Title: To Life
Author: Angie Tallahasee
Paring: Spock, McCoy
As they say -- "Let the buyer beware." This is a definite downer.
Disclaimer: Paramount owns all of this <wide, sweeping gesture> and I can't help it if the characters sometimes get stuck in my head! It's all a plot, anyway ... So I intend to make no profit from this whatsoever. And Dr. Stempien -- okay, so I wasn't exactly paying attention in math today. All feedback WELCOMED!!! Good, bad, or indifferent. You can e-mail me at email@example.com
"McCoy? Well, yes, he's here, but visiting hours are over, sir. If you'd like to leave a message ... "
Spock sized up the peculiar woman, who, in her loose white tunic, looked like an experienced healer-priestess. Her mannerisms and post, however, betrayed her as an apprentice thrust headlong into high action by the recent war.
"No, miss. I am not here as a visitor. I have come to take the Lieutenant-Commander home."
She looked annoyed. "You can't just walk in here and ... just ... take people away, sir. The treaty clearly states that no agents of either side shall ... "
He cut her off, pulling out the thin wallet that contained his Starfleet identification. "I am not an enemy agent, and neither, for that matter, is Dr. McCoy. He is a Starfleet officer, and I have been given orders to return him to the Federation."
The nurse paled. "I -- I can't just let you do this -- you've got to talk to the Director. I don't have any say in these military matters."
Something snapped in Spock's mind and what had been impatience suddenly bordered on panic. *Impossible,* his rational mind countered in a split-second. *Vulcans do not panic.* Still, he felt a new sense of urgency. If they wouldn't let him in ... Reaching over the narrow desk he placed his hand carefully behind the nurse's neck; she slumped forward.
With a growing feeling of unease, he passed through a stickily automatic door into the quiet ward. Supposedly it was meant for specialized care, but Spock suspected that this out-of-the-way wing was more like a low-security prison for those who couldn't possibly escape under their own power.
The corridor cut straight through the ward before him and he stopped a while to get his bearings. His heightened Vulcan hearing picked out the hums of a hundred medical machines, each one keeping someone alive. If he could stop -- be calm -- and seek -- perhaps he could --
Yes, there it was -- the faint thread of his life, so delicate
now. Spock moved through the dimness of an alien evening with eyes half-shut, moving towards McCoy.
He found him toward the rear of the ward, tucked away in a room full of shadows. At first, so attuned to mental searching, Spock had difficulty seeing; but once his eyes adjusted he realized that the room was oddly spacious for a single patient. There, he slept in the bed -- was it only sleep? -- surrounded by computers, machines and readouts that
the doctor would have damned as worthless antiques.
Spock crossed with soft footsteps to the bedside and sat down, carefully, by McCoy's still form. The doctor's face was flushed with fever; Spock wanted to stroke McCoy's forehead, but feared his hot Vulcan flesh would be of little comfort. Then -- something made him reach out anyway, smoothing damp hair back from the doctor's forehead. McCoy did
Did he sleep -- was it only sleep? Spock wondered. No, he thought, he does not rest like one asleep. And the hospital surely cannot afford to dispense sedatives on a strange alien, a recovered prisoner of war from an army neither side knew. This strange sleep was a prelude to death.
He opened his communicator with a slightly trembling hand and managed a fine job of keeping his voice from shaking. "Spock to Enterprise," he said softly.
The captain's voice seemed to echo in the relative silence: "Kirk here."
"Captain, I was able to locate Dr. McCoy." There was a pause as Spock tried to find words. "He is ... in poor condition."
Now there was silence from Kirk's end. "What is your
The Vulcan drifted into thought. To remove McCoy from the primitive medical center -- Spock had no way of knowing whether McCoy would survive even a few minutes without the machines; yet, left here, he would surely die ... alone. The communicator chirped peevishly as Kirk repeated, "Spock? Recommendation?"
He pulled his thoughts together. "Captain, I believe it would be unwise to leave the doctor in this facility." He wasn't sure, but he thought he heard Kirk sigh -- with relief or resignation, he couldn't tell.
"We can't take you directly out of there, Spock. You'll have to get out of the building. These wartime constructions -- everything has paranoia built right in, and they've got a transporter-block field over the hospital."
"Noted, Captain." Spock did not mention that this presented several new difficulties.
"Well --" Kirk hesitated. "Bring him home, Spock."
"I will do my best." He snapped the communicator shut and clipped it to his belt.
Spock knew what he had to do -- but suddenly he was at a loss. Being there, in that dreary, shady hospital room with McCoy, after so many months -- and now he had finally found the doctor, only to be faced with losing him again. It was hard ... Spock abstractly recognized that he'd been grieving all along, not knowing what had happened, only painfully aware that McCoy was gone from his place on the Enterprise, and
often -- so often Spock could feel the thread of McCoy's life in his thoughts. Far too often Spock had been brought up short when that thread cried out in terror, pain. It had been a terribly long seven months for Spock, always knowing when McCoy had been hurt, and never, never able to help.
And now -- here at the end, he still couldn't help. Once he disconnected the tubes and circuits, he knew the doctor might very well die before he could bring him home. So it was hard.
