Of Seconds Lost, and Hearts
Author's note: This is an alternate ending to Journey To Babel
"Try not to stress these, Jim." McCoy said, giving the pressure bandages an extra turn. "It wouldn't take too much to get breakthrough bleeding."
"We only need it to last a few seconds, Bones. Just long enough for me to turn command over to Scotty," Kirk said.
"Just remember how lucky you were and don't stress these bandages. That wound is in a dangerous position. A few centimeters lower and it would have gone through your heart. I wish you didn't have to stage this charade. Damn pigheaded Vulcan." McCoy pressed a hypospray into Kirk's arm. "This'll help the pain."
"So you say," Kirk replied wincing as he got to his feet.
"If I give you too much you'll end up on the deck before you make it to the command chair."
Kirk stood, swaying for a moment, then his jaw firmed and he took a stride. "Piece of cake, Bones."
"Uh huh," McCoy said without conviction. But they really didn't have a choice. He gave Kirk his arm until just before the turbolift doors opened on the bridge. Kirk accepted the support without protest, salvaging his strength, knowing he'd have to face Spock's scrutiny. Then McCoy dropped back a pace, shadowing Kirk protectively as they approached the command chair, where Spock had turned to see who had entered.
"Captain," Spock's eyes had widened, astonishment overriding the Vulcan control that had held him in a command chair even while his father lay dying. "Are you quite well?"
"I've certified him as fit for duty, Commander," McCoy said, with a testiness that he hoped would put Spock off further inquiry. "Now, since I have an operation to perform and both of us are required--"
"Get outta here, Spock," Kirk said, with a trace of his devil may care grin, and jerking with his thumb to indicate that Spock should vacate the con. Spock studied Kirk a moment, while Kirk strove not to hold his breath. It was hard for him to fool Spock at the best of times. The Vulcan knew his captain's every turn of breath, phrase and gesture. In difficult situations, they'd so often used any deviance from that as cues that something was wrong. But these weren't the best of times. Whether Spock surmised the ruse or not, time was of the essence. Spock had little to spare for extensive analysis, nor was McCoy likely to give him that time. Spock flicked a brow and rose from the command chair, though he turned to watch as Kirk checked in with his junior officers, no doubt to see if Kirk was really as recovered as he claimed. Perhaps merely to see if he was simply well enough to pull off the ruse that Spock knew was being practiced on him. Under that eagle eye, Kirk wisely chose not to attempt lowering himself into the chair. He stood with his hands lightly over the console arm, attempting his devil may care attitude as he checked in with the bridge officers.
And if the attack had come a few seconds later, Spock might have allowed himself to be fooled and the ruse might have worked.
But it didn't.
Perhaps if Spock hadn't spent those extra few seconds observing Kirk. Regardless, before the Vulcan made it to the turbolift, the first shot was fired and the battle began.
"Captain, incoming fire!" Sulu warned.
"Shields," Kirk said reflexively. The ship still rocked with the impact, the shields not fully effective against the powerful weapon. The command chair swung on its dais. The movement was too sudden and abrupt for Kirk's wounds. The chair knocked him down and Kirk couldn't help an involuntary cry. But the spill of red blood around his midsection brought an end to any notion of Spock leaving the bridge. Spock picked Kirk up and helped Kirk into the chair. With the deck wildly rocking, it was the safest place.
And once there, Kirk would never leave his ship in a battle situation.
"Jim-" McCoy said urgently.
"Not now, Bones," Kirk snapped.
"Dr. McCoy, Sickbay is calling. Sarek is much worse," Uhura reported.
Another blast rocked the ship. Rapid orders few back and forth between Kirk and his officers.
"Spock, your father needs that surgery," McCoy said.
"Doctor, I can't leave the bridge at this time."
"You're going to have to give us a few seconds, Bones," Kirk said. "See if Sarek can hold on."
McCoy clung to the rail another minute and then struggled to make his way back to sickbay.
