by Jane Carnall
Spock disarmed Kirk of his weapons neatly and rapidly. “What are you doing?” he demanded.
“Are you going to shoot me now, Spock? I thought I had until dawn.”
“I shall make that decision. Since your return from the planet, you have behaved in a most atypical and illogical manner.”
“Shoot,” Kirk snapped, “you’re wasting time.”
“I shall not waste time with you,” Spock said smoothly. “You are too inflexible, too disciplined, once you’ve made up your mind. But Doctor McCoy has a plenitude of human weaknesses; sentimental, soft.” Kirk’s head had been bowed over the console; he lifted it incredulously, unable to believe that Spock in any universe could threaten this. “You may not tell me what I want to know; but he will.”
“You’re running a big risk, Spock,” Kirk snarled.
“I have the phaser, Captain. And I do not intend to simply disappear, as so many of your opponents have in the past.” He gestured with the gun towards the transporter room door. “If you please. Sickbay.”
As he and Kirk entered, Spock glanced briskly round. “Yes, of course,” he said without surprise. “The entire landing party. Captain, stand over there.” He looked over at McCoy, eyes hard and dark. The other man shivered involuntarily. “Now, Doctor, it is time for answers.”
Kirk leapt at that moment, kicking the phaser out of Spock’s hand, and was thrown halfway across the room by the unarmed Vulcan. McCoy knew as a scientific fact that Spock was stronger than any four adult humans, but it still came as a shock when for the first time he tried to grapple the Vulcan, and was twisted and thrown casually over one shoulder as a child might throw a rag doll. Uhura ended the unequal combat by spotting a skull set on a shelf and passing it to Kirk in an unoccupied moment. It was probably the only thing that could have knocked Spock out, and Kirk smashed it down on Spock’s head so hard the skull itself cracked apart.
Spock fell. Forgetting that this was the enemy, McCoy dived forward and knelt down by the Vulcan. He heard Kirk and Scott say something about lack of time, but Spock was injured. “Help me get him on the table.”
Scott and Kirk looked at each other, in what it took McCoy a moment to read as utter surprise. “Well, come on, help me get him on the table -- he’ll die without immediate treatment.” He saw them shrug helplessly, but they assisted him with Spock’s weight up on to the diagnostic table. Thank gods, the equipment seemed to be identical in both universes.
He heard the other three talking as he focussed on Spock’s injuries, but did not listen to the words until he realised he was being addressed. “Come on, McCoy, we’re taking our chances on not getting back home.”
“We’ll get home. This won’t take long.” McCoy hoped. It shouldn’t.
“On fourteen minutes, we’ve got to go!” Scott yelled.
“Will you shut up!” McCoy rapped out, then, belatedly, acknowledging the circumstances “I can save his life.” He hesitated a moment, adding to Kirk “Do you want me to stop, Jim? Only take a minute.”
Kirk hesitated a moment, and then smiled. “He is very much like our own Mr Spock, isn’t he? You’ve got that minute.”
“With a little time, he’ll live,” McCoy assured himself, and the others.
Sulu slammed into the room, accompanied by three security guards -- one of whom, Jereit, McCoy realised that he recognised. Or his counterpart in the other universe. One of Sulu’s close friends. He barely heard Sulu’s threats, except the promise that Spock should die. Abruptly, with hallucinatory suddeness, but one by one, each of Sulu’s guards vanished. Kirk appeared to be the only one not completely taken aback -- he leapt forward and, after a few moments grappling, knocked the other man out. McCoy had already turned back to his patient.
“Captain, we’ve barely got ten minutes!” Scott sounded really frightened.
“Let’s go, Bones.”
“I can’t let him die, Jim. Look, you get down to the transporter room, make sure it’s clear. I’ll be there in five minutes.” In five minutes he could be absolutely certain that Spock would live.
After a moment, Kirk nodded. “No longer.”
“I guarantee it. Go on, please.”
Kirk patted him on the arm as the other three left. Readings were practically stabilised; McCoy injected a dose of a regenerator stimulant. That should do it. Life readings stable. He could leave with a clear conscience.
Spock was sitting up, and his hand had blurred out to catch McCoy’s wrist, holding it tightly, too hard to pull away. “Why did the Captain let me live?”
McCoy could not have answered the question if he had wanted to; the only way he could block out visible terror was to freeze every muscle in his face. He was afraid, mortally afraid, and of Spock, and that was not even the worst fear.
Standing, Spock backed McCoy across the room, until the human was pinned against one wall, his gripped, aching right wrist (it hurt, hurt enormously and went on hurting) held hard against his chest, and Spock holding the other arm firmly on the wall.
“Why did the Captain let me live? What did you communicate with the Halkans while you were down on the planet?” Spock knew as well as any interrogation specialist that the first question was the one resisted; answer one, no matter how innocuous, and sooner or later the one interrogated would answer all.
He had chosen McCoy originally for questioning simply because he had long ago tabled the Chief Medical Officer as the softest of all the senior officers, the one most likely to crack under pain, to lack endurance. Ten minutes later, when the human’s wrist fractured under the steadily increasing pressure of Spock’s hand, and the human groaned and fainted, Spock was forced to admit that he had been wrong. Not wanting to cause unnecessary damage, he lowered the human gently to the floor, noticing with surprise that Sulu was lying against one of the tables, either unconscious or dead. Presumably the Captain’s work, in which case, no doubt the latter.
The intercom sounded. “Captain Kirk to Spock.”
Eyebrows lifting, Spock touched the control. “Spock here, Captain.”
“Where the hell are you, Mr Spock?”
“In sickbay, Captain, as you know.”
“Stay there. We’ll be down in a minute. Explanations are in order.”
When, no more than thirty seconds later, the three members of the landing party returned to sickbay, they were staring with what appeared to be genuine astonishment at the crumpled bodies of Sulu and Doctor McCoy.
But Kirk was grinning his fierce pirate’s grin. “Never thought I’d be so glad to see your beard again, Spock. That damned ion storm exchanged us into another universe, and what we need to know is what the hell our milk and water counterparts have been doing in this one.”
Pieces started fitting together. If Spock had been human, he would have slammed his hand against the wall. Now he was conscious of them, he could see distinct differences between this Kirk, and the Kirk who had knocked him out; this Uhura, this Scott, and the other ones.
Making up his mind fast, he said “In that case, Captain, you and Lieutenant-Commander Uhura had better save explanations for several hours. In precisely thirty-seven minutes it will be dawn on the Halkan’s major city, and if you have not destroyed it by then, I was under orders from Starfleet Command, concerned -- “ he lifted an eyebrow -- “by the illogical actions of your replacement, to kill him. I would advise that if you wreak destruction well on the planet, the Halkans will either surrender, or make surrender unnecessary, in less than six hours.”
“The stinking bastard,” Kirk snarled. “Spock, thanks. All right, Uhura, let’s go. Scott, Spock, we’ll meet in six hours -- do what you can to clear up the mess the others left.”
“I would recommend my own cabin. It is the most secure.”
“I’ll bet. Right, six hours, Spock’s cabin. By the way -- who is that?” He gestured at McCoy.
“That is the other Doctor McCoy,” Spock said, “and he is mine.”
Getting a healing cast on McCoy’s wrist would take only six minutes and save time later, if the cracked bones healed wrongly. Spock was wrapping one round McCoy’s wrist when the human recovered consciousness. Spock was aware of his eyes on him for a moment, and then McCoy screwed them shut again and Spock saw the muscles in his jaw clench.
“In five hours, your wrist should be mended.”
The human shook his head, opened his eyes again. “At the moment, that’s the least of my worries. I’m stuck here.”
“I know.” Spock picked up the hypo, checked that it was loaded with the correct amount of anesthetic.
“Wait a minute,” McCoy croaked suddenly. “Sulu. While you were unconscious -- he came in with security guards.”
“He’s dead,” Spock said, with a brief glance at the crumpled body across the room.
“Unconscious. You’d better think of some way to deal with him -- he was planning to kill you and Jim Kirk, to get command of this ship.”
“Indeed.” Spock pulled out his phaser. A pity; Sulu was an effective officer, if he could have set curbs on his ambition.
McCoy turned his head in time to see the unconscious man glow red and vanish. Spock’s phaser hadn’t been set on stun. “Oh, gods....”
“A lesson you will do well to learn, Doctor,” Spock said, picking up the hypo again and setting it to McCoy’s arm. “If you want to survive.”
McCoy woke up out of the darkness lying on a bed, not the floor, and his wrist was aching, but the tearing, grinding pain had lost its teeth. He opened his eyes to find Spock standing over him, holding a cup. “Sit up. Drink this.”
Dizziness overtook him once when he tried to sit up, and he had to drop his head and wait until his vision cleared. He was encumbered by the fact that his hands were cuffed together in front of him. Spock did not offer to assist him. Once he was sitting upright, the other man handed him the cup.
He had to hold it in both hands, and sniffed it suspiciously. “What’s this?”
“A hot protein drink,” Spock said, and then, more impatiently, “Really, Doctor, if I wanted you dead, do you imagine I would need to poison you?”
From the taste, it did seem to be the standard output of any food-dispenser; quick, hot, and nourishing. McCoy drank it down. “Thank you.”
Spock took the cup back and threw it in the waste disposal unit. “In ten minutes or so, the Captain and the Lieutenant-Commanders will be here. I recommend that you remain where you are and say nothing unless spoken to.”
“And if I don’t?” McCoy leant back against the wall, feeling cold although the room was warm.
Spock looked him up and down quite clinically. “Cuffed as you are, you would find it difficult to go anywhere. If you insist on trying to talk, I’ll gag you, which would not be a pleasant experience.”
As Kirk, and Uhura, and Scott, came in, one by one, each of them glanced over at Spock’s bed where McCoy was sitting, cross-legged, his hands cuffed together. Their faces did not change expression; when they were all four sitting down, none of them looked directly at McCoy.
“I had to burn out half the Halkan cities before they would surrender,” Kirk said briskly. “Their offer of submission is on its way to Starfleet Command, and the probability is high that we’ll be on our way just as soon as Command gets a regular garrison here.”
“Sulu, and six security guards, are either dead or missing,” Uhura reported. “Chekov is in the agony booth, and is due to remain there for another three hours, according to the records.”
“I found the device my replica had built in the engine room,” Scott added. “I disconnected it. It’s no in pieces, yet, in case Mr Spock might wish to examine it.”
“Thank you, Mr Scott. I would be interested. How did it work?”
“In itself it was no but a way of operating the transporter with no one at the controls. What was of interest was the way in which it had been constructed.”
“Afterwards, Mr Spock, Mr Scott,” Kirk cut in. “And when you’ve finished examining it, Spock, destroy it.”
“I had intended to do so, Captain. I have also readjusted the computer log, to show that owing to high ion storms in the planet’s atmosphere, it would have been most injudicious of you to have attempted to destroy the cities earlier, since the phasers might have been unreliable.”
“Is that the case?”
“The high ion storms are a fact, Captain, but their effect on the ship’s phasers is hypothetical. Chekov and Sulu both made separate attempts on your replica’s life and your command. All five of the security guards are dead; so is Sulu. I have had it recorded in the computer log that Sulu was attempting to distort your delay in destroying the Halkan cities into an act of mercy, and hence unfitness for command.”
