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Last Dance, Or How The Gods Taught Aristotle How To Sing

Chapter Text

“Well, here we are, gentlemen,” Jim Kirk told his chief officers as they stood outside the massive doors. Music and the chatter of people could be heard beyond the doors guarded by two uniformed guards.

“It looks like they brought out everything but the state cannons to salute us,” Scotty remarked as his eyes rolled. "But where are the dignitaries?"

"We must be early."

Scotty glanced at the guards in their dress uniforms. “Are those guards real, or mere statuary? I'm not even certain that they are breathing.”

“Oh, they‘re real, alright, Scotty,” Kirk answered. “And so are their weapons. The guards just look like extras out of ‘The Student Prince.’ I expect that their commanding officers probably reamed their asses out about their role in this costumed circus, so they are playing Stiff Statue for us now."

"It all seems strange, that's all."

"I know, Scotty. We are going by their rules now. Remember that we are on their turf,” Kirk cautioned. “This is just a meet and greet, nothing special. And we want to keep it light. We want this planet to join the Federation of Planets, so we are some of the first Federation people whom they have met on a social level. These people are big on protocol and lavish show, so we're going to go along with them on that. We don’t want to piss them off, gentlemen. Keep it civil. Don’t ruffle any feathers.”

Spock was just envisioning the men stroking feathers backwards on a chicken’s body and wondering why anyone would really want to be doing that activity anyway, when McCoy spoke up.

“And you brought this group with you, Jim?! Us?! The merry mistrals?! You’re just asking for trouble, you know.”

“They wanted me and my chief officers to attend.” Kirk shrugged. “So here we are, such as we are. Pin feathers, floppy combs, sharp beaks, and all.”

More references to chickens, Spock realized. Whatever were his friends discussing?! Why bring chickens into the conversation? Maybe it was the national bird of this planet, and everyone had been enlightened with that information except Spock. If so, he planned to bring it up with Captain Kirk at his earliest opportunity. Spock would certainly be interested in Kirk’s explanation.

“Well, we’re not exactly a motley crew as that, you know!” McCoy’s eyes snapped. “It’s not like you assembled the dregs of society together when you hired us on! Now, what the hell is going on?!”

“I want them to meet us, Bones, and get to know us. We aren’t saints, and they might as well find that out right now. But we also represent the Federation to these people at the moment, so we have to be careful.”

McCoy frowned. “Do you realize how much double talk you have just given us?”

Kirk breathed deeply. “I know. The problem is, this is both an important, and an unimportant, situation. These people won’t make us or break us, but it really would be nice to have them on our side. Got it?”

McCoy and Scotty both nodded, but it was obvious that they were still puzzled. Spock was beyond puzzled. He wondered how these people were going to try to break the men from the Enterprise. If anyone dared try, if anyone raised a finger to them, Spock would protect Kirk first and McCoy second. Scotty would be on his own. If Spock had any strength left, he would try to help Scotty. But Spock figured that Scotty would have been in the heat of battle quite a bit before Spock could get to him. Scotty would either be slaying foes every which way, or he would be quite dead already himself. If that was the case, if Scotty were to die today at the hands of the people from this planet, then Spock would at least not have to listen to those blasted bagpipes again.

Odd, Spock realized with a pang. He would actually miss those bagpipes if Scotty wasn’t around to play them anymore. Before, they had always seemed like so much squawking to his sensitive ears. Beauty was in the eyes of the beholder, he supposed. He remembered how misty eyed that Scotty got when he talked about anything that reminded him of Scotland. Ergo, the presence of the musical instrument that screamed like a banshee whose husband had been caught cheating.

Spock realized he had missed some of the conversation around him, but hearing McCoy’s name brought his attention back to Kirk.

“Bones?” Kirk asked with worry on his face. “Are you certain that you are well enough to attend this party?”

“Just as long as I don’t have to haul any elephants around on my back, I should be okay,” McCoy quipped with a wry look on his face.

“Well, after your experience yesterday, it would be understandable if you had felt disinclined to attend this evening.”

“What?! And miss this important unimportant event?” McCoy quipped further. “I wouldn’t want to be the one responsible for the next intergalactic war, or the lack of it. It sounds like all sorts of outcomes are possible. How could I possibly want to miss any of that?” McCoy knew that he was being a smart ass, but he felt like the situation called for it. After all, Kirk had started it.

“Well, the minute you feel poorly, we’ll leave.”

“Hell, Jim, we just got to the party! Let me at least have the chance to check out the action around here! If it’s good, we might not make it home for a week! Hell, we might have to establish a colony here for the further cementing of our relationships with these peoples! They might be all over us tonight.”

Kirk gave McCoy a tolerant look. He didn‘t mind that McCoy was bullshitting him. In fact, he seemed to welcome it. “I doubt if our duties would allow for that, Bones, although it might be fun to be able to have a dalliance or two around here. I understand that there are some beautiful women among these people.” He leaned closer and winked. “There’s some good looking guys here, also, that I understand can really straighten out your cannon, if that‘s to your liking.”

“Well, the prospects for two hundred percent! We‘re winners, no matter where our partners developed bumps!” McCoy crowed. “The evening suddenly got more interesting, gentlemen.” He turned to see if his friends were all in agreement with him. “Spock! I almost forgot that you were here. You haven’t said a word yet. What’s your reaction to all of this merry mayhem, or are just trying to figure out a way to prove Pythagoras wrong?”

“Quite to the contrary, Dr. McCoy,” Spock answered, bringing himself out of his own fog. “I was still pondering how you proposed to haul elephants around on your back, or even why. Perhaps you might have an even chance to achieve your goal with a newborn elephant, but a full-grown adult would be quite beyond your endeavors. I suppose an elephant moves wherever and whenever it chooses, not when someone else chooses to try to move it.”

