Part Seven: "left standing after a fall"

She awakened to the scent of coffee.

Blinking her eyes against the soft light of the medbay, Nyota tried to will enough life into her limbs to be able to return her senses to the land of consciousness. Her body felt warm and tingly – a sensation she had not awakened to in days . . . and a scent she had sorely missed.

Oh, stars, but she was home.

"The perfect welcome home gift, hon," came the sweet voice of Christine Chapel, and Nyota smiled at the obvious pleasure in her friend's tone.

When she found that her limbs weren't exactly assisting her, Christine helped her move into a sitting position, her hands gentle as she piled the pillows behind her back to make her comfortable. Even while she hated the weakness of her body, Nyota was ecstatic to be weak somewhere other than those mountain depths.

As soon as she was able Christine passed her the cup of coffee – a smooth and rich brew that was different than the dark 'tar' that she was fond of drinking. Knowing that the acidity of her usual fare would do more harm than good, she smiled gratefully at the richness of the brew she held. It was expertly made – and she could taste hazelnut lining the edges from the creamer.

"Aw, Christine, you shouldn't have," she breathed reverently – had it really been five days since she had indulged in this?

"It wasn't from me," Christine said, a playful twinkle to her eyes. "A certain Commander was sure to pass along some specific instructions before he left – I am merely following orders."

A warm feeling filled her at Christine's words, wafting up through her body and opening the link in her mind. He wasn't far from her – on the bridge, and welcoming the official Federation Ambassadors who would take over negotiations on Serillious, from the sound of it.

They'd be gone soon, she realized, a myriad of conflicting emotions rising in her as she realized that. On one hand, she would be happy to leave Serillious, and never think of it again. On the other hand, after having her people so intimately wrapped within her mind . . .

She could not leave them without helping.

She was lost in thought while Christine bustled around doing Doctor-ish things; checking her vitals, and scanning the bones that had been knit back together. While she worked she filled Nyota in on everything she had missed – Kirk's manhandling of Llious and M'aarcus, and his plotting. Spock's singleminded determination and loose alliance formed with J'lius in order to get her back where she belonged.

As always, her crew's loyalty and hard work – even after four years, astounded her.

"You should have seen your man in action, too," Christine breathed fondly. The other woman had the edges of a southern cadence to her voice when she was particularly emotional about anything – it was a nuiance, that Nyota doubt others could hear, and one that she had to fight from teasing her dear friend about. "He was all an unstoppable force, and an unmovable object put together – none of us had ever seen him like that. I know Kirk was worried for him, and McCoy even went behind everyone's back to talk to a few Vulcan healers about Spock's mental state. I know you know that their control isn't about emotions so much as it is about their physio health – and McCoy gets that a great deal more than he'll ever admit."

Nyota clutched her coffee mug tighter in her hands, awe threading through the whole of her as she could feel his awareness at the back of her mind – their bond had grown exponentially in their time apart, it would seem.

"It took some twisting for McCoy to find someone willing to talk – but when he did, apparently what Spock was going through was an ancient reaction – Vulcans of old were fiercely possessive and nearly violent over their bondmates. And this new breed that follows Surak isn't any different under all of their control – and then, throw in human emotions on top of that . . ." Christine's voice trailed off, her tone thoughtful. "It was beautiful to see, even though our hearts broke for you two. I don't know . . . I don't know what would have happened if he wasn't able to get you back . . ."

Nyota took a deep breath at that, trying to remind herself that that hadn't happened – it would take a bit more than what they had faced to tear them apart.

She was almost finished with her coffee when the doors to the medbay opened to reveal Spock and the Captain – both of which who looked tired, but smiled with their eyes.

"Lemme tell you, Nyota – there was no getting some honest work out of this man until he had stopped to see you," Kirk chuckled, his eyes kind as he carefully looked her over.

