Spock was finally drifting off into a restless sleep not long after Jim had come to sit with him, and when the captain reported back to McCoy's office Bones seemed glad of it.
"Good; he's been awake all day, and he needs as must rest as he can get if he's even going to begin to fight off this toxin. I can only do so much right now without knowing what it is." McCoy paused. "So he talked to you? How was he?"
Jim winced. "I wasn't seeing things before. He's…he's afraid, Bones. Anyone would be in his situation; it's just we're not used to Spock being the type to admit it. It's not easy to see him like that."
"It's going to get worse before it gets better." The rest of that statement hung silently between them: IF it gets better. IF we can solve this.
"I know," Jim sighed.
"We're doing everything we can, Jim. I've got a nurse right outside his door at all times. I'd feel better if someone were in there, but…that would defeat the purpose of giving him his privacy. And the monitors are wired directly to my office here; if anything out of ordinary happens, I'll know immediately. That's why he's here."
Jim just nodded at first, agreeing with the arrangements, but then he paused. "It would be all right if it was someone he knew in there with him. I know he doesn't mind you or me. Couldn't we do that? It would be better if someone were with him; you said it yourself."
"Of course it would be, but we can't keep up a twenty-four hour watch between the two of us. I'd do it if we could, but—"
"What about the other people he trusts? Uhura, Scotty…Sulu and Chekov if it comes to that, but one or two more ought to be enough. I'm sure they'd all be willing."
"I'm sure they would, Jim, but do you really think Spock would be all right with them seeing him like this?"
Jim let out a breath. "As long as it's not the entire crew…as long as he's not out in the open…that's what we were trying to avoid, and we've done that." He shook his head. "I just don't want anything to happen to him, Bones. We need him. And I don't want him to be alone. He was glad we were there on the planet, and I know he needs us now. I can't ignore that."
Bones studied him for a long moment, and finally agreed. "All right. If you think it'll help and he won't toss them out. Or us."
Jim felt in his mind, along the fading remains of the connection forged in the failed mind meld, and he was sure. "He won't. Not now."
"You're sure, aren't you?"
The captain shrugged and motioned to his head. "It's still there. Some of it. It's fainter…but it's there."
"And you still haven't mentioned it?"
"It seems to be going away on its own; I didn't see a reason to. I'm sure as hell not going to bother him about it now. It seems to be helping at the moment, anyway." He stood. "Anyway, we can talk to Uhura tomorrow—just start with her, I suppose. You're probably right that we should keep it to as few of us as possible. But I can stay with him tonight."
"Not all night. You have to be on the bridge in the morning. I'll get to bed early and trade out with you halfway through or so."
Jim smiled. "All right…thanks, Bones."
He only went to his quarters long enough to get some dinner and find something to read. He didn't want to turn the lights up in Spock's sickbay room and bother him while he slept, so though he preferred real books he took a PADD for the lighted screen. By the time he returned a portable medical cot had been set up in Spock's room against a wall off to the left, barely out of the way in the small space. But it was a better place to sit for an extended period of time than the stool.
He still sat on the stool for a while, keeping watch over his first officer. It seemed that in his sleep it was more difficult to keep his breathing straightened out, and Jim conferred with McCoy before the doctor left. Bones gave the Vulcan another small dose of medication to help, and that seemed to do it.
Jim wondered how long such remedies would help. He hoped Spock wouldn't be on a respirator before the end of this.
Still, it was reassuring after that, to watch the Vulcan sleep for a while. With breathing easier he wasn't as restless; he seemed much more peaceful sleeping than he had been merely an hour or two ago, anxious and staring at the ceiling.
Eventually Jim moved to the cot, and read one of the books loaded onto his PADD to keep himself awake. It wasn't easy to focus on it, but it was better than sitting, doing nothing, and returning to worrying as he knew he would if he didn't distract himself.
It started an hour before Bones was supposed to relieve him. Jim was just beginning to doze off where he sat on the cot against the wall. He was trying to blink himself awake again when Spock stirred in his sleep. Jim wasn't immediately worried, as he had already done this a few times and then settled again. Now though, as the Vulcan shifted he began to make a small sound akin to whimpering.
Jim frowned and got to his feet to go to the edge of the bed. He didn't say anything yet, not wanting to disturb his friend's rest if it was only a fading dream. But the whimpering continued, and he wondered if it were more serious than that.