McCoy stared at Spock with incredulity. “You never cease to amaze me, Spock. I never know what’s gonna come out of your mouth next. I bet that it surprises even you sometimes, doesn’t it?”

Spock was suddenly enjoying the banter, the first thing that had actually given him enjoyment all evening, outside of the company of his friends. “If it does, Doctor, I try not to let anyone else know about it.”

“There you go!” McCoy agreed with a laugh as he heartily slapped Spock’s upper arm. “Jim, I’m ready for anything! The Vulcan just healed me!”

“Good to know,” Kirk said with a smile. “What else is on your mind, Spock? Bones is right. You have been quiet since we got here. Enlighten us.”

Well, Spock certainly couldn‘t inform the other three of what he really had on his mind, so he grabbed the first thing that caught his eye. He decided to let his questions about chickens wait awhile.

“The flags on the wall are intriguing. Such coloration and combination of symbols must be a study all of its own on this planet. There must be an artistic flare inherent in the populace. I believe that I would like to delve into that subject.”

“Depend upon the Vulcan to notice something like that,” McCoy muttered to Scotty. “Women probably won‘t even register with him.”

“Aye!” Scotty muttered back.

“Spock might have something here, guys. The flags might be a bridge to understanding the people.”

“If it’s all the same to you, Jim,” McCoy quipped. “I’ll stay with the women.”

“Aye!” Scotty agreed.

“Well, we might have to be ready to try anything,” Kirk said. “Because I believe that our official escort is finally here.”

The Enterprise officers turned as one and glanced at the resplendent uniforms of the men they saw heading their way.

“They waited long enough,” McCoy muttered.

“Bones,” Kirk cautioned. “Maybe it’s their custom.”

“When are poor manners ever in style?” McCoy muttered again.

“Perhaps they were simply scanning us for weapons,” Spock remarked.

“I’m going with the Vulcan on this one,” Kirk also muttered under his breath.

“Well, I don’t have any weapons on me,” McCoy supplied. Then he smirked. “Except for the essential one that I always carry with me.”

“I doubt if we have to check that at the door, Bones.”

“If we do, then the women can’t enter with their breasts. They get checked, also.”

Three Earthling men thought that one over. Three men scowled.

“Bad idea,” Kirk muttered, and McCoy and Scotty agreed with him.

Spock wondered how any of them would manage to leave parts of their bodies. He was still pondering the logistics of the situation as they entered the gala party. As a result, he quite missed introductions. But it did not matter to him. He had not planned to circulate much, anyway. His evening would be spent more in observing.

After Spock collected a glass of something bright pink and ominously fizzing, he wandered aimlessly around the room, or so he hoped it would seem to anyone watching him. He had spotted a coveted corner beside the drapery. If need be, he could always duck behind the voluminous folds of the bouffant drapes. It was a hideaway meant to please the most discerning of reluctant party goers.

There he remained for sometime watching his friends milling among the party goers. His drink stopped fizzing and lost some of its vibrancy, but he had no desire to get a refill of it.

“Oh, excuse me, Commander.”

Spock looked down into the face of the lovely young woman who was suddenly rubbing her ample breasts across his chest. Her chalk white hair and matching eyebrows immediately identified her as someone from Ambassador Duhlrad‘s group, and her electric blue dress matched her startlingly blue eyes.

Spock was rather resplendent himself in his dress uniform. In many circles, including this one, he and the buxom young lady would be considered to be a dashing and handsome couple.

“I am so sorry for having bumped into you,” she continued in her rather breathless voice.

Spock wondered if she had been running a footrace. He studied her closely and saw no perspiration and concluded that perhaps her breathlessness was caused by heart trouble. It was a pity in one so young.

She fluttered her eyelashes at him, and he grew alarmed. Was she passing out?!

“Are you ill, madam?”

“What? No.” Then she realized that his concern could be a blessing. “Perhaps I am.” She touched her forehead in a fetching manner. “I may be feeling a little faint.”

He touched her arm. “May I be of assistance?”

That caused her eyelids to lower partway. Her mouth formed a pout. “Oh! How strong you are!”

“I am sorry if I have injured you, madam,” Spock said and immediately retracted his hand.

She jerked. What kind of man was this? Did he not know the nature of the courtship game?

“I fear that I was a little disoriented, sir. That is why I so rudely bumped into you.”

“It was not your fault, madam,” Spock said, finally on familiar ground. He favored her with a tight, tolerant smile. He could be gallant for a fair lady, even for a lady who was not fair. But this woman was indeed fair. In fact, many men might pronounce her striking and handsome. “It was clearly not your fault that our bodies collided. I was quite in the road over here in this corner.”

She almost blinked. Was this guy for real?! Here she was, rubbing everything she possessed over him except her nether regions, and nothing seemed to be phasing him. Next might well come her nether regions on his thigh, but that might be a rather awkward maneuver. Besides, to anyone else in the room, it might look like a dog dry-humping a person‘s leg. It would just be her luck for her father to observe her exercise. Then she’d be sent back to that all girls’ boarding school where the only men were middle aged janitors and professors wishing that they were teaching in the boys' school nearby.

She glanced up and saw his pointed ears and green tinged skin. Vulcan! That explained a lot to the young lady. Father had always said that Vulcans were quite intelligent when it came to intellectual matters, but lacked common sense. She was seeing a very good demonstration of those facts right now. Even the dumbest plowman on their planet would be all over a woman by now from the encouragement she had offered this Vulcan.

But this Vulcan had come with the Enterprise group. Surely, he couldn’t be as stupid as he was acting. He had been around human males long enough to pick up some of the courtship tactics used by the unattached. She just hadn’t hit on the right one, apparently.

She fanned her face with one dainty hand. “My, it is warm in here, isn’t it, with all these people?” She heaved her ample bosoms to help her plight along. If she'd been on a beach, she would have made a difference in the speed of the incoming tides. “You must be positively roasting in that jacket.”

