Intermission 10: What Ravages of Spirit
Disclaimer: ParaBorg owns 'em. I own this story, and a whopping student loan debt.
This takes place in the same universe as "Amicus Usque ad Aras," but it's not necessary to have read it to understand this story. This story is part of the Intermission series, which are scenes from the TOS episodes told by one or more of the main characters. Thanks to Editrix, whose excellent story "The Art of Longing" inspired me to finish this one. And thanks again to T’Thelaih, who beta read and told me I could do better. Hope I did. =)
Rating: TOS, PG, S, Cha, 1/1
Summary: The conversations we never saw, during the events of "Amok Time" Yep, just me spackling…again.
What ravages of spirit
Conjured this temptuous rage
Created you a monster,
Broken by the rules of love
And fate has led you to it…
You do what you have to do.
--"Do What You Have to Do"
"There's something off about his behavior," Nyota said, shuffling the cards. It was late in the evening, after our shifts had ended. We'd consumed about half a bottle of Rigellian wine and were now doing what we often did: sorting the day's events out over cards.
"What do you mean?" I asked, but I thought I knew what she was talking about. Just that afternoon, Spock had dropped a test-tube in the lab. In a human, nothing especially remarkable. In a Vulcan, in Spock, it was odd enough that it stuck in my memory. And had it been my imagination that his hands were trembling?
"Chris, I've seen him in situations that would make Klingons quake. He's never been as jumpy as he has been the past couple of days. Why just this morning, I accidentally hit the outgoing hail button, and he must have jumped four inches."
I looked across the table at her. "That's weird, all right. I'll do some discreet checking."
Expertly, Uhura cut the deck and began to deal the cards. "Right, you think he'll admit it to you?" She knew all about my relationship with Spock…if you could call it that. We had a good working relationship that was a friendship most of the time, but there was always that invisible border he kept between us. But at least we did talk, something I would have believed impossible after Psi 2000.
I shook my head. "No. That's why I said 'discreet' checking."
Uhura smiled. "Okay, I'll keep an eye on him too. Aces high, deuces wild…."
I arrived for my shift a good hour before McCoy did, just enough time for me to pull the dietary records. What I saw disturbed me. Spock hadn't eaten for three days, which wasn’t in itself unusual; in times of crisis, it often took McCoy threatening to yank him off duty to make him eat and rest. But there was no crisis, not this time. In addition, he'd been dodging the mandatory crew physicals. Not that Spock's avoidance of Sickbay was all that unusual; though he and the captain could be counted upon to risk life and limb on what seemed a monthly basis, they were more than reluctant to enter sickbay. But the combination of the two factors set my medical intuition to screaming.
I checked the clock; I had time to go and check on him. Maybe he would tell me what was wrong; we didn't have an antagonistic relationship and Spock, I suspected, would rather not reveal any weakness to the captain. I searched my memory…my roommate in medical school, T'Renna, had made a soup she had once observed was the Vulcan equivalent of chicken-noodle soup---guaranteed to cure any and all ills. It had been thick and spicy…plomeek, that was it.
"Chapel luck is notorious," I remembered my mother saying one afternoon, right after she'd walked out of her medical office with her skirt tucked in her pantyhose. I had to admit the family curse of bad luck and embarassing circumstances seemed to have followed me into Starfleet. First Psi 2000, then the debacle with Roger, and finally, this. I came around the corner with my plomeek soup, just in time to see McCoy and the captain chatting about something.
Len McCoy and I have a good relationship, most of the time. He's a good doctor, one of the best anywhere. But the barbs on his tongue cut deep, and I knew full well he would never believe my explanation of why I was standing in the hallway on my way to Spock's quarters. He’d teased me about it often, but right then, I wasn’t in the mood.
Too late. McCoy saw me, and with him was the captain. “Doctor,” I said, “captain.” It sounded lame even to my own ears. Why wasn’t there a red alert when I needed one? McCoy lifted the lid on the soup. “Ah, Vulcan plomeek soup. I bet you made it yourself.” He smiled at me. “You never stop trying, do you?”
"Well, uh, Mr Spock hasn't been eating," I said, and immediately I knew that it sounded defensive. "And I just happened to be---" I felt the heat rush to my face.
Thankfully, McCoy took pity on me. “Carry on, Nurse Chapel.” Turning away before he could ask anything else, I pressed the button on the door to Spock’s quarters.The door slid open and I stepped inside.
Oh, who was this man? The man I saw, standing like a coiled spring, was not the calm and gentle man who helped me through the trauma of Roger's death only a few short months before. Nor was he the cool and collected First Officer I met when I came to the ship, or the efficient scientist I knew in the lab. Spock's eyes were wild, and the heat of his body flared off him in waves. "What is this?" he demanded harshly.
Somewhere, I found the breath to speak. "It's soup, Spock. You haven't been eating, so I thought---"
What happened next happened so fast I could scarcely credit it. The soup hit the wall in the corridor and I was propelled out into the corridor by the force of Spock's anger. Spock was shouting something, but in my shock I didn't hear the words.
