Light in the Darkness

A Light in the Darkness

by Gamin Davis

This was printed in the zine MORE FUTURE VISIONS almost 10 years ago, so anybody giving feedback should be aware that no changes are going to be made.

TITLE: A Light in the Darkness

AUTHOR: Gamin Davis (



CODES: K&S&Mc, Ch, hurt/comfort

SUMMARY: Spock is blinded in an accident on the Bridge and must face the
possibility of leaving his home and his friends on the Enterprise forever.

DISCLAIMER: For lo, the Deity Paramount doth own these characters; I do but
frolic briefly with them in their playground.


    Kirk sat pensively in the center seat, appearing oblivious to the activity around him on the Bridge; in fact, however, he was intensely aware of it.  Most of it was the end result of a recent skirmish with the Romulans, which had left the Enterprise badly damaged.  They were en route to Starbase 30 for repairs--and a long-overdue shore leave for the crew--but Kirk was beginning to grow anxious and impatient for their arrival.  Temporary repairs were breaking down with increasing frequency.

    The only systems that still worked with total reliability were life support and the impulse engines, and technicians were everywhere--including the Bridge.  Two were working with Spock around the science station, one hovered near Helm/Navigation as Sulu and DiFalco checked his repairs yet again, and two or three lurked here and there around stations that were normally unmanned.  Kirk's only consolation was the fact that injuries had been surprisingly light for the amount of damage that had been done.  After all, equipment and machinery could be replaced more easily than crewmembers.

    Kirk sighed, deciding this might be a good time to record a log entry,
and pushed the appropriate button on the arm of his chair.  "Captain's Log
--stardate 7612.22: Temporary repairs are underway on all battle-damaged
parts of the Enterprise, and we are proceeding on impulse power to Starbase
30 for a complete overhaul and shore leave for the crew."

    He had barely finished when an explosion behind him nearly blew him out of his chair.

    Kirk whirled around to find sparks erupting from the debris-littered console of the science station as the technicians all converged upon the area.  Spock sat abandoned on the deck where he had apparently fallen, amid glass, metal and plastic fragments; he was unnaturally still, his hands held in clenched fists with the backs pressed tightly against his eyes.  As Kirk neared him, he could see that Spock was also breathing somewhat more rapidly than normal.

    "Spock!  Are you all right?  What is it?"  Kirk asked anxiously, as he knelt beside the Vulcan.

    Spock seemed very reluctant to answer him.  "I seem relatively undamaged, Captain, except eyes," he responded finally.  He spoke with difficulty and in a rigidly controlled voice, but it was obvious to Kirk that he was in pain.

    "What happened?"

    "I was attempting to assist Mr. Hildebrandt and Mr. Davis with repairs on the scanners when some of the control circuits blew."

    "Then your face was right in front of one of the monitors..."

    "Yes."  Spock's refusal to elaborate told Kirk more about the Vulcan's emotions in the matter than he would ever have permitted himself to express verbally; he was in control, but clearly shaken up.

    Kirk glanced quickly around the Bridge to make sure no one else had been hurt, noting that Uhura was already in contact with Sickbay; Spock, however, seemed to be the only one injured, so Kirk returned his attention to his Science Officer.  He watched Spock in helpless concern for a moment, wanting to do something for him while they waited for a medical team to arrive from Sickbay.  At last, he reached out to carefully take one of Spock's hands in his.  "Let me see," he coaxed gently, trying to move the hand enough to view the condition of the eye it had hidden.
    Spock allowed him only a glimpse--and Kirk caught a brief but clear impression of mottled green--before pulling his hand away and covering his eyes again.

    "Must hurt like Hell," Kirk observed sympathetically.

    "It...burns," Spock admitted carefully, resisting the urge to compare the pain to that of having acid thrown in one's face.

    "Don't worry--somebody's on the way from Sickbay right now," Kirk tried to console him.  "In the meantime, let's get you away from all this glass."  He helped Spock to feet and guided him cautiously down into the well of the Bridge as the technicians scrambled to squelch what remained of the sparks and clean up the debris.  Most of it was already under control, and Kirk made a mental note to commend each of them for their quick response.

    It was just then that Dr. Christine Chapel arrived on the scene.  Kirk directed her attention to Spock and let her take over from there, watching worriedly as she conducted a hurried but thorough examination of Spock's eyes and helped him onto the gurney she had brought with her.  Christine caught Kirk's eyes as she started to into the turbolift with Spock, and she realized he needed some kind of reassurance.  "We'll take care of him, Captain," she promised.

    Kirk nodded acceptance, though he noted uncomfortably that she had said nothing to indicate that Spock would be all right.


    Two hours later, Kirk was pacing impatiently back and forth in McCoy's office.  When McCoy finally arrived, the grim expression on his face did nothing to ease Kirk's concern.  "Bones?" he prompted apprehensively.

    McCoy hesitated.  "Did you see what happened?"

    Kirk shook his head.  "Only the results.  Spock and the technicians were apparently working on the scanning equipment--the science station is a mass of pulverized metal and burned-out circuitry.  And Spock's eyes, of course," he recalled, shuddering inwardly at the latter memory.  "Were they as bad as they looked?"

    McCoy began to fidget noticeably.  "Jim, he *could* very well have been killed--"

    "Spit it out, Bones.  What are you trying not to tell me?"  Kirk interrupted, beginning to lose patience.

    McCoy realized finally that his hedging was only worrying Kirk more.  "You say you saw his eyes," he began reluctantly.  "Yes, they were badly injured.  The worst I've seen.  Second and third degree burns all around them, and bits of glass and metal imbedded in the burns, and here and there in his face.  And considerable internal damage."

    "What kind of internal damage?"  Kirk asked warily.

    McCoy met his eyes.  "That inner eyelid he told us about--it's virtually destroyed.  Now, what research I've been able to do on it suggests that the eyelid regenerates if there isn't too much cell damage; it would take a few days, so all we can do right now is wait," he explained, then sighed heavily and continued.  "If is doesn't, there's a very large possibility that Spock will be permanently blinded."

    Kirk was left speechless for several minutes after that.  "Dear God," he managed finally.  "Does he know?"

    McCoy shook his head.  "He's still asleep.  And I'd prefer not to tell him until we have to."

    "Spock would want to be told as soon as possible," Kirk pointed out.

    "All right, but not yet.  Let's wait until the external damage has healed."

    Kirk nodded finally in agreement and turned to leave.  "I'll be on the Bridge.  Let me know when he wakes up," he said, over his shoulder.


    Over an hour passed, and Kirk, by then off-duty, was in his cabin when McCoy finally contacted him.  "Don't expect him to be too talkative, Jim; he's in a lot of pain now that the sedative's worn off--and of course, he won't let me give him anything for it.  We're going to have to be patient with him until his eyes start to heal."

    "Are you sure he wants me to come?"  Kirk asked uncertainly.

    "I'm talking to you from his bedside.  You don't hear him objecting."

    Kirk knew that that could simply be because Spock was concentrating all his mental energies on controlling the pain.  "All right, Bones, I'll be down in a minute."


    When Kirk arrived in Sickbay, he found both McCoy and Christine at Spock's bedside in the recovery room.  Spock's eyes were covered with a thick, soft bandage that wrapped snugly around his head.  McCoy's attention was divided evenly between Spock and the medscanner screen over his bed, but Christine's was centered mainly on Spock.  As Kirk watched from across the room, she cautiously touched the Vulcan's hand as it lay on his chest, resting her hand lightly on top of his when he did not seem to object. Spock, in fact, seemed largely oblivious to both of them.

    That changed when Kirk approached and announced his presence; Christine abruptly pulled his hand away in embarrassment, and Spock started to sit up.  McCoy gently but firmly stopped him, pushing him back down against the bed.  "Oh, no, you don't.  Just stay where you are, Spock."

    Spock gave in, not being in any condition to insist, and lay down again, just as Kirk reached his bedside.

    "How do you feel?"  Kirk asked anxiously.

    "I am...all right."  It was an evasion, if not an outright lie, and Spock was sure Kirk would see through it--but it still seemed preferable to allowing his friend to know the true level of pain he was enduring, or his growing fears about the seriousness of his injury.  McCoy and Christine had so far refused to discuss it at any length, and Spock suspected that the real extent of his injuries was being hidden from him, which didn't help any.  He reached out in what he judged to be Kirk's direction, and Kirk, as expected, took his hand.

    Spock held Kirk's hand tightly but spoke no further, returning his mind to the task of suppressing the pain with new determination, and Kirk took this as a silent request for him to stay.  He complied, remaining quietly at the Vulcan's side as the night wore on and Christine and McCoy went about their duties.


    By 0200, it was apparent that the Vulcan mental techniques through which Spock had been able to maintain control over the pain were beginning to fail him--and Kirk had little trouble figuring out why.  He watched with growing concern as Spock's restlessness increased and he inhaled sharply during moments when the pain of the burns was at its worst.  Filled with empathy, Kirk squeezed his friend's hand and tried to calm him.  "'s all right.  Try to relax."  

    Spock appeared to regain control gradually, though he also seemed rather embarrassed.  " trying, Captain," he responded, with difficulty, gripping Kirk's hand with unusual firmness.

    "You probably just need sleep," Kirk told him gently.  "Will you let McCoy give you a pain-killer now?"

    Spock gave a barely perceptible nod of acquiescence, and Kirk flagged down McCoy the next time he passed by.  Kirk stayed with Spock until he was sure the Vulcan was asleep, then returned to his cabin to get some sleep himself, at McCoy's urging, leaving his First Officer in the Doctor's care.


    "Medical Log--stardate 7612.28: It has now been six days since Commander Spock was treated for severe burns around his eyes.  The external damage appears to be healing normally and I'm about ready to take the bandage off; however, the inner eyelid that normally protects Vulcans from permanent blindness has apparently been too seriously damaged to regenerate, since it should have at least *begun* to do so by now.

    "So far, our examinations have failed to turn up any evidence of any such cellular activity--and I now face the prospect of having to tell Spock that he's going to be blind for the rest of his life.  I'm still hoping against hope that I'm mistaken, that there was growth my instruments missed for some reason, and when we remove the bandage, Spock will be able to see.  If not...somewhere, somehow, there has to be a way to restore his eyesight."

    McCoy ended his log entry and closed his eyes for a moment, rubbing them tiredly.  He became aware from another presence in his office and looked up to find Kirk standing in his doorway.

     "Keeping late hours these days, aren't you, Bones?" he greeted the Doctor.

    "Occupational hazard," McCoy reminded him.

    "One I'm all too familiar with," Kirk admitted, entering the office.

    Their eyes met in mutual recognition of all that the small talk was hiding.  McCoy had thought it would be a good idea for Kirk to be present when Spock's bandage came off, and Kirk had wanted to be there, as well.  They had become increasingly concerned about the Vulcan since that morning, when he had finally persuaded Kirk to reveal the true extent of the internal damage to his eyes and the possibility that it might be irreversible.

    McCoy had been there and seen Spock's reaction--the sudden stiffening of his muscles in apprehension and retreat behind an overly apparent mask of control, then the abrupt request that he be left alone.  They had done their best not to disturb him since then.  "Have you seen Spock?"  McCoy asked, at length.

    Kirk nodded.  "Just now.  Doesn't look like he's even moved since this morning."

    "I can tell you for a fact that he hasn't spoken to anyone since then," McCoy informed him.

    Kirk sighed.  "And we're still two weeks out of Starbase 30.  I wonder how he'll be by the time we get there."  As he looked at McCoy, he knew they were both thinking the same thing--remembering Spock's one previous experience with blindness, during their mission to Deneva, when McCoy had been forced to expose the Vulcan to blinding light (not knowing at the time that ultraviolet light would have worked just as well) in order to free him from the flying parasites that would have driven him insane with pain.

    The blindness had lasted only a few hours because Spock's inner eyelid had not been damaged, but Kirk still remembered McCoy's description of the listless, seemingly frightened Vulcan who had sat as if transfixed in McCoy's office until his sight had returned.  That, of course, had been a long time ago--before Spock's mind-meld with V'ger.

    In the year or so that had passed since that encounter, he had finally accepted the fact that he did not *have* to face every crisis of his life alone simply because he was a Vulcan; after spending years just learning to accept his friends' help when they offered it, it was now within the realm of possibility that Spock might be able to *ask* their help without feeling uncomfortable.

    Thus Kirk and McCoy couldn't help worrying as they wondered how their friend would deal with it this time, considering the added threat of permanence.  His reactions were not always entirely predictable these days, as they had been reminded this morning.

    "Ready?"  Kirk asked finally.

    McCoy nodded.  "Let's go."


    They found Spock much as he had been when Kirk last left him, as he had been for most of the day, except that now his pillows were raised and he was sitting up slightly.  Christine Chapel still observed him from across the room, trying to be as unobtrusive as possible, and followed then at a distance as they approached Spock's bed.

