Disclaimer: Spock and Uhura are not mine—I just record what I see them do.
Chris has never been inside the Starfleet medical facility, but it is laid out much like the civilian hospitals where he has worked. The trauma unit is on the ground floor where emergency transport can access it easily. The operating theaters are in the basement. Rehab and outpatient therapies occupy the bottom two floors. The most serious cases are housed on the top two floors near the helipad.
The maternity section is smaller than in a civilian hospital, as are the waiting areas for family. The xenobiology section is larger, which is one reason Spock has been airlifted from the city hospital where the bus crash victims were initially taken.
Against all odds, Chris and the young cadet sent to meet him had managed to snag a ground cab soon after leaving the shuttle port. The ride to Starfleet was chaotic—several streets were still closed because of power lines ruptured in the recent earthquake, and traffic was detoured around hover bus stops while inspections on the transfer stations get underway.
The cadet was unusually quiet in the cab, and Chris revisited their conversation in the shuttle terminal to see if he had upset her somehow. Clearly Cadet Uhura—Nyota—had gotten faulty information about whom she was meeting. Anyone would be startled that two people were really one and the same—but she seemed more distressed than merely startled.
He tried to make small talk in the cab to smooth things over, and Nyota seemed to calm down a bit, her nods less abrupt, her replies softer.
"Spock's really much closer in age to my two sisters," he told her, and Nyota stared straight ahead and nodded as if listening from a great distance. "Rachel’s a year younger, and Anna a year older.”
And then, because Nyota looked so...stricken...he added, "You'll have to get him to tell you about some of the tricks they played on me. Or, that my sisters played on me...and forced Spock to go along with."
He smiled and tried to make eye contact; briefly she glanced up and nodded.
"At least, that's what Spock claims. Maybe he was the instigator."
Still no word from Nyota. Chris reached out his hand and wrapped it around her wrist.
"He'll be okay," he said.
When they take the elevator to the top floor, Chris makes a decision that later he will consider the most important thing he does while he is in San Francisco. At the nursing station the attending physician asks for his identification and without missing a beat, he introduces himself as family—and adds that Nyota is family, too. She looks up at him quickly.
The physician pulls up Spock's charts on the screen and Chris scans through them—a concussion, a broken wrist, bruised ribs, and burns on his hands and chest. He sighs in relief. The wrist will be the most trouble—misaligning the bones can mean arthritis later—but the new electrical-stimulation cast will require only a couple of weeks of inconvenience. The burns will hurt like hell—as will the bruised ribs—though Chris notes that the doctors have prescribed a strong pain medicine that should keep Spock comfortable.
"Well," Chris says at last, turning to Nyota. She is standing so tightly wound that for a moment he thinks she might fall if he touches her. "He's not going to feel great for a few days, but everything looks okay."
To his astonishment, Chris sees two large tears arc down her cheeks—and then she bends forward and sighs so loudly that it sounds like a sob.
The nurse behind the station stands up and looks over the counter.
"She's okay," Chris says. "It's been a hard day. Perhaps we can see him now?"
Nyota is frantically wiping her face as the nurse steps around the counter and leads them to the end of the hall. Chris steals a glance before motioning her forward into the room.
Even with his practiced eye, Chris is shocked. Spock is on his back, his broken left wrist held aloft in traction, his hands bandaged so that only the tips of his fingers show. A thin silver coverlet is pulled up over his chest. Most alarming is how pale he looks, his skin tinged green with bluish streaks under his eyes. His hair is matted and smells strongly of the oil from the fire.
Spock's eyes are closed, his lips slightly parted. Tiny beads of sweat glisten across his upper lip and brow. If he hadn't been looking at the monitors above the bed, Chris would have sworn Spock was dead.
Nyota stands behind him as he looks up at the monitors.
"What do they mean?" she whispers, and he understands what she is asking. He turns quickly to glance at her.
"I'm not sure why, but he doesn't seem to be in a healing trance," Chris says, pointing to the indicator on the far right. "Those brain wave patterns aren't right—"
He hears a catch in Nyota's breathing and he turns again to look at her.
"That's nothing to be alarmed about," he says swiftly. "In humans it would be expected, but Vulcans—well, they have the ability to go into a trancelike state that aids in their healing. He hasn't done that."
Nyota moves to the side and peers at the indicator.
"Because he's….half-human? Is that why?"
"I don't know," Chris says.
A rustle from the door announces the attending physician, and Chris steps back to talk with him. From the corner of his eye he notices Nyota moving closer to Spock's bed.
"Has he regained consciousness at all?" Chris asks, and the physician shakes his head.