“On the contrary, madam, I find it most pleasant in here,” he said with a tight lipped smile. “I am quite accustomed to warm temperatures on my home planet.”

“I thought that maybe you might wish to step into the hallway for a breath of fresh air,” she said demurely as she lowered her head and looked up at him through her long eyelashes. "So we could be... refreshed," she gushed.

“I find that I will not need to provide myself with the opportunity for fresh air, madam. But be my guest. Partake of its restorative powers in an area where people are much fewer, if you feel that you are so inclined and in the need of those cooler climes.” He nodded politely and in dismissal. “I wish you well. I hope that the air in the hallway helps your frail condition.”

The nubile woman was getting a little frustrated and just managed to stop herself from stamping her dainty foot at his blindness.

“You do not wish to accompany me?” she demanded pointedly.

No, he did not wish to accompany her. He wanted to stand back in his corner and watch McCoy at a discreet distance. He sighed to himself. Unfortunately, that pleasant pastime was not his to enjoy in the immediate future, he feared.

And no, he did not want to leave with this woman for a rendezvous out in the hallway, even if she offered to shove that somewhat formidable bosom into his chest again. If Spock allowed that, he didn‘t know what she would want to be shoving at him next, or where. So, no, Spock did not want to accompany the young lady out into the hallway for fresh air, or to get friendlier, or even to inspect the flags of their planet which decorated the walls. At any other time, she might be an informative expert on the flags. But something told him that she probably would not be interested in sharing her information now. In fact, he sensed that she would become quite exasperated if he brought up the subject of the flags.

For even Spock realized what an insult that would be to someone, especially a young woman who was trying to win his companionship. That much he understood. What he did not understand was that she desired more than his companionship when Captain Kirk was in the room. She apparently wanted some adventures with an older man in the shadows. She sought some pawing, some groping, some giggling, some fevered kissing, some reckless promises, nothing serious. Perhaps she simply wanted to acquire some war stories to share with her other young female friends. And, maybe, also, she might wish to acquire a little more knowledge of that elusive, but exotic species, the male.

Spock decided to try some double talk. She would not understand what he was saying. “I do not wish to mislead you, madam. I may not be what you desire. You see, I was required to check my weapon at the door.”

However, she understood. She apparently knew that much about the elusive, but exotic species, the male.

He was then treated to a unique display of color changes on her face. “Oh!” She was frustrated and didn’t know whether to feel sorry for him, or to slap him.

“I do not intend to detain you any longer, madam,” he said politely, but firmly. “I believe that you may be more successful in your quest elsewhere.”

“Ah--”

“I bid you a most cordial good evening. Our conversation has been most instructive.”

“Your loss,” she snipped and turned away.

He hoped that he had not caused an intergalactic incident, but what were in his heart, his soul, and his pants were his business. He also realized that he had disregarded a direct order from Captain Kirk, but Kirk himself seemed somewhat at sea about the whole evening.

Ah, now to get back to watching Dr. McCoy! Where had he gotten to? Ah, there! Was he not handsome in his dress uniform? I would like to remove that--

“Good evening, Commander.”

Now who, Spock wondered in annoyance as he turned. He found himself facing the planet's leader.

Now he was in trouble, Spock realized. He had not even caught the man’s name.

“Good evening again, sir.”

But the man seemed to be grinning.

“Lady Hortense was quite incensed, you know.”

“Who?”

“The young lady with the, ah--” He cupped his hand a distance from his body.

Spock nodded. “Oh. Her.”

The man’s eyes were twinkling. “Yes, her. I suppose that she, ah, wanted to meet you privately, right?”

“Well, yes,” Spock answered uncomfortably. A lady's honor was at stake, but this man seemed well aware of her stalking habits.

“Oh, the young!” the man said with a tolerant sigh and a shake of the head. “Lady Hortense is one of my wife’s ladies-in-waiting. She is awfully young to be so honored, but she inherited it from her mother who passed on last year. Poor Gertrude! She was as feather-headed as our dear Hortense, I fear! Both of them have the tendency to run around like a chicken with its head cut off.”

More talk of chickens! Spock really must learn if it was the national bird. But he thought that this was not the place or the time to inquire about something so off the subject. But he really wondered. And other people kept bringing up chickens, not Spock!

The man was speaking of Hortense. Spock would have to listen until the man tired of his subject. After all, he was the leader, not some lady-in-waiting who had some mysterious relationship with chickens.

“So, you did not go with Hortense. Why?”

“I did not wish to,” Spock answered civilly, all the while trying to catch more than brief glimpses of the elusive McCoy who was bobbing up and down amongst the party goers like a crazed cork on an ocean crest.

“Even if it would have insured peace from my people to the Federation, Commander?”

That got Spock’s attention. “I do not see how my compromising the honor of a young lady, feather-headed or otherwise, would have insured peace. I would rather imagine that it would have insulted and angered your people.”

“How right you are.”

Spock was tiring of this subject. He wanted to get back to his own agenda. “Peace cannot be determined by the whim of a spoiled, empty-headed, and self-centered young lady. Your planet has survived this long by the thinking and leadership of responsible people such as yourself. I rather imagine that it shall survive for a little longer, if kept under similar restrictions.”

“How right you are, Commander. How instructive and enlightening it has been to converse with you.” He took a deep breath. “Well, I will leave you to your own thoughts, Commander. I’m glad that you were able to join us this evening. You will always be insured of gracious hospitality anytime that you chose to visit us.”

Spock remembered his manners. “Thank you for inviting me, sir. I appreciate the opportunity of conversing with you.”

The man's eyes twinkled merrily. "And I with you."

After the man left, Spock was able once more to seek out McCoy with his eyes.

Ah, there he was! Was not the doctor handsome tonight? And so charming, as the faces of his listeners all indicated! If McCoy would only ask him out into the hallway for a breath of fresh air, or to inspect the flags, or to grapple each other in a convenient corner--

“Spock, what in the hell did you say to Ambassador Duhlrad?!”

