As soon as the door of Kirk’s hotel room opened Spock could feel the undeniable presence of McCoy and Lieutenant Uhura, and their slight nervousness at his appearance in the doorway. Warmth was billowing out of the room, with a smell of human bodies, spicy air-freshener, and fresh coffee. There was a pause as he stood just inside the door, waiting for someone to speak. McCoy broke the silence.
‘Well, look who’s here,’ he drawled in his warmest Southern accent, which made Spock acutely aware of the change in his friends’ attitudes towards him. McCoy had never been quite so welcoming and friendly in the past. ‘Welcome home, Spock.’
‘This is not my home, Doctor,’ Spock replied pedantically, facing into a space which could contain anything as far as he knew. ‘It is far from it.’
‘Home from hospital,’ McCoy shrugged passively, instead of arguing with Spock’s logic. His hand slapped on the seat of a chair. ‘Come sit down.’
Spock waited until Kirk’s arm moved again, and followed him across the room. He sank down into the softly upholstered seat he was taken to, resting his unfit body into the cushions while trying not to expose his pain or fatigue to the doctor. It was a relief to find that the quiet shuttle journey and short walk to the hotel had helped to ease away the dark, illogical feelings of earlier, but he felt so tired, he just wanted to sit in this chair and not move.
‘Jim, you made him walk, didn’t you?’ McCoy asked with exasperation. ‘I told you it’s too far.’
‘I am quite fine, Doctor,’ Spock said firmly.
‘Yeah, and completely washed out with it.’
‘It’s good to see you out of hospital, Mr Spock,’ Lieutenant Uhura’s warm voice interrupted to defuse the argument. She walked across the carpet with muted footsteps, bringing the scent of rich coffee with her. Every movement in the room helped Spock to build up an idea of where he was. ‘I have a cup of coffee here for you, sir.’
‘Thank you, Lieutenant,’ Spock said. He held out his hand and Uhura put the handle of the hot, smooth mug to his fingers.
‘There’s a small table just by the left arm of the chair if you want to put the mug down,’ she told him.
Spock reached out to feel the smooth plastic surface and put his folded cane down on it, relieved to be free of the device. He leaned back into the chair again, sipping at the hot, aromatic coffee. It was surprising how incredibly tired he felt after the afternoon’s meagre exercise.
He allowed himself a few moments to relax, then concentrated on his surroundings, trying to glean what he could from his remaining senses. It would be logical to ask, but more useful to be able to guess. The room sounded moderately large, it was obviously furnished with soft chairs, and the table by his seat. There was a scent of food in the air, so possibly there was a dining area. McCoy was opposite him, a few feet away, with Captain Kirk near him, and Uhura sitting off to his left. That meant three chairs beside his, or at least one and a sofa. The silence in the room was almost tactile in its awkward intensity - no words, but just odd rustles and chairs creaking and sounds of breathing, hands moving, human, awkward fidgeting.
‘So, Mr Spock - did you enjoy the walk here?’ McCoy began at last.
‘I did not,’ Spock said truthfully.
‘Okay... How does it feel to be out of hospital at last?’
‘Feel, Doctor?’ Spock repeated. He paused to consider the question, then said, ‘I was beginning to familiarise myself with the floor my hospital room was on. I shall have to begin that process again for this hotel.’
‘I meant are you glad to be out of hospital, if that computes in that electronic head of yours?’ McCoy asked more irritably.
‘That is much better, Doctor,’ Spock nodded approvingly.
‘What in hell do you mean?’ the doctor asked, his voice gaining a further degree of annoyance.
‘Simply that I am far more comfortable with your impolite responses and contemptuous remarks than with the unusual kindness with which you have been bombarding me lately,’ Spock responded smoothly.
‘Fine,’ McCoy said tetchily, but his doctor’s curiosity got the better of him as he asked, ‘You found somewhere that supplies canes, then?’
Spock nodded sparsely, picking up the cane and holding it out toward the doctor for his perusal. ‘The hospital staff discovered a company in Northern Europe which manufactures implements for the visually impaired.’
‘And about time,’ McCoy muttered, taking the cane and examining its folded lengths. ‘You’d think in this day and age - ’
Spock raised an eyebrow. ‘Doctor, it is the medical miracles of the twenty-third century that has left little market for devices for the maimed or blind of Earth. I am truly a minority.’
‘Oh - so I guess you’re glad I let you go blind, just to keep people in jobs?’ McCoy asked sardonically, replacing the cane on the table with a sharp clack.
Spock did not reply - he could already feel McCoy’s regret at saying it. For some time he had felt the doctor’s guilt at not preventing the unpreventable, but there was nothing new he could say to reassure him there was no fault and no blame.
