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Originally published in 1985 in the print fanzine R&R # 21.

Amanda wondered if she was being presumptuous. This was a very orderly Sick Bay and she was sure it had visiting hour regulations. Although she had been a constant figure in the ward for over two weeks, no one had ever hinted at them. She was sure it wasn’t her VIP status that qualified her for preferential treatment. It was probably being Spock’s mother. She smiled, warmed by the knowledge that had become apparent quickly: it wasn’t grudging accommodation for a superior’s relative; it was genuine hospitality, stemming from an equally genuine care and respect for her son.

Sarek was sleeping, so she didn’t have to guard her expression as she looked at him. As usual, the forbidding face had softened and the indomitable strength he exuded while awake was replaced by vulnerability. Only recently Amanda had learned that vulnerability had been only too real. The possibility of losing her husband was one thing the Human woman had never considered. The shock had been severe. She had even lashed out at her beloved son in her desperation.

Amanda took a deep breath to calm herself. No, Sarek was not the ageless, unerodable rock she had always assumed him to be; neither was he as fragile as her loving heart insisted lately. She had to stop hovering over him—but she would never again take another moment of their shared existence for granted. She rose to leave and, as he was sleeping and no one was around to see, she kissed him lightly.

The public gathering places were bustling with activity. Bored with the long trip, the diplomats were becoming noisy and troublesome. Amanda made her rounds among them. Sarek trusted her to be his eyes and ears while he was incapacitated. By the time her smile had started to hurt, she was deftly extricated from the clutches of one particularly snobbish group by the captain of the starship.

“Was I that obvious?” she whispered to James Kirk as he steered her out of the lounge.

“Only to one experienced in reading Vulcan expressions,” he jokingly answered, “and boy, do I have experience!”

“Where are we going?”

“That is the best-kept secret of this ship. You look like you could use some peace and quiet. I’ll trust your discretion and not blindfold you.”

They crossed the Botany Lab, passed through a hatch and entered and enclosure. Kirk seated Amanda and touched a button. Port coverings slid away; the glorious panorama of the star field sprang into view.

“Haven,” Kirk said, “Visitors not allowed. Only very special people.”

“Isn’t that rather autocratic of you?”

“Oh, it isn’t just mine. It’s open to the crew. But they seem to prefer the meditation chambers behind Engineering, or maybe they’re just being kind to the overworked captain.”

For a long time they sat side by side, watching the soothing spectacle before them. Kirk slid down in the chair, only to quickly pull himself back up when his newly healed back complained. Amanda noticed. “Is it still painful?”

“Not really. I just have to be careful not to strain it.”

Amanda studied the youthful profile and wished there were a better way to thank him. She had said the words before, a number of times in fact, until she had realized she was embarrassing him. But they were so inadequate. She wanted to know this James Kirk better. Here was a man who’d been instrumental in saving Sarek’s life and called her son friend. However, most of her time had been spent with Sarek or at diplomatic parties, and in five days they’d be at Babel.

She wondered if her son would be receptive if she invited Kirk to accompany him on one of his visits to Vulcan. Of course, even though Sarek and Spock were on speaking terms again, there was no telling when or if Spock would come home. And it was easy for a Human to call somebody a friend; how did Spock feel about it? Did he also call this young man ‘friend’? Amanda didn’t know. At first impression, Kirk had seemed warm and openly friendly to her son; but from what she could see, Spock had been cold and guarded, excusing himself at every opportunity. That could have been due to the strain of having Sarek on board—but he hadn’t even told Kirk of the impending appearance of his parents. What kind of friendship was that? Twice Kirk had tried to make a friendly gesture, once to ease an awkward moment, once to show Sarek he deferred to his first officer, and both time he had ended up embarrassed, because Spock hadn’t given him sufficient information.

From all indications, her son was a loyal and conscientious officer who respected his captain; but that was the Vulcan nature, no more. She knew the Human was sincere in his claims of friendship; surely more than duty had prompted him to leave Sick Bay while grievously injured. But, it seemed to her, it was sadly one-sided.

Amanda felt depression grip her. The endless velvet night graced by the majestic motion of stars failed to lift it. Why was her son condemned to a solitary existence? Why the strict denial? She couldn’t remember one single ‘friend’ in all the years he was growing up. There had been acquaintances, but nothing deeper than that, ever. She had hoped his years among Humans had softened his shell, but here he was again, barren. He had even been denied the one unrestricted sharing the Vulcans allowed themselves: that of a bondmate.