Kirk nodded. “Efficient as ever. Finally, Mr Spock, what happened to Doctor McCoy?”
“I was concerned at the increasingly erratic behaviour of your replicas, and had determined to question Doctor McCoy, since I believed him to be the most likely of the four of you to crack under pressure. I was attacked and eventually knocked unconscious. When I came to, the Doctor was the only one left in sickbay. As I know now, your three replicas were down in the transporter room. I attempted to question him, but he told me nothing. A moment after he had fainted, you called me on the intercom. I can only conclude that the other three decided not to wait for him, and that the McCoy who belongs here could not exchange without the presence of his replica.”
“Damn,” Kirk muttered. “Why did they leave him?”
Spock turned his chair slightly so that he faced McCoy. “Well, Doctor?”
“They had to,” McCoy said bleakly. “If they had waited, none of us would have been able to return.”
“So there is no way that I can get my CMO back?” Kirk demanded.
McCoy met his eyes. “I wish there were.”
“The ion storms,” Spock said, understanding suddenly. “Of course. They must have lessened the field density between two universes, and made it possible for a transporter beam to punch through. And by the time you returned, they must have decreased in intensity such that it would be barely possible, and now impossible. No, Captain, I am afraid that he is the only Chief Medical Officer that we have.”
Kirk snorted. “And not much of one. I’m not about to let a stranger from another universe run around the ship.”
“I would not suggest it. I can think of one possibility whereby he could still serve as CMO, and several that will ensure that he will not, at least, impair the security of this ship. I’ll keep him here, for the present.”
Kirk stood up and stretched. “Very well, Mr Spock, I’ll leave it to you. Report to me when you’ve worked out what to do with him. Mr Scott, Ms Uhura, I need hardly say that the events of this day are all absolutely confidential.”
Uhura grinned. “No one would believe it, Captain.”
Kirk answered the grin. “That’s true.”
Scott was the last to leave; McCoy looked up from his hands to see him almost loitering by the door. “Mr Spock -- “ he began, his barbarian accent strong. “What do ye plan t’do wi’ Doctor McCoy?”
Spock lifted an eyebrow. “I cannot see that it is any concern of yours, Mr Scott.”
“Ah, no, no. I was wonderin’, that’s all.” Scott left hurriedly, and Spock stood up, pacing nearer to the bed.
McCoy swallowed hard. “And what do you plan to do with me?”
“Offer you a choice. Two alternatives. One; you can start work again tomorrow as Chief Medical Officer, just as usual, except that you will spend all your time off duty here.”
“I’m damned if I do! That sickbay is a torture chamber.”
Ignoring McCoy’s outburst, Spock continued “The second option is for you to spend all your time here.”
McCoy’s head dropped. The prospect of being CMO on this hellship did not appeal to him at all, but the prospect of being a helpless captive on the hellship was worse. He thought of being shut up in this room day and night, his only company the Vulcan, until Spock grew tired of him or was assassinated. And what would become of him then?
The creature in torment in sickbay, the medical aides who laid bets on whether a sick crewman would live or die. He lifted his head and met Spock’s eyes. “I can’t. I can’t work in that sickbay. I’m a doctor, not a torturer.”
“You would choose the second option? May I point out that were I to die, your position as my captive would be far less secure than your position as Chief Medical Officer.”
“Dammit, do you think I don’t know that?” McCoy snapped. “I still can’t work there.”
Spock turned away and paced up and down the room a few moments. He stopped at last, and turned back to regard McCoy. “The Doctor McCoy I have known,” he said slowly, “was a tired, embittered, and disillusioned man. He had been in Starfleet for eleven years, and had, long before he came aboard this ship, ceased to fight against traditional medical practices. If I offered to lend you my help against those traditions that make you call sickbay a torture chamber, would you reconsider your decision?”
“You’d do that?”
“I would have done so much for the McCoy I knew, if he had ever asked me for help.”
McCoy stared down at his hands again. His wrist was still discoloured with the bruising where Spock, this Spock, had fractured it. And yet his instincts told him that this Spock was not so different from the Spock he knew and loved. More dangerous, yes, but the inner integrity, uprightness of soul, was still there.
“Yes,” he answered. “I’ll do it.”
Spock unlocked the cuffs and gestured McCoy across to the computer. “You had better study the sickbay records and routine.” He sat down across the desk and began himself to study some printed-out notes.
McCoy read over the immediate records and the current routine for several hours, twice skimming through the previous year’s record. He began to feel, after a while, as if he could believably pose as this ship’s CMO. A little forgetful, perhaps, but so long as he knew where to look things up....
He stopped studying the screen and looked at Spock, absorbed in his work. He was very like, even with the beard that hid part of his face and made him look like a grim pirate. After a moment, Spock looked up, back at him. His eyes were the same shadowy brown. “Yes, Doctor?”
“Nothing,” McCoy muttered, embarrassed, and then it occurred to him to ask “Why this?”
“Firstly, in order to keep you out of the way of the rest of the crew in a manner that will not elicit questions. If we had kept you in the brig, or even in your replica’s cabin made secure, there would have been talk; the crew would have wondered why. If I keep you in my own cabin, shut away from anyone but me outside your duty hours, there may be talk, but the crew will believe that they know the reason why.” As McCoy stared, Spock raised an eyebrow. “And they will not be completely mistaken.”
McCoy felt himself go white. Oh, gods... not Spock. Not this Spock. He remained staring, frozen still and cold as ice.
“Have you completed your studies for tonight?” Spock asked.
McCoy nodded without thinking, and then wished he had claimed otherwise. He would far rather have sat up all night over the computer screen.
“Then go to bed,” Spock said matter-of-factly. “I will follow in a few minutes.”
After a moment, feeling chilled all through, clumsy and slow as an old automaton on a snowy day on Earth, McCoy pushed his chair back and went through into the bathroom. When he came back, he went straight to the bed, feeling sick, and started to undress. Spock did not turn until a moment after McCoy had lain down on the bed and pulled the cover over him; then he went through to the bathroom for what seemed like several eternities.
When he came back, he was naked. McCoy closed his eyes, heard Spock order the lights down, and felt the Vulcan climb into bed beside him. Stronger and warmer arms than human closed around him; McCoy set his teeth and vowed not to let a sound escape him, not here on this ship where no one who heard would care.
Nothing happened. Nothing happened for several thousand eternities, except Spock’s breathing changing, slowing, as the Vulcan went to sleep.
The next day passed like a nightmare; time seemed alternately to drag and to gallop. Spock, as he had promised, came in at the end of his watch to switch off the tormented creature’s life support and give it death. Chapel, who in this universe was a doctor, not a nurse, watched expressionlessly. Finished with that, Spock put a hand on McCoy’s arm and guided him out of the room.
They stopped, unexpectedly, at the cabin that had been McCoy’s. “You will transfer clothing, and anything else that you need, into a storage unit in my cabin.”
“What’s happening to this one?” McCoy asked.
“The Captain said that he would send a couple of yeomen in to clear the cabin out some time in the next few hours.” He opened the door and pushed McCoy in ahead of him. “I have an hour’s break now; you will have to complete your selection in that time.”
The cabin was like his own, on the other Enterprise; far too like. McCoy swallowed down his pain and went straight to the unit where his clothes were. Sorting out what he would need, he worked out that clothing would occupy most of the storage unit -- he’d have just one drawer left for any personal possessions.
Music tapes. The other McCoy had a nearly-identical collection; McCoy picked out enough of his favourites to fill half of one drawer, and turned to the rest. This was going to be hard. “You know, you could just leave me here to choose what I want,” he pointed out. “I’m hardly likely to run away.”
Spock was standing by the door, hands folded behind his back. “No. But you would very probably give ship security some needless trouble. I informed them that in future if you are off duty, you are to be in my cabin, and if they see you elsewhere -- except accompanied by me -- they are to put you in confinement and inform me as soon as possible.”
McCoy picked up an old 3D still and looked at it, aware that his hands were shaking. “Very efficient.” The still was a young woman, eighteen or so, standing in the open air and grinning at whoever was taking the picture. “Joanna,” he said softly.
“Nothing.” McCoy put the still in the small collection of things he was taking. “All right,” he said a few minutes later, “finished.”
Spock came over and looked at the small pile. “This is what you are taking?” As McCoy nodded, he bent down and picked up the tapes, examining them. “You do not need these.”
McCoy scrambled to his feet. “I’ll decide what I need. You said I could have one storage unit.”
“And no more.”
“If you can’t stand the music, I’ll play them when you’re on duty.”
“You do not need the music tapes,” Spock said almost patiently, “because I already have all of them in my collection.”
In silence, McCoy made another selection. Spock had ordered a large disposable carton from the dispenser; he packed the lot into it and picked it up. Spock escorted him back to his own cabin.
“This is yours,” Spock said, indicating the far storage unit along the wall, and left. Spock would be on watch for another four hours or so; at least unpacking would give himself something to do, to avoid thinking.
A week passed. McCoy settled into sickbay routine; his subordinates didn’t seem to be great conversationalists, at least while he was around, and on the whole McCoy was just as glad of that. Eight hours in sickbay, four hours alone, and then twelve hours when he tried to avoid Spock’s notice and was repeatedly relieved and astonished that Spock made no move for him.
He had just come off watch one day, when the door signal flashed. Wondering vaguely what it was, he opened the door. Scott was standing in the corridor. “Can I come in?”
“What? Spock’s still on duty.”
“Aye, I know. Can I come in?”
McCoy hesitated, but shrugged and moved aside, closing the door behind Scott. “What is it?”
For an instant he thought the engineer looked embarrassed. “Ah, well, I was wondering -- if maybe you’d like a drink?”
McCoy stared. “What?” And then, a sarcastic edge to his voice, “I’m sorry, I’m not allowed to leave.”
“Aye, I know.” Scott set down his tool case on the table, opened it out, and produced a bottle of a green liquid. “I brought some Saurian brandy.”
“What?” McCoy picked it up and looked at it. Saurian brandy, vintage ‘57. He couldn’t believe it. “I don’t believe it.” Turning it in his hands, he looked back up at Scott. “What’s this for?”
“To drink,” Scott said patiently. “Where does Mr Spock keep his glasses?”
“Over there,” McCoy said automatically. Shrugging, he went to the unit and picked out two, handing one to Scott and sitting down at the table. The engineer poured him half a glass, and sat opposite, pouring himself the same. He lifted the glass, hesitated, and said “Slainte.”
“Cheers,” McCoy said grimly, and drank. He wondered, eyes on Scott, what the man wanted. A couple of times, as Scott picked up his glass, he thought the man was about to speak, but the engineer said nothing until, half an hour or so later, they had each finished their glass. Half a glass was McCoy’s normal limit on any night when he had to work the next day, and he waited numbly for Scott to pour another. If the engineer meant to get him drunk, he’d barely started. But Scott stood up, collecting the bottle, and put it back in the tool case. “Are you planning to tell Mr Spock I called by?”
“Believe me,” McCoy said into his empty glass, “I’m not planning to tell Spock anything.”
Scott -- almost -- grinned. “Well. I could be by tomorrow and we could finish the bottle?”
He still didn’t understand what Scott wanted. But any company, for any reason, that wasn’t Spock, was better than none. “Sure. Why don’t you.”
