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     Jim stood in the corner of the small room, bruised flesh and stiff muscles protesting his immobility. He felt uncomfortable in the unfamiliar clothing: rough trousers and a long-sleeved shirt. He was barefoot, which wasn’t helping, but his boots were still drying by the fire in the next room and the woman who had found them, resourceful as she was, didn’t have suitable replacements.

     “You’re cold.”

     The feminine voice came softly from his right, and Jim broke out of his reverie to see her gaze focused where his own had been. She shifted in a rustle of clothing and he met her eyes as she politely asked, “Do you want some tea? You’re shivering.”

     Jim shook his head, ignoring his own discomfort, his eyes returning to the small bed in the shadows of the room, the unmoving occupant covered with every blanket that the woman could find.

     He heard her sigh and shift again. “I am sorry I couldn’t do more; I was never very good at this sort of thing.”

     “You’ve done enough,” Jim replied softly. “Just finding us when you did; we owe you our lives. We—.” He broke off awkwardly, hearing the fatigue in his own voice. He had been barely conscious after the damaged shuttle had crashed, distantly remembering being pulled out of the wreckage, out of the flames; barely recalling being held in determined arms during the struggle through ice and shrieking wind. He had come to full awareness with the howls of approaching night creatures and had, with blurred and pained vision, watched a fight matching Vulcan will and vulnerable flesh against fangs and wild sinew. In the end, he had finally found enough strength to drag himself to his fallen companion’s side amidst the bloody, broken carcasses and the deepening snow, close enough to hold on as a light flickered toward them through the storm, bringing their unlikely savior.

     “I wish I could do more,” she repeated. “Once the storm lets up, I can take a message to the main hall and they can try to contact your ship using the emergency frequency.”

     “If only I had a communicator,” he muttered. At her silence he grimaced and tried to offer conversation. “Do you miss it? Technology?”

     She licked her lips. “Sometimes. Presently, I feel its loss most keenly. It was our choice to live here on an isolated colony, going back to our more simple selves, but to see others suffer because of our beliefs—.”

     “Your beliefs saved us,” Jim asserted. “A light in the dark; courage to confront a storm; a welcoming shelter to strangers in need.” He heard his voice tremble. “Kindness and compassion in the face of loss.”

     He felt a hand on his shoulder. “Loss is not yet certain. What do you believe, Captain?”

     He drew in a deep breath, feeling his injured ribs protest. “I believe in him.”

     “Your friend?”

     “I don’t…worship, like you do,” Jim murmured. “I never found solace in the idea of the all-powerful. I’m skeptical of it, I suppose. I always,” he closed his eyes, “found my sense of awe in contemplating the promise of each of us; of what we truly can be.” Outside, he heard the howl of the wind again, the soft shatter of ice against the house.

     Her hand dropped, but she stayed near to him, humming in apparent agreement. “We believe that our beings are a reflection of the divine. We tell stories to remind us of that reflection: examples of how we can dare to be our best selves.”

     Jim’s eyes opened. “He’s my best self; the best part of me.”

     “He offered his life for you.” She bowed her head. “Self-sacrifice is a strong part of our beliefs. Perhaps we don’t differ so greatly, Captain.”

     He glanced down into earnest, brown eyes. “I didn’t ask you your name. I’m sorry for—.”

     She smiled. “You’ve had other things on your mind. You can call me Maryam.”

     “My name is Jim,” he said. He inclined his head to the unmoving figure on the bed, barely visible under the blankets. “He’s Spock.”

     “Why don’t you sit with him, Jim?” She touched his arm gently. “And I’ll bring you that tea.”

     Jim nodded wearily and crossed the room, his bare feet silent against the rough-hewn rug. The bed creaked as he sat gingerly on the edge, looking down into his friend’s bruised and scratched face, knowing that other, worse, injuries were obscured by the blankets. Spock was so still.

     “Here, Jim.”

     A shawl being draped over his shoulders startled him and, quickly recovering, he accepted the steaming mug offered to him. “Thank you.”

     “You are welcome.” She tilted her head, watching the man on the bed. “He is still alive, Jim. There is hope.”

     “Hope is a dangerous thing,” Jim said quietly.

     “It can also be a powerful thing,” she replied. “It means that there can be a new beginning: a stronger one, armed with the earned knowledge and experience.”

     “Light in the darkness.”

     She shrugged. “Or the calm of night after the glare of day. The important thing is that there is something new: something born of the trial.”

     Jim sipped the bitter liquid. It was hot, though, and held its own comfort. He turned grateful eyes to Maryam and then looked past her where he could see snow streaking past the window in the other room. “There are old stories of birth and hope that coincide with winter.”

     She chuckled. “Of those, I am familiar. Another way; another current within the same ocean, perhaps.”

     “Perhaps.” Jim sobered. “I don’t want him to die.”