She could see the affection extended out to him from all sides. The doctor had deep caring under the crusty attitude. One didn’t need a mother’s intuition to see that the tall nurse was in love with him. They had been concerned and warm—as warm as the Vulcan had allowed them to be. She looked again at the man by her side, at rest and totally absorbed in gazing at the stars. Do you know what it means to invest your feelings in a Vulcan, James Kirk? she asked silently. Not everybody can be as lucky as I am.

She heard the hatch slide open. Before she could turn, Kirk spoke without checking to see who it was. “Come in, Spock. Look who’s here.”

“Mother,” Spock acknowledged, approaching. “I trust Sarek is improving, I have not had time to visit him today.”

“He’s fine, Spock. His appetite impressed even Dr. McCoy. He’ll be released in three days.”

“That is good to hear.”

Kirk was inspecting the Vulcan. “Have you been in Engineering all this time? You look beat. Will you sit down at least.”

Spock sat but, Amanda noticed, didn’t relax. “The Orion weapons seem to have caused more damage than we estimated. Mr. Scott advises diverting to the nearest repair yard after Babel. I concur.”

“Sure. I’ll log it. What’s the problem now?”

“The same one: the discrepancy between the input and output readings of the energy converter. It is definitely due to a leak, but we have been unable to determine where it is leaking to.”

“Maybe we’d better disengage the engines until we check it out.”

“I considered that, but the dilithium activator unit is barely functional. We might not be able to reactivate it again. Mr. Scott has already shut down the converter, so there’ll be no more leakage. We’re on secondary systems. The matter-antimatter reactor is safe, there is no mixing of unstable material. But the radioactive gasses that escaped did so before entering the cooler assembly. I have assigned damage control parties to critical locations and have run a systems check on automatic seals. If the escaped gasses start leaking into the atmosphere, we will be able to contain them in a relatively small area.”

Kirk got up to pace. “I still don’t like the sound of that.” Another thought occurred to him. “Maybe it’s not as bad as all that. Since the gasses were not cooled, if there was seepage into the ship, we’d have had an explosion by now. The hull integrity’s been compromised in a number of places. The outlet must be in one of the sealed areas. The gasses are probably escaping out to space.”

“I though of that, sir. I had a maintenance team suit up and check the engineering hull from outside. The amount being radiated out to space is at usual levels. Of course, we do not know when the seepage started. It may have dissipated already.”
“Let’s hope so.” Kirk sat back down, then frowned as he looked the Vulcan over. “Mr. Spock, did you by any chance lead the expedition to the outer reaches of the ship?”

“Captain, there were precious few people to spare from damage control parties, and there was a certain amount of urgency.”

“Damn it, Spock! You’re still weak from the transfusion. What would Bones say? You had no business tramping out there in one of those bulky suits. When are you going to learn how to delegate?”

Amanda, forgotten by the men, was warmed by the care in the Humans’ voice.

“That admonishment sounds particularly incongruous coming from you, Captain,” Spock said, absolutely deadpan.

What does that mean? wondered Amanda. Oh, Spock, why can’t you simply acknowledge the concern? But surprisingly enough, Kirk seemed to find the snub amusing: he laughed.

“Rank has its privileges, and I don’t intend to cross words with you. If you don’t get enough rest, I’ll suspend you from duty. Did you remember to eat at least?”

“I have not had the time,” Spock admitted with discomfort.

“All right, Mr. Spock, here’s my ultimatum. If you don’t get something nourishing into you right away, I’ll have you hauled down to Sick Bay and spoonfed by Nurse Chapel.”

Amanda successfully suppressed the chuckle; this captain obviously knew his Vulcan.

Spock rose with alacrity. “I shall remedy the situation immediately.”

“Well, Amanda,” Kirk turned, remembering, ”shall we go and make sure? I could use some coffee myself.” He offered Amanda his arm and preceded his first officer into the Botany Lab.

Amanda’s eyes were caught by the rows of familiar and alien plants, some in bloom. “Beautiful,” she said, ignoring the clammy feeling: Vulcan had accustomed her to hothouse temperatures.

Kirk was frowning, though. “Somebody is slipping up. These are wilting.”

“Captain.“ Spock had stopped and was looking around. “The temperature is rising very rapidly.”

Kirk squinted at the heat gauges spaced out along the walls, “Sure is. What’s causing it?”

Spock headed back to the enormous water tank that was situated right next to the hatch of the observation room. He stopped before he got too close, having already found the source of the spiraling heat. “The water. It is boiling.” He raised his hand to stop Kirk, who was following him. “Stand back, Captain. This must be the leak we’ve been looking for. So far, the water has been cooling the gasses enough to prevent an explosion, but I think it is critical now.”

