TITLE: Time of Miracles

AUTHOR: Gamin Davis (arkietrekker@cox-internet.com )




SUMMARY: Kirk is injured during the Enterprise-A's shakedown cruise; Spock and McCoy face Christmas with him in a coma at a starbase hospital and the two of them having to spend the holiday together, worrying about Kirk and learning to get along with each other.

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


    McCoy sat at a table in the new Officers' Lounge, watching the two men across the room as he nursed a non-alcoholic juice drink, not wanting to risk getting drunk.  A few weeks into the Enterprise-A's two-month shakedown cruise, Spock was still not fully himself, and McCoy was still having to help Kirk--who was extra-busy running around the ship and supervising the various departments as they tried to bring the equipment up to regular operating specs--keep an eye on Spock.

    Part of the problem, McCoy knew, was the uncertainty of their future after the shakedown cruise.  Since only Kirk had been demoted--despite repeated cross-discussion between Admiral Cartwright and the crewmembers concerned--the Enterprise had three Captains, when only one was needed, and McCoy knew it must have occurred to both Kirk and Spock both that Starfleet Command might be planning to split them up.

    While they hadn't been on this new Enterprise long enough yet for it to have become as much a home to them as the original had been, McCoy could see no good coming out of the possible separation of Spock and Kirk.  Kirk may have returned to his "first, best destiny" and would probably stay with the Enterprise on its first five-year mission, no matter what--but if Spock were transferred elsewhere, McCoy was convinced the Vulcan would lose his only anchor in a sea of uncertainty.  McCoy had thought his carrying of Spock's katra would bring them closer, but so far, it hadn't happened.  Spock was still awkward around him.  He still needed Kirk.

    The two of them continued to stand before the viewport, at the old-fashioned ship's wheel (a clear indication that this ship had been designed with Kirk in mind), Kirk still trying to draw Spock into conversation and Spock still hesitant in his response.  McCoy still recalled his argument with Kirk, shortly after they had reported aboard this new ship, as to whether or not Spock was fit to remain on duty--an argument Spock had inadvertently walked in on.  It was true that, as Kirk had maintained, Spock had performed admirably during the whale probe mission--but only after a slow and awkward start; McCoy had argued--and evidence still existed to support his belief--that Spock was not yet back to where he had been before his death.

    He still needed to integrate his Human half with his Vulcan half, and his social skills were almost non-existent--something that was going to give him problems any time he had to interact with the crew, which he would not be able to avoid while on duty.  Kirk insisted that being in public and continuing his normal duties could only help Spock, but McCoy had his doubts.  Perhaps Kirk was right and knew better than him--as usual--what was best for Spock. Perhaps, in a strange role reversal, *McCoy* was the one who was being overprotective of the Vulcan.  McCoy had determined to pay closer attention to him when they were together, from now on.

    As McCoy continued to study Kirk and Spock, they turned suddenly and headed toward his table, startling him.  "I have to go down to Engineering and see how Scotty's doing with the equipment checks," Kirk told him, as they reached McCoy's table.  "As long as you're both off-duty, do you mind keeping him company for a while?"

    McCoy kept his eyes on Spock, watching him uncertainly.  "Uh...sure.  Sit down, Spock," he invited hesitantly.  When Spock was seated and Kirk appeared satisfied enough to leave them alone, McCoy added, "Have you eaten?"

    Spock had told himself that he accepted the necessity of being "looked after", but acceptance did not make it any less embarrassing.  He did not answer directly.  "Doctor, I know you do not...enjoy my company.  If you would...rather I leave..."

    McCoy waited, but Spock let the sentence hang without finishing it.  "Do you *want* to?" he asked carefully.

    Spock appeared even more confused and embarrassed.  All his Vulcan training told him to seek privacy, despite the apparent impracticality of the moment, but part of him found the thoughts that permeated his meditations too disturbing when he was alone and felt a need to share them with someone.  He just wasn't sure *McCoy* was that "someone".  "I am...not certain," he admitted faintly, at last.  He glanced up at McCoy apprehensively.  "You would...not object...if I stayed?"

    "I just invited you to dinner, didn't I?"  McCoy put in patiently.  "Come on, tell me what you want and I'll see if the food synthesizers are programmed for it yet."


    An hour later, Spock was still picking at his vegetables as McCoy tried to get him to talk--so far, without much success.  "Christmas is coming up soon," he remarked finally, becoming desperate to get some kind of reaction out of Spock.

    Spock regarded him with a raised eyebrow.  Although the Enterprise was due to be at a starbase over Christmas, Kirk had instructed his crew to downplay the holiday; this year, there would probably be no celebrations, because all their decorations and present-wrapping supplies had been lost with the original Enterprise.  In fact, the only survivors of that ship's crew to have anything left other than their uniforms were those lucky enough to have some belongings somewhere else.

    In Spock's case, Kirk had sent most of his things back to Vulcan after his "death", so Spock had been able to arrange for them to be shipped back to the new Enterprise, and they were all slowly--shipment by shipment--catching up with the ship.  Kirk and McCoy had likewise been able to transfer most of their belongings from the San Francisco apartment that the three of them had intermittently shared since the V'ger mission.  But Christmas, until now, seemed to have been an off-limits subject.

    "Unfortunately, there will be no acknowledgement of it, this year," Spock reminded him neutrally.

    "'Unfortunately' for the *rest* of us, at least," McCoy returned, studying Spock speculatively.  "I'm not sure Christmas ever meant anything to you, anyway.  I always got the feeling you were just humoring Jim and me by deigning to participate in our 'acknowledgements' at all," he observed, hoping to jog some of Spock's emotional memories.

    Spock lowered his eyes as he searched him memories of past Christmases he had shared with Kirk and McCoy; as with so many of his other memories, the facts and events were there, but the emotions surrounding them were not entirely clear.  "I am a Vulcan.  That I participated at all surely means...that I found it necessary."

    "Maybe even beneficial?"  McCoy suggested curiously.

    Spock did not look up, and he said nothing.

    "You don't remember *anything* about Christmas, do you?"

    "I remember enough to know that I usually spend it with you and the Captain, and I remember the details of our celebrations," Spock admitted hesitantly.  "But if you are asking how they made me 'feel', I cannot
answer; I seem to have no awareness of that aspect of them."

    McCoy sighed, watching Spock slowly finish off his food.  "It doesn't seem like my carrying your katra did *either one* of us any good," he opined, in frustration.

    "But I do appreciate it--I would not be here now if you had not done so--and I apologize for the manner in which it was initiated," Spock responded sincerely.  "There was no time to ask your permission--and I was quite uncertain you would agree if I *did* ask."

    McCoy dismissed this with a wave of his hand.  "I was just in the right place at the right time--or maybe not.  All things considered, you're probably right; I think the idea would have terrified me."  He studied Spock's bowed head intently.  "But I wasn't the intended recipient, was I?"

    Spock looked up at him again, trying to meet his eyes.  "I *had* hoped that Jim would arrive first," he acknowledged frankly.  "Our minds are more compatible, and I knew he would accept and forgive my intrusion more readily than you would be able to.  But the fact exists that because *you* were there, my...'marbles', as you called them...were salvaged."

    Their eyes finally met.  AS McCoy was about to respond, they were interrupted by the beeping sound of the Lounge's wall communicator.  As McCoy got up and headed for the nearest set of controls--at a table some distance across the room--Scott's voice came out of the speaker: "Scott to Officers' Lounge.  Dr. McCoy, come in!"

    Alarmed by the urgency in Scott's voice, McCoy activated the viewer near the table as he moved to answer; Scott's face appeared, looking tense, sweaty and smudged.  "This is McCoy.  What's happened, Scotty?" he demanded anxiously.

    "Medical emergency, Doctor," Scott told him breathlessly.  "And hurry--it's the Captain!"

    "I'm on my way.  McCoy out," McCoy returned quickly, whirling to find Spock --as he'd expected--right behind him.  Their eyes met again, each for once thinking the same thoughts.  "Go on.  I'll be down as soon as I stop off at my cabin and get my medikit," the Doctor directed understandingly.

    Spock nodded gratefully and turned to go.  Behind him, he heard McCoy on the communicator again.

    "McCoy to Sickbay."

    "Sickbay.  Chapel here."  She had requested a transfer as soon as she heard about the new Enterprise for Kirk's crew, though Spock didn't know why she had done that.

    "Christine, get me a medical team to Engineering, stat--the Captain's been injured, I don't know how.  Full diagnostic gear..."

    That was all Spock heard before the doors closed behind him.


       Spock arrived in Engineering well before McCoy or the medical team and was met just inside the door by Scott.  "Report, Mr. Scott," he ordered immediately, for now all logic and control.

    "He was inspectin' repairs on one of the control panels--bloody thing's been givin' us trouble ever since we left the spacedock," Scott explained hurriedly.  "It just blew up in his face--it happened so suddenly, we couldn't stop it in time to keep him from being injured."

     "Where is he?"  Spock demanded, then.

    "I'll show you--he's still unconscious," Scott replied, leading Spock across the room to a wrecked control console with technicians still swarming around it, trying to clean up it and the surrounding area.  Kirk lay still on the deck in the midst of a cleared area, much of his upper body crisscrossed with stripe-like burns that had ripped through his uniform.  His face appeared mostly untouched, except for some suspicious-looking dark areas around his eyes.

       Spock was instantly by his side, kneeling at his head.

    "Careful, Spock--there are exposed circuits all around here," Scott warned him, even though he doubted Spock was listening.

        He was right; Spock's attention was focused on Kirk, ignoring the technicians hurrying back and forth around him and the still-sputtering control console above him, with its interior now exposed and spilling out.  He reached to touch Kirk's cheek, wanting to mind-meld with him but knowing he didn't dare.  He could already sense enough superficially, through his current light touch, to know that Kirk was still alive; silently, Spock willed him to remain so.

       He looked up and around at the sound of doors opening and saw McCoy entering with Christine and the medical team as Scott shooed the technicians out of the way.  Spock's eyes met McCoy's as the latter approached, a pleading expression shining within their brown depths.  "He is unconscious," he told McCoy.

       McCoy came and knelt beside Spock, letting Christine see to Kirk, which she did immediately, running her medscanner over his body over and noting its readings.  "Second and third degree burns over 50% of his body...metal, glass and plastic shards imbedded in burns around his eyes..." she lingered with the medscanner around his head.  "Some evidence of head injury, too, though it seems to be mainly superficial...the major problem seems to be burns and electrical shock," she concluded, turning to the orderlies behind her.  "Get that gurney over here."

       "We can do a complete examination when we get him back to Sickbay," McCoy told her.  "Let's get him onto the gurney--keep his body level."

    Christine, McCoy, Spock and one of the orderlies lifted Kirk simultaneously, and seconds later, the medical team was on their way back to Sickbay with their patient.  McCoy followed with Spock after getting a more detailed account from Scott of how Kirk had been injured.


       Half an hour later, Spock was still pacing back and forth in McCoy's office while McCoy and Christine worked on Kirk in the examination room, waiting for some update from them on Kirk's condition.  Finally, McCoy emerged.  "How is he?"  Spock asked immediately.

    "I've removed all the shards from the area around his eyes and repaired the damage as well as possible--his eyes are going to have to stay covered while the burns heal.  We're just lucky none of them got any closer to the ocular orbit than they did," McCoy told him gravely.  "The head wound's superficial, and the other burns will heal in a week or so.  I'm more concerned with the electrical shock--it's all but shorted out his nervous system."

       "But he *is* alive," Spock pointed out anxiously, certain even now that he would sense Kirk's death.

       McCoy nodded slowly.  "For what that's worth.  He's in a coma, Spock, and with Sickbay barely more functional than the rest of the ship, I don't have all the monitoring and testing equipment I need to deal with something this serious," he continued regretfully.  "His best bet would be to be transferred to the hospital at Starbase 42 when we get there."

       "Which will not be for another 1.29 weeks, at our present speed.  In the mean time, I shall instruct repair crews that Sickbay systems have top priority," Spock replied, still keeping his voice as controlled as possible, wondering if Kirk had known about the Sickbay equipment not being fully operational.  Certainly Spock himself had never been told until now; considering his current mental condition, perhaps that exclusion had been intentional.  "May I see him?" he requested finally.

       "He's being moved to Intensive Care right now--Christine will let us know when he's settled," McCoy informed him kindly.  "You can see him then.  But as I said, he's in a coma--don't expect him to respond."

       Spock nodded silently in understanding, and they said nothing more to each other for a time, each thinking his own thoughts about this unfortunate turn of events.

       At last, Christine entered.  "He's all settled in and stable, if you can call such low readings 'stable'," she announced, automatically focusing her attention on Spock.  She and McCoy had already agreed that the Vulcan would be the one most deeply affected by Kirk's condition (if it remained permanent, or if the unthinkable happened and he died), especially in his still-unsettled mental state.

       Spock's eyes were downcast, however, and he appeared not to notice her.  Silently, he headed for the door, and McCoy decided to follow him to the Intensive Care room.

       Kirk was the only patient there, so the room was mostly dark, except for the area around Kirk's bed, which was illuminated by lights from various machines, as well as an overhead light.  Kirk had been stripped to his underpants to accommodate the treatment of his burns, which were now covered by special bandages, though a light blanket covered him to the chest, and Spock could see the edges of the burned areas peeking out from underneath the eye bandages.  He hurried forward and sat down on the edge of the bed beside Kirk, watching him helplessly, uncertain of what to do next.    

       "Is his life in danger?"  Spock asked finally, sensing McCoy somewhere behind him.

       "It depends on how long this coma lasts.  As long and his brain and heart are still functioning, there's still hope for him to reach some level of consciousness--but the longer the coma lasts, the less likely it is that he'll wake up," McCoy told him honestly.

       "Then he *could* die," Spock concluded, glancing around briefly at McCoy.

       "Yes.  But Christine and I will do our best to keep that from happening," McCoy promised.  "If we can keep him alive 'til we get to the starbase, I think he has a good chance to recover."

       Spock returned his attention to Kirk, his thoughts--and emotions--in chaos.  This could not be happening...not now, just after Kirk had finally returned to starship command and within a month of Christmas.  Not now, when Spock still so obviously...needed his friendship and support.  The thought had not previously occurred to him, perhaps because of his Vulcan retraining and the difficulties he was still having adapting to life among Humans.  But he examined the idea now and realized it was true.

       Kirk was the first thing he had remembered after the fal-tor-pan, and since then, he had become Spock's lifeline in an uncertain universe, his guide in re-integrating his Vulcan and Human halves.  McCoy had carried his katra, but as Spock regained his memories of his life with his Human friends, he had come to realize that that was merely the result of a twist of fate: McCoy had gotten to Engineering before Kirk.  He had some connection with Kirk that he could feel as clearly as if it were a tangible thing, something beyond the "friendship" he felt for both of them--Spock's mind kept producing the term "t'hy'la", but he did not yet understand why or how the term applied to Kirk.

       And as busy as Kirk had been since taking over command of this new Enterprise, he had always managed to make time for Spock, treating him with patience and affection as he helped the Vulcan re-adjust.  Spock still did not comprehend his emotions in this matter; he knew only that Kirk was important to him, and that the thought of Kirk dying shook him to the depth of his being.

       He reached out hesitantly to touch Kirk's hand, and, guided by some impulse he did not understand, wrapped his own hand around it--only to find it disturbingly cold and limp.  Spock turned finally to speak to McCoy.  "Doctor, do you consider me fit for command?"

       "No," McCoy returned bluntly.  "Not that that would necessarily stop you--it hasn't always before.  Do *you* think you're competent to command?"

