Growing Pangs

A *rather* AU; V'Ger is not in this Universe. McCoy thought Spock put a bit of a pall on the house when he returned (like a suicidally depressed Denebian Rain-maker). Feeling discretion being the better part of valor, he remained where he was in the kitchen. Dinner had to be made anyway. In that time, he sliced lengthwise a few crooknecks, mixed up a baste, lit the charcoal, tossed the salad, husked the corn, rolled it in salted butter, re-wrapped the husks back on, checked the charcoal, threw in that handful of colored tomatoes that had been languishing in the back of the cooler for a week, determined if that block of cheese was soy-based or sheep's milk, put the corn on the grill, shut the lid, applied the vegetable baste with a spacking knife... ...Spock emerged from the depths of his Gothic Sanctuary at about that point. Thank God. This country doctor wasn't about to go prybar him from his self-enforced meditation. Vulcans could browbeat nine miles of iron meteorite when it came to being immovable. "How did it go?" Leonard smiled, but kept his head down as he worked. He had a pretty good idea what had happened. "Smoothly." Spock stopped in the middle of the kitchen, which was a little small for him to be doing that, and began looking around for something to do. Outside, a flock of parrots took off from the feeder on the veranda (to Spock's bemusement, they preferred the company of the carnivorous McCoy over his). "She bade me farewell and went to the center." "Lemme guess. She didn't even look back at you, just plowed on straight ahead." Leonard hazarded. Spock hesitated. That "lost" look was stronger than ever on his face. "She did not." He admitted. "My daughter did that the first time *I* took her to summer camp." The doctor reminsiced with a faint grin and nodded at the teapot on the stove. "Try that and see what you think." "Saavik is not in "summer camp."" Spock corrected, faintly. He went to the teapot and searched for a cup. "Educational workstudy facility. Big deal. Same difference. With Joanna it was a martial arts camp. Said, "see ya, daddy!" And trotted off. I was the one choking back bitter angst in the car!" Spock hesitated over pouring his drink. He was on the verge of saying something, but seemed to think better of it. As far as parenting went, nothing Spock did surprised McCoy, and McCoy's interaction with Joanna was giving him insight as to what things would be like when Saavik reached a similar age. "It gets worse. Get used to it." The human warned. "I am concerned about her level of achievement." Spock finally said. McCoy had been waiting for that tactic to show itself. "Most of the instructors are Deltan. They'll know if she's having trouble. And they don't even have a concept of racial prejudice." Spock went to the narrow table outside the kitchen area and sat down with his tea, deep in a fatherly funk. McCoy glanced at the chrono, turned the corn over and stuck the squash steaks on. Burning pepper fumes mixed with the thyme-like Vulcan Desert Fig paste. Spock noticed the bowl on the table for the first time. "What is this?" "Something I got from the Pakistani Market. Try it. Just watch for the seed." When McCoy saw Spock wasn't about to budge, he elaborated: "Star gooseberries. Preserved in ginger-sugar and chili powder." Spock rather mechanically poked his way through several. *If this keeps up, I'm sleeping on the roof tonight.* McCoy promised himself not to compromise on this. Living with this particular Vulcan had been a lesson in patience ever since Saavik got accepted to the Interactive Learning Institute. Three damn weeks of the kind of hell you could only get by catching the fallout from a nervous point-eared father. Saavik of course, had poured a daily dose of salt in the wounds by her nonstop speculation and anticipation of her assigned classes. Pre-adolescent kids could be cruel. And Saavik's upbringing in Helgard didn't have a thing to do with it. He tossed the corn out on a platter with his bare fingers, and decided now was the time to work the dressing in the salad. At this point, the comm beeped. "I will take it." Spock was already halfway out of the room. "It's not Saavik." McCoy muttered. Not quite being snide, just displaying the oft-misunderstood human foresight. *** Spock didn't know to be disappointed or not that it was Amanda on the screen. "Greetings, mother. You are looking well." *My, aren't we formal.* Amanda chuckled easily. *Has Saavik left already?* Spock hesitated. "She has." *Of course. I might have known from your face. Ah, well. Just think of all the mischief she'll get into.* "Mischief?" Spock had spent two years carefully trying to get that propensity out of the child. Other than the times when Leonard encouraged her, he felt he did a reasonable job. *Mmmn, never mind. I just thought I'd wish a pleasant Y'rui for Leonard." She used the Vulcan name rather than "birthday" which depended on the month you were born, plus the same phase of T'Khut (in this case, Luna). "I've been wondering what to get him, but you know, every time I've been down there, I haven't seen a single thing that would clue me as to what his interests are.