“Get away, Spock. There isn’t enough room in there to absorb the expansion.”

As if on cue, a low rumbling came, as the lower seams of the water tank protested at the pressure building inside. Both men ran to where Amanda was waiting. Kirk grabbed her arm. “Let’s get out of here. Spock,” he pushed the Vulcan toward the wall intercom unit further down the hall, “issue a warning.” Spock quickly ran past them to obey. Kirk pulled Amanda in the same direction, then suddenly stopped. “Damn! I forgot the port coverings. If that thing goes, the ports might crack.”

Amanda had been on spaceships enough to know that if there was the smallest crack, the vacuum would instantly suck out the air in the area, and the pressure of the rushing air would burst open the ports, dragging everything inside out into space. If the wall separating the lab from the observation room went—as it certainly would since the tank was part of the wall—they would be in a vulnerable area. Her heart started beating madly.

Hearing Kirk, Spock turned without having activated the intercom, “I’ll close them.”

“No!” Kirk objected before Amanda could. He wasn’t about to let Spock go back to correct his mistake. He thrust Amanda against Spock none too gently, calculating that that would stop the Vulcan, then ran down the aisle.

“Jim!” Spock shouted after him, momentarily tangled in the collision with his mother. He steadied her and pushed her to one side. Kirk had already disappeared through the hatch. “Get out, Mother. Call Engineering.” He started after his captain.

Amanda couldn’t move. She was staring in terrified fascination at the metal tank that was inflating like a grotesque balloon. Spock also froze under two compelling impulses. He knew the bottom of the tank would give in a few seconds, and the boiling water would come pouring out. He could cross the distance to the observation room before that happened, but the hatch had closed after Kirk: the water couldn’t harm him. The Botany Lab was inclined, to accommodate seepage to lower levels. Even if Amanda ran, she would have to descend to the lower level before she could reach the exit. The water would instantly run down the incline to fill that level. He had to get his mother to safety. Since the water would pour out in the opposite direction, Kirk was secure. “For the moment”, part of his brain supplied as he turned back to Amanda and easily lifted her. The gasses had to be concentrated in the air space above the water level of the tank, tamed so far by the liquid. They would suddenly be unleashed and start a chain reaction. He hoped they would hold stable long enough to seep out after the water and disperse in the air. The radioactivity would be dangerous in itself, but not as bad as the explosion that would take place if the expanding space couldn’t accommodate the expanding gasses fast enough.

He quickly lifted Amanda to the overhang that housed additional plants. It would take the weight and be immune to being swept away by the rushing water. Just as he was assured she was secure, the groaning metal gave way with a deafening sound. Spock had no choice but to pull himself up to the top of the ledge to avoid the scalding liquid. He cradled Amanda to his chest to protect her from the hot drops flying around as the water crashed against obstructions in small waves. An instant fog was formed in the air, the heat and humidity making it almost impossible to breathe. The hot steam was burning nearly as badly as the seething water would have. Spock tried to cover his mother as much as he could. Then, as if somewhere in the mechanical brain of the environmental computer something had snapped into place, cooling systems came on, sending jets of icy air through the ducts. Spock gratefully breathed and loosened his hold on Amanda. The mother anxiously looked at her son in the slowly clearing haze, seeing blisters forming already on the exposed parts of his body.

The explosion came before Amanda could find her voice to say anything. Spock was thrown against her with great force. She fought the descending darkness, thinking fleetingly they would be dislodged from their perch, but Spock’s arms firmly anchored them both. Even before the vibrations died around them, his weight was gone from her chest. The realization her son was leaving her jerked her back to awareness. She gripped his arm as he was about to jump off the overhang.

“Spock! No!”

Only then realizing what he was about to do, for an instant Spock looked at the water still swirling below them; then his eyes went back to the site of the explosion. Amanda followed his gaze and understood his concern. The entire tank was gone, as was the top half of the bulkhead between the lab and the observation room.

Spock said something Amanda couldn’t hear and shook off his mother’s hand “Spock!” Amanda cried out again, and tried to hold him back.

Spock evaded her easily, reached to grab a support beam and swung himself down onto a row of plant housing that ran the length of the hall. The water had receded enough so it only came up to his ankles. He tried to hurry, but it was almost impossible to keep his footing on the sodden soil, made slick by dead plants covering it. He slipped, caught himself, and proceeded with more care. Amanda saw the softening soil was giving under his feet.

“Spock,” she sobbed, “come back. Please.” He didn’t appear to hear.