       "I asked you because I am not certain...which tends to suggest that I cannot be," Spock decided resignedly, getting up as he reluctantly released Kirk's hand.  "In view of this fact, I will go notify Mr. Sulu that he is in command.  Then I would like to return here and stay with the Captain for a time ...if I would not be in your way."

       "That's fine, Spock," McCoy assured him; he hadn't expected the Vulcan to suggest it, but it *would* allow him to more easily keep an eye on Spock.

       Spock nodded gratefully in acknowledgement, heading past him toward the door.


       After going back to the Bridge to formally turn command over to Sulu, updating him on repairs in Engineering, as well as those that still needed to be done in Sickbay, Spock went back to his quarters to shower and change into civilian clothes before returning to Sickbay.  He sat at Kirk's bedside for hours as McCoy and Christine tended to their duties, monitoring Kirk's condition, testing his reactions, coming and going.

       In the wee hours of the morning, before going off-duty and getting some sleep himself, McCoy finally persuaded Spock to go to bed, promising to contact him if Kirk's condition changed.


    Unfortunately, Kirk's condition showed no signs of changing as the
Enterprise made its way toward Starbase 42.  Maintenance work proceeded on schedule around the ship, including Sickbay, although McCoy went ahead and contacted the starbase about making arrangements with the Base Hospital for
Kirk's transfer as soon as they were within communication range.  The work on Sickbay systems was still going too slow for his comfort, and they were going to be at the starbase for some time, anyway, so it only made sense to transfer him to a place that was better equipped.

    Spock continued to spend most of each day at Kirk's side, eating and sleeping only when Christine brought him food (usually when she was off-duty) and McCoy made him go to bed.  When McCoy suggested that Spock try to do something while he was there to stimulate some kind of response in Kirk, Spock--not certain what to do--began to bring his Vulcan harp with him, playing it quietly for Kirk as he sat beside the Human.

    Sometimes, when they weren't too busy, McCoy and Christine would also stop to listen.  They quickly found out that what Spock was doing mostly was tuning the instrument and trying to make pleasant sounds with it; so far, he barely remembered how to play it--he was only remembering his previously extensive repertoire by bits and pieces, one song at a time...a slow but not entirely unenjoyable process.

    By the night before the Enterprise was due to arrive, Spock had decided to accompany McCoy to the Base Hospital and help him get Kirk settled in.  After he had packed for himself and Kirk, Spock found himself unable to sleep--as usual--and went back to Sickbay, spending the rest of the night by Kirk's side.  That was how McCoy found him the next morning--collapsed across the bed, his head resting on Kirk's stomach.

    McCoy shook his head in exasperation, moving cautiously closer, wanting to observe the Vulcan without disturbing him.  He was glad Spock had decided to come with him on Christmas leave at the starbase; Spock needed the time to continue to re-adjust, and McCoy knew he was suffering emotionally as Kirk's coma continued, which wasn't helping any.  The weight that the Vulcan had begun to gain back during the whale probe mission had been lost since Kirk's injury, and his eyes--when McCoy had been given the chance to look into them--had become dark, bottomless pools of despair, reflecting the emotions that Spock still found so difficult to express, otherwise.  He still needed looking after, so McCoy didn't want Spock out of his sight.

    McCoy looked from Spock's half-prostrate form to the diagnostic screen above Kirk's bed and moved quietly to check the Captain over with his medscanner, only to verify what he had already known.  Kirk was as he had been for most of the last one-and-a-half weeks: stable but comatose, his brain and other organs barely functioning, though his burns and the damage to the area surrounding his eyes was long since healed.

    If their attempts at stimulus therapy were working, there was no sign of it on his instruments--even though, by now, all Sickbay equipment was as fully functional as it could be without access to a starbase's test equipment for verification.  McCoy prayed silently that the doctors at Starbase 42 could come up with something he hadn't thought of, something that would at least bring Kirk back to some level of consciousness by Christmas.  That was McCoy's goal, now--for the crew, for himself, but especially for Spock.

    McCoy looked over at the First Officer again and decided to let him sleep for the couple of hours left until the Enterprise was due to arrive and leaves for most of the crew began.  After getting a blanket and bringing it to lay around the Vulcan's shoulders, he decided to leave Spock alone, not wanting the latter to wake up thinking McCoy had been spying on him the whole time he had slept.

    By the time McCoy had returned, along with Christine and a gurney, Spock was just waking up.  He sat up, pushed the blanket aside, and turned to face the two Medical Officers behind him, raising an eyebrow at the gurney.  "Time to go, I take it?"

    McCoy nodded.  "It's all set.  We'll take Jim in a travel pod to the base proper after the ship is docked, and Dr. Jamison will meet us in the reception lounge--he's the Hospital's Commanding Officer, as well as Chief Surgeon, and he'll help us get Jim checked in and settled," he explained.  "And I've arranged to get Christine assigned to his case; she'll be assisting and advising Jamison, and you and I will be staying nearby, so we'll be able to keep up with Jim's condition."

    Spock looked from McCoy to Christine, his expression unreadable, at first--then something like anxiety filled his eyes as he searched her face.

    She took a few steps toward him, pulling the gurney behind her.  "We'll take good care of him, Spock.  Don't worry," Christine promised him kindly.

    Spock realized she had read his emotions in his eyes and lowered them quickly, saying nothing as he fought to re-assert his usual emotional controls and stood up.  After stretching briefly to ease the stiffness in his muscles, he picked up his harp and moved out of the way, allowing McCoy and Christine to get at Kirk, moving or detaching IVs and other tubing before lifting him carefully onto the gurney.

    "You get your bag and meet us at the air lock," McCoy directed then, as he and Christine began to move the gurney toward the door.  "We'll wait for you."

    Spock nodded acknowledgement, slowly following them out, carefully staying out of their way as he went.


       Half an hour later, the three of them were in the travel pod with the gurney holding Kirk, being ferried across the interior of Starbase 42's docking bay to an airlock leading to the base's reception area.  The rest of the crew would arrive by transporter, but McCoy had considered Kirk's condition too delicate to want to risk it.  While he and Christine watched over Kirk, Spock hung back apprehensively, his mind in turmoil as he contemplated the seriousness of his Captain's condition and the prospect of spending Christmas leave with McCoy, wondering if Kirk would ever see the holiday again.

       Spock remained withdrawn when they arrived in the reception lounge and were met by Dr. Adam Jamison and his Head Nurse, Rachelle Thalann--a dark-haired Human male in an Admiral's uniform, who appeared to be around the same age as McCoy, and a younger-looking, half-Andorian woman with Commanders' bars and blonde-ish-white hair complementing her pale lavender skin--allowing McCoy and Christine to handle the introductions and medical information.

       He went with them to the Hospital and helped them get Kirk settled into his bed in the private room Jamison had arranged for him.  Like the bed he'd had in Sickbay, this one was surrounded by monitoring and testing equipment, but of more and different varieties than had been available on the Enterprise. 

       Spock's eyes remained on Kirk as Jamison and Thalann hooked up and turned on all the equipment and Jamison spoke: "Rachelle and I will be handling Captain Kirk's case ourselves, since we both have a background in rehab therapy, and Starfleet Command has advised us that Dr. Chapel will be on temporary assignment here to supervise his treatment--we wanted somebody familiar with his medical history to assist, so this suits us just fine.  Normal visiting hours are 1500 to 2100, although we can get around that, if necessary...certainly one of us will be with him at all times."

       "Thank you, Doctor--we really appreciate your help," McCoy responded sincerely.

       "All in the line of duty, Dr. McCoy," Jamison assured him, turning back to him once he and Thalann had finished fussing over Kirk.  "Besides, we don't get a chance to treat celebrities like Captain Kirk very often.  It's an honor."

       "I'll drop my bag off at my quarters and report back," Christine told him crisply.

       "Fine--by that time, he should be stable, and I'll have Rachelle give you a tour of our medical facilities, first," Jamison returned agreeably.

       McCoy nodded his gratitude, reaching to touch Spock on the arm when he saw that the Vulcan was still preoccupied.  "Come on, Spock--we may as well go get ourselves settled, too," he suggested softly.

       Seeing that they were about to leave, Jamison addressed himself to Spock.  "We'll do everything we can, Captain--we've dealt with long-term comas before; we have a 90% survival rate, and our full recovery rate is almost that high," he told Spock encouragingly.

       Spock acknowledged this with his eyes, but did not otherwise respond, turning instead to follow McCoy and Christine out.


       Their quarters turned out to be adjacent to the Base Hospital--a set of suites intended for personnel with friends or relatives being treated there.  Spock and McCoy would share one suite, while Christine and Uhura would share the one next to it.  Spock gave the rooms only a cursory glance as he passed through them, his mind still clearly elsewhere--two good-sized bedrooms (fully furnished with king-sized beds, desks, and small sitting areas), a living/dining room, bathroom, and small kitchen.  He dropped his bag on the bed in one bedroom, looked around, and decided to unpack, wondering as he did so what to do next.  He wanted to be with Kirk, but visiting hours would not begin until late that afternoon...

       Spock became aware of a dull ache in the pit of his stomach which, he now realized, must have been with him for days.  //Perhaps that is why I have had no appetite,// he thought uncertainly, realizing also that the reason he had noticed it was that it was worsening into full-fledged stomach cramps.  For some reason, his customary pain controls were having no effect on it.  As Spock searched himself for an explanation for this, he realized there was an emotional aspect that he had not taken into account--his concern for Kirk; it had not occurred to him before that the two could be connected, since his emotional controls were fully functional--or so he'd thought.

       Disturbed by the idea and wanting to discuss it with someone, he left his room to look for McCoy and found him in the living room, apparently waiting for him.

       McCoy had, in fact, expected Spock to come looking for him--but he had *not* expected the atypically open expression of anxiety and confusion on the Vulcan's face.  "Spock?  What is it?" he prompted worriedly.

       Spock stopped before him, feeling awkward and uncertain in McCoy's presence, as it seemed he always had.  "Doctor, I need...to speak to you...if you do not have any immediate plans," he began hesitantly.

       McCoy nodded understandingly, moving to sit down on the sofa.  "Have a seat and tell me what's on your mind," he invited, patting the cushion beside him.

       Spock sat down slowly at the opposite end of the sofa.  "Tell me the truth--do you believe Jim will recover?" he asked, then.

       Their eyes met, and McCoy realized the Vulcan would not accept any attempts to gloss over the facts.  "I don't know," he admitted reluctantly. 
"You heard Jamison; he seems to be in good hands, and he should have a better chance for it here than on the Enterprise, in its current state.  I *have* heard of people making full recoveries after being comatose for weeks and months--it depends partly on the patient's overall health before the coma, partly on the quality of medical care he receives, and partly on the attitude of those around him.  As long as *we* don't give up on him, Spock, I have to believe there's some part of *him* that won't give up."

       Spock considered this silently for a time.  "Hardly a logical attitude," he observed finally.

       "'Logic' would have had you write him off as a lost cause before now,"
McCoy pointed out dryly.  "You don't really want to do that, do you?"

       "No..." Spock lowered his eyes momentarily, then looked back up as he returned his attention to his original reason for wanting to talk to McCoy. 
"Doctor, I seem to have been...somewhat ill...since Jim was injured," he continued slowly.  "A kind of pain in my stomach that does not subside...in fact, it seems to be intensifying.  I do not think it has anything to do with my food intake."

       "I don't think so, either," McCoy returned knowingly.  "The first thing you need to understand is that it's normal for you to sometimes react like a Human--and it's normal for Humans to have various kinds of physical discomfort when they're worried about someone close to them," he explained.

       For once, Spock saw no need to deny being capable of Human emotional reactions.  The existence of his Human half was becoming painfully obvious, and his anxiety about Kirk seemed increasingly immune to the emotional controls he had re-learned after the fal-tor-pan.  "'Someone close...'" Spock echoed thoughtfully, meeting McCoy's eyes again.  "Jim and I seem...more than 'close'," he reflected uncertainly.  "I do not understand how or why, but...I feel...a connection to him, something almost...empathic?  As if he is...part of me.  He is still alive, yet I already feel...a loss."

       Brown eyes searched blue in confusion and naked desperation, Spock clearly seeking a level of insight on his relationship with Kirk that McCoy wasn't sure he had.  He tried to remember everything Kirk had ever told him about how he felt about Spock, and how he *thought* Spock felt about him; there had sometimes been a lot Kirk wanted to say about it to *someone*, and he was usually too afraid of embarrassing Spock to discuss it directly with the Vulcan.

       Thus McCoy had become the sounding board for any concern or disagreement Kirk had with Spock that Kirk could share without violating Spock's trust.  "Jim always said that he thought of you as...a brother," McCoy recalled finally.  "And from what little he told me about it, I gather you felt the same way about him, as much time as you spent trying to keep anyone else from knowing it.  You two always *did* seem to have a 'connection'--a 'mental bond', Jim called it--that seemed to let each of you know when the other was safe or in danger when you were separated."

       *Now* Spock understood what he had been feeling and why the word "t'hy'la" kept nagging at the back of his mind every time he thought of Kirk.  Kirk *was* his t'hy'la--his bond-brother--and that was the source of the quick rapport with his Captain, the likes of which he had not been able to attain with anyone else, even McCoy, the keeper of his katra.  He nodded slowly in response to McCoy's explanation.  "We *are* part of each other, then.  Doctor, he must survive.  I am not...certain I could function if that bond were broken."

       "We'll do all we can," McCoy reiterated compassionately.  "Would you like something to settle your stomach?"

       "Please," Spock responded gratefully.

       McCoy reached for his medikit and took out a bottle of pills, handing them to Spock.  "A couple of these with some water should help.  Then I want you to lie down and try to get some sleep before we go see Jim," he admonished.

       "I will try," Spock acceded doubtfully, getting up with the pills and heading for the bathroom to get some water.  Trying to sleep usually meant disturbing dreams, which had evolved into nightmares since Kirk's injury. 
He knew he needed the rest, but it seemed pointless to try; his sleep-trances, when he was able to achieve them, never lasted.  Perhaps he had left Mount Seleya prematurely--but there had been no way he was going to let Kirk and McCoy leave without him.  A part of him had been terrified--an emotion he had not, at the time, understood--that his friends would never come back for him and he would never be allowed to go after them later if he let them go.

       Spock sighed in resignation as he left the bathroom.  The pills were not sedatives, but maybe they would help him sleep, anyway, by preventing the nightmares.


    While Spock ostensibly slept, McCoy made a quick trip to the Base
Commissary, picking up a few things for them to have around their quarters to eat and drink--including some things he knew Spock particularly liked.  He *had* to get that stubborn Vulcan to start eating regularly again; if--*when*, McCoy corrected himself determinedly--Kirk regained consciousness, he would never forgive McCoy if Spock looked like he'd lost a lot of weight.

    After he returned and got the groceries put away, McCoy decided to go check on Spock.  He found the latter awake and sitting up in his bed, an expression of unguarded terror in his eyes.  McCoy sat down quickly beside him, despite being uncertain Spock would accept his help--assuming he could even figure out what to do.  "Spock?"  he prompted anxiously.  "What's wrong?"

    Spock lowered his eyes, realizing how much they must be revealing, not really wanting to confide in McCoy.

    McCoy, meanwhile, remembered what Kirk had hinted to him over the years about their First Officer's occasional nightmares.  "Having bad dreams?" he guessed.

    Spock nodded, still not looking up.  "Jim calls them 'nightmares'," he admitted softly.  "I have had these...dreams...since before we left Vulcan, but since his injury, they have become...different.  More disturbing."

