An Impossible Choice

Only a small light through the darkness it is, like waves. What am I doing here? My bare feet against the metal floor-strange, it is so smooth, but different than the ship.

What am I doing here?

As if I see a garden, an underwater vision; lights swirl around the plants, the green starkness of them, beyond the glass-metal door-windows. But then it recedes into darkness again, and I question. Sanity is a long stretch of mind, a prismatic changing of the lens the world is giving me. Sanity is my fingers stretching, stretching, my body lengthening, changing…all a dream. Sanity is that brief will to live, that all that is left. My eyes latch onto a lock of hair, not even noting the color, red-brown. Only seeing.

It was not his fault. He was barely even alive when it happened.

I do not remember how I got here, only the day and the images…

Shuddering, fearing, an animal. His consciousness withdrawn. His hands were actually shaking, his arms around his chest, folded as if to defend himself. The single point of light in his eyes made him look frightened, and I knew he did not command his body. No. He was dying.

The hugeness of the window. My awe at the place I had found, the creatures I could barely see. My distraction as they took me by my arms-curious things, arms, they must have thought-and dragged me away. it was then I began to sense it; it was then I began to know. If they had dropped me, made me to walk, my footsteps, against the floor, would have revealed everything. My heartbeat rushed into my fingers and all was slow; light against surfaces winked like stars at me until my eyes rolled up and a strange, animal-like sleep took me; a hibernation for survival; there was so little of me left. Not without, but within.

As if to save me, as if to understand. Why is she not here, why has she not returned, they must have asked. Of course, Captain, she is in love with the planet. They did not check for lifeforms. The worry must have begun, but it was not mine; gray walls pressed around me like the curve of a world, and I could not move my hands. Only see.

Only see.

His footsteps never faltering until confinement. He did not guess. A long confinement, one they had forgotten; another reality, I wondered once, a bending of time? Much more time had passed than I understood; I dreamed a long dream, of my hands against glass, my eyes looking out. I do not think I woke. Not fully.

The resolve wavering in the small metal chamber with the devices around he could not touch that glowed with green light that pulsed not like a heartbeat but a machine. Heartbeat. I could feel my heartbeats growing stronger, lengthening, slowing. It was a long time.

He began to see that he could not get out, could not leave, could contact no-one. He did not struggle, and his captors wondered why. I wondered why I could see this, but the seeing came later; I did not know of it until later. He was deep within himself, and his limbs dragged, unresisting, as he was brought to where I was.

'No.'

His mind. A constellation of 'no's and 'negative's, of trapped horror. He had been unseeing almost, but that gave way to vision more vivid than he had known before. He was shaking; he could not control his body. It was not himself that moved.

'No.' A silent yell, despairing now, not calculated as it always was, as he was. Inside of himself, in his mind, he was curled but defenseless. It roared through his bloodstream, that denial, without reason or memory. His hands shuddered and gripped at the walls, his body scrabbling to the farthest corner to what-who-he only sensed, and then he was still.

'Dying,' had been guessed. Unresisting, certainly. His captors-never seen in the light of truth, never fully explained to me or realized by the ship-hauled him to where the other was, the one who looked so different as to be an opposite. Myself. Let them die together, they would have thought if they knew. But they had no idea, no understanding. What was, was.

The doors slid open, though more appropriately, they should have burst open, Spock thought. It was not soon enough; on the circle of the transporter stood Spock, his face harder, more…different than usual, his limbs shaking a little. Only one, he, had returned. It was not supposed to be like this.

"Janice?," Bones asked. Naturally he was concerned about his daughter. His face was calm, but then he did not know, couldn't know.

Only one, Spock noticed, as if in a daze. Only one of us returned.

Spock could not move. It was a wonder he could even realize what happened afterwards, for the future was not, at that moment, where his mind dwelled.

A flash of light, galaxies collapsing, swirling around thought and consciousness. My hand outstretched, a thin thread of humanity. Something was wrong. Something. It was not what I felt, but-a change. A calmness, a distorting river of vivid sight, marked the light and the change that I only saw.

