"How is he, Doctor?"
Spock had just awakened from a short and bumpy healing trance and without pausing slid off the biobed in the main Sickbay treatment room.
McCoy had never seen the Vulcan so outwardly distressed. His horror of what had happened still staggered him, but he knew it was nothing compared to what Spock and Jim had gone through.
Are going through, he corrected himself.
He couldn't remember the Spock of the plague planet himself, but Nurse Chapel did. She was standing in the doorway to the room where the Captain lay, ready to defend it. The fear and resolve on her face were painful to see.
Spock had followed his glance and was staring at Christine with such a dark look the Doctor feared for both of them.
"He's stable, Spock, physically," he said quickly, drawing Spock back to himself.
"Can I see him, Doctor?" Spock asked.
He uncharacteristically didn't wait for a reply.
McCoy stepped forward.
"Sorry, Spock," he said firmly, clasping the other's arm. "He needs to rest."
McCoy could see the effort it took Spock to stop his forward motion. The Vulcan drew himself up, nodded, turned on his heel and walked out of Sickbay.
McCoy looked at Christine.
"Oh, Doctor," she pleaded when the door had closed upon the First Officer. "I don't know if they can survive this!"
McCoy set his jaw.
"They're both strong men," he vowed, "forgiving men. But we can't help them, Christine. They can only help each other."
The briefing room chime sounded. Jim Kirk, alone at the head of the table, opened his eyes and sat up straight.
Seeing Spock enter he stood up and moved to the other side of the room.
"Captain, permission to come in."
"Already granted, Mister Spock."
Spock cleared his throat.
"Permission to speak freely."
"You always have that, Spock."
He was tired, and sounded it, and looked it, no doubt. He had not allowed himself to relax until… until this moment, really. And here it was.
Accepting it took away none of his apprehension, but there was simply no fighting it anymore, because he had no more fight left in him. He had lost it all in Spock's hands. He knew that had his hand not accidentally brushed that dart, he would not have lived, or cared.
He was alive, he lived, but still he did not care. This frightened him.
Spock seemed to be wavering now, looking at him closely, seeing something that worried him over and above what had brought him here.
"What is it, Spock?"
Too brusque - anything to get those inscrutable eyes off of me.
Spock snapped to attention.
"Captain," he said softly and clearly at a loss, "I have the impression that you are avoiding me."
"We've both been busy cleaning up this mess," Kirk countered with some annoyance. "Your impression is unfounded."
"I beg to differ, Captain. You have been avoiding me even when we should have been working together. And just now, as I entered you moved with the express intention of putting the table between us. Your words are evasive. You're not even looking at me!"
They both froze, taken aback by the force with which Spock had spoken.
And Spock realized.
"Jim," he gasped, impulsively taking a step closer, "you are afraid of me. Look, you are trembling."
"Stop!" Kirk yelled, backing away, bumping awkwardly against the wall.
Spock froze. He took in his Captain, the panic naked upon his ashen face, his whole body trembling. This he had done to this man, whom he held dearest of all, this unbreakable man, whom he had broken.
Kirk saw it too, in Spock's eyes, his own reflection. Yes, he was trembling. Yes, he was broken. And a great grief washed over him, for Spock, for himself. And it made him angry, and with his anger he tried to grab his fear and subdue it.
"I do not understand," Spock started saying. "You saved me when I realized what I had done. Without your intervention, I do not think I would be sane."
"I wasn't thinking," Kirk snapped. He was driving the wedge of anger through his fear. "I hadn't accepted it yet! How can I make you see? You're not like Bones. He knows what he did because we told him. He knows it, but he doesn't remember, so it's not a part of him now."
"And I, on the other hand," Spock continued, seizing Kirk's anger, "do remember. What I did is still a part of me, as a memory. So in a way, I am still that person, that monster. But may I offer that it is precisely because I remember everything that I can with all certainty say that that was not me, and is not me. Jim?"
Kirk was furious now. From the moment he had woken up in Sickbay after their escape he had known that this moment would come. The moment of truth, when he would come face to face with who he really was. And who did he turn out to be?
A weak man, a man who rejected his friend.
"I must leave," Spock spoke to his silence.
Now his rage was complete.
"No!" he exploded.
"Jim, how can I stay? When the Captain can no longer trust his First Officer, it endangers the ship, the crew. I will ask for an immediate transfer."
"No-I said no!"
This is the moment. I have feared it all this time, from the moment I first met him. He was always alien. I told myself that it didn't matter. He has fought me, struck me, killed me, and I told myself I understood. But it seems I never did. And it has accumulated, to this. Five years now, and who am I, in the face of this?
Spock froze when Kirk lunged at him, and embraced him.
Kirk held on for dear life, holding close his fear and loss, to die in its flames, or survive it.
"Spock," he whispered. "Spock."