|Laurie D. Haynes|
This story is one of my very favorites. It takes place at the end of the first five year mission. Kirk, Spock and McCoy are vacationing together on a primitive planet and run into real trouble. This is a hurt-comfort story and is very strong on the Kirk-Spock-McCoy relationship.
No reprints without their permission. Alt.startrek.creative archiving okay. No copyright infringement on Paramount or other holders of Star Trek licenses intended.
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The sleek sailboat skimmed over the lavender waves. Its skipper, James Kirk, clad only in swim trunks, slouched lazily at the stern, one hand on the tiller.
He stretched luxuriously and swept a lock of sun-bleached hair from his forehead. Kirk squinted up at the pink sky and the puffy white clouds drifting dreamily. He sighed with contentment. As much as he loved the Enterprise, it was good to get away for a while. Away from the stress and the frequent life-or-death decisions.
There had been a lot of those on the five-year mission. Kirk knew that after the month-long leave, after the engineers repaired the Enterprise, he'd be ready for the stars again. Of course, he'd heard the rumors that Nogura was eying him for the admiralty, and he was flattered. But there was no way he was going to command a desk instead of a starship. Nogura was too smart to waste him on a desk, even if Kirk was willing. He shook his head. No way. Kirk glanced over at his first officer, sitting nearby in the shade, playing a game of holo-chess on his hand held computer. Each of them had their own way of relaxation, Kirk mused, but all three of them were relaxing together.
McCoy popped his head out from the galley. "I'm gettin' me a beer, Jim? Want one?"
"Sure, sounds good." McCoy smiled to himself as he caught sight of the Vulcan, absorbed in his chess game. "How 'bout you, Spock? Beer?"
The Vulcan raised his eyes and regarded the doctor. "I prefer not to poison my tissues with alcohol. Lemonade, please."
McCoy chuckled and disappeared below. After a few minutes, Kirk heard him call out, "Jim the weather computer's giving us some sort of warning. It's cutting in and out, though. I can't make it out."
Spock climbed down into the galley. He made a few adjustments and the computer message cleared up somewhat.
"Severe cyclonic disturbance ... current location ... heading at 023 mark ..." The message broke up badly then died completely as smoke came out of the weather computer.
Spock frowned slightly and opened up the back of the unit. The boards were entirely burned.
"Damn lousy piecea junk," McCoy cursed. "I thought that exotic vacations agent seemed a bit slippery. And why didn't they have a report that this storm was building?"
"This computer does seem to be substandard," Spock agreed. "However, weather systems develop extremely quickly on this planet. The computer warned us as soon as it detected the storm."
"Hmmph." McCoy replied skeptically. "I'll go up and tell Jim."
Spock nodded and turned on the scanner. The approaching storm showed up clearly on the screen. Kirk soon joined the Vulcan.
"There is little chance of avoiding it, Captain," Spock noted. "As you can see, it is only 5.2 kilometers ahead. It is too massive for us to escape it."
The captain sighed. "Okay, then, let's get everything battened down."
Spock proceeded to stow all loose items in the galley and cabin while Kirk went topside again.
McCoy got up and started to turn over the tiller to the captain, but Kirk shook his head. "Just hang on to it for now. I've got to get us rigged for the storm."
McCoy began to grumble. "'Nice quiet little sailing vacation on a peaceful primitive planet,' you said. 'Plenty of relaxing sunshine and ocean, Bones.' How do I get myself into these things?" he complained.
Kirk ignored him and glanced up at the darkening sky. The wind had picked up and the boat's speed had increased. The wind blew Kirk's hair wildly as he clambered over the boat, making sure everything was tied down and the hatches tightly battened.
He dug three life jackets out of a storage locker and donned one of them. The others he carried over to where McCoy sat at the stern, talking to Spock. Kirk tossed each of them a vest and took over the tiller as the rain began to fall. They could see the white foam as the wind chopped up the sea.
"Okay, here we go," Kirk warned them. "Sit down and hang on. We've got a rough ride ahead of us." A sudden spray drenched all three men. Kirk laughed joyously and wiped the water from his face.
"If I didn't know better, Jim, I'd say you were enjoying this," McCoy grumbled, pushing his soaked hair out of his eyes.
Spock shivered. "Captain, if you do not need my assistance, I would prefer to ride out the storm below. I do not enjoy getting wet."
"Suit yourself, but that's the worst place to be in rough seas. You'll get sick as a dog."
"I prefer to take my chances."
"Okay. Bones, you didn't think to bring anything for motion sickness, did you?"
"I don't get seasick. It's for Spock."
McCoy grinned hugely at the Vulcan.
Spock's eyes darkened. "I would also prefer not to partake of your noxious potions, Doctor."
McCoy laughed. "You sure, Spock? You're already lookin' greener than usual."
The Vulcan shook his head and went below.
Kirk admonished McCoy, "Now, what'd you do that for? You've challenged his pride. You know Vulcans aren't used to the open sea."
"Hey, it's his choice if he wants the Didramamine. I can't make him take it if he doesn't want to."