    Spock stiffened slightly at the sound of their footsteps, and by unspoken mutual consent, Kirk went to him first.  "Spock," he began quietly.  "How're you doing?"

    "Jim? not know," Spock replied uncertainly, though he had relaxed again at the sound of Kirk's voice.  "You have undoubtedly discussed my condition with Dr. McCoy; therefore, you should know more about that than I."

    //More than I would have preferred,// Kirk answered, under his breath. 
"McCoy's going to take off your bandage now," he told Spock carefully.  "Are you ready?"

    Spock told himself that he was and nodded slowly.  "Is that why you are here?"

    "Yes," Kirk returned, somewhat hesitantly.  "I just thought, under the circumstances, that you might want..."

    "...Emotional support?"  Spock finished for him.  If the situation hadn't been so serious, he would have permitted himself a smile.

    "Well...yes," Kirk admitted, watching the Vulcan uncertainly for a reaction.

    Spock lay back against his pillows, not responding for a long time as he considered the matter; finally, hesitantly, he reached out toward Kirk, who took his friend's hand firmly in his own.  As was so often the case now when Kirk had anticipated his emotional needs, verbal confirmation was unnecessary.  "Is it perhaps possible that the damage is not as severe as Dr. McCoy believes it to be?"  Spock asked, then--and Kirk was reluctant to say anything to crush the hope evident in his voice.

    It was McCoy, therefore, who answered him.  "You're the one who always says that there are always possibilities.  I haven't ruled *anything* out yet," he told Spock carefully before glancing over his shoulder at Christine.  "Let's get the lights dimmed in here--just in case."

    "Right."  Christine hurried off to comply.

    As the room began to darken, McCoy returned his attention to Spock.  "All right.  I'm going to take the bandage off, now...I want you to keep your eyes closed until I tell you to open them, then open them slowly," the Doctor explained.  "Here goes..."  He slowly unwrapped the thick bandage that had covered Spock's eyes for the last several days while the sprayed-on artificial skin had worked with Spock's own to heal the external burn damage.

    Finally, the bandage was gone; Spock lay very still, his muscles stiffening just perceptibly with tension again as he felt the feather-light touch of McCoy's fingers on the new skin around his still-closed eyes.  "Good...the external damage has healed with no scarring," McCoy noted, half to himself.  He withdrew his hands finally.  "*Now*, Spock--open your eyes slowly."

    Spock obeyed.  He was not particularly surprised when the darkness before him failed to lift; he was, however, very reluctant to tell his two friends about it.

    "Well?"  McCoy prompted impatiently.

    Spock blinked a couple of times, though logically, he knew now that it would make no difference, and said nothing; his grip on Kirk's hand began to tighten.

    "Spock?"  Kirk reiterated anxiously.

    Spock's hand continued to tighten around his.  "Odd..." he managed finally.  "...I do not remember it being this dark..."

    McCoy passed his hand back and forth in front of Spock's face to confirm what they already knew.  "The inner eyelid didn't regenerate," he announced bleakly.

    Kirk, at a loss for words, kept his attention focused on the Vulcan, and an uneasy silence descended over them as he and McCoy both studied Spock worriedly; his grip on Kirk's hand was still tightening, and he did not speak again.  "Could it just need more time?"  Kirk suggested hopefully, at last.

    "Could be.  We'll keep him here under observation for a few more days and see what happens," McCoy decided.  Over his shoulder, he called, "Turn the lights back up, Christine."

    The room brightened again, and Christine hurried over to join them.  As she opened her mouth to ask about Spock, McCoy silenced her with a shake of his head--and she knew from his expression that his prognosis had been correct.

    And again, it grew uncomfortably quiet.  None of them had any idea of how to console Spock; at the moment, they weren't even sure he *wanted* their consolation.  Finally, McCoy and Christine decided that privacy would be his first choice and quickly found excuses to leave.  After they were gone, Kirk decided to leave, also--but Spock's hand still held him fast.  "You want me to stay," Kirk concluded.

    Spock's face colored slightly green in embarrassment.  "If it would not interfere with your duties...please...just for a while," he admitted reluctantly.

    "I can stay as long as you want me to," Kirk assured him, watching anxiously as Spock released his hand and sat up cautiously, feeling his way along each side of the bed as he did so.

    "So.  It would seem that this blindness is to be permanent," Spock observed, at length.

    "Unless McCoy comes up with a miracle with the next few days, I'm afraid so."  Kirk sighed in frustration, watching Spock sit in his bed as if frozen in place, seeing the Vulcan's efforts to control the fear and confusion that he seemed to have become aware of within himself.  "Would you like to talk?" he asked uncertainly.

    "No, not...yet," Spock replied uneasily.

    "All right," Kirk agreed, not wanting to pressure him.

    Another silence fell between them as Spock contemplated the black void that now surrounded him; only voices and touches penetrated that void to connect Spock to what he knew as reality, and he was reminded of something he had learned during his previous bout with blindness: this particular void intensified solitude and emotions of loneliness, making silences increasingly difficult to bear.

    It would only get worse--and he realized he had better get used to it, since he could not logically expect someone to be with him constantly.  That was part of the reason he had asked Jim and McCoy to leave him alone this morning after he had been told about the possibility of permanent blindness.

    For now, however, Spock found his Captain's presence comforting.  He finally let go of the side of his bed and reached out, grabbing air, until his hand encountered Kirk's arm and felt its way down to Kirk's hand--which he held cautiously, remembering it as the same one he must have nearly crushed moments ago (though Kirk had never complained).  Then, very hesitantly, he tried to verbalize some of the emotions he would have preferred to suppress: "Jim...what will happen to me now?"

    Kirk listened to his friend's quiet, carefully controlled voice and heard the fear behind it, a fear so subtle in expression that Spock seemed unaware he had revealed it--fear for his future, his career, and his life on the Enterprise, among the only three people he had ever allowed himself to care enough about to be a part of his life.  And he realized he did not know how to answer Spock.  "Don't worry about that now," Kirk consoled him, at last.  You're not going to lose your sight without a fight, Spock.  If there *is* a way to restore it, we'll find it."

    Spock heard the determination in his voice and nodded silently in understanding and acceptance, striving to suppress the desire he felt growing within himself to believe that the worst could not happen.  A part of him continued to illogically insist that if Jim said he would be all right, he *would* be--no matter how impossible or unlikely it seemed.

    Kirk squeezed his hand his hand encouragingly and remained silent, himself, deciding that the best thing he could do for Spock now was just be there for him as long as Spock seemed to need him while the Vulcan tried to gather his thoughts.


    Another week passed, and there was no discernible change in the condition of Spock's eyes.  Kirk continued to visit the Vulcan as often as he could, but Spock appeared to gradually withdraw into himself.  However, even though Spock seldom spoke unless spoken to, Kirk still made sure he was available to his friend--knowing somehow that Spock still expected that from him.

    McCoy finally forced himself to realize that the internal damage to Spock's eyes was not going to heal itself, and therefore confining Spock to Sickbay wasn't going to do any good.  Once again, he requested Kirk's presence in Sickbay, detaining Kirk first in his office for an updated briefing on Spock's condition.  "Sit down, Jim--I want to show you something," he said, directing Kirk's attention to the wall viewer before them and touching a couple of buttons.  The viewer then displayed an anatomical diagram.

    "This shows normal Vulcan optic nerves," McCoy explained, going to the screen and pointing out a specific area.  "Here's the inner eyelid."  He stepped back to his desk and punched some more buttons; the viewer now displayed two images--the previous optic nerve diagram, and a slightly different one beside it.  McCoy called Kirk's attention to the new diagram.  "Now, these are *Spock's* optic nerves--taken from medscanner readings we got during his last examination, which was this morning.  As you can see, there's almost none of the inner eyelid left."

    Kirk nodded understandingly.  "Then the blindness is definitely permanent."

    "Unfortunately, yes," McCoy confirmed, turning off the viewer.

    "How is he otherwise?"

    "Mentally and emotionally?"  When Kirk nodded again, McCoy sighed, sitting before Kirk on the edge of his desk.  "So far, he's reacting just like he did at Deneva--withdrawing, afraid but trying to suppress it and accept the blindness--though he does seem a little more willing to accept our help, this time.  Of course, I can only tell you what to expect based on known *Human* reactions to such situations; as you well know, that may or may not apply to Spock.

    "Assuming that it does--normally, it follows a pattern: fear, denial, anger, acceptance--not always necessarily in that order.  I think Spock *will* feel those things; I *hope* he'll let us help him through them.  One thing I know: at some point, he's going to fully realize that his blindness means he has to leave the Enterprise, and it's going to hit him awfully hard.  I'm not sure how he'll deal with it--he's been so damnably unpredictable since V'ger--but I want you to be ready for it."

    "I consider myself forewarned," Kirk replied, remembering his own earlier visits with Spock and knowing McCoy's psychoanalysis was correct.  "But how is he *now*?"

    "That' of the reasons I asked you to come down," McCoy revealed slowly.  "I released him from Sickbay after his examination this morning, but so far, he's refused to move from his bed.  Christine's talking to him, but I think he'd be more likely to listen to you."

    Kirk had anticipated that, knowing that Spock would realize he could not get back to his cabin alone--and that the thought of others seeing him having to be led through the corridors would humiliate him.   "I'll see what I can do," he returned.  "Bones...I know you've read through so many library tapes so many times that your eyes are ready to fall out...but I can't believe that, after all that research, you didn't run across *anything* that might reverse his blindness."

    McCoy had been dreading this, but he knew it could no longer be put off.  "Actually, I did...but I may as well tell both of you at the same time.  Come on."


    Kirk expected to find Spock either alone or arguing with Christine; what they found, however, was Spock, now fully dressed, sitting up calmly in bed with Christine standing beside him, reading to him from a book.  Kirk and McCoy paused to listen as they entered the recovery room and realized that the book was ALICE IN WONDERLAND, one of Spock's.

    Christine stopped reading presently and studied Spock anxiously for a moment.

    "Why did you stop?"  Spock asked, puzzled.

    " were supposed to have left Sickbay hours ago.  If Dr. McCoy walks in and finds you still here--"

    "--You will simply tell him the truth: that you could not persuade me to leave," Spock finished for her, unperturbed.

    Christine shook her head in exasperation, aware that she had let her feelings for him get the better of her again, giving in to his wishes instead of being firm with him.

    Feeling a sudden inexplicable curiosity growing within him, Spock reached up to briefly touch the skin around his eyes, then lowered his hand again.  "Christine...if I asked a question you might consider irrational, would you answer it?" he asked hesitantly.

    "Of course, if I can."

    "I know Dr. McCoy says that the external damage has healed completely, my eyes *look* normal?"

    "As beautiful as ever," Christine assured him, smiling involuntarily.

    Spock could not see her smile, but he felt its warmth upon him and heard the gentleness and sincerity behind the compliment; he blushed faintly green in response, and though he did not smile back, he could not help feeling inwardly amused by the idea that Christine found his eyes attractive.  It simply was not something he had ever considered.  At this moment, however, it was just the sort of thing he needed to hear.  "Thank you," he replied softly, at length.

    "Just being truthful."

    Spock felt her take his hand briefly and squeeze it.

    Kirk and McCoy chose that moment to approach them.  "Are we interrupting something?"  McCoy asked.

    Spock's head turned slightly toward the sound of McCoy's voice.  "'We', Doctor?"

    "That's right.  You've been giving me a hard time, so I've brought in reinforcements," McCoy returned dryly.

    Spock knew what that meant.  "The Captain is with you."

    Kirk went to his side.  "Yes, Spock, I'm here.  But the question is, what *you're* doing here."

    Spock appeared uncertain of how to answer him, so Christine answered for him.  "I think he was just waiting for you to come," she told Kirk knowingly.

    "Well, before you go anywhere, I think McCoy has something to tell us," Kirk announced, then.

    "It's something I want you to think about before you make any decisions on," McCoy began carefully.

    "Something...regarding my blindness?"  Spock questioned curiously.

    McCoy nodded.  "A way to reverse it.  I never mentioned it before because ...I'd hoped I wouldn't have to."

    "Let's hear it, Bones."

    "Yes, Doctor, by all means--tell me."  Kirk and Spock spoke almost simultaneously.

    "It's an operation--reconstructive surgery to rebuild your inner eyelid and repair the internal damage to your optic nerves," McCoy explained hesitantly.  "It hasn't been done very often.  And it's dangerous--a very delicate operation.  The slightest mistake could lead to complications resulting in more nerve damage, brain damage, or possibly death.  And there's a better than 50/50 chance that it might not work, anyway."

    "Would you be able to perform the surgery yourself?"  Spock asked uncertainly.

    "I've never seen it done, Spock.  And I don't have the facilities here to do it."

    Kirk saw what McCoy was leading up to.  "But Starbase 30 *does*."