It actually didn't take long to dispatch their attacker. Minutes. Only a few seconds tallied against eternity. But it took much too long in one critical respect. The Enterprise bluffed her way out of the tight spot in which she found herself. The ship and most of the passengers and crew made it, if a bit battered and bruised. The casualties were few. Gav. The suiciding Andorian imposter Thelev.
And of course Sarek. The seconds ran out for him.
After the shooting was over and Kirk -- woozy from blood loss -- had been transferred back to Sickbay and Spock secured the ship, he finally made his way down to Sickbay. "How is the Captain?" he asked McCoy, still in the thick of triage dealing with multiple minor injuries from the battle. But McCoy left his patient with Mbenga and met Spock in his office.
"He lost a fair amount of blood before I got him stabilized, but I transfused him. He'll be all right."
"Good," Spock said with no little relief. "You may consider yourself on report for that ruse, Doctor. It was extremely dangerous to the Captain's life."
"Noted," McCoy said tersely, his blue eyes flashing. But he couldn't keep up his anger. "Spock. I'm very sorry about your father. I did everything that I could."
The Vulcan didn't betray any emotion by dint of expression, but he swallowed hard. He didn't answer for a moment as if still struggling to come to terms with the results of this mission. "The circumstances were…unfortunate." He looked at McCoy. "It was not your fault, Doctor. Nor mine. I would have given the transfusion if I could. His physicians on Vulcan should not have allowed him to undertake such a stressful mission. Nor should Sarek himself have attempted it. If he had not--"
"There's no point in getting into that now. The body is in stasis. You can see it if you wish."
"That is a human custom, not a Vulcan one." Spock drew a breath. "My mother?"
"I tried to get her to stay here, under a mild sedative, but she refused. Once your father's… remains… were removed to stasis, she went to her quarters."
"Thank you, Doctor." He turned to go.
"Spock, she's…." McCoy hesitated. "Humans go through stages in grief. Anger is one of them."
Spock's pace arrested, and his shoulders tensed. "I know," he said in a low voice, not turning "Never-the-less, I must go."
Outside the door of her quarters Spock straightened his shoulders resolutely before pressing the buzzer. Amanda came to the door. Her eyes showed evidence she had formerly been crying but she was dry eyed now. She looked at him and shook her head, turning away.
"You're a little late," she said coldly.
He stepped inside, letting the door close behind him. "I grieve--" he began.
She held out a hand, stopping him. "Don't. Don't say it."
"Mother, I am sorry. I could not give up command."
"So you said." She turned away.
"We were in a battle. The risk to every life on the ship was grave."
She looked at him, raising an ironic, Vulcan style brow. "All the human command officers on this ship and they needed a Vulcan to fight their battle?"
"I was the senior command officer on duty on the bridge when the attack began. The Captain… he wasn't--"
She turned to him. "I don't care."
"I don't want to hear about logic or duty, or Starfleet regulations, or whatever it was that you had to do that was more important than saving your father's life. It doesn't matter. He's dead." She looked over at him. "The excuses don't matter."
"They are reasons, not excuses."
"So you say." She went back to what she had been doing, separating out clothing. Every Vulcan garment, hers or Sarek's went into the recycler. All that she was leaving herself were a few utilitarian or Terran style clothes, and some generic ship's coveralls. "What are you doing?" he asked, finally noting her activities.
"I'm not returning to Vulcan, so I won't need these anymore. When the ship arrives at Babel, I'll find some sort of transport to Earth "
"But …your teaching," he said, truly puzzled. Almost shocked. Truly at sea. "Your research and classes. You've been on the faculty of the VSA for almost four decades."
"They'll find someone else." She looked at him pointedly. "Everyone is replaceable."
He shook his head slightly in disbelief. A human contamination. "You won't even return to bring Sarek's body to --"
"Mother. You must —"
"Don't you dare," she said, her eyes suddenly flashing. "You of all people are the last person to tell me what I must do."
Spock drew a breath. "Perhaps that is true. But there are things that must be done at this time."
"That's your business." She eyed him. "You have other duties to bring you to Vulcan. Or are you planning on abandoning all your Vulcan responsibilities as handily as you did those to your father?"