Nothing, it's said, travels faster than gossip aboard a starship. By the time the mess had been cleaned off the wall and I'd changed my uniform, there were already several wildly inaccurate versions of the plomeek soup incident circulating. And I had a mystery on my hands, one which wasn't being solved by the medical computer. I tried feeding what I knew of Spock's symptoms into the computer, only to get a response that was even more vague than the standard computer-speak. "Null input. Description not found."
"Any luck?" McCoy asked.
I shook my head. "I can't believe how little information there is in the computer about any condition dealing with Vulcans. How about you? Have you had any luck?"
"No, Jim's gonna try and talk to him, to get him to come down here for a physical." He peered at me closely. "How are you doing?"
I rubbed my arms, feeling suddenly cold. "Fine," I said shortly.
McCoy folded his arms. "Come off it, Chris. You can't lie to me. Are you really all right?"
"No, as a matter of fact, I'm not. " I took a deep breath. "There's something really wrong with him and I can't figure it out and it's not making me happy." I looked at him. "Why don't you go and talk to him?"
He snorted. "I'm about the last person he's going to talk to, you know that. If he wouldn't talk to you, he's not going to talk to me."
I could see his point, but that didn't mean I had to like it. "Because you're always after him about one thing or another."
"Exactly my point, which is why I'm gonna let Captain Courageous up there get our pointed-eared friend down here.I could order him to come down here, but he’d find some logical reason not to. He won’t try that with the captain."
However, it was not the persuasive powers of Captain Kirk that accounted for Spock's presence in Sickbay, as I later found out from Nyota, but the simple expedient of insubordination: Spock had changed the course of the ship to Vulcan after being told to maintain a course for Altair VI. And then had claimed no memory of it. The captain had ordered him to report to Sickbay.
So I wasn't particularly surprised when he showed up in Sickbay, looking for all the worlds like a man handed an engraved invitation to a firing squad. From where I stood outside the examination room, keying up the mediscanner for Spock’s baseline readings, I could hear their words.
“Oh, come in Spock,” I heard Len say. “I’m all ready for you.”
“My orders,” Spock said slowly, “were to report to Sickbay, Doctor. I have done so. And now I’ll go to my quarters---“
Len cut him off, as I knew he would. Surely his medical intuition was sounding off as loudly as mine was, that this was far from a normal illness. "My orders were to give you a thorough physical. In case you hadn't noticed, I have to answer to the same commanding officer you do," Len said sharply. Then, more quietly, as if aware of just how difficult it was for Spock to stay on his feet, "Come on, Spock, yield to the logic of the situation."
He drew him over to the examination table, and the biobed scanner leaped into life. “Examine away, for all the good it’ll do either of us,” Spock said, and there was no mistaking the mixture of shame and fear in his eyes.
I handed the mediscanner to McCoy and met Len's eyes. He shook his head minutely. The readings were off, way off. There were enormous quantities of a hormone I'd never seen present in Spock's bloodstream, a hormone which was affecting not only his circulatory system, but also his respiratory and autonomic nervous system. It was even causing changes in the brain, to what extent we didn't yet know. But if the hormone dump continued, the strain on his systems would eventually be too much.
I'll never forget the look in Spock's eyes when McCoy told him the examination was over. "You have your answers, and it still won't save me," he said harshly.
"We're only trying to help," I said softly, disturbed by the aggression and shame in his eyes. "Isn't there anything you can tell us about this?"
He shook his head. "There is no help for me now."
But oh, Spock, there was help, just not where you thought you would find it. I remembered the communication with Vulcan Space Central, the coldly beautiful woman on the screen who Spock identified as his wife. He'd beamed down to the planet with the captain and the doctor, and then…I still didn’t know what happened, only that Jim and Len had returned not long afterwards.
"Nurse, 4 ccs of hexaline." I handed the hypo to him. Hexaline was an antidote to a very specific type of neural paralyzer. A neural paralyzer? What the hell had happened down there?
Immediately, the captain surged back to life. The ashen tone in his face faded slightly when he opened his eyes. "Where's Spock?"
McCoy folded his arms. "Still on the planet, I'll bet. Getting married to that b----"
"Bones," Jim said warningly.
"Fine, Jim, but you're gonna be the one to explain to him why he didn't kill you."
Spock thought he killed Jim? Spock was getting married to a woman he'd identified as his wife? I helped the captain to sit up. "How are you feeling?” I asked softly.
Jim rubbed the back of his neck, and I could see the red marks of near-strangulation, the petechiae around his eyes. "Like my neck got used for a Klingon stretching exercise."
I ran the mediscanner over him. "Near thing, wasn't it?" In addition to all the other injuries, there was severe bruising on his throat and on his chest. And that scrape on his chest could only come from a bladed weapon. What the hell had happened down there? I wanted to ask again, but didn’t. Something in the captain’s manner said that he wasn’t open to discussion, and I wasn’t really sure I wanted to know.