"Captain, if you are implying that my work suffered in the time I spent apart from her -"

"Oh, never that, Spock," Kirk said most carefully as he stepped over to her side. Unable to hug her as he would have preferred to, he instead took her hand an breathed and gentlemanly kiss to the top of it. "It's good to have you back – your Vulcan here has been quite incorrigible in your absence."

Nyota smiled at her Captain. "It's good to be back, Sir."

"Don't be going away any time soon, now," Kirk said, holding her one hand in both of his, and if she didn't know him any better, she'd have attributed the sheen to his eyes as unshed tears.

"I'll do my best, Captain," she said gently.

Kirk nodded once, sharply, as if he didn't trust his voice.

When he stepped away to compose himself, Spock took the spot that Kirk had vacated. Still and serene with their audience, she could nonetheless feel the great wash of his emotions against their bond, and she marveled at the power of it – akin to an actual meld as compared to what they had shared before.

Amazed, she looked at him in awe at the feelings washing through her.

Kirk smiled gently at that. "I think that that's our cue to leave, Chapel," Kirk said to the giddily smiling Nurse. "Let's find that Doctor of yours – and then we'll come back."

Christine smiled gently at them both, and then left with Kirk.

She could feel Spock's relief at their departure. His control was still tremulous, at best, and he didn't care to show the height and depth of his feelings before an audience. Needing the feel of his skin against hers, she placed her coffee mug down, and took both of his hands in her own, knowing how sensitive they were to touch.

He took a breath, deeply in and out; and against her mind she could feel himself centering again.

Everything had changed, she knew. And yet, for all of the black moments that that had been the catalyst, she could not quite bring herself to regret them . . .

She didn't expect any flowery words from the silent man at her side – inside her mind, but the whole of him opened and bare before her was more than she could ever want.

"I know," she whispered silently to the swirl of thoughts against her mind. "Oh, don't I know . . ."

Together they stood like that for a long, long time.

.

.

The next few days were of little joy for her.

Her body had caved while her mind had held strong. And while it was easy for her bones to knit together, her muscles had turned useless in those few days of disuse and taxation for the poison in her system. The physical therapy had been demeaning and strengthening at the same time – and with such a crew at her back, she found it easy to get better.

Midway through her first day back, Kashore had called her in near hysterics – with her mother adding in her two cents every other syllable. Apparently, Spock had kept them informed every step of the way – and her father once again commended her on her choice when he was able to get a word in past his wife and daughter. Nyota stayed and talked to him the longest about her ordeal – and what she had learned. As a seasoned linguist – past even her own skill – he had a fresh perspective, and she couldn't wait to hear him give his thought by thought review on her findings.

Spock had been just a few feet away, sitting in one of the hard plastic chairs of the medbay and doing his work on PADDs; and she could feel his amusement at her family's interaction.

Her lungs were the hardest thing to heal; and when McCoy said that she may have a rasp to her speech for near a year, she felt determination steal through her to get her vocal cords back in the top shape she was used to. Her exercises and salves sounded funny, but she was willing to do anything to get her 'talented tongue' back.

Over those days everyone from the crew seemed to stop by and see her – Lieutenant Johnson even brought her a vase of Serillion Lilies upon hearing from Spock they were her favorite. No doubt the security chief felt guilty over her being taken, and was making up for something he couldn't control.

Kirk got under the other man's skin by bringing a bouquet bigger and brighter – with balloons.

Sometimes, the Captain was just a child.

And yet, it was her crew's collective support that helped her through the less than spectacular times after her return. Dark times when she jumped at shadows and panicked when she could feel Spock turn away from the bond in her mind to keep his attention on his work.

Some things, would take more time to completely heal, she knew.

On her second day, Nyota was able to have a short video conference with G'rgo – she was thrilled that the woman escaped unscathed, and the two traded stories until she was told by McCoy that any further conversation would harm her lungs and vocal cords.

But even that short conversation was enough to let her mind start whirling with ideas. Left alone, she picked up the stylus and the PADD left to her, and started to write.

.

.

Six months later, she returned to Serillious to speak in behalf of the planet's populace.

