“Jim, wake up.”
The only answer First Officer Spock received was a further jab in the ribs as the captain took possession of another three inches of the bed. He sighed.
Kirk lay beside him, both knees drawn up in a fetal position. Spock, who always slept on his back, ramrod straight, had initially found the childlike pose strangely appealing but soon learned that, although seeing Kirk sleeping in this manner evoked warm feelings of protectiveness, the position frequently drove him against the wall. The emotional reaction was pleasant; his body flattened against the wall was not.
And right now, as the Enterprise cruised through another late night cycle, First Officer Spock was flattened against the wall. He sighed again, then turned toward his companion.
The captain's face was inches from his own, his body curled in a graceful arch. One arm lay across the Vulcan's chest. He was snoring softly.
Spock reached out and touched his cheek. When Kirk slept like this, his expression relaxed and serene, the recalcitrant hair forever dangling across his brow, he seemed no more than a child. Spock watched him sleep as he had so many nights before. Such beauty, he thought, marveling at the captain’s perfection of form. Such heartbreaking, sublime beauty.
The words sent a cold chill up his spine, bringing with them, as they often did, that familiar fear, illogical, indeed nonsensical though it was: the fear that if he dozed off the captain would not be here when he awoke. That this was all just some wild, impossible dream.
His mind began to wander, the whole scenario still retaining a veneer of unreality.
For so many years he’d stood aside and said nothing, passing no judgment, totally repressing any external sign of his grief, as the captain had, as he himself put it on occasion, `screwed his way across the galaxy.' The idea that he would ever be on terms of physical intimacy with Kirk was unacceptable, inconceivable, and he had not dwelt upon the matter.
Then came that shore leave on Argus II, the freak magnetic storm and its accompanying blizzard that had effectively cut them off from the ship, stranding them in a very thin and frigid tent. “My body heat is greater,” he remembered himself saying in all his innocence. “Perhaps we should lie together.”
Well, lie together they did and two days later when the storm at last abated and the rescue party arrived, neither one was particularly happy to see them there.
Four weeks had passed since then but still Spock often found himself struck with a sense of wonder and amazement. He gazed down at the handsome form beside him, not quite believing that the captain loved him. Kirk, of course, was deserving of the highest love, the purest devotion. That was a given. What Spock could never really understand was what the captain found in him that was so worthy of his love. True, he was Kirk's intellectual superior, but in the world of humans that counted less than the way one presented oneself, the way one looked to one's fellows.
And Spock had no delusions about the way he looked. He was clumsy and awkward; he alienated people by his detachment. Many times he’d picked up the voices of fellow crew members quietly berating him for his coldness. He knew that humans often found his external appearance disconcerting. He’d heard enough devil jokes to last him a lifetime. He was hopelessly incompetent in social occasions.
The captain, graceful, agile, confident almost to the point of recklessness, was everything he was not. Kirk inspired admiration and respect from everyone he met. He had the universe at his feet and could have chosen virtually anyone. And he had chosen Spock. The Vulcan found the whole thing quite incomprehensible.
He studied the face he had memorized years ago, his eyes taking in every feature, every shadow. So peaceful. As if you hadn’t a care in the world. Gently, he ran his fingertips along the edge of the captain's jaw line. You are the most exquisite creature in the galaxy.
A voice sounding suspiciously like his father’s crept into his head, berating him for such an illogical, blatantly subjective thought. Spock smiled, allowing the words to play through his mind again and again. If there was one thing that James Kirk had taught him in the weeks they’d been together it was the beauty of being subjective. Spock's smile broadened. He stroked Kirk's thighs, the knees jamming into his diaphragm, and wondered why on earth he had ever wanted the captain to remove them.
James Kirk’s internal alarm awoke him at precisely 0630 hours. He yawned silently, loathe to leave the warm bed. Tugging the blankets snugly around his neck, he stretched.
His legs wouldn't move. Easing the blanket down he opened his eyes to see both knees embedded in Spock's side. Hastily he moved away and, raising himself up on his elbows, studied the Vulcan's body, jammed against the wall yet somehow looking comfortable. Spock lay flat on his back, hands folded demurely across his lap, sound asleep. Kirk looked again and saw with amazement that he had actually bruised the Vulcan's ribs. Damn it, Spock, he thought in dismay. Why didn’t you wake me up?
Bending forward, he ran his fingers along the mottled skin. It rippled beneath his touch, highlighting the jutting rib cage, the downward slope of Spock’s abdomen. Kirk let his eyes wander across the body that he knew now as well as he knew his own. Better, he mused, because I spend more time looking at it.
Lean and long and strong as an ox. It always surprised him how deceptively thin Spock looked when he was fully clothed. It was only when he was naked that the sleek torso revealed itself: thin muscles with the hardness of reinforced steel hidden beneath the smooth skin, buried under the thick chest hair. Kirk's gaze traveled down to Spock’s flat stomach, dropping so precipitously beneath that final rib. The hair converged here, forming a single symmetrical line toward the Vulcan’s navel. For some reason he’d always found that to be particularly erotic, a signpost, so to speak, pointing the way down, enticing him along.
Not that he needed much enticing these days.
Spock's breathing abruptly changed, became shallower and less even, and Kirk knew that he was awake. He didn't let on though, just continued his silent survey of the Vulcan’s body. A physique much like his own in some ways, quite different in others. The eyebrows and ears, of course, a skin temperature that hovered around one hundred and five degrees. Lighter complexion with that faint tinge of green.
And then there were the genitals. Kirk’s attention zeroed in. More than a little difference here, the penis a good three inches longer than his own, crowned with a set of double ridges. Rounded, velvet soft things packed with so many nerve endings it put his lone one to shame. Capable of expanding within him, reaching parts of his internal anatomy he wouldn’t have believed possible before. Stretching and throbbing with a life of their own, growing inhumanly hot, searing hot. God, but it was something else.
As was his own physical reaction by this time.
Turning back to that built-in alarm Kirk quickly calculated how much time he had before duty forced him to his feet. Not that it mattered, in point of fact. No way he could go to the bridge in his present condition, and he knew all too well that the erection would stay with him in one form or another throughout the entire shift unless he gave in to it. In his pre-Spock existence he’d have been able to think it away in minutes but those days were long gone now. Perhaps it had something to do with Vulcans being touch telepaths. He had no idea, really. Just knew the inevitable results.
So he would remain right where he was. First things first. And if they were a few minutes late getting up there, who was going to complain? He was the captain, after all.
The thought brought a smile to his lips as his hand slipped under the blanket, slid along the Vulcan's abdomen, its forward motion agonizingly slow. Kirk glanced over to catch Spock avidly following the movement with his eyes.
Spock looked up at him and blushed. Kirk grinned at his evident embarrassment. “You’re a hedonist.” His hand continued to move inexorably downward, Spock holding his breath, valiantly trying to pretend he wasn't noticing.
But the Vulcan’s body was betraying him, the bulge below the sheets rising even as he spoke.
“Underneath that stoical facade, you're nothing but a green-blooded hedonist.”
His hand had finally reached its destination, stroking the length of Spock’s penis. Mindful of Kirk’s words, irritated by his own transparency and lack of control, Spock determined to suppress his visible response to the captain's single-minded attention.
Kirk ran a fingernail along the outer ridge and thirty years of Vulcan training went out the window. Spock groaned, fingers twining in the bed sheets.
Hopeless. Kirk watched him with more than a tinge of self-satisfaction. Spock might overshadow him in the scope of his intellect but when it came to sheer determination the Vulcan didn't stand a chance.
His gaze wandered down to the bruised ribs once again. “Why, my friend, did you let me pound you in the rib cage all night without waking me?”
“I tried to awaken you.”
Kirk paused for several seconds. “You didn't try very hard,” he said at last.
“Your touch, even if lacking in a certain... tenderness, is not without its pleasant aspects.”
Kirk regarded him skeptically. “Are you telling me that you enjoy being kicked in the ribs?”
“Enjoyment is a human emotion with which I am totally unfamiliar,” Spock intoned. An ephemeral smile flashed across his face.
Kirk's smile was more visible. “You really like pulling that Vulcan routine on me, don't you?”
“Like?” Spock replied in all sincerity. “To like is another human emotion with which....”
Kirk leaned forward and kissed him. “Shut up,” he murmured, plunging his tongue into Spock's mouth, effectively ending their playful conversation.
Doctor Cynthia Jackson stood impatiently on the bridge of the science vessel Corona. Their rendezvous with the Enterprise was not scheduled for two more hours, but anticipation had driven her to the viewscreen and she stood silently, staring into the void, willing the mighty ship to appear out of the darkness.
Captain Royce was sitting at her right. “The Enterprise won't show for a while yet, Doctor.”
Jackson nodded, her attention never wavering from the screen. “I know, sir. I'm just anxious to get aboard. I've been waiting a long time for this transfer.”
Royce smiled, misunderstanding her excitement. A dozen other newly fledged Starfleet scientists were on his ship, soon to be transferred to the vessel that would be their home for the next twenty-four months. Jackson's enthusiasm was shared by the others. Sitting in his command chair, clearly sensing her high spirits, the captain of the Corona thought he knew the reason why.
But he was wrong.
Not that Jackson would have cared one way or the other, her mind, as always, locked on the image of another man: the love of her life. Her reason for living.
It had been three years since Cynthia Jackson had set eyes on James T. Kirk but a day had not gone by that she didn’t think of him. And she had spent the better part of those years fantasizing about the momentous reunion about to take place. The fact that their association consisted of a two day fling on a distant starbase while the Enterprise was on overhaul did not affect her in the slightest. In her mind she’d played and replayed the images of their lovemaking until it had taken on the appearance of an immortal epic and with the passage of time had come to accept the tainted memories as reality. She saw the captain as a man forced to leave her due to the unavoidable demands of duty. Unfortunate and all too common among Starfleet’s command staff.
But now, however, that separation was about to come to an end. She was joining the Enterprise, replacing an ailing linguist in the Cultural Sciences Division. There was no longer any need to be apart. Her body fairly seethed with sexual desire. Golden boy. My darling golden boy.
The captain glanced over. “Beg your pardon?”
His voice startled her and she looked away from the viewscreen, realizing for the first time that she had spoken the words aloud. A glorious smile illuminated her face as she turned back to study the stars shining in the void. “It's nothing, sir. I was just thinking out loud.”
Spock arched upward as Kirk's hand slid down his chest. The kiss had lasted for nearly two minutes, leaving him strangely light-headed, sending the blood pounding against his delicate eardrums, driving an unbearable ache through his groin.
Propped up on his elbow, Kirk was leaning over him, one knee between his legs, pressing hard against his scrotum. The captain’s left hand rested rather heavily on his brow, the fingers of the right circling his penis. Suffused with blood, the ridges were pulsing, flaring out, instinctively reaching up for him as he probed the delicate skin at the base, nails gently stroking, caressing, fondling.
The stimulation was so intense that Spock could do nothing but lie there, the captain’s expertise, his almost instinctive knowledge of just what to do and when to do it totally overwhelming him.
Kirk’s tongue teased the roof of his mouth, the effect like a bolt of electricity shooting from one end of his lanky form to the other. Spock's eyes rolled up beneath the lids. A low moan rose in his throat.
Breaking off the kiss, Kirk studied him, hormones kicking up even higher at the sight of Spock so totally under his control. “I feel guilty about assaulting you in my sleep.” He pushed that knee in a bit harder. “Should probably make amends. What do you think?”
Spock found it difficult to breathe. “As always, I am guided by your leadership.”
“Rank hath its privileges,” Kirk murmured, gently turning Spock's head to one side. He nibbled the Vulcan's earlobe, then suddenly, without warning, plunged his tongue straight down his ear, stretching it into the cavity as far as it would go.
