A DARKENING MIRROR
After an eternity of Vulcan sand, heat and ariditysnow.
The sheer silence of soft white flakes piling outside the window of the Scottish Terran Embassy was what woke him up. Spocks mental presence was greatly subdued in his mind, but that was hardly unusual. Spock had a great deal to think about, and while McCoy suspected it had to do with activities that would mean public execution if he were caught, he never asked. McCoy considered himself distinctly incurious. Whenever he was needed for something, he was told. Otherwise, he kept himself busy with his own agenda, and that was helping Phillip Boyce transcribe medical drafts.
The doctor slipped out of bed (he wasnt going to get to sleep, now that he sensed Spock was also sleepless down the hallway). He passed a completed stack of paperwork and stared out at the moonlight that sparkled on the drifts.
Incredible. Back on Vulcan, you couldnt even pretend the sand was snow; it was too red. Red quartz, red obsidian, red oxidents, red everything. And too hot. Average 150 F in the summer. Snow under such conditions, couldnt even exist in your mind.
The doctor padded barefoot down the hall, dressed in a white medical undertunic and a blue hickory shirt. His pants were strictly civilian, loose and ankle-length, but the Officers Blade was strapped on underneath his shirt in its holster. On Earth it was more than intelligence that had you carry a weapon; it was considered good manners.
Two years now. Two years since Spock had taken control of the Enterprise and then just as quickly turned it over to Sulu. A lot of changes since then. Uhura had become Captains Womanbig surprise there. Marlena had vanished without a trace, following Kirks example. Chekov had settled into his niche as Security Officer, DeSalle had transferred to Helmsman, preferring to be on the other side of the engines for a while. Kyle had assassinated Riley, to no ones surprise, then Chapel had killed MBenga, and that was a surprise. Not even McCoy had thought she would do such a thing; but she was turning out to be one great CMO. Scott was still engineer. Theyd have to promote him to get him out of there, and nobody really wanted to do that. He was the best, and anyway, he had no superiors to assassinate. He never left the ship for anything.
That was something hed had in common with the big Scotsman, besides the link of age and experience the younger members hadnt. Being older, he and Scott were from a far less bloodthirsty generation, raised up in a time where economics had been stable and peacetime common. This new generation followed the heels of the Mutara Invasion, and were invariably, young warhawks who grew up angry at the loss of their fathers and mothers. No one was ever going to give them such a drubbing, they felt, and their sheer aggression and will to be hard and unyielding proved it.
He missed Scott; he wouldnt mind looking him up if the chance showed itself
What a joke. Well, that did sum up his life, didnt it? Admiral Kufe had been very clear that once he got on the Enterprise, he wasnt going to be leaving it if he knew what was healthy for him. Then Spock had been called to Vulcan over his mothers poisoning, and he had demanded McCoy accompany him. The doctor had been able to cure Amanda, which made most of Vulcan happy, but Kufe was not the kind of Admiral who accepted little niceties like that. His last communique from her said in no certain terms that Vulcan was the only protection between himself and a very unpleasant post. And if he wanted to know what that post would be, he could just request a transfer or stop working for Captain Spock.
As if he could leave Spocks side anyway. McCoy paused at the doorway to Spocks private cabin and tapped the palmlock. It recognized him and the door slipped open. At least with the srben bonding, Spock wouldnt be surprised at his 3am entry and accidentally take off his head.
Any decapitations would be done on purpose with full knowledge.
Spock was wrapped in a thick fleece meditation robe in the middle of his room. In lieu of his usual firepot beast, he was using the traditional Scots method of a peat brick burning away on a dish of soapstone. Somehow, it suited him. The soft pumpkin-colored glow offset his lean face; leaner than ever, McCoy thought. Whatever his problems were, they were weighing heavily. He wasnt eating properly, and nearly every night, McCoy could sense complicated calculations running through his mind at breakneck speed. But a srben link was less than a marriage bonding, and while both men were mentally close, Spock could easily hide whatever he wanted from the human. This suited McCoy just fine.
The Vulcan slipped his eyes open at McCoys entrance.
Should you not be resting? He asked in his best Vulcan voice. His beard was orange in the low firelight.
Yes. McCoy said shortly. I should. For some strange reason, insomnia plagues me. Both knew that if one was sleepless, the other was too. It was a fact of their bonding that they found equally irritating.
Spocks thin shoulders lifted inside his robe as he heaved a sigh. I am having difficulties adjusting to the climate.
Thats not surprising. McCoy walked over to the small kitchen bar and began assembling a hot drink. Spock watched him. McCoy was so used to it by now he never even noticed. He might be bonded to Spock (reluctantly) but he had no desire to delve into the others being as Spock had done him.