Rinsing out the glasses and drying them had occupied another five minutes. The rest of the time dragged. When Spock came back, McCoy realised with depression that he was almost glad to see him. At least he was someone to talk to, and McCoy didn’t need to try and work out his motives. He knew them.
“Why did you start this?”
Spock looked up. He had been sitting at the table, reading -- as seemed to be a habit of his -- through printed-out notes. “This?”
“Keeping me here.”
“I explained the logic to you several days ago.”
“You told me what your first reason was. That implies that there were other reasons you didn’t mention.”
“Indeed.” Spock raised an eyebrow. “Very well. You intrigue me.”
“You interest me,” Spock said. “I have always assumed that Doctor McCoy would break easily, if I should ever need information from him. But I broke your wrist, slowly, and you must have been in extreme pain, and you did not say a word.”
McCoy shook his head. “I had to give the others a chance to get away.”
“I am not questioning your reasons for keeping silent. I am merely intrigued by such well-hidden capacity for endurance.”
It hit McCoy suddenly in the pit of his stomach; he sank down on to the chair. “You want to find out what will break me,” he whispered.
Spock flickered an eyebrow. “That would certainly be interesting. You need not fear further physical attacks, however; I believe we have already established that simple pain will never break you.” He turned back to his notes. McCoy dropped his head into his hands.
An hour or so later, Spock got up and began to make ready for bed; McCoy remained sitting on the chair across the room. There was a silence after a while, and then McCoy heard Spock crossing the room to him. A hand on his shoulder. He looked up.
Spock said nothing, but gestured towards the bathroom. There didn’t seem to be any point in arguing. McCoy got up wearily and went there; when he came back, the Vulcan was already in bed, and the lights had been set to dim. He undressed and got in beside him. As usual, Spock turned and put his arms round McCoy.
Usually, McCoy stayed rigidly awake until he could hear Spock’s breathing change and knew he was asleep. This night, tired and still slightly drunk, he fell asleep almost immediately.
There was a force-field in front of him, and he couldn’t get through it. He pushed and shoved and kicked at it, knowing he had to get through, not knowing why. Then the field cleared.
Spock was dying. The scene changed a hundred, a thousand times as he watched, unable to reach him, unable to touch him. Spock died from a gunshot, bleeding green over the dust, Spock died in vacuum, screaming noiselessly as he exploded, Spock died in fire, flames ripping at his hair.
And as he died, every time, his eyes were full of pain that McCoy could see, had never been able to touch. McCoy sobbed and threw himself at the forcefield, desperately trying to punch through it with sheer force of will --
and woke. It was dark, and Spock was holding him. McCoy grabbed him hard, holding him tightly against himself, almost crying. “You’re alive, oh gods, you’re alive -- “
The voice in the dark was Spock’s. Expressionless, cold, but Spock’s. “You would care?” The lights went up, and McCoy, still only half-awake, blinked at the bearded face over his.
“Oh, gods -- “ He rolled over and buried his face in the pillow.
After a moment, Spock’s hand on his shoulder flipped him over onto his back. “Doctor, if you have woken me in the middle of the night to tell me I am alive, you can at least explain to me why.”
McCoy rubbed a hand over his face. “Sorry.”
“I had a bad dream.”
“I gathered that.”
“I dreamed that -- that Spock was dying.” McCoy’s vision blurred; furiously, he tried not to blink. “He was dying and I couldn’t reach him, I was the other side of a force-field, I could see everything but I couldn’t touch him.” He broke off, swallowing hard, and rubbed his face again. “Then when I woke up... I suppose I thought you were him.”
“You were in the habit of waking your Spock with nightmares?”
“No,” McCoy snarled. “We weren’t lovers, if that’s what you’re asking.”
“No.” Spock lay down again, putting an arm around McCoy and pulling him against his side. He said nothing more; but for the first time McCoy was acutely, physically aware of his body, hotter than human, smelling somehow odd -- like cinnamon, or honey? With sudden, angry embarrassment, he realised that he was becoming aroused.
Spock’s arm around him tightened, and the Vulcan said, on a curious note of satisfaction, “Ah.” McCoy felt a dry shudder of apprehension go through him.
He had expected to be hurt, but Spock made no attempt to cause him pain. If he closed his eyes he might be able to pretend that it was Spock, the Spock he loved, the Spock who had never touched him, never would. (“I love you.” -- “I’m sorry.”)
He closed his eyes; his hands, gripping the pillow behind his head, tightened and twisted as Spock’s hands, brusque but tender, touched him, aroused him. It was when he was achingly erect, shuddering with arousal, that Spock moved to kneel over him, moving his thighs apart with his knees, and gripping at McCoy’s arms with his hands. “Open your eyes,” he said, and his voice was still expressionless. McCoy screwed his eyes tighter shut, trying not to hear.
“Open your eyes,” Spock snapped, and as McCoy’s eyelids flickered open, added “I object to being ignored.” He began to move his groin against the human’s, eyes fixed on McCoy’s, who could not look away from the bearded, familiar/stranger’s face.
Inescapable orgasm swallowed him; he came, crying out, barely seeing the face that watched him. Spock’s thrusting speeded up; as McCoy lay still beneath him, his muscles convulsed, ramming hard flesh against the soft spent human manhood. For an instant, his face changed, mouth opening in what seemed to McCoy a snarl of ecstasy, and for a long moment hung there, above him. Then slowly, muscles giving, Spock lay down, coming to rest.
He lay there on top of McCoy for a minute at least, his breath gradually slowing; he had been breathing short and fast and hard, like someone running. McCoy wondered if he was going to sleep, would almost have been grateful if he had, except that he was very heavy and McCoy would get no sleep at all.
But after a minute, Spock rolled off him, and lay down on his side, pulling McCoy in against himself spoon-fashion. Really exhausted now, McCoy made no protest at all as Spock wrapped his arms around him, resting his hands on McCoy’s stomach. He did not, could not, wait for Spock’s sleep to sleep himself.
He had completely forgotten about Scott’s offer to come back and share the other half of the bottle with him until the door-signal flashed. He let the engineer in this time without query, and brought out the two glasses. This time after Scott’s customary “Slainte,” and first taste, he hesitated a moment and added “I was wondering if you might like to talk.”
McCoy shook his head involuntarily. Scott shrugged. Watching the engineer’s impassive face for a few moments, McCoy felt impelled to add, “I was wondering what you want.”
As yesterday, Scott looked unaccountably embarrassed. “Ah, well....” He took another sip, and muttered finally “It’s a bad thing, drinking alone.”
Suddenly, it clicked. McCoy had had a regular arrangement with Scotty of meeting for an after-watch drink, when it was possible; a glass, or half a glass, depending on the potency, of a shared bottle. Shared grouses, shared gossip, shared silence, when both of them were tired. Why should he assume Scott would be any different in any universe? He was the only one of all the Enterprise crew that McCoy wasn’t sure he’d be able to tell apart from the other if they stood next to each other.
Grinning suddenly, he picked up his glass and toasted the air; “To drinking partners.”
Scott looked disbelieving for a moment, and then grinned in answer, lifting his glass again. “They never die -- they only get pickled.”
He stayed for longer this time, though again they only drank half a glass apiece. McCoy was still cautious about what he said; it did not escape him that Scott might yet be planning a move against Spock, and that the Vulcan was, at present, his only reliable protector. But this time, the silences that fell seemed comfortable, not filled with apprehension.
Scott glanced at his watch and sighed, getting to his feet. “I’d best be off. Tomorrow?”
“You’re welcome any time,” McCoy said, meaning it.
Scott shrugged, rubbing at the back of his neck. “Well -- any time Mr Spock’s on watch,” he corrected dryly. “I doubt he’d be too pleased.”
McCoy was not aware of the bleakness that settled over his face like a sheet over a corpse; he only saw the change in Scott’s expression. “Man, are ye all right?”
“He didn’t hurt me,” McCoy said expressionlessly. “Since he broke my wrist, that first day, he’s never hurt me.” He nodded towards the door. “You’d better go.”
Days passed, and nights. If McCoy woke Spock again with his nightmares, the Vulcan never mentioned it. The dragging time between his watch’s end and Spock’s was now McCoy’s best time of day; sometimes he could almost forget that he was captive on a hellship. The day he forgot completely and called Scott “Scotty” he was brought back to himself by the engineer’s face showing sudden, complete surprise. “Sorry,” McCoy muttered.
“Na, na, no need,” Scott said, frowning. “Did ye call my replica that?”
“Sometimes. Over a bottle.”
“Ah,” Scott mumbled. “No, man, call me it if you like. I took a shock because -- well, Doctor McCoy used to call me that, when we were drinking together. Ah well, some things never change.”
McCoy’s eyes travelled around the room, familiar now, but still strange. “No,” he agreed. “Some things.”
Spock was late from watch that evening; McCoy was sitting at the table, leafing through a book from the Vulcan’s sparse collection in Standard. This one was an antique, printed on Earth two centuries ago, with marvellous, detailed illustrations of mountains, dragons, wolves, and elves. A curiously fanciful book for a logical Vulcan to possess, but McCoy assumed that it was for the aesthetic pleasure of the artwork.
When the Vulcan entered, he looked up, to see Kirk right behind him. McCoy’s heart missed a beat; he hadn’t seen Kirk at all since the first night when the three returned officers had talked here in this cabin. He was not like the Kirk he had known, McCoy thought; fiercer, quicker-moving, just a little thinner. He looked at McCoy impatiently and turned sharply to Spock.
“This discussion has to be private.”
“Doctor McCoy is safe.”
“You can ensure he doesn’t talk?” Kirk interrupted himself. “Of course, who but you does he see to talk to? Sorry, Spock, I didn’t think. Get up.” The last was to McCoy, who stared at Spock.
“Get up,” Spock repeated, with an abrupt gesture. McCoy stood, hands at his sides. He remembered the book, and picked it up, holding it awkwardly against himself. Kirk, ignoring him, went straight to the seat he had vacated and sat down; Spock sat opposite, spreading notes out on the table. He glanced up at McCoy, and away again, dismissively.
The only other chair not at the table was the other side of the room; McCoy went to it and sat down, feeling oddly bruised, and insubstantial. He leant his head against the back, unable to concentrate on the book he held. Through the fog surrounding him, he caught only snatches of the conversation; he gathered that they were discussing a possible mission for the Enterprise, and calculating the variables of profit.
They talked for a couple of hours or so; once McCoy heard the clink of glass on glass, and remembered the couple of aged bottles with Vulcan labelling in the same drawer as the glasses. Spock had never offered McCoy anything. Of course he hadn’t. McCoy was his captive; Kirk his friend.
I want to go home, McCoy thought. A hundred vivid images passed through his mind’s eye; Kirk making a joke, face lighting in a small-boy grin, so that you laughed even though the joke wasn’t so funny; Uhura teasing, dark eyes warm with humour; Chapel sharing the problems of sickbay, a workmate, not an opposite with barely concealed hostility; going pub-crawling with Scotty on shore-leave, discussing with drunken earnestness the relative merits of booze on Rigel III or Argos IV; and Spock. Spock. Spock. I want to go home.
Kirk left eventually. He did not even glance at McCoy on his way out, though he passed him quite closely. McCoy would have liked to go to bed and pull the covers over his head, but he was hungry. Spock usually ordered the main meal from the dispensers when he came in.