    McCoy hesitated, knowing it wasn't likely that Spock would open up to him--but Jim wasn't here, and something told McCoy that Spock *needed* to talk to someone about it.  "Want to talk about it?" he asked cautiously.

    "No," Spock replied shortly, lying down again and curling up on his side.  He did not want to go back to sleep yet, but he was still too uncomfortable around McCoy to unburden himself to the Doctor as he would have to Kirk under the same circumstances.  He knew he would have to say *something*, though, or McCoy would leave--and Spock knew he did not want to be alone, either.  "It was about Jim," he admitted evasively, at last.

    For McCoy, the implications of this were obvious.  "You dreamed he was dead, didn't you?"

    This time, Spock did not answer.  He was lost in memories of the nightmare --the feeling of Kirk being torn from his side, his reassuring mental presence torn from Spock's mind...Spock was sure McCoy would never understand what that meant.  The sudden emptiness and loneliness, the loss of his guide and mentor ...the one constant friend of his life...the severing of their bond...no Human could fully understand what this meant.  Except perhaps Jim.

    Although McCoy had carried his katra, he would retain no memory of Spock's thoughts or essence--T'Lar had seen to that--just as Spock retained no memory of what he had seen in McCoy's mind during that time; this was a necessary part of the process of returning Spock's katra to him, insuring that it was fully separated from McCoy's mind.  This explained why McCoy had failed to gain any new insights into Spock's thoughts and emotions, but Spock had been in no mood to explain and discuss that with him since Kirk's injury.

    McCoy, meanwhile, struggled to remain patient with the reticent Vulcan.  "Spock, it's all right to dream about things like that.  I have nightmares, too --and I'm just as worried about Jim as you are," he told Spock, as gently as possible.

    Spock remained silent for some time before responding, his voice barely audible: "It is not the same with me, Doctor.  I am a Vulcan.  My emotions for Jim...are confusing, at best; at worst...if he dies, a part of me will die with him.  Our bond..." he made himself stop, reaching for firmer emotional controls.

    Watching him, McCoy realized he was withdrawing into himself again, as he always did--and had done far too often since his retraining at Mount Seleya--when he was hurt, afraid or confused.  McCoy wanted to yell at him, *force* Spock to talk to him and accept his help, but he realized that that would only drive the Vulcan further into himself.  McCoy got up with a frustrated sigh to leave.

    Spock still had no wish to be alone, but he refused to ask McCoy to stay against his will.  He heard the bedroom door close and knew McCoy was gone.  He was alone again, and as he tried to resume his sleep-trance, he felt his stomach cramping again.  Then there was a new sensation--a burning pain behind his eyes that Spock did not understand but instinctively fought in his usual way as he slowly settled into the trance state: //I am a Vulcan.  I will control--not let this emotion control me.  He is alive...my fear is irrational.  I am not alone.  There is no pain.  I must control.  Control...//

    Spock slept normally, for the most part, but his half-closed eyes were moist.


    The next week was difficult for both of them.  Kirk's condition did not appear to change, even though Spock and McCoy both visited him daily, and Spock steadfastly refused to share his anxieties over the situation with McCoy.  McCoy knew, however, that the more the Vulcan withdrew, the more he needed to be drawn out.  When he discussed this problem with Christine, she offered to help--but McCoy was determined to get Spock to first become comfortable with *him*.  He was so fully occupied with Spock that he had no time to acknowledge *his own* fears for Kirk.

    Dr. Jamison decided early on to monitor their visits, especially Spock's, from a viewer in his office that was part of its own computer monitoring system (tied to the machines surrounding Kirk), so he could see for himself whether or not Kirk was having any reaction to them.  Spock's relationship with Kirk had become a Starfleet legend long before the Vulcan's mysterious death and rebirth on Genesis, and Jamison had heard all the rumors--some of which, out of respect for Kirk and Spock, he had chosen to ignore; he already had a good idea of how Kirk's condition might be affecting Spock, and discussions with Christine had confirmed his original theories.

    He watched unseen, with Nurse Thalann, as Spock sat beside Kirk, played his Vulcan harp for him, and sometimes held his hand, appearing completely oblivious to anything and anyone else--including McCoy, when the Doctor came with him.  McCoy watched Spock as much as Kirk during those times, and Jamison could see the growing frustration in McCoy's body language, even when he couldn't see the latter's face.

    By the end of that week, McCoy had decided he'd had enough.  Two weeks were left until Christmas, which by now had no real meaning except as a target date by which--they all still hoped--Kirk would have regained consciousness; neither he nor Spock nor any of the rest of the crew had any thought of celebrating it for the holiday it was meant to be.  Not now, if they ever had before.  And McCoy could no longer bear the thought of spending it with the silent, withdrawn Vulcan, despite knowing Kirk would have wanted him to.  He was tired of having no one to talk to, about Kirk or anything else.  It was time for a confrontation.

    With that in mind, McCoy got up on the morning of the sixth day since their arrival at Starbase 42 and sought out Spock, finding him still in his robe and slippers in the dining room, standing at the counter with a mug of hot chocolate and his communicator, which he was just closing.

    "I was just getting an update from Mr. Scott on the progress of the maintenance work on the Enterprise," Spock explained.  "It appears to be proceeding on schedule."

    "Fine.  Too bad we can't say the same for Jim's recovery," McCoy returned dryly.

    Spock studied his hot chocolate and did not respond.

    "Spock, I want to talk to you.  Come out here and sit down."

    Spock complied silently, coming around the counter and following McCoy into the living room, where they both sat on the sofa.  "Well, Doctor?" he prompted finally, taking another sip of his hot chocolate.

    "It's been a week, Spock.  I think we need to start talking about Jim," McCoy began carefully.  "I know you're not comfortable with me, and I've been trying to give you time to get used to me...but I'm tired of being ignored."

    Spock answered with a question, keeping his eyes averted, despite knowing the answer already: "What specific aspect of his condition do you wish to discuss?"

    "How it's affecting your emotions.  Tell me what you're feeling," McCoy responded hesitantly.  "Please, Spock.  It may not be so different from what *I'm* feeling."

    "My emotions are not a topic for discussion," Spock returned shortly, becoming defensive.  He was sure he would not be able to keep them suppressed if he had to discuss them...and he still did not fully trust McCoy with them.

    McCoy began to lose patience with him.  "You'd discuss them willingly enough if I were *Jim*, wouldn't you?"

    "But you are not," Spock pointed out faintly.

    "Thank you for that reminder," McCoy retorted icily, grabbing Spock by the shoulders and whirling the Vulcan sideways so rapidly to face him that the hot chocolate Spock was still holding sloshed violently and spilled over the edge of the mug.  "Why can't you get it through that thick Vulcan skull that he's *not* the only one you can trust?  Dammit, Spock, *Jim's not here!*  What if he never is again?  Are you just going to shut yourself off like you're in Kolinahr again, or are you going to realize that *I* *am* still here--and *I* need to talk about this, even if you think *you* don't?"

    Spock met his eyes coldly.  "He *will* recover, Doctor."

    "He might not," McCoy pressed.

    "You said full recovery was still possible," Spock argued, an expression of desperation appearing in his eyes.

    "I talked to Christine this morning.  Jamison gives him a 50-50 chance, now--*if* he comes out of the coma; he gives him a 30% chance of *that*," McCoy told him bluntly.  "He hasn't shown any reactions at all--you know that.  He still could die."

    Spock turned away far enough to set his hot chocolate down on the coffee table, but then McCoy pulled him back sideways again.

    "Spock.  *He could die,*" he reiterated intensely.  "Are you just going to let your whole Human half disintegrate and die with him?"

    Spock lowered his eyes, shaking his head in denial.  "No, no...he must not..."

    McCoy realized he had to make Spock face it, even if it was far too soon in the Vulcan's retraining process for him to be mentally or emotionally equipped to deal with this kind of personal trauma.  "Even Vulcans have to die, eventually.  Jim's Human--he can't live forever--even without this injury," he reiterated firmly.  "Don't you think he'd want you to trust me?"

    He let go of Spock finally, and Spock withdrew to the opposite end of the sofa.  "No, Doctor...I cannot...please do not force me to discuss..."

    "Why not?"  McCoy demanded.

    "Because...I do not wish to humiliate you or myself by possibly...losing control," Spock replied softly.  "My emotions regarding this...run too deep.  I am finding them...difficult to manage."

    McCoy shook his head disappointedly.  "All right, I guess I've done all I can," he sighed.  "I can't stay here any more, under these conditions.  I need to be with someone who'll let me talk about this, so...I'll check around and see if there are any other quarters available."  He got up to leave.  "Maybe Christine knows of somebody without a roommate."

    Spock picked up his mug again, drained it slowly of its contents, then got up and went after McCoy (dropping off his mug in the kitchen on the way).  He found McCoy packing his bag, which was lying out on his bed.  "Are you leaving *now*?"  Spock asked doubtfully.

    "No.  But I want to be ready as soon as I've made other arrangements,"
McCoy returned coolly.

    Spock watched him indecisively, knowing what he needed to say and do to stop the Human, but knowing also that it directly contradicted his Vulcan retraining.

    "I'll leave your half of the food...maybe you'll enjoy it more when I'm not around to spoil your appetite," McCoy added, his voice growing sarcastic.

    "My lack of appetite has nothing to do with your presence," Spock protested, sounding unconvincing to his own ears.

    McCoy gave no evidence of hearing him as he continued to bustle about the room, going between the closet or dresser and his bed to retrieve clothing items and place them in his travel bag.  "Either help me or get out of my way!"  he snapped impatiently, going around Spock to get to his dresser again.

    At first, Spock moved aside and let McCoy continue, still watching him silently-- then he realized finally that McCoy really *was* leaving if he didn't do *something* about it.  He placed himself between the Doctor and his bag.  "I will do neither," he decided, facing McCoy and meeting his eyes as the latter turned back to face him.  "I cannot permit this."

    For a moment, McCoy just stared at him in disbelief, then his eyes met Spock's, sky-blue fire clashing with coal-black ice.  "*You* 'cannot permit'?  After the way you've treated me, what makes you think *you* have any say in that decision?" he demanded.

    "Quarters near the Hospital are undoubtedly limited.  They may all be occupied," Spock pointed out evenly.

    "I know--the rest of the crew got most of them.  I'll manage," McCoy returned tersely.  "Now, unless you'd like to wind up sharing Jim's hospital room, *get out of my way!*"

    Anger was useless, Spock realized; so, now, was pride.  He could not *force* McCoy to stay...but a similar amount of force exerted on *himself* to be more emotionally honest might persuade McCoy to change his mind.  The ice in his eyes began to melt and he retreated meekly to the door, studying the toes of his Vulcan slippers as McCoy finished packing.  "Please..."

    McCoy paused, not certain what the Vulcan had said--his voice had barely been audible.  He glared around at Spock.  "*Now*, what?"

    "Please," Spock repeated, a little louder.  "I will talk to you about whatever you wish...or listen when you wish to talk....but please stay," he entreated softly.  "I do not wish to...I do not think I should...be alone."

    McCoy stopped finally, staring at him again--this time in relief and surprise.  He slowly walked over to the Vulcan.  "I don't think *either* of us should," he agreed cautiously.

    "Will you stay, then?"  Spock asked hopefully, still not looking up.

    "Do you think you can trust me enough now to talk about Jim?"  McCoy counter-questioned.

    "I believe I just said that," Spock replied quietly.

    "Just checking."

    Spock glanced up at him warily and was reassured by the Doctor's slight grin.

    "Come on; help me put this stuff back up.  Then I'll fix us both an old-fashioned Southern breakfast--or as close to it as I can get on a starbase--and we can have our talk."


       An hour later, after Spock had been filled up with biscuits and strawberry jam, cream gravy, grits and butter, he and McCoy again settled down on the sofa.  Spock sat with his eyes downcast, staring at his folded hands as they rested in his lap.  "I cannot think of Jim dying," Spock admitted faintly.  "From what you yourself have told me, I am...not yet fully myself...and Jim seems best able to help me, perhaps because of my bond with him."  He glanced briefly sideways at McCoy before lowering his eyes again.  "I am apprehensive about that--about what would happen to me; I would not...wish to be alone again.  And that is what I would be with Jim gone and that bond destroyed...bereft, desolate and alone.  Empty."

       "Even with me still here?"  McCoy questioned worriedly.

       Spock hesitated.  "I appreciate your presence.  I certainly seem to need it, now...but you and I both know that we will never have the sort of 'connection' that I have with Jim," he responded carefully.  "I...miss him. 
Talking to him, being around him..."

       "I know.  So do I," McCoy confessed understandingly.

       Spock sat back slightly.  "You were right," he acknowledged finally.  "Jim always told me I could trust you.  But his claim seemed so contrary to most of my experience with you that I always found it difficult to believe."

       McCoy nodded in acceptance of this.  "I can't be Jim for you...but maybe if you tell me what to do and let me try, I can do some of the things he might do to help you," he offered kindly.

       "Thank you," Spock responded softly.  "I wish I could make the same promise, but Jim is Human...and I seem to be having trouble even managing to be *half*-Human."

       McCoy reached out carefully to touch the Vulcan's arm.  "Spock--assuming Jim does regain consciousness, he's almost certain now to have brain damage.  He may have to *stay* here for some time," he pointed out gently.  "We may have to decide which of us, if either, is going to stay with him.  Christine may be able to wangle a long-term assignment here, but I doubt I will."

       Spock considered this for a time, focusing his attention on McCoy's hand as if that would help him reach a decision.  "If a choice must be made, the Enterprise needs a Chief Medical Officer more than a First Officer who is unfit for command," he decided, at last.

       "Hold it--you're not getting rid of me *that* fast," McCoy objected, chuckling in spite of himself.  "We don't have to make any final decisions *now* --I just wanted you to know that the time will eventually come.  Let's concentrate on getting Jim back to consciousness, first."

       With his eyes, Spock followed the movement of McCoy's hand as he withdrew it from the Vulcan's arm.  "I wish...I could mind-meld with him," he revealed, his voice touched by longing.  "I did re-learn the required techniques at Mount Seleya."

       "But you've never performed one since then, have you?"  McCoy questioned.

       Spock shook his head.  "Only with T'Lar--and *she* controlled the meld, not I," he recalled.  "But it might allow me to see what condition his mind is in--how damaged it is--and perhaps give me some idea of how much rehabilitation would be required."

       McCoy knew this must have been on McCoy's mind ever since Kirk had first been injured.  "Do you think you'd be able to do it without worsening Jim's condition--or yours?" he asked, then.

       "There is always a chance that his mind might become trapped within his, especially with my not having attempted a mind-meld since leaving Mount Seleya," Spock admitted quietly.  "And although I would think little more could be done to damage Jim's mind, I am reluctant to take the risk--which is why I have not previously suggested it.  But I seem...to *need* to do so...to feel his mental presence again.  Even though he is comatose, I should still be able to feel it somewhere within him...as long as he is alive."

       "I'll have Christine talk to Dr. Jamison.  If they think it's all right, maybe you can try."

       Spock nodded silently in gratitude.

       The silence stretched out uncomfortably between them until McCoy ended it.  "In the mean time...if there's something I can do for you *now*, something Jim would do..."

       "I will tell you," Spock assured him.  He hesitated, then added awkwardly, "Perhaps, after all, I *should* ask...what he would do for you under these circumstances.  I may not know how, but...I could try to learn."

       McCoy couldn't help smiling at the expression of uncertainty in the dark eyes that now sought out his.  "Well--one thing I really miss is having a drink with Jim while we talk about whatever's bothering us," he admitted.  "I think you and I just did that last part, and it's a little early in the day to drink anything--besides which, I know you don't drink, anyway..."

