Chapter 1: Lost Chances
McCoy tries to come to terms with a lost love.
Refresher for The Man Trap: McCoy meets up with his old love Nancy, who is now married to a scientist on a deserted planet. However, Nancy turns out to be dead, and a shape-shifting creature has taken her place. McCoy is forced to kill the creature when it tries to kill Kirk.
McCoy leaned over the creature lying on his autopsy table, trying to peer into its big, round eyes. They were covered by its matted hair, but he found he didn’t want to brush it back. He hadn't touched the creature at all yet. He’d just been looking at it from various angles since his team brought it into the infirmary an hour ago.
Jim had suggested he take a break before dealing with this thing. Spock hadn’t said anything. He just stood there looking judgmental because, yeah, maybe McCoy hadn’t wanted to kill it even though it was attacking Jim. Maybe this one time, he’d had a selfish impulse at the expense of Jim. As if Spock never had!
Well, maybe not a selfish one, but a logical one. Which really was worse, wasn’t it? McCoy had been caught up in emotion. There was nothing cold-hearted about it. Jim would understand, even if Spock thought less of him. Who cared what that pointed-eared computer thought anyway?
McCoy stood straight again and took a deep breath. His hands were clasped tightly behind his back, so tightly that he was beginning to loose feelings in the tips of his fingers. If he were a patient, he would tell himself to go get some rest, and to talk with one of the nurses with psychiatric training over the next few weeks. He had, in essence, killed the one woman he’d truly loved. He’d pulled the trigger and watched her fall to the floor. She’d looked up at him with Nancy’s sad, dark eyes. Even if that thing wasn’t Nancy, it had been Nancy to him for a little while. He could practically hear Spock telling him how illogical that was.
McCoy heard the door of the infirmary slide open, but he didn’t look up. He furrowed his brow and tried to look thoughtful rather than scared out of his mind and on the verge of some kind of breakdown. He could still appear professional, even after this, couldn’t he? Of course he could.
“Doctor, I'm surprised you’re still here.”
Now, that did startle him enough to show it. He looked up at his visitor with his eyebrows raised. It was Spock, as if summoned by his thoughts, standing straight with his hands behind his back. McCoy unclenched his own hands from each other and let them hang at his sides, trying to appear casual. It was usually easy for him. He’d been berated a thousand times by various professors at the academy and superiors at various hospitals and infirmaries that he was too casual. He’d give just about anything to seem too casual now.
And damned if that Vulcan bastard wouldn’t notice he was behaving differently than normal. “It’s a…” McCoy cleared his throat. “Fascinating specimen, isn’t it?”
Spock quirked an eyebrow in that irritatingly sober way of his. “Indeed.”
McCoy scoffed and walked over to his console screen, pretending to look at something, even though he couldn’t make out the words there. “I’m sure that’s all you think it is. A matter of some limited interest.”
“Nearly everything has a limit, Doctor, but I would not use the term limited in this case. It implies a small quantity, and I have no small interest in this creature. It is—was the last of its kind.”
“Well, it’s dead now. What’s the point of dragging it over the coals?” He held up his hand to stop whatever Spock was about to say. “I know: research. I’m a doctor, not an anthropologist. I don’t care how this thing came to be or why the rest of them died out or how it’s insides used to work. It’s dead. I don’t have anything left to do for it. I can’t bring anyone back from the dead.”
“Fascinating,” Spock said.
McCoy rolled his eyes. “What’s so fascinating about it? It’s a corpse.”
“While that too is fascinating, I was referring to you. First, you claim to be here because it’s fascinating, then you berate me for sharing that conclusion. Then, you objectify the creature by using the neutral pronoun, but you say ‘anyone’ rather than ‘anything.’”
McCoy stared at Spock, too tired to make sense of his textbook dry rambling. “What are you getting at, Mr. Spock?”
“I believe that this incident may have had an… emotional toll on you.”
“What do you know about emotions?” McCoy snapped. “I don’t like how you say it. Emotional.” McCoy couldn’t quite mimic the Vulcan’s cadence, or the distaste when Spock said the word. “Of course I’m emotional. That was—” He gestured toward the body on the table. “That was Nancy.”
“As you know, Doctor, Nancy was never aboard this ship.”
McCoy took a deep breath. What was the point of talking to Spock about this? How could he understand how something like this felt when he thought feelings were anathema? “No. Nancy’s dead. The thing is, she wasn’t an hour ago. She was alive. As real as you or me. The fact that she wasn’t really doesn’t change that. In my mind, she was. Can you understand that?”
“Not entirely,” Spock admitted. “However, it is unfortunate that this had to happen in a way that must have been very unpleasant for you.”
“Unpleasant,” McCoy repeated hollowly. He slumped into his chair, feeling another wave of exhaustion. The sleeping pills he’d taken hadn’t entirely worn off yet, and he kept feeling the effects of them trying to sooth the edges of his mind and lead him back to his bed. When he thought of his bed, though, his heart pounded, and his head ached. All he could think of was Nancy sitting over him in that bed, telling him to sleep.
He’d trusted her. He should’ve known something was wrong, but he’d trusted her because he’d wanted to.
Quietly, he watched Spock inspect the creature. Its feet, its hands. He pressed his fingertips through its shaggy hair to feel the shape of its cranium.
“Why don’t you look in its eyes?” McCoy asked.
Spock blinked at him. “Ah, the Human misconception that the eyes are… ‘gateways to the soul’ I believe is the axiom? While eyes can be useful in interpreting behavior and intent in several species, once a being is dead, eyes are as important to examine as any other—”
“Could you stop? Is that even possible for you?” McCoy ran his hand through his hair. “Jesus, Spock, did you come here to make me feel worse about all this?”
Spock furrowed his brow, but only slightly. “Doctor…” He paused and stepped around the autopsy table, closer to McCoy. “I was hoping that you would be here. I would like to discuss this creature with someone who is educated enough in exobiology for educated discourse.”
McCoy stared at Spock for a long moment, then he laughed, shaking his head. “Sorry to disappoint you, but I’m the last person who is capable of educated discourse right now.”
“Perhaps you would prefer discourse… of another nature.”
Now, McCoy was confused. He raised an eyebrow at Spock, unable to think up a retort.
“Someone with your medical experience must have faced many troubling situations in the past, and being a particularly emotional person, I would expect that you have learned to control yourself to an extent. I have seen you restrain yourself quite admirably many times after losing a patient, for example.”
McCoy rubbed his forehead. That headache was getting worse, but he couldn’t mix anything with his sleeping pills unless he wanted to be out of commission for a week. “Spock…”
“This incident seems to have had a much greater effect on you than any other that was required for the captain’s safety.”
McCoy’s head snapped up. “What are you saying? Are you saying I don’t care about Jim enough just because… because I hesitated?”
“No.” Spock furrowed his brow quizzically. “Is that what you are saying?”
McCoy glared at Spock for a long moment, but he just didn’t have that much rage left in him at the moment. He leaned back in his chair again. “I did hesitate, but it’s not because I don’t care about Jim.”
“I am quite aware of your loyalty to him.”
“It’s just…” McCoy paused. Was he really going to pour out his guts to Spock of all people? Was he that bad off? But he was too ashamed to go to Jim like he usually would, and… Well, one thing he knew was that Spock wouldn’t go around gossiping about it. He probably wouldn’t even mention it again if McCoy asked him not to. Why not?