"What about you?"
The doctor grinned slyly. "I stuck a dot of it behind my ear when the trip started."
The captain shook his head in exasperation. "Go down there right now and convince him."
"Okay, but it's probably too late, now. Once a person's already sick, the medicine doesn't help much. It just didn't occur to me earlier Spock might get seasick."
"Well, if it even helps a little bit, that's better than nothing. Give him some."
"Aye, aye, Skipper." McCoy saluted smartly and made his way down below, stumbling as the boat pitched in the heavy seas.
The wind howled and Kirk took care to keep the bow headed into the waves. McCoy emerged in a few minutes wearing a slicker suit. He handed one to Kirk and held the tiller as the captain removed his life vest, donned the slicker suit, and pulled the vest back on.
"Well?" Kirk inquired.
"Stubborn, pointy-eared ... He wouldn't take the medicine."
Kirk shook his head.
* * * *
The boat sped up the face of a huge wave and smacked down into a trough.
"Whoo!" Kirk yelled in exultation.
"You are absolutely nuts, Jim-boy," the doctor snapped, holding tightly to the rail.
He and Kirk leaned back as the boat rose up on its side. The captain quickly let out a bit of sail and the vessel lowered back down to an acceptable level.
After over an hour and a half of the rough weather, the galley hatch opened and Spock climbed out. From his color, his friends saw he was obviously sick. The Vulcan staggered over to the rail and leaned over. Kirk exchanged a pitying glance with McCoy as their friend retched.
Kirk sailed the boat up the next wave and yelled for Spock to hang on. The Vulcan's ears were full of water from being swamped again with a wave. He didn't hear Kirk's shouted warning. As they splashed down again, Spock lost his balance and tumbled overboard.
"Ohmigod! Spock!" Kirk yelled. He quickly turned the boat around and circled back looking for his friend. He soon spotted a dark head emerge from the water. Swinging the boat around behind Spock, Kirk pointed the bow into the wind and the boat slowed to almost a complete halt.
"Bones, take the tiller and keep our nose into the wind."
McCoy complied and was thankful, now, that Kirk had insisted he and Spock learn to handle a sailboat.
Kirk hurried to the railing and grabbed a life preserver attached to a rope. He threw it out to his friend, then hooked the boat's access ladder over the side.
The Vulcan swam to the preserver and took hold. He hung on as Kirk hauled in the rope. Kirk's job was complicated by trying to keep his balance on the pitching boat.
The mainsail lashed madly back and forth. Suddenly, the wind changed, and the sail filled quickly, putting an enormous strain on the boom rope. The rope was strong, but the pulley through which it passed couldn't handle the stress. It broke loose and the boom whipped across the deck. It collided with the back of Kirk's head, knocking him into the water.
McCoy swore and turned the boat back into the wind again. Tying the tiller into position, he grabbed the boom rope and tied the loose end to the boom. The doctor frantically scanned the waves for his friends and caught sight of Spock swimming toward a bobbing sandy blond head.
Spock hadn't been far from the boat when he saw Kirk go over. The Vulcan hooked his arm through the preserver and swam for his friend, floating unconscious among the waves. Spock reached him and immediately felt for a pulse. It was weak and thready and Kirk's breathing was labored. The captain's orange life vest was stained red, and blood colored the water around him a deep wine color.
Tying the life preserver rope around Kirk, Spock grabbed the collar of his friend's life vest and began to pull him toward the boat. McCoy pulled on the rope and helped as much as he could. Finally, Spock made it to the boat. He lifted Kirk up and McCoy caught hold of the unconscious man and dragged him up on the deck.
Spock climbed up the ladder and pulled himself aboard in the pelting rain. His nausea now forgotten, he dropped heavily to his knees beside McCoy, who was examining Kirk. With gentle fingers, the doctor probed Kirk's skull.
Spock watched McCoy's face carefully and heard him mutter, "Ah, Jim, why do you have such an affinity for trouble?"
The doctor turned and met the Vulcan's worried eyes. "It's bad. Skull fracture. Let's get him below out of this weather."
Spock carefully lifted his captain and carried him down below to the cabin all three shared. He gently laid his friend on the bed and removed Kirk's wet life jacket and slicker suit while
McCoy got out his medikit. Picking up a clean towel, the Vulcan slipped it under Kirk's head and held it to the wound. With his free hand, he pulled a warm blanket over his friend, then moved aside as McCoy approached. The doctor ran the mediscanner over Kirk. After a moment, he turned off the scanner and hung his head.
Spock's voice wavered, "Is he ... dead?"
"No. Not yet, anyway." McCoy looked up. "He needs an operation, Spock. Bone fragments are pressing on the brain."
The Vulcan nodded in understanding. "And our current location makes brain surgery impossible."
He passed his hand over his face, then got up and went into the galley. He turned on the loran. The device bore the same name as the one developed in the twentieth century, but this one was far more sophisticated.