“If that’s likely to happen often,” McCoy commented, getting to his feet, “you might warn me in advance so I can have my meal at a reasonable hour.”
Spock glanced up from the dispenser and nodded. “If I can, I will. This was unexpected, however.”
The glasses, and the open bottle, were still on the table. Spock picked up one glass and went through to the bathroom to rinse it out, collecting the tray on the way back. He put glass and plate down in front of McCoy, who was still standing, and poured half the remaining liquid from the bottle into it. Seating himself, he emptied the bottle into his own glass, and glanced up at McCoy. “Sit down, Doctor.”
McCoy obeyed. The liquid in his glass was dark purple, and smelt of mountain flowers. “I assumed you were saving these for a special occasion.”
“Yes,” Spock agreed. “Once opened, the juice must be consumed within twenty-four hours.”
The rest of the meal passed in silence, as usual. Only at the end, leaning back in his chair and sipping the last mouthful of the scented flower-juice, did Spock add “Incidentally, Doctor, next time you see Mr Scott, inform him that the food dispensers on deck six are performing below tolerance.”
McCoy blinked, but said levelly “Next time he comes into sickbay?”
“No,” Spock said, looking at him impassively. “Next time he visits you here. Tomorrow, if he follows his usual routine.”
Oh, gods... “He’s a drinking partner. Nothing more.”
“I know that. It was the faint traces of Saurian brandy in the air, about ten days ago, that gave his presence here away. Apart from your replica -- and evidently, you -- Mr Scott is the only person on the ship who drinks that liquid for pleasure.” Setting his glass down with a sharp click, Spock added “And you may disabuse yourself of the idea that I should care if you and Mr Scott were anything else. So long as you are available to me, and secure, I do not care what you do.”
“But you let the Captain think I don’t ever see anyone but you, offduty.”
“Captain Kirk’s misunderstandings are no concern of mine to correct, when they do not endanger the ship. I assume that you have better sense than to give Mr Scott any information that he could only get from you.”
“We talk,” McCoy said with difficulty, “about what we’re drinking. About shore leave on all the worlds we’ve both been on. About poker, when we play it. That’s all.”
“I believe you,” Spock said mildly. “If your talk ever strays, you remember what I promised you the first day you were here.” If you insist on trying to talk, I’ll gag you, which would not be a pleasant experience. McCoy swallowed, nodded. “That option is still available, if necessary.”
“You always close your eyes.”
McCoy blinked them open, looking up at Spock. The Vulcan was lying over him, partly supported by his elbows. His face was completely expressionless, as always except for the few frightening moments of climax. “I’m trying to go to sleep.”
“That is not what I meant, and you know it.”
McCoy twitched, trying to turn away, but Spock was holding him down. “Why would it matter to you?”
Spock lifted an eyebrow. “I am curious; and I do not care for being ignored.”
“Neither do I,” McCoy spat.
Spock remained poised over him, silent, for a long while. At last he said, coldly, “If it is the lack of attention from Captain Kirk that you object to, then you are a suicidal fool. What do you imagine would have happened to you if the Captain had decided to take charge of you?”
“I’d be dead,” McCoy grimaced.
“Or you would wish you were.”
“How do you know I don’t?” McCoy asked tiredly.
No hesitation; Spock’s hand closed over his throat. McCoy froze. He didn’t want to die, he knew, staring up at the grim, masked face. But Spock could kill him, here and now, if he wanted. To die on this hellship, to die in hell --
“If that’s what you really want to do,” he managed, past an obstruction in his throat, “I can’t stop you.”
Spock’s eyebrows flickered, and he let go. “You succeed in continually surprising me, Doctor. You don’t want to die; but you don’t struggle.”
McCoy’s muscles were trembling in reaction. “How -- do you know?”
“In your universe, Vulcans keep their mental powers secret? I find it convenient to do so. I am a touch-telepath. I can shield from the occasional contact, but when in such prolonged contact as I have been with you, it is impossible to keep your feelings from transmitting to me. And it is blindingly obvious that you love life.”
McCoy lay still, swallowing despair. No privacy left, of body, feelings, mind. “Then why’d you ask me? Why not just take what you want to know? I can’t stop you!”
“I find human minds repellant,” Spock said calmly. “I used the mindtouch to interrogate once only, and never again. Other methods of interrogation are almost as effective and considerably less costly.” He rolled off McCoy at last, gathering the other man in to lie against him, and ordered the lights down. “I would, however, still like to know who you imagine me to be, when you close your eyes.”
“Oh, gods.” The darkness cloaked his face, for which he was grateful, not thinking at the time that Spock could still see. “You know. You must know.”
“I can guess,” the voice from the dark admitted. “My replica. Whom you claim that you have never slept with.”
“It happens to be true,” McCoy growled. “Let me go to sleep. I’ve got to work in the morning.”
“I hypothesise further,” the level voice went on inexorably, “that you felt for my replica something more emotional than simple physical attraction.”
“So you did indeed. Well, Doctor, I can assure you of this; it is to the highest degree improbable that my replica ever returned your emotion, and it would be most unwise of you to transfer your affections to me.”
McCoy let out a long, bitter breath. “You needn’t worry. You’re running no risk of making me fall in love with you.”
“Six to five against.”
“Ah, come on. That’s no price for a man. I’ll lay you ten credits, three to one.”
“God’s grief! Two to one, and I’ll cover your ten.”
“It’s a deal,” the other aide agreed, and McCoy slammed through the door.
He was so angry his voice had gone soft and heavily accented, with a bite to it. “What the devil d’you think you’re doing?”
The two medical aides standing by the life-support couch turned to look at him, and one, Berisj, said reasonably “Laying the odds. Want a price?” though the other, M’Benga, was trying to quiet him.
“Get out,” McCoy said very quietly. “In my office. Now.” He signalled over the youngest medic, barked at him to stand watch, and followed the two aides into his office. Chapel shared it when she was on watch, but it was her offduty time. “Berisj. M’Benga. This has got to stop.”
“Oh?” Berisj folded his arms and looked down at McCoy.
“You’re each fined a tenth of your next quarter’s pay,” McCoy snapped, “for gambling on duty. And if I thought it’d teach you your job, I’d fine you both another tenth, but it’s probably too damned late for either of you. Now is that clear?”
“When did you get religion?” Berisj sneered.
“And next time,” McCoy continued right over him, “I’ll fine you a fifth. And so on. I don’t give a damn if gambling whether a patient lives or dies is a custom started by Doctor Crippen, it is not going to be a custom in my sickbay any more.”
“Mine,” McCoy snarled. “And don’t you forget it.”
Chapel took a step forward from the doorway. “His. At the moment. Berisj, I should remind you since you seem to have forgotten, who’s backing McCoy. It’s odds against you surviving the encounter.” She jerked her head towards the door. “Out.”
They both went; Chapel closed the door and leant against it. “You’re getting very confident, McCoy.”
McCoy sat down on the edge of the desk. “For one moment I thought you were on my side.”
“While Mr Spock’s alive,” Chapel said with an unpleasant look “I’m not about to be anywhere so dangerous as against you.”
“Tell me something, Chris,” McCoy said on impulse. “You don’t approve of this betting on lives -- do you?”
“Approve or disapprove, I have more sense than to go beating my head against a force wall. And one more thing, McCoy. My friends call me Chris. You call me Chapel.” Even after she left, it was five minutes before McCoy was able to move.
The door signalled twice before he noticed it, and got stiffly to his feet to let Scott in. The engineer stared at him. “Man, what’s wrong? You’re white as a sheet!”
“I had a fight with Chapel,” McCoy muttered. “A very fast fight. I still don’t know who won.” Automatically he had gone to fetch a couple of glasses, and holding them remembered with a further shock what Spock had said last night. Scott leapt forward and took the glasses out of his hand and seized him by the shoulder. “Sit down, for God’s sake, before you fall down.”
McCoy let himself be guided into a seat. “Wait a minute, Scotty. Something I have to tell you. Last night Spock gave me a message for you.”
Scott set his hands down on the edge of the table and looked at McCoy, his face suddenly, grimly, masked. The likeness to the Scott McCoy had known was abruptly less; that other man had never needed to learn what this one had learnt. “Well? What was it?”
McCoy shrugged. “Just that I was to tell you next time you came round, that the that the food dispensers on deck seven -- no, six -- are performing below tolerance.”
“Are ye sure? That was all he said?”
Scott sank down in the chair opposite with a vast sigh of relief. “My God, you had me worried for a moment!”
McCoy only stared. Scott grinned after a moment and added “D’ye see, the dispensers would have come up on the weekly report anyway. No need for him to tell me about them through you; so all he’s telling me is that he knows I’ve been round here seeing you and he’s not about to make a move against me for it. With maybe the note that he thinks I’d do better fixing the dispensers than drinking with you, but Spock’s not a man to move against anyone for a wee difference of opinion.” Shaking his head, still grinning, he reached for the tool case and took out an oddly-shaped bottle. “Altair wine, five years old.”
“How do you know all that?”
Scott arrested his opening of the bottle. “Why, man, Mr Spock and I have been aboard this ship together for longer than Kirk has. You work with a man that long, you get an idea how his mind works. And as for why he wouldna move against me, the three of us and Uhura are a good reason why the Enterprise is the ship it is. I’ve no wish to command, nor no wish to be First Officer. Spock has no wish to command; and Kirk’s a fine Captain to serve with.”
“Uhura knows that she can’t hold this ship if she kills the three of us; her chance is if she sees an opening on another ship. But in the mean time, she’s not going to let anyone under her through to command.” Scott tilted his head to one side and looked at McCoy oddly. “Feels strange, telling you this. You’re verra like your counterpart.”
“So are you,” McCoy said soberly, and sighed. “Gods, I wish I knew where they were now.”
“Oh,” Scott said absently, working on the bottle, “that’s not impossible.”
The seal cracked open, as McCoy stared again at Scott in astonishment, disbelief, and as the alert panel on the wall began to flash red. The engineer set down the bottle and jumped to his feet. “I wasna expecting this so soon. The Captain’s a fast mover.”
“Scotty,” McCoy said sharply. He too was on his feet, all else forgotten. “Does this mean a combat situation?”
“Aye, verra like. I have to be down in the engine room. I’ll see ye again when it’s over.”
“Can you spare me five minutes?”
Scott turned, halfway to the door already, about to snap out a refusal: but his face changed when he looked at McCoy. “Aye, five minutes won’t matter. What?”
“Escort me down to sickbay. I’ve got to get there, and I’ll never be able to contact Spock in time.”
“It’s a red alert, surely -- “
“Did you ever know security to do anything the reasonable way? They’ll chuck me in confinement until they can ask Spock what to do with me, and that’ll be after this emergency’s over. I’ll be needed in sickbay!”
“You’re maybe right. Come on, then.”
They made it to the turbo lift on a run, Scott’s hand on McCoy’s arm. The three security guards they passed were all junior ensigns, and would not take the risk of stopping the Chief Engineer. “Sickbay,” Scott said shortly. The lift plummeted; McCoy grabbed at the other safety handle. Moments later, it dragged to a halt; Scott let go of the safety, took hold of McCoy’s arm. “Let’s go.” They passed another route of security in the corridor, whose commander would have stopped them, but Scott rapped “Red alert, Flynn, he’s on duty,” and all but shoved McCoy through the sickbay entrance.
