“We are not in any immediate need of assistance, Nurse. However, please stand by. Spock out.” Spock’s voice was an absolute opposite of Christine’s. Low, quiet and calm. He felt himself relax at the sound, just a fraction, but enough to draw in a deeper, but still shaky breath. Again, he heard that whimper, now positive that it was coming from himself.
Spock must have realized that his voice had a calming effect on McCoy, for he had resumed talking in the same tone. It was increasingly comforting, McCoy felt.
Spock’s voice, and the warm hand that was now very slowly starting to massage his neck and shoulder were like a bath in warm, perfumy water with mountains of foam floating on the surface.
He let himself explore that image further for it had a tremendously soothing effect on his mind. But the soothing feeling was fleeting, even as he saw the image before his mind’s eye. His own body was destroying the artfully sculptured structures of soap, convulsing uncontrollably, causing the water to spill over the brim.
The voice came closer, talking directly into his ear and he felt himself being pulled forward. Although he trusted Spock, he couldn’t help but feel the beginning of the crushing panic from before rise up in his chest once again, he felt himself falling. He’s pulling me into that abyss of darkness! But the hand on his neck still continued its massage without interruption and he felt Spock’s other hand come to rest on the back of his head.
The moment his forehead connected with the side of Spock’s neck, and he realized that the Vulcan was actually embracing him, holding him in his arms to comfort him and keep him safe, he began to sob. Immediately he was afraid that Spock would pull back, appalled and shocked by the display of human emotion.
“Don’t be afraid! Don’t be embarrassed. What you are experiencing is the aftermath of your captivity, lack of sleep and nourishment. It is a normal reaction. The assault on your mind was minute. It did not hurt you as the assault before, although you may believe so, at the moment. Just breathe and trust me. What you did, was very brave and a selfless act. You saved Jim’s life. Once again. Please, calm down. You’re safe now, we’re on the Enterprise, still in the shuttle. There’s no one here to hurt you. No one here to see you. Only me, and I’m here to help. You have seen me when I was troubled and confused and helped me recover. Let me do the same for you. I won’t leave you ...” Spock continued with his litany of comforting words, spoken directly into the doctor’s ear.
Although McCoy heard them, and even understood their meaning, the content of the words did not mean anything to him. He focussed on the sound, the feeling of Spock’s hands on his back and in his hair, the feeling of the small puffs of air on his ear as Spock spoke.
His breathing is evening out, Spock realized with satisfaction. He was taking sufficiently deep breaths now, the sounds of distress and torment had stopped, as had the crying. Only the trembling hadn’t quite ceased, he could still feel the slight tremors under his fingers that kneaded the doctor’s neck and shoulder.
McCoy swallowed loudly and coughed again. But it wasn’t that all-consuming, agonizing cough from earlier.
Spock shifted McCoy, slightly, patting his back with one hand, while the other grabbed the water container to open it single-handedly.
“Doctor, if you allow me to settle you against the wall, I will help you take a sip of water. You must be thirsty,” he said, not sure if the doctor comprehended the words.
Obviously McCoy had understood something, for he nodded against his neck, having controlled his cough. He did not move, however.
Slowly and cautiously, as if the doctor were extremely fragile, Spock pulled him away from his chest to settle him gently against the wall.
He ducked his head slightly to catch McCoy’s red-rimmed eyes. They were alert, infinetly tired, but alert nonetheless.
Spock held out the container to McCoy who reached for it, and then suddenly greedy, brought it to his mouth.
The first mouthful of gloriously liquid water was like heaven. It soothed his sore throught, moisturized his lips, and brought back some of his spirits.
He paused, taking a breath. Spock was still half holding the container for him, sensing he’d be too weak to do it alone, or fearing that he’d spill most of it. His hands were still shaking.
After another sip and then another, Spock took the water away gently. “You must be careful and not drink too much at the same time,” he said evenly.
The irritation he’d felt towards Spock earlier came back suddenly, as well as the splitting headache. Come to think of it, the headache had been there all the time, but other things had been on his mind before. He opened his mouth to give Spock a biting retort along the lines of ‘Don’t doctor me, you green-blooded quack’, but closed it as he noticed Spock’s gaze on him. It held genuine concern, even worry, and the wish to help. The dark familiar eyes were so gentle and caring that they completely disarmed him.
He closed his eyes and exhaled through his nose.
“Doctor, are you alright now?” Spock asked quietly.
