Our Dearest Blood
by Gamin Davis

(As published in the zine VISIONS OF FUTURES PAST,

c. 1991, published by Jim and Melody Rondeau)

TOS/post-STIII/AU [G] for general sentimental slop :^)  K&S, Mc, Sa, Am, hurt/comfort

SUMMARY: A STIII sequel written as an alternative to STIV, focusing on the early days of Spock's recovery after the fal-tor-pan ceremony and Kirk's efforts to help him.

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


      Spock lived.  That thought alone was enough, for the moment, to drive from Kirk's mind all the apprehension and concern as he contemplated the careers of his crew--careers now ruined because of their willingness to become co-conspirators in his mutinous actions--and wondered how to set things right again.  The dual sacrifices of the Enterprise and Kirk's son had not been in vain, and Kirk knew that every one of the five who had joined him considered it well worth whatever damage they had done to their standing in Starfleet.  Spock was alive; no fate that might await them could be terrible enough to cancel out that joy, no punishment severe enough to block out Kirk's memory of the feeling that had filled him when Spock came back to him after the fal-tor-pan ceremony and spoke his name.

      Something like a day had passed since the ceremony, and Kirk and McCoy were guests in the home of Sarek and Amanda, who had made arrangements for the rest of the crew to stay at a local hotel (the Klingon Bird of Prey, meanwhile, having been impounded by Vulcan Space Central and Maltz being held by Spaceport Security officials pending further instructions from the Federation Council).  Spock had been sleeping in his room since the ceremony and neither Kirk nor McCoy had been allowed to see him.  Sarek was with him most of the time, and T'Lar came and went several times--seeming mildly exasperated or disappointed each time she left--but neither Vulcan had said two words to the Humans since Sarek had brought them here.

      They waited in the parlor now, trying to be patient; Amanda was sitting with them on the sofa, wearing an elaborately embroidered robe, since she had been sick for several weeks and this was the first time in a while that she had been out of bed. She had not been able to be at the katra ceremony, but Sarek had filled her in --told her how Kirk had defied Starfleet and gone back to Genesis, rescued Spock's reborn but rapidly aging body from the dying planet, and brought both him and McCoy, the keeper of Spock's katra, back to Vulcan.

      Amanda had always thought highly of Spock's two friends, particularly Kirk, so it didn't really surprise her...but she was pleased and grateful, nonetheless.

      "I'd give a year's pay to know what's going on in there," McCoy announced worriedly, suddenly breaking the silence.

      "Forget it.  You don't have it," Kirk quipped dryly.  "After Starfleet gets through with us, we'll be lucky to have the clothes on our backs."

      McCoy shook his head, lowering his eyes and sighing.  "Don't remind me."

      At that moment, Sarek entered the parlor and approached them, his hands clasped behind his back, looking very somber.

      "How is Spock?" Amanda asked immediately.

      "He is as he was when we left Mount Seleya; there has been no change," Sarek informed her quietly, then turned his penetrating gaze upon Kirk.  "T'Lar has done all she can.  It is up to Spock, now."

      This sounded like bad news to Kirk.  "He's going to be all right, isn't he?" he asked anxiously.

      "I do not know," Sarek admitted reluctantly.  "Kirk...may I ask what your plans are now?"

      "Frankly, Ambassador, I don't have any, yet," Kirk told him honestly.  "I hesitate to do *anything* until I'm sure Spock's going to be all right."

      Sarek made a noise that bore a suspicious resemblance to a sigh of relief.  "I had thought you would say that," he responded, stepping a little closer to Kirk.  "T'Lar and I have discussed the situation at length.  So far, the only thing that Spock remembers clearly is you; T'Lar believes, therefore, that *you*, Kirk, are a vital link between Spock and the rest of his memory--and Spock knows this."

      Kirk gave an elaborate shrug.  "Sarek, if I can help, just...tell me what to do."

      "It will be necessary for you to spend a great deal of time with him.  Spock will be full of questions, and he will expect you to have all the answers," Sarek explained.  "As for the rest...I believe you will *know* what to do. I know of your mental bond with Spock--that was the reason for my assumption that you carried his katra--and I have informed T'Lar of its existence.  We discussed that factor, also; Spock will wish to draw on that bond--indeed, his complete recovery may be largely dependent upon it--but you must not allow him to attempt any mental contact with you until it is clear that he knows the necessary mental disciplines.  To do so before then could destroy both minds."

      Kirk thought all of this over.  "How will I know when to let him use the mind-meld?"

      "As Spock begins to remember more and more, he will inevitably rediscover his telepathic ability," Sarek elaborated.  "He will then feel compelled to seek out your thoughts.  At that point, I will have to take him in hand and re-instruct him in the mental disciplines I taught him as a child.  I will inform you when the time has come that he can safely enter your mind."  He let Kirk digest all this, allowing his expression to soften a little for the first time since before Spock's body had been retrieved from Genesis.  "Spock will be awake soon, and in a highly disoriented            state; it might be advisable for you to be with him when he wakes up.  If you wish    to go see him now, you may do so."

      Kirk nodded gratefully and hurried off toward the door, followed cautiously by McCoy.

      Amanda waited until they were gone, then stood up and faced Sarek with eyes full of confusion and anxiety.  "Sarek...?"

      "Shh," Sarek interrupted gently.  "Do not be concerned, Amanda; Spock will recover.  Kirk will do all he can to help him."


      Cautiously, Kirk slid open the door to Spock's room and he and McCoy stepped quietly inside.  Spock, still in the white robe given to him at the fal-tor-pan ceremony, lay on one of the twin beds in a deceptively peaceful sleep; while McCoy sat down on the other bed, Kirk went to Spock's side and sat down carefully next to him.  Then they waited.

      Kirk watched his Vulcan friend intently as the vigil continued; Spock's hands were folded and resting on top of his chest, his face tranquil.  Kirk covered Spock's folded hands with a hand of his own, his eyes remaining fastened on Spock's face, losing track of time as the minutes crept by.  Finally, he looked worriedly over at McCoy.  "How long has it been?"

      "Over an hour," McCoy replied, aware of Kirk's anxiety and sharing it.

      "Too long," Kirk decided, turning back to Spock.  With his free hand, he reached out to smooth the shaggy, black hair down over Spock's forehead.  In his growing alarm, Kirk found himself entertaining a horrible thought: what if Sarek were wrong and Spock never woke up?  He would never have the chance to help his friend recover. After all he had been through, to be forced now to leave Spock in some kind of mental limbo..."Please be all right, Spock...I can't lose you again, not now," Kirk half-whispered, his voice full of pain, as he squeezed Spock's hands.

      He felt something touch his shoulder and glanced up briefly to find McCoy beside him.  Their eyes met in silent recognition of their mutual concern.

      Kirk turned abruptly back to Spock, becoming aware of movement; sure enough, by the time Kirk's eyes found the Vulcan's face again, he was clearly in the process of waking up.

      McCoy decided to leave them alone for a while.  "I'll go tell Sarek and Amanda he's awake, he whispered, squeezing Kirk's shoulder.

      Kirk nodded absently, still watching Spock as McCoy got up, turned, and left.  Spock stirred slowly into consciousness as Kirk continued to soothingly stroke his bangs, and finally opened his eyes to look up at his Human friend.  Kirk smiled at him encouragingly.

      Spock did not respond verbally for some time, but it was obvious that he *did* still remember Kirk; his eyes met Kirk's and remained fastened on Kirk's face, and he held Kirk's hand tightly between his own hands.  Finally, he spoke: "Jim...?"

      "Yes, Spock--it's me," Kirk told him reassuringly.

      Spock contemplated this for a moment.  "Have you been with me all this time?"