"Spock?" he whispered. He reached out to the Vulcan's arms in the dimness. "Spock, are you all right? Spock…it's a dream. Wake up." He'd only shaken him once when Spock awoke with a small gasp and tried to sit up. Jim still held onto his arms. "Take it easy. It's all right."
Spock still didn't seem aware that he was there. "No," he gasped.
"Spock, it's me. It's Jim. You're all right! It was a dream."
Jim shook him again, gently, and finally the Vulcan looked at him and seemed to register his presence. His hands gripped the captain's arms in return. But then he grimaced. He gasped again, and this time Jim realized that it was a pained sound. Spock was shaking his head.
"Not…it is not a dream." He gave a small cry and started to curl in on himself. The hands on Jim's arms squeezed as if he were a lifeline. "Jim—!"
No no no, not now.
There was no attempt to control the pain. Spock had no mental defenses left. He had more personal control than a human even without his mental abilities, but that was all. Right now the pain was still hitting him just as hard as it would have any human, and Jim's stomach twisted.
"I'm right here, Spock. I'm not going anywhere."
The Vulcan didn't seem capable of really answering him anymore. He was curled and moaning, and Jim couldn't help but flash back to that terrifying first moment on the planet when Bones started screaming. His only comfort was the fact that Spock wasn't screaming, which meant that the pain couldn't be quite as awful as it had been on the planet. With his defenses gone he would be if it was.
"Spock? Spock! Would a tranquilizer help? Anything? Spock!"
He knew the answer. Of course it wouldn't. They had hardly helped the victims of Deneva, and the probes causing Spock's pain now were directly in his brain. Nothing would stop that.
What am I supposed to do?
The gnawing in his stomach was back—the helplessness. Jim swallowed hard and stood where he was, still holding Spock's arms while the Vulcan squeezed his. When Spock shouted the night-shift nurse from outside the door ran in, but when the captain asked her if there were anything they could do, just to be sure, she told him apologetically that there wasn't. They could try a tranquilizer, and that was what the doctor had instructed her to do if something like this were to happen, but…
Fine. Try it then, Jim told her. Anything, damnit. She didn't have to fetch it; there was already a tray of hyposprays resting on a console, ready if needed. She injected it quickly, and Jim thanked her and waved her away.
Spock calmed some, but he was still in pain, and Jim didn't know what else to do. Out of options, he climbed up onto the head of the biobed to sit and gathered his friend up against his shoulder. It was then he realized, feeling it against his chest, that his first officer was shaking.
"I'm sorry," he whispered. "I'm so sorry."
His only answers were Spock's quiet moans, and he didn't know if the Vulcan had heard him at all.
When Jim opened his eyes it wasn't as dim in the room anymore. That told him that ship's night was coming to an end, and he wondered where McCoy was.
He tried to look around but his back and neck were stiff from the sitting position he'd fallen asleep in. He didn't really mind; he remembered, vaguely, that the pain had eventually stopped and Spock had fallen asleep again, and he hadn't wanted to move and disturb him. His first officer was still resting against his shoulder.
"Over here, Jim," Bones said quietly.
The captain glanced back and found the doctor on the cot holding the PADD he'd discarded. "Bones?"
"You were both asleep when I got here; I figured I'd let you get the rest. I doubted you'd go back to sleep if I woke you to send you back to your quarters." He made a face. "The nurse told me what happened."
Jim swallowed. "It was a nightmare," he admitted quietly. Not as bad as he'd been afraid it could have been, no, but not pleasant anyhow.
McCoy got up and came to help him hold Spock up while he climbed off the bed. They lowered the Vulcan back to the pillows, and he didn't stir.
"Took a lot out of him…he's still a rock," Jim muttered unhappily.
"I know. Go on, Jim; I'll watch him. You've got just enough time to shower before alpha shift."
He nodded. "And I'll talk to Uhura today—probably Scotty too." He looked at his unmoving first officer worriedly. "I certainly don't want him left alone after that. It could happen again."
When Spock woke again he knew it was early morning, though he was not certain of the exact hour. His usually impeccable internal sense of time was not as accurate as it could have been just now, in his illness.
And he was still ill. The nausea, dizziness, and uneasiness in his stomach, among other things, had not subsided. If he were correct, he was effectively 'back to square one' as Jim or the doctor might have put it. He was in even worse a condition, in fact, than he had been when he first woke back aboard the ship. Now, as then, he did not think he would have the strength to so much as sit up on his own. Then, however, he had not yet been sick. The toxin had not fully taken effect.