He flinched at the mentioning of his title. After all these years, Spock still called him ‘doctor’, as most people did as he had told Yaniah. Yaniah - suddenly images of her screaming as the hellish fire consumed her, vaporized her gentle, loving, only recently found existence. He clenched his eyes shut. Don’t go there.
Spock had asked him a question, he reminded himself. Spock. He had actually held him, patted his back as he cried, his face buried against the back of the Vulcan’s neck. There had been no remark about him being irrational, illogical, or appalling.
Again, his title! He had a name, dammit. Spock was one of his closest friends, and -
Icy fear suddenly grabbed him again. Why were they in here alone? Just the two of them? Everything suddenly felt entirely wrong, and his trembling started to increase again. His mouth went dry as if he hadn’t downed half a liter of water just seconds ago. He looked at Spock with wide eyes and choked on the question: “Where’s Jim?”
Enterprise - Present
Uhura stood at sickbay’s entrance, shyly watching the only three occupants of sickbay and feeling like an intruder. She had an important message for Spock who was currently in command of the Enterprise, although he hadn’t shown himself on the bridge since arriving back from Meriah Five. It was very atypical behaviour for their Vulcan first officer, whose sense of duty exceeded that of everyone else she knew, even that of Captain Kirk himself.
Spock had given the order to return to Starbase Three at maximum warp, and had informed her that he’d be in sickbay should he be needed. Well, she supposed he was needed here more than on the bridge. Scotty was more than qualified to command the ship back to a starbase, although he hadn’t stopped cursing under his breath ever since they had all watched the Prolia Prison Complex being consumed in a mushroom cloud of burning ash. Enterprise’s small shuttle had almost been swallowed by it along with its two occupants. The thousands of poor slaves hadn’t been that lucky.
She felt her emotions well up inside her again. Everyone on the bridge had sympathised with these abused souls. She could only begin to imagine how it must have been for the empathetic doctor.
McCoy was lying on a sickbay bed, just to the left of the captain. Spock was sitting on one of the uncomfortable sickbay chairs between the two beds, staring in front of himself.
She stepped cautiously towards him, clearing her throat to make herself heard.
“Lieutenant?” Spock asked a second later.
“Mr Spock,” she stopped, watching the sleeping form of Dr McCoy. He portrayed the opposite of the captain’s still, wan form. His eyes were also closed, but his whole body was trembling, his face was flushed, as if with fever, his breathing was harsh and irregular.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, suddenly afraid for the doctor.
“I think you know what’s wrong,” Spock told her and there was clear and unsupressed irritation in his voice. He seemed to have noticed it too, for he cleared his throat and then repeated: “What do you want, Lieutenant?”
She swallowed. It was heartbreaking to see the normally calm and self-reliant Vulcan first officer looking so ... lost.
“The orders of Starfleet Command ...,” she began.
“I will lay down my command, if that’s what they demand,” he said.
She forced herself to smile. “No, it’s nothing like that, Mr Spock. I meant the orders we received earlier, that said we should not intefere with Meriahni affairs.”
“I am sorry that I didn’t notice it earlier, sir,” she apologized uneasily, “they were coded, as usual. But it was code two.”
At the time she hadn’t given it much thought.
“The code the Romulans are familiar with?” To Uhura’s relief, Spock had raised an eyebrow at her information. At least he was showing some of his usual behaviour.
“I tried to trace the source from which the information was sent. Again, I am sorry I did not think about doing it before.”
“Although that is unfortunate, I don’t think your feelings of regret and guilt help us anything in our current situation. I take it the message was sent from the surface of Meriah Five?” Spock speculated.
Uhura almost smiled triumphantly. She knew the reason for the captain and the doctor to have gone to the prison complex was to gather information on the whereabouts of the Romulan Commander Tamulok. The outcome of that mission had been disastrous. Not only hadn’t they got any information, but Captain Kirk and Doctor McCoy had ended up in sickbay severly injured. Their potential informant was dead, as were thousands of innocent Meriahn. Also, the relationship between the Federation and Meriah had been damaged. To top it off, Spock had consciously disregarded a direct order from Starfleet Command, which would certainly result in Spock being court-martialed. For the past two and a half hours Uhura had worked feverishly on a hunch to improve their dire situation. Well, if she had paid more attention to the incoming messages, then she would have found out right away that the commands hadn’t been sent by Starfleet.