    McCoy nodded again.  "Best hospital in the Fleet.  That's why Spock needs to decide by the time we get there.  That only gives you a week.  I hope that's enough time; as I said, I...thought it would be better not to mention it unless I had to, because of the risk involved."

    "There is no need to apologize, Doctor--I quite understand," Spock assured him quietly, giving no evidence of his growing inner turmoil.  "I am certain that a week will be more than sufficient."

    They fell uncomfortably silent for a time as concern for Spock filled the air like something tangible, then Kirk finally ended it.  "Now, Spock, I think it's time you got back to your quarters.  You have a decision to make," he told the Vulcan firmly.

    Spock stiffened, bowed his head and said nothing.  Kirk glanced over at McCoy, communicating silently; McCoy quietly pulled Christine out of the way, and they retreated to the door, watching worriedly.

    Kirk returned his attention to Spock.  "All right, we're alone, now.  Suppose you tell me what it is that's keeping you here."

    "Jim, I can accept you, Dr. McCoy, even Dr. Chapel...being aware of my blindness, wanting to be with me and trying to help me...but I do not wish anyone else to see me," Spock explained, with difficulty.

    Kirk took him carefully by the shoulders.  "I know that.  Don't worry--I've had all the corridors and turbolifts between here and your cabin cleared," he assured Spock gently.  "No one will see you...except me, that is...if you'd like me to go with you."

    Spock accepted the offer silently, maneuvering himself around on the bed until he was able to slide off the edge, then stood apprehensively for a moment until he felt Kirk's hand touching his back, guiding him cautiously forward.

    McCoy and Christine looked on as Kirk and Spock made their way slowly to the outside door, empathizing with Spock as they watched him.  "What do you think he'll decide?"  Christine asked.

    McCoy shook his head.  "I don't know, Christine--he has a lot on his mind, now.  Somehow, though, I can't see the Spock we know giving up so completely that he wouldn't even want to *try* the surgery.  As dangerous as it seems, it also seems to be the only chance he has.  And if he doesn't give up--and Jim doesn't let him--we won't, either."


    Kirk managed to get Spock back to his quarters without any major problems, and Spock remained silent until they were inside his cabin.  "Well, Spock--now what?  Where do you want to go?"  Kirk asked, then.

    "Meditation chamber," Spock replied faintly, moving cautiously but determinedly away from Kirk.  Suddenly, however, his own cabin had become a dark maze filled with hidden obstacles.  He tripped over a floor pillow (a gift from Christine) and nearly fell, but pulled away stubbornly when Kirk moved instinctively to help him; Kirk watched with concern and interest as Spock moved slowly through the room, trying to feel his way around, and only after his friend bumped into a chair and ran into a partition did Kirk again approach him.

    "Are you all right?" he asked, alarmed by the force with which Spock had hit the partition.

    Spock was silent for a moment, his hands clenched into fists as he strove to control the frustration, embarrassment and anger within him.  "I am unharmed," he returned coolly.

    Kirk, uncertain whether to offer help or not, simply stood near the Vulcan and watched him anxiously.

    Spock himself was uncertain of what to do next and remained frozen in place for a time before finally starting to make his way around the partition.  As Kirk moved out of his way, Spock simultaneously realized that he would have to go back out into the middle of the room to get to the meditation chamber; coming
quickly--and somewhat reluctantly--to a decision, he reached out silently toward the sound of Kirk's movements.

    Kirk understood somehow that Kirk simply was in no mood to continue tripping over and bumping into things, and Spock soon felt Kirk's hand take his; he allowed Kirk to guide him the rest of the way to his meditation chamber.

    After he managed to get into his normal meditation position, Kirk told him, "I know you need time alone to think, and I need to get back to the Bridge, so I'll see you as soon as I'm off-duty."

    "Yes, by all means.  I have no wish to keep you from your duties."

    There was a certain edge to Spock's voice--a suggestion of something Kirk could only interpret as bitterness--that made him hesitate as he was turning to leave; he regarded Spock uncertainly for a moment.  " know I'll stay if you really need me to; all you have to do is ask."

    "Captain, at the moment, I do not know *what* I want or need," Spock returned, in a voice now tightly controlled but full of embarrassment, bowing his head.  "You are quite correct, you should be on the Bridge.  Please, go.  I will be all right."

    "Are you sure?"

    "Yes, Jim."

    Kirk was not convinced, but there seemed little he could do about it, since Spock clearly did not want his help.  He turned silently and headed for the door.

    Spock listened to Kirk's retreating footsteps until the door whished open and closed, sighing inwardly and hoping that Kirk would be patient with him.  For now, he began preparing himself for what would be a long period of meditation.


    By the time Kirk returned that evening, Spock was close to reaching a decision.  Kirk found him sitting at his desk, with Christine nearby, in the middle of a meal.  Spock had been slowly but determinedly teaching himself to eat without spilling things, though he was so far still too uncomfortable to try it without someone else to supervise.  Like everything else now, it was a tedious process.

    "Well, Spock--you seem to be doing all right," Kirk observed, trying to sound cheerful.

    "That would depend on your definition of 'all right'," Spock returned quietly, his voice carefully controlled.  "I still cannot even eat without difficulty.  But at least I have a chance to regain my sight."

    "You've decided to have the surgery done," Kirk concluded, sitting down before Spock's desk.

    Spock nodded.  "It seems to be necessary."

    "You heard what McCoy said.  You could end up with brain damage--or dead," Kirk reminded him dubiously.

    "Only if there are complications," Spock returned, deciding finally to give up fighting with his food.  Kirk's obvious concern for him was becoming too much of a distraction.  "Under the circumstances, Captain, I find the risks acceptable.  It is...a possibility...which I find preferable to the alternative," he elaborated carefully.  "If *you* had been blinded, would you not also be willing to try anything that might restore your sight--however dangerous it was?"

    "I suppose I would," Kirk admitted then, his voice still full of ambivalence.  He had, in fact, expected Spock to make this choice, but that did not allay his anxieties about the outcome of the operation. "I suppose I just don't want anything *more* to happen to you."

    "I know," Spock replied understandingly, cautiously pushing his tray aside.

    Christine picked it up and started away from the desk.  "I'll take this back to the mess deck," she told Spock.  Then she asked, "Would you like me to come back later and finish reading ALICE IN WONDERLAND to you?"

    Spock hesitated.  " are certain it would not inconvenience you," he agreed finally.

    "I'll see you in a while, then."

    Spock waited until he was sure Christine was gone, then got up and carefully made his way around the desk to stand before Kirk.  "If you believe the risk involved is high enough to be prohibitive, you can, of course, *order* me not to undergo the surgery," he pointed out.

    Kirk stood up, also.  "This is a personal decision, not a matter of military discipline. know I want your sight restored as much as you want it yourself," Kirk assured the Vulcan kindly.

    Spock bowed his head in appreciation; he had expected Kirk to worry about his safety, but he had also needed to be certain that Kirk would not try to stop him.

    Kirk stepped out of the way as Spock moved cautiously forward, feeling his way slowly around the partition and back into his bed chamber.  Kirk followed him, watching him sit down on his bed, position himself carefully with one leg tucked under him and fold his hands in his lap.  They were both silent for a long time, Spock still trying to sort out his emotions and Kirk afraid to leave him alone for some reason he couldn't identify.

    Finally, Spock grew tired of the silence.  "Are you staying, Captain?"  he asked, his voice full of controlled impatience (with what, Kirk wasn't certain).

    Kirk pretended to ignore it.  "I've always told you I would, if you wanted me to," he asserted, approaching the bed.  Spock felt its movement as Kirk sat down beside him.  "Is that an invitation?"

    "I...would prefer your presence to being alone, just now," Spock admitted hesitantly.

    "Then that's all I need to know," Kirk responded reassuringly.  He stayed with Spock until Christine returned, spending most of the time in silence, since Spock still seemed more interested in companionship than conversation and was still uncertain about trying to express his tangled emotions.


    As the days passed and the Enterprise drew closer to Starbase 30, Spock gave the appearance of adjusting to his blindness--at least physically.  He grew a little more adept at eating and was more and more able to do things like taking showers, dressing himself and getting around his cabin without injuring himself.  But Kirk and McCoy could tell from their occasional visits that all was not as it seemed.

    Spock was withdrawing into himself, growing increasingly reluctant to talk to either of his friends during their visits, and being noticeably terse and snappish when he *did* speak.  Kirk and McCoy tried to be patient with him, aware that he was concerned--and probably also a little frightened--about the upcoming surgery that would essentially decide his future, and was naturally trying to hide those emotions. This did nothing, however, to alleviate their own anxieties in the matter--and little more to assuage their growing impatience, born of pain, with continually having their expressions of concern met with apparent anger or complete silence.

    Soon, it was the day before they were due to arrive at Starbase 30.  Kirk, not having seen Spock at all since going with McCoy to brief him on the arrangements that had been made for his surgery--two days ago--was still uneasy as he recorded his daily log entry.  "Captain's Log--stardate 7634.01: We are now less than twenty-four hours from Starbase 30.  Shore leave for all personnel except members of pre-designated maintenance crews will begin at 0800 tomorrow, and Commander Spock will be checked into the Base Hospital at 1000 for observation and tests before his surgery, which is due to take place in a week."

    As he ended his log entry, Uhura turned from her console and spoke to him.  "Captain...Spock's going to be all right, isn't he?"

    Kirk looked around at her.  "I don't know, Uhura.  I hope so," he told her sincerely.

    "Tell him all our hopes are with him."

    Kirk realized then that Sulu, Chekov and a number of other Bridge crewmembers had likewise turned their eyes to him; he looked around appreciatively at each of them in turn before his eyes came back to rest on Uhura.  "I'll do that," he promised, thanking them on Spock's behalf.  "I'm sure he'll appreciate it."  //At least, I *hope* he will,// he added to himself; in Spock's present mental and emotional state, there was no way he could know for sure.

    Just then, McCoy stepped out of the turbolift and approached Kirk.  "Jim *are* planning on seeing Spock tonight, aren't you?" he asked, as he neared Kirk's chair.

    Kirk nodded.  "As soon as I'm off-duty," he returned warily.  "Why?"

    "I just came from his cabin; he mentioned you hadn't been by since the last time we talked to him together.  In fact, it was the only thing he *would* say to me," McCoy told him.  "I promised him you'd visit him tonight."

    Kirk met his eyes understandingly.  "I was just following your recommendation, trying to give him some time alone.  How is he?"

    "I think he's had *enough* time alone," McCoy opined dryly.  "He didn't actually say so, but it was fairly obvious to me that he wanted to see you."

    "All right, Bones, I'll drop by as soon as I'm off--around 1800," Kirk decided.

    McCoy nodded gratefully and turned to go.


    Three hours later, Spock was preparing for Kirk's visit.  He had been meditating for most of the day, but it seemed to have done little good; contrary to what he had expected, his inner turmoil had increased rather than decreased over the days since the discovery of his blindness.  Whether it was because of the sudden uncertainty of his future or the simple fact that it was no longer under his control, Spock was not certain.

    He knew only that accepting the blindness had done little to enable him to accept these new facts of life which seemed to accompany it, and his emotions in the matter were *not* under control.  That had been made obvious by his treatment of Kirk and McCoy on their previous visits--the unnecessarily harsh and impatient tones in which he had spoken to them (*when* he spoke to them), and the cold silence with which he had greeted their efforts to console and encourage him the rest of the time.

    Illogical, Spock told himself, now.  What purpose had it served?  They deserved better than to become targets of the anger and helpless frustration that he had failed to properly suppress.  It was hardly surprising that Kirk had not come back.

    It occurred to him now that perhaps suppression was not the answer, this time; perhaps discussion with Kirk *would* help, after all.  The trouble was that Spock remained reluctant to allow himself to release any of the negative emotions within him--even if he were able to find the words to do so--for fear that he might reveal too much and offend or embarrass Kirk.

    Spock knew, however, that there seemed few things he could ever say or do that Kirk would not understand and (if necessary) forgive.  Whether or not his Captain's long absence long absence meant that this situation was an exception was a question still open to debate.

    Spock's travel bag lay open across the end of his bed, though it was mostly empty and he had not so far been able to force himself to really begin packing in earnest.  It hardly seemed worth the effort it now required, or the terrible feeling of ineptitude caused by not being able to tell exactly what or how he was packing.  Then, too, fully packing his bag would signify complete acceptance of the possibility that he might never return if the surgery was unsuccessful--and that was one possibility that at least a part of Spock still refused to accept.

    He was still brooding over the situation when Kirk arrived, and Kirk was surprised to find him apparently engrossed in playing his Vulcan harp.  Spock had been playing for several minutes, in fact, before he realized that someone had entered his cabin and was standing silently some distance away, watching him as unobtrusively as possible.  "Captain?"

    "Yes, Spock, it's me," Kirk replied cautiously.  "I didn't want to interrupt you; it's good to see you doing *something* besides just sitting around...though I must admit I never expected to see you playing your harp."

