Here it is, the final chapter. I'm not going to say much, cause I'd rather you read it, but I just want to thank you all again for the lovely response I've received for this story. I never thought it would be this long or turn out like this, and I didn't dream of this much positive reaction! So thank you all--you literally kept it going with your reviews. I enjoyed the ride!
Kirk opened his eyes just in time to make a wild, instinctive grab for thin shoulders as his First Officer collapsed sideways. He hardly heard Scott's exclaimed oath as he staggered under the sudden deadweight, but the strong hands that helped him to lower Spock gently to a sitting position against the cot were not gone unappreciated. He himself felt awkward and dizzy, and as he squatted next to his semi-conscious First he had to grasp the mattress to keep from falling over altogether. Scott's hand rested on his shoulder, and he glanced up into his Chief Engineer's worried face and tried to look reassuring.
"'M fine, Scotty," he murmured. "Just a little dizzy, that's all."
"Captain! What's been happening? You and Mr. Spock have been that way for over seven hours now…it worried me, sir."
"We were fine," Kirk said shortly, feeling steadier by the second but in no mood to answer his inquisitive subordinate until he was sure of Spock's well being. "Spock? Spock, are you all right?"
Spock's eyes flickered open, and his chest rose in a deep, sighing breath as he focused on Kirk's face. "I am…well, Captain," he said quietly. "I apologize for my lapse. To stay so long in another's mind is taxing at best. Maintaining a secure connection with one as turbulent and guarded as the good Doctor's is admittedly difficult."
Spock's eyebrow quirked in a Vulcan semblance of an embarrassed smile. "It is no longer a danger, Captain."
Kirk frowned reprovingly. "But it was? Spock, you shouldn't have risked yourself…"
"Would you have had me withdraw before we were certain of the Doctor's safety?" Kirk didn't reply—Spock already knew the answer to that one. But mention of McCoy brought him to his feet.
Spock rose unsteadily to his feet beside him, gently shrugging away from Scott's steadying hand. Kirk sat down on the cot next to his CMO and laid a hand on the forehead, brushing a few stray locks of dark hair gently back into place. The Engineer joined them at the bedside, and for a second none of them moved. Then Kirk took a quick breath and grasped the silky blue shoulder.
"Doc?" He suppressed a glimmer of anxiety and shook the shoulder more roughly than he had intended. "Bones!"
"Patience, Captain," Spock rumbled from over his shoulder. "It may take a few moments for him to return to full consciousness."
"But he will return…?"
Spock's calm assurance soothed his anxiety but did nothing to dispel his impatience. Spock seemed to sense this, because he moved a fraction closer to his Captain, just enough that their boots made soft contact. Kirk looked up, appreciating the physical connection, but just as their eyes met in mutual understanding, Scott hissed, "Captain!"
He turned sharply back as McCoy's eyelids fluttered again. His pale skin was regaining some of its warmth, and Kirk brought a hand to McCoy's cheek, patting it gently.
McCoy groaned and stirred; one hand twitched at his side and rose a few inches from the coverlet. Kirk grabbed at it and squeezed; again, harder than he'd intended with impatience and anticipation, with the result that McCoy groaned louder and tugged weakly out of his grasp. His eyes cracked open and fixed immediately on Kirk's face in a shadow imitation of his icy glare.
Kirk laughed out loud. "Good to have you back, Doc."
McCoy's eyes closed and he moved his head back and forth shallowly on the pillow. "Don't know that good does it justice." And then, "I've got one heck of a headache."
"A result of the extended period of time that the Captain and I spent in your subconscious, Doctor."
Scott harrumphed behind Spock. "Extended is a bloody understatement," he grumbled. McCoy heard and chuckled limply.
"I apologize for the intrusion, Doctor McCoy," Spock said. McCoy's eyes opened abruptly and he pinned Spock with a blazing stare that seemed to discomfit even the normally stolid Vulcan. "It was my intention only to bring you out of your comatose state, not to cause unnecessary discomfort. Please understand that it was the only logical course of action that could have possibly drawn you from the walls of protection your mind had constructed."
McCoy held the gaze, unspeaking, for a long uncomfortable moment in which Kirk and Scott wished desperately that they were either somewhere several light years away or that McCoy would say something. Since the former was hardly a possible solution, Kirk decided to nudge McCoy into the second. But just as he had managed to worm his near hand into a position ready to give the doctor a sharp pinch to the ribs, McCoy broke the silence with a hmmmph.