Oh, hell! Kirk!

Spock turned reluctantly and tried not to grit his teeth. “Captain?” he managed to ask calmly of the troubled man before him.

Then Kirk grinned. “I don’t know what you said, but we’re in! Just because of you!”

Honesty pays, Spock thought, then prepared to bend the truth to his captain as much as his Vulcan principles and a young lady’s honor would allow him.

Chapter Text

“I merely told the gentleman the truth, Captain.” There, that should satisfy Kirk and Spock’s own nitpicking conscious. ‘To thyself be true,’ he thought smugly to himself. No one else might realize or even appreciate how faithfully he tried to keep himself in line. But he knew, and that was enough. Jim Kirk might think he realized Spock’s struggle, but Kirk really didn’t. No one did.

Speaking of Jim Kirk, he was now addressing Spock. Spock hoped that he hadn’t missed anything that his dear captain had said. That was one thing that he and Kirk had in common. They both thought that Kirk’s utterances were golden.

No, Spock did not see the irony in this. Yes, his mind was wondering again. He really had to work as hard to concentrate as he did to keep himself in line. No wonder he was mentally exhausted at the end of the day. And it did not help that he also wanted to be thinking about Dr. McCoy. So many things to consider, and so many people kept hunting him up to converse this evening! Perhaps it would help if he stood behind the drapery instead of in front of it. They would probably surmise that he was starting a game, though, and would hunt him up anyway.

Damn it, there he was not listening again! And it hadn’t even been thoughts of McCoy which had distracted him.

And cursing. When had Spock started this new cursing habit? Granted, tainted words had not crossed his lips yet. No wonder, though, being around McCoy and Kirk the way he was.

“Spock?”

“Yes, Captain?”

“I was just asking what you had said to the ambassador to have impressed him so much.”

“I was just trying to ascertain that, Captain.” That is a lie, damn it! Oops! Darn it. Was not the intent the same, even if a milder word was used? But first, take care of that whooper lie.

“I do not honestly know what I said to him, Captain.”

That was at least the truth. Spock felt better about himself. Apparently, this evening would result in baby steps for him. If he was lucky, that is. Giant leaps would have to be left for another day.

“Well, I and the Federation appreciate it, whatever it was you said.”

“Thank you, Captain.”

Spock had the sneaking hunch that he had merely reaffirmed what the ambassador already knew, but Spock decided not to share this theory with Kirk since he did not really know for certain.

“I now have a question for you, Captain.”

Kirk looked at Spock with interest. What would be on the mind of the man who had so obviously charmed the ambassador?

“Have you ascertained if their national bird is indeed the chicken?”

Kirk look bewildered. “That information really hasn’t come up yet in the conversation, Mr. Spock. Why do you ask?”

“Well, there had been talk previously about chickens, so I thought that the subject was somehow already on your minds.”

“Talk previously?” Kirk echoed. He had no recall of chickens being discussed, either alive or as a food source.

“Out in the hallway. There seemed to be quite an interest in chickens. I wondered about their connection to this civilization.”

“I’ll have to see if I, ah, can learn that fact for you,” Kirk said with a roll of his eyes. How could the alien come off so brilliant one moment and so puzzling the next? Oh, well, Kirk would let that work itself out.

“Well, tell you what!” Jim Kirk’s natural enthusiasm was back. Their mission was succeeding. “Now we can enjoy ourselves a little more, thanks to you.” He slapped Spock‘s arm. “Beautiful party, isn’t it, Spock?” Kirk asked as he looked out over the sea of heads before them.

“As you say, Sir.”

Kirk swung his head around with the same lazy grin in place. “You didn’t mix, though. You disobeyed orders.”

“I regret that I did not do as I was told.” Well, that much was the complete truth. Being directed by his heart instead of his head might well land him in the brig. It would be a black mark on his record that he could never erase, just because he had the hots for a certain doctor.

“We’ll forget it this time because you managed to wield your magic from the sidelines. But don’t let it happen again.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Now, suppose we just stand here a moment and enjoy the music, okay? It sounds crazy, but they’re playing a lot of old standards from Earth. I guess our culture has reached here, even if our diplomats haven’t.”

“Music is a universal language, Captain.”

“And it is also the language of love.” He glanced at Spock. “You do understand that language, don’t you, Mr. Spock?”

“Well, yes, I am learning. And I find that I am seeking further instruction with affairs of the heart.”

He grinned. “That’s what I figured.”

Whatever was the captain hinting? Spock had been careful not to show his feelings for McCoy. He had tried to make it seem like simple friendship when he expressed concern. He had tried not to let on how much he was overwhelmed by the idea of Dr. Leonard McCoy or his safety.

To say that Spock was besotted with the Chief Medical Officer of the Enterprise would be putting it mildly. He was head over heels, as almost any Earthling would be happy to tell him. Although why the prospect of hanging by his heels would be a preferred position or why it would help in the least, was quite beyond Spock’s comprehension. Especially since he was already occupied with concerns of the heart.

Those same Earthlings who had discussed the topic with him previously seemed to indicate that love was an exalted state in which to find oneself. And Earthlings liked to do just that, discussing, that is. Especially it affected the women, who would assume a tolerant, misty smile on their lips as they waxed poetically about their own lamented, bittersweet affairs of the heart which had unfortunately (or fortunately) borne no fruit. That wistful curve of the lips was generally accompanied with a matching faraway expression in their eyes. It was as if someone had just announced that there was to be a birthday celebration for them where wrapped presents, a performing Shetland pony, and a chocolate layer cake with marshmallow cream filling were to be featured.