      "I've been close by enough to keep an eye on you," Kirk replied carefully, "and I *am* going to be with you *now*."

      Spock studied his face for a time in silence.  He was confused and uncertain about many things, but firm amid the chaos stood an entity known to him as Jim.  The Vulcan who had claimed to be his father had said that Jim was his friend, but Spock had only just now begun to remember that friendship on his own--and something within him insisted that he should rely on this Human, now; he was convinced that the key to his memory lay within Jim.  "Will you...help me recover?" he asked softly.

      "I'm certainly going to try," Kirk promised, smiling again.

      Spock began to look around, becoming tense.  "Where--?"

      "Your room, in your home, on Vulcan," Kirk replied soothingly.  Spock relaxed a little again and decided to sit up; he did so slowly and cautiously, but without assistance.  "How do you feel?" Kirk asked anxiously.

      Spock stretched and looked back at him.  "I am all right physically, Jim, but...I seem to have so much to remember," Spock answered, sighing.

      "I know."  Kirk got up.  "Feel like taking a walk?"

      Spock nodded agreeably, got up, and followed him out of the room.


      It was not the first time Kirk had been grateful for the depth of the special friendship he shared with Spock, and he fervently hoped it would not be the last. Spock had allowed himself--against his better judgement, at first--to become emotionally closer to Kirk than he had been to anyone else in his life, and that closeness had increased by several degrees of magnitude since the V'ger incident; as such, Kirk had gradually learned just about everything there was to know about him and his past as Spock had gradually become more and more comfortable talking with him about such things.

      That knowledge would now be put to the ultimate test as he drew upon it to help Spock fully regain his memory.  Sarek had spelled out his responsibility in no uncertain terms: Spock's return to his normal self depended mainly on *him*, Jim Kirk, and the degree of success with which he was able to re-awaken the heretofore buried memories within his Vulcan friend.  He had seen the expressions on Sarek's and Amanda's faces--as well as McCoy's--as he and Spock had passed the parlor door on the way out, and he was all too aware that they, too, had pinned their hopes for Spock's recovery on him.

      Kirk watched anxiously as Spock wandered around the stone-paved garden, but it was obvious that the Vulcan did not recognize anything he saw.  Spock examined everything with great interest and curiosity, but without lingering on anything long enough to suggest that he remembered it.  Kirk sighed; obviously, this was the wrong approach.

      He caught up with Spock as the latter sat down on a stone bench, obviously searching himself for some memory of this place.  "Spock...you don't remember this garden?"

      Spock shook his head, lowering his eyes, apparently embarrassed.  "I am sorry, Jim.  It seems to me that I should, but..."

      "It's all right," Kirk assured him gently, sitting down beside him.  "It'll take time to remember everything; don't rush it."

      Spock nodded silently, looking back up at his friend, his dark eyes full of trust and entreaty.

      Kirk considered the situation carefully, remembering how well Spock had responded to his allusions to their last mission together; perhaps the key to regaining Spock's memory was to start with his most recent past and work backwards.  He sighed again and got up, motioning for Spock to follow.  "Come on--let's try something else."


      They went back up the steps to the terrace and back inside to Spock's room.  While Spock sat on his bed and looked on in bewilderment, Kirk went to his dresser and began going through the drawers.  He had sent most of Spock's belongings back after his supposed death; if Amanda had saved them, this was where they would be.  The first thing he found was Spock's uniform, neatly folded in the top drawer; incredibly, it had survived the radiation exposure completely intact.  Kirk took it out carefully, brought it to Spock, and placed it in his lap.

      Spock stared down uncomprehendingly for a minute or so, then looked up at Kirk with an expression that suggested he had latched onto a piece of a memory but needed help to identify it.

      Kirk sat down beside him, but was uncertain of what to do next.  He watched his friend worriedly.  "Spock?"

      Spock hesitated, equally uncertain.  "The needs of the many outweigh...the needs of the few?"

      Kirk nodded, smiling encouragingly.  "Or the one," he added quietly.

      This time, Spock hesitated only long enough to experience a brief mental image of the two of them standing before a beautiful gold mosaic wall mural bearing a strange yet familiar design composed of circles and triangles; he recognized the reference and remembered the scene.  Looking directly into Kirk's eyes, he repeated what he had said that day to Jim: "You are my Commanding Officer; you are also my friend.  I have been and ever shall be yours."

      Kirk beamed at him joyously.  "Yes!"

      Encouraged, Spock looked back down at the uniform, trying to remember something else...*anything* else...

      At that point, the door to Spock's room slid open and McCoy stuck his head inside.  "Psst--Jim!" he stage-whispered.

      Kirk got up quietly and went to the door.

      "How's it going?" McCoy asked softly.

      "Slowly, Bones--very slowly," Kirk replied, sighing.

      "Anything I can do?"

      Kirk thought it over.  "Yes," he said finally.  "Go to the hotel and get Spock's burial robe; I think Saavik has it.  And if they ask about Spock, tell them...he has a long way to go yet."


    By the time Sarek had brought McCoy back from the hotel, it was late night.  Spock was asleep, and Kirk, after careful consideration, had moved from the sofa in the parlor where he'd slept the night before into Spock's room, claiming the other twin bed.  McCoy looked in on them before going to bed himself and found Kirk sleeping soundly; Spock, however, shifted restlessly on his bed.

    Just as the sky of the Vulcan night had begun to lighten to a dark reddish-magenta, signalling the approach of dawn, Spock awoke with a gasp.  He looked around in confusion and saw Kirk lying asleep on the other bed.  Spock sat up, hesitated, then got up and went to Kirk's side, sitting cautiously down beside him on the bed.  Kirk stirred suddenly, rolling half over on his side to face Spock, as if aware of his friend's presence, but did not wake up.  Spock watched him uncertainly for a moment, then reached out to touch Kirk's shoulder.  There was such an expression of peace on Kirk's face that Spock hated to wake him, but circumstances demanded it.  He squeezed Kirk's shoulder gently.  "Jim..."

    Kirk jumped and sat up slowly, seeing Spock, glanced out the window, then turned back to Spock, reaching to turn on the light.  "Spock?  What are you doing up this time of morning?"

    "It is necessary.  Jim, I...I need to talk to you," Spock explained hesitantly.

    Kirk rubbed his eyes and looked more closely at Spock, noting the troubled expression in the Vulcan's eyes.  "All right, I'm listening.  What's wrong?"

    "I find myself...unable to sleep," Spock began.

    Suddenly, Kirk was fully awake and interested.  "Nightmares?" he guessed.

    "Nightmares...dreams...I do not know the correct name for them," Spock answered uncertainly.  "They were mental images, presented in no discernible order, and never lasting long enough for me to remember..." Spock paused, sighing, and looked anxiously into Kirk's eyes.  "Jim, am I getting better or worse?"

    Kirk smiled at him.  "Better, I think; these nightmares must mean you're starting to remember things in your sleep," he assured Spock.  Spock lowered his eyes.  "I fail to see how it helps if I cannot remember them after I wake up," he returned dejectedly.

    "You will, Spock--don't worry.  I'll help you."

    Spock looked back up at him searchingly, saw the warmth and affection in his Human friend's eyes, and felt suddenly, inexplicably, at peace.

    Kirk sensed this.  "Why don't you go back to bed, now?" he suggested kindly.

    Despite the gentleness of Kirk's voice, Spock misinterpreted the meaning of his words, thinking that Kirk resented being awakened in the middle of the night like this.  Spock bowed his head submissively, got up, and went back to his own bed, curling up on his side and facing Kirk.  He noticed Kirk looking at him questioningly, obviously puzzled by Spock's reaction.  "I am sorry, Jim," Spock whispered.

