Breaking Point


Well...the party was over and done with unless you counted the hangovrs still a-brewing in people's heads, waiting to jump out like a coil of coolant tubes. McCoy closed his eyes for a moment, amazed at the sheer number of people this poor space station had held.

Ny's roast had been a good one--Christine and Janice had flown in from all parts to congratulate Miss CAPTAIN Uhura, led by Pavel and Hikaru (Their own bars so bright they hurt the eye). Everyone had contributed a story or two about their favorite lady (half of them pertaining to tribbles, alas)...And now it was all litter, paper, bits of food and half-filled goblets. McCoy felt eerie as he watched the automated servers, and wondered if he could be swept up like so much garbage if he didn't move out of the way. Ah, well.


McCoy felt his hairs prickle up at the Admiral's voice. So it had begun. He grabbed up a mostly-full bottle of white brandy. "Hey, Jim. Wanna help me kill this?"

"Are you crazy?" Jim grinned. "Sure." He waited as a semi clean glass was rummaged, and accepted it graciously. They clicked together, and swallowed at the same time. "Good Lord. All that from the humble grape." Kirk mused.

"Positively religious, when you think about it." McCoy agreed.

"Bones, I just saw your note."

McCoy sighed, pushed a dried floral thing aside, and sat on the table. Kirk achieved his own space and made no move to sit.

"I need to go back to Yonada, Jim."

Jim's gold eyes searched his, deep. "For how long?"

"I don't know." He said it truthfully.

The eyes went blank. "What do you mean?"

"I mean that I don't!" McCoy snapped, already on edge. "I'm just asking you to trust me! Please!"

Jim chuckled nervously, attempting humor. "Or what? You'll finagle a starship?"

"I leave that to the experts." McCoy shot back. "Fly a shuttle, yeah--something with warp, no no and no."

Jim was still smiling. "Come on, Bones, you can trust me."

"I...don't have anything else to say." McCoy could feel Spock had arrived behind him. No sight or sound alerted him, just that mental ring, like a tuning fork vibrating softly between his ears; it felt that tangible. "Look, it's family business, Jim. I can't...I don't really know much myself. But Natira's telling me it's important, and she's never asked for me to come back before."

There was a lot of meaning inside those words. Spock slipped into full view from behind him and Jim, more out of courtesy than else, gave the Vulcan a cup of brandy. Spock lifted his eyebrows at the water-clear fluid, then took a sip.

"Appreciable." Spock decided. "Oak casks?"

"Most brandy is these days, but down in Bones' area, I hear hickory is being used."

"Only when we process the moonshine first." McCoy said absently. The humor was ringing hollow around them.

"Am I to understand the Lady Natira is in need of aid?" Spock queried. Once he had been able to accept that McCoy and Natira had a genuine bond, he had been indirectly supportive of their union. Jim had been the one who never quite understood it, subconsciously judging Bones by his own whirlwind romances. After all these years, he still kept expecting to see a breakup.

"From what I understand, it's a familial dispute that has nothing to do with me; she's needing a different presence with her." McCoy spoke slowly, cautiously.

Jim was nodding. "Ok, Bones." Spock's presence had diffused a situation that had been about to explode--and he hadn't known it until now. The goldgreen eyes were sober on his doctor. "When do you want to leave?"

"As soon as I can get a ship." McCoy shrugged. He tugged at his half-open collar in nervous relief. "Then maybe I'll be able to fill you in--but I doubt it. Fabrini are really clammouthed about certain things and not willing to share them with outsiders."

"Not even the consort?" Jim teased lightly. But he was also surprised.

"As I understand, the infamous Fabrini desire to maintain good manners has much to do with their reticence." Spock, bless him, offered. "Their culture is in many ways unlike ours, Jim. They find it necessary to be open and honest with their feelings, but they have almost a horror of their culture influencing another's."

McCoy nodded without a word, but his face did not hide the trouble inside it.

"Well." Jim took another long swallow of brandy. "Godspeed then, Bones. And be sure to give Natira our regards."

"She'd assume you sent them anyway." McCoy rolled his eyes upward. Spock almost smiled at that, and Jim broke into a grin.

"Well, I'd better get ready." The doctor pushed himself to his feet; Jim gripped his hand strongly for a moment, trading a warm current, while Spock, Vulcan-fashion, bowed his head.

Regula 1 dissolved into the familiar transporter room of the Enterprise but as McCoy walked to his room, the space station was still a part of his consciousness.

To be precise, the mostly-empty banquet hall.

(I hope he's all right.) Jim's voice, softer than the ghost of an echo. (I hope its not about the way Carol's been behaving.)

(He is bothered by more than Dr. Marcus.) Spock had tucked his hands inside his sleeves, Vulcan-style posture of relaxing--a gesture the younger Spock would have never indulged in. (He and Natira are very close.)

(I's taken me a long time to understand that...) Jim, oddly for him, sounded ashamed. (I really did think it was a whirlwind romance, formed for all the wrong reasons when it happened.)

(Fabrini are a moderately empathic species, and Leonard is highly empathic for a human. Indeed, he has not achieved his full potential on that.)

McCoy paused in the middle of coding his door open. It still amazed him that Spock didn't mind this involuntary, unpredictable eavesdropping the Refusion made of them. Then again, after that soul-grafting, hearing a distant conversation was hardly "private."

(You mean Bones could be more emotional? Good Lord--that would kill him!") Jim was shocked.

(Not emotional, empathic.) Spock hesitated. (Had he been properly trained in his native abilities...) Spock left that unsaid.

McCoy was aware his hands were shaking slightly as he stepped inside his cabin. He was tired and a little drunk; nothing else would leave him this open to the link between himself and Spock. The doctor often found it stupefying that Spock was not always aware of it. Ok, enough thinking on that, mister...He went straight to his music selection and plugged in a copy of a harp duet Nyota and Spock had rippled their way through several years ago. McCoy had tried a lot of methods in achieving his mental shields under less than ideal conditions, and it condensed to string instruments. Percussion, he had learned the hard way, intensified the connection between them. But harps, violins and even the occasional steel-string guitar always smoothed out his inner turmoil.

He changed to light fatigues, voluntarily taking a soberal to ease the buzzing. Spock had picked up on his worry about Natira; it was too much to think his arrival a coincidence. Anymore, he had *any* upsetting news or situations, Spock just seemed to pop out of thin air like he had to check in on him. He made one odd guardian angel, especially with those ears...

He had been thinking of his wife quite often of late; her letters had never offered anything out of the ordinary, but he did think there was more to this than just missing her. And he did miss her--he missed her a lot. Natira was the perfect antidote for the bone-crushing tedium of Starfleet. Fourteen uninterrupted years with her--that was about 13 and a half longer than he'd first thought they would have. All that time. Her hair was a smooth ribbon of platinum now, her body frailer, but she was still that tempered-duotronium fighter he remembered from their First Contact.

"I love you, Natira." He whispered in the darkness.


Back on Regula, Spock paused in his conversation. Leonard's soft words had echoed inside his own mind, brief as a passing firefly.

Jim hesitated over his pawn. "Goose on your grave?"

"No..." Spock recovered with the ease of long practice. "I was...wondering how many times we have played chess together, Jim."

Jim smiled, charmed at the notion. "You haven't calculated?"

"No." Spock admitted. "Surely an oversight."

"Surely." Jim agreed with all proper seriousness--which was cancelled out by his laughing eyes.

Sadly, the moment passed. Jim withdrew slightly into himself, ostensively to study the board. How often indeed?

"Jim, you are troubled."

Jim smiled slightly at the deep voice. "I can't fool you, any more than I can fool Bones." He glanced at his hands. "Carol's making a scapegoat out of Bones, isn't she?"

Spock deliberately misunderstood. "Dr. Marcus was aware of the good doctor's opinion of terraforming long before Genesis. And while he has never even broached the subject with her in 19 years, no doubt she remembers those past arguments."

Jim looked old and tired...and knowing. "I remember those few shore leaves we'd have together. Of course, that was back when we still thought we might have a since Academy, for God's sake." Jim picked up a piece and moved it completely at random. Spock was taken aback, then decided Jim was needing to talk more than play chess.

"I remember being present at one of those leaves on Earth." Spock said slowly. "Dr. Marcus had invited us all to stay at her house..."

"Yes, it was a huge thing, wasn't it? Her parents had deeded that to her. Looked like a shopping mall." Jim smiled at the memory. "All glass and potted trees...Bones said it made him feel like he was in an interactive laboratory, with all of Carol's experiments scattered hither to yon." Still smiling, Jim leaned back in his chair. "Let's forget this chess game for now."

Spock pointedly looked at the board. "Perhaps a wise move."

Jim grimaced with good grace.

"Jim," Spock spoke slowly, feeling his own path as much as his th'y'la. "There is much of my life I would do differently, if given that opportunity."

Jim held himself still, and nodded. "Most of us have that feeling."

"One thing I would do differently is learn how to properly listen. I...think you are needing to speak of the rift between Dr. Marcus and Leonard..."

Low-volume, sweet notes cascaded as smoothly as water over a slope; Deltan throat-singing combined with temple bells for a rare, intricate and subtle melody that wove and interwove into its own fabrics. It filled Spock's cabin as naturally as the creamy sand in the Zen garden Sulu had given him for his 42cnd birthday.

Captain Uhura had superb taste, he thought. While some saw the dulling of their aesthetics over time, Nyota had merely continued to develop hers. She had used her sensitivity in picking up what Spock called the "distress" of late; they were the only members of "the old" Enterprise crew left on the refurbished Regula 1--even Kyle had moved elsewhere, wishing to distance himself from all memories off the Genesis project.