Spock's entire body jerked. Abruptly, Kirk ended his attack and began to move away. One hand latched onto the back of his head and pulled him down again. The captain smiled. “Is that your articulate way of telling me that you want me to continue?”
“Jim,” Spock gasped, slamming his eyes shut. “Please do not tease me.”
At the words Kirk took pity on him. Unlike the captain, who had years of experience behind him, this was all new to Spock and the relentless, awesome physical drives of his own body clearly astonished him. Makes you uneasy, too, I’ll bet, he thought, understanding how much it must go against the grain. For a Vulcan to admit to physical reactions of any type was considered bad form. To lie on a bed, clutching at a human, a human male, virtually pleading for sexual release, must have been, initially at least, profoundly unsettling.
And he realized what an enormous change Spock had decided to make when he’d let him enter his life in this way, willingly lowering barriers stretching all the way back to his childhood. He allowed Kirk to see him as he was now, as no Vulcan would ever permit another to see, certainly not an outworlder, and the captain felt a fierce pride swell in his chest at the knowledge that Spock trusted him enough to bare his soul in this way.
He lightly stroked an elegant eyebrow. “I won't tease you, my friend.”
Rising to his knees, he swung a leg over Spock's hips, angled his body backward, hands flat on the bed to support his weight. Positioned himself directly over Spock's penis, enormous now in full arousal, and slowly eased himself down. The muscles were tight and resisted. Spock opened his eyes.
Kirk glanced over one shoulder and smiled, silently cursing his human anatomy for not possessing the Vulcan ability to loosen on command. He pushed again but the muscles refused to unwind.
Spock struggled up on his elbows. “Perhaps we should change positions.”
“No. You lie still. I'll be fine.”
He gritted his teeth, tried again.
And got the same result.
“Jim, I think….”
“No.” A distinct trace of irritation crept into Kirk’s voice, irritation that verged on the obstinate.
Spock recognized the latter all too well, knew that when the captain got that particular bug up his ass, so to speak, further discussion would be futile.
So he decided on the direct approach.
Latching onto a wrist, he effortlessly flipped Kirk onto his back. Before he could respond to this startling change of behavior Spock had straddled his waist, pinning both arms securely above his head. Watched with scarcely concealed pleasure as he struggled without success to free himself from the unyielding grip.
Kirk quieted and looked up at him. “Is this what I get for trying to be nice to you?”
“Yes.” Knowing that the feel of his chest hair rubbing against Kirk’s smooth skin drove the captain to distraction, Spock stretched his body out until they were touching from shoulder to groin. Rotated his hips in a slow, graceful circle, the undulating motions fueling Kirk’s lust to an even higher level, causing the tensed anal muscles to relax.
Sucking in his breath, the captain lowered his arms and wrapped them around Spock’s neck, wondering abstractly when it was that the Vulcan had released them.
Shifting his weight, Spock inched down the bed, brushing his lips along Kirk’s abdomen. One cheek grazed his penis for a moment before moving away, tormenting him with its fleeting presence.
Kirk grasped him by the shoulders. “Now who's doing the teasing?”
Spock responded by taking so much of the engorged organ in his mouth that Kirk was certain he’d choke. He could feel the Vulcan's tongue curl around it, stimulating each individual nerve ending until he thought he would scream.
That would be most undignified.
The words came into his mind as if from nowhere and he glanced up to see Spock's amused expression. “I wish you wouldn't do that.”
The Vulcan smiled, an oddly incongruous gesture for someone with a cock jammed down his throat.
Then, suddenly, a very strange look came into those alien eyes. Spock abruptly lifted his head, disregarding Kirk’s groan of frustration. “A moment,” he said, more to himself than his companion, before running both hands along the sides of the captain’s neck.
Kirk’s penis, meanwhile, was standing ramrod straight, the skin stretched so tightly it actually hurt. Don’t leave me like this, Spock.
Those fingers continued probing, clearly searching for something.
And what are you….
The thought was torn to shreds when a mind-numbing sensation of truly galactic proportions pulsed through his body from end to end, the strength of it jolting his spine inches off the bed. Unconsciously he grabbed a fistful of Spock's hair. “Oh, my god.” Whispered words in a tone of voice he was certain he’d never used before.
But Spock was merciless. He’d found what he was looking for and pushed in again, Kirk biting his lip to keep his silence as the stimulation grew exponentially. He had no idea what Spock was doing, only knew it was the most wildly erotic thing he’d ever felt in his life. “Stop. You have to stop. I'm going to—”
The words were cut off, every shred of rationality vanishing as the captain experienced five seconds of totally mindless pleasure.
When at last it was over, he sagged against the mattress, his breath coming in short, ragged gasps. After a few moments, regained some of his equilibrium and opened his eyes to see Spock settle beside him. “It would appear that my search was successful,” the Vulcan said.
To put it mildly.
“What in the hell did you do?” Kirk had to almost force the words out, his voice still not quite returning to normal.
Graceful fingers wove through his hair. “Stimulated nerve endings at the base of your brainstem. It is a little used Vulcan technique for inducing a state of relaxation. In humans, however, at least when combined with the sensitivity we Vulcans have in our fingertips, it has a markedly different effect. I apologize for not thinking of it earlier.” He paused, a faint smile on his lips. “The Elders would be displeased to learn that I utilized it for such purely salacious purposes.”
Another pause. “I will, if you wish,” Spock added, dark eyes glittering, “do it again.”
Kirk was shocked to feel his penis begin to harden once more and knew that he was lost. “This isn't habit forming, is it?”
“Pleasure is quite addictive. You have proven that to me beyond any doubt.” This time Spock knew exactly where he was going and found the pressure points almost instantly. Kirk stiffened, grasping at the sheets.
Leaning forward, Spock whispered in his ear. “I may be a novice, but I learn fast.” The human expression sounded strange coming out of his mouth.
Sensitive fingertips teased erogenous zones that Kirk had not known until five minutes ago were even there. “Spock,” he mumbled, pushing his head against the pillow, “you haven't had....”
The pressure increased, his hormones running wild now. As if from a great distance he heard the Vulcan speak. “This is for you. There will be time for me later.”
Kirk opened his mouth to protest, remembering Spock's painfully swollen erection of earlier. But then, for the second time this morning only a few minutes old, reason fled and he experienced such exquisite pleasure that he thought he had surely died and gone to heaven.
Only if I can go with you, Jim.
With his last functioning brain cell, the captain smiled. He wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Captain Royce, much to her chagrin, saw the starship first. Extending his arm, he pointed to a tiny fleck of white amidst the myriad of colors surrounding it. “There she is. Just to the left of the Mizar binary, twenty-eight degrees north.”
Jackson craned her neck forward as if that position would give her a better view. The tiny dot moved and she felt a surge of excitement arc through her body. Close enough to see. For so long she had dreamed of this and now it was nearly here. She could actually see the Enterprise, the vessel carrying the man she’d traveled halfway across the galaxy to find. Clasping her hands across her breast, the young woman closed her eyes in silent thanksgiving.
The captain of the Corona watched her. After sharing her company for two hours on the bridge he had changed his original opinion of the young linguist. There was something peculiar about Cynthia Jackson. It was nothing he could put his finger on, certainly nothing to report to higher authorities. But still she made him nervous and he found himself grateful that she would soon be leaving his ship.
The doctor turned to him, her excitement just bordering on the excessive. “I’d better get ready.” Spinning on one heel, she fairly waltzed off the bridge.
James Kirk stepped out of the sonics shower and reached for his pants. The familiar lock of hair dangled across his forehead and he brushed it back. It fell down almost immediately. He brushed it back again, wondering why he bothered.
Spock silently handed him his tunic and he slipped it on. “We'd better get down to the transporter room. The Corona's due to drop off those recruits in fifteen minutes.” He straightened his shirt. “I always enjoy greeting our new crew members. They're so full of enthusiasm and wonder. Spend most of their first week just walking around the ship with their mouths hanging open.” He smiled at the thought.
Spock stood and brushed the recalcitrant hair back. For some reason, this time it stayed in place. “Jim....” He hesitated.
Kirk's smile faded. “What is it?”
Spock studied the rug at his feet. “There is a former acquaintance of yours among the arrivals.”
Clearly reading the Vulcan’s unease, Kirk touched him lightly on the arm. “What?”
Spock’s gaze flickered up to meet his own. “I mentioned it to you when the assignment was first posted. Do you not remember?”
Kirk thought for a moment, then shook his head. “No.” He studied the Vulcan's peculiar expression. “What is it?”
“Doctor Sorjay was taken ill and Doctor McCoy removed him from duty due to his condition and the new—”
“Spock,” Kirk was exasperated by the Vulcan's continual evasion, “just tell me who it is.”
A look of total astonishment spread across Spock’s face. “You... you do not recall the incident?”
Judging from his tone of voice Kirk assumed that the incident Spock referred to was sexual in nature. He thought. Jackson. Cynthia Jackson. A tendril of memory came back to him, a mane of blond hair. Starbase Seventeen. “Yes. I do remember her. It was two years ago on Starbase Seventeen when we were on overhaul.”
“Three years, eleven days.”
Kirk glanced up. “Three years, eleven days.” He saw the pain hidden behind that stoical façade. “It was only a fling. A brief encounter, a mutual back-scratching session. Nothing to worry about.”
Spock looked affronted. “I was not `worried,' Jim. I simply wished to help you avoid any embarrassment when you encountered the young lady again.”
Objective reasoning if it had come from anyone else but James Kirk knew his first officer well enough to recognize what lay beneath it: the self-doubt, the constant fear that he would grow tired of him and return to his previous lifestyle.
Well, we’re going to put that baby to rest right now. Taking one slim hand within his own, he pressed Spock’s fingertips against his temple and let his mind fill with nothing but his love for him. The strength of it was staggering and when he broke the fusion a moment later he saw that Spock perceived it. All of it.
Dark eyes filled with tenderness. “I beg forgiveness for doubting you. I am sorry.”
“No need, my friend. Very understandable, given my reputation.” He draped both arms over Spock’s shoulders. “You don't have to worry about losing me. It’s never going to happen. Never. You know what I see when a beautiful crew member walks down the corridor?” He smiled. “I see you.”
Grasping him around the waist, Spock pulled him forward in a fierce embrace. The grip was painfully tight but the captain endured it in silence. He stroked the silky hair. “You'll never lose me, Spock,” he murmured. “Never.”
The first thing she saw when she materialized on the transporter platform was the golden boy himself and for an eternal instant she froze, totally unable to move. He smiled up at her with that same glorious smile she’d carried in her heart for years. “Cynthia, it's a pleasure to see you again.” He turned to greet the men and women at her side.
A pleasure? The words had a distinctly unpleasant ring to them. She took an uncertain step forward, the other recruits walking quickly off the platform, oblivious to her confusion.
It was then that she noticed the Vulcan. He stood at Kirk's elbow, following him as he moved across the transporter room floor. His probing eyes searched the faces of the new members of the Enterprise crew, appraising each one in succession. He looked up at her, their gazes locking for a moment, before nodding his head in silent greeting.
Kirk, seeing that she remained on the transporter pad, apparently guessed the reason for her unease. He walked forward and held out his hand. “I didn't mean to slight you, Cynthia, but I can't ignore my other new cadets, now can I?”
He surveyed the assembled personnel, some of whom had been in Starfleet longer than he had. One grumbled a rejoinder and the captain's smile widened. “Only a joke, Mister Viquero. Only a joke.” He laughed, still holding her hand in a firm grip, and Jackson felt herself begin to relax.
