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Story Notes:

may not be canon-compliant anymore.  oh well.

Earth Standard Date: 2258-February-12

The young, inexperienced, battle-weary crew sat in bleak near-silence in the cold, dim corridors of the inner-most sections of the wounded starship.

Ice crystals sparkled in the uncertain pale blue emergency lighting. Static crackled behind the relentless dit… dah-dit… dah… dit… dit-dah-dit… dit-dah-dah-dit… dit-dah-dit… dit-dit… dit-dit-dit… dit of a jury-rigged transmitter pulsing out an EM message in Morse Code. The exterior hull moaned and creaked, like agonal breaths, occasionally giving way to a death-rattle that preceded a series of popping explosions before silence absorbed another hull breach.

They had no warp drive, structural integrity was collapsing, life support was failing. Power reserves were nearly depleted. They were venting precious atmosphere through countless micro-fissures.

"We're going to die here, aren't we?"

Spock sat with his eyes closed, his head leaned back against the bulkhead, shivering despite his best efforts to block out the cold. He recognized the voice as belonging to one of his former students. Many of the crewmen were his students.

"They would have responded by now, wouldn't they?"

"The subspace transceiver isn't working," Uhura's voice answered gently. "There's a good chance a rescue ship would get here before a radio message."

"Jim, half these people are in shock and we're all hypothermic," Dr. McCoy's voice said, very quietly and in the other direction.

"What do you want me to do about it, Bones?" Kirk asked, sounding defeated in a way that Spock had not yet heard from him. "If you've got an idea, I'm all ears."

"We could at least move everyone closer together," McCoy replied.

For a moment, there was only the near-silence again, then the muffled sound of movement followed by Kirk's voice echoing through the corridor. "Everyone, scrunch together. Share your body heat with a neighbor. And don't worry—someone will have locked onto our signal by now and be on their way."

There was a shuffle and murmur as crewmen complied with the captain's orders, no doubt glad to have an excuse to sidle up next to someone.

Spock's eyes jolted open as someone jostled into his personal space. He blinked as Kirk crouched next to him, smoothing a blanket over his shoulders. "How are you holding up?"

"As well as the rest of the crew, I should think," Spock replied.

Kirk exhaled in what might have been a half-hearted laugh. "That good, huh?" he asked. "Mind if I join you?"

Spock would have protested, except Kirk was already settling in next to him, breathing into his hands and rubbing them together. Spock lifted an edge of the blanket to share with him. "How are you?"

"Oh, I'm fine. Just a little chilly."

Spock raised an eyebrow.

"I'm scared," Kirk admitted, very softly, too softly for anyone else to hear. "I was prepared to die defending Earth from Nero, but I'm not sure I'm ready to freeze to death halfway between Saturn and Uranus." He burrowed against Spock's side. "Your turn to admit you're scared too."

"I am not frightened," Spock answered. Kirk started to protest, but Spock pre-empted him. "I have been considering why I am not. I believe it likely that I am among the half of the crew that Dr. McCoy estimates to be suffering from shock."

"Seems logical." Kirk wedged an arm behind Spock's back and pulled the blanket tighter around them. "It's probably for the best right now," he said.

Spock studied the top of the de facto captain's head. Before either of them could say anything else, the ship shuddered. Someone cried out as the bulkhead started to screech and whine.

"What is that?" Kirk asked, getting to his feet. The others were starting to stand as well, crowding together, a terrified murmur cresting into a roar as the ship shuddered again. Panic swelled, and whispers became words that became wails until…

"Quiet!" Uhura shouted, and everyone quit talking.

Distantly, Spock recognized the cadence of hammering on the hull but his mind would not decipher it.

"Everybody, get back," Kirk was saying, reaching for the arms of the people nearest the suddenly noisy bulkhead.

"Rescue…" someone whispered. "We're being rescued…"

It took several minutes of banging, drilling and scraping before a hatch opened and a red-shirted woman with commodore's bands on her sleeves stepped through. Her eyes swept the battered, frightened crew, lingering for a moment on Spock. She shook her head. "Are you kids ready to go home?" she asked.

It took a while to evacuate everyone, but Kirk set a good example of calm. Spock, of course, was inscrutable. The injured were sent out first, then the medical staff, then the Vulcans, then the rest of the crew. Kirk and Spock both waited until everyone else was out.

Everyone who wasn't injured crowded into the launch bay, but at least it was warm and there were plenty of blankets and steaming mugs of broth and medics making their way through the crowd with hypos of mild sedatives.

Spock politely declined the hypo. He stood against a wall, holding a hot mug in his cold hands, a blanket draped over his shoulders. Kirk also declined the hypo and stood next to him, also wrapped in a blanket and holding a mug. He chased away an over-zealous medic who seemed intent on 'comforting' Spock.

"I confess my surprise," Spock said as the medic left. "It has been my experience that humans are of the opinion that venting emotion is both necessary and healthful. I cannot estimate the times I have been encouraged to express my feelings."

"You want to know the truth?"

"I always consider the truth preferable to the various alternatives."

Kirk studied him over the top of his mug. "I asked Bones if he thought you were in denial. I was going to try for another emotional response, but he said I should let you grieve at your own pace. That's what I intend to do. If you're not ready to face what happened yet, that's okay. I'm going to be here when you are ready."


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