Once in familiar territory, McCoy could run on instinct until his mind caught up with what he was doing. He didn’t even stop to wonder who they were fighting, still less why, until sixteen and a half minutes after his precipitate arrival, when all the resuscitatory and life-support equipment was warmed up and ready, and the medical aides on duty standing by. Chapel had worked with him without even a look of surprise, until they were set up and waiting. Just waiting. The worst part of any fight. Then she did look at him, as if wondering why he was here, for the first time.
“Got an escort down,” McCoy said in answer to her unspoken question. “Dammit, you don’t think I’d stay penned up in quarters during an emergency?”
A slow and unexpectedly warm smile transformed her features. “Knowing you -- no.”
McCoy leant back against the wall, and added quietly “Do you happen to know who we’re fighting?”
“Romulans,” Chapel said with a shrug, “nearest guess. We were near the Zone last I noticed. But you know how it is -- medical staff find out when the casualties we get can talk.” The ship rocked suddenly with the punch of a direct hit on the shields. “Well, whatever it is, it’s started.”
A planet called Hellguard, they found out from a bridge ensign whose hands had been burnt by power shorting through her console. This was after nearly fourteen hours of a steadily increasing workload, and the ship was still in combat. “Captain Kirk’s a mover,” the ensign was saying enthusiastically even as McCoy worked on her hands, “a right bloody mover! The Romulans are leaving Hellguard, and Kirk gets wind of it first in the sector, and he reaches it in time to make sure that they’re leaving fast. By St Bride, the pickings there’ll be!”
“Try to use your hands as little as possible for the next six hours,” McCoy said shortly.
Her face fell. “But it’ll all be over by then!”
“I hope so,” McCoy muttered. “Stay in your quarters for six hours rest, that’s an order. You use your hands while they’re sealed-healing and you could wreck them for life. Go on, Ensign.”
The ensign was nearly precisely accurate; in six and a half hours the battle was evidently over, and McCoy sent the medical aides who had been working for longest off to get some rest. He and Chapel and the four aides who had just come on duty when the alert sounded stayed at work for another ten hours.
“All out of danger,” Chapel said finally, stretching herself. “How long have you been awake, McCoy?”
It took him fully a minute to make the calculation. “Uh -- forty hours, give or take a couple.”
Chapel nodded in the middle of a yawn. “Thought so. For me it’s thirty-two. So I’ll stay on watch -- “
“Don’t be stupid, you’re half asleep on your feet!”
“What’s got into you, don’t you know ship practice? I’ll take a nap in the office, I’ll call back whoever’s had the most sleep -- Dumas and Aramise, I think -- and they can call me if anything happens.”
McCoy nodded. “Ah. Right. Sorry, I forgot.” He was in a state beyond tiredness; reaching the turbo lift, he had to tell the computer which deck three times before it seemed to understand his accent. He stumbled out and went unseeing to his cabin, touching his hand to the lock.
It didn’t open. That seemed the last straw. He caught at the arm of a passing crewman in a red shirt. “Hey, get someone up here from engineering, will you? My door’s jammed on me.”
“Yeah,” McCoy said blinking.
“What are you doing wandering around off duty?”
“Going back to my cabin to get some sleep. There’s been a red alert, or haven’t you noticed?”
The man’s face tightened. “You’re on the wrong deck and it’s the wrong time. I’ve got my orders.” He pulled a pair of security cuffs out of his jerkin and had them on McCoy’s wrists before McCoy realised what was happening. After one moment’s outrage that found no voice, since it was clear there would be no hearing, McCoy shrugged and went with him, hoping painfully that there would at least be a place to sleep. However, the guard only escorted him to Spock’s quarters, opened the door, and pushed him through it. “I’ll be reporting this,” was his parting shot.
Too washed-out tired to be either afraid or angry, McCoy lay down on the bed just as he was, the effort required to take his boots off with his hands cuffed a whole mountain range too much for him. After a moment’s shifting to find a comfortable position, he went to sleep.
“Well then, your cut.”
“Half of the blood fee from Vulcan, Captain. Since you would not have known to claim it.”
“That’s fair enough.” A half-voiced chuckle; Kirk’s laugh. “With that and the first officer’s share of Hellguard loot, you’re getting to be a rich man, Spock.”
“As are you.”
McCoy lay still, his sight still blurred with sleep. His arms were stiff and cramped. Spock was seated at the computer; Kirk leaning over his shoulder. They both looked immensely satisfied; McCoy felt rage simmering. With difficulty, he shoved himself to his feet and went over to the intercom.
“What’s the casualty list, Doctor?”
“Better than it might have been. Seven dead; five explosive decompression, one massive internal haemorrhage, and Cuerale died in the end; lungs just gave up on her. Forty-three wounded on the ship, and probably most of them will recover completely. The full list will be on your desk in twenty hours.”
“Thanks. I’ve been asleep -- do you need me down there?”
“It’s been quiet. I doubt it. I’m thinking of putting in some serious sleep myself.”
“Do that,” McCoy agreed, and switched the intercom off, turning back to glare at the other two men. “Make you rich? Seven dead, fighting an unnecessary battle just to make you rich?“
Kirk slammed his chair back. “I don’t need this,” he snapped, taking one step towards McCoy before he clenched his fists to his sides and turned back to Spock. “All right, Mr Spock, he’s yours and I won’t touch him. But you teach him to keep his mouth shut.”
Spock had stood up when Kirk did; he advanced on McCoy, looking like grim death. “Indeed, Captain.” One hand gripped the back of McCoy’s neck, forcing the other man down to his knees; the other took hold of his chin, tipping his face up, holding his mouth closed. “I have warned him. He will learn.”
“Good.” Kirk glanced back at the computer. “We’ll need to leave the place garrisoned -- make the arrangements, and then take a break.”
Spock let go of McCoy, leaving him offbalance, unable to catch himself, and sprawling. “Very good, Captain. I recommend that you yourself take a break; you cannot stay awake much longer without injury.”
Kirk grinned. “I won’t argue.”
He left as McCoy was picking himself up. Spock waited until the other man was on his feet, and then sat down before the computer. “Crew lists.”
A few minutes later, Spock said “Confirm and post.”
“Confirmed,” the computer said; and Spock switched it off, turning his chair around to look at McCoy, coldly and clinically raking him up and down. “I received a report from security that you had been found wandering on deck eight, several hours after the red alert was over.”
“I’d been working in sickbay the entire time. I was wiped and I forgot which deck I was supposed to be on.” McCoy heard the defensiveness in his voice and hated it.
“I surmised that that was probably the explanation. As for your behaviour towards the Captain, I assume that you are aware that it was unwise.” He let the pause stretch, one cold eyebrow going up.
McCoy brought both hands up to rub at his face. “Oh, gods... yes, it was stupid. I should know better by this time.” Wearily and bitterly he held his hands out to Spock. “Now will you please get these goddamn things off me?”
Spock picked up a key from the table beside the computer and slid it into the lock of the cuffs, pulling them off McCoy’s wrists. “Interesting.”
“What?” McCoy was already heading towards the bathroom, but he stopped and looked back with an edge of apprehension. Spock had sounded... intrigued. Oh gods, not now. Whatever he has planned, not now.
A flicker of eyebrows. “That is the first thing for which you have ever asked me. Do not disturb me when you return.”
McCoy took his time showering; when he came back into the other room, Spock was evidently already asleep. Neither changing into clean clothing or ordering a meal woke him, though ordinarily the Vulcan slept like a cat. McCoy had no wish to wake him.
Several hours later, McCoy had set up and posted the revised watch schedules for sickbay personnel and was reading his way for the eighth time through another of Spock’s Terran books. Spock sat up. He seemed to come awake immediately, without transition; McCoy closed the book and watched him warily.
Until he had showered and dressed and ordered a customary breakfast of fruit juice and soya biscuits, Spock said nothing. As he seated himself at the table, he looked over at McCoy. “Come here, Doctor.”
Clenching his teeth, McCoy obeyed, and sat down as Spock gestured him to a chair. “Well?” He sat stiffly, anticipating a new torment.
“You object to death,” Spock said almost idly. “It might interest you to know, therefore, that sixteen children had been crossbred between Vulcan and Romulan on Hellguard. If the Enterprise had arrived any later, it is almost certain that the commander of Hellguard would have ordered their destruction.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“I considered it likely that you would be able to balance the loss of seven lives against the preservation of sixteen.” One eyebrow raised in query.
McCoy sighed heavily. “In a way. Though you’re not telling me that was the Captain’s reason.”
“Nor mine. I had no idea that these children existed. However, Vulcan will pay an honourable blood-price for their lives.” Spock ate neatly and quickly; he pushed the cleared tray to one side, and leant back in his chair, contemplating McCoy like a vivisector. “And I have not forgotten something else. You asked me for something, earlier. While you are awake, you have never asked me for anything, before.”
McCoy shivered. While you are awake. From what he remembered of his nightmares, that meant he had woken Spock again, and never known it. “I just wanted those damn cuffs off.”
“Yes,” Spock agreed. “I find it interesting to speculate what else you might ask me for; what else you might want enough.” He stood up and circled the table, and McCoy, who sat frozen still. Spock’s hands on his shoulders were hot and hard. “You try to keep your pride as well-concealed as your strength; but it is evident. I find that, also, intriguing.”
McCoy shut his eyes and would have prayed, if he could have believed that Spock would stop. His hands were burning into McCoy’s shoulders, and the silences between the words were as frightening as the words themselves. “What do you want?“
“An answer,” Spock said expressionlessly, “to a question. But I have no time to obtain it now.” Not until McCoy heard the door close behind him did, could, he move.
For ten days, McCoy seemed to be living like a hermit. He would go on duty, and after eight hours work come back again, to a cabin that might be empty, or might have Spock asleep, or Spock sitting at the computer screen or reviewing printed-out notes, as cut off and remote as if he were hermetically sealed away. Sometimes he would wake to find Spock asleep beside him, and twice simply with a vague feeling that he had been there -- a barely perceptible scent, or perhaps some mental emanation. Scott was either too busy to have time for McCoy, or else not risking a visit while Spock’s working and sleeping times were unpredictable.
He had met Spock entering the turbo lift as he left it one evening; the Vulcan did not even acknowledge his existence with one flickered eyebrow. McCoy stopped at the door to Spock’s cabin, his hand poised a moment above the door control, thoughts -- not of escape, that was pure impossibility on a starship in warp drive, and he couldn’t even pilot a shuttle -- but simply of going somewhere else than the deserted room he knew too well. Since Spock had just left, the chances were that he might not even be back by the time McCoy was due on duty tomorrow. He could go to Scott’s cabin, or take a walk through the arboretum -- “Oxygen Park” someone had nicknamed it on the Enterprise he knew. He could try. But by the time he’d reached even another deck, he’d have been picked up by ship security. It had happened fast even with routines changed by the red alert; it would probably happen even faster in a relatively normal ship. And then he’d be back in Spock’s cabin if he were lucky, the brig if he weren’t, and his hands once again cuffed together. McCoy was getting very tired of being immobilised.