Then her gaze was drawn for some reason back to the Vulcan. He stood in the center of the room speaking softly with three scientists in Starfleet blue who’d immediately swarmed around him the instant Kirk left his side. His hands were clasped behind his back, his attention apparently riveted on the excited chatter of the women before him. Except for his initial nod he’d paid her no attention whatsoever, but still she found his presence unsettling, her sense of apprehension returning with a vengeance.
Kirk walked her off the transporter platform. “Mister Spock?”
The Vulcan turned and even a blind man could have seen the change in the alien's body language. His eyes softened, his posture became somehow more relaxed. Jackson glanced to one side. The captain was still smiling, the expression seemingly the same, and yet there was something there that just skirted the edges of her vision. She shook her head. It had to be her imagination.
“I would like you to meet Commander Spock, the First Officer and Science Officer of the Enterprise.”
Again the Vulcan bowed his head. “Doctor Jackson.”
He obviously knew who she was although the captain had not mentioned either her surname or her title. “Commander.” She held out her hand.
Spock hesitated for a moment before extending his arm. His grip was firm and strong, the skin hot to the touch. After she had withdrawn her hand her gaze flashed to the captain, seeing instantly the amused look on his face. She felt her cheeks flush. “What did I do?”
“Vulcans don't like to be touched, Doctor.” His switch from first name to title startled her but Kirk didn't seem to notice. “Don't worry,” he added, “Mister Spock is a very forgiving man. He's had to deal with humans far too long to take offense over such a minor breach of etiquette.”
The two men looked at one another for a few seconds but to Jackson it seemed like an eternity. Finally, the captain shifted his attention to the entire group. “Lieutenant Ozawa will conduct you to your individual departments. Settle in and make yourselves at home. Your duties will be light for the first few days while you become acquainted with the ship and her crew.”
Several affirmative sounds greeted this announcement. The captain appeared pleased with the response. “Not that I'm giving you an excuse to slack off, you understand.” His tone was light and informal, instantly creating a pleasant atmosphere.
Reaching out, he unconsciously laid a hand on Spock’s arm.
Vulcans don’t like to be touched. The words came back to shriek through Jackson's head, bellowing at her until she thought that everyone in the room must be aware of it. The others began to file out, following the man Kirk called Ozawa. Jackson remained where she was and the captain glanced at her questioningly. “Go on, Doctor.” He paused. “We'll be in Recreation Room Three after we get off duty. Why don't you come on down, say eighteen hundred hours.”
He favored her with another of those famous smiles. Ozawa waited by the open door and she hurried to catch up with the others. Just as the door slid shut, she turned but the captain was no longer watching her. He was facing Spock, his hand still resting on the Vulcan's arm, and the smile on his face was different now, nothing like the one he’d just shown her and the rest of them. Almost glowing.
Jackson's mind replayed the captain's invitation. We’ll be in Recreation Room Three. She felt a cold weight settle in the pit of her stomach, the word eating into her soul like some sort of virulent acid. We.
The joyous reunion was not what she had expected.
The captain stared at his inscrutable companion, trying without much success to determine the thoughts behind that bland facade. Spock allowed a faint smile to appear for an instant. “You have been pondering your move for exactly seven minutes and fourteen seconds.”
Kirk frowned. “It hasn't been that long.”
Spock raised an aristocratic eyebrow but said nothing. Kirk sighed. The Vulcan had his bishop boxed into a corner, a move in any direction inviting disaster. By stalling he was only putting off the inevitable. Squaring his jaw, he moved the piece to the only possible position, hoping against hope that Spock wouldn't notice its vulnerability.
Fat chance of that happening, he mused as those dark eyes brightened and Spock, with a look of purely human satisfaction, planted his knight directly before it, effectively trapping the queen. The elegantly carved lady seemed to glare at the captain in reproach.
Kirk sat back, gracefully conceding the game, but couldn’t resist one last dig. “I let you win, you know.” He laughed aloud at Spock's shocked reaction.
At that exact minute an agitated Cynthia Jackson stepped through the door. The laughter caught her attention and she searched the room, smiling to hide her nervousness, the grin fading when she realized the source of Kirk’s amusement. Spock saw her and whispered something unintelligible to the captain. Kirk swiveled around in his chair and gestured her forward.
Both men politely stood as she approached the table and sat down. Trying frantically to find an innocuous way to open the conversation, she regarded the chess set. “Who won?”
Kirk and Spock exchanged amused looks. “Mister Spock, of course.” It was the captain who answered. “Best chess player on the ship. He beats me every time.”
“Hardly. Your illogical approach has overwhelmed me on occasion.”
“It’s my secret weapon.”
“Indeed it is.”
And again the captain laughed, his attention focused solely on his first officer.
Jackson watched them in silence, for the second time today feeling like an observer, witnessing a scene without understanding half the dialogue. She cleared her throat and they both turned towards her but her words were addressed to the captain alone. “You should use the black. Maybe that will change your luck.” To her ears her voice sounded high-pitched and strained.
“Oh no.” Kirk shook his head. “Mister Spock always uses that color. He’s the Black Prince and I’m the Knight in Shining Armor.”
A faint blush spread across the Vulcan’s cheeks. Jackson saw it. What in the hell is going on here?
Suddenly the wall intercom chirped to life: Uhura calling down from the bridge. Giving Spock a resigned shrug, the captain walked to the unit and flipped the switch. “Kirk here.”
“I’m sorry to bother you while you’re off duty, sir, but I'm picking up an alien transmission. It's coming from the Alikian star group, approximately two parsecs distant.”
Spock rose to his feet.
“It appears to be a generalized beam, not one directed specifically at us, but I thought you’d like to know.”
He would, indeed. “We’ll be right up.” Closing the channel, he met Jackson’s wide eyes. “This is your field. Would you care to come along?”
She stood, more anxious to stay with her beloved than study the alien sounds, and, moving quickly to match the Vulcan's long strides, followed the two men into the corridor.
Uhura had the signal on speakers when the captain and party exited the turbolift. She frowned, studying her board. “I am unable to analyze it, sir.”
Spock walked to the library-computer console and sat. Fitting the tie-in to his ear, he listened intently to the transmission. Kirk moved to stand by his side, Jackson following so closely that she almost plowed into his back when he stopped. Breathed a silent sigh of relief when he appeared not to notice.
Kirk pondered the sounds filling the bridge, then turned to her at last. “Does it mean anything to you?”
Jackson scoured her brain frantically for any scrap of recognition. Here was her chance to score some points with the man, to win his favor. But the signal was a meaningless jumble of chaotic clicks and buzzes.
“We've encountered this before,” Spock intoned before she could even get her thoughts organized. “A primitive form of communication referred to on your earth as video.”
Kirk nodded. The archaic signals were not uncommon in the galaxy. “A rather ubiquitous technological development, I'm afraid.”
Spock regarded him with an air of regal dignity. “Vulcans did not watch television, Captain.”
Kirk laughed. “Touché, my friend.”
“It's on an unusual wavelength, eighteen points into the low frequency band.” Spock slipped back into his report as if the playful exchange had not even occurred. “It would appear that….” He paused for a moment, listening, and even Jackson could see the humor filling his eyes, “….what we are receiving was once known in the human vernacular as a ‘movie'.”
Flipping a switch, he increased the speed of the transmission. “Extraterrestrial creatures... conquering the planet. These aliens seem to resemble giant... appendages of some type and are in the process of causing considerable chaos and disarray to the local population. Interesting.”
Jackson was dumbstruck that the Vulcan could derive so much information from what appeared to her to be a totally indecipherable signal. Kirk, however, seemed to have expected it. He smiled. “Log it into Starfleet records. However, I would hazard a guess that if the inhabitants view extraterrestrials in this light the Prime Directive will be in effect.”
“I would tend to agree.”
“What do you think, Doctor?” The captain was watching her now and she froze, realizing with a start that she had absolutely no thoughts on the matter. Kirk saw her bemusement. “Don't worry,” he soothed. “You'll catch on. It's all new to you now but in a few weeks you'll take it all in stride.” He cast a glance at his first officer. “And don't make the mistake of trying to compare yourself with Mister Spock. I'm afraid that would be quite impossible. He is without a doubt the most intelligent man in Starfleet.”
“Captain.” The Vulcan gave him an indulgent look.
Kirk shrugged. “Well, one of the most intelligent, anyway.”
There was an intimacy to the bantering, a sharing that totally excluded her, totally excluded them all. It sent a shockwave up her spine when she suddenly realized that it might signify something more, that there could be something other than friendship between these two men.
No. Jackson shook her head. That was impossible. The captain loved her, was no doubt torn at this very moment, fighting the urge to take her in his arms and whisk her off to his quarters.
Slowly, her nerves began to settle. Such behavior would be highly inappropriate and he was a professional, after all, a professional and a diplomat, someone adept at concealing his innermost feelings. He was hiding those feelings now, keeping them under wraps until he found a more suitable time.
That was it. Of course that was it. What a fool she was to worry.
The captain walked down the corridor. It was late and he was tired, tired and annoyed. The Enterprise's unexpected encounter with the Alikian transmission had aroused a surprising amount of interest from Starfleet Command. They’d insisted on an instant relay of the message and Spock had complied, but it took time to readjust the signal to accommodate the Starfleet band. Spock did the work without complaint, of course, but it had been a tedious job, to say the least.
Watching his first officer complete the modifications, the captain had experienced a flush of irritation, suspecting that the whole procedure was necessary only because some bored official wanted to see the bizarre images. Shades of the ancient past, a reminder that once, on Earth, similar idiotic concepts had also held the fore. It seemed difficult to believe that intelligent beings had ever given credence to such patent nonsense. But he knew that they had and now a mirror image of that xenophobic philosophy was traveling back to Earth at high warp speed, jumping from one Starfleet vessel to another as it moved along, the whole thing all nicely formatted, images crystal clear, colors vibrant and true, the words translated flawlessly into English.
And the captain wished, as he’d done countless times in the past, that his first officer wasn’t so supremely competent in everything.
Unconsciously, he quickened his pace, his mind turning to that seldom used Vulcan method of relaxation Spock had demonstrated on his willing body earlier in the day. Competent, indeed. Spock had preceded him to their quarters several minutes before, sat waiting for him at this very moment, ready and willing to ‘relax’ him once again.
Lord almighty, Kirk mused, what in the world had he done, and how is it possible I’d never known that cluster of nerve endings was there in the first place? He’d never experienced anything like it in his entire life. The very thought sent a surge of adrenaline pumping through his bloodstream and he realized with some discomfort, studying the other crew members sharing the corridor with him, that he suddenly had a fairly impressive erection. Thank god I’m nearly there.
A tremulous voice called out to him. Looking back, he saw Cynthia Jackson scamper from a nearby briefing room, the expression on her face a universal one. Inwardly he sighed, the bulge in his pants deflating into nothingness. “Yes, Doctor.”
She canted her head toward the briefing room door. “I'd like to talk to you in private if I may.”
Kirk resisted the temptation to gaze longingly at their quarters. “Certainly.”
No sooner had the door closed when she spun around, both arms tightly circling his neck, and pressed her lips against his. He reached behind him and gently but firmly pulled her arms away. “Please, Cynthia....”
She tried to kiss him again and he drew back. “I’m afraid you're laboring under a misconception.”
Jackson seemed not to have heard. The scene that she had dreamed about for so long was finally happening in reality and she wasn't about to let anything spoil it. Grabbing Kirk with surprising strength, she yanked him forward in a fierce embrace. “I love you, my darling. I thought I'd go mad waiting to get you alone, where we could talk and—”
The sharp voice finally penetrated, sending a physical jolt through her body. Feeling her jump, Kirk's expression softened. “No.”
