Title: Don't Stop Believing 3.2/?
Pairings/Characters: Kirk/Spock pre-slash, Spock/Uhura, McCoy, Chapel
Warnings: not too graphic het
Summary: The Enterprise is limping home to Earth. Relieved of his position, Spock tries to survive.
Notes: For more elaborate explanations of pairings/ratings/summaries and overall story navigation please visit the Master Post. And no, it's not a return of Spock/Uhura. You lose your planet and then be reasonable.
Also, if someone can please teach me how to make LJ accept larger posts than 2 500 words, you'll be my hero like forever. I've seen others do it all the time, but I seem to be too stupid to live. This is a cry for help, people, because this is driving me nuts!
There’s an ensign hovering uncertainly at his elbow, and Spock suddenly remembers. Now that the collective breath of relief is taken, it’s time to return back to reality, and in this reality, he is no longer a member of this crew. He had been relieved and has no right to be on the bridge anymore. Spock spares a glance at Kirk, who’s talking to Starfleet Command on a private channel, and at Nyota, who seems to be busy transmitting their logs. With no one looking at him, Spock stands up, nods to the nervous ensign, and leaves the bridge.
Despite the short distance, without a warp core, it will take them approximately two days to reach Earth, provided Starfleet doesn’t send someone to get them. Considering the current disposition of the fleet, it seems unlikely.
Spock heads toward Med Bay almost on autopilot. He feels physically and emotionally enervated, and he strives for a moment of tranquility. He knows he won’t be able to pick up the pieces of his life that had come to an end with the destruction of Vulcan, but he wants to see Christopher.
He finds his way to the captain’s side with surprising ease. Pike’s bed is in a private booth, and Spock slides behind the curtain quietly, either unnoticed or ignored by the medical personnel.
Pike is sleeping. There is a cocoon of medical equipment surrounding him, and Spock stills, struck by the sight. Pike looks small and so very, very fragile. Spock glances up at the monitor, but although he would normally be able to read it, right now he can’t concentrate on the data long enough to interpret it. He steps closer and cautiously reaches for Pike’s hand. It’s surprisingly – frighteningly – light, the skin thin and translucent. Spock holds it carefully, hardly daring a feather-light stroke.
“Sir, may I ask what you’re doing here?”
Spock very nearly winces, checking himself at the last moment. He releases Pike’s hand slowly and turns to look at a young woman, whose ash-blond hair and bright blue eyes together with her white uniform create an impression of walking crispness. Her expression softens, as she catches sight of Spock’s face.
“Captain Pike will be all right, Commander,” she says quietly. “The damage was severe, but not permanent.”
“That is gratifying to hear,” Spock says, his own voice sounding far away and devoid of any inflection. “Nurse –?”
“Christine Chapel,” she finishes and blushes for some reason. “Please, sir. You shouldn’t be here.”
With one last glance at Pike’s peaceful face, Spock follows her out obediently. A thought that’s been lying dormant at the back of his mind suddenly flares to the front of it.
“The Vulcan children,” he says. “Do you know where they are?”
Nurse Chapel’s face falls. She nods at him, looking extremely disconcerted. “Yes, sir. We’ve put them in rec room four for now, but I’m not sure what we can do for them.”
“They are disturbed?” Spock deduces.
The nurse nods miserably. “Very much so, sir. We only have one counselor on board, and so far what she’s been doing isn’t helping.”
“Perhaps the Council members could be of assistance?” Spock asks. He doesn’t believe they would consider the task beneath them under the circumstances.
For some reason, however, his suggestion only makes the nurse look more despondent. “They are... They are not well, Mr. Spock,” she says quietly, as if afraid it would insult him.
“Specify ‘not well.’”
“Well…” She blushes and looks away. “They were in severe pain when... when—”
“When Vulcan was destroyed,” Spock supplies evenly.
“Yes, sir,” she whispers. “We had to sedate them. Your father and T’Mel were the only ones who managed to control it, but T’Mel got... emotional. She was too agitated to meditate or rest, and we had to give her a sedative as well.”
“My father?” Spock asks quietly.
Nurse Chapel chances a glance at him, looking every bit as awkward as in her view he must be feeling.
“He seemed... disturbed, too, but better than T’Mel. He is in your quarters now, resting.”
“I see,” Spock says. “Would you please take me to the children?”
“You think you can help?” Her face brightens up with hope.
“I am uncertain as of yet, Nurse.”
