Spock did not wake up the next day, and McCoy didn't allow Jim to go on duty just yet, either. The doctor wanted him to get more rest.
"As long as you do too, Doctor. That's my condition," the captain said, when Bones handed him the edict before he left sickbay that night.
So Jim spent most of the day in his quarters, resting or trying to, though he made several stops by sickbay between naps. He made an appearance in the rec room that afternoon, too, to boost crew morale and let them know he was all right just by being there. He didn't stay long, though. There wasn't much of interest to him there without his first officer to play chess with.
The next day wasn't much better. Bones wouldn't let him on duty before noon, and even then only for half a shift. By the time he left the bridge that afternoon it already seemed like forever since they'd left the planet. Spock still wasn't awake and Jim ended up back in sickbay, haunting McCoy's office.
"If you're not going to leave you could at least sit out in the ward where Spock is instead of being in here in my way," Bones grumbled.
"I'd look conspicuous out there. I don't want the crew to think I'm worried; what kind of example is that?"
"You are worried. You told me so yourself night before last."
"Yes, but the crew doesn't need to know it."
Bones just shook his head and went about his business, but Jim still heard him grumbling to himself. "Wouldn't matter if they did, they wouldn't think anything of it; it's Spock in there. Still far beyond me, but I'm sure the whole damn ship's concerned—especially every blasted female from stem to stern. Green-blooded woman magnet, doesn't make a damn bit of sense; doesn't bat an eyelash at 'em…"
And though he was still concerned, Jim couldn't help but smile to himself in amusement. He wondered if the doctor knew he was loud enough to be heard.
It wasn't until a little later when he felt…something. He wasn't sure what it was. He'd been planning to go out into the ward to check on his first officer in a bit, but when he felt it he got up and he went right then. Maybe he did it with some sort of sense of purpose about him, because McCoy looked up and followed without a word.
When they reached Spock's bedside they realized immediately that the readings on the monitor had ticked up toward conscious levels. He was waking up.
"He's coming out of it," Bones observed aloud. "How did you…? You acted like you knew, Jim."
"I did. I mean, I knew something. Maybe it's the mind meld. I knew I needed to come in here, at least."
"That's more than what you were saying two nights ago. That seems to indicate some kind of continued contact. We've never seen anything like that happen after one of his mind-links before."
"Well this one was interrupted; it's a different situation. Listen, Bones, I'll talk to him about it later, when he's stronger. Don't say anything to him for now. There's no need to bother him about it yet, and it may be nothing anyway."
The doctor's eyebrows went up skeptically. "All right… as long as you're sure it isn't a problem."
"No, no problem. Just a little strange, is all."
Spock stirred, drawing their attention, and in another moment or two his eyes opened.
Jim smiled. "Mr. Spock. Nice of you to join us."
The Vulcan's gaze shifted in his direction, and mild confusion was apparent on his face. "Captain…Doctor." He paused, perhaps gathering his thoughts as he adjusted to consciousness.
"I do not precisely believe in an afterlife, though if I did I suppose that the two of you, as the most constant fixtures in my physical life, would be logical possibilities for figures in what might come after. That is, if whatever being or beings that might be instrumental in creating such a post-reality wished to create one that would be not-unpleasant, for me."
His gaze flickered up to the sickbay ceiling and then back to them again. "However, I seem to be in sickbay, and I must admit that I do not feel as perfectly well as one is usually led to believe one would in any positive version of an afterlife. Logic would therefore dictate that I am, in fact, quite alive." He paused again. "However, that fact does lead to some confusion."
"The Enterprise made it far enough away from the planet just in time, Spock," Jim said. He was grinning, trying very hard not to laugh at his first officer's exposition. "The signal to the devices was cut off. They opened on their own; we didn't even have to continue trying to remove them."
"You mean I didn't; I was one having to try to get through those things with a laser without cutting anything else off," McCoy corrected testily.
"Of course, Doctor," Kirk shrugged.
Bones ignored him. "Though now I'm more interested in the idea that my being a usual fixture in your eternal afterlife wouldn't be entirely unpleasant, Mr. Spock. Would you care to explain that?"