    "For what?" Kirk asked in confusion.

    "I should not have awakened you," Spock admitted contritely.

    Kirk finally realized that Spock had taken his suggestion the wrong way.  "Spock, I just meant that I was worried that *you* hadn't gotten much sleep tonight," Kirk explained gently.  "As for waking me up, you feel free to wake me any time you need to."

    Spock looked up at him doubtfully.  "Even if it is only to talk?"

    Kirk nodded, again smiling reassuringly at his friend.  Spock's eyes remained on his face as Kirk got up to turn out the light.  There was enough light coming in through the window now that Kirk could still see Spock's face in the darkness as the Vulcan continued to look up at him; he sat down beside Spock on his bed and lay a hand gently on Spock's forehead.  "Would you like me to stay up with you for a while?" he asked.

    Spock lowered his eyes for a moment, then returned them to Kirk's face.  "If... if you would not object," he responded hesitantly.

    "I wouldn't," Kirk assured him.

    He stayed up with Spock, sitting quietly with his hand resting soothingly on the Vulcan's forehead, until Spock finally closed his eyes in a still but uneasy sleep.  Then Kirk himself went back to his own bed and slept.


    Kirk and Spock slept most of the day, the third since the fal-tor-pan, leaving McCoy up to his own devices.  McCoy checked on them several times while they were still asleep, actually going cautiously inside the room once to lay out Spock's burial robe on top of his dresser, stacking it on top of his folded uniform.  The rest of the time he spent talking to Amanda and Sarek or wandering in the garden.

    It was early evening when Kirk finally awoke.  He found Amanda and McCoy in the parlor, Amanda by now apparently feeling well enough that she was no longer in her robe but fully dressed.  She accosted Kirk as soon as he entered the room. "Admiral, how is Spock?  Is he remembering anything yet?"

    "Only bits and pieces, Amanda," Kirk replied, sighing, as they went back across the room to join McCoy and Sarek.  "I've never seen him so...helpless...before. He's almost child-like," he elaborated wonderingly.

    Amanda was silent, remembering when they had brought Spock down from Mount Seleya; Spock, of course, had not known he was being taken home--and he had been very reluctant to go until Sarek assured him that Kirk would be going with him.

    Sarek merely nodded.  "That is to be expected, Kirk, as I told you.  Spock will be very dependent upon you until he fully regains his memory," he reminded Kirk, then paused and spoke again.  "I take it Spock is still sleeping?"

    Kirk nodded, also.  "He didn't get much sleep last night; he was having nightmares."

    "'Nightmares'?" Sarek repeated, immediately interested.

    "Then he *is* remembering!" Amanda realized, unable to keep all the excitement out of her voice.

    "Amanda, calm yourself," Sarek chided quietly.  He then addressed Kirk again.  "Be vigilant, Kirk; Spock is beginning to remember.  It will not be much longer before he will want to mind-meld with you--and if he shows any such intentions, you must inform him immediately.  It will be necessary for me to help him re-learn the required mental disciplines first."

    "All right, Sarek--I'll let you know," Kirk agreed understandingly.  He got up then, deciding to go and stay with Spock in case he started having nightmares again.


    He paused, looking back at Amanda.

    "...please take good care of him."

    Kirk smiled reassuringly at her.  "Don't worry, Amanda. I will."


    Spock slept straight through until early the next morning.  Kirk, no longer tired, sat beside him the whole time, watching him and calming him when he occasionally became restless; McCoy, too, sat on the other bed and joined Kirk in watching over the Vulcan--even as they had done once before on the way here from Genesis. They had not known then if he were even alive; now they just worried and wondered together if he would ever be himself again.  They were both still there when Spock awoke, but he only had eyes for Kirk.  "How did you sleep?" Kirk asked anxiously.  "Any more nightmares?"

    "I..." Spock hesitated, confused, and looked up at Kirk with a troubled     expression in his dark eyes, obviously struggling to remember something.  He             succeeded.  Abruptly, Spock reached out toward Kirk, found his hand, and took it, squeezing it gently.  "Simple feeling...beyond V'ger's comprehension," he recalled softly.

    "You remember V'ger!" Kirk proclaimed triumphantly, grinning.

    Still holding Kirk's hand, Spock slowly sat up.  "I remember a little of what I dreamed last night," he explained cautiously.

    "What else do you remember?"

    Spock lowered his eyes for a moment, thinking hard, and his face took on a frustrated expression.

    "Take your time, Spock; don't force it," Kirk told him gently.  It'll come back to you, eventually."

    "Perhaps," Spock responded doubtfully.

    Kirk and McCoy exchanged worried looks and had just made a joint decision to give their friend some time alone to think, when Spock suddenly got up and began walking around the room.  As they watched curiously, he stopped before his dresser, looking at his burial robe and the uniform underneath.  He stood still, thoughtfully fingering the silvery embroidery on the robe, for some time--then spoke suddenly: "Jim?"

    Kirk was beside him instantly.  "Spock?  What is it?" he prompted.

    "It was...your birthday, was it not?" Spock asked uncertainly.  "I seem to remember...giving you a present: a book--A Tale of Two Cities."

    "Yes," Kirk reflected, a strange sadness coming over him.  "'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.'  My birthday...your death."

    Spock had again become lost in thought, but now he turned back to Kirk, disturbed by his friend's change of mood.  "But I am *alive*, now.  *You* saved me," he reminded Kirk.  And he knew it was true, now, without having to rely solely on Sarek's word--for though his memory of events following his death was understandably unclear (as if he were seeing it through someone else's eyes), his frequent touching of Kirk's hand had allowed him to sense a little of the Human's memories of and feelings for him.  Jim had come back for him, brought him back to Vulcan, and apparently stayed to help him, though full appreciation of this feat would not come until the details had been made clear to him.

    Kirk simply nodded in understanding and acceptance, and he and McCoy continued on out the door.  "We'll be in the parlor, Spock, if you need us," Kirk said over his shoulder, making a point of including McCoy.  Spock's apparent continuing failure to remember or recognize McCoy bothered Kirk extremely; it hardly seemed natural, in view of McCoy having carried his katra--his very essence--for so long, and Kirk was determined to discuss the matter with Sarek.

    Spock, left alone to struggle with the chaotic tangle of memories that were trying to surface from deep within him, watched them go in silence.  He *was* remembering, bit by bit, but with frustrating slowness--perhaps too much slowness, even for Jim--and Spock began to wonder if Jim had given up on him.


    A few days later, after a lengthy discussion with Sarek (during which the Ambassador assured him that Spock's failure to remember McCoy was a normal side effect, induced by T'Lar to facilitate the separation of McCoy's consciousness from Spock's katra, and that it would eventually pass as Spock's healing process completed itself), Kirk made the mistake of falling asleep on the sofa in the parlor.  Neither Amanda nor McCoy had the heart to wake him--and even Sarek, who grew increasingly concerned as more and more time passed while Kirk slept and Spock was left unattended in his room, realized that Kirk needed the rest and could not bring himself to disturb the Captain.

    McCoy offered, and quickly received permission from Sarek, to stay with Spock until Kirk woke up.  When he entered Spock's room, he discovered that the Vulcan had apparently been trying to meditate and was visibly frustrated by his inability to do so.  McCoy realized his sudden entry couldn't have helped any and froze just inside the doorway, looking at Spock guiltily.

    Spock returned his gaze almost emotionlessly, no sign of recognition in his eyes.

    "I...uh...didn't mean to disturb you," McCoy managed sheepishly.

    "You did not," Spock informed him factually, studying him for a moment.  When he spoke again, his voice had changed from a near-monotone to a near-entreaty: "Where is Jim?"