       "Anything else?"  Spock questioned doubtfully.

       McCoy shrugged.  "Nothing specific right now, Spock.  Just don't shut me out any more, all right?"

       "I will try not to," Spock assured him, lowering his eyes again.

       "How's your stomach been, lately?"  McCoy asked, changing the subject abruptly.

       "Still upset.  I still often find myself too nauseated to eat," Spock revealed slowly.  "And your pills do not seem to affect it any more.  I find it difficult to believe that emotional stress could affect me this severely."

       "You've always underestimated your capacity to worry about Jim," McCoy reminded him knowingly.  "*He'd* know how to ease your stress, I suppose."

       "Yes," Spock recalled evasively.

       "What would he do?"  McCoy wanted to know.

       "*You* would never do it...not now.  Not with me," Spock responded stiffly, still refusing to elaborate.

       "Try me."

       "You would refuse."

       "Come on--I already said I wanted to try to do what he'd do for you. 
Give me a chance."


    Spock leaned back against the sofa, keeping his eyes averted and his manner controlled as he answered hesitantly.  "In the past, when I have been similarly ...troubled...about something, he would come to my cabin and try to talk about it with me.  If I were unable to do so, it is in my mind that he sometimes... held me or rubbed my back...allowing me to feel his thoughts and emotions.  Not a mind-meld, just...feeling them through his touch...no permission asked or needed.  His mind was always opened willingly to me.  His touch always...seemed to bring me a measure of peace when Vulcan mental disciplines sometimes could not.

    "I...I often...fell asleep at such times...and he would just...hold me and let me sleep.  I was always so ashamed when I awoke...but he always seemed to understand without criticizing.  My...emotions never shamed *him*," he reflected, bowing his head finally in embarrassment.  "I think...that is what I miss most, now...feeling his thoughts through his touch."

    "You remember all that?"  McCoy questioned incredulously.

    Spock nodded slowly.  "*Some* emotional memories have already returned to me, Doctor...even if I do not understand them.  My...emotions for Jim...are among the first things I remembered after the fal-tor-pan," he explained carefully.

    McCoy studied the Vulcan in silent concern for a time before responding.  "I could do that," he decided finally.  "What he did, that is."

    Spock still did not look at him.  "You would not find such physical contact with me...distasteful?"

    "Not really," McCoy returned honestly.  "I just always thought *you* felt that way about *me*."

    Spock looked up at him warily.

    "Just because you never *let* me be that close to you doesn't mean I couldn't or wouldn't."

    "If you did not insist on gloating so much when I expressed emotion, perhaps I would have been more comfortable with you," Spock pointed out coolly.

    "Maybe if you did it more *often*, I wouldn't feel obligated--" McCoy barely managed to stop himself.  "We're getting sidetracked.  Jim wouldn't want us to argue," he noted.

    "True."  Spock still hesitated uncertainly.  "Could you really do it, Doctor?"

    "If you'd let me try."

    Spock met McCoy's eyes finally, signalling his permission with his body language and waiting apprehensively as McCoy moved closer.  When he felt McCoy's arm around his back, Spock slowly moved around to curl up awkwardly against McCoy's side--just as he had sometimes done with Kirk.

    Incredulously, McCoy maneuvered himself to hold the Vulcan securely in his arms, trying to remember everything he could from the one or two times he had actually *seen* Kirk comforting Spock in this manner (Kirk was usually careful not to do it when anyone else was around), and waited to see what would happen.

    It was difficult for Spock to curl his tall, lanky body down far enough to settle his head on McCoy's shoulder, since the Doctor was noticeably shorter than him, but he managed it, anyway.  As he tried awkwardly to position his arms around McCoy, he realized that the latter's muscles were still stiff with discomfort and withdrew his arms abruptly.  "You said you would permit this..."

    McCoy forced himself to relax.  "I will, Spock.  I'm just...not used to it," he explained.

    "Neither am I.  But, as you said, Jim is not here..."

    "...and I am," McCoy finished understandingly.  "I'm sorry.  I do want you to be comfortable with this--with me--but I can't promise you'll necessarily enjoy feeling *my* thoughts and emotions as much as you do Jim's."

    Spock felt an unexpected urge to laugh as he finally folded one arm against himself and used the other to hold onto one of the Doctor's arms with his hand.  "That is not necessary, Doctor--this is not a mind-meld.  I only need to sense enough...to feel that I am...not alone," he reiterated softly.

    For a long time, McCoy was too stunned and touched to respond.  At last, he pulled the Vulcan a little closer and moved a hand to clumsily stroke Spock's hair, brushing it back from one pointed ear as Spock continued to sit facing away from him.  "You're not.  I'm always here, Spock...and if you'll let me, I'll take care of you," he assured Spock gently.  "Even if...something happens to Jim, I'll be here for you.  I don't want to be alone, either."

    Spock closed his eyes and was silent for a time, finally allowing himself some superficial awareness of McCoy's thoughts and emotions.  He felt affection, concern, deep fear for Kirk's future (as well as Spock's)--much the same emotions Spock had become aware of within himself--but no distaste for their current physical contact, or Spock's emotions.  "Doctor," he responded, at length.  "Would you object if...I called you something else...just for now?"

    "Like what?"  McCoy asked uncertainly.

    "Jim calls you 'Bones'.  Has anyone ever called you anything else?"

    "Well...before I joined Starfleet, most people called me 'Leonard',"
McCoy recalled.  "That's what Christine calls me, sometimes."

    "May I call you that?"  Spock asked uncertainly.

    "If you want to," McCoy acceded, still not believing it.  "Why?"

    "Because...Leonard...I would like to stay here for a while.  I am so much ...not myself, so uncontrolled.  My emotions for Jim...hurt.  They are making me physically ill, and the disciplines I was taught on Vulcan seem...insufficient for my present needs," Spock elaborated, with difficulty.  "I think...I 'felt' ...that I was important to Jim, important in an emotional sense.  I do not recall ever having experienced that feeling with anyone else."

    "Maybe not.  But he's *not* the only one you're important to," McCoy assured him.

    For now, it seemed best to take McCoy's word for it.  "Then, if...you could tolerate my touch for a little longer, I could perhaps forget for a time that I am...without him," Spock requested faintly.

    "As long as you like," McCoy answered kindly.  They fell silent for several minutes as McCoy felt the Vulcan slowly relaxing against him.

    "Leonard," Spock said softly, then, still trying to get used to the unusual sound of the name being spoken in his voice.


    "Could you...rub my back?  It...helps me relax...when Jim does it."

    "Sure..." McCoy complied hesitantly, wishing he were as comfortable and accomplished at doing this as Kirk must have been.

    That was the last he heard from Spock for well over five hours.


    It was early afternoon when Spock was rather rudely awakened from what had been a surprisingly pleasant sleep by snoring at his ear; he realized McCoy's head was resting against the top of his--clearly he, too, had fallen asleep while holding the sleeping Vulcan in his arms.  Cautiously, Spock extricated himself from the Doctor's embrace, supporting McCoy's head as he gently laid the Human down on the sofa, then stood up and stretched.  He decided to let McCoy sleep while he got ready for his daily visit to the Hospital.

    By the time Spock had showered, changed clothes and returned to the living room, McCoy was awake.  "Are you going with me to see Jim?"  Spock asked.

    McCoy nodded.  "Soon as I get changed," he asserted.  Their eyes met.  "Do you feel better, Spock?  Did my...holding you...help?"

    "With the exception of two minor observations, yes."

    McCoy looked at him questioningly, clearly inviting him to elaborate.

    "You are slightly shorter than Jim, which made it somewhat...difficult, physically," Spock explained hesitantly.  "Also...Jim does not snore."

    "Oh.  Hmm.  Sorry about that," McCoy mumbled, turning away in embarrassment.  "Then I don't suppose you'd want me to do that again," he concluded, somewhat disappointedly, heading out of the room.

    Spock did not answer him directly.  "I do appreciate the attempt," he called after the Doctor.

    "Yeah, yeah..." McCoy responded vaguely, almost inaudibly, waving back at Spock in acknowledgement.


    Within half an hour later, they were at the Base Hospital, McCoy in Jamison's office with the latter and Christine, discussing the possibility of a mind-meld as they watched Spock's visit with Kirk on the viewer.  "Has there been *any* change in his condition?"  McCoy asked.

    Jamison shrugged slightly.  "Some minor fluctuations in readings on some vital signs--just enough to indicate that some part of what makes Kirk who he is still in there somewhere and trying to fight back.  If not for that, I'd be advising against these continued visits by Spock in favor of at least *discussing*...other alternatives."

    McCoy met his eyes gravely, looking slowly from Jamison to Christine, knowing--as they all did, being Medical Officers--what "other alternatives" really meant.  "Spock has to be right, then; surely a mind-meld couldn't do any more damage to him," he concluded.

    "It depends on *Spock's* mental condition," Christine returned.  "You observed him closely enough during the whale probe incident, Doctor.  Do *you* think he's competent enough to complete a mind-meld without hurting *himself*?"

    "We've never found any of the skills and factual knowledge he re-learned on Vulcan to be in doubt," McCoy assured her.  "The deficiencies all seem to be in his *emotional* development--social skills, understanding and expressing his own feelings and recognizing and understanding them in others, pretty much anything he originally learned through his Human half, or through his experiences with Humans, was ignored by T'Lar in her retraining at Mount Seleya.  Probably deliberately, although I wouldn't want to speculate on why."

    Christine and Jamison exchanged brief looks, communicating silently as they divided their attention between each other and the viewer.  There, Spock was again playing his Vulcan harp for the mostly unresponsive Kirk.

    As he finished playing his current piece of music, Spock recalled McCoy's periodic reminders to talk to their Captain regularly, based on his theory that talking would be more likely than anything else to bring a response.  Spock had complied because he had quickly become inclined to try *anything* that might improve Kirk's condition.  He set his harp aside and reached out once again for Kirk's hand, once again--as he had at least once a day for the last two weeks--speaking softly to him: "Jim...this morning, Dr. McCoy and I...talked...*really* talked, as you have always said we should.

    "He said that he would...'take care of' me...if you did not..." Spock paused, closing his eyes painfully as he fought to maintain control of his emotions.  "It was difficult...uncomfortable...for both of us.  I know he means well, but...he is not you," he finished awkwardly, squeezing Kirk's hand involuntarily.  "I need *you*, Jim...your friendship, your presence.  Please, you must not..." He stopped as he heard someone else enter the room, abruptly releasing Kirk's hand.

    He turned to find McCoy entering the room and coming to join him.  "I talked with Dr. Jamison.  He and Christine have agreed to let you mind-meld with Jim, on the condition that they can be here to monitor him personally," McCoy informed him.

    "Very well--as long as they do not distract me," Spock acceded neutrally.

    "I don't think that'll be a problem," McCoy asserted, retreating a few feet to stand at the end of the bed, where Jamison and Christine now stood.  McCoy's and Spock's eyes met.  "Jim told me you usually need time to prepare," McCoy recalled.

    "Not this time, Doctor...I have been preparing myself for this ever since his injury occurred...even though I was not certain I would ever be *able* to actually do it."  With that, Spock turned back to the prostrate form of his Captain.  Kirk hardly looked like himself; relying exclusively on IVs for nourishment for the last few weeks had left him atypically thin--even his face had begun to hollow out beneath the cheekbones.  McCoy *had* been complaining about how much weight Kirk needed to lose, just after the whale probe mission, Spock reflected.  It would be some time before they would have to worry about *that* again, since he and Kirk were now both considerably underweight.

    Spock reached out finally to position his fingers on Kirk's face, reaching out also with his mind as he searched for some trace of Kirk's essence.  He probed the superficial levels of Kirk's mind first, but found only a dark void.  Spock gently probed deeper, penetrating level after level with great care, frustrated by the darkness, haze and chaos that were at first all that greeted him.  He paused, unwilling to go deeper for fear of hurting Kirk or becoming hopelessly trapped within that chaos, himself.  //Jim,// his mind called plaintively.  //It is Spock.  I am here.  Can you feel my presence?//

    He sensed only confusion in response.

    //Jim, please do not let yourself be defeated by this...mental darkness.//

    Spock's desperation this time communicated itself to Kirk's mind, which responded with a wordless question as he tried to organize his thoughts into lucidity.  Faintly, vaguely, he recognized this gentle alien presence.  It had been here before, he sensed, healing, soothing...

    Encouraged by the knowledge that some part of Kirk was beginning to respond, Spock reiterated mentally what he had tried to tell Kirk verbally, earlier--an instinctive reaction that he did not question now, despite its illogic: //I need you to come back, Jim...I need you with me.//

    As if from the depths of a bottomless, black pit, he felt a thread of Kirk's consciousness trying tentatively to reach up toward him.  //Spock...?// it asked uncertainly, the sound-thought barely discernible, even to Spock's sharply-focused senses.

    //Jim!// Spock's mind called anxiously, automatically reaching down further and deeper toward the struggling tendril of Kirk's thoughts, ignoring the increased danger to himself.  //I am here, Jim--touch my thoughts,// his mind urged.

    But there was still a space between the reach of Spock's mind and that of Kirk's in this chasm of blackness--Spock sensed that he dared go no deeper, yet Kirk's tiny tendril of consciousness remained just out of reach.  //I can't,// his mind answered, a mental sigh of despair.

    //You must!// Spock's mind insisted.

    //No...I'm afraid.//  The thread of Kirk's mental presence grew thinner.

    //Do not be.  I will help you...but you must reach for my thoughts, join with them.  I cannot reach further for yours--it would damage both of us,// Spock's mind explained.

    //You'll help me?// Kirk's mind echoed uncertainly.

    //Yes, Jim...always,// Spock reiterated.  //But we *must* go back *now*.//

    The thought thread thickened again, seeming a little stronger.  //I'm still afraid, Spock.  I may have...forgotten...so many things,// Kirk admitted, the thought full of shame.

    //I am afraid, too,// Spock mental voice revealed, as the shame of the thought was drawn toward similar emotion in Kirk.  //I must still remember a number of things, myself...emotions you said I have experienced and should be familiar with.  I have no hope of completing that process without you,// he reminded Kirk, opening himself fully, at last, to embrace his friend's consciousness.  //We can remember together, Jim.  I will help you, and you will help me.//

    //I'm not even going to be able to help *myself*,// Kirk protested morosely.


    //Maybe Bones could do it.  He carried your katra.//

    //McCoy is not you,// Spock's mind responded, again filling with desperation as his whole being began to tremble with the effort it was costing him to wait out Kirk's decision.  //He is not my t'hy'la.  Please...I must go back.  I do not wish to go back alone.//

    //"T'hy'la"?//  The tendril of thought began to glow and vibrate with recognition as tiny cracks of light began to split the darkness of Kirk's mind.  Awareness of *Spock's* anxieties and agonies finally began to penetrate that darkness, and up through the cracks shot more tendrils of thought.  Like a nest of fountains, they shot up suddenly through the remaining dark distance separating him from Spock and joined him in the mental embrace, his thoughts now intertwining hesitantly but hopefully with the Vulcan's, eager to offer comfort.  //You're never alone, my friend.  I'll try...I promise.  I do want to be there for you,// he assured Spock.

    For a moment, Spock allowed himself to revel in the warmth and affection of their mental union, then he took Kirk and his threads of thought as quickly as he dared back up through the layers of Kirk's subconscious and conscious mind, ending the meld just as his control of it disintegrated completely.