She crawled precariously on the ledge to catch up with him. He was already at the end. Fumbling for a second for a secure foothold, he jumped for the top of the half–blown bulkhead. Amanda heard a small sound of pain escape him when his hands made contact. She didn’t know whether the metal was hot or the jagged edges were cutting his hand. He pulled himself up and disappeared behind the blackened partition. Without being aware of it, Amanda started crying.

* * * * *

“Mr. Scott, he says it’s urgent,” the technician insisted.

The chief engineer gave vent to his anger with a short, choice word—he didn’t have time for more—and came around to the viewer screen, his eyes still on the indicators gone crazy on a control board.

“What is it, Doc? All hell’s breakin’ loose in Botany, I dinna…”

McCoy interrupted. “That’s what I’m calling about. Ambassador Sarek insists the water tank has exploded and, according to him, Jim, Spock and Amanda are caught in there.”

“How in the name of seven saints does he ken that? Isn’t he in Sick Bay?”

“I don’t know, Scotty. He seems sure. Just thought I’d let you know. He says there’s radiation danger, too. I can hardly keep him…”

“Blast the bloomin’ converter! The leak!” Scotty shouted, cutting McCoy off. “Must’ve boiled the water. That’s what’s kicked in the cooler.” He started snapping orders. “Alert the damage control parties. Flush out the air, but keep supplying fresh air. Boost that cooler, I dinna want it givin’ out! Hook up the largest pump we’ve got to the drainage system. Clear that water out on the double.”

“Mr. Scott, damage control party reports all hatches are on automatic seal. They can’t get through.”

“Override, lassie!”

“I’ve tried, sir. Something must be jammed.”

“Get someone into the maintenance crawlway, see if we can retrieve control manually. Get a tech team there. Tell ‘em to start cuttin’. We might contaminate the whole deck. Somebody call the Bridge. Ask ‘em to evacuate that level.” He headed out himself.

* * * * *

Amanda noticed the water level dropping. The air was clearing, too. Her throat and lungs were burning. She tried to get rid of the grit in her mouth. Whirlpools were forming here and there, quickly draining the hot liquid. She waited until she could see a clear path, then swung herself down. Ignoring the sharp pain at her ankle when she landed, she hurried to the hatch. She was disoriented. The room bore no resemblance to the peaceful place she had recently left; in fact, it bore little resemblance to any room. Debris and dust littered every corner; sparks were erupting from exposed circuitry on the mangled walls. Spock was struggling to lift a massive piece of mutilated tank casing. She looked around desperately for Kirk, but couldn’t see him; then she heard a moan and realized he was somewhere under that collapsed wall. At the sound, Spock braced himself better and pushed with all his strength, finally managing to move the heavy metal. In the same motion he propped it and crawled under it. Amanda knelt to see. Kirk was lying on his back, arms thrown up across his face. More metal rested on his chest, obscuring the rest of his body. The support for the overhead metal shifted under the weight. Amanda shouted a warning. Spock gave his attention once more to the danger. He supported the mass on his shoulders and pushed it up until it rested on its side and tumbled clear, raising a dust cloud. Amanda coughed and tried to get to Kirk. Spock was already kneeling next to his captain; his hands, as they explored Kirk’s chest, left a green trail. Amanda saw that Kirk was breathing without too much stress. The rubble that covered him wasn’t directly on the chest; small chunks supported it from below.

Spock gently pulled the arms off the Human’s face. “Jim?”

Kirk made a sound again. Spock pulled off his own shirt, bundled it and slipped it under Kirk’s head. “Jim. Can you hear me?” He leaned close to blow away the metal dust over the eyelids, unaware that he was running his fingers through the Human’s hair, unnecessarily trying to dislodge the small particles that clung to it. “Come back, Jim. Please.”

Something in his voice cut through Amanda’s anxiety, and she looked up at Spock. Her son didn’t seem to be aware of her presence. He was intent on the Human’s face. Kirk started coughing. Finally the eyes fluttered and opened. “Spock?” he said weakly.

“Don’t move,” warned the Vulcan, as Kirk stirred. “Are you in pain?”

“I...” Kirk coughed again to clear his throat of the dust, his eyes alert once more. “I feel like I’ve been run over, but I don’t have much pain. What happened?”

“The tank exploded. The bulkhead collapsed on you.” Kirk lifted his head to survey the situation. Spock continued, “I didn’t want to attempt to remove it until I found out how badly you’re injured.”

“I think I’m all right, Spock, considering. Maybe I can just pull out.” He braced his elbows, tried to move, then sank back. “No good.”

“Doesn’t anybody know we’re here?” Amanda asked, and surprised both men.

