Notes: Yes, I changed the story name. Also, this story ends here. Thanks for all the wonderful reactionary reviews, and I hope to see you all again soon for the next installment!


Please, contact me. Keep me up to date.

Jim.

It was, quite possibly, the longest letter (email) that Jim had ever written. He had never been much one for them, but this called for it. If he couldn't give Spock a goodbye, he was going to do at least this. McCoy hadn't been completely off the mark. Jim wasn't heartless, just spineless, and he mustered enough courage to at least do this.

But that was all he could do.

He sent the email to Spock's account, sent up a quick prayer to a god that he didn't believe in, and logged out.

And off.

He switched off the screen, then the entire console. He set his communicator to activate only in case of emergency calls, locked the doors to his quarters so that only McCoy could override them, and curled up in the middle of his bunk.

These had never been Spock's quarters - they hadn't been together long enough for that - but there was still evidence of him in the room. One of his blue science tunics hung in the midst of Jim's closet, melding with all the gold and green. In the out-of-sight bathroom, he had a toothbrush and a razor. Jim was fairly sure that he had a bottle of Vulcan incense around somewhere, from the odd time that he had wanted to be near even when Spock had to meditate.

But most of all, Spock's smell lingered in the pillows.

It brought a surge of emotion, and Jim closed his eyes and rode it out.

Anger. Overwhelming, raging anger, burning through his veins and boiling his blood, simmering in his brain like viscous poison. Anger at himself, for being such a coward; at McCoy, simultaneously for not understanding and for not pushing hard enough, and Jim already knew how unfair that was; at that planet, for its seismic issues and its arrogance in harming his First Officer; hell, even at Spock, for not getting out there fast enough, for not coming to Jim (and Jim hated himself for not knowing if that were even possible) and forcing him to acknowledge this...

Followed promptly by grief - the loss, the yawning loss in front of him choked his lungs and tore everything out between his balls and his brain, leaving only an empty hole that he wanted to vomit up but couldn't for his new lack of a stomach, and then there was the

Fear. That was an odd one, the fear. It was the fear that kept him grounded and stuck here - and the fear of what, exactly, he didn't know. What was he afraid of, exactly? It was the one thing Jim couldn't pin down about this whole sorry situation, and yet it coursed through him like an eel, slimy and alive, as sure as the anger and the grief that shook him like a birch leaf in a New England winter.

And none of it measured up to the...

Well, the despair. Because Jim knew - knew as sure as he knew his own name - that there was nothing he could do now. He had rejected the offer of leave on Vulcan, and they would be moving on in three days, to rendezvous at Starbase Five and pick up two new science officers and Commander Leehy, soon to be Jim's new First Officer.

There was nothing Jim could do now.

He knew what McCoy - hell, what everyone - had expected, but he just couldn't step down. Maybe that was the fear. The fear of...what? Returning to his roots? Losing that sense of purpose and dignity and right that this job gave him? Perhaps - but Jim wasn't stupid, and he knew, somehow, that that wasn't quite the answer.

Whatever it was, the fear and the despair struck him immobile, even as the anger and the grief and the guilt - yes, guilt, for feeling any of this in the first place - tore through him and left him bereft and empty. Bereft and empty - that would be his life now.

Spock would be gone.

No more chess games in either man's quarters, descending into kissing matches and Jim's hands sliding up under that enticingly tight shirt; no more eyebrows on the bridge challenging Jim's intellect, superiority, authority, or libido; no more half-smiles, half-frowns, or half-expressions that had been so easy to read once you learned the language; no more hitching, gasping little sighs in the darkness of Jim's rooms as he ripped out all of that control and cradled what was left in his arms; no more middle-of-the-night awakenings when Spock tried to leave to meditate or work, nor the two-in-the-morning 'persuasions' to get him to stay; no more arguments in the mess over the little things, and standing shoulder-to-shoulder against the universe for the big things; no more foot massages while they said nothing all; no more temptations to stop the turbolift and be late for shift; no more...

No present, and no future. There was nothing left, but a blue tunic in the closet, products in the bathroom, some hidden incense, and a smell on the pillow that would soon long be gone and (worse still) forgotten.

Hell.

He'd probably never enter the First Officer's quarters again.

Jim turned his face into the pillow, breathed in the lingering scent - already so faint that he strained to catch it - drew up his shoulders until they could have blocked his ears, and let the first of the tears fall.


Spock woke already knowing where he was.

Vulcan hospitals did not smell so sterile as Human ones - they smelled faintly of warmth and dry sand, of bright light and humming telepathy. They did hum, to a telepath, because of the lack of control hospital patients often had with regards to their minds. He could feel, keenly as hearing a scream, the solemnity in the air, the peace, and the lack of emotion.

There were no peaches. McCoy was gone.

He opened his eyes to the pale blues and whites of a private room. The large window was open, allowing air from (judging by the sounds of birds - alien things to Vulcan as it had been) the early afternoon to ghost into the room, in some meagre attempt at comfort. It would be the only comfort he received here, he knew.

He took a look around, not bothering to attempt to sit or rise from the bed. He had barely had time to get used to the feel of weightless that plagued him, and the haunting sight of the sheets dropping away to nothingness where his legs had been. And the lost hand - the blindness that tinged his telepathy, the sense that it would slip from his reach and his world would be cut off and silenced forever...

He drew his mind away from the idea, and back to the room.

Whether the crew had accompanied him or not (and having been sedated, he would not know) they had sent gifts. One corner of the room was dedicated to them - parcels and cards and flowers that would soon wilt and die in New Vulcan's heat. Closer, on the bedside table, lay his personal datapadd and two spares from the Enterprise - and, to his surprise, a more battered padd that he recognised as belonging to McCoy.

Unable to help himself, he reached for it, and the short message jumped at him - the human that had written it evident in every word.

Spock,

I want you to keep me informed on how you're doing - and how you're really doing, none of this 'adequate' and 'logic' nonsense you bandy about in my medical bay. This padd has a direct link to my console should you want to talk, and if not, I've programmed in all my personal padds into the contacts information.

Keep me updated, and look after yourself. Even if Jim's a complete moron, I'm not. You're my patient and my friend, and I'll be damned if you think I'm just going to forget about that.

Leonard.

Spock had never cried. He was not sure - though he had never checked - whether it was even possible for him to cry.

But he certainly felt the - illogical, inexplicable, human - urge to do so.


END PART ONE

What are the odds, what are the odds,
That this ends and we don't meet again?

Carbon Leaf, Changeless.