    Around them, Jamison monitored Kirk and the diagnostic equipment near him, noting the unusual rise in readings--blood pressure, heart rate, pulse and temperature all fluctuated and climbed incrementally as the meld continued.  McCoy moved gradually closer, wanting to be nearby when Spock broke the meld.  "Amazing," Jamison remarked.  "I've never observed a mind-meld before.  Does the patient normally react like this?"

    "Not always this fast," Christine answered.  "In Captain Kirk's case, his rapport with Spock is probably always a factor."

    Nearly an hour after initiating the mind-meld, Spock broke it and collapsed across Kirk's chest in exhaustion.

    Jamison watched Spock worriedly as McCoy moved up behind the Vulcan, ready to offer comfort if he needed it.  "Stimulant?"  Jamison suggested, in anticipation, offering McCoy a hypo containing the appropriate amount of masiform-D.

    McCoy waved it off.  "He has to recover on his own.  And it might be better if we gave him some privacy--I'll stay and keep an eye on them for a while, at least until Spock kicks me out," he advised Jamison.

    Wordlessly, Jamison left for his office, deciding to trust McCoy on this.  He could continue monitoring Kirk from there, if necessary.

    "I think I'll go back to my quarters and get some sleep," Christine announced then, her eyes still on Spock as she headed for the door.  "If you or Dr. Jamison need me, consider me on call," she told McCoy.

    He nodded once in her direction in acknowledgement, then returned his attention to Spock and Kirk, stepping closer and sitting down on the bed behind the Vulcan.  "Spock?" he prompted anxiously, after a time.

    Spock's head moved slightly in acknowledgement.  "I...touched his consciousness, Doctor," he responded faintly.  "Jim is there...buried deeply, but there.  I joined with...part of his consciousness.  He tried to follow me...out of the meld, but as I broke it, I...lost control...lost him again."  He reached out hesitantly to touch Kirk's pale face, closing his eyes against the pain of the sight.  "He was afraid...but he trusted me and I failed him," Spock continued, whispering now.  "I...want to believe...that some part of his consciousness is there, just beneath the surface. But I am uncertain."

    Gently, McCoy reached out to lay a hand on Spock's shoulder.  "You didn't 'fail him'," he told the Vulcan kindly.  "You tried to help.  I think Jim knows that."

    Spock did not respond.  Mind-melds always drained him, and this one had left him exhausted and despairing, afraid of what he might have done to Kirk's mind and the Human's trust in him.  It had almost seemed that he would bring Kirk back to full consciousness...until the end, when his control of the meld had collapsed, and he had felt the fragile tendrils of Kirk's thoughts receding in fear.  Tears burned behind Spock's eyes as he began to wonder for what purpose Kirk and McCoy had restored his life.

    Had they reunited his katra with his reborn body only for him to see Kirk injured and left in a coma that his mind might never awaken from, even if his body did?  Spock was too tired to suppress the tears that now formed in his eyes at the thought--he would be useless as First Officer (or Captain) until his Vulcan and Human halves were fully integrated again, and that would be unlikely to happen until and unless Jim fully recovered.

    He felt McCoy cautiously beginning to rub his back and drifted off into a fitful sleep, still collapsed across Kirk's chest, slipping one hand determinedly around Kirk's and holding it, willing his friend and Captain's consciousness to remain near the surface--not sink back into the dark place
where Spock had found him when they melded.

    Spock was already asleep, and McCoy happened to be focusing his attention on the Vulcan, when Kirk's left hand--which had been resting on his chest--moved a finger against Spock's cheek.  McCoy caught the movement out of the corner of his eye and looked up, wondering if he'd imagined it.  But the movement continued.  It was real--the first voluntary response he had seen in Kirk since the Captain was injured; he was trying to wipe away Spock's tears.

    There was no other sign of consciousness or movement, but this was enough to induce McCoy to wake Spock up.  Spock needed no explanation, for he had felt the whisper-soft mental and physical touch before McCoy's urgent shaking of his shoulder and immediately opened his eyes to focus on the hand near his face.  "Jim..." he murmured pleadingly, moving his free hand to touch Kirk's, now holding both his Captain's hands.  "...I am sorry.  Please..."  His mind finished: //...please come back.  I promise I will be here to help you.//

    He felt a slight return of pressure on his hands and studied Kirk's face, but the Human's eyes were still closed.  However, it *was* his first real response to Spock's physical contact.

    "Doctor?"  Spock queried suddenly, glancing around searchingly at McCoy as he pushed himself back up into a sitting position, wondering if McCoy could have noticed outwardly what he had felt (not realizing that that was why McCoy had awakened him).

    "I see it," McCoy confirmed, squeezing the Vulcan's shoulder briefly as he got up.  "I'm going to get Dr. Jamison back out here."

    He hadn't gone far when he encountered Nurse Thalann, whose expression told him at once that she had again been monitoring Kirk from the office.  "Dr. Jamison just went off-duty," she reported.  "But I'll contact him and let him know what's happened."

    McCoy nodded in response and turned back to Spock as Thalann hurried back to the office, going back to the Vulcan's side.  He again rested his hand on Spock's shoulder as the latter remained focused on Kirk's face.  "Come on, Spock.  You need to get some more rest," McCoy admonished kindly.

    Spock, however, was still holding Kirk's hands, alert for any new signs of conscious response, and had no interest in leaving, despite his awareness of his own remaining tiredness.  "No, Doctor--I must stay," he insisted softly.  "He needs me."

    "He *doesn't* need you to worry yourself into exhaustion," McCoy countered firmly, beginning to pull Spock to his feet.

    Although Spock himself did not resist, they were both surprised to feel resistance from *Kirk*--who suddenly tightened his grip on Spock's hands. Spock looked accusingly at McCoy.  "You see?  I cannot leave him!" he reiterated, his voice full of entreaty and apprehension, which he this time made no effort to control.

    McCoy leaned down toward Kirk, reaching to take one of Kirk's hands and exerting pressure on it as he silently willed the Captain to understand.  "Jim ...let him go.  I'll take care of Spock, but he needs to get some sleep," he told Kirk softly.

    Even Spock could not have said if Kirk released his hands just then as a result of tiredness, or if McCoy had actually gotten through to him, but either way, his hands were freed.  Reluctantly, he picked up his Vulcan harp and let McCoy lead him away.  //I will return, Jim,// he promised silently, again illogically "hoping" that Kirk could hear his thoughts.


    Spock was only convinced to go to sleep when McCoy promised him to go back and stay with Kirk until Christine went back on duty the next morning.  Kirk made no further leaps of progress in that time, but at least his condition remained constant and did not worsen.  When McCoy returned to his quarters, he found Spock still sleeping uneasily; he stayed with the Vulcan long enough to determine that his sleep was not being disturbed by nightmares (at least, not enough to wake him up), then McCoy went to bed, himself.


       Over the ensuing days, word spread among the Enterprise crew of Kirk's first signs of conscious response to stimuli--and for the first time since their arrival, they allowed themselves awareness of the signs of Christmas around the starbase: artificial trees in the Cafeteria and other main rooms, decorations everywhere a place could be found to put them, instrumental Christmas carols played fairly constantly over the intercom...

       Hope had become their watchword, and only those closest to the situation of the man in the hospital room--Spock, McCoy, Christine, and the two Medical Officers most responsible for his care--still had difficulty getting into the spirit of the season.  Spock, his mind still fully occupied with concern for Kirk, ignored his peripheral awareness of the impending holiday.  Jamison and Thalann were too busy with their testing and monitoring of Kirk to appear to notice it, themselves, and McCoy and Christine spent much time trying to figure out how to alter this situation for themselves and Spock--and Kirk, too.

       Two days before Christmas, McCoy woke up with an idea he thought would help, if only he could get Spock to agree to take part.  He got up and dressed hurriedly, hoping Spock had not already left for the Hospital again, knowing the Vulcan had been spending more and more time with Kirk as the holiday loomed closer.  He spoke no more of his anxiety-induced stomach trouble, but McCoy knew from Spock's continued disinterest in food that it was probably still affecting him.

       He found Spock still in bed and sat down beside him, knowing how late the latter had gotten to bed and wishing he could just let Spock sleep--but they were running out of time until Christmas Day, and McCoy expected to waste a good portion of the morning convincing the Vulcan to go along with his plan.

       Reluctantly, he shook Spock into consciousness.

       "What is it, Doctor?"  Spock asked, awake instantly, his first thought that something catastrophic had happened to Kirk.

       "It's all right, Spock--Jim's the same," McCoy assured him, anticipating his concern.  "I just need to talk to you about something, and I need to do it now."

       Spock glanced at the chronometer sitting on the night table near his bed, noted its display of 0825, and turned back to McCoy with a raised eyebrow.  "I have only been asleep for 3.125 hours.  Since it is *you* who keep insisting that I get more sleep, I would be interested in knowing what you attach such urgency to," he ventured warily, sitting up slowly.

       "It's something to help Jim--and we might enjoy it, too," McCoy began cautiously.  "I was thinking we might go out and buy some Christmas decorations to put up in Jim's room."

       Spock stared at him blankly, not understanding why McCoy would want to do that, or how it would "help" Kirk.  "For what purpose?" he asked.

       "To cheer him up," McCoy replied patiently.  "Christine says he has his eyes open sometimes, now."

       "Yes, but he does not appear to be aware of his surroundings," Spock countered skeptically.  "You wish to do this for *yourself*, Doctor--because you refuse to accept the inappropriateness of 'celebrating Christmas' at this time, and you intend to try to involve *me* in it."

       "Spock, look--neither of us have been *anywhere* since we got here, except to visit Jim at the Hospital and, once or twice, out to eat.  Going to buy Christmas decorations would give us a chance to get out and see new things."  McCoy's eyes met his with a pleading expression.

       Spock's eyes were impenetrable onyx, his expression unreadable, but there was an edge of bitterness to his voice when he spoke.  "What would you have me see?  Other Humans...openly, superfluously emotional...laughing, enjoying the holiday...as Jim cannot?"  He turned away as he started to get up, moving hurriedly past McCoy to the edge of the bed, in an effort to hide the emotions he knew would now be revealed by his eyes.

       "That's *exactly* why I want to decorate his room," McCoy reiterated emphatically.

       Spock paused, turning to look at him again, this time with both eyebrows raised.

       "Think of it as another form of stimulus.  Jim's always loved Christmas--and it's not just for Humans, either."  McCoy shook his head at Spock impatiently.  "You *know both* those things perfectly well, if you'd just...let yourself remember them!"

       Spock averted his eyes quickly in embarrassment.  "I am--I have been--*trying* to remember," he reminded McCoy, a note of frustration creeping into his voice.  "Of my emotions regarding Christmas, however, the only thing clear to me so far is that...when Jim was not with me at that time, I was totally alone.  It was...so difficult, at such times...that I often wished I had never left Vulcan."

       His voice had softened involuntarily as he spoke, and now McCoy reached out carefully to touch his shoulder.  "You'll *be* with Jim this Christmas," he promised gently.  "We all will--you, me and Christine, at least."

       "But will *he* be with *me*?"  Spock questioned, appearing to ignore the rest of McCoy's statement.  He turned back to McCoy with a sudden expression of sadness in his eyes.  "Consciously, mentally, emotionally, will *he* be there?  I am not certain."

       "Neither am I.  But if it looks like Christmas in there, at least it might give him some incentive," McCoy persisted, squeezing the Vulcan's shoulder encouragingly.

       Spock did not feel particularly comforted, but he was also too tired of arguing the subject to offer any further objections.

       McCoy sensed this immediately.  "Come on, get up and get dressed.  The sooner we get the decorations, the sooner we can get them put up for Jim."

       Spock met his eyes again.  "For Jim," he echoed quietly, at last.  It surely couldn't hurt, and the Human part of him could not help clinging to the hope that something, anything, could bring Kirk completely out of the coma where his own efforts had failed.  To have him awake and talking again...it was worth the effort, Spock decided.


       While Spock got dressed, McCoy contacted Christine to see if she would be available to go with them.  Although she was none too pleased to be awakened from a dead sleep, she perked up noticeably when McCoy told her of his plans.  Since she did not have to report on duty until 1030 hours, she quickly offered to take them out to breakfast before they went shopping.  McCoy passed this information on to Spock when the Vulcan emerged from his room, fully dressed; they settled down on the sofa and passed the time with small talk as they waited for Christine to arrive--she had told McCoy she would come over as soon as she had showered and dressed, so that they could all leave together.

       As they headed for the restaurant that Christine had chosen, Spock, while ignoring the Christmas music that floated through the air around them, found himself focusing on Christine's attire.  He did not recall having seen her in civilian clothes since their reunion after the trial.  She wasn't wearing anything fancy--just an embroidered sweater and velvet-like slacks in a matching color; it was just the fact that she was not in uniform that Spock found remarkable.

       He was struck by the completely illogical and irrelevant thought that some people looked better in civilian clothes--or at least, as natural and comfortable as they did in uniform.  Christine was one of these people, as was McCoy, though Spock himself felt somewhat out of his element.  He was unsure, however, if this were due to the Vulcan attire (which seemed out-of-place on a starbase at Christmas) that he had been wearing ever since his arrival, or to his own general mental and emotional state.

       Christine became aware of his eyes on her and looked up at him briefly with a shy smile of encouragement.  Spock averted his eyes quickly to hide his own green blush of embarrassment at the emotions he felt rising within him in response to that look.  His memories of her were still somewhat confused, but he knew that she had loved him with a patient, gentle and forgiving love that had gone largely unreturned; he did not know if it still existed, but a part of him could not help thinking that it *must* for her to be so willing to give up her own leave for an assignment here to help with Kirk's treatment--knowing that where Kirk went, Spock inevitably followed.

       McCoy noted their silent interplay without comment, though his mind was racing.  As far as he could recall, Spock's relationship with Christine had never progressed beyond friendship--before the V'ger mission.  Afterwards, in keeping with a promise he'd made and spurred on by uncertainty as to what effect the Kolinahr disciplines might have had on his mating cycle, he had asked Christine to bond with him.

       They had finally married some three years later (six months or so after the bonding ceremony) in a private ceremony at Starfleet Central Headquarters on Earth (although, to avoid the possibility of enemies finding out and using their marital relationship against them, the marriage remained secret, known to only a handful of Enterprise personnel and upper echelons at Starfleet Command), and Christine had seen him through two pon farrs before being offered a position in the Starfleet Surgeon General's office at Headquarters.  Though reluctant as always to be separated from Spock, she had accepted it after Spock talked her into it; they had remained in contact during their separation.

       And yet, their matrimonial bond had never equaled Spock's bond with Kirk in depth or strength--and McCoy credited Christine with accepting, early on in their relationship, that that would probably never change.  It hadn't been so easy for her to accept the fact that she and Spock could not simply pick up where they'd left off now that he was alive again and had completed his Vulcan retraining, but by now it was clear that he scarcely remembered her and would have to regain the memories and wisdom of his Human half in his own way and at his own speed.

       She had seen this and had not pressed, especially after also seeing how deeply Kirk's injury had affected Spock.  McCoy had decided that perhaps it was time to let her start spending more time around Spock.  It would help Spock remember their relationship--and she knew how to comfort him as McCoy did not when he was being eaten up with anxiety about Kirk.

       When they reached the restaurant, only McCoy and Christine ate anything close to a full meal; Spock only nibbled, explaining that his stomach was bothering him again.  An hour later, they were on their way to the starbase's shopping level--essentially, a mall spread out to cover one whole level of the starbase.  Now the light-hearted Christmas music was set against a background of brightly-lit stores and hallways festooned with decorations; red, green, silver, gold, and a host of other colors greeted them, from artificial trees, wreaths, and seasonal displays representing Terran/Human colonies around the Federation.

