Pi Hydrae VIII
Spock tucked another quilt around him and again ran the mediscanner, keeping his concern from his face as he studied the readings; the Humans temperature had been rising steadily. At last he asked, "Are you warmer now, Captain?"
"Yes, I feel better," Kirk lied with a wan smile. He rolled to his right side and looked at the window where snowflakes drifted leisurely in a silent dance. "Beautiful, isnt it?"
It had been Kirks idea for the two of them to take a private shore leave for a three-day weekend. Theyd been through so much lately, most recently the mission with the Medusan ambassador. The captain had envisioned a quiet time away from the ship, both of them bundling up and enjoying long hikes in the snow.
But things had turned out quite differently.
Spock put the mediscanner on the night stand. "Yes, the snow is beautiful."
Kirks eyes lit faintly with amusement. "Youve been hovering over me for hours. Why dont you go outside and...frolic a while?"
The levity in Kirks tone did not affect Spock in the least. "I would prefer to remain inside," he answered seriously.
"Pretty boring company."
"I am far from bored." Spock settled himself into a chair by the bed, computing the odds, then carefully ignoring them. Vegan choriomenigitis, if not treated within twenty-four hours, was deadly. Fortunately, he had enough antibiotics to double, perhaps triple that period of time. But there was only a thirty-six point four percent probability that the Enterprise would arrive within seventy-two hours.
They fell into a comfortable silence as both gazed at the window. A whimsical smile played across Kirks lips as he felt the snowflakes beckoning to him. He yearned to hold out his hand, feel the coolness against his skin; like a child, lean his head back and catch the snowflakes in his mouth. So long ago, it seemed, that he had spent carefree days playing in the snow, tossing snowballs, rolling in it, making "angels." So long ago that his mother admonished him, "Jimmy, youre soaking wet! How many times...?"
How many times...
...Had he dreamed of going back home, forgetting his responsibilities to the ship and crew? For just a little while, of course. Only a day, a weekend. Time enough to relax, be that boy again. The farmhouse would be exactly the same, his mother would not have changed....
His smile still in place, his eyes drifted shut.
Until a whirring sound startled him to wakefulness, Kirk hadnt realized he had dozed off. Spock still sat on the chair next to the bed, but his face seemed changed, the angular lines softened by compassion and concern.
When Spock realized Kirk was awake, he quickly masked his worry. But it was too lateKirk had seen and recognized it.
So Im that sick... Kirk voiced his thought with a trace of disbelief. "Im sick, Spock. Whats the matter with me? I dont get sick"
"You have contracted a...mild virus. Fortunately, we have a medikit and medication."
Although mild sounded forced, Kirk was not going to argue the point. He suddenly realized that he had slept a long while, slept until darkness had fallen and the fireplace lit the room with flickering light and shadows, stretched out gray-black fingers that crept across the walls and seemed to be reaching for the rooms occupants.
Eerie, but only his imagination, Kirk thought hopefully. He started to comment on it and found his mouth was terribly dry. When he reached toward a glass of water on the night stand, he was surprised to find that his hand was trembling.
Without a word, Spock lifted him to a seated position. He touched the glass to the parched lips and watched as Kirk slowly drank. Very carefully, he brushed a lock of bronze/gold hair off the hot forehead.
Hot. The beginning.
Spock steeled himself to the fact that his friends illness would worsen with each passing hour. The symptoms mounted, the readings revealed the truth: Vegan choriomeningitis.
"A virus, huh?" Kirk asked, looking at him. "I mustve picked it up on the Medusan homeworld. I wasnt feeling too great when we beamed back to the Enterprise."
"And you said nothing?" There was no censure in Spocks tone.
Kirk settled back under the covers. "I didnt think a headache was much to be concerned about. Im sorry...and Ill be better tomorrow, promise. I wont ruin our leave."
"You have not ruined it."
Kirk yawned. "Tomorrow well have some fun. Ever been in a snowball fight? In Iowa...." Another yawn... "I was champion..."
"Champion of what?"
"Biggest...snowballs..." Kirks words trailed off as his eyes closed. Minutes later, he was sound asleep.
A fiercely worried Spock gazed at his friend, whose mouth was half-parted, his breathing shallow, his face angrily colored with fever.
Spock went to the hearth and stoked the fire, then began to make preparations. He set a pan of water and a washcloth next to the bed, along with the medikita medical kit stocked with various medications but not containing enough isophrene to combat Vegan choriomeningitis. Although it would be a battle for Kirk to survive, Spock was determined that the Human would survive. Somehow.
He left the bedroom and walked into the small kitchen area where a kettle of soup simmered on the old-fashioned stove. Deep in thought, he stirred it slowly.
Kirks face had been flushed when they beamed down to this rural world, but Spock had not been concerned. He surmised that it was a result of the captains excitementKirk was overjoyed at the prospect of shore leave. After stashing their belongings in the cabin, they had taken a walk together, with Kirk exclaiming on the freshness of the air, the beauty of the trees whose branches were heavy with snow.
After a while, Kirks steps had slowed, and the hazel eyes lost some of their brightness. Reluctantly, he confessed he was tired and had a headache, so they made their way back to the cabin. By the time they reached it, Kirk was shivering violently, and even a hot shower did not warm him. Too late, Spock realized that his friend was sick.
Pi Hydrae VIII was a rustic world, sparsely settled, with little in the way of technology or medical facilities. Theyd rented a small cabin from a real estate company specializing in get-away weekends. When they signed on the virtual dotted line, the Vulcan had noted the disclaimer that there were no hospitals or clinics. It hadnt seemed important at the time. They would be there only for a few days before the Enterprise returned from Starbase 10.
He immediately tried to hail the Enterprise, but the ship was out of communications range. Spock stood in the silence of the cabin, holding the staticky communicator, realizing...
Realizing Jim Kirk could die without prompt medical attention.
But Spock was not going to allow his friend to die. He did not know how to keep Kirk alive, nor did he believe in miracles; yet he could not imagine this universe without his captain and friend, so he knewabsolutely knewthere would be a way to save him.
With this thought in mind, Spock left the kitchen and returned to the bedroom, where he kept a silent vigil over his friend.Saturday
Slowly, groggily, Kirk awoke. For a time, he remained on his side, staring out the window. Snow billowed hypnotically in white tufts against the grayness of the sky; a tree limb brushed against the pane, making a scratching sound. Such beauty...such loneliness.