Odd...Spock had once been of the "old" Enterprise with Scott and Sulu; the others leaving or making room for "Kirk's" ship. Jim had been the third captain, but even Spock occasionally forgot that there had been the Enterprise before Jim.

The Vulcan moved silently among his very Vulcan-like room, its achitecture hinting of organic curves. Outside his window was the seemingly dead planetoid below. Between his and Uhura and Carol's efforts, the laboratory would be more than functional. It would soon be a relay station for ships needing the fresh food and water provided by the Genesis Secondus Project--the only survivor of the entire mess.

Spock did wonder how much longer they would be working with Marcus; McCoy had never said anything directly to her over the foolishness of human arrogance, but word had gotten down to her somehow. Carol's demeanor with the doctor was as cool as McCoy's was mannerly. The dynamic was all rather complicated, even to a Vulcan's viewpoint. McCoy had been proven right about the powers of Genesis--not that he had wanted to be.

Carol Marcus had taken her high ideals of wanting to feed the hungry and give space to the crowded, and turned it into Genesis. She had learned the hard way that her nature was not so practical as she had believed; the little blond lab technician Jim Kirk had nearly married had ignored the political ramifications of such a powerful device. Looking back, the good-natured bickering between the two doctors on the sporadic Earth leaves had not been so good natured--at least on Carol's side. Spock could remember vividly McCoy repeating his favorite point over and over: "It's easier to move out than clean house." And that was his major point of contention when Carol got on her terraforming spiel.

Jim, of course, was right in the middle of it. Carol was treating him very well. They were united together in the loss of their son and struggling to understand their own place in that loss. But ice rimed over the room whenever McCoy came upon them. Psychologically, Carol was blaming herself for her own naivety, for not asking the right questions when David and Del and the other scientists who worked on the protomatter claimed to have solved the problems while Carol concentrated on administration and grew ignorant of her own dream. Yes, there was a lot of guilt present, but Carol's behavior strongly suggested she wanted McCoy to blow up at her--give her a fight to throw herself in. Thank God, Jim had said fervently, that Bones had been born too wily to fall for that kind of thing.

Spock wished, not unreasonably, that McCoy would *not* be so retiring. The man's katra was completely kind, and outwardly brash and harsh, but much of his impatience stemmed from an extremely swift mind that could grasp complex matters at a glance and a prodigious memory that often gave him an unfortunate feeling of deja vu. Spock had suspected this of McCoy for years; sharing katras had confirmed that and more. Deja vu, an unknown concept to Vulcans, was obviously an irritation for the doctor, and it helped not that that sensation of "been there done that" occurred the most around scientific idiots who were rehashing the same tired old and failed ideals of curing the Universe their way instead of working in harmony with what already existed.

Spock's ruminations were interrupted at the sight of a stack of wafers on his table; a farewell from Captain Uhura. Spock was surprised to find they were recordings of Romulan music. Almost impossible to find, Uhura must have spent months of her free time eavesdropping on the Empire's subspace radio. He had not known she was even aware of his interest to lean of the Romulan divergence of the Vulcan kissar. Uhura had earned her captaincy a long time ago, and it had been late in coming. He had said that to Jim, just that night.

And Jim had only chuckled. "Truly selfless people don't get promoted, Spock. Or haven't you noticed? Bones would have made Admiral before ME if he hadn't made a point of being PR's worst nightmare."

Spock had been about to say something ironic about McCoy, but Jim's expression abruptly turned tight and weary.

"I...won't be staying on Regula tonight, Spock." He said softly. "Too many memories all of a sudden."

Jim had been spending all available nights with Carol Marcus. This was the first time he had voluntarily pulled away.

"I understand, Jim." Regula was not a place for Jim's peace of mind. Or anyone's.

Spock's tea steamed; finest "caravan" tea, a gift from Pavel, who explained that it HAD to be drunk with a lump of sugar clenched between the teeth. The leaves were dark and smoky from the many campfires the caravaneers lit along their way through Asia. Spock found it enchanting; it was almost identical to Vulcan's Northern Mountain Tea. It had been a surprise to learn Pavel had known this fact.

"Ach, my people are traders, did you not know?" Pavel would always look too young for his years. "We know the tea; my family hosts the camels the same way they have for centuries, from their days as allies of Attila. Only a camel can carry the tea, in large hemp sacks, and only the smoke of the fires can give cure. From Iran to Old Mother Russia we carry; and when I retire I will return to the family trade and permit the new generation to go where they wish."

Spock, impressed, had bought an entire case of Pavel's family goods and sent it to Vulcan. Sarek was a patron of Northern Mountain leaves, and had been suffering under a decade of drought. Amanda called her son up the very night it arrived to tell him his father was trying to drink it all in one night.

"Suurely an exaggeration, mother?" Spock asked mildly.

"Not much of one." Amanda chuckled. "Between Sarek and Saavik, it won't last for long."

"Perhaps. Captain Chekov has expressed interest in supplying the shop in Shi'kahr with his family's product."

Amanda laughed. "I don't think I'll tell him--let him find out for himself!"

"You look well, mother."

"Spock, I look my age. If you're breathing at this point, you look well." Amanda was openly relishing teasing her son. "But at any rate, I'll have to pull myself together. We've been asked to go to Yonada in today. Shall I pass regards?"

"I believe ben-tor-katra is already on his way." Spock was speaking in Vulcan; that was how McCoy was referred to now.

"Leonard is? I hope this isn't a sad matter we're attending. I think this will be the last deep-space trip with your father. Time for me to decide where my spirit will go when it leaves these old bones." She smiled at her son's discomfiture. "That's the nice thing about being human, Spock. We go where we want to. Maybe I'll come back as one of your children."

"I have no children, mother."

"Who's Saavik?" Amanda leveled at him. She chided gently: "Family is about blood only in its most base form. The purest sense of family is in the heart."

Spock sipped bitter black tea slowly. Ever since Leonard had left for his "family business" on Yonada, his presence had condensed to a dull, shielded lump in the Vulcan's mind.

"Can't say why, Spock. It's family and political--a double nightmare for me."

Leonard had not looked well as he bade goodbye. Spock had delayed his visit with the offer of ancient bourbon--but McCoy had only taken a "shot".

"Will you be rejoining Jim at Starfleet Central when you are done?"

Spock's natural query had produced a negative effect; despite the doctor's skill at being mentally silent, he had not expected that question, and it had sparked a blurt of pain.

"I don't know." He said at last. "We'll see. It...depends on Yonada."

Spock thought that if Jim had looked tired the previous night, Leonard looked old. Something prompted the Vulcan: "Be well, Leonard."

McCoy did not joke or scoff. Sharing minds and katras had taken away the need for those barriers.

"Thanks, Spock." A faint smile. "Keep your fool self well. And keep and eye on Jim. He needs it."

Spock had not seen Leonard since that rather puzzling goodbye, which was now a full Standard Cycle. But during that time, as Spock consulted with Dr. Marcus and oversaw Regula's first stocking of fresh food, a feeling about the human grew. Leonard was under intense turmoil, and stifling it to such a level that spurts escaped, like steam under pressure. And when Amanda called him on a secured line, he had almost guessed the reason for McCoy's trouble.

"Lady Natira is dying." Her stately face was gentle. "It's difficult to find an heir to the religion. Tests are strident, especially where the candidate must have some empathic/telepathic abilities. Now that they've been doing without the monoworship of the computer, they've been returning to the older ways where the Priestess really *is* an Oracle. Natira's an amazing woman."

"I agree." Spock did. "What if she dies before an heir is named?"

"That's where Leonard comes in. It will be up to him to decide."

Spock was silent a moment. "He would do well, Mother. I have often noticed his empathy."

Amanda chuckled. "It seems to be rarer in Fabrini men...Natira told me that when she first saw him, she knew he was the husband she wanted."

"It is fortunate that he was unbonded then."

Amanda chuckled again. "You get two halfway esper people together, and one thinking brain is the result...much of this will be classified, Spock. The Fabrini are of course silent about much of their politics. I'm telling you what will soon be news."

"I understand." Spock sensed the communiqu was closing. "My regards to father..."

There was nothing to do. Spock continued his duties. But he meditated whenever he had the time. Not his usual state of contemplation, but a deep awareness that bordered on what Vulcans called "insight" and humans, "creativity." In these deep moments he was the closest to McCoy's pain, and his mental search for peace. And Spock grew to understand that it was more than Natira's death that caused that pain. Natira was ready to die; she had come to the point where to continue her life would be a divergence against the natural order of things. Leonard had accepted this and only wanted to do his part to make her transition smooth. But there was some kind of trouble; disagreement. More than once, "daughter" floated up like a leaf in a storm. Spock had the strong belief that Leonard was subconsciously attuned to the deep meditation Spock was taking, and drawing comfort from them.

And finally, in a tight stab of emotion that encompassed sorrow, regret, peace and joy, it was over.

Spock breathed his relief, and did so again when the passing of the High Priestess Natira was announced. Her successor had been appointed, but not named.

A note from Leonard, who was as brief in writing as he was elaborate with language, informed Spock that he was going to take his leave in his native Atlanta, and from then on return to whatever duty befell him. Just reading the typically terse note made Spock decide to find the man and speak. The feeling was illogical; he often had such battles between desire and logic.

He was still battling when Captain Uhura woke him in the middle of his sleep shift. Her voice was low and subdued as she informed him of a communiqu he should read.

