Title: When the Hour Strikes (1/?)
Fandom: Star Trek TOS
Characters: Kirk, Spock, McCoy (pre-K/S/M)
Disclaimer: Star Trek is not my property, only my plaything.
Summary: The First Officer becomes a target for an unidentified assailant.
Or read at AO3
Spock is Tranquility itself. He sits, legs folded and hands clasped lightly in the traditional Loshirak position. The air is stiff with dry heat, which comforts his senses and allows his mind to sharpen its focus. There is a temporal calm filtering along his nerves, to fingertips and back.
Seven minutes, thirty-four point three seconds, he thinks inwardly, of the time spent in meditation upon the red sands of the Vulcan desert Go’an. He does not recall his arrival and feels a vague sense of some missing quantity. No conclusions without data… two missing quantities, he decides.
His hands remain still as a shadow falls across his closed eyes, muting the glare of the hot light.
“I wish to join you, my son.” The voice has no inflection from years of long-held practice and steel reserve.
You may, he replies.
“Are you at peace?” This (idle) question from his father puzzles Spock.
He gives only the truth in return. I find peace here.
Silence meets this answer, so Spock must open his eyes to assess his father’s response. When his head turns left, in the direction of the voice, he meets only the strong line of a proud shoulder. The rest of his father is shrouded in the bright haze of the sun.
Father, he asks, why have you come?
There is a slow tilt of the head; Spock sees the outline of his father’s jaw. “Let me help you, Spock.”
I do not understand. I do not require assistance at this time.
The brightness fades into a shadowy wash upon the sand and Sarek is gone. There is an echo of as you wish that dies away, and Spock is left in the quiet stillness of the desert. He settles back into his thoughts, alone.
The sun crawls slowly above the horizon.
Six hours, twenty minutes, ten seconds.
The next visitor stirs the sand at Spock’s knees. When he opens his eyes at this interruption, he looks up at a towering, vaguely lined human form, dark in its distinctive clothing. The polish of the black boots draws Spock’s attention downwards, glints sharply in the sunlight. It is Christopher Pike, former Captain of the Enterprise.
Before Spock decides to rise in greeting, Pike says, “Well-met, Mr. Spock.”
Indeed. I bide you welcome to my home.
The figure does not bend to him, stays straight-backed and tall with pride. “The desert is hot, isn’t it?”
Spock does not understand the human’s desire for “small talk,” but he is familiar enough with the concept not to question its necessity. (Simplicity works best for response, he knows.)
Again, an unsettling silence invades the calm that holds Spock. When Pike shows no sign of explaining his presence or his purpose, the Vulcan voices his concern. Captain Pike, why are you in Go’an?
“I am here, with you, Mr. Spock. Have you need of me?”
I am… uncertain.
Pike says, then, with a commanding voice of the past. “You must not be uncertain. You must be sure.”
I am not. There is little else to say (to admit).
“Time runs on too quickly, Commander. Make your decision soon.” Spock is about to inquire why? when Pike evaporates into the heat of the day. Spock is alone. The calmness inside beckons him back so he gives in, closes his eyes, and loses himself to it.
“Spock.” This time it is the gentle whisper of a beloved voice that draws him out into the world.
M’aih, he sighs softly.
“Yes, dear. How long, Spock?”
Two days and fifty-one minutes, Mother.
“I miss you. Won’t you come back, my child?”
I have not left. Spock pauses, considers. He casts away the wondering words Have I?
Unlike the first two visitors, Spock cannot see a figment of his mother. She remains invisible to the eye (but visible to his heart); however, he does not need sight to recognize her. She is with him, now, very close at his right shoulder—a weight that he feels strongly. Spock is content to breathe deep and accept the company of his human mother.
When she speaks, her words are very quiet to his Vulcan hearing. “Will you accept my help, Spock-kam?”
He still does not understand. Help requires a state of distress. Here, he knows only long stretches of red sand and a welcoming heat against his skin.
She allows him no time to answer. “A storm is coming,” Amanda warns. The last caress of her presence lingers with the plea Please hold on.
The first sign is the electric crackling that runs along the clear sky. It awakens Spock from his restful mind with a sharp bang. The sun is high above his head now, bearing heat upon his black hair, along his bare shoulders. There is a metallic tang to the air. He tastes it as his lungs draw in a hot breath.
Spock is aware of the dangers of the Vulcan desert—of the sand firestorm that comes swift and deadly. He has no desire to be buried in such a rough, harsh grave but the pull at the edges of his mind will not release him.
It calls him to meditation, to leave the outside and turn in.
Five days and eighteen minutes.
He decides that another moment of respite will affect the probability of a lingering, sand-choked death in the desert by less than five percent. Acceptable… His eyes are heavy.