An appetizing aroma wafted through the air, and again he thought of his mother, of cold, winter afternoons when he dropped off to sleep after completing his chores and woke up to the smell of his mothers heavily spiced stew.
He rolled onto his back and grinned at the Vulcan. "Breakfast, Spock? Youre a man of many talents."
"You have not eaten in sixteen point two hours." Spock set the bowl on the night stand before offering, "I will assist you to eat."
"Thanks, but Im fine now. Really." Kirk shakily sat up and inched his legs off the bed. "Right now, I think Id better visit the bathroom."
After wrapping him in a robe, Spock gently helped Kirk to his feet.
"I can make it on my own," Kirk protested in a small voice, not at all sure that he could make it on his own. He was grateful that Spock didnt pay the slightest attention to his objection, simply took command of the situation and led him into the bathroom. When Kirk bent over the basin to wash his face, Spock left him to his privacy.
As Spock was stripping the sheets from the bed and replacing them with fresh ones, his mind was on Kirk. The fever was down, a good sign. He had administered a viral antidote while Kirk slept and had watched, relieved, as the readings on the scanner lowered into the "normal" range.
Spock put more wood on the fire and waited, staring at the bathroom door, wanting to go inside but not wishing to disturb Kirk. More time passed, with Spock anxiously acknowledging that the Human should certainly have completed his ministrations by now.
Standing next to the door, he tensed at the silence. Just as he touched the doorknob, he heard the sound of retching. Spock jerked the door with such strength it almost came off its hinges.
Kirk lay curled on the floor, his arms wrapped around his stomach, his body spasming. He was heaving unsuccessfully, trying to force out the bile that churned inside him.
"Jim!" In one swift movement, Spock grabbed a damp washcloth and lowered himself next to Kirk. Positioning the Humans head in his lap, he sponged the burning face as he soothingly ran his free hand down Kirks back.
It seemed an eternity before Kirks struggle ended. He lay exhausted, his breathing uneven, his eyes closed as though he had no strength to keep them open, and uttered, "Whats the...matter with me, Spock?" There was fear in his voice.
"A virus," Spock answered, not daring to tell him the full truth. "You must return to bed and rest."
"I can stay here. Safe..."
"Yes, you are safe. I will allow nothing to happen to you."
"Dirty...need a shower."
"No shower. A sponge bath." He pulled Kirk to a sitting position before standing slowly, bracing the Human against himself.
"Dizzy. Im going to be sick again!" Kirk clung desperately to him.
Spock swiftly lifted and carried him to the bed. He grabbed an anti-nausea hypo from the medikit and pressed it against Kirks arm.
"Im okay now," Kirk finally whispered. He nodded toward the bowl of soup. "Please...."
Spock understood that the Human was unable to tolerate the smell. He hesitantly took the soup to the kitchen, aware that Kirk needed nourishment, also aware that food would probably make him vomit again. He suppressed a shudder as he recalled how Kirk had lain helplessly on the bathroom floor, his face contorted with agony as his stomach spasmed uncontrollably.
Steadying himself, Spock returned to the bedroom. "I will bathe you now. Later you must eat some of the soup."
Kirk lifted his arm slowly and pointed toward the window. "I want to touch them, Spock. The snowflakes..."
"You must keep warm."
"Help me...touch them," Kirk requested plaintively as he turned wounded eyes to his friend. "I think maybe Im...dying. I want to touch the snow one last time."
"You are not dying." A lie from Spock, and not an easy one. Was he being fair? Kirk knew the truth...but why reinforce it? No, not dying. Never!
"Please." Kirk reached out and took Spocks hand into his own. There was no strength in his grasp.
Even though it went against his better judgment, there was no way Spock could refuse him. "You will touch the snowflakes."
Jims smile could melt the snowflakes, Spock thought, just as it has melted my resistance to do the logical thing. He should remain in bed...
Although Kirk wore a robe, Spock took the extra precaution of wrapping one of the quilts around him. Satisfied that his friend would be protected against any chilling breeze, Spock braced Kirk against him as they walked to the window. Once there, he opened the window and kept an arm supportively around Kirk.
Kirk eagerly leaned forward, enjoying the cold breeze that caressed his face. His eyes lit with wonderment when he stretched out his hand and felt the kiss of the snowflakes on his palm. "So...lovely," he murmured, entranced.
Spock allowed only a few minutes before he closed the window and helped him back to bed. Kirk felt stronger, invigorated. "Thanks, Spock. I wanted to do that for...how long? How long have I been sick?"
"One day." Spock removed the robe and covered him.
"One day, Science Officer?" Kirk teased. "Thats not very accurate."
Relieved to find the short time at the window had brightened the captains spirits, Spocks lips twitched briefly before settling into their usual impassive line. "I will bathe you now."
"Id still prefer a shower."
"Tomorrow," Spock promised, heading toward the bathroom, his mind in a turmoil as he thought about the disease: a fever that raged and ebbed, followed by delirium, pain in the extremities that would increase graduallyfever and pain which would eventually... consume its victim.
If the Enterprise did not return in time.
Keeping his face composed to hide his concern, Spock filled a pan with warm water, then washed Kirks arms thoroughly and toweled them dry.
"I wanted to build a snowman," Kirk said suddenly.
An eyebrow lifted. "A snowman?"
"A silly idea, I guess. You must have seen pictures of them...a funny head with a carrot for the nose. I dont suppose we have any carrots?"
"None." Spock skillfully cleansed the overly hot body. "I am somewhat familiar with the concept of a snowman, however."
"I wouldve thought that on Vulcan you probably made sandmen!" Kirk chuckled. "But of course, I forget your mother has family on Earth. Hey, Im ticklish!"
The comment made Spock lips curve. "I shall attempt to be more cautious."
"Not the feet. Not between the toes."
"Not the feet." Spock finished cleaning him and put the pan and washcloth on the floor.
Kirk shivered. "God, Im so cold!" There were three layers of quilts over him. "I know it sounds...crazy, but I really am cold."
Spock shoved the bed closer to the fire and added yet another quilt to the bedding. "Is that better?"
"Yes. Not so cold..."
The only sound was their breathing as Spock sat in quiet vigil. Occasionally the fire crackled, occasionally the wind snapped at the window. Other than that, they were in a warm, silent room that was surrounded by a blanket of white.
