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Author's Chapter Notes:

Warning: This story is all a huge, unoriginal cliché. It's also a oneshot :-)

The rock fall had been swift and decisive. All of the uncertainty in Spock’s mind concerned just who was trapped in this lightless tunnel, who had been injured and how badly, and how he and any other person here would manage to escape. In little over five seconds of calamity a relatively relaxed foray into a low passage in this cave system had turned into a positive threat to his continued existence.

He lay very still on the uncomfortably rocky floor, at first simply trying to assess whether or not he had lost consciousness. On balance, he was inclined to believe that he had. There was a definite wound at his temple that he did not recall receiving. Caving helmets were not part of the Enterprise’s standard away mission equipment. On reflection, it would be wise if they were.

He considered the rest of his body. There was a pain in his left shoulder that was at once sharp and dull – a wide, spreading ache that surrounded an acute and grinding pain centred on the junction of his humerus and his scapula. He tried a very small movement of his arm, and decided swiftly that it was advisable not to attempt it again. That and the head wound seemed to be the only injuries beyond cuts and grazes.

Next he turned his attention to his surroundings. They had been a party of five in the tunnel when the collapse had begun. Spock had noticed it a split second before the others, and had used both hands to thrust the humans unceremoniously away from the fall. The time it had taken him to push the humans clear had resulted in himself becoming trapped and injured. So be it. It was his part as first officer to attend to the safety of those under him.

But Jim…

He had pushed the captain with the rest of them. It was also his duty to save his captain in the face of peril. But Kirk, ever stubborn, had resisted the push. Spock recalled him spinning to face his first officer, a look of alert confusion frozen on his face as he turned his eyes towards the roof of the tunnel. He had reached out a hand in painful slow motion – and then the rocks had fallen and all had gone dark.
   
Spock closed his eyes, pushing that image away and concentrating on here and now. The air in here was warmer than it had been previously, more humid and stale. The scent of the air, the scent of iron-based blood – and, now he concentrated, the faint sound of shallow breathing... He was not alone. There was one other person alive in here – and considering events just prior to the fall, he was almost certain of who it must be.

The breathing quickened almost imperceptibly – but Spock was hyper-alert now to every nuance of that sound, his only clue in the darkness to the physical condition of the body next to him. His companion was regaining consciousness…
   
‘Captain?’ he asked.
   
He reached out with his mind and felt those definite strong thoughts kindling in the darkness as the person climbed closer to awareness. Yes, he was certain that it was Jim there next to him.
   
‘Captain?’ he repeated, then, ‘Jim?’

There was a cough, that turned into a faint laugh.
   
‘Spock,’ the captain murmured weakly. ‘Always the hero, Spock.’

    ‘Captain?’ Spock repeated in concern. The human sounded far from well.

    ‘You could’ve run yourself, but you pushed us away,’ Kirk murmured. He coughed, and his voice became stronger. ‘Thank you, Spock.’

    ‘*You* would be safe had you not turned back,’ Spock pointed out critically.

    ‘Yes, well…’ Kirk muttered. ‘Human instinct – ’

    ‘Is an unfortunate failing,’ Spock said dryly.

    ‘Call it a failing if you like – but you’d be alone now if I hadn’t – ’

    ‘*You* would be uninjured, and free,’ Spock cut across him.

    Kirk chuckled again – a most illogical reaction, Spock thought, considering the circumstances.
   
    ‘Are you arguing with me, First Officer?’ he asked.
   
    ‘Not precisely, Captain,’ Spock began. ‘I was merely – ’

    Kirk dismissed him with a  brief, ‘Pshhh. That’s enough, Spock.’ He exhaled loudly, then continued, ‘I’m definitely injured, Spock – and I’m guessing you are, since you’re letting me argue with you instead of trying to find a way out of here.’
   
    ‘I did receive a blow to the head,’ Spock acknowledged. No need to mention the shoulder injury at this time. ‘Perhaps it is interfering with clear thought. How are you injured, Jim?’
   
    ‘Blow to the head, same as you,’ Kirk said wryly. ‘And I think my leg caught a rock or two. Spock, do you still have your flashlight?’
   
    Spock raised an eyebrow, resisting the statement of the obvious – that if he had his flashlight, or his communicator, or a phaser of any kind, he would be making use of it.

    ‘Negative, Captain,’ he said. ‘I had my communicator and flashlight in my hand as I fell. They must have been knocked away.’

    ‘Same here,’ the captain said. ‘Well, then. I guess we wait…’

    Silence fell. The air was thick and warm with the scent of blood and human sweat – a fact for which Spock was actually grateful considering the dank cold that was seeping into his back and legs through the rock beneath him. He could hear Jim breathing very close to him – another fact for which he was grateful, since the noise made it easy for him to keep appraised of the human’s condition.

    After a few minutes Kirk said with sudden irritability, ‘Dammit, first thing I’m going to do back on the ship is requisition flashlights with wrist-straps. Isn’t there some Vulcan trick you can pull out of your bag?’ he asked Spock peevishly.