Spock’s head came up, and she knew her son had indeed been oblivious to her presence. Kirk tried to twist around to see. “Amanda! What are you doing here? Spock, the radiation...”

“There’s nothing we can do, Jim. The security hatches must have sealed automatically. I know of no way to open them from this side. Since help hasn’t reached us from outside, I assume they are having trouble with the seals themselves.”

“Spock, there was enough time. You should’ve—Oh, hell! What’s the use?”

Amanda saw Kirk’s eyes chastising Spock. The Vulcan quickly rose to escape the accusing glare. “I’ll attempt to remove this. Let me know if I cause you any discomfort.”

The loudspeakers in the lab came to life and Scott’s voice reached them. “Captain, Mr. Spock, I dinna know if you can hear me. We’re almost through the third hatch from the lab. We’ve managed to override the seal on the lab exit hatch. Sensors read high radiation levels. If you’re able, go out to the corridor and seal the lab again. We’ll be with you soon.”

“Finally,” said Kirk. “Amanda, go into the corridor.”

Amanda shook her head stubbornly and joined her son in clearing away the small debris. Spock didn’t object. Soon they had the large portion of the obstructions exposed. Offhand, Amanda doubted if anything could budge that solid mass. Her fear was confirmed as Spock wrestled with it ineffectively. She added her strength to his, to no avail.

Kirk could see it was useless, but it was as useless to ask the Vulcan to stop. He looked around as far as he could turn his head, to see if there was anything that could be used as a lever. Something claimed his attention on the recently replaced port covering, now pitted by the impacting debris. A prominent indentation appeared to move almost imperceptibly. He looked at it carefully; yes, it was very slowly, but definitely deepening under the duress of a suction from outside. He quickly looked away before Spock noticed.

He tried to keep his voice casual. “That’s no good, Spock. Go to the corridor intercom and find out how they’re coming along outside.” Spock kept struggling with the heavy bulk. “Spock, did you hear me?”

“My inquiry will not contribute to their progress. I can be more…”

Kirk cut him off. “You’re the science officer. Maybe you can suggest something they haven’t thought of.”

“Mr. Scott is more than capable…”

“That’s an order, Mister!”

The Vulcan was puzzled by the sharp tone, but hastened to obey. With exasperation, Kirk saw he was leaving alone.

“Amanda, go with him.”

That made Spock realize there was a danger in the room; he turned to inspect every corner. “Damn it, Spock, will you get out of here! At least, get your mother out.”

Amanda suddenly felt dizzy and nauseous. She covered her mouth, trying to stop gagging.

“The radiation is starting to affect her. Spock, for God’s sake.”

Spock had found the weak spot in the port cover. He pushed Amanda to the door. “Get out, Mother. Warn them the hull might give any moment. Stay on the other side of the lab exit until they get to you. If there’s a crack, it will seal again automatically.” As he was talking, he was attacking the unwieldy mass with renewed determination.

“Spock!” Kirk railed at him, but the Humans’ voice was edged with resignation.

Amanda wasn’t ready to abandon her son and Kirk. She threw herself at the stubborn block of metal. Spock gripped her arm tightly; she gasped with the pain. “Mother, GO!”

It was an unmistakable order, and a plea. It was concern for her, but it was mainly something else. Suddenly Amanda knew. If she insisted on staying, she would be forcing Spock to leave Kirk to assure her safety; she also knew, without any doubt, Spock would never forgive her for it. She clamped down on all the objections that were begging to come pouring out and nodded. Spock, obviously relieved, dismissed her instantly, and returned to his task. Kirk muttered something under his breath; Amanda looked at him. The hazel eyes seemed to accuse her for giving in. Then he saw the helplessness of the mother and managed to give her an encouraging smile.

Amanda took a last look at her son’s straining back, muscles standing out on the shoulders and corded arms, and left. Somehow, she knew it was the only thing she could do for her child at that moment. Without really seeing, she navigated herself through the debris-ridden, slimy floor of the lab and reached the exit hatch. It opened for her and slid closed afterward. She stood lost for a minute as the fresh air in the corridor cleared her mind. She felt like crying and screaming at the same time, but years of strict control came to the fore, she had a solution—and marveled that she had not thought of it before. She raced to the intercom unit next to the corridor portal.

“Can anybody hear me?” she asked, punching the button.

“Lady Amanda?” came the voice. “We’re right outside. What’s the situation in there?”

She forced herself to speak calmly. “The Captain and Spock are in the observation area behind the lab. The hull is about to crack.”

