Disclaimer: I do not own Star Trek 2009, and I make no profit from this work.
Three weeks into their first mission, McCoy approached Jim with his serious face on, and the new Captain knew that this was not one of those discussions involving levity and smiles. No, he'd seen that expression before, and it never carried good news.
"Something on your mind, Doctor?" he asked, and the title conveyed his understanding to his best friend. Right then, they were not best friends. Right then, they were officers on a starship, and there was clearly something more pressing at hand than their feelings.
"It's that First Officer of yours."
Jim really didn't want to hear this. He'd heard it from Uhura, and from Chekov, and even from Scotty the odd time or two. Heard it left, right and centre.
"Look, I know we don't..."
"It's nothing to do with you," McCoy interrupted, and Jim blinked. "I don't give a damn whether you like him or not, Jim, but this isn't about your relationship - personal or professional. That's nothing to do with it."
"Then what's going on?" Jim demanded.
McCoy sighed, and shrugged. "I normally couldn't tell you this, Jim, but...I feel that I have to."
"Tell me what?"
"The doctor/patient confidentiality agreement is only to be ditched if I think that his life is in danger, or a complete court-martial forces me to hand over the information I have."
Jim felt cold, all of a sudden. There was most definitely no court martial - and if there was, it would be him, the mutineer, under the microscope. Not Spock. Not their perfect, distinguished Vulcan graduate.
"Explain," he said, and he sounded rather Vulcan himself in that moment.
McCoy slid the PADD over the desk between them. "Starfleet Medical has been shuttling all available information on Vulcan medicine to every medical professional in the Fleet. Half the doctors are on New Vulcan as it is, trying to stop the species from going under."
McCoy snorted. "You could say that, Jim."
He swallowed. "And Spock...?"
"Is even worse off than the rest of them," he muttered.
Jim thought back. Spock was just...Spock. There'd not been anything noticeably wrong with him, not really. Nothing, that is, that he could pick up on - but then, he hardly paid attention in xenobiology. Xenolinguistics, sure, but not xenobiology.
"What's wrong with him?" he asked, still not picking up the PADD.
"The man lost his entire planet, most of his species, and his mother in roughly the space of ten seconds," McCoy said shortly. "What in the seven hells do you think is wrong with him?"
He broke off, pinching the bridge of his nose for a moment, but continued before Jim could speak.
"They're all going under, every last one of the green-blooded hobgoblins. They're in pain, Jim, pain so immense we can't even begin to imagine. You must know they're telepathic?"
"Well, they felt it. They felt their own families die. In many cases, they've lost husbands and wives, parents, even their own children. Logical or not, they're not heartless, and they're in agony. All those telepathic bonds they set up with their loved ones have snapped instantaneously, and the survivors can't cope with the pain."
Jim swallowed, his mouth dry.
"I'm exchanging information with a Dr. M'Benga on New Vulcan. He's sent me images, videos...it's horrible, Jim. They're in literal pain. Screaming, crying, begging for anything to stop it. It makes Spock's loss of temper on the bridge look like my Jo throwing a tantrum. I've never even heard of a Vulcan screaming before."
"I didn't even know they could cry."
"They can't," McCoy said sharply. "No tear ducts, Jim. It's not tears, it's blood. They're hurting themselves, clawing at their own faces and heads to try and replace the psychic shock with physical pain."
Jim shuddered at the mental image.
"There've been suicides."
Jim jolted in his seat like he'd been electrocuted, and McCoy nodded grimly. Both their throats are tight now, and Jim resolutely refuses to touch the PADD lying between them, but they both know that it needs to be said.
"I got the reports this morning. Eight suicides last night, and five more during the course of today. They're in so much pain, they're killing themselves to make it stop."
"I don't know. M'Benga said he was sure that two or three of them were deliberate, but he's not convinced about the others. They're delirious with the pain, sometimes, so it wouldn't be a stretch to suggest it's accidental. But, Jim, they're Vulcans. Until now...M'Benga made enquiries. The High Command told him there hasn't been a suicide on Vulcan for over a thousand years."
"But...they're not on Vulcan anymore."
Jim shuddered, and forced his mind back to the reason they were having the conversation in the first place. "And...and Spock?"
McCoy sucked in a breath, and released it slowly. "He...came to me the first evening out of dock. Requested painkillers."
"I got a pain reading off the biobeds. Jim, I don't know how in the hell he walked into my sickbay that night. If that were you or me, we'd be in the foetal position on the floor, screaming until our lungs gave out. I've had him on high dose of kelaromol - best damn painkillers for Vulcans on the market - but I can't erase the pain without putting him in a coma."
"I can't even keep him on the kelaromol that long, Jim. The problem with Vulcans is their metabolism processes drugs too quickly to be effective, but too slowly just to give them a higher dose. I can't keep him medicated enough to keep the pain at bay, not really."
"So...what do we do?" Jim breathed.