    ‘I cannot create light from darkness, Jim,’ Spock said gravely. ‘I am no god.’

    He felt the humour that the statement provoked in Kirk suddenly pushing away the atmosphere of tension. Being a telepath trapped in such close proximity with a human was like being immersed in an emotional soup.

    ‘Oh, I don’t know about that,’ Kirk said, the warmth of a smile lightening his voice.

    Redundant as the action was, Spock turned toward his captain in the darkness.

    ‘I am gratified by your faith in me,’ he said.

    ‘Oh, it’s not faith,’ Kirk returned. ‘I just know you, Spock. You’d always do your utmost.’

    ‘Perhaps,’ Spock nodded gravely. ‘But it is Mr Scott who is the miracle worker, not I.’

‘Let’s hope Mr Scott’s working on one of those miracles right now,’ Kirk said grimly. ‘Otherwise – ’

    He trailed off. After a moment’s hesitation Spock reached out towards Kirk’s shoulder – but instead his fingers brushed his captain’s cheek. He drew back instantly, an apology forming on his lips.

    ‘Spock,’ Jim said, in a surprisingly rich voice.

    Spock was reminded of the purr of a cat that had just discovered a dish of cream.

    ‘Yes, Jim?’ he replied, stopping with his hand hovering in mid-air.

‘You’re warm,’ Kirk said hastily, as if he needed to confabulate an excuse for uttering the Vulcan’s name in that tone.
   
‘You are losing blood,’ Spock said, concern entering his voice.

    ‘Oh, it’s a scratch,’ Kirk said with ridiculously fake nonchalance.

    Spock’s eyebrow rose. He could not see the captain’s injury, but his sense of smell alone told him that there was far more blood than would be produced by a mere scratch.

‘It is your leg, is it not?’ Spock said. ‘Can you tell how badly injured it is?’
   
There was a pause, then Kirk said, ‘Honestly, Spock, I can’t feel it. I don’t know.’

    ‘Humans have no awareness of their own bodies…’ Spock said, inadvertently letting his concern for Jim transmute into irritation in his voice.

    There was no reply, but it was obvious to Spock that the captain was biting back a reply in order to preserve calm in this cramped, airless space.

    ‘Jim,’ Spock began. ‘I am sorry…’

    ‘No, no,’ Kirk murmured. ‘It’s fine, Spock. I understand. It must be frustrating, living amongst such frailty.’

    ‘I would not term humans frail, exactly,’ Spock countered. ‘But – less durable, perhaps.’

    Kirk snorted. ‘You make us sound like a tyre on an old fashioned automobile. Vulcans run two hundred extra miles, eh?’

    Spock turned his head towards his captain again, concerned at the growing unconventionality of his conversation.

    ‘Captain, there is a way of assessing your injury despite the dark and our lack of mobility,’ he said cautiously.

    ‘Really, Spock?’ Kirk asked, sounding intrigued.

    Spock felt the warm billow of the captain’s breath as he turned his head, brushing over his ear and cheek.

    ‘The Vulcan mind meld,’ he continued. ‘If you were to allow me into your mind, I might be able to gain a deeper perception of your injuries. I am used to reading the normally unconscious knowledge within the mind. You are not.’

    ‘Well,’ Kirk began.

    ‘With a very deep contact, I could perhaps help to regulate your heartbeat and draw you down into a state of extreme relaxation. The slower your heart is beating the less blood you will lose.’

    ‘A – very deep contact?’ Kirk repeated, reluctance edging his voice.

    ‘Jim,’ Spock said in a low voice. ‘We have melded before, albeit in a much more shallow form. This may save your life.’

    ‘Well…’ Kirk said slowly, then laughed. ‘Well, Spock, it really would be stupid to die to protect my modesty, wouldn’t it?’

    ‘Foolish indeed,’ Spock said firmly. ‘You count me as your friend, do you not?’

    There was the briefest of hesitations, then Kirk said with another laugh, ‘Yes, Spock, I count you as my friend.’

    Spock pondered on that hesitation. Humans were often so *difficult* to read. He had always believed that Jim was his closest friend. Did Jim somehow see it differently? Was he afraid that in letting Spock into his mind Spock would find some prejudice, some deep-seated aversion, that would prevent them from ever being truly friends?

    ‘If you do not wish me to – ’ he began, wishing for once that his Vulcan sense of honour and ethics would simply leave him alone and let him leave the question unasked.

He could not force a meld on his captain – but he knew in that moment of Kirk’s hesitation just how much he *did not* want Jim to die. It was a sensation he was unused to – but the thought of lying here in the dark with Jim’s body gradually cooling into irredeemable death sent a stabbing pain through the core of his chest. If that happened… Illogical, illogical… but if that happened, it would be better if this cave became tomb to both of them.

    ‘Spock,’ Jim cut through his thoughts, his voice firm and decisive in the darkness. ‘Do the meld.’

    ‘Very well,’ Spock said.

