Kirk tossed and turned in his bunk, trying to convince himself he was near sleep. It wasn’t working. The moment he slept he woke from vivid nightmares. When he lay awake all he could see in the darkness was the image of Spock’s body lying there in sick bay, the skin pooled with leaking blood.
He sat up and threw the blankets aside impatiently. It was no use trying to sleep. He had known that when he finally went to bed that night, or he would have changed out of his uniform rather than just falling into bed in the clothes he wore. There were still smears of blood down his top, turned black and dry now.
‘Lights,’ he ordered, and as they came on he stripped off the soiled top and pulled on a fresh one. He glanced at the time. Three fifteen a.m..
He was not surprised on entering sick bay to find McCoy still sitting there, slumped over his desk in the twilit room, sleeping head resting on folded arms.
Kirk moved his gaze to see Spock. There was a nurse on duty sitting at the foot of the black bed, and as he caught her eye she smiled gently.
‘Improving, sir,’ she said to his unasked question.
Kirk nodded, and went softly to the Vulcan’s side. The blood under his skin was blackening, he appeared bruised all over. Every breath he took was separated by an interminable amount of time, and each one was a slow, shallow, difficult rasp. If that was improvement, he hated to think what degeneration would look like.
‘The stasis field is at fifty percent now,’ the nurse said, getting to her feet. ‘If you want to touch him, Captain, use these.’
Kirk took the pair of gloves she held out to him, and slipped them on to protect his arms from the numbing effect of the stasis field. He pushed his hand through the faintly lit field. He could feel the odd tingling even through the glove as he closed his fingers around Spock’s unmoving hand. He had the horrible feeling that if he pressured too hard the hand would disintegrate, each cell individually weakened by the disruptor effect.
‘Can he hear?’ he asked the nurse softly, not taking his eyes off the Vulcan’s face.
‘No, sir. He won’t be aware of anything until the field’s fully down.’
‘Okay,’ Kirk nodded. He closed his other hand around the Vulcan’s, rested his head down onto the edge of the bed outside the stasis field, and closed his eyes. If he couldn’t sleep, he would have to just sit here in his tiredness, and wait.
Kirk blinked slowly, letting his eyes focus on his surroundings. Sick bay. He was in sick bay, and he must have fallen asleep. The lights were fully on, signifying day. He moved his head slightly, and realised that someone had slipped a pillow under it some time in the night. That same person had carefully draped a blanket around his shoulders.
He sat up, turning to thank McCoy for the thought, and saw that the doctor had also been ministered to by someone, his head cradled now by a thick pillow just like Kirk’s instead of his arms.
‘Coffee, Captain,’ a voice said from behind him, and he turned to see Christine Chapel holding out a steaming cup with a soft smile on her face.
He took it wordlessly and swallowed a hot mouthful, then looked back to Spock.
‘He’s doing well,’ Chapel told him. She put on her gloves and reached into the field to put Kirk’s unneeded pillow under the Vulcan’s head, smoothing the black hair as she rested his head back into it. ‘He won’t feel it, but it makes him look more comfortable,’ she explained with a shrug.
‘Illogical,’ Kirk said, half smiling.
‘Yes. Illogical,’ she nodded, and her voice caught on that word. Kirk took a harder look at her face, seeing the lines of tiredness.
‘How long have you been here, Nurse?’ he asked.
‘Just a few hours. I - had a little trouble sleeping,’ she admitted.
‘Just like us all,’ Kirk nodded.
There was an intercom whistle, and Chapel turned quickly to answer it.
‘Sick bay. Nurse Chapel here,’ she said crisply.
‘There’s a communication for Captain Kirk coming through on screen,’ a male voice replied. Kirk recognised it as one of the night shift communications officers, one of the many people who ran his ship so competently while he was sleeping. The man must be about to go off duty.
‘Acknowledged,’ Chapel said, and turned on the computer screen, swivelling it towards Kirk.
Kirk shuddered as he saw the symbol on the screen - that of the Vulcan sub-space communications system. He had tried calling Spock’s parents last night, but no one had answered, and he hadn’t had the heart to tell them what had happened via a recorded message. He had simply asked for them to contact the ship.