"I merely meant, Doctor, that our discourse has now become commonplace. Any realistic reconstruction of my current day-to-day life would not be complete without some facsimile of you."
"Sure that's all you meant," McCoy answered, almost smiling.
"All right, you two. Spock, how are you feeling?" Jim asked.
"Physically, of course," Bones added. "We know better than to assume you're feeling anything else."
"Thank you," the Vulcan agreed. "I am, as I had to admit, not at full strength, but I do not seem to be damaged. I should be able to return to duty in a timely manner." With that he started to try to sit up, and this time it was both McCoy and Kirk who put a hand on his shoulder and arm, respectively, to stop him.
Bones was the one to speak. "Oh I don't think so, Mr. Spock. You're staying right where you are for at least two or three days, and you're not going to get anywhere near duty for at least a week."
While he said this Spock was already dropping carefully back onto his pillow, apparently not even able to get his elbows under him and/or keep them there. The Vulcan was frowning now, and as he settled on his back again his eyebrows went up. "I…I do not seem to be in a position to argue at this time."
"Damn right you're not."
"It's all right, Spock," Jim told him. "We'll get along without you until you've fully recovered. Take whatever time you need, and please do listen to Doctor McCoy. You have a nasty habit of ignoring his advice."
"Only when it is illogical, Captain."
"Certainly, but this time I want you to listen whether you think what he tells you logical or not. I'll make it an order if I have to."
Jim leaned a little closer to make sure he was heard. "You need to rest, Mr. Spock. There wasn't time to let you have it after Deneva with the efforts to put the colony back in order, and it wasn't really rest you had when you were off duty those days last month shortly after that. We both know why; I don't need to spell it out. Right now we do have the time and lack of crisis needed to allow you the rest, and you're going to take it. Is that clear?"
"Captain, I am a Vulcan; that isn't necessary. As soon as I am strong enough for duty, I—"
"No argument, Mister. I said, am I clear?"
Spock hesitated a moment, studying him, but finally he nodded once. "Yes, Captain."
"If it makes you feel any better, the doc's still got me on half duty for another day or two, and I wasn't even hurt."
"I do not need to 'feel any better,' Jim, but I do appreciate the offering of that information." At saying it Spock gave him that look that was the closest he ever came to a smile, and Jim chuckled.
He felt better now, at least. "You're welcome. "
Bones pulled him away, back to his office, telling Spock to be quiet now and rest. The Vulcan didn't agree, but he didn't disagree, either. They left him where he was and retreated.
"Well you were right, Jim; he's not acting any different than he ever does."
"No…keep an eye on him, though."
"You know I will. I'm a doctor."
It took the two or three days in sickbay McCoy had insisted on for Spock to be able to even stand up and take a few steps on his own. It was disconcerting to watch, and Spock didn't seem happy about it himself. Still, the doctor continued to assure them that there was no damage—just severely weakened muscles and nerves, sapped from the prolonged violent stimulation.
Especially the last-ditch efforts of their captors to kill Spock when the three prisoners escaped the planet. That had done most of the work in taking his strength from him. Bones complained that if he could understand better how the devices worked that he could help Spock rebuild said strength faster, but at the same time he didn't seem to mind that for once the Vulcan was being forced to take a normal amount of time to recover.
"He ought to be reminded every now and again that he's only half-human," he said to Jim more than once, adapting the common phrase to his purpose. Jim, to some extent, agreed with the doctor, though it pained him to see his friend so frustrated at his condition.
Not that Spock allowed any such frustration to show, of course. Jim could simply tell because he knew him.
On the third day since he'd woken the Vulcan managed to convince Doctor McCoy that he would be better off resting in his quarters, where there was quiet and privacy and space. As usual, his logic was perfect and unarguable. McCoy agreed, on the condition that Spock allowed someone to escort him to his quarters. He insisted that he could make it that far on his own just fine, Vulcan stamina and all of that, but Bones wasn't having any of it.
Jim found himself called down from the bridge just to bring Spock to his quarters, because after the argument they'd had over it the Vulcan would not allow the doctor to do it and McCoy didn't particularly want to, anyhow.
"Get him out of my sickbay, Jim. He's been stubborn and argumentative the entire time; we'll all be better off with him in his quarters."