A million reasons why not, surely, but he couldn’t think of any of them. “It was Nancy. She came to my quarters—it did, shaped like her. She told me that my feelings for her were strong, that she liked how they made her feel more than her husband’s feelings. Now, I’m not the kind of guy who goes around sleeping with married women, but Nancy isn’t… Nancy wasn’t just any woman, Spock. I don’t know if you can understand this or not. I don’t know if Vulcans have true love, but she was the one. She was the only one. Sure, I had a wife for a while, but that was like a flame that just kept burning even though it had no reason to go on. All we did was fight and make up and fight again. Nancy was different.” McCoy took a deep breath. He wasn’t sure he felt any better after saying all of that. “I left her, and she ended up on that planet, and now she’s dead.”
Spock stood straight as ever, his eyes cold, but thoughtful. “You cannot blame yourself for what happened to her.”
“I can if I damn well want to!” McCoy pushed himself up to his feet and went over to the autopsy table again. The thing was wearing some kind of garment that looked like a fishnet. He plucked it up and dropped it, angry at it for not being Nancy’s dress. “It’s not just Nancy. It’s this thing too. It killed everyone else it got close to, but it didn’t kill me. It must’ve been hungry too. I was asleep right there in front of it, and it must’ve been tempted, but it didn’t kill me. Why?”
“Mm. I see your dilemma now.” Spock moved next to McCoy, looking down at the creature. “It chose not to kill you, but you killed it.”
McCoy’s heart twisted and he had to close his eyes. “Yes, Mr. Spock. I killed it.”
Spock straightened his back even further. “You believe that the creature did not kill you, due to it’s preference for your feelings over Dr. Crater’s feelings.”
“I do,” McCoy said flatly.
Spock had that light in his eyes that McCoy knew meant he found the situation intriguing, but he seemed to be holding back any commentary. McCoy was so grateful for the silence that he actually laughed a little, earning a perplexed look from Spock.
“All it needed was some goddamn salt.” McCoy shook his head, and he laughed again.
“I don’t see the humor, Doctor.”
McCoy pushed his hair back again. It kept falling down into his eyes. “It’s not always humor makes a man laugh.” He looked at Spock. “Jim was taunting it with salt. He could’ve just fed it. I wouldn’t ‘ve had to shoot it if he’d fed it.”
Spock glanced down, his mouth a tight little line. “I’m sure the Captain saw it as a threat. However, if you have doubts, you should consult him. Or go through the proper channels to—”
“Oh, shut up, Spock. I’m not filing a report against him.”
“It’s just I wish it hadn’t happened like that.” McCoy pinched the bridge of his nose. His eyes felt like they were covered in sandpaper. “Need some sleep, that’s all.”
Spock nodded, his eyes slightly unfocused with thought. “Doctor, once you have had the proper amount of rest, I would like to aid you in your work with this creature.”
“Sure,” McCoy said with a shrug. They’d worked closely together a few times since McCoy had been posted to the Enterprise a couple months ago. “Let’s say… is 1300 good for you? It’ll take that long to be sure the medication I took is worn off.”
“1300 is acceptable.” Spock nodded tersely, and without so much as a ‘sleep well’ he left.
McCoy stood there for a long moment, trying to figure out what had just happened between them. Were they becoming friends?
He shook his head. No chance. Spock was a Vulcan, after all. McCoy wasn’t even sure they really made friends. Just agreeable acquaintances. Anyway, McCoy didn’t really like him very much. He was a good science officer, but on a personal level?
McCoy wasn’t in the mood to think about it now. He left a note for the staff not to touch the creature’s body until he got back, then headed to his quarters. Maybe he was tired enough just to fall face first into bed and not think anymore. At least, for a few hours.
The pills and general exhaustion afforded McCoy a few hours of sleep before he woke up to the dim red light of a simulated night. He made it about five seconds of blissful forgetfulness before he remembered, and his heart started thumping, and his skin started crawling.
There was no way he was getting back to sleep. Not now.
He wandered around his quarters for a little while, but all he could see was Nancy. Jim taunting her with salt. Spock attacking her. Spock flung across the room. Jim sitting there helplessly while Spock urged him to shoot.
The mess they’d left was still there. The books Spock had knocked over. The chair twisted around.
No, this wouldn’t work. Usually, he’d hide in the sickbay if his quarters were bothering him this much, but that wasn’t really an option either. He could hide in the recovery area or his office area, but there would only be a wall’s separation between the two of them wherever he went. That wouldn’t work either.
He grabbed his flask of Saurian Brandy and started down the corridor. Before he’d even fully registered what he was doing, he was punching Jim's door chime.
He didn’t answer right away, and when he did, McCoy could tell he’d woken him. A few strands of his hair were even out of place. “Doctor…” he said. McCoy couldn’t tell if it was a greeting or a question. Probably a bit of both.
“Have you been getting those electrolytes, like I ordered?”
Jim drew a deep breath, narrowly keeping himself from rolling his eyes. “Come in, Bones.” McCoy grinned and stepped in. “I didn’t realize Saurian Brandy had electrolytes.”
McCoy chuckled. “Let’s say it does. I don’t feel like being a responsible physician tonight.”
Jim sat heavily at his desk, and McCoy pulled up his usual chair opposite Jim. Jim had the shot glasses out (he kept them tucked in a drawer) and McCoy began pouring.
After a few sips, Jim finally said, “Do you want to talk about it?”
“Y’know, Spock said the same thing. Well, not the same thing. The Vulcan version.”
Jim furrowed his brow slightly, his eyes shining as he waited for McCoy to get around to answering him.
“Look…” McCoy set down his glass heavily. “I’m sorry, Jim. I let you down. If Spock hadn’t been there… I hate to say this, but if Spock hadn’t been there, I don’t know what would’ve happened.”
“If Spock hadn’t been there, you would’ve come out of it on your own, Bones.”
“I’m not so sure.”
Jim smirked. “I am.”
McCoy rolled his eyes. “Jim, I’m trying to apologize here.”
“No, you’re trying to beat yourself up about it.”
McCoy pushed his lips out in something like a pout. “Fine.”
“Fine.” Jim raised his glass and downed what was left in it before pouring himself another. “Now, let’s get to what you really want to talk about.”
“What in the hell are you talking about now, Jim?” McCoy asked as he held out his own glass for a refill, but he couldn’t quite make it a convincing question.
Jim answered anyway. “Nancy.”
“Nancy,” McCoy repeated. It seemed easier to say her name now that Kirk had. He laughed weakly. “You know, I think I was just starting to get over her.”
“No you weren’t,” Kirk said.
McCoy frowned. “Now, look, if you want to have this conversation by yourself, I can just leave.”
Kirk raised his eyebrows, still smiling, although McCoy could see the sympathy in his eyes.
“I was just starting to feel better about it, in any case. Like I could move on without it being… without expecting her to drift back into my life. Now, it’s like I have to start all over again. Do you know, I poured my guts out to that green-blooded calculator a few hours ago?”
Kirk chuckled down at his glass. “You have to admit, he’s a good listener.”
“Yeah, but then he opens his mouth.” McCoy snorted, not wanting to admit how much he’d needed that conversation, even though he wasn’t sure how much it helped. He spoke again, in a quieter voice. “Do you think I’m a coward, Jim?”
“What makes you ask that?”
“Can’t you just answer a—” McCoy stopped himself before he started yelling. “I didn’t leave her for Starfleet, Jim. You and I both know I could leave Starfleet if I needed to. I left because I was scared. I saw her, and I didn’t want to lose her like I did Jocelyn, and I was scared, and I just ended up losing her anyway.”