Spock keyed in a request and their current coordinates appeared on the screen. Within moments, another set of coordinates appeared -- those of the nearest land mass, which was a small island fifty-two kilometers away. Spock quickly determined the heading.
Unfortunately, it would not take them clear of the massive storm. He stuck his head back in the cabin. McCoy was winding a bandage around Kirk's head. An emergency breathing mask covered the captain's face.
"How is he?"
"Not good. I sealed the wound, but he's going into shock."
"There is an island 52.14 kilometers from here. In these seas, I calculate it will take us approximately two hours. Can he last that long?"
The Vulcan went back above and took control of the boat, which was threatening to turn broadside to the waves.
Kirk moaned and shivered. McCoy added another blanket. He put a pillow under Kirk's feet to raise them higher than his head.
The doctor pushed Kirk's wet hair away from the bandage. "Just hang on, Jim. Spock's taking us to a harbor."
For over an hour and a half, they rocked and rolled their way toward the island. McCoy was sure all the jolting was not doing his patient any good.
Kirk was mostly silent, occasionally moaning from time to time. At one point, he opened his eyes and looked around. His uneven pupils lit on McCoy, bending over him anxiously.
"Hey, Jim," McCoy said gently. "How do you feel?"
Kirk's eyebrows drew together in confusion. "Wh-who?" he whispered through the mask. He tried once again to speak, but the words wouldn't come out.
The doctor's heart sank. "It's me, Jim. It's Bones. Don't you know me?"
After several attempts, Kirk managed to say "F-familiar."
"It's okay, Jim. Don't try to talk anymore. Just rest. You've taken a bad blow to the head, but you're going to be fine," McCoy assured his friend, though very much afraid he might not be.
Kirk's eyes drifted shut and his breathing evened out somewhat.
"Dr. McCoy!" Spock called out.
"Turn on the loran; see how far we are from the island, now."
McCoy did as requested, then called back up, "About three kilometers. Maybe you'd better switch on the depth finder when we get a little closer."
"I just now attempted to check it out. It is inoperable."
"Wonderful! Just wait till I get my hands on that agent!"
"Doctor, I suggest you put Jim's life vest on him. Make sure all our equipment is stowed in watertight containers. Everything will get drenched when we take the dinghy to the island."
"Okay, will do."
McCoy heard Spock's voice catch.
"How is Jim doing?" asked the Vulcan.
"He came to for a minute. He was extremely disoriented though. And, Spock ... he didn't know me." The doctor paused for a moment, then offered, "Do you want me to spell you? There's not a lot I can do for Jim right now." He realized how much it would probably mean to Spock to be with Jim right now.
"Very well. It would be good to get out of the rain."
The doctor climbed up to the deck and Spock relinquished the tiller after showing McCoy the proper heading.
* * * *
Kirk woke again and saw Spock stashing the medikit, tricorder, communicators, and non-perishable food items into watertight boxes, which he then stuffed into an equally watertight duffel bag.
The injured man tried to speak, but no real words would come, only unintelligible noise.
Spock turned at the sound and went to his friend. He knelt beside the bunk and placed his hand on Kirk's shoulder.
"Easy, Jim. You are safe."
Kirk struggled again to speak and succeeded after a fashion.
"You ... V-Vulcan?"
"That's right, Jim."
"Kn-know ... uh .... me?"
"Yes. You are my captain. And my friend."
Kirk tried to lift his hand, but only managed to raise it a few inches. Spock saw and placed his own warm hand over that of his friend.
The Vulcan saw the tears of frustration well up in the human's eyes. "H-head. Hurts. Wh-why?"
"The sail boom hit you. You were trying to pull me out of the water. I had fallen overboard."
Guilt shadowed the Vulcan's face.
Kirk nodded as he began to remember. "N-Not ... uh ... fault." The captain managed to squeeze Spock's hand slightly. He felt the pressure answered.
McCoy shouted down just then, "Spock! I can see land. It looks pretty close!"
Spock popped out for a look. It was difficult to see through the driving rain, but he could definitely make out what looked like an island rising out of the sea.
The Vulcan went back below and got Kirk into a life vest.
"Jim, do not try to get up," he cautioned his friend. "We are approaching land. I must go topside and help McCoy."
Something occurred to Kirk and he grabbed Spock's arm. "W-watch ..."
"I cannot stay here and watch you, Jim. McCoy and I must try to get the boat further in."
"N-no. R-r-r ..." Tears rolled down Kirk's cheeks as he tried to make himself understood.
Spock reached out and squeezed Kirk's shoulder. "I have to go, Jim. We'll be careful."
Kirk tried to rise, but the moment he raised his head, pain knifed through his skull, sending him into unconsciousness.
Spock regarded Jim worriedly, checked to make sure he still lived, then went topside.
The Vulcan made his way up the slippery deck to the bow. He clung tightly to the rail as wave after wave splashed over him. Spock did his best to watch for the bottom. The sea was churning so violently, he doubted he would be able to see it.