He entered, pulling off his tunic, and heading through to the bathroom for a shower. The meal would have occupied more time if he were able to cook it, instead of punching buttons. It was not sensible to go to bed too soon -- if he tried to sleep before he was tired, he would wake hours before he could go on duty. But there were limits to how much he could read, how many games he could play with the computer, how often he could listen to a piece of music. With some things he had already passed the limit.
When he started thinking seriously about going for a walk if only to get some attention from someone, it was time to go to bed and try to sleep. Spock had made the bed straight but had not changed the sheets; they still smelt of him, honey and cinnamon. McCoy wrapped his arms round one of the pillows and buried his nose in it, breathing in the familiar, almost comforting, scent of Spock.
in the turbo lift, going somewhere. He was in hell. There was a way out, he had to find it before it was too late. He stumbled out and along the corridors of hell, looking for a door, for the right door. He seemed to open many doors, beyond counting, but all of them led only to other places in this hell.
But when he found the door, he knew it. It looked the same as all the others, but he knew that beyond it was the place he wanted to be, belonged to be, longed to be. Home. With unseeing certainty he touched his hand to the lock.
It didn’t open. For a moment he knew stark fear, and then, with a pleasant sense of logic, he knew it was all right. He just needed to find an engineer and get them to open it, and that would work so long as he didn’t tell them what was on the other side.
There was a man passing who wore a red shirt. McCoy caught at his arm; he turned, and was Spock. The shirt had been blue all along, McCoy saw with a new, prolonged rush of terror. “I just want to get the door open!”
Spock had not moved since McCoy had stopped him; he stood still as stone, expressionless as rock, terrifying as a long fall. “What do you want?” he asked, and repeated it coldly over and over and over again, echoing in McCoy’s ears --
he could stop it, he could go through and away if only he could think of the right words, the words to open Spock, to open the door
Embracing Spock was like holding solid shadow, cold and impossible to touch and filled with fear. McCoy’s throat had frozen, mouth iced shut by the chill of Spock’s touch, cold that burnt through to the bone --
and he was naked now, his clothes frozen to dust, and Spock’s hands were branding him with cold prints, the words, where were the words
“Let me go!” he cried out, begging, “please, let me go, let me go -- “ but even in the dream his mouth would not form the word, home.
When he woke, Spock was lying next to him, eyes on his face, as if he had been watching McCoy for some time. He said nothing; one hand caught at McCoy’s wrists and drew them up above his head, pinning him down. Unhurriedly, Spock began to trace his fingertips over the other man’s face, ruffling the eyebrows, outlining lips with the slightest pressure of his nails. Claws, McCoy thought; Spock was a predator.
Spock touched the vulnerable throat, for an instant taking hold as if he meant to throttle, as he had before, and then letting go to trace the fast-beating arteries and the unprotected nerves. McCoy wondered if Spock meant to use the nerve-pinch that would render McCoy helplessly unable to move or speak, but capable of feeling everything. But Spock’s hand moved further down, drawing lines of fire on the skin, circling each nipple and capturing it between thumb and forefinger to inflict a precisely calculated amount of pressure.
McCoy was shuddering even before Spock’s hand, having sufficiently explored navel and stomach, proceeded inexorably to find further torment on the soft inner thighs. Fear and desire, inextricably mixed, pulsed through him. Spock stopped.
Before McCoy could say one word, the Vulcan had bodily yanked him up and turned himself, holding McCoy now by an arm locking around his chest. He was entirely supported by Spock’s body, could feel the Vulcan’s heavy pulse of arousal and the hardness thrusting against him.
Spock’s free hand cupped the human’s genitals, holding them gently, as if weighing them. McCoy groaned and tried to writhe free, but the Vulcan held him and his arousal beyond all possibility of escape.
“Now,” Spock whispered, hand tightening, “tell me what you want.”
McCoy twisted against the arm that gripped him, was held tighter, and cried out in pain. “Go to hell, Spock,” he gasped.
As if with suddenly uncontrollable rage, the Vulcan thrust him hard down to the bed and knelt above him, hands now locked about McCoy’s arms. Lying with his face turned to one side, breathing hard, McCoy knew what would happen even before he felt Spock shoving his legs apart and moving between them.
It was not at all like being penetrated by a human. The heat seemed to strike upwards through his whole body, electric agony and pleasure. He could not move with Spock’s thrusts, but any pain was consumed, transformed, as with the blazing rush within him he came, crying.
Spock’s beard rasped the back of his neck as they lay there, McCoy still shaken with sobs, Spock silent. Eventually, when it became clear that the human could not stop the choking tears, the other man got up and fetched him a glass of water. “Sit up and drink this.”
It occurred to McCoy, accepting the glass and trying to stop the embarrassing, racking sobs on a mouthful of water, that petty cruelties weren’t Spock’s style. Yet he must know that it was the endless pinpricking torments that broke most captives, not the larger cruelties against which it was possible to steel yourself. It had occurred to McCoy, only moments after Spock had unlocked the cuffs, and recurred through the ten dragging days, that if Spock seriously intended to break him, he could simply put the cuffs back on, and leave them on, until McCoy had begged.
Spock had been sitting on the edge of the bed, keeping his captive under clinical observation. When McCoy had finished the glass of water, he plucked the cup out of the human’s unresisting hands and set it carefully on the table beside the bed. One hand then encircled the human’s throat, and McCoy flinched. Not again. Not now, I couldn’t stand it right now, not again -- He met Spock’s eyes, clenching his teeth against pleading aloud. It would make no difference. If Spock meant to repeat the process, he would, regardless of what McCoy said.
“You experienced pleasure,” Spock said flatly.
“You’re the kind of rapist that insists the victim loved it?”
“I am neither an expert on love, nor a rapist. You did experience pleasure.”
“And that makes it all right?”
“That makes it -- interesting.” Spock let go of his throat. “You are on duty in one hour and ten minutes, Doctor. As all systems are now restored to normal functioning, I will return at my usual time today.” He dressed himself with his usual tidiness and speed, and left, looking completely uninvolved in so messy a thing as human suffering.
Quite by accident, McCoy discovered that in three hours they were due to reach the planet Kessler II, apparently a customary shore-leave world for this Enterprise. He had overheard Chapel and Uhura discussing the prospects for entertainment just before Chapel had come on duty. He had grown accustomed to the fact that anyone talking to a friend in sickbay would stop talking the moment he saw them and usually find somewhere else to be. The other McCoy must have been a permanent curmudgeon. Not that McCoy could blame him; after five years, assuming there was anything left of him, he would probably be a permanent curmudgeon himself.
Chapel fell silent; Uhura glanced coldly over at McCoy, shrugged disdainfully, and finished “So I’ll make reservations for the Stone Trolls unless you get any better ideas, Chris. See you later.”
Uhura left; Chapel got straight to work. McCoy went back to Spock’s quarters. Spock hadn’t mentioned shore leave, and McCoy knew how the other Spock preferred to spend R&R; in libraries, engaged in solitary and esoteric research. It looked as if he would be spending the time in orbit around Kessler II in quarters. Alone.
The door signal flashed; McCoy got drearily up to answer it. “Scotty?”
“Who else were ye expecting?” Scott asked as cheerfully as his counterpart when a long repair job was over and shore leave in prospect. “Sorry I wasna round sooner, but Mr Spock was keeping irregular hours and I didn’t want to run into him. But we never did get around that wine, so I brought another bottle along.”
Involuntarily, McCoy’s eyes had slid sideways to the bed. He had changed the sheets, putting soiled in disposal and requesting fresh. There was no trace of what had happened a mere ten hours ago except in his mind. No visible trace at all. It didn’t feel like that. “Thanks, but I don’t want to hold you back from shore leave.”
Scott looked at him, the grin dying. “Man, you really need a drink.”
I need a dose of amnesia. I need an anodyne for three kinds of pain. I need to find a way out of going stir-crazy. I need to go home. McCoy rubbed at his face, managing a crooked grin. “Maybe I do.”
It was only after the first glass and part-way into the second that McCoy found the nerve to say “D’you remember when we were drinking just before that fight over Hellguard?”
“Aye,” Scott nodded.
“I was wishing I knew what had happened to the other Enterprise, and you said that it wasn’t impossible. You were joking.”
The engineer shook his head. “Na, it’s quite a simple wee problem when you take a look at it.”
“Tracing something in another universe?” McCoy was deliberately sceptical.
Scott planted his elbows on the table and leant his chin on his hands, looking satisified and mellow. “Na. It’s a matter of resonance, ye see -- this Enterprise and that one are much alike, so a message sent through the field at the point-Enterprise would always reach the other Enterprise. In fact maybe all the other Enterprises that were alike enough. And it’s no necessary to have an ion storm to lessen field density just to get a message through.”
“Why not?” McCoy asked, striking -- he hoped -- the right note of interest.
“Why, because it’s no a matter of having to exchange mass -- for that ye’d need as near exact duplicates as ye could get. It’s only a matter of letting the energy of one ship resonate with another, and ye could send any message that would go into pulse code through. Would work like that old communications device, pre-Atomic -- telegraph.”
McCoy swallowed, trying to sound unconcerned. “And you could really build something that could do that?”
“Aye, I daresay.” Scott finished his glass and looked at the bottle as if he were measuring the contents. “Probably shouldn’t have another,” he concluded. “We’re no on shore leave yet.”
McCoy leaned forward, unable to hide his intensity now. “Yes, but could you? Would you?”
Scott stared at him, frowning. “Aye, I could. But -- “
A cold voice interrupted from the doorway. “But your elucidation of the principles was purely hypothetical, Mr Scott. Wasn’t it?”
The engineer sprang to his feet, clearly shocked sober. “Mr Spock -- “ After no more than a few second’s unreadiness, he pulled himself straighter, and not looking at McCoy, said steadily “Aye, Mr Spock. Purely hypothetical.”
“Excellent. Then I need not remind you of the penalties for contructing an illicit communication device. There are no penalties for merely hypothetical contruction, or miscontruction.” A moment’s pause, and Spock added, “You must have preparations to make for shore leave. I trust that it will be satisfactory.”
McCoy heard the dismissal as clearly as Scott did, and was almost grateful for it; at least he would not have to expend his control in merely sitting upright, keeping all loss from his face. He didn’t blame Scotty, he couldn’t blame Scotty, but he knew how easy it would be, if he let go now, for mutual shame to pull them apart. And then he would have nothing left at all.
When he heard the door close behind the departing engineer, he let his head fall forward on to his arms, and even when he knew Spock was standing closely behind him, did not move. “I have never understood the human concept of friendship. You wanted him to build this communications device, to arrange for a repetition of the original improbable chance of exchange, and to escape.”
To go home, McCoy would have said, except that his mouth would not form the word.
“You did not, however, consider what would happen to Scott when it was discovered -- as it would be -- that he had assisted your escape. He would have died, very slowly. Would you describe yourself as his friend?”
The silence stretched. McCoy could not answer him. After a while he realised Spock had left. Of course there were audio and visio relays all over the ship; the computer monitored them. Spock must have added some sophisticated and subtle programming to the monitor program, to recognise dangerous conversations -- unless he was in the habit of keeping McCoy under observation even when the human believed himself to be alone. That was worse than the first; wrapping his arms around himself, McCoy shivered convulsively.
He was still sitting in the chair when Spock came back. As usual, the Vulcan said nothing at all to him, moving around the room in his customary just-offwatch patterns; depositing a stack of print-out notes on the table, pouring himself a glass of water, pulling off the blue over-tunic.
