Somewhere dimly he is aware of what he is saying. He believes the words; the tears in his eyes and tremor in his voice are not an act, surely? He doesn't know. He's not sure where orders end and he begins.

There's cotton in his head; he can't think, can only play at being himself when he's nothing but a vessel, Starfleet Commander in form, vengeful prince in mind. Kill him. His thought? Now. But he wouldn't, would he? This isn't him.



He screams—and that's all Pavel Chekov. His mind is on fire, but it's his again.


Pain. He is. A boulder that crash-landed in the shallows, roiling waves bashing against him on all sides, relentlessly, loudly, drowning out his thoughts. He melts. Mix like oil and water, repelling at each touch, flashes of insight, searing, painful.

Apricot juice, cold, sticky, running down his chin. Eyes squint against the blinding brightness of a summer sun. His hands are covered in blood, green, making him not sick but sad. Shoulder blades hard against a wall, can't move, No. No! Get out!

Jumbled illogically, strong enough to burn: joy, hate, guilt, sorrow, love. Fear.

Pain is of the mind.


He has a headache—not behind his eyes from crying, but deep in his mind, where no headache should be because there are no pain-sensing nerves to trip. He thinks it curious that the brain be numb to its own pain but so perceptive of others'. There's a metaphor in there somewhere, but he's too tired to find it.

He puts his forehead against the cool wall and remembers finding one bit of shade in the punishing desert, pausing a moment before pressing on. No time to rest.

He blinks at what wasn't his memory—odd—and heads to bed.