Title: Don't Stop Believing 4.4/?
Pairings/Characters: Kirk/Spock pre-slash, McCoy, Pechalat (OFC)
Notes: For detailed story summary/navigation/word count, please visit the Master Post.
The planet Verada is beautiful.
Spock wouldn’t phrase it in quite those terms, of course, but, surveying the smooth, plump hills covered in silky, light green grass with a veil of wilted flowers, he can’t deny a certain loveliness to the place. Here and there are huge stone monoliths, most of them tall and stretched and painted with a pleasing dark grey color. They oversee the landscape even as their very existence is the cause for an ongoing debate between the Enterprise’s geologists. The sky is a vast, milky shade of pink and lilac; the breeze is soft, and it’s pleasantly warm.
A most lovely planet.
“I wonder why this planet was never colonized,” McCoy muses aloud. “I mean, I know it’s far, but it’s so quiet here.”
Spock glances at him sideways. The doctor is wearing an uncharacteristically soft expression, the hard lines on his forehead temporarily evened out.
“Perhaps it will be, after we conclude its exploration,” Spock says. “It is not Starfleet policy to establish colonies on planets that have only been surveyed by probes. The risk of such a settlement finding a premature end is unreasonably high.”
“Aw, Commander – ever the romantic,” Natalie Pechalat intones teasingly, pouting at him. She’s sitting upper on the hill, blonde hair gleaming freely in the soft light as she takes readings – the only one of Spock’s staff who isn’t wearing a field uniform. Her skirt is shorter than regulation as it is, and her posture leaves even less to the imagination.
Spock glances at McCoy again, realizing that the doctor is paying much more attention to the lieutenant than to his tricorder. Spock suppresses a sigh. He really doesn’t know what to do with her.
“Have you finished collecting your data, Lieutenant?” Spock asks, stepping forward and neatly blocking McCoy’s field of vision.
“Mais oui, mon Commandeur.” She sends him a brilliant grin, though her laughing eyes tell him quite clearly she knows what he just did. “Transmitting, sir.”
“Thank you.” Spock glances at his own screen, noting the usual accuracy and thoroughness of her report. That is what saves her from his displeasure, most of the time. He has to acknowledge, grudgingly, that she is the most promising scientist on his team. “Then perhaps you could assist with the geological survey?”
Despite the mild tone, it is not a request, and they both know it. Pechalat rises to her feet in one exceedingly graceful motion and salutes Spock smartly. “Yes, sir.”
She walks past Spock and winks at McCoy. “Build a house with me in mind, Doctor.”
“Sure, darlin’.” McCoy grins, enjoying the view and not hiding it, his own tricorder forgotten in his hand.
Spock waits until the lieutenant is out of earshot. “I would appreciate it if you stop distracting my staff, Doctor,” he says dryly. “Particularly Ms. Pechalat, who does not need additional encouragement, I assure you.”
McCoy chuckles. “Jealous, Spock?” The doctor looks at him, grinning. “We’re just being friendly; it’s not a crime. And if nobody flirts with you these days, that’s no reason to turn all Scrooge on the rest of us.”
“I do not object to you and Ms. Pechalat flirting, Doctor, illogical as it may be. I object to you doing it while on duty. Need I remind you that regulations clearly state—”
“Fine, fine. Ever the ray of sunshine, aren’t you, Spock? You know, all work and no play makes you an extremely dull... Vulcan.”
“Sometimes your obsession with Terran colloquialisms makes me wonder if you are in the right profession, Doctor.”
“Oh really? You want me turn all doctor on you here? Fine. I’ve been meaning to talk to you, and I suppose now is as good a time as any.” McCoy raises his eyebrows, seriousness now lining his features. “Can I ask you a personal question?”
Spock glances around, but they are conveniently alone, albeit in clear view of several other teams. “If you must,” he says finally.
“Are you and Pike bonded?”
Spock has his training to thank for not dropping his tricorder. He glances up at McCoy from his crouching position on the ground and meets a bluntly appraising gaze. Spock bites back the sharp remark that’s on the tip of his tongue and returns to his readings.
“I assume you have a reason other than idle curiosity for prying into my personal affairs?”
“Wow; those workplace ethics pamphlets must have really done a number on you,” McCoy remarks sarcastically, getting down on one knee beside Spock. “I do have a reason to ask, you antisocial hobgoblin. Can’t believe I actually care.”
“Yes,” Spock says dryly. “Your concern for me is shining through your every word.”