‘Lieutenant Uhura, may I have your attention?’ he asked, turning towards her.
‘I would like to ask a favour of you, Lieutenant, for which your communications skills recommend you. Would you help me to learn a tactile language? I believe that Braille is the Starfleet standard.’
‘Then you’re staying in the fleet, sir?’ Uhura asked warmly. ‘On the ship?’
‘In Starfleet, according to the captain,’ Spock nodded. ‘But I have grave doubts about staying on the ship.’
‘Of course you’re staying on the ship,’ Kirk protested. ‘I told you that. They’re not about to lose the best first officer in the fleet to a desk job.’
‘A blind first officer,’ Spock reminded him. ‘Captain, I do not believe I am anywhere near capable - ’
‘Not now, but there’ll be adaptations, and you’ll spend time at a mobility centre for special training, perhaps be assigned an assistant.’
‘Starfleet entry requirements insist that a person serving active duty on a starship pass a number of visual-acuity tests. I could not possibly pass any test which involved my eyesight.’
‘Spock, you’re valuable to the fleet. They’re not asking you to pass any entry tests - you haven’t left. There’re just some special tests to be sure you can manage.’
‘I cannot manage everything, Jim, even with adaptive equipment. I would need assistance to perform over half of my duties...’
‘Spock, listen to me,’ Kirk assured him. ‘There’s almost nothing you’re called upon to do on board ship that can’t be adapted for blindness, or dealt with in some way. As for planetside missions – I probably shouldn’t send my First Officer into hazardous situations anyway, and on non-hazardous missions all you’ll need is a guide,’ Kirk said firmly. ‘You’re valuable to Starfleet, Spock. It’s not your ability to tell red from green or walk unaided through a room. It’s your mind they want, and they value that mind well enough to pay the salary of a special assistant for you rather than lose you. Even – and I’m not saying you will – but even if you have to lose the post of science officer, I need you as my First Officer, and I’m not letting you leave the Enterprise. Hell, we couldn’t manage without you.’
‘And a guide dog?’ Spock asked doubtfully. ‘That may become even more important to me in these circumstances.’
‘Well, a dog - ’ Kirk began.
‘Such an aid can dramatically increase independence, Jim. I must have independence.’
‘I know for a fact there’s a special programme training dogs suitable for space-workers,’ McCoy told him. ‘And I remember at least one case when a Starfleet worker was allowed a guide dog on a ship.’
‘And of course I’ll help you to learn Braille, sir,’ Uhura told him. ‘Anything to help you stay on the ship. I couldn’t stand evenings on that great ship without a duet or two with you in the rec rooms.’
Spock nodded approval. At least the reading would be one step towards managing his life, and he could take everything else as it came, step by step. And he could return to his home when the ship returned, rather than having to leave everything he knew behind. Just that knowledge felt like a warm balm through his bones. ‘Good. I shall speak to my therapist at the hospital and ask her to send the necessary equipment. There is another matter, Lieutenant - ’
‘Spock, she’s here on leave,’ Kirk protested.
‘And you can get shot of that ‘on-duty’ look on your face,’ McCoy added. ‘You’re meant to be resting.’
‘If you need help, I’ve got nothing planned, Mr Spock,’ Uhura said quickly, aware of how hard it was for the Vulcan to ask in the first place. ‘I came here to help you.’
‘Thank you,’ Spock said, with some relief. That made asking her to give up her free time a little easier. ‘I shall find the practicalities of investigating the explosion difficult, Lieutenant. It will probably require a certain amount of reading and writing, the study of visual images, and the simple practicalities of mobility.’
‘Spock, you’re not investigating the explosion!’ Kirk exclaimed.
‘It is a part of my duty as the science officer of the Enterprise.’
‘Now, look here, Spock,’ McCoy began. His voice moved forward as if he was leaning forward in his intensity.
‘Doctor, if you are about to protest about me working, you need not bother. My brain is functioning quite normally,’ Spock told him with a hint of irritation. ‘I must have some occupation while I am here.’
‘You’re not here to do anything! You’d be in a convalescence home if I wasn’t here,’ McCoy interrupted. ‘Goddammit, Spock, you’re recovering from massive injuries, and you’re blind. You’re not working - not yet.’
‘Doctor, the allocation of my duties is a matter for the captain, not you.’
‘Is it hell!’
‘Mr Spock,’ Kirk cut in authoritatively.
‘I don’t want you trying to investigate this explosion,’ he said firmly, and Spock could feel McCoy’s satisfaction emanating from his mind.
‘Sir - ’ Spock faltered. He had expected this flat denial of his wish to work from McCoy, but not from Kirk. ‘Captain, if it is my blindness - ’
‘Yes, it’s your blindness - it’s your personal involvement. You opened the hatch, Spock, you were irreversibly injured. You’re too closely involved.’