"I don't know, Jim," McCoy said grimly. "I don't know how to even begin dealing with this. The man's a wreck - physically, psychically, emotionally, mentally, whatever. He's been ripped up, turned inside out, and stuffed in a goddamn sewing machine to put him back together. The last time I saw pain readings that high, it was in medical school in a holographic scenario, and the patient had just had both legs torn off by faulty machinery."
Jim flinched and shook his head. "Jesus, Bones..."
"I need help on this one, Jim," McCoy said. "He's not fully Vulcan, you know that."
"It's going to be worse," the doctor interrupted. "It's going to be much, much worse. He can't control himself to the same weird extent other Vulcans can. He snapped first - not one of the Vulcans we rescued let it sink in before we reached Earth. He went first."
"I provoked him."
"You did," McCoy agreed. "But he was under control again very fast afterwards. Too fast. He's veering between extremes, his body is pumping him full of adrenalin to try and keep him from going under, and his brain doesn't even know where to start dealing with the pain. He's got all the emotional turmoil of a human, magnified a thousand times, with the depth and telepathic severity of a Vulcan. And unlike the other Vulcans that got out, he watched her die. He saw her fall, not just felt it."
Jim shivered. The look on Spock's face when he had returned to the ship...he remembered that look, and desperately wished that he hadn't.
"The human parts of him don't understand where this pain is coming from. The Vulcan parts don't have the support of the human parts to stop it getting worse."
"What are you saying, Bones?" Jim whispered, his voice cracked in the hushed quiet of his ready room.
"I'm saying," McCoy says, voice quiet and dangerous, "that unless I can do something, and I'm fairly sure that I can't, he's either going to go mad, or die. And I honestly couldn't tell you which."
Nyota and Spock had been 'intimately acquainted' for some fourteen months before the emergency situation with Vulcan, and in that time, Nyota became very familiar with the nuances of Vulcan speech, body language and moods. She knew better than any other cadet exactly how deep the Vulcan emotional waters ran, but also how difficult they could be to stir.
She had not actually learned Vulcan or Romulan due to Spock. She had begun her lessons in them due to her ease with the harsher languages like Klingon, Vulcan and Romulan. She was at ease with the harsh tones, the glottal stops, and the rasping quality to those three languages, and had been gaining proficiency long before she met Spock.
When she had, it had merely strengthened a resolve that already existed.
They had started out as friends. She had not, in the beginning, been attracted to him. Nyota was not the kind of woman to lose her head over a man, even one as stunning as the young Vulcan had admittedly been. No, the beginning had been merely social. Nyota's love of languages was at odds with most of the cadets she hung around with, being navigating or engineering nuts. And Spock had been all too happy to meet with her in campus cafés to discuss Vulcan, Romulan and Human literature.
Over that first year, Nyota had noticed her own disturbing tendency to flush whenever Spock offered her a (very Vulcan) compliment, or the nervous jitters she began to develop immediately prior to their meetings. And though she was not the kind of woman to lose her head over a man, she also wasn't stupid, nor in the habit of lying to herself.
She talked Spock into a date in the summer before her final year.
To her surprise, he had offered no logical arguments either way. He had merely agreed, with that small relaxation in the contours of his mouth that indicated a smile.
For fourteen months, they had been 'an item', in the words of campus gossipers across the Academy. Although, due to her final-year timetable and his teaching commitments, they rarely saw each other more than once a week, it had been a stable and ultimately satisfying relationship. And Nyota had never been one to bandy the words around, but she was fairly sure that she was in love with that stoic, beautiful Vulcan man.
And then his world had been destroyed.
He had shattered there, she had seen it. Due to the telepathy, it might not be exaggeration to claim that part of him died with Vulcan and his mother, but Nyota preferred to pretend that it hadn't. He was not broken, merely...in need of fixing.
And she was not one to back down from a challenge, or from helping the ones that she loved, but Nyota was terrified. It was quite one thing, to acknowledge that, in theory, Vulcans (being emotional beings after all) could fall prey to the same psychological hiccups as humans. It was quite another to be here.
Here was the dark warmth of his quarters, where Nyota had come to hate hyposprays. She knew Spock had been to the CMO twice already for painkillers, and watching him shivering and hissing in bed like a wounded man made her hate medicine for having nothing better to offer.
"It's alright," she soothed, pressing the hypospray to his neck and praying that this dose would finally, finally bring at least a piece of the peace he sought.
"Nyota..." he breathed, through clenched teeth and a tense face. His eyes were closed, and he was trembling with the effort to not simply sink under the agony and drown.
"I'm here," she whispered, stroking her fingers lightly over his cheeks and hair, trying to soothe what she couldn't help. She couldn't do anything about this, and never would be able to. She was psi-null; there was no help from her. She could do nothing but uselessly soothe and provide the medication when he was too exhausted, too weak, to be able to reach for it himself.
"Ssh," she murmured, setting the hypo aside, and settling in for another night trying to get him to sleep for more than ten minutes at a time. "Ssh, it's alright. It's alright."
It wasn't alright.
...no one can hear you scream.