"We've put in an all-call for a Vulcan healer," the physician says, "but I'm not holding my breath. We'll just have to wait and see."
And then the physician is gone. When Chris turns back towards Spock he is shocked to see a look of fury on Nyota's face.
"That's it? That's all they are going to do?"
Chris has practiced psychiatry long enough to recognize an imminent meltdown. He moves towards her and takes her arm.
"Here," he says, "sit here."
She sits in the slim chair that has been pulled up next to Spock's bed. She leans forward, and Chris watches her carefully as he steps around the foot of the bed and sits in the chair pulled up to Spock's other side. She is almost quivering in anger, and Chris begins to talk quietly.
"When we were kids and Sarek and Amanda would come for a visit, my sisters and I loved to play this with Spock."
Nyota's lips are pressed and her nose is flared—she is still upset, but at least she is listening.
"We called it mailman," Chris says, and as he does, he gently lifts his fingers to Spock's broken wrist. "We'd see who could send the clearest message, and who could receive one."
Nyota is watching him closely as Chris brushes his fingertips across Spock's bandaged ones.
"Spock," he says aloud, "we're here."
Despite the cool air in the room, Chris feels himself flush. Part of the allure of this game was how taboo it was. Although no one had ever forbidden it, the four children had somehow known that the adults would not have approved…using a touch telepath this way—for their amusement—and the way it emphasized Spock's otherness.
Chris looks at Nyota and is pleased that she is no longer frowning. Impulsively he says, "Take his other hand. Like this."
He holds his palm up and slides his fingers forward until the pads touch Spock's own. The traction around Spock's broken wrist makes holding the position awkward and Chris lowers his own hand in a few moments.
"Try it," he says, but Nyota shakes her head.
"I don't…I can't…."
Chris sits quietly and waits. The monitor above the bed blips a syncopated rhythm.
And then slowly Nyota reaches out her hand, palm up, and slides it carefully under Spock's right hand.
"Can you feel it?" Chris asks, and she looks up in wonder.
"That tingle was always part of the fun," Chris says, but before she can respond, Spock opens his eyes.
"Nyota," he says once, and then his eyes close again.
X X X X X X X X X
In the cab Chris chats comfortably about his sisters and Nyota realizes that Spock has a life with people about whom she knows nothing. With a stab of remorse she thinks about how she had overlooked Chris at the shuttle port—ignoring him—and with a deeper stab she remembers teasing Spock on the subspace comm recently, when he had gone home to Vulcan—to a human mother—about not understanding how important keeping in touch is for humans. How arrogant her comments seem now.
As if he needed instruction in what it is to be human.
Is she the only person at the Academy who didn't know that Spock had a human parent? She thinks back to the few times in his formal lectures where he mentioned something personal—had he said anything about his mixed heritage?
She can't remember a single comment about his family—or about his own upbringing on Vulcan. Now that she considers it, she realizes that what she had taken for personal commentary is actually rather vague and general information about Vulcan—its capital, Shi'Kahr, for instance—data about the number of businesses and people there, what the arts are like and where the Vulcan Science Academy grounds are situated. Why hadn't she realized before how absent Spock is from what he shares?
What an idiot she had been to think she had known him!
And yet she does know him—his relentless curiosity, and even more endearing, his quiet, witty sense of humor. She has not imagined those things.
All the way to the hospital her image of herself and Spock shifts and slides until she can no longer recognize who they are.
For months she has struggled to understand her own feelings—her attraction, of course, but something else that both pulls her and keeps her at bay when she thinks of Spock. In the cab ride to the hospital Nyota realizes what she has denied all along—that she has been able to keep her distance because she has deliberately courted a bias—telling herself the same lie that humans told about race hundreds of years earlier—that differences matter more than similarities.
She has been able to keep herself apart this way, safe this way.
Now she isn't sure.
When they first arrive at the hospital Nyota walks in a daze, but Chris—Spock's cousin!—seems to know where to go. As she follows him mutely through the halls, she feels that she has been handed the last piece of a puzzle she has been working on, without knowing that she was missing any pieces at all.
And then she sees him—and she hears the alarm in Chris's voice. And more than that, she hears the resignation in the voice of the doctor.
The rational part of her brain knows that her present anger is unjustified. She is furious with herself, with Chris, with the doctor. Mostly she is furious with Spock for letting himself board a bus that could crash.
She is furious that he has hidden his humanity from her.
She is furious that their relationship is in jeopardy—that their tentative friendship may not survive the hurricane of her emotions.
She is sure that for him it is friendship and nothing more.
That is, she is sure until their fingers touch.