Code two was technically still in use, although the Romulans had cracked it. That the last commands they’d received had been encoded with this code had only seemed a bit odd to her, but she hadn’t made the connection then. However, now, she’d not only found out that Spock had only disregarded fake orders, but also she had been able to trace back the message to its source, which most probably had been sent by Commander Tamulok himself. All they had to do was scan the area where the signal had come from, and they’d find him. Her timing had been everything else than excellent, however.
“No. The signal was sent from a ship somewhere in sector Z6. I could even identify it as the Trill merchant ship Tamulok stole to escape in.”
Spock’s features did not change, nor did his tone when he said: “It seems likely that you located Commander Tamulok then. Do our sensors register the Trill ship?”
“No. But we should know where to look for it.”
Spock shook his head at her to make himself understood. “We cannot afford to waste any more time to get to the starbase and the medical facilities there. Captain Kirk needs neurosurgery, that our medical department cannot provide at the moment, Lieutenant. Did you inform Starbase 3?”
Uhura flinched at the tone. Of course she had informed the starbase. “Of course, sir. They are awaiting us.”
“Good. Then inform Starfleet Command about where you suspect Commander Tamulok. They can direct another ship into that area to search for the Romulan,” Spock said and stood to guide her a few meters towards the exit.
Uhura followed him and nodded. “I will, sir. But I know that we are currently the only ship close enough to reach Tamulok before he enters the Neutral Zone again.” Of course, this was again her fault. Had she found Tamulok’s ship sooner ...
“We do not know where he is heading, Lieutenant. He may not have the desire to return to Romulus just yet, or even at all. We do know, however, that Captain Kirk needs medical attention, and that neither Dr Taylor nor Dr McCoy are currently able to help him, considering their own state of exhaustion.”
Uhura waited, sensing with surprise that Spock had something else to say and was struggling to do so, looking seemingly blankly at the wall behind her.
His expression hardened a fraction. “Dr Pulliam was suspended from duty, for her refusal to follow my orders and to treat Captain Kirk,” he said, “however, given the current situation I thought it necessary to ask for her help, and therefore, I apologized to her.”
Uhura gasped. Spock had apologized to that bitch? She could understand that people reacted testily towards the Vulcan’s sometimes cold and ruthless, though never unjustified, critique, but Pulliam had done the unthinkable. She had refused to do her job and risked the captain’s life as a result. She was a doctor, and as such she had once sworn an oath! She must have gone totally insane, and she was probably not the right person to operate on the captain, anyway, considering her lack of experience.
“I cannot understand her behaviour, Mr Spock. She’s a disgrace to Starfleet and her profession.”
“She was a skilled and promising medical officer, but highly emotional.”
“She is more than just “highly emotional”. She is unsuitable to serve on a starship, and unsuitable to be a doctor.”
“I may be ... ,” Spock stopped to choose his words, “unsuitable to deal with these kinds of problems. I believe the death of Dr Pulliam’s sister by the hand of the Vulcan crew aboard her ship, the P’Jem, made her project her hate on every Vulcan. She wants to hurt me by not helping Captain Kirk. That of course is assuming that I can be emotionally “hurt”,” he said more to the wall than to her, and suddenly Uhura wasn’t sure if he was still aware of her. It frightened her to see Spock so absent minded.
“But it does hurt you, doesn’t it Spock?” a whispered, shaky voice said.
Uhura looked over Spock’s shoulder to see McCoy sitting slumped on the bed, staring at the same wall Spock was looking at. It had a mirror on it, Uhura now realized. This past minute, Spock had in fact, spoken to McCoy and not her? She blushed, not knowing what to do. She mumbled an excuse and was out of sickbay in record time.
McCoy got up to stand beside Jim’s bed, and study the monitor at its head. He did not like what he saw. It was clear that Jim needed surgery, and soon, too.
Spock observed in the mirror how the doctor let himself fall on the chair that he himself had occupied just minutes before. McCoy held his hands in front of him, seeing they were shaking uncontrollably. With a small sound of frustration he balled them into fists and hit them against his forehead. Then he got up and walked to stand behind Spock.
“And you just stand there?” he asked, not furiously as Spock would have expected, but calm and almost indifferently. The tone of the doctor’s voice made Spock turn around to face him.
“What would you have me do, doctor?” he said, dangerously close to raising his voice, he realized with alarm.
“Well. use logic!” he said, not mockingly, even though Spock felt it would have been adequate.
