Hours later, dirty, exhausted and more than a little battered, Kirk returned to the ship. Even now more crew were beaming down to relieve the first group who had begun the search and rescue. The presence of so much of the magnetic mineral in the building prevented the use of transporters to extract the wounded, but it was safe enough when some distance from the structure.
Despite his need for a hot shower and sleep, Kirk hurried to sickbay, anxious to check on Spock’s condition. As he entered, he could see Sarek and Saavik seated in the corner of the waiting area facing one another. They spoke in low tones and Sarek occasionally touched her face or allowed her to touch his. Not like a proper meld, Kirk thought, but more like a mentoring. Saavik was doing her best to follow the instruction, but Kirk could see the frantic worry in her eyes.
The operating room door slid open and Doctor McCoy approached them. He looked exhausted, his sweat-slicked hair plastered to his head in disarray. He went to Saavik who had leapt from her seat.
“You can go in now,” he said. “He’s sleeping, but I’m sure he’ll know you’re here.”
With a silent nod of thanks, she hurried to the room beyond. The doctor turned to Kirk and Sarek.
“I did what I could,” he said tiredly. “I’ve set the broken leg, but the other suffered such a crushing blow that serious systemic complications aren’t out of the question.” He ran a hand through his hair, feeling suddenly impotent. “He could lose the leg,” he said. “It could even kill him.”
Kirk felt his head spinning. After all he had sacrificed and lost, how could he lose Spock again?
“May we see him?” Sarek asked.
“Yes, of course,” McCoy answered, leading the way to the recovery room. Saavik was there silently standing by the biobed, stroking Spock’s hand that she held to her breast. Spock lay sleeping, his body sustained by all technology could offer, and yet his face still showed the strain even in unconsciousness. The frequent twitch of his hand or head revealed a deeper trouble.
“It’s the pon farr,” McCoy answered Kirk’s silent question. “I suspect it was more advanced than he let on.” He rubbed at his tired face. “I wish I could help him, but I can’t.”
“Why not?” Kirk demanded, watching his friend’s silent struggle.
The doctor rubbed at his face again. “Sure I could probably adjust the hormone levels and other bodily processes, but frankly Vulcans need the emotional release just like the rest of us, probably more. I can’t turn off that safety valve without the risk of him going insane.”
“The doctor is correct,” Sarek said quietly. “As shameful as the pon farr can be, it is necessary.”
The captain glanced at him sharply. “Can he survive without...?” He was reluctant to speak of such things with the ambassador, but it was necessary.
But Sarek met his gaze openly. “Without mating?” he asked. “Yes, it is possible. Deep meditation or even physical violence have sometimes completed the cycle. I believe you have first hand knowledge of the latter.” He studied his son’s weakened condition. “However,” he continued, “a strong mind and body would be necessary to accomplish it.”
Saavik had moved closer to the head of the bed and was placing her hand on Spock’s face, searching for the link. Kirk glanced at Sarek with concern.
“Is that wise in his condition?” he asked .
“There is always a risk when the mind is in chaos,” Sarek observed. “But it is hers to take.”
As Saavik’s fingers touched his face, Spock startled in his sleep and groaned softly. She placed her other hand on his face as well, holding his head still between her hands and searching internally for his touch.
I am here, beloved. Come to me! Her mind pleaded. She was met not with silence but with the fearful mutterings of a mind determined to fight the illogic that was its birthright. She reached for him even as he avoided her, pursuing him through thoughts and memories and desires so base it should have frightened her. She followed anyway, tying her memories to his, her thoughts to his thoughts, his mind to her mind.
I will never leave you, husband, she thought to him, Do not fight what must be.
Somewhere a tentative recognition brushed her mind before it retreated again. She reached for it, feeling the uncontrollable discord that Vulcan biology demanded, but clutching at his presence even as the force of his delusions threatened to break the link.
Saavik-kam! I cannot find you! His touch afraid and desperate.
Husband, I am here! She replied as she tried to hold to his ethereal image. His mind cried out, in pain or fear or both, and floated away again out of her reach.
As Saavik’s head bowed to rest on Spock’s, McCoy glanced at the biobed’s readings. There was a spike in Spock’s pulse and brainwaves that he wasn’t sure should be hopeful or concerning.
“Well,” he said, shaking his head. “He should sleep through the night. “We’ll know more in the morning.”
Sarek nodded. “Thank you, Doctor, for all you have done,” he said, looking once more at the unseen struggle between Spock and Saavik. “Perhaps she can finish what you could not.”
McCoy smiled a little and suddenly turned his attention to the Vulcan.