Ten minutes later, he heard an ominous scraping along the keel. Before he could shout to McCoy, the boat came to an abrupt crunching halt. If Spock hadn't been holding on so tightly, he would have been thrown over the rail. He scrambled back towards the stern and caught sight of McCoy, picking himself up off the deck. Together, they rushed below to check on Kirk. He was still in his bunk, albeit unconscious. "Pick him up, Spock, I'll get our equipment."
The Vulcan indicated the duffel bag sitting against the wall. "I packed up our equipment and as much food as I could. There won't be much room in the dinghy." McCoy grabbed another duffel bag and some of their clothes. He stuffed the clothes and all the blankets in it. He slung the bags over his shoulder as Spock lifted the captain. They carried their respective burdens topside. Setting down the bags, McCoy detached the dinghy from the outside of the cabin.
"I think it'll work best if we put Jim and the bags in the dinghy and lower it into the water," McCoy said. "Then we can climb down the ladder and get in."
Spock nodded in agreement and laid Kirk in the inflatable dinghy. They added the bags and the oars. Taking both ends of the dinghy, they swung it into the water. Spock had a hold on the bowline and drew the raft alongside.
McCoy climbed into the dinghy and held onto the sailboat as Spock joined them. They pushed off and Spock manned the oars. The waves rapidly pushed them toward the shore. McCoy looked over his shoulder and saw the sailboat tip over. He turned back around, not having the heart to watch their boat torn to pieces on the reef.
Within minutes, they were on the beach. The doctor and the Vulcan grabbed the raft and dragged it to an overhang they spotted in a towering limestone cliff, on the edge of a forest. The overhang turned out to be a fairly large cave, apparently carved by the ocean eons ago.
Leaving the water-filled dinghy outside, McCoy and Spock carried Kirk and their belongings inside then sank down gratefully in the dry sand. McCoy crawled over to the bags. He dug out his medikit and some blankets.
With Spock's help, McCoy worked Kirk into some dry clothes then tucked a blanket around him. Rolling up a third blanket, he placed it under Kirk's head.
The doctor examined Kirk with the mediscanner.
"Well, it's a wonder, but he's stable. That's something, anyway."
Spock studied McCoy carefully. "Doctor, all of us are exhausted. Perhaps we should rest before beginning surgery."
McCoy agreed. "It's too dark to see properly and flashlights wouldn't provide enough light, anyway." He pulled a hypospray from his medikit. Affixing a vial of antibiotic, he injected Kirk. Another hypo of nutrients followed.
The doctor put away his equipment and wrapped himself in a blanket before lying down beside his two friends. For a while, both Spock and McCoy laid awake, but silent, listening to the wind howl outside.
Finally, McCoy remarked, "Some vacation, huh, Spock?"
The Vulcan sighed, then answered, "Indeed."
They spoke no further words, and at last sleep came for the weary, worried pair.
* * * *
Sometime during the night, the storm passed over. McCoy was awakened by the cries of seabirds. Looking around, he saw Spock, standing at the cave entrance. The doctor checked his patient and finding he was still stable, joined the Vulcan. The sun was shining brightly, dancing on the waves. Sea birds repeatedly dove into the water, feasting on the fish driven into the shallows by the storm.
"At least we picked a beautiful island to get stranded on," McCoy commented wryly.
The doctor walked outside and scanned the cliff side. He soon found what he was looking for. McCoy pointed out a huge flat-topped boulder to Spock.
"That is going to be my operating table."
The storm had apparently washed away most of the sand from the pits and crevices in the rock. Before transferring Kirk, Spock and McCoy washed the rock down even more with seawater. When they returned to the cave, Kirk was awake and looking around anxiously. When he saw them, he relaxed and tried to speak.
"Wh-where?" he eventually managed to ask.
"We are on the island, Captain," Spock supplied, squatting down beside the injured man.
"We wrecked it, Jim," McCoy admitted. "Guess we're not the sailors you are."
"B-bad ... uh ... storm."
"It was that," agreed Spock.
McCoy went over and knelt beside Kirk. "Jim, you've got to have an operation. You suffered a serious skull fracture and the bone is pressing on your brain. That's what's causing the problems with your speech and motor functions, not to mention the headache. I'm going to put you to sleep in a minute. You probably won't feel a whole lot better afterwards, and there will probably be some lingering aphasia and paresis."
"H-how ... l-l-lon..." Kirk couldn't quite get out all the words.
"With time and therapy, you should make a complete recovery. Now, are you ready? We've waited long enough."
McCoy turned to prepare his equipment, meager though he considered it to be.
Spock bent down and picked up his friend, who closed his eyes tightly at the pain of the movement. McCoy followed behind with a couple of blankets and his surgical kit.
At the boulder/operating table, McCoy spread out a blanket. Spock settled Kirk onto the rock. Seeing the anxiety in Kirk's eyes, the Vulcan reached out and gently gripped his friend's arm in reassurance. "It will be all right, Jim."
Kirk swallowed hard, then nodded.
"Just relax, Jim," McCoy urged, injecting his patient with a sedative.