Spock was enjoying the smooth way the human moved; his natural grace and coordination was understandable as a surgeon; but he was exceptionally balanced for his species. The Vulcan found it amusing that the doctor rarely (if ever) looked down. Barefoot, he walked on the balls of his feet and when he truly wanted to, could be absolutely invisible, projecting a mental Im not here wall between himself and the world. So strong was this desire, Spock had seen security guards walk right past him without even noticing.
And, in silence he prepared the teapot. In silence he carried it over and set it down, not saying anything but taking his own cup and sitting down inside the overpadded chair.
If you dont want to talk about it, Im taking a sleeping pill.
That is not necessary.
McCoy took a drink and waited.
You must surely know that my life is headed toward insurrection and potential death.
Everybody dies. McCoy said it more curtly than hed meant to. Or at least, thats the official story, isnt it?
Spock shot him a sharp look, a sharp mental stab.
McCoy looked him back. You know, theres a reason why a man usually leaves a body behind when he assassinates his captainreduces question, right? He let his eyebrows rise. Whatever you and Kirk are planning, its between the two of you.
Your Medical Oath, Spock said slowly, watching him the whole time, is more binding than the oath you took for Service to the Empire.
My Oath, McCoy said grimly, Does not recognize politics of any size, shape or form. I dont care if youre planning to overthrow the Caesar himself.
Spock almost smiled at that. That would take a great deal of resources. More than I have.
McCoy only shook his head. Spock was nothing if not resourceful. And he was also one of the richest families on Vulcan. You couldnt find a Vulcan in the Empire who wouldnt follow The Unifier to death if he asked for it. And if Vulcan decided to overthrow the Empire, there was the string of planets Vulcan was friendly withand if the Enterprise was involved in any way, there were planets with their own reasons to want to help outand then there was the big unknown factor of Kirk himself. Something big was brewing, that was sure. You couldnt involve Kirk in something without it being big.
As you say. He said diffidently. If Spock wanted to be coy with him, he wasnt going to ask.
Spocks gaze hardened just a bit when McCoy stopped talking and went to the large window. He had been expecting some sort of quarrel, or a quit insulting my intelligence complaint. That was the usual course for the doctor. Butand this had been happening graduallythe human was growing less and less committal. This was really bothering Spock because his personality with everyone else was unchanged.
Spock watched the play of stark snow-reflected moonlight on the slim body. He thought of how at home the human was here, truly in his element. He could not stand to be close to the windows chill for long, but it invigorated the doctor, made him feel alive and alert in a way the crushing heat and gravity of Vulcan could not.
He came up behind the other, watching his body rise and fall with his breath under the weave of his shirt.
Since his marriage bonding to the Romulan Imperator, Spock had invoked fewer sexual relations with the doctor, but not entirely left off. McCoy never spoke about it; and so long as Spock would not venture past certain lines, he would not complain. Spock had rarely looked beyond that point, but tonight his native curiosity (as well as a sudden desire for a fight) had emerged.
You never speak of the bond we have. He spoke aloud instead of using his mind, as he easily could have.
McCoy was quiet. I wasnt aware there was anything to say. He answered at last.
I expected you to ask me if I would keep it after my marriage.
Again, the doctor was quiet. And I expected you to tell me if you planned on any changes.
And there it was. Spock had no intention of severing the Sword Link, as the common vernacular referred to the bond between a man and his srben. Sarek had not given up Amanda, had lifted her to his own status to where she was one of the most respected people on Vulcan. McCoy only wanted to be a complete and isolated hermit, and that of course was impossible.
Vulcans rarely end a bonding once it is made. Spock said aloud. He wondered what Amandas healer had explained to him. THar and McCoy were close friends but THar was unbonded, and she would be leaving Shikahr soon. McCoy would be without that friendship for once she was re-bonded to a new husband, it would be socially difficult to see him save in professional circles.
I know that. McCoy said evenly. Softly.
Spock reached up, his fingers spread just over the shoulders. He could feel the steady heat radiating from the body through the cloth. Where Vulcans burned, humans smoldered. A lower heat to be sure, but much steadier, and compelling. Humans would never know how fascinated Vulcans were, to see their species thrive in bitter weather, to walk under sixty-degree days like it was nothing, and to make sport of snow and ice. A Vulcan could claim to be superior, but even the most arrogant would have their belief shaken to see a human ski off a ramp and down the side of a sheer mountain, laughing when it was done.
Do you want me to release you?
He sensed the tightening in the square jaw, the lips setting, then forcibly relaxing again. Do you want me to say it? The doctor returned, arrow for arrow.