It was often said among humans that bad luck was like lightning: it hit often and hard. Spock wondered at these forces, to take the life of Leonard's wife, and his daughter Joanna, within days of each other.

He was packing when Jim called.

"I will be there when he arrives in Atlanta." He told his t'hy'la.

"I'm coming as soon as I can--which isn't very. You'll be beating me by at least a day." Jim rubbed his unshaven face. "God, I feel awful, Spock!"

"Jim?" Spock was puzzled. Behind him he could see the Federation Seal that rested in Jim's office, and Carol Marcus sitting on the end of his desk. Her eyes were red and new lines had graven her face.

"Nothing, Spock...I'll...I'll see you in Atlanta." Jim sought for something to say. "What a stupid accident." He gritted. "At least that's the story. It sounds like a ship's captain under the influence to me. I'm going to find out everything I can..."

Jim abruptly broke contact. Spock wondered if it had been to hide his loss of control.

Wrung out, wrung limp, wrung dry. If there were any feelings left inside, he was just too weary to experience them. It was all a form of shock; no surprise there.

Amazingly, McCoy's mind gave out from exhaustion and he slept during those times, his own body jerking him awake with its angry spasms. Natira's or Joanna's name hung on the edge of his lips but never quite escaped. For the first time in his life, he was realizing his thoughts of death were growing dangerous. In his frame of mind, it was all too compelling. (You have people to live for.) He reminded himself. (Your grandchildren. Nary. Enterprise.) But even that truth slid away into another haze of half-sleep.

He was in Atlanta when he woke up for the last time. His long fingers clawed the windshield open and his lungs breathed in the hot, moist, summer, crammed with the calls of insects and birds. He smelled yellow loam and red clay; black swamp water and green pines. Spanish moss, oleander, a million blooms. It was all so familiar, as if he'd never been away longer than an hour, and he could have cried all over again. Home. No wonder it hurt.

He stepped before a large Admittance Pad stationed before a ten-foot tall blooming tobacco and got his voucher. Examining the number of his issued car he peered at the parking lot, momentarily confused at how to find the thing. Southerners were by nature nocturnal, and anyone who could be around to help was probably out partying or on business.


So soft, that deep voice. Only Spock could speak so formally like it was a blessing. McCoy stopped as he threw his bag in the trunk and then froze altogether, shivering.

"I didn't expect to see you here, Spock."

"I mourn for your losses."

McCoy froze again; the tenuous link between them snapped as he drew his control inside his tired mind. The doctor ached with the need to scream, or yell, or cause a fit...but his own confusion kept him from doing anything. No doubt his outer self was giving Spock a lesson on what it was to be a zombie.

Spock stepped forward, all triangles and planes in the humid moonlight. "Leonard, sorry."

"Thank you." McCoy spoke with a throat gone hoarse days ago.

The Vulcan hesitated again, and finished his steps. "Leonard, this is not like you. Do not send me away."

His head throbbed as if all bone had been removed and the brain was pulsing against the skin. Spock reached up. Long warm fingers lightly brushed his hair aside from his forehead, finding the old meld points but just brushing the skin, nothing more. The aching went away. A chatter of Vulcan thought rattled through like a freighter: (silver hair now/remember when just graying/neverhidageor/denied it/tired very tired/hurts/I grieve with you/let me be here)...

McCoy closed his eyes against the relief from the pain and the need to sort out his thoughts. Just how close to irrational had he been? Half crazy with the grief spinning around him, Spock had managed to grab and ground all that like an old-timer calling down the lightning. No, he shouldn't reject Spock's help. Spock wasn't...wasn't Jim, with an ego to bruise or guilt to shoulder. He swallowed hard, wondering how much more this night would cost him.

"Let's get out of here." He said softly.

For the first time in his life, Leonard took one of the allotments for Starfleet Personel instead of the old family home. He knew that if he did, the memories in that little house would bury him. Spock had the sense to stay quiet. He'd never been here before and the sheer enormity of growth fascinated him. Odd how McCoy could feel the Vulcan's presence so easily. But that was only one result of fal-tor-pan. He couldn't eat red meat anymore, just seafood and white meat and that was on rare occasions (At least Spock was getting into bourbon, dirty rice and chocolate...). And ever and always, the connection between them hummed and flowed like a single glowing thread.

McCoy had made it clear he didn't care what the hell he was getting; he got a Basic, which permitted one person and a friend to tolerate each other for maybe three days before cabin fever led to homicide. But the water supply was unlimited and the kitchen already full of food.

He didn't talk; he just dropped his bag on the bunk bed and went to the shower where he stayed until Spock started brain waving distress at him. With that he reluctantly dried off and pulled on his spare suit of loose brown pants and matching shirt. Spock was mentally relieved to see him emerge. He was in the small kitchen, and the smells of Buddha's Delight mixed with jasmine tea made the doctor realize he was actually hungry.

"I put your calls on hold." Spock's deep voice, gone gravelly with maturity, echoed on the tiles as McCoy sank into the one of two chairs at the narrow table.

"Thanks." McCoy felt a bit more pressure off his shoulders. He sipped the tea bitter.

"Jim called." Spock added. "He will be on his way as soon as his staff meeting is over."

McCoy had been about to pick up a snow pod; his hand shook at a sudden indecision. If Spock noticed his appetite gone he might say--or do--something. (Drink some tea) he told himself. Food had gone from appealing to revolting,, but he could handle liquids. (Say something, idiot! Spock's giving you the infra-red vision!) "Knowing Morrow's meetings, he'll either be here in ten minutes or three days." He managed dryly.

Spock's black eyes brooded as he took up his own cup. McCoy was weltering in as much agony of emotion as discretion would allow. T'Lar had found him an able student for shielding, but only so much could be hidden from Spock. Of course, there were times when McCoy was positive he couldn't hide a thing from him. (This was so much easier in the old days!)

"I knew nothing about human--or my own nature--in the old days." Spock was both apologetic, gentle, and reassuring. "Why do you fear Jim's presence?"

McCoy sighed. He picked up the snow pod again, if only to toy with it. "I don't want to tell you, Spock." We'll see how far this much honesty goes.

"Am I then the cause of this friction?"

"No!" Shocked, he swallowed and tried again. "No. This was...inevitable, Spock." He searched for the right words to describe the situation. "I don't want to put Jim in the middle of me and Carol."

Spock was silent as he drank. "I find it difficult to fathom the anger Dr. Marcus has towards you."

McCoy sighed; it sounded more like a groan. "She's angry, Spock. Nobody's ever prepared for the loss of their child..! All those quarrels we had in the past--I certainly never thought it would come to this, and neither did she. Every thing I ever said to her, every attack on her defense, she's remembering that now. David's dead and all she has now is Jim, whom she kicked out, you'll recall, so she could keep David to herself. I *still* can't believe she never told him until the last moment who his father was!" McCoy leaned his head in his hands for a moment. "Messed up as I might be feeling, Carol doesn't have anybody." His hands were shaking. He stared at them and pushed himself to his feet. "This is wasting time. I've got to make some calls...transfer my inheritance to the twins and Luthor."

"That can surely wait, Leonard." Spock was honest-to-god chiding him. "For when you see them."

"*I won't be seeing them!*" Glass rattled the walls. "The twins made it damn clear that it would be in poor taste for a father who was never there, break tradition and attend his daughter's funeral!"

McCoy's throat had gone from raw to volcanic. Oddly enough, he had no memory at all of screaming. Or of breaking the teacup in his hands, but there it was, its two halves neatly stacked into each other on top of the dishcloth used to clean up the drink. And Spock was silently spraying plastiskin over the gash. The doctor would have felt Biblically embarrassed at the role reversal were it not for the way he felt--shaky.

"Our species are not so different." Spock was saying, or was that rich voice throbbing inside his tired mind? Sometimes, rarely, they communicated without words. Spock's voice was the soft skin of a drum, thrumming deeply under the faintest tap. "Humans use the surface emotions to relieve what lies beneath, while Vulcans take to the serenity of logic. But both seek control."

"I guess." McCoy agreed thinly, without spirit. It seemed the safest thing to say. He flexed, working the gash, and refused the offer of salicocin. "No, that'd tear my guts up now."

"Then you should eat first."

McCoy gave in. Any indignity was better than going up against Spock. Or at least easier.

Spock poured more tea. "I forget Southerners like theirs sweet."

"Don't apologize. That's usually reserved for hot-weather meals and late-night conversation." Spock didn't understand the reference. "The tea is sweetened from panella, molasses, honey, or evaporated sugarcane. All rich in trace elements and minerals we lose during the course of a hot day. But we try not to drink it sweet when we're eating, to keep the palate from dulling. We've also learned we fill up faster on sugary drinks."

"I see." Spock lifted his eyebrows. "When I was younger, I never searched for logic in humans."

"We *have* adapted a bit since Mark Twain wrote against slavery." McCoy said dryly. "But its just as well you didn't look. I wouldn't have shown it to you anyway." He grinned, feeling better at the familiar dig.

" were deeply concerned with showing me there was more to the Universe than logic." Spock admitted. After a moment, the words spilled out of him. "And for all your talk, you had no ego to bruise either."

Shiver. "How so?"

"You constantly set yourself in our...arguments...where I could not help but win. My defeating you in our admittedly mismatched battles gave me a reputation for wit I did not deserve."

"But you grew into it." McCoy pointed out. "You learned how to give and take with us humans."

"After a fashion." Spock confessed. "But really, doctor, was I supposed to believe you had forgotten about my superior hearing when you told Jim I was the finest Officer in the fleet?"