* * * *
The operation was tedious and complicated. McCoy wished, not for the first time, he wasn't forced to operate in such primitive conditions. Spock assisted by monitoring Kirk's vital signs.
A little over four hours after he began, McCoy closed and sealed the incision. He sprayed plastifoam onto Kirk's head. The solution hardened shortly after contact with air, forming a protective shell.
Leaving Kirk in Spock's care, McCoy walked down to the beach and washed the blood from his hands and arms. Afterwards, he stood for a moment, surveying and admiring the scene around him.
About 100 meters down the beach, where the jungle came closest to the water, he saw what resembled a group of large otters. McCoy watched the sleek, blue-black furred animals repeatedly dive beneath the waves with nets stretched between them. As they brought the fish-laden nets back to shore, others gathered the fish into baskets and carried them back into the forest. The creatures seemed unaware of McCoy.
Maybe their eyesight isn't good enough, McCoy mused. He moved quietly and returned to Spock and Kirk, only to find a whole group of the animals surrounding the two. The otter beings, who stood only chest high to McCoy, had spears leveled at the doctor's friends. As he approached, the three otters nearest him jumped and aimed their spears at him. Holding his hands up to show they were empty, McCoy joined Spock, standing protectively in front of Kirk.
"Who're your friends here, Spock?" the doctor asked casually, also taking up a protective stance.
"I have yet to determine if they are friends. My subdermal translator is still attempting to decipher their words."
One of the otters stepped forward and rattled off a string of words. The translators kicked in.
"Why you come here? You want kibbuk our Dannub?"
"I am Spock, this is McCoy. We mean you no harm. The storm brought us here." The Vulcan pointed to his captain. "Our friend, Kirk, was injured."
The leader lowered his spear and advanced. "Me see." He looked Kirk over. "How he was hurt?"
"He was struck on the head. He has a fractured skull," Spock replied.
The otter leader peered up at Spock and asked, "Garan hit him?"
"Who or what is a garan?"
The translation continued to improve.
"We are Dannub. Garan look like you. No fur. They come here, they kill our people."
"Why?" asked McCoy.
"They take our pretty fur."
"We are not garan," Spock assured them. "We will not harm you and when we can, we will leave."
The leader returned to the others and conferred with them. After a few minutes, he returned.
"We have houses. Not far. You come, we have fish, have water.
"A generous offer," conceded the Vulcan. "And, of course, you will be able to watch us."
The leader's black eyes twinkled. "Yes."
McCoy's jaw dropped. "Spock, you can't be serious! Think about Jim."
"I am. He needs someplace better than a cave in which to recuperate. While you were gone, I attempted to use my communicator, but I received no answer. Apparently, there are no Starfleet vessels in the vicinity of this planet.
"It may be some time before a search is instigated for us. Jim needs food and fresh water, as do we all. We have nothing but the few rations I was able to pack."
"That's true. But how do we know these little guys aren't goin' to slit our throats the minute we're asleep?"
The leader set down his spear, and pulled a knife from his belt, ambled over to McCoy, and handed him the knife. "You want to cut my throat?"
McCoy handed the knife back. "No. I just want to be sure we'll be safe."
The leader turned to his people. "No one will touch these three. They are guests."
The others chittered their acknowledgement.
The leader turned to Spock. "I am called Danak. I speak for our people."
Spock nodded politely and introduced his friends and himself. He indicated Kirk. "This is the one who speaks for us."
McCoy spoke up. "If we're going to go with these folks, I'd better get the rest of our stuff. Why don't you see about rigging up a stretcher for Jim."
"A good suggestion, Doctor. Danak, if some of your people will help McCoy, we can be ready to move to your village more quickly."
Danak bowed his head once in agreement. "Chanok, Gabik, help the stranger with their belongings. We will wait for you."
McCoy and two of the Dannub left for the cave.
Spock went to nearby tree and broke off two long branches and carried them back to the boulder. Folding the extra blanket over the branches, he constructed a crude stretcher. With infinite care, he moved the unconscious Kirk from the boulder to the stretcher.
A few minutes later, McCoy, Chanok, and Gabik returned, dragging the raft, in which McCoy had piled their meager belongings.
Spock indicated the stretcher. "Shall we, Doctor?"
"Okay, but I'll take the front. With your long legs, you'll run away with the thing."
"As you wish."
They hoisted the stretcher between them and followed the otters, who pulled the raft behind them, about a mile and a half into the forest. They entered a village of thatched huts built in a circle around a small clearing. Nearby, just outside the community, a small waterfall cascaded into a large pool.
The citizens sauntered out into the clearing for a look at the strangers. Danak quickly explained the strangers' predicament to his people. They seemed satisfied and returned to the task of preparing the fish harvest.
The Dannub threw some of the fish into a huge stone kettle, simmering on a fire. Spock's keen nose detected the scent of some sort of vegetables already cooking. The cooks carried the rest into a nearby hut. When they opened the door of the hut, clouds of smoke poured out, so Spock concluded it was a smokehouse.