    McCoy smiled at him, coming to sit down opposite him on the other bed.  "Asleep in the parlor," he replied amiably.  "Thought I'd keep you company for a while until he wakes up.  Do you mind?"

    Spock appeared uncertain of how to respond to this, at first.  "No," he returned finally.

    And that was the end of their conversation.  Spock stood, looking out the window into the darkness, keeping his face carefully averted from McCoy, so that the Doctor could not see the troubled expression that lingered there.  It seemed to Spock that he should know this man, that they were friends--if for no other reason than that they seemed to share a close friendship with Jim--but he couldn't remember anything more specific than that about McCoy. 

    Just as he could not seem to remember so many other things, things he knew he should know, about his life and especially about Jim, McCoy and the rest of the small group of Humans who had gathered around him after he "awoke" at the end of the fal-tor-pan ceremony.  He sensed now that both Jim and this other Human, McCoy, had some special place in his life...why couldn't he remember more about them?  He felt a growing need to discuss the situation with Jim and found himself wishing his friend would wake up.

    McCoy stayed with Spock until the Vulcan decided to see if sleeping would help any, leaving only when it was apparent that Spock was sleeping quite soundly, never knowing if his presence had helped any or not.


    However, Spock remained asleep for only a short time; he awoke abruptly barely an hour later, again plagued by dreams that turned into nightmares as he tried to hold onto the memory-images long enough to identify them.  In desperation born of mental agony, Spock got up and left his room, went into the parlor, and found Kirk sleeping peacefully on the sofa.  In a momentary twinge of envy, he thought better of waking his friend up; he would simply touch Jim, and the tranquility of his thoughts would give Spock temporary solace until Jim woke up.

    Spock sat down carefully beside him, gently touching the side of Jim's face with his fingers.  Kirk's eyes snapped open abruptly and he sat up, suddenly fully awake, grabbing Spock's hand and forcing it away, a look of mingled horror and accusation on his face.

    Spock pulled back, hurt and frightened by Kirk's expression and his vehement physical reaction.  "Jim, what is it?  I would not have hurt you."

    Kirk's manner softened and he relaxed his grip on Spock's hand.  "I know you didn't mean to," he replied gently, but with a strange sense of urgency that puzzled Spock, taking the Vulcan carefully by the shoulders.  "But *think*, Spock--what were you trying to do?"

    "I seem....to be able to sense your thoughts when I am in physical contact with you," Spock explained, still confused by Kirk's reaction, but realizing he must have done something very wrong.  "I did not wish to wake you; I wanted only to feel your thoughts.  It did not occur to me that you would object."

    Spock's penitence moved Kirk deeply.  He reminded himself that his Vulcan friend could not have known he was doing anything wrong, and certainly wouldn't have tried if he had known it would harm Kirk.  "Under normal circumstances, I wouldn't--but you've been through quite a lot," Kirk returned kindly. At Spock's questioning look, he continued, in a patient, gently chiding voice: "Spock, what you were trying to do was a mind-meld; you didn't even remember the right finger positions.  Nor did you remember that no Vulcan would have tried such a thing without my permission.  You're not...recovered yet; even if you'd succeeded, you might have done irreparable damage to both our minds."

    The expression on Spock's face made it clear that he would not have to be told twice, and he bowed his head, embarrassed.  "I am sorry.  I have no wish to hurt you.  But...Jim, you remember much about me that I have no knowledge of, now.  I...I need to see your memories, to reinforce the few of my own that have returned to me," he pleaded, looking hesitantly back up at Kirk.  "I do not wish to remain like this always.  You said you would help me remember; please let me mind-meld with you.  I am of no use to anyone in this state."

    "I will," Kirk assured him soothingly, squeezing his friend's shoulders encouragingly.  "But not yet.  First, you have to re-learn the mind-meld."

    "You seem to know a great deal about it," Spock observed hopefully.  "Would you teach me?"

    Kirk shook his head.  "I wish I could," he admitted reluctantly, "but all I know is what little you've told me about the meld itself.  Retraining you in your telepathic skills is going to be up to Sarek."  Spock's muscles stiffened involuntarily at the mention of his father's name (a reaction he did not as yet understand), but Kirk smiled reassuringly at him, getting up and pulling Spock up after him.  "We'll worry about that tomorrow.  Come on, let's get you back to bed."


    Sarek was duly informed of Spock's mind-meld attempt, and again Kirk and McCoy found themselves isolated from him. Spock was free to move about the house and garden, this time, but Sarek made it clear that he would tolerate no interference by any of the Humans present--even Kirk--during Spock's instruction periods; they saw little of their friend, except from a distance--a worried look from Kirk meeting an occasional expression of apprehension and entreaty within the dark eyes of Spock as he passed by on his way to some other part of the house with Sarek, or clandestine spying from the terrace railing on the part of Kirk or McCoy while Spock and Sarek were in the garden talking.  And once released from the daily sessions, Spock was invariably too tired or deep in thought to want to talk to them.

    Meanwhile, other crewmembers visited from time to time, something Sarek had no objections to as long as they only came one at a time; Spock, he reasoned, was not yet ready to deal with all of them at once--after all, he didn't even recognize *McCoy* yet--and having more of them around would only serve to further confuse him.  Kirk, of course, could tell them annoyingly little, except to confirm Sarek's belief that Spock would not recognize them if he saw them.

    In this way, something like two weeks passed.  If Spock were improving, Kirk couldn't have known, for the Vulcan hadn't said two words to him since Sarek began his telepathic retraining--and Kirk found himself constantly looking over his shoulder, expecting Starfleet Security to appear any minute.  Morrow would have known he was going to Genesis, but Kirk had been deliberately ambiguous about where he intended to go after that; nonetheless, he was unsure how long the destruction of Genesis would throw Morrow off the scent.

    Finally, Kirk cornered Sarek in the parlor one night and demanded (quietly) to know how Spock was doing, since Spock wasn't talking to him about it.

    "He has some way to go yet, but he is making progress," Sarek replied, unruffled by Kirk's threatening tone because he understood the concern behind it.  "Kirk, I apologize for having to separate you.  I know it has been difficult, for Spock as well as for you, but your presence would have too easily distracted Spock."

    "I know, Sarek, and I understand," Kirk assured him.

    Sarek bowed his head slightly in acceptance.  "I appreciate your patience."

    "How much longer do you think it'll take?" Kirk asked.

    "I do not know; it depends on Spock," Sarek admitted reluctantly.  "But he has a strong will, no desire to remain a mental invalid the rest of his life... and he wants badly to be able to mind-meld with you, which seems to motivate him to learn rather quickly."

    Kirk paused to digest all this.  "Is there anything I can do to help?" he asked, at last.

    "Just be patient with him.  He will not always wish to remain silent, and it might be well for you to be with him when he wants to talk."

    Kirk nodded, understanding.  "I'll be there."


    And so he was.  That night, Kirk found Spock standing out on the terrace, looking up at the stars; Kirk joined him quietly, following Spock's gaze to an especially bright star hanging high in Vulcan's eastern sky.  Normally, he could have identified it, but tonight, he had too much on his mind.  "'Star-light, star-bright, first star I see tonight...'" Kirk began absently.

    "Illogical.  The sky is full of stars, and you can certainly see more than one at once," Spock commented emotionlessly.

    Kirk looked at him curiously for a minute, wondering if he should be worried.

    Spock, seeming to ignore him, was silent for a time...then, softly and almost to himself, he inexplicably continued, "'...I wish I may, I wish I might ...have the wish I wish tonight.'"

    Reassured, Kirk smiled.  "What do you wish, Spock?"