Spock had to be especially careful, though, of not mentioning his current condition to his fellow crew members who originated from Earth. He did not wish to trigger their memories again. Their stories really were not helping Spock when he was not seeking information in general. Those pie-faced Earthlings were apt to sigh and begin to recount, without urging, incidences of when they, themselves, had found themselves in that inevitable position of being head over heels in love. Generally, it had been the Earthlings‘ first experience of love when they were naïve, yet hopeful teenagers. And even if the experience had been awkward and blundering, as so many of their experiences had been, it had left the Earthlings with fond memories of those early tragic events. It was somehow a rite of passage for them, Spock was finding, as much as getting a driver’s license or wearing braces on their teeth. They especially liked to share their own experiences with anyone within hearing distance, whether those doing the hearing wished to learn the other person’s history in the love department or not. It was like certain other topics that were considered taboo: that bout with herpes, major surgery in private areas, any family vacation longer than three days, what caused that last divorce.

And, if Spock didn’t watch them and curtail the practice, those same pie-faced Earthlings were apt, also, and, without warning, to burst into multi-versed ballads from musical comedies from Earth’s Twentieth Century that expressed their unrequited love. Stories apparently weren’t enough. Music had to illustrate the angst once suffered, just as was the practice in those old musical comedies. Sad ballads had to accompany the retelling of love gone wrong. It was a given.

It would’ve at least helped if the majority of the people with broken hearts had singing abilities. Suffice it to say, the majority of the Earthlings attempting to sing could not. And the lyrics of those ballads were horrendous, with wording that was highly sentimental and with rhymes that were sometimes painfully forced. No “Ave Maria” or “Unchained Melody” or other soaring, uplifting verses were to be found here.

Kirk had an appropriate description of them, as he did now. “Those are sappy ballads that they're playing, Spock.”

He and Spock in their dress uniforms stood watching the milling guests at the fancy reception. Another costume affair for show only. Spock felt like an extra from “The Student Prince.“ Kirk looked it.

Spock and Kirk seemed to be the only two party goers who were actually listening to the music playing in the background. Not even the couples who were dancing in the huge room seemed to hear the music as they continued their conversations on the dance floor.

“Sappy ballads, Captain?”

“Check the faces of the singers when you can see them live. How do they look?”

“Lost in wonderment. Giddy with their good fortune. They are in love with life.”

“Exactly. They are seeing the unicorns and leprechauns prancing in the forest glade and the fairies who live at the bottom of the hill. Great suffering is etched on the faces of the singers.“

“That is desirable, Captain?“

“Oh, yes. They are suffering grandly for all who suffer silently with them.”

“That seems oddly convoluted. Could the suffering people not do their own suffering? Why do they need to have some singer suffer for them?”

“Precisely. The singer is sort of a cheerleader, I suppose.“

“A cheerleader? When everyone is so sad and suffering?“

“I said that wrong, I suppose. I meant that the singer is leading them in their suffering. Sometimes the suffering listeners didn’t even realize that they were sad until the singer reminded them of it with a sentimental song. Then everybody starts bawling with the broken hearted singer leading the pack.“

“Fascinating.“

“Exactly. Sappy songs,” Kirk informed as he looked at Spock with a similarly sappy expression, except Kirk’s face had an additional smirk of wisdom about it.

Earthlings! Spock marveled at them, but not for the first time. Such contradictions! He was endlessly curious about them and rarely disappointed.

Where did they come up with such expressions, both in their languages and on their faces? Even the great James T. Kirk was not immune to it.

“See, Spock? Sappy.”

One eyebrow went up haughtily. “Quite, Captain.”

“On Earth, it goes with Springtime and birds arriving back from the South and the world awakening to a ripeness that is ready for planting. Everything is in the mood to propagate, and everything wants to sing about it lustily from nesting birds to starry-eyed human beings. It’s a dangerous time of the year.”

“How so, Captain?”

“There’s more than one reason why there are so many weddings in June. But mainly, everybody is in the mood for hanky panky.”

“Hanky panky?”

“Love, Mr. Spock,” Kirk answered again with his self-satisfied smirk. “And it’s a strong person indeed who can fight off its advances. The indifferent are caught unawares, and the weak never had a chance.” He arched an eyebrow. “But, then again, who would want to fight off love when the rewards are so wonderful?”

“The rewards are wonderful, Captain?”

“Oh, yeah. Philosophy and culture and study have their places, but nothing beats having your arms around a warm piece of heaven in the dark of night. Then everything is golden and makes sense. And you‘d discover how the gods taught Aristotle how to sing. And why he so gladly sang. You‘d not only be singing by morning yourself, Spock, you‘d be yodeling. And you'd never want to stop that yodeling.” Kirk raised an eyebrow himself. "Or what caused it."

"Quite," Spock remarked, to appear agreeable.

Kirk was drunk as a skunk, Spock thought in the vernacular. Idioms did have their place, although Spock had quite a few questions about the one he had just used. “You make romance sound positively desirable, Captain.”

“Now, if only I can convince someone else to see things my way.” Kirk flinched, then studied Spock closer with new consideration. “Unless I am being blinder than you always seem to be. Could it be that you are interested in me, and I‘m not picking up on your subtle hints? Is that why you wished to speak of love?”

Spock looked startled. “Oh, no, Captain. I am sorry that I led you astray.”

“You were wanting advice, just as you said. And then I read more into it.” Kirk did sound disappointed, then his face cleared with a smile. “Well, I had to give it a shot, you know? Just in case you were hinting for me.”

“Oh, Captain, I would indeed be quite honored to win you,” Spock said warmly.

“My wants are few in an intimate relationship. There’s only one thing that I really require of someone in bed with me, Spock.”

The image of appropriate sexual organs, be it male or female, flashed through Spock’s mind. Surely, Kirk would not be discussing something that crass in public? Granted, the two were relatively isolated, but still!

Spock decided to give Kirk the benefit of a doubt. “And what is that, Captain? What do you require in bed of someone?” he asked complacently. A moment later, he was happy that he had chosen wisely, instead of obviously.