One word, a single word that turned her entire world upside down. She stared at him blankly for a moment. “No?” she said at last.
Kirk lowered his tone to a near whisper. “I'm committed to someone now, Cynthia. I'm not the person you remember.”
She regarded him with the eyes of a wounded animal, the blind adoration, the heated lust of a moment ago totally vanished. Her hands were still clutching his arms and Kirk had to fight the urge to shake them off.
Jackson's wavering voice was icy now. “What do you mean?” The question was rhetorical. She quite clearly knew exactly what he meant. Spock’s face rose up before her and in her twisted mind she saw him do something she had never seen in reality. She saw him laugh.
The shared looks, the unspoken intimacy, all came back to explode in her consciousness. “It's the Vulcan, isn't it?”
Kirk stiffened and she knew instantly that she'd said the wrong thing.
“Commander Spock to you.”
His voice was harsh and she quickly lowered her head. “I’m sorry. I meant no disrespect.”
“Good.” Kirk stepped away from her. “Because I will not tolerate any.” He hesitated, seeing the woman’s bitterness and sense of betrayal. “I'm sorry if I've caused you any unhappiness....” Another pause but there was nothing more to say. He couldn’t give her what she wanted, at least not anymore.
Turning, he walked out into the corridor.
Fists clenched so tightly her nails nearly broke the skin, Jackson watched the door slide shut, a ferocious rage growing in her chest. She hadn't spent countless nights dreaming about James Kirk, traveled halfway across the galaxy to find him again, only to give the man up so easily. And to a filthy alien no less.
There was no way she was going to let that happen. No way in hell.
Spock sensed the captain's unease the moment he entered the room. Kirk walked to the bed and sat down beside him. Spock shifted his weight slightly until their legs brushed together. The captain looked up and smiled. As always the Vulcan's touch relaxed him. “You know,” he said sadly, laying a hand on Spock's knee, “I used to cherish my image as a lady killer. I never really wanted to hurt anyone, but still, the idea of me breaking hearts from one end of the galaxy to the other had a certain sadistic appeal.”
He met his companion’s gaze, knowing that Spock would never really understand what he meant, and for a moment they sat in silence. “Well,” Kirk continued, “I've just broken another heart and I feel like hell.”
Spock knew to whom the captain was referring. He’d sensed the woman’s passion the instant he’d seen her in the transporter room.
A muscle cramped in Kirk's back and he flinched. Spock immediately moved to kneel behind him. Spreading his fingers, he found the tightened muscle within seconds, began rubbing it with the flat of one hand, and Kirk realized with a start that he’d not spoken a single word since he had entered their quarters. And yet we’ve done nothing but talk.
Tilting his head back, he peered into those silent alien eyes. “I love you,” he said simply.
Spock's hand hesitated. He had heard the words many times before but still found them somewhat difficult to believe. Leaning down, he kissed Kirk on the brow, wishing that he could lift some of this pain from his shoulders. “And I love you. More than you could ever know.”
The cramp was gone, but Spock didn’t move away. Wrapping his arms around Kirk's shoulders, he pulled him close, the captain’s hands coming up to cover his own.
They stayed this way for several minutes, drawing sustenance and strength from one another, unaware of the newly spawned malevolence that prowled the corridor a scant fifty feet away.
Cynthia Jackson walked into the dining hall, her stride long and determined. For nearly an hour she’d stalked the hallway outside the captain’s quarters, careful to keep her steps even, her body language relaxed as other crew members passed her by. And as she paced, she thought, pondering her strategy on how to wean that foul alien out of Kirk’s life.
Now she believed she had it. Kirk’s position as captain was the most important thing in his life and his relationship with the Vulcan was unorthodox. Perhaps it inspired resentment among the crew. If so, she could use that to her advantage, create a wedge to shove between them. James Kirk would never let anyone come between him and his command. If discontent existed here over his affair with his first officer, she determined to learn about it and fan the flames in whatever way she could.
Jackson searched the room and saw several members of the bridge crew sitting together at a table in the far corner. If there was displeasure among the Enterprise's top personnel, that would be powerful ammunition indeed. She straightened her back and walked to their side.
Uhura looked up and smiled pleasantly. “Good evening, Doctor…?”
“Jackson. Cynthia Jackson.”
“Doctor Jackson. Would you care to join us?”
“Thank you.” She sat, then, seeing their puzzled faces, gestured toward the empty place before her. “I’m dieting.”
Chekov chuckled, rubbing his stomach. “I know what you mean.”
“Now, me,” Sulu said, “I can eat like a pig and never gain an—”
“I don't want to hear about it,” Uhura cut in.
Jackson couldn’t have cared less but pretended otherwise, making a few innocuous comments before feigning a search of the room. “I don't see the captain.”
“He'll be down later. He usually eats after the first shift is finished.”
“I saw him in the corridor an hour or so ago. He seemed to be in quite a hurry to get to his quarters.”
Uhura raised an eyebrow at the comment but said nothing. Jackson thought she detected a slight blush on the Russian’s cheeks. Sulu appeared indifferent.
“I couldn't help noticing that there seems to be…something between him and his first officer.”
Uhura lowered her fork and gave Jackson a coldly appraising stare. “The captain and Mister Spock are lovers. Do you have a problem with that?”
There was no mistaking the animosity in her tone and the doctor backed off.
“Everyone on ship knows about it,” Sulu added. “They've never made any attempt to conceal their relationship.”
Jackson sputtered. The last thing she'd expected was an open discussion of the matter. “Spock is so tight-assed.” She clenched her hands into fists, trying desperately to regain control of the conversation, to make them say what she wanted to hear. “One can hardly picture him—“
Chekov's eyes seemed to cut right through her. “Mister Spock's personal life is not a subject for discussion.”
All three crew members looked at her, their expressions ranging from anger to pity to disdain. But whichever the emotion, it was clear that she would find no ammunition to use against the Vulcan here. Where Jackson had hoped to find resentment, she found instead solid support: defensive, protective, apparently unshakable. Clearly another method of attack was required.
She smiled and rose to her feet. “I meant no offense. I'm sorry.”
The others regarded her in silence. Jackson inclined her head. “Good evening, gentlemen.”
Walking slowly from the room, she paused at the doorway to glance back but the three were apparently no longer interested in her, having resumed their previous discussion as if there had been no interruption.
Fucking pig. You’ve blinded everyone else as much as you’ve blinded him. The thought somehow gave her a perverse sense of comfort and, like a spark of divine inspiration, she knew exactly what it was that she had to do.
Casually stretching out her hand, Jackson rested it near the dining hall silverware. When she sensed that no one was watching, she wrapped her fingers around a short carving knife and slipped it up her sleeve.
Two days passed without incident and Commander Spock allowed himself to relax. Cynthia Jackson had immured herself in the Linguistics Lab since her encounter with the captain in the hallway. Neither man had seen her, a fact for which both were eminently grateful. And now, as the first officer of the Enterprise made his way to the science labs on deck two for his weekly survey of their seldom used equipment, he let his thoughts flow to more important matters.
That was when he saw her, coming toward him from the far end of the corridor. Spock hesitated and nearly turned away. But, realizing the rudeness of the action, he straightened his back and continued on.
Jackson smiled nervously as they neared one another. Her steps slowed and, just as they passed, she stopped. “Mister Spock....”
He looked down at her. “Yes, Doctor?”
Her skin was flushed, her emotional turmoil flooding the space between them, and Spock felt a wave of compassion sweep over him. He, of all people, should understand how she must feel. Relaxing his guard by a fraction, he repeated his question. “Yes, Doctor?”
The woman studied her feet. “I want to... apologize. I....”
She raised her head, lower lip visibly trembling, and Spock's guard slipped a bit further.
“I was jealous. If I showed you any disrespect I'm sorry.”
Knowing how abysmally incompetent he was in dealing with blatant emotional scenes, Spock stood helplessly, trying to think of what the captain would have said.
“Will you forgive me?”
The question startled him. “Of course.”
Jackson seemed to relax. “Good. I was afraid....”
She paused when Spock held up a hand for silence, his attention focusing on something far away. Jackson began to fidget. “What is it?”
“A sound.” He looked in the direction from which she had just come. “A peculiar sound.”
“There are a million strange sounds on this ship. How—”
Spock impatiently cut her off. He knew every sound the ship made, should make. The one he’d picked up just now was not among them. Turning in a half circle he located its source, an auxiliary computer room several feet down the hallway. Walking quickly to the door, he stood before it for a moment, then raised his hand to cut the sensor beam. The door opened.
As soon as he stepped inside his sensitive ears zeroed in on one of the computer panels. In three long strides he crossed the room and crouched down.
The door slid shut as Jackson approached from behind. “Is something wrong?”
Rising to his feet, Spock was reaching for the controls when he heard the woman grunt. Glancing over one shoulder he saw the knife a half-second before Jackson buried it in the center of his back. The force of the attack knocked him against the panel and he cried out as the blade was savagely withdrawn, twisted and pulled away at an angle, tearing a huge gash in his flesh.
Struggling to turn, he raised both arms, trying to ward off the attack he knew was coming, but his actions were sluggish and the defensive move came too late. The knife penetrated the left rib cage, grazing one rib and missing his heart by less than an inch. It lodged against the bone, forcing Jackson to pull it out with both hands. Screaming in frustration as he grabbed for her, she jerked it away, slashing him across the arm to drive him back.
Well aware of his Vulcan stamina, Jackson stumbled halfway across the room before she dared to stop but Spock was down. Doubling over, he knelt, body bent at the waist, forehead resting on the ground. Trying to get his legs under him he attempted to stand, then toppled forward, rolling slightly onto his side, face turned toward the door. His eyes were open, fixed on his attacker.
The Vulcan’s helplessness gave her courage and Jackson moved closer until she stood just out of reach. Her skin was ashen but her mood exuberant as she watched his blood spread out in an ever-widening circle across the floor.
Crouching down, she leaned forward until her hair nearly brushed his face. “I will have him in the end, Vulcan.”
More pain, much worse this time, and he gritted his teeth to keep silent.
Jackson saw it. “Go ahead.” Rising, she prodded him with her boot. “Scream. The room's soundproof. No one will hear you.” Again she jabbed him in the ribs. “Go ahead, scream.”
Spock reached out but his arm seemed to move in slow motion and she easily evaded his leaden movements. “Don't worry about the captain,” she taunted, noting the glazed look in his eyes. “I'll comfort him in his grief. He'll come to me for consolation. He will love me.”
The pain was a fearsome thing, every breath like an ice pick gouging into his chest. The room became hazy and seemed to grow very cold. Bending over him, Jackson pulled something from inside the computer. “See,” she hissed, knocking him onto his back. “With your timepiece of a brain you wouldn't have any need for something like this. No wonder you didn't recognize the sound. An antique actually. Quite valuable.”
Spock tried to focus on it, but the image wavered in and out and he couldn’t tell what it was.
“An alarm clock, my friend.” Jackson shoved it against his cheek. The cool glass cover felt warm as it touched his skin and he realized that he was going into shock.
“Approximately two hundred years old.” She pulled out a switch on the top and he heard the faint beep that had drawn him here.
Laying the clock carefully on the floor, she grasped the knife tightly in both hands and raised it high in the air, the blade pointed directly at the center of Spock's throat.
He watched as the weapon climbed, knowing that when it struck him again he would die, but found himself totally unable to move. It was taking all of his strength simply to stay conscious. There was nothing left over to ward off the blow.
The knife hovered, then came down. “No. No, I think I'll let you lie here and think about your death. Think about the captain in my arms. Yes, that's a good idea. No one's been in this room for weeks. You'll have plenty of that privacy you Vulcans claim to cherish so much.”