Kirk set down his glass and leaned forward, looking McCoy straight in the eye. “You’re not a coward. When you look back on decisions like that, it’s easy to simplify them. When you’re in the middle of it, though?” Kirk backed off again, shrugging a hand. “There’s more to it than one thing. Maybe you were scared, but you weren’t just scared.”
McCoy folded his arm on Kirk’s desk and rested his cheek against it. He was starting to get drunk enough to care how pathetic he looked. “What if she was my last chance? I’m not as young as I used to be.”
“If you want someone, you’ll find her,” Kirk said with that patented confidence that made it seem like he could see into the future and he really did know for sure how everything was going to turn out. “I don’t think you’ve been ready to want anyone yet.”
“Oh, I’ve wanted,” McCoy said, smiling faintly. “It’s needing I’m not that sure about.”
“So, why are you so afraid you won’t have another chance?”
McCoy closed his eyes, feeling more relaxed now. “Dammit, Jim,” he muttered. “A man needs… he needs someone.” He looked up at Kirk. “Except captains, of course.”
“Of course.” Kirk got to his feet and went over to McCoy. “Come on. You’re not going to drool on my desk.”
He began to pull McCoy up to his feet. McCoy groaned and grumbled. “’R you trying to kick me out?”
“No,” Kirk said. He dragged McCoy over to his bed and tossed him in. “Get some sleep, Bones. I’ll just get some work done before my shift starts.”
McCoy may have said something after that, but he definitely didn’t remember it.
By the time afternoon rolled around, McCoy was still feeling that brandy he’d shared with Kirk, and he was sucking down coffee as the nurses prepared the creature’s body for its autopsy. He’d almost forgotten that Spock was going to join him until he saw him strolling into the sick bay, right as the ship’s chronometer rolled around to 1300.
“Doctor,” he said, nodding politely.
McCoy attempted a smile, but the way he felt, he was pretty sure it didn’t read as one. Whatever the case, Spock didn’t care. He stood by McCoy as the nurses finished up. McCoy asked them to leave, then. They were confused by the request, but they did as they were told. At Spock’s raised eyebrow, McCoy explained, “I think four hands is enough. Don’t want too many people at an autopsy. How would you like twenty hands looking at your insides?”
“Your concern for the dead is… admirable, if misplaced.”
“Think two people with our experience is more than enough.” He set his empty coffee mug aside and began to sterilize and glove his hands. “Sound logical to you?”
There wasn’t anything more to say, and Spock wasn’t one for small talk, so they got to work. McCoy had done enough autopsies on crewmates—sometimes friends—that it wasn’t long before he could shut off that part of him still mourning for Nancy and feeling guilt about killing the creature and focus on the work at hand.
Anyway, he’d made a promise to himself after he’d woken up in Kirk’s bed, with Kirk at his desk catching up on work while McCoy snoozed. He’d stared up at the ceiling, and he knew that they only way he’d be getting any sleep in his own bed was if he found a way to feel okay about all of this.
There wasn’t much to the autopsy, as far as McCoy was concerned. He knew the cause of death. Hell, he’d been the cause of death. The rest of this was just exploratory; the kind of thing Starfleet liked on reports. They’d want to send in thorough body scans and information as well, for research. Starfleet loved its research.
Spock was quiet for the most part, which McCoy appreciated. He was worried that he might bring up what they’d talked about before and break McCoy’s concentration. Instead, he only pointed out things he found interesting, like the placement and size of the creature’s gall bladder, and how intricate the amygdala was; probably enhancing its telepathic abilities.
When it was over, McCoy felt like he always did after this kind of procedure, bleary eyed and achy. It was a relief to finally close the creature up for the last time, and prepare to close it in its capsule. Once he had his gloves off, he rubbed at the back of his neck.
“Wait,” McCoy said before Spock closed the lid. He pulled a little vial out of his pocket and pulled the lid open, sprinkling the contents over the creature.
Predictably, Spock was looking at him with raised eyebrows. “Dirt,” McCoy said. “From its planet. I got it from the guys in geo. They said they could spare a little.”
“May I inquire as the purpose of such an action?”
McCoy ran his palm along his hair. “I don’t know if you’d approve, Mr. Spock, but I felt like the creature deserved some kind of send off instead of just shooting its body into space. I’m going to give it a little funeral.” McCoy arched an eyebrow. “You’re free to join me, if you want.”
McCoy fully expected a no, and perhaps a lecture on the illogical nature of his undertaking, but instead he said, “Yes, Doctor. I would be honored.”
“Oh.” McCoy shifted his feet back and forth, suddenly a little self-conscious. What if Spock didn’t find the ceremony appropriate? What if he made a comment or two that ruined the whole thing? Would it still work? “I was just going to say a few words. In memory and all that.”
“Yes, a common tradition among many Earth cultures.”
McCoy nodded. “Well, if you’re going to be here, you’ve got to say something too. I’m not going to be the only one standing here talking.”
“If you wish.”
McCoy furrowed his brow. He’d once again expected a no that Spock hadn’t given him. “All right…” McCoy put his hands behind his back and stood straight, staring out into nothing. He’d rehearsed the words in his head all morning. “I didn’t know your name, but you came to me as Nancy, and we shared a kind of closeness I…” He cleared his throat. “I hadn’t in a long time. It must’ve been lonely being the last of your kind, so I guess maybe you hadn’t been that close with anyone in a while too. I know you killed her. I know you killed some other people too. You didn’t kill me, though, and I thank you for that much. I just hope there was some good in all of this, and that wherever you are now, you aren’t alone.”
McCoy took a deep breath and his eyes came back into focus. He’d kept himself from crying; that was good. He didn’t want to shed any tears in front of a Vulcan.
“That was quite eloquent, Doctor.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Are you mocking me?”
“Not at all.”
“Well…” McCoy felt the tips of his ears warming, and he wasn’t sure why. “Well, now it’s your turn. Go on, then.”
Spock nodded tersely and mimicked McCoy’s stance. “I respect that you had needs, and that you tried to fulfill them the way that you considered most logical. It would have been preferable to develop a mutually beneficial relationship between us rather than a violent one. However, as you experienced the drive for survival, we too share that need. I believe that, if you were indeed a creature capable of advanced reasoning as your physiology would indicate, you would understand and accept this outcome given the circumstances. Our scientists will research the data we’ve just gathered from your remains as well as your planet, so that your species will not be forgotten.”
When he was finished, Spock looked at McCoy, as if waiting for McCoy’s approval—or at least his opinion. McCoy just shook his head, although he was smiling. “Mr. Spock, your ability to make everything sound cold and clinical never ceases to amaze me.”
“Thank you, Doctor. Shall we close the body capsule now?”
McCoy nodded and together they closed the pod. “Help me take it to the airlock?”
“Although this would generally not be the duty of two senior officers, I suspect it holds some symbolic significance for you to go against protocol in this matter.”
“Is that a yes.”
Doctor quirked his eyebrows, as if surprised by the question. “Of course, Doctor.”
The two of them carried the capsule to the airlock and set it inside to await depressurization. “Spock,” McCoy said after a moment.
“Yes, Doctor?” Spock asked expectantly.
“There’s another tradition on Earth. Some cultures, anyway. A wake. Sort of a… celebration of life, y’know. Have a few drinks with friends and talk about good times. The body would usually be there, but. I guess I could just use a few drinks and some good times.”