Snow. Yes, lovely, Spock agreed. Now it was lovely. In the future, he may regard it as a harbinger of death.
At length, Spock almost pleaded, "Will you try some soup?"
"Okay." Kirk agreed only for Spocks sake; he wasnt at all hungry.
By the time Spock returned with the soup, Kirk was sitting up and staring intently at the window, his face scarlet, his eyes bright with fever.
"Its so warm," Kirk announced wistfully.
Spock sat down next to him. "What is warm?"
"The corns so high...have you tasted corn fresh off the stalk? Firm, and its milk squirts you, makes you laugh...." In Kirks mind, he was turning, whirling between the tall stalks of corn. "See how the dust kicks up? Be careful or well both get dirty...and Mom is probably mad at me already for not coming in for lunch!" He pointed toward an unseen object, a phantom of his fevered brain. "Isnt the house beautiful? Sam and I painted it last summer."
"Yes, very beautiful," Spock agreed, watching the emotions play across Kirks features. He had no idea how to bring Kirk back to realityor even if he should.
"You werent there, were you? When Sam and I painted the house...?"
"No. The house looks...very nice, though."
Kirk frowned. "You mustve been there. Youre always with me, Spock."
"Always, Jim." He rested his hand briefly on Kirks shoulder. "You said you missed lunch. Would you like to eat now?" He had to find a way to get some nourishment into him, even if it meant playing on his friends delirium.
Kirk slowly shook his head. "My stomach hurts. Too much corn, I guess." Suddenly, he tensed. "Oh-oh, here comes Mom! Is she mad? Does she look like shes mad?"
"No, Jim. She appears to be happy to see you. She probably wants you to eat."
Kirk visibly relaxed. "Its so warm today...and so good to be home.... Youre right; she is happy! See how shes waving at me? I have to go with her..." Almost without volition, the captain began to ease himself from the bed.
Terrified, Spock grabbed Kirks shoulders and restrained him. "It is unreal, Jim! Wake up!"
Kirk looked at him in confusion. "Spock? Unreal?"
"You have been hallucinating. You thought you were in Iowa."
Kirk stared out the window, watching as the snowflakes touched the glass and melted. "I was...home. Where are we? Why am I...?"
"You are ill." Spock propped up several pillows behind his friend. "I have brought you some soup."
Kirks bewilderment turned into a grimace of pain. "My legs hurt. Did I fall or something?"
"You have a viral infection. It is important that you eat and regain your strength." Spock carefully fed him a spoonful of soup. When he attempted a second spoon of it, Kirk shook his head.
"Please...I dont want any more. My stomach hurts."
Spock hesitated, then tried the one ploy likely to work. "For me. Will you attempt to eat it for me?"
Kirks smile was half-hearted. "Okay, Ill try." He took several more sips of the soup. Suddenly, he paled and rolled to his side until his head hung off the bed. He began to vomit.
Spock realized he had not waited long enough for the anti-nausea medication to take effect. He supported Kirk as the Human trembled, his body jerking convulsively. The agonized heaving continued long after his stomach had been emptied. At last he lay limply.
Spock moved him back to the pillows and gently sponged his face. The hazel eyes were no longer fevered, but dull, tired.
"Im sorry," Kirk whispered.
"An apology is unnecessary."
"Sorry..." As Kirks eyes closed, he reached out, seeking Spocks hand.
Hour after hour, Spock sat watching him, frantically hoping that the Enterprise would return on schedule. He had administered a vitamin supplement and all the antibiotics the kit held, and there was little else he could do. The medikit was stocked with just two more vials of pain reliever and another of anti-nausea medication, and he had to use them sparingly.
He desperately wanted to again see the look of awe on Kirks face, watch it brighten with a smile. He wanted to make his friend forget his pain, if only for a moment.
Both eyebrows lifted as a plan came to mind.Sunday
When Kirk opened his eyes, his first sight was a worried Vulcan hovering over him. "Mornin, Spock," he greeted softly. "I feel better. I...think I feel better. What day is it?"
"It is Sunday. It is warmer today. It has stopped snowing."
"Too bad." Kirk sighed. "I like the snow."
"You also enjoy the sunshine," Spock pointed out. "Look at the window, Jim."
Kirk gasped, his eyes widening with amazement. "Spock, it cant be! You...when did you...?"
In front of the window and inside the room, a snowman sat in a large wheelbarrow. Two cookies formed the eyes, and a potato had been carefully carved to make a nose. There was one very distinctive featuresome green type of vegetable had been shaped until it resembled two pointed ears.
"A Vulcan snowman!" Kirk laughed. "Can you bring it over here?"
"Certainly, Captain," Spock said formally, although his insides were warming with pleasure. He had not only made Kirk smile; he had made him laugh. He rolled the wheelbarrow to the bed.
"This is great!" Kirk touched the snowman reverently, as though it were an object of great value. "When did you find the time to do this?"
"While you were asleep."
"Thanks, Spock. And you managed in this weird weather." Frowning, Kirk rubbed his hand across his chin. "Odd, isnt it? Snow, then sunshine...and cornfields. Where are the cornfields? I thought I could see them from the window"
"It was a dream, Jim."
"But you were with me. We were there, and I...." Kirk gazed sadly at the snowman. "Its melting, Spock. All things die, I guess, but I dont want to watch it die."
"I will take it outdoors and place it in the shade."
"Good!" Kirk beamed a smile at him. "Just dont let Sam see it. Hell be jealous!"
Spock swallowed hard. "I will not allow him to view it."
"Okay," Kirk said, relaxing. "Im going to go to the kitchen and get something to eat. Im starved!" He struggled to sit up.
Spock gently pushed him back down before pressing a hypo against his arm. It contained the last of the anti-nausea medication, and with the medicine that was already in Kirks system, should reduce the chance of more vomiting.
Kirk eyed the hypo warily. "What did you do that for?"
"A...vitamin supplement. Remain in bed, and I will bring food to you." His gaze on Kirk, Spock almost ran the wheelbarrow into the wall as he tried to roll it outside.
His duty at last performed, Spock went to the kitchen and soon returned with a bowl of soup. He raised the spoon to Kirks lips.
"Hey, just let me drink it all," Kirk objected impatiently. "I really am hungry."
"One sip at a time," Spock insisted firmly. He spooned the broth into Kirks mouth, pausing to wait for any adverse reactionbut the Human swallowed it eagerly. "How do you feel?" he asked when Kirk was finished.