“Well, you’re so warm and fuzzy, it’s a miracle people don’t line up to give you a hug,” McCoy grunts. “Just answer the damn question.”
“I am not bonded,” Spock says. “To Admiral Pike or anyone else.”
For the first time in his life, the words don’t sting. They should; they always have before, but now they just – don’t. He isn’t feeling anything at all, in fact, and while this is probably as close as he has ever gotten to the ideal sought by all Vulcans, the thought is strangely disconcerting.
“Really.” McCoy watches him with a frown, looking strangely disappointed. “Well, so much for that version.”
“Yeah. I’ve been getting updates from New Vulcan. What with the little guys we took care of after Nero, and the Council members, and well, you, I’m now considered some sort of an expert on the Vulcan PTSD.”
“The future of my race has never seemed so dim.”
McCoy glares. “The thing is, there’ve been multiple reports of progressing distresses and depressions among the adult population. Emotional collapses, lowered ability to cope and all that.”
Spock stiffens with an instinctive surge of defensiveness. “That is to be expected, Doctor. I do not believe you can comprehend what the loss of Vulcan had meant to us. My people are grieving.”
“Yes.” McCoy stares at him piercingly, undeterred and looking strangely as if he has just obtained a winning hand. “Your people are grieving. Why aren’t you?”
Spock’s eyes snap up of their own volition. “I beg your pardon?”
“You – are not – grieving,” McCoy repeats steadily, allowing the words to sink in. “Grief, Mr. Spock, is manifested physically, as well as emotionally. You show signs of neither. Your people – those on New Vulcan and back on Earth – are having a normal, healthy reaction to a tremendous loss. Well, healthy for Vulcans, anyway.” The doctor eyes him warily. “You, on the other hand, are not distressed at all. You sleep okay, you eat okay, you go about your duties like a perfect little efficiency machine. You obviously have no problem concentrating, or you never would have pulled Jim out of that snakes’ nest in time last week. In other words, you’re perfectly fine.”
“And that is clearly something you wish to remedy.”
“Dammit, Spock – the only Vulcans who show your level of stability now are either kids or are bonded.”
“Perhaps I have a unique coping mechanism.”
“Or perhaps you’re not coping at all!”
Spock straightens up abruptly, making the air whoosh. McCoy follows suit, refusing to be stared down.
“Perhaps I do not have to. As the captain so aptly noted, I cannot feel pain or heartbreak. It follows logically, does it not, that, unfeeling as I am, I will not have to grieve?”
Spock purses his lips in a terse line as he contemplates the reddening human before him. “You are attempting to project human emotions on me. It does not surprise me that you must fail, given that I am not human.”
“Dammit, Spock, don’t put words in my mouth!” McCoy grits out. “That’s not what I meant at all!”
“It is difficult to discern what you mean when your speech is polluted with colorful metaphors that carry no meaning.”
“What? You pointy-eared—”
“Furthermore, you yourself noted that I perform my duties adequately. I therefore fail to see the reason for your concern because, as long as I continue to operate efficiently, everything else is irrelevant.”
McCoy is positively glowering at him now, and, deep down, inside Spock is elated. He has riled up the doctor enough to drop his line of questioning, likely for the foreseeable future.
“You know what? You’re right. I have no idea why I cared in the first place!” McCoy spits. “I wanted to warn you about the dangers of emotional suppression, but I can see I don’t need to bother, ‘cause you’ve got nothing to suppress!”
It stings, and Spock can see no logical reason why. There is something blatantly immoral in McCoy’s premise, and yet Spock has no ammunition to disprove it on the spot. He inhales deeply, opening his mouth to object without the first idea of the nature of his objection, when a new voice cuts in.
“Gentlemen.” Kirk is standing not some ten feet up the hill’s slope, hands on his hips and staring at them. “What’s going on here?”
Neither Spock nor McCoy answers, gazes stubbornly locked on each other. Kirk walks toward them slowly and studies both their faces intently before shifting slightly toward Spock, flanking him.
McCoy blinks, looking now at the two of them. “Nothing,” he snaps. “Nothing’s going on that concerns you, Jim.”
“Really,” Kirk says, in the same tone he usually says, ‘Bullshit.’ “Mr. Spock, is there a problem?”
Spock forces himself to look away from McCoy’s glare. “None that I am aware of, Captain.”
Kirk eyes him sternly, opening his mouth to retort, when a shout from afar interrupts him.