Someone on the other side muffled an oath. She paid no attention. “The bulkhead collapsed on the captain and we can’t get him out. Is it possible to cut off the gravity for this section?”

“Aye!” It was an exultant shout; she wondered why the simplest things took so long to penetrate during an emergency. “I’ll cut the gravity off for the whole ship, if necessary. It’ll only take a minute.”

Amanda couldn’t just wait. She ran back to the lab, refusing to consider what would happen if null gravity caught her while she was moving so fast. She reached the room. Spock was desperately pulling at the metal; it had shifted a little and Kirk was trying to pull out from under it with out much result. Amanda grasped the door jamb to steady herself and caught her breath to shout a warning to her son.

“Spock, they’re going to …”

With a surging nausea she felt the solid deck release her. The sudden disorientation startled her and she could only watch the results of her intervention in silent terror. As all anchoring disappeared, Spock’s own strength harnessed into pulling at the large bulk created a whiplash effect and carried him crashing into the wall behind. The mangled bulkhead, propelled by his desperate pull on it, followed with the same momentum and slammed into him with all the force of its mass. They both rebounded off the wall, lost inertia and drifted—Spock looking like a broken doll, tiny drops of green liquid bobbing in the air around his head.

Kirk, suddenly free of constraints, collected himself in a few seconds. He saw Amanda was about to let go of her anchor.

“No!” he shouted at her. “I’ll get him.”

The command voice penetrated Amanda’s anguish. She understood she would only hamper him if she moved. Twisting a little, Kirk maneuvered himself to the nearest solid object and kicked against it, launching himself accurately toward Spock. He had calculated his speed correctly; he slowed to a stop just as he was level with the Vulcan. He put one arm around his friend and pulled Spock’s arm around his waist. He turned slightly, so they were angled toward Amanda, and used small body motions to reach her.

“Push yourself along the wall. Not too hard, or you’ll lose your hold. Just take it easy.”

“Spock?” Amanda questioned anxiously.

“I don’t know. Let’s just get out of here first.” He twisted his head a little to check on the critical port covering. “Fast!” he added.

He didn’t waste time following the walls. One kick sent him halfway across the lab. He reached to grab a support beam, angled himself toward the exit, and pushed off again. As they passed the sensor, the hatch slid open. He looked back to see Amanda’s progress. He considered leaving Spock to go to her aid, but she was moving steadily and seemed to keep her head. Noticing his intention, she spared a hand to wave him away—a tiny sensible motion that didn’t interfere with her movement, reassured, Kirk pulled Spock out and headed for the intercom. He waited until the hatch closed behind Amanda, then jabbed the button.

“We’re out. Seal the lab immediately. Flush out the air and cut off all life support.”

If they could equalize pressure within and without the weakened hull, they could avoid a gaping hole on the side of his beloved ship. Scotty didn’t even bother to acknowledge; he was already issuing orders simultaneously with his captain.

Kirk left the intercom open and propped Spock against the wall, working him down to a sitting position, keeping his arms around him. Amanda pulled herself closer. A small portion of the wall next to the portal started to glow as the torches from the other side made progress. Kirk’s hands roamed over the Vulcan’s body, trying to find out how badly he was hurt. He was mainly worried abut the chest, but Spock was breathing evenly. If there were broken ribs, at least the lungs weren’t involved. There was a deep gash on his forehead; the blood ran freely off it to coalesce into small emerald balls around him. Amanda pulled her scarf loose and balled it up to press against the cut.

“Lab secure, Captain,” Scotty reported. “Teams are goin’ out to patch the hull. How’re you doin’ in there?”

“Spock is hurt,” Kirk answered, ignoring his own complaining body. “Have a med-team ready.”

“We’re here, Jim,” came McCoy’s voice, “soon as Scotty gets this blasted door…”

“Sorry to cut you off,” Scott interrupted, ‘but we’re torchin’ close to the comm unit. The leads will be meltin’ in a few seconds. Any orders before we cut connection?”

“Establish gravity if you can. And hurry, Scotty, hurry.” The captain knew it was an idiotic order; everyone on the other side would be working frantically already, but he couldn’t help it. His worry was turning into panic with every passing moment that the Vulcan was unconscious. Amanda’s pain-filled eyes were going from one man to the other, but she had her lips tightly clamped and wasn’t making the slightest sound. Kirk was grateful for the lack of hysteria; he was working hard to control something very akin to it inside himself.

Gravity returned with a sickening lurch, even the disappearance of the scant centimeters between the bodies and the deck jarring painfully. Kirk tightened his arms around Spock to cushion him, the returning weight making him doubly aware of all his own aches and bruises. He spared one hand to check his friend over again.