His hands gripping the walls, unable to. Gripping at nothing-his face had changed. Grappling with despair, still trapped within him-then he was ripped from this place. Time flowed through again, moments stretched and vision flew and circled and dimmed. These people, these beings, these others-captors, people, something-they did not use their hands. Their fingertips I could see sharper than anything else.

"You can't, Jim. You have no…idea." McCoy was still in a daze, kept reaching a hand out as if to reassure himself that this was real. There was a great similarity and difference, and some significance in the way Spock's voice deepened and twisted with something resembling emotion-fear, something else, emotion so strong it changed the balance of the words.

Kirk looked straight ahead.

"No signs." No signs of life on the planet below. Years had passed, but not for the Enterprise. Years had passed on that planet, that place that did not seem as it was.

A faintly green-tinged hand reached into the air. McCoy eyed it as if he had never seen one before, as if the Vulcan could separate the particles of the air with mere touch. The fingers aligned as a look of concentration rippled through Spock's face, a wavering thought unable to pass through it.

A light on the screen. Light, a point of light I was, light like a heartbeat, and yet I could see my body, was present in that cage of flesh. Light splitting the darkness. The captors-strange heads, smooth, indescribable-raised their right hands. I felt suddenly the floor cold beneath me, saw the passageway around me. My sight gripped at the garden and the sense of déjà vu that swept through me. Then I could only feel, as my body wavered and somehow I was still standing.

Exploding into my body. A shuddering breath, a sight that does not return. The darkness presses at me but I cannot reach to it. Breaths are scarce; the air cannot stop that sense of emptiness, the scraping impossible inhales. Feel the floor beneath me, see dimly the passageway as if I was running-not on the transporter anymore. I walk, and they are there.

"What-Janice-"

Their faces. I do not know how I can hear; perhaps I read their words, know them. Their faces are a brief eternity before me, their expressions…

A light against darkness, she is. Me. I. Pale white. She is almost bloodless. McCoy notices first how anaemic she looks, then that she wavers on her feet. Her hair is comically vivid against the paleness, her eyes large. her body is hardly wracked by breath; in fact, she can hardly take air in.

Blind points of feeling. I do not know which way I am moving, which way is up or what I see. Through water, faces different than I remember, changed with some realization-some sudden shock. My sight stays on his, wonders that his face is changed; it almost never is. He looks...shaken. Human. Something wrong, in the depths of him. Something-a heartbeat-flutters through me, but I cannot name it.

Bones' voice. "Is she-is she bloodless? What happened?" Spock staring straight ahead, unable to…unable. It is not his fault. He did not do this, she did not. There were forces they could not understand. He can only feel the raw air around him, and an after-feeling of the emptiness in his arms-he had been torn away; the captors had sent him away, beamed him up. Alone. The realization is an echo in his mind, illogical…repetitive. Only one, only one…

McCoy saw first the glaring difference, could trace out the veins that now stood out in her too-pale skin. It was harder to understand the afterimages. She didn't have blood enough for him to understand, at first.

"They took her blood…most of it…I need O negative…"

But that was not it.

The hallway blurred past. Jim was in the chair, damn him, doing his duty. Incapable of understanding what had just happened, as all of them were. Spock had returned a second after they'd beamed him down after Janice and the scientific exploration team on the planet's surface-had returned looking older, and human, trying but unable to convey something deeply wrong. A second after. His hair had grown, his movements confined, though he didn't move beyond helping with the ship-and that, too, in a sort of daze. If McCoy had been able to think straight, if there had been enough time, he would have tentatively guessed shock. But Spock wasn't human, or at least, only half…

And he had been unable to speak, for the most part. Unable.

There was not time to think.

Time is not changed on the Enterprise; time remains as it always has. It still takes a human space of time for one of the other doctors to get the blood, a moment in which the lights of sickbay are glaringly white against whiteness. McCoy's mind is cleared, however, enough for him to see. Damned ion storm, reducing sickbay and Bones' own medical capabilities into something out of historical fiction. He fumbles with the IV and barely registers Janice's sleeve having to be rolled up.