Spock, of course, perched on the edge of his biobed, merely hiked an eyebrow.
The captain shook his head. "All right. Come on, Spock."
The Vulcan slid slowly from the bed and stood, and until they made it out into the corridor he was doing just fine. Jim stayed just beside him, ready to brace him if he needed it, but he was walking normally. It was wasn't until the main sickbay doors had closed behind them and they'd gone several more meters that he slowed and his knees started to go weak.
Jim got one of Spock's arms over his shoulders and bolstered him back up. He got the distinct impression that Spock wouldn't have made it even that far walking normally under his own power if he weren't trying to make a point to the doctor.
He kept that to himself, though.
"Okay, okay, whoa, are you all right, Spock?"
"I am, I merely…I am sorry, Captain; it appears I have not regained as much strength as I had believed…"
"It's fine, let's just get you to your quarters."
"Thank you, Captain."
Between himself and the wall they kept Spock up long enough to make it to the first offer's quarters, and thankfully it was an odd enough time of the afternoon that they didn't really run into anyone in the corridors.
By the time they made it there Spock was a bit out of breath, which was significant for a Vulcan.
"Desk, or what?"
"The desk will be sufficient."
Jim nodded and helped Spock to his desk chair. When he was sitting and Jim had released any hold on him he braced himself on the edge of the desk. He was trying to be subtle about it, but wasn't entirely successful.
Jim just looked at him for a moment, trying to decide whether to say something. "Spock, you're not…in pain, are you?"
Spock looked up, almost surprised. "No, Jim. I am in no pain. However, it is strange…as a Vulcan, my body should be recovering itself much more quickly than it is. Whatever our captors' devices did, precisely, it was quite effective—much more so than anything we have encountered in the past. It is…" He paused, searching for a neutral enough word. "Unsettling." Though he frowned even at that one.
After looking around for a moment Jim found another chair, and pulled it up to the opposite side of the desk and sat. "You were literally moments away from death, Spock. You couldn't expect anyone to simply bounce back from that...physically or otherwise." He resisted the knee-jerk reaction to wince at his own words; not exactly tactful, but how else was he supposed to broach such a subject to a Vulcan?
There went the eyebrow again.
"Are you suggesting something?"
"I don't know; am I?"
"You would be the one to know, Captain."
Jim let out a frustrated breath and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Spock, you were tortured, for lack of a better word, and you nearly died. You were convinced you were going to die. For most people that would be a traumatic experience."
"I am a Vulcan."
Jim shook his head. "I know that, I mean—never mind." It was too early. If there was anything to say Spock wasn't going to say it now. Kirk was quiet for a while, until he remembered the one serious question he had that Spock might actually answer.
"Spock…in sickbay after we were beamed up from the planet, and just before the devices deactivated…you were trying to induce a mind meld between us, am I correct?"
"What were you trying to do?"
"It would have been important were I to have died; however, I did not. It is therefore no longer of any importance."
Jim just stared at him. "That's all I'm going to get?"
The Vulcan's expression softened at that. "I am sorry, Jim…if I were now dead and I had succeeded you would understand quite clearly. Since it became unnecessary, I cannot tell you anything more. It is too much of an internal Vulcan affair. I trust you can understand, after recent events."
The captain sighed. "I suppose I'll have to." After those recent events on Vulcan he certainly wasn't going to pry. He'd learned quite enough then, thanks.
"I'm sorry," Spock said again. "I know that the attempt caused you pain."
Jim waved it off. "Never mind; it's all right. Certainly if it would have been that critical. I trust you." They sat in comfortable silence for a moment, and then he got to his feet. "Well, I suppose I should leave you to do the resting you apparently need. I wouldn't worry, Mr. Spock; simply because you're as susceptible to something as the rest of us for once doesn't mean there's anything otherwise wrong. You'll be back on the bridge soon enough."
"I do not need to remind you that I do not worry; I analyze."
Jim smiled a little at that before he left. If nothing else—even if it wasn't true—it was a very Spock response. After the past few days he needed that.