Caught. McCoy heard himself laugh softly. "You wouldn't have taken a 'glad you're back with us' from me at the time."

"No." Spock was smiling slightly. On him, it was as strong as a broad grin.

"So...when did you realize I was kidding?"

"My father."

"SAREK?" That was a shocker.

"He commented on our friction and I said, 'Dr. McCoy is a poor strategist.' His eyebrows ascended." (Spock's did also at the memory). And he responded, 'A master chess player cannot be a poor strategist."

"Ouch." McCoy winced.

"When did you play chess with him?"

"I was trying to get him to stay in bed longer. So I figured, I'd stake him on a chess game. If he won, I'd let him be confined to quarters. But if he lost he had to stay another day in Sickbay."

Spock mulled that over. "You tricked him? You devised a contest in which either way he would convalesce, which was your intention."

"Not really...I figured he'd feel better if he beat me, and he'd THINK he'd won if he got upgraded to his own rooms. How was I supposed to know he'd lose?"

Spock had that letters-to-home look on his face again. "You expected to lose."

"Yeah." McCoy said sourly. "I had a helluva time staging a good loss for the next morning. God. I knew that if I threw the game, he'd know it. So I skipped my morning caffeine and offered a 3-d instead of the usual 2-d I play. Sure enough, after only two hours, my shaky fingers slip up on a gambit, and Sarek wins."

McCoy stopped for a moment. "Brrr."

Spock was shaking his head, very human. "You prefer 2-d chess?"

"Most southerners do."

Spock's expression suddenly changed. "Is that why you never played chess with Jim?"

"Mostly." McCoy admitted. "I could never play a game of anything with our captain. He'd keep at it until he won. And I have enough in my life without making a contest of what I enjoy."

They finished the light dinner, and McCoy cleaned the kitchen while Spock sent a letter home, fingers flying over the elaborate Lingua Vulcana syllabic keyboard he always took with him. The doctor found the soft tap of keys soothing. Like rain on a tin roof. Actually, it surprised him to be feeling better at all.

Natira had been ready to go, he reminded himself again. And Joanna...she knew her work had risks, and she knew stupid things happened to everybody. (She once told me she was grateful of every day, that she never left the house angry or with any ends loose. But no parent expects or wants to survive the loss of their children...)

Two images overwhelmed him at the same time, stark as a lightning bolt:

The news article reporting Joanna's shuttle wreck.

Jim sinking back into his chair, eyes glazed and face stiff, pushing McCoy away, holding on to his hate for now, until he could turn it on Kruge.

Mortified at the intensity of two memories hitting all at once (and they were truly simultaneous, as if both divisions of his brain had suddenly started functioning at the same time), the doctor leaned his elbows on the narrow counter, staring at the pattern of Maplewood next to his wristwatch. Jim's body, sagging backwards as if Kruge had physically assaulted him. Falling, losing his balance, his mind shutting down against the blow.

And if had not been David, then who? Saavik, who was every bit Spock's daughter as Joanna was Leonard's? Or Spock himself?


Light harp music began to ripple over the apartment. McCoy had every belief he was listening to a recording until he straightened up and turned. Spock was sitting as neatly as a cat in the center of a rocking chair, running his fingers over his lyre. He recognized the slow melody as one often practiced with Nyota.

Oh the Drum is the sound of the heart,
The harp is the sound of the mind...

He relaxed under its spell, knowing Spock had been aware of his sudden mental hurricane and taken immediate steps to calm him down. He was grateful. Pain had left him exhausted and wrung out.

The notes rippled away into the air, sank into his mind and stayed. And when Spock finally stopped playing, his audience remained calm and relaxed.

(For now) Spock considered as he ran his fingers over the pale wood. (He is still lost. Perhaps Jim can do something I cannot.)

But the Vulcan felt the first stirrings of doubt at this. Jim and Leonard's friendship had changed in a subtle way after the katra. There was no denying that some of Spock had remained inside the doctor, just as the reverse was true. Jim, thankfully, never was anything but himself, but he was still having trouble reading the new body language of his closest friends. Not even Spock would have guessed this outcome, to have his personality altered in such puzzling ways.

McCoy took a deep breath. For a moment he did not carry the extra weight of his years; he merely looked too thin, and too tired. "Your style has changed a lot over the years."

Spock lifted his eyebrow. "Has it? In what way have you noticed?"

"It's mostly your attitude." McCoy lifted his own eyebrows, both of them, human fashion. (To Vulcans, this was a gesture of extreme startlement but in humans, a way of making a point). "You're less repetitive. More...intuitive, not that I'm intending to insult you."

"Ah." Spock looked down at his lyre and automatically began stroking the polish of the softly gleaming wood. "That does not insult me."

No, of course not. Neither of them had ever *really* been mortally offended at each other anyway, once they had learned to get together. But the digs and insults had been a game, and fun for both. It was not a mistake to say the Refusion had spoiled that fun. It was impossible to pretend anymore.

"Leonard..." Spock was hesitant. "I do not want to see you pull away from Jim."

McCoy breathed through his nose, a tired gesture, and leaned his forehead against his hand as he slumped in the only other chair in the room. "I'm not...pulling away, as you say, Spock. But I am caught between the figurative rock and the hardpan. Carol's needing Jim right now, and Jim needs her too, but not as deeply as she needs him." He was silent a moment, his lips pursed. "If I know my basic human nature, Carol's going to be pretty messed up over my own bad news. Guilt was inspiring her to harass me; I'm afraid to say what her next step would be."

Spock recalled Carol's bloodshot eyes and swollen face as she sat behind Jim during his transmission. Jim too, had looked terrible. He understood it was common among humans to relieve their own tragedies when something similar happened to another. He decided this was the case.

"Carol Marcus slapped you across the face at a public dinner, Leonard." Spock could not keep the doubt out of his voice. "Do you think she will alter her behavior?"

McCoy looked exhausted. "If I'm lucky, really, really lucky, she'll apologize by dropping out of my life and avoiding me. I can't handle her guilt right now." In a sudden frenzy, he ran his fingers through his hair. "Geez. I don't even recognize her from that little blonde lab technician Gary Mitchell set up with Jim! I miss the old Carol. Wish she was back."

Spock stroked the strings of his kissar, sending a ripple through the air.

McCoy instantly relaxed. "That sounds like a rainbow when you do that."

Spock cocked his eyebrow. "How can sound have a color?"

McCoy shrugged. "How can color have texture? My grandfather could tell different colors without ever looking--he could touch them. I remember especially he said the color yellow felt "slippery like triangles."

"I do not understand how that could describe a color." Spock confessed.

McCoy smiled again. "I can't explain it to you, Spock...I understood what he meant when he said those things, but..." Thin shoulders lifted and fell. "I guess when you're using an uncommon sense to garner an impression, your language is going to be confused."


"Not fascinating, hm?"

"If I were to confess my fascination honestly," Spock explained, "I would be quickly deemed redundant." He was gratified to get a soft, surprised smile off the doctor. "Captain Uhura tells me you often gave her insight on her tuning."

"I can hear some tones better than others." McCoy said calmly. "I was trained in the minors form of music. Archaic as that may sound."

"Do you play an instrument?"

McCoy was so long in replying Spock knew the answer was a yes and no. "I used to." The doctor watched the play of light on the metal strings. "Worked on the Irish harp for a while. That was the first instrument they made me play."

"Your family forced your creativity?"

"Didn't you know? That's a fine human tradition. It falls under the 'building character' code. But I gave it up. Bad enough I had to have soft hands for surgical training." McCoy scowled. "I couldn't stand having long nails too."

Spock actually frowned. "Why would you have long nails?"

"Um. Irish harp isn't like yours or Nyota's. Its strung on brass, and you play with your nails to achieve a ringing, bell-like sound. You'd know if you ever heard it. I have some of Blind O'Carolan's music around somewhere if you want to listen to it." A sudden smile lit his thin face. "That was another thing. Harpers are traditionally blind among the Irish. So I wasn't really anxious to learn it. I took up the hardangar instead."

"That is a violin?"

"A fiddle." McCoy said clearly. "A five-string, often steel-stringed fiddle."

"It is not a violin?"

"No. It is a fiddle."

"Do you still play?"

"Oh...once in a while." McCoy glanced away. "I sorta...lost the urge when my father died."

"He was your teacher?"

"...yeah." McCoy examined his fingernails. "It' emotional instrument, Spock. Takes a lot out of the player and the audience."

"But it must give something in return." Spock protested. "No instrument takes without returning."

"Hardangars are a difficult instrument." McCoy said obscurely. "Look, I'm going to go take a walk...get some time to myself. If you want to turn in, take whichever bunk you want."

"Would you not prefer the lower?"

McCoy rolled his eyes. "I took the top bunk when I was in Rura Penthe with Jim. Smartest decision I *ever* made. You need to ask him about that some time."

Spock finished his typed letter home and searched for hardangar references while the transmission went through. McCoy's odd comment about the instrument being difficult was soon clear. The drone was a unique aspect of human musical culture, even though they rarely thought of it. And it was especially unique among McCoy's ethnic group (his father's group, that was; his mother's was devoutly Creole). Humans were psychically responsive to two vibrations: the beat, and the drone. He recalled that Leonard was rarely able to listen to any music with strong rhythm to it since the Refusion had opened his psychic senses. It would seem from the brief information available, the drone was even more intense. This was a deliberate aspect of Northern culture, where pieces of music still claimed to have been taken from insights into the "Otherworld." A skilled fiddler, Spock learned, had the ability to put his audience into a deep trance, or himself, or both. These trances were considered the source for the unique music.