"She's…there's…" Glaringly dark, though faint; made dark by her bloodloss. A trace of green. He cannot think, not well enough; his mind isn't working fast as it should. I'm a doctor, not a…but he cannot think that either, as his gaze tears away from the surgical implements (he swallows noisily; he never liked ancient medicine) in their bright horrific reality. There are outlines, fainter than faint, on her skin.

He gestures to the blood, finally there-the doctor's face is flushed from running-"Not enough in her to-" and his eyes widen. He points to the outlines; the other doctor has to strain to see. McCoy doesn't even register the presence of others in sickbay, but people came with him-it recedes. "They took blood. There's not enough to collect and make brusing evident."

If his eyes could widen any further, they would. Almost as an afterthought, he attaches the O negative to where it will enter Janice's veins; his fingers are a little clumsy but still accurate.

Bruising, and green…something…

"Damn emotionless bastard! What did you do?"

"Believe me, Doctor, I wanted to die. I tried to die…" Spock's vision was overshadowed by memory. "And they wouldn't let me." His hand reached out tentatively to rest on Bones' temples. The last image of his own McCoy had was the pathos on the face of the Vulcan, before images became Spock's understanding and all that was McCoy was snatched away.

Years. Years passed, on that planet, where you saw only seconds. His thoughts were shaken. Only seconds.

The planet gaining life forms. I had gone after your daughter to see if the planet was habitable-mere seconds after she was transported-and the life forms that captured her captured me. Years at first passed in seconds; by the time I regained consciousness, I did not understand what I saw. Seven years, Doctor.

A heartbeat jolted through McCoy.

I could not feel, at that point. I did not understand where they took me and why until I was taken somewhere else, and then it was too late. I tried to meditate, but nothing happened. I tried to escape, but I was too far gone. I tried to die, but my body was not mine to control.

Years, Spock's mind repeated. His thoughts were a sudden bitter current. There was only one image, through the link: a figure on a planet with red skies-someone McCoy could only vaguely recognize, though he knew the planet was Vulcan. Such powerful loneliness swept through the image that McCoy could barely breathe; with a sad and bitter understanding, he was overwhelmed with the understanding of Spock's emotions and what had happened, all that he had left behind.

Spock's thoughts were wordless, raw with connection. The images he saw in his mind, the memory, the guess, they were blurred from the effort to not break down completely. He did not say it; he didn't need to. The figure stood forlorn against Vulcan's sky, staring up at space. Saavik, Spock's shock and grief spoke, through the landscape of his memories. He couldn't truly believe it wasn't his fault.

McCoy sat, wordless, for long after Janice was beginning to heal. His mind was practically shut off, awhirl with thoughts not his own (he had to stop his hand from reaching out to the general direction of Vulcan, and try to be unaffected), and kept repeating silly little children's songs, something about colors. Red, yellow, blue, green...green. Unconsciously, the doctor raised an eyebrow. It snapped back down when he noticed. He shook his head forcefully and bit on his lip as he looked down again at Janice. It'll be a hell of a job to remove that thing, if she wants, he thought. A hell of a lot harder to deal with Spock, though, and his damned sense of guilt. But all sardonic comments fell away in memory of the mind-meld just previous, and McCoy felt a genuine sympathy. Quite suddenly he rose from where he had sat.

"Come on, Jim." Later. Somehow he had left sickbay. "You know his damned sense of responsibility. As much as I'd hate to admit it, it wasn't his fault, but he's going to think so anyway." McCoy blinked and rubbed his eyes for a moment. "I'd never thought I'd be advocating him, but he's torn in two. The hell with logic, if it were me."

He sat in the chair of the observation deck, hearing but not registering what the Doctor and the Captain said, face composed again but still not the same. A familiar, reddish planet he could see, and then not, and yet he knew he would stay, if only briefly.

Space. His eyes would not close; the darkness was all around. The final frontier. Dark and empty, and yet not; so much like the barriers of everything else. Space is not complicated, is not troubled, and yet, it reflects the thoughts of all inside it. I wonder, trying to sleep, how the mind can be so vast, so changing, and yet so similar to how it began.