Jackson rose to her feet. “You lie here in that disgusting blood of yours and think about the two of us together.”
Sliding the knife down one of her boots she strolled to another computer terminal and retrieved a lab coat hidden behind it. “Can’t go walking through the corridors covered in green, now can I?” she smirked, wrapping it around her uniform and dropping the clock into one oversized pocket.
Taking a last quick survey of the room to be certain she’d left nothing behind, Jackson walked to the door, pausing at the entrance to key off the light. “Oh, and by the way, I'll manually lock this from the outside, so don't waste what little strength you have left trying to stand. You won't get very far.”
Blood was pulsing against his eardrums but still Spock could hear the woman laugh as the door slid shut behind her, plunging the room into darkness and total silence.
He lay quietly for a moment, attempting without success to control the bleeding. Jim. Desperately he called out the captain’s name but he was so weak, sensed that it was already too late. If Jackson had fled after her attack it might have been possible. But she hadn’t. She’d stayed to gloat, cost him precious time, and now he was too far gone, hadn’t the mental strength to reach him.
The wall intercom was near the door, something that Jackson in her frenzy had forgotten about and, rolling over on his side, he made one final effort to stand; had risen halfway to his knees when an overwhelming sense of vertigo hit him and, swaying helplessly, he fell back to the floor, one hand pressed uselessly against his ribs, trying to stop the relentless flow as his life slipped away.
Jim. Drawing on every reserve he had left, Spock tried once more, hoping against hope that it would be enough. I am dying. Please help me.
The emptiness reached out as the thought floated away, a strange lassitude spreading through his body. The room was so cold but, paradoxically, it no longer troubled him, but instead was soothing, comforting. His eyelids drifted down. Jim. The name took forever to play through his mind this time and he knew that his struggle was over. The captain had gently berated him for his naiveté so often in the past and this time it had led him to his death. “Forgive....” was the only word he had time to say.
The captain was sitting in his command chair when the feeling of unease began, an indescribable chill that started in his chest and spread out until it seemed to fill his entire body. He shook his head, but the sensation only intensified, a sharp pain suddenly tracing a path through one lung. Swiveling around, he turned toward the science station.
Seeing his sudden movement, Uhura glanced up. The expression on Kirk's face shocked her and she started to rise. “Captain, what….?”
Kirk cut her off with the wave of one hand, barely registered the words at all. He stood, attention focused solely on Spock’s chair. “No.” The sound came out strangled and was followed by another. “No!”
Everyone on the bridge was staring at him now but he didn’t see them. Didn’t see anything but darkness, a deadly, icy cold darkness that latched onto him like a vise, seemed about to swallow him whole.
The sensation was terrifying because he knew instantly, instinctively, what it was. What it meant.
And for an eternal moment he just stood there, totally unable to move, the numbing fear that came with the realization draining the will right out of him. “Uhura,” he said at last, staring at her in confusion, “get McCoy...McCoy....” He paused, skin faded to an ashen gray. “Where? Where!”
Wide eyes met his own as Uhura reached for her panel, having no idea what he wanted her to do.
Focus, Kirk! Focus! The mental rebuke seemed to calm him and, biting his lip, he forced himself to concentrate. “All right. All right.” His rapid breathing evened out and when the captain next spoke his voice was once again steady and controlled. “Lieutenant, Mister Spock has been injured. Room... room….” Another pause, his hands curling into tight fists, “B-422. Have Doctor McCoy report there with an emergency medical team immediately. And release the door. It’s locked from the outside. Have someone release the door.”
Then he turned and fled the bridge.
The captain saw the inconspicuous doorway from the far end of the hall. He was running like a wild man but it still seemed to take him forever to cover the thirty yards separating them. He hit the sensor beam, pounding his fists against the door in agonized frustration as it slowly slid open.
Sprawled on his stomach, Spock lay ten feet in front of him. His blood was everywhere, on his clothes, his hands, covering the floor beneath him. So much blood. Kirk felt his heart stop.
The captain knelt and searched for a pulse. When he couldn't find one, he rolled Spock over and, tilting his head back, began mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. McCoy! He didn't dare squander any of the breath that could save Spock's life to shout the word aloud but his mind cried it out in desperation. Where in the hell are you? Hurry!
As if in answer to his plea, McCoy raced through the doorway. He dropped to his knees, his frantic entrance tempered now by professional expertise. Holding out the tricorder, he ran a rapid scan. “Get him on oxygen!” he shouted over one shoulder, too preoccupied to notice that Chapel was already readying the unit. She knelt directly across from the captain and gently pushed him away. Kirk, his face and hands stained with Spock’s blood, looked up at her pleadingly. “Don't let him die, Christine.”
“We won't, Captain.” She said the words calmly, almost dispassionately. If he hadn't known better, he would have thought she’d never seen Spock before in her life.
A gurney appeared. Feeling his legs wobble, Kirk stepped back as Chapel and McCoy, aided by two of the half-dozen security guards now filling the room, lifted Spock and laid him on his back. One of the Vulcan's hands dangled over the side and he reached out for it, a terrible ripping sensation coursing through his chest as the bond began to unravel. His fingers twined around Spock’s, the grip so tight McCoy had to mutter a warning as they took off down the corridor at a dead run, and the captain found himself hoping that, if Spock was truly to die he would at least have the compassion not to leave him behind.
Cynthia Jackson stepped out of the bathroom. Her hands were red from the scrub brush, but at least that loathsome blood was finally gone. Bundling the stained dress into a tight ball, she thrust it down the disposal chute.
Carefully, she pulled the knife from her boot, for one irrational instant was tempted to retain it as a keepsake. But, discarding the idea as foolhardy, she tossed it down the chute as well, waiting for the dull puff as it disintegrated into its constituent atoms.
The clock stood on her desk. That she would keep. Perhaps she would use it to awaken the captain in the mornings. He might even admire the thing. He liked old timepieces. She recalled he’d said that to her once. The lure that had killed his beloved alien, why she might actually see him hold it in his hands and admire it. What splendid irony that would be.
Images of her golden boy warmed her and she wondered absently if he were still on the bridge. She wanted to be certain that when the Vulcan's body was finally found she would be with him, ready to stretch out her loving, sympathetic arms to heal his emotional wounds.
Glancing at the chronometer, Jackson sauntered to the intercom and paged the bridge. While the signal passed through channels, she hummed an ancient Christmas carol to herself.
Uhura answered. The communications officer's voice was tight, the words clipped. Jackson asked to speak to the captain and was tersely told he was in sickbay.
Jackson panicked momentarily, fearing that, through blind chance, someone had stumbled across Spock in the computer room. No, she reassured herself. She’d chosen it precisely because the place was so seldom used, had done her research, set the stage perfectly. No one had found him. No one would find him for many hours yet, not until he was missed and a search begun.
So it wasn't her nemesis rising from the dead to further bedevil her. Jackson recalled the tension in Uhura's voice, knowing of her affection for the captain, and her heart rose in her throat, the unexpected trip to sickbay suddenly making sense. Images of a thousand hideous diseases filled her head and she frantically inquired if he were ill. Uhura informed her that she had no information to give out on the subject and abruptly closed the channel.
Jackson stood, staring numbly at the intercom, her thoughts in an uproar. Jim was sick. After all she had done to win his love he couldn't die on her now. It would be the ultimate injustice.
Grabbing the first clean uniform she could find, she pulled it on and raced from the room, knowing in her heart that she was foolish to worry, that even fate couldn't be so cruel.
McCoy leaned against the wall and ran a weary hand across his forehead. Dropping his arm to his side, he met the captain's gaze and smiled weakly. “You know, Jim,” he said, “there are times when I think that Spock can’t die.” The doctor's expression was haunted, the anguished look in his eyes not softened by the smile.
It had taken them nearly forty minutes to get the Vulcan’s heart beating again, Kirk watching in agonized helplessness as tubes were forced down his throat, pumping oxygen into his lungs, fighting a losing battle to keep his brain cells alive. The minutes ticked by and, with each one Spock’s chances of survival diminished, his skin turning a ghastly shade of gray, the sensation of his consciousness fading into oblivion.
At one point a tiny alarm began to sound, indicating he’d been down for half an hour. “Shut that off,” McCoy snapped.
Two of the other doctors glanced at each another. One began shaking her head.
Kirk turned away, sagged against the wall, his eyes closed.
“No, Jim.” He looked up to see McCoy almost glaring at him. “I will not lose him.”
Such certainty. Kirk felt a ray of hope at the words, a hope that belied the smell of death that hung so heavily in the air.
But McCoy was as good as his word. Spock didn’t die, the image of what happened next forever seared into his memory. Those lights, dark for so long, now beginning to flash, the tiny arrows rising, McCoy lifting the respirator from Spock's face and gently easing out the breathing tubes. The Vulcan’s bare chest shuddering once, twice, as Kirk stood, they all stood, frozen in place, before filling with air, those huge lungs drawing in a great gasping breath before settling down into a regular, even rhythm.
It was then that he realized he'd been holding his own breath for so long his head was spinning, that at some point he'd spread his legs far apart just to stay on his feet.
McCoy’s voice cut into his thoughts, shaking him back to the present. The doctor laid a hand on one shoulder. “Why don’t you go to your quarters and lie down for a while.”
The captain remained where he was. McCoy frowned but didn’t seem surprised. It would likely take a Klingon Warbird at full battle stations to get him away from Spock's bed right about now.
But still the doctor tried again. “You have two of the biggest musclemen in security guarding the door. Believe me, they’re not about to let anyone in here. Go try and get some rest.”
“I don't want to rest.” Kirk shook his head, attention focusing on the huge bandage encircling Spock’s chest. “Lieutenant Grason's team should have that computer room totally dismantled by now. I'm waiting for her report.”
His fingers ran along Spock’s arm, careful to avoid the tubes and sensors that seemed to be everywhere. “Sometimes he seems so thin to me, Bones, so frail.”
McCoy listened, had never before heard such sorrow and vulnerability in the captain’s voice.
“How can that be, for someone so strong to feel so frail?”
Spock tensed and moaned softly. McCoy’s gaze shot up to the panel. “Medication's wearing off already. Damned Vulcan fights me even when he's unconscious. Hates it when I drug him: my body is a temple and all that.” He turned to Kirk, hoping his familiar bantering would lift some of the suffering from the captain's eyes.
The suffering was indeed gone but what replaced it sent a cold chill down McCoy's spine. Spock moaned again and Kirk’s eyes grew so dark the doctor could have sworn that for an instant they were totally black. There was something there that frightened him and he reached a hand out. “Jim...?”
His words were interrupted by a sudden flurry of conversation from the outer room, the low voice of one of the guard clearly filtering in to them. He was refusing admittance to someone who was vigorously protesting his decision. Although the other voice was unnaturally high-pitched and agitated, Kirk recognized it at once.
And with the recognition came a flood of noises cascading into his head as if from nowhere. A faint beeping he couldn't identify, the sound of something falling. Laughter, hideous and cruel, without a trace of joy in it. Words: timepiece of a brain…disgusting blood of yours…he will love me…love me....”
And then the captain heard the plea that had reached him on the bridge, and for the first time he understood what Spock had said.
Jim, I am dying. Please help me.
The savage ferocity McCoy had seen a moment ago found its target and he turned slowly toward the door. Clearly reading his body language, the doctor tried to block his way. Kirk pushed him roughly aside. “You stay with Spock,” he hissed.
Wild eyes melted with relief when she saw him, the euphoria abruptly fading as Jackson truly focused on his face, that gentle, humane face she had grown to love, to idolize.
Because it wasn’t gentle now. It was bitter, bitter and merciless and seething with rage.