    "To have my memory back and be whole again," Spock answered faintly.

    "That's *one* wish I intend to see come true," Kirk promised the Vulcan, placing an arm protectively around his shoulders.  He felt Spock's barely perceptible trembling and realized that what seemed to *him* a pleasantly cool night after the hot Vulcan day must be very uncomfortable for Spock.  "You're cold," Kirk observed finally.  "Better go back inside."

    Spock nodded silently, turned, and started back toward the door.  Kirk, however, lingered at the terrace railing, looking back up at the same bright star and wishing his own wish.

    Spock stopped near the door and looked back at him anxiously.  "Are you coming?"

    "Later, Spock.  I'd...like to stay out here for a while."

    Spock took several hesitant steps back toward him.  "Then I will stay, also."

    Kirk turned toward him with an understanding expression.  The underlying message was implicit but obvious: for whatever reason, Spock wanted to be with him.  He watched as Spock slowly returned to his side, still shivering slightly in the thin, white ceremonial robe, which had been intended only for the intense daytime heat of the Vulcan desert, and took Spock gently by the forearms.  "All right...but I want you to tell me if it gets too cold for you."

    Spock nodded again in agreement, drawing cautiously just close enough against Kirk's side to benefit from his body heat, and together they stood, staring up at the stars.  "If only you could be with me when Sarek instructs me."

    "He says I'd distract you," Kirk explained.  "Besides--from what he's told me, you don't need any help."

    "What did he tell you?" Spock asked curiously.

    "That you're a fast learner."

    Spock sighed.  "I have no choice; Sarek will accept nothing less."

    Kirk had wondered why Spock had always seemed so exhausted after Sarek's instruction periods, and he certainly seemed no less tired tonight.  "He's driving you too hard, isn't he?"

    Spock bowed his head.  "I do not know," he admitted softly.  "I only know that I find his presence...disturbing.  And I am concerned that I may not be able to master these mental disciplines enough to remember them all when the time comes to mind-meld with you.  I have no intention of remaining in this state, and no way to fully recover without the mind-meld...but I could not live with myself either way if I damaged your mind in the process."  He paused for a long moment, then continued in a voice that was quiet but edged with frustration.  "Sarek seems to want me to remember everything at once.  I...I try, but I cannot.  I need...time...yet I know somehow that I do not belong here and should be... somewhere else...with you and Dr. McCoy. I am so tired, Jim..."

    "I know."  Kirk, his arm still around Spock's shoulders, gently turned him around and pointed him toward the house.  "Come on, you've been out here long enough.  Time to go to sleep."

    This time, comforted perhaps by the fact that Kirk was apparently going with him, Spock did not protest as Kirk half-hugged and half-guided his friend along beside him as they headed back inside.


    Spock was virtually asleep before hitting the pillow--so nearly asleep, in fact, that Kirk had to help him into bed.  Then he and McCoy, who had waited up for them, sat for some time and watched Spock sleep; while Kirk sat quietly beside Spock on his bed, a concerned McCoy examined the Vulcan with his medscanner.  "Exhaustion...but I didn't need the scanner to tell me that," he concluded, his anxiety making him irritable.  "It's been like this every day for two weeks.  What the hell is Sarek doing to him?"

    "Pushing him--for his own good, I suppose," Kirk replied, keeping his eyes on Spock's quiet face.  "Spock couldn't tell me anything specific.  He understands it less than we do.  But I'm willing to assume that Sarek knows what he's doing."  Kirk sighed.  "Bones, he needs encouragement--and that's one thing I *don't* think Sarek's giving him.  He's afraid he won't be able to do the mind-meld."

    McCoy hesitated, thinking, then asked, "What about *you*, Jim?  You'll be in just as much danger as he will--if not more.  Do *you* have any reservations?"

    "No," Kirk assured him.  "I've come this far for him, and with him.  I want to go all the way.  Too much depends on this mind-meld for me to have second thoughts now.  Besides...I have to believe in Spock, or he won't believe in himself.  He needs to know I have confidence in his ability to mind-meld successfully, or he won't even try."

    "But if he fails, we'll lose both of you."

    "I know the risks, Bones; so does he," Kirk returned firmly, facing McCoy with an expression of grim determination.  "No, I'm not backing out.  This mind-meld is Spock's only chance of complete recovery; he knows it, and Sarek and T'Lar anticipated it after the fal-tor-pan ceremony.  And after all we've been through, I won't settle for anything less than having him whole and well again."

    McCoy nodded, satisfied; that was all he needed to hear.


Two days later, Sarek was giving what he hoped would be Spock's final instruction.  "Again, Spock."

    Spock obediently closed his eyes, reaching out to his father's face, his fingers moving to what he now knew to be the correct positions for a mind-meld.  This was his final test, and it would determine whether or not Spock was ready to mind-meld with Kirk.  In his last attempt, Spock had been unable to maintain contact; this time, however, he was determined to succeed.

    He felt the still-unfamiliar presence of Sarek's mind, strong and somewhat intimidating, but he fought his apprehension and made himself reach out, cautiously touching Sarek's thoughts.  Spock also found feelings...emotions which, until now, Sarek had done such a masterful job of hiding that Spock had never even thought him capable of them: pride in his son, concern, and no small amount of doubt.

    Exhaustion and surprise conspired against Spock to make him lose his concentration and break the meld, but it no longer mattered; the mind-meld had lasted almost ten minutes, and Sarek was pleased.  He was silent for a while, allowing Spock time to recover, realizing for the first time that he might have been pushing Spock too hard.  It was necessary, he had reasoned, in order to have Spock fully himself again before Kirk and the others were forced to leave, since Spock would surely want to go with them.  Finally, Spock looked up at him anxiously.  "You are ready," Sarek announced.

    "Are you certain?" Spock asked dubiously.  "I still seem to be having trouble maintaining the meld."

    Sarek nodded.  "That is because you lack confidence and you are tired," he explained gently.  "It will be easier with Kirk; you have a mental bond with him."

    Spock lowered his eyes, unconvinced.

    "Spock, you have the knowledge; you have mastered all the necessary mental techniques," Sarek reiterated patiently.  "All you need now is rest.  Kirk and McCoy are waiting for you on the terrace, but I suggest you meditate for a while before you go to them."

    Spock didn't want to meditate; he wanted to go talk to Jim.  Only Jim seemed to have the power to make him believe he had it within himself to do anything.  However, he could talk to Jim later.  "Very well, Sarek," he acquiesced finally.

    Sarek left his son alone then, silently watching from across the garden as Spock meditated.


    Meanwhile, Kirk, McCoy and Amanda waited on the terrace for Spock and Sarek.  Today, Sarek had told them, Spock would be ready to attempt the mind-meld.  McCoy and Amanda stood quietly at the terrace railing; Kirk was doing enough worrying for the three of them, wearing a hole in the stone pavement of the terrace as he continued his incessant pacing.  It seemed too soon, far too soon...Spock had withdrawn into himself again since the night he had talked to Kirk on the terrace, spending most of his free time in meditation and paying little attention to his two Human friends, so Kirk had no real idea what kind of mental state he was in now or whether or not the Vulcan had become more confident in his telepathic ability.

    Further speculation was cut off as Sarek appeared at the top of the steps.  He raised an eyebrow at the three Humans, who now focused expectant, apprehensive looks upon him.

    "Well?" Kirk demanded.

    Sarek, his hands folded in front of him, approached Kirk slowly.  "Spock is prepared, Kirk; however, he is...uncertain.  You have mind-melded with him often enough before to be familiar with the meld, and Spock trusts you.  He may require...help," Sarek told him, and a silent expression of understanding passed between them.