"Fine...no. Was I in a fight? My hands hurt." Kirk lay back on the pillow and flexed his fingers. "My legs, too. I cant seem to remember what happened."
Spock chose his words carefully. "We are on shore leave, and you have become ill"
"Shore leave? Thats it!" Kirk glanced around the room. "Wheres Finnegan? Hiding? I bet I can beat the tar out of him!"
"He has...run away." Spock passed the scanner over Kirk and was not surprised to find the Humans temperature slowly rising.
"He picks on me because Im younger." Kirk raised his chin defiantly. "Someday Ill have a command of my own...and Ill have him assigned to my ship as...as a janitor!"
"A fitting revenge."
"No, not really. I guess Finnegan is all right...but he should study more. And leave me alone. I wish Mom didnt hate the idea so much," Kirk said, shifting the subject without warning. "She doesnt want me to go into space, but I have to go, Spock. I dont know why the stars have always been a...part of me. I want to touch them, explore new planets and...kneel down and run the alien soil through my fingers. I want to meet every type of being, study all the different cultures..."
As Kirk spoke, his voice became softer and more hesitant because talking tired him. "Each of us is basically the same, Im sure of that. Maybe some have six fingers on each handor no hands at allbut were the same inside. Not inside, I mean...I mean.... Why cant my mother understand that? Why cant she see that I have to go...out there?"
"You must rest." Spock once more looked at the scanner which indicated fever and exhaustion but no nausea. He hoped Kirk would be able to digest the broth and gain strength from it.
"Ive slept too much, I think," Kirk said wearily. "My whole body aches. Maybe if I took a walk"
"No, Jim," Spock said with undeniable authority.
Authority that Kirk did not accept. "But"
"Your legs are hurting, and you must not walk until they cease to ache."
"Thats...reasonable." Kirk was pensive before giving the Vulcan a questioning look. "Im confused. Are we on Earth?"
"We are on Pi Hydrae Eight."
"And we beamed down and it was snowing!" Excited, Kirk sat up. "We were walking in the snow...and then I didnt feel good."
"Correct. You became ill."
Kirk smiled. "We came back to the cabinand you made a snowman in the cornfield."
Spock nodded, saying nothing.
"...Cornfield?" Again, Kirk was bewildered. "Theres no corn in winter."
"Will you rest now?" Spock urged.
"Finnegan mustve hit me pretty hard," Kirk said, touching the imaginary bruises on his body. "Im hurting all over, especially my legs."
Spock moved to the foot of the bed and starting massaging Kirks aching calves.
"Mmmm, feels good," Kirk mumbled drowsily. "Takes the knots out..."
"When I have finished your lower extremities, I will massage your back."
"Won...der...ful." Kirk was too relaxed to speak. He felt himself being turned onto his stomach and the lean, strong fingers settle on his back. As Spock massaged him, he drifted in and out of wakefulness, his body cold, his body on fire. His pain began to grow, marching with an agonizing slowness up his legs, finally tightening around his stomach and jabbing sharply at his chest.
Spock could feel him stiffen and tense under his touch. He watched fearfully as Kirks breathing became ragged and harsh.
Eyes wild, Kirk rolled onto his back and flailed his arms. "Theyre hurting me, Spock! Make them stop hurting me!"
Only two vials of pain killer left... Spock touched his fingers to the Humans temple. "I will meld with you and ease your pain."
"No!" Kirk frantically pushed Spocks hand away. "Im dying...do you understand? Theyre ripping my insides apart...Im dying!" He started clawing at his own body as though he could physically exorcize the invaders. "If you meld with me, theyll kill you too! Promise, Spock...promise, no meld!"
Kirk was far too agitated for Spock to reason with him, so he merely said, "I will not meld with you, Jim."
"I...I...Spock, oh damn! It hurts!" Kirk rolled over and clutched the pillow so tightly that his knuckles were a bloodless white.
Spocks hand trembled as he touched Kirks shoulder. What to do? Inject him with a painkiller or wait? Logic told him to wait, that in the last stages of the disease, the pain would be unbearable. Yet compassion made him want to ease his friends torment immediately.
"Spock!" Unable to lie still, Kirk rolled back and forth, gasping for breath, tears coursing down his cheeks as his body was enveloped in a blaze of pure agony. A scream tore from his throat, echoing in the room.
Without further hesitation, Spock pressed a hypo to Kirks arm. The Human was delirious, out of control, and though he pushed at Spock, his strength had fled. Finally, he stopped struggling and lay very still. His fingers curled. He moaned.
"I cannot bear to see you suffer," Spock murmured under his breath. He had a separate bedroom but had not used it and did not go there now. He sat at Kirks side and watched over him possessively, as though by his presence he could protect his friend from death.
Too thin, he noted. Another symptom of the disease: rapid emaciation. Too thin.
Too weak to fight.
Although his intent was to stay alert and keep guard over Kirk, Spock, too, was exhausted. After nearly an hour, his head nodded, and he fell into a fitful sleep which was filled with dreams...
...He and Kirk walking across the sands of Vulcan, Jim happy and laughing. Somehow in that strangely tranquil dream, Spock knew death would not take his friend.
Kirk awoke several times during the day. Each time he found Spock at his side, and nestled down into the security of the quilts, the sound of Spocks breathing serving to lull him back to sleep.
Finally, a ray of evening sunshine streaked into the room, and Kirk propped himself up on one elbow to study Spock, who had managed to fall asleep while sitting in his chair. Spocks face was peaceful in its slumber, yet there were now lines of fatigue on it.
"What have I done to you?" Kirk murmured self-consciously. "My fault. I just had to pull you along on this shore leave, and now..."
He wondered if the Vulcan had even eaten. Spock had seemed to have spent all his time tending himwhich left Kirk feeling guilty for complaining about a mere virus. He was fine now, and Spock was tired. He decided he would go to the kitchen and find something for Spock to eat.
Yes, finenot wonderful, but fine, Kirk smiled to himself, certain he had recovered. After tugging on his robe, he made his way slowly into the kitchen. There was some bread in the refrigerator and a pot of soup on the stove. He tried to hold his breath while he reheated the soup because he found the odor sickening. At last, he ladled some into a bowl and picked it up.
Suddenly, the odor turned into an overpowering stench. His stomach knotted, and he dropped the bowl, the hot soup spattering over his bare feet, and he raged with anger and bewildermentanger because he could not perform the simple task of bringing Spock breakfast, bewildered that his stomach once more was churning. He had been feeling so much better...