Kirk crossed the room in impossibly long strides and Jackson drew away, the guard, seeing his expression, grasping one arm to hold her still. She twisted ineffectually in his grip, her joy of a moment ago totally supplanted by sheer terror of the one thing in this universe she couldn't possibly bear. But looking at him now she knew without a shadow of a doubt that it had come to pass.
The captain hated her, hated her with a deep, all-consuming hatred the likes of which she'd never before thought possible. And in the instant it took for the knowledge to sink in, her entire emotional structure collapsed. “No!”
Grabbing both wrists, Kirk pulled her from the security guard. His chest was heaving, rising up and down in a series of giant swells. He seemed to be waging an unearthly internal battle simply to keep from killing her where she stood.
It wasn't a question but still she felt compelled to answer, shaking her head frantically from side to side. “No! It wasn’t! It wasn’t!”
The iron grip tightened until it felt like her bones would crack and Jackson began to scream. Kirk hauled her into the corridor. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see McCoy's white face for an instant before the sickbay doors closed.
“Please,” she begged, tottering on the edge of hysteria, “don't hate me... don't hate me! I tried to save you! He put a spell on you, made it so you couldn't see me. I tried to save you!” Tears began to run down her cheeks as she sagged in his arms. “I couldn't live knowing that you hated me... oh please….”
For a few seconds a tinge of sympathy touched Kirk's soul. But then he saw the image of Spock, locked in a darkened room, left to bleed to death, and that momentary sense of compassion faded to nothingness. “Yes, I do hate you.” He shoved her against the wall, feeling a primeval human pleasure at her devastated reaction to the words. Revenge, he thought. Why not.
She shrieked, a hollow cry of pure misery, and sank to the floor. Hearing the sound, McCoy came out and moved quickly to her side. He put his arm around her quaking shoulders and nodded to Chapel who emptied a hypo into one arm. Jackson slumped, her head resting against his chest, weeping soundlessly. McCoy turned condemning eyes to the captain and was shocked to see a faint smile on his face.
Then, tersely ordering the guards to put the woman in confinement, Kirk walked into sickbay without looking back.
The touch reached his mind first. Cool, hard and soft at the same time. A delicate thing and yet somehow full of strength. It rested on his brow, ran along one cheek, traced an outline of his jaw, finally coming to rest on his lips. He concentrated on moving his mouth, feeling it was important that he speak, but the feather light touch firmed and he quieted.
Then he became aware of the voice, a recognizable one although he couldn’t discern the words it spoke. The pressure against his lips was gone and he strained forward, uncertain if he was moving in reality or not, but suddenly frantic to have touch restored.
And it was, but not the same one. Softer this time, covering more of his mouth. It brought with it a great sense of emotional well-being and he relaxed, the frenzy of an instant ago forgotten. The kiss lingered for a few seconds before gently vanishing. This time, however, its absence no longer distressed him.
Jim? He’d floated near the surface before, many times before, and always the captain had been there, to comfort him, ease him back into the healing trance. Something a full-blooded Vulcan could do without effort, the trance had always been a difficult thing for him, made doubly so by the link they now shared, one part of his mind ordering him to rest, the other thirsting for the captain’s presence, the reassurance that he was all right.
Jim? Again he called out, wondering disjointedly if the thought was bridging the distance between them. I cannot speak. Can you hear me?
The touch against his forehead came again as that beloved voice answered his call, saying his name, the sound filled with such affection it warmed him to the core of his being.
With a movement so weak as to be barely noticeable, he lifted his fingers, felt as his hand was firmly grasped and held, covered protectively. Struggling to raise his head, he was hit by a stabbing pain in the chest, and groaned aloud, too weak to block either the suffering or his reaction to it. Above his head an alarm began to chirp.
Another presence intruded, not familiar like the one touching him but not a stranger either. The two men whispered to one another and then there was a pressure against his arm, followed immediately by a soft hissing sound he felt he should recognize.
The pain faded, taking his consciousness with it. As his mind slipped into the darkness, the human half of him resisted, unnerved by the absence of thought, of any sensation of life.
“Shush.” Kirk knew it, his voice a whispered caress. “I’ll stay with you. Just let it go.”
Between the drugs and the instinctive pull of the trance he had little choice, and he did as the voice asked, cut himself loose to drift off, down, down. Foolish of him to be afraid anyway. Jim was at his side. He would watch over him, protect him. Would be here when he broke free at last.
“Shush.” The same word again and the last thing he remembered was the captain leaning down to rest his head lightly on one shoulder as the doctor mumbled something unintelligible and left the two of them in peace.
“How's she doing?” The older of the two security guards approached his companion, a tray of food balanced easily on one broad palm.
The other man shrugged. “Quiet. She’s been a little more relaxed the last few hours. Only cried once or twice.”
Both men turned toward the subject of their conversation. Cynthia Jackson sat on the edge of the bed in the security cell. Her nose was red from weeping but her eyes were dry now. Sensing their attention, she looked up and managed a weak smile.
The younger of the two resisted the urge to smile back. “She seems so thin, so frail. Doesn't seem possible she could have attacked Mister Spock like that.”
His companion regarded him sternly. “Doctor McCoy says she's dangerous. Watch it.”
He stiffened. “Yes, sir. Of course. I was only making an observation.”
The elder guard nodded. “Good.” He held out the tray. The prisoner, on a suicide watch, was under observation twenty-four hours a day. “Bring this in and then go off duty. McDougall's sick. I'm your relief.”
The man took it and waited for the security screen to be switched off. Carrying the food to Jackson, he set the tray on the table beside her. The prisoner picked up a fork, her fingers noticeably trembling. “Thank you,” she said.
The guard paused a few seconds longer than necessary before turning away. “You’re welcome,” he replied.
Jackson noted the hesitation, heard the sympathy in his voice. Lowering her head so that her hair fell forward to obscure her face, she smiled; a true smile this time despite the fact that it contained not a trace of joy within it.
Quite the contrary.
Once again, the first thing he sensed was a pressure on his face, but this time he knew what it was. The touch was followed by a voice, the captain’s voice, a whisper really, softly calling his name.
He was so tired and a part of him wanted to turn away, to burrow back into the healing trance. Strange. So many times he’d struggled to the very edge of consciousness and now he wanted nothing more than to stay in that warm, dark cocoon, curl his mind in on itself and stay down there forever.
But the captain was correct. He knew in his heart that it was time. Time to come out, to rejoin the world of the living.
Mustering what little strength he had, he tried to break free.
But it was too much. His thoughts were so confused, his body heavy as lead. He couldn’t do it.
Yes, you can.
Encouraging words, coupled with a huge infusion of energy, and slowly the disorientation began to fade.
Come on, Spock. You’re almost there. Come on.
He could see him now, a part of him anyway: hands reaching out through the void. Gathering himself together he pushed again, their fingertips just brushing as his world opened up a bit more, moved past the captain to take in what lay beyond: the beep of monitors, the soft whirring of machines. Sickbay.
“Come on, Spock.” Kirk once more, aloud this time.
The mists parted, lights glowing pale green beneath closed lids. Kirk’s fingers twined with his, the grip firming and strong, encouraging him, leading him home.
Slowly, Spock opened his eyes.
“Hey.” Kirk smiled, although his face, pale and drawn with exhaustion, was very sad. “Welcome back.”
“Jim….?” He attempted to lift his head, the movement sending a deep, throbbing ache across his back.
Overhead an alarm began to sound.
A few seconds later McCoy materialized at Kirk’s elbow. The doctor studied the board for a moment before glancing down into Spock's dreamy eyes. The expression looked so incongruous on the Vulcan's face that he couldn't keep from smiling. “You've had a lot of medication. Once you get your strength back, I'll discontinue it but right now you're just going to have to bear with me.” He scrutinized his patient. “Are you in any pain?”
Spock hesitated, then shook his head.
The answer was so patently untrue that for a moment the doctor said nothing. “Always knew that old wives’ tale was a pile of bull,” he grumbled, pulling out a hypo and injecting it into Spock's arm. “Don't lie to your doctor. It's not a wise thing to do. Contrary to what you may believe, I did not learn by trial and error. I'm trained to see these things.”
Spock turned away, somehow, despite his addled state, managing to assume a look of benign indifference. For the first time in nearly four days the captain laughed.
McCoy dropped the hypo down the disposal chute. “That’ll help clear your head a little.” He glanced at Kirk. “And after camping out here for so long I won't ask you to leave now that he's finally regained consciousness but don't tire him, Jim. Right now he's as weak as a kitten. Just tell him you love him and let him sleep.”
Patting Spock affectionately on the shoulder, McCoy left the room.
As soon as he’d gone, Spock broke off his intense scrutiny of the ceiling. “I am sorry.” His voice was paper thin and Kirk had to lean forward to hear.
“You have nothing to be sorry about.”
“Yes, I do.” Spock felt his blood pressure rise, focused his attention on the offending alarm that had summoned McCoy a moment before. “I was careless.” The medication had relaxed his muscles and the words came out slurred.
Sensing his embarrassment and frustration, Kirk rested a hand on his chest. “It's all right. Just slow down. One word at a time.”
“I should…” Spock took a deep breath. “I should have... been suspicious... should not have entered the room alone….” His mouth twitched and the alarm began to chirp again. McCoy almost instantly appeared in the doorway. The doctor's frown was visible from clear across the room.
Kirk held an arm in the air. “All right, Bones.” Grabbing the chair behind him, he pulled it up to its familiar position beside Spock's bed and sat down. Glancing over his shoulder, he saw that the doctor's severe expression had not changed. “McCoy's going to boot me out of here if you set off that thing one more time.”
“I caused…caused you so much pain by my recklessness. I am deeply sorry.”
Kirk just looked at him, slowly shaking his head from side to side. Only Spock would apologize for nearly being murdered by a deranged lunatic.
“I am….” Spock stopped, searching for the correct words, disturbed that he didn’t seem able to find them. His blood pressure went up another notch. “I was….”
For the third time the alarm sounded and the captain knew he’d played this one out for as long as he could.
Steps approached, an ominous shadow looming behind him as Kirk was confronted by a pair of icy blue eyes.
The doctor’s tone was even icier. “Mister Spock is higher than a kite, in case you hadn't noticed, so I don't expect common sense from him. But tell me, captain, what's your excuse?”
Kirk gave him his best impish grin but it rolled right off McCoy's back. “He needs rest. No more talking or you're out of here. Do I make myself clear?”
The doctor was as flexible as a concrete wall and Kirk gave in gracefully. “Yes, sir.”
Cynthia Jackson sat quietly in the brig. To anyone observing her from the outside she seemed calm and in control. Underneath, however, her mind was roiling, consumed by a passion for revenge. The one certainty in her unstable universe was that the Vulcan had deliberately survived in order to mock her, gloating at her failure. She had heard nothing from the captain since she’d been imprisoned here, but still she knew where he was. In sickbay, fawning over his fallen lover, no doubt running his hands along the Vulcan's body, showering him with the affection that should have been hers.
And that foul alien, of course, he just couldn't resist using it as a weapon, sending mental pictures through the bulkheads separating them, tormenting her with the sounds and images of the two of them together. I have won, he crowed, his low voice echoing off the walls, screaming continually inside of her head. It was infuriating, unendurable, but seeing the security guard watching, she resisted the temptation to put her hands over her ears.
Rather she gave him a faint smile, pushing the Vulcan from her mind. She knew what he was doing; trying to drive her mad with his incessant taunting. But the game wasn’t over yet. Cynthia Jackson was not about to give up so long as there was breath left in her body.