* "His interests are in medicine, mother." *I know that, but surely he has some kind of hobbies that don't involve medicine!* "Actually, no, Mother. Everything he does and shows interest in has some tie to medicine." *Everything?* Amanda blinked. *That sounds obsessive.* "I said as much to him once." Spock confessed. *Well he must not have taken too much offense, because you're still standing...* "He responded that any non-medical related hobbies would merely be forgotten and neglected." *Drat. What am I supposed to get him, then? The skull of an Orion?* "He would probably be pleased." *I was JOKING...well...if you think so...* "You do not have to get him anything, Mother. He would be the first to tell you." Amanda rolled her eyes. *The two of you are peas in the pod. D'you know that?* *** McCoy was tossing squash around the grill when Spock stepped into the open-air veranda. The smell of vegetable juice and spice was thick. The doctor was about to ask who it was, when Spock picked up a snow pea pod from the salad bowl and studied it closely. As McCoy watched, the Vulcan carefully split the pod open with a nail and examined the contents. *I'm not gonna ask.* Leonard thought. *I am NOT gonna ask.* "What is this tea?" Spock wondered. "It is like Vulcan Duneivy." "Honeybush." McCoy told him. "A friend of mine sent it out here last time she was out on the continent." He thought that Spock was looking a bit less like a rained-on crow and more like Spock should. Not giving him time to say anything, he pushed the platter forward. "Here. The bread'll be ready in a sec." So saying, he tossed a handful of pitas on the cooling coals to toast. Vulcans didn't normally talk when they ate; they just ate. In that, McCoy was a lot like Spock. Recreational meals were usually reserved for large crowds, parties, and stifling, agonizing, diplomatic occasions. McCoy knew he'd best keep the recipe when his dinner companion went for seconds. Twice. "Did they get your schedule untangled yet?" Leonard leaned sideways for the hummus and scooped a heavy amount on his flatbread. Spock actually sighed. "It would appear I have a meeting to attend on the first on the month at the Vulcan Embassy. The issue of IDIC is becoming a complex one among the traditional-minded." "Good grief." McCoy said under his breath. "Anything that has to do with IDIC, of course you must attend." "Precisely." Spock's tone of voice was deeply unflattered. It wasn't easy to be an example of two species by the very act of your birth. "Well, I gotta attend a quarterly over in N'Orleans late tomorrow. Making up for all those deep-space missions I missed them on. It shouldn't be too insulting," the last was added sourly. "Then again, there's nothing like eerie and ennui colliding when some dry deskbound lecturer gives a speech on something YOU helped discover less than a year ago." He sighed. "So I'll be gone. Not that I'm tempted to stall and attend the convention next month, but maybe I should just get over with." As a flock of parakeets flitted past them, he snapped, "And don't you be trying to nest on the porch eaves while I'm gone! I'll slow-roast you over the grill!" Spock sighed, and wondered again why the birds so obviously preferred the company of McCoy. McCoy divined his look, or picked up on a stray thought again. He was getting quite adept at that. "They like me because they know your grass-eating is an abomination against nature." "It is a pity that you cannot attend the IDIC conference with me." Spock answered with some of his old dry wit. "I cannot think of a finer example of tolerance than your presence." "No thanks. My ex does that to me quite enough. I've had it. Somebody else can be the bait." Leonard chewed on a crisp plank of squash thoughtfully. Evening was starting to shade the veranda; that was usually Spock's cue to go inside. To him the air was about to get uncomfortably cool. Tonight, Leonard refrained from any comment and stacked the dishes. Unlike his usual routine, Spock took it upon himself to start the washing. OK, yet another clue his "better half" was at loose ends tonight. Leonard glanced around the living room and saw pieces of Saavik lying around: science toys, an antique spark plug, dentalium shells she was trying depserately to make into a necklace, and decided a break from routine would be a good idea. He turned on the screen. By the time Spock had finished, he'd found an interesting looking concert from Alpha Centauri. Spock was drawn to it almost instantly. The use of strings in any musical composition was as good as a magnet. Leonard smiled to see him hastily put up the last plate and dry his hands before stepping out of the cleaning alcove. He moved over on the long couch, making room. Spock slowly folded up in the warm spot, eyes glued to Native Centaurian Junglemen playing melodic kissars. Leonard gently wrapped his arms around the lean Vulcan and pulled him backwards. Spock settled back at the silent urging, using the solid, slow-beating heart as a headrest as both took in the music. The persistance that Spock and Jim were lovers caused no end of amusement to the rare few that were in the know. It was even more amusing when you considered there was *no* secret. Spock merely fueled the flames of