Despite himself, Spock thought it: "Fascinating."

Spock was talking on the commscreen when McCoy came back, smelling of warm seawater and exotic flowers. Lady Amanda looked out from the screen and smiled at him.

"Leonard, hello. It's good to see you again."

"As always, Lady Amanda." The life and warmth in her eyes was like Nyota's. You couldn't help feeling better. "And thanks for calling me by my rightful name. I appreciate it."

"Yes, I can tell I've scandalized my son dreadfully." Amanda chuckled. "But I must go and leave you to deal with him."

"Mother," Spock said.

"Spock." Amanda smiled. A look traded between the two that made McCoy hide a smile. He waved as the link ended.

"I think I need some more of that tea." McCoy commented.

"Do you not wish to sleep?"

"No." He thought of the inheritance account he'd just done, and wondered what his grandchildren would do with it.

This time, he poured cane juice in the tea as Spock joined him again in the small kitchen.

"My parents saw my letter arriving and chose to speak in person." Spock said.

"That's good."

"I asked my father about the chess game."

"Oh, Lord. What'd he say?"

"That it is one of his favorite 'anecdotes to share with other Ambassadors' whenever the subject of 'polite manipulation' comes up."

"God." McCoy spoke to the ceiling. "Now I'm an anecdote. That's the ENTERPRISE for you. Her officers never die, they just keep the life of the party going."" He slugged his tea down and began mixing more.

Spock made a point of looking at the timepiece. "It is late, Leonard."

"I slept on the way."

"Not well, I imagine."

What an odd silence, McCoy thought. They were beyond dissembling. But he wasn't used to this two-lane freeway of honesty. "No, not well, Spock. I often have nightmares's a good spell when I get four hours' uninterrupted sleep."

Spock was slow in answering. "Do you know why?"

"I have...various reasons." He wondered how far this confession should go and grew light headed at the idea.

Spock steepled his fingers. "There is a mental technique I could show is very simple after one learns to shield, and you did that very well."

McCoy hesitated, caught himself doing it, and knew he had no reason to refuse. Just old habits and fears getting in his way.

"Let me get ready for bed first."

He re-wet his hair again to keep cool and changed to pull string loose trousers. Spock was in his meditation robe--did he always take it with him? Answering Spock's unspoken gestures, he laid down on the bottom bunk.

It was simple. Spock's long fingers touched the meld points although there was no need save for politeness of his own (rather like knocking on a door he already had access to) and traced down a deep place, deep as dark water in his mind. (Follow) that mental communication said. And, not knowing how, the doctor did it.


The doorbell rang again. McCoy reluctantly realized it would not go away. He ground his teeth, blurry from lack of sleep. He was just barely aware that he and Spock had fallen asleep in each other's arms inside the narrow bunk.

(How did we...) McCoy groggily stared at the floor. He was less than one inch from rolling off. (Keep from...falling off?)

Spock radiated annoyance that somebody would wake up McCoy. While the doctor still processed the fact that he had managed not to fall to the floor in the middle of the night, the Vulcan maneuvered with passing grace off the mattress and padded to the door in bare feet.

Jim Kirk stood in the doorway, surprised to see Spock and McCoy sharing a room. "Spock, Bones..." He began uncertainly.

"M'makin' coffee." McCoy scrubbed at his hair, wondering if he could get his brain going.

"*I* will make it." Spock expected no protests. "Jim, please come in."

McCoy was grateful. He dropped a triangle of panella in his drink and added enough half and half to fill the brim.

"God, Bones, when did you start putting milk in your coffee?"

"Since I sublet my brain." McCoy grumbled, wagging the spoon at the serene Spock. "Can't hardly eat anything animal related now. But dairy seems permissible to his vegetarian sensibilities."

Jim chuckled but gave Spock a second look. "You're not going to start drinking whiskey, are you?"

"Certainly not. Bourbon is preferable."

McCoy nearly got coffee up his nose at that.

"Bones, I'm sorry I couldn't come earlier."

"I know, Jim." McCoy ran his fingertips over his eyelids, feeling how paper-thin they'd become with age. "It's ok. I know you would have come if it was possible." He managed a wry smile. "At least you didn't have to hijack anything to get down here."

Jim smiled weakly. "I'm going to be haunted by that for the rest of my life, aren't I?"

"Good thing we humans don't live as long as Vegans then." McCoy passed the chocolate pot to Jim. "Try this."

"Hmn." Jim laced a spoonful into his cup. After a moment he lifted his eyes. "Carol...sends her regrets."

McCoy's reaction to that was subtle. He let his breath escape through his nose. Acknowledging. "Is she doing any better?"

"I...don't really know, Bones." As they watched, Jim curled his fingers around an uncomfortably hot mug and stared at the blackness inside. "She's gone home to her parents' estate. And I'm staying at the Base."

"Is that guilt I'm hearing?" McCoy murmured doubtfully.

"I guess." Jim looked at Spock. Spock tucked his hands deep inside his robe.

"Jim, There is no reason why you should feel guilt to Leonard over this."

"I'm involved in this, you know." Jim snapped. "You think I didn't know about Carol slapping you across the face at that state dinner?" His face flushed and he looked down again. "I didn't know what to do, honestly."

"Jim, Carol needed you to get through this." McCoy sighed and rested his fingers on Jim's wrist. "You think I don't know what you're going through? I never got to spend time with Joanna the way I needed to. Her mother made that impossible. And Carol did the same with you. What the two of you are sharing is loss, not the combined joys of parenthood. And that's a heavy burden. Carol's going through a lot of guilt right now over the decisions she made. I can't tell you not to resent her for that. But I know she's punishing herself."

Jim's smile was long in coming, and wavery. "I should be comforting you, you know. Not the other way around."

"Sorry." McCoy lifted one eyebrow, Vulcan-style, and pointedly fingered the white caduceus on his fatigue shirt. "Doctors are never off duty. Didn't you know that?"

"What are you trying to do, apply for sainthood?"

"God no. D'you see me with a halo?" McCoy snickered. "Ok, come to think of it, I'll get a white meditation robe, and stand next to Spock and we'll follow behind you. How's that?"

Spock expressed his opinion with his eyebrows, conjuring the first laugh from Jim in weeks.

Jim took a deep breath as soon as he was alone with Spock. "How is he really?"

Spock hesitated. "In turmoil." He murmured. "He is feeling ill, a reaction to the stress of his losses, no doubt. And he is worried for you."

"Somebody needs to worry about him for once." Jim stuffed his hands in his pockets. He looked lost in civilian clothing, out of place. "All those years of being reckless are coming back to haunt me, Spock. Why shouldn't he worry? I've done crazy things to his head."

"At least you mediated our quarrels." Spock offered dryly.

"This is true." Jim blinked in the bright sunlight. "Listen. You know about Harriman's Launching."

Spock did not quite sigh. "Yes."

Jim smiled slightly. "Once he realizes he doesn't have to prove anything, he should make a fine captain." Jim leaned his back against the warm red bricks. "If I asked him to be there, he'd go. I don't want him to go. Stick close to him. I'll concoct a story about how I don't want you to go or something. But his color scared me in there."

Spock was a moment replying. "I understand. But you realize, you will have to become a better dissembler than you normally are, to deceive him."

Jim chuckled. His eyes were more green than gold in this light. "I've got Uhura helping me with this. Don't worry."

Spock was puzzled. "Very well. Will you tell me, or will I learn later?"

"Later." Jim grinned. "It's going to be me and Scotty and Pavel. Hikaru's deep in space and he sure doesn't want to be there. Can you blame him? His daughter Demora'd be swamped with shots. Father and daughter. Perfect PR."

Spock shook his head. "There was a time when I believed only humans capable of gossip mongering. Now that I am older and wiser, I realize it is a fundamental fact of the idle."

"You've got that right."

Spock returned from the TransPort station to find McCoy asleep again. He had no wish to disturb him. If he were weary enough that the strong caffeine had no effect on his system, then he needed rest as badly as Jim said.

With a little time on his hands, the Vulcan pondered his options. He rarely had an opening in his schedule. He decided to take advantage of the Apartments' large sauna. A pool was a preferable place for bathing, but to expect humans to curb their playful instincts around water was impossible. A sauna was very different. Leonard had once admonished a young crewman: "Behave in the sauna as you would in church!" The heat would be pleasant on his skin.

"Hi, Bones. Did I wake you up?"

McCoy ran his fingers through his hair. "Doctors don't sleep, Jim." He grumbled gently. "What's up?"

"I need you to do me a favor."

"Hmn? What?"

"You know about Harriman."

"God." McCoy chuffed, very softly.

"My feelings. Uhura just told me that the media plans on grabbing Spock when he shows up. Wants to run him through the wringer over his training cruise."

"Again?" McCoy whispered, appalled. "When are they gonna give up?"

"Worse than you think. Leon Rossetti is going to be there."

"Oh, no." McCoy couldn't even swear. "That...oh no." In the darkness, McCoy straightened his shoulders and sank into the chair. "Whatcha want, Jim? Me to slip a happy pill?"

"No, I don't want Spock to be within 200 miles of this debacle. I can handle the media on my end just fine--something tells me I'll get more grief from Harriman than Rossetti."

"You're probably right. Punk kid. I changed his daddy's diapers on Station K-4 when we were under Klingon attack, remember? Why don't you remind him of that fact."

Jim chuckled over the frequency. "Spock told me you weren't feeling well. Can you convince him you need looking after? Enough that he'd be better served to stay in Atlanta with you?"

Dead silence for almost thirty seconds.