He carried his chair over to the screen and sat down before it, combing through his hair with his fingers. He took in a breath, then said, ‘Kirk here.’
The screen dissolved into the image of Ambassador Sarek, his face calm as always, backed by the dark, warm image of the study in Spock’s Vulcan home.
‘Captain Kirk, I believe you wished to speak to me,’ he said calmly.
‘Is the Lady Amanda not at home?’ Kirk asked. ‘I would rather speak to you both.’
‘My wife is teaching. You must speak to me.’
Kirk was not sure whether he felt calmed or terrified by that warm but logical voice. Sarek’s tone was less harsh than that of some other Vulcans, but Kirk was also aware of the hard edge that voice could take on, and of the cold danger of an angered Vulcan. He did not know how Sarek would react to this news.
‘Ambassador - ‘ he began.
‘This is about my son,’ Sarek said. A logical assumption, not a guess, Kirk reminded himself. ‘I am already aware that Spock has lost his sight. Does our son need our presence?’
Kirk quickly suppressed the surprise he felt at those words. Sarek seemed so oddly concerned, compassionate, so quick to offer help. It gave him some idea of how blindness was seen by Vulcans, for this deeply logical man to offer up his help to his son just like that. As ambassador of Vulcan, Sarek surely had work that he could not just drop easily to minister to his adult, independent son.
‘No,’ Kirk said softly. ‘Spock is - he’s not dead,’ he said quickly.
‘I would know if my son was dead, Kirk,’ Sarek said, impatience edging into his voice. ‘What has happened?’
‘He - is very badly injured. He was caught by a disruptor shot. He’s in a stasis field, and he is healing very slowly as that field is reduced. I just wanted to tell you, Ambassador,’ Kirk said, ‘seeing how long it was before you knew that Spock was blinded.’
‘I appreciate that consideration,’ Sarek said.
Kirk could not be sure if there was sarcasm in those words. He doubted that Sarek of Vulcan would use sarcasm. But any other parent would have screamed, *what was my blind son doing being exposed to disruptor shots? How could you let that happen?* Or was that Kirk’s own voice asking those questions?
Sarek simply considered him slowly, then said, ‘Kirk, you care deeply for my son.’
‘Yes,’ Kirk nodded, although he knew that had been a statement, not a question.
‘Then I trust him to your care,’ Sarek said. ‘When he wakes, tell him that his parents wish him well.’
‘Yes, sir,’ Kirk nodded, suddenly feeling very humble. Spock had been trusted to his care the moment he had come under his command, and it was under that command that Spock had been blinded, and was now lying unconscious behind him. How could Sarek trust him to anything concerning his son?
‘Live long and prosper, Captain Kirk. Good night,’ the Vulcan said, and the screen abruptly went blank.
McCoy stirred at his desk, and looked up, bleary-eyed. ‘Jim?’ Then suddenly his eyes widened, he sat up straight and said, ‘Spock!’ He stumbled to his feet, and almost tripped on the blanket trailing from his shoulders. ‘What the hell - ’
‘Doctor, Mr Spock is stable,’ Christine Chapel said, taking the blanket from him and folding it expertly. ‘He’s a little stronger, and the potential for bleeding is reducing. I think we can relax the field a little more.’
‘Let me be the judge of that,’ McCoy said roughly, going to the Vulcan’s side.
Kirk smiled at the doctor. He was sure that Chapel knew as well how to treat Spock as McCoy did. She was practically a doctor in her knowledge and experience. McCoy just always had to be sure himself, and always in control in his sick bay.
McCoy looked up and down Spock’s body, glanced up at the monitoring scanners, then reached in with a gloved hand to touch the Vulcan’s skin, the human touch that he trusted far more than any of his machines. Finally he nodded, and turned down the dial a little further. As he did, Spock moved very slightly, and took in a slightly deeper breath of air.
‘He’s going to be fine, Jim,’ the doctor smiled. ‘Come back in two days, and perhaps he’ll even speak to you. God, Vulcan recuperative powers are amazing...’