Spock had asked to be helped only to the desk to avoid arousing more concern than necessary from the captain, but once Jim was gone he could no longer ignore his exhaustion. At least, there was no logical reason why he should anymore; he was alone.
However, moving from the desk chair to the bed presented a problem. If it were not for the separating wall behind him that broke the sleeping area from the work area of his quarters he might have been in a bind, indeed. It was there though, and he made use of it to pull himself back to his feet and around to his bed. Half an hour ago he could have done at least that without aid, but the journey from sickbay had taken any strength he had regained.
Very, very unusual.
Perhaps, however, the possible problem would be better served by a mind refreshed by sleep. Spock contemplated meditation, decided that he should at least attempt, but drifted off before he could do so.
He did not wake until much later in the day, and as was usual since their rescue from the planet he woke with remnants of memories scattering to the back of his mind as he came to consciousness. They were not pleasant memories and he did not mind that most of them ran from him.
It would be better, really, if all of them did, but that wasn't the case. Some of them remained, stubbornly, clinging to the front of his mind no matter how long separated he was from the last time he had slept. And just now there was never much time between the instances in which he slept. That was unavoidable, and so were the dreams.
That was why he needed to meditate. If he could do that he could assimilate the memories from the planet properly, but as he was he couldn't remain conscious long enough while sitting or lying still to reach a meditative state. With that Spock remembered the question that had faced him before he slept, and he determined to get up. Surely Jim and the doctor were right; nothing was amiss. What would be?
It was easier to physically test himself here, without the concern of prying eyes. If he were going to fall he could do it, and get up again, and there was no fuss. If any of his human companions were here there would have been a fuss, and they were rather inefficient that way. What use was worry over such small things?
And he fell. Twenty-three times he attempted to cross his quarters without aid and on seventeen of them his legs dropped out from under him no matter how closely he focused on forcing them to stay straight. The pattern was more random than anything, with no clear curve of increase or decrease. The waves in which his flagging strength came and went followed no logic.
Spock was halfway across the working area of his quarters once more when the door opened and Doctor McCoy entered. He stopped just as quickly. "I'm sorry, I expected you to be asleep. I meant to take fresh readings and leave."
The Vulcan changed course for the desk; he could feel his legs becoming unsteady again. "It's quite all right, Doctor. Take any readings you wish."
"What are you doing up, anyway? What part of 'rest' didn't you understand?"
"If I am to return to full capacity as quickly as possible, then exercise is only logical." Spock stopped at the desk, the edge pressing into the side and back of his legs in an attempt to keep them steady without needing to sit.
"Not in your condition. Not yet. Later, certainly, but you're still much too weak for that."
"If I were human, perhaps, but—"
"Save it, Spock." McCoy waved at him impatiently. "Just have a seat and I'll be out of your hair in a minute."
He was going to have no choice but to sit in a moment or two. At McCoy's request he shifted around the corner of the desk and began to, but once his knees had begun to bend he no longer had control over his descent. Spock dropped into the chair rather abruptly, hands grasping out at whatever they could find in any normal being's response to falling. One of them caught the edge of his computer console and the doctor stepped in quickly and caught the other arm briefly.
It wasn't only his legs trembling now, either. It was almost imperceptible but his entire body was, and Spock knew immediately that McCoy, with his physician's observational skills, saw it.
"Damnit, Spock, you've overworked yourself already. What happened to telling Jim you'd listen to me for once?"
"I did rest, Doctor, for quite some time once I had arrived here."
"Not enough. Or at least you've been up too long at this point whether you got enough rest or not."
Spock had to relent to that. "So it would seem."
McCoy brought his tricorder up from his hip and removed the medical scanner. The Vulcan remained obligingly still as he was scanned, for he wanted to know the results just as much as the doctor did.
"Not much change…I was right; you should be in bed." The doctor proceeded to stare at him, and Spock raised an eyebrow.
"You mean for me to return there now, then?"
"Well I'm not leaving until you do, so you might want to consider it."
So it went for the two and a half days that followed. Jim and Doctor McCoy both checked on him several times a day, the doctor trying to keep him in bed and Jim acting as a more friendly foil. However, his condition continued not to improve much. Just when it seemed as if he might be stronger, he lost most of the ground he might have gained. By then he could traverse his quarters without difficulty, at the least, but he knew that if he were to try to go any much greater distance he would promptly collapse again.
