Title: Ghost In The Machine

Series: TOS (Kirk; Spock; McCoy)

Rating: Contains some scenes of a sexual nature. Readers should be aged 16 and over.

Author: Karracaz

Disclaimer: Paramount/Viacom are copyright holders to Startrek. I just borrow the characters for a while.

Summary: Spock falls ill on the way to an alien planet. There, Kirk is kidnapped by a strange, unknown lifeform. Will McCoy be able to help them both before time runs out?

If you need a friend,

Or a place where you can hide,

I will always be there,

Even though my hands are tied.

"Okay, you can dress now, Spock." Doctor McCoy stated levelly. "I'm all finished."

The Chief Surgeon turned away, his attention ostensibly fixed on recalibrating the diagnostic equipment as the Vulcan pushed his lean body upright and swung his legs to the floor.

Spock's uniform lay draped tidily over the end of the med-couch and the First Officer reached for the immaculate black trousers, shaking out the garment precisely before he enquired, "Well, Doctor. What is your diagnosis?"

McCoy's hands stilled briefly. However many times it fell to him to break bad news, it never became any the less painful. Whatever their differences in the past, he now bled for the man who coolly awaited his answer. "Spock I…"

He could feel Spock's dark eyes fixed unwaveringly on his back, the hawk-like face impassive. McCoy hesitated, picking his words with care, his voice cautiously neutral as he turned to face the First Officer once more. "I'm afraid, the results aren't good."

Already quite aware of McCoy's dilemma Spock interrupted, "Doctor, there is little need for equivocation. I assure you that I am quite able to accept the truth."

As if to dispel any lingering traces of sympathy McCoy may have harboured, he went on; "Or are you unable to define my…condition, perhaps? In which case, allow me to be of assistance. It should be filed under the medical term Acute Zonal Koreoretnal Syndrome, a condition affecting the choroid and sclerotic coats…."

He knew he had struck home base when McCoy abruptly leaned across the med-couch, so close that his breath fanned Spock's cheek. The First Officer drew back slightly as McCoy swore.

"Dammit, you smart-assed Vulcan. If you know what you've contracted you also know what the eventual outcome will be."

"Yes, Doctor. I know." Spock's tone of voice hardly changed, but for an instant the impassive façade slipped and McCoy thought he glimpsed the vulnerable child within the man, the little boy Spock had once been, shrinking from the demons he imagined waiting in the dark.

McCoy closed his eyes, opened them again, cursing himself for letting Spock provoke him so readily, gathering up his professional composure with an effort.

"You must have been deteriorating for weeks. Godammit Spock, if you'd only come to see me earlier I could have…"

"Done what, Doctor? Spock asked equably, his voice quite serene. "We are both aware that, as yet, there is no cure for the condition."

Bones could not deny it. With an exasperated sigh, he paced up and down beside the med-couch, his helplessness masquerading as irritation. "I suppose you know that you could have put this whole damn ship in danger? What if…"

Spock's eyes tracked him unmercifully, apparently unaffected by the Chief Surgeon's bluster. "'What ifs' are illogical, Doctor. I have maintained my duties without any loss of efficiency, I believe. Nor has there ever been the possibility of danger to the ship. Now, of course, I can no longer guarantee that."

"And so you waited until the last possible moment before getting your verdict confirmed. Thanks, Mr. Spock."

"I intended no denigration of your healing powers, Doctor McCoy." Spock said mildly, one eyebrow elevating. "Although I have always found it discouraging that you call what you do, 'practice'. Is there not an aphorism assuring Humans that practice makes perfect?"

"Perfection is sometimes a moving target, Mr. Spock."

"Indeed, Doctor. That is also my own experience." The First Officer pulled on his trousers and boots, reached for the blue shirt.

It had slipped onto the floor and McCoy, feeling a twinge of guilt, retrieved it. "Here…"

Head tilted on one side, Spock reached for the softly rustling fabric, his fingers sure and unhurried. "Thank you, Doctor."