Spock willed himself to sound as calm as ever. And succeeded: “When the captain was brought in, Dr. Taylor said the operation did not lie in his field of expertise and he’d only operate, if given no choice. We have now reached this point. However, Dr Taylor hasn’t had much sleep in the past hours, so the chances of the captain to ever regain consciousness are less than they were before. Dr Pulliam is rested, but neither qualified nor willing to perform the operation or to only assist. We cannot reach Starbase Three in the critical time, nor is any other medical facility in reach of the Enterprise.”
McCoy noticed at once that Spock left out some crucial information and wondered if the Vulcan was showing symptoms of being considerate and sensitive, which suddenly angered him. He could take it! “What about me?” he prompted.
Spock turned to McCoy and the Vulcan’s dark eyes suddenly seemed to look right into his soul, with an intensity that hurt.
“When I decided to lead a rescue mission to save your life, I may have sealed Jim’s fate. Too much time has passed and now we are not able to reach the Starbase in time. I knew this could happen, although I also calculated the possibility that once you were on board, you would be able to save Jim’s life. Therefore, I believed it was only logical to attempt to rescue you. When I saw what you experienced in the Prolia prison complex and especially the longer you were there, the more likely it became that you would need considerable time to recover and would be unable to perform the needed surgery until then. The critical point was reached when you started to sing “Georgia on my mind” to Yaniah. It was clear then, that you were emotionally and mentally too affected to be able to perform such a delicate surgery on Captain Kirk within the needed time. If I had given the order to leave just then, we would have had just enough time to reach the starbase. However, I did not do that for reasons I cannot explain.”
McCoy stared at the Vulcan in astonishment, unable to say anything around the onslaught of guilt, pain, shock and disbelief at Spock’s words that seemed to have manifested itself in his throat.
“I’m sure you find this all very fascinating in your own, unique, irrationally emotional thinking and that you will dwell on this revelation, for years to come.”
McCoy found his voice again: “What revelation? That you are capable of compassion?”
“I meant that I value your life more than the captain’s!”
McCoy blanched and stumbled back. The shaking had become more profound now, he was feeling dizzy. Spock was Jim’s first officer and friend. He was absolutely loyal to Jim, and McCoy had always assumed that Spock tolerated him, McCoy, even “cared” for him in an awkward and warped sense, only for Jim’s sake.
Was it true, what Spock had said? Or was it just a confused, exhausted Vulcan’s mind coming to a seemingly logical conclusion? Why did Spock save me? Why didn’t he save Jim? Is Jim really going to die because Spock decided that I should live?
He sat down on the chair again, watching Kirk’s chest slowly rise and fall. He felt the Vulcan near him but did not look up.
“Spock, stop this nonsense! Please, I meant what I said. Use logic! I’m unable to perform surgery, yes. I’m unable because I’m shaking like a junkie in withdrawal. It’s post traumatic stress, or whatever you wanna call it. There are drugs I could take to make me stop shaking like this, but they wouldn’t make me functional for neurosurgery. All I really need, is to pull myself together, but I lack the emotional and mental discipline. I can’t do it. I’m only human, and my emotions seem to have taken complete control over my body,” he said, laughing bitterly, watching his hands still shake, despite his efforts to hold them still.
“Not complete control. Your argumentation is quite sound,” Spock said quietly. He was beginning to understand what the doctor was suggesting, but not sure if it was acceptable.
“Then you know what to do!” he said, looking up at the Vulcan, with hopeful but also fearful eyes.
Spock’s hand came down on his shoulder and McCoy yelped slightly in response. He cursed his fear, and for the first time in his life he also cursed Spock’s emotions. Emotions that he knew were flooding the Vulcan at this very moment, making his decision harder.
“Every mind meld produces certain risks. If one of the involved parties is emotionally worn out and physically exhausted, the risk is even greater. If both parties are, then it is not recommended at all.”
McCoy blinked. Did Spock just admit he was emotionally worn out? “We’ve done it before. And it worked, although I wasn’t exactly emotionally balanced at that moment.” Another cold shudder went through him as he remembered the horrific images that had flashed before his mind’s eye when he’d remembered what Delihan had done to him.
“You were suffering from a mind rape and were hallucinating, seeing things that were unreal, that were making you act irrationally to the point where you were a danger to yourself and others,” Spock said simply. His hand was still lying heavily on his shoulder, which was not exactly comforting, for it only showed him how his own shoulders were trembling. “At that point, there was not much I could have done to worsen the situation,” Spock continued.