speculation by lifting his incredulous eyebrow. Jim couldn't deny it without snickering, because he couldn't stop thinking of what the media-vampires were missing. And nobody had EVER asked McCoy about it. Not even directly. Possibly their reputation for quarreling had blown up to Biblical proportions, to the point that no one who really understood them, could handle the concept. It reminded Spock of the first time he'd asked Jim why gossip was referred to as "the grapevine." "Because it travels quickly, and is so knotted up you can't see the light of truth." "Something funny?" Leonard's voice rumbled not far from his ear. He always spoke softly when they were together, on a pitch he barely heard himself. "Not the music." Spock said. "I was thinking." Leonard didn't press him, just reached up and brushed back a miniscule wisp of hair that had fallen out of place behind the upswept ear. Their relationship was strong but comprised of many delicate layers. Neither were comfortable with one or the other being in control; that was what life WAS in Starfleet, and had no place in the home. And when they were in service, they were always united in unspoken guardianship of one James T. Kirk. Despite the quarrels and eternal matches of the id-ego-superego game, they worked easily as a team when they knew what the goal was. Too often, that goal was "save Jim again." Of course, Spock thought of it as, "Jim overcompensates" and Leonard as, "Jim's an idiotic freak who needs to be protected from his nobler instincts." Their emotions ran deep; McCoy thrived in chaos as a salmon fought against the current, while Spock was usually creating chaos by denying it existed. With age and experience he appeared to be mellowing out. Hopefully it was a trend that would not soon end. Spock's very reticence said he was troubled, if not out of balance. Saavik had satisfied an emotional need he had not been aware of, with the role of father, protector and mentor. It was amazing how the girl had improved him as a balanced being. But then, parenthood could do that. Leonard occasionally reached up to brush that tiny bit of hair past that slanted ear. Evenings together were rare; together without Saavik almost unheard of. It was no surprise to him that Spock was seeking a silent comfort tonight. He and Mea had been the same way once Joanna got old enough to spend nights out of the house. The concert wound down over the next hour. Spock was unable to tear himself away from even the smallest part of it. Very carefully so as not to disturb him, Leonard pulled away from the couch and lit the small resinous candles from Spock's home to combat the growing darkness. This part of Terra was unique in that light pollution was unheard of. There was just not enough development to cause it. It wasn't easy to develop swamps, and exactly why Leonard was so attached to his home. Spock, who had grown up on a very un-tame part of Vulcan, understood perfectly. Leonard flicked off the small lighter, glancing up at the CLICK of Spock turning off the screen. The scent of Vulcan was strong in the darkness, a rendolence like clove and myrrh. "Not going to read the credits?" He asked, surprised. "They had finished playing." Spock explained. "Oh." Leonard put the light up next to one of Saavik's ship models and ran his fingers through his hair. "I'm going to hit the sh--" He broke off as long, warm fingers slipped around his neck. "--owers." He finished. "It can wait." Spock suggested. "Oh?" A small smile flitted at the other's mouth. "You would just have to shower again." Spock pointed out, oh-so-soberly. Logically. The response to that was a quiet chuckle as they slipped into the darkness of the bedroom. *** Spock often wondered what it was like for Leonard, to touch and explore without hardly any illumination. Evolved on a planet with no moon, only a bright double planet and a sun that spent most of its cycle in the sky, he was diurnal in nature, while McCoy was nocturnal. His human nature compensated in other ways, with scent and taste, as Spock's sight and hearing was superior. If they melded, Spock would be able to know exactly what the other felt... His mouth grew aggressive on his lover's neck, concentrating on what he had instead of what ifs. Leonard reacted, sliding his hands up and running across his bare chest, pushed him back down on the bed. Spock sighed at the feel of the talented hands and mouth on his skin, conveying silently what words couldn't begin to explain. The meld was something Leonard couldn't bear; his mind was incapable of the trauma, and trauma it indeed was after all the damage it had incurred during the ENTERPRISE's tour. More than one alien had taken over his mind and will--and such an experience left its scars. Spock did not wish to consider how often they had tried to mentally join, but the occasion was rare and fleeting. It was not for lack of effort. Leonard felt honestly guilty at denying Spock what was a basic need for a Vulcan. But there was no apparant way of resolving this chasm. Mental invasion was rare enough to a Vulcan. What had happened to Leonard was almost unheard of, and as to another, particular matter... ...Spock closed his thinking off there. He was not