    Spock stopped playing.  "I can still hear the music and feel the strings.  Sight is not necessary," he pointed out quietly.

    "I suppose not," Kirk strolled over to Spock's side and sat down next to him on the bed, looking around as he did so and noticing the still-unpacked travel bag.  "I thought maybe you might want to talk about...something," he began hesitantly.

    Spock bowed his head slightly, laying his harp aside and not even caring that he overestimated the width of the bed, causing the instrument to fall to the deck (which, fortunately, was mostly carpeted, so little sound was produced).  "I would not know how to begin," he responded faintly, obviously uncomfortable.  "Much of what is within me now is...unpleasant...and I think I would prefer not to expose anyone else to it, even you."

    "Are you sure?"  Kirk asked, not convinced.

    "No," Spock returned, his voice full of embarrassment.  "I know only that I am...pleased that you are here.  Did you come only to listen to me?"

    "Not exactly," Kirk replied, disappointed but deciding for the moment not to press the issue.  Perhaps Spock would feel more at ease if he did not have to be the one to initiate the conversation.  "You already know Christine's going to beam down with you; I wanted to tell you that McCoy and I will be going with you, too," he revealed now.

    Spock lifted his head slowly.  "You will *all* be with me for the entire week?" he repeated, a note of surprise entering his voice.

    "Yes--unless that bothers you."

    Spock was uncertain of how to respond, and Kirk could see that this had not eased his discomfort.  " and Dr. McCoy will be on leave," he reminded Kirk finally.  "You know by now that I...will not make very entertaining or enjoyable company for either of you.  You have been most patient with me for the last two weeks, enduring my presence even at times with it must have been... difficult.  But now you have a chance to spend some time away from me, and I do not wish you to waste this first week of your leave."

    "You're forgetting how long we're going to *be* at Starbase 30.  It's just one week out of a two-month leave," Kirk pointed out gently.  "Besides, you know we won't be able to enjoy it until we know you've come through the surgery all right and have your sight back."

    "Are you certain you wish to spend that much time with me when you have the opportunity to do so much else?"

    Kirk reached out to take the Vulcan's hands in his.  "Spock...before this happened, we had *planned* to ask you to join us," he assured Spock.  "Does that make you feel better about us going with you?"

    Spock nodded slightly.  He had seldom permitted himself to join Kirk and McCoy on shore leave before the V'ger incident, and it was only since then that Kirk had felt able to extend the invitation with any real hope that he might accept it.  "If the surgery is successful and if you have not changed your mind by then, I...would like to join you," Spock admitted softly.

    "Good--then that's settled," Kirk decided.

    An uneasy silence descended over them.

    "Have you given *any* thought to what you want to do if the surgery doesn't work?"  Kirk asked finally.

    Spock shook his head, withdrawing his hands from Kirk's grasp.  "It seems to make little difference.  Wherever I am, whatever happens to me, I will not be here," he returned coolly.

    Kirk heard the pain behind his friend's voice and ached to help him, hating his apparent inability to do so.  "You haven't thought about it at all," he concluded.

    "I have made no decisions in the matter," Spock retorted evasively.  "I am open to suggestions, if you have any to offer.  Have *you* considered it?"

    Kirk sighed.  "Unfortunately, I have.  And I don't think you'd like my suggestions," he opined reluctantly.

    Spock bowed his head again.  "I seem to have very few alternatives--and the only *desirable* one will not be open to me unless the operation is successful," he pointed out quietly.

    "All right," Kirk began hesitantly.  "We know you'll have to transfer; there just aren't any positions available on the Enterprise for a blind Science Officer.  As I see it, you have two options after you're released from the Hospital: we can get you a sensor web like Miranda Jones had and you can accept a ground assignment, maybe a teaching position back at Command Headquarters...or you can resign your commission, leave Starfleet and go back to Vulcan."

    Spock stiffened noticeably.  Kirk had been right; neither suggestion was really acceptable.  "Which do you recommend?" he prompted finally.

    "Knowing you as I do, I can't see you getting much satisfaction out of teaching, or any other ground position.  If you go back to Vulcan, at least your parents will be with you."

    "Yes, my parents.  My father, who was already ashamed of me *before* this happened...and I prefer not to even speculate on how my mother would cope with my condition."  The anger and frustration that Spock had until now not dared to allow expression suddenly began to break through his fragile facade of control as he thought of the homeworld that was no longer his home and his last disastrous visit--his misguided and thankfully unsuccessful attempt to attain Kolinahr.  His own people had never fully accepted him under *normal* circumstances; what could he expect of them now but pity?  "Vulcan--to which you know full well I have no wish to return," he continued, in a voice now edged with bitterness.  "Vulcan and my parents.  Is *that* your recommendation?"

    Kirk himself was beginning to lose patience.  "As you yourself just pointed out, you don't have too many choices.  And if you remember, it was *you* who insisted on me making recommendations in the first place," he retorted.  "And while I'm making them, I also recommend you get started packing."  Spock, now fighting to regain control, did not respond--which prompted Kirk to ask, "Do you need some help?"

    It was a mistake.  What was left of Spock's emotional control disintegrated abruptly, overcome by indignation and shame, and he sprang to his feet so suddenly that even he was surprised at managing not to trip or fall.  "I am only blind, Captain--not a complete invalid--and I am quite capable of packing my own bag *without* any assistance!" he informed Kirk coldly.

    As if determined to prove the truth of his claims, Spock then dropped to the deck and felt around, finding some clothes that had never made it into his travel bag and trying again to pack them.  Kirk shook his head silently, watching Spock slam things down into the bag haphazardly and without bothering to fold or smooth out wrinkles, and wondered what to do; presently, Spock got up and started away from his bed toward his dresser--and promptly tripped over his harp, which still lay where he had dropped it, falling headlong and crashing into a chair.

    When he did not get up immediately but instead lay sprawled across the deck for several tense moments, Kirk--having no other way of knowing that it was only embarrassment and not physical injury that had temporarily immobilized him--instinctively rushed to his friend's side.  "Spock--!"

    Spock made himself sit up, pushing the chair aside in disgust and turning toward the sound of Kirk's voice.  "No!  I need no help from you!  I need *nothing* from you!  Just stay away and leave me alone!" he exploded.

    Kirk strove to ignore his outburst, still concerned about the possibility that Spock might have a head injury.  "I don't believe you mean that," he returned quietly.

    "I am quite serious, Captain.  I have had enough of your pity," Spock retorted icily.  His anger was under control again--but just barely.  "Since you seem to have nothing more useful to offer, I do not see that your presence here serves any purpose."


    "LEAVE ME!"  Spock cried furiously, drawing back a clenched fist to hit Kirk; he caught himself in mid-swing and simply froze.

    Kirk, angry and hurt himself and knowing of nothing more he could say or do to ease Spock's obvious inner agony, stood and started for the door; he never got there.  He somehow could not bring himself to leave Spock in this state, even now, when it seemed pointless to remain.  So he stood silently in the middle of the room, watching and waiting anxiously.

    Spock, meanwhile, still had not moved.  He was trembling slightly, his fist still suspended in the air, a horrified expression on his face.  Feeling the bulkhead behind him, he turned abruptly and slammed his fist into it--over and over.  Kirk looked on understandingly, having known for some time what Spock had just come to realize--that the Vulcan needed this emotional release--and started slowly back toward him.

    Spock did not stop until his anger had dissipated enough for him to become aware that he might be seriously injuring his hand.  He collapsed against the bulkhead, fighting to regain his usual emotional controls.  In his embarrassment, it occurred to him that he had never heard Kirk leave and in fact could still sense his Captain's presence.  In a small, subdued voice that was barely above a whisper, he said, "Jim, were correct.  I did not mean it. not go."

    Kirk was back at Spock's side by the time he finished speaking, kneeling hesitantly next to him again.  "I thought so," he responded, almost as softly, as Spock turned slowly around and reached out toward him.  Kirk took the Vulcan by the shoulders, squeezing them gently as Spock moved closer to him, wanting to hold Spock but uncertain if his friend would allow it.  "It's all right, Spock.  I'm still here," Kirk told him finally, opting for a verbal reassurance.


    Spock's hand found Kirk's arm, and he held onto it tightly, keeping his head bowed.  "I am sorry," he began faintly.  "I have treated you most deplorably during this last week...and I have no right to speak to you in the manner I just did.  I am...not myself; I do not know why I did it.  But if you wish to take disciplinary action, as you have every right to do, I quite understand."

    "That won't be necessary," Kirk assured him kindly.  "No harm was done--not to me, anyway."

    "You are not angry with me?"

    "No, Spock, I'm not angry with you--not any more."

    Spock appeared to relax slightly.  "Then...please, will you forgive me?  If turns out that I cannot come back, I would prefer your last memories of me to be pleasant."

    "They will," Kirk promised him.  "And there's nothing to forgive.  I... think I understand what happened to you."

    Spock knew what Kirk was hinting at.  "After what just happened, do you truly believe I should share my emotions with you?  I almost...I could have... seriously hurt you," he reminded his Captain, his voice full of shame.  "By not permitting myself such a revelation, I was only trying to spare you the embarrassment it might cause, and perhaps worse."

    "In the first place, as I've said before, nothing in you could ever embarrass me," Kirk told him consolingly.  "And in the second place...I'm not quite convinced that your 'revelation' was completely unintentional."

    He knew his instincts were correct when Spock's head remained bowed and he fell silent for a moment.  Since V'ger, Spock had become more emotionally open and honest enough with himself to more and more readily admit when Kirk's insights about him were accurate--even when it was still difficult or embarrassing to do so.  "It is possible," he admitted uneasily.  "I have... discuss such things with you, but...I could not allow such destructive emotions to be exposed."

    "If you still want to talk about them, I'm here to listen," Kirk told him sincerely.

    Spock was still reluctant.  "Jim...I was uncertain because it seems increasingly possible that what I am feeling is...not rational."   He paused uneasily; when Kirk still seemed willing to listen, he decided finally that he was willing to share his turmoil with Kirk.  It surely could do no further damage, and it *was* possible that it might help.  Spock resumed speaking at last, with noticeable difficulty.  "All I *am* certain of is that...I do not wish to leave the Enterprise.  After the V'ger mission, I promised myself that I would never make that mistake again."

     "Not all kinds of fear are irrational," Kirk reminded him gently, cautiously pulling the Vulcan toward him and taking the bowed head onto his shoulder.  "That's all it is, Spock--a fear of losing your home and your friends.  It's perfectly understandable, under the circumstances."

    Spock did not object or pull away; in fact, he welcomed Kirk's demonstration of affection and understanding, emotional though it might be.  Suddenly, the emotions he found so shameful did not seem so terrible when Kirk talked about them.  It was an ability that Kirk had had for quite some time, however, and Spock was by now accustomed to it, though he still did not entirely understand it.

    "If you can know and understand that, perhaps you are also aware...that if the surgery does not succeed, there is a possibility that we may never see each other again.  You will have your career, your duty...and probably very little leave time; I will have...only myself," Spock elaborated quietly, his voice now controlled but edged with sadness.

    Somewhere deep inside him, Kirk had anticipated this--but still, he ached of empathy for his friend.  "That's why you don't want to go back to Vulcan," he realized.

    Spock nodded slowly.  "That is part of the reason, though the rest is as I told you.  Vulcan seldom falls within the Enterprise's assigned patrol area.  If I were at a starbase or even at Starfleet Headquarters, you and Dr. McCoy might at least be permitted sufficient leave time to visit me occasionally."

    "Spock...*if* that happens, surely you know that we're going to keep track of you.  We'll *make* time to visit you, *wherever* you are," Kirk assured him, holding him more tightly.

    Spock's only response was to draw closer against Kirk, allowing himself to feel his Captain's thoughts and the sincerity and warmth of his emotions.  Jim had not forgotten him during his three years on Vulcan, nor had his emotions toward Spock changed; their friendship had survived even *that* experience, as painful as it had been for both of them, and Spock knew now that he could trust that friendship to survive anything.  Even if they were permanently separated, they would find a way to stay in touch with each other and their special bond would remain intact.

    Kirk spoke again, trying to cheer him up.  "My friend, you're assuming the worst.  It's *just* as possible that the surgery will go well."

    "I...wish only to be prepared," Spock returned quietly.  "That does not mean that I do not still...hope...for complete recovery."

    "I know.  So let's try to concentrate on *that*, now."

    Spock knew somehow that Kirk was smiling encouragingly at him; something about the tone of the Human's voice suggested it.  "Agreed," he acquiesced finally.

    They fell silent for a while as Kirk continued to hold him.  Spock could not bring himself to ask it verbally, but it was obvious from the way he had remained so still within Kirk's arms that he still needed the comforting closeness of the physical contact his Human friend had offered him.  Kirk could feel the Vulcan's hands gripping the back of his shoulders as they sat together on the deck, holding on as if he expected some unseen force to cruelly and irrevocably tear them apart.