     “He may not.”

     Jim looked up at her. “If he does—.”

     She reached out, taking the mug from his hands. “Then tell him now.”

     “Tell him?” Jim asked in a hoarse whisper, his gaze returning to his friend.

     “Tell him what he means to you. Tell him the thing that you wouldn’t say before.”

     “How can you know that?” Jim shook his head. “How do you know—?”

     “Because he offered his life for yours; because you called him your best self; because I found you both for a reason, and because I believe in what I see in your eyes when you look at him. I believe in what I hear in your voice when you speak his name. For there is one very simple way that every being can touch the divine, Jim: to love another.”

     Overwhelmed and exhausted, he felt tears burn in his eyes and he nodded mutely, hearing her clothing rustle as she quietly retreated.

     Jim reached out, disturbing the covers just enough to unerringly find his friend’s hand, curling chilled fingers gently around bruised flesh and swollen joints. There was warmth there, and Jim convinced himself that it was more then just the blankets. Hope was indeed a dangerous, seductive thing.

     “I hope you heard all that,” he began softly. “All the hours we spend discussing philosophy and religion and I’m reduced to a few sentimental thoughts.” He paused. “You saved me. Again. You always do, Spock, and I’m the worst kind of person to keep holding back what you are to me. Oh, I feel it, but I need to say it as well, don’t I? I need to say it to you.”

     He licked his lips, hearing again the howl of the wind. “I’m yours, Spock. I want to be your comfort and your strength. I want to hold you. I want—.” His voice broke and he drew in a breath.

     “Right now I just want you to live. I want to tell you I love you with all the arrogance and fear of someone who needs you so…so desperately. I need you to fight, Spock, can you do that for me? You give so much of yourself, and I find myself selfishly wanting one more thing.” He felt tears on his cheeks, now, and shook his head. “And if you can’t accept me in that way, I’ll know that you’re still alive and that’ll be enough for me.” He bowed his head, tears falling onto the shirt he wore, onto the blankets. “Please.”

     The movement of the hand in his was small, but Jim felt it deeply. “Spock?” He leaned forward. “Spock, can you hear me?”

     Dark eyes opened but a sliver, and Jim had to lean even closer to hear a whispered, “Jim…t’hy’la…but such would not…be enough…for me. I should have told you…first.”

     Jim let out a chortle of taut laughter. “And saved me from my own stubbornness as well? No, my friend, this was my turn. Did you hear all of it?”

     “I…sense it, k’diwa. Your touch—.” Spock’s eyes closed and he bit his lip slightly, shifting under the blankets. “I must…a trance. Your hand…in mine…helps.”

     “I won’t let go,” Jim said. “I won’t ever let go.”

 

~.*.*.*.~

 

     The snow lay deep and crisp outside the small house, the woods surrounding it silent and peaceful as the winter sun hung high in the clear sky. Jim still sat where he had remained throughout the long night, through the storm, his hand clasped with his friend’s. Hope, it seemed, was still with them.

     Next to them both, pressing a final hypo against the Vulcan’s neck, McCoy turned intense blue eyes on his captain.

     “He’s stable now, Jim, but we have to get him up to the ship. I need you to let go of his hand.”

     “I promised I wouldn’t,” Jim said absently, and he blinked blearily up at the doctor as McCoy touched his shoulder.

     “I know, Jim, but you need attention, too, and he’s out of immediate danger. I’ll keep you together in sickbay.” McCoy’s eyes held acceptance, and understanding. “I don’t suppose I have to tell you how lucky you both were to come through this.”

     Jim nodded slightly, and the doctor’s tone lightened. “Now, I’ve got to replace these blankets with heating cushions before transport and I need you out of the way.” He tilted his head towards the silent woman standing in the corner, her boots still wet from the long walk back and forth from the little town. “Maybe you could take your leave.”

     Jim reluctantly released his grip, standing up despite the muscle tremors caused by pain medication and a long night spent motionless and tense. He crossed the room, seeing Maryam’s gentle smile.

     “He’ll live,” she said. “A new beginning after all.”

     “Yes.” He cleared his throat. “Thank you. For everything.”

     “On the contrary,” she said, her smile widening, “thank you.”

     “For what?” he asked gently.

     “For the gifts of your hope and your courage; for the revelation of your love; and for the example of his. My beliefs tell me to always look for the divine, and to cherish its presence in all things and all beings. I’m blessed to have met you, Jim.”

     He returned her smile. “Likewise, I think. Live long and prosper.”

     “Jim?” McCoy called from behind them. “All set?”

     “All set.” Jim met Maryam’s eyes one last time and stepped backwards to join his friends. “Let’s go home.”

 

 

 

THE END

 

 

 

Disclaimer: I do not own Star Trek, and I make no money from this.

 

 

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