By the time the doctor and the Vulcan settled Kirk in one of the huts, he was regaining consciousness. The captain groaned, raised his hand to his head, and encountered the plasticast.
"Welcome back, Jim," McCoy said earnestly.
"I bet." McCoy looked around to make sure none of the Dannub were present, then pulled a hypo from his medikit and injected Kirk.
"Just an analgesic to ease that headache." McCoy knelt on one knee beside Kirk. "Lift your left hand and touch your nose."
Kirk slowly obeyed.
"Okay, now your right. Good! Now, can you wiggle your fingers and toes?"
The captain wiggled his fingers, with difficulty, but his toes merely twitched -- those on the left leg only.
"That's very good, Jim," McCoy said encouragingly, hiding his concern at the small amount of movement in Kirk's feet.
Kirk scowled at the doctor. "N-not good. Uh...hard."
"I know, but before the operation, you couldn't even do that."
The patient flashed McCoy a tired grin. "Yeah. How...uh...long before...before..."
"Before you're back to normal?"
"If you were in a Starfleet hospital, you'd probably recover completely in a couple of months. I'll be honest with you, Jim. Without proper facilities and medication, it's going to be very tough, but you can do it."
"Enterprise...finishes r-repairs...uh...one month."
"Captain," Spock interjected, "you will simply rejoin the ship when you are well."
"Not that easy," Kirk replied. "Might not...let me."
McCoy shook his head. "Don't be such a worry-wart, Jim. The brass aren't fools. They know you're the best starship captain they have."
"Uhm," Kirk said dubiously.
"Well, don't worry about that now. You just need to rest and concentrate on getting better. In a couple of days, we'll see about starting you on some exercises."
Kirk nodded and looked around him. "Wh-where?"
"A group of the island's inhabitants found us and invited us to their village," Spock explained. He described the Dannub and reported on their cultural level.
Just as the Vulcan finished filling Kirk in on their hosts, a Dannub, with two cubs tagging along, brought a huge steaming bowl of stew into the hut. One child carried a stack of three smaller bowls, while his limping companion bore a tray of fruit. McCoy and Spock took the food from them and set it down.
"Thank you, you're very kind," the Vulcan told them.
The adult, apparently a female, nodded shyly. "I am called Gannaka. These are my sons, Jakar and Dalkar." The translators were working almost perfectly, now.
McCoy noted the limping cub had a crooked leg. He went over to the child, who ducked behind the female.
"I'm not going to hurt you," the doctor assured the youngster. "I'm a healer. Let me see your leg. What happened?"
The female pulled the child out from behind her. "The garan caught him on the beach. He fell and they struck him with a club."
Her eyes went glassy for a moment.
"My husband was killed saving him from the savages." She shook her head quickly as if dispersing the memory. "Danak told me you were a healer. Can you help my Jakar?"
McCoy gently ran his hands over the cub's leg. "Looks like it was broken, then healed crooked." Ignoring Spock's admonishing looks, he continued. "I can help your son, but it'll be painful. I'll have to rebreak the leg and set it properly. What it about it, son? Can you handle it?"
The cub nodded. "It hurts most of the time, now, anyway, and they won't let me hunt fish with the others because I'm too slow."
Kirk spoke up. "McCoy will...h-help. Good healer."
The female's eyes shone. "Thank you. Danak is right. You are nothing like the garan." The otters left the hut, obviously in higher spirits than before.
"Doctor McCoy," the Vulcan pointed out. "This is a primitive culture. Need I remind you of the prime directive?"
"I'll use the bone laser when the kid's asleep and then splint the child's leg. They'll just think the splinting is what healed it, as it could, though over a longer period of time."
"Captain, the doctor is taking quite a risk."
"Not...uh...really. Owe 'em, Spock. Gotta...help." Kirk yawned. "How 'bout stew.. . 'fore...sleep?"
"Good idea, Jim, I'm kinda hungry myself," McCoy said, picking up a small bowl and dipping it into the stew. "Spock, help Jim sit up and I'll feed him."
The Vulcan raised his injured friend into a sitting position and supported him.
Kirk closed his eyes tightly and grabbed onto Spock's arm.
"Just...dizzy...for...for...minute. I'm okay."
McCoy lifted the bowl to Kirk's lips. The captain slowly raised his hands and wrapped them around the bowl. "I...can."
The doctor released the bowl and Kirk nearly dropped it when his hands started trembling. McCoy quickly put his hands over Kirk's. The captain's mouth was set in a stubborn line. With the doctor's help, he lifted the bowl to his lips and began to sip the fish stew. Kirk consumed about half the bowl, then pushed it away.
"Enough. Tired, now."
Spock helped his captain move onto a woven grass pallet, then covered him with, a blanket. Kirk closed his eyes and was quickly asleep. His friends helped themselves to the type of food they wanted, then moved to the other side of the small hut to eat it.
"Spock, how long do you think it's going to take them to find us?"
"Unknown. It seems unlikely we will be rescued before the month is up and our transport returns. And the storm forced us off the course we filed when we left."