“Oh.” She nods, biting her lip. “Okay.”
He follows her across Med Bay and into the rec room, evidently chosen for its proximity to the medical facilities. Spock enters and freezes in the doorway instantly. He doesn’t know if he has been expecting anything in particular, but in any case, it hasn’t been this.
The children are quiet. There are fifty-two of them, aged from six to fourteen. They are all sitting primly in their chairs, and almost all of them are crying – some quietly, the youngest ones sobbing lightly. Some are holding their heads in their hands and rocking from side to side.
“We’d give them something for the pain,” Nurse Chapel whispers, “but according to our scanners, they shouldn’t be in any.”
Of course, Spock thinks blandly. No tricorder has been invented that would register this pain. A race of telepaths, wiped out of existence. Children who must assimilate the death of their world while struggling with the physical pain of the torn bonds to their parents and betrothed. They are young and therefore resilient. But that doesn’t mean they don’t require help.
As Spock’s eyes sweep over the room, a boy – one of the eldest by the looks of it – rises to his feet and approaches Spock slowly. Silent tears are streaming down his face, but his expression is calm, as if he doesn’t even know he is crying.
“Greetings,” the boy says in a clear, even voice, bowing to Spock slightly. “I am Temak cha-Suban. I am the class leader. I apologize for the display of emotion, but we are” – he pauses, as if reluctant to use the word – “unable to cease it.”
“I am Spock cha-Sarek,” Spock says, with a light bow of his own. “There is no need to apologize, Temak. The cause for the release of emotion is sufficient. I assume you have been informed of what has transpired.”
“We have.” Temak nods, glancing briefly at his classmates. “We have also been informed that our teachers who were transported with us have taken ill. We require direction,” the boy continues levelly, then suddenly winces, pressing his fingers to his forehead. “We are unable to control the pain,” he says, his voice now different – the agonized voice of a small child.
Spock looks at him, thinking of the dull pain at the back of his own head. The same pain that at this very moment is tormenting every single Vulcan alive, leaving adults incapacitated and children suffering. Spock doesn’t know why he isn’t rolling on the deck in agony, but he suspects there may be more to that mystery than his dual heritage. Right now, however, he has to discover at least the partial answer to this question if he is to be of any help to these children.
Suddenly an idea flickers in his mind. “Temak,” Spock asks slowly, “what is the focus of your studies?”
The boy blinks. “Biological research. Genetics.”
“Impressive,” Spock says. He thinks quickly. “If Nurse Chapel” – he nods sideways at the young woman – “and I were to have a child, could you tell me the likelihood of it being male or female and its most probable appearance?”
The boy blinks again while Chapel inhales sharply. Temak looks between the two of them, a slight frown creasing his forehead. “I would require more precise information on your genetic makeup,” he says seriously, sounding somehow calmer.
“I am half-human,” Spock says, and gently points him toward a computer console. “You can use this terminal to access my bio file, as well as Ms. Chapel’s. I would require at least a seventy percent of positive probability on your calculations. How much time do you require?”
Temak looks pensive. “Four hours?”
“You have two,” Spock says.
The boy straightens up so abruptly that he nearly appears to jump. He nods curtly at the grown-ups and hurries over to the computer.
“Mr. Spock, I don’t understand,” Chapel says hesitantly. She looks flushed.
Spock isn’t listening. He observes the look of total concentration on Temak’s face and realizes he’s hit the right chord. Ignoring the bewildered nurse for the moment, Spock reaches for the intercom.
“Spock to Uhura.”
“Uhura here,” she sounds worried. “Spock, is everything all right?”
“No,” Spock says. “I require your assistance.”
“I need every available science officer not currently engaged in repairs down in recreation room four.” He glances over the room again, realizing there aren’t nearly enough computer terminals. “Tell them to bring PADDs.”
“Uh…” She pauses for a second, clearly put off by the unexpected request, but recovers quickly. “Sure thing, Commander. Will do.”
Spock opens his mouth to correct her, as he is no longer in a position of command here, but thinks better of it. “Thank you. Spock out.”
He turns to find Nurse Chapel covertly scanning Temak. She flashes a smile at Spock.
“His vitals are stabilizing!” she exclaims in excited whisper. “What a brilliant solution, Mr. Spock! All we have to do is to keep them busy, and—”
“Not just busy.” Spock shakes his head minutely. “We need to keep their minds focused at all times, giving them one intellectually stimulating and consuming assignment after another, and monitor them closely. It is a daunting task when applied to Vulcan children, Nurse. Our education system is – was what humans would call ‘severe.’”