"You want me to pull something over Spock."

"You've done it before, Bones. Plenty of times."

"Under extenuating circumstances each time."

"And Rossetti isn't extenuating?"

"Um. You have a point there." McCoy sighed. "I'll see what I can do. But you'd better tell him yourself that I need looking after. Otherwise he ain't gonna fall for it."

"Leave it to me and Uhura." Jim smiled.

McCoy pondered the black screen for a moment, then padded barefoot out of the apartment.

The sauna was dark. The only light came from the thick glassine door. McCoy entered and decided he could just make out Spock's naked body on the top shelf. The Vulcan could have been a cat in a pool of sunlight.

Tsk. The doctor politely poured a scoop of water on the red-hot konnos stones, smiling as a wave of force-evaporated droplets struck his skin like needles. He heard Spock stirring, smoothing the large towel underneath his body.

"I just had an interesting call from Jim." McCoy's rough voice sounded even rougher to the Vulcan's ears. "It seems I'm supposed to fake an illness so you won't go to Harriman's Launch."

"Indeed?" Spock hazarded.

"IN-deed." McCoy said dryly. "And you no doubt told Jim you would make sure *I* wouldn't go anywhere near the launch?"

Spock sat up slowly. "Do you find Jim so transparent?"

"Uh, huh. Not sure why he wants both of us to be absent, but I guess we'll find out later." Spock was keeping his nictating eyelids in, so he really couldn't see more of the doctor than a dark outline of thin shoulders against the doorway's light.

"I would say you are right."

"The last time you agreed with me it was so I'd turn my back on you in Engineering." McCoy was smiling; Spock could hear it in his words.

"I had no time to argue logically." Spock picked up the thread.

"Yeah, no kidding." McCoy leaned his head back on the shelf below Spock's, an ersatz pillow. His hair was already darkening with sweat, making him look a little younger than before, or perhaps it was his relaxed stance. Spock had to open his inner eyelid to be sure. "Ah, well." There was a moment while the two men rested in the heat and steam. "I'm glad this is happening you know?"

"What is happening?"

"The Launch. A new captain that has nothing at all to do with us. You know. We had a good long time with the Enterprise, but its high time it ended."

"I thought 'high time' meant a good time, as in celebration."

" means that too. High time. As in, time's up."

Spock thought about that. "Your dialect is laden with metaphor."

"Country people ain't all that linear, Spock. Can't you tell?"

"The insight has escaped me." Spock admitted dryly.

"You'd lose your mind down here, you know that?"

"If such an unlikely event occurred," Spock answered, "I would know where...or look for it first."

McCoy snickered. "Good one. You're getting better at this." He fell silent again, and the two men could feel the thinking going through the small room.

"I don't know how much longer I'll be staying here." The doctor said at last. "I just got a note from Luthor...he's the youngest, you know. Funny thing is, he's the only one with kids." Spock realized he was speaking of Joanna's children. "He wants me to come by the island for a visit."

"Your grandson lives on an island?"

"It's a tea plantation." McCoy lifted his head to look at Spock. "Just off the coast. Ceylons, mostly. Not all that big, as far as islands go--'bout 3 miles. But its private. And this time of year, it'd be just me and him."

"Where would Luthor's family be?"

"They'll be at the Tradesman's Guild, selling the new crop." McCoy paused and added thoughtfully. "Y'know, I wonder if Pavel's folks will be there." Silence was his answer. "What's the matter Spock?"

"I was thinking that I know almost nothing about you, Leonard." The Vulcan sounded abashed.

"You know what's important, don't you? How like a Vulcan to nitpick everything...even their own shortcomings." McCoy snickered. "It's really the Soma family estate, but Luthor's the only one who had the knack or inclination for the business." McCoy stretched his loosening limb slowly. "Why don't you come down with me?"

Spock hesitated. "Perhaps I should."

"Perhaps? Well, let me know when you make up your mind."

"Doctor, I am hardly the one with the reputation for vague generalizations."

"I'm not vague. I'm perfectly concise."

"Leonard, comparing Admiral Nogura's face to an empty glass of buttermilk leaves much to be translated."

"Have you ever seen an empty glass of buttermilk?"

"If it had buttermilk in it, how could it be empty?"

"It looks like I'll have to just show you."

Spock sighed.

McCoy continued to stretch. "Have you heard from Saavik yet?"

"She plans to leave for Sigma Gamma tomorrow."

"Whew. Saavik with Sigmans. Nice alliteration, but I wonder how she'll get along."

"The Sigmans have the highest computer technology in the Federation."

"Besides the much-higher beings who happen to live inside our space, you mean. Like the Shore Leave Planet's computer."


"What a kid." McCoy frankly admired. He grimaced at a needle of pain in a long-neglected neck. "Ow."

Spock didn't even ask. He simply reached down and began massaging the doctor's neck. McCoy instantly relaxed under his touch. Fingers that could detect weak circuitry had no problems with discovering knotted muscle.

"Mn, you keep that up, I'll fall asleep." McCoy warned, already thick-voiced.

Spock paused. "Would you prefer this continued elsewhere?"

McCoy didn't answer at first. "If you're finished here. This is a public place and I don't want to offend someone's sensibilities."

Spock did not understand when Leonard was saying. As he was still in physical contact, that puzzlement was conveyed.

McCoy chuckled under his breath as he reached for his robe. "Social mores, Spock. There'd be a chance of some *very* ignorant person thinking we were lovers."

"Ah." Spock took his own robe from the doctor and wrapped it up. "With our reputation for conflict, surely that would not be logical."

McCoy laughed again. "You never met my ex, did you?" He murmured thoughtfully. "Let's go. My turn to cook."

Spock's skin, dry and thirsty from too much time in space, was instantly rejuvenated as he stepped out of the shuttle. The wind of the Outer Banks was wet and salty and wonderfully cool--he judged it 100 F or so. The gray Atlantic water rippled toward him in soft, mesmerizing lines. Seagulls skated past his head, barely moving their wings.

Water-blackened oak planks creaked under his boots. The Vulcan slung his bag up and began walking off the dock and onto the island itself. The sand was gray as the water, white where the sun dried it, and past the dunes and barrier plants of wild rose, sea oat and ice plants the native jungle began. Spock slipped in dappled shade, stepping carefully through blooming and fruiting passionflower, the honey and lemon scents blending thickly.

At one time, Spock had gotten used to the notion that a "plantation" was something out of the vids. The reality was charmingly different; the low Camilla bushes had been trimmed by the August harvest; grape arbors broke the monotony of the lines at even intervals, and domestic fowl foraged insects and scratched shelter under the tea bushes. Tobacco bloomed along the hard sand walk. And the plantation itself was an old tobacco barn. Nor was it a large one. Fruit grew close to the porch; a Kentucky coffee tree mingled with a peach that curved its branches under the porch eves. Schizandra twined up the coffee tree, its red berries brilliant.

McCoy was already on the shaded porch, leaning his chin in his hand and smiling. Spock knew the thin man with iron-gray hair was a great deal improved from the shaking, influenza-wracked mourner at Jim's rain-sodden funeral. Spock had actually attempted to prevent the doctor from going, terrified that the weather and illness would finish off the pained body.

But McCoy had said the only words that would sway him: "Jim needs people who know how to celebrate his death, not governmental kissups. I'm not ready to die yet, Spock."

Spock lifted his eyebrow to see McCoy was wearing a light shirt and canvas pants. Despite the cool of the air he was barefoot. "You're looking better yourself." Leonard drawled softly.

Spock hesitated, unbalanced.

"No, I didn't read your mind. How could I, without you knowing?" McCoy scoffed. "It was written all over you. Are all telepathic races so visually obtuse?"

Spock blinked. "You may have a point." He said slowly.

"C'mon up and have some tea."

Spock dropped his back on the stone floor and settled at the end of a long, rough plank picnic table. The glass was cool and wet; he was as thirsty as his skin. "When did your family reconcile with you?"

"Lonzo, my son in law, helped." McCoy said gently. "And Kufe. And her husband Ron. But it really ended with Joanna's farewell tapes. I guess she knew something like this would happen with the twins." The doctor looked wry. "She also reminded them that they always "had better things to do" when I came to visit. It's a waste, but there's room for growth. Luthor left me the island to myself so I could do some thinking about well as deal with what happened."

Spock watched as the doctor's head dropped down. Age was removing the nonessentials from the human, leaving him smaller, frailer, but the fire that lived in his mind shone through his blue eyes and watching them, Spock could momentarily forget that Time had touched the man at all. Foolish to think that--Spock was not the agile youth he had once been. 70 was supposed to be mature to a Vulcan, but Vulcans tended to age faster when they were removed from their home. That and his hybrid nature guaranteed he would not live as long as say, T'Pau, but then, Spock had no desire to live for its own sake. It was the quality, not the length, that determined life. Had not Jim proven that?

Feeling his gaze, McCoy lifted his head up to smile, and for a moment, Spock felt as if Time had fled; the crooked smile and crinkle around the eyes was the same as it had ever been. His hair was gray, not brown, but the longer length suited him, parted on the left and flowing just past his ears. Spock could see the metal links of his "dog tags" around his neck. Perhaps he looked so healthy because he had developed a tan again. A strange talent, that. But undeniably useful.

"I am relieved to hear your family wishes peace." Spock folded his fingers before him.

"Well, enough about me--what about you?"


McCoy donned a patient look. "Something's on your mind, and I think it's family related. You might have a few years physical difference between us, but you're still pretty young. So. Are your parents asking you about your single status again?"