McCoy closed his eyes at the statement. What Spock had said was true, although he hadn’t expected Spock to have shared his opinion then. For all he knew, he could have died during Spock’s meld then, but he’d figured that it was better to be dead than insane.
“So, you’re saying you refuse?” McCoy asked the Vulcan as he finally looked up at him.
Spock was expecting it, for he found his eyes the instant he’d looked up. They were not as compassionate as McCoy had expected, though. In a way it was a relief.
Spock straightened, and his eyes left him to look over his head, his hand still on his shoulder, making him uncomfortable now. “Doctor, you should attempt to rest. I will be on the bridge, we must find Commander Tamulok’s ship.”
McCoy felt irritation well up inside him.
“What! Spock, your main concern is Jim’s life right now! Leave that Romulan alone! We can’t afford to waste any time!”
“Doctor, it is impossible to arrive at the starbase in time to save the captain. Therefore, we can just as well follow the Trill ship! As I recall, it was our mission to find the Romulan commander. Maybe you will agree when I say: The captain should not have died for no reason,” Spock said coldly.
McCoy’s mouth opened and closed again. Where had that sudden change of subject come from? He’d tried to get Spock to discuss the possibility of a meld with him, but now, Spock spoke of Jim as if he was already dead. “So, you’ve accepted Jim’s death? He is not dead yet, Spock! He wouldn’t have given up on you like that, you cold, green-blooded ...!”
McCoy was unable to finish his sentence, for Spock’s hand on his shoulder and neck had suddenly contracted and as if from a sudden electric shock, he lost consciousness, falling into Spock’s waiting arms.
The Vulcan laid him back on the biobed. “Rage and fury produce less risk during a meld than fear, doctor,” he said to the unconscious form. Then, without further ado, he gently pressed his hand on the meld points on the doctor’s face, willing himself to calm both of them.
Enterprise’s rec room - in the middle of the night
Scotty walked hesitantly over to McCoy, holding onto his cup of steaming, hot tea for reassurance. He knew the doctor could be downright nasty when not in the mood for company, and although he was in the rec room, a place where people usually went to engage in socializing, Scotty had heard from Chekov and Sulu, that the doctor was, in fact, not in the mood for company, at all.
They were alone, everyone was either working or sleeping. When Spock had finally come onto the bridge to relieve him, he’d been truly relieved, in more than on sense. Spock had informed them, that McCoy was operating on the captain. It meant not only that Captain Kirk was finally getting help, it also meant, that McCoy was fit enough to operate. How that was possible, Scotty had no idea, though. No one could walk away from an experience like that without being seriously affected. But somehow, after only a few hours of rest in sickbay, McCoy had gotten himself under such control again, that he’d found himself able to do brain surgery on Captain Kirk.
And he’d done it, done his medical magic, as Scotty had found out after tossing and turning on his bed in his quarters for a few hours, unable to get any sleep. The surgery had been successful, Captain Kirk was due to awake from his coma within the next hours. Everything was great.
Scott doubted that. Not, that McCoy had managed to save the captain, but that he’d come through these past days, weeks, actually with nothing more than a cantakerous mood.
“Hey, Leonard, may I sit down?” he asked already taking a chair.
McCoy grunted, then said in a voice, dripping with sarcasm: “Please, I’m in the mood for talking.”
Scotty snorted and made a show of taking a sip of his chamomile tea. He actually hated that stuff, but had chosen it, because there hadn’t been anything else, which reminded him of why he never went to the rec room at night.
“Scotty, I’m tired,” McCoy said when the engineer had put down his cup again.
“Why don’t you go to your quarters to get some sleep, then?” he asked.
“Been there, done that,” McCoy mumbled.
Scotty looked at his fingernails. “Yeah, me too. Couldn’t sleep, couldn’t stop my brain from reeling, thinking. You know what I did to calm myself?”
Scotty waited, an expectant smile on his lips, but McCoy didn’t respond according to social convention. “Go away, Scotty!” he just said, after a lenghty pause.
Scotty didn’t give up that easily, though. “I can’t do that. I’m worried about you, Leonard!”
“Why? I’m sitting here, in the rec room, engaging in ... recreation. Or I would if you weren’t here.”
“Well, you have developed a strange understanding of what recreation is.”
“Scotty, I appreciate what you’re trying to do. But I want to be alone. How did you even find me?” He paused as he remembered something. “Chekov and Sulu, right? They found me here.”