“Come on,” he said, leading Sarek to a bio bed in the main treatment area, “let me look at that hand.”
Sarek complied, allowing him to set the broken bones and knit them together again with the regenerator. As he worked, the doctor addressed the captain again.
“Do we know what caused the collapse?” he asked.
“No,” Kirk answered. “we’re still finding survivors. I’m coordinating with planetary officials but it will be some time before we have any answers.”
“I wish to be involved in the effort,” Sarek said as he tested the repair to his broken wrist.
“Of course,” Kirk agreed. “We’ll beam down again in the morning.” He studied the older man, seeing the ghost of worry in his otherwise Vulcan countenance. “We should get some rest. I don’t think we’ll get much in the days ahead.”
They all nodded in agreement as they prepared to go. McCoy checked once more on his patient and tried to smile at Saavik’s valiant effort to do what modern medicine could not. With a final word to his nurses to monitor but not disturb them, he left sickbay for his quarters and what he knew would be a restless sleep.
McCoy found Saavik still there in the morning. She lay on the bed beside Spock, her head on his shoulder and her hands still linking them in the meld that must have continued through the night. Spock’s readings had stabilized a little, but were still dangerously erratic. The doctor found a blanket to cover them both while he checked Spock’s injuries and drew some blood for analysis. Saavik stirred, one hand sliding from Spock’s face and coming to rest on his bare chest. His head twitched but he made no other movement.
“Was she successful?” a voice suddenly spoke behind him. He turned to see Sarek there, observing quietly. He glanced at the readings again as he handed the blood sample to a nurse.
Well,” he said, “he’s resting more comfortably anyway. There’s some warmth coming back to this leg too, though the swelling is still concerning.”
Sarek looked at the sleeping Vulcans as Saavik murmured something softly.
“Do not be deceived,” he said. “When he awakens he will feel the fires intently. You must be prepared.”
McCoy looked at them too, now deceivably peaceful. “Yeah,” he said. “I’m afraid I’ll probably need to restrain him so he doesn’t worsen his injuries.” He regretted the decision but it was necessary to give Spock any chance of healing.
“That is wise,” Sarek agreed as he moved to the side of the bed. “It would be best to do so now, before he awakens.” He reached out to touch Saavik, causing her to stir.
“Come, daughter,” he said. “You must eat and rest from your efforts.”
She opened her eyes as her other hand disconnected from Spock’s face and she looked around in confusion. Sarek gently took hold of her arm to lift her from the bed and help her to stand.
“Come,” he said again. “The doctor will tend him now.”
Saavik looked from one to the other but had little energy to resist Sarek’s firm guidance. With a look of resignation she allowed him to lead her from the room. McCoy waited until they had gone before attaching the bindings to Spock’s arms and legs.
“Neither one of you is going to be very happy about this,” he muttered to himself. “But damned if I’m going to let you die again.”
He tested the ties a final time before leaving to check on the lab results.
After a brief check on Spock, Kirk found Sarek and Saavik seated alone in the mess hall, quietly speaking. Saavik appeared to have eaten little of the food in front of her and her eyes darted about as if looking for an escape. He approached cautiously and sat down next to Saavik, blocking her way.
“Spock seems to be resting easier,” he said to Sarek.
“The doctor has secured him?” Sarek asked pointedly.
Kirk nodded glumly but Saavik’s eyes shot from one to the other angrily. “What do you mean?” she demanded.
Sarek gave her a long look across the table. “Spock had to be bound for his own protection,” he told her evenly. “It was necessary.”
“No!” she shouted angrily as she tried to rise. Sarek’s hand caught hers and held her firmly.
“Saavik,” he said. “Your touch is a comfort to him always. But it can also cause him pain when he cannot act on his impulses. Give him time to accept these circumstances.”
Saavik sat again but the anger didn’t leave her eyes. Sarek regarded her with gentle reproach.
“It is logical,” he said to her. “Spock will understand in time.”
She glared at him. “I don’t understand,” she said. “It is cruel.”
“Do you wish his death then?” Sarek asked bluntly, unable to prevent the hurt the words caused. “His injuries are severe. He must be made to lie still.”
“He’ll get through this,” Kirk insisted, trying to convince himself also. “You have to be strong for him.”
Saavik averted her eyes from Sarek’s strong gaze and folded her hands on the table. “It is difficult,” she admitted softly.
“Most things worth having are difficult,” Sarek answered. “Now eat so you will have the strength to help him.”
Saavik tried and failed to compose her features completely, but she dutifully picked up her fork and began to eat.