13: Awakening

Spock woke to the sound of a whispered conversation, feeling drowsy but peaceful.

“All right — call me if you need anything,” he thought he heard Jim say, then a door closed. The deep sigh that followed was accompanied by a faint wave of WORRY-WORRY-CONCERN which he recognized as McCoy’s.

“D—Doc—tor,” he mumbled, noticing that his mouth was dry and had a strange metallic taste.

“Spock! I’m right here,” McCoy answered, moving closer. “How are you feeling?”

“Thirsty,” Spock croaked.

McCoy pressed a button to raise the head of the biobed, then placed a straw to his lips. “Here you are.”

Taking grateful sips of the water, Spock willed his eyes to open. Seeing McCoy’s concerned face close to his own made his heartrate increase, in turn causing McCoy to glance up at the readouts and frown. However, Spock was not assaulted by intense feelings like he had before, despite their proximity. The WORRY-WORRY-CONCERN felt muted somehow.

“Better?”

“Yes. Thank you.”

“You sure gave us a turn there, Spock,” McCoy told him quietly. “The worst part is, I still don’t know what’s ailing you. All the tests came back negative — there’s no physical cause for your symptoms… and yet, there they are.”

“No physical cause…” Spock slowly repeated. “But that is a good thing, is it not?”

“It is… except that there’s no explanation for what’s happening. The only other factor is psychological… which is more difficult to cure.” McCoy pulled a chair close to the bed and sat down before continuing. “The good news is, you don’t have any brain tumors, Bendii Syndrome, or Pa’nar Syndrome. So the only conclusion I can come to is that this breakup with Uhura, combined with Ambassador Spock’s passing, is affecting you enough to cause physical symptoms.”

“I see,” Spock replied. “That is… quite logical. And thorough. I am impressed… that you thought to check for those diseases.”

“Well, at least in the case of Bendii, you’re too young to be a candidate for it, but then again you’re not a typical Vulcan, are you?” McCoy’s attempt to smile came out strained. “You’re one of a kind. Which makes you damn unique, but it also means I have no cases to compare this with.”

“I regret that I present such a challenge, Doctor,” Spock said without sarcasm. “But since you have ruled out a physical cause, I can analyze the psychological myself. If there is no abnormality in my brain functions, I should be able to control my emotions — and, thereby, my symptoms.”

“It’s not that easy, Spock… not even for you,” McCoy pointed out. “The fact is, you haven’t been able to.” He paused before asking, “Spock… is it possible… that after time, your Human traits are… getting stronger? That you might be feeling your emotions more because the Human side of you is trying to take over?”

“It is possible,” he conceded, “but doubtful. Although, as you say, since I am the first of my kind, there is no way to know. What I can assure you is that Vulcan emotions run deeper than Human emotions, meaning that if my Human side were to assert dominance, my emotions would be less violent, if anything. The major difference would be my inability to control them.”

“Huh.” McCoy rubbed his forehead. “So Vulcans feel… more intensely than Humans?”

“Yes. Which is why it was vital to master our emotions.” Spock shifted, trying to sit up, and found his movements were sluggish. When McCoy jumped up to help him, his heartrate increased again along with the WORRY-WORRY-CONCERN which was communicated through their contact. Spock noticed the doctor was avoiding touching his skin, but even through his clothes Spock knew he should be feeling McCoy’s emotions more loudly. “Thank you. Doctor, did you inject me with a tranquilizer?”

“Uh, yeah — just a mild sedative with a muscle relaxant. You might feel a bit hazy for a while.”

“Ah. That would explain it.” He took another drink of the water. “How long was I unconscious?”

“Couple of hours. Actually,” McCoy checked his watch, “make that four. Okay, I might’ve overdone it with the sedative, but I needed to stabilize your vitals. Are you hungry? You must be, since I had an energy bar a while ago and I’m still starving. I’ll go grab something from the replicator. What’re you in the mood for?”

Spock did not bother to tell him that he did not have moods, especially since he seemed to have been at the mercy of his emotions for the past few days.

“I would appreciate some hot soup. I feel somewhat dehydrated.”

