Home is the Sailor
"Hey, Bones," Kirk said, when McCoy entered Spock's room early the next morning. "Look who was out of bed all on his own when I got here. He was thinking of going down to breakfast today."
"Let's wait a bit on that," McCoy counciled. "If you have no fever this morning, Spock, and you don't spike a temp this afternoon, you can go out in the garden later today. And come down for breakfast tomorrow." He turned to Kirk. "You're up early, Jim. Just as well, I can catch two patients with one visit. How's that Mars Throat?"
Kirk scowled as McCoy scanned him. "I took my triox this morning."
"Good. Let's check you out Spock," he ran the scanner over Spock, then palmed it. "Not bad. Neither one of you have a fever this morning. Let see if you can hold that state for two days in a row."
There was a tap at the door, and Amanda came through with a laden tray. "Perhaps I should ask T'Rueth to serve breakfast up here," she said with amusement. "Good morning, everyone. Spock, you are looking better." She handed him a glass of juice.
"Thank you, Mother," Spock said. "I slept very well last night."
"Course that could be because you were still recovering from the worry Jim gave you with his damn fool stunt. But at least he's got no fever today," McCoy added to Amanda, snagging a glass for himself.
"I'm glad. I'll be able to tell your Grandmother you have some color in your cheeks today."
Spock looked up, startled at that. "T'Pau knows that I am here?"
McCoy glanced at Kirk with a raised brow, as if to underscore the relationship for him.
"Of course," Amanda said, offering Kirk a glass. "She's asked after you nearly every day since you've been home. She's panting at the bit to see you, when you're well enough. Though of course she doesn't say that. She would even come here, but she doesn't want to intrude before you are well. "
"I was somewhat impolite when last I saw her," Spock said gravely. "I must beg her pardon."
Amanda ignored this reference to his aborted Pon Far. "You can call her if you don't want to put that off until you can wait on her. Or I can let you know when I speak with her next, and you can talk to her then."
"No," Spock shook his head. "I have done that via subspace. I must do this in person." He looked at his mother. "She is well?"
"Well," Amanda arranged the things on the tray in displaced worry, "She is getting a little frail. She rarely goes out much now."
"I am grieved to hear it."
She looked up, smiling resolutely. "It's nothing that affects her ability to rule with an iron fist."
Spock nodded. "I will be very pleased to see her."
Amanda bit her lips. "Perhaps you'll soon be up for a very quiet family dinner at the Palace? She's requested that. More than once. Not to put a human motivation on your Very Vulcan grandmother, but I think she has her heart set on that."
Spock met his mother's eyes, as if he had just realized something. "With Sarek."
"With your father, of course." Amanda said evenly, as if there was nothing of import in that.
Spock lowered his head, thinking that over a moment. Kirk and McCoy realized this was probably the first "family dinner" with Sarek post Babel, when Sarek had come to recognize his son again. "Yes. That would be welcome."
"The Captain and Dr. McCoy are invited too, of course," Amanda said.
"We wouldn't want to intrude," McCoy said.
"Nonsense," Amanda said. "T'Pau has the highest regard for you both. She specifically requested you attend, which for her is code that you are family to her, after all you've done for us. And if you have any other polite demurs, let me advise you that when you are in this family, gentlemen, you soon realize you don't say no to T'Pau."
Spock cut his eyes to his mother at that.
"I'll look forward to it," McCoy said, and Kirk nodded his acquiescence.
"But of course," she continued, as if regretfully, "Though T'Pau has a very good cook, she doesn't compare to T'Rueth." Amanda's eyes sparkled at her fellow humans. "You'll have to deal with Vulcan cuisine."
"I'll prepare my stomach with universal antidote," McCoy said dryly.
Amanda looked over at Kirk. "I hope you are recovered from your adventures, Captain? Next time you must warn me, when you take out Spock's flyer," she said mischievously. "So I can pack up the dishes."
Kirk's face flamed, remembering the sonic boom. "I didn't -?"
"I never liked that china pattern anyway," Amanda dismissed. "And it was quite exciting, for a minute or two there. There hasn't been quite so much destruction at this old Fortress since the last Pre-Reform Wars. But at least you didn't take out the garden wall. Or Sarek's craft. Even he would have been a bit miffed at that."
Spock was looking from Kirk to his mother curiously.
"You didn't, Jim!" McCoy said, laughing.
""It took me a minute to get the hang of the controls," Kirk said, with injured dignity. "I've never learned Vulcan script."
"I remember a car of Bella Oxmyx," Spock said, the ghost of a curve teasing the corner of his mouth.
"I loved that car," Kirk said. "And I drove it well. Eventually," he conceded.
"In first gear," Spock said.
Amanda laughed. "That was the gangster world, right? I remember Spock relating something of that." She tilted her head, "But nothing about your driving, Captain. Your secret was safe with him. Until yesterday, that is."
McCoy looked at the half curve in the corner of Spock's mouth, and the lack of tension in his shoulders, and gave Kirk a significant look, urging him to continue. "Did you tell her about the Shore Leave planet?" he asked Spock. "After all Amanda's reading these last few days, I think it was you that should have been seeing the Alice in Wonderland characters and not me."