Kirk closed his eyes, hating himself for his weakness, hating to be a burden to Spock. He had to get away, breathe the fresh air...
When the sound of a dish breaking awoke him, an alarmed Spock realized that Kirk was no longer in bed. He bolted across the room, calling Kirks name, and headed for the kitchen.
Kirk was not inside the cabin.
Having slept while seated upright, Spock was fully clothed. He was certain, however, that Kirk would not have bothered to dress, even if hed had the strength. With that in mind, he ran back to the bedroom and grabbed a quilt before rushing outside.
Kirk was only a few feet away under a giant lyntha tree. Shoeless, he wore only his robe as he stared absently at a wheelbarrow full of water.
Spock approached him cautiously. "What are you doing out here?" He wrapped the quilt around him.
"I was trying to make you some supper, but the smell..." Kirk nodded toward the wheelbarrow. "Its almost gone, Spockyour beautiful snowman."
"I will build another." At present, his main concern was getting Kirk back to the warmth of the cabin. The Human made no protest as Spock lifted him into his arms.
"It was so perfect, though," Kirk sighed, his thoughts still on the snowman. "It made me laugh."
You will laugh again. Spock had to believe that the Enterprise would arrive soon, and that McCoy would quickly administer the antibiotics that would save his friend.
"Youre so good to me," Kirk said when he was placed gently on the bed and the covers drawn over him. Coldhe was shivering again. "I dont understand why, though. You hardly know me."
Spock raised a questioning eyebrow. "I know you quite well."
"How could you? This is only my first month on board...and Im still a little scared inside," Kirk admitted quietly. "It helps a lot, knowing youre my second in command. When I get really down, think Ive taken on too much, all I have to do is look at you...and I see reassurance on your face."
"I will always be there for you," Spock promised.
"I used to think Vulcans were kind of lofty and arrogant. Im glad youre not." Spock reached out and took Kirks hand, squeezing it encouragingly.
"I knew from the first moment that you were...special," Kirk went on softly. "A friend...I hoped youd be my friend. Of course, Garys here and Pipers leaving. In another week, Leonard McCoy will be assigned to the ship." He grinned. "I will have to pull a few strings to get him here... McCoys a bit cantankerous, but hes the best doctor in the fleetand a good friend. I wonder how the two of you will get along?"
Spock touched the Humans face; it was cool, no sign of fever. Although Kirk was not delirious, he was obviously divorced from reality. "I am certain Doctor McCoy and I will get along quite well with one another," he assured him.
"I wish he was on board now. My body...well, it aches all over, and I dont know why. Tension, maybe," Kirk shrugged. "I know the crew is talking about Noguras Golden Boybut I cant stop that. Ill just have to prove myself to them...and prove myself to me, too."
"You are a capable commander and will easily gain their confidence."
"Im not like Chris Pike."
"No. You are James Kirkand there is not another like you in the entire universe," Spock said proudly.
Kirks eyes flickered with amusement. "Thanks, I think. Want to go down to the rec room? Im hungry."
"You must remain in bed. I will bring you something to eat."
"But I cant stay here. I have to get to the bridge!" Agitated, Kirk tossed off the covers.
"Listen to me, Captain!" Spock demanded in a tone which promptly got Kirks attention. "Your duty shift has ended, and it is important that you get some sleep. You have been pushing yourself too hard." He covered Kirk.
"Yes." Kirk agreed after a moment. "I have to push, show them Im a strong commander. Scotty doesnt know I overheard, but he called me the young un."
"He was speaking affectionately. It is his way." Spock paused, another idea forming. "Will you remain in bed while I get you some soup, or do I have to summon Doctor Boyce?"
Although Kirks stubbornness was apparent, so was the determination on Spocks faceand it was Kirk who conceded first. "Okay," he said, "Ill be good."
By the time Spock returned, Kirk was sitting up in a bed, waiting. "No steak?" he asked, eyeing the broth.
"Later, if you wish." The Vulcan fed his captain slowly, a spoonful at a time, until the bowl was emptied.
"Thanks, Spock." Kirk settled back on the pillow. "I feel a lot better. Id like to take a walk."
"To the observation deck?"
"Huh? What observation deck?"
Spock was perplexed. "I thought... Where would you like to walk?"
"Outside. We havent seen much of this planet, and its not snowing any more. You said there was a lake nearby?"
Spock was uncertain which planet his friend thought they were on; yet Kirk seemed to be in control of himself and speaking coherently. "You are too weak to take a walk," he pointed out.
"You can help me. Please, Spock?" The entreating look on Kirks face had its effect; not knowing it, however, he pushed further. "Im so tired of staying inside...and I do feel a lot stronger. Just a short walk?"
Once more, there was no way to refuse him. "A very short walk before sunset," Spock acquiesced, although on his own terms. He dressed Kirk in a warm sweater and pants, pulled on two layers of socks under the weatherproof Starfleet boots, and zipped up the heavy jacket. Finally, he lifted the hood over Kirks head and tied it securely.
"I feel like a little kid!" Kirk laughed, thrilled by the chance to go outdoors. "By the time my mother would finish dressing me, I weighed three hundred pounds and could hardly move!"
Spocks heart skipped a beat at the excitement reflected in the hazel eyes. Yes, Jim can have his outingbut he would make certain the Human did not become tired. His arm supportively around Kirk, they walked from the cabin.
Even through the evening cold, the orange giant sun shown brightly and sparkled on the snow as it slowly set. Kirk took an invigorating lungful of the crisp air. "How far is the lake?" he asked as they strolled together, Kirk allowing the Vulcans strength to serve them both.
"Twenty-one point two meters. You are not tired?"
"Not in the least." Noting the disbelieving expression, Kirk quickly amended, "Maybe a little tired. Lets keep walking."
As they left the cabin behind, Kirk avidly studied his surroundings, drinking in the sight of the snow-covered ground, the water that dripped from the tree limbs. "Its all frozen over!" he exclaimed when they reached the lake. "It must have gotten awfully cold."
Spock scooped up his friend and sat him on the ground. "I can build another snowman for you."
Turning a handful of snow in his hand, Kirk had a mischievous gleam in his eyes. "Theres other things to do with snow!" He hurled the snowball, striking Spock in the chest. The Vulcan stood stock still, looking surprised.