Spock finally remembered to drink. "Astute." He then said something that surprised himself. "I do not know what to tell them."

"Normal enough." McCoy agreed. "It's easier for humans. After you reach a certain age, your parents CAN'T ask you about that."

"Enviable." Spock admitted. "But there is more to it than simply marriage."

"Oh?" McCoy cocked his head to one side. "Is it the matter of bonding that worries you?"

"...yes." Spock finally put his glass down. "The...woman in question is not adverse to a bonding, but she does not desire a deep marriage. This would be her second marriage, as mine."

"Oh, my. A widow?"

"Yes." Spock said with difficulty. "Perhaps in different circumstances, I would be content with Sarek's offer."

"What is it that bothers you, Spock?"

"Leonard, the woman in question is not against me, but her...emotions...are with another."

"Oh." McCoy whistled. "She's willing to marry your name and property, but not you yourself."

"Yes." Spock hoped that did not sound pathetic. He did not want pity. Of course, Leonard would hardly pity him. "But at the same time, Leonard, the matter is not so...unemotional as I have said. There is mutual affection between us; we have known each other for years. And her family is desperately poor. Her parents would welcome me for that reason alone."

McCoy's eyebrows went up...and stayed. "A mercy marriage?" He murmured. "You're willing to do this?"

Spock cleared his throat. "She would not demand I stay at home. She would not demand my presence."

"Spock..." McCoy was rubbing his face. "I'm sorry if this'll make you turn green, but as a human, I would say there's not much point in a loveless marriage! Are you really wanting that?"

Spock sighed. "Leonard, I have been single since my wedding to T'Pring. The marriage I would make with this woman would indeed be about property and name, but we would not deny the other the freedom of going to who we prefer when the time must come."

McCoy blinked. "An open marriage?"

"I believe that is what I said."

"O-kay..." Leonard sounded doubtful, and looked it. He drummed his fingers on the tabletop. "I'm not going to tell you its a good or bad idea, Spock. I just want you to be...happy."

"Happy." Spock repeated in a flat tone.

"Is there someone for you?"

"That is not something I will have to concern myself with for six more years, Leonard."

"Ok. We'll drop it...for now." Leonard spared Spock another eyebrow and got to his feet. He returned to the task he'd been on when Spock had arrived, which was to gently remove small white peaches from the overhanging tree. Spock watched him in the comfortable silence. Despite jokes of too much drink and stress, his hands were as sure and steady as the young man who had first beamed aboard the Enterprise. He barely touched the ripe fruit to set them in his palm. Although he was precariously on the edge of the porch, he never once looked down or lost his balance.

(I never noticed him because Jim was there.) Spock contemplated. (He knew we never saw anyone else but each other.)


Spock hadn't expected the words to come out of his mouth. "Leonard, is it regret so much of the past? To magnify one's errors?"

McCoy turned around slowly and let the fruit rest in a wooden bowl full of pale yellow grapes (scuppernongs. He somehow knew they were scuppernongs).

"Yes." The doctor answered quietly. "It's common. But an error is one thing. To knowingly repeat failed actions is folly." He checked the tree over one more time and made his way back to his chair, still light on his feet despite his age. Memory's a funny thing, Spock. We tend to remember how stupid we were not to do something, and forget how frightened, or how ignorant we were. Most humans have a horror of going blind into a situation, Jim notwithstanding..." McCoy suddenly grinned. "Listen to me yammer. What does this have to do with your being single?"

Spock had remembered his tea again. "I was afraid, Bones." Leonard had mentioned Jim; Spock paid silent homage to Jim by using his nickname for the doctor. "I hid in logic. I have hidden in the collation of data all my life, and I have occasionally, wondered if I was not working hard enough. Else why would my doubts return?"

"Lord, Spock, you think you were alone? Haven't you heard that no man is an island? We can't be--isolated individuals collapse in on themselves--like alcoholics do. Or, like Khan, become hard and unyielding. People can't grow without each other to help out. It gives us a constant and new perspective."

"I was too defensive to understand that, Leonard. much more than physical. We are a telepathic species. We need mental contact with our families when it is possible." Spock paused. Sarek had never melded with him. And he did not know why. "I have experienced bonds to know that...there is a danger I will settle...for.."

"Second best?"

"Second best." Spock repeated. "I of course cannot say physical contact in unimportant..."

McCoy gallantly restrained himself.

"...but lack of physical contact..."

"Can you *please* just say sex?" McCoy begged. "It's not a scary word, y'know. Or you *would* know if you used it more often."

Spock looked at him.

McCoy held his ground.

Blue met black.

Tempered steel struck flint.

"Lack of sex," Spock spoke with excruciating slowness, just to prove to the doctor that he was not afraid of a mere word, "would only kill me in unrequited blood fever. But the lack of mental contact is equally murderous." Spock was suddenly exhausted. Voicing his troubles had given them life, it appeared. "My telepathy is unusually high for a Vulcan. Did you know that?"

McCoy thought of the varied species Spock had been able to contact over the years--more than any Vulcan, or any one telepath had. "Not surprised."

"My telepathy allows me to be more aware of my species' group mind. single status."

McCoy leaned back, thinking of Sarpedion. "Ok...if this is too blunt, I can only apologize. But I've always been amazed that you and Jim never became lovers."

Spock felt illogically defensive. "How do you know we were not?"

McCoy looked to Heaven and spoke to his Irish god: "Lord, have mercy. Spock do you really think you could fool me? As intense as the two of you were, mind and spirit, a physical relationship would have been...well, it wouldn't have been nearly as intense as the sparks that flew between you. Frankly speaking from a human viewpoint, nobody would have been surprised. Jesus Wept, Spock! If you *had* been lovers, Jim would have said something when he found your katra in my head--probably would have thrown me to the floor and ripped my clothes off!"

Spock choked, momentarily stunned. It was too much for McCoy, who had to hold on to his chair to keep from falling out of it.

Night was soft here. Spock still found it amazing that Georgia could be such a wild land. There was almost no light pollution when the sky darkened. He had not complained during the brief tour over the island but McCoy began building up a fire while Spock shook sand from his boots and donned his heavy robe over his outer clothing. The doctor had shown no evidence of tiring that day, and with his usual efficiency of movement, had a coffee tray ready with baked potatoes. "I usually sleep on the porch," the doctor nodded at the hammock strung up on the eastern side. "But any of the rooms here are available. The futon's closer to what you're used to, isn't it?"

"There should be no problem." Spock took up the cinnamon mill and grated it over his coffee, which McCoy considered normal. Then he grated the nutmeg mill over his potatoes, which McCoy did not.

The silence between them was common but not unpleasant. The Refusion had taken away the nonessentials of conversation anyway. Spock had something on his mind, something big, and he had been *watching* McCoy all damn day. It was to the point that Leonard wanted to ask if Vulcans had infra-red vision or something. But he found himself acting absolutely, utterly,, most boringly normal instead, as if Spock didn't have him under an ocular-damn-spotlight.

And, he was doing it. Right. Now.

Despite a lifetime of facing down the damndest people (Vulcan matriarchs being the ultimate victory challenge), McCoy was starting to get really rattled.

Spock was looking curiously at the chocolate liquor. "I thought you were abstaining."

"This is a special occasion." McCoy poured a shot into their cups. "And seeing you laugh today was a pretty special occasion."

"I did not laugh."

"Chortled, then. Same difference."

McCoy had been prepared for almost any comeback, but not the sight of Spock becoming pensive in the firelight. "Spock?" He asked gently. Almost touching his hand but resting it close by instead. Their auras hummed static together, Vulcandryheat, and Humancoolwater.

"I...later, Leonard." Spock's voice was harsh as bitter coffee,, and as dark and rich.

And he was watching him again. Unlike the island tour where there had been comfortable space there was a distinct lack of it here.

He felt the Vulcan's eyes acutely, focusing on a hand, or a wrist. Spock was studying the firelight against his face, his hair, examining even the part in his hair, every fingernail, the scar on his arm from Neural, the way his short sleeve fitted about his shoulders. Everything he could see from above the table. Everything.

He was grateful when Spock began to speak.

"Jim and I...perhaps we might have bonded if time had been different for us." His dark eyes had drifted half-shut, turning inward with the memory. "I do not know. We were terrified of our closeness as we were exhilarated by alcohol affects humans. But there was a part of Jim that I could not touch. I was aware of it yet I could not reach it. The fourteen year old boy who saw his family executed would never go away..."

"Yeah." Leonard swallowed against the knot in his throat. "I...know." He drew in his breath. "And he kept losing his family. Wives, lovers, children,, brothers, kith and kin...none of it he could prevent, Spock, and he was aware of that. If he had a problem he could physically face, he was grateful for it, the way I'm grateful for a punching bag when I'm mad. Jim never forgot his losses. But he was...angry a lot."

"Yes." Spock's half shut eyes were still on McCoy, still aware of him. "We were everything we could be to each other, Leonard. The bonding of t''hy' does not end with death or time. But as it has been said before, we were drunken on each other. We...could go no further past the fire that consumed us. We had not the ability to ground or anchor ourselves."

The eyes opened. McCoy felt the slap of dark iris across his soul. "You fulfilled that role. Ironic. Your carefully created persona was erratic and ever-shifting. It was many wasted years before I knew you thrived in eternal flux. Vulcans can compute quantum physics in our minds, Leonard, but the ability to live unfazed by simultaneous and conflicting mental states is unknown to us."