“Damn it, Spock!” This brings Spock sharply into awareness. Sand sprays his chest as a set of legs coming folding down in front of him.
The human he knows as Doctor McCoy reaches out and grabs his shoulders in a rough hold and suddenly Spock has a very vivid clarity. The desert around him comes into focus, stings him with strong wind. (The sand starts to shift.)
McCoy—no, Leonard—is a sharp blue, from his outfit to his intense eyes.
Doctor, I hear you. Do not—
“Spock, come back, you blasted Vulcan! We can’t do this without you.” It sounds odd, like a confession which surely McCoy would never—
The doctor ignores his attempt to return communication, as if Spock says nothing. Leonard is only intent on his own words. “Snap out of it!”
“Jim and I NEED YOU!”
Jim. The word is like a slap to Spock’s face, sends his mind reeling.
The Captain. He has forgotten his Captain. (Who is with Jim?)
It’s then that the storm breaks, as Leonard touches him, at precisely seven days. The wind is sand-laden and bites through Leonard into Spock’s eyes, nose and mouth. It covers his legs within seconds, and the loud crack of electricity sounds too close behind.
Spock struggles to think. Leonard—Jim!
He dimly hears “Spock, HOLD ON, damn you!” before the howling of the desert crowds his ears and the calm inside him shatters into a thousand hot shards.
Spock runs through the scenario in his head: he cannot survive in the middle of Go’an alone. If he rises, moves, he will not get far before collapsing, and he risks attracting a deadly bolt of electricity. If he hunkers down, he will be buried alive until he suffocates (or goes mad).
A second set of arms close about his shoulders, shaking the sand off (not quickly enough, it piles back). It’s Jim, he knows quite fiercely. It’s Jim with Leonard and they are trying to help him.
He knows now that he does need help. Not the why, exactly, only that he must have help or he will die here in this barren place that is not calm at all.
Yes, he thinks numbly. Help me. You must—
“Spock!” Sound returns to him. Jim’s voice, calling his name, echoing Leonard. They are with him still.
He pries his eyes open (when did they close?) and meets glaring white. The howling is dying down, smoothing out to a low whining pitch in his ears.
“That’s it, Spock, c’mon. Turn your head—” His body feels sluggish, does not answer his commands quickly. “—just a little… there! Okay, you’re okay.” Leonard talks him through the motion until Spock is facing fully left and the white softens into dull colors. “Stay still now.”
A face leans over into his line of sight.
“Hey there, Spock.” Jim gives him a little smile that trembles at the edges. “No—don’t move. Just do as Bones says.” Jim is touching his cheek; the feeling is somewhat fuzzy, but it is familiar. “Was worried about you, Spock,” the Captain confesses in a low tone.
“You and me both, Jim.” Doctor McCoy’s voice comes from a direction that Spock cannot see, but his ears—slowly filtering of that whine—pick up the soft whirring of a tricorder. “Spock, I’m gonna touch your hand now, okay?” When Spock’s body tenses, McCoy adds soothingly, “I need to know if you can sense anything. It’ll be brief, I promise.”
McCoy deliberately places his hand on Spock’s wrist, lets it linger there for a minute, before slowly sliding his fingers over the back of Spock’s hand and then under for the barest of touches against his fingertips.
It’s quick and light; it gives Spock no jolt of emotion or thought from Leonard. He feels a slow trickle that he just as slowly identifies as worry and relief in pervading gentle waves, and something else… It’s wispy, elusive. Perhaps—
“Spock? Are you still with us?”
Spock’s eyes open again. He wants to speak but finds surprisingly that he has no strength for the task. He gives them a tiny nod which, despite its fractional movement, seems to ease a heavy weight from the room.
Jim wants to know, “Did you sense Bones?”
Again, Spock nods affirmatively. Jim leans back in a slump and runs a hand over his face. Leonard has come around the other side of the biobed (now Spock can tell that he’s in Sickbay) and stands behind Jim, placing a hand on the man’s shoulder.
Doctor McCoy says to his patient, “I want you to rest, Spock. I’m going to give you a mild sedative.”
Normally, Spock would comment on the good Doctor’s medicine turning his stomach but his energy is running out quickly. If the look in McCoy’s eyes is indicative of his feelings, then Leonard also wishes that Spock could say those words. They will have to be content that he is with them. As Spock distantly feels the depression of a hypospray into his neck, he thinks of that scorching desert from whence he came. Where? … Why? His last thought slides away into cool darkness unanswered.
When Spock comes to again, he feels hot and wonders briefly if he is back on the sands of Go’an. His fingers, however, twitch against coolness and there are voices murmuring softly in the background. (He’s not alone.)