“Ah…” Spock furrowed his brow, apparently not following McCoy’s intention.
“What I mean is. Could you come to my quarters for a while, share a few drinks, maybe talk about… about something.” McCoy didn’t know why his palms were so sweaty, or why he wasn’t just coming out and asking this. Hell, he wasn’t sure why he wanted to ask it at all.
Spock seemed equally perplexed. “Doctor, I do not see the purpose in such an activity.”
“It’s just…” McCoy grit his teeth, feeling silly for having asked. It wasn’t that he needed a wake; he just didn’t want to go back to his quarters by himself. Everything was still a mess, and he’d need to clean it up if he ever wanted to stop thinking about this every time he went back there. “Nevermind. Forget I asked. Anyway, thanks for doing this with me. Probably couldn’t have carried that pod here by myself, so. Y’know. Yeah.”
Spock nodded, although he didn’t seem any less perplexed than before. “Very well, Doctor.” He nodded again, then turned on his heel and left down the corridor.
McCoy looked out at the pod waiting to be sucked out into space when the engineers got around to it. Maybe he should wait until they did, so he could actually see it leave the ship.
No, he couldn’t do that. He knew he was just trying to put off going back to his quarters, and he’d had just about enough of being a coward.
One thing his dad said that always stuck with McCoy was that a man should never drink alone. It was a sign of weakness, he’d said. A sign of avoiding problems rather than facing them.
McCoy hadn’t followed his advice on numerous occasions, especially that particular piece of advice, but he always felt a twinge of guilt when he was alone in a room with a flask and a glass. He couldn’t ask Kirk to join him this time, though. He never drank two nights in a row. He couldn’t think of anyone else to ask either.
He didn’t really want anyone else to turn him down.
Why was it bugging him so much? It was like a mosquito on the back of his neck that just kept hanging on no matter how much he swatted at it. The thought that he’d gone out on that limb and asked Spock, and Spock had turned him down. No, that wasn’t the problem, the problem was that he’d wanted so much for Spock to say yes. That it hurt when he’d said no.
It had hurt.
McCoy shook his head, then leaned it back on the wall. He was sitting on the floor, because he didn’t want to sit at his desk chair. It was still twisted around from Kirk being in it when he was attacked. He didn’t want to sit on the bed, because he kept imagining that it still smelled like Nancy’s perfume. He didn’t want to leave his quarters and sit somewhere else entirely, because he was a mess right now, and he didn’t really want anyone to see him.
McCoy’s eyes traced the crooked horizon of his books, some fallen from the shelf, and others leaning precariously on each other near the edge. He remembered Spock there, first using logic to break through the haze in McCoy’s mind, then using his loyalty to Kirk.
So, the Vulcan could use emotions when he wanted to. He just didn’t have to feel any of them. That hardly seemed fair.
McCoy put his glass and his flask down on the floor next to him and pulled his knees up to his chest. He remembered sitting that way that last night with Nancy--the real Nancy--when he knew he was going to leave her in the morning. He’d sat like this naked at the head of her bed, and she’d leaned on his shoulder and petted his hair, and he had come so close to calling everything off and staying with her. He couldn’t remember any more why he didn’t, in the end. He just remembered the whisper of her breath against his skin as she told him all the things they would do together when they saw each other again.
He never really told her that he didn’t plan on coming back. Just like she never told him she was going to get married until after it was all over. Maybe she’d known they were through back then just like he did. Maybe she was scared too.
McCoy’s door chime startled him. He just sat there, wondering if he’d imagined it. No, it chimed again. He pushed himself up to his feet, nearly toppling himself right back to the floor, and brushed his hair with his fingers.
Hell of a time for someone to show up. If it was Chapel she’d probably drag him to the sickbay and strap him down for some detox, because he was pretty sure he looked like he was on Death’s doorstep, clawing to get in.
He took a deep breath and did his best to pull himself together before pushing the door mechanism.
It was Spock.
“What’re you doing here?” McCoy snapped at him before he could stop himself.
Spock’s expression remained placid, although he just barely crinkled his nose. “Doctor, I reconsidered your offer, but it seems you started on your own.”
McCoy blinked at him, then barked a laugh. “You reconsidered my… okay then. Why don’t you come in and join the party.” He was slurring his words more than was absolutely necessary, but he didn’t care. He just stepped back to let Spock in, only stumbling slightly.
Spock glanced around the room before his eyes landed back on McCoy. “I am… concerned.”
McCoy snorted, then went to retrieve his flask. Bending over was proving more problematic than he’d expected, however. “You want a drink?”
“I’d prefer your offer of conversation,” He replied stiffly.
“Yeah, okay,” McCoy swung his hand a few more times before it finally came in contact with the flask. “Oop, there we go.” He sniffed in a breath, then leaned against the wall to take a drink straight from the flask. There was no chance he was going to attempt to get that glass. “So, conversate.”
Spock furrowed his brow and, instead of speaking, looked around the room again. The books on the floor.
“Somethin’ wrong, Mister Spock?”
“Yes,” Spock said. “Your quarters are in a state of disorder. I believe… they have been this way since the incident with the creature.”
“Very observant, Mister Spock.” It was an interesting challenge to get his tongue to pronounce that many s’s so he did it again. “Mister Spock.”
If McCoy didn’t know better, he would think the frown on Spock’s face was concern. Maybe even worry. But he knew better. “Doctor, I think that this situation has affected you more deeply than you previously indicated.”
“Oh, I indicated. You just don’t see it, Mister Spock. You just don’t… you don’t feel things like a human. You just—”
Spock had turned away from him and was headed for the books. He leaned over and began to gather the ones that had fallen from the floor. McCoy stumbled over to him and grabbed his arm, weakly trying to pull him away from the books. “Don’t do that. Leave them there.”
Spock stared at McCoy. “There is no logic in leaving them—”
“I don’t give a damn about logic. Why don’t you know that by now? I don’t give a damn about your cold logic. You can’t just erase what happened. You can’t just clean up and move on like… like nothing happened here.”
“Doctor,” Spock’s voice was surprisingly gentle, more gentle than McCoy knew he was capable of. Then, he put his hand over McCoy’s, the one gripping Spock’s arm.
McCoy swallowed thickly. “You…” There was no stopping it now. That kind of kindness from Spock of all people. It was too much. It was more than he felt like he deserved right now. “You bastard,” he muttered, and he found himself leaning forward onto Spock’s shoulder, gritting his teeth against the tears welling up in the corners of his eyes.
Spock sensed that McCoy’s knees weren’t going to hold him on their own much longer, so he held his hand tighter and put his other hand on McCoy’s waist to steady him. He just stood there, then. It was like being comforted by a big, sturdy beam of metal, but it was being comforted, and McCoy would take what he could get.
“You ever known something’s supposed to happen, Spock,” he murmured against Spock’s shoulder. “Ever known something with every part of you?”
Spock paused before he answered a simple, “Yes.”
“That’s how I knew Nancy and me… that we’d be back together. That we were meant to be together. I don’t know if it was some god or fate or just the universe pulling at us, but I knew it. So, how is she dead, Spock?” He drew back to look up at Spock, too far gone to care that his eyes were red and bright with tears. “Explain that to me. Give me some of that logic, Spock. For once, I actually want to hear it.”
“I’m sorry, Doctor,” Spock said, his brow furrowed deep. “There is no logical way to explain death.”
“What about love, then?”