‘Thank God,’ Kirk smiled.
‘Yes. Thank God.’
Two days later, Kirk watched the Vulcan with a gentle smile as he stirred in the bed, opened his eyes slowly, and blinked blindly at the room. His skin was still mottled and bruised, he still looked ill, but finally he was out of the stasis field and in a ward bed, off life support and with none of the drips containing blood, food and medicines running down to needles in his body.
‘Jim,’ he said slowly. His voice was almost a moan. The Vulcan closed his eyes again, and stirred uncomfortably, then moaned long and low.
‘Spock,’ Kirk said softly, and he laid his hand on the Vulcan’s arm. ‘You’re okay.’
‘The disruptor...’ His words were slow and slurred.
‘We got you to sick bay in time. You’re going to be all right.’
He moaned again, and Kirk asked anxiously, ‘Are you in pain?’
Even in this state the Vulcan managed to raise an eyebrow at that question. ‘C-considerable pain,’ Spock sighed.
‘Don’t talk then,’ Kirk told him gently, then ignored his own advice as he asked, ‘Spock, are you okay? You seemed so - bitter - before they shot you...’
‘I - I am all right, J-jim. I think...’
He opened his eyes again a crack, swallowed dryly, then coughed, and Kirk carefully put a cup of water to his lips. Spock swallowed as the cold water touched his mouth, some of it dribbling down round his neck and into the bed. The coldness on his skin appeared to rouse him further out of the dim and aching semi-consciousness, and he grasped at the bedclothes around him, trying to hold on as consciousness brought new pain and disorientation.
‘Jim...w-what is that light?’ he asked.
Kirk eyed the Vulcan with mounting concern, wondering if the disruptor shot had been enough to cause brain damage. He didn’t want to call a doctor just yet.
‘You’re in sick bay,’ he repeated to the Vulcan. ‘You’re going to be all right. Just give it time.’
Spock blinked again, then opened his eyes wide, turning his head slowly. ‘J-jim, there is light,’ he said, bringing an insistence into his tone. ‘Very blurred - a minute blur...lightness.’
Kirk looked down at the blank, blind stare of his dark eyes, and touched the Vulcan’s shoulder gently. ‘Okay, Spock,’ he smiled. ‘Just try to sleep. You must be very tired.’
‘Jim!’ Spock said. ‘I...am not deranged...or d-delirious.’ The very effort to speak was obviously exhausting him. ‘P-please, get Dr McCoy.’
‘Okay,’ Kirk smiled slowly. He went across the room to the intercom, and opened a channel. ‘Dr McCoy, report to sick bay... There you go, Spock,’ he said gently, coming back to sit down. ‘Satisfied?’
‘Yes, sir,’ Spock whispered. His eyes were beginning to close again, and he forced himself awake with effort.
McCoy came in through the sliding doors, and smiled as he saw Spock. ‘So he’s awake at last?’ he asked, coming forward.
Kirk stood up quickly and went to stop him on the far side of the ward. ‘Bones, he keeps talking about light,’ he whispered softly.
McCoy glanced over at the Vulcan, then back at Kirk. ‘Well, he’s been through a huge trauma. The brain can play tricks. It doesn’t mean he’s brain damaged.’
‘Th-thank you...for your confidence...Doctor,’ Spock breathed from across the ward, and McCoy went to him quickly.
‘Well, Spock, if you can manage sarcasm, you can’t be that ill,’ he said warmly. ‘One day you’ll shock us all by getting to the edge of death and not coming back.’
‘Not on my shift,’ Kirk said, and he meant that with all seriousness.
‘Doctor...please check my eyes,’ Spock said, his voice still laced with tiredness.
‘Okay, Spock,’ McCoy said, letting all of the Georgia country doctor come through in his voice. ‘You just lie back ‘n’ relax now.’
He went to get a scanner, then came back and moved it swiftly over the Vulcan’s eyes. He checked the reading, blinked, then moved it back, far more slowly this time.
‘Bones?’ Kirk asked.