He stiffened at that barb. "You have duties there as well."
"But I'm not a perfect Vulcan, so I can ignore my duties. Or maybe I've paid my Vulcan dues in full, and I'm paroled. Credit," she said caustically, "for time served."
"You are still angry with me."
"No. I would have to think something of you to be angry with you. And I don't. I've removed you from my consideration. It's not that I don't think much of you. It's just that" she looked at him and turned away, "much I don't think of you at all."
Spock stood stock still under that barb.
"Not that our paths are likely to cross," she continued. "You'll be on Vulcan, and I on Earth. Ironic, isn't it?" she said, hands pausing in her packing, a humorless smile twisting her lips. "If you had saved Sarek's life, you could have stayed in Starfleet." She looked over at him. "Now, with his death, you really will be required to follow in your father's footsteps." She shook her head, and her hands shredded a gauzy Vulcan gown before tossing the remains in the recycler. "What he could never manage in his life, becomes a matter of course with his death."
"What do you mean?" Spock asked. But his eyes had widened at this new consideration.
"When I notified T'Pau of your father's death, she told me she would be sending you the formal command to take up Sarek's duties. Your Starfleet career is over. " She shrugged indifferently. "Unless you're going to refuse her as you did him."
"It is not a question of refusal," Spock said carefully, taking a breath where he had frozen in shock before. "I simply can't resign my commission at this time. Later, after this mission, perhaps--"
Amanda flicked a brow in an unconsciously Vulcan gesture. "I suggest you find a way. T'Pau is not Sarek. She doesn't take no for an answer. And when you joined Starfleet before against your father's wishes, she and I were on your side. This time," her eyes narrowed, "you'll have no one."
"Don't ask me for anything," she said, shaking her head and drawing a pace back. "You have no right to ask me for anything. Not after you refused me everything. Nor does anything that you do interest me. Not any more. I don't care."
"You must know that I would have helped Sarek if I could," Spock said, taking a step toward her. "I wanted to, before circumstances forbade it."
"But you didn't," she said. "You didn't, no matter how I begged. You made a choice for Vulcan, over your father's life." She shrugged again. "Well, now you're going to go back to Vulcan and live his life -- the Vulcan life you once rejected, and then," her look darkened, "suddenly espoused just when your father and I both really needed you to be human."
"It wasn't sudden—Mother—"
"No." She held up a hand, warding him off. "Don't even try to appeal to the human in me now. It won't work any better with me than my appeal did with you." She turned away. "Please go," she said coldly. "I don't want to talk to you any more. And there's really nothing left for us to say to one another."
Spock drew a deep breath, standing alone in the center of the room. "I can't leave the Enterprise."
She laughed without humor. "That's between you and T'Pau."
He looked down, confessing it to himself, more than to her. "I can't leave Jim."
She did look back at that, but without sympathy. Her lip curled. "So you want me to be impressed by your great worldspanning friendship? What of it? Do you think I care?" she asked. "Your father was the love of my life. And I'll never get him back." She looked at him, standing head bowed. "Go away Spock. I'm sure that you have arrangements you need to be making now. To reorder your life. And if you'll excuse me, so do I. And they don't involve anything of Vulcan."
He didn't move. "You can't hate me for being Vulcan. Or human, for that matter. Mother, I am what you and Father made me."
"I don't hate you," she said. "But I don't give a damn what happens to you any more, no more than you cared for your father. Or rather, you cared more what your father would have said if you did something unVulcan, so much that you'd rather have let him die than suffer his Vulcan disapproval. Well, you can relax now. You won't ever have to worry about that. Your father will never have anything more to say to you. And no more will I." She drew a shaky breath. "No more will I. Now, please get out. Just get out. I don't care to see you ever again."
He found himself outside in the corridor. Around him swirled the representatives of dozens of Federation worlds. They looked at him curiously as he made his uncertain way through corridors that had been his home since he had left the Academy.
Lt. Uhura stood just inside the entrance to sickbay. "I have a message for the Captain," she said softly to McCoy.