Leonard didn't know why he felt like Spock's eyes were microwaving him to a state warmer than their dinner. He looked down, laughing at himself, staring at his hands. "I'm feeling sorry for all the times you had to meld with me, Spock, it--"

Spock's hand, so close to his, had moved faster than a striking boa's to cover his. McCoy's breath froze from his lungs to his throat as the hum static of their auras suddenly roared against their skin lapped at the edges of his mind.

"Don't." Spock had never sounded so harsh. "Do not. We saw everything inside each other. Even if we cannot remember everything, it is still true."

Breath returned. Too much. Danger of going hyper. Ocean had moved inside his skull, high tide against the breaker coral. Spock's eyes all morning, dark and contemplative...everything all at once...(would you PLEASE just say sex? It's not a scary word!)

Yes, it could be for someone, for two someones who had let the potential for greatness escape them.

Leonard was trembling. Spock was trembling but not letting go. (Sex isn't a scary word) was less frightening for him to communicate through the now-open link that washed over them. To KNOW as a telepath knew. If McCoy would lie or try to spare his feelings or--

(Enough.) As if gripping tight to a crumbling rock face, he sank his free fingers into Spock's.

(Enough.) Vulcanbittersweetacriddryheat

(Yes.) Humancoolsaltseawater

His eyes gone completely black, Spock was crouch-rising,, pulling the other up just far enough to lower him to the floor. McCoy felt the press of lying between a thick rug and Spock's meditation robe. Spock was lifting his head up to better take his mouth. Fingers against neural paths; lips and tongues meeting--he groaned; Spock swallowed the sound greedily, content for the moment to take. Vulcan passion with Vulcan thoroughness. Unstoppable.

In a way, Spock was right. The body could never be like two minds merging. But that need was wonderfully, irrepressibly primitive and natural and completely necessary. Evolution's urge, which only grew stronger with more evolution.

"Spock--" McCoy gasped into the mouth (Spock)...(slow down a bit...)

Spock drew back, still trembling but determined to be calm. He was focusing. McCoy knew that look well. He propped himself up as Spock raised to pull his robe over his shoulders. The tight-fitting white officer's command sweater followed. Spock had developed a bit more muscle over the years (finally) but was still stick-thin. His dog tags clinked over his chest. McCoy watched the undressing barely breathing. Firelight lit fantastic shadows over the olive-flushed skin. He reached up, stroked the chest, saw Spock shiver, heard the tags clink again, traveled across the floating ribs and down to the smooth hip.

Now Spock was undressing him.

Mental eroticism. McCoy sank back with his eyes drifting shut, fully, psychically aware of those long hot fingers that, rather than delay things and make him sit up, ripped open the thin shit. He gasped as Spock took the exposed skin like his mouth, dug his fingers into the coarse black Vulcan hair, and held on. Spock felt every bit as hot as the firelight, heat seeking to lose itself in his coolness.

A mental wave crashed down; he cried out and went useless against the floor. Spock stopped and set back, breathing hard. Leonard waited, eyes still closed, still aware. The Vulcan closed his fingers around the doctor's tags, rubbing the warm metals between his fingers. The faint clicking sounds soothed him. His breathing slowly calmed. Leonard listened to the pop and snap of the wood in the fireplace. Neither were what anyone would call cool and collected, but now their heartbeats were bearable inside their chests.

(Are you ready?)


Spock finished undressing him and lay halfway down on top. His hands copied the human's caress, chest to flank pausing to experience the softer hair. Leonard was supine, not daring open his eyes and breathing between his teeth, soft sounds escaping that excited Spock greatly.

There was no more foreplay other than the brush of his mouth downward. Beyond thought, Leonard arched into the grip of lips and tongue and teeth. Spock wrapped his arms arounud his waist, trapping him in a warm pool of firelight.

"Spock--! (Spock--!)"

(Hurry, Leonard.) Spock's mind-voice, brooking no nonsense. (Now. Now. Now.)

And under such a command, he obeyed, thrashing and clawing withoutu a sound. Spock was gripping him, finishing his climax in his fingers, stroking the slickness into his palms over hs erection. He worked his fingers down, ,spreading it. Leonard flinched as Spock's head bent down again but his lover was merely pressing his lips to his skin, using the contact to keep the mental flow going. And then he was gripping Spock's strong forearms, holding him tight as Spock worked slick fingers inside, first one then another. A flush as he touched the spot, and he arched again, ready for contact. Spock instantly rolled him over and bent his head to his shoulder.

Spock was burning up. He gripped Leonard's tags in his fist; metal creaked as it bent. Something like a growl and a groan rumbled out of his throat and he was sliding inside, almost, but not quite able to make it gentle. Leonard gripped tighter into his forearms without a sound.

(I...I am sorry, ben-katra...)


Spock smiled against his neck, kissed him brief and light. Strong teeth grazed skin and bit gently as they finished joining. For another minute they remained immobile, getting used to what they were doing with each other as Spock wrapped his arms around that slender body. They were shivering together, in mind and body, then Spock took a single, deep, long breath, and began to move inside him.

Vulcan passion. Vulcan thoroughness. Unstoppable.

Leonard was soon writhing under his thrusts, matching his movements, blending his breath his his. Spock slowly increased his speed, thrilled when the pants for breath became moans. His tongue tasted the seawater skin,, drew hard lines on it with a pointed tongue. His lover gasped and flung himself back. Completely aroused Spock held him tight and put his teeth to the cool human shoulder. (Faster. He likes it!) Leonard nearly threw him off with his throes, exciting him to a climax as human teeth bit his wrist. ( Now. Now.)


The herons were calling loudly against the shore. Muscadines? He could smell muscadines.

Spock was stroking the hair back from his forehead, over and over, as he woke up. The sensation was so soothing it took him time to open his eyes and actually wake up.

Finally, he did, letting other awarenesses slip in.

He blinked, then rolled over to stare at Spock. "When did we get in here?" He stared at the room they were in. "This is the *loft* bedroom!"

Spock paused. "I...cannot say." A slow smile spread across his lean face. "I know we were in the shower at 3.74 minutes past midnight."

"Well you're up on me. I don't remember *that* either." Jesus. Only activities frowned upon by the Computer of Vaal can make you hurt so much and feel so good at the same time. He eyed his warped tags.

"Mn." Spock was richly amused at his observations, both outward and inward. He slipped his hand across his shoulders. "Allow me, ben-katra..."

Leonard was more used to giving massages than receiving them. It was exquisite. He closed his eyes again as long, steady strokes rolled over unattended muscles.

Spock paused, fingertips tickling old scar tissue on his shoulder. "What is this?" His lips murmured in the round ear.

"Mmmn...Vians." He said drowsily. "It never healed...magic wand missed it somehow."

The fingers slid along his spine, felt the ghost of an old injury. "And here?"

He was a moment in replying. "Parmen."

Spock stopped. "You never said they harmed you."

"Well, I was yelling at him while you and Jim were absorbing kironide..." McCoy's brief summary was broken when he snickered into his pillow. "It was worth it."

Spock exhaled. "I sometimes wonder how any of us survived."

"Got me." Leonard rolled back over and pulled Spock on top of him. The Vulcan relaxed like a cat at the long strokes along his back.

"I do not know what to do." Spock said it so abruptly that McCoy jumped a little. His lover was staring blindly at the open windows, oblivious to the rising sun. "I wish to return to deep space, Leonard, but Starfleet will never allow that." The voice was bitter. "I am too...valuable."

"Yeah. What *is* the net worth of an about-to-be decom'd starship worth anyway?"

"Leonard. This is serious." Spock lifted up to stare at him. Helplessly. "I am too dangerous to security. I have followed, it is said, Jim's example in defying Starfleet, but I had a reputation before that when I rescued Pike. I have broken vital laws more than Jim has. I have proven Starfleet wrong...often."

"We all have. You're not afraid, are you?" McCoy drew a deep breath. "Starfleet's in your way, just leave. And don't look back."

"What of you?"

"I'm a Commodore now, remember? I can cover your trail. Get you close to the Neutral Zone--oh, don't give me that eyebrow. I'm not totally amnesic from last night, y'know." Spock was still staring. "What?"

"Do you remember that in all probability, I will never return from this mission?"

McCoy didn't dignify that with an answer. He lifted his two fingers. "I keep forgetting how *young* you are. Are you going to sever this?"

Spock slowly touched his fingers against the doctor's. "No." He rasped. "Never."

"So...*think* you hardhead. I *am not* young, and the xeno sped it up. I'll be amazed if I live to see 100. But I am not wanting you to see me circlin' the drain."


"It's hard enough to say this, thank you, 'n'I don't plan on repeatin'. You need time to clean out your life before you go inflictin' Surak on those Romulans. Poor Bastards. If that doesn't mean cruel and unusual, I don't know what."

Spock donned a mildly offended eyebrow. "The Reformation should never have divided us."

"Maybe so. But you won't get anywhere, much less survive your first day on Ch'Rihan if you don't do some planning. SO. How long will it take you to completely, entirely, vanish into vacuum?"

"Years." Spock admitted.

"Yeah? How many? Two? Four?"


McCoy whistled. "Spock, let's put this into human perspective. If you left today...we'd still have a lot more than a lot of people."

Spock exhaled through his nose. "And while we continue together, we will both be preparing for my departure?" His fingers had returned to brushing McCoy's hair back.

"Any one of us could be dead tomorrow." McCoy said bluntly. "And I'll likely be dead, dyin' or royally sick of you by the time you run."

Spock's lips quivered. "I suppose I deserve that, if you of all people, must show me logic."

"Pragmatism. It's called pragmatism."

"What...ever..." Spock was back to kissing him again. (Always touching, never touched, but let us touch now...)