    Sarek withdrew, pulling Amanda and McCoy along after him, and Spock came hesitantly up the steps toward Kirk, stopping abruptly at the top.  The dark Vulcan eyes looked out at Kirk anxiously from within the emotionless face and Spock swallowed hard, the only external sign of his nervousness.

    Kirk came toward him.  "It's all right, Spock--don't be afraid," he urged gently.

    Spock ventured forward cautiously, coming to meet him.  "But if I fail..." he couldn't say it.

    "I won't let you," Kirk promised.

    Spock looked into Kirk's eyes, realized he meant it, and nodded in acceptance and gratitude.  "As you wish..." He positioned his fingers gently on Kirk's face.  "Our minds are merging...our minds are one.  I know what you know...I feel what you feel..."

    And Kirk let him see it all, everything he remembered about the Vulcan who had been his best friend: what he had learned of Spock's troubled, lonely childhood, his enlistment in Starfleet Academy and subsequent estrangement from Sarek, his assignment to the Enterprise, the unlooked-for but welcome acquisition of Kirk's friendship, court-martial, loss of T'Pring (and near-death of Kirk), partial reconciliation with Sarek, the emotional turmoil that had driven him away from Kirk and the Enterprise after that first five-year mission...

    It was at this point that Spock's control began to slip as this memory re-activated his own memory of that time--until now deeply repressed and shielded--and with a wordless mental cry, he tried to pull out of the meld.

    But Kirk held him there, his presence strong, but also gentle and reassuring: //It's all right, Spock...it's all right.  Stay with me and let me help you.//  He showed Spock the rest: his failure in Kolinahr and return to the Enterprise, subsequent acceptance--at long last--of his Human half, V'ger, more missions and assignments, his promotion to Captain (and Kirk's return to the Admiralty)...then Khan, Genesis, Carol and David Marcus, his own death... Suddenly, things started getting very confusing as Spock's own memories of his death mingled with Kirk's: burning heat, white-hot light...then darkness and pain, and awareness of impending death. 

    Again, he heard Kirk's voice and made himself stand up, struggling toward the sound, each step a new adventure in agony, knowing what Kirk was feeling and striving to comfort him, all the while wanting nothing more than to be comforted, himself...an irrational desire for Kirk to hold him during his last moments of life drove Spock across the reactor chamber and into the opposite wall.  He collapsed to the deck, still hearing Kirk's voice and knowing Kirk was beside him on the other side, and through the glass radiation shield, their hands finally touched in the Vulcan salute.

    Kirk had been forced to relive Spock's death once before, in mind-meld with Sarek as the Ambassador searched for his son's katra--but this, an intentional memory-search by Spock, was far worse.  Searing pain tore through Kirk's mind as the scene was replayed in slow, gut-wrenching detail, and his whole being screamed in protest.

    Spock felt him trying to withdraw from the meld and struggled to remain joined with him.  //No, Jim...don't fight me.  I will not be able to maintain the meld.  Please...just a little longer, Jim.  Let me see the rest of your memories.//

    Remembering his promise to help Spock through the meld, Kirk again let Spock enter his mind, allowing him to see all that had happened since his death: rebirth on Genesis, Kirk's defiance of direct orders to the contrary in getting Spock's body and McCoy back to Vulcan, the Klingons, David's death, the destruction of the Enterprise, Kirk and McCoy's vigil over Spock's body as they raced back to Vulcan, the fal-tor-pan ceremony and the weeks following...


Thrown into a state of shock, Spock abruptly broke the meld.  When Kirk returned to himself again, he found the Vulcan collapsed at his feet, shaking violently with the effort it had cost him, his hands pressed against his temples.  Kirk knelt beside him.  "Spock, what is it?" he asked, in alarm.  "Are you all right?"

Spock lowered his hands finally and managed to nod, but he was still trembling. He reached forward and steadied himself against Kirk, who helped him carefully to his feet, then stood quietly for a few minutes as he waited to recover.  When he finally looked back up at Kirk, it was clear that their mind-meld had fulfilled its purpose; Spock now not only lived--he remembered.  He stared silently at Kirk for a time, stunned by the magnitude of what Kirk had done--and endured--to bring him to this point.  Pain and embarrassment filled him; he was not worth such sacrifice.

Kirk, looking into the dark, anguished eyes and seeing something that looked suspiciously like a tear in the corner of one, seemed to sense his thoughts. "The needs of the many don't *always* outweigh the needs of the one, Spock."

Spock's expression changed immediately.  The anguish disappeared, to be replaced by calm; his face became devoid of emotion, except for that which Kirk alone could read in his eyes.  They sparkled with quiet joy in response to the realization that *he remembered* what Jim had experienced, and all the joys and sorrows they had shared before.  The tear trickled down his cheek unnoticed until Kirk gently wiped it away with a finger.  Spock searched for adequate words, but could find none; he only knew that he had to find some way to express what he felt within for Jim, now--some way that Jim would understand.  At last, he bowed his head, embarrassed.  "If...if you wish to hold me...I would not object," he managed finally.

Kirk drew Spock close and held him, as he'd wanted so much to hold him when the Vulcan was dying.  Tears of joy and relief began to fill Kirk's eyes.  "Spock, you're all right...the mind-meld worked..."

Spock relaxed a little in his arms, even making an awkward attempt to return the embrace.  "Yes, Jim...now I can help you as you helped me," he responded contentedly, wondering if the emotion he was trying to maintain control of was the same one Jim was feeling.

Kirk hugged him affectionately and looked around at the other three, waving McCoy over to join them. Spock reached out toward McCoy as he approached, taking his hand and pulling him into Kirk's embrace.  They finally released each other a few minutes later, and McCoy stared at the Vulcan in astonishment.  "Spock? You know me?"

"McCoy, Leonard H.--son of David," Spock deadpanned.

Kirk and McCoy burst into laughter.

Spock simply raised an eyebrow at McCoy.  "Really, Doctor.  I merely answered your question."

"Answered, yes.  "Merely'?  Hardly."  McCoy turned back to Kirk.  "You know, Jim, I think he's back."

Spock cracked a tiny smile at Kirk, and Kirk grinned back in response.

Sarek and Amanda approached now, Amanda hesitating as Sarek strode forward first and addressed Spock.  "Well done, my son."

It was the closest thing to pride that Spock had ever heard him express, and he bowed his head slightly, grateful but embarrassed.  "I could not have done it if Jim had not been willing to help," he pointed out reluctantly.

"I know."  Sarek turned to Kirk.  "Spock will recover normally, now.  Kirk, I would hardly know how to begin repaying you for all you have done for Spock. This last could have cost you your sanity, and Spock would never have forgiven himself."

Kirk shrugged.  "Spock needed me.  And he needed the mind-meld to regain his memories," he stated, by way of explanation, then looked back at Spock, who gave him a small, pleased half-smile.  Kirk smiled back at him, reaching out to squeeze Spock's shoulder reassuringly.  "That's all the thanks I need right there, Sarek: Spock *remembers*!"

Sarek moved aside now and let Amanda approach, and she watched Spock anxiously. As had been the case with McCoy, Spock so far had never really recognized or remembered her, merely accepting, on Sarek's word, that she was his mother (as he had accepted, on Kirk's word, that McCoy was his friend), and Amanda wondered now if Spock would know her.

Spock came slowly out to meet her.  "Mother, I am all right.  Sarek says I will recover," he assured her, puzzled and concerned by her expression.  "What is it?"

"I...I was afraid you wouldn't remember me."

"But I do," Spock reiterated, taking her hands in his.

Not fully convinced yet, Amanda decided to test him, picking a particularly obscure incident from his childhood: "When you were four years old, I made some raisin cookies for you and your father..."