    He held back only for a moment, flexing and warming his fingers in preparation for making contact. There was no need for words. Jim understood what he was about to do and he had experienced a meld before – the mantra of preparation was redundant.

    He reached out in the darkness, feeling for Jim’s face. His fingers first brushed the hair at his temple, and he felt grit and dirt in the soft strands that scattered downwards as he touched it. His fingers slipped to the meld points almost by instinct – feeling again the grit on Jim’s skin, and the warm stickiness of blood somewhere on his cheek.

    He closed his eyes and opened his mind, forgetting physical sensation, forgetting the scent of his captain’s breath in the air and the hard rock beneath him and the pain in his own shoulder and arm. He fell into a world as infinite as the known universe – a wordless maelstrom of images and sensations, a flicker-book so swift that he could make out none of the pictures.

    Slowly he began to embrace that mind, taking its thoughts into his, making the feelings and emotions his own. A sense of weightlessness overcame him as the rules and rigidity of his own mind dissolved in the face of this human, feeling, passionate world. So intoxicating… Such a blissful thing, this loose and whirling world of impulses that flowed uncontrolled and unashamed. The fire set light to the tinder of his own mind, joining with and multiplying his own emotions, those deep-buried passions that threatened every Vulcan’s control.

    *Control.*

    He gasped back control, forcing himself to remember the rules and disciplines that kept a Vulcan’s emotions from spilling over. So important… So necessary, those mind rules that made crimes of passion and feeling an unknown thing on Vulcan. So vital, in a people whose natural inclination was to rage with a fire greater than the heart of their own sun.

    He stopped himself, calmed himself, and let the calm of his own mind search into Jim’s, stroking and insinuating itself along the tangled pathways of Jim’s mind, trying to soothe them into submission. He could feel that mind – a sea urchin under his fingers, shrinking away instinctively from every touch.

    < Jim > he said into Kirk’s mind.

    Words were unnecessary in meld, but humans expected words and responded to words, and it was almost impossible not to use them with humans to transmit ideas.

    < Yes, Spock >

    Even in his mind Jim’s words were slurred with pain and weakness.

    < You must trust me, Jim >
   
    < I love you > < I trust you >

    In Jim’s mind Spock felt the double of those words, like one film cell placed over another. It was a simultaneous utterance, with ‘I trust you’ seeking to overlay ‘I love you’ and send it into obscurity.

< You love me > Spock echoed, bringing those words further into existence by their reutterance.

Somewhere, he felt as if he had been slapped – by the most wonderful, most beloved hand in the world, the flushing fingermarks on his cheeks the most perfect tattoo, the pain the most wondrous indication of being alive that he had ever felt.

 The words seemed to ricochet through their mingled minds, igniting sparks that set off a glowing warmth everywhere they touched – and Jim was racing after them, trying to extinguish them before they were noticed – but it was impossible, because their thought processes were simultaneous and combined.

The world was getting redder and hotter and – Spock suddenly realised that far from calming, Jim’s heart was beginning to race out of control, pushing more and blood out of –

He clamped down on his thought processes before they could transfer into Jim’s conscious mind, before Jim became aware of the brutal way his leg stuttered off just below the knee… He cut off his own awareness of that horrifying abortion, cut off his emotional reaction to those words, *I love you*, cut off his blooming, embracing need to reciprocate those words a thousand times.

Emotion was deadly. Emotion would kill his captain. Emotion must be controlled and pushed aside…

He caught those mind-pathways again, repeating, < Trust me, trust me, trust me > until it became a series of sounds like the slap of waves against the hull of a boat, like the susurration of wind through leaves, like the rock of a cradle and the crooning of a mother…

He could feel the heart beat slowing, the mind that he held falling deeper and deeper into emptiness and contentment, his awareness – their awareness – constricting down to a soft, warm darkness like an enveloping womb. The tide of blood that was coursing towards that unseen wound was slowing, slowing…

The darkness enveloped them, inside and out. The cave was quiet, and increasingly warm, the air heavy and kind, soothing them into sleep. The world was shrinking down on itself. Spock never wanted to leave this kind, calm haven, where nothing mattered and nothing…

******

His rebirth was brutal, and cold, and dazzlingly bright, with faces and voices hovering about, crowding in, rough hands manhandling him, the chill of instruments pressing against his skin. He turned his head sideways, resisting the seductive pull back to that warm, quiet place only because the logical part of his mind told him that it was life that was cold and unpleasant, and death was the warm soft thing that wanted to put its arms around him and hold him forever.

He turned his head sideways, and saw Jim, lying flatter and stiller than seemed possible, his skin white-blue and his eyes slack and blind. He stared, and stared, the bodies that were moving around him suddenly silent to his ears, his eyes focussing only on that pallid corpse that was being stripped of its clothing and swarmed over by urgent hands. And then he saw – the tiny shiver in the neck, the flutter of blood being forced ever so slowly through reluctant veins, the relief that rippled out through the humans that were clustered about the bed – and he let himself succumb to sleep.

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