Spock pressed his lips into a line. “Vulcans forgo emotion because it hinders logic.”
“You mean because it doesn’t fit into your logical world.”
McCoy wanted to shove him away, but he just stood there, glaring up at him. “So, what good is logic, then?”
“It helps one avoid allowing such strong emotions to determine our lives.”
“I didn’t let it determine my life. I reasoned that I shouldn’t give up my life and career for a relationship, just because it was the happiest I’d ever been. I reasoned that things’d go bad just like they did with Jocelyn.”
Spock looked away, and for a moment McCoy could swear he saw a flicker of some emotion around the corners of his eyes. “Doctor, I do not wish to argue with you when you are in this state.”
“Does it make you uncomfortable, Spock?” McCoy finally pulled away from him, leaning heavily on his bookshelf to keep upright. “Do you think you would handle this different? I guess you would’ve never fallen in love in the first place. I guess leaving her wouldn’t have even been hard for you.”
“I have had difficulty leaving close acquaintances in the past. However, because those choices were based in logic, I know that they were correct.”
“Do you? Or do you just tell yourself that so you don’t have to feel like I feel right now?”
Spock frowned, his gaze once again settling on McCoy. “Do you truly wish to discuss this now, or is it a means of controlling your emotions and giving your mind a focus other than the matter truly at hand?”
McCoy blinked at Spock, then shook his head. Spock was trying to confuse him. “Why did you come here, Spock? You keep acting like you’re worried, like you care. But you don’t. We both know you don’t. So why are you really here?”
Spock narrowed his eyes. “You invited me. I rejected your invitation in haste.”
“Why did you?” McCoy asked. He’d wanted to ask it at the time, but he hadn’t been drunk enough to want an answer.
“I…” Spock’s expression was blank—blank enough that McCoy knew there was something going on in that head of his that he didn’t want to share. “I did not think my presence would be helpful. Perhaps I was correct in my original assessment.”
“No one’s stopping you if you want to leave.”
“I do not wish to leave.” He looked down at the books. “I would like to help you return your quarters to their previous state of cleanliness.”
“Is that what you’re worried about?” McCoy took one of the books that was holding up all the precariously leaning books and threw it against the wall as the rest of the books toppled to the floor.
“Doctor, you are being irrational.”
“Damn right, I am!”
Spock drew a slow breath. “I will tidy your quarters. If you wish to undermine my efforts, you may, but I will not cease until your things are in their proper places.”
Spock took one of the books from the floor and set it into place on the shelf. McCoy slapped it back down, sending it flying into Spock’s shoulder as he leaned down to retrieve another. Spock was unfazed. He put another book in its place, and McCoy slapped it down again. They repeated the process three more times before McCoy growled in frustration and left him, sitting heavily in his desk chair.
It took him a moment to remember that he’d meant to leave it like it was when the creature had attacked Kirk here. He slammed his flask on his desk. “Dammit!”
Spock didn’t react. He continued to put the books away carefully. McCoy watched, noticing after a while that Spock was putting them back in the exact order McCoy usually kept them. Not by alphabet or size or anything like that, but in order of his interest. The more interesting books were closer to the desk.
“How’d you…” he muttered to himself, before he decided he didn’t care. Spock probably just memorized everything. He hadn’t been in McCoy’s quarters too often, though. Did he really have time to memorize something like that? Why would he even want to?
Finally, Spock retrieved the last book from where McCoy had thrown it and put it into place. He then looked at McCoy. “Is that suitable?”
McCoy shrugged his shoulder loosely. “I don’t give a shit. You’re the one who wanted to put them away.”
“What else is there?” Spock asked.
McCoy grimaced at him. “Whatdya mean? You just knocked over my books.”
“I do not believe that it was simply the books that were making you uncomfortable in this room.”
“Who said I was uncomfortable?”
Spock arched his eyebrow, then looked over at the glass still sitting against the wall by the door. “It seems that you were sitting on the ground, close to the exit. It is unlikely that you would find that place the most comfortable unless you found the rest of the room distinctly less comfortable.”
“Can’t get anything past you, eh Spock? And I thought it was just your ears hearing everything, but your eyes do it too.” McCoy leaned his chin against his hand.
“Doctor, you have not answered my question.”
“You can’t… there’s nothing you can do about the last thing, okay?” He turned his head to rub his face against his palm without having to move it. “It’s not your problem anyway. I don’t know why you’re doing this.”
“You are important to the function of this ship, Doctor.”
McCoy chuckled hollowly. “Yeah, that sounds logical.”
“Also, I realize that you are not always a rational man. I am… concerned that you may blame me for urging you to kill the creature when you would have preferred not to.”
McCoy blinked up at Spock. “Now, I really don’t believe what I’m hearing.” He shook his head. “Are you… is something wrong with you?”
“Perhaps I have made a miscalculation,” Spock said.
McCoy rolled his eyes. “That’d be a first. Look, I’m drunk, okay. I don’t know how it works on Vulcan, but you don’t take anything too seriously when a man’s drunk. So, you can’t hold what I’m about to say against me…” he took a deep breath, steeling himself. “I’m glad you were there before that creature did any serious damage to Jim. And grateful. And… thanks.”
Spock tilted his head slightly. “You are, of course, welcome, but I was—”
McCoy held up a hand. “Don’t ruin it by saying too much, okay. Bad enough you got me thanking you. Just. I’m fine. I’m a doctor; I know how to take care of myself. You can go.”
“Of course, Doctor.” Spock bowed his head slightly and went for the door. McCoy was sure he would never get used to the sudden departures. In his family, a goodbye could go on for hours, but Spock didn’t bother with goodbyes at all most of the time.
Not like McCoy wanted Spock to stay any longer than he had already.
McCoy put the cap back on his flask and looked at the books arranged on his shelf. Just like he’d left them before all this happened, but maybe the lines along the side was a little straighter. Vulcan precision hadn’t entirely mimicked his human style.
After a while, McCoy pushed himself up to his feet and headed for his bed. He fell asleep quickly. The scent of Nancy’s perfumed must have finally dissipated.
Chapter 2: Distraction
Spock deals with the aftermath of the trip to Psi 2000 with McCoy's help.
Refresher on The Naked Time: The crew of the Enterprise is infected by a the 'water' on Psi 2000 that has transformed into a complex chain of molecules and intoxicates people when touched. Spock had an emotional outburst when he was infected, but was eventually able to control it.
Spock watched McCoy for several days after the incident in McCoy's quarters. It was, for the most part, scientific interest. McCoy's behavior was often erratic and difficult to comprehend. However, he was more prone to short outbursts followed by relative calm, not this consistent state of emotional unrest he appeared to be in. On Vulcan such behavior was only exhibited by those with mental illness or during... certain times that he didn't see any reason to dwell upon. McCoy, on the other hand, seemed unconcerned by his own behavior, and he was continuing to serve as a functioning, and even exemplary member of the Enterprise crew.
There was something else, though. Something that nagged at the back of Spock's mind. As he understood it, Humans generally handled their strong emotions not by total suppression, but by developing a resilience. Could McCoy's emotional resilience overcome such a trying experience as the one he'd undergone with the creature from M-11? Spock suspected not, since McCoy did not have a strong logical baseline with which to keep himself steady. If McCoy were to falter, Spock would have to report it in order to protect both the crew and the doctor himself.
He stopped by the sickbay a few hours before they were scheduled to arrive at Psi 2000. It was a required visit, but a useful one. He arrived while Mr. Tormolen was getting his hyposprays, and he stood silently, watching the doctor.