“You can stop prodding, sir. I am functional.” Spock’s calm voice made both Humans jump. They turned as the dark eyes opened.

“Spock! Are you all right?” Kirk asked.

“Quite,” said the Vulcan, trying to straighten.

“Don’t you dare!”

“I assure you, Captain, it was just the momentary loss of breath. I’m…”

“I’ll let McCoy be the judge of that.”

Amanda couldn’t talk, relief battering her worse than the worry. She knew she was on the point of bursting into tears. She let go of the scarf she was holding to Spock’s head and retreated. She had to collect herself. She wouldn’t embarrass her son by crying.

Kirk lifted the scarf to check on the wound and saw the blood flow had stopped.

“Damn it, Spock, that was too close!” He wasn’t immune to the dizzying relief either. “If you ever die on me trying to save my life, I’ll kick you from here to Andromeda and haunt you for the rest of your life!”

Spock raised an eyebrow despite the injury to that side of his forehead.

“That, Captain, is the most nonsensical thing I have ever heard you utter, including your dubious description of ‘fizzbin’.”

“Do you doubt my ability to do exactly as I say?”

“No, sir. I have long ago stopped doubting your ability to do the most outrageous things.”

“I take that as a compliment, Mr. Spock.”

“That is your privilege, sir.”

Amanda was listening to the easy banter with open-mouthed astonishment. The astonishment bordered on shock when Kirk started laughing with all the tension draining out of him, and Spock openly smiled at the Human. She held her breath, lest it interfere with the precious moment, and drank in the sight. She hadn’t seen her son smile since he had been six years old. Kirk didn’t exhibit any surprise at the sight. Had the Human seen it before? Everything she had witnessed within the last—‘half hour’, a rational part of her mind supplied; ‘that short’? marveled another part—fell into place and she realized the two men holding each other in front of her were indeed friends, a mutual friendship, maybe even deeper than any she had known. The sight blurred and she knew it was no use trying to fight the tears.

Spock’s arm was still around Kirk’s waist where the Human had placed it. He felt a stickiness against his fingers and lifted his arm to look at his hand over Kirk’s shoulder. His smile vanished instantly. “You’re bleeding!”

“No, I’m not,” Kirk said, without checking. “That’s your blood. It was all around, must’ve splashed on me.”

“Jim, I don’t bleed red.”

Puzzled, Kirk pulled away and reached for his back. He frowned at the red smear on his fingers. “That’s funny. It doesn’t hurt.”

Spock straightened. “Let me see.”

“Must be a scratch. Really, Spock, it doesn’t hurt. All right, all right!”

Seeing Spock was ready to get up, he turned his back to the Vulcan.

Spock pulled up what was left of Kirk’s shirt, and sighed.

“The knife wound has opened up again. I can’t see how deep it is.” He looked around for something to wipe the blood, settled on the scarf as the cleanest thing available and used a clear portion of it to dab at Kirk’s back. The thin material absorbed the fluid quickly, mingling it with the green.

I may never wash it, thought Amanda.

Spock gently prodded at the area. “Does it hurt?”

“Not when compared to some of the bruises I have.”

“I told you. Now, will you lie down?”

The portal opened at that moment. McCoy was instantly in the corridor, trailed by a nurse and two corpsmen pulling a large med-supply unit and stretchers. One of the corpsmen rushed at Amanda, the other knelt by the two officers to take radiation readings. The nurse also came to Amanda to check her over and started to spray the cuts on her arms and hands. McCoy headed for the captain.

Kirk deflected the doctor’s aim. “Check Spock. He was knocked out for quite a while.”

McCoy knelt by the Vulcan to run the scanner. “What is it with you two? Doesn’t pay to turn you loose lately. And let me tell you…” He was given the radiation absorption levels by one of his assistants. “Thank God for small miracles. You’ll all feel dizzy and nauseous for a few days, but you won’t grace my isolation chamber. No transfusions necessary, just a few shots. In your case,” he addressed Spock, “I may slap you into isolation anyway, just to do my heart some good. Don’t you know I don’t have one drop of T-negative left to transfuse you? Well, as I was saying, I don’t like this new variant of the game of Let’s-Give-Our-Family-Doctor-the–Shakes. If you insist on getting hurt, can’t you do it separately? With decent intervals in between?” The gentleness of his hands belied his gruff tone while he sprayed and put dressings on various cuts and burns. “You’ll live,” he said to Spock, then turned to Kirk, still grumbling. He had spent a terrifying half hour seething helplessly behind a door, and he was going to take his frustration out on the objects of his concern. “Believe me, having two commanding officers simultaneously in my Sick Bay is an honor I can do without. My, you’ve certainly made a good attempt at breaking this arm. And where do you think you’re going?” he snapped at Spock, who was trying to get up. “You will stay on your back until I rule out concussion. Not that I think that thick head is very vulnerable. Put him on the stretcher and don’t let him get stubborn,” he instructed the technicians, as he gave his attention to the captain. “You’ve opened up your back wound again. I’m going to tie you down until that thing heals, having to treat the same injury over and over is illogical, if I may borrow a word.”