“Aye. You know, if you want to be alone, why are you not in your quarters?”
“Because ... Look, my quarters are not ...,” he shifted uncomfortably on the chair and ran a hand through his hair. Then he looked at Scotty again, searching for words, or courage. “Okay, I’m going to tell you, but will you then leave me alone?”
Scotty shrugged, not quite willing to give that promise, but McCoy went on talking anyway, speaking in a rush, as if suddenly afraid he wouldn’t have enough time to say what he wanted to say.
“I went to my quarters, lay down, tried to sleep and couldn’t. No surprise there. So I got up and looked for the container with those red sleeping pills I keep in my private medicine cabinet.”
Scott nodded. He’d never asked for any of these pills, he preferred a good glass of scotch, or wandering around the engine room, listening to the humming of the warp drive, to calm himself down enough to get some sleep, but he’d heard the captain, Uhura, even Sulu talk about these ominous “red pills”. Potent stuff, they were.
“Well, I ... found them,” he stopped.
Scott waited, and when McCoy did not give any indication of going on, he asked, raising his eyebrows: “That was the end of your story?”
“I opened the lid, took out a pill, popped it into my mouth, drank a glass of water, then took another.”
Scotty frowned, he was beginning to dread the end of this story. “And?”
“Still couldn’t sleep. I always had to think about ... I don’t know, it’s the adrenalin, or whatever. I also took some stimulants before the operation on Jim.”
Scott waited. He had a feeling that McCoy hadn’t told him everything. But after a while, the doctor just looked up, deciding that that was the end of it.
“So now you know. There are too many enzymes, hormones and chemicals in my system to make me able to sleep. I wanted to walk around a bit, but I kept meeting people. You have no idea how crowded the corridors of this ship are, even in the middle of the night!”
The change of subject had been smooth, and Scott didn’t even notice he’d been successfully redirected to another topic, one that clealry had nothing to do with McCoy and his sleeping problems.
He blindly swallowed the bait and piped up: “You know, that is strange. When I walk through these corridors on a normal day, I always see these crowds of people, running around busily in the corridors. What are they doing? Don’t they ever have to be anywhere, like, stationary?”
McCoy took the opportunity to get up. He graced Scott with a wan smile that never reached his eyes and said curtly: “Thanks Scotty, I’ll be in my quarters.”
And before Scotty could untangle himself from the cup of still steaming tea, McCoy had houdinied his way out the room and the conversation.
The door opened to reveal his quarters to be as he had left them. Actually, he wouldn’t have been able to tell if any things, clothes or furniture had been moved during his absence, but he knew for sure, that the container of red pills that lay on the floor had been lying there when he’d fled. The lid was only half open, but the pills had mostly rolled out, forming a little pile on the floor.
He cautiously stepped around it and sat down on his bed, wondering what to do next.
He was very tired, but sleeping was not an option. Even closing his eyes produced a problem. He’d feel hands on him that weren’t there, hear noises, even voices coming from the ceiling, the walls, even the floor. And he’d dream. Something, that he really didn’t want to do.
Your hallucinations are a sign of sleep-depriviation. You’re only making it worse by not sleeping, a fairly reasonable voice in his head told him.
A shudder went through him and when he held up his hands for inspection, he found that they were perfectly still. They seemed like someone else’s, too clean, too calm to be his.
They’re like Spock’s hands, he thought. In a way, they were. Spock had tricked him into a mind meld, and forced him to calm enough to have control over his hands. Hands he’d needed desperately to do his job. He was glad Spock had done it.
But he was also irritated, irritated with himself that Spock had been able to deceive him like that, to trick him into believing that Spock would declare Jim dead, pre-maturely.
“I thought that Vulcans couldn’t lie!” he muttered and dragged his hands through his hair again. scraping his head in the process. His scalp felt raw already, and when he looked at his hands afterwards, he saw there was some blood under his fingernails.
What had that Vulcan thought? Not only did he use to pride himself of never lying, but he had also always emphasized that forcing mind melds on people was a crime. And now Spock had done both - to him.
Of course, Spock hadn’t exactly forced him. Just manipulated him. Quite effectively, too. Spock had explained that rage was a feeling that produced less risk when initiating a mind meld than fear, or something like that. As if Spock knew anything about feelings.
He started nibbling at his fingernails, to get them clean again.
“Love? How does it feel?” he heard Yaniah say from somewhere near the door.