“Hey Doctor!” Lieutenant Pechalat is standing next to one of the obelisks. “Would you like a souvenir?”
McCoy just waves at her, still too engrossed in the battle of wills to really understand her meaning, but watches as she unholsters her phaser. Spock’s eyes narrow suddenly, pieces of the puzzle adding up in his head, and he stares under his feet, seeing grass, grass, grass, and not a trace of even the smallest stone.
“Lieutenant, don’t!” he calls out sharply, but it’s too late.
They hear a thin whine of a phaser as Pechalat carves a small piece of the monolith with a narrow beam. For a moment, it seems as if nothing is going to happen. The lieutenant bends over to pick up the piece she has just phasered out.
As though on cue, the ground under their feet promptly starts to tremble.
“What the hell?!” McCoy yells, as a particularly strong jolt sends him rolling across the ground. “An earthquake?”
“That’s no earthquake!” Kirk shouts over the mounting cacophony of sounds around them. “Look!”
All around them, the stone monoliths are splitting open, changing, reshaping themselves into things that have neither form nor name, but nonetheless marked intent. The now-animated masses of – rock? – are moving in every direction at an alarming speed, leaving deep gashes in the ground as they pass.
They hear a scream: Lieutenant Pechalat is now surrounded by three fast-moving objects that threaten to crush her.
“Bones, find Lehmann, get the shuttle over here!” Kirk orders before running after Spock, who is already sprinting toward the trapped lieutenant.
Spock doesn’t stop for a moment, jumping over the newly formed trenches and pulling out his communicator as he runs. Kirk’s the captain, but Spock is, nominally, in charge of the landing party. The order is his to give, though neither of them is thinking about it – Spock simply manages to speak first.
“Team leaders, evacuate all personnel immediately! All shuttles must launch in one minute!”
“Spock!” Kirk’s warning comes a bit too late, but the captain manages to catch his elbow and push him forward just in time to get out of the way of a particularly vicious-looking stone giant.
They both roll on the ground, not having any time for a sudden delay. Spock stumbles to his feet, pulling Kirk with him, and they run again, ducking and jumping, heads spinning to keep track of the chaotic movements.
“Fucking rush-hour,” Kirk pants, as Spock practically throws him over another trench before following after him.
The lieutenant is now not some ten feet away from them, but the three grotesque monoliths have no intention of letting her go. They force her to run in circles between them as she tries to avoid being squashed.
“Shit!” Kirk yells. “Spock, we’re running out of time!”
Spock spares a glance in the captain’s direction and sees four more living rocks moving toward them fast.
“I’ll distract them!” Kirk shouts, and, before Spock can protest, he runs toward the nearest rock and kicks it.
It all but falls on him, moving with incredible speed, and Pechalat screams again – this time, clearly frightened for the captain – but Kirk manages to scoot over at the last second.
Spock can’t afford to watch the horrific play. The captain is risking his life so that Spock could get the unfortunate girl out.
“Lieutenant, follow my lead!” Spock shouts, and she nods shakily, eyes wide.
Spock uses the interval Kirk has created for him and jumps inside the narrowing circle, extending his hand. Pechalat grabs it like it’s a lifeline, and they both jump as a giant mass of rock crushes over them. Somewhere to their left, Kirk is cursing incessantly, and Spock is grateful because, as long as the soundtrack of profanities keeps coming, he knows the captain is alive.
“Over here, Spock, Jim!”
Spock spots the shuttle hovering not thirty feet to his right and makes a beeline for it, tugging the lieutenant after him and jumping over the gashes opening anew beneath their feet.
“Come on, come on, come on!” McCoy’s voice urges desperately.
Spock grits his teeth and takes another dive, Pechalat’s scream the only indicator of how close a call that was. Kirk is there, suddenly, and he has the lieutenant’s other hand as they all but drag her toward the shuttle, followed by the deafening sounds of crushing rocks.
“Give me your hand,” McCoy says, catching Pechalat’s wrist and tugging her into the hovering shuttle.
Kirk follows suit, muttering, “Dragon teeth. Never thought—”
And, mind almost ringing in his ears with its speed, Spock suddenly lets go of the railing at the same instant the final piece of the puzzle locks in, and jumps back to the shuddering ground.
“Spock, what the fuck are you doing?!”
“Spock! Dammit, get into the shuttle! Now!”
Spock doesn’t listen, continuing to run away from the shuttle.
“Shit,” he hears Kirk swearing. “Lieutenant, take off without us!”