‘Sir, you know that I do not let personal involvements influence my work,’ Spock countered, trying hard to keep a note of desperation out of his voice. Jim was right - he was personally involved, but he also just wanted to work, and he had never before had to argue for that right after he had left medical confinement.
‘Normally, yes, but at the moment, I just don’t know,’ Kirk said, sounding regretful at saying it. ‘You haven’t even wanted to talk about the explosion - now you want to investigate it. But even if I didn’t think you’d be influenced by your involvement, the rest of Starfleet would, the Pernicians would. If it comes to a criminal investigation – ’
‘Captain, you have told me quite firmly that the explosion was nothing but an accident. You have told me the inquest will find nothing else. It appears now that you took advantage of my lack of memory and lack of mobility to lie to me while you already held the opposite opinion.’
Kirk winced at the words *took advantage*. Spock sat waiting for him to speak, cradling his hands around the smooth mug of coffee.
‘Okay,’ Kirk said finally, defensively. ‘I lied. What was I supposed to tell you while you were in intensive care half-conscious and seared with burns, then every day after that trying to come to terms with losing your sight? You had enough to worry about. I couldn’t have cared less if no one mentioned that damn explosion ever again. I know it’s my duty to care, but for once I was just a worried friend, not a starship captain.’
‘I was grateful that you were there almost every day, Captain,’ Spock said, ‘but if I had known that my incapacity was causing you to neglect your duties – ’
‘I’m on leave, Spock. Scotty’s managing everything on the ship. He’s sorted out an investigation team, and they’ve been going through everything in that room. All the preliminary reports suggest that a defect in a pipe let coolant into the workings.’
‘I see,’ Spock nodded. He put his mug down, and steepled his fingers in front of his face. It was disconcerting that he could not focus on the point his fingers made in the air. ‘But it is obvious that the explosion was the result of one of two things. Either it was caused by my own gross negligence, or it was a deliberate and calculated attempt to assassinate Ambassador Necuhay.’
‘Of course you weren’t negligent,’ McCoy said firmly. ‘You’re too damn efficient and methodical to be negligent.’
‘Then there has been an assassination.’
‘Perhaps,’ Kirk nodded. ‘Perhaps. But whatever it was, you’re not going to be part of the investigation team, Spock. At most you can tell them what you think, and what you saw. You’re too involved. Seeking out evidence isn’t your job.’
Spock parted his lips as if to speak, but then sighed very quietly instead, and changed what he was about to say. ‘So Mr Scott is carrying out a criminal investigation?’
‘They’re looking for anything they can, and there’s a team here on Earth speaking to us and the Pernicians - but they haven’t found anything. There’s no suspicious evidence, Spock - there are barely any clues at all.’
‘Then may I state some facts, unofficially? I can see no harm in stating facts.’
There was a long silence, then Kirk said, ‘Go ahead then, Commander.’
‘The ambassador came to the bridge holding a pad reporting damage that occurred only a week after regulation safety checks had been made throughout the ship and turned up nothing,’ Spock reminded his captain. ‘We may assume that Ambassador Necuhay found out about the fault before any of the senior staff did, because they would have reported directly to you. We must also assume that somebody left the pad unattended, or in some way allowed the ambassador to take hold of it. Usually faults such as these are repaired quietly and without fuss, reported to the captain as standard when the fault is detected, and then updated upon when the problem is repaired. Ambassador Necuhay had a well-known reputation throughout the ship for - ’
‘Sticking his nose in,’ McCoy helped as the Vulcan faltered.
‘Eloquently put,’ Spock nodded. ‘And still the problem was made known to him, the damage report was handed to him. Why would a person do that? Not to deliberately inconvenience a rival, because they could not know for sure who would be sent to repair the console.’
‘But to make sure the ambassador was in the room when the console blew,’ Kirk nodded. ‘But we know all that, Spock. What we don’t know is who gave him the pad, or who set up the explosion. Everyone on the ship has been interviewed. Everyone who had a motive has an alibi, and everyone without an alibi has no motive. By all accounts, no one on that ship could have deliberately set him up to kill him. The only evidence we know we can get at is in your head, Spock, and you haven’t been exactly forthcoming with the details.’
‘No,’ Spock said. ‘But still, I am the only living person who saw the console just before the explosion. Every piece of information about the explosion as I experienced it is here in my mind. I cannot see now, but I can remember.’
‘But, Spock, you can’t remember,’ McCoy objected. ‘You’ve said you don’t remember much more than that you were there to fix the console, there was a fire, and the ambassador was trapped. I could tell you more than that from reading the report.’