Spock had to smile to himself. McCoy was not going to beg. Not ever. He turned the human around in his arms, easily as lifting a stick of logwood. McCoy was equally stiff. Dark brown eyes locked into clear blue ones.
An interesting question. Spock murmured. Just as you will not concede a point, nor will I.
Why should you? The human whispered harshly. According to your beliefs, youve done nothing wrong.
Exactly. Spock agreed, knowing how infuriating he sounded. And I am in control.
Congratulations. McCoy said bitingly, before Spock unclicked the gate between their link. His arm tightened slightly around the human, and led him away from the window.
Spock rarely brought up the subject of their bond. McCoy remembered only twice in two years he had to wonder if high oxygen made him giddy because both times had been off Vulcan. Without a doubt, it increased his hormonal level.
Their bond was so strong by now that there was hardly any point in holding back, but McCoy was annoyed and when he was annoyed, he became extremely passive, forcing Spock to work for every little reaction. Sometimes it made the Vulcan get downright ugly, and then the result was pain. McCoy hardly cared when he was this angry; he was jaded. What more need be said?
Tonight, Spock was not annoyed. He was not even amused at McCoys usual tactic of rebellion. His angular face was shadowed and focused as he slipped hot hands under his shirt, so that meant instead of beatings or quick satisfaction, he was going to take this as a challenge. Oh, great, Spock caught the faintest thread of sardony. Marathon nocturnals usually meant McCoy would be nigh useless for the following day. Obviously Spock didnt care if his schedule would suffer for it.
The Vulcan had been wanting such an excuse for some time. He had been growing very tired of his srbens lackadasial, whatever attitude to their relationship. His bonding with his wife was still satisfying in every way, but the bonding with McCoy had begun as a battle, and it was normal for them to have at least some kind of deep emotion flying about them. McCoy had commented once that it was far from healthy to call eternal conflict normal but Spock thrived on that conflict. It was familiar to him.
McCoy gasped as Spock flooded his body with sensation. The link burned him. He twisted his face out of the touch of the fingers. Will you slow down? He snapped. Good God! Most people would just be running laps around the building!
There is little point in comparing me to anyone, srben. Spock had finished undressing them and was running his hands over the cool body. He sounded smug because nothing enraged the doctor more than calling him srben (sword-linked). And once he was angry, it was a simple matter to tweak his emotions to another level.
Which was what happened. McCoy struggled but gave up with a groan when their lips met. Both of them were on fire but of course Spock was the controlling factor. He always was. The strong hands slipped under his back and held tight; his tongue was the invader, his body superior. His mind easily found what the other liked and responded to. And he was taking his usual delight in breaking down the humans defenses. Spock never asked himself why he preferred it to be this way; Vulcans were culturally concerned with dominance. But he took especial relish in this.
McCoy was almost his height. He dug his fingers into the taut shoulders, hard enough to bruise as Spock pressed against him, but did not quite enter. He gulped for breath, feeling the Vulcans lips curve against his neck. Spock pressed again, teasing with his lack of entry. The doctor held his breath and steadied himself, knowing Spock would do what he wanted, when he wanted and that was all.
Spock prolonged their contact a few more minutes this way, stroking what he could reach of the cooler body and pressing against him in a teasing promise to entereventually. McCoys skin rippled under chills and his muscles trembled. His hands gripped harder into Spocks shoulders, then slipped down, trying to push away from his chest, trying to hold himself steady against the Vulcans pressure. Spock stopped him by grabbing his mouth again, forcing his head back onto the mattress. Again, he resumed his pattern of stroking and pressing, kneading the compact muscles of the back and shoulders, the neck, the flank and thighs. He buried his mouth against the beating throat and heard another moan, and further resistance. McCoy hated to have his throat touched aggressively, something he shared with most humans. It was just too sensitive for a Vulcans idea of attention. But Spock thoroughly enjoyed the responses he could get from this action, and compounded matters by teasing the hard nipples with his fingers at the same time.
The doctor thrashed against him, panting, and Spock very slowly and carefully began to enter. He watched as the humans head lifted up, then fell back down, dark hair suddenly plastered to his face with sweat. His lips were parted, still trying to breathe and not pass out. Spock gave him some space by rising up slightly, holding his wrists down at his sides. He liked watching the play of tight muscle across the chest. Humans were stronger than Vulcans generally thought. Once, hed even managed to throw a not-very attentive Spock off him.