“YOU ARE NOT HERE!” he shouted back, but still, as if to check, he sprung up, and rushed into the direction of the voice.
My God, you’re truly starting to behave like a madman, now, he thought.
Sleep! his head said.
He’d already taken two sleeping pills, which was not exactly an overdose, but not recommended, and he still couldn’t sleep.
Take one more! the voice in his head said again. It was the same voice that had said: Take them all, from which McCoy had fled before. It had been a highly illogical action of course, since that voice was going to follow him wherever he went. It was in his head! It was just a thought, a fantasy, an idea, a joke. It didn’t mean he’d ever do it. How many times had he thought he’d bite Spock’s ears off the next time he was going to say “Fascinating!” ?
But still, that thought had never come to him before, and it had scared him deeply. He still couldn’t bring himself to touch those pills and put them back into their container.
Maybe he should go to sickbay? Jim should be awake by now. But he feared Jim would start asking questions, make him “open up” and “talk”. And maybe Spock was there, too. Spock would give Jim the information he’d deliberately leave out.
He wouldn’t be able to get any sleep there either, he’d only keep Jim from it, too.
The door chime pulled him out of his gloomy thoughts.
Who the hell?
It chimed again. He did nothing. Scotty? Maybe he’s just checking if I didn’t get lost in the mysterious corridors of our ship.
He kicked at the empty container with his foot. It landed somewhere out of sight, but the pile of pills stayed were it had been. Better not let him come in, he thought, going to the door, opening it.
Jim Kirk was standing before him, in his sickbay overall, looking a bit pale, but smiling at him, that 1000 Watt smile that could melt icebergs, bring children to offer him their last candy, and charm nuns into smooching away with him. The white dressing on his surgical wound made him resemble a fakir from a picture book McCoy had possessed as a child, but he stood on his own two feet, only lightly leaning on the doorframe.
“What in ... JIM! Are you out of your mind?” McCoy quickly abandoned his plan from earlier and grabbed at Kirk to guide him into his room and onto a chair, his bed, anything.
“Hi Bones!” Kirk said, still smiling and allowing himself to be guided to the bed. “What do you mean? You know how much I hate sickbay ...”
As Jim was sitting, McCoy took the time to take a look at the dressing on Jim’s head while preaching.
“So you decided to take a hike? Jim, you’ve been in a coma for 3 days! I just operated on you, and you thank me with running around the ship like that?” He paused to take a breath, but intended to go on chewing out his friend and patient, for God’s sake, for his little stunt, but was stopped by a hand on his arm that pulled him down onto the bed beside Jim, with surprising strength.
“Bones. I. Hate. Being. In. Sickbay,” Jim said, looking at him as if he was explaining something to a kid. A very dumb kid, too.
Then he pulled up his legs, kicked the sickbay slippers on his feet on the floor, and stretched out on McCoy’s bed, pushing some clutter on the floor as well. “I can only stand sickbay when you’re there. Since you aren’t there, but here, I thought, well, wouldn’t it be perfect, if I came here?”
“No! Jim, you need to be monitored by, ... Who let you out?” he suddenly asked, determined to get that someone’s ass.
“I’m the captain. I can go when and wherever I want,” Jim said, unfolding the blanket on the bed and making a move to wrap himself in it. “You have a second blanket?” he asked suddenly, looking up at his friend and doctor, questioningly.
“Yeah,” McCoy said and turned quickly to take another blanket from a drawer. He unfolded it and started to spread it over Jim’s form. “You cold? It could be from the loss of ...”
Jim’s arms went up to fend off the second blanket. “No, no, nothing like that, Bones. I’m just not going to share my blanket with you.”
“Share your ...? Jim, you are not intending to stay here for the night?”
“Oh, but I am,” Kirk simply said, closing his eyes.
“Jim! You, ... I can’t, ...,” he stammered, not really knowing what was happening. His doctor’s mode was taking over. “There can be post surgery complications. Your status must be checked every two hours! That is pupillary reflex, blood pressure, ...”
“I know. And I also know, you’re too tired to wake up every two hours to do that. So, I asked someone to do that for you.”
As if on cue, the door chime sounded again. “Someone?” McCoy asked, dreading the answer.
“Right. Come in, Spock!” Kirk said, supressing a smile.
The Vulcan was carrying a bag, and stopped right behind the door.
McCoy snorted. “Did you bring sweets, stuffed animals, and a book of ghost stories, Spock?”