       It did not take long for McCoy and Christine to get caught up in the spirit of their surroundings, especially when they began to spot other Enterprise personnel among the assorted holiday shoppers.  Spock, however, was intent on the business at hand--which happened to be buying Christmas decorations; he had no interest in the festive atmosphere or the happy shoppers.  They only made him more aware of what he was missing.  McCoy was right.  Jim loved Christmas, even when the Enterprise crew had to spend it on a mission--that much Spock had pieced together from his still-returning memories--and he also loved trying to get his favorite Vulcan involved in its celebration.

       Spock had come to expect it, over the years...but this year would be different.  Too much had happened--to both of them.  For himself, Spock did not care--but for Jim, who was Human and who loved it so, it seemed colossally unfair.  He deserved to have Christmas, after all he had been through--all the risk and loss.  //All for me,// Spock reminded himself guiltily.  //And I am not even fully myself yet.  I *must* do this for him.//

       It was difficult to keep the two Humans focused on their goal--McCoy found himself wanting to look at everything, and they nearly lost Christine when Uhura invited the former to join her--but Spock found that keeping a hand on an arm of each of them and exerting pressure each time they became distracted quickly brought their attention back to him and their reason for being here.  It took a little time for them to find a store that specialized in Christmas decorations, but once McCoy had gotten inside one, they quickly got down to business.

       Spock and McCoy selected some tinsel, while Christine set about gathering up ribbons and wreaths.  As she was calling McCoy's attention to a selection of other hanging decorations, it occurred to Spock that something was missing, though he wasn't sure what.  Then the appropriate memory surfaced.  "Doctor, what about a tree?" he asked abruptly, suddenly convinced that this was what Jim would need most to remind him of Christmases past.

       McCoy and Christine turned to look at him in surprise.  "I doubt there'll be room," McCoy answered regretfully, not really wanting to discourage Spock when he was obviously beginning to get more of his memories back.  "With all the medical equipment in there, we'll be lucky to find room for *these* decorations."

       "But...the tree is the most important one, is it not?"  Spock questioned, clearly trying to verify what he so far remembered of the Christmas customs they had managed to acquaint him with over the years.

       "Yes, Spock, but how would we get it to his room?" McCoy counter-questioned.

       "We will get a medium-sized one, and you and I will carry it.  Christine will go on ahead with the other decorations and explain what we are doing to Dr. Jamison--perhaps he can move some of the equipment," Spock suggested, thinking quickly.

       McCoy looked questioningly at Christine.  "What do you think?"

       Christine shrugged.  "I doubt there are any regulations against Christmas decorations.  I told him we might be doing something like this, so he'll probably be expecting it--I'll talk to him again, but it shouldn't be a problem," she asserted agreeably.

       McCoy turned back to Spock.  "All right, I guess we can try," he decided, his voice filling with cautious hope.  "Come on, you two--help me pick out some ornaments.  Then we can go next door and look at the trees."


       A couple of hours later, Christine had made the arrangements with Jamison and McCoy and Spock accompanied her when she reported on-duty, carrying the artificial tree while she carried the decorations.  She found that some of the tables and other furniture had already been moved back and to the side at one end of the room, clearing a space for the tree.  Nurse Thalann came out of the office to meet them.  "Dr. Jamison filled me in and told me to help you make room for the decorations, so I had a couple of the med techs help me move some things," she explained.  "I'm still on duty 'til 1400, so if you need more help, let me know."

       "Thanks, Rachelle," Christine replied appreciatively.  "I think we can take it from here."  She looked over at Kirk.  "How is he?"

       "Still the same," Thalann returned.  "The only time he really reacts to anything is when Dr. McCoy and Captain Spock are here.  But his readings are steady."

       Christine nodded in acknowledgement.  "Take a lunch break.  I'll take care of things here until you get back," she Thalann.

       "Are you sure?"

       Christine nodded again.  "Go on."

       "Yes, ma'am."

       When she was gone, Spock, McCoy and Christine began to put up the decorations.  Christine set the smaller boxes of decorations on the end of Kirk's bed and started putting up a tinsel garland while McCoy and Spock worked on the tree.  By the time they had finished, Christine had started putting up the holly garland, and they quickly moved to help her.  After they had helped her add ribbons and bows to the garlands, all three returned their attention to decorating the tree.  All during this process, Christine kept a watchful eye on Kirk, pausing periodically to check his condition.

       Nurse Thalann was back a little over an hour later, and it took most of the afternoon for them to finish putting the lights and ornaments on the six-foot tree; Kirk barely stirred during that time--though the fact that he moved at all was noteworthy, and Christine said as much while Spock looked for something to wrap around the base of the tree.  Finally, all the decorations and ornaments were up and Spock moved to sit down beside Kirk on the bed.  McCoy moved up silently behind him and handed him his harp.

       Spock took it just as silently and set it against his shoulder, beginning to check its tuning.

       "Can you still play Christmas carols on that thing?"  McCoy asked, at length.

       Spock looked up and around at him blankly for a moment, then lowered his head, thinking, trying to remember.  Yes--he had played them before, sometimes, mainly for Kirk and Christine.  It still seemed unlikely that Jim would hear him now, but he knew of little else to do.  Slowly, awkwardly, he began to play "What Child is This?".

       McCoy sat down across from him on the other side of the bed, and eventually, Christine and Thalann, too, came to listen--but Spock was focused on Kirk, waiting for any sign of movement or response.  As he moved through three more Christmas carols, however, all Spock noticed in the way of response from Kirk was some movement of his head.

       They went home later that afternoon, McCoy clearly disappointed, since he had been certain that the sound of Spock playing Christmas carols on his Vulcan harp would snap Kirk into full consciousness; Spock, however, had expected nothing--or so he told himself, hiding his own persistent frustration behind his customary facade of control, again exuding an air of unapproachability (much to McCoy's dismay).


       The next day, of course, was the day before Christmas.  McCoy and Spock spent it with Christine--who had been given two days off for the holiday--mostly sitting around McCoy's and Spock's quarters, talking about what plans, if any, they could make for Christmas Day.  At least, the two Humans talked; Spock mostly just listened with his head bowed.  "I talked to Rachelle earlier," Christine told them, as she set about making lunch for them.  She had offered to do so earlier, when it became apparent that both Spock and McCoy were depressed enough not to eat unless she insisted.  "She says his readings are up a little this morning.  She thinks us being there yesterday with the decorations and Christmas music might have helped."

       "Hmm," McCoy responded noncommittally.

       "Conjecture.  Speculation," Spock concluded, appearing to dismiss the idea, though in fact he was trying to suppress his own desperate hope, which had so far done neither him nor Kirk any good.

       From his lack of reaction, McCoy may or may not have heard him; there was no indication of it when he spoke again.  "Tomorrow's Christmas, and Jim's still not fully conscious," he observed despondently.  "It's been a month.  If he ever really *does* come out of it, the brain damage will surely be permanent."

       Spock remained silent, his head still bowed, knowing that if either Human saw his eyes, they would read his refusal to accept this within their brown depths.

       "We don't know that, Leonard.  Dr. Jamison hasn't given up yet," Christine reminded him.  "This is Christmas--time of miracles.  Let's keep a little optimism, here."

       But McCoy was finding it increasingly difficult to do so, even for Spock's sake.  He glanced up at her doubtfully as she set down a plate of food for him.  "Think there's any point in us going back to see him today?"

       "Couldn't hurt," Christine replied, heading back into the kitchen for Spock's plate.

       Spock suddenly looked up at McCoy with an expression that was half-entreaty and half-accusation.  "You told me when we first arrived that if we did not 'give up on' him, Jim would not 'give up on himself'," he reminded McCoy. "Are you willing to do so now?"

       "No," McCoy admitted guiltily.  "I'm sorry, Spock...it just seems like the longer he stays like this, the more we're fooling ourselves."

       Spock bowed his head again.  "No, Christine is right--we must believe in him, Doctor.  To do otherwise is to admit defeat...and I will not lose him to this coma."

       Spock fell silent again, struggling with more awakening memories of Kirk, and McCoy could only marvel at his determination.

       Spock was so deep in thought about Kirk that he didn't notice the plate that Christine set down in front of him until she pointed it out.  "What did you say, Christine?"

       "I said I made you some cinnamon rolls," she repeated.

       Spock looked down at the two large, icing-covered cinnamon rolls on his plate.  "These are both for me?" he questioned.

       Christine nodded.  "I know how much you like them, and I wanted to be sure you would eat something," she explained.

       Spock looked up at her for a moment, then back down at the cinnamon rolls, then uncertainly over at McCoy.

       "They're one of your favorite foods," McCoy confirmed, watching him anxiously.  "At least, you always ate them when Jim was around."

       //Jim...//  Spock lowered his eyes again, focusing on the cinnamon rolls.  He leaned down closer and sniffed them curiously.  Yes--the warm-sweet-spice smell was familiar.  And it unleashed a sudden rush of memories within Spock: breakfasts with Kirk aboard ship and elsewhere, cinnamon rolls and hot chocolate, accompanying private talks that had always seemed to bring them closer together.  Again, Spock was reminded of how much he missed those talks... and the emotions they had brought forth in him.  He suppressed the urge to get up and run from the table, increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of remembering emotions he had only felt when alone with Kirk.  

       The perpetual queasiness in the pit of Spock's stomach once again hardened into a knot.  "I cannot eat all this.  It is too much," he told Christine finally, his voice farr too controlled.

       "But I made it especially--"

       "Take it back!"  Spock interrupted impatiently.

       Christine glanced worriedly and frustratedly at McCoy, who gave her an I'll-take-care-of-this look and motioned for her to leave the plate, which she did, then went back to the kitchen and busied herself getting drinks.


    McCoy, meanwhile, watched Spock slowly regaining control of his emotions as the Doctor finished off his food.  Then he spoke, waving his fork at Spock for emphasis.  "You are *not* going to get away with skipping another meal, Spock, even if I have to make it a medical order.  Christine was considerate enough to cook up a special batch of cinnamon rolls for you, so you may as well eat them."

    Spock saw as he looked at McCoy that the latter would not be dissuaded.  "Very well," he sighed, picking up his own fork and beginning to pick at a roll.

    "I also think you owe Christine an apology," McCoy added.

    "I did not ask her to fix this food," Spock returned coolly.  "On Vulcan, it is not considered proper--"

    "In the first place, you're not *on* Vulcan any more," McCoy interrupted, becoming impatient, himself.  "And in the second place--you're still missing some emotional memories, Spock.  Christine was trying to be kind to you; she didn't do anything 'improper'."

    Spock took a bite of his cinnamon roll and regarded McCoy in puzzlement.  "Do I have...a relationship with her?" he asked.

    McCoy nodded.  "You still don't remember, do you?"

    Spock shook his head.  "What should I remember?"

    McCoy decided to leave the full details of that to Christine.  "Think, Spock.  What do you feel toward her right now?"

    Spock averted his eyes in confusion.  "I...do not know.  I believe I feel ...something...for her, but it does not seem the same as what I feel for you and Jim," he admitted uneasily.  "She *is* my friend, is she not?"

    "Yes, you could say that," McCoy replied vaguely, glancing into the kitchen, where Christine was--apparently having decided to eat her own lunch there alone.

    "She insists on my addressing her informally, by her first name, and I seem to recall...certain emotions for me on her part.  I think...she once said that she 'loved' me," Spock observed thoughtfully.  "Did I ever reciprocate?"

    "You'll remember eventually," McCoy responded evasively, knowing he couldn't force Spock to remember by blurting out all the details at once.

    "She does seem to...care for me...in a way that I find somewhat...other than professional, yet she behaves in a professional manner, her attempt to ply me with cinnamon rolls notwithstanding," Spock continued hesitantly.

    "Just eat them.  Then go talk to her," McCoy advised.

    Spock was still not hungry, and the taste of the cinnamon rolls continued to awaken disturbing, bittersweet memories within him of quiet times with Kirk--but he complied, anyway.

    Belatedly, Christine remembered the drinks and brought them out--coffee for McCoy and juice for Spock.  As if on cue, McCoy finished up the last of his food, picked up his mug of coffee, threw a significant look of admonition to Spock, and got up to give him some time alone with Christine; Spock's eyes conveyed understanding as the Doctor passed by him on the way to the living room.

    When Christine returned to the kitchen, Spock got up and followed her as far as the door.  "Christine?" he began cautiously.

    "What?" she responded tersely, not looking at him.

    "Dr. McCoy has finished his meal.  He seems...to prefer that I not be alone," he continued awkwardly.  "It is unnecessary for you to avoid me...unless perhaps you *prefer* to eat alone.  I find that I do not."

    Somewhat startled, Christine picked up her plate and took a few steps toward him.  "Are you sure--?"

    Spock nodded, moving aside for her before heading back to his own seat.  She sat down near him, across from where McCoy had sat.  "I am sorry," he told her finally.  "I did not understand your actions.  Dr. McCoy says you meant no harm...neither did I.  I suppose I am still too preoccupied with...the Captain."

    Christine could not remain angry with him in the face of his obvious contrition.  "So what else is new?"  she sighed, turning her attention to what was left of her food.

    "The cinnamon rolls *are* very good," Spock admitted appreciatively.  "I... remembered them when I tasted them."

    Christine glanced up at him doubtfully, but decided to take his word for it.

    "Actually, I am still experiencing considerable gastrointestinal discomfort ...it is difficult for me to eat much of anything without becoming ill," Spock elaborated hesitantly.  "I have also acquired a tolerance for Dr. McCoy's anti-nausea pills."

    Christine regarded him worriedly.  "You're really still that anxious about Captain Kirk?"

    "I have tried to meditate.  I do not understand this continued inability of the mental disciplines I was taught on Vulcan to affect this particular 'anxiety'," Spock acknowledged faintly, finishing his last roll.  "And I do not know how to...release it...without losing control, as I just did a few moments ago.  I know only that it is Christmas, and he should be here--*with* me.  With *us*."

    "*We'll* be with *him* tomorrow," she reminded him gently, forgetting her previous, self-absorbed resentment as she got up to take their plates back to the kitchen.

    "And today?"  Spock added hopefully.  "I wish to see him today, also."

    Christine didn't answer until she had put the plates in the dishwasher and come back to the dining area.  "Well, you haven't missed a day since we got here.  I don't suppose Christmas Eve should be any different," she opined understandingly.  "I think I can arrange for all of us to see him tonight--we can turn on the lights and have a little party."

    "A party..." Spock hadn't thought of that.  Yes--if Jim were able to respond fully to *anything*, surely the sounds of a party going on around him would bring him out of catatonia.  "...*that* could be effective.  Jim seems to enjoy parties," he reflected softly.

    Christine moved to his side and touched him lightly on the arm.  "For now, though, come with me," she requested.

    "Why?"  Spock asked warily.

    "It's all right--I'm just going to help you relax a little," she assured him.

    "You can do that?"  Spock questioned dubiously, getting up hesitantly to follow her.

    She nodded.  "Trust me."

    And some instinct told Spock that he should.

    McCoy noted that they were headed into the living room and scrambled to get out of their way, moving to a chair across the room, near the hallway entrance, as they sat down on the sofa, watching them silently.

    "Lie down on your stomach," Christine instructed, then.

    Spock looked at her in confusion, but complied anyway, knowing she would not hurt him.

    "That's it..."  Cautiously, Christine shifted her position slightly, reaching to lay her hands gently on Spock's shoulders.  Then she began to rub them, kneading the stiff muscles first, then pressing gentle circles of varying sizes into them--around Spock's shoulder-blades, then up and down his back.

