lieutenant appeared to have superior strength to him at the moment. That brief remembrance of duty had helped to take his mind away from the emptiness, but now there was nothing to distract him. He lay very still, feeling inordinately puzzled, then he asked, ‘What caused the blindness, Lieutenant? I am not sure I remember,’ he admitted.

    ‘Well - there was an explosion, Mr Spock,’ she began.

    ‘Yes, I know, but I do not remember the details. Were my eyes burnt, or struck by debris? Was there a brain injury? I do still have my eyes?’ he asked hesitantly. ‘I seem to be quite entirely without sight.’

    ‘Yes, of course you have your eyes!’ she said in shock. ‘Of course, Mr Spock. It was the coolant gas. It - caused cells to grow - ’

    Of course. He could remember McCoy speaking to him - oddly the memory had altered to give him the image of McCoy’s face.

    ‘I cannot feel them,’ he said.

    ‘The doctor was afraid you weren’t managing the pain. He attached a neuro-pain suppresser.’

    ‘Ah,’ Spock said. When he thought about it, he could feel the suppresser attached to his scalp – a small device that pinpointed specific areas of the brain to lessen the perception of pain. The doctor must have decided to set it at full level in the area of his eyes. ‘McCoy told me the blindness is permanent.’

    ‘Yes, Mr Spock, it is,’ Uhura said softly. Her voice was trembling.

    Spock lay silently in his bed, listening to his visitor’s breathing pattern and trying to readjust his thinking to accept this sudden, shocking change to his life. How could he listen to her grief when he could not control his own? Suddenly he felt very tired, he just wanted to sleep and not wake until there was light to wake him.

    ‘I’m so sorry, Mr Spock - I don’t know what to do,’ Uhura said. The catch in her voice almost made his own emotions break through this icy barrier of control. ‘The human thing would be to hug you, but - ’

    Spock reached out towards her and her two smaller hands pressed either side of his, linking him to something in this emptiness. Just those hands were a reassurance that he was not alone in this dark space, somehow soothing to his aching, stiff fingers. Finally he pulled his hand away from hers, before he could become dependant on this too-comforting contact.

    ‘If you wish to do something for me, Lieutenant, you could play the lyre, and sing,’ he said quietly. ‘I am tired - I do not feel like talking.’

    ‘Of course. I’d be glad to play for you, sir,’ she told him. ‘What would you like?’

    Spock shook his head. ‘Anything, Miss Uhura. I will trust your discretion in choosing.’

    He lay and listened as she filled the room with a familiar, gentle rec-room ballad, trying desperately to make the noise make sense and stop his mind from echoing over and over that there would never be anything but darkness.

******
   
    Spock didn’t hear the door open through the haze of Uhura’s music and his own haze of emptiness, but the strong, familiar voice of his visitor broke through immediately;

‘I hate to interrupt the concert, but - ’

    Uhura silenced the lyre strings under her palm and the hospital room echoed with the resonance of the last notes.

    ‘Captain!’ *Thank God*, he thought, although he knew that was a wholly human exclamation. He could sense the tightly repressed sadness in his friend.

    ‘I’ll go back to the hotel, Mr Spock,’ Uhura said quickly, standing up and moving away from him. ‘I’ll come back in the morning and play some more if you want me to.’

    ‘Thank you, Lieutenant,’ Spock nodded. ‘I shall see you tomorrow.’ The knowledge that he would not actually *see* her made him shiver. Tomorrow would be dark too, just like today.

    As soon as the door clicked closed, Kirk came forward and clasped his hand gently around Spock’s. Abruptly Spock knew that Jim felt angry, bitter, sad, and that he was trying to hide those feelings. He began to raise his mental shields to block that flow of sensation, but as cold isolation rose he realised that he needed the contact. He relaxed the barriers again, fully conscious that the flow of feelings from Kirk’s mind was being exchanged for knowledge of the turmoil in his own. Jim’s angry emotions faded away into worry and sympathy. The urgent need for contact suddenly enabled Spock to curl his fingers around Jim’s, and he clung tightly and painfully to the hand to keep himself from falling back into that cold, isolated void. It took effort to stop himself ripping further into Jim’s thoughts, to read in his mind what his eyes were seeing - but even now he could never sanction that kind of intrusion, or ask for a glimpse of what had been taken from him. He had to adjust, not cling to the past.

    ‘How are you feeling?’ Kirk asked gently. Spock knew that his tight, clinging hand-clasp told Jim all he needed to know, and that the calm expression he was managing was no disguise, but he answered in the way that Jim would expect of him.