“What are you going to do to me?” McCoy demanded finally, unable to stand it for longer.
Spock glanced across at him, lifting an eyebrow. “Various ideas of interest have occurred.”
The other man swallowed hard. “And Scotty -- Scott?”
“Nothing at all. I have no reason to move against a competent officer for a hypothetical suggestion. In your case, of course, the suggestion was not hypothetical. Was it?”
“No,” McCoy said bitterly. “Are you surprised?”
“To attempt escape when it is possible, is both natural and logical. I trust that you now realise it is not possible -- for you?”
Bowing his head, McCoy gazed fixedly down at the table. It had been a fortnight ago that the change had taken place; this hellship was becoming more real to him than home. “I never thought it was possible,” he said quietly. “I gave that up when I woke up again after you’d broken my wrist. Even if Scotty could have built that cross-universe telegraph thing, it wouldn’t have helped me get back.”
“All that is required for cross-universe transfer is a thinning of field densities, such as is caused by an ion storm, and a mutual exchange of virtually identical masses. This is only possible, except by an extremely unlikely coincidence, if there is a method of communicating with the other universe. I did not see any way of constructing one, but if Mr Scott says that it is possible, then I have no reason to doubt him; his genius is mechanical, as mine is theoretical.”
McCoy lifted his head, seeing Spock watching him intently. “What you’re telling me,” McCoy said tiredly, “is that it is possible for me to go home. But you aren’t going to let me go.”
Spock’s eyebrows flickered. “Is that what I am telling you?” Turning away to order a meal, his back to McCoy, he looked unassailable as granite. McCoy pushed himself to his feet.
“I’m not hungry.” He felt sick and cold and beaten, and tired, tired of struggling. Easier to drown. This hellship was home. He went over to the bed and lay down on it, facing the wall, with hardly a pang. Hell was home; let Spock do what he wanted.
Several hours later, a hand on his shoulder rolled him over. “I would recommend that you undress and shower before sleeping, Doctor.” Looking up at him, McCoy could trace as usual the lines in this Spock’s face he shared with the Spock McCoy had known. It didn’t make any difference. He lifted his hands, wrists together. “Go on.”
Spock encircled the linked wrists with one hand, lifting an eyebrow. “You have a limited imagination, Doctor. I had dismissed the idea of keeping you in permanent confinement some time ago. At all events, not unless you make it necessary.”
“What, then?” McCoy croaked.
“Ask me to let you go home.” Spock let go of McCoy’s wrists, dropping them on his chest.
McCoy lay still. “And then you’ll put me in permanent confinement.”
Spock’s eyebrows flickered. “Ask me.”
McCoy knew with a grey concrete certainty, that if he believed Spock would send him home if he begged, he would beg. But to plead for something certain to be refused, to ask because his pleading pleased Spock -- he had not yet been broken down so far. “And give you the pleasure of saying no?” McCoy had mustered all his defiance to drawl it out as if he didn’t care; Spock’s face did not change.
“In your sleep, you ask me,” Spock said expressionlessly. “You beg me to let you go. You plead to be allowed to go home. At least, you used to be that coherent; of late, you simply cry.”
“I’m not -- “ McCoy sounded choked -- “not responsible for what I say in my sleep.”
“No?” The Vulcan looked down at him, unreadable. The subject change was so abrupt it left McCoy breathless for an instant; “Unless you wish me to strip you, I recommend that you undress yourself. Now.”
Silently, wearily, McCoy obeyed. Spock said nothing more to him, not even when he must have felt the human’s flinching as the other man gathered him into his arms. Just as in the first nights they slept together, McCoy lay rigidly awake until he knew Spock slept.
Two days later, with three days of what the rest of the crew of the hellship would call shore leave to go, McCoy knew he was going stir-crazy. He barely saw Spock; the Vulcan returned at night to sleep with him, and that was all. He did not see Scott, and wasn’t surprised. There was nothing to do during the hours he was on duty, and yet he couldn’t stir a step out of sickbay. Not, at least, without a security guard pouncing on him and demanding to know where he was going.
He had said “Back to sickbay,” and gone; and the guard either hadn’t bothered reporting the infraction to Spock or Spock didn’t think it worth mentioning. At all events, he had come out of it without his hands cuffed together for an indefinite period of time.
Fitful energy on him, he paced the length of Spock’s cabin and back, over and over again, fantasising how he walked out of the closed door and took a stroll through the ship, arboretum, observation room, anywhere but here. Each fantasy ended always either at the closed door that would not open or else with a security guard with Spock’s face who cuffed his hands together and smiled -- the terrible grimace he saw on Spock’s face when he climaxed.
He was afraid of losing the use of his hands, afraid of bending and breaking to Spock’s desire, afraid of Spock. The list of things he was afraid of now would be endless, if he were ever foolish enough to write it down.
On the morning of the third day, McCoy sat hunched into himself on the bed, waiting for Spock to leave. He had dressed, eaten his customary breakfast, and was now sitting beside the table, hands steepled, contemplating something. McCoy hoped it wasn’t him, and wished he’d go, and knew he would want him back, at the end of the long, intensely lonely day.
Spock seemed to have made up his mind about something. He stood up briskly and went to the intercom. “Mr Scott.”
“I will see you in my quarters in -- “ he glanced over at McCoy “half an hour.” Cutting off the intercom midway through Scott’s “Aye, sir,” he looked blandly at the human. “I suggest that you get dressed.”
McCoy was staring, appalled. “You said you wouldn’t do anything to Scotty -- “
“Be quiet,” Spock cut in, “and get dressed. Now.”
When half an hour later the door signal flashed, McCoy was dressed and standing hesitantly beside Spock’s chair. “Open the door,” Spock directed, and turned to the spread of notes on the table.
“Mr Scott. Have you completed the assignment?”
“Aye, sir.” Scott was glancing from one to the other, almost anxiously.
“Sit down. Describe the device to me.”
McCoy was left standing, unless he wanted to go over to the chair in the corner or sit on the bed. Spock had not looked at him, and Scott was visibly trying not to, embarrassed.
“Ah, well; it was just a matter of resonance. All that was difficult was making sure that the device would resonate to the right Enterprise, and while the transporter records and that machine they others left helped, the only way to make sure would be to turn the thing on and send a message. But it should be right.”
“Good,” Spock said softly. “I am impressed, Mr Scott. Now if you will remain seated.” This to forestall the engineer’s clear desire to get up and leave. “Well, Doctor?”
McCoy’s hands were clenched on the edge of the table; he had dropped his head so that his face was hidden. Spock’s hand flicked out and tilted up his chin; for an instant, McCoy saw Scott’s eyes on him, the engineer’s expression carefully noncommittal.
“If you want Mr Scott to leave, you must ask me,” the Vulcan said softly. “If you want to go home, you must ask me.”
“All right!” The words tore out of him and left McCoy bleeding. “Send him away and get on with it.” He heard his voice shaking, couldn’t stop it.
Spock stood up. “No,” he said deliberately, “ask. Ask me.” Advancing on the other man, he backed him away across the room; Scott pushed his chair back and got to his feet, looking (McCoy could just see him over Spock’s shoulder) not quite so noncommittal and considerably on edge. Visibly, he didn’t want to be here. Neither did McCoy.
It reminded him all too horribly of that other time, a month ago, more sharply still when Spock caught at his wrist. He was shoved up against the wall by the door, frozen too still to move, his left arm pinned at full length by his wrist and Spock’s other hand griping at his shoulder like talons, or claws.
“Ask me,” Spock said inexorably. Beg. Scott might be sent away, indeed probably would be, since McCoy could not imagine that Spock would want witnesses. Beg for the help that Spock could hold away from him forever. It was a very neat piece of torture, to tell McCoy by way of someone whose word McCoy wouldn’t doubt, that the means of escape actually existed.
“Ask me.” Spock’s voice sounded harsher, and his grip was tighter. Was he going to break the other wrist this time? His other hand was clamped into McCoy’s shoulder like a branding iron, and he gave the human a shake. “Ask me.”
His breath was coming harder now, harsh with pain, in a minute he would be sobbing, and Scott was still standing there, watching all this, and Spock’s hands were digging into his bones as if they meant to break them, and he could stop it, Spock would stop it, at least for a moment, if only he could say the words --
“Ask me!“ Spock snarled, solid shadow, cold and burning, hands branding irons imprinting on him, the words to open Spock, to open the door -- “Let me go!” he cried out, pleading, “please, let me go, let me go -- “ and he choked, sobbing, voice breaking, “let me go home.”
Spock let go of him, and McCoy slid down the wall on to his knees, his arms coming up to cover his face. He’d asked. He’d begged. He’d pleaded. Out loud and wide awake. He looked up after a moment, so ready to hear Spock’s expressionless refusal that it took more than a moment to realise that Spock had said, quite simply, “Yes.” And then, offering him a hand up, “I think you had better go through and wash your face.”
When he came back, still tensely on edge and terrified of believing it, Scott and Spock were both leaning over the printed-out notes on the table. “You see,” Spock was saying, “if there is a certain type of flux in the matter/antimatter converter it will produce negative ions which, reacting with the neutron flow -- ”
“Aye, but what about the negative polarity complex -- oh, aye, I see.” Scott looked up. “We willna have to find an ion storm to get ye back,” he said, not looking quite at McCoy.
Spock folded his hands behind his back and looked McCoy up and down. “No. It will be necessary to wait six hours until Mr Scott is due on duty in any case, and then in thirteen hours and thirty-five minutes, by my calculations, the correct conditions may be produced for transporter exchange with another universe. But this can be accomplished while we remain in orbit about Kessler II. All that is necessary is to communicate with the other universe and coordinate the time for exchange.”
“Can I -- “
“You will remain here,” Spock said flatly. “Mr Scott, I will see you in the engine room in six hours exactly.”
It was dismissal; Scott left, looking relieved. McCoy stood over the table, looking down at the pages of notes he didn’t understand, in order not to have to look Spock in the face. “I used to wonder,” he said at random, “why you always had everything printed out.”
“Paper is more secure than computer memory,” Spock said evenly. “Paper can be destroyed. Once something is recorded in a computer’s permanent memory, it is there indefinitely, and cannot reliably be deleted. Even if all access codes to it are destroyed, the data frequently still exists. I invariably record any sensitive material I may be working on only in transient memory, and after printing out copy, I clear it. I have done this with all material concerning the possibility of cross-universe contact; after you have been returned, I intend to destroy the papers. There will be no record.” He moved McCoy aside and sat down at the table, beginning to scan through the notes again, and making small notes with a stylus on the edge of some of the pages. “You had better have something to eat,” he added almost absently.
“I’m not hungry,” the human said flatly.
Spock lifted his head and stared at McCoy straight on for several seconds. “You have eaten a total of one thousand nine hundred and seventy-six calories over the past three days. That is an extremely minimal diet. Will you eat, or will you be forcibly fed?”
It was a very long and very silent day. Spock worked on his notes for a few hours, and then, a couple of hours early for his appointment with Scott, got up and left, bundling the notes together, without a word. McCoy spent most of the time lying flat on the bed, not daring to get up and pace, not able to put his mind to any other occupation.