"Jim, help me up."
Kirk hastily moved his hand back up to the Doctor's shoulders and guided him up into a sitting position. The color drained from McCoy's face and he raised a hand to his temple, swallowing thickly. But even as he massaged his temple gently, grimacing, he looked grimly up at Spock again with a no-nonsense, no-arguments-allowed death stare.
"I don't want you to apologize, Mr. Spock," he said. "I want you to accept my thanks, forget about the whole business, and most of all, I want to forget about your durned logic and recognize that you went in after me because you wanted to, not because logic dictated it."
Spock rocked a little on his heels, eyebrow shooting skyward. When he spoke, his voice was dry and his eyes sparkling affectionately. "Is that all?"
McCoy snorted. "That's all, Spock."
"Then I accept your gratitude, Doctor. Your other two requests, however, are hardly plausible as well as being highly illogical."
McCoy sputtered, and Kirk was wishing more and more that he were out of the line of fire rather than sitting between what looked like it was turning into an explosive debate.
"To blazes with logic!" He coughed, rubbed his head roughly with the heels of his hands, nearly reeling with frustration, but before Kirk could step in to intervene, Spock touched him swiftly on the shoulder with the obvious request that he move. He stood hastily and Spock took his place on the bed. The transition was made with such startling grace that McCoy blinked in surprise and Scott turned his surprised laugh into a hacking cough at Kirk's glare.
"Doctor McCoy," Spock said hoarsely, "I ask that you do not expect me to 'forget about the whole business'. I am in no position to forget your distress, nor the role that I have played in both causing and alleviating that distress. I recognize that I am not responsible for the initial violation upon your mind, but I do realize and accept complete responsibility for my miscalculations that led to your mind essentially "shutting down". I will not dwell on my mistakes, but nor will I forget them. Can you accept this?"
McCoy's eyes had softened immeasurably, and his lips curved warmly. "I can accept that, Mr. Spock."
"And as for your third request, Doctor…" Spock hesitated uncharacteristically, glanced up at Kirk, and then back to the waiting McCoy. "I would echo your earlier statement.
"To blazes with logic."
Montgomery Scott walked down the wide, gently lit corridors of ship's night, whistling softly to himself as he made his way to say goodnight to his beloved engines. His day had started with five-star, depressed to one of the worse he could remember ever having (and that was saying a lot, considering what his rash young Captain had put him through since day one of their five-year-mission), and then climbed back up to a five-star as he had watched his not-so-rash, emotionless First Officer show some emotion for the first time in his memory. The Doctor's stupefied reaction to Spock's outright confession of the friendship between them had been amusing; he had never seen the gaping-fish look on McCoy's face before, nor seen his Captain go that red in the face from trying to suppress what Scotty hoped was tears of laughter as opposed to tears of sentimentalism.
He had also never seen the Captain hug anyone before, and though he felt like an intruder, he wouldn't have missed the sight for the world. The Captain had held the Doctor a long while in silence while Spock looked resolutely over their heads, face softened in a way that Scott had never seen. One of the two men had given a muffled sob, but when they broke apart both faces were dry. McCoy had then held out his hand to Spock, eyes begging the Vulcan officer to take it.
Spock had looked for a brief moment like he might refuse, but then he had lifted his own arm slowly and grasped the doctor's proffered hand in a strange grip that Scott didn't recognize but was sure was an incredibly personal Vulcan custom. McCoy had been startled, but tried awkwardly to copy the grip before Spock deigned to help him. Once he had arranged McCoy's fingers into a rough copy of his own hand, he had held it only briefly before releasing McCoy's hand and clasping both behind his back.
He'd been forced to bring them hastily back again as McCoy had promptly collapsed. Scott had jumped forward to help him set the irritable doctor back on the cot, but Kirk had, of course, gotten there first. Scott had settled back almost at the door again, watching Spock and Kirk—there was no other word for it—fuss over McCoy until the doctor had snapped out a few choice words that Scott hadn't ever heard outside the taverns he liked to frequent on those rare occasions that Kirk could force him to take a shore leave.
Overall, it had been a long evening of firsts.