"What for? " McCoy paused in the outer ward. "You know that Spock is in command."
She shook her head. "It's from Starfleet. I've been directed to put it directly in the Captain's hands.
McCoy shrugged. "More political troubles, I expect. Well, I wouldn't authorize Jim to run any marathons, but he's well enough to take a message, however unpleasant. Go on in, if you have to hand it to him. He's in Ward 2."
Uhura looked almost reluctant, but she slowly followed McCoy's directive. A few minutes later, she was on her way out, visibly upset.
"Uhura?" McCoy said.
She shook her had. "You have your professional ethics, Doctor. I have mine. I don't divulge the content of messages. Go ask the Captain, if you want to know."
McCoy didn't waste any time. He went into Kirk, who had a fax of the message in his hands, as if he had to see it to believe it. "Jim?"
Kirk looked up slowly. "Bones. You remember T'Pau of Vulcan?"
"How could I forget?" McCoy asked dryly.
"Remember how we mentioned we hadn't thought Spock's family was this important, that she'd be officiating at his wedding?"
"I remember you said so," McCoy said, now guarded.
"Turns out he's a lot more connected than we realized. She's – she was – Sarek's mother. And she's Spock's grandmother. She's ordered him home." He looked at McCoy. "You knew."
"I knew enough," McCoy said, nodding. "Makes sense she'd want him at any funeral services. You had to expect that Jim."
"No. You don't understand." Kirk's face, that had already been pale with blood loss, grew paler. "She's ordered him home to take up his father's clan duties. She's cited some rule in Vulcan's treaty with the Federation that gives her the authority to make such a command, even over a Starfleet Commission. And Komack went along with it. This is his authorization for rescinding Spock's commission. His …Spock's replacement will join the ship at Babel." He shook his head. "As if anyone could replace Spock."
McCoy's lips pursed in a silent whistle. "Does Spock know?"
Kirk shook his head. "Uhura has two messages for him as well. One from Starfleet; one from Vulcan. She was ordered to notify me in person first. She's going back now, to give them to Spock. I don't envy her. I offered, but she said it was her duty, and she had to do it."
"Perhaps he was expecting it."
"He never said anything to me." Kirk shook his head. "And if only out of duty, he would have warned me. Bones you've got to let me out of here. I've got to go to him."
"He might need a little time," McCoy warned.
But Kirk was insistent. They found Spock still on the bridge, but he had the same glassy stare that Kirk had worn just after Uhura had notified him. Or perhaps it was some form of Vulcan meditation or control. When he saw Kirk, he rose from the Command chair. "Captain."
"Uhura, you have the con," Kirk ordered. "Come on, Spock."
"You've been notified," Spock began. "I was prepared to speak to you, Captain. My presence on the bridge was perhaps unwarranted, given the current circumstances. My commission has been rescinded." It was unreal to hear the unVulcan shock in his voice. "I was…was about to turn command over to another officer."
"Not here, Spock," Kirk said. "Not now."
"I regret the inconvenience, Captain—" Spock began when the turbolift doors closed behind them.
"This isn't about inconvenience, Spock," Kirk said. "This is your life."
"My life," Spock repeated as if that were inconsequential. "My life is now…settled." He might as well have said 'over'
"No," Kirk said. "It's not."
"Spock, all this has been a shock," McCoy said, temporizing. "Even for a Vulcan. I know that you have to return to Vulcan now for the funeral. And of course take some time to settle Sarek's affairs. But you shouldn't think of yourself as settled. You're young, particularly for a Vulcan. You have your whole life ahead of you. Take this as a necessary interval, but not the end of your Starfleet career. They'll be time later to reconsider. It's just for now; we understand there are things that have to take you home."
"This ship has been my home, Doctor."
"You don't have to accept this. There's no need to punish yourself for Sarek's death," Kirk insisted. "Or take it from anyone else. His death wasn't your fault."
"That is debatable," Spock said. "But my stay in Starfleet was always temporized on my eventual need to take my father's place in Vulcan society. It has simply come…much sooner than I expected."