‘I am glad you have the luxury of reading, Doctor,’ Spock said, a little too acerbically. ‘But the memory is in my mind. I experience that memory in flashes which are both vivid and realistic. I shall recall that memory. It is simply a question of discipline.’
‘You didn’t tell me you were having flashbacks,’ McCoy said, the doctor in him coming forward again.
‘They are simple memories.’
‘They sound like vivid, traumatic flashbacks. Is there any fear, anxiety, panic accompanying them?’
‘Yes,’ Kirk said flatly, cutting across Spock’s reply. ‘Today in the street - there was an explosive noise. He practically broke my arm gripping onto it. He went pale, distant, his breathing speeded up, he had to sit down. I’d say he was having a flashback then. I think he had another on the subway.’
‘Spock?’ McCoy asked.
‘Doctor, there is nothing you can do about flashbacks,’ Spock told him flatly. ‘At least they help me to remember.’
‘Spock, if the memories are that traumatic - ’
‘Doctor, I am tired,’ Spock said firmly. ‘Please leave me alone for now.’
He closed his eyes and rested into the softness of the chair, feeling oddly drained by the long discussion. He wasn’t quite sure how long he sat like that - his friends at least respected his request, and did not speak to him, and he suddenly found himself in a warm state perilously close to sleep.
‘Mr Spock, have you eaten this evening?’
Lieutenant Uhura’s quiet question drew him out of the drowsiness.
‘Not yet, Lieutenant,’ he told her. He did not bother moving from his relaxed position, as he could not turn to meet her eyes.
There was a short pause, then McCoy asked suspiciously, ‘And lunch?’
‘I did not eat lunch,’ he admitted, wondering if it was a nutritional imbalance in his body that was making him feel so tired. ‘I have had other concerns in my mind.’
‘I know that you don’t eat when you’re - distracted - by something,’ Uhura nodded, carefully avoiding the words upset or worried.
‘And you’re too damn thin,’ McCoy put in. ‘You’ve lost at least a stone in weight. If you could see yourself – ’
‘I cannot. Make your point, Lieutenant Uhura,’ Spock invited, ‘which I assume has little to do with your duty as a communications officer.’
‘You’re convalescing, and you need to eat, sir. Would you like me to get you something from the replicator?’
‘No, thank you, Lieutenant. But I would be interested in visiting the hotel restaurant,’ he said, cutting off the beginning of a protest from McCoy. He had to learn to cope with new places, and with managing everyday tasks in public, and it was best to start as soon as possible. ‘Hospital food – ’
‘Yes, I know, sir,’ she said with a smile. ‘Would you like to go now?’
Spock tasted the remains of his coffee and found that it was cold. He put the mug down on the table and got to his feet. ‘Captain, Doctor, will you join us?’
‘Oh, we ate earlier, before I came to fetch you,’ Kirk told him, sounding half guilty. ‘You go with Uhura.’
‘I see. Lieutenant?’ He held out his hand to Uhura, rather hesitantly. ‘I shall require your assistance.’
‘Yes, sir,’ she said, guiding his outstretched hand to her arm. His fingers encircled her upper arm lightly, and she walked forward, suppressing a feeling of uncertainty. It felt strange to be leading the Vulcan like this, for him to be relying on her for guidance. Although they had been for a few pleasant walks in the hospital gardens, then there had been the excuse of his lack of strength for his leaning on her arm.
‘Don’t get tired, Spock,’ McCoy said sternly as they reached the door.
‘The purpose of eating is to replenish energy, not to expend it,’ Spock reminded the doctor. ‘I should have thought that even the most basic medical training would tell you that.’
Spock ignored the doctor’s exasperated hrumph, and followed Lieutenant Uhura out of the room and into the corridor that smelt of carpet cleaner and the traces of many different people. He made sure that he was committing every step to memory in order to help build up his knowledge of this vast building.
‘Lieutenant, I would like to speak to you,’ Spock told Uhura as they entered the elevator in the corridor. He waited until the doors had closed, then began, ‘We will be sharing a suite in this hotel for a short while, and you will have to bear with my problems and my need for a certain order in my surroundings and routine.’
‘Of course, Mr Spock.’
‘Would - you also help me to adapt to my circumstances?’ Spock asked, in an awkward, tentative tone the lieutenant was not used to hearing. ‘I have always valued my freedom. I would like to regain it as soon as possible.’
Uhura smiled, aware of how deeply felt the need for freedom was in the Vulcan. There were many times that she had seen his probing fingers and sharp eyes relentlessly seeking a way out of enforced imprisonment. She had felt terrible seeing her friend in hospital, guiding his hand to a glass or helping him to walk around the sun-lit hospital grounds, seeing those eyes so bereft of life and light. She was just as anxious to see him leave this cage as he was.