Finally, Spock stopped and shuddered. McCoy had stopped and was lying rigid and trembling. Spock was trembling too. Slowly, he angled down and began moving. You like this, srben? Wordless emotion was his response. While difficult to translate, it could be condensed to, yes I like the sensation; its just you I cant stand. Spock openly smiled at that. He watched as the last end of control slipped away from the other; McCoy swallowed hard, his eyes half-shutting as the sensation of Spock gradually overwhelmed all other impressions. This was what Spock liked the most, to take away his awareness of everything but his own needs and leave him as helpless as a Vulcan under his Time. It was what he watched for; he watched it now.
The doctor cried out, a sound from deep in his throat. Spock wrestled with his own control as he closely watched the climax take his srben. When McCoy fell back again, he released a wrist and quickly recovered the meld points. The doctor jerked as the link flared again. Spock kept moving. Without hardly any mind left to him, he felt the Vulcan lift him back to full arousal. Spock, please!
whatever you want
Even thinking through the link was like wading through mud. He was to the point of begging now, which Spock greatly enjoyed. Not that that would make him change his course of action, hah. The Vulcan had decided at the beginning what he was going to do. And that was to keep him going for a good long time. With typical Vulcan ruthless thoroughness.
He came to himself twisted in the blanket. Spock was emerging from the shower, back in his meditation robe and drying his beard on a towel. He sat down on the edge of the bed, then in a movement that was atypically violent, flung the cloth back into the shower. McCoy was wiped out, but managed to make a comment by lifting one eyebrow.
What would you say if I told you the Empire was about to be overthrown?
McCoy thought about that for a moment. He shrugged. Good riddance?
I am not joking.
I wasnt aware Vulcans joked. McCoy hardly ever got to turn those particular tables on Spock. It wasalmostamusing. He sat up stiffly, wondered why Spock always had to make him feel like a herd of elephants had trampled him afterwards. Dizzy, he leaned his arms on his knees. I told you before. Politics is politics, and I stay out of them.
The Empire is doomed to fail in 200 years. Spock commented. As it is, it is nothing more than a waste of lives and resources.
Yeah, well, weve both had our part in that. McCoy pointed out. If you want to do something about it, thats your perogative as a visionary.
Visionaries are not guaranteed to be correct. Spock sounded stiff. And this war will likely be as bloody as the Mutara Invasion.
Spock, you and I are almost the same age. I remember when the Empire was a less bloody, more constructive rule. What are you trying to convince me of?
Spock finally looked at him then. The eyes had lightened against the gleam of the orange peat-fire. Perhaps nothing.
McCoy frowned. You know, its not like you to say that P-word.
When I touched the mind of your counterpart I saw many things about the Empire I had taken for granted. The doctor started a little at that. Spock had mentioned his enforced mindmeld only once; and that had been for the ISS records. I also saw things I did not understand. He tucked his hands inside his sleeves. I saw humans carrying a rather charming naivity over the wonders of the Universe, even though they came across powers that would, absentmindedly, kill them from time to time. The large eyebrow slipped up, then down. Not an attitude your counterpart shared. I believe it is your inherent nature to be cynical.
Thats good to know. McCoy answered evenly. He absently rubbed at fingermarks left on his wrist.
I also saw Vulcans who were chained by their logic, to the extent they were barely alive. That is not a fate I would wish on my people. In that regard, the other Universe is behind ours.
McCoy couldnt imagine Vulcans like thatand hed even met Spocks beardless counterpart. It was all rather unbelievable when you thought of it.
Spock fell silent. He appeared to be on the verge of something important to say. McCoy waited as he rubbed his wrist. The Vulcan was trying to verbalize instead of use the bond, which meant he really didnt understand what he had seen in the forced meld.
He was surprised when Spock took another tactic. Did THar explain the nuances of the srben to you?
McCoy stiffened. Some. I found the rest on my own. It was really something you should have done. Went the thought, aimed like a spear.
Spock barely nodded, admitting that. A sword-link is not easily broken. It is forged in conflict and conflict sustains it. But even after two years, I do not fathom you.
Nobody said you had to.
I must. Spock spoke harshly. You are a cipher. If you cannot be predictable, you must be controllable. Otherwise I cannot trust you to be my ally in this.
Ally? McCoy wearily lifted his eyebrows. What the hell do you need me for?
I know one thing, Doctor. No other physician in the Empire matches your xenomedical skills. In an Intergalactic War that will involve hundreds of different species, that experience is matchless. And you are not prejudiced. You will treat anyone regardless of race or affiliation. That was why Kufe distrusted you enough to exile you to the Enterprise, was it not? And it is also why I cannot trust you. If there was a wounded enemy, you would help them. Despite orders, despite the risk to yourself.
It was bad parenting. McCoy knew he sounded snide but that was how he felt.
