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When you are weary, feeling small,

I am on your side,

Oh, when times get rough

And friends are just not around,

I will comfort you…


He stood above the mists on a ledge of rock, floating in a swirling ocean, a thick white blanket extending from horizon to horizon, a shimmer with foxfire, while ghostly breakers swelled about his feet. As pale as the mists, her strange eyes darkly aglow with some knowledge she did not wish to share, the girl standing beside him gestured toward the east where Wraith's huge sun rose above the vapour making a cerise and ochre spectacle of the dawn sky. The Enterprise, swan-like and mysterious hung suspended between the dying star and the rolling waves, and he knew that he had to make a choice…

S'kros, cho'nom Ra'el Kirrke quaer I naradzram…

The computer voice, speaking in Vulcan, penetrated Kirk's dream. He woke with a start, confused for an instant at finding himself still in Spock's quarters, realising that he had spent the whole night in Spock's bed. Embarrassed by the thought he sat up quickly and pushed aside the vaguely oriental throw that covered him. Swinging his legs to the floor he espied his boots by the door, exactly where he would have left them in his own quarters. Spock had got to know him entirely too well…

S'kros neh kharos'hin anh'kwet romeh …

Boots in hand, he straightened, listening to the mechanical female voice of his ship and what she/it was saying. The senceiver implanted in his brain translated the Vulcan words directly. It was a wake up call; one meant especially for him since Spock's internal timepiece required no prompting. So, where was his First Officer?


There was no answer to his call. Not that he had expected one. Kirk glanced around the austere cabin, the billet of a soldier ready for battle, with few decorations and sparse furnishings, the one touch of individuality being Spock's Vulcan harp, standing where the First Officer had left it on the vacated chair behind the desk.

Kirk touched the strings with a tentative finger, and evoked a melancholy tinkling, a haunting quality of sound suitably in tune with his present mood. He realised quite well that Spock had left him sleeping off the effects of the tsa'e and gone elsewhere to find some necessary peace. Even a Vulcan needed time to adjust to such a drastic life change.

On the other hand, maybe I'm the one who needs to adjust, Kirk concluded, remembering Spock's stoic acceptance of something over which he had little control.

The thought stayed with him as he stole somewhat furtively out of the door and back to his own quarters, careful that no one should see him exiting from Spock's cabin, boots clasped under his arm. He could well imagine what ships scuttlebutt would make of that news.

Grinning self-consciously, he wondered if Spock had also stumbled upon the rumour circulating that they were, indeed, lovers. His mind's eye provided him with an image of Spock's brow elevating skyward in either disbelief or impatience at the very idea. As for himself, after the initial surprise, he found the possibility strangely tantalizing. His relationship with Spock had grown unusually close over the years they had served together and a warm, professional bond of mutual respect had thrived between them. However, to his knowledge, neither he nor Spock had ever displayed the slightest physical affection. At least not overtly although, apparently, a lot could be read into a concerned glance or a ready smile, or an upraised eyebrow.

Kirk had an open mind about sex in any of its various forms, whether heterosexual, homosexual, or xenogeneic. When the key fitted the lock, so much the better, but he had found that not all species kept their genitals in the same place. Resourcefulness, his middle name, had proved helpful on many an occasion when he had not been too sure what went where, or even if it could! However, he felt certain that Spock, while not condemning such nonconformity, might well be more reticent in his own dealings.

He knew, of course, of the old saw about Vulcans only being able to mate every seven years, and believed not a word of it. That belonged in the same category, as 'Vulcans could not lie'. Maybe true for some, but Spock could sure stretch the truth when it suited him. His First Officer had demonstrated that on several occasions and Jim acknowledged readily enough, that Spock had subtleties to his character that many a 'full blooded' Vulcan lacked.

Once the door shut on his quarters, he undressed and showered quickly, turning the sonics up to the highest setting, letting the vibrations pound against his flesh. He was used to being in control, he was used to acting. He was not used to standing idly by while his best friend went blind. Even without a diagnosis from McCoy, he knew his tension levels were way up high, and stress always made him horny, one reason probably why sex was on his mind right then.

That he had no way of sublimating the physical craving only added to his pressure. A shipboard romance as usual, remained out of the question. A starship was no place to get involved. Not that he lacked any number of eager candidates, able and very willing to ease his discomfort or scratch the slightest sexual itch. Nevertheless, it was one of his strictest rules to leave emotional entanglements with any of his crew sternly alone.