Nurse Chapel’s expression sobers. “How long will we have to do this?”
Spock looks over the room full of distressed children.
“Until we find a better solution.”
Nyota shows up with the science staff, holding a PADD of her own.
“I’m off duty,” she says with a mild shrug. “Communications have been restored and the captain ordered me to rest, so...”
Spock nods at her slightly and proceeds to brief the group of about twenty junior science officers. Each of them will have to take charge of two or three children, Spock muses. He also notes that the people look tired, and frowns slightly. However, the determined air with which they ask questions reassures him in their willingness to be of assistance.
They set to work. Spock is grateful to Nyota for taking it upon herself to remind the officers of the basic cultural specifics of dealing with Vulcans when the need arises. He himself feels it difficult to let his concentration stray too far.
Spock circles the room, monitoring everyone’s progress, helping out whenever necessary. It is very difficult to coax the younger children into focusing on studying at such an inopportune time. Spock speaks to some, gentle but firm, appealing to their logic. He touches them sometimes, lead by an instinct he cannot identify. But be it Vulcan or human or even a universal instinct of being parental, it seems to be working. He knows better than to touch their minds while his own is in total chaos, but he tries to take in as much of their anguish as possible through a simple physical connection, all the while projecting calm and reassurance.
He isn’t certain how much time has elapsed. Once or twice he spots Doctor McCoy hovering around, scanning the children. He even gets a distant impression that the doctor speaks to him, asking him something, but Spock can’t quite make it out for reality or a product of his mind’s projections. The third time McCoy appears, Spock is crouched beside the youngest child of the group, a girl named T’Vin, who looks the most forlorn and scared. Spock is rubbing her back soothingly while exerting gentle but firm insistence that she stays focused on her math.
He lifts his eyes and meets McCoy’s searching gaze aimed at him. Spock raises an eyebrow in silent query, but the doctor merely continues to look at him with a frown. T’Vin asks him something, demanding his attention, and Spock blinks several times, before he can focus on her. Vaguely, he wonders if maybe he should have asked McCoy for a stimulant.
An undetermined amount of time later, Spock straightens up, having just checked Temak’s third assignment. He gives the boy another one, and turns around, meaning to check on T’Vin. His path is suddenly blocked and Spock attempts to walk around the obstacle automatically, without even looking up to determine what it is.
“Whoa,” someone says, and a firm hand clasps Spock’s arm as he stumbles. “Looks like it’s long past time you took a break.”
Spock lifts his eyes finally, locking gazes with Cadet – no, Acting Captain Kirk, who regards him warily.
“Captain,” Spock says flatly, removing his arm from Kirk’s grasp. “Do you require assistance?”
Kirk looks every bit as worn out as everyone else around Spock, but somehow he seems to be handling it better.
“I hate to admit it, because you look about dead on your feet,” Kirk says, “but yeah, I do.”
Spock straightens up, feeling an uncommon ache in his shoulders. “How may I be of service?” Out of the corner of his eye, he notices Nyota watching them and moving closer.
“Starfleet is asking what kind of arrangements they should make to accommodate the…” Kirk glances around the room, fumbling for words. “…survivors.”
Spock frowns. “You will find Ambassador Sarek in my designated quarters,” he says. “As the ranking Vulcan official currently available, he should be able to assist you.”
“That’s just it.” Kirk looks at him, hesitant. “He – your father wouldn’t let us in. He says... He says he won’t let anyone see him while his emotions are in control of him and would like to be left alone with his grief – for our own safety.”
Spock closes his eyes briefly. “I see.”
There is a lull in the conversation, and then Kirk asks, almost pleadingly, “Spock, why don’t you sit down for a moment?”
Spock snaps his eyes open, ignoring Kirk.
“Nyota,” he says quietly, sensing her presence. She steps closer at once. “Contact T’Pol at the Vulcan Embassy and tell her about our... guests.” She nods, sparing a glance at Kirk, while Spock frowns in thought. “There will not be enough Vulcan healers available,” he muses. “And those who have survived might require assistance themselves.”
“What should we do?” Nyota asks gently.
Spock looks at her, fighting to concentrate. Simple thought process should be simpler than this.
“Contact Betazed. We shall require trained psychologists with experience of dealing with severe mental trauma. But—” he stops, a thought suddenly dawning, “—they should not be younger than forty, none of them. It’s very important that they are all forty years old and older.”