"Its a game, Spock. You make the snow into balls and fight with them...a snowball fight."
"I am familiar with the concept, Captain, but I would obtain no enjoyment from striking you with a snowball."
"It really is fun."
"Perhaps to some. However"
"However a sitting target would be too easyand Im not exactly up to running." Kirk patted the ground beside him. "Come here, my friend."
Spock sat next to him in silent contemplation. It was a quiet moment, one that would forever remain in his memoryjust the two of them together, the Human looking peaceful and relaxed. Spock could almost allow himself to feel the same wayif only the captains illness did not hang over him like an ominous, leaden weight.
"Im not well yet, am I?" Kirk asked, almost as though reading Spocks mind.
"Not completely," Spock evaded. "However, you do appear healthier this evening."
"Yesterdayor was it this morning?I was in a lot of pain. Now its practically gone."
"The medication is still within your system."
"And when it leaves my system?"
"There is other medication."
"There arent that many pain-killers in a medikit."
When Spock made no comment, Kirk knew he was rightnot enough pain-killers. And that meant...
"How long before the ship returns, Spock?"
"I would estimate twenty-two point one hours." Spock ignored the possibility that the Enterprise would take longer than that to complete their resupply mission to Starbase 10 and return to pick up its senior officers.
"Thats not a very long time."
"It depends on...how you view it." Not very longif the ship was on schedule.
Whats he keeping from me? Kirk was pensive. "You said I have a virus."
"We must return," Spock interrupted, rising quickly. "We have remained in the cold for too long."
"Is it fatal?"
Although the direct question startled him, Spock swiftly masked his surprise. "I am not a doctor."
"I know that. Still, the symptoms"
"I am certain it is simply a virus, Jim, and you will soon recover."
A moment passed. "Sure, Ill be fine," Kirk said with more conviction than he felt. "In fact, I think I can make it back to the cabin without any help. Ill..." He started to stand and suddenly gasped, paling, as he wrapped his arms around his midsection. He sank to his knees.
"Jim?" Spock knelt beside him.
"I think...I might need some...more of that medication." Kirk didnt want to ask for it; yet he knew he was too weak to face any more pain.
Spock quickly but gently lifted him into his arms, noting again that Kirk seemed too thin, appeared to weigh nothing at all. "Remain calm, Jim. We will be back at the cabin in a few minutes." Cautious about jarring his friend, he moved as rapidly as possible.
Biting at his lip to stifle a moan, Kirk closed his eyes tightly and said a mental prayer, Please, God, dont let Spock watch me die! It was more than instinct alone that told him his own death would cost the Vulcan, maybe even destroy him.
They had discussed it once, a rare, very personal conversation in which Spock related how empty his life had been on Vulcan, how he had never "fit in" or had any friends. And in that moment, Kirk made eye contact with him and was enveloped by a warm wave of friendship. He had smiled, knowing that Spock had no reason to say anything further; in this immense galaxy, they had found one another, and their friendship completed them.
Would Spock survive my death? Kirk wondered. Or would he even want to survive?
There was only one certainty: Kirk had to live. For Spocks sake, he had to live, and he resolved to defeat the virus.
By the time they reached the cabin, Kirks determination had dissolved under the intense, tearing pain. Barely coherent, he writhed on the bed as Spock undressed him, and he heard himself pleading for the pain-killer.
It touched his arm. A hiss.
No sense, no sense at all. Shore leave and he was sick and it made no sense and he was saying to Spock that it made no sense.
She was there, telling him his pain would soon ease.
No, Spock. Spock was asking him to close his eyes and sleep.
In the cornfield?
It was important.
"Cant sleep; have to go home," Kirk said in a small voice. "If I dont, Mom will be mad."
Spock shook his head. "Your mother knows you are with me. She will not be angry."
Everything was becoming a hazy. "I shouldnt have fought them, too many against one. I think theyve broken every bone in my body. Feels like it."
"Who?" Spock asked.
"Those guys...Ive always been the smallest...but I showed the bullies!" Kirk tried to lift his head but failed in the attempt. "Momll be mad at me for fighting, even though I won. I wish it didnt hurt so much...but shell rock me, yes, and then it wont hurt so much."
Rock him? Spock gazed at his friend and recognized that he was no longer the adult Jim Kirk but a frightened little boy. To actually hold another being was something he had never contemplated; now, unhesitatingly, he pulled Kirk into his arms and began to rock him gently. To his amazement, he discovered it was comforting not only to Kirk but to himself; at least Spock did not feel so helpless.
For a short time, Kirk relaxed, then he looked up at Spock, his words defiant. "Im not afraid of them!"
The bullies? "No. There is very little that you fear."
"Something...Im frightened about something." Kirk frowned; it was on the edge of his mind but he couldnt grasp it. Fear, something about Spock. What?
Everything so muddled.
It came to him. "Dont watch me die!" Kirk said, frenzied. "I cant hurt you!"
"You will live."
"Im being torn apart inside! I"
"You will live," Spock repeated firmly, although he was no longer certain of it. Kirks body was hot, unbearably hot, and when the medication left his system, there would be no more pain killer. Although he had struggled valiantly to hang onto life, his struggle had left him with little strength. What energy was left, the fever ebbed away, draining him.
If only the Enterprise arrives on schedule...
"You are feverish again." Spock maneuvered Kirk until he lay flat on his back. "I will sponge you with cool water."
"Not my feet. Tickles."
Spocks lips quirked at the corners. He retreated to the bathroom and returned with a pan of water to carefully bathe the heated skin.
"Mom used to wash me when I was sick. Then shed tell me a fairy tale," Kirk said drowsily.
"A fairy tale?"
"I am aware of what a fairy tale is, Captain. Which fairy tales would she relate to you?"
"Rapunzel...let down her hair...and spun it into gold."
"How did she accomplish such a thing?" Spock turned Kirk to the side and massaged his back.
"Dont remember...the dwarfs spun it into gold, I think. So tired..."
"Rest," Spock said softly. Gold, a substance of great valueyet not as valuable as a Human life. This Humans life.
When Kirk was deeply asleep, Spock picked up his communicator and tuned it to its highest gain. There was no response, nor did he expect one since the Enterprise should not be within range. After he adjusted the setting to an automatic distress call, he left the communicator on the night stand.
Spock sat in the chair, leaning forward, his head in his hands, berating himself for his own helplessness. There was nothing he could do to save Jim Kirks life; he could not even alleviate his pain with medication.