"Did you really see them?" Amanda asked, intrigued.
"The White Rabbit and Alice herself."
"What did you see, Captain, if I may ask?" Amanda said.
Kirk rubbed his jaw in memory. "An upperclassman named Finnegan. With a wicked left hook." He smiled slowly. "But I finally settled that score."
"Indeed, Captain," Spock commented, still with that trace of smile.
"Did you tell her about Trelayne, the spoiled child of Gothos?" McCoy asked Spock. Kirk and McCoy kept the conversation going with cheerful reminiscences and anecdotes while the most relaxed Spock they had yet seen ate with more appetite than he had formerly displayed, while his companions watched approvingly.
But with his meal over, McCoy had another less pleasant agenda. "If you're done with breakfast, Spock," McCoy said, "And if you two will excuse us," he nodded at Amanda and Kirk, "Spock and I have an appointment."
Spock's eyes shadowed, and he looked away.
"Bones," Kirk said, seeing Spock loose his shadow smile. "Must you- Just when-"
"Jim," McCoy said, raising his brows significantly.
"Perhaps you could help me with this tray, Captain." Amanda said. After a moment, Kirk relented and followed her out.
McCoy led the way out to the rooftop gardens, and set down his glass of water. "Pretty view," he said, conversationally to Spock. "Would never think to say that of a view of Vulcan, but it is."
Spock sat down restively, eyes not meeting McCoy.
"Let's go back to what we were talking about," McCoy said easily. "Or what you were not talking about." When Spock didn't respond, McCoy sat back easily. "Come on, Spock. You know the drill. Tell me what happened."
Spock just shook his head, slowly, human style. Not in refusal, so much as disengagement. As if he wasn't there.
"You know where you are now, surely. That you're safe. And home. You don't need to be afraid that this is some mindsifter illusion."
The Vulcan cut his eyes to McCoy at that, but still didn't answer.
"You don't need to be ashamed either. The events that resulted in your capture were not your fault. And you gave the Klingons nothing. You didn't break. Starfleet cleared you on that score. Exonerated you. Now you just have to clear yourself, Spock. In your own mind. And let it go."
Spock rose suddenly and went to the parapet railings, hands clutching the sandstone barriers so hard little grains of sand crumbled under his grip.
"Careful," McCoy said. "You're breaking five thousand years of tradition."
Spock looked over at him, then followed McCoy's glance down to his own hands. "It would not be the first time," he said darkly.
"Well, that's something," McCoy said. "More than you've given up before. That's good. Just keep going."
Spock just shook his head, staring out at the distant Llangons. "I can't."
McCoy sighed. Waited a few moments. "I can arrange for another therapist if it's too difficult with me. I know we've had a somewhat contentious relationship. To put it mildly."
"No," Spock said, not turning to him. As if talking to the distant view.
But McCoy took heart he was at least talking. "You've got to go through this with someone, Spock. Starfleet isn't going to put you back conning the bridge of a Starship, facing these sort of scenarios again, until you can face this past one. And talk about it." He waited. "Unless you don't want that."
"Perhaps..." Spock's voice trailed off.
"Yes?" McCoy asked hopefully.
"I'm not suited."
"Now why would you say that?" McCoy asked, leaning back. "For eighteen years - fully half your life - you were very well suited to the position. Trained for it. Mastered it. You're the best First Officer in the Fleet. You know that. If you had ever pushed for it, you could have had a command of your own. You can still."
"Command," Spock said softly, shuddering at that. "I've never wanted Command."
"And that's one reason why you work so well with Jim. He wants it so badly, he's a hair threatened by a too ambitious First. Mitchell, for example. Because Jim knows there's never a threat from you on that score frees him, I think, to do his best work. As a command team, you've been ideally suited to each other. Even Starfleet agrees on that." McCoy eyed him. "Why do you think that isn't so now?"
Spock closed his eyes . His fingers went to his temples, as if to shut something out. Or hold back pain.
"You're thinking of the mindsifter."
"No, Doctor. I...won't...go...there." He'd lowered his hands, now rubbing his wrists, as if soothing the scars from the restraints .
"No!" Spock rounded on him, cat-like, moving, mobile, free. A Vulcan predator on the loose.
McCoy sat back, holding up a placating hand. "All right. Take a breath. We'll take a break."
Spock collapsed in a chair. "I... can't!" His voice was hushed. Broken.
"All right. You can't. Just breathe. Take it easy. In. Out. You're all right. You're safe now, remember. Home. No one is going to make you do anything here. Only what you can manage, what you're willing to do. That's all we're asking of you."
"Untrue. You have met my father." Spock muttered, head in his hands, fingers back to his temples again.
McCoy half smiled. "He's not pushing you, is he?"
"Only every day of my life."
"We can look at your recovery from that side too," McCoy said equably. "You don't have to con the bridge of a Starship. You don't have to live here. You could teach at Starfleet if you prefer. Though I think there's obviously a place on Vulcan for you, regardless of your relationship with Sarek. You could teach at the Science Academy. Do research. Or politics if that's what you're into now. And while you and your father have had something of a history, you've reconciled, right? He's not pushing you now, is he? He loves you."