‘Mr Spock, why did you want me to check your eyes?’ McCoy asked slowly, glancing at Kirk.
Spock blinked, and sighed. ‘Obviously, Doctor...because I th-thought I s-saw something.’
‘And what was that, Spock?’ McCoy asked.
‘A blur... A t-tiny blur of light...very small, dim...b-but - ‘ Spock took in a deep breath, determined to get one sentence out without stopping. ‘It is noticeable, Doctor, after t-two months of utter darkness.’
‘Spock - ‘ McCoy hesitated, then said, ‘Spock, there is a slight – a *very* slight - change in the cells. Perhaps one or two are dislodged, in your right eye. You may be seeing through a tiny, tiny hole in the covering of cells.’
Kirk stared at McCoy, his mind alternating between joy at the possible truth, and anger at what must be a sick, insensitive joke. Spock had been blinded for life, and he had only just come to accept that.
‘Bones, if you’re kidding around - ‘ he began dangerously.
‘Jim!’ McCoy said indignantly. ‘For God’s sake, I’m not that callous!’
Spock closed his eyes very suddenly. His face went blank, and Kirk could see that he was trying to control some surge of emotion. A tell-tale tear squeezed out from under one eyelid and rolled down his face. Kirk held onto the Vulcan’s hand tightly as Spock lay stone-still, until finally he relaxed back into the bed, and said slowly, ‘Thank you, Doctor.’ After a long moment he said, ‘Th-the disruptor effect?’
‘Possibly,’ McCoy nodded. ‘It is designed to cause cell breakdown. Perhaps if these cells aren’t quite as strong as the normal body cells they’re lodged onto...’
Spock nodded very slowly, then asked, ‘The Pernicians?’
‘In the brig in Starbase 3, awaiting trial,’ Kirk smiled, thinking God, *Spock, get your priorities right*. ‘Hopefully they’ll be there a long time.’
‘And yet, if they h-had not fired on me...’
‘If they hadn’t come on the ship in the first place,’ Kirk said darkly.
‘That d-does not matter,’ Spock said tiredly. ‘I - I can see...’
‘Now, Spock, you can’t see,’ McCoy began seriously. ‘There’s hardly any change, and if it was the disruptors it’ll take time to devise a way of applying the effect safely, and then it’ll take time, even if we can apply it...’
‘Bones,’ Kirk interrupted. He indicated the Vulcan with a smile. Spock’s eyes were closed and he was sleeping peacefully. ‘I don’t think he heard any of that.’
‘Well, he can sleep for now,’ McCoy said seriously, ‘but sometime he’s gonna have to wake up and realise he won’t be looking into that science scanner tomorrow. He might take longer to recover his sight than he’s spent blind so far. It might not even work.’
‘I’m sure he’ll listen to all that perfectly logically when he’s up and about and thinking straight,’ Kirk nodded. ‘But we might as well let him enjoy the promise of sight for now.’
‘Yes, and I’m sure you will,’ McCoy smiled. ‘Just don’t go spreading it around. It’s not even a certainty yet.’
Kirk could clearly see the change in Spock the next time he visited him in sick bay. He came into the ward to see the Vulcan sitting up in bed, his fingers skimming swiftly over a mound of print-outs. He had become used to seeing these braille print-outs and was slowly beginning to recognise some of the letter forms. He could see now as he looked over the Vulcan’s shoulder that these documents had something to do with disruptor effects.
‘The doctor believes I shall be able to leave sick bay within three days,’ Spock said, his fingers still moving across the page. ‘I must be prepared for the work in the lab. It should not take too long to rig up a small disrupting beam that I can direct towards my eyes - ’
Kirk glanced doubtfully across at McCoy, who had come from his office to stand in the doorway.