“Why?” Kirk asks. “More experience?”
Spock looks at him. “Not only. Betazoid telepathy is superior to Vulcan, as it does not require physical contact. However, their natural defense mechanisms are weaker than ours, and Vulcan emotions—” Spock winces at the stab of pain slicing across his forehead. “Vulcan emotions run deeper than those of most humanoid species; they are very strong and overwhelming, for both carriers and recipients. This is why we control them at all times. When unleashed, our emotions are formidable.”
Kirk raises his eyebrows at that but remains silent, for which Spock is grateful. The conversation and the situation are humiliating enough as it is.
“Currently, most of my people are unable to control emotions,” Spock continues, his voice dulled to a monotone. “The telepathic shockwave will not recede for a while. Betazoids have strong empathic abilities. The contact with traumatized Vulcan minds could be highly damaging for young telepaths, whose defenses are still forming.”
Kirk nods at him and turns to Nyota. “Take care of it, please. Make sure they understand the restrictions, but also see that they get that this is an urgent request.”
It takes her a moment to unglue her troubled eyes from Spock and nod at Kirk. “Right away.”
Spock follows her absently with his eyes, his mind curiously void of thought. He realizes belatedly that Kirk is still standing next to him and turns to find the captain watching him.
“Was there anything else, sir?” Spock asks and sees Kirk wince slightly.
“Well, actually...” Kirk pauses, his hand coming up to rub at the back of his neck. “You’ve been on duty for more than forty-eight hours, and I’m guessing awake for much longer.”
Spock awaits the rest of it somewhat numbly. When nothing follows, he frowns impatiently.
“So have you,” he points out.
“Right,” Kirk says, dropping his hands to rest on his hips. He looks up at Spock with a peculiar expression, a mixture of embarrassment and determination. “But I haven’t... I mean it must have been—” he blushes “—it was more difficult for you than it was for me.”
Spock actually sighs, his frustration growing. “Captain. You have already proved me emotionally compromised once recently. Is it really necessary to persist in doing so while I no longer pose a claim on your authority?”
Kirk’s eyes widen. “Jesus, Spock. I only—”
“If you feel that a further demonstration of my incompetence is in order to facilitate your assumption of your new position, then by all means proceed. I am in no condition to offer you resistance. All I’m asking is – should you feel charitable enough to grant me a small measure of leniency – to expedite your action so that I could return to my own devices.”
He finds Kirk staring at him, wide-eyed, mouth hanging slightly open. Spock waits calmly. It takes a long moment for Kirk to finally move. He runs a hand over his face, his head dipping down slightly.
“Commander, I was about to suggest you stay off your feet for a while,” Kirk says very quietly, his hand still pressed against his eyes. “Just so you don’t collapse, you know?” He looks up at Spock wearily. “But I think the best thing I can do right now is leave you alone.”
Before Spock can reply, Kirk moves away, walking over to Doctor McCoy, who’s busy scanning one of the children.
“Bones, keep an eye on the commander for me, will you?” Spock hears Kirk say.
“Dammit, Jim can’t you see I’m busy?” McCoy snaps, not lifting his eyes off his scanner. “I tried to talk him into a break, but he couldn’t bother to answer. I’ve got a Med Bay full of people in pain, so I really don’t have time for pointy-eared bastards too stubborn to—”
Spock doesn’t hear the end of the phrase for the mad pounding of blood in his ears. He doesn’t know he’s been on the move, either, up until he feels someone’s hands grip his arms tightly and someone’s body is in his way, preventing him from reaching the doctor.
“Spock, no!” Kirk yells in his face, struggling against him in earnest. “He didn’t mean that – I swear, he didn’t mean that!”
Spock pushes forward with blind determination and Kirk’s fingers dig deeper into his flesh, worrying the cut he’d made earlier. Spock stops short, suddenly dizzy and disoriented.
“I really didn’t mean that,” McCoy affirms with wide eyes, his face chalk-white and taut.
Kirk doesn’t remove his hands, and his eyes never leave Spock’s face as he snaps over his shoulder, “Yeah, well, maybe it’s a good idea to hold your tongue for once, Bones.”
“Like you’re the one to talk,” McCoy shoots back.
Spock slumps suddenly, drained and unable to withstand any of it for another moment. But if he is going to collapse, it’s not going to be in front of them. He has provided enough entertainment already.
“Let me go, Captain,” he says quietly. “I will not attack the doctor. I apologize for my – for the... I apologize.”