his counterpart. In that Universe, Surak was unknown, and mental techniques and protocols existed that had been outlawed milillenia ago. It was enough that Leonard never saw "the warlord" when he looked at him. It could have been much, much worse. What Leonard was capable of talking about, never failed to upset Spock. He had to remind himself that futile anger created only more anger. And Spock had to admit, he had learned a new appreciation for the subtlety of non-psi language. Leonard had taught him that telepathy did not encompass everything when it came to sharing. His ability to "read" another's body language bordered on uncanny to a Vulcan. But what would happen when Spock's Time came upon him again? So much of it had to do with the mind. It was a question Leonard wanted to adress, but Spock had managed to avoid it so far. He knew it would be unpleasant for both. *And I know we should speak.* Spock's mind still considered the situation as the rest of him concentrated on the feeling of his lover's skilled hands running over his body. *With my Time interrupted as it was, there is no predicting when it will return again...* Spock thought all these things; they never fully left him. And if Leonard thought Spock was holding him like he was something fragile, he did not voice his usual complaint. He laughed quietly as Spock suddenly chose that moment to wrestle him; a game of dexterity, not strength, and they were both evenly matched. It never failed to "invigorate" Spock, to use his own words. "Oh, *god*." He gasped as Spock suddenly went for his neck with his hot tongue. Concentration lost, he quickly lost his advantage. "That's...that's not fair." "Indeed." Spock rumbled in his ear. "You should not have taught me that maneuver." "Oh...well..." He gave up gracefully. *** Spock did not quite sigh; the older he got, the better he was at restraining his reactions to outsiders. But he thanked the bearer of bad tidings and turned off the viewscreen with a sense of relief. For a long minute he simply sat at the narrow desk, studying the small glass jar Saavik was using to nurture a reishi culture. The fungus was the bright red of Leonard's blood. He finally rose to his feet and straightened the collar of his quilted robe before padding back to the bedroom. Still silent, he settled on the edge of the firm mattress and watched. Warm sunlight slid over the hand exposed from the tangle of covers, sliding slowly upward to the throat. The military tags he was never without gleamed brightly. Spock was content to watch him sleep, taking in the subtle nuances of the strong face, how the thick lashes swept feather-shadows over the square cheeks. Unlike many humans, Leonard was the end result of a genetic line that had stridently avoided the gene manipulation of Khan's people. His eye trained to discern the bewildering variety of humans, Spock could see small things that spoke of this past; blue eyes with a slight Oriental slant. Skin that turned copper when tanned, pale when lacking in light. A bone structure more dense than the "occidental" norm. Hair that not only changed color, but texture with the seasons, and thickened in cold weather. Spock thought of Earth's genetic re-construction, and their efforts to "end racial prejudice" by erasing undesirable physcial traits. It was all the more amazing that the proof of that abysmal scientific failure of arrogance was so strong. Leonard came by his stubborn tenacity honestly. He smiled slightly and reached over the beam of sunlight. Leonard's sleepy blue eyes opened at the touch, a faint smile curling one side of his mouth. "Mn...morning..." "Good morning." Spock answered softly. Leonard hesitated. He didn't need a telepathic bond to be empathic. "What's wrong?" "I have to leave." Spock confessed, speaking quietly. "I just received an emergency call from Starfleet." "Bad?" McCoy was sitting up, his tags clinking as they slid down his chest. "Unknown. For now classified against non-personel. There was a crash of a shuttle off Luna, technology hesitantly identified as Vulcan, but the pilot is missing." He shook his head, at a loss. "The message was largely ambiguous." "Never ends." McCoy groaned. "Where on Luna are they shipping you?" "I do not know. I doubt I will know until I get there." "Figures." Wry and resigned, Leonard brushed Spock's bangs back. It was a part of Starfleet. They could accept it, but sure as hell didn't have to like it. "Take care of yourself." "I always do." "No, you don't. Remember Vaal's planet? Seriously, you *do* seem to be getting better at avoiding trouble. Saavik's good influence on you, I guess. When are you leaving?" "Two point three three hours." "Right. Time to get going." Leonard ran his fingers through his hair as he spoke, shaking the last of the sleep off his skin. "Get that crazy machine to dial up breakfast on standby..." "What will you be doing?" "Me? I'll be in the tub. Waiting for you." Leonard suddenly ducked and grabbed a kiss from Spock before the other could see it coming. With a low laugh--it wasn't easy to surprise Spock--he was gone. Spock heard the hot water steaming from the taps a moment later. This time, he did sigh, but it was of amusement, not annoyance.