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(An Imaginary Interlude)
"Spock! Where the hell have you been?"
Kirk burst into the briefing room like a whirlwind, relief and anger flooding through his mind. Relief, because Spock was here, and unharmed; anger, at the Vulcan's failure to respond to his call.
"What are you doing in here? You're needed on the Bridge - we've got Riley out of Engineering at last, but he's shut down the engines, Scotty says it'll take... Spock, are you listening to me?"
No answer. The Vulcan was sitting half turned away, his face in shadow. Kirk reached out, spun the chair round, caught his breath in surprise. There were tears on the Vulcan's cheeks, his whole body was trembling with the effort to control the emotions that tore at him.
"What's wrong, Spock?" But he knew already - the strange contamination had affected Spock at last.
With desperate intensity Spock fought for control... and lost. Burying his face in his hands he wept in an agony of desolation Kirk could only vaguely comprehend. Gradually he was able to distinguish words, somehow choked out through the tears.
"My mother... a Human woman... on Vulcan, where love is in bad taste, She loved me, but I could never tell her... how much I loved... "
Gently, Kirk laid a hand on the Vulcan's shoulder. "Spock, she would know. Humans don't always need to be told. She understood the Vulcan way, accepted it. Don't blame yourself,"
Spock only shook his head despairingly,
Kirk hesitated. From the intercom came Sulu's voice, steadily counting off the minutes to destruction. So little time... He must recall Spock to awareness - only he could save the Enterprise now. Pulling Spock's hands from his face, Kirk slapped him hard.
"Snap out of it, Mister! My ship's in danger - I need you on the Bridge!" He struck Spock again, fighting down the wave of pity that swept through him as he felt Spock's tears on his hand,
"Try to act like a First Officer! You're so proud of being Vulcan - behave like one! There are over four hundred people on this ship - we're not giving in without a fight. There must be a way to save my ship... My ship..."
His voice tailed off uncertainly. His ship... the Enterprise... his all-demanding, all consuming love. She took so much, and gave so little - only a crushing load of responsibility and loneliness. Loneliness... yes, that was it. Spock knew how it was...
He continued, unaware that he was speaking aloud. "Captain James Kirk of the Enterprise - what's it worth, after all? Friends... home... love... all gone, back there somewhere. I was the youngest Captain ever appointed to a Starship, so proud of myself, so confident, until I actually saw her, took command. I hadn't realised, not fully, what it would mean. Seeing men die at my orders... No-one, ever, to share the responsibility... always pretending, hiding the doubt, the uncertainty... the loneliness."
A hand touched his, shyly, hesitantly. "I understand, Jim."
He looked up, saw the dark, usually expressionless eyes filled now with compassion and gentleness.
"Yes... you do understand," he said thankfully.
"Of course, Jim. I have always been alone. Vulcans consider me Human. Humans see only the Vulcan. Only here, on this ship, have I found a home... happiness. You... reached out to me, offered me friendship, sought mine in return. Only you, Jim, have ever considered what I am, not what I seem."
Kirk sighed, feeling the tension within him drain away. "I remember," he said slowly, "the day I took command of the Enterprise. I was so nervous, trying to hide it - and you looked so... so forbidding as you greeted me with that chilling Vulcan courtesy. I could feel the crew watching me, weighing me up, comparing me with Captain Pike - and I just knew I wasn't going to measure up to the standard he set.
"You showed me over the ship, and I couldn't take it all in... then you escorted me to my quarters. As you turned to leave you gave that Vulcan salute - I practised it for hours when I knew you were going to be my First Officer - and you said, 'I wish you well, Captain Kirk.' Then you offered me your hand.
"You'll never know how much confidence that gave me. I knew how much Vulcans loathe physical contact, and I'd remembered not to try to shake hands; I felt that your gesture meant that you'd tested me in some way, and found that you could accept me."
"Yes, I remember. I could sense your nervousness that day, but also so much more. There was something in you that intrigued me from the first moment. I learned enough in those first hours to know that you would command my loyalty. Even then, I hoped for... your friendship... but I did not know... how to win it."
Kirk leaned forward. "You won my friendship by offering yours. Not as a Human would have done - not in words - but... I knew. You eased the loneliness, Spock, just by being there."
They sat quietly then, each content to smile into the other's eyes with open affection; but soon in Spock's mind a scarcely-formed thought struggled for recognition. Slowly he released Kirk's hand, a frown of concentration crossing his face.
"You said something about the engines, Jim?"
"Yes - Riley shut them down. Scotty says it'll take too long to bring them to full power. We're being drawn into the planet."
Kirk spoke lazily, almost casually, and Spock realised with a stab of fear that the virus was affecting him too, now. Perhaps his Vulcan constitution threw off the effects of its own accord, but he found that he could think clearly again. The strangely open concern for Kirk and the others was still strong in him, and coupled with it was the determination to save them. They had given him so much, these Humans, especially Kirk; now he could repay them - there must be a way.
He stood and paced the briefing room for a moment, thinking rapidly. The intermix formula... only a theory... but it should work.... and it was their best chance. He turned to bend over Kirk, touching his shoulder lightly.
"I think I know what to do, Jim. Remain here - I will call Mr. Scott from the Bridge."
Kirk watched him as he left, then sat back thankfully. For once the heavy weight of responsibility had been lifted from his shoulders. Spock knew what to do, and would do it - there was no need to worry.
Part of his mind considered what had just happened; the infection, releasing all their deepest, most carefully-hidden emotions, had compelled them to speak openly of their friendship at last. He supposed sadly that when the effects wore off, their relationship would once more be as it had been...
But no, he realised with sudden contentment, that would not be possible. Truth, once spoken, could never be completely hidden again.