And she had a plan. Insanity giving her an unshakable sense of purpose, she’d been working on it almost from day one. The guard standing on the far side of that force field, he was her way out of here. A big brute of a man, this Lieutenant Patrick Norris. Two hundred plus pounds: sturdy, focused, possessing three times her physical strength.
But he had a fatal weakness, one she’d spotted immediately: compassion and an old-fashioned sense of masculinity.
He studied her intently and she allowed the smile to linger on her face, lower lip trembling ever so slightly. Noted with a surge of joy that he replied in kind before turning away.
Five days, she fumed. Five endless days of hiding the awesome turmoil churning just beneath the surface. Grinning and engaging in small talk with the simpleton as if she cared one iota what he thought, how he felt about anything.
But it was bearing fruit. She knew from the man's body language that her effort was bearing fruit.
McCoy had come by twice a day, occasionally running his infernal scanners, often just sitting and talking, his words conversational, his eyes probing. The doctor wasn’t fooled by her facade of placid normality. He saw the insanity lurking behind it and always approached her with caution.
The security guard, however, was no doctor. And he was about to learn a lesson McCoy had known since his fledgling days in medical school: that madness, when provided with sufficient cause, was able to weave a tapestry of rationality that could deceive those not skilled at recognizing such deceptions. Tall, blond Lieutenant Norris was trained in every type of self-defense but he was only twenty-two years old and he knew next to nothing about the workings of a deranged mind. McCoy had warned him with every visit to beware of Jackson but, as she had so astutely ascertained, Norris was a product of the old school. And the prisoner was so fragile, so alone.
Looking at him now Cynthia Jackson sensed that the time had come and, bringing her 5'4” frame to a standing position, she approached the door, Norris scrutinizing her every move, concern wrinkling his forehead.
She took another few steps before suddenly clutching her waist, mouth contorted in pain. Norris reached for the lock release, then stopped.
“No.” Sucking in her breath, she held a hand in the air, understanding his hesitation. “I'll be all right.”
“I should get the doctor.”
“No…it’s just something I ate, I guess. I'll be—” The words were cut off as, stifling a cry, she sank to her knees.
The guard reacted instinctively, lowering the screen to move quickly to her side. Feeling his strong arm encircle her waist she leaned her head against his shoulder and smiled up at him, one hand resting on his in mock gratitude, the other wandering to his far side. So young, she thought, lifting the phaser from his belt. And so naive. In some ways you are much like the Vulcan.
“Oh, my,” she cried out again, the man’s eyes widening, first with worry, then with shock as he felt the phaser press into his rib cage. A second later came the whine of a discharge, the force of it sending him careening against the far wall. “Fool,” she hissed as he collapsed in a heap. “My darling Jim will have your head for this.”
Flicking the weapon’s setting from stun to kill, she slipped it under her tunic, assumed a dignified, composed demeanor, and made her silent way to sickbay.
This time she would be sure.
“All right. All right!” McCoy's exasperated voice echoed against the walls as he regarded his patient struggling to stand. “Here, damn it.” He grabbed Spock's wrist to steady him as the stubborn first officer of the Enterprise rose to his feet. McCoy had been arguing with him since yesterday about when he could get out of bed and Spock, apparently tired of the doctor’s continual delays, determined that today was the day and right now was the time. A few minutes before McCoy had threatened to sedate him but Spock paid the words no mind. The doctor would never use drugs unnecessarily, certainly not as a weapon, and both men knew it. The threat fell upon deaf ears.
McCoy tried another approach, vowing to restrain Spock physically, only to have the Vulcan inform him quite dispassionately that if McCoy put him in security restraints he would simply break them or injure himself trying. Then, gritting his teeth, he swung his long legs over the edge of the bed. Even a first year medical student would have noticed the sudden pallor of his skin. He leaned forward until the dizziness faded before lowering his feet to the floor.
“For heaven’s sake,” McCoy grumbled, slipping his arm around Spock's waist as the Vulcan swayed dangerously to one side. “It's too damned early and you know it.”
Spock behaved as if he were alone in the room, McCoy's glares totally wasted, but the bantering was far too ingrained for the doctor to let such a minor fact get in the way. “Stubborn, thick-headed Vulcan. Whoever said you were smart sure didn't know you very well. You don't have the brains God gave an egg. Trying to walk when you can't even stand up without help.”
Spock responded by straightening his back and taking a hesitant step forward. A sharp pain radiated across his chest and he held his breath, hoping the doctor wouldn't notice.
McCoy regarded him with a steely eye. “Nice try but like I told you before I am trained to see what's right in front of me. I'm not stupid, you know.”
An arched eyebrow crept up in surprise. “Really?”
“Here.” Knowing he had no practical choice in the matter, regardless, McCoy abruptly switched into a professional mode. “Walk slowly away from the bed. If you won’t listen to reason we might as well see how stable those big feet of yours are.” He took a miniscule step forward, his eyes scanning Spock's body as the Vulcan attempted to follow. The second step was easier than the first and by the time Spock had crossed the room, a look of purely human triumph illuminated his face.
The door slid open but McCoy dismissed it. Probably Chapel bringing Spock more of that soup she insisted on making. The good doctor shook his head. Spock had rejected her for years but now, even though he and the captain wandered around the ship like a couple of lovesick cows, she didn't seem to mind. In fact, she was pleased, happy that Spock had found love, even if it was with someone else. A fine woman, he thought to himself.
Glancing up, he saw a very regal Vulcan gazing down at him. “Cows, Doctor?”
McCoy feigned a scowl. “Jim’s right. You are getting more human all the time. Now you're even reduced to eavesdropping.” Abandoning the gruff pretense, he laughed, Spock’s lips curling up in a smile.
The shriek startled both men. McCoy spun around, the sudden movement nearly sending Spock to his knees, the doctor reaching back instinctively to steady him.
Jackson’s eyes were wild now, crazed like some kind of rabid animal. The first thing she saw when she'd stepped through that door was Spock in McCoy's arms. And the doctor was looking up at him and laughing. Always laughing. Everyone laughed but poor Cynthia Jackson. Mocking her, gloating at their own happiness, rubbing her nose in her abject, consuming misery. Embracing one another and laughing.
Her grip on the phaser tightened. They weren't laughing now. She waved the weapon in the doctor’s face. “Move aside.”
McCoy took a step forward, positioning himself directly in front of Spock. He held his hands out before him. “Please, Cynthia, put the weapon down.”
“No!” Jackson’s mouth twisted into a grotesque parody of a smile. Finally, after all the hiding and masquerades, the continual fawning before that idiot of a guard, the walls were finally down. “No!” The phaser wobbled in the air, wandering its aim from McCoy's head to his chest and back again.
The doctor’s gaze darted to the door. Jackson saw it. “No one’s going to help you,” she snarled. “I locked it from the inside. You two,” she gave Spock a look of searing malevolence, “were so wrapped up in one another you didn’t notice.”
Behind him, McCoy could hear Spock move, spreading his legs apart for balance as he fought to stay on his feet. “Cynthia, you're not well. Please, let us help you.”
“Help me!” she screamed. “Help me! You've destroyed me, you and that disgusting Vulcan.” She stepped to her left, trying to get a clear shot at Spock.
McCoy moved with her.
“Get out of my way!”
“Cynthia, listen to me....”
She gripped the gun with both hands to hold it still. “I said get the fuck out of my way!”
McCoy planted his feet. He could no more do that than he could exist without breathing. The gesture might be a futile one but the doctor would make it nonetheless.
“Stay back.” He raised an arm as Spock staggered toward him. “Let me—” The words were cut short as his entire body stiffened for an instant before collapsing to the floor.
Lifting his fingers from McCoy's neck, Spock watched the doctor fall, his expression one of resigned sorrow. “I ask only one thing of you,” he said evenly, looking up to meet Jackson’s eyes. The contrast between his dignified calm and her frenzied agitation was startling.
The woman smirked. She expected him to beg for his life.
“Do not harm Doctor McCoy. As a physician he was honor bound to come to my aid. He has nothing to do with my relationship with the captain.”
He didn't plead. She stared at him, desperately willing him to cower, to feel some of the terror that consumed her so totally.
But it wasn’t there. No fear. No anger or hatred. Only sadness and compassion. And pity.
“Don't you feel sorry for me, you son-of-a-bitch!” she roared. “You’re the one who’s going to be dead in five seconds, not me! And I can still get Jim. I can. I can. I’ll vaporize you and go back to my cell. He’ll never …”
Her words trailed off. “But the guard will know. I’ll have to kill him before he wakes up. And your doctor friend, he saw me so I’ll have to kill him, too.”
Confusion filled her. She wanted the Vulcan gone, but not the others. McCoy had been kind to her. The guard had been kind to her. And she wasn’t a murderer at heart. Not really.
“It’s all your fault. Your fault!” Unable to deal with the horrendous choice facing her Jackson focused her grief and horror on Spock. “Look what you’re making me do! I don’t want to kill them.” She aimed the phaser at his head, finger trembling over the firing stud. “And how is it possible Jim chose you over me? You’ve tricked him somehow, put a curse on me! That’s what you did, put a fucking curse on me!”
The Vulcan simply stood silently, his expression sympathetic, even kind. Jackson pressed her finger on the stud, determined to shut out the sight of those eyes.
It was then that something touched her mind. A feather light touch at first, as if feeling its way through the maze of violent emotions within her. The sensation seemed to find its direction almost immediately, however, and rapidly intensified, filling her thoughts with a shared sense of empathy and understanding. She shook her head to dispel it but the feeling refused to go away. Rather it grew stronger, swelled and expanded until she knew what it was.
And for the first time Cynthia Jackson felt, truly felt, the essence of her rival: his gentleness, his caring. There was no cruelty in him; no hatred, either for her or for anyone else. The capacity simply wasn't there. And, to her horror, she felt her own hatred begin to fade away.
“No!” She tried to pull it back, needed that venom to fuel her unstable personality. Her hatred was the only thing she lived for now. She couldn't exist without it.
Yes, you can, Doctor. Let us help you.
Solace and peace: that was what he offered her, and it had been so very long since she’d felt either. His rationality to compensate for her delusions, his strength-of-will to shore up her crumbling ego structure. A light to drive away the darkness and, despite the depth of her madness, the jumble of chaotic delusions that twisted and swirled within her head, a part of her longed for it. Reached out for it.
She began to cry. “I just wanted him to love me. Is that so much to ask? To be loved?”
The light became brighter, but, paradoxically, everything around it began to fade away and she could almost see the memories dissolve. The only thing that she seemed able to focus on was the light, like a beacon leading her home.
Tears blurred her vision and she took a staggering step forward. “Why can't he love me? Why does he love you when I wanted him to love me. I’ve wanted him to love me for so long. I needed him to love me. It’s tearing me up inside, burning me up. I can't... I can't live....”
Her voice broke as she moved nearer and touched his shirt. The phaser dangled loosely from her fingers, then fell to the floor. “Please... tell him to love me. He'll listen to you. Make him love me the way he loves you. Please... help me.” Digging her forehead into his chest, she clutched at him, crying out in a voice of such total devastation it touched his heart, and Spock raised a hand and lightly stroked her hair. “Do not weep,” he said softly. “We will take care of you now.”
The captain sat in his command chair, watching the viewscreen as the ship crept along at warp one. A necessary speed for star mapping. An assignment he'd always disliked as tedious and tiresome, but he welcomed it now. In his emotional state, a crisis situation was the last thing he needed right about now.
Glancing at the chronometer at Sulu's station, he saw with relief that his shift would be over in twenty-eight minutes. His life for the past five days had revolved around those visits to sickbay and today was no exception. It seemed like forever since he'd been down to see Spock although he knew that, in truth, it had only been a little over four hours. Kirk sighed. The next twenty-eight minutes were going to be long indeed.
