Thanks to Trena Too and Romanse for pointing out that my "ending" so far does not allow Kirk to know that he has been rescued. A major oversight on my part, hereby corrected!

Chapter Fourteen of *The Vadarian Trap*

Regaining consciousness to the voice of Doctor McCoy had almost been too much for Jim Kirk. Spock had rarely seen the Captain struggle so with his emotions.

"Bones, Spock," he had whispered before falling speechless.

Now, twenty minutes later, ten of which went into a cursory debriefing, the Captain was at the end of his strength. Still, the unspoken thought that so clearly haunted him needed expression. However altered by his ordeal, he was still Jim Kirk, who balked at no confrontation, least of all with himself.

"For a long time I believed you were dead," said the exhausted Captain.

However tired, he caught the quick glance that passed between his CMO and First Officer.

"Well," McCoy coughed, "I had my moment of doubt too, Jim."

"No," Kirk insisted with sudden vehemence, "you don't understand. Even after I thought I knew, I was never sure, never sure. For weeks, for months, I despaired!"

"I think not, Captain," Spock said gently. "You attempted to escape, and you persevered, which indicates you did not despair. In the absence of such certainty, despair is not the only alternative. Doubt- Doubt is-acceptable."

Kirk regarded the uncharacteristically hesitant Vulcan with interest, a curious smile playing on his lips. Yet he was fading fast.

"Well," McCoy put in, obviously to release the tension. " Spock here never doubted that you were alive, Jim. As usual. One day you two will have to explain this connection to me."

Kirk's smile for Spock warmed and he nodded weakly. Then his heavy eyelids sank down.

"There is no doubt now, my friends…" he whispered.

And whatever else he had meant to say was offered up to deep and healing sleep.

- FIN -