The Enterprise was a small community that functioned only by mutual support and interdependence. They all relied on each other, in the finely tuned, evenly balanced microcosm. A casual flirtation with any of his personnel could upset those scales to such an extent that it might conceivably bring the ship into danger. Kirk relied on his scrupulous self-command to avoid any such situation. In other, similar, situations he had usually suppressed the urge by less damaging bodily activity, playing ferocious games of velocity, occasionally with Bones but mostly with Spock, who proved a vigorous if defensive player. Now, with Spock out of action, even that release was denied him. It was little consolation to know that it must be a hundred times worse for his First Officer.

Deep down, Kirk knew the difficulty he had confronting Spock's blindness was his own terror, the realisation that 'there but for the grace of God'… thoughts he normally steered clear of, unwilling to deal with any suggestion of vulnerability, or helplessness. Now, he had no choice but to tackle the situation head-on. The notion of his self-contained, adroit, First Officer reliant on outsiders to lead him around and provide the essential amenities of life, alarmed him more than the thought of Spock actually dying. It came too close to home.

If he had suddenly contracted Koreoretnal Syndrome and gone blind, how would he hack it?

No doubt with anger at first, followed by increasing bitterness as he saw his career go down the tubes; there were no blind captains in Starfleet, nor likely to be any, as there were no blind first officers. What would be open to him, a teaching post at Academy, a desk job at Fleet Headquarters, a new career entirely? Would he waste his time chasing a cure or get on with a new life? Spock, of course, was essentially a scientist and not a soldier, though he had adapted skilfully to military life. His father, Sarek of Vulcan, also had diplomatic connections. Would Spock want to go back to Vulcan?

Ordering up a fresh uniform, he pulled it on, his skin still red and smarting a little from the punishing vigour of the sonics. There were too many questions without answers, too many variables. As Spock might well say, even speculation needed adequate data.

I need coffee, a large pot no, an enormous pot of coffee, and some ham and eggs to go with it. Damn the cholesterol for once.

He would square it with Bones later, even if it meant eating salad for the rest of the month. However, while his body sought the comfort of caffeine and saturated fats, his mood called for company. With that thought uppermost, he abandoned the selector in his cabin and went in search of camaraderie in the crew lounge on the main recreation deck.

Kirk liked the lounge area. He made it a rule to eat breakfast there most days, along with the other senior staff. It was hardly luxurious, though it missed none of the comforts of home. Here he could rub shoulders with the most junior cadet or midshipman and they with him, without the need for ceremony or the necessary discipline of the bridge.

The beguiling smell of percolating coffee enticed him through the door but he came up short at the threshold when he saw who had pre-empted his arrival.

McCoy, seated beside Spock at one of the many bench-style tables, noticed him almost immediately, subjecting him to a lopsided smile before beckoning him over. With his order safely ensconced on a tray, Kirk crossed to the table and sat down.

"Good morning, Bones. Mr. Spock." He poured himself a coffee, added cream, glancing at McCoy to see the reaction.

"Jim." McCoy raised an eyebrow at Kirk's tray but said nothing.

Spock looked at him as if he could still see, head tilted to one side. "Good morning, Captain. You slept well, sir?"

A loaded question if ever there was one. "I…slept very well, with no small thanks to your Vulcan tsa'e I think, Mr. Spock."

"Tsa'e?" McCoy asked wryly. "What in heaven's name made you drink that, Jim?"

Kirk shrugged, forking up a mouthful of his ham and eggs, watching the Vulcan's face. He saw a childlike innocence reflected there as if butter would not melt in his First Officer's mouth. "I'm beginning to think I might have been sabotaged, Bones."

"Sabotaged," McCoy repeated, looking from Spock to Kirk and back again before the penny finally dropped. "Ah, I see… prescribing without a licence again, huh, Spock?"

"Doctor?" Spock's expression remainedentirely virtuous. "I merely offered the Captain some … Vulcan hospitality. I may have made the tsa'e blend a little stronger than usual, unwittingly. I … apologise if you were unduly inconvenienced, sir."

"Uh-huh." Kirk took a gulp of his coffee, allowing himself the luxury of imagining for a moment that Spock could really see as he stared straight into the Vulcan's eyes. It was too easy. The First Officer had chosen to break fast with what looked like rice cakes in a rich, yellow sauce. Kirk had noticed on several occasions that the dish appeared to be a current favourite. Spock ate it with Vulcan jom'ir sticks, grace and confidence evident in every gesture, totally at ease with the mechanics of eating and drinking. Kirk had to pay strict attention to realise that he was, indeed, blind.

"You'll be glad to note I slept like a baby, Bones. Ever thought of marketing the stuff, Spock?"

Spock's lips curved in what might have been the briefest of ironic smiles, one eyebrow flicking upwards. "Vulcan already does, Captain."