Beyond that, the second day after being allowed to return to his quarters he began to manifest other symptoms beyond the exhaustion and physical depletion of energy. Nausea, dizziness, headaches, and a strange ache in his right wrist, among other things. Spock attributed them as side-effects to the weakness and supposed that perhaps his immune system's responses were low. Otherwise, as a Vulcan, he would not be susceptible to such symptoms. It was the only logical answer.
Except for the fact that nothing else about his physical condition was logical. He should be improving, not growing more ill.
Spock did not tell the doctor or the captain about the new symptoms. He was now able, at least, to attain the first levels of meditation—enough to contain the small physical symptoms, but not yet enough to deal with the new memories from the planet. The ones that needed to be dealt with.
It wore on him. He slept, but it was not restful. It sustained his body and scarcely even that, but not his mind. It was the headaches that were worst, of the symptoms he developed. His mind could not fully keep itself in repair without deeper meditation, which he couldn't achieve no matter how long he could stay awake, and the dreams continued.
A human would have called them nightmares, all if it negative experiences, all of it the memories from the planet and things his subconscious mind conjured up to go with them.
It made no sense. None of it did.
Jim knew Spock was confused and anxious and frustrated almost without the slight nudge of intuition that the failed mind meld had left him with. After the Vulcan had been back in his quarter for a couple of days or so Bones began to grow more concerned himself.
"He should be improving by now, even if he were completely human. I don't understand it."
"I don't think he's feeling well, either," Jim agreed. "He hasn't eaten much." He and the doctor had been bring the first officer's meals to him when they checked on him, because they knew he would prefer for as few people as possible to see him in his current state. The trays they were picking up on subsequent visits were barely touched.
"I know. He hasn't said anything and I haven't had the heart to, either, but medical tricorders are called medical tricorders for a reason. He's having headaches, bouts of nausea and dizziness…like he's getting sick, but that doesn't make any sense. Vulcan's don't exactly get sick like we do. Not when it comes to typical germs and viruses. Alien ailments can affect them at times, sure, but Vulcans don't quite have an equivalent to the common cold."
The two of them were holed up in McCoy's office.
"He hasn't said anything about the new symptoms?"
"You know he wouldn't let me give him anything for them even if he did; maybe there's no logical reason to bring it up," Bones answered with no small amount of sarcasm. He crossed his arms and sat back in his chair. "Anyway, he doesn't actually talk to me much; has he said anything else to you?"
"No…not particularly. Usually if I'm there and he's not asking about ship's business we just get some chess in. I feel a bit guilty about that, too; I've been winning a lot more often than I usually do."
"Well I wouldn't blame him for being distracted."
Jim nodded absently. "Distracted…he certainly is that. I'll catch him staring off into space, or rubbing at his wrists. And he looks so tired, even with all of that sleep he's supposed to be getting. Something's wrong; I knew something was wrong, or would be…I wish I'd been wrong."
McCoy sighed. "You and me both; that means there are two problems. Whatever you're seeing, and whatever's going on medically. Tomorrow I have to tell him that he hasn't been getting away with anything and I need to take more blood samples to check for possible causes of these new symptoms."
"Good luck with that one." Jim slid from his perch on the edge of the desk. "I'm going to see him now. Maybe I can get him to eat something."
"You're the one who needs the luck, then."
When Spock answered the door chime and called for him to come in Jim found his first officer up and slowly pacing his quarters. The library computer was drawn up on his console, and Spock appeared deep in thought; he had that look on his face that usually indicated a focused attempt to solve a problem. Jim just watched him for a moment, watched him pace, pause, lean into the wall or the desk, and then pace more, pause again, lean…apparently his current solution to the weakness problem.
The Vulcan looked up, his arms uncrossing, and as he dropped them Jim thought he saw them shaking a little before they were clasped behind his back.
"You can forego the formality, Spock, and please, sit down. You look awful. I can tell you that, can't I? Since you won't take offense."
There went an eyebrow, and there was that almost amused look.