"You'll be needing something for the pain." McCoy offered, his blue eyes fixed on Spock's tranquil Mephisto features as the Vulcan negotiated the various openings and finally pulled the shirt over his head.

"Not required at this time, thank you, Doctor. For the moment it is under my control."

Feeling completely useless, McCoy lapsed into silence but he knew that he could not prevaricate for long. "However much I may want to, you know I can't let this ride, Spock. Jim will have to know…"

"Certainly." Spock's eyes hooded, his expression unreadable.

"I could… speak to him first, if that's what you want."

Spock inclined his head. "I appreciate the offer, Doctor McCoy. However, I have already requested that the Captain meet me here."

"You were that sure."

Spock folded his arms across his lean chest, grounding himself with a hip resting against the med-couch. "The evidence is somewhat difficult to refute, Doctor. It is time the Captain knew…"

They both turned as the doors to sickbay slid back and Jim Kirk entered as if on cue.

"It's time I knew what, gentlemen?" Captain Kirk's jocular mood faded abruptly as he glanced at each man in turn, noticing the anxiety in McCoy's blue eyes and the uncharacteristic tautness of Spock's narrow shoulders as he straightened. "Surely my senior officer's haven't been keeping something important from me?"

McCoy avoided the directness of Kirk's scrutiny. "Let's go through into the office."

Kirk frowned, over the last few years in his experience as Captain of the Enterprise, the Chief Surgeon's office and serious news frequently went together. He spared a glance at Spock but received little joy there. His First Officer remained unusually stone-faced, not even a suggestion of empathy upon his angular features.

What was going on here?

However, he obeyed McCoy's request, following the Chief Medical Officer into the adjoining room, aware of Spock trailing on his heels. He took a seat, leaning back, pretending a relaxation he no longer felt, watching as the Vulcan lowered himself warily into the chair beside his own.

"So," he asked as McCoy busied himself with a couple of glasses and the brandy bottle. "Why all the mystery, Bones? Mr. Spock?"

Spock squared his shoulders, but instead of facing Kirk, continued to stare straight ahead, dark eyes narrowed, winged brows drawn together in a frown. His long fingers, clasped together in his lap, tightened fractionally. "I requested your presence here Captain, to advise you that as from this moment I intend to resign my commission aboard the Enterprise."

Shocked, Kirk dropped his tranquil pose and sat forward, shooting a puzzled look at McCoy. "Explain?"

McCoy poured a large shot of brandy into Kirk's glass before pushing it across the desk. "Spock's developed an extremely rare medical condition, Jim. I have to recommend that he be relieved of duty. Immediately."

"What sort of condition? You look fit enough to me."

"In all respects but one, I am completely healthy, Captain." Spock explained, his soft baritone, firm and without acrimony. He drew in a deep breath; exhaled slowly, as if reluctant to continue. "Sir, as Doctor McCoy will advise you more fully, I have contracted a virus that attacks the cornea of the eye and causes severe visual distortions. There is also intermittent loss of vision and episodic hallucinations. I can no longer fulfil my obligations as either your First Officer or Science Officer on the ship. Therefore, I must resign."

There was a pause as Kirk tried to digest what Spock had said. He addressed McCoy. "And the treatment is … what, Bones?"

McCoy took a gulp from the brandy in his glass before replying. "There is no treatment, Jim. Not yet, anyway. I can help control the inevitable pain but Spock's sight is not going to improve. In fact, as time goes on the nerve endings to the brain will only degenerate further. He'll go completely blind in a matter of months, less if he doesn't follow orders."

"Blind?" There was open anguish on Kirk's face as he stared at his First Officer. He shook his head in denial. "There must be something you can do!"

"There isn't." McCoy's voice was suddenly harsh. "I've told you, Jim. There're no drugs, no surgical procedures, no miracle cure. I can't help him. No-one can."

"No, I won't believe that, Doctor." Kirk said with stubborn resolve, the muscles in his jaw bunching. "You have to help him. I don't care what it takes. Use every resource this ship possesses, but find a cure. That's an order, Bones."