He tried, to see how much he could move. He could turn over and he could shove an elbow under him to get a bit of leverage, but that was the farthest he could go. He relaxed into the biobed again and let out a small breath.
"Good, now don't go trying that again. It's better if you rest."
Spock looked up quickly, startled, to find that Doctor McCoy had come to his bedside. The surprise must have shown on his face, because McCoy quickly explained.
"Sorry, I was sitting over there."
Spock glanced back as far as he could, and from the corner of an eye saw the cot against the wall. He felt momentary shame for the obvious reaction to his surprise—and still more when he remembered what he could remember of the night before—but he was far too tired to feel it for long. He had to remember that it was not a fault of his. It was not pleasant to be losing control of his emotions, but it was being forced on him.
"The captain…" Spock began quietly.
"He's gone to prepare for the first shift."
"I trust he slept at least a moderate amount of time." Concern. He was feeling it for Jim, for how worried his friend must be…and perhaps it was not something alien to him, at least when it came to his closest companions, but it was not something he usually admitted to himself.
McCoy smiled a little. "Don't worry; he did. He's all right." It seemed there was something the doctor was not saying, but if he did not wish to reveal it he would not, and it would not be logical to press him.
Well. Perhaps his emotions were beginning to grow out of check, but at least logic had not abandoned him completely.
"That is good to know." He took an uneven breath, and a sudden more intense wave of nausea and dizziness had him making something of a face before he could stop it.
"Spock? How are you feeling? The symptoms?"
"Elevated…at the moment. I am quite uncomfortable," the Vulcan admitted.
The doctor moved to the tray of hyposprays lying not far away, and came back after a moment with two of them. "It's time for your medication anyhow," he said, as he injected the two sprays. "Hopefully it'll help some, but I don't know how much longer I can promise they'll do anything at all."
"I understand…the cause of my condition is quite outside the realm of our experience and medical science. It is no fault of yours."
The symptoms did begin to abate again to some degree. He could see more clearly, breathe more easily, and focus and think a bit better after a moment. The nausea and queasiness were not gone, but lessened somewhat; not as much as the medication had caused them to subside yesterday, however.
McCoy just looked at him for a moment, squinting skeptically. "Are you all right, Spock? I know what happened last night. My staff has to report everything, and Jim said something anyway. He's worried about you. We were hoping that wasn't what these things meant to do to you…cause you pain again. But they did."
"And probably will again. I know that, Doctor." Spock spoke quickly, trying to cover the slight hitch in his breath then that had nothing to do with any difficulty.
The doctor didn't say anything about it, but he did close a hand reassuringly over the Vulcan's shoulder. "The science department is working around the clock on the samples of those probes we took, and I've got a team analyzing the toxin, too, for all the good that may do. Doctor M'Benga and I are supervising both efforts. We'll find a way to put a stop to all of this—get you well again."
"I know that you are all trying, Doctor, and I thank you. But there is no need to continually remind me. You will succeed, or you will not. Wishing will not change the eventual outcome."
McCoy's eyebrows went up. "You might try wishing sometime, Spock. It helps keep hope alive, and for us humans that's a good thing. I know you'd say both aren't logical, but if this goes on much longer you might decide you could use them." His expression softened then, and he squeezed the Vulcan's shoulder gently. "Whether you do or not, you've got us."
Spock blinked once or twice, used to such admissions from Jim but not so much from the doctor.
He only nodded in thanks, afraid he might suffer another lapse of emotional control if he tried to answer aloud.
As soon as he made it to the bridge Jim quietly pulled Lieutenant Uhura aside to speak with her. She agreed immediately to help them, and he told her she would be released from duty after only two-thirds of her shift so that she could relieve Doctor McCoy in sickbay and spend most of the afternoon in there.
Jim would sleep some after his own shift, and then spend most of the night there. Bones would come in early the next morning to take his place. Most of the doctor's everyday duties could be delegated to the others doctors on staff. When he did have to leave Spock's room to oversee something to do with the efforts by the medical or science research teams or something else that required his specific attention, Nurse Chapel or Doctor M'Benga would step in while he had to be gone.
Hopefully, with that schedule rotating, they could keep Spock from being alone without bringing anyone else into it. It would be tiring, but they could do it; they would certainly still be better off than Spock himself, and he was the priority right now.