“The person has to be thinking about me and me alone,” Kirk answered with the telltale faraway look in his misty eyes. Hopefully, he would not next burst into some romantic ballad, but he had all the signs of doing so. “I’m just egotistical enough to require that of a lover.”

Spock relaxed. No ballad was forthcoming from Kirk, sappy or otherwise. “Quite understandable, Captain. And I am convinced that your golden presence, suitably disrobed, would hold the attention of almost anyone. A blind man would be unimpressed, but almost anyone else would be dazzled.”

Kirk smirked. “Golden presence, eh?”

“Oh, yes, indeed, Captain.” Spock gave Kirk a knowing look. “I am certain that you would be most fascinating if you were glistening all over in a golden sheen AND ten percent lighting.”

“Hot damn!” Kirk declared, glancing around for likely candidates. “I gotta find someone who is interested in a one-night stand!“ A thoughtful look went across Kirk’s face. “Are you quite certain about there being someone else whom you‘re interested in? You talk a damn good game, you know.”

Although he was curious, Spock decided to avoid learning what game that Kirk was alluding to. Kirk would probably more than likely tell him and anyone standing within ten feet of them. Spock figured that Kirk was probably a big fan of that game, a bigger fan maybe even of baseball, basketball, and soccer all rolled into one.

“Yes, Captain, I am. There is someone else.”

Kirk pulled a sad face. “Pity.”

“Quite, Captain.”

“If, ah, you ever decided differently--”

“I will remember, Captain.” Spock doubted, though, if Kirk would. Even though Kirk was holding it well, it was obvious that he had already been imbibing of the local brew.

Kirk let out a sad sigh. “Well, I wish you success with your intended then.”

“Thank you, Captain.”

“I‘ll gallantly step aside.”

“That is very sporting of you, Captain.“

Kirk definitely was not going to remember any of this scene.

Ever the gracious loser, Kirk said bravely, “Are you disclosing any names?“

“Now, that would be highly presumptuous of me, before I even know the inclination of the person in question, would it not?“

Kirk grinned. “Of course. Ever the picture of discretion, aren’t you? But tell me, does he have the right to wear a caduceus on his uniform if he so chooses?”

Spock smiled wisely. “Am I that transparent, Captain?”

“I’m not as drunk as you believe. I’ve been watching you, lurking in what you thought was an out of the way spot. You can’t take your eyes off McCoy tonight. Not that I blame you. And I’ve noticed some sparks flying between you two lately when you were participating in one of your heated debates.”

“That might simply be the clash caused during our war of words.”

“And,” Kirk said as he leaned closer and gave Spock a flirty look. “Those sparks could be caused by something else entirely different, like sexual tension. And yesterday. What was that all about yesterday between you two?”

“I was merely helping him as you were helping Tomkins.”

“Alright. I‘ll give you your space, but don‘t wait too long. Find a way to say something to McCoy.“ Kirk squeezed Spock’s forearm. “You’ll never know, for sure, Spock, until you ask.” He winked. “Then there are other methods that require no language at all. But they can be an awful lot of fun.” He actually winked at Spock.

“In our case, that might have to be the safer route. Words seem to sidetrack us.”

Kirk looked around, then back at Spock. “But I wouldn’t suggest trying other methods in public. If, you know what I mean.” He gave Spock a toothy grin that lit up that end of the room. Just who was Kirk’s dentist?! And what sort of brightener did he use on Kirk’s teeth?!

“Please, Captain. You will be starting rumors about us.”

Kirk slapped Spock’s bicep. “Can’t blame a guy for trying, can you?” He drew back. “Besides, this little scene might make a certain someone jealous. I have been all over you in the last few minutes, Spock. Anyone casually observing us, or more intently, might think that some serious hanky panky was transpiring. Or being planned.”

Kirk smiled warmly, but only he and Spock knew what he was actually saying.

“Come on, Spock!“ Kirk said, a little exasperated. “I’ve done almost everything I can to entice you except pulling my britches down, turning, leaning over, and letting you take a good, long look at my exposed anus. That might be a little inappropriate, though, being that we’re at this damn high-faluting party and all. Some eyebrows might be raised. But, if I‘m knowing how some of these people think, I‘d probably be raising a few penises as well with my bare ass up in the air.”

Spock’s lips twitched. He knew he should be appalled, but the picture of Kirk bent over and presenting his bare rear to him in a roomful of formally attired dignitaries was almost too delicious to resist contemplating. Vulcans weren’t supposed to find humor in anything except paradoxes, but at that moment Spock was decidedly having his funny bone tickled. He had always wondered about the location of that elusive bone in the human body, but now he definitely realized that he possessed one.

Somewhere, his mother must be cheering for him. He was part Earthling, after all. Sometimes he even felt proud of that fact, despite the guilt that his father Sarek tried to heap on top of him.

“Here, I’ll make the illusion of something between us even better, Spock,” Kirk said. “This will make anybody wonder about what‘s going on with us.” With no further warning than that, Kirk dove for Spock and threw his arms around him.

Spock automatically grabbed his arms around Kirk to steady him.

Or embrace him, as it surely seemed to their onlookers. And there was a possible roomful of those. But there was only one that interested Spock and Kirk.

Startled, Spock looked stunned as Kirk next pulled Spock’s head down to his face. Spock automatically jerked.

“Don‘t fight me! I‘m trying to help!” Kirk hissed. “You‘re supposed to be enjoying this! So stop looking like I just snapped a mousetrap onto your penis!”

“If you had done that, I would not have been any more surprised, Captain,” Spock said from the depths of Kirk’s neck. He had grabbed onto Kirk’s elbows, mainly to keep from falling. From a distance it probably looked like the two Enterprise officers were in a loving clinch.

Kirk drew back, then reached up and cupped his hand on Spock’s cheek. “Hmm. Smooth as a baby’s butt. You must’ve shaved right before you showed up here.”