    Spock had no real idea how much time elapsed--whether it was a few minutes or over half an hour--since just now, he was concentrating on the mental and tactile impressions which were the only reassurances he had in his dark world of Kirk's presence, thinking only of Kirk and how much of himself he would have to leave behind if the blindness forced him to give up his life on the Enterprise.  Finally, however, he felt Kirk withdraw from him slightly and heard him break the long silence.

    "Do you realize you just scared the hell out of me?" he demanded.  "I thought you'd hurt yourself!"

    "I know.  I am sorry," Spock replied ruefully.  "However, I seem to be undamaged...except for some slight discomfort in my left hand."

    "No wonder.  Let me see..."  Spock offered Kirk his injured hand and Kirk examined it, cautiously moving fingers one by one and noting the reactions Spock strove to hide from him.  "Hmm.  I want you to let Dr. McCoy take a look at this before we leave tomorrow."

    Spock nodded acquiescently.

    Kirk released his hand and moved away again; Spock felt his muscles tensing involuntarily as he waited and listened anxiously, thinking for a time that Kirk might simply leave.  Instead, however, he heard Kirk stand up, reposition the overturned chair and pick something else up (which Spock deduced to be the harp), then felt Kirk take him by his good hand and pull him carefully to his feet.  "There--now you won't be tripping over anything for a while," Kirk
observed, with satisfaction.  "All right, where were we?  Oh, yes...packing your bag."

    This time, Spock simply nodded in acceptance.  " are still willing, I would appreciate your help," he admitted, with a strange mixture of embarrassment and relief.

    "Then let's start with you re-packing what's already in your bag," Kirk suggested.

    "Very well..."  Spock made his way carefully around the edge of the bed and sat down, reaching into the bag and beginning to take out uniforms and other clothing piece by piece.  He paused as he was about to begin refolding them.  "Jim, you think I should pack?  Two months' worth of clothing, or...all of it?" he asked, a certain amount of anxiety still apparent in his voice.

    "Think positive, Spock.  Plan on staying two months."  Kirk knew he could come back for the rest of Spock's things later, if he had to--but for now, he kept such thoughts to himself.

    Spock began refolding his clothes, smoothing out the wrinkles as best he could without being able to see then and always checking with Kirk on their appearance before placing them carefully in the bag.  "Then, you *do* believe the surgery will work," he concluded finally.

    Actually, Kirk was no surer about that than Spock--but this was one time when keeping the truth from his friend was necessary.  He went to Spock's side and squeezed his shoulder affectionately.  "A week from now, we'll be enjoying our leaves, sight-seeing, camping, and you'll be fighting with Bones and telling us how illogical you think it all is," Kirk promised him, forcing a cheerful front and hoping the effort wasn't obvious.

    Apparently, it wasn't.  Spock perceived only affection and hope in Kirk's voice.  A slight smile touched his lips in response as they continued packing.


    After a mostly sleepless night, the next morning found Spock in Sickbay, waiting for McCoy to arrive and examine his hand.  Kirk had once again escorted him back to McCoy's office, a necessity that Spock continued to tolerate with embarrassment (particularly since the corridors were not cleared, this time), and then taken their bags on to the Transporter Room, promising to return shortly.  He was alone, therefore, sitting on the edge of McCoy's desk, when Christine walked in.

    She had only seen him once since the day of his release from Sickbay, since after what she'd heard about his treatment of Kirk and McCoy, she was sure Spock would view her presence as an intrusion.  "Spock," she greeted him pleasantly.

    "Dr. Chapel..." Spock hid his surprise.  "...I am awaiting Dr. McCoy."

    "I know.  He had some last minute packing to do and asked me to look at your hand," Christine explained.


    "Come on, let's go into the examination room," she suggested, then.  She followed Spock cautiously as he started toward the door, his hands held carefully out in front of him to keep himself from bumping into anything, and they slowly made their way into the examination room.

    Once inside, Christine started to guide him to the nearest table; Spock, however--in hopes of salvaging at least *some* of his usual Vulcan dignity--refused to permit it.  "Just...tell me where it is."

    "All right," she acquiesced understandingly.  "About ten feet in front of you and to your right.  And watch out for the computer station and the cabinets on your left..." she paused, following him just closely enough to check his progress.  "...That's good, keep going...hold it, you're about to run into a counter.  Keep to your right...that's it.  Great--it's right in front of you."

    Following Christine's directions with some difficulty, Spock finally managed to get to the examination table and maneuver himself up onto it without running into anything.

    "Now, let's see your hand."

    Spock offered it to her and felt her take it gently, touching, pressing, particular attention to the area around his knuckles; he drew in his breath sharply as she moved his fingers carefully back and forth.

    Christine stopped immediately, not wanting to cause him any more pain than necessary, and ran her medscanner briefly over his hand.  "No broken bones...but there are some awfully bad bruises on your knuckles," she told him worriedly.  "Spock, what happened?"

    Spock bowed his head in shame, not wanting to reveal his disgraceful behavior toward Kirk.  "I...lost control," he replied evasively, hoping Christine would not ask him to elaborate.

    Christine studied him in silence for a moment; he seemed little changed in manner since the last time she had seen him--still tense and withdrawn, though at least, for now, his previous air of controlled bitterness was gone.  She was aware of his discomfort and thought she could guess what he was hiding; she did not inquire further, therefore, but set aside her medscanner and simply held Spock's hand carefully between her own hands.  "It's going to be sore for a few days.  Try not to use it for anything that might exert pressure on your knuckles," she told him gently.

    Spock nodded understandingly and appreciatively, without looking up, and reflected silently for a moment on the pleasantness of her touch.  "Dr. Chapel ...the Captain mentioned that you and Dr. McCoy both will be accompanying me to the Hospital, staying with me until the day of the surgery."

    "That's right.  They're letting Dr. McCoy observe the operation, and I'm on leave, too, so...I asked to come with him," she explained.

    "May I ask...*why* you consider it necessary for both of you to be there?"

    Christine had expected this sort of reaction and had a defense ready. "It's *not* 'necessary'--not in the way you mean.  Spock, I know the idea may bother you, or at best it might not matter to you at all, but I *care* about what happens to you and I *want* to be with you and see this thing through to the end," she returned, with quiet determination.

    Spock lifted his head finally, knowing from her tone that he would not be able to dissuade her.  As he was still trying to decide what he could do or say to her to convey acceptance of her devotion to him, they were interrupted by another voice.

    "We *all* feel that way, Spock; that's why we're all going with you."

    "Captain!"  They both said it at the same time.

    Kirk wandered over to them from the doorway where he had been standing.  "Didn't mean to eavesdrop," he told them apologetically.  "McCoy's on his way.  How's his hand, Christine?"

    "Sore and bruised.  We may have to take turns sitting on him to keep him from using it for the next four or five days, but it should be fine after that," she reported humorously.

    Spock raised an eyebrow at her.  "I assure you, Doctor, that will *not* be necessary."

    Kirk laughed softly, and Christine grinned knowingly at him in response.

    It was the first time since he had been blinded that Spock had heard Kirk laugh, and he realized at that moment what he had missed the most during his blindness: being able to see the faces of his friends.  After a brief period of indecision, he reached out hesitantly to touch Christine's face, feeling her smile; she was initially startled, but remained still and permitted his touch when she realized the reasons behind it.

    A faint echo of Christine's smile touched Spock's lips, and a momentary burst of delighted laughter escaped her before she could suppress it.  She loved his smile, seldom though it was that she--or anyone other than Kirk--was allowed to see it, and was even more pleased that she might have, in some way, been responsible for it.  Christine reached up to touch his hand as it lingered on her cheek, and Spock lowered his hand abruptly, looking embarrassed.

    It was then that McCoy arrived and came to join them.

    "Ready to go, Bones?"  Kirk asked.

    "Yes, and we'd better get going.  They're expecting Spock to be there in about twenty minutes."

    "Let's go, then.  Come on, Spock."

    Spock slid carefully off the table, then made his way slowly around it.  As he moved out into the middle of the room, he felt Kirk's hand on his back, gently steering him toward the door.

    McCoy let them go ahead of him, but stopped Christine as she started past him.  "Have you told Spock about the plans you've made in case the surgery fails?" he asked her seriously.

    Christine lowered her eyes.  "No, Doctor; I was thinking of waiting until after the surgery to mention it.  He might be more willing to accept it, then."

    McCoy shook his head, disappointed but understanding her uncertainty.  "Of course, he will; you'll have him at a disadvantage.  If that operation doesn't work, he's going to have a long and difficult period of adjustment ahead of him and he'll be very vulnerable at that time.  Is that what you really want--to have him agree under duress?"

    "No--that wouldn't help either of us," she admitted ruefully.

    "Christine, I understand your intentions," McCoy told her gently.  "If you want *Spock* to understand them, tell him *before* the surgery, not after.  Give him a chance to realize what went into your decision and I'm sure he'll appreciate what you're doing for him.  But if you love him, I think he deserves some time to accept it without feeling as if acceptance has been forced upon him."

    Christine nodded in agreement, sighing.  "At least he doesn't seem quite as uncomfortable around me as he used to be," she reflected.  "Well, I need to figure out what to say to him, and I want him to get used to me being around him.  Until he was blinded, he hadn't had much reason to spend any time with me."

    "All right, but make sure you tell him by the day of the surgery."

    Christine nodded again and followed McCoy out, once again considering the decision she had just made.  Although she had scarcely seen Spock since his release from Sickbay, she knew from talking to McCoy that Spock's adjustment to his blindness had been seriously hampered by concern about the surgery.  Something within him refused to allow him complete acceptance as long as there was a chance that the surgery might restore his sight.

    Christine could only hope that the Vulcan pride and dignity which had made the situation so intolerable for Spock would not prevent him from seeing the sincerity of her motives.


    They beamed down and got Spock settled in his room at the Hospital, then Kirk, McCoy and Christine got rooms for themselves at a nearby hotel.  A short time later, they met with the Hospital's Chief Surgeon--who, like McCoy and Christine, had never performed this operation before.  However, according to what Kirk had been told before their arrival, he would only be supervising the surgery himself, working with a specialist.

    "Captain, I'm Dr. David Lawrence.  Welcome to Starbase 30's medical facility," he greeted Kirk, as the Captain entered the Chief Surgeon's office with McCoy and Christine.

    Kirk shook his hand.  "Pleased to meet you, though I can't say much for the circumstances."  He studied Lawrence for a moment, noting that they seemed to be about the same age (though Lawrence had gone gray), then introduced McCoy and Christine.  "This is my Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Leonard McCoy, and his assistant, Dr. Christine Chapel."

    Lawrence shook hands with each of them.  "Dr. Chapel, Dr. McCoy..."

    "When do we get to meet the specialist you mentioned?"  McCoy asked, then.

    "Right now," Lawrence replied, turning away from them momentarily to get the attention of a woman standing behind him and some distance away.  At his look, she hurried forward to join them.  "Gentlemen, allow me to introduce the one who's going to be doing the real work of the surgery, and this case in general.  Dr. Petra Kimmel is an optical surgeon and has done this type of operation a number of times."

    Kirk immediately focused his attention on the red-haired, green-eyed woman now standing next to Lawrence.  "Dr. Kimmel, have you ever performed this surgery on a Vulcan before?"

    She nodded.  "Once.  I wouldn't have been assigned to Commander Spock's case if I hadn't."

    "What kind of results did you get?"  McCoy wanted to know.

    "Eventually, full recovery.  The patient's eyesight was restored immediately, but there were complications resulting in some nerve damage--which was corrected within a few months, Dr. Kimmel assured him.  "I'd like to take full credit for it, but I had a lot of help.  You probably know the amazing recuperative powers of Vulcans better than I do."

    McCoy nodded, relieved and somewhat encouraged by this information.

    "I'll be briefing Commander Spock on the operation as soon as we're finished here," Kimmel continued.  "Right now, I want to start by being sure the three of you understand the potential danger involved."

    "Dr. McCoy's discussed it with us at some length," Kirk asserted.

    Dr. Lawrence decided to excuse himself.  "I'll leave Dr. Kimmel to acquaint you with the details of the operation, and I'm sure I'll see all of you during visiting hours."

    Kirk, McCoy and Christine barely acknowledged his departure, since they were each devoting their full attention to Dr. Kimmel.  And by the end of the hour-long consultation, they were convinced that Spock was in good hands.


    While the Enterprise went into orbital dry-dock and the majority of its crew got started on their leaves, Spock's friends tried to spend as much of that first week as possible with him.  For Spock, the week seemed to pass in slow motion.  It was as if he had gone through a time warp, regressing to a point just after his discovery that his blindness was permanent and losing the hard-won progress he had made since then toward adjusting to and accepting it; in these unfamiliar surroundings, Spock's world of darkness was once again filled with hidden obstacles waiting to help him humiliate himself by being bumped into or tripped over.