"I think it's too early for us to get into a debate about your Starfleet career," McCoy said, with a meaningful look at Jim. "Right now, the important thing is seeing you and your mother are supported through this time of understandable grief. Even Vulcans grieve. Everyone, perhaps even T'Pau, is over-reacting. I'm sure after we've delivered the delegates to Babel, Starfleet might be prevailed upon to send the Enterprise back to Vulcan, and have us all participate in whatever services Vulcans hold at these times. Many of your shipmates, Spock, would like to stand with you and your mother at this time. And afterwards, you can talk to T'Pau and settle this."
Spock shook his head slowly. "My mother is not returning to Vulcan."
Kirk and McCoy failed to conceal their visible disbelief.
"She's-" McCoy was flabbergasted.
"Please Doctor," Spock said. "It's not my place to discuss her intentions. And if you'll forgive me, I have preparations to make."
"Spock—" Kirk shook his head.
"Please, Jim," Spock said, barely a whisper.
McCoy caught Kirk's arm. "Come on, Jim. Give him some time alone."
"Thank you, Doctor," Spock said, gratefully. And Kirk allowed himself to be diverted, more by the desperate plea in Spock's eyes than by McCoy's warding arm.
Spock went to his quarters to begin the process of turning over his various responsibilities to his department heads. McCoy and Kirk went for coffee to the officer's commissary, which had also been turned over for the use of the diplomats, to plan strategy over a cup of coffee. But there they caught up with Amanda as she was dialing a cup of tea. She was wan, but somehow younger looking in plain blue ships' coveralls with her hair pulled back in a simple braid instead of an elaborate upswept style. And she had cut it. The single plait barely reached her collarbone. She almost looked a different woman from the polished diplomat's wife of before.
Seeing her, Kirk came over. "Lady Amanda. I'm sorry for your loss."
Amanda nodded politely if distantly. "Thank you, Captain."
"I thought you'd like to know. The Enterprise has been ordered to Vulcan after we discharge our passengers at Babel."
"I've heard. But I won't be returning to Vulcan. I'm going to Terra." She smiled an ironic smile at her own phrasing, giving it the name most non-humans ascribed to it, a testimony to what her associations had largely been, and shook her head slightly at her slip. "Earth."
"Spock mentioned that," Kirk said. "I couldn't say I quite believed him."
"Whatever other issues I have had with his behavior, I would have thought his veracity at least was unquestioned by his friends," she said refusing to be drawn.
"We just thought you'd be going to Vulcan. With Spock," McCoy said, putting his oar in.
"I'm going to Earth."
Kirk was non-plussed, but McCoy strove to mend over the break in the conversation. "Well, perhaps we can detour there. Jim—"
"No," she said, politely but firmly. "I'm a private citizen now. I don't expect -- or want -- Starfleet favors."
"We can ask, can't we, Jim?" McCoy prodded his Captain, who was regarding her with a set mouth. "It's the least we can do."
"I'm sure you're trying to be kind, Doctor, but no. I've lived a public live for forty years. And now I'm going to live a private one. That means private transport." She shrugged a delicate shoulder. "There are usually passenger liners at Babel. It shouldn't be difficult for me to find one that will take me home."
Kirk had drawn himself up unconsciously into command stance. ""You do know that Spock has been ordered by T'Pau to resign his commission."
"I do. But that doesn't concern me. It's between him and T'Pau."
Kirk's brow had furrowed. "You don't think that your only son concerns—"
"Jim," McCoy warned, and he turned to Amanda, affecting his 'ol country doctor' manner. "I understand how you must feel. A visit to Earth in future might be a good idea. A change of scene. But after a loss like this closure, and family, is also important for humans. Even for Vulcans. I'd recommend that you first go back to Vulcan, at least long enough to attend the--"
Amanda met his gaze with a steeliness that stopped McCoy in his tracks. "With all due respect, Doctor McCoy, you don't know what you are talking about." She drew a breath and resumed her tacit smile. "Gentleman. I'm going to Earth. On a passenger liner, as a paying customer. Now if you'll excuse me." She left her tea untouched and made her way out of the commissary.