“Oh, yeah — that’s a side effect of the sedative. I’ll be right back.” McCoy turned to look at him again from the doorway. “Don’t go anywhere! Doctor’s orders,” he declared, half-joking, though the effect was ruined by the crease between his brows belying his concern.

“Of course,” Spock answered, lying back as he was left alone in the room. The lights of Yorktown had been dimmed for its simulated nightfall, allowing him to see some of the stars beyond its sphere.

“So it seems I have fallen prey — increasingly, as time progresses — to my irrational emotions,” he pondered. “All of those symptoms were simply… products of my feelings. Fascinating… and horrifying. I must restore my inner equilibrium. Perhaps a few days’ medical leave would be in order after all. Some meditation and calming exercises should help. And I must tell Leonard the true cause of my agitation… so that I may begin exorcising it.”

The tell-tale beeping of the biobed monitor indicated that Spock’s heartrate had increased again. He needed no medical equipment to tell him that his breathing was constricted, this time not only by a tightness in the chest but also by what felt like a large blockage in his throat. His eyes stung with tears which he refused to shed.

“This is illogical! And pointless,” he thought furiously. “Weeping and gnashing my teeth will make no difference in the situation, and if I do not control these physical symptoms, they will only make Leonard worry more. I must control them… calm them… rein them in….”

The beeping of the monitor gradually receded as Spock forced his mind to overcome his heart. He drew in deep, cleansing breaths and pushed his feelings as deep down as possible.

“There, that is better. From here on I will make all of my decisions logically. In fact,” he realized, glancing around, “if Leonard can spare the time, I should tell him now — here, in the privacy of this recovery room — and get it over with. It is part of my medical diagnosis, after all; he will of course keep it confidential, and he will also know that my imbalance was not caused simply because my relationship with Nyota has ended.” A faint trace of irritation threatened to disturb his coerced tranquility. “I may be struggling with my emotions, but I am not so weak as to be utterly upset by an amicable separation. It was caused by an unfortunate combination of factors: the death of my future self; my guilt over abandoning Nyota in her time of need, no matter how inadvertently; and my sudden and profound attraction to Leonard — something I had never experienced before. Any one of these factors, taken alone, could not have unsettled me to this degree.”

The door opened and McCoy stepped in with two stacked trays.

“The replicator here isn’t programmed for plomeek soup, so I hope tomato soup is okay,” he said apologetically while setting one tray on the over-bed table. “The fruit salad should help with your electrolytes. You also need protein, so I got you a tofu-hummus sandwich in a pita. It’s bland but easily digestible.”

“Thank you, Doctor. That sounds quite appetizing.”

“I saw your vitals spike again while I was gone. How are you feeling?”

“I am feeling… better. As you can see, my readings have returned to normal. Once I knew those symptoms were caused by my emotions, I was able to regulate them.”

“Just like that?” McCoy asked, incredulous, as he sat down with his own tray of soup and a turkey sandwich.

“Just like that,” Spock affirmed, picking up his spoon. “Being Vulcan… does have its advantages.”

“I guess,” McCoy said wryly before taking a bite. Spock followed suit and found his unexpected meal selections to be delicious. When he told McCoy, the doctor grinned in genuine pleasure, dazzling Spock for a split second and threatening to elevate his heartrate again. Spock forced himself to objectively observe the other man’s features and noted that while the smile relieved the severity of McCoy’s expression, it also revealed how exhausted he was.

“I must apologize for keeping you here until such a late hour,” Spock stated. “I am… unspeakably embarrassed… since it could have been avoided altogether… had I only realized what was causing it.”

“Ah, don’t worry, Spock,” McCoy said with a dismissive wave of one hand. “I was dying of boredom in all those meetings today. I ought to thank you for getting me out of the last one — the chief of the surgery department can be really long-winded.”

As they ate, McCoy asked Spock a few questions about the progress on the new Enterprise and Spock asked McCoy about the hospital’s work. When they occasionally lapsed into silence, it was companionable.

“Well, that hit the spot,” McCoy said, tossing his napkin on the tray. “Can I get you anything else?”