"I appreciate honesty, in any case." He made it back to the desk on his own, though slowly, and sat down, and Jim glanced at the computer.
"So what are you up to?"
Jim just nodded. Then he had to say something. "Spock, Bones understands now that you're not recovering like you should. He's looking into it. We'll figure out what's going on, he'll come up with something like he always does, and you'll be fine."
He expected a much more wooden answer, as per usual, but instead Spock nodded wearily. "I hope that is the case."
Both of Jim's eyebrows went up, and a corner of his mouth quirked. "Hope, Spock? Isn't that an emotion?"
"It was merely the closest one-word approximation of my desire to return to duty that would fit within the context of the sentence."
It was a relatively inventive answer, with more than enough large words, so Jim gave him that one even though he knew it wasn't quite the truth. "All right."
McCoy, however, didn't turn up anything immediately with the blood tests, and once Spock knew for certain that they were aware of his other symptoms he admitted that they were growing worse.
Another two days, and by the end of his bridge shift on the second Jim had no desire to go his quarters or go to the gym or find dinner or even bother Bones.
He still hadn't told Spock about the remaining effects of the attempted mild meld because he had enough on his plate at the moment, but now he wondered if it could have anything to do with what was happening to his friend. Perhaps none of the side-effects were negative for Jim—just the memories and feeling left behind, and being able to tell more easily when Spock was covering emotions, or when something was wrong. But still, could the failed meld have caused Spock any harm? It wouldn't explain the physical problem of not being able to get his strength back, or that he was sick, but maybe it could be part of what was bothering the Vulcan otherwise.
Or not. But Jim needed to say something. He went straight from the bridge to his first officer's quarters.
There was no answer to the first few chimes, and Jim was close to waiting until a little later. Spock might be resting, and he wouldn't want to disturb him now if that were the case.
But then there was a voice, barely audible, Jim's name.
It didn't sound right, and something in his chest tightened, and inside he found Spock collapsed against the wall behind his desk. The chair was on its side. Jim punched the intercom and called for a medical team before hurrying to his friend's side.
"Spock! What happened?" He crouched and held his arm, and Spock was conscious, but barely.
"I do not know…I was…at the desk…now I am down here. I haven't been able to get up…dizzy…no strength. I feel…I feel quite ill."
The arm Jim was holding was shaking, and so was the other but the one Jim held was doing so more violently than the other. It was Spock's right arm, the wrist of which Jim had noticed his rubbing at much more often than the other. Or…no. No, it was just this one.
He'd thought it was a psychological thing, in response to the memories from the planet—something done absently. But now that he really thought about it, Vulcans didn't do things absently. Not when they were in their right minds. And Spock, though he had to be hiding some distress over the whole incident, was otherwise well within his right mind.
And if he'd only been rubbing at this one…
Jim quickly held Spock's arm out enough to push the sleeve back from the inside of his wrist, remembering that it was the one that had been scratched when the metal rings released themselves.
No. Not scratched. Bones told me later it was a small puncture wound—very small. It was still something that could have happened if there was a sharp edge somewhere, and he didn't think anything of it; just sealed it up, he said.
Oh god, what if—
He pushed the blue fabric back and bit back a cry.
Though the tiny wound was no longer there, something was. Dark green veins were visible snaking from where it had been up Spock's arm.
"Spock, have you seen this? Your wrist, it's—" Jim traced the visible lines on Spock's skin up his arm until he couldn't push the sleeve up anymore, but then he caught sight of them on the back of his friend's neck disappearing under his hairline.
The lines on his arm could have been present for days, but those had not been there yesterday.
Spock grimaced briefly, which was another alarm in Jim's head. "Spock, what's wrong? What is this?"
"I don't know…I…only know that I am…I am ill, and the headaches…have taken a considerable turn for the worse…and I do not seem to be able to meditate to contain them or…any other symptoms any longer."
As he spoke his pauses for breath were sounding less like pauses and more like hitches in his breathing.
"Spock, are you having trouble breathing again?"
"I am beginning to…"
For a moment Spock's eyes were a bit wider, and Jim knew exactly what it was he saw in them no matter how well-veiled it was. He didn't only see it; he felt it in his gut.
It was fear.