McCoy started to make a sarcastic remark about Spock's pessimism, but decided against it. He didn't feel much like sparring.
* * * *
Sometime during the night, Spock woke McCoy. "It's the captain."
The doctor came instantly awake and went to Kirk, who was thrashing wildly on his pallet.
"Hold him down Spock! He's having a seizure!" McCoy grabbed a corner of the blanket and forced it between Kirk's jaws to protect his tongue. Reaching in his medikit, he drew out his hypospray and pressured an anticonvulsant into his friend's arm. Within minutes, Kirk was calm. He lay silently with his eyes closed, sweating heavily. McCoy ran a scanner on him.
Spock was having a hard time hiding how much the episode had disturbed him.
"McCoy, what happened?"
"Seizures aren't uncommon in cases of brain trauma," the doctor replied. "I'd hoped Jim would be one of the lucky ones."
McCoy glanced at Spock and saw the naked fear shining out of the Vulcan's eyes.
"Don't worry, Spock, it should pass as the brain heals. Until then, we'll just have to keep a close eye on him and control the seizures with medication -- for as long as my medicine holds out, that is ."
"You said, 'should pass,' not 'will pass.'"
McCoy sighed. Leave it to Spock to detect what wasn't said.
"There's always a chance of permanent brain damage. I can't be sure without more tests -- which I don't have the equipment to run -- but indications are there's no permanent damage."
The doctor ran his scanner over Kirk's still body. "He's running a pretty high fever. I expected he would run fever, but this is too high. Let's move him out to the pool and cool him down."
Together, they transferred Kirk onto the stretcher and carried him to the natural pool. The moons were both full and provided plenty of light. Spock picked up Kirk and carried him into the sparkling water.
McCoy monitored his patient's temperature, which slowly began to decrease. At last, McCoy was satisfied, and a shivering Spock climbed out of the pool and set Kirk down on the stretcher. McCoy threw a blanket over the Vulcan's shoulders. The doctor took a moment to dive into the pool himself and wash. Spock sat down beside Kirk. A short time later, McCoy emerged from his bath.
"That felt good to wash off that seawater. I wish I'd thought of it sooner."
As he and Spock picked up the stretcher, two Dannub appeared out of the bushes.
"Gabik said you were leaving. I said not." Chanok indicated Kirk. "Why did you put him in the water? Gabik thought you were going to drown him."
McCoy gave them an incredulous look. "Why we would we do that?"
"Sometimes the garan kill their wounded -- the ones who will never hunt again."
"Kirk is our friend. We would never harm him. He will recover fully, but even if he did not, he would have a place in our society," Spock told them.
"It is so with us," Chanok said. "There is almost always a job one can do. Besides, if we were to kill one another, we would lose our souls. We kill for food and to protect our people. We have killed garan, but we do not enjoy it and we do not take such killing lightly. The soul must do a thousand years penance for killing such."
"Vulcans feel much the same way, yet we do not even kill animals for food. Our bodies have adapted to eating only vegetables."
McCoy quickly spoke up. "Most humans, however, do eat meat. As to your earlier question, we put Kirk in the water to bring down his fever."
"My mother would do that when I was a cub," Gabik said wonderingly. "Garan get fevers too?"
"We are not garan," Spock corrected him. "I am a Vulcan and McCoy and Kirk are humans."
Gabik shrugged, and he and Chanok followed the two humanoids as they wearily made their way back to the hut, Kirk between them.
Spock and McCoy settled Kirk on the mat again, and thereafter, took turns sitting up with him.
* * * *
The morning light streaming into the hut woke Kirk. He opened his eyes and saw McCoy sitting beside him. The doctor was snoring slightly. Kirk smiled, realizing his friend must have fallen asleep watching over him. He reached out and put his hand on McCoy's knee.
The doctor came awake instantly.
He rubbed his eyes.
"Oh! Mornin' Jim."
McCoy ran the mediscanner on his patient.
"Readings look good, fever's gone. Talk to me."
"You...uh...stayed up with me?"
"Spock and I took turns."
McCoy glanced over his shoulder and saw the Vulcan awake and moving over towards them.
"Jim, I want you to try to sit up on your own."
Kirk got his elbows under him, rested a minute, then raised himself up, leaning back on his hands. His friends could see how he trembled with the effort.
"Not easy, but...don't like being flat...uh...on my back."
McCoy smiled. "I know, I know. Spock help him scoot against the wall over there." The Vulcan complied.
"When do I start...exercises?"
McCoy stripped off Kirk's blanket.
"Now. I want you to raise your arms above your head and lower them."
Kirk obliged and McCoy beamed.
"Good! Now, do that 10 more times. Take a deep breath every time you raise them. I want you to open and close your hands and wiggle your fingers, too."
Kirk's friends watched as he slowly did the exercises. By the end, he was breathing heavily.
"Okay. Can you bend your knees?"
The captain tried hard, but couldn't manage to lift his knees off the ground. Disappointment was plain in his face.
"That's all right, Jim. We'll try that one again tomorrow."
