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When he could bring himself to move again, he rose, bracing with one hand still pressed against the hated barrier as he did so. He pulled his jacket down, smoothing the front – a small tribute to Spock's meticulous habit of never allowing a wrinkle nor stray hair to mar his outward professional appearance. Half expecting the now crumpled figure on the other side of the glass to mirror his actions, another dagger pierced his heart as his gaze drew down and fixed thereupon. 

Peripherally, he was aware of many things. People talking in hushed tones. Scott taking over at the controls of the warp core chamber, giving a verbal readout as the decontamination process flushed away the toxic radiation. And, nearby, Bones waited. He knew his friend intended to make him leave, to have a team of medics bring the body out once the all clear was given. Hours may have passed, or maybe only a precious few minutes, but when he heard McCoy request the detail, his heart lurched back into its normal pattern. 

"Belay that," he barked, knowing it was loud enough for the technicians in Sick Bay to hear the countermand over the open comm link. 

"Jim, we have to—" 

"No. I want everyone out," he looked to McCoy then Scott, "and turn off the recorders. Tell them." 

They looked at him with a mix of pity and disbelief, had he lost his mind? Quite possibly. But, mad or not, he knew what he must do. 

"Get. Them. Out." 

McCoy canceled the detail and came up behind him, placing a hand on his left shoulder.

"Jim, don't do this to yourself. Let's go to your quarters. I'll make sure everything is—" 

He pulled away from the gesture, offered to comfort him. "No, Bones. It's my responsibility." 

How could they understand? He wanted no one else touching Spock. There was a duty to be performed and only he could do it. 

"Admiral, radiation levels are down within the margin of safety," Scott motioned to his staff to vacate Engineering. 

"Scotty, I want the corridors cleared from here to Sick Bay." After Scotty's soft "Aye, sir" and departure, he walked to the control panel and prepared to open the chamber, "Bones, get an isolation ward ready. I'll meet you there in twenty minutes." 

"Jim, at least let me have a gurney brought down." 

"No," he looked at McCoy and pleaded, "Bones, please.

His stubborn refusal and intent finally registered with his friend. McCoy nodded, lips set in a grim but neutral line, and left the area. 

It felt eerie to be alone, here, with only the steady thrum of the engines as background noise. He keyed in the sequence and the glass partition slid aside. 

Maybe he had gone mad after all. To think he could lift and carry Spock all that way in that time was beyond optimistic. Time was also critical in that he needed to limit his own exposure to any residual radiation from the body. 

All these things, he cast aside as he knelt beside his beloved and carefully leaned in to cradle Spock's head against his shoulder. Sliding his arms around the torso and under the legs, he breathed words of prayer, asking for just enough strength to make the short journey in as dignified manner as possible. 

He could almost hear the gentle rebuke filtering across the remnants of the now sundered and bleeding bond. 

Jim, ashaya, you are being illogical. You will injure yourself. 

In spite of the pain, a smile touched his heart. Would you do any less for me?  

Checkmate. 

"You made the ultimate sacrifice for the needs of the many. I do this now to honor the needs of the one. You, my t'hy'la, deserve no less than the best that I can give in return." He spoke the words aloud, knowing there was no one around to hear them, to assure himself of his resolve. 

With every ounce of strength he possessed, he rose up, lifting the great weight that was his precious burden, and began the trek to Sick Bay.

 

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Updated Note -- Rating:  I originally rated this as NC-17, but of course, there's nothing in this content to warrant that rating. If the author(s) who take up the challenge wish to introduce material that merits elevation of the rating, I will not object. My intent for this was to focus more on the love and total union of these two beings - physical love is certainly part of that union.

Original Note:  I just "spewed" this out to purge the need to write something. I hope someone finds this interesting enough to take on and write something for the challenge. Feel free to use this in whatever you create or simply as motivation for something bigger and better! I ask only that you please credit me/the challenge.

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