McCoy grinned. "Tsa'e's a remedial herb, Jim. The Vulcan's tend to use it as a meditational support, but among the humanoid species, it seems to alleviate anything from haemorrhoids to menstrual cramps depending on the strength of the mix."

Kirk spluttered into his coffee. "Well … if I ever suffer from either, I'll certainly know who to consult…"

He changed the subject, his dream of the night before resurfacing. "Spock, what do you know about Wraith?"

"Wraiths, Jim?" McCoy asked puzzled, looking over the rim of his coffee cup at Kirk. "As in apparitions and ghostly portents?"

"No, Doctor McCoy," Spock interrupted. "As in the planet Wraith. At least that is its popular nomenclature. Officially, it is catalogued as Sassandran. A class M planet that has recently been purchased by a private individual who, I believe, has turned it into a vacationers resort."

"Somebody bought a planet?" McCoy asked, agog.

"Indeed. An exceptionally affluent someone, by the name of Hekmatyer Ryhanen, originally from Dha'kaht'chun, Doctor."

"So, how did it come to be called Wraith? By anyone's standards that's a pretty odd name for a planet."

Spock's head tilted, deliberating on his reply. "There is considerable opinion to the effect that the planet is haunted, Doctor McCoy."

"Haunted? So, we are talking about apparitions and ghostly portents! Surely you can't believe that, Spock?"

"Doctor, I merely report the legend, I did not say I accepted it as true." The First Officer stated dryly.

"It's a fascinating peculiarity though, wouldn't you say, Jim?"

Kirk nodded hazel eyes alight with amusement as Spock exhaled lightly at McCoy's emphasis on that particular word. "From what I've heard, that's not the only idiosyncrasy about Sassandran, Bones. Rumour has it that, except for the mountaintops, the world is habitually shrouded in mist."

"Which has added to the superstition, I suspect." Spock added, his inquisitiveness obviously piqued. "Moreover Sassandran, although unpopulated now, still has substantial ruins attesting to an earlier occupation by a … species unknown."

He fixed his unblinking gaze once more on Kirk. "As you are no doubt aware Captain, our present tour includes a stopover at Sassandran at the explicit request of Mr Ryhanen."

Kirk forked up the last of his breakfast and pushed his plate aside with a contented sigh. He poured himself more coffee and sipped at the rich and creamy beverage. "I am quite aware of that, Mr Spock. Not only is Mr. Ryhanen extremely wealthy but he also has a great deal of influence with the Federation High Council. His 'request' translates into a direct order from 'Fleet to be sure and go visit."

"Most certainly, Captain."

"Which … brings me to the matter of your duty assignments, Mr. Spock. Officially, you're on sick leave, of course. However, I don't want you skulking alone for hours in your quarters…."

"Skulking, Captain," Spock protested mildly, winged brows drawing together in dissent at the derogatory term. "I hardly consider…"

"Yes, skulking, Mr. Spock." Kirk affirmed. "You will draw up a schedule with Doctor McCoy so that you get the proper rest. The remainder of your time, until we reach Sassandran will be spent partly on the bridge and partly researching the Koreoretnal condition. Is that understood?"

"Indeed, sir." The First Officer murmured his expression enigmatic. "However, even with Mr. Chekov's help, as you suggested last evening, I… will be of limited assistance on the bridge and could, quite possibly, be an encumbrance…"

Kirk did not miss Spock's lack of enthusiasm and thought he understood the reason for it. He shook his head and then remembered that Spock could not see the gesture. McCoy merely shrugged as Kirk shot him an uneasy glance.

"I'm not making a request, Mr. Spock." He hardened his tone using his command voice with calculated intent, his regret immediate as he saw the wounded look, concealed almost instantly, on Spock's face. "I know it won't be easy, but I wouldn't ask unless I thought you were up to it."

"No, of course not, Captain."

An uncomfortable silence fell that McCoy rushed to fill. "What if we fixed you up with a sensor web, Spock? We could incorporate it into your uniform so that it's not too obvious. Then you'll have no need to rely on Chekov, more than is normal, that is."

"A sensor web, Bones?" Kirk asked. "You mean like the one Doctor Jones wore?"1

"Exactly, Jim. If we link it up with Spock's senceiver implant I bet he'll even be able to play chess with a little practice."

They both studied the First Officer intently.

"What about it, Spock?" Kirk asked.

Grave, entirely composed, he inclined his head impressed, not for the first time, by McCoy's acuity.

"Thank you, Captain, I accept. Doctor, it is…an excellent idea."


1 Is There In Truth No Beauty.

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