"Shouldn't be any problems, but you never know what a scientific team'll pick up when they've been down on a planet long enough. Half of 'em 've probably slept together by now." McCoy mumbled something about kids under his breath.
Tormolen smiled, but Spock could detect a nervous tightness in his features. This was not uncommon for Tormolen. "Just down and up. I promise I won't sleep with any of them."
"I'm sure you won't, but you have to watch out for Mr. Spock over there. You never know what's going on in that Vulcan head of his."
Spock quirked his eyebrows. He had not become accustomed to McCoy's "playful" jibes, which were directed at him whether he was part of the conversation at hand or not. "I assure you, Doctor, I do not have any interest in--"
McCoy waved his hand to silence him. "As if you'd tell us if you did." He grinned up at Tormolen. "That's it, Joe. Make sure not to eat anything until you're back up on the ship, or else you'll get transporter sick."
"Aye aye." Tormolen hopped off the bio bed and headed out, nodding at Spock as he left with a quiet, "Sir."
"C'mon over, Mr. Spock," McCoy said, patting the bed.
Spock went to stand next to McCoy. "I do not require to sit."
"Well, you better sit down anyway, just in case. I get a little woozy from these hypos."
Kirk called McCoy's comments such as this "bedside manner", but Spock had never quite understood that particular trait. It seemed somehow false. Regardless, he sat as requested. It was illogical to argue with the doctor without good reason.
"Don't know why you always bother with this," McCoy said as he began preparing the necessary hyposprays. "You Vulcans could probably get dipped in acid and hardly even complain. Anyway, not too many bugs like munching on green blood."
"As you are well aware, doctor, my Vulcan physiology does not make me impervious to illness."
"I'll believe it when I see it," McCoy grumbled. "This one might make you a little light-headed." He discharged a hypospray into Spock's shoulder. "That'll be the worst of 'em. Now, you just sit there for a minute before I apply the next one, even if you feel fine. I don't want to have to explain to the captain why his first officer can't go on an away mission because he started jumping around and bumped his head on the floor."
"Very well, Doctor." Spock glanced around the sickbay covertly. He had seen Nurse Chapel disappear into the recovery room a few moments ago, so they did have a little privacy. "Doctor, may I make a personal inquiry?"
McCoy blinked at Spock, then narrowed his eyes as if he suspected him of something underhanded. "Go ahead."
"I have not spoken to you privately since--"
"I remember," McCoy said, his eyes focused on the hypospray he was preparing.
Spock nodded. "I have wondered how you have been since then."
McCoy arched an eyebrow at his hypospray. "Now, Mr. Spock, I didn't expect that kind of question from a Vulcan."
"Clearly not. However, it has been asked."
McCoy sighed and finally looked at Spock again. "Just because a man feels something doesn't mean he can't go on with his day just fine, if you're worried I can't do my job."
Spock furrowed his brow. Although that had been part of his concern, it somehow displeased him that McCoy thought it was the primary one. "I do not doubt your ability."
"Why're you asking, then?"
Spock made eye contact with McCoy. He had discovered that Humans found sincerity more credible if he maintained eye contact. "You are a colleague, and as such, I am concerned for your well-being."
McCoy snorted and shook his head, but he was grinning again. "Y'know, I'd almost say that's kinda sweet from you. You dizzy or nauseated from that last hypo?"
"All right. The next couple should go down like warm milk." McCoy worked in silence, giving Spock his injections, then preparing the next spray. It was three more times before he said, "Well, that's it. Should be, oh, 'bout an hour until we hit Psi 2000. You won't want to run around too much, and like I said to Tormolen, don't eat anything until you get back. Not even that glue paste Vulcan soup you like so much."
Spock stood, but he didn't leave quite yet. "Doctor, if I may make an observation."
"You did not answer my question."
McCoy smiled crookedly at Spock, his eyes bright with a humor that Spock didn't understand. "You don't have to be concerned, Mr. Spock."
"Very well. I will return once our away mission is complete."
"I'm not going anywhere," McCoy said, heading to his computer console to do some paperwork.
Spock left the sickbay, but he found his thoughts dwelling on McCoy's eyes, and whether they would express more to him if he understood Humans more thoroughly. It had always been the same with his mother. All her different smiles and frowns; he had never been able to read them the way she could read him.
Spock was, for the third time today, in the sickbay watching Dr. McCoy. A majority of the ship had been infected by the water on Psi 2000, and McCoy and the day shift staff were working alongside the night shift staff to make sure everyone was treated, given a physical, and had all the proper records prepared for Starfleet Medical.
It was hours before McCoy finally came over to him, gloves on, dark circles under his eyes. Despite his obvious exhaustion, he gave Spock an easy smile. "Sorry to make you wait It's just you're the only one around here who was able to fight off the effects of this stuff." He looked around the sickbay, still busy patients and staff. "C'mon. Let's do this in the recovery room so we can have some privacy."
Spock gritted his teeth as he followed McCoy into the next room. He instructed Spock to sit, and when he did, McCoy pulled a privacy screen around the two of them. "Jim told me a little bit of how rough this was on you, so I got to you as soon as I could. Now, I could give you this hypospray now..."
"I am still in control, if you would like to do more tests before administering the antidote." Spock took a deep breath. "It is... reasonable to do everything possible to understand this phenomenon."
"I'll give you this, Spock. You're a tough son of a bitch. If you'll lie back."
Spock's muscles tensed before he was able to remind himself that McCoy was only using one of his colorful aphorisms, not actually insulting him. Once he was again firmly in control, he did as McCoy asked. Lying down was more difficult than he'd expected; he found it tempting to relax. He could not relax yet. Not with this still in his veins.
McCoy had his medical tricorder out and was scanning Spock thoughtfully. "Could you describe your symptoms in as much depth as possible? Hasn't been easy to get that out of people while they're still under the effects of this stuff."
"I am... fatigued. Slightly feverish. My skin feels... oily. I... have a great deal of trouble focusing."
"Focusing..." McCoy glanced up at Spock, and Spock's heart clenched, because he could not understand his expression. "Could you explain that more? Your mental state."
Spock swallowed thickly and looked up at the ceiling. "Thoughts which are usually not at the forefront of my mind are... I cannot stop them. I am bombarded by instances in my past which caused me... discomfort. Even frivolous matters. Moments from my childhood."
Spock felt something cool on his hand and he jerked his head up to look at it before he realized it was McCoy's gloved hand resting on top of his own. He'd balled his hands up into fists at some point. He did not remember that.
Slowly, he laid his head on the pillow again. He did not look into McCoy's eyes, though. He would think of his mother. He could not think of his mother when he was in this state. There was too much in his past. Too much he did not wish to dwell on. "Doctor. Forgive my impatience, but. Have you gathered enough data?"
"And Starfleet Medical can kiss my backside if they have a problem with it." McCoy pressed the hypospray into Spock's arm.
Spock closed his eyes as he felt the medicine go through his system. First hot, then cold. The barely restrained chaos of his mind was soothed slightly, but not entirely.
"It'll take a while for all the effects to fade. Give yourself some time to rest or meditate or whatever you Vulcans do."
"Mm," Spock hummed softly. He allowed himself to look at McCoy then. Perhaps it was a mistake, because he found the doctor's gaze more piercing than usual.