‘Of course I’ll help you, Mr Spock,’ she promised. She stood for moment watching the floor numbers slowly changing as they descended, then she suddenly reached out and pressed the emergency stop button, halting it between floors. The lift shuddered to a stop, and Spock raised a quizzical eyebrow, reaching out to the wall to steady himself.
‘Lieutenant, why has the lift stopped?’
‘I wanted to speak to you, sir,’ she explained.
‘We were already speaking. I assume this is a matter of some delicacy?’
‘I think it is.’ She hesitated, wondering how to open this subject. She was fully aware of the breach of etiquette it was to probe into a Vulcan’s inner feelings, and yet she had to ask him for his own sake.
‘You may speak, Lieutenant,’ he prompted her.
‘Yes, I know,’ she said. ‘Mr Spock - I - I’m not sure how to ask this. I don’t want to offend you, or hurt you in any way.’
‘A simple question cannot offend me,’ Spock reassured her.
She hesitated again, then looked up to see Spock standing with an air of perfect patience, one pointed ear turned slightly towards her. The phrase ‘all ears’ sprang to mind, but she could not quite smile at it.
‘Mr Spock, I know some Vulcans end their lives after becoming blind. I wanted - I had to make sure that you won’t be one of those Vulcans.’
Spock stood silent, and without the clues his eyes usually gave she had no way of telling how he had received her statement. Finally he shook his head, and said, ‘You need not worry, Lieutenant. Stories of such suicides in my culture are greatly exaggerated.’
‘Sir, I know that committing suicide because of blindness is so common that there’s even a word and a ritual for it.’
‘The kah-en-fal,’ Spock said slowly, a hollow sound to his voice. ‘I did not know you were so well versed in the intricacies of Vulcan society, Lieutenant.’
‘I have reason to be well versed in that particular intricacy,’ Uhura said seriously. ‘Mr Spock, I had a Vulcan friend, a communications expert, who found she was losing her sight. She took poison, because she thought it was the logical alternative to a life without sight. Afterwards I found out that eighty-seven percent of Vulcans who lose their sight die in the first year.’
‘I shall not take poison,’ Spock assured her seriously.
‘But you are depressed, sir. I can see that much.’
A look of impatience crept onto the Vulcan’s face. ‘Ms Uhura, you are a good officer, and, I trust, a good friend. However, I would prefer it if you did not attempt to psychoanalyse me.’
‘Mr Spock, friendship does not come on tap,’ she said with a degree of asperity. ‘You asked for my help - you can’t just turn away when you think you don’t need it. I am worried about you.’
‘Lieutenant,’ Spock said, reaching out to touch her shoulder as if to give the assurance his eyes should give. ‘I have been blind for only three weeks. I am unskilled, I am dependant, I am deprived of light. I do not find that in any way pleasant. That does not mean I am about to end my own life. That is all there is to the subject.’
‘All right, Mr Spock,’ Uhura nodded. ‘But just for me, for my peace of mind - will you promise not to take the kah-en-fal?’
Spock sighed wearily, then said, ‘I give you my word that I shall not commit suicide. I shall not take the kah-en-fal.’
‘Thank you,’ Uhura said with a deep sense of relief. A Vulcan’s promise was not something often broken. ‘And you know, Mr Spock, that we’ll always be here to listen if you ever need to talk about anything...’
‘I appreciate that support,’ Spock nodded, ‘and I shall take advantage of it if I need it.’
Uhura released the emergency stop and the lift jerked into motion. As the doors slid open at the next floor a rotund human man barged in, muttering, ‘Thought the damn thing’d flown away...standing here ages. You going all the way down?’
Uhura glanced up at Spock, who merely raised an eyebrow a fraction, and said, ‘We are proceeding to the first floor, if that is where the restaurant is situated.’
‘Ahh, food - nothing like it to cure your ills,’ the man sighed, then leant forward, peered at the Vulcan, and said brightly, ‘Hey - here’s a joke - what would an Elibrian say to a blind man?’
‘I have no idea,’ Spock said flatly.
‘Anything he liked!’ The man paused, expectant, then said, ‘Sign language, you see. Elibrians use sign language.’
‘I am well aware of the idiosyncrasies of the Elibrian culture. I have written a study on them,’ Spock told him with an air of tired patience.
‘Y’know, it’s odd but I’ve never seen a blind Vulcan in all my life, and I’ve been on package tours to Vulcan...’
Uhura winced. Spock stepped backward silently to give the man more room in the elevator.
‘Really?’ he asked dryly, and Uhura flinched at the tone, the kind the Vulcan used on cadets who were trying to explain away some gross offence. It was the closest he would ever get to sarcasm. ‘Perhaps you did not visit the appropriate areas.’