Spock looked up at McCoy at that. "He's Vulcan."
"Well, I may just be an old country doctor," McCoy said. "But I've been watching him and listening to him since we arrived. I think he loves you. Course he's going about it in the usual pig-headedly Vulcan way."
"I want to stop now." Spock said, closing his eyes. He shuddered, and put his fingers back to his temples.
"Deep breath. In. Out." McCoy waited for a moment. "How bad is it now?"
McCoy sighed. "All right. " He rose, and put a hand on Spock's arm, ignoring his flinch at the contact. "You did all right Spock. Much better than the last session. You talked at least a little. These things take time. Try and get some rest. Yes? Then later this afternoon, maybe you'll be up to taking a walk in the gardens."
Spock nodded, shoulders slumped, broken.
"We'll talk again tomorrow. All right?" He looked for another nod, some willingness Spock would agree to move forward. In vain. After a moment, McCoy let himself out of the suite and walked heavily down the stairs. And into three expectant, questioning, eager glances. Sarek, Amanda and Jim were still at breakfast. They might even have been delaying their departures for Council and Academy, waiting for him.
McCoy hated to disappoint such expectant hope, but let out a breath of his own, and just shook his head fractionally.
"Bones!" Kirk said exasperated.
McCoy moved to shut the door behind him, though Spock was unlikely to hear anything.
"He's not ready yet. Jim, this could take months. The worst thing I can do is push him past his ability to deal with this. That's the worst thing any of us can do. He's been traumatized enough. By experts. Do you want me to join them?" McCoy looked heavily around the table. "Space. Time. Patience and understanding. That's what he needs from us. I have a lot of faith in Spock. I think he will get through this." He looked at Jim. "But it may not be on your or Starfleet's timetable, Jim."
"I won't accept that," Kirk said.
"How long will they give him, Doctor?" Amanda asked glancing worriedly at Kirk.
"By the end of this leave, he's going to have to show progress. If not," McCoy sketched a negative. "Spock's not just First Officer but Science Officer. He holds positions that two personnel normally cover. That's already unheard of, and only Spock could pull that off. The Enterprise might be able to shift without one for a few months, but never without both. Starfleet will have to assign replacements for both positions if he's not ready to return at the end of this leave."
Jim rose from the table and stormed out the garden door.
"It could be a rough two weeks," McCoy said, his gaze sadly following his Captain.
"What can be done?" Sarek asked.
"I offered Spock the option of another therapist. He refused. I don't think he'd get along better with anyone else anyway. Of course, if he doesn't return with us at the end of this leave, someone from the nearest StarBase will take over with him. If he stays here." McCoy shook his head. "Let's not go that far. It's early for those decisions. He may have a breakthrough tomorrow, or the next day. His physical recovery could be considered more or less on course. As he progresses there, that will have an impact on the psychological. That he's alive and sane, and able to talk after those mindsifter sessions shows an amazing strength of mind and resiliency. We have to be grateful for what gains he's made. And let him come back at his own pace. I know Jim is anxious and impatient - he wants so much to put all this behind them, for Spock as much as himself. But I can't put Spock a life away from command of a Starship in his present condition. If he can't reconcile the past, he can't face the same dangers in the future."
Amanda scrubbed at her eyes. Then she put her face into her hands and wiped both cheeks. "Tell me why I should want my son to face them?"
McCoy sighed. "I know. It's hard to ask of any parent. But there are good reasons. Because it's been his home for the past fourteen years. Because that was the life he chose. He has friends there. He likes it there. He was well loved by his fellow officers and crew. He's brilliant at it, and he's needed there. Jim needs him, or thinks he does. Because he behaved with exemplary courage in horrible conditions, with very little hope. At the very least, Spock deserves all our efforts for the fullest recovery he can make. Wherever that takes him."
"Even if it means he risks going back into that same situation?" Amanda said.
"Even then," McCoy confirmed somberly. "That's what this is all about. To make sure, if he's conning that ship, that he's ready to walk right back into that same situation. That's what we ask of Command personnel."
Amanda shook her head at that, and she rose and left the room. They heard her retreating steps on the stairs.
"It may be up to you and I, Sarek," McCoy said, half ironically.
Sarek raised a brow at that. "I've always strongly opposed Spock's presence in Starfleet."
"I know. But now he needs you to be strong for him. This isn't about just whether he can return to Starfleet. This is about whether he recovers fully, to live his life however he chooses. We all have to be there for Spock, whatever our personal inclinations, so he gets the option to make his own choice. I don't want to deny that to him. I'm sure, however you feel about Starfleet, that you don't either. Not at heart."
Sarek shook his head unwillingly, human style, at that ultimate irony. "Children," he said.
McCoy nodded, recognizing from years of exposure to Spock, the trace of exasperation in Sarek's Vulcan countenance. "Payback can be a bitch."
Sarek didn't pretend to misunderstand the colloquialism.
To be continued...