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When I woke in Sickbay, I had a vague idea where I was but no idea why. I knew all the familiar sounds – the quiet footsteps of the medical staff going about their duties, my own breathing too loud in my ears, the hum of the biobed monitoring my condition.

But what was my condition? My head was threatening to split apart, too much pain to be contained. It hurt vaguely to breathe, a tight restriction around my chest. Broken ribs was my diagnosis from past experiences. My left leg was immobilized. I could not shift it to ease the pain that started in my knee and stretched up through my thigh. My right arm had restrictions in place I had never known before. I must have broken my arm and my leg. When? What had happened? Why was I unable to remember how I came to be in Sickbay?

I slowly turned my head, as though I might find the answers strewn about Sickbay. And there you were. Watching me. Waiting. I must have known you were there, the silent comfort of your presence soothing the pain I did not know I had.

Your eyes reflected your relief. I assumed there had been some concern that I would never regain consciousness. Your eyes told me that you had never entertained such doubts.

The smile lit your eyes when I asked for ship’s status. My voice was rough, unused, strange even to me. Your answer was inconsequential to me, the sound of your voice one of the anchors which held me in this world rather than the next. If there is a next world. You are here. It is where I must remain.

With reservation, you explained about the Klingon attack that had nearly killed me. You would not answer how many of my crew had died, the doctor no doubt forbidding me from the knowledge. No matter. I would find out eventually. I would mourn them as I was permitted. And you would be there to comfort me.

That the ship had sustained severe damage was apparent from your reluctance to provide a full report You are never comfortable keeping the truth from me, no matter how painful the facts might prove to be. More of McCoy’s orders – don’t tell the Captain. Perhaps one day he will understand that your silence is more disturbing to me than the unvarnished truth you were ordered to hold at bay.

When Dr. McCoy realized I had regained consciousness, he wanted to make you leave. I could see in his eyes his need to protect us both. He knew he had to allow you to stay, to bear witness to the treatment he had no choice but to administer. The bone mender may be worse than the breaks themselves. Having my ribs mended was strangely comforting in its familiarity although nearly unbearably painful. Mending all those tiny bones of my right hand made me want to beg him to stop. When he began to work on my knee and thigh, proof of the intensity of the discomfort was the nausea I could not control. You held me until the dry heaves subsided, ordering the doctor to sedate me before he continued. The argument was brief. Or maybe I simply missed the end when he knocked me out. When the drugs released their soundless hold over me, you were there, with a glass of ice water to quench my physical thirst.

I could not remain in Sickbay to recover. I could not be seen by my crew with my eye swollen shut from the bruises, the gash across my forehead healing in spectacular blues and blacks and reds. My injuries were more frightening to my crew than the damage to our ship. You understood. Maybe one day you will finally reveal to me what you said to convince Bones to allow me to recuperate in the privacy of my quarters. I suspect you promised him you would not leave so long as he wished me to be in isolation. Scotty could be in command from Engineering as we slowly limped to Spacestation Aerosmith to have our ship if not our souls repaired. And there you were the entire time McCoy confined me to quarters.

That you did not go quietly mad is astounding to me. I slept most of the first three days. Much of that sleep was induced by Bones’ hyposprays. I didn’t want to be reduced to unconsciousness but I understood the necessity. Each time I woke, you were there to care for me, to see to my needs, to provide what nourishment I could tolerate. I could only bear my own weakness because you were my strength. You who judges no one would never perceive my weakness as failure. That judgment you left to me, as adamant as you were that I must allow myself the kindness of time. You knew I was impatient with my frailty and insisted a lesser being would not have survived my injuries. Whether or not it was true seemed of little consequence to me. The words you spoke held the conviction of certainty and I believed them because you did. You were my strength.

When we arrived at the Starbase, I expected another argument. I thought fireworks would ignite between you and Bones. When he came to my quarters, I was rendered speechless when he recommended you and I stay aboard. My injuries were slowly healing. Little additional medical treatment was required. We would be docked for a minimum of three solar weeks, possibly longer. The engineers at Starbase Aerosmith were incredulous that we had been able to arrive in one piece. The miracles Scotty performed as routine will be required reading for generations of engineers to come. You naturally agreed we would remain on board until the engineers required all personnel be evacuated. You would then arrange our transport to Earth. I suppose you never consulted me because you expected me to argue. Truthfully, I had no energy to argue about anything. And the idea of being given the luxury to recover completely away from the burdens of command appealed to me. I know my acquiescence worried you and Bones. But as long as you remained with me, I wanted some time away from Enterprise. I did not like admitting it. But you understood that which I could not say. And you would remain by my side until I was ready to return.

When we arrived on Earth, I was in no condition to know where we were staying. The sedatives that made the trip possible for me released their hold as the sun rose over the ocean in front of the villa you had arranged for us. Hawaii. I barely remembered telling you I had never visited the islands. And here we were. Three weeks of solitude. Paradise.

The gratitude I felt for your care and concern was nearly tangible. As is your nature, you would not accept my thanks. It was illogical, you said, to thank another for doing that which was necessary. Necessary. It was not necessary that you prepare all of my meals, bringing them to me wherever I was resting. It was not necessary for you to wait for me to fall asleep before you would leave my bedroom. It was not necessary to wake before I did so I would not open my eyes to find myself alone. My comfort was your only focus. And I was able to accept it because you were there for me.

Would I thank the oxygen for filling my lungs, you asked with that almost smile you allowed only me to witness. Would I try to thank the sun for continuing to shine and bring its warmth and comfort? Your argument was not logical and you knew it. My laugh was your reward and you did whatever necessary to make sure I laughed often.

The morning I woke to find you on my bed asleep would have been like any other. You were on top of the covers, still wearing the clothes you had worn the day before. I don’t know how you lay down next to me without waking me. More of Bones’ magic was my fleeting guess. I could not stop from watching you as you remained completely still in sleep, your black lashes resting on your angular cheekbones. You were more beautiful than I could ever before remember. More beautiful than the dreams I often had of you. As those lashes fluttered up under my gaze, you smiled. A real smile. A smile that lit your blacks eyes, illuminating my soul in their reflected light.

Only later did I learn that you had slept on the bed to stop the nightmares I refused to remember. Klingon attacks no doubt. It hardly mattered. You slept next to me and soothed my demons.

When I returned your smile, your gentle hand reached out and touched my hair. No doubt it was standing straight up, silently amusing you. Your touch told me everything I needed to know. And everything for which there were no need for words. You wanted me. Had wanted me for as long as we had been friends. That I had felt the same brought to you a momentary sadness. Do not regret what wasn’t. Rejoice in what will be.

And then you kissed me. It was not the tentative touch of lips I had imagined would be our beginning. It was a kiss of passion and need and burning desire. And it was a kiss of love. Sustaining, nurturing, empowering love. And I rejoiced in it.

When our bodies joined it was…well, you know how it was. How we became one. How you knew me and accepted me. And you knew I saw through to your essence, to those halves of you that had never fully come together. Not until you accepted me as your bridge. For how could you continue to see your human self as a weakness when it enabled you to love me. To accept me. And to accept me was to accept all things human, including yourself. My gift to you was your gift to me – acceptance. Peace. Fulfillment. And I was there, just for you.
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