“You could have ascertained that without feeling my face, Captain,” Spock remarked dryly. “At this distance, I am more than certain that you can distinguish individual pores and the smallest scars on the surface of my skin, not to mention the larger ones.”

“Hmm. You’re right,” Kirk said as he looked back and forth at Spock’s face. “It’s interesting what you can see close up like this, you know? Do all Vulcans have that funny little ridge above their eyes? Odd that I‘ve never seen it before now.”

“You’ve never been that close to my face before. I cannot breathe too deeply, or I will inhale you.”

“Oh." He drew back, but not much. At least he was no longer in danger of being inhaled. "Well, what’s the ridge?”

“That is the Romulan ridge. The Romulans, as you should recall, are my cousins. The ridge is very slight, if at all, on most Vulcans.”

“Oh. Interesting.” Kirk got a slapdash look on his face. “Fascinating, in fact.”

“Please, Captain, it must look like you’re memorizing my face.”

He winked. “That’s the plan, Snookums. That‘s what moonstruck lovers do, you know. They can‘t get enough of looking at their loved one‘s face.”

Kirk drew the side of a thumb across Spock’s lips, and Spock jerked. “Relax, Snookums. You better get used to that sort of thing if you’re wanting to take on a lover. They like to feel you all over, you know. And I mean ALL over. It‘ll be worse than my touching your lips with the side of a stiffened thumb.” He leaned in close and breathed some alcoholic breath on Spock. “And that won‘t be the only thing about the guy that will be stiffened.” Kirk chuckled when he felt Spock flinch. “I suppose I should give you fair warning, though. What they will want to do with your body, Snookums, will get downright nasty for your tastes!”

“I had surmised as much, Captain. In fact, I had been hoping for that kind of outcome. But I did not realize that a general groping from my superior officer beforehand also came with the tryst. Is it a sort of a two for one experience?”

Kirk’s eyes twinkled. “Oh, I haven’t even started to grope you yet, Spock. I haven’t even made it below your neck. And there‘s all sorts of neat things on you below your neck. And, ah, further south.” His chuckle was evil. “Way further south.”

“At the rate you are going, Captain, my intended will not only get jealous but decide that there is no chance for him.”

Kirk reluctantly drew back and gripped the tops of Spock‘s shoulders. “Just trying to help a buddy.”

“Do you need some help yourself in getting back to your quarters? Perhaps you have consumed more alcoholic beverages than you were aware.”

“No, no, it’s just the shank of the evening. I’m on my way to find a lascivious woman who‘s open to all sorts of naughty suggestions.”

“And which woman is that one, Captain?”

“Anyone who is willing,” Kirk said with twinkling eyes. “And she’s waiting with breathless wonder,“ he informed as he released Spock and turned aside.

“Good luck, Captain,” Spock said fondly as he watched Kirk drift away toward a group of women. He smiled. There was more than enough opportunity for Kirk in that eager group. Kirk might well have a happy ending for his evening, after all. Lady Hortense might even find Captain Kirk. Then both of them would have an experience.

Now for his own plans.

Spock turned to seek out McCoy’s current position and to take up his occupation of watching McCoy once more from afar. But his plans were unavoidably foiled again.

For when Spock turned, he found the good doctor standing in front of him with a drink of bourbon in his hand and a knowing look on his smiling face.

“Enjoying yourself, Mr. Spock?” McCoy wanted to know with an edge to his voice. “Or just keeping track of our dear captain?”

Chapter Text

Spock tried to prevent a blink, but couldn’t. He had not been expecting to find McCoy that easily or so practically under his nose.

“Doctor,” he finally felt composed enough to utter. Spock knew that he had failed miserably at any directives that Jim Kirk might have left with him about courtship. Everything had emptied from his mind in a moment, and he panicked because the title of the person before him was all he could recall. That, and the fact that he loved this medical man. Apparently, those were the only essential facts worth remembering.

They would suffice.

McCoy continued to grin.

It was as if McCoy was sizing up Spock, for what, Spock did not know. Scrutiny of McCoy's unblinking sort would have made lesser men cave moments ago. But this was Spock being stared at, so he placidly waited for McCoy's next move. In the meanwhile, Spock was enjoying being able to look fully upon McCoy up close and unimpeded.

Finally McCoy said, “You‘ve been having yourself quite a night, haven‘t you?”

“I have not moved from this spot, Doctor.”

“You didn‘t have to! The world came to you! Who was that nubile bit of young fluff who practically milked those gigantic breasts on you?! Are there wet marks on your uniform? Watch it, or you‘ll be attracting baby kittens.”

“Lady Hortense is a lady in waiting to--”

“I don‘t give a fuck in a season of bad hurricanes who in the hell she is on this planet!”

“Then why did you ask, Dr. McCoy--”

Dr. McCoy! Dr. Leonard McCoy, that was his name!

“And then Ambassador Duhlrad marched up like you were long-lost brothers or had at least gone to boarding school together.” McCoy frowned. “What’s with it with you tonight? What irresistible charm do you possess that is attracting everyone to you?”

“I assure you, Doctor, that I do not know why everyone is seeking me out.”

“And then there was Jim. Jim Kirk couldn’t get enough of you.”

“He was asking about my conversation with Ambassador Duhlrad.”

“He had a strange technique for asking.“ McCoy grinned. “Or was there something else going on? Have you been renewing your friendship with Jim? Or were you deepening it?” The grin stayed in place, but there was that edge back in his voice.

“Doctor?”

“From where I was standing, you two were getting real friendly. I was wondering if we’d have to clear the room to give you two some privacy. You two looked like you were in dire need of a bed and ten percent lighting.”

Spock just barely managed to stop himself from staring with open-mouthed surprise. Jim Kirk’s ham-handed ploy had worked?! McCoy was jealous?!

“We were merely comparing notes about the progress of the evening.” Not a lie, but not the whole truth, either.