Only one alternative was open to him: make Kirk as comfortable as possible while they waited for the ship to return.
He still refused to acknowledge the truth.
There was little chance that the Enterprise would arrive in time.Monday
It was morning, and he gazed distractedly at the window. It had begun to snow, only this time, the snow fell in angry flurries, and the wind pounded harshly against the window.
Throughout the long hours, Spock diligently tended Kirk and prodded him to sip some broth, which was refused. Kirk did drink a little water, although it had not been enough; his lips were cracked from dryness.
Spock ran the scanner, finding Kirks fever was not dangerously high and the pain level hovered just above normal. Yet the scanner could not reveal what was truly frightening SpockKirk had been strangely silent, and the silence was ominous.
"Will you please drink some water?" Spock asked.
Kirk did not look at him.
"It is necessary. A Human requires a certain amount of liquid intake...." Spock faltered. Why lecture when Kirk already knew it?
And then Kirk turned to face Spock, giving him a look that tore the Vulcans soul. "Im sorry," he said quietly. "I cant...fight anymore. Im too tired."
"I am strong. Feel my strength." Spock tightly clutched his friends hand. "Together, we will fight your disease."
"Weve always been together, but now...we cant be." Kirk feebly tried to return the pressure. "I want to live...but I can feel it...inside, eating my life away." His eyes filled with moisture. "After Im gone, dont blame yourself. It was my fault. All of it, my fault."
"Please, Jim." Not wanting him to see his fear and remorse, Spock tried to compose his features. "The Enterprise is only hours away. You must continue to...fight until Doctor McCoy arrives."
"Hours...or a day or two?" When Kirk received no reply, he turned away and again gazed at the window.
Spock was in a quandary. There was juice in the refrigerator, and Kirk desperately needed the liquid; yet there were no more anti-nausea shots to stop him from vomiting. Also, he was reluctant to release Kirks hand and leave him, even for a minute. Although he knew it was illogical, Spock felt that as long as he held onto his friend, his captain would not die.
The minutes ticked by in silence.
"Im glad its sunny today," Kirk said at last.
"Sunny?" The storm was increasing in its fury, and the wind dashed pellets of ice against the window.
"It feels so warm on my face." Kirks tone was hushed, relaxed. "The corns ready to be harvested. Have you ever picked any, Spock?"
"No." Spock leaned forward to study him. Kirks cheeks were tinged red by the rising fever, and the overly bright hazel eyes were trained intently on the window.
"See that tree by the house? I carved a starship on it once and initialed it." Kirk smiled guiltily. "I told Mom that Sam did it, and wound up restricted to my room for lying."
"Obviously, you were not well-versed in the art of prevarication."
"I was just a little kid who thought life was a big, intriguing game. I didnt know thered be so much hurting and suffering...so many faces that Id never see again..."
"And so much joy," Spock said in a near whisper.
"Yes, joy too." Kirk gazed at him affectionately. "I want to tell you, Spock, that I was...Im...lucky to have you for a friend."
Spocks throat constricted so tightly that he couldnt speak.
"You dont have to," Kirk said, understanding. He turned away and pointed toward the window. "See the shed? I used to keep a journal, and I buried it there. Maybe we could dig it up." He paused for a long moment before adding happily, "Its good to be home again. I dont want to leave."
Something in Kirks matter-of-fact tone terrified Spock. Kirks tonegiving in, no longer fighting against death. In Kirks muddled mind, he was home and safe.
"You are hallucinating," Spock managed to announce calmly. "It is delirium, Jim. You are dreaming."
Kirk did not seem to hear him. "My mom wants me to come inside. Shes motioning to me..."
"Jim!" No longer able to fight his panic, Spocks fingers dug deeply into Kirks shoulders. "Listen to me! You are dreaming! You are not in Iowa."
"Im sorry, but you cant come with me." Kirk stretched his hand forward, waiting for the phantom vision to take it. "I have to go now..."
"Stop!" Not Kirks mother--death! "Stop!" Spock jerked him into a sitting position and shook him roughly. "Listen to me! You must not go to her!"
Kirk slowly turned his gaze from the window and smiled tremulously at him. "The pain is finally gone, Spock."
Kirk exhaled loudly.
Spock wrapped his arm around his friends frail, depleted body and found his worst fear was now realizedKirk had ceased to breathe.
"No! You will not die!" he shouted.
Blood obscured his vision as his heart palpitated wildly. Jim is dying...is dead.
Suddenly, a calmness settled over him. He pressed both hands against Kirks forehead and willed their minds to intertwine. If he could not bring back his friend, he would follow him into death.
On the night stand, the communicator sounded.
"Slowly. Open your eyes slowly; theyre going to hurt you a little at first." The quiet voice broke into Kirks dreams.
"Mom?" he asked. He felt a warm hand squeeze his shoulder.
"Its Leonard, Jim. Youve been damned awfully sick. Now, open your eyes."
"I...dont want to leave Spock. Mom, I dont want to."
Sighing, shaking his head, McCoy pressed a hypo to Kirks arm. During the night, the captain had been raving in delirium as the Vegan choriomeningitis tried to suck the life from him. McCoy had never left his friends bedside, knowing that death was very near, gruesomely waiting for Kirk to lapse into the inevitable coma. Even now, Kirks life was still on the line, and the doctor had one last chance to bring him back to consciousness.
"Open your eyes and look at me!" McCoy demanded.
Kirk mumbled something. The readings on the diagnostic panel lowered; he was slipping again, sliding toward unconsciousness.
"Wake up! Do you hear me? The ships in danger!"
Readings rising, a moan from Kirk.
"I dont want to use another hypo. Wake up!"
With an effort, Kirk opened his eyes, then blinked them shut.
"Come on, Jim; you can do it." McCoy touched a cold, wet cloth to Kirks face. This time Kirk jumped, blinked, squinted at the brightness.
"Thats better. Keep your eyes open and talk to me," McCoy ordered.
Confused and disoriented, Kirk finally said, "I was...home, I think. Why are you here, Bones?"
"Youre in Sickbay. We beamed down and found Spock locked in a meld with you. You were dying. In another few minutes..."
"Spock!" Kirk cried, panicking. "Where is he? I have to get to him!" Fighting dizziness, he sat up, his hand reaching toward...what?
