Disclaimer: I do not own Star Trek or any of its characters. I'm simply writing this for fun, not profit.
Spock doesn't believe in miracles.
As soon as the declaration is out of Sulu's mouth (acting captain Sulu), his blood runs cold. (Improbable and highly illogical: such an anomaly would likely kill him instantly.)
He stares at the room, at the relieved, anxious faces, and for one instant he doesn't know what to believe. He doesn't know which captain, commander, or cadet to ask the question burning in his chest. How did this happen?
By any logical calculation, they should be dead. Not one person or even a small fragment of a ship: the entire population, approximately 800 individuals, deceased. The official casualty count is still under construction; no one has had a chance during the free fall to determine exactly how many cadets are missing, how many engineers and doctors and physicists perished. Still, they shouldn't be alive now, none of them, and yet he's looking at a room full of people, baffled, bewildered, relieved people, and all he can feel is the tightening in his throat.
The moment the words are out of Scotty's mouth (head engineer Montgomery Scott's mouth), he runs.
Lieutenant Uhura (Nyota) isn't looking at him when he moves. None of them are, in spite of the dozens of staring eyes, too focused on their own awe to focus on the logistics, to understand that something is wrong. He slips away unseen as his heart rate climbs and climbs and climbs, each step pulsing as he moves. His breath is already coming fast by the time he reaches the first bridge, and all he can think is that he's too far, not nearly close enough.
Dr. McCoy is still on Deck Eight assisting with the removal and treatment of the surviving victims of the attacks. If he hails him now, then he has approximately two minutes until -
His brain short circuits as he runs, too focused on the singular terror propelling him forward to follow the logical train of thought.
It takes him thirty eight seconds to reach the main power grid sector. An additional five pass before he reaches Montgomery Scott's position, breathing slow and ragged. A single look at his face is enough.
Spock's hands clench and unclench, once, before he orders, "Open the door."
"I can't," Montgomery says. There's a certain quiet resignation to his voice that Spock doesn't like, not at all. "It hasn't decontaminated yet. One waft will poison the entire bay."
Spock's hands clench hard and he resists the urge to wheel past him and open the chamber himself.
If it were only Montgomery and he at risk, then he knows that he would push the button in a heart beat.
If, say, even a small portion of the ship's crew would be exposed to the radiation, then he would push the button, quietly, without looking at Montgomery, and accept that he could never look a fellow Vulcan in the eyes again.
He can't justify risking two hundred lives. Try though he might - he can't.
As soon as he approaches the chamber, the thick, laser-proof walls reinforced a thousand times over to ensure even the slightest leakage would be improbable (though not impossible; nothing is impossible), his stomach drops. His tenuous grasp on his own emotions yields to dread as he crouches down beside the wall, so close, so painfully, perilously, desperately close, but unable to do anything more than stare in blank, uncomprehending horror at the sight before him.
Lung function at seventy two percent, Spock's ceaseless internal mathematician computes. Skin damage: eighty four percent (and climbing, rapidly). Pupil dilation: sixty eight percent (fear, exhaustion, darkness). Prolonged radiation exposure: approximately six minutes, forty two point three seconds. Organ failure: twenty two percent (and climbing, exponentially).
Spock swallows once, hard.
Jim's head tilts towards him (captain James Tiberius Kirk), and there's a soft ... awareness in his eyes that makes Spock wonder briefly, stupidly if he's somehow managed to transfer the split-second calculations to him.
No, he decides, barely a second later as Kirk pants in quiet, exhausted pain. Unconfirmed symptom: a profound feeling of dread.
Kirk doesn't need logic to know that he's dying.
Spock doesn't need knowledge to confirm that he can't save him.
"I'm scared, Spock," Kirk admits brokenly, looking at him with wrecked, imploring eyes.
Spock, please save me. Please. I don't want to die.
Spock swallows again, hard, but it catches in his throat, his eyes welling with tears.
Kirk doesn't need him to answer. He doesn't need to be told how unlikely it is, how improbably and unfeasible and -
Impossible, he allows. It's impossible for me to save you.
The feeling settles into his gut like a stone.
It's different from his prior experiences, knowing that Kirk is dying.
He remembers the wide-eyed look, open and trusting and vulnerable, that his mother gave him as he stared at her (calm, sound, and unshakable), right until the moment of her death. She plunged into the heart of a black hole with the last memory of living his own wide-eyed horror.
The teleportation never meant to malfunction. Ensign Chekov was competent in his role; his calculations were always uncannily precise. If anyone could save the last Vulcans on his planet, then surely it was him.
Except death interceded. Will it though he might, Spock couldn't cross that tiny space separating them, mere inches parting him from a wealth of experience, of years, of love.
Multiplied six billion times, the thought was unbearable. It was incomprehensible: trying to cope with the loss of the overwhelming majority of his species was something that even Spock in all his brilliance could not handle. He faced insanity or survival, and he chose to live.
Still, sitting beside Admiral Pike and reaching out, quietly, instinctively, to touch his face, he relived the pain and terror and horror of the event all at once, a rush of sensation so strong that it nearly overpowered him. He felt the savage, almost primal will to live conflicting with his body's plunging downward spiral. In mere seconds it was over - one moment the emotions so intense Spock thought he might lose himself in them sweeping over him, the next - utter, complete nonexistence.