"She doesn't have to take her grief out on Spock," Kirk growled, half of a mind to go after her and have it out. "This wasn't his fault."
"No," McCoy said sagely, "but I wager that isn't entirely what all this is about."
"She could at least go back to Vulcan with him."
McCoy sighed softly, his shoulders dropping. "She has a right to live her own life too, Jim. How can we advocate that for Spock, and not for her?"
"But no one is granting Spock that."
"He's a grown man, not a child. If Spock wants to return to the Enterprise after he takes Sarek home, well, that's between him and T'Pau. He's been known to be pretty stubborn up to and including hijacking a Starship, numerous times, to achieve his aims. When it comes to getting what he wants, I'll put my money on Spock. "
Kirk was shaking his head. "I don't like this Bones. I don't like any of it."
"No." McCoy said. "I don't imagine they like it much either. Neither one of them."
"There ought to be something we can do."
McCoy shook his head. "I don't think we can deny T'Pau her right to have Spock home at this time. Settle Sarek's affairs. After that, well, If Spock wants to return to Fleet, he managed it before. I imagine he'll do so again, when he's ready."
"And Amanda?" Kirk asked, looking after where she had disappeared.
"Maybe she needs to go to Earth right now. I don't think its right, but who knows. Vulcan might be ...too painful for her."
Kirk was shaking his head. "It's wrong, Bones. This is not the way things should have happened."
"I know," McCoy said, sighing and sitting down. He picked up Amanda's abandoned cup of tea and toyed with it. "We just needed those few seconds before that ship attacked. Enough to get Spock off the bridge, and into sickbay. This whole outcome could have been different. Sarek might have lived. Spock might have reconciled with him. Amanda wouldn't be heading for Earth, heartbroken and bereft, her heart hardened against her son. Spock could have stayed on the Enterprise. A few more seconds. It was all we needed."
"I remember, Bones," Kirk said, a bit shaken. "A few seconds. We said it before. You warned me." He blew a breath out in frustration. "But my heart was spared!"
"The Kirk luck," McCoy said wanly.
"I never wanted this, Bones."
"Sarek's heart defect was not your fault either." McCoy shook his head, and made an attempt to be positive. "Give them all a little time, Jim. Amanda has a temper, sure, but my guess is she doesn't stay mad long. Spock is shell-shocked, in a Vulcan way, at his father's death, but he'll rise to the occasion. Their hearts are broken, but not in a medical way. They will mend.
"I hope so, Bones," Kirk said, dropping into a seat opposite him. "I need Spock on the Enterprise. And I think he needs us."
McCoy nodded. "The Kirk luck will come around for them too."
But it didn't.
Amanda went to Earth, by a commercial carrier, went back to Harvard, where she'd taught before she met Sarek. She ignored Spock's periodic dutiful messages. She never went back to Vulcan, and after she retired from Harvard, even T'Pau could not find her.
Spock settled his father's affairs and took over his duties, but his heart was not in it. After a few years of struggle, the conflict between his heart and his duty became so great that he requested and received permission to attempt to purge all his emotions in Kohlinahr, so that his heart might never trouble him with regrets again. T'Pau's attempts to reach Amanda, to recommend she counsel and dissuade him, were unsuccessful. Spock suffered often from heartache, though it was none that any surgery could mend. Nor did all the disciplines of Kohlinahr seem to make much of a dent in it through many long years. But his attempt at Kohlinahr finally succeeded. At the ceremony he gratefully accepted the symbol of his accomplishment, the end of all his struggles with painful emotion and regret.
Kirk, suddenly deep in the throes of V'Ger, tried to reach him mentally before the ceremony blocked Spock's mind forever from all but strict patterns of logic.
He almost made it.
But he missed him, by only a few seconds.
And then, then it was too late.
Of Seconds Lost, and Hearts
To see some Spock/Uhura stories by this author in the AOS Star Trek 2009 universe, look up "Linguistics" and "Guess Who is Coming to Dinner" or check the author's profile.