    Spock was not prepared for the effects of either her massage or the memories awakened within him by the prolonged physical contact with her. "You have done this before," he noted, somewhat unsteadily.

    "Sometimes--when the Captain's not around, at least; when he is, you only let him do it."

    As Spock had by now recalled, Kirk had begun giving him an occasional massage first, then he had taught *Spock* how to do it for *him*.  But he had not, until now, realized that he let *Christine* do it, too.  He lowered his shields a little and concentrated on the warmth and concern he felt through her touch, the caring and determination to ease his turmoil, and slowly, Spock began to relax.

    "Our bond never was as strong as the one you had with him," Christine remarked.  "Still, at times like this, I suppose it--"

    "'*Our* bond'?"  Spock repeated, a note of surprise touching his voice. "Are we...bond-mates?"

    McCoy had warned Christine against springing any major revelations on Spock while his mind was still in this transitional state, so she eased into it. "Would you be surprised if we were?" she asked cautiously.

    "I...do not know.  I had not previously considered the idea," Spock admitted frankly, still too preoccupied with the feeling of her hands massaging his back to devote much thought to anything else.  "Hmm...most pleasant," he commented distractedly.

    "I thought you'd think so," Christine returned knowingly.  "I want you to get some more sleep before we see Captain Kirk."

    "Would you...stay with me?"  Spock requested faintly.

    "Of course, Spock," Christine assured him kindly, ceasing the massage finally and moving a hand to rest it on his head.

    Spock fell asleep shortly thereafter as Christine absently stroked his hair.  McCoy located a blanket and spread it out over the Vulcan, then he and Christine sat with him, talking quietly and keeping watch over Spock, making sure he stayed asleep for a respectable length of time.  They knew he still had difficulty sleeping--more than the usual level of concern for Kirk that tended to keep them all awake, Spock still had nightmares about Kirk dying.  For now, however, while Christine maintained physical contact with him, he slept in relative peace.


    Four hours later, the three of them got ready to go spend Christmas Eve with Kirk.  For the first time, Spock rummaged through the clothes in his dresser drawers to find something *other* than his usual Vulcan clothing to wear.  For Christmas and for Jim--in case he finally became able to see Spock--the Vulcan wanted to be wearing something else.  Something seasonal--something his Captain would recognize, yet something Terran in style and construction.  He eventually settled on something Kirk had helped him purchase shortly before their first Christmas on the Enterprise after the V'ger mission--a dark green velvet tunic-and-slacks set trimmed in white and silver artificial fur.  He was certain Jim would remember it.

       The sight of Spock in Christmas attire brought an immediate response from McCoy.   "How in the world did it occur to you to bring *that*?" he demanded, in surprise.  "I thought you had no intention of taking part in any Christmas celebrations."

       "I simply brought all the civilian clothing I had with me," Spock returned quietly.  "Not all of it has arrived yet."  He smoothed out the tunic over his torso and straightened the bottom edge of it.  "These, of course, were not among my belongings that were sent back to Vulcan.  Jim sent them and a few other things back to his apartment on Earth, and retrieved them after the trial," he added, glancing at McCoy and noting his attire with some disappointment.

       McCoy realized that Spock must have expected to see the blue and silver outfit that the Doctor had worn the same Christmas that Spock had worn the green one.  Instead, he was wearing a fairly mundane outfit of gray sweater and black jeans.  "I didn't bring it," he supplied apologetically.  "I don't think Christine brought her green gown, either," he added, referring to the gown she had gotten to match Spock's green outfit.  "There was a time when we'd hoped for *some* kind of celebration...but not after Jim was injured.  You're not the only one who hasn't been in a party mood."

       Spock nodded in silent acceptance and did not react when Christine emerged wearing the same one-piece pants suit she'd been wearing all day--mildly dressy but hardly suggestive of a Christmas party.

       But *she* reacted to *him*, instantly understanding what he had in mind when she saw his green clothing.  "The Captain will appreciate that," she opined.

       Spock was too startled by her ability to read him so well to hide the pleading expression in his eyes when he responded.  "You think he will remember it?" he questioned.

       Christine stepped close to him.  "I think he remembers every detail of every Christmas you've ever shared with him," she told him gently.  "He just needs to be reminded of it."

       Spock bowed his head in gratitude, reaching out hesitantly to touch her hands.  "He has to wake up, Christine.  He promised.  In the mind-meld, he promised to come back," he murmured.  "He has to wake up..."

       Christine responded instinctively, slipping her arms around him and taking the bowed head onto her shoulder.  "He will...he will," she soothed.  "His vitals are getting better.  He's more responsive.  It'll happen, eventually--no reason it couldn't happen tonight."

       Spock let her hold him, feeling the depth of her empathy and concern through her touch.  It was clear now that not only did she love him--she also knew his thoughts and emotions.  Not as well as Jim, perhaps, but well enough to convince him.  "We *are* bond-mates," he concluded softly, as they finally stepped apart.

       Christine nodded.  "I have the Federation Marriage Certificate somewhere in my quarters on the ship.  I can show you when we get back."

       "No...I believe you," Spock replied, holding her hand briefly against his cheek without being certain how or why he had thought of doing so.

       "Come on, you two--we should get going," McCoy pointed out finally, patting both of them on the shoulder.

       Spock picked up his Vulcan harp as he and McCoy followed Christine out the door.


       When they reached Kirk's room, they found Jamison and Thalann both there.  Kirk's pillows had been re-positioned so that he could sit up in bed, and the Christmas lights had been turned on.  "We don't get much business this time of year--in fact, he's the only patient in this ward, right now," Dr. Jamison explained.  "We try to spend more time with them if they're here over the holidays--especially Christmas and Christmas Eve.  With so few here now, we've been able to spend most of the day with him."

       "You've got him sitting up," McCoy noted curiously.  "Has his condition changed any?"

       "I'll let Rachelle tell you," Jamison replied cryptically, leaving them to go across the room to check the diagnostic monitor.

       "He had his eyes open when I came on duty," she told them.  "He's had them open intermittently since then.  His eyes respond to light changed, now--we think he could become aware enough to see us any time.  He may just need the right people to look at."

       Then Thalann, too, stood aside as McCoy hurried to Kirk's side, followed more slowly by Spock, who was reluctant to let himself hope.  Christine hung back with Thalann, content for the moment to observe things from a distance--the readings on the screens of various machine consoles around Kirk, as well as Spock and McCoy as they approached the Captain's bedside.

       McCoy sat down on the edge of the bed next to Kirk, studying his face closely; Kirk's eyes were open, but they remained unfocused.  "Jim?"  McCoy began uncertainly.  "It's Christmas Eve, Jim.  Spock and I are here with you--Christine, too.  She says Nyota will come by with some of the others tomorrow."

       Kirk's head moved toward the sound of McCoy's voice, but he gave no evidence of recognizing the Doctor.

       McCoy glanced up at Spock, who was still standing behind him.  "Maybe
*you* should try.  He might be more responsive," he suggested.

       Spock hesitated, still hampered by a very Human fear that Kirk still would *not* respond to him, despite his mental promise.

       McCoy, understanding his apprehension, got up quickly and moved aside. "Go on, sit down," he urged kindly.

       Spock sat down reluctantly in McCoy's place, positioning his harp in his lap and reaching to lay a hand softly on Kirk's forearm.  "Jim, it is I--Spock.  I am with you, as I said I would be.  As Dr. McCoy says, it is Christmas Eve.  I ...I know you would not wish to miss the holiday.  Your room has been decorated ...there is even a tree.  And I know you enjoy hearing me play Christmas carols on my Vulcan harp--I remember how to play some of them, now.  Listen, Jim...I can play your favorite one."

       Releasing Kirk's arm, Spock slowly began to play "Angels We Have Heard on High", gradually focusing all his attention on Kirk as he watched the Human for a response.

       McCoy looked around at Christine and Thalann.  "Let's sing," he suggested softly, almost mouthing the words.

       Christine nodded in response, and she and Thalann began to sing along. McCoy joined in, and, still unnoticed by Spock, moved up behind the Vulcan and rested his hands on Spock's shoulders.

       Keeping his eyes on Kirk, Spock played two more Christmas carols as the others quietly sang along.  Then he played "Angels We Have Heard on High" again, convinced that his Captain would be more likely to recognize *that*.  Kirk's eyes had settled on him several times during his performance, but so far with no sign of recognition.  Spock paused between verses and reached out to gently touch Kirk's face.  //Please, Jim, you promised--come back to me,// his mind whispered, then he withdrew his hand and continued with the song.


    Abruptly, Spock's presence registered in Kirk's mind.  His eyes focused on the Vulcan, and he became aware of music--the harp first, then the singing.  A favorite carol he had learned at his mother's knee...he heard the words clearly now, just as he had heard Spock's voice earlier.  And it was real, not some memory dredged up from the depths of his confused mind to torture him with images of happier times: Spock was really there, in his green Christmas outfit, playing carols for his Captain on his harp.  But he looked thin and tired, with an unusually open expression of sadness and desperation in his dark eyes.

       Kirk fought to keep up with the words being sung and managed to find enough of a voice to try to join in: "...what the gladsome tidings be...which inspire your Heavenly song..."

       His voice was too soft for anyone but Spock to hear.  He stopped playing abruptly, studying Kirk and wondering if he'd imagined the sound.  "Jim...?" he almost-whispered.

       During the following few minutes they spent staring uncertainly at each other, Christine and Thalann moved closer as they realized what was happening; Thalann went to alert Jamison, and Christine looked on in silent anticipation as she and McCoy unconsciously held their breath, waiting to see what Kirk would do next.

       "Spock?"  Kirk questioned faintly, at last.  "Am I...still dreaming?"

       "No, Jim--I am here, and so is McCoy.  And it *is* Christmas," Spock assured him quickly.

       "Don't stop, Spock.  Keep playing.  I like it," Kirk told him then, his voice just a sigh.

       Spock nodded in acknowledgement and resumed playing while Kirk began to look around at the others, the decorations, and the tree.

       McCoy reached down to squeeze Kirk's hand affectionately and felt Kirk return the pressure on his hand as they communicated silently.

       As the night wore on, people began to drift away until only McCoy and
Spock were left in the room with Kirk, McCoy now watching them from the end of the bed.  Spock had set aside his harp now and they were just talking.

       "Nice tree," Kirk commented, smiling involuntarily.  "Your idea?"

       Spock nodded slowly.  "But the decorations themselves were McCoy's idea," he added, still marvelling at Kirk's apparent lucidity.

       "Thanks, Spock," Kirk responded, glancing over then at McCoy.  "Thanks, Bones," he added.  He turned back to Spock, regarding the Vulcan's bowed head in puzzlement.  "Spock?" he prompted anxiously.

       "I...was afraid, Jim.  I suppose...I still am," Spock admitted guiltily.  "If I lose you, I...lose myself."

       Kirk reached out cautiously to touch Spock's hands.  "You won't," he assured Spock, trying to sound as confident as possible.  "Won't lose *you*, either."

       "No, Jim," Spock agreed, returning the pressure on his hands, still finding the situation hard to believe.  "I made a promise to you, too."

       Kirk remembered.  "In my mind...you said...you'd help me."

       Spock nodded again, looking back up at him.  "Whatever you need," he reiterated.

       Kirk now focused on Spock again, on his haggard appearance, despite his Christmas attire--the turmoil-filled eyes and air of exhaustion about his manner and facial features.  "You look terrible," he noted worriedly.  "Like you've... been through Hell.  You all right?"

       "As well as can be expected," Spock answered evasively, lowering his eyes again, uncertain of how to explain.

       "Bones was with you," Kirk pointed out, puzzled.

       "And he has done his best for me...but I still...felt your absence," Spock returned faintly, still being purposely vague.

       Kirk studied him indecisively for a time, then reached up to awkwardly touch the top of Spock's head, uncertain if the Vulcan would allow his Human friend to comfort him as Kirk's instincts directed.  He gently stroked Spock's hair for a few minutes, during which Spock neither responded nor pulled away.  "Hey..." he suggested softly, "...I bet...even with all these...tubes and wires attached...I could hug you.  That is, if you wanted..."  He stopped, embarrassed; this was the first time since Spock had left Vulcan that he had dared to make such an offer.  Spock was still trying to balance his Vulcan retraining with his slowly-returning Human knowledge, and was still uncomfortable expressing emotion--especially physically.  Perhaps it was too soon.

       Certainly Spock seemed to have no intention now of accepting his offer; he had not moved since Kirk had spoken.  But finally, with one of Kirk's hands still holding his, the sincerity of his Captain's wish to comfort him communicated itself to him through Kirk's touch.  And he looked up at Kirk slowly.  "It would not hurt you?"  Spock questioned uncertainly.

       Kirk shook his head, with some difficulty.  "Come on," he urged again.

       Spock moved forward cautiously as Kirk pulled his friend against his chest, both being careful not to interfere with the various IVs and other kinds of tubing that were attached to Kirk's arms.

       Not about to be left out, McCoy moved back up beside them, hoping Spock would not respond to his sudden nearness by withdrawing from Jim.  They both needed this, he knew--Kirk in his delicate physical (and uncertain mental) condition and Spock still in a transitional state between the Vulcan he had been retrained as and the fully-integrated Vulcan/Human being he'd been at the time of his death.  Spock in particular needed this time to be close to his dearest friend; he had, as Jim had said--and as McCoy personally knew--"been through Hell", and there was no telling how long this lucid, normal-seeming period would last for Kirk.

       It could be permanent, an indication that he was on the road to full recovery...or it could be a last spurt of normalcy, a Christmas gift from a merciful God before Jim's mind disintegrated entirely.  If that were the case, as a small but annoyingly persistent part of McCoy whispered that it might be, it would be best for them--for Spock--to have this last memory.  McCoy could not think of what that loss would mean to him without automatically thinking of what it would do to Spock...

       But as Christine had said, Christmas was a time of miracles.  McCoy dragged himself back from his dark vision of worst-case scenarios and focused on Spock and Kirk as they were *now*.  Spock was sitting awkwardly against Kirk, his face turned away from McCoy, as Kirk held him.  "I still have nightmares," Spock confessed softly, clearly for Kirk's ears only.  "Not like I had on Vulcan--these are not confusing.  Just...very disturbing."

       "About me?"  Kirk guessed.

       "Yes..." Spock's voice was barely audible, now.

       Kirk responded by holding Spock a little more tightly.  "It's all right, now...it's Christmas...I'm still here, and we're together," he pointed out soothingly.  "We can stay together...all Christmas."  He rubbed Spock's back gently and they both fell silent for a time as McCoy continued to watch them.  "Spock," Kirk said, at length.

       "Yes, Jim?"  Spock returned faintly.

       "I want you...to eat more.  You're getting...too thin," Kirk told him, his voice becoming weaker.  "Get some sleep...let Bones take...care of you..."

       "I will try," Spock replied, mainly to humor Kirk.

       "I'm awfully tired, Spock..."

       Spock automatically started to release him and sit up.

       "No, please...please stay...where you are," Kirk protested entreatingly.