When Spock came back, just over three hours later, McCoy was still lying there. The Vulcan dropped a scrap of print-out paper on his chest, still without a word, and waited, watching. It was a moment before McCoy’s eyes could focus on the printing. In this Enterprise’s standard computer-type, it said TELL BONES WE RE GETTING THE SAU@IAN BRANDIES SET UP.
“You did it,” McCoy whispered. “You got through.”
“I assume that you are ‘Bones’?”
“Yes,” McCoy said, and realised as the letters began to blur, that he was crying. His hands were shaking, and Spock plucked the paper out of them and sat down, looking at it curiously. “The other Mr Scott?”
“No,” McCoy was rubbing his face with the back of his hand. “Jim Kirk -- he calls me Bones.”
Spock tapped his fingers thoughtfully on the side of the paper. “Bones... short for ‘sawbones’?” On McCoy’s nod, the Vulcan added “It hardly seems complimentary.” He let go of the paper, and reached with one hand to trace a line down the side of McCoy’s face to his throat, and rest there. For one apprehensive moment, the human felt the other man’s heated touch, but Spock let go, and went back to his work. At the computer terminal, this time.
He must have slept, because he remembered waking. Spock was still seated by the computer terminal. McCoy sat up, and slid off the bed, wandering over to sit opposite him. “Why are you doing this?”
Spock raised an eyebrow at him. “Specify.”
“Letting me go. What’s your Captain going to say when he finds out?”
“He wants a competent Chief Medical Officer. He will still have one. If you are concerned for Mr Scott, I can assure you that no harm will come to him.”
“What about the other McCoy?”
“It is a little late for you to concern yourself about him, Doctor.” Spock glanced down at the computer screen. “One hour and twenty-seven minutes until the optimum time for exchange. I have noted in the log that the Chief Engineer and I intend to spend thirty minutes running tests on the transporter, and since it will be the middle of ship’s night, I do not anticipate any interruptions.”
“Yes, but what about him? Are you planning to keep him in here with you?”
“And if I were?” Spock’s eyebrows flickered. “It is not your concern.” His hands blurred out and took McCoy’s, holding them tightly. “I will give you my word on this, however; I do not intend harm to him, nor do I intend that harm should come to him.” His dark eyes were focussed on McCoy, examining him with detailed exactness. “You have been... intriguing.”
He let go at last, and said no more, until it was time to leave. Then he shut off his terminal and stood up abruptly. “Come, Doctor.”
Scott was standing by the transporter console. “We’ve ten minutes of perfect transfer time, Mr Spock.”
“The arranged moment of transfer is in two minutes and forty seconds. Doctor, will you stand on the transporter platform.”
“Wait a minute,” McCoy said, “Scotty -- “
The engineer straightened, turning to look at him for the first time. “Aye?”
McCoy moved closer to him, out of Spock’s reach. “I just wanted to say, well, thanks.”
Scott’s eyes flicked over to Spock, and back at McCoy. “Small reason you have for thanking me.”
“I think,” McCoy took a deep breath, “you kept me sane. Thanks. And for all the booze.”
Suddenly, Scott grinned. “Ah, well, there was one thing I didn’t tell you. When the Captain ordered your cabin -- your other’s cabin -- cleared, I had the booze brought to mine. Saw no sense in wasting it.”
McCoy found himself smiling, and shook his head. “No point at all, Scotty. Thanks.” He went to the transporter platform and stood on one disc, folding his hands behind his back. Looking over at Spock, he saw the expressionless, bearded face, and shadowed eyes, and wished he could think of something to say.
“Mr Scott, prepare for transfer. Goodbye, Doctor.”
McCoy nodded, swallowing, and shut his eyes.
He opened them. It hadn’t worked. Scott was still standing by the transporter console.
Kirk bounced forward and grabbed at him. “Bones!”
McCoy flinched, but only for a moment; “Jim,” he said shakily, and hugged him back.
“God, you’ve lost weight!”
“Yeah,” McCoy agreed, and turned to step off the platform. He froze for an imperceptible instant as Spock unfolded his hands from behind his back, moving slightly forward. “Scotty,” he managed a grin, and as the engineer had moved out from behind the console, hugged him. Then Uhura was attempting to squeeze him to death, and then Chapel “Chris, you would never believe how glad I am to see you -- “ and finally, inescapably, Spock.
“Spock.” McCoy couldn’t think of anything to say.
The Vulcan’s eyebrows flickered. “Welcome back, Doctor.”
“I’m glad to be home.”
That wasn’t, of course, the end of it. If Lazarus had been a Starfleet officer, when he came back from the dead there’d have been a debriefing session. McCoy had been “missing” for over a month; there had been pressure on Kirk from Starfleet command to register him “missing, believed killed”. Now that he was back, they wanted every detail.
On mentioning that Spock -- the other Spock -- had said he would destroy all data relating to this cross-universe contact, Spock had indicated firm agreement. “While Mr Scott and I were working on the problem, I too recorded very little in permanent memory.”
“That’s enough,” Chapel said abruptly, looking at McCoy. “You can finish the debriefing in the morning, Captain. Doctor, will you come to sickbay?”
“What for? I feel fine,” McCoy protested. Apart from his arm and shoulder aching, and there was nothing in particular to do about that.
“Just in case,” Kirk said firmly, standing up.
“I concur, Doctor,” Spock agreed, also standing.
When Chris Chapel, Jim Kirk, and Spock, were all adamant that he let Chris run a mediscanner over him, McCoy knew he couldn’t win. “I’m fine, I keep telling you,” he was still grumbling as he lay down on the diagnostic table, but he lay still as Chapel operated the mediscan.
“You’re very thin, and under-exercised -- the computer can set up a diet and exercise plan for you for the next month or so. Other than that, you do seem to be fine, apart from -- “ she frowned. “Len, take your shirt off.”
“Look, I’m fine,” McCoy snapped, sitting up.
“Bones,” Kirk intervened. “Chapel, what’s wrong?”
“Fairly extensive bruising, I think. I’d just like to check it’s nothing worse.”
“If it was anything worse that damned machine would have told you -- “
Spock lifted one devastating eyebrow, and McCoy shrugged and began to pull the shirt off over his head. Kirk glanced at Spock in mute enquiry, but looked back at an indrawn breath from Chapel.
On McCoy’s right shoulder, and his left arm at the wrist, hand-shaped bruises darkened the skin. “Bones, how the hell -- “
McCoy shrugged, his face a carefully-schooled blank. “Hell is probably right. It’s just bruises.”
“It looks like someone tried to break your arm -- or your neck.”
“I don’t think so.”
Chapel finished with the closer scan. “You’re right, it’s no worse than bruises. You’ll be fine in a couple of days. Don’t forget about the diet and the exercise.”
Kirk grinned. “I’ll enjoy reminding him.”
McCoy managed a travesty of his usual glare, as he finished pulling his shirt back on. “Look, I’m really tired. What did you do about my cabin?”
“What do you mean, what did we do about it? It’s still there.”
“Good. I just want to sleep, Jim.”
“Sure.” Kirk patted him gingerly on the shoulder. “We’ll do the debriefing in the morning.”
Kirk did not notice, and McCoy thought that Spock probably hadn’t, that when they passed a security guard on an errand McCoy brought his hands together in a nervous, wrist-crossing motion. His cabin door opened to his own handprint, and he could close it behind him. He was not in the least sleepy; but it was wonderful to be alone in a room he could leave.
The door signal buzzed. Scotty. The grin died on McCoy’s face as he opened the door and saw Spock.
“I am sorry to disturb you so late,” the Vulcan said after a momentary glance at McCoy’s still fully clothed state and untouched bed. “I wanted to speak with you, briefly, in private.”
He could argue, and this Spock would go away, but it would be pointless; this Spock was not the other Spock. “Sure. Come in.”
As the door closed behind him, Spock said without preamble, “In sickbay I noted your injuries. They would appear to have been made by hands.”
“I don’t see that it’s any of your business,” McCoy snapped in heaviness of spirit.
McCoy froze in the act of turning away. After a moment, a convulsive shudder broke the spell of immobility. “No. Not you. He isn’t you.”
Spock’s lips folded tighter shut for an instant. “He is... possibilities of me. I came to apologise.”
“Somewhat illogical, isn’t it, Spock? You didn’t do that.”
“An aspect of me did. I am sorry.”
McCoy’s arms wrapped round himself, hugging himself. He looked down, wishing only that Spock would go away. “Don’t. He isn’t you.”
“No,” Spock agreed. “But he is someone I might have been. You do not deserve such treatment, and I am sorry that any aspect of me in any reality should have inflicted it on you.”
Shivering now, McCoy managed something of a glare up at the Vulcan. “Look, just go away. If it makes you feel any better in that logical Vulcan heart of yours, I’d be dead by now if it wasn’t for him. And he isn’t you.”
“He protected you?” Spock said after a brief, puzzled pause.
“He shut me up where no one else could get at me. Spock, go away.”
There was another pause; and then Spock looked, to McCoy’s mingled horror and relief, as if he understood. “I’m sorry,” he said again, and turned to go. “Good night, Doctor.”
He isn’t you, McCoy thought, he can’t be you. Because if he were you, then I know you as I wanted to know you -- I know how your hands touch me and the taste of your skin and the look on your face when you come. And I’ll never have that, from you here. “Spock.”
“Yes?” The Vulcan didn’t turn.
“I still love you.” Having said it, he wished he hadn’t. Even Spock’s back looked as embarrassed as the last time that McCoy remembered so vividly despite having been so very drunk.
“It is illogical,” Spock said precisely and gravely, turning to look at him again, “but I would have been sorry, had an aspect of myself over which I have no control, altered your feelings for me in the slightest. Thank you, Leonard.” This time, he did go.
McCoy left five minutes later, and spent the rest of ship’s night wandering happily around the Enterprise, through Oxygen Park and the observation deck. And high as a kite on freedom.
After twelve hours to himself, McCoy managed a reasonable report on the differences and similarities between the two universes. He kept strictly away from the personal level, but no one seemed to notice.
Only afterwards, when the recorders had been switched off, did Kirk look as if he were about to ask anything personal, and McCoy cut him off (he hoped) with “What did you do with the other McCoy?” As soon as he had asked it, he was aware that he didn’t want to know the answer, and that if he had been in a clearer state of mind he’d never have asked. Or maybe Scotty, over a bottle.
“The... other?” Kirk looked disconcerted for a moment. “Well, he was in the brig for a couple of days, but Spock and Scotty didn’t think it was necessary, and he did seem pretty harmless, so he was assigned a cabin and they kept an eye on him. He was a lot like you... with a permanent hangover.” The Captain frowned, fidgeting with his stylus. “You know, he didn’t want to go back,” he added.
By now, McCoy was wishing he’d never started it. Of course his other hadn’t wanted to go back. Back to the hellship.
Kirk dropped the stylus and asked, determinedly genial, “Well, that ship was in a pretty tough universe, how did you get on?”
McCoy’s eyes slid over to Spock’s pale, expressionless face, and back to Kirk. “Spock... the other Spock... protected me.”
Kirk grinned. “It seems you’re a man of integrity in both universes, Mr Spock.”
Spock’s eyebrows flickered. “Indeed, Captain.” He looked back at McCoy with familiar, shadowed eyes.
“Yes.” He let me go. “He is... a man of integrity.” Even in hell.
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