He shrugged. "Near enough." His face went suddenly impassive, as if unwilling to say anymore, or as if thinking he’d already said too much. I understood. "Well," I said, "as long as you don't go…exerting yourself for a few more days, you should be fine."
It was then that I heard the characteristic sound of boot heels on deckplate. Spock. Jim put one finger to his lips, a gesture for silence. "Doctor," Spock was saying in that terse voice of his, "I shall be resigning my commission immediately of course. So I would appreciate---“
“Spock, I---“ Len tried to cut in, but Spock continued, implacable. “I would appreciate you making the final arrangements.”
Bless him, Len tried again. “Spock, I---“
There was no mistaking the grief in Spock’s eyes. “Doctor, please. There can be no excuse for the crime of which I am guilty. I intend to offer no defense. Furthermore, I shall order Mr Scott to take immediate command of this vessel.”
If Spock had been feeling well, he would have heard Jim walk up behind him. "Don't you think you better check with me first?"
Spock whirled around. "Captain? JIM!" And there it was, the smile I'd never thought to see on Spock's face. A brilliant, glowing smile, the smile of a man whose best friend has been returned to him.
McCoy saw me where I was sitting. "Nurse, would you excuse us?"
I couldn't argue with him, though gods know I wanted to. It wouldn't have been appropriate to ask the questions that were going through my head just then. I put my curiosity aside, finished my rounds, and went to the Observation Deck to watch the stars. It was just past four in the afternoon, Vulcan time, but it was late evening on the ship.
I don't know how long I was there: certainly well past dinner and the card game I'd planned with Nyota. I just couldn't stop watching. I felt the vibration of the engines under my feet and the red planet slowly faded into the distance.
"I had thought I should not regret leaving," said a voice behind me. Spock's, and it was his usual baritone, not the harsh rasp of the past few days.
I smiled at him. "You keep doing that."
He raised one eyebrow. "Doing what?"
"Coming in here when I'm thinking. People will start to talk."
The look of utter confusion that crossed his face was almost comical, but I didn’t laugh. "It's a joke, Spock. And not a very good one, I'm afraid. How are you feeling?"
Tired, he might have said. Frightened. Ashamed. All those things I could see in his eyes, engraved in the lines of his face, troubles he didn't have the words to speak. "I don't know," he said softly, eyes on the red planet in the far distance. "Is that a logical response?"
I shrugged. "If it's the truthful one. You don’t always have to have the answers." I certainly hadn't had them, in the days and weeks after Roger's death. What answers were there for pain and loss and abandonment? Only the Vulcan silences of this man, neither judging nor assessing blame, had given me the strength to get through it.
And now it was my turn, to give back in some measure what I had been given. "Will it harm you to speak of it?" I asked slowly in his language.
His eyes on the red planet, Spock seemed to come to a decision. "When you were left," he said quietly, "for what did you mourn?"
I thought about it. Memories of Roger had become more real to me than the shell we'd discovered, and they had grown more poignant with time and healing, not less. "I mourned for his presence. When he was…alive, he was the most vibrant person I knew, but that shell---it wasn't him." I shrugged. "And then, of course, there's the mourning for what might have been. You always wonder, if this had happened, if that hadn't happened, what could have been."
"I was left," he said simply. "What I do not understand is why." His words stopped then, as if they had simply run out of air.
I remembered my roommate's silences. T'Renna, perhaps not unusual for a Vulcan who willingly studied on Earth, had been surprisingly open about many matters of Vulcan custom. But when one of our many early morning discussions had begun to touch on courtship rituals, she had withdrawn into an impenetrable Vulcan silence. And I hadn't had to see the door to know how firmly it had been shut.
I remembered the scene in his cabin, when I'd told him we were bound for Vulcan. He'd looked so...lost, torn somehow. Or trapped. "I was bound," he said now, "but the choice was not mine to make. Do you understand?"
"Is that what you meant?" I asked carefully. "When you said it was 'illogical for us to protest against our natures'?" Had it been any other man, in any other context, I would have seen it as a come-on, but when Spock said it, the way he said it.....
He nodded. "I wanted you to understand I had no choice in what was happening."
It was an apology for all that might always remain unsaid between us, and I nodded. "I understand." And in a strange way, I did understand. Whatever the nature of his illness, it had driven him to act in ways which were utterly foreign to the good man, the friend I knew. I didn’t completely understand what had happened on Vulcan, but the guilt and the shame of it were clear. "Kaiidth," I murmured. "The past is only what cannot be changed."
"And you?" he asked slowly. "Do you consider yourself bound?"
I shook my head, realizing how far I had come in the months since Roger's final death. I might mourn for him, but he was a part of my past now. "I had someone to lean on, you see," I said, touching his arm lightly as we watched the stars.
"I am sorry," he said, echoing the words spoken only hours ago.
"So long as you're not throwing plomeek at me," I said lightly, "I'll accept your apology."
It worked; his mood lightened, and his eyebrow went up. "It is somewhat....lacking as a wall decor, Christine."