"Spock." The Doctor's voice was strange and gentle. "If you need to talk about any of it, I'm qualified as a psychotherapist; and some of the other medical staff are too, if you'd prefer to talk to one of them."
Spock found the offer tempting, which was precisely why he was sure he could not accept it. "Thank you, Doctor, but I already feel significantly better. I am sure once the medicine takes full effect, there will no longer be any reason for concern." He pushed himself up so that he was sitting on the side of the bed. He wasn't feeling up to standing quite yet. "I would be very interesting to see your report on this matter. That water could develop in such an unexpected way is intriguing."
"Sure thing. I'll shoot you over a copy before I send it in, so you can add any notes you might come up with."
"I appreciate that, Doctor." Finally, he stood, and he found himself closer to McCoy than he'd anticipated. "I appreciate..." Something stirred inside him, and he had to clam down on it before it rose to the surface. He could not allow his guard to relax now; the water was still being purged from his system.
McCoy patted his arm, but his brow was furrowed. "You go rest, Spock. And if you change your mind about needing to talk..."
"Noted. Thank you." Spock left the sickbay as quickly as he was able in his present condition. He would need to meditate, and moreover, he would need to avoid the sickbay as much as possible until he diagnosed what it was that truly made him keep returning to watch the doctor and found a cure.
Kirk and McCoy had both been hovering since the incident on Psi 2000. Every time one of them spotted him on the bridge or at a meal or even in the corridor, he could sense their watchful eyes on him.
He was doing his best to be patient with them, especially considering his similar behavior when McCoy had been under stress, but he wanted nothing more than to file that incident away as an anomaly, something he would not soon experience again.
"Spock." It was Kirk, this time, leaning against the console next to the science station with his arms crossed. Spock looked up from his work--he was still having trouble focusing on it, so he found himself undisturbed by the distraction. "What do you know about Thasus?"
Spock looked up at him. "I am currently compiling my report on the subject, Captain."
"Yes..." Kirk squinted out at the view screen.
Spock attempted to return to his work, but he could tell that Kirk would not leave him until they addressed... whatever it was he and McCoy both seemed to think was of concern. "Captain, is there anything else?"
"Possibly." Kirk pursed his lips, looking around at the other bridge crew. Sulu and Riley were quietly chatting about a newly assigned yeoman who apparently had impressive legs, while another yeoman pretended not to hear them as she stabbed her PADD with her stylus. "If it were anyone else, I'd think you were... tired. Perhaps under some stress."
Spock turned his his chair to face Kirk, raising an eyebrow.
Kirk smiled down at him sympathetically. "I think you've spoiled me. I'm used to getting everything before I even ask for it. I wouldn't say you're slow now, but you have to admit, your productivity has gone down."
"Ah." Spock clenched his teeth to keep from frowning. "Captain, if you are displeased with the speed of my performance, it seems quite illogical to distract me from it during my bridge shift."
Kirk nodded slowly, looking out at the view screen again. "So... you've just been distracted. Is that it?"
Spock did not understand why both Kirk and McCoy, as well as several other bridge officers seemed to have such a propensity for personal conversations on the bridge. Although a Human's hearing was less sensitive than that of a Vulcan, Spock was sure that every other person on the bridge could easily overhear their conversation, and on a ship as small as the Enterprise, any potentially interesting bits of gossip would soon spread.
Kirk nodded again, as if Spock had given him the answer he was looking for. "Come by my cabin after your shift. We'll have a talk."
He patted Spock's shoulder and headed back over to the captain's chair to sign some reports that the yeoman showed him. Spock returned to his work, but he could feel his process slowed by the thoughts still turning in his mind.
The captain was, as usual, correct in his assessment, but Spock did not look forward to speaking to him about it personally. He had been avoiding that kind of interaction with Kirk since what he'd said to him under the influence of the water.
Perhaps that was the very reason Kirk was insisting upon it.
Spock's shift only last a few more hours, giving him only one hour without the Captain on the bridge. DeSalle was much quieter during his stretches of command, much more of a disciplinarian. Yet Spock was still unable to keep his mind from wandering from the task at hand.
He left the bridge with a report on Thasus prepared, but even he knew it was not up to his usual standards. He would need to supplement it tonight in his quarters. There would be time for it. He did little else but catch up on his work during his off hours in the past weeks.
He rang the chime on the captain's quarters, and he heard Kirk call for him to come in. Spock took a deep breath and did so.
Kirk was relaxing at his desk with a glass of some kind of alcohol and his uniform unfastened down to his shoulder. He was looking through various tapes; much like Spock, he seldom left his work behind when he left his post.
He put aside his work as Spock entered the room, and motioned for him to sit on the chair on the opposite side of his desk. "Mr. Spock. I'm glad you showed up."
"If you find my work unsatisfactory, I believe you deserve an explanation."
"Good." Kirk lifted his bottle--brandy, Spock suspected--as an offering. Spock politely declined. "Go on."
Spock straightened his back, lacing his fingers in his lap. He hoped that he appeared calm, but he was not. "You are aware that Vulcans practice meditation." Kirk nodded. "Since the incident at Psi 2000, I have been unable to meditate properly."
Kirk watched him, his brow furrowed in thought. Spock could see that he didn't quite understand.
"It is comparable to a Human who does not complete their sleep cycle. If he does not have a certain amount of REM sleep, his thoughts become distorted, and he experiences difficulty with focus and attention span, among other symptoms."
"Right." Kirk looked down at his drink, running his finger along its rim. "Because of your... Because of what we talked about when we were under the influence, or something else?"
"I am not certain."
Kirk sighed and sat back in his chair. "Spock, I'm not worried about your performance. I know you'll bounce back. But not being able to meditate, not being able to work..." He waved his hand. "I know you have that Vulcan pride--"
"Or whatever you want to call it. But sometimes everyone needs a little help. Someone to talk to who knows what they're doing. All I can do is listen."
Spock clenched his jaw. "I am not sure who I could speak to on this ship who would know how to help with a purely Vulcan problem. I will make a concerted effort to improve my work performance despite my difficulty."
"Mmhm." Kirk lifted his drink and took a small sip. "Don't make me give you and order, Mr. Spock."
Those words alone were as good as an order, and so Spock responded appropriately. "Yes, sir."
"Good." Kirk nodded, then he chuckled quietly. "I know you and Bones don't always get along, but when he's doing his job..."
"I do not doubt the doctor's professionalism."
"It's just that bedside manner, right?"
Spock frowned before he caught himself and neutralized his expression. "Perhaps," he answered.
He couldn't say yes, because he was beginning to suspect that wasn't the truth.
Spock sent a message to the sick bay immediately requesting an appointment, leaving it vague as to the kind of appointment. McCoy sent back that he'd be available in three days; he was swamped with people who'd had unsettling experiences from Psi 2000 themselves, and he was preparing for the arrival of their passenger from Taurus who would inevitably need treatment both physical and psychological.
Regardless of this, Spock had expected to run into McCoy during his next shift. The Doctor usually made his way to the bridge at various times during the day, usually to chat with the Captain. Sometimes he'd make his way to the science station for an... animated discussion. His visits had been more frequent lately, but he did not show during Spock's entire bridge shift.
It should have been better for his productivity. McCoy's visits were often disruptive. Most of the crew seemed to find the disruptions welcome, however, so Spock had not complained except to request that McCoy allow him to return to his work when necessary. It was more than that now, though.
Now, he found his work was disrupted by thoughts of the doctor, whether he was there or not.
