Epilogue - Two Months Later
Spock sat near the back of the temporary stage in the ship's gym, staring out at the dim, darkened blur of the crew's uniforms. By moving his eyes to move the tiny spot of semi-sight he could make out the dark grey smudge of the wall behind them, merging into the blackness that made up the majority of his vision. He was far more aware of the crew by the warm mingling of scent and slight sounds than by that blur, but with a little imagination he could picture the rows of ship's crew, the back wall of the gym, the doors to the side that made no impression in his dark, limited vision. But at least that dark blur was sight, of some sort. It was the daily proof that the treatment for his eyes was working, slowly but steadily.
The proof that he could not see, not well enough for him to be classified anything but blind, was sitting next to him in the form of a large alsatian dog with a bright yellow harness that, held close to his face, he could just discern the colour of. The dog was, as McCoy had termed it, a 'godsend', as had been the rehabilitation course he had taken on Vulcan. He had taught the dog not only to lead him about, but also to take him to certain people whom she recognised by face and by name. Two days ago he had been on his first planetside mission in which he had left the landing party on his own, without a human guide, and relied on the dog to lead him back when his work was done. The sense of freedom had been almost overwhelming.
'Well, you all know why we're here today,' Captain Kirk's voice rang out from centre-stage. 'I guess we've all got pretty used to Commander Spock's blindness, and we were all overjoyed to hear that the treatment that he and Dr McCoy have been working on is slowly restoring his sight. However, on the day that the explosion happened on this ship I requested that Mr Spock be granted the Christopher Pike Medal for Bravery. That request has been honoured, and today I can present that medal. Mr Spock?'
Spock got to his feet, telling the dog softly, 'Find Captain Kirk', and he followed the pull of her harness across the stage. A month ago he would never have walked across a raised platform without using the cane to warn him of the edge.
'Mr Spock, I'm very glad to present you with the Christopher Pike Medal for Bravery, with a donation from the Christopher Pike injury fund, for your outstanding courage and diligence to duty both during and after the phaser room explosion of stardate 6163.8.'
Spock stood silent, faintly discomfited by the situation. He had had no choice but to be in the explosion or to live without sight afterwards. He had done nothing brave. However, he could feel pride emanating from his friend. Perhaps the medal ceremony was worth it for the pleasure it gave his other shipmates. He could donate the award money to the charity which had supplied him with the guide dog and training.
He stood still while Kirk's hands carefully pinned the medal onto the smooth material of his uniform top, then reached up as the hands withdrew to gently run his fingers over the small metal badge, feeling the shape and contours.
'Thank you, sir,' he said as Kirk stepped away from him. 'I am honoured.'
The crowd down below him erupted into a chorus of cheers, led by Mr Scott's rousing voice, and Kirk took the opportunity to lean forward and say, 'I'm sorry, Spock - I know you don't think medals are right - but you earned it. It was Scotty and McCoy who turned this thing into a surprise party.'
'It is indeed a surprise,' Spock said. 'I did not deduce from the applause that I was about to be subjected to an informal reception.'
'Any excuse for a party,' Kirk shrugged. 'You know Scotty and Bones. I think the alcohol's going to be flowing tonight. Personally, I think ship morale needs boosting. Everyone's been a little quiet since your accident.'
'Why should my misfortune affect the performance of the crew?' Spock asked innocently, staying firmly in his Vulcan role.
'Because they care, Spock, and you know they do,' Kirk smiled. 'And you know that you deserved that medal.'
'I appreciate the gesture, sir,' Spock nodded, 'but I see nothing to celebrate in what happened.'
'The honour's for your bravery in trying to save Necuhay without even thinking about your own safety,' Kirk insisted gently. He touched his arm and said, 'Come on, Mr Spock. Shall we go eat?'
'Am I expected to stay for the refreshments, sir?'
'I think people would appreciate it, Commander,' Kirk said wryly. 'It is in your honour.'
'Of course, sir,' Spock nodded. 'Sacha, follow,' he told the dog, and he followed Kirk down off the stage and into a recreation room across the hall where food smells permeated the air.
'They put streamers and balloons up, but I guess that's more for everyone else's benefit than yours,' Kirk told him apologetically.
Spock looked upwards, blinking in a useless but instinctive attempt to make the blur clearer. 'That may be true, Captain. I cannot make out the balloons.'
'There's an empty table just a few yards in front of you. You sit down there, and I'll fill our plates from the buffet.'
Spock nodded, and gave the dog the image of the table. He had shocked his trainers on the brief course on Earth when he had knelt down and melded with his guide dog, teaching her himself how to take him to a place when he showed her what he believed it to look like. Spock had immediately taken to this intelligent alsatian who had no problem with the odd scent of an alien or the odd sensation of another being sharing thoughts with her animal mind.
'There you go, Spock,' Kirk said, and Spock reached out to feel the plate of finger food Kirk had picked for him. 'And Andorian sherry,' he said, putting a glass into his hand. 'Congratulations.'
'For allowing myself to be blinded?'