‘Maybe that was it,’ the man said blithely.
Kirk sat in his room looking out at the view over the city, watching the lights in the buildings growing brighter as the sun sunk behind clustered houses in a gold and blood-red sea of clouds. He seemed doomed to spend the evening alone, since McCoy had disappeared into his room to read some medical journals on blindness in Vulcans, and Uhura had said she had work to do. Spock had seemed so tired and silent when he returned from his dinner that he thought it best to leave him to himself, to let him sleep or rest as he wanted to. It seemed strange sitting alone on an evening when usually he would have been in his quarters with his first officer, going over the day’s events and the next day’s duties.
He sat for a while longer, as the traces of sunlight faded away and the sky became dark blue, then he finally sighed, and heaved himself out of his chair. If Spock was awake, there was no reason why he shouldn’t go talk to him. There was no reason why Spock not seeing would stop them talking about anything they wanted to. It just seemed that way, for any number of illogical reasons that Spock would not understand, and that he barely understood himself.
He found Uhura alone in the sitting room of her and Spock’s suite, hunched over a computer on which he could see something that looked like a written conversation.
‘Are you still busy, Lieutenant?’ he asked curiously.
‘Just going through the transcripts of the statements the investigators collected, sir,’ she said, darkening the screen and turning away from the computer. ‘I thought it might shed some light on this whole business.’
‘And has it?’
‘None yet. Spock should be the best witness, but he doesn’t remember enough, and his testimony is – disjointed – to say the least. I start following a trail that makes sense, and it just breaks off, and I’m left without clues.’
‘Well, keep on trying, Lieutenant,’ he said encouragingly. Then he asked more seriously, ‘What do you think about it, Uhura? If they find for unlawful death in the inquest – how liable is Spock?’
She sighed, staring for a moment at the computer screen before meeting his eyes. ‘It worries me, sir,’ she said honestly. ‘If we can prove there was a fault in maintenance, or even in construction, it’s not Mr Spock’s liability. If we can prove sabotage, again, it’s not his liability. But if he made a mistake…’
‘I just can’t believe that,’ Kirk said fiercely. ‘Not of *Spock*.’
‘I know, sir. But it’s not what we believe – it’s what they can prove. If the saboteur was clever enough to make it look as if it was Mr Spock’s fault, then he’ll be blamed. And if they prove he was negligent, then it’s possible he could be court-martialled, and - .’
She trailed off, but Kirk knew what the unspoken words had been. Spock, stripped of his rank, booted out of Starfleet, sent off to a prison somewhere where he would be confined for an unthinkably long amount of years. He didn’t know what he would do in that situation, aside from buying himself a ship and taking Spock away somewhere before the law could take hold of him. He shook that thought out of his head. There would be no justice in the world if that happened.
‘What’s all this?’ he asked, indicating an extra link-up that was plugged into the computer.
‘Just a long range com-booster. Mr Spock asked for it so he could contact the ship.’
‘He’s supposed to be on sick leave, Lieutenant!’
‘He’s not sick, Captain,’ she told him pointedly. ‘You know Mr Spock - vacation isn’t in his vocabulary. He needs to keep in touch with the ship just as much as you do, sir.’
‘Okay, Lieutenant. I might go see if he wants company.’
‘He might be asleep,’ Uhura said doubtfully. ‘He looked very tired when he went into his room. I practically had to force him in through the door, but I could see he needed rest.’
‘It’s been a long day,’ Kirk nodded.
‘Especially for Mr Spock.’
‘Did something go wrong at dinner?’
She shrugged. ‘Nothing specific, but I think he was testing himself, and he was very tired. It just wasn’t that easy. Then there was that man...’
‘Man?’ Kirk asked, curious at her expression.
‘We met him in the elevator. He followed us to dinner, sat on the table next to us, and insisted on cracking jokes all night and commenting on practically everything Mr Spock did. He started asking how he lost his sight. Mr Spock told him very calmly that it wasn’t his concern, but he also went very pale.’ She smiled at him sadly, and shrugged.
‘I think Spock was far more shaken by what he went through in that room, and by what’s he still going through, than he’ll admit to anyone,’ Kirk said seriously. He held her gaze for a moment, looking into her lively brown eyes, then sighed and looked over towards Spock’s door. ‘I’ll go see if he’s awake, and if he wants company.’
Kirk opened Spock’s door very quietly, and as the light shone in he scanned the dark room for his friend. The bed was empty, but he saw a figure sitting in a chair by the balcony doors, fingers steepled in an attitude of meditation, silhouetted against moonlight.
‘May I come in?’ Kirk asked.