"Calm down." McCoy tried to make him lie back on the bed, but Kirk fought him until the doctor said, "Be still, and Ill tell you about Spock."
Kirk dropped his arms to his side and immediately quieted.
"The two of you were in a pretty intensive meld. We managed to break it...but Spock remained in some kind of a trance," McCoy explained. "MBengas been with him for the past six hours, trying to pull him out of it. We dont knowhavent got a clue in factwhy Spock wont wake up. Hes alive, though..."
"Not alive! Dying!" Kirk shoved the doctor and with his remaining strength, flung himself from the bed. Startled, he found his own legs would not support him, and he collapsed on the floor.
"MBenga, get in here!" McCoy called. He knelt next to Kirk and fingered a hypo, reluctant to use it. He wanted him to remain awake, but his friend was in an agitated stateand it was draining Kirks strength.
MBenga rushed into the room. "Whats going on?" he asked, skidding to a halt before the two men.
"Im going to have to knock him out," McCoy said uneasily. "Help me get him back to bed."
"No! I have to go to Spock!" Kirk turned a pleading face toward MBenga. "Let me go to him. If I dont, hell die."
"Why will he die?" MBenga squatted next to him. "Tell me why hell die, Captain."
"Hes...in the cornfield." Kirk stared vacantly at the opposite wall. "Hes looking for me...but Im not there. And he cant find me, wont find me..." He inclined his head, intent on watching something that only he could see.
"Hes still hallucinating," McCoy said grimly as he helped an unresisting Kirk to his feet.
MBenga also stood. "Maybe not."
"What do you mean?"
"Im not sure. Just a feeling...." MBenga raised Kirks chin until their gazes locked. "Spock is in the next room. Hes unconscious."
"No. He followed me into the cornfield and...wanted to take me away. But I couldnt go with him." Tensing, Kirk tried to struggle from McCoys grasp. "Hes leaving, giving up! I have to go to him!" Although he pushed McCoy with a maniacal urgency, the doctor held him firmly.
"I think hes still in some kind of mind-link with Spock." MBenga was thoughtful, considering it. "If he is, we should take him to Spocks room."
"Are you nuts?" McCoy flared. "Jims not strong enough. If he gets any weaker, well have to put him back on full life support!"
"If hes in a mind link and Spock doesnt make it, he could die with him."
MBengas statement ended all argument. They both helped Kirk walk to the adjoining room and halted just inside the doorway.
Spock lay unmoving, his face devoid of color. His chest rose and fell with shallow breaths, and only that slight movement showed he still clung to life.
"Oh, Spock, what have I done to you?" Kirk whispered miserably, gazing at the nearly lifeless form of his friend. He wanted to cry, wanted to scream, but all he did was stare at Spock until he felt sick and dizzy.
"Okay, thats enough." McCoy frowned at MBenga. "Its pretty obvious this isnt doing Jim any good. Im putting him back to bed."
"Let me touch him. Please," Kirk entreated. Although Spock was only meters away, he knew he could not make it to his side without the doctors help.
"Leonard, itll hurt him more if we dont let him."
MBenga was right, McCoy realized. "Only a minute, Jim," he cautioned as he guided Kirk across the room.
Grasping the edge of the bed, Kirk leaned forward. He was aware of the weakness in his limbs and knew he would not be able to remain standing for very long. He sat shakily on the edge of the bed, studying the angular face. He could feel...something emanating from his friend, and although Spock did not speak, Kirk heard a cry, heard his own name.
"Is he still in the cornfield?" MBenga asked.
Kirk smiled softly. "Ill bring him home." Leaning closer, he touched his shaking fingertips to Spocks temple. His eyes closed in deep concentration.
"What the devil?" McCoy sputtered. "Are you trying to meld with him? Youre a Human, Jim! You cant...!"
"Wait. Be quiet," MBenga ordered.
"Has everyone gone mad? What?"
"The diagnostic panel," MBenga whispered. "Look at it, Leonard."
McCoy gaped at the monitor. The readings had miraculously altered, and Spocks level of consciousness was gradually rising. "I dont believe it!"
"I dont understand it myself, wouldnt have thought it possible." MBenga shook his head, puzzled.
"Ive dealt with Vulcan-Human links before, but Ive never seen a Human initiate one," McCoy was equally amazed.
"He didnt initiate one. Theyve been linked the entire time," MBenga explained. "The captain just made a stronger contact."
As the readings continued to stabilize, McCoy was able to breathe a sigh of relief. "Leave it to Jim!"
"We cant allow him to stay in the meld very long. A mind-link is taxing to ones system."
Five minutes passed as the doctors watched the diagnostic panel with mounting satisfaction. "Id better bring him out of it now," McCoy said worriedly. "Id like the readings to..." Jolted, he looked from the panel to Spock.
"I am...well," the Vulcan announced. Yet he was not well enough to keep the curiosity from his face as he gazed at Kirk.
The captains fingers were still locked in position, his eyes closed. McCoy gently pulled his hand away. "Its okay, Jim. Spock is safe."
"Safe?" Kirk questioned in a small voice. "Found...Spock?"
"Yes, Jim. You found him, and hes fine." McCoy lightly shook him. "Come out of it."
"The cornfield...found Spock...home..."
"I am here, JimI am well."
The hazel eyes blinked open and stared at the Vulcan in astonishment. "Spock! Its true!"
"Indeed," Spock remarked dryly, although with a hint of affection dancing in his eyes. "I found your conception of Iowa to be...interesting, to say the least, and not very much how I remember it to be." The Vulcan referenced a memorable Easter leave they had spent at the Kirk family farm.
"Well have to go back there together...some day soon." Fatigued, Kirk stretched out on the bed and immediately drifted off to sleep.
McCoy drank in the sight of his two friends, his tired mind telling him it had been close, terribly close....
"We should take him back into bed now," MBenga said. He maneuvered the captain into the bed next to the Vulcans.
McCoys eyes locked with Spocks. "Jims been pretty sick. He only regained consciousness a little while ago."
"He will recover."
"Thanks, Spock. I already figured that out."
"It is...good to be back aboard the Enterprise," Spock admitted.
"That must have been quite a dream," MBenga remarked as he adjusted the diagnostic scanner over Spocks bed.
"A dream...? How odd that she said, Go find my Jimmy."
"How odd." Spock closed his eyes.
McCoy rocked back on his heels and smiled at his friends. They were going to be all right.
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