“Jim, what d’you think you’re doing?”
“I said, take off NOW! That’s an order!”
Spock hears the shuttle accelerating, accompanied by McCoy’s rapidly fading curses.
“Spock, it’s coming straight at you!” Kirk shouts. “Dammit, MOVE!”
Spock does, but, instead of sprinting away, he steps aside at the last possible moment, and presses his open palms flat against the rock. He’s only got a few seconds as the harsh surface all but erases his hands, rushing past him. The pain is burning, but Spock disregards it, closing his eyes and concentrating hard.
And suddenly, he’s floating.
All the sounds of the outside world fade, and he slides into a consciousness so vast and so alien that his mind needs several attempts to even begin to grasp it, but it’s there. It’s there, and it’s roaring with pain, raw and primal, and Spock is losing himself rapidly, sinking into this violent purple whirlpool of agony, feeling his sense of self disintegrate faster than he can recapture it...
There are hands on his shoulders, gripping him, shaking.
“Goddamn it – Spock! Snap out of it!”
Spock opens his eyes and groans instantly, the soft light suddenly too sharp against his overly-sensitive eyes.
“Shit,” Kirk mutters as Spock sinks to the ground without warning. Kirk’s hands barely manage to slow his fall. “Spock, are you okay?”
“The – ground,” Spock says slowly. “It is not moving.”
“No,” Kirk confirms, and Spock can finally concentrate on his face. The captain is scowling at him. “All the ka-boom stopped when you touched that thing. Spock, did you – was that a mind-meld?”
Spock blinks. “Affirmative. I—”
“With a stone?”
“You said ‘dragon teeth—’”
“That’s an old Earth legend, what are you —“ Kirk blinks, then shakes his head in disbelief. “Oh God, rocks coming alive, is that it? You’ve got to be kidding me.”
“—and I thought if a similar case was present here, I could stay and—”
“No way you’re blaming this on me!”
“Don’t even go there. You disobeyed a direct order, mister, and scared the shit out of me—”
“Captain, I...” Spoke breathes deeply before continuing. “There is a – a gigantic creature living beneath the surface.”
Kirk blinks. “I thought you guys scanned it?”
“It is existing in close proximity to the planet’s core. While in latent state, it was not detected. These – monoliths” – Spock points feebly at the frozen rocks around them – “are its... lungs, perhaps, or some other extremities. And when Lieutenant Pechalat cut one of them with a phaser—”
“It woke up.” Kirk nods. “No wonder.”
“Correct.” Spock inclines his head. He makes a move to sit up, but his head is still spinning, and he doesn’t think to object when Kirk’s arm wraps around his shoulders, helping him up.
“Is it sentient?” the captain asks, frowning and peering into Spock’s face intently.
“No.” Spock shakes his head. “At the very least, to the point of the very rudimentary intelligence.”
“Like a dog?”
“Slightly less intelligent than an average Earth canine, but essentially—”
Kirk grins at him. “So what’d you do to calm it down? Pet it?”
Spock realizes suddenly that Kirk’s arm is still wrapped around him. He moves away, refusing Kirk’s further help as he gets to his feet.
“Essentially,” Spock repeats with a nod. “I transmitted the feelings of warmth and calmness, and also—” He pauses. “Also, my impressions of the planet’s aesthetical appeal.”
Kirk laughs softly, his shoulders slumping in relief. Spock quirks an eyebrow at him.
“Is there something you find amusing, Captain?”
Kirk shakes his head, grinning. “Just thinking about how you just told a planet that it’s being a good girl. Or a pretty girl.”
He catches sight of Spock’s expression and sighs, rubbing his face. “Oh, never mind. So what do we do now? Call back the science teams?”
“Inadvisable.” Spock looks at the distorted view around them. It’s painful to observe while remembering how smooth and peaceful it was not an hour ago. “We have neither the time nor the resources required for a mission of such magnitude. A Starfleet science vessel would be optimal to study this world.”
“Okay.” Kirk looks at him guardedly. “If that’s your recommendation.”
“It would be Starfleet Command’s as well. This mission will likely take three to five years.”
“Definitely not our call, then.” Kirk nods. “I’m calling Scotty to send someone for us—”
“If I may, Captain,” Spock says suddenly. The feeling of immense discomfort he has been experiencing grows. “I believe we should undo the harm we have caused this creature before we leave.”
Kirk’s eyebrows arch. “Is it possible?”