Jim thanked whatever space gods there were that there were no seriously pressing assignments that had to be taken care of just now. Charting and patrol, nothing more—quiet duty that did not require much of his personal attention as captain. It didn't require too much of any department, really. What needed to be done was getting done, and the teams studying the devices injected into his first officer were not bothered.
The crew deserved the relative quiet, after the hard two or three months they had been through before this. Shore leave should be coming soon enough, too, and Jim was glad of it.
If he got his way, shore leave would come soon and Spock would be fine, and it would bring extra time for his first officer to recover—at home on Vulcan, ideally. He needed a chance to return there under circumstances that were not so dire as they had been several weeks ago.
When Jim's shift was over he went to check in with the science teams before turning in for what sleep he was going to be able to get. He found Scotty with them, and while the engineer hadn't been specifically assigned there, there wasn't much else for him to do with their current duty schedule, anyhow. With light duty like this, the engines all but took care of themselves. Mr. Scott had complained in the past of boredom at times like this.
He certainly wasn't bored now.
"Well they're mechanical little beasties, sir, and I'm an engineer after all. Thought I might put myself to good use here," Scott told him.
One of the leaders of the science team commented that he had indeed been quite a help, but Scotty waved off the compliment and went back to work. Or he tried to, but Jim wasn't finished asking questions quite yet.
"Any ideas yet?" Jim asked.
"Possibly, sir. The bastards may be sophisticated, but perhaps any enemies this society had were as well, if they had any. Or maybe they were just overconfident. But they don't seem to have included much protection from less-sophisticated means of attack. I'm thinkin' something like a type of old-style electromagnetic pulse might have an affect on them. We're just startin' ta test, and it looks promising."
"Electromagnetic pulse? Really?"
"Aye, sir. Now with our shielding nothing like that would phase the Enterprise t'all, or really any Federation technology today. We've long since worked around that danger. And ya would think they would have too, but it seems they never did—never had a reason to, or assumed anyone trying to stop these things would be either too sophisticated or too stupid to consider it, I don't know."
Jim felt his hope grow. "That's wonderful, Scotty. If this pans out, how long do you think it'll take to find a way to utilize it?"
"Well that's the tricky part, sir—finding precisely the right type of wave, and a way to deliver it in a focused enough way so as not to harm Mr. Spock or damage anything else. These waves can't damage the larger technology of today, that's true, but the smaller instruments in sickbay and lesser ships' systems that aren't as protected might be disrupted or damaged. Another day or two at the very least, Captain."
Jim tried not to be disappointed by that. At least they were onto something, which was much better than twenty-four hours ago.
"That's good, Scotty, thank you. Keep me informed."
"Aye, sir. And how is Mr. Spock, sir?"
"I haven't seen him since this morning; he was sleeping then." Kirk shrugged and shook his head tiredly. "It's hard to say, Scotty. I'll feel better the sooner we can get this over with."
"Of course, sir," the engineer said with sympathy.
With the news of possibilities Jim didn't go straight to his quarters immediately. He stopped by sickbay, instead, hoping that knowing the teams were onto something might help Spock. Normally he wouldn't worry about the Vulcan's determination to make it through things—Spock was nothing if not stubborn, besides his logic—but in the state he was in Jim was concerned.
When the sickbay doors opened he registered Bones running past him before he noticed anything else. He followed, and it wasn't until a moment later that he realized he heard shouting.
"Bones! How many times has this happened today?"
"This is the third time since you left this morning. And it keeps getting worse, too," the doctor told him grimly.
They hurried into the first officer's room together. They found Spock curled on the biobed facing away from them and Uhura perched at his back on the side of it, trying to hold onto him or help somehow. "Doctor! Captain?"
"Can you do anything?" Jim asked McCoy.
Bones shook his head. "Tranquilizers do about nothing now. Found that out last time."
"And you just let me sit on the bridge all day and—!"
"We were here, Jim. He wasn't alone. And what could you have done? How many times have we had this argument?"
He was right. Jim let it be and went around the bed. Spock's eyes were clenched shut, but when Jim took hold of his hands they opened. Any other time the gesture would have been an intrusion, but right now the Vulcan seemed grateful for it. "Jim?" He cut off and cried out, and Jim squeezed his hands tighter.
"Spock, listen. Scotty and the science team think they're onto something. We could have you out of this in a day or so. You've just got to hold on, all right? Do you hear me? They're onto something. Hang on." All right, maybe he was underestimating the time a bit, but he needed his first officer to listen to him.
"Of course, Captain," the Vulcan managed through clenched teeth. Maybe treating the request like an order made it easier. Well, whatever worked.