He returned to his quarters after his shift and sat on his bed to attempt to meditate. If he could just meditate, he would be able to cancel his appointment with McCoy, and perhaps his current state of distraction would no longer hinder his work performance. Perhaps he would no longer need to avoid McCoy. Perhaps...
But he sat for an hour with no luck. His candle was burning low, nearly extinguished by the surrounding wax. He blew it out, then slid his finger into the wax. The sting of its heat reminded him of home.
He would not be able to wait three days.
McCoy's shift would be over as well. Perhaps he would not be in his quarters yet, but Spock didn't have any choice but to look for him there. He could not seek him out in a public area. Not right now. Not when he felt like this. He walked down the hall swiftly, not looking at anyone who passed him. He took a deep breath before he pressed McCoy's door chime.
The doctor answered. His usually carefully coiffed hair was falling onto his forehead and sticking up in the back.
"I've woken you. I apologize," Spock said. He turned to leave.
"Hold yer horses." McCoy yawned and shook his head. "I'm awake now, so you might as well come on in."
Spock paused, trying to think of a good reason to take his leave anyway. However, he could not think of any, so he entered McCoy's quarters. He stood stiffly in the center of the room, unable to keep himself from checking to see that, yes, the books where still in place where he'd left them.
McCoy took a deep breath and sat at his desk. "So, what's on your mind, Spock?"
"I realize that you have scheduled my appointment for two days from now. It is proving difficult, however, to..." Spock swallowed thickly. Without meditation, his emotions were far closer to the surface, and they threatened nearly as much as they had when he was under the influence of the Psi 2000 water.
"You don't have to apologize. Hell, you could've told me it was urgent, you know I would've had you in today. Probably should've guessed it was anyway, knowing you. Just tell me what's going on."
Spock squeezed his hands behind his back. "It is, perhaps, an aftereffect of the water. I have been unable to meditate for the past few weeks. The Captain has noted that my work performance has recently decreased, and I believe that the problems are related."
"Not sure I follow..." McCoy rubbed at his forehead. "You're saying you can't work without meditating?"
"Yes." Spock drew a sharp breath, then let it out slowly. "It is necessary for Vulcans to meditate. Without it we are... unable to focus. Unable to think." Unable to suppress emotion, but Spock couldn't bring himself to admit that. Not to McCoy of all people. He would not see that it was a bad thing. In fact, he might encourage it.
McCoy rose from his chair and came over to Spock. He was right next to him before Spock realized he was there. "You were coming by the sick bay for a while there, damn near everyday."
Spock kept his gaze fixed beyond McCoy, at his books sitting neatly on his shelf.
"Now, maybe that doesn't have anything to do with anything, but you gotta admit, it's weird. First, it was weird that you kept coming by, because damned if I can ever get any of you senior officers into my sick bay without threat of court martial. Not to mention how much of a fit you like to pitch about me talking to you on the bridge when you're at work. Then, it's weird you stopped just after all that happened with the crazy water."
"Correlation does not imply causation."
McCoy chuckled softly. "Not always, but sometimes you gotta wonder."
Spock pressed his tongue to the roof of his mouth until another unwelcome feeling passed. "Doctor, I wished to speak to you because I believe you have more experience with my situation than I do."
McCoy was standing close, looking up at him even though Spock continued not to share his gaze. "I have witnessed many of your... emotional outbursts. You seem comfortable with having them, and afterward, you behave no differently."
"Emotional outbursts, huh?" Spock could hear McCoy's smile in his voice.
"I do not mean to be offensive."
"You aren't. Go on."
"I have not had emotional outbursts since I was very young and not yet able to control such things. The idea of having difficulty... I thought your insight might be helpful."
"Mm." Spock saw McCoy finally look away in his peripheral vision. "Spock, I think maybe you should talk to someone else on my staff. Dr. Noel was assigned recently, and she has a list of credentials a mile long."
Spock finally allowed himself to look down at McCoy. He was frowning a little, and Spock couldn't understand why. "Doctor, I would prefer to speak with you."
McCoy fixed his eyes on Spock, and Spock's chest tightened in response. What was in his eyes? What were they telling him? "I just don't know if that's a good idea. I'm starting to feel a little... I don't know if I could be objective."
"Objectivity is seldom your strength. I don't understand why you would shirk your responsibilities in this case." Spock furrowed his brow. "Is it because you dislike me?"
McCoy blinked at Spock, then he suddenly laughed. "Oh, hell, Spock. Look, I want to help you, but there's... There's a question of ethics, and I guess I'm not the most objective person out there, but there are lines." His expression was serious again. "Dr. Noel is great at what she does, and she'll have discretion, you can bet on that."
"I do not understand how it could be a question of ethics."
"Yeah, I guess you wouldn't..."
Spock raised an eyebrow. "Because I'm Vulcan?"
"Because you're an idiot!" McCoy snapped.
"You are behaving erratically, Doctor."
"I can behave however I damn well want to! I'm trying to help you here. I'm the doctor. I know what's best for you. I'll have Dr. Noel set up an appointment for tom--"
"I would prefer you did not."
McCoy narrowed his eyes at him. "Now, don't start that, you stubborn, green-blooded pain in the ass. You're not going to not see anyone about this thing just because you'd rather talk to me about it. I have a good reason."
"As I do not know your reason, I cannot judge that for myself."
"Spock, goddammit." Spock could see the anger in his eyes now, and his heart pounded with the achievement. "You want to know what it is?"
"I believe I said that I would."
"Fine." McCoy reached up to grab the back of Spock's neck and before Spock could anticipate what he was doing, McCoy's lips were pressed against his. It was a fierce kiss, not particularly comfortable, and when McCoy pulled back, Spock's lips hurt from his teeth being pressed into them.
McCoy's cheeks were redder now, and his pupils dilated so that only a thin sliver of blue showed around the black. "Get it now, Spock?"
Spock stood very still for a long moment. His hands unfolded themselves from behind his back, and he pulled McCoy close for another kiss. He had not intended to, but the first kiss hadn't been quite right. Spock kissed him gently at first, until McCoy parted his lips. Then, he thrust his tongue between McCoy's teeth. The cool wetness of McCoy's mouth was intoxicating. It had been a long time since Spock had let himself indulge in the kiss of a Human.
McCoy slid his hands up against Spock's chest and rested his forearms there for a moment before her gently pushed Spock away. "Spock," he whispered, then he cleared his throat. "Are you planning on staying, because I'm getting pretty close to the point where I'd be offended if you didn't."
Spock was not foolish. He recognized it as a solicitation. "I am not sure that would be wise, Doctor."
"Then you better leave."
Spock saw his eyes crinkle, and for once he could read McCoy's face perfectly. Suppressed emotion, desire, loneliness. Those were things he understood.
"I believe it would be beneficial to both of us if we continued a professional relationship."
McCoy ran his teeth over his bottom lip, then stepped back, away from Spock's embrace. "You got it. This never happened."
"I would appreciate it if you contact Dr. Noel about speaking with me as soon as possible."
"Of course, Mister Spock," McCoy said with a curt nod.
Spock's gaze shifted to McCoy's books. One was missing. If he remembered correctly, it was his sole book on Vulcan physiology.
Surely he had merely pulled it to research Spock's recent ailment.
"Good night, Doctor."
"Night," he said, and Spock could feel McCoy's eyes on him as he left.
When he returned to his room, he sat down to meditate, and found it came as easily as it always had. Soon, he was once again comfortably numb.