Is that temptation that doth goad us on
To sin in loving virtue; never could the strumpet,
With all her double vigour, art and nature,
Once stir my temper; but this virtuous maid
Subdues me quite. Ever till now
When men were fond, I smiled and wondered how. (2.2.178)
—- Shakespeare, Measure for Measure
Jim wasn’t convinced. He pressed the others one more time. “Tell me you’re sure about this. Give me a probability, Spock. That it will – would – actually cure this… condition. And that Hani won’t – wouldn’t – be harmed.”
Spock’s natural precision managed to tiptoe sensitively through the loaded implications.
“Our best analysis indicates a high probability of a positive outcome, though there are, of course, still potential unknowns. Human female biology is quite complex. The …cumulative effects, too, are not entirely predictable. Certainly the first…union would be likeliest to succeed, if, indeed, any will. Based on that outcome, further actions will either be indicated… or, possibly, shown to be futile.”
Spock turned to me now. “It is important to be very clear on this. The risks to you are quite real. Based on your body chemistry and what we know about the bio-mass, I believe it is likely that Dr. McCoy’s theories will prove correct. If there are other factors we are not aware of, you could sacrifice everything, and yet all could still be lost.”
Bones cut in. “What he means is that we’re predicting your body can win a face off. If we’re wrong, we could put you at mortal risk. It’s still possible that in doing this, we could be cured, and the cumulative effects could be lethal for you.”
Bones’ voice was brittle as he finished his summary, “Worst case scenario, it doesn’t save our lives or yours. You still have a choice to save yourself, use your Elder status to convince the Magna to return you to the Enterprise.”
“No,” I said, beginning to feel a little nervous or impatient, I wasn’t sure which. “Tell me there’s another way to save your lives, any other viable options, or stop being so… chivalrous. Aren’t we just wasting time?”
Bones turned to Jim, and, for the first time since we began this disastrous misadventure, his voice toward his friend softened.
“I know, Jim, I don’t want to admit it either, but dammit, she’s right. If we’re going to have any chance at all, we can’t afford to debate this any longer.”
Jim stepped over to me, gripped my arms with his hands, obviously very aware of his touch on my body. “Hani…” he broke off, words of no use now.
Spock’s cool logic chimed in, though his tone held that rare glimpse of the hidden personal connection that bound these friends. “Jim, I would point out that, were you to find yourself in a position similar to Hani’s, you would no doubt make the same choice.”
I took a very deep breath. Felt the calm clarity still sitting on my shoulders.
“You need me.” I said.
It was Jim now who finally replied, admitting the truth, giving the order, nothing more than a formal admission of the only path available to us, “We need you.”
“Then I’m yours,” I said, for the third, and final, time.
Though both Jim and Bones nodded, thoughtfully, slowly, Spock was the one to speak into this loaded pause, so heavily weighted with relief and fear and trepidation. He moved the conversation forward, without a hint of his own personal reaction or involvement. “Given all the factors, Captain, it is only logical that it should begin with you. And that, given my Vulcan metabolism, which however minimally, appears to be slowing down the process, I should be the last.”
I stared at Spock, and his gaze briefly raked across mine. Touched by his implacable calm, I felt my heart thump heavily. I understood he was, in his own way, going where I had gone; in full awareness, putting the lives of his comrades before his own; seeing, with that relentless Vulcan logic, the only possible way, the only ethical way. And yet, in that brief locking of our eyes, I thought I saw, too, a reflection of the far more human emotions I was trying to contain.
It had come to this. Everything had come to this. These good men, facing the imminent possibility of a particularly gruesome death. They might be used to the far reaches of space, but I couldn’t imagine they wanted to go like the crew of the Cassandra, lying rotting within meters of us, destined never to even have their bodies consigned to a decent burial.
I surreptitiously looked them over, these three men I’d come to know, come to feel real affection for; yes, God help me, attraction, too. Still, we were talking about going into that secret landscape where our deepest selves are laid bare. Who can ever know what may rise in such places? Ghosts of menace from the past wafted up and softly whispered at me; the pure, undisguised evil of Lester Worsham, who’d come to kill me, casually, on his way to his weekend golf game, his hot hand sliding up my thigh.
Then, too, here came the ghosts of all the women whose names I’d long since forgotten, those terrified and terrorized women, black eyes, bruised bodies, battered souls, scared shitless, running from the men who had loved them black and blue. Women like Yolanda, the one whose name I would never forget, fleeing into our shelter half naked, and bloodied. Yolanda, who knew better than anyone what it had meant to have multiple men use her, use her like she was nothing.
A hand on my arm brought me back to the present; Bones, reading my expression that had wandered away from them for a moment, his face taut with worry. I felt myself lifted out of those lingering old fears, and a wave of something much more potent and pure washed over and into me, wrapping me close as I bounced and careened down this wild river of circumstance, a presence – within and without – that was warm and strong and substantial. This was not the stuff of my past. These men were not the ghosts of lovers past, my own or others’.
These were the men who had saved me. I suddenly recalled how Lester Worsham had crumpled under the touch of Spock’s precise fingers, recalled the tenderness Bones had shown me unfailingly since the first moment we met. I suddenly felt again Jim’s arms tight around me as he had pulled me close, hundreds of years ago, up and away from my old life, into the future. This future. This present.
I let myself look at them again, their grave, worried faces, the way each of them finally met my eyes: open, courageous, formidable, yet oh, so human. And I felt… safe.
“So,” I said, as briskly as I could, controlling my not-quite-steady breathing. “I guess we should…get going?” I looked around at the hulking body of the Cassandra, full of the dead, at the rocky, treeless plain, feeling just a little stab of panic. “Can we please find somewhere with a little …privacy?”
I could see that Jim was even now having trouble accepting this situation. He spoke reluctantly, not to me but to his colleagues. “The escape pod is functional. I… have an idea. If we’re able…if this works. In the meantime…” he broke off and shot me an unreadable look, shrugged, and waved his hand in a kind of “after you” gesture, out toward where the pod sat like a forlorn chick separated from its mother.
So. This was it.
I nodded, not quite able to get any words out. I likewise tried to flash them all a loving and reassuring smile. Maybe seductive would have been better, but at the moment I couldn’t quite pull that off. And so I turned, all too aware of the light touch of Jim’s hand on my back as I led the way out to the pod, feeling the eyes of the fellow-wounded following us all the way.