Spock cried out again, and from behind him Uhura threaded an arm through his and held on, clearly trying not to cry. Bones was beside her, a hand on the Vulcan's shoulder, but there wasn't anymore any of them could do.
Uhura stayed as long as she could, but she was a sensitive person and she couldn't bear listening any more than the captain and doctor liked it. She retreated to wait outside. Bones stayed until the Vulcan had calmed again and the pain seemed to have stopped, but once he was sure Spock was all right he left Jim alone with him.
"Spock…?" Jim only moved long enough to take the stool from the other side of the bed and bring it around to the side his first officer was still facing. "Spock?"
"I am here, Jim."
"Good…you heard what I was saying earlier, didn't you? We've got a lead on something that might knock these things out." He explained, briefly, what Scotty had told him, and Spock nodded a bit.
"Yes…I believe it could work, if implemented correctly."
"Then you've just got to hold out until they're ready."
Spock nodded again, and his eyes closed again for a moment, and Jim knew he'd never seen that much clear relief on the Vulcan's face. He swallowed. "I do not like this, Jim...to be vulnerable this way…to need help this way."
"I know, Spock—believe me, I know."
"Do you? Do you know how offensive it is? For a Vulcan? To be this way?"
Jim leaned closer, resting his elbows on his knees as he sat on the stool at his friend's bedside. "Maybe I can never understand it entirely, but I can be sympathetic. I can care. Me, and Bones, and the others…we can be here for you. That's why people have friends, you know."
Spock just looked at him, and it seemed he really did want to understand.
"You told me you're afraid, and right now I suppose you have good reason to be, but you don't have to be afraid alone. Why do you think we haven't left your side since this began? We're your friends, Spock. That help you feel like you have to be so ashamed of needing? We're more than willing to give it, if you'd let us. We want you to let us." He smiled in amusement. "We keep having these conversations and I keep wondering when you're going to get it."
And there it was, that almost-smile, and it made Jim feel immensely better to see it just now.
"I'm sorry, Jim. But I believe I am, as you say, stubborn."
"Yes, Mr. Spock, you certainly are." Jim touched the Vulcan's arm again briefly. "That's why I know you'll be fine."
"I hope you are right, Jim."
"Hope…that word again…but not just the closest one-word approximation of your desire to return to duty that would fit within the context of the sentence, this time, I trust?"
The almost-smile again, tinged with understandable anxiousness. "No…not now. Perhaps it is only my forced lapsing into emotion, but…I am beginning to think that yourself and the doctor may have something of value in supporting the idea of hope. Perhaps this feeling…this wish…is not so illogical—at the very least, not in situations such as this, when it is all that one can do." He paused. "And I must commend you on your memory of my exact wording. Impressive, for a human, and one under much stress in the weeks between then and now."
Jim laughed before he could stop himself, but Spock didn't seem to mind. Laughing was better than worrying, after all. It was a suitable companion for hope. Instead the Vulcan raised that eyebrow at him, and for a moment it was almost as if all were well.
Then Spock moaned quietly and brought a hand to his head, the nausea or a headache or something getting to him, and Jim winced and stood. "A tranquilizer might do you some good now—let you get some rest. Should I get someone in here for that?"
His first officer let out an uneven breath, and had some trouble bringing in the next one. "Perhaps that would be best…"
"All right…I'll be back, later tonight…"
"This constant vigil is not necessary. I—"
"Spock, what did we just talk about?" Sometimes it was like talking to a child, trying to get human emotional concepts across to the man. An incredibly intelligent child, but a child nonetheless.
But this time the Vulcan relented more easily that usual. "I did not say it was not appreciated," he amended quietly.
"That's what I thought," Jim nodded gently.
When Jim left Lieutenant Uhura returned. She took the stool, a PADD in hand, and at first she didn't seem to know what to say.
"Is there anything I can do, Mr. Spock?" she asked finally.
That help you feel like you have to be so ashamed of needing? We're more than willing to give it, if you'd let us. We want you to let us.
"The dizziness…some of the other more constant symptoms; they are affecting my vision," Spock began slowly. "If I asked for a computer for access to the ship's library it would be of little use to me." He paused. "Perhaps you would be willing to read to me?"
Uhura smiled in relief then, and from what he knew of humans and of Lieutenant Uhura in particular, he knew she was glad to be offered a concrete action to perform.
"Of course, Mr. Spock. I'd be delighted to."