Notes: After a ridiculous and unacceptably long wait, here it is! The sequel to 'Mid-Afternoon'. If you have not read the previous installments in this series, then this will make no sense.
Also!: I have a new website, where you can stalk my original fiction as well as my fanfiction. Check it out from my profile page. And support the author! I have no groceries again this weekend.
Disclaimer: I do not own Star Trek 2009, and I make no profit from this work.
Jim had never experienced a routine getting established so quickly, but this one did. Only a week into shore leave, he already had a set program for every single hour of every single day, and deviance from that routine was unthinkable.
He got up at eight in the morning, every morning, and rushed through a shower and breakfast before going into Spock's room to wake him up and try to engage him in some sort of conversation. That wasn't always entirely successful, but McCoy kept pushing him to maintain light physical contact, and so he sat beside the bed every morning and, at the very least, would hold that single, remaining hand.
He still couldn't bring himself to see any of the sorry stumps left behind by the surgeries, so excused himself to fetch Spock's breakfast while Pike and McCoy helped him bathe and dress, and would return with the tray and a shaky smile. Spock flatly refused help in eating - he was right-handed, and eating, at least, was not much more difficult than it had ever been - so Jim would sit and talk. Sometimes, McCoy or Pike (or both) would keep the two of them company; just as often, they didn't.
Between breakfast and lunch...now that was difficult. His task was to keep Spock focused and...and there. Keep him with them - keep his psyche in tune with the rest of the world, and try as much as possible to get his telepathy back to a base level. But Jim was psi-null: apart from physical contact, he only knew one way to keep Spock with him: talking.
And Spock, frankly, wasn't keen on the idea.
He would usually respond in monosyllables, if at all, and his hand would be limp within Jim's grasp. He showed no interest in the crew, or the Enterprise, or Starfleet, or diplomacy, or science, or New Vulcan, or...hell, anything. He didn't display any emotions at all, not even annoyance at Jim's persistent poking and prodding for responses.
It was like talking to a badly-designed robot.
Lunch would be tedious - by then, Jim would be upset and frustrated and even occasionally angry, and hating himself for feeling any of it - and would sometimes excuse himself and leave Spock to Pike's tough love for an hour or so. In that hour, Jim would usually wander around outside, trying not to punch walls or cry, and wish vaguely that he smoked so that something - anything - would take the edge off.
He questioned whether the man he'd fallen in love with was still there.
After lunch, he avoided everyone else completely. That was physical therapy - the muscles that had been trimmed to fit with Spock's amputations were wasting without use, and even without prosthetics, McCoy was insistent on giving Spock at least an hour of exercises and therapy a day, if not two.
And Jim couldn't look. For all that he hated himself for it, he still couldn't look. He couldn't see...see that...he just couldn't.
And McCoy would glower at him when he left the house, and Pike would be tight-lipped, and he knew what they were thinking - because he was as well. And, hell, maybe even Spock was thinking it, somewhere under all the deadened apathy and trauma.
He would return around four, in time to help Pike bully Spock into leaving the bedroom and sit out onto the garden patio in the wheelchair. Spock's apathy meant that while he verbally protested the action, he did nothing to prevent it, and often Pike would simply fetch the chair and physically lift him into it.
Jim would sit with him under the canopy, holding his hand again and feeling the still-too-faint hum of Spock's mind under his fingers, and try to think of something - anything - to say. But by then he was tired - tired of trying to talk to a man who wouldn't talk back, tired of trying to wring out a response and prevent that mental withdrawl that would eventually kill him...
Tired of failing his partner.
Tired of failing.
Sometimes, after Spock fell asleep in the evenings, drained and silent and fading, Jim would kiss his hair and try not to cry.
"I miss you," he whispered once - but only when he was sure Spock wouldn't hear him.
"It's working," McCoy told him, exactly a week after he'd arrived.
"What?" Jim breathed.
It was late in the evening. Spock had retired for the night - after another withdrawn day - and Pike was in the other room, talking shop with one of the other admirals - and so it was just Jim and Bones, sat at the large oak table in the kitchen and nursing their respective drinks like flies in a seedy dirtside bar.
"You," McCoy said. "Whatever you're doing, it's working. I gave him another scan after his therapy and his telepathy's stabilising."
"How?" Jim asked bitterly. "I'm not doing anything. I can't even fucking talk to him."
"Don't need to talk to him," McCoy shrugged. "Whether he wants to or not, the physical contact is making his telepathy react to you. It's always reacted to you - you're in a relationship. It kind of has to."
"If he can take control, then he can reroute all the controls into his remaining hand and then..."
"Yeah, he could," Jim interrupted. "But will he?"
"Shit, Bones, just looking at him...just...God. He's gone. I've fucking lost him. He's...I don't think he wants to be fixed. I don't..."
"Frankly," McCoy said slowly, "I don't give a damn if he wants to. He will be. Whether he likes it or not."
"Or what?" Jim choked. "So I stabilise him, so what? If he doesn't take over, then I'll always have to be here holding his hand and...shit, Bones, I can't. I can't live the rest of my life trying to reach a man who's no longer there!"
"How the fuck do...?"
"Because you know what he said to me when I arrived?" McCoy interrupted. "He asked if I was as prone to practising witchcraft with my beads and rattles on Earth as I was in space."
Jim choked a surprised laugh through the tears.
"He's there, Jim. And it's a damn simple diagnosis: he's depressed."
Jim sucked in a shaky breath and scrubbed at the tears with one hand. "Can Vul-?"
"Yes," McCoy said. "It's actually quite a common problem for them. They get a chemical imbalance - usually from wayward telepathy - and they react just like humans do. Their emotions get messed up as well. Usually manifests itself in a loss of appetite, longer periods of meditation, lack of interest in doing anything...very similar disease."
"So...so what do you do?" Jim demanded. "Just give him a hypo, sort out the imbalance, and...?"
"No," McCoy shook his head. "Come on, Jim. You know it's not that easy."
Jim nodded at the table, biting his lip. "I just..."
McCoy ducked his head. "You just what?"
"I just want him back."
The doctor sighed. "I know. I know you do, Jim. But...look at things from his side. His life has been destroyed, and he was abandoned..."
"Look at it from his side of things," McCoy said. "We all know the risks, but they never really hit home until it happens to you, do they? You know life in the Fleet could kill you, but when you're pinned down with phaser fire and a suicide bombing is your best bet, what's running through your head? How the hell is this happening? It's the same here. He knew the risks, but this? This isn't what anyone expected."
"Logically, he'll know that all of this is perfectly normal. Reassigned to a ground posting, taken away from his ship and his crew and his partner - it's all logical. But the emotionalism is there, whether he'll admit it or not. If that were me, I'd be furious. My friends - my partner - didn't follow me, didn't care enough to fight for me, and dumped me. That's what I'd be thinking."
"None of us ditched him, Jim," McCoy said, his tone softening. "There was nothing else, really, that we could have done. But that's how it's going to feel. He's depressed. Plain and simple - he's depressed. His life is in ruins, and everything he strove for is gone. He's still there - but under all of that."
"And I'm the fucking source," Jim breathed, pinching the bridge of his nose.
"Well, you're certainly wrapped up in it," McCoy said tentatively.
Jim made a strangled noise and shook his head.
"I'm not letting him go under to this," McCoy said flatly. "Call it what you will, but I spent nine damn hours in surgery - eleven if you count the arm - to save his life, and I'll be damned if his shaken psyche makes all that work null and void."
"What the hell are we supposed to do?"
"Easy. Be as damn stubborn as he is."