    He seldom ventured out of his bed, therefore, yet still harbored within him a secret, seemingly contradictory hope that he would not be there long enough to become accustomed to his new environment.

    Spock's mornings were spent surrounded by strangers--doctors and nurses, examining him, asking questions, and generally giving him a great deal of unwelcome but unfortunately necessary attention.  Only the afternoons and evenings made it bearable, for it was then that Kirk, McCoy and Christine came to visit him.  They shared meals, Christine sometimes read aloud to him, or sometimes he played his Vulcan harp for him (and Kirk still found it amazing that Spock could play it without being able to see, despite his friend's very reasonable explanation of how it was possible).  And although Spock usually preferred not to talk himself after being forced to all morning, he did enjoy listening to them.

    Kirk and McCoy, however, grew increasingly concerned about him as time passed; each day when they came to see him, they found him sitting motionless on his bed, looking withdrawn, listless and atypically frightened, appearing not to come to life until he became aware of their presence--much as he had been in the early days of his blindness.  And he remained reluctant to talk to them, entreating behind a wall of emotional control that they found themselves able to penetrate only slowly and with difficulty.

    Spock seemed to have no interest in initiating any sort of interaction with them, but at least he seemed willing to respond when they made a concerted effort to draw him out.

    Not surprisingly, Christine could not seem to find the right time to discuss with Spock the things she needed to discuss.  He seemed appreciative of her presence, yet still exuded a certain aura of unapproachability, and she wished they had more time.  In a way, however, she deserved her dilemma; she had brought such problems upon herself by not telling him sooner, and the longer she waited, the harder it was going to be for both of them.

    Finally, two days before the surgery was to be performed, Christine arranged to see Spock alone.  "Where are the Captain and Dr. McCoy?" he asked warily, hiding his surprise as she came to sit down on the bed beside him.

    "They'll be here soon," she assured him.  "I...need to talk to you in private first."

    Spock raised an eyebrow at her curiously.  "Very well, I am listening. What is it?"

    Christine drew a deep breath and began hesitantly, "Spock...I've been thinking about the surgery, and what to do if it doesn't work, and I've decided transfer off the Enterprise."

    "Indeed?  And may I ask where you intend to transfer to?"  Spock inquired mildly.

    Christine had hoped that Spock would immediately see the connection between unsuccessful surgery and her proposed transfer and make this a little less difficult for her, but obviously, that was not to be.  "I don't know, yet.  It depends...on where they send you," she responded carefully.  "Captain Kirk mentioned your preference for Starfleet Headquarters..."

    Spock was silent for a very long time as he contemplated what Christine seemed to be suggesting and strove to control the embarrassment that was his initial instinctive response.  He did not want--nor, hopefully, would he *need* --a nursemaid, which was what Christine tended to become when she was around him while he was injured, or in any way not himself, her M.D. notwithstanding.

    So far, however, she had comported herself with dignity as well as gentleness and compassion during his present predicament, and it was also true that she loved him--and Spock knew at once that whatever she had in mind was not motivated by pity.  Perhaps it was his own awareness of her emotions for him--and the possibility that he would become too dependent upon them--that he really feared.  For the moment, however, he kept these thoughts carefully hidden behind his customary facade of logic.  "It is also possible that I may leave Starfleet and return to Vulcan," he pointed out quietly, at last.

    "But I know you don't want that."

    "True," Spock admitted regretfully, sighing.  "However, my preferences in the matter may be irrelevant.  Returning to Vulcan *was* the Captain's recommendation to me."

    "Well, that's not what he's been discussing with Admiral Nogura," Christine informed him kindly.  "He's trying to arrange for you to stay in Starfleet--he knows how much that means to you.  And at the same time, he's trying to arrange my transfer."

    Spock shook his head in negation.  "I do not wish you to give up your career because of me."

    "I'm not; I can practice medicine anywhere," Christine countered, her voice taking on a pleading tone.  "All I'd be giving up is my position on the Enterprise, and Dr. McCoy doesn't need an assistant *that* badly.  Besides, surely you know by now that...I only asked to be re-assigned to the Enterprise on the chance that you might come back, too."

    Embarrassment gave way to confusion within Spock as various emotions waged war with his mask of control.  "Dr. Chapel--what, exactly, are you proposing?"

    "Simply that I be assigned to...wherever they send I can sort of keep an eye on you," she elaborated uneasily.

    "I assure you, I do not require--"

    "Spock, please.  I know how hard it would be for you to have to live away from the Enterprise--and Captain Kirk; I know how lonely you would be--and don't bother trying to deny it.  I'm not the Captain, but at least I can offer you my company and be available when you need a friend," she continued, interrupting him.

    Spock turned noticeably green, bowed his head and was silent for a moment as he considered her words and her obvious sincerity.  "You would really do that...for me?"

    Christine reached to take his hands in hers.  "I want to, if you'll let me.  You know I care about you, and I love being with you," she told him gently.  "Please, at least *think* about it between now and the surgery."

    Spock permitted her touch without being certain why.  "And if I went back to Vulcan?"

    She sighed.  "It's not likely that anyone on Vulcan would have any use for a Starfleet doctor, so I suppose I'd have to cancel the transfer and stay where I am."

    "My permission is *not* required for *your* transfer," Spock pointed out.

    "It is in this case," Christine assured him.  "After all, it's *your* life I'd be trying to insert myself into."

    He squeezed her hands appreciatively before releasing them.  "I...will consider it," he promised finally, lifting his face to her at last.


    On the morning of the surgery, Kirk and Christine went to see Spock one last time last time before he was taken to the operating room.  They studied him in silence for a moment as he sat on his bed, appearing outwardly calm; he stirred slightly, becoming aware that he had company.  "Jim?"

    Kirk knew it was not a guess, despite the inquisitive note in Spock's voice; he went quickly to the Vulcan's side, while Christine hung back uncertainly.  "Yes, Spock, it's me," he greeted his friend, sitting down beside him on the bed.  "McCoy's already in the operating room.  We've got about ten minutes before they come to prep you for surgery.  You haven't been overly communicative since you've been here, so I thought you might want to talk, now.  How do you feel?"

    "I am...somewhat apprehensive," Spock admitted, with difficulty, reaching out cautiously toward Kirk.  "Jim...are you still so certain that this operation will work?"

    Kirk took Spock's hands in his, squeezing them encouragingly.  "I think your chances are good.  From what Dr. Lawrence has told me, Dr. Kimmel is one of the best optical surgeons in the Fleet."

    Spock bowed his head briefly in acceptance of Kirk's attempt to reassure him.  "Indeed.  Yet somehow, I could wish...that Dr. McCoy could perform the operation himself rather than merely observe it," he noted, in an odd yet familiar self-analytical tone.  "Do you not find that illogical?"

    "No," Kirk returned quietly.  "I think he would be honored that you felt that way."

    In the days before the V'ger mission, this would have precipitated denials and arguments from Spock; by now, however, he understood that Kirk wasn't just trying to make him feel better.  After all, McCoy *was* his friend, and he had earned Spock's trust, too.  He therefore simply nodded appreciatively in response.

    "Spock--have you decided what you want to do doesn't work out?"  Kirk asked finally.

    And this time, Spock was prepared to discuss the subject without, he hoped, becoming mired in undue emotionalism.  "Yes, I have.  Further consideration of the matter has simply reinforced my original convictions," he told Kirk decidedly, still wondering how Kirk would react.  "I...cannot...go back to Vulcan.  If I were unwilling to return under normal circumstances, I certainly will not do so in this state."

    He paused uncomfortably for a moment, then resumed speaking, this time more softly: "Jim, there is no life for me on Vulcan, blind or not; a part of me has always known it, but I was never able to fully accept it until my mind-meld with V'ger.  Dr. Chapel has told me of your discussions with Admiral Nogura, and I believe you understand this.  I will go wherever he sends me, but...please, if possible, do not allow him to discharge me from the Service."

    "I won't," Kirk promised him.

    "Your original suggestion of re-assignment to Starfleet Headquarters would be the more tolerable of the two alternatives."

    "I kind of thought it would be."

    Spock felt Kirk's smile upon him and allowed himself to enjoy it silently for a moment.  "If...the surgery *is* unsuccessful, I would appreciate you notifying my parents."

    "I'd be glad to," Kirk responded agreeably.

    "Tell them...tell Mother...that I will be all right."

    "Don't worry, I will," Kirk assured him.

    It seemed like the right time for Christine to join them.  She cautiously approached Spock's side opposite from Kirk and stood near him, still uncertain about sitting down next to him.  "Spock," she greeted him hesitantly.

    "Christine..." Spock released one of Kirk's hands and reached out in the direction of her voice.  "...please sit down."

    She obeyed, reaching slowly to take his hand.  "Have you thought about what we discussed?" she asked anxiously.

    "I have," Spock responded carefully.  "I find your offer extremely illogical, know me too well.  You are unfortunately quite correct in pointing out that wherever I go, I will be...alone.  I think that if the surgery fails and I am forced to transfer, I...would appreciate having someone from the Enterprise nearby."

    She squeezed his hand once.  "That's wonderful, Spock--thank you for agreeing to it."

    Spock raised an eyebrow at her.  "It is you who would be giving up so much.  I should be grateful to you, Christine--and I am," he returned, quietly but sincerely.  In fact, the idea that he might have the option of familiar company available to him had naturally never even entered his mind until Christine had suggested it to him; he had chosen to take advantage of it, because, in some illogical way, it would provide him with a needed link to the Enterprise, and he had forced himself to realize that it was an option that would not have been open to him if not for the depth of Christine's emotions for him--but for now, he left the true depth of his gratitude unexpressed.

    "It's all right; you know I want to do it..." Christine paused, suddenly tired of dwelling on worst-case scenarios.  "...but I'm still hoping that neither of us will have to give up anything."

    Spock nodded understandingly.  "I, also...hope," he admitted.  Then he sat silently for a moment, feeling Kirk holding one hand--for he had never let go--and Christine holding the other, drawing strength and comfort from the physical contact and their presence.  Also helpful was the awareness it gave him of their mental presence; he knew that each of them was concerned about him, loved him, and refused to give up on restoring his sight.  "I wish to thank both of you--and Dr. McCoy, too, of course--for being so patient with me," Spock said finally, in a carefully controlled voice.  "I am aware that I have behaved rather irrationally toward you--"

    "Never mind, Spock--we understand," Kirk assured him gently.

    "We know this hasn't been easy for you," Christine added.

    "Besides--friends stick together--especially when one's in trouble," Kirk reminded him.

    "Interesting--the emotion of friendship somehow imparts adhesive qualities.  I must remember that."

    As Spock had expected, Kirk could not resist the urge to laugh, and a half-stifled burst of snickering escaped him.  Christine, too, laughed softly. "Well, they should be walking in with a gurney any time now," Kirk observed finally, as his laughter subsided.  "We won't be able to be with you during the operation, but we'll be watching from the observation area.  Our thoughts will be with you, my friend...and we'll see you as soon as it's all over with."

    Spock squeezed Kirk's hand understandingly in response.  "I trust, Jim, that I will also 'see' you."

    While Kirk and Christine were still trying to decide how to respond to this, Dr. Lawrence and two orderlies arrived with a gurney.  "Showtime, Commander," he announced.

    Spock strove to ignore the discomfort caused by Lawrence's informality and got up carefully from his bed, refusing to permit anyone but Kirk to provide what limited assistance he needed in getting up onto the gurney.

    Kirk and Christine moved out of the way then, watching silently from the other side of the room as Spock was taken out.  When he was gone, Christine closed her eyes briefly and allowed herself a shuddering sigh; she had not dared to let Spock know the true depth of her anxiety about the operation. "I'm so afraid for him, Captain," she admitted now.  "The surgery is so dangerous and so many things could go wrong...and if it doesn't work, he'll be crushed."

    Kirk nodded reluctantly in acknowledgement.  "I know.  But he has a better chance of pulling through here than anywhere else," he reminded her.  "In any case, there's nothing we can do now but wait to see what happens and keep hoping.  Come on, Christine--let's go."


    A short time later, Kirk and Christine were in the observation area, a windowed room overlooking the operating room which was normally reserved for visiting doctors and VIPs.  Kirk still remembered how embarrassed he had felt when, after McCoy and Christine had spent three days helping Dr. Lawrence convince the Hospital Administration to allow them access to the observation room.  They had agreed on the spot when he had added his voice to that of the two Medical Officers.

    Apparently, Kirk, as a former Admiral and Chief of Starfleet Operations, was considered a VIP, himself.  He had never been overly impressed with the various honors heaped on him over the years, but the reputation they had generated for him *did* occasionally come in handy.