"How soon before...I can...walk?"
McCoy glanced at Spock before replying.
"Tell him the truth, Doctor." the Vulcan advised.
"What do you...mean? The truth?"
Kirk was plainly agitated.
The doctor took a deep breath before replying, "Jim, there's a slight possibility you may not walk again."
Kirk turned his face so they couldn't see the utter terror those words evoked.
Spock moved over and placed his hand on Kirk's shoulder.
"Jim, he did not say you would be permanently paralyzed. It's only a possibility."
"That's right," echoed McCoy. "The paresis and aphasia will probably recede as your brain heals. You're already moving and talking better. Give it time."
The captain quickly turned back to McCoy. "Might not...talk right...uh..again either?"
"Dammit, Jim. You know I haven't got any kind of proper equipment here. Probably the worst thing that'll happen is you'll need further surgery and perhaps regeneration of the damaged brain tissue."
Kirk's head sank onto his chest.
"Oh, God. Never...be able...command...starship...again!"
Seeing that Kirk's emotions were dragging him down, McCoy reached for a sedative. He injected his patient, who objected strenuously.
"No! Don't want...to sleep!"
"You need rest, Jim, if you're going to get well. There's no use tearing yourself up about this. There's every reason to believe you're going to be fine."
Kirk's eyelids grew heavy and McCoy and Spock eased him down onto the pallet.
"Damn!" McCoy cursed in frustration. "Damn this world, damn my lack of equipment, damn Jim for insisting on this trip!"
"Doctor, I understand your anger, but it achieves nothing. How can you expect Jim to keep up his spirits if you can only rail at fate, instead of trying to deal with it."
McCoy whirled on Spock and snarled, "And damn your smug, superior attitude!"
He got up and left the hut.
Spock's sat silently and patiently, knowing McCoy would return shortly.
True to Spock's instincts, McCoy soon came back in the hut and sat down beside his two friends. The doctor sighed.
"I'm sorry, Spock. You're right, of course. Jim needs us to be strong. He's in emotional and physical turmoil, now. He's not used to having to face the possibility of such a bleak future.
"Death, yes. He faces that possibility on a regular basis. He knows what can happen out there, I just don't think he ever really believed something like this could happen to him."
"And what about you, Doctor?"
"I was always afraid we might lose him. We came so close so many times. And, yes, I often wondered how he'd react if he was ever permanently disabled."
Spock regarded his sleeping friend with compassion.
"He has always been a fighter. I cannot believe he will give up, now."
"A person gets tired, Spock. It's been a tough five years. He's lost men and women who relied on him. And then there was Miramanee. And Edith. He lost his brother and sister-in-law on Deneva.
A person can't sustain those kind of repeated losses and not be affected by them. But he always had his ship. Now, he faces the loss of that, too, because of a possible permanent disability. You take the stars away from him, Spock, and what has he got left?"
"He has us."
McCoy nodded, but then replied. "I only hope that'll be enough."
* * * *
Danak came to them later that evening and extended an invitation.
"You must come to the joining ceremony tonight. We will have a great feast. There will be musicians and dancers."
Kirk woke at Danak's voice, sat up on his own and asked. "What's going on?"
McCoy filled him in, "Danak's inviting us to some sort of ceremonial feast. Sounds like a big event."
"It is a very important event when two Dannub choose to join their lives together."
"Who's the happy couple?" McCoy asked.
"Chanok and Gannaka. He was her husband's closest companion. After his death, Chanok and Gannaka grew very close. Now, they formalize their love and join their lives."
"When is the ceremony?" Spock asked.
"When the two moons have risen, the drummers will call everyone into the village center."
"We'll be there," Kirk promised.
Danak bowed his head in acknowledgement, then left.
Kirk turned to his friends, "Don't feel like party...but wouldn't want...offend. Owe them."
McCoy clapped Kirk on the shoulder. "Hey, it'll probably be fun! Now, if only they've discovered how to make whiskey, it'll be perfect."
The captain couldn't help grinning at the doctor's enthusiasm. He glanced at Spock, who shook his head in mock disapproval.
Kirk chuckled. "Know you, Bones...you'll probably...invent it for them."
"Now, there's an idea!"
"Doctor! You will not introduce these people to any such noxious substances," Spock reproved.
"Noxious?! Why, I'll have you know that Kentucky bourbon is the ambrosia of the gods!"
"What gods? Certainly not those of my Vulcan ancestors."
"Now, Spock, you can't tell me your ancestors didn't partake of some sort of alcoholic beverage."
"In pre-reform days, perhaps, but such things belong to the era of savagery."
"Are you callin' me a savage? Why, you pointy-eared devil!"
Kirk couldn't contain his laughter any longer. It welled up inside and burst forth. His friends looked indignant, which only caused him to laugh even harder.
"Oh, you two! Your sparring...better entertainment...than holovid."
McCoy caught Spock's eye and the Vulcan nodded slightly. They had succeeded in making Jim forget his troubles -- at least for a while.
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