"...to be eaten after dinner," Spock finished knowingly.  "I got to them beforehand, ate one, and gave the rest to I-Chaya."

Sarek raised an eyebrow at him, recalling the incident himself.  "Indeed? I had wondered what happened to them.  Why did you do such a thing, Spock?"

Spock was all innocence.  "I was not certain they were for us."

Sarek had almost forgotten Amanda's illogical penchant for spoiling the sehlat rotten by actually cooking food just for him.

Kirk and McCoy were having an extremely difficult time keeping straight faces. Spock returned finally to Kirk's side, realizing that that was where he felt the most nearly secure and at peace, and Sarek decided they had earned some time to be alone together.  When he and Amanda left them, they were talking quietly, Spock standing contentedly between his two Human friends with his hands clasped behind his back.


    Sarek and Amanda invited the whole crew for dinner that night, even though there wasn't enough room for all of them at the dining table, because they were all interested to see if Spock would recognize his other shipmates.  The last of them had arrived and the mood was becoming festive when Spock appeared on the scene, sporting a fresh, white ceremonial robe; he paused uncertainly at the parlor door, somewhat intimidated by what seemed to be a throng of people, as Kirk came quickly to meet him.  "Spock--finally!" he greeted his friend, then pulled up short, suddenly disappointed.  "I was hoping you'd be in uniform."

    "I thought it inappropriate; I am not fully recovered, yet," Spock replied quietly.

    Kirk nodded, accepting this, and waving him into the room.  "Come on. Everybody's waiting for you."

    Spock lowered his eyes, not moving.  "Jim...one of the things I remember is that I have never enjoyed parties," he pointed out softly.  All he really wanted to do was spend a quiet night talking with Jim and McCoy and enjoying their company, something which he seemed not to have really been able to do for ages. He looked up at Kirk entreatingly.  "Is it really necessary?"

    "You're acting as if I'm throwing you to the wolves," Kirk chided him gently. "These people are all your friends.  I didn't get you to Vulcan all by myself, you know."

     Spock bowed his head again as shame and indignation warred within him.  "I know; I am sorry.  I have not forgotten...but neither do I wish to be put on display and humiliated before them. Nor do I wish to humiliate you or my father."

    Kirk remembered then that Spock had agreed to this under protest, knowing how badly Kirk wanted him reunited with the rest of the crew.  "You won't 'humiliate' anyone," Kirk assured him encouragingly.  "Just trust yourself, Spock.  Trust *me*; I'll be with you.  You'll be just fine."

    "Very well," Spock acquiesced hesitantly, as Kirk put a reassuring arm around his shoulders and guided him toward the gathering of Humans.

    They joined McCoy on the sofa and struck up a conversation as the others swarmed around them, conducting their own conversations but pausing and cocking an ear now and then to listen to what Spock was saying to his friends.

    Spock paused, distracted, and looked them all over carefully, becoming troubled. Either the effects of the mind-meld were reversing themselves, or...           

    "Spock, what is it?" asked Kirk, puzzled by the Vulcan's look of confusion.

    "Jim...did you block some part of your mind from me?"

    "Of course not," Kirk told him.  "Even if I knew how, I wouldn't have.  Why do you ask?"

    Spock's eyes searched the group of Humans again.  "Someone...seems to be missing," he explained dubiously, "but I do not seem to remember anyone      transferring."

    "A couple of the ones you know transferred a few years ago," Kirk acknowledged. "I don't know the details."

    "Then there was no real memory of the transfers in your mind for me to see," Spock realized, relieved.  He turned his now-calm face to Kirk, expressionless except for some vague, underlying anguish reflected within the dark eyes.  "I was thinking specifically of...of Dr. Chapel.  I would have thought--" He stopped abruptly, deciding it was best not to assume anything--or at least not *admit* to assuming anything.

    "She transferred, Spock--that's all I know," Kirk told him sincerely, now understanding Spock's concern.  He and Christine had become very close after the V'ger mission; he had even admitted (to Kirk and in private) to caring about her enough to want to complete their partial mental bond (left within them after their "sharing of consciousness" during the Henoch incident) and take her as his wife.  Kirk didn't know if Spock had ever told *her* of his feelings, but he doubted it; ghosts of conflicts past had returned to haunt him with feelings of inadequacy and insecurity just often enough that he had begun again to doubt that he, a Vulcan/Human hybrid, could be the sort of husband he believed Christine needed and deserved--and he had never followed through on either idea. Kirk looked past Spock to McCoy.  "Did she say anything to you, Bones?"


    Startled, Spock turned toward him questioningly.

    McCoy looked at him with compassion.  "It was just before you made Captain, Spock.  She asked me not to discuss her reasons with anyone else, especially not you...but I guess it's all right, now."

    When McCoy hesitated, Spock lowered his eyes, understanding.  "It was me.  I drove her away."

    McCoy nodded reluctantly.  "She could've practiced medicine anywhere in Starfleet, once she got her M.D...but she fought to get re-assigned to the Enterprise, hoping you'd come back.  Apparently, she expected something to    happen between you two that never happened; when it didn't, she decided she had no reason to stay and transferred."

     "I know what she expected," Spock replied quietly, turning away.  Memories flooded him now, and for once, he wished for the blissful ignorance that had preceded his mind-meld with Kirk.  Well he knew the pain and agonized waiting he had put her through; he could not logically expect her to be willing to endure it forever.  He found that he still felt deeply for her and wished her well.  He was clearly unworthy of her, but he still fervently hoped she would find someone who was.  "Do you know where she is, Doctor?" he asked finally.

    "Back at Starfleet Headquarters, working in the Surgeon General's office, last I heard," McCoy replied cautiously, watching Spock for a reaction.  "Up for a promotion for Commander, too--probably made it by now."

    Spock was silent for a moment, then he looked back at Kirk.  "Jim, when... if...we go back, I...would like to see her," he requested hesitantly.

    Kirk smiled.  "I think that can be arranged."

    From across the room, near the kitchen door, Sarek and Amanda watched the goings-on in silence.  This was a time for Spock to be with his friends--all those wonderful, illogical Humans who had risked so much to save him--and Sarek was determined not to intrude any more than necessary; it was a time for celebration, for rediscovering that their sacrifices had not been in vain, and even the staid and reserved full-blooded Vulcan Sarek was not wholly unaffected by the joyous atmosphere.

    Amanda, as aware as Sarek that intrusion would be wrong, held herself back by sheer force of will; she, too, wanted to celebrate Spock's return.  Her son was back, and she was sure she hadn't been this happy in years.

    As they watched, Spock had gradually grown more at ease.  Though he never strayed too far from Kirk and McCoy, he showed less and less reticence about talking to other crewmembers when they tried to strike up a conversation with him, which they did with increasing regularity.  Only Saavik detached herself from the group and remained distant toward Spock, in more ways than one, but Spock didn't seem to notice.

    Amanda looked up at Sarek, suddenly worried.  "You said Spock wasn't fully recovered yet.  What's left within him to heal?  His katra and his memory are both back and he's relearned all the mental disciplines."

    "Yes, but he regained his memory by using the mind-meld to draw on *Kirk's* memory--and now much of what it in his mind is emotionally charged," Sarek told her gravely, shaking his head in dismay as he watched Spock.  "If nothing else, he obviously requires a brief refresher course in Vulcan philosophy and emotional control.  Look at him."

    Amanda looked.  Spock had turned back to talk to Kirk again and was smiling slightly.  She smiled at it, herself.  "As you would say, Sarek, 'the cause is more than sufficient'.  Besides..." she looked back significantly at Sarek. "...you've forgotten his mind-meld with V'ger.  He hasn't been the same since. From what Admiral Kirk has told me, this is quite probably normal for him, now."