Spock pulled aside the rough gray blanket that covered McCoy's body, and silently mourned. Obviously he had been ill treated; bruised, scarred; in some places his pale skin was marked by glaring the red of infection, of unclosed wounds. And he was so thin -- Spock thought vaguely that he might break down then -- but he was Vulcan to the last, and kept his composure stubbornly. The doctor had always been slender,
had never had much weight to lose; now, after seven months as a prisoner of war, he was emaciated. His bones protruded sharply beneath his skin ... Spock couldn't drag his eyes away ... and this, he thought, was how the innocent were dealt with. A very un-Vulcan anger welled up within him --
But he tamped down his sudden fury, knowing it to be useless, a waste of energy. He opened the medikit he'd kept tucked under his arm. Most of its contents were foreign to him, but he picked out a cell regenerator that would heal skin. He used it to close the small cuts left where he removed tubes from McCoy's body; then he peeled two electrodes from the doctor's chest. McCoy continued to breathe; that was a good sign, Spock thought. He wrapped McCoy in the heavy blanket, feeling awkward and brutish as he tried to cradle the doctor's body in his arms ... then ... on an impulse he leaned over, close to McCoy's face so that his breath could be felt on the hot cheek. He positioned his fingers -- just so -- slipped into the mind-meld as gently as he could.
He felt no response. McCoy's mind was a haze of pain,
nightmares, torture -- there was no thought, no awareness of Spock's presence. Sobered, Spock withdrew. It was likely, very likely, that McCoy had no desire to wake. All he knew now was suffering ... Spock wished against all logic that somehow he could reach McCoy as McCoy had reached out to him ... but it was no use. Grimly, he stood up, carrying the doctor bundled in his arms -- a body still pulsing weakly with life, but a mind -- a wonderful mind -- that was pushed to the limit, and broken.
Spock never left sickbay for the entire three days that McCoy clung to life. If he had gone out, he would have seen a ship full of mourners -- and he could have sought company; but his grief was unique, and he found he wanted only to nurse it alone. So the doctors and nurses left him undisturbed, as long as he showed signs of eating and breathing, and he kept his vigil by McCoy's side.
Sometimes he sat, quietly meditating; at other times he would take McCoy's fragile hand in his. Vulcan touch-telepathy was not a thing to be taken lightly, but in this instance -- the normally uncomfortable closeness was not nearly enough for Spock. He stroked McCoy's skin -- the fever had passed, soon after Dr. Harmon an Christine Chapel had begun
to work on him, and most of the infections had been cleared from his wounds. The hospital planetside had apparently set some broken bones, as well; if only, if only there was a way to reach his mind ...
Spock had tried again to mind-meld, with the same result. Nothing but memories of agony and an all-consuming despair. These harsh emotions stayed with Spock long after he broke the meld. Despair claimed him, too, as it had taken the doctor -- he dwelt for hours on useless speculations, wondering what had made McCoy give up as he had. What had the prisonmasters done to him, how had they broken his will so
completely? Spock had no way of knowing - he only thought - that surely he should have known, should have reached out harder, forced his mental link to cross the light-years and find McCoy where he ached in the prison camp. He had disappeared from the planed, it seemed; they had hidden the
camp well; and the Enterprise had been forced to leave.
Spock remembered -- how Jim had beaten himself up, he'd felt so guilty, but in the end the captain had moved on. Spock's own pain was different -- he had ached all that time, knowing McCoy was alive somewhere, unable to reach out to him. Spock had ached the way the ancient Vulcans, before the time of Surak, would have ached -- on losing a brother, or -- it had taken Spock a long time to admit, even to himself, but he ached for a lost beloved as well.
The bond had been strong enough to torment Spock with guilt through all that time -- and the worst part was, McCoy had known about the bond. He hadn't merely transmitted unconsciously his pain; he had cried out for help that couldn't be given. Spock felt hollow when he thought of his failure. He had loved McCoy -- and he had promised himself, once he realized, that he would let him know. For better or worse, they needed each other, and only his refusal to admit more than
respect for the doctor had kept them apart, he feared.
Night dragged on. Seconds seemed distinct as each one showed a little dip in the readout; McCoy's life was ebbing away, because he couldn't bring himself to face a world that represented only agony for him now. Sock could hardly blame him -- but the sadness in the room was palpable. Nurses stayed away, though they knew it was almost over -- they didn't dare disturb Spock as he watched, looking sickly, over the
bed of his more-than-friend.
Nurse Chapel, passing by, saw Spock lean over McCoy, saw the tender, tender kiss he placed on the doctor's forehead -- and though she hurried on her way, not wanting to intrude, her mind raced along, taking in the weariness, and the tension, in Spock's body -- as though he longed for more than just that one kiss. And then he was behind her, beside her, a picture of Vulcan composure -- but Christine knew better; behind those brown eyes was a sorrow she couldn't begin to match, for all the love she had borne for Leonard McCoy. "He is gone," Spock said, and rapidly moved on, disappearing around a corner.
Christine stopped, blinking back tears. So it was over -- for her, McCoy had died when he disappeared seven months ago. Now she would grieve again -- but then she would heal, in time, she knew she would. And life would go on -- and there would be other people to love.