'For coming out the other end of a terrible time, and coming out sane. It's been four months...'
'Four months, twelve days, sixteen hours, twenty-three minutes,' Spock corrected, conscious that perhaps it should not be so easy to reel off the exact amount of time.
'Okay. And for almost two months of that you were distraught, Spock - there's no point in denying that.'
'Distraught, angry, fearful. Even occasionally suicidal,' Spock nodded. It was easier to admit that now he was free of those destructive feelings. 'I know, Jim.'
'And now you've worked out that disruptor treatment with Bones... It'll take time, but - '
'But it will work,' Spock nodded, rolling the delicate flute of the glass in his fingers. It would be pleasant to see the crystalline structures and light refractions of glass again.
'And there are two hundred odd other people in the Federation singing your praises right now.'
'Three hundred sixty three is the precise recorded number of people blinded by phaser coolant in the Federation,' Spock corrected him. 'No doubt there are more in the Klingon and Romulan Empires.'
'And of course you'll share this knowledge with them?' Kirk asked.
Spock raised an eyebrow. 'The doctor and I broadcast the schematics on a free channel the moment we were sure of the instrument's effectiveness, Captain. I will not let politics allow people to stay sightless in areas where the blind are treated as worse than animals.'
'No, of course not,' Kirk smiled. 'Like on Pernicia.'
'That is one place,' Spock nodded.
'God, what makes me really angry is that the Pernicians got everything they wanted through this,' Kirk said abruptly. 'Sure, their ambassador and a few of their people are in a Federation correctional unit, but all this violence just to prevent a peace that we thought was best for their planet...'
'People's perceptions of 'best' are only perceptions,' Spock said gravely. 'The Pernicians believe that a state of war is 'best' - at least, enough of them do to prevent that peace.'
'Yes, and what about the ones who're tired of the war and the bloodshed?'
'We can do nothing about those people,' Spock said calmly. He took a large sip of his drink, and it burned down his throat, settling warmly in his stomach. 'From what I have gleaned from my studies of Pernician psychology, I believe that even had they gained peace, they would soon be thirsting for war again. They wanted a respite, not a permanent ceasefire. It is not logical to impose peace upon a people who have no frame of reference for it.'
'Well, we sure went through some hell to find that out. *You* did, Spock.'
'It is also illogical to dwell on the past. We have all learnt something, Captain. I do not wish to lose what I have learnt.'
'Talking philosophy, gentlemen?' McCoy asked from behind Spock's back, and he put a steadying hand on his dog's back as she sat up under the table.
'Just talking, Dr McCoy.'
'Sit down, Bones,' Kirk said warmly. 'Join us.'
'Sure,' McCoy said, settling himself down at the table and putting something down on it with a clunk. 'Spock, what is it with this dog?'
Spock raised an eyebrow, hearing the odd wet noise of his dignified alsatian unashamedly licking McCoy's hands. The dog was gentle and loving with him, but always calm and almost Vulcan in her restraint. With the doctor she rolled upon her back, put her legs in the air, and grovelled.
'Perhaps it is your accent, Doctor,' he suggested. 'Sacha was raised in your home state.'
'I think it's just living with a Vulcan. She must be emotionally deprived.'
Spock opened his mouth to disagree, but the doctor said quickly, 'Well, Spock, shall I fill your glass? How about Sacha? I'd like to see what a drunk guide dog could do with a drunk Vulcan master.'
'You may fill my glass,' Spock nodded, not rising to the bait. He drained the narrow glass of the sherry Kirk had given him, then held it out to McCoy. He felt it become heavier as liquid poured. He half fancied that he could see pale blue moving as his glass filled, but when he tasted the liquid he found it was traditional Earth whisky.
'Spock, you'll give yourself cross-eyes,' McCoy said abruptly, and Spock realised how hard he had been staring at the perceived sight. 'You won't be able to focus yet. You can barely see at all.'
'I am fully aware of that,' Spock nodded, realising that the blue had just been McCoy's sleeve. He closed his eyes against the deceptive vision, and reached down to touch the dog that had stopped grovelling and had come to lean against his leg. It was easier to rely on the learnt skills of touch rather than trusting this scrap of sight.
'Don't worry, Spock,' McCoy said, misinterpreting his silence. 'You're getting your next treatment in a few days. It's just the effects - '
'Can be damaging when accumulated at too fast a rate,' Spock nodded. 'I am aware of that too, Doctor.'
'As long as we just keep the rate of destruction faster than the rate of regrowth, you'll be fine.'
'Yes, Doctor,' Spock nodded again, opening his eyes again to the small blur of colour.
'Mr Spock, how'd you like to take this bottle down to your quarters?' Kirk asked abruptly, and Spock became aware again of the noise of the party around him. 'I don't think it's proper for the captain to get drunk in front of the crew.'
'No,' McCoy agreed. 'And they might never trust me again.'
'Do they trust you, Doctor?' Spock asked innocently, then nodded his head, and said, 'If you are intent on getting me inebriated, gentleman, the familiar contours of my cabin is the best place for that to happen. Shall we go?'