“I believe so. Our transporters have been obscured by an immensely dense bio-psychic field. It is my understanding that an infusion of positive mental energy would recompense the loss the system has suffered.”
He turns to look at Kirk. “I believe we can heal it.”
Kirk blinks. “We?”
Realizing instantly what he just said, Spock steps back abruptly, dropping his gaze. “I apologize for assuming, Captain. You are not obligated to assist me—”
“—I would never have presumed in such a manner. It is my responsibility and—”
“—it is merely that I believed—”
“Spock! Cut it out and tell me what I can do to help, would you? You caught me by surprise, is all. You know I’m not a telepath.”
Spock looks up, surprised. Kirk is staring at him, hands on his hips, feet planted firmly to the ground – the image of determination.
“I would not have asked,” Spock says slowly, “but the consciousness of this being, while unsophisticated, is vast, and I am somewhat low on resources after the first mind-meld.”
“You want to do it again?” Kirk deduces, stepping closer.
“Affirmative. However, this time, I shall not explore, but will channel positive emotions to fill the gap. This is where I require your assistance. My capacity to do that at the moment is somewhat... limited.”
Kirk swallows and glances down briefly. “You’ll meld with me, too?”
“If you will allow it.”
“And how do I – how do I do it, exactly?”
“The simplest way would be for you to concentrate on the episodes of your life when you were feeling happy and contented. If you could make yourself relive those moments, that is all that I would require.”
“Happy moments?” Kirk’s face falls, and he shakes his head. “Wow. I really wish you had someone else here with you.”
Spock frowns. “You are free to decline, Captain. I have no intention of forcing you.”
“That’s not what I—” Kirk starts, scowling, then stops abruptly. “Fuck it. Let’s just do it.”
Spock steps closer and lifts his hand to Kirk’s face. Kirk stares at it, eyes wide.
“God, Spock. Your hands...”
The upper layer of epidermis is missing entirely. Spock regards it numbly before turning to Kirk. While he might understand the instinctive revulsion the sight provokes, they do not have time for this.
“Vulcan blood is not toxic,” Spock tells Kirk calmly. “I assure you, you will encounter no difficulty removing it from your skin.”
Kirk holds his eyes. “You just don’t want to hear me, do you?” he says quietly. “It’s like talking to a wall.”
He grabs Spock’s wrist and presses Spock’s fingers to his face, looking resigned. “Do it.”
Spock decides not to prolong what is already an entirely confusing and frustrating situation. “My mind to your mind,” he whispers.
The meld is shallow, and Spock keeps his barriers tightly up. He reaches with his other hand toward the monolith, and the connection is reestablished instantly. He is surrounded by the creature’s curiosity, mixed with discomfort and apprehension.
He tries to reassure it, concentrating on the hurting spot and trying to create a conduit. The effort is pulling at his reserves, overstrained already. Kirk must be able to sense it, because suddenly Spock feels washed in a vast wave of happiness that is not his own.
He doesn’t intrude into Kirk’s mind, but he does examine the memory Kirk has pulled out as it passes through him.
...Kirk is a small boy, no more than four or five years of age. He’s at the backyard of a farmhouse, sweeping golden and brown leaves with a broom that is far too big for him to be handling it properly. The wind is soft and dry, and he laughs, happy and carefree, as he watches the leaves gather in whirlpools and rise above the ground.
Suddenly, another boy, a slightly older one, appears. Kirk turns to look at him, pointing at the leaves and talking excitedly, when the other boy smirks mischievously and tackles him into a big pile of leaves. They roll together, scattering the just-gathered leaves everywhere, laughing and yelling and tickling each other.
Vaguely, Spock notices a woman standing in the doorway of the house. Her silhouette is blurry, but Spock knows somehow that she’s immensely beautiful and warm and every other perfect thing in the world. She’s holding a coffee mug in her hand and smiling, watching the two boys play...
The memory fades, and Spock feels the creature basking in its glow. His assumption is correct: they are indeed healing it.
Kirk pulls another memory for him to use, and Spock is momentarily baffled, realizing that there’s an almost twenty-year gap between the two.
