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There is nothing but darkness, and silence, and bitter cold.

So cold.

He suppresses the urge to shiver as he looks about, his normally acute vision apparently useless in the landscape in which he finds himself. The blackness is impenetrable; the cold, absolute.  

//Captain?// 

//Captain, it is Spock.  Are you here?//

He feels something stir in the darkness and tilts his head toward the slight movement.

//Captain, I am here to help you.//

No response.  He closes his eyes against the darkness.

//Captain, please.  Let me help.//

The tremor he felt earlier intensifies for an instant before fading.  He continues to listen in the stillness of the impossibly frigid terrain around him before deciding it is time to depart.  He will do nothing more for now.

//Captain, I will return shortly.//  With that, he...

 

***

 

...removes his hand from James Kirk’s face and rises from his position next to the sickbay biobed.  

“Doctor, his mind is intact.  I did not attempt to assess the extent of any damage because he is resisting my contact, but he is present.”

McCoy’s features sag with relief; he suddenly looks much older than his years.  

“Well thank God for that,” he breathes as he circles the biobed to check its sensor readings.  “I was afraid we waited too long to start CPR before getting him into the cryotube.”  He shifts his gaze toward Spock and frowns again.  “What did you find out in there?”

A pause, then a careful answer.  “He is cold.”

“Well, no shit!  He’s been in cryostasis for over an hour now, his body temp is barely above three degrees!  What the hell did you expect?  Is that the best you can do with your Vulcan telepathic mumbo jumbo?  Jesus fucking Christ!”  

McCoy is livid with fury, index finger jabbing at the air in front of Spock’s chest.  Spock does not retreat.

“And he is frightened.”  The tremor in his mind...

The exasperation fades from McCoy’s face as he raises a shaking hand to his eyes, exhausted tears suddenly pushing at them from behind.  He lowers his gaze to his friend’s bruised and burned body.   When he speaks, his voice is quiet, drained.

“Can you help him?”

Spock nods.  “I believe so.”   He inclines his head toward the other recumbent form in the room: Khan Noonien Singh, his right arm newly set in a plastic cast, the rest of his limbs firmly shackled to the biobed upon which he lies, his pale face expressionless but attentive.  “Once we obtain Khan’s consent for the transfusion, that is.”

McCoy’s rage rebounds visibly as he seizes Spock’s upper arm to spin him back around.  He hisses, spitting his words like poison.  

“Well, why don’t you go get it, then?”

Nonplussed, the Vulcan turns to approach Khan, his hands clasped neatly behind his back.  Each regards the other in silence.  Spock speaks first 

“Khan, you have the opportunity to atone for the many lives you have taken.  You can save the captain’s life.”

Khan turns his head to observe the still figure in the cryotube, then shifts his pallid gaze back to Spock’s face.  Words ooze out of him like dark honey.  

“Why would I want to do that, Mr. Spock?”

“Because it is logical.  You have much to lose right now: your freedom, your people, perhaps even your life. You can curry favor with those who will judge you and decide your fate by making this gesture.”  

The upward twist of Khan’s mouth doesn’t qualify as a smile; his eyes are fixed, unblinking and icy as they hold Spock’s.  

“Why don’t you just inject me with one of Dr. McCoy’s hyposprays and take what you want without my consent?”  

McCoy’s head whips around from Kirk’s biobed to glare at Spock’s back; he has already begged for that option but has been repeatedly denied by the first officer.

Spock’s calm belies the viciousness of the attack he had unleashed on Khan only an hour before. “Because that is not what he would want.”  

“Ah yes, because he is the captain with a conscience.”  The glacial eyes narrow as the smile leaves his face.  “So you, the rational Vulcan who just tried to end my life so savagely, you think now to act in accordance with your dead captain’s conscience?”

“I seek to follow his wishes, yes.”

“And did he wish you to kill me, Mr Spock?  Or was that your own idea?”

“My own.”

“Mm hmm.”  Khan looks over at the cryotube again, then back at Spock.  “Tell me, Mr. Spock.  If you love him that much, why do you not do what you wanted to do in the first place -- kill me, and use what was left of me to bring him back?”  

Spock is silent.  Khan chuckles humorlessly.  

“You are not a warrior after all, Spock.  You’re not even a very good Vulcan, are you?  To consider the feelings of others, especially dead others, before taking action?  Don’t Vulcans abhor feelings?”

“No, but we seek to master them within ourselves.  That does not preclude our respecting the feelings of other beings.”

“Especially those precious to us, eh, Mr. Spock?”

Spock does not hesitate.  “Yes.”  

Grey eyes meet brown as each examines the other without wavering.  This time, Khan is the first to speak.

“Very well, Mr. Spock.  You may have what you require to restore your captain’s life.”  He turns his head away from Spock to look up at the sickbay ceiling.  “Dr. McCoy, you may proceed whenever you are ready.”

Spock moves to seat himself back at Kirk’s bedside as McCoy wheels the dialysis apparatus toward Khan’s biobed.  

“I think a transfusion would be the best approach.  We would need to sedate you.”

“I expected nothing less, Doctor.”  

Khan extends his right arm toward McCoy, who pulls up his sleeve to scrub his skin with a disinfecting wipe before attaching the line that will pump his blood into the serum separator.  Khan watches the process with detached amusement.

“And you, doctor.  Would you have scrupled to ask my permission, had Mr. Spock not done so?"

McCoy’s does not look up from the coiled tubing in his hands, but his response is as emphatic as it is immediate. 

Hell no.”

“Well, Dr. McCoy, perhaps you are the warrior here.”  Khan looks back up at the ceiling, still smiling, as McCoy places a sedative-loaded hypospray against his neck and pushes the button.  

Spock waits to speak until McCoy returns to Kirk’s bedside.  

“Doctor, I request permission to remain with the captain during the transfusion.  I would like to assist his mind in making the transition.”

McCoy frowns as he inserts a line into Kirk’s left jugular vein, and tapes it to his skin.  “Coming back to the living from the land of the dead -- if that doesn’t make you crazy, what would?”  

Spock opens his mouth to answer, then realizes that the doctor is asking a rhetorical question that requires no response on his part. 

“If we have to ventilate him, or shock him to restart his heart, we’d need you to get out of the way.  Other than that, I can’t think of any reason for you not to stay.”   He straightens up from Kirk’s biobed and rubs one hand down the back of his neck.  “As long as you dress appropriately -- you know, scrubs.  I’m sure I have something in your size.”

Spock nods and wonders, not for the first time, why humans feel compelled to state the obvious.  He decides to ignore the comment even as McCoy pulls a surgical top and pants from a supply drawer.

“I will need a few moments to prepare,” he says, rising and taking the scrubs into McCoy’s office.  The door closes behind him.  

“God damnit.” McCoy’s muttered oath is more of a supplication as he turns back to check the transfusion apparatus.  His fingers tighten the already secure connections as his tired brain struggles through its mental checklist.  Dissatisfied but uncertain as to why, he rolls the transfusion assembly into position between the two supine figures and pushes the chair to the left of Kirk’s biobed just as Spock emerges from the office, his standard issue uniform exchanged for the light blue scrubs.  He catches McCoy’s eye as he sinks down onto the chair and nods his readiness.

McCoy evacuates the tubing connecting his patients to the transfusion apparatus; by the time he turns back to Spock, the Vulcan’s fingers are already positioned on the left side of his captain’s face, his eyes closed in concentration.