Kirk’s hands unclench very slowly, sliding down Spock’s arms numbly.
“Spock.” Kirk’s whisper is almost a rasp.
Spock turns abruptly on his heel and stalks out of the room.
The ironic thing is that he doesn’t have a place to go to. His quarters are currently occupied by Sarek. It’s not that there isn’t enough space for both of them, but Spock doubts sincerely that either of them could tolerate the other’s presence at the moment. He is forbidden to sit at Pike’s bedside, the only place that so far has granted him any shred of peace. The ship is a busy hive of activity with all the ongoing repairs, and all Spock wants is to find a dark hole somewhere, crawl up into it, and stop existing.
How Nyota manages to find him amidst his aimless wanderings, Spock will never know. Without saying a word, she takes his hand and tugs him after her. Spock follows her obediently. He’s past the point of thinking.
The lights in her quarters are dimmed when they enter. Nyota quickly keys the environmental controls to a higher temperature, and Spock nearly moans at the sudden rush of heat enveloping him. He hadn’t noticed how cold the rest of the ship has been.
Nyota steers him toward the bed and undresses him quickly and efficiently, her gestures soothing and calm and so very feminine that Spock accepts them without a hint of resistance. He doesn’t question it when she snuggles against him under the sheets, warm and soft like some sweet balm. He closes his eyes the rest of the way and slips into unconsciousness.
He wakes up to the sound of crying. It’s muffled, as if Nyota’s trying to do her absolute best to hide it from him, but her whole body, trapped half-beneath him, is trembling with sobs she unsuccessfully tries to stifle. He shifts a little off of her, and knowing he’s awake crushes the last bits of her resolve. Her tears are soaking the pillow and the sheets, and the whine she makes is that of a mortally wounded she-wolf, not a human.
“Not coming back...” Her voice is unrecognizably broken and thick. “None of them... Simone, Peter, Gaila... Never... How can I? Why me?”
Spock can’t stand it, has to stop it, not knowing why but knowing he must or there will be no coming back for Nyota, either. He kisses her, and she screams and bites him and she means it; the smell of blood makes him a little dizzy, too. He moves to cover her and she digs her nails into the smooth skin of his back, breaking it as her sharp teeth sink into his shoulder. Her scream is muffled by his flesh.
There is a primal, normally dormant part of him that responds to this, and he lets it take the reins for a moment. There is no finesse in the way he flips her over, pressing her face-down into the mattress, subduing her resistance. She tries to break free halfheartedly, crying worse than before as if his actions have ruined the last of her restraint – and maybe they have. She’s puts up little resistance but doesn’t cooperate either, making him work for it, and when he enters her she starts sobbing uncontrollably, a heavy wheeze soaking the sound of her breath.
He doesn’t allow her a moment to recover because neither of them can afford it. He sets a cruel, punishing pace, the only one that can get through to her – the one that his body, too, is demanding. She is rigid and unyielding for a maddening, angry eternity, and then something snaps within her, as if a tightly pulled string is cut loose, and she shakes beneath him and spreads her legs a little wider. He doesn’t slow down, but she turns her head just enough to get the words out.
“Harder.” She doesn’t sound like herself yet, but she sounds alive again, and he obliges through the haze of his exhaustion and elation, even as she goes on demanding, “Harder, Spock. God. Please. Harder. Harder. I know you can.”
It doesn’t take long after that for either of them.
Spock collapses on top of her, and Nyota lets out a small groan at having the wind pushed out of her.
“Forgive me,” Spock breathes, sliding off. There are black dots all over his field of vision, and his chest smarts as if burned.
He doesn’t know what he’s apologizing for – crushing her with his weight when he’s too tired to support himself even while lying down, or for whatever has just happened between them. Maybe it’s for the loss she has suffered, the loss that filled her with survivor’s guilt to an extent that was detrimental. For all the wrongs he couldn’t right.
“No,” Nyota whispers, turning over and shifting closer to him. “No, you’re good.” She presses her lips softly to the bite mark she left earlier. It still stings. She licks it soothingly. “I’m sorry, too. I wish I could...”
But she can’t, and he can’t, either. They are both powerless to help all those who are gone, or even each other. For Nyota, their closeness only serves to pull her back into the world of living – it hurts, and it should. For Spock, it fails to do even that, but it reminds him. There are still people out there, like Nyota, who need him to take care of them, however little he can offer.
Perhaps it is enough.