       "Very well," Spock acceded hesitantly, although he wasn't particularly comfortable with the idea of prolonged physical contact with his Captain--especially when they weren't completely alone.  Even if McCoy hadn't been there, Jamison was probably still in his office; he might, for all they knew, object on medical grounds.  And yet, for the Human part of Spock, it "felt" good to be able to be this close to his friend again.  Kirk's condition was so uncertain that there was no way to know when--or if--he would have this chance again.  He sent out a cautious tendril of thought to Kirk's mind: //My emotions for you are...very strong, Jim.  I need you to survive this intact.  I need...your strength, your...emotions for me...to help me to complete my retraining.//

       Kirk's mind responded with warm acceptance and affection.  //I love you, Spock...couldn't bear to lose you again.//

       Spock took the time to wonder it what he felt for Kirk could likewise be classified as "love", but the only answers he could find resulted only in more confusion.


    When Kirk and Spock both fell asleep soon after this and it became apparent that they were going to remain that way, McCoy decided he may as well leave them alone.  He checked Jamison's office, found the latter still monitoring Kirk's condition (with no mention made of the viewer's image of Spock sleeping in Kirk's arms), and left instructions that they should not be disturbed unless it was unavoidable.  Thus Christmas Eve passed peacefully for Kirk and his friends; McCoy spent its waning hours in his quarters--along with Christine, who had decided he should not be left alone that night and who temporarily took over Spock's empty room--sleeping soundly for the first time since their arrival at the starbase.

    When they returned to Kirk's hospital room the next day, Kirk was still asleep; Spock was awake, however, and sitting up, again softly playing his harp, occasionally pausing to reach out and touch Kirk's face with his fingers in mind-meld position for momentary mind-touches that he seemed to enjoy and Kirk seemed soothed by.  McCoy and Christine watched Spock in silence for a time, until he surprised them by turning toward them and almost smiling.  "He is fighting back.  I feel his mind, now...his consciousness.  He *will* recover fully," Spock told them.

    McCoy met the expression of renewed hope and energy sparkling in the dark eyes and found himself wanting to believe it.  He exchanged looks with Christine, who gave him an I-told-you-so nod, and they both moved closer. "You're sure about that, are you?"

    Spock nodded, completely missing the Doctor's humor.  "I have touched his mind repeatedly, now," he reiterated earnestly.  "When he awakens, he will still know me and talk to me."

    Before McCoy could respond, Thalann emerged from the office.  "Ever since Spock woke up--right after I came on duty--Captain Kirk's responsiveness has been improving steadily.  He's definitely conscious, and he seems to know when Spock's with him, now--his readings pick up.  No reason he *shouldn't* recognize Spock when he wakes up," she concurred, moving closer to check the monitors around the bed.  "If he *maintains* this condition, we should be able to start him on rehab in a few days."

    "What about full recovery?"  McCoy asked.

    "Too early to know yet," Thalann replied, glancing back at him.  "One thing you can count on--that Dr. Jamison and I agree on--is that he's going to be looking at several months of rehab, possibly longer, depending on how extensive the damage caused by the coma turns out to be."

    McCoy looked at Spock, but the Vulcan was determinedly focusing all his attention on Kirk.  Christine had silently moved up behind Spock and sat down on the bed near him; she reached out to gently lay a hand on Spock's shoulder as he resumed playing his harp, and Spock looked toward her briefly with a searching, questioning expression.  Christine's eyes conveyed understanding, and Spock reached up to squeeze her arm gratefully before returning to his playing.  "Well, he talks.  He's lucid," McCoy noted.  "So there can't be too much *mental* damage.  It's Christmas and I'm willing to give his physical condition the benefit of the doubt," he decided.

    Thalann just nodded.  This was no time for pessimism.  Kirk needed to believe he could recover as much as his friends did--and they had to believe it first.  She stood silently with McCoy and Christine (who had gotten up just as quietly as she had sat down and retreated a few steps away from Spock), watching Spock's somewhat one-sided interaction with Kirk.

    Eventually, Kirk woke up and looked at Spock.  "Still here?" he greeted the Vulcan.

    "Obviously.  It *is* Christmas Day," Spock responded, cocking an eyebrow at him inquiringly.  "I have no reason to be anywhere else.  You did wish me to stay, did you not?"

    "You *better* stay," Kirk asserted, managing a slight smile.  "I just... wasn't sure you would."

    Spock shook his head in negation of the idea of his leaving.  "As long as you wish, Jim," he promised.

    They were joined then by McCoy, who came and stood beside Spock.  "Good morning, Jim.  How're you feeling?" he asked curiously.

    "Aside from feeling...like there's a brick wall lying on top of me...not too bad," Kirk answered sardonically, referring to his difficulty in moving, glancing up at McCoy briefly before looking back at Spock.  "Hey, what do you have to do...to get something to eat around here?"

    "You're hungry?"  McCoy questioned, startled.

    Kirk nodded.

    "I'll go down to the cafeteria and see if there's any breakfast left that you'd be able to keep down," Thalann offered, glancing at Christine as she headed for the outer door.  "Someone should contact Dr. Jamison and let him know about this development," she told Christine.

    Christine nodded, turning for the office door.

    "Bones--what does Jamison say?  Am I going...to be all right?"  Kirk asked, then.

    McCoy and Spock exchanged uncertain looks, wondering what they could truthfully tell him.  "He's not sure yet, Jim.  But you know we'll do all we can for you," McCoy finally assured Kirk.

    "The most important fact now is...that you are not going to die," Spock added, reaching hesitantly to touch Kirk's hand again.

    Kirk quickly closed his hand around Spock's, looking back at him trustingly.  "You did say...you'd help me," he recalled softly.

    Spock nodded, squeezing his Captain's hand.  "Yes, Jim.  I will...do whatever needs to be done to take care of you...just as you would for me," he reiterated firmly.

    Kirk appeared satisfied.  "Come on, Spock...play some more Christmas music," he requested, deciding to try to sit up again.  Spock moved to help him before picking up his Vulcan harp again.

From: Gamin Davis (arkietrekker@cox-internet.com)


    Spock was still playing his harp--now being helped along by Kirk and McCoy, since his memory of Christmas carols was still incomplete--when Nurse Thalann returned with Kirk's breakfast: cream of wheat and sliced peaches.  When it became apparent that Kirk was having trouble with his eating utensils, Spock offered to feed him.

    It was not long after Kirk finished eating what he could that other crewmembers began to arrive.  Eventually, they were all there--Uhura, Sulu, Chekov and Scott, in addition to McCoy, Spock and Christine--joined by Thalann and Jamison, who had returned when he heard about Kirk's sudden improvement.  They managed to get the Captain involved in carol-singing again as Spock continued to play his harp, and someone smuggled in some non-alcoholic egg nog that was passed around as the afternoon wore on.

    The mood was quietly upbeat as they talked animatedly among themselves and to Kirk, but McCoy kept his attention on his two friends; Kirk's stayed centered mostly on Spock and the sparkling tree behind him, and it was doubtful that Spock was aware of anyone or anything but Kirk.  They spent much of the time in silent communication, unable to talk comfortably with all the people and chatter surrounding them, Spock's hand eventually seeking out Kirk's, once he had set his harp aside again.

    It was well after 2100 when all the others had finally left Spock and McCoy alone with Kirk; Thalann's shift was over and Christine had promised to wait for Spock and McCoy at their quarters.  Only Dr. Jamison remained to monitor Kirk's condition, going from screen to screen on his equipment and noting the current readings on his electronic notepad with non-verbal sounds of amazement.  "Just phenomenal," he concluded finally, glancing over at McCoy.  "If he can keep up this rate of improvement, he should be ready to start rehab by New Years'."

    McCoy met his eyes.  "Do you think he'll recover completely?" he asked again.  "Nurse Thalann seemed unsure."

    "He's got a good chance for it if he can keep up this kind of progress--we'll know more after he starts the rehab," Jamison asserted.  "Right now, I'd estimate at least six months' rehab, then an evaluation.  Depending on the results of that, he could either continue the rehab, or, if I could certify him fit, we could get him a temporary ground assignment before returning him to the Enterprise."

    If they had forgotten that the subject of their speculations was listening, Kirk intended to remind them.  "Six months--could be a year, maybe longer.  Crew can't...stay here that long," he pointed out.

    "They won't, Jim," McCoy assured him.  "But I'm not going to let you stay here by yourself, either.  And if you're about to go into rehab, we need to decide *now* what to do about that.  As it stands, we only have until 1200 New Year's Day before our leaves expire and the Enterprise has to be ready to ship out."

    "If I may make a suggestion," Jamison put in cautiously.  "The Enterprise can't do without a Chief Medical Officer for an extended period.  I doubt Starfleet would approve of Dr. McCoy being here for six months or more--but they might go for extending *Dr. Chapel's* temporary assignment here."

    "Would she do that, Bones?"  Kirk asked uncertainly.

    "I'll talk to her tonight, Jim.  I'm sure she won't object," McCoy replied.

    "Doctor," Spock interjected hesitantly, "what about me?"

    McCoy and Jamison exchanged worried looks--but before either could say anything, Kirk spoke again: "I want him with me."

    "I told him I would stay," Spock added, looking pleadingly at the two Medical Officers.

    McCoy met his eyes.  "You'd be away from the ship for an awfully long time," he pointed out doubtfully.  "Are you sure you'd want that?"

    "You still maintain that I am unfit for command, and indeed I have concluded that I *would* still have difficulty, even with regular duty," Spock returned somberly.  "It seems to me that I would be more useful to him here."

    "Christine'll have to keep an eye on *him* as well as Jim," McCoy commented, to no one in particular.  Then he addressed Spock.  "We'll try to get a channel to Starfleet Central tomorrow."

    Spock nodded in acknowledgement before returning his attention to Kirk.

    Seeing that Spock and McCoy were both focusing on Kirk now, Jamison realized they would have a lot to talk about and decided to leave them alone.  "See you all tomorrow," he told them, turning to go.

    As soon as Jamison was out of the room, McCoy sat down beside Kirk, on the edge of the bed opposite Spock.  Kirk looked at him apprehensively, voicing a concern that had been nagging at the back of his mind all day:  "Bones...you think I'll lose my command?"

    McCoy hesitated only long enough to glance over at Spock and note that the Vulcan's eyes were still on Kirk.  "We won't let that happen, Jim," McCoy promised kindly.  "Spock and Christine will take good care of you.  You know that."

    "Yes..." Kirk admitted softly, again regarding Spock with an expression of absolute trust.

    "And I'll keep in touch with both of them," McCoy added.

    "You *will* recover, Jim," Spock stated emphatically.

    Kirk nodded in acceptance of this, trying to expand his gaze to take in both his friends.  "Thanks...both of you...for the decorations, especially the tree," he repeated then, once more focusing on the Vulcan, this time in surprise and curiosity.  "How'd you remember...about Christmas decorations?"

    "It is my most vivid recollection to date of Christmas," Spock admitted, somewhat ruefully.  "I remembered...how you enjoyed decorating the tree...and it seemed something inclined to pique your interest."

    Kirk studied Spock wistfully.  "*You* used to like all that Christmas stuff, too," he recalled regretfully.  "Now, you're just...going along with it ...for my sake.  It means nothing to you."

    Spock bowed his head in discomfort.  "Not without you to show me how to celebrate it," he confessed faintly.  "Dr. McCoy thinks it never did mean anything to me--that I was just 'humoring' both of you with pretenses of participation," he recalled.  "But I remember, Jim....I remember how you always tried to involve me in Christmas, inviting me to the Bridge crew's Christmas party, persuading me to exchange gifts, insisting that I go on leave with you, that I help you decorate the tree...and I knew it would not be that way this year.  None of the crew were expecting a celebration this year, but...some part of me knew how you would miss it, evenbefore you were injured.  If that had not happened...if you had remained fully yourself...perhaps the holiday would have been more to me than a...reminder of something I had lost."

    Concerned, Kirk reached out to squeeze Spock's hand again.  "Spock...I'm glad you're here.  It wouldn't feel like Christmas to *me* without *you*, either," he told the Vulcan understandingly, looking briefly around at McCoy.  "Both of you...make it Christmas."

    Spock just looked more embarrassed and returned the pressure on his hand, holding tightly onto Kirk's.  "I will remember more, Jim.  You said you would help me..."

    Something about Spock's tone suggested that he was afraid Kirk had changed his mind.  "I will.  And you'll be fine," Kirk assured him gently.

    Spock looked up finally.  "Would it be appropriate now for me to say 'Merry Christmas'?" he asked uncertainly.

    "I've already had one...thanks to you and Bones," Kirk returned, cracking a smile.  "Merry Christmas, Spock."

    "Merry Christmas, Jim..."

    "Merry Christmas, Bones."

    "Merry Christmas, you two," McCoy replied warmly.

    The three of them fell silent for a time, reflecting on all that had happened.  "Merry" might have been too strong a word, but Kirk was out of danger of death and they were all together; that in itself was a small miracle.  Moreover, it seemed that Spock was slowly improving, filling more and more of the gaps in the knowledge restored to him by his Vulcan retraining.  They would recover together, with the help of Christine (and Jamison and Thalann, of course)--which, McCoy decided, was much as it should be.  He would miss them on the Enterprise, but he knew they would take care of each other.

    McCoy, meanwhile, would keep reminding Sulu, Scott and the others that they were just holding the Enterprise for Kirk and Spock--any replacements would be temporary.  He would not let any of them give up on their Captain and First Officer.

    At length, he noticed Kirk beginning to nod off and got up quietly, going around to Spock's side and laying a hand lightly on the Vulcan's shoulder.  "Come on, Spock--Jim's not the only one around here who needs sleep," he pointed out kindly.

    For once, Spock found himself too tired to resist.  He picked up his harp as he got up, letting McCoy steer him toward the door.  "Good night, Jim," he murmured, as he went.

    Kirk yawned a half-intelligible response that vaguely resembled "Good night, Spock...see you tomorrow."


    And McCoy headed back with Spock to their quarters, already setting his mind to what he would say to Admiral Cartwright tomorrow.  They would have to get moving if they were going to get the arrangements for Kirk's rehabilitation completed in time for it to start on Mew Year's Day.

    It was still on his mind after he had helped the exhausted Vulcan get ready for bed and Spock had responded by atypically asking him to stay for a while--something Spock had never done before.  When McCoy consented, and--somewhat against his better judgement--asked Spock why, the First Officer surprised him with his response: "I wish first to thank you, Doctor...for helping me and trying to understand the part of me that I presently seem unable to.  I know you are not accustomed to such...responsibility...and I apologize for ignoring your efforts for so long."  He paused awkwardly.  "You said...you wish to do what Jim does for me.  Do you still?"

    McCoy nodded readily, studying him warily.

    Spock still hesitated, finding that he could not voice the request without lowering his eyes.  "I am...still having that nightmare...about Jim dying.  I seem unable to keep it suppressed...even though it is no longer a possibility.  When he is available, he...knows I can sleep if he...holds me.  The closeness of his thoughts in my mind...blocks out the nightmare," he murmured, his voice full of embarrassment.

    This time, McCoy didn't bother to worry about whether or not his thoughts would be as soothing to Spock's as Kirk's would; he just opened his arms to his Vulcan friend and let Spock curl up against him--this time with less discomfort --and let his mind focus again on Spock and their shared concern for Kirk. Spock responded with gratitude and acceptance as McCoy pulled the covers up over him and made sure he would be warm enough, still marvelling that the Vulcan would again try what the Doctor had concluded to be a failed experiment.  It must have something to do with Kirk's improved condition, McCoy decided.

    //Another small miracle,// a voice in his mind said, and McCoy couldn't tell if the thought was his or Spock's.

    He held Spock silently, for now, concentrating on soothing him, and knew from the latter's slowed breathing when he had fallen asleep.  He needed McCoy, now; Starfleet Central and arrangements for Kirk's future could wait until tomorrow.  Tomorrow was, as his favorite work of Southern literature stated, another day.


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