“—couldn’t have saved him if—Jim—”
It’s this name that lingers in Spock’s brain, because he knows only one Jim. It’s a name that he does not use often, as he feels the appropriateness of most situations requires the use of Captain. But nonetheless, Spock thinks Jim and realizes that perhaps he is home after all. (Isn’t it his responsibility, as First Officer, to stay close to the Captain?)
The antiseptic smell of Sickbay alerts him next. However, Spock does not feel that automatic return to his senses after the end of a healing trance. He can only conclude that his sleep is not natural to his Vulcan physiology, nor for the purpose of focusing his cells on the correction and replenishment of damage done to his body.
In fact, as Spock slowly fights the haziness of his mind, he does not recall an explanation for his presence in Sickbay. This encourages him to fight all the harder and open his eyes.
“He’s waking up! Spock?”
“Captain.” The word grates from his mouth.
“Just a minute, Spock.” That Southern drawl catches his attention. Of course, it is only logical that Doctor McCoy, as CMO, is with Jim. A straw appears at the corner of his mouth and he obediently swallows a small amount of water. It coats the dry walls of his throat.
He tries again. “Captain.” 15.35% improvement of speech. Spock is ill-satisfied with this result. He continues to force out words anyway. “Sickbay—why? I do not—”
“It’s alright, Spock.” A hand squeezes his upper arm. (Yes, it is the Captain. The Captain must touch, always.) “You’ve been very—” he pauses for a mere second, flicks his gaze over Spock (to McCoy?) “—ill. But you will be fine, okay? Bones is taking great care of you.”
Spock slowly turns his head in the other direction, catches the Doctor’s (blatantly honest) gaze upon him. “Doctor McCoy, you must explain—”
“Now, Spock, you’ve just come back.” From death? Spock knows there is high possibility that Doctor McCoy consciously does not voice those words. “I don’t think now’s the time to be answering all those little questions piling up in that logical brain of yours.” McCoy’s words, surprisingly, are not harsh but almost gentle as he leans over to speak to Spock. It is this tone that convinces the Vulcan of the necessity to determine his condition.
“Explain,” he says.
McCoy eyes him sharply, purses his lips. Before Jim can protest, he waves a hand at the Captain and says to Spock, “Alright.”
The doctor takes a moment to raise the head of the biobed. Spock is grateful; lying flat makes him feel… no, not feel. It is uncomfortable, Spock corrects himself.
“What’s the last thing you remember?”
Spock’s brain runs through his memory banks, backtracks through odd visions of sand and familiar voices until it meets a very serene whiteness. A blank spot. Now, more than ever, Spock understands the meaning of the word unnerved.
“I am… experiencing memory loss, Doctor.”
McCoy shakes his head, makes no comment. (Does he know how troubling this is for the First Officer?) “Well, give yourself some time to recuperate, and there is a good chance that you’ll regain your memory.”
Some of the tension eases out of his shoulders (without Spock’s command). “As you say.”
“Spock—” McCoy breathes deeply, allows the professional edge to creep into his voice. “You were poisoned.”
Both of Spock’s eyebrows shoot up in involuntary surprise. “Deliberately?” he asks.
The Captain is as grim as the First Officer has ever seen him. Kirk’s voice is hard, flat. “Yes.”
Spock remains silent for ten point six seconds. It is the First Officer who addresses the situation. “We must notify Starfleet Command in due course; however, for the present it is imperative not to raise alarm.”
McCoy bursts out, “Is that all you can say? Someone, on this ship, just tried to murder you, you damn hobgoblin!”
Spock meets his bright blue eyes. “Was it you, Doctor McCoy?”
McCoy shuts up, then, and backs up a few surprised steps. He looks something akin to horrified. “No, for Christ’s sake, I—Spock, I—we don’t—”
“Understood, Doctor. I would not accuse you of such a crime. However, I cannot speak for every crewman aboard the Enterprise. It is only logical to assume pretense in order to determine the guilty party.”
The Captain, who had gone gray at Spock’s blatant question to McCoy, nods now in agreement. “Spock is right, Bones. We’ll have to pretend that we don’t realize the origins of his sickness.”
This brings McCoy back to Spock’s bedside. “Like another one of his Vulcan biological imperatives?”‘
“Incorrect, Doctor.” McCoy narrows his eyes, but Spock interrupts his next words. “However, your expertise in medicine may find a suitable… explanation.”
“Ya want me to lie, Spock?”
Doctor McCoy snorts. “I’ll try not to be insulted. Fine. Let me think on it. In the meantime—”
Spock allows the doctor to perform his duties without complaint. He folds his hands over his chest, closes his eyes (his body calls for rest) and contemplates the idea of a premeditated (unwarranted) act of violence against his person.
There is little logic in murder.