Kirk looked over McCoy’s shoulder at his first officer and winked. Amanda saw amusement play around the corners of her son’s mouth.

The doctor gave orders to head for Sick Bay and came to take Amanda’s arm. Kirk insisted on walking and positioned himself close to Spock, seemingly involved in Scott’s report, but keeping a close eye on the progress of the stretcher. The attendants, aware of the captain’s attention, were extremely careful not to jar the Vulcan.

The first thing Amanda saw upon entering the Sick Bay was Sarek waiting by the doors. He inquired after Kirk and Spock and was reassured by McCoy, while the nurses whisked the two officers away. Sarek lightly touched Amanda’s fingertips and took her hands to inspect the cuts. She knew he wanted to put his arms around her, but didn’t know how to do so in the presence of everyone.

//I’ve sprained my ankle,// she transmitted to him.

//Painful? // he silently asked in concern.

//No, but I can manage to limp if you want justification.//

His amusement ran through her briefly and his arm came around her shoulder, pulling her tight against his chest. Suddenly realizing how exhausted she was, Amanda gratefully surrendered herself to his sure hold.

“My wife has sprained her ankle,” he announced to anyone who cared to pay attention. Of course, his justification backfired as attention came immediately, in the person of Nurse Chapel, rushing to see to the injury. Sarek reluctantly eased his wife into a chair and compromised by keeping a hand on her shoulder. While her ankle was treated, they carried on their silent conversation.

// You handled yourself admirably,// said Sarek

// Oh, Sarek, I might have killed Spock.//

// It was the only logical solution under the circumstances.//

Suddenly the implications dawned on Amanda. //You know? Sarek, you were sleeping.//

//When you call that loudly, my wife, I can hear over light years.//

// I didn’t even notice.//

// I know. I tried to reach you, but you weren’t receptive. They wouldn’t let me out of here, and I couldn’t logically object.//

Amanda was amused when McCoy chose that moment to ask Sarek to return to bed and the resentment in her husband’s mind magnified. Giving no outward sign of it, he obeyed the doctor. Nurse Chapel was finished with her ankle; she attempted to rise.

// Stay,// came the request.

// Sarek, I’m filthy.//

She stayed.

Captain Kirk came back, clean and wearing pajama bottoms. Amanda winced at the number of bruises and abrasions on his torso. He got in the bed he had occupied before and McCoy started working on his back.

 Kirk gasped as the doctor sprayed the area, and swallowed the first five words that almost left his mouth, remembering just in time that there was a Vulcan ambassador in the room.

“Bones, that’s cold!” He gritted his teeth. “Stings like—Ow! Stings terribly!”

“You were expecting the angel of mercy, perhaps? Shut up and let your doctor work!”

They carried Spock in, also cleaned and in coveralls. He was transferred to the bed next to Sarek’s. Kirk propped himself up to look back at his first officer. “Old home week,” he mumbled. M’benga adjusted some controls and left Spock’s side.

“Bones,” Kirk said.

Bones understood. “In a minute.”

“Bones?” Kirk insisted.

The doctor sighed with resignation. “Oh, all right. Go ahead.”

Kirk got off the bed and approached his friend. What he really wanted to say was ‘thank you,’ but he didn’t want to force Spock into giving very logical reasons for his actions, as he most certainly would in the presence of Sarek. “How do you feel?” he asked instead.

“I’m fine, sir,” the Vulcan answered formally.

Amanda saw Spock once again had his mask in place; she also saw that Kirk didn’t give a damn.

“Yeah, I know, I feel like hell, too, “ the Human said with a smile. He looked at Spock for another second, then surrendered himself into McCoy’s hands again. The doctor was now muttering about the unpredictable contraption called a starship and the doubtful sanity of all those who served aboard her.

Amanda looked at James Kirk, valiantly bearing up under McCoy’s verbal barrage and ministrations.

‘Thank you’, she thought, ‘for my husband’s life, for caring, for being my son’s friend, for making him yours; and most important of all, thank you for being... ’sufficient provocation.’”

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