Helping his Captain and Mr. Spock wrestle a protesting Dr. McCoy down to his own Sickbay was not one of those firsts that he had wanted to experience, and so he had excused himself after a hasty handshake with the glowering Doctor and a quick salute to his COs. He had left with several irreverent suggestions of where Jim Kirk could stick that hypospray ringing in his ears, and hastened his dignified walk to an altogether undignified trot as the doors to Mr. Spock's quarters hissed open again before he could disappear around the next corner. He had paused to listen as the bickering faded with the footsteps in the other direction, and then set off smartly for Engineering with a spring in his steps.
Mr. Spock and the Captain were more than welcome to grapple with the one man everyone on board knew was the worst patient Sickbay had ever held; Scott, however, wanted no part. He had a suspicion that Leonard McCoy would be even better than James Kirk at escaping Sickbay, but that Mr. Spock would be even more adamant about keeping him there than he was the Captain. Watching that battle could possibly even be incentive enough to draw him away willingly from his engines for the second time in two days.
On the other hand, maybe it was safer down in Engineering. Now that McCoy was back to his old self, he and Mr. Spock together was once again a combination to be avoided if one enjoyed peace and quiet, which Scott did. Avoiding that combination meant avoiding Sickbay, seeing as Mr. Spock and Captain Kirk would be down there as often as they were on the Bridge until they allowed McCoy to resume his usual duties.
If Scott knew the doctor, it wouldn't be long before the two of them would be begging McCoy to resume said duties.
Scott reached Engineering and climbed quickly and easily down the short ladder to the main control center, where he brushed gentle fingers across the consoles, listening to the gentle humming of the impulse engines. He adjusted a lever there, a dial there, tapped in a quick sequence there, and nodded goodnight to Beta shift. He didn't miss the fond, exasperated looks they shot him as he climbed the ladder again to return to his quarters; he knew that his crew though him more than slightly eccentric.
And proud to be so.
Sickbay hums quietly with occasional pattering footsteps, whispered murmurs, and clicks and whirrs of the few panels operating above overnight patients. A Beta shift nurse bends over one man who is whispering for water and supports his head as he drinks carefully. She then moves to the next patient who is snoring gently and makes a mental note to release him first thing in the morning.
Another nurse appears from the next room and gestures at her to come see. She passes the only other patient in this ward with a quick glance at the monitor to make sure vitals are still good. They stand in the doorway together, looking across the ward at the only monitor that is showing readings.
There are three beds under it, pushed together so that they are nearly touching, and three bodies sprawled under thin blue sheets, still in sleep. One on the end is obviously the tousled head of Captain Kirk, a familiar sight in Sickbay. One leg is flung out to one side—his head rests on one arm, while the other lies on his chest, twitching in sleep.
The other side holds the ramrod straight body and dark, neat head of Mr. Spock, who is as quiet in sleep as the Captain is sprawled. The sheets are folded neatly down across his chest, and even in the dim light they can see that he is resting in uniform, with obvious intentions of returning immediately to the Bridge upon waking.
The center form is curled in on itself, as still as Mr. Spock but with snoring to rival Kirk's. The two nurses cannot see any more but a lump under the sheets what with the closeness of his two companions, but they are not worried. They are content to leave the three of them there until they wake; they know that Doctor McCoy is in the best of hands exactly as he is.
As they watch, Mr. Spock stirs and then props himself up on an elbow and looks down at the sleeping doctor. The nurses retreat farther into the shadows, unwilling to intrude but also unwilling to grant privacy. Spock seems to verify that all is well, casts a wry glance at Kirk—even from here the nurses can see the eyebrow raise. He then lifts his near hand and lowers it gently to the doctor's head, where it rests lightly for a few seconds. His lips move, but the nurses cannot hear what he is saying. They look at each other guiltily and retreat to the other ward, reluctantly offering the solitude that the situation now dictates.
McCoy murmurs softly in his sleep, and Spock removes the hand but continues to watch the doctor for some time. It is only when Kirk snores loudly enough that he wakes himself up that Spock lays back down to avoid notice. Kirk opens his eyes blearily and rolls over, pushing himself up heavily to glance over at his two companions, both of whom are apparently asleep. He grins sleepily and then settles himself down again, where he is unconscious again within thirty seconds.
Sickbay is quiet.
Blessings to you all!