“No, thank you — that was more than adequate,” Spock said, then hesitated before starting, “However, if I may… ask a favor….”

“What? Name it,” McCoy answered while collecting Spock’s tray.

“Please feel free to refuse — I realize you must be tired from a long day — but I wonder if I might impose on your time for a while longer.”

“Sure, no problem.” He threw the trays into the recycling chute. “Tomorrow’s my day off, anyway.”

“Oh. I am glad to hear it.” Spock felt a flush creeping over his neck and spreading up his cheeks as his body reacted to what he was about to do. It did not help matters when McCoy pulled his chair even closer to the bed and elevated the seat so he would be at Spock’s eye level. The heartrate monitor started beeping its alarm in spite of his best efforts to remain calm.

“You’re spiking again — are you all right?”

“Yes, about that…” Spock began as he felt his body careen out of control. He was fidgeting with the blanket on his lap without realizing it, avoiding meeting McCoy’s concerned gaze. “There is no reason to worry, Doctor. Since you have proven that there are no physiological issues, I am reasonably certain as to what the psychological cause is.”

“Yeah? Well, you’ve obviously had a lot on your mind. I mean, being faced with your own mortality — first with you future self dying and then almost getting punctured in the heart yourself — it would be enough to send anybody around the bend.”

“Perhaps… but those things alone… or even in tandem with my relationship with Miss Uhura ending… would not account for the total lack of control I have been experiencing.”

McCoy reached over to the monitor and pressed some buttons, turning off the incessant alarms.

“So what else is going on?” he asked gently. His waves of WORRY-WORRY-CONCERN were growing stronger; Spock thought that with the ingestion of food, the effects of the sedative might be wearing off.

“There was a reason… a significant reason… why Lieutenant Uhura and I decided to part ways,” Spock started, still staring unseeingly at his own hands. “You see… as embarrassing as it is to admit… and as unintentional as it was… I seem to have… ‘fallen in love’… with someone else.”

He sensed McCoy’s worry turn to shock.

“Wow…. Well, no wonder she wanted to break up. But you’re saying you didn’t mean to?”

“No,” Spock answered, feeling somewhat faint due to his heart beating rapidly. “I… I never intended… to hurt Nyota like that… but it was … unavoidable…. It simply happened.”

“Oh, God, Spock,” McCoy said, then gusted out a sigh. “It happens… I know. Love… just isn’t logical.”

“Apparently not,” Spock agreed in a small voice. “I find myself… overwhelmed by it. My orderly life has been thrown into chaos because of it. And yet I cannot deny it.”

“Yeah… sounds about right.” There was a heavy silence before McCoy added, “This is about the time I would offer you a stiff drink.”

“It would serve no purpose with my metabolism,” Spock replied.

“More’s the pity.” McCoy waited until his curiosity won out. “So, if you don’t mind my asking… who’s the lucky lady that managed to steal you from Uhura?”

“It’s… not a lady.”

“Oh?” McCoy sounded intrigued. “A tramp, then?”

Spock shook his head. “A man.”

“Oh!” The shockwave was palpable. “Spock, I had no idea….”

“Neither did I.”

“Oh! God, that must’ve been…. No wonder it’s thrown you for a loop!”

“Indeed.” Spock sighed, knowing he was only delaying the inevitable. “I… hardly know how to explain it.”

“Well, you know Jim,” McCoy said in an encouraging tone. “He might tease you for a bit, but he doesn’t mean any harm. He might even take you up on your offer!”

“I beg your pardon?” Spock asked, looking up at last.

“I mean, sure, he’s dated women pretty exclusively since I’ve known him,” McCoy explained, “but he did mention fooling around with one of his schoolmates when he was drunk, so, you know, it could happen.”

“I—I don’t… I d—didn’t mean,” Spock stammered, feeling as though the space station’s artificial gravity had suddenly been repolarized under him.

“Aww, Spock, it’s not like you had to spell it out,” McCoy said with a lopsided grin. “I know you and Jim have had a special bond — ever since you marooned him and he came back for more! You’ve always made a great team. Besides, half the population that meets him has the same reaction: one look at those neon-blue eyes and you’re a goner. I try not to look him in the eye too much, myself.”