    There was a row of two chairs in front of the window, but Kirk and Christine found themselves standing with their faces almost pressed against the glass as they watched Spock being brought into the operating room.  He had apparently already been sedated and was asleep before the orderlies got him onto the operating table, but they could see McCoy as he hovered nearby, along with Dr. Kimmel and a nurse.  Dr. Lawrence and another nurse were approaching from the opposite side of the room with some instruments and equipment.  As Dr. Kimmel and Dr. Lawrence were about to begin the surgery, McCoy turned, looked up at Kirk and Christine, and waved at them reassuringly.

    The next several hours were spent by Kirk and Christine in a tension-filled silence that was only occasionally broken by conversation, and they scarcely left the window.  They could not see Spock's eyes, of course, or what exactly was being done to them, but a monitor screen above the table displayed an image of the area being operated on--in this case, Spock's optic nerves--and the progress of the surgery and its results could be seen there.

    As McCoy had warned them, it seemed a very tedious operation, which progressed only in fragmentary increments; there were times, in fact, when it slowed to a standstill as Dr. Kimmel was forced to decide how to maneuver around particularly difficult areas of the nerves.  Invariably, however, these periods of inactivity ended with McCoy always turning toward Kirk and Christine with an "it's okay" sign--an "O" formed by his thumb and forefinger--and the surgery was resumed, with new determination.

    As time wore on, Kirk and Christine began to pace intermittently back and forth in front of the window.  Although each seemed barely aware of the other, these two very different people were now united by a common concern, and their thoughts were identical: Spock *had* to come through this.  Even if the surgery left him no further damaged physically, if Spock were forced to remain blind, he simply would never be quite the same emotionally and psychologically because he would never be able to return to the Enterprise, except as a visitor.

    Finally, seven hours and three cups of coffee a piece later, they could tell from the monitor that most of the nerve damage had been repaired.  Kirk and Christine were again frozen in front of the window as they watched Kimmel and a nurse finish up the operation and begin putting a dressing on Spock's eyes. They saw McCoy talk to Kimmel for a few minutes, then leave to approach the elevator that would take him up to the observation room.

    They were waiting for him at the door when he arrived.  "How is he, Bones?"  Kirk asked anxiously.

    "We won't know for sure until the bandage can come off, and that won't be for a couple of days," McCoy told them, not wanting to get their hopes up too high.  "It was touch-and-go for a while, but there were no complications--he's alive and there's no brain damage.  They aren't sure about nerve damage, but it doesn't seem very likely that there is any."

    This news provided Kirk and Christine enough relief and renewed hope for it to show on their faces, but their major (and now only) concern still hung in the air, obvious but unspoken--until Christine finally voiced it: "Is he going to be able to see?"

    McCoy sighed.  "That remains to be seen.  Statistically, his chances are still 50/50...but Dr. Kimmel says the fact that he came through the surgery so well is a good sign.  We're just going to have to watch him and wait."


    Spock was taken back to his room, where he slept for three more hours while the condition of his eyes was closely monitored; Kirk, McCoy and Christine all made sure they were there with him when he awoke.  Kirk was sitting beside the Vulcan on his bed with McCoy in a chair nearby, and Christine standing at Spock's other side, when Spock finally began to stir into consciousness. "Spock?  How do you feel?" Kirk asked anxiously, taking his hand.

    At the moment, in his disoriented state, all Spock knew for sure was that he recognized Kirk's voice.  "Jim...I do not know.  My eyes hurt a little, but...I seem able to control the pain," he answered faintly.

    "That's to be expected; it should go away shortly," Kirk told him gently.

    "The surgery..." Spock recalled slowly.  "...Is it completed?"

    "Yes, it's all over with and you're back in your room," Kirk returned soothingly.  ""And we're all here with you--Bones and Dr. Chapel, too."

    Spock squeezed his hand weakly in appreciation.  "What happened?" he asked hesitantly.  "Were there...any problems?"

    McCoy spoke up, now.  "It was practically a textbook operation, Spock--no complications," he informed the Vulcan reassuringly.

    Spock hesitated for a long moment, turning his attention back to Kirk and slightly tightening his grip on Kirk's hand.  "Will I be able to see?"

    Kirk heard the anxiety behind the carefully controlled voice, and he, McCoy and Christine exchanged uncertain looks before Kirk was finally able to answer him.  "We don't know, Spock--we have to wait 'til they take off the bandage," he explained cautiously, then added, "But your chances look good.  Dr. Kimmel and Dr. Lawrence were both *very* encouraged by how well you came through the operation."  He paused, then advised gently, "For the time being, you just relax and try to get some rest."

    Spock complied gratefully, maintaining his hold on Kirk's hand, encouraged somewhat by the new conviction he sensed in his Captain's optimism.


    For the next two days, Spock's Human friends scarcely left his side, and Spock quickly gave up trying to convince them that their continual presence was unnecessary; for one of the few times since he had been blinded, he found himself to be in good enough spirits to really *enjoy* their company.  After all, the operation appeared to have been successful--the confidence expressed by Kirk, and now McCoy and Christine, too, seemed genuine; all that remained was confirmation.

    It was their persistent and infectious refusal to give up hope, in fact, which enabled Spock to gradually overcome his tendency to dwell on the less desirable possibilities.  Kirk, he knew, had never allowed himself to stop believing that the surgery would work, and he had kept that hope alive--not only in Spock, but in McCoy and Christine, too.

    At last, the day arrived for the bandage to be removed from Spock's eyes.  McCoy managed to arrange for Kirk to be present, though there were so many doctors and nurses there (which, in a room the size of Spock's, meant four or five gathered around Spock's bed--including Lawrence and Kimmel) at the time of the unveiling that he and Christine decided they would just be in the way.  They waited anxiously outside the door.

    Kirk sat just as anxiously beside Spock in the dimmed room as the bandage was slowly unwrapped, and Spock took careful note of Kirk's exact location; he wanted to be facing Kirk--so that his friend's face would be the first thing he would see.

    "All right, your eyes slowly," Dr. Kimmel said finally.

    Spock turned toward Kirk, remembering all too clearly the last time those words had been spoken to him and reaching for Kirk's hand as he had that other time--hoping the outcome would be different; he felt Kirk squeeze his hand understandingly and supportively.  Then he drew a deep breath, held it, and cautiously opened his eyes.

    This time, the darkness lifted.  Jim was there, studying him anxiously and uncertainly--and Spock realized that he wasn't the only one who had been holding his breath.  He froze, not certain if he dared to believe it, blinking once to confirm it.  As he released his breath gradually in a relieved sigh, he also relaxed the mask of control he had been hiding behind all morning and let go of Kirk's hand, simply enjoying the sight of his friend in silence for a moment.

    Kirk saw the expression of quiet joy fill Spock's eyes, and all at once, he knew what had happened.  "Spock--!"

    "Jim...if you still wish to share your leave with me, I appear to be available," Spock told him softly, trying to keep his voice as calm as possible but failing perceptibly.

    "I knew it!"  Kirk exclaimed, impulsively pulling the Vulcan into an energetic and affectionate bear hug.  "It worked--you can see again!  I knew you would.  And *of course*, I still want to share my leave with you!"

    Around them, pandemonium broke out; nurses cheered and doctors congratulated each other, and someone finally thought to gradually begin bringing the lights back up.  Kirk and Spock ignored them.  Kirk had released Spock, and he was standing and stretching as Kirk watched and the others began to leave the room.

    "Come on, let's go tell McCoy and Dr. Chapel," Kirk suggested.

    Spock nodded silently in agreement and followed Kirk toward the door, noting within himself a feeling of pleasure at once again *seeing* where he was going.

    McCoy had just conducted an abortive and futile interrogation of Dr. Lawrence, and he and Christine were fit to be tied by the time Kirk stepped through the door.  "Jim, what the hell happened in there?"  McCoy demanded.  "Lawrence wouldn't tell us anything--"

    Kirk grinned at him.  "It's all right, Bones.  It worked!"

    Before McCoy could respond, Spock came out behind Kirk and directed a raised eyebrow first at McCoy, then at Christine.  "Greetings, Doctor--or rather, Doctors."

    McCoy beamed at him.  "Spock!  You can see us!"

    "Obviously," Spock returned; his voice was calm, but veiled joy and affection still shone in his eyes.

    Relief washed over Christine, and she instinctively and unthinkingly bounced forward, throwing her arms around Spock.  "It's true, it's true--oh, thank God!"

    Spock was startled, but uncertain enough--under the circumstances--about whether or not to scold her that he permitted her embrace for some minutes before speaking.  When he finally did, his tone was more amused than reproachful: "Really, Dr. Chapel...such emotionalism..."

    She caught herself abruptly and released him, looking embarrassed until she saw the playful sparkle in his dark eyes that told her Spock wasn't really offended; simultaneously, she realized that Spock was making one of his rare attempts at humor and laughed in delight--and soon, the other two Humans were laughing along with her.

    Spock was uncertain whether they were laughing at what he had said, or the fact that he had tried to make a joke at all.  "Was I *that* amusing?"

    Christine took his hands in hers.  "Yes and no.  We're just so happy for you, Spock," she explained, aware of his confusion.

    She was so accustomed to apologizing or making excuses for expressing emotions in front of him that she now did it automatically--whether she had any reason to or not--and Spock realized that that was his own fault.  "You did not embarrass me," he assured her gently.  "I consider myself fortunate to be so... important to you."

    Christine lowered her eyes shyly and said nothing.

    "Well, Spock, you better go on and get packed," Kirk pointed out.  "You'll be released soon."

    Spock nodded in acknowledgement.  "And I believe I can do it alone, this time."


    For the next few hours, Spock underwent a final series of examinations and tests to verify the condition of his eyes and give them time to overcome their initial light sensitivity.  Finally, however, he was released from the Hospital and beamed back up to the Enterprise just long enough to check the progress of the various repair crews now swarming all over the ship.

    When he returned to the starbase, he discovered that his friends were planning a walking tour of the base; Christine had plans to meet Uhura for a late lunch and some shopping, and had invited Kirk and McCoy to join her.  Spock then surprised Kirk by readily accepting his invitation to join them.

    Their group split up shortly after leaving the hotel, McCoy going ahead with Christine; Spock was taking his time, looking around at everything with great interest and profound pleasure simply in his ability to see it, and Kirk decided to stay close to him.  Spock walked with his hands clasped behind his back in a relaxed manner and an expression of calm contentment on his face--but he else remained curiously silent, thinking, occasionally glancing indecisively at Kirk.

    Kirk, of course, knew something was bothering him, and as they stopped for a third time in front of a store window, he finally questioned Spock about it.  "What's on your mind, Spock?  You seem to be looking for something."

    Spock sighed, turning away from the window to face Kirk.  "In fact, I am; it was why I was so grateful to be asked to accompany you...but I am not certain exactly *what* it is that I am seeking," he revealed hesitantly.

     "A present?"  Kirk guessed, knowing Spock seldom bought anything for himself--especially without knowing precisely what he wanted beforehand.

    Spock nodded.  "Most perceptive of you, Captain; perhaps you could be of some assistance."

    "I'll try."

    Spock elaborated.  "Christine would have given up so much if my sight had not been restored, yet it was the only...pleasant...thing I would have had to look forward to.  I...would like to show her that I appreciate what she offered to do for me.  I had thought...that a gift might accomplish that purpose, but I am not certain if it would be appropriate," he explained cautiously.  "You are more familiar with Human social customs than I am.  Do you think it would be acceptable?  I would not wish to offend her."

    He knew Kirk would remember that Spock and Christine had exchanged gifts  generally only at Christmas; Kirk knew also that Spock's chief fear now was that a present out of the blue after all this time with no specific "occasion" would do little more than confuse Christine.  "Don't worry; I think she'll appreciate the gesture," Kirk assured him.  Then he added gently, "Of course, if you *really* want to thank her, there's something she'd appreciate even more."

    Spock regarded him with raised eyebrows.  "Captain, I hope you are not suggesting--"

    "A kiss, Spock.  I'm suggesting a kiss," Kirk interrupted consolingly, striving to soothe his friend's controlled but apparent indignation.  "That shouldn't be too hard for you now.  Should it?"

    Indignation was replaced with embarrassment within Spock and he lowered his eyes, aware that Kirk *was* trying to help him and also that he was probably right--but, for now, it was not something he would permit himself to consider.  "I trust that a gift will suffice," he returned evasively, in a quiet voice.

    It was just the sort of response Kirk had expected, though he had been determined to at least *mention* it to Spock; now, however, he dropped the subject without another word.  "I'm sure it will," he acquiesced finally.  "All right, come on--let's see what we can find."

    They spent the rest of the afternoon making the rounds of as many of the shops scattered around the starbase as they could make time to visit.  By the time Spock had found the right gift for Christine, he and Kirk had caught up with McCoy.  Christine and Uhura had been off on their own for some time--in fact, Christine was due back within the hour.