As reality yanked him back to consciousness, consciousness irrefutably pulling him upwards from the deadly riptide, he can't help but feel - calmed, somehow. Knowledgeable in a way that he never intended - nor desired - to be. It's unnerving, jarring to be so intensely and exquisitely aware of death and how easily life yields to it under extreme duress. His own heart is pounding when Kirk arrives, all but skidding to his knees besides Admiral Pike as he stares and stares and stares.
And then he breaks, a human, relentless, unquenchable desire to release his emotions overpowering him. Spock stares at Pike and sees only Kirk as he weeps, burying his face against his chest and screaming, sobs wracking him as he pulls back. It's such an intense spectacle that Spock entertains, for one brief, undeniable moment, the idea of merging with him, reaching out and touching his consciousness and feeling the intensity of his grief.
Experiencing it in a way that cannot be put into words nor shared by any other method, solely expressed through the sharp, wailing agony escaping him.
It's a passing desire quickly snuffed out as Kirk pulls himself back together, pulling himself to his feet and departing. Spock doesn't know how long he stayed with Pike's body, but he does know that it's Kirk that he eventually follows.
There's always been something magnetic about Kirk, compulsive and desirable. Whereas Spock stands as a quiet sentinel, ready to combat those evils that he is prepared for and learn from those he is not, Kirk is life and energy and feeling, so enormous that it seems impossible that it can be contained in a single person. Spock doesn't know why he is pulled unquestioningly towards him time and time again. It isn't an unpleasant arrangement, though, in spite of his claims to the contrary, and his stomach twists to imagine a world without Kirk in it.
Looking at Kirk, daring to meet his gaze even though he can feel the tears clouding his own vision, he can't deny the urge to reach out and merge consciousnesses with him. He doesn't want this to be a separate experience - nothing they ever do truly is - and it strikes him as profoundly wrong that the one time when Kirk truly needs him, he's utterly out of reach.
The desperation in Kirk's eyes, the despair, doesn't abate. Spock wants to reach out and touch him and assure him in that soft, wordless, intangible way that it's okay to die. It's raw and real and unbearable, but it ends, and it's the one and only answer to all of existence.
Try though he might, he's separated by a glass thicker than steel and stronger than titanium, and he is no god.
Even if he opened the chamber now, the atmospheric change would kill Kirk, if nothing else.
Looking at Kirk (lungs - failing; heart, rising, falling, rapid, slow, sporadic; skin damage - irreparable), he tries to say something, anything that will fix it.
Because there is no logical way to confront death. And there is no logical way to endure it.
When Kirk asks him if he knows why he saved him, Spock stares and feels his stomach twist because he can't save Kirk now. He can't spare him from a slow, agonizing death in a radioactive cesspool.
He can't do anything.
But still Kirk asks, and he tries to swallow a third time, unsuccessfully.
"Because you are my friend," he replies simply, softly.
He can see them, then, as they sit across a small table in one of the captains' quarters, alone and undisturbed so late at night. They talk in hushed whispers, unable to keep their voices quite soft enough as they bump into each other, sparring with each other without lifting a finger. They don't succeed, though, because then Uhura is there, wrapping her arms lightly around Spock's neck from behind and asking what he's doing up so late, and Kirk is smiling sheepishly but never looking away from Spock as he assures her that it's his fault. It's always his fault, Spock thinks, the way he laughs and smiles and cries. It's his fault for miscalculating and somehow improvising in such a delightfully unexpected way that it still manages to even out. It's his fault for being mortal and real and breakable. It's his fault for being there.
Kirk is always there, even when Spock burns his hand after forcing a burning door inward to make an unlikely escape. He sits quietly on a stool in the corner, offering idle chatter as Dr. McCoy salves and bandages the limb. Spock doesn't say a word, only silently grateful for his company (and equally grateful for his tact, as he looks aside whenever Spock can't help but wince).
Spock is there for him, too, countless times. He sometimes wonders why he's so fascinated by him, drawn to him, when all he seems to do is almost get them killed on a regular basis. There's something - uncommon about the way that he looks at him, though, even in a room full of people. Privately, his undivided attention is captivating. Even when he speaks, Spock knows that he is not focusing the conversation inward but rather using it to reflect outward, a way of showing how extraordinary he believes Spock to be.
Looking at those dimmed, quieted blue eyes now, Spock wants to reach out and assure him that he's here.
That even if he can't pick up the burden that Kirk has surrendered, even if he can't comfort him when he's given up being strong - he's there.
When Kirk's fingers creep up the glass, pressing weakly against their surface, Spock doesn't hesitate to press his own against the other side, and he can almost feel the soft, gentle warmth of his skin, real and human and alive. He wants to pull him close and hold him, an overwhelming protective instinct rising in him until he can't stand it, until he moves his fingers until they're two straight lines.
I cannot save you, he thinks. But I will be with you. Live long and prosper.
Kirk's breathing is ragged, heavy, his life draining slowly out of him, but he still musters the strength to shift his own fingers, pressing against Spock's in return.
You, too, Spock. You, too.
And when Kirk draws his last breath and dies, some part - some unreachable, unrepeatable part - of Spock dies with him.
Author's Notes: You are an overwhelmingly supportive community. I cannot thank you enough for your interest in Tremble, and I hope you enjoyed this piece.
More to come! Aftermath pieces of the hurt/comfort variety.
Also: I rewrote everything from "The feeling settles into his gut like a stone" because my word document completely restarted on me and I lost everything I hadn't already copied. It was extremely difficult because I loved the original wording, but I rewrote it, and I hope you liked it.