After being rescued the last time, she had not stepped foot on the planet afterward; much more content to conduct her business with video conferencing from the safety of the Enterprise.

It was odd descending through the clouds to see the forests shine beneath her once again. The jungles were beautiful to her eyes after being so deeply embedded in her memory; and it was not only her own affection she felt – but everyone whose mind was still imbedded in her own. The hive whispered against her mind as soon as she broke the atmosphere, but it did not feel malevolent to her senses . . . so much as it welcomed back one of her own.

They knew why she had returned, and the collective embraced her as one of their own.

Already she could feel the planet healing itself – there was more of a Serillio presence against her mind, and the Rillion faction was . . . calmer. Confident of the future.

When she entered the Conference Hall, she could feel J'lius and G'rgo watching her – the latter of which had concluded her rehabilitation from the mists a month ago. On her back, growing from the scars were buds which would someday be a new air of wings – McCoy had looked her over before they left Serillious the first time, and was able to impart his theories to the Serillio doctors before he left, resulting in advancement of treatment that would result in prompting the body to heal itself.

Nyota herself had kept in contact with G'rgo in their time apart. The woman was a natural teacher, and Nyota learned much about the Serillio and Rillion dialects. Already she was publishing her findings on emphatic tongues and hive collectives, and she had many professors and Xenolinguists on budding planets who were anxious for more information from her.

The end of their five year mission was approaching, and Nyota was seriously considering diving into the more research oriented aspects of her Major, sure that there were thousands like Serillious that she could help.

For now, Serillious itself was making progress. Those corrupt who had sought to destroy their Rillion brethren – and doing so by the Federation's hand – had been removed from power, and a hopefully more open leadership installed from the Serillio portion. In the end, M'aarcus had been able to convince A'nton to step away from the mists to meet with the Serillio in person, and the harsh man's fears were starting to lessen as both sides got to know each other anew.

The Mining Guild still wished for rights to mine on Serillious, and they were a heavy faction inside the Federation. The whole of Starfleet retrieved their fuel and dilithium from the Guild, and they were unwilling to make such an enemy by denying them Serillious. The debate had not been pretty, she knew. Sometimes . . . sometimes smaller planets were sacrificed for the whole of the greater good, she knew, but she was determined to see this planet away from that awful statistic.

The negotiating council had agreed to hear her speak her piece, and she was thankful to that – hopeful that her words, and her research would help assist the tides to turn in the favor of Serillious, rather than the greedy hands that would tear her apart.

She spend who knew how long outlining her research – the properties of the ore that enabled the hive, and the richness of the world around them. She called on the memories at her grasp to tell tales of the planet's beauty and great wealth – and to the people, not to those who would seek to destroy her.

After her allotted hour of speech, she ended with a long pause and pointed look at the Ambassador's and world leaders of Serillious.

"I know that this planet holds richness – but their wealth is not in their dilithium," she said carefully, her heart in her throat. "There wealth is in their people. This planet is unique in the manner that every mind is linked – they feel each other's strengths, their weaknesses, their hopes and their fears. And together they move forward for a stronger future.

"I know many who could learn from their symbiotic way of life. Really, all of us can.

"It is the dilithium that creates the bedrock of this planet; and generates the psychic fields necessary fro such a planetwide meld. If you were to take this away from them – then you may as well slaughter the first. It will be a painless death in comparison to what you would do.

"So, please consider admitting Serillious as a planet to protect; and not to plunder."

She finished her speech to the sound of applause – grudging respect was in the eyes of those from the Mining Guild, and a heartfelt thanks sang from the minds of the Serillions to hers.

As she turned, Spock discretely gave her his arm to lean on – knowing how such a feat taxed her still healing vocal cords.

But it had been worth it.

She could feel the hive around her, cocooning her mind, rather than entering it. Above that she could feel the pride from the man at her side, enfolding her in the whole of him . . . Breathing deep the alien air, she entwined her hand through his, and walked confidently on.

FIN