‘I want to run a lot more tests,’ McCoy said seriously, coming through into the room. ‘It looks like the disruptor effect has broken down minute particles in the opaque cell covering, Jim. Spock’s seeing through a very few tiny holes a micrometer across. He’s also jumping the gun,’ he said as he reached the bed, looking pointedly at the Vulcan. He sighed, because Spock was oblivious to his look. ‘I saw the titles of those files you printed off. That disruptor almost killed you, and you’ve gained a minute change in your eyes. It’s going to take research and time. You won’t wake up tomorrow with twenty-twenty vision - and don’t think I’m going to let you aim a disruptor beam anywhere while you can’t see! If you didn’t kill yourself you’d slaughter some helpless lab technician.’
‘Then I shall find an assistant to direct the beam. Doctor, I am willing to suffer the disruptor effects,’ Spock said flatly, laying his hands flat on the paper. His dangerous determination was obvious in his voice and the set expression of his face.
‘Well, I’m not willing to keep patching you up like I did over the last few days,’ McCoy said angrily. ‘You were *that* close to death, Spock.’
‘But I did not die.’
‘You’re a scientist - you know how it works,’ McCoy said in exasperation, his anger contrasting vibrantly with Spock’s calm. ‘When you find a treatment for something you don’t just rush ahead and dose the patient with as much of it as you can. You study it, you isolate the factors responsible for the effect, you experiment, work out dosage, side effects, long-term effectiveness... It takes a long time.’
‘A very narrowly focused beam directed accurately at the cells - ’
‘Could give you your sight, could reach through to your retinas and destroy them, could reach through to your brain and kill you... Goddammit, Spock - ’
‘Bones,’ Kirk said, putting a hand on the doctor’s arm as he could see him becoming ready to burst.
‘Your blindness isn’t fatal,’ the doctor tried again in a more conciliatory tone. ‘Now, I’ll help you work out this treatment, but I won’t risk your life for it. Too many hits with a disruptor might break down those black cells, but they might break down the normal cells in your eyes too. You could end up cured of the cell covering, but just as blind, with less hope of ever seeing.’
‘Dr McCoy, I will take that chance,’ Spock said, ‘and you have no power to order me not to.’
‘Spock - ’ Kirk began.
‘Well fine, Commander,’ McCoy stormed over him. ‘Go ahead and kill yourself, sir. I’ll be damned if I’ll help you take that chance. I’m damned if I’ll be the one to mop up all those little pools of green blood after you’ve just succeeded in drilling out your computerised brain with disruptor beams!’
‘Bones!’ Kirk snapped, grabbing his arm as he began to stride away. ‘Spock. Both of you. I am your captain, and I order you both to shut up, stop arguing, and listen!’
He was momentarily surprised that silence actually fell at his words.
‘You are both going to work together on this,’ Kirk said firmly. ‘Spock, you’re not going to rush out and kill yourself on a quest for a cure. As soon as you’re well I will allocate you and Bones time out of your shifts to work together in the lab. You’re the scientist, the physicist, Spock. You can research the disruptor effect. Bones, you’re the doctor, the biologist. You research the effects on Spock. Neither of you are going to try it out on Spock until you’ve presented a report to me and had your results checked over and confirmed by two other doctors. Then, Mr Spock, Bones can apply the treatment, *if* it turns out to be a treatment. Agreed?’
He was even more taken aback when both the Vulcan and McCoy echoed, ‘Agreed, sir.’
‘Spock - I - er - I’m sorry I got so angry,’ McCoy began, staring down at his feet.
Spock raised an eyebrow slowly, then said, ‘May I continue my reading, Captain?’
‘No, Mr Spock,’ he said, gathering up Spock’s papers and putting them out of his reach on the next bed. ‘You may not continue your reading. I came to visit you in sick bay, and I’m going to visit, without your nose buried in print-outs.’
Spock’s eyebrow raised even further, and finally he said, ‘Doctor, I accept your apology. I offer you my own. You understand that my sight is important to me.’
‘Of course I do,’ McCoy said warmly. ‘How could we not know?’
‘Doctor, would you do something for me?’ Spock continued. ‘I promised the captain a chess game some time ago. It seems I have the time free now for such a game. Would you move the pieces for me - and ensure that the captain does not cheat?’
‘Sure, Spock,’ McCoy smiled.
Kirk got to his feet, grateful that peace had at last been restored. ‘I’ll go get the board.’