“Why would I bring ...,” Spock started, but Kirk cut him off: “A sleepover, Spock. Young, human girls love to do that.”
Spock raised an eyebrow, but decided not to comment. “I brought some medical instruments from sickbay, and a PADD with a novel which I will read in between the intervals of checking your vitals, Captain.”
“And when are you going to sleep?” McCoy tried, already suspecting that he had no chance to get rid of either Spock or Kirk for the night.
“I don’t require as much sleep as you humans do, doctor,” Spock said, seeking out McCoy’s desk chair, and starting to unpack his things.
McCoy sighed. He could trust Spock with Kirk’s health, he knew that. Even though Spock wasn’t a doctor, he could do the required monitoring just as well as any of the staff in sickbay.
Jim smiled gently, tapping on the mattress right beside him.
“Get in Bones! Don’t keep me from my much needed sleep!”
McCoy hesitated. He couldn’t sleep. It was not that he hadn’t tried. But Jim was persistent, he was even plumping up the pillow for him.
“This is ridiculous, Jim,” he said, taking a step towards the bed.
Jim looked at him with a strange expression on his face. He was thinking. After a few seconds he said quietly: “Please, Bones. I can’t sleep in sickbay. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I really don’t want to be alone with myself and my thoughts at the moment. I know I may have nightmares. I may talk in my sleep, I may even kick, or scream, or cry. I’ve been through a horrible ordeal and I just need some reassurance that everything’s alright. Is it too much to ask from a friend, a really good friend, too?”
McCoy drew in a sharp breath, as he felt tears suddenly threatening. He knew Jim had done the talking for him, had said what he, Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy, should have said, because Jim knew that he would never let those words come over his lips
“I ...,” he started, but didn’t end that sentence, for Jim interrupted him.
“Now, come on!” he urged. It was all it took to let Bones allow himself to walk over to his own bed, where he’d tried to sleep four hours and two sleeping pills ago, finding that it was impossible. That bed was now occupied by his best friend, who had just come out of a coma and brain surgery, and was probably still not in his right mind.
He settled down beside him, taking the blanket Jim offered, wrapping himself into it.
He felt the bed shift and Jim’s arm came to rest on top of his, his hand sought out his and their fingers interlaced. It felt warm, solid and reassuring, but awkward, and embarassing as well, just a bit. It would, of course, be a bit awkward to explain this to the sickbay staff, or the rest of the crew, McCoy thought.
Rumours tended to spread quickly on the Enterprise. Maybe it had something to do with the many people who were walking around in the corridors all the time, he thought, and found himself drifting.
Sleep claimed him even before Jim had whispered ‘Sleep well, Bones’.
Two hours later, Kirk woke from a gentle shake.
“It’s time to check your pupillary reflexes, Captain,” Spock said calmy, holding a little flashlight.
Kirk nodded and turned to his first officer to let him play nurse on him.
“Everything is normal,” Spock reported when he had finished and started turning away.
Kirk’s hand held him back. “Spock, how is he?” he asked, anxiously.
McCoy was sleeping peacefully beside him, his hand had relaxed, letting Jim’s hand go after only a few minutes. His breathing was regular, but Jim felt that this peace was very fragile. He didn’t want to move too much or talk too loud, afraid, he’d somehow destroy it.
“The doctor is sleeping deeply. The sleeping pills must have finally taken effect,” Spock answered calmly.
Kirk exhaled shakily, he had to ask: “Did you also see the spilled pills and the container on the floor?”
“I’ve retrieved them,” Spock said.
There was a moment of silence between them, before Spock continued: “I also counted them.”
Kirk bit his lip.
“I found thirty-nine, but there still might be some on the floor. The label on the container said there were 50 in it. I believe he had these pills for all of our five year-mission, and never purchased a new container.”
“Right,” Kirk agreed, “he told me only months ago, that before the end of our five year mission he wanted to stop by that pharmacist on Legia again, where he’d gotten them. I didn’t know he still had so many, though. I must’ve taken at least 5 of them alone, over the years.”
“Jim, he is emotionally and physically worn out, but I believe even in that state, Dr McCoy would never attempt anything like ...” There was no need to finish the sentence, since Kirk knew what he meant.
“No,” Kirk agreed, “but he’s not okay.”
“Maybe not now. But he will be, Jim.”
McCoy made a soft noise, twitching. Jim’s hand searched for his friend’s hand again, finding it and squeezing slightly.
“Yeah, I’ll see to that.”