    ‘Tired. Unwell. Pleased that you are here. But you should not be - your presence at the inquest is not necessary.’

    ‘Yes, it is, as your captain,’ Kirk reminded him.

    ‘But not immediately.’

    ‘Not immediately. But my presence with *you* is necessary.’

    ‘I am grateful for your attendance, Jim,’ Spock said, and the pressure on his hand increased slightly, increasing the feelings of sadness and friendship he felt from Jim’s mind.

    The hand tore away from him as the sadness welled, and Spock shuddered in the sudden emptiness. Jim walked away, there was a long, hard silence, then he came back to take his hand again. Spock could feel a dampness warming between their skins, as if when Jim had been standing he had wiped his fingers across wet eyes.

    ‘God, Spock, I’m so sorry... If I could do something... I don’t know what to say.’

    Spock swallowed, remembering odd and vivid dreams he had experienced, of a room awash with blood, and Jim trapped under something heavy, dying. Jim’s hand was firm and alive in his, but nothing else seemed real. Even the pain was a dull and distant feeling.

    ‘I shall manage. I will adapt,’ he said with a conviction he didn’t feel.

    ‘Of course you will,’ Kirk said, and silence fell again, awkwardly.

    ‘Captain, what of the talks?’ Spock asked abruptly, needing something to fill that empty silence.

    ‘They were suspended - probably permanently - by the Pernicians.’

    ‘That is a great pity,’ Spock said, although he felt nothing about the talks. ‘Is there no hope for a resumption?’

    ‘Spock, the ambassador’s dead, the whole party’s shut up in mourning, Pernicia’s wondering whether to go to war with the Federation!’ Spock raised an eyebrow at that sharp reply, and Kirk said more gently, ‘The Federation’s trying to pacify them, but they’re having to communicate through the Pernician military chief, and you can imagine what that’s like. All he wants to do is blow up the Federation council. There’s no one left to hold talks between, even if they did still want to.’

    ‘That is disappointing, Captain.’

    ‘That is an understatement,’ Kirk replied.

    ‘Jim, if they will take your communication, would you convey my condolences to Ambassador Necuhay’s party?’ Spock asked.

    There was a pause, and Spock guessed from the gentle shaking that Kirk had nodded his head. ‘I will - I’ll try, but - ’

    Spock lay and waited for Kirk to continue, sensing his unease. ‘Jim?’

    ‘They were upset. You know what they’re like,’ Kirk shrugged. ‘His wife blamed you.’

    Spock suddenly remembered lying in sick bay and being shaken until the pain made him faint. He could feel bruises on his arms where she had held him.

    ‘I let the ambassador die.’

    ‘You stayed in a burning room trying to save the man, and you still stayed when you knew he was dead just to recover his body.’

    ‘Nevertheless, I could not save him.’

    ‘You did all you could.’

    ‘It was obviously not enough.’

    Spock fell silent, suddenly feeling ice cold in the hot, dry atmosphere. Even talking vaguely about the accident was distressing, a feeling that he could barely understand, let alone deal with. He wasn’t sure what to do.

    ‘I must attempt a healing trance,’ he told Kirk flatly.

    ‘I’ll stay with you,’ Kirk said softly.

    Spock rested back into the pillow and began to sink down into the trance that shock had not allowed him to attain before. He was aware that no amount of healing would lessen the darkness in his eyes, but he concentrated extra energy on that part of his body in a futile attempt.

    Kirk let go of Spock’s cold hand as he relaxed into trance. In this state he at least looked peaceful and at ease. McCoy had warned him that the Vulcan would be suffering from deep shock, but Jim had almost believed that Spock would just take this in the way that he took any other injury, with momentary annoyance at the inconvenience, then determination to heal. He hadn’t quite expected the white, shocked, lost expression on his face. He wasn’t sure how he could bring himself to slap Spock’s burned, bruised, blinded face when it came to bring him out of the trance.

    After a moment of stillness and silence the Vulcan tensed again, the muscles in his face twitching as if he was battling to keep the expression blank.

    ‘Jim?’

    The question had been trembling, almost desperate.

    ‘I’m still here,’ Kirk promised. He took hold again of the burned hand, remembering that Vulcans were conscious of everything while in trance. ‘I’ll stay here, Spock.’

    ‘I am finding it difficult,’ Spock said blankly, then he closed his eyes slowly, and tried to relax again.

    ‘You’ll get there,’ Kirk promised.

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