    The three of them finally stopped to eat dinner while they waited for Christine, and Spock spent more of the meal deflecting questions from McCoy about the package he was carrying than eating.  Eventually, however, McCoy gave up, knowing it was pointless to try to get an answer out of Spock about *anything* when the Vulcan had made up his mind to keep it to himself.  Kirk was no help, either, though McCoy was sure that he somehow shared in whatever mysterious secret was hidden within the small, colorfully-wrapped package.


    Later that night, when they were back at the hotel, Spock invited Kirk and McCoy to witness the presentation of his gift to Christine; they gathered in Christine's room, Kirk and McCoy watching silently from the sidelines.

    "Spock, what's all this about?"  Christine asked curiously, after everyone was settled.

    Spock walked over to where Christine sat, his hands appearing to her to be clasped behind his back.  "Christine...I think perhaps you value your position on the Enterprise somewhat more highly than you have allowed me to believe," he began slowly.  "You have the respect of your colleagues, you have friends there ...and I do not think you would have insisted on being re-assigned there solely for the sake of...something you were not certain was possible.  I will always remember the sacrifice you offered to make for me...and I express my appreciation in some tangible way.  I hope you will accept this attempt to do just that."

    Then Spock produced the package from behind his back and held it out to her cautiously.

    For the moment, Christine was too stunned to do anything but take the package and unwrap it in silence.  She gasped audibly, however, as she opened the box and removed the contents--a silver necklace from which hung three tear-drop-shaped, sapphire-like stones that sparkled and reflected even the faintest light into a rainbow of colors.  "Oh, shouldn't have done this..."

    "You do not like it," Spock concluded, disappointment and embarrassment apparent in his voice, despite his careful control.

    "No, I love it...but it looks so expensive.  My 'sacrifice' was simply ...something I wanted to do, had to do, or at least *offer* to do--for myself as well as for you--not something I deserve a present for," Christine tried to explain.

    Spock bowed his head now, wondering if the whole idea of giving her a gift hadn't been a mistake, after all.  Perhaps she simply did not understand his reasons.  "Nonetheless, I would like you to accept the necklace," he returned, a note of entreaty edging his voice.  "Christine, was never my intention to insult or embarrass you.  I meant only to *honor* your generosity making the prospect of permanent blindness...slightly less intolerable for me.  I had thought...the Captain assured me...that you would understand this."

    Christine, immediately ashamed of herself for discouraging Spock's innocent and obviously sincere expression of gratitude, cradled the necklace carefully in her hands and studied it in admiration for a moment before looking back up at Spock.  "I'm sorry; I *do* understand, Spock.  It's just that it's such a surprise," she apologized sincerely.  "I take it that Captain Kirk helped you pick it out."

    "Yes..." Spock paused, studying Christine dubiously for a moment but reassured by the expression he saw in her eyes.  "You *are* certain you like it?"

    "It's beautiful," she reiterated gently.

    "Would you like to wear it?"

    "Oh, yes!"  Christine stood up and turned around, allowing Spock to fasten the necklace around her neck.  Then he positioned her in front of a mirror, and together they examined her reflection.

    "It's gorgeous on you, Christine," Kirk commented, getting up to leave.

    "Thank you, Captain."

    "Yes, it suits you perfectly," McCoy added.  Then he stage-whispered, "Very Human of you, Spock"--and quickly ducked out after Kirk.

    Spock ignored him, his attention still focused on Christine's reflection.  "The jewels match your eyes," he noted softly, as if for the first time.  In fact, that had been a major factor in his choice of the necklace; he had decided not to concern himself with the illogic of that unless Christine rejected the gift.  If she accepted it, as she seemed to have, perhaps the reasoning behind his choice wasn't so illogical after all.

    Christine turned toward him and took his hands in hers.  "It's the most wonderful gift I've ever received, Spock--partly because the necklace is so beautiful, but mostly because it's from you.  I'll treasure it always."

    As Spock bowed his head in acknowledgement and appreciation, Christine released his hands and cautiously slipped her arms around him, holding him for a time.  While she was still holding him--and Spock was conveniently unable to see her face--she spoke again: "Spock, I wish..."

    Spock waited, but she did not continue.  "Yes?" he prompted finally. "What is it you wish?"

    Christine resumed speaking, encouraged somewhat by the gentle, unreproachful tone of his voice.  "I'd kiss you," she admitted at last, stepping back and looking into his eyes.  "I mean, if...I thought you'd let me."

    Spock studied her indecisively, remembering Kirk's earlier suggestion and now finding himself inexplicably considering that which he had previously been unwilling to consider.  "*More* emotionalism, Dr. Chapel?" he questioned--but his voice was unchanged; there was still no sign of disapproval, or even any real embarrassment.

    She smiled at him.  "At the moment, it seems to be the logical thing to do."

    Spock did not smile back, but there was amusement and acceptance within his dark eyes as he realized he could find no reason to refuse her.  It seemed a small thing to ask, after all--and he knew without Kirk's reminder how happy it would make her.  He silently stepped closer to her, his hands again clasped behind his back, and raised an eyebrow at her, obviously waiting.

    And Christine, understanding, took him gently by the shoulders and drew him against her once more--then, cautiously and hesitantly, their lips touched.  They parted abruptly, as if the touch had carried an electric shock; Spock blushed faintly green, but then recovered, brought his hands out from behind his back and reached uncertainly toward her, allowing her to take him in her arms again.

    He stood in silence for some time thereafter, content for the moment to feel Christine's embrace and the warmth and sincerity of the emotions of her emotions conveyed by her touch, until he decided he had indulged his Human half sufficiently for one day and said good night to her.


    Within a few days, Kirk and McCoy had begun their leave in earnest--and Spock was pleased to find himself not only able but still *welcome* to join them, after what he had put them through in the last few weeks.  There was no doubt that the needed the relaxation, and Spock resolved to be as patient and open-minded as possible; he was not exactly sure how Kirk and McCoy planned to spend the rest of their two-month leave, but he was honored and grateful to be invited to spend it with them and wanted to do his best not to get in their way or wear out his welcome.

    Starbase 30 was situated on a lovely and fairly Earth-like planet, made all the lovelier by the fact that it was largely uninhabited except by the starbase's personnel and its increasingly frequent visitors.  There were a number of clearly marked designated camping areas outside the bounds of the base, and it was one of these that Spock found himself visiting first.

    The camp-site Kirk and McCoy had chosen was high up on a mountain overlooking the starbase, and they hiked up to it on foot.  It took most of the day, and Kirk and McCoy--especially McCoy--were fairly exhausted by the time they reached the top.  They sat in the grass, talking quietly for a while and looking out over the base below, then, as dusk approached, got up reluctantly and went to start a camp-fire.  By the time darkness fell, the fire was going full strength, burning brightly, crackling and hissing.

    Spock had already positioned himself in front of it before Kirk and McCoy had finished arranging their sleeping bags around it, placing them in a "U"-shape, with Spock's in the middle; the air was growing cold now, and the fire reminded him of the meditation flame in the fire-pot statue back in his cabin on the Enterprise.  He reflected that it would have to be re-lit, now--he'd had it put out for obvious safety reasons during his blindness.

    Kirk and McCoy watched anxiously as the Vulcan sat staring into the flames, his hands folded and fingers steepled before him, obviously deep in thought.  They exchanged worried looks, then finally went to join him, sitting down on either side of him before the fire.  They continued to watch Spock in silence for a time until McCoy became suddenly and acutely aware of the stillness surrounding them and the blackness of the nearby forest, whose edge could be seen from their fireside.

    Perhaps it was the unfamiliarity of their environment which gave it an inexplicable air of foreboding, since McCoy knew as well as Kirk and Spock that no one connected with the starbase would have established a designated campground in an area that might be in any way dangerous.  "God, it's dark out here," McCoy observed, at length.

    For the first time since he had sat down, Spock showed some sign of movement.  "With all due respect, have no concept of darkness."

    "Certainly not, compared to you," McCoy agreed quietly.  "I was just trying to make conversation."

    Kirk was still studying Spock closely.  "Spock--are you all right?"

    Spock continued as if he had not heard them, though in fact, he had.  "I have known things...emotions and impressions...that I would not wish upon either of you," he reflected, a haunted expression filling his eyes, belying his otherwise emotionless features.  "There is no darkness darker than that which does not lift when you open your eyes, no silence so quiet as that in which you are frequently uncertain whether it exists because you are alone or because those around you are deliberately being quiet...and no solitude more--lonely--than that which is spent confined to a dark, silent world full of unseen impediments, knowing that this darkness, this silence and this solitude do not exist for anyone around you.

    "I would have accepted and adjusted eventually, of course, but...I found the first few weeks to be very difficult.  The only illumination--the only 'light'--that *could* penetrate such a darkness was that which was provided by the patience and friendship you gave me, and I was grateful to have it to guide me, even if I did not seem so..."  Spock forcibly pulled himself back to the present, becoming aware of their concern.  "Yes, Captain, I am all right...I must apologize.  I did not mean to dwell on it; I know the purpose of your leave was to forget for a while what happened--"

    "Never mind that," Kirk told him gently.  "If you need to talk about it, we're here to listen."

    Spock responded with a relieved sigh.  "No, I...have said all I wish to say on the least, for now.  I think perhaps I, too, would like to 'forget', as much as possible," he admitted slowly.  He knew that Kirk had always known somehow, without his having to say a word, that this was the real reason behind his acceptance of Kirk's invitation to join them on leave.  "But I appreciate your willingness to listen; doubtless it will prove useful at some point."

    They fell silent again for a time, Spock regarding his friends silently as he wondered what they would say or do next--being very inexperienced in Human customs regarding "camping out".  Kirk smiled back at him reassuringly.  "Did you bring your Vulcan harp?" he asked.

    Spock hid his surprise as he replied.  "As a matter of fact, yes.  Do you wish me to play it?"  At Kirk's nod, he reached around behind him to the backpack sitting next to his outspread sleeping bag, pulled out the harp, and turned back toward the fire, taking a moment to be sure the instrument was tuned.  Then he began to play.

    Kirk and McCoy listened in silence to the soft, alien music--for they deduced it to be of Vulcan origin--reflecting upon its beauty, suddenly, their dark, mildly intimidating surroundings were neither, for Spock's music filled them, complementing them and somehow reminding his Human friends of the presence of the stars above--a presence almost as familiar and reassuring as that of Spock himself.  They began to relax more and more, enjoying Spock's recovery as much as the Vulcan seemed to be enjoying it, himself.

    An hour or so later, they finally ate and got ready to go to bed.  As McCoy added one last load of kindling to the fire and Kirk climbed into his sleeping bag, Spock sat down cross-legged on his and resumed playing his harp; he paused abruptly when he realized he might well be disturbing their sleep and glanced around at each of them uncertainly.

    Kirk smiled at him again.  "It's all right, Spock--go ahead."

    Spock looked anxiously from Kirk to McCoy, who had just gotten settled in his sleeping bag.

    "Sure, Spock, fine...let's have a little music to fall asleep by," McCoy agreed tiredly, immediately closing his eyes.

    So Spock continued to play, as softly as he could.  McCoy was asleep within a few minutes, but Kirk lay awake on his stomach with his chin resting on his folded arms, watching Spock and listening late into the night.

    A strangely content and secure feeling began to fill Spock as he played, and he was uncertain whether its source was the illusion of protection produced by having his friends positioned on either side of him--or the seemingly near-irrational degree of joy he still felt deep inside at being able to *see* Kirk's affectionate grin.  Certainly such things had suddenly become more valuable to Spock since his blindness, and at the moment, he felt he could look at Kirk's face forever and never tire of the sight.

    Finally, Spock stopped playing, realizing that Kirk was getting tired and needed sleep.  He set aside the harp and climbed into his own sleeping bag, wondering idly as he did so whose idea it had been to place his and Kirk's sleeping bags head-to-head.  Kirk shifted slightly within his, pulling his arms out from underneath his head and tucking one inside the sleeping bag, as Spock finally settled into a comfortable position, himself.

    As Spock drifted off to sleep, his mind more at peace than it had been for weeks, his last thoughts were of his present state of contentment rather than past agonies.  For the terrible darkness and all it had brought with it were past, and it had not succeeded in tearing him from the only home and friends he had ever known.

    Spock lifted his eyes slightly and saw Kirk's face, eyes closed now, wearing a peaceful expression and comfortingly near his own face; nearer still was Kirk's hand, and Spock reached to squeeze it briefly--a "good-night" gesture of triumph and reassurance that the two of them together had managed to pull this Vulcan safely through another crisis, which he somehow knew Kirk would perceive and understand.

    As sleep took him, he was comforted by the knowledge that he and Jim would still have remained a part of each other, even if the blindness had remained permanent.  And after what had been in so many ways a long separation from them, Spock knew that--however illogical their activities seemed to him and however tempted he was to argue with the Doctor--he was going to enjoy sharing his leave with Jim and McCoy.


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