    "Nonetheless--" Sarek broke off, becoming interested in the scene before him.  Uhura had worked her way up to Spock and offered him his Vulcan harp--clearly having appropriated it from his room when no one was looking.  Spock took it hesitantly, looking questioningly at Kirk; after a few words of encouragement from Kirk and McCoy--and eager urgings-on by the rest of the crew --he launched into a relatively effortless performance of several musical pieces, faltering and uncertain at first, but gaining more and more confidence as he continued, and soon giving no evidence at all that he had ever forgotten how to play it.

    By the time he had finished and the others had applauded politely, dinner was ready.  Vulcan custom, which required that meals be eaten in silence, was obeyed with obvious difficulty by the crew--they all seemed to have so much to talk about--but it was obeyed.

    As they all began to finish their meals and were taking turns seeing who could pile the most compliments on Amanda for her cooking, the doorbell rang and Sarek went to answer it.   He came back a minute later.  "Kirk."

    Fearing the worst--that Starfleet Security had caught up with him at last--Kirk hurriedly extricated himself from between Spock and McCoy and went to join Sarek.  "Who is it?"

    "A friend, I assume," Sarek replied cryptically, showing him to the door.  "However, I did not know whether to let her in or not."

    //Her?// Kirk echoed silently, his curiosity aroused.  He opened the door...and almost collapsed in shock.

    He barely knew her, but he *did* know her: dark hair again cut short, blue eyes, the red uniform he'd never seen her in before, and Commander's bars.  "Dr. Chapel...?"

    "Yes, Admiral, it's me," she replied--then, as Kirk opened his mouth to ask, she added, "Starfleet didn't send me.  I...found out about Spock, and I wanted to be with him."

    Clearly, this raised more questions than it answered, and Kirk was too curious about the answers not to invite her in.

    "How is he?" Christine asked.

    "Better--on his way to recovery.  I'll fill you in later...in the mean time, come in and see for yourself."


    Everyone was back in the parlor by now, talking again, Spock and McCoy standing off by themselves near a window, relatively quiet as the others talked.  But when Christine entered, you could have heard a pin drop; only Spock moved, coming forward slowly to meet her.

    They looked at each other uncertainly for a moment.  "Dr. McCoy told me why you left. I did not expect to see you here," Spock said finally.

    Christine decided she would deal with McCoy's breach of trust later.  "Are you all right?" she asked seriously, making little effort to hide her concern.

    "I will be," Spock replied, then asked curiously, "Is that why you came? Because you learned what happened to me?"

    She nodded.

    "How did you find out?"

    Christine sighed, a vaguely troubled expression coming over her face.  "I heard about Admiral Kirk going back to Genesis against orders...and about your father visiting him.  Beyond that, all I can tell you is that...I knew.  If that seems 'illogical' to you, it doesn't make too much sense to me, either.  But it's the truth."

    Spock was almost as full of questions as Kirk had been, but for the moment, he was content to accept her presence.  He remembered her and what they had felt for each other, and he was pleased that she had returned, whatever the reason or however it was managed.  Everybody was here now, all the people he knew from the Enterprise--and of them, other than Jim and McCoy, Christine had been the most special to him. He took her hands in his, lowering his eyes.  "I...never meant to drive you away," he told her cautiously, aware of his shipmates' eyes on them.

    Christine, also aware they were being watched, shook her head in negation.  "It wasn't anybody's fault, Spock," she returned quietly, but with a touch of sadness.  "It was just...wrong, I guess.  I should have known that from the beginning."

    Spock wanted to assure her that it was *not* wrong and never had been, because it disturbed him now (as it always had) that she felt so guilty about loving him--but now was not the time.  Besides, he realized, if Christine really believed it was wrong, she would not have come back.  He squeezed her hands understandingly.  "Jim is giving a party for me.  Come join us, Christine."

    Christine just had time to note the sincerity in his voice and nod acquiescently, smiling, and was just about to finally admit how glad she was    to see him, when she was grabbed by Uhura and swallowed up by the group of          Enterprise crewpersons as they again erupted into excited chatter.

    Spock withdrew from them and went back to the window he'd been standing at before Christine came in; in a moment, Kirk and McCoy joined him.  Kirk watched his friend looking silently out into the star-filled Vulcan night and remembered a similar night a few days ago.  "Wishing again, Spock?"

    Spock turned his dark, anxious eyes upon Kirk.  "A wish for you, Jim," he replied softly.  "I need nothing more; my memory is back, and in time, I will fully recover.  I have you, Dr. McCoy, Christine, and the others, too...but we must still deal with Starfleet Command.  And I do not wish to see you lose your career because of me."

    Kirk met his eyes understandingly and smiled at him appreciatively.

    McCoy, meanwhile, evidenced some surprise at Spock's choice of words.  "What do you mean '*we* must still deal with Starfleet Command'?  *You* didn't do anything."

    Spock merely raised an eyebrow at him.  "I am the cause, Doctor; I therefore must share the blame."

    Spock promptly turned back to Kirk, however, so only Kirk could read in the Vulcan's eyes what he could not say verbally: Spock would not allow friends who were as close to him as Jim and McCoy were and who had committed an act of mutiny for his sake to stand court-martial without him there to speak in their defense, or at least stand with them and share their sentence.

    Sarek and Amanda, who had continued to talk quietly in a corner of the room, came to join them, now.  "Kirk, you violated orders at my request--and consequently saved my son's life and sanity," Sarek pointed out factually.       "Speaking on your behalf, if you choose to return and face the charges--or offering you asylum here--would be little enough thanks for all you have risked and sacrificed, but I will do either gladly, if it will help."

    Kirk saw the Ambassador's sincerity and nodded.  "Thank you, Sarek.  I'm sure we'll need all the help we can get."

    Sarek had to fight to keep from voicing his oft-repeated maxim 'one does not thank logic', but he realized that--though he shuddered to admit it to himself--this was not the time for such logic. Instead, he simply bowed his head in acceptance of Kirk's gratitude.

    Amanda leaned up to whisper something to Sarek which even Spock could not make out, and the elder Vulcan's face took on a long-suffering but tolerant expression.  "Very well, Amanda, but please be brief."

    And before the startled Kirk could determine what was going on, Amanda suddenly put her arms around his neck and kissed his cheek.  "That's for being here for Spock when he needed you the most," she told him softly.

    Blushing a little, Kirk met her eyes as she slowly withdrew.  "Where else *could* I have been?  It was my pleasure, Amanda, believe me."

    Amanda hesitated uncertainly.  "Sarek has already promised to speak for you.  If there's anything *I* can do to help--" she stopped.  If Kirk chose to go back and face court-martial, the Federation Council might be inclined to listen to Sarek, as a ranking Ambassador who was highly respected by Federation and Starfleet officials alike...but what reason would they have to listen to his wife?

    Such reservations clearly never occurred to Kirk.  "I appreciate it, Amanda--thank you," he returned earnestly.

    Sarek and Amanda left them alone then, and Kirk, Spock and McCoy turned their thoughts toward how to deal (or not deal) with their impending court-martial.  The three friends looked out at the stars, talking quietly, Spock seeming fully at peace for the first time since the fal-tor-pan ceremony, Kirk and McCoy knowing it and enjoying both the knowledge and his company.  Behind them--and within them--the celebration of Spock's return continued.



    Note: if you're interested in seeing what happened after this, you might want to check out the sequel, OUR DEAREST BLOOD II: THE PRICE OF FRIENDSHIP, currently available only in zine form--ordering info is on my site.