Spock didn’t speak, and his hands didn’t move, but he nodded his head once. As Kirk reached for the light switch Spock said flatly, ‘I would like it off,’ as if he had somehow sensed the action.
‘Spock, you can’t see.’
He lowered his hands slowly, flexing his fingers and then resting them on his knees. ‘No, sir. And neither can you.’
‘Okay,’ Kirk said slowly, deciding not to question him. He could understand a human wanting some sense of equal ground - maybe Spock wanted the same. He walked across the room slowly in the monochrome light, and pulled a chair over to sit opposite his friend. He sat looking out at the city lights, while Spock waited silently.
‘Spock, I’m sorry - about today,’ he said at last. ‘I should’ve gotten you away from those journalists.’
‘It was my decision to speak to them, Jim,’ Spock said.
‘I know,’ he nodded. ‘I know... But I’ve called Starfleet about it, and if they come within a hundred metres of you they’ll have the full force of the San Francisco police department to deal with.’
‘I appreciate that,’ Spock nodded. ‘Thank you, Jim.’
‘You know, Starfleet told me they’d asked permission to do a day in your life, in the interest of the public.’
‘I do not understand the human desire to amplify every piece of news into something akin to a piece of drama,’ Spock said, shaking his head. ‘My life can only be of concern to my friends and colleagues.’
Kirk looked out at the city again, at the lights down in the streets flashing in rainbow colours, the rows of lights sparkling in the black forms of buildings, the stars flickering in the paler sky above. It was odd to see stars distorted by atmosphere, rather than as clear burning beacons in empty space.
‘What is the view?’ Spock asked quietly, as if intuition had told him that was where Kirk was looking.
‘Oh - the buildings - highrises mostly - and the sky. You know how San Francisco looks in the dark.’
‘Yes,’ Spock nodded. He fell into silence, until he murmured reflectively, ‘I had a dream, which was not all a dream.’
Kirk looked up at the words, wondering if he had misheard.
Spock turned his head towards him, and continued;
‘The bright sun was extinguish’d, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air:
Morn came and went - and came, and brought no day.’
‘What is that, Mr Spock?’ Kirk asked curiously.
‘The opening of a poem by Lord Byron, Captain. I have no doubt that his dream was just a dream, but his nightmare becomes quite horrific. Byron describes a total loss of vision in those first few lines which corresponds startlingly with my own experience.’
‘Is that how you feel?’ Kirk asked.
Spock was silent for a moment, then admitted, ‘Occasionally. I believe I shall become used to mastering the difficulties of the darkness, unlike the subjects of the poem.’
‘I’m glad,’ Kirk said.
‘I heard you had a trying dinner?’
Kirk could just see that Spock had raised one eyebrow, then he sighed tiredly, and shook his head. Kirk thought he heard him mutter, ‘Humans...’
‘Spock, is there anything you want to do?’ Kirk asked after a long pause. ‘There’s a 2-D chess board in the other room. I could move your pieces for you - .’
‘I came in here to rest, and meditate,’ Spock said apologetically. ‘It has been a long day. Perhaps tomorrow. I admit I have missed playing – being able to play. But I should be able to hold the memory of our moves sufficiently to enable me to play.’
‘Well, maybe tomorrow we can test out your memory,’ Kirk smiled, and leant back in his chair. ‘You mind some company while you rest?’
‘No, Jim,’ Spock told him with an air of giving in. ‘You may stay.’ He turned his chair more towards Kirk’s, and then said, ‘Computer, bring lights to full brightness.’
‘Thank you,’ Kirk smiled as the lights slowly brightened. Finally he could see the Vulcan’s face in full light. He did look gaunt and exhausted, and for a moment he wondered if he should go, after ordering the Vulcan to bed. Spock was already wearing nightclothes, as if he had meant to go to bed, and had ended up simply sitting in this chair musing.
‘I shall be relieved to be back on the Enterprise,’ Spock said, interrupting his thoughts. ‘It is familiar to me.’
‘I know how you feel,’ Kirk smiled - but he knew the familiarity meant more to Spock - that he could put his hand out and know what was there, walk along corridors he had walked for ten years knowing the contours and remembering the colours. Sometimes he felt a mild jealousy of Spock who had known the Enterprise for so much longer than he, her captain, had known her, Spock who had watched her through all her traumas, triumphs and changes.
‘I believe I left the chess board set up in my room,’ Spock added. ‘We were not quite fairly matched in our last game.’
‘No...’ Kirk said. That game, for which I paid you back by taking your sight, he thought bitterly.
‘Jim, you did not know that the console was going to explode,’ Spock said softly, making Kirk wonder if the Vulcan used his telepathy more than he admitted to. ‘No one knew. It is futile to feel regret for something that cannot be altered.’