“Captain!” Uhura's cry startled him and he rose to his feet. She turned, eyes wide. “Security reports that Doctor Jackson has escaped. One of the guards was found unconscious.” A pause. “His phaser is missing,” she added ominously.
Knowing instantly where the woman had gone, Kirk slammed a fist against the intercom. “Sickbay!”
“Sickbay! Bones, come in!”
Again, nothing. “Uhura!” he shouted, racing for the turbolift, “get security down there on the double. And send a ship-wide alert in case she went somewhere else.”
Uhura opened her mouth to respond but the turbolift doors had already closed and the captain was gone.
Weapons drawn, the guards reached sickbay a few steps ahead of him. Someone broke the sensor beam and, when the door failed to open, one of the men immediately removed the panel and began manual overrides.
Kirk hit the intercom on the wall beside him. “Sickbay, come in.” Once again, his summons was greeted only by a deadly silence. “Eliot?”
The security chief responded without looking away from the locking mechanism. “Two minutes, sir.”
At that moment, Engineer Scott barreled down the hallway. “Here,” he shouted, brushing the man to one side. “Let me have a look at that.” He adjusted a half-dozen circuits one after another. The door opened.
The captain was the first one inside. He spotted McCoy near the doorway to the inner room, groaning and pulling himself up to his knees. Kirk's heart rose in his throat as he raced around the corner, the security men at his heels. The sight that greeted him stopped the captain dead in his tracks.
Spock stood in the center of the room, his arms circling Cynthia Jackson's waist. Jackson clung to him, her head buried in his chest, weeping hysterically. He looked up when the captain entered and raised one hand into the air.
The guards, seeing that he was in their line of fire, lowered their weapons. One of them helped McCoy to his feet.
Kirk moved cautiously forward, his gaze shifting from his first officer to the desolate creature he held in his arms. Spock reached up and touched her gently on the face. “Doctor, it is time to go.”
Jackson lifted her head to look at him. “No...,” she sobbed, grabbing at his shirt. “No.”
He smiled down at her with such tenderness that even the captain could sense some of her terror fade away. “You will be all right. Do not be afraid.”
“Come with me,” she pleaded.
Spock regarded her sadly. “I cannot. I am... unwell.”
Confusion filled the woman’s eyes. “What? What... I did that... I can't... seem to remember.”
“Do not think of it now. The memory will come back to you in time.”
Rubbing his neck, McCoy shot Spock a momentary glare before taking Jackson by the arm and easing her away, the guards following at a discrete distance. “Come with me, Cynthia. I'll take you where you can rest.”
Jackson allowed him to lead her from the room, pausing only once to look back. Spock’s gaze followed her and it was only after she’d vanished from sight that he staggered and pressed the fingers of one hand against his temple.
Kirk immediately moved to his side. “What is it? Did she hurt you?”
“No. Not really.” A pause. “I initiated a meld with her. It was a somewhat... draining experience.”
Grasping Spock firmly by the arm, Kirk steered him toward the bed. He knew enough about such mental contact to realize that even a strong, prepared Vulcan had difficulty preventing the communication from flowing both ways. Studying Spock's grey face, he could only imagine the awesome flood of chaotic, murderous emotions that must have deluged his friend's weakened mind. “I want you to lie down.”
Spock complied without objection, further indication, not that the captain needed any, of his unsteadiness. Pulling up a chair, he sat at the Vulcan’s side.
A few moments passed in silence.
The captain waited, the link already telling him what was coming.
“I would like to bring Doctor Jackson to Vulcan for treatment.”
Spock looked over to see his jaw set, the muscles in his neck swell. The captain’s reaction was not an unexpected one.
“I was able to reach her. Even our brief contact proved beneficial, as you saw. The healers will be able to build on that and restore her to a useful life.”
More silence, longer this time. When the captain finally broke it his tone was sharp, almost hostile. “I'll arrange to have her sent to Vulcan if you think it’s necessary, but I see no reason for you to go with her.”
Spock eyes softened. Kirk turned away. “No, goddammit.” Again he said the words, aloud this time.
“I touched her mind, Jim. I believe that she will form an emotional dependency on me because of this. Abrupt transitions from hatred to love are not unexpected in such psychologically disturbed cases. I must go.”
Picking up the edge of the blanket, Kirk began toying with the fabric. “I don't want her to be cured, Spock.” His voice was low now, scarcely above a whisper. “I want her to suffer, just as she made you suffer. Guess that makes me a cruel and sadistic bastard, doesn't it?”
“No.” Spock took his hand, twined their fingers together. “It simply makes you human.”
Silence again. Nearly a full minute went by.
“Will you come with us?”
“You know I will.”
The outer door opened and McCoy was back. Instantly noting Spock’s pallor, he flipped on the panel above his head and scrutinized the readings. “Who in the hell do you think you are, pulling a stunt like that?” Satisfied that his patient wasn’t about to up and die on him, he shut it off and slumped down in the nearest chair. “Give me credit for a little brains, will you? I could have handled the situation.”
“She would have killed you, Doctor.”
McCoy ran his fingers through his hair. “Yeah. Yeah, I suppose you're right. How’d you calm her down anyway? You trying to take my job or something?”
The captain smiled faintly. “Spock wants to bring her to Vulcan for treatment.”
McCoy rolled his eyes. “Of course he does. The Vulcans are the only people in this galaxy who know what they're doing about most everything, right, Spock?”
“Will you accompany us?”
The request surprised him although in retrospect it shouldn't have.
Despite the unexpected question, however, McCoy answered immediately. “Sure. Starfleet owes me five years of vacation, owes us all five years of vacation, for that matter. And maybe I can teach those Vulcans a thing or two. After living through this experience with you, I'm not so intimidated by them anymore.”
He searched Spock's face and frowned. “You look like hell. You’re going to spend the next twenty-four hours right here, flat on your back, and sleep. I don’t want to hear one word about you walking around like you’re on some goddamn Sunday stroll. And note the word: sleep, not rest. For several hours. Uninterrupted, because so help me, if you try to get up one more time, I will sedate you. Or hog-tie you, whichever seems easiest.”
He waved a hand at Kirk. “You go get yourself something to eat and leave him in peace.”
The captain shook his head. “No, Bones. I think I'll stay. Have some food sent down later.” It was quite clear from his tone of voice that he had no intention of going anywhere.
The two men glared at each other for a good thirty seconds before McCoy gave ground. “I suppose that means I'm stuck with you for the entire night, too.”
“The odds of that are pretty good.”
“Don’t you go quoting odds to me.” McCoy raised his arms in exasperation. “I get enough of that from this one here.”
Kirk smiled, glancing down at Spock, who lay quietly, watching the exchange. The friendly sparring, combined with McCoy’s habitual crustiness, had alleviated some of the suffering from the Vulcan's eyes and Kirk found himself wondering if the doctor was aware of it.
Of course the doctor was aware of it. Another helpful technique not in the medical books: the cattle prod approach.
“And just because I'm letting the captain stay and the night is young,” he added, shifting his attention to his patient once more, “don't get any ideas about sinking into sexual bliss in my sickbay. I'm an old fashioned guy and I won't have it. If you two want to see fireworks and feel the earth move and hear angels sing, do it in the privacy of your own quarters, not here.”
Spock listened without response, knowing that the slings were simply the doctor's way of releasing tension, throwing good natured barbs at a friend he’d thought five minutes ago was as good as dead.
McCoy rose to his feet. The fact that Spock had made no rejoinder to his idiotic statement seemed unimportant. The first officer of the Enterprise was more likely to end up in the chorus line of the Follies Bergere than he was to engage in public sexual acts in sickbay.
But the doctor was on a roll and he wasn't about to let something as minor as the truth get in his way.
He gave them his best conservative southern scowl. “You get my drift? Keep your pants on. You've been rocking the damned ship on her keel for a month now. Abstinence: that’s just what the two of you need. A little pain is good for the soul, as I like to say.”
“So I've heard, again and again,” Kirk grumbled.
McCoy pointed to an empty bed across the room. “You can use that one and you’d better hope I don't get a real honest-to-goodness patient tonight because if I do I'll kick your ass out so fast it'll make your head spin.”
Seeing the captain's intimidated expression he strode toward the outer room in victory. “And, once again in case you missed the last five times I said it, let him sleep. You can sit there and stare at him all night if you want to, but stay out of his bed and keep your mouth shut.”
At the doorway he turned back. “Oh, and by the way, Spock, thanks for saving my life tonight.”
Then he was gone.
Kirk laughed. Spock raised an eyebrow, a long-suffering expression on his face. “I will never understand Doctor McCoy.”
“That's his intention. He buries you in so much illogic you can't begin to figure him out.”
“Indeed. A very sound strategy.”
The captain brought their joined hands to rest in his lap, and, despite his attempt at normality, even gaiety, Spock clearly felt his exhaustion and low spirits, that latest burst of adrenaline just about doing him in.
“Tough day.” Kirk knew it, was likely broadcasting at a thousand decibels right about now. “Hell, it's been a tough week. That makes it twice in five days I was certain I'd lost you.” He smiled sadly. “Has my hair gone grey yet?”
Spock ignored the comment. “Come.” He pulled the blanket down. “Lie with me.”
“McCoy'll have my hide.”
“No. He will understand. Please, lie with me tonight.”
Kirk shook his head. “The doctor's right. That bed’s really too small for two anyway. You’ll sleep better alone.” Rising slowly to his feet, he walked to the other one, sat and pulled off his boots. “I'm exhausted. Think I'll try to get some rest, too.”
The captain glanced up and for an instant the eyes that met his own weren’t those of a calm, supremely intelligent Starfleet officer. Rather, they were the eyes of a frightened Vulcan child, a child with so much human blood flowing though his veins. Who called out for comfort and warmth and found only logic and rejection. The look startled him but, before he could react to it, it was gone. Spock pulled the blanket up to his neck and turned away.
We are all a product of our past, he thought, realizing that the child he had glimpsed still lived, somewhere, in Spock's memory, hopelessly buried perhaps, but there nonetheless.
He walked back, gently tugging the blanket from beneath Spock’s chin. Met his questioning gaze as he climbed into the bed.
“If McCoy doesn't like it he can go to hell.”
He slid an arm under Spock's waist, felt as the Vulcan’s head settled naturally against his shoulder. Reaching up, he laid an open hand across the hair that somehow, through all of this, had remained perfectly smooth and unruffled. “Are you comfortable?”
Spock nodded. “Yes.... Thank you for coming back.”
The words were spoken so softly that the captain had difficulty understanding them. But it made no difference. He knew what Spock meant. And he wondered why it was that he always treated his Vulcan friend as if he had unlimited strength, as if he were impervious to such human frailties as fear and loneliness. Why he so rarely thought of that frightened little boy he’d glimpsed for a half-second in Spock's eyes.
Kirk pulled him closer, heard Spock sigh softly in response. He wouldn't make that mistake again.
Leonard McCoy had been on duty for eighteen hours the previous day, but despite that he was back in sickbay at 0600 the following morning. The first thing he did was walk into the small recovery room to find the captain curled up in bed with his patient. Both men were sound asleep, arms and legs wrapped around each other. Since no one was there to see, the doctor smiled, then stared intensively at Spock.
Damn it, I thought you always slept on your back. Shaking his head, he left the room, resigned to the fact that, no matter how well he thought he understood his perennial sparring partner, he would never really know him.
“Blasted Vulcan does that just to irritate me,” he muttered under his breath just as he crossed through the doorway.
Behind him, the captain heard the words on a subconscious level and stirred. But Spock tightened his grip on him and he fell back to sleep, never knowing that the doctor had even been there.