…Kirk walks into his dorm at the Academy, and sees Doctor McCoy there, wearing his cadet reds and unpacking unhurriedly. Kirk stills for a moment, and then Spock feels the enormous grin that’s almost literally splitting his face. Kirk yells something exuberant and then squeezes McCoy in a bone-crushing embrace. Spock hears the excited litany of nearly incoherent thoughts: ‘He’s staying – didn’t scare him off – staying with me – no one ever has – Bones! Bones! – with me – I’ve never – not like him – can’t believe –’ McCoy’s grumbling, but Spock can feel his arms wrap around Kirk’s waist firmly as he grunts, ‘Dammit, Jim, I love you, too, but let the fuck go before we both sprain something.’ Spock is overwhelmed by a burning wish that passes through Kirk at that moment to kiss McCoy senseless, to never stop holding on to his friend…
The next memory is the graduating ceremony at the Academy, where Kirk has been officially named captain and receives orders to take command of the Enterprise.
Spock mixes Kirk’s memories with his own, equally few, and finds himself surprised that they have this in common. Spock’s own rare moments of pure bliss seem to be revolving around Christopher, mostly at the early stage of them becoming lovers, when their feelings were raw and new and neither of them had been holding back. Spock shields the memories, milking them for emotions that he can no longer feel but that he could, once, a long time ago. He channels what seems to be every ounce of happiness he and Kirk have between the two of them to the creature, feeling it revitalize on the memories.
“Spock,” Kirk whispers, and Spock opens his eyes, the meld breaking gradually. “Look.”
Everywhere around them, the monoliths are righting themselves, turning once again into perfect geometrical forms. Each one emits a soft, sweet-smelling cloud of pink dust, shimmering in the air, as the wind spreads it around. It falls down, and the ground starts to bloom almost instantly, little pink and lilac flowers covering the entirety of the surface faster than any biological laws should make possible.
“Wow,” Kirk murmurs in awe.
Spock notices, absently, that Kirk is holding his wrist in a tight, likely subconscious grip. Spock doesn’t comment or move away, but instead lifts his eyes to gaze at the miracle happening around them.
It is breathtakingly beautiful.
“Our hostess is generous,” Spock says softly. “This will be... a pleasant recollection to return to.”
Kirk turns to look at him, smiling in pure wonder. “It will be the best.” They stare at each other for a long moment, as the planet continues to glow around them.
“Thank you for letting me share it.” Kirk squeezes Spock’s wrist before letting go.
Spock looks away, feeling strangely uncomfortable. “I believe our business here is concluded, Captain.”
Kirk nods and pulls out his communicator. He pauses though before making the call. “Hey, Spock?” Spock glances at him and sees a small smile. “I’m glad you thought you could ask me for help.”
Spock doesn’t know what to say to this. They have just shared a great intimacy, and yet – Spock cannot read the man standing in front of him, looking at him with an expression Spock cannot unveil. He only knows that Kirk is being sincere, and it is painful to realize, because Kirk has been open where Spock has not. A man of integrity, indeed.
A man of integrity who only has three unconditionally happy memories scattered over the twenty-five years of his life.
Kirk is still looking at Spock as if waiting for something, expecting some kind of reaction to what he has revealed. He is waiting for something Spock cannot grant, and the regret Spock feels is sharp and consuming. He wants to mourn, unexpectedly, for the disappointment he is causing; for having no choice but to push Kirk away; but mostly, for himself, and his inability to be the man he once thought he was.
In the end, Spock nods slightly, for lack of a better response, and looks away, listening to Kirk negotiate their transportation.
Later, after he and Kirk both are yelled at by an extremely irate Doctor McCoy, and after Spock spends two hours in regen getting his hands treated, he retires to his quarters and attempts to meditate for the first time in nearly three months.
The attempt is as futile as his last one had been. No matter how deeply Spock looks inside himself, he sees nothing but a void of numbing emptiness. Whatever emotions he experiences these days are so bland that he can barely recognize them. Mild amusement, mild irritation, mild apprehension, mild concern – they are all superficial, fleeting, and there is nothing that would feed them from the inside. They are oil to his water – enveloping him from the outside but never sinking in.
McCoy is right, Spock muses. He’s not grieving. The thought is almost amoral, and yet he cannot deny the fact that he is not feeling sadness or remorse or pain. Not for his planet, not for his home town, not even for his mother. He tries to think about them, recapture the emotions he once had for them, but there is nothing left. He feels empty, like an open shell; a hollow carcass too stubborn to be broken.
Spock stares at the flickering flame of the candle. He thinks of Christopher, and there, finally, there is something; some kind of spark on the bleak horizon. But it is so dull, so distant, that after a while, Spock isn’t sure if it has been there at all or if he has simply succumbed to wishful thinking.
He blows out the candle and goes back to work when he can’t bear to dwell on what he has become for a moment longer.