‘Someone knew,’ Kirk said pointedly. ‘Some bastard set up an explosion to kill a man, and you lost your sight.’
‘And that cannot be changed.’
‘How can you sit there and say that so calmly?’ Kirk asked indignantly.
‘Because it is true, Jim. The acceptance of that fact is the only logical way to reconcile myself with what has happened.’
Spock stood and stepped sideways, reaching for the glass door to the balcony. Kirk half rose to help him, but then sank back again. Spock did not need help to open a door.
‘I do want to find the person who did this,’ Spock said as he opened the glass to let the night air in. He sat down again and breathed the fresh air in deeply. ‘There is a dangerous individual at large who has murdered and maimed. But even if the assassin is brought to justice I shall still be blind and Necuhay will still be dead. I cannot allow myself to feel anger over something which cannot be changed.’
‘Yes, I know,’ Kirk nodded. He could only hope that Spock would listen to his own advice.
Spock went to the cases at the bottom of his bed, returning with a thick, hardcovered book. He felt over the cover once with sensitive fingers, then held it out to Kirk.
‘Captain, I think that this is Thelat’s Rivers of Stone.’
Kirk took it from him and read the title that was pressed into the cover. ‘Yes, it is,’ he smiled. ‘You want me to read it?’
‘If you do not mind,’ Spock nodded. ‘I believe we only have two more chapters before the end.’
‘Of course I don’t mind,’ Kirk smiled. ‘I’ve been waiting to find out what happens. When the Andorians publicise something as a masterpiece, they’re sure as hell not lying.’
He opened the book at the right page, and began to read. When he finally closed the novel, the sky outside was completely black, the lights in the buildings around dwindling as people went to bed.
‘So, what did you think?’ he asked the Vulcan.
Spock blinked, as if coming back from another place in his mind. ‘A brilliantly calculated ending,’ he nodded. ‘Very unexpected. Thank you, Jim.’ He yawned discreetly, then stood slowly. Kirk jumped up to catch his arm as he wavered. ‘Thank you,’ he said again. ‘My sense of balance – ’
‘I know,’ Kirk nodded. ‘You’re tired.’
‘I should go to bed, Captain,’ Spock told him. ‘Or McCoy will come in and begin to lecture me on the need for rest.’
‘Do you need anything?’
‘Only sleep, Jim.’
‘I’ll leave you alone then,’ Kirk smiled, letting go of his arm. ‘Sleep well,’ he added as he walked though the door.
‘I shall, Captain,’ Spock said sincerely. ‘Goodnight, Jim.’
Spock lay in bed considering his first day out of hospital since the devastating explosion. It had been - eventful, definitely, and very strange. But almost every day in the last three weeks had been strange. The strangest of all were the times when he woke without expecting to see, as if the blindness had been with him for years. The incident with the journalist hadn’t seemed so odd, because he had become used to these sudden spurts of frustrated anger that came and went in a flash. No - one of the strangest feelings had been the relief that had poured out as he stood in the elevator with Lieutenant Uhura, and had finally shared his pent up feelings with someone who hadn’t become emotional in response, or started suggesting names of suitable counsellors.
He was accustomed now to the rooms, and accustomed to the idea of sharing them with Lieutenant Uhura. Although his Vulcan nature craved privacy he felt reassured by having a companion who could help as he needed it. He was relieved in a way that it would not be Jim having to care for him, and his captain could remain just his friend. He could retain a level of formality with Uhura that helped to skim over his frustration at his dependence. At least finally he was free of the restrictions of the hospital, he was free to move about as he wanted, to plan his routine as he wanted. He had spent his evening familiarising himself with the layout and amenities of the rooms, until Uhura had gently forced him to take rest. She had shown no surprise at his thoroughness, that he wanted to run his hands over everything in the room, feel every texture, know where each window and door was, pace out the distances between each object. Perhaps it was more than he needed to know, but he felt he needed the knowledge that sight would have given him instantly.
He stared into the pitch blackness around him for a long time, his fingers steepled in front of him as he visualised negative emotion seeping away from his mind and flowing out through the tips of his two outstretched fingers. The darkness just before sleep was a warm thing, and ordinary - not blindness, but just night cocooning him. Every night in the hospital at this time a nurse had come in and seen him awake, and quietly made him take a dose of sedative. Then he would slip into an empty sleep with no dreams and no sense of time, from which he would wake and not know whether it was midnight or dawn without activating his speaking clock. Now at last he was allowed to lie and wait for a natural sleep to claim him. He unclasped his hands and rolled over onto his side, pulling the warm bedclothes up over his shoulders and curling into the warmth and quiet of night.