Spock lifted his other eyebrow at that. No doubt. He answered.
McCoy sighed and went for the shower. Look I know enough about the link. He turned on the water and stepped underneath. I know that the link is kept as insurance among warriors. If a warrior has a link between two people instead of one, then if one person dies the link to the other prevents said warrior from dying along with the first one.
True. TLull is my bondmate, my wife, my house-ruler. But we are both warriors and the risk of both dying because one has is very real.
Especially with war looming. Shell be leading the Romulans, wont she?
She is the flagship commander.
Exactly. McCoy scrubbed fiercely. Why do you even bother, Spock? Youre not about to break this link. Why even bring it up?
Because I do not understand your resistance. Vulcans and Romulans do not resist a sword link.
Hah. Im not about to waste my synaptic bolts on dead embers. You dont understand, and you never will understand.
There was a brief mental silence as Spock considered that. I presume it had something to do with the mental brainwashing you endured under the Enterprise. McCoy paused in scrubbing his hair. The Lawgivers completely wiped your mind of rebellion, and then later, Sylvia and KorobOf course, I suspect you had a previous unfortunate experience even before youu joined the shipAdmiral Kufe is infamous for discovering hostile cultures
Ok, ok, youve made your point! McCoy rinsed off and reached for a spare robe. Look, Spock, if you werent so determined to be ignorant of human emotions, I wouldnt have to explain this to you. You keep harping on how the cause was sufficient. And to Vulcans what you did was understandable. I have even gotten the impression that I should feel flattered! After all, you hardly ever hurt me, and you dont have to make sure I enjoy it. As far as your society mores dictate, youre quite the benevolent dictator!
The doctor began searching through the discarded clothing for his own. Spock watched without a word as he restrapped the Officers Blade under his ribs and clipped the safety to his belt. At the end of this speech, he was hoping for permission to leave. And maybe in another human you wouldnt have any problem. But my family is dead. My own daughter doesnt know who her father is, and she never will know. Ive been denied one of the most basic, strongest instincts known to the human species. Sometimes that drives me half crazy. I put up with disdain because I follow my Oath not to take lives. Pardon me for actually not wanting to break a promise. Thats supposed to be held in high esteem but I guess not if it smacks of pacifism. I went to space so I could get conveniently killed at the first opportunity. The Empire is mad as hell because I wont finish the research on the neural grafts for humanitarian reasons. Ive got more enemies than even you, and the only reason why I am NOT dead is because people are still hoping Ill be of use to them. Im a rook on a chessboard, nothing more!
Spock had absorbed this as it came out, unmoving. You fear for your freedom?
What freedom? McCoy asked, harshly. I dont have freedom. I dont know if I ever did. But at least I was myself. But then I wound up getting my head grafted with yours. My privacy was the only thing I had left, Captain. You took that from me. You dont see it as a problem because your people have this idiotic kaiidith response to everything unpleasant. And then you add insult to injury and imply that you might let me go if I asked for it? Thats insane! You arent going to let me go unless you mean to kill me. I know too much. The fact that I dont care about whos in control in the Galaxy doesnt change a thing!
Spocks dark eyes gleamed as McCoy let his hands fall to his sides. Fully dressed, the doctor was going to stamp out as soon as this little talk was over with. The Vulcan found it hard not to move his lips. He had the urge to smile, but not out of amusement, but for respect.
You are right. He said carefully, watching McCoy for a reaction that never came. The human could be positively stonefaced when he chose to be. It would be unwise to sever the link. And as I said before, especially during wartimes. He paused, thinking back to earlier times on the starship, before he found it necessary to go to Vulcan and start building his resources. Butit would be illogical to assume all events would remain constant.
That was the closest Spock would ever come to implying that he might free McCoy somedayif he was no longer needed, no longer a threat, and the Galaxy was at peace.
Take your logic, McCoy said slowly and very very clearly on the syllables, And choke on it.
The door swished shut after him, leaving Spock alone in his quarters. The Vulcans amused respect grew. Difficult, and yet not so very unpredictable, now that he has spoken...
Spock prepared for bed. He was indubitably relaxed now. Still in his robe he stretched out on the bed, breathing in the seawater scent the human had left behind. Seawatersemiaquatic mammals
He wondered at himself, to speak so boldly about the offer of breaking the link once all logical reasons for it were past. But, it hardly mattered, did it? The odds of the rebellion succeeding were acceptable, yet very high. Spock was still preparing his own successors for the not-unlikely day of his death.
It will never happen. McCoy is right. A possible what-if scenario is the same as a lie.
The Vulcan prepared for sleep. But even in the deepest stage, he would be aware of the link on the other end of his mind.