“No, no! You don’t understand,” Spock protested, his heartrate skyrocketing and his hands trembling. “It’s not Jim! It’s… It’s you… Leonard….”

A second shockwave hit Spock, but this one was more of confusion and bewilderment.

“What?” McCoy said, slack-jawed.

Spock licked his lips — which had become dry again — before repeating, “It’s you, Leonard…. I can’t stop… thinking about you. Just being near you… elevates my heartrate.”

McCoy’s lips twitched a couple of times, then he finally asked, “Me?”

“Yes! You.” Spock felt a surge of relief at having verbalized it. “Nyota suspected it first, and she was correct. I have been acting irrationally around you, and further analysis of the evidence proved it: I am in love with you.”

McCoy stared at Spock for a long moment, openmouthed, before seeming to recollect himself.

“Spock… did Jim put you up to this?”

“Wh—What?”

“Did Jim put you up to this?” McCoy demanded. “He must’ve blackmailed you… or maybe he convinced you that it’d be a great prank. Yeah, that’s what this is, isn’t it? Just a great, practical joke!

Spock could not understand why McCoy had stood up and turned his back to him, fists clenched; he had no idea why there were great, searing-hot waves of anger rolling off of the Human, staggering in their intensity.

“Leonard?” Spock whispered, his heart pounding in his throat. The waves of rage crashed all around him, through him, filling the room. “Leonard,” Spock called again, “please, Jim had nothing to do with this! He had no knowledge of… of how I feel.” The reverberating waves of anger lessened somewhat, resolving into powerful storm surges of HURT-HURT-ANGER-SADNESS, but they had already eroded Spock’s own tentatively controlled emotions. He had been prepared for outright refusal, polite condescension, even active avoidance — but not this. He was weeping before he knew it, great tears blurring his vision and rolling down his cheeks as he struggled to deal with two sets of conflicting emotions.

“Is that what he told you to say?” McCoy asked, his tone calm but with an icy edge. SUSPICION emanated from him like a cold blast.

“What? No!” Spock responded, gasping for air. “He had… nothing to do… with this! He knew… nothing!

Hearing the distress in Spock’s voice, McCoy turned back to face him and was shocked anew by what he saw.

“Spock! What the hell… What’s the matter?” WORRY-WORRY-CONCERN rapidly replaced the earlier turbulence as McCoy drew close.

“I… do not ask… that you return… my affection,” Spock managed, “but I… had hoped… you would… at least… believe me.”

“I do! I do. I’m sorry,” McCoy told him, sitting on the edge of the bed to embrace him. SORRY-SORRY-HEAL-FIX washed over Spock, but instead of soothing him, the sudden shift in feelings shook loose his emotional moorings, causing him to cry even more. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” McCoy repeated, holding Spock closer and tighter, not bothering to avoid touching his skin. SORRY-SORRY-HEAL-SORRY-SORRY-FIX poured out of the doctor at full volume without any mitigating effect from the sedative.

Now that the tempest of feelings from McCoy had settled into a predictable pattern, Spock was able to assess the situation logically. He found that his hurt from being disbelieved was fading under the doctor’s sincere desire to undo what damage he had inflicted; he also realized that McCoy’s anger had not been directed at him, or it would not have been so easily subjugated to his caring. Most important of all, Spock was able to recognize that he was being held against McCoy’s muscular chest and he liked it very much — even though it meant his heartrate was still elevated, leaving him lightheaded. In fact he wanted to stay there forever.

“Shhh… I’m sorry… I’m so sorry,” McCoy murmured into Spock’s hair. “Dammit, Spock, I didn’t mean to hurt you! I would never hurt you… not on purpose….”

McCoy’s hands cradled Spock’s neck and head as McCoy pressed his lips to Spock’s forehead. White balls of crackling lightning burst out of those contact points and sped across Spock’s body to dissipate off his toes.

“Fascinating,” he thought, then he clutched the doctor’s uniform tightly with both hands.

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