“It’s a wonder that the captain is still navigating under his own powers. He was a little tipsy, wasn’t he?” The easy grin disappeared, and McCoy’s face darkened. “That IS why he fell into your waiting arms, wasn’t it? Because he was getting drunk, and you had to steady him?”

Now here was Spock’s dilemma: He knew very well that Kirk had fallen into his arms to make McCoy jealous. Truth was golden with Spock, but he also knew that this was not the place for the truth.

“Ah--”

“Don’t cover for him!” McCoy snapped.

Here was something Spock could handle. He felt in control again.

“I assure you, Doctor, that I am not covering for Captain Kirk. Quite the opposite is true, in fact,” he said with some obvious satisfaction.

“What kind of double talk is that?!”

Maybe Spock should not be bragging about something, even if it was the truth. Perhaps he should employ the Earthling guise of changing the subject.

His curiosity about Earthlings had served him well when it came to learning diverting tactics. Besides, this Earthling had ingested alcoholic beverages, also, so much so that his motor skills and reasoning might be impaired. Of course, McCoy might well have some natural immunity built up after his long history of drinking intoxicants, so that might have some immediate relevancy on McCoy‘s behavior.

Plus, Spock had finally remembered that Kirk had advised him to ask McCoy about his personal feelings about Spock. He had the sense, thankfully, to work up to it.

Shoving logic aside for a moment and going with a gut feeling, Spock spoke.

“Are you enjoying your evening, Doctor?” That was the question that McCoy had used, so Spock decided to try using it. It seemed to be a safe conversational starter that should not infuriate anyone, even Dr. McCoy.

Of course, one never knew with certainty what might ignite McCoy's wrath. Spock’s theory was that there was no logic behind it, therefore it was unpredictable.

“You didn’t answer my question!” McCoy roared.

“Some questions, alas, have no answer.”

“You’re right about that,” McCoy grumbled.

“Suppose, then, we start our conversation over? How is your evening, Doctor?”

“It’s alright,” McCoy grumbled. “I’ve had better evenings. I’ve had worse.”

“You seemed to be having a good enough time from my observation. I have seen you conversing with a number of men this evening and dancing with several women.”

“Well, I suppose that’s better than conversing with several women and dancing with a number of men,” McCoy quipped, his humor restored with his witticism. “We wouldn’t want to shock anybody now, would we?”

“My, you are being very sharp and witty this evening, Doctor,” Spock soothed and hoped that McCoy ignored the obvious stroking of his ego. “You must be enjoying yourself very much.”

“Well, I would be if you came down off your damn, self-imposed throne and mingled with us common folks for awhile. I‘m getting tired of watching you hold court over here.”

Spock looked understandably disturbed. McCoy was jealous, but Spock felt more was bothering McCoy.

More was.

“Sorry, Spock. I suppose I’m in a bitchy mood tonight. I feel off-balance on my own. I seem to be all at sea after getting back from that disastrous mission yesterday.“

Spock was immediately alert. “I had hoped that you were not suffering any ill effects from that rather trying situation.“

“Yeah, I have been. I appreciated your checking in with me in sickbay today. I needed your support. Jim has been awfully supportive, too. That is, up until this evening. I suppose that he thinks that I’ve buried yesterday’s incident in my memory. On to the next adventure! That’s Jim Kirk’s motto.“ McCoy looked intently at Spock. "Of course, Jim doesn't know all that went on, does he? Not unless you said something to him."

"I felt no need, so I did not."

"Thanks. I thought it was personal, also. Sometimes, Jim isn't the most sympathetic person out there."

“Jim wants us to do our jobs.”

“Yeah, I know.” He twirled the drink in his hand. “Nobody thinks of the medical person at a time like that. The fact that we're also human gets forgotten sometimes. We’re supposed to be without feelings just because we’re trained professionals. But, damn it, it’s awfully hard to know that you’re the difference between a man living and dying! It’s awfully hard not to hold a man’s organs in place in his body and not be impressed by the situation!“ He took a sip of this planet’s answer to bourbon, but Spock doubted that McCoy had even tasted it.

“Are you alright, Doctor?”

McCoy nodded his head. “I’ll be better, in time.”

Spock decided to leave that line of questioning for awhile.

“Is Tomkins still doing well?”

McCoy sighed. “He’s holding his own.” Then McCoy flinched. “And that’s doing pretty good since the day before we all saw his intestines spilling out of his body.” McCoy slowly shook his head. “I still don’t know why that native attacked. Why did he slice open Tomkins’ belly like that?“ He frowned. “Why did he choose Tomkins? Why the red shirt? It could have been any one of us, but he gutted Tomkins.”

“Perhaps that is what frightened us, Doctor. Any one of us could have been nearly eviscerated by that native‘s knife. All of us were shocked, then Jim and I moved to stop the native from further attack. But you grabbed Tomkins and shoved his entrails back into his abdomen. Then you kept your hands there. That is all that saved Tomkins‘ life.”

“Yeah, but it was a good thing that you and Jim were right there to help after you dispatched the native. Jim grabbed Tomkins, and you grabbed me. You two guided us back. Without the help of you two, I could’ve never gotten Tomkins back alive.”

“Even inside the shuttle, you held onto Tomkins, and Jim and I held onto the two of you.”

McCoy frowned. “We must’ve looked like some sort of eight-legged, segmented organism, huddled all together on the floor the way that we were.” McCoy’s frown deepened. “I want to thank you. For what you did. After, ah, afterwards.” He cleared his throat. “After Jim and the others got Tomkins off the shuttle, and you and I were alone.”

“I was glad that I could help.”

“I should have gone with Tomkins.” McCoy said with angst. “I was his doctor. He still needed help. But I couldn‘t. I just… couldn‘t.”

“He had sufficient help. You could not do it anymore.” Spock gave McCoy a hard look because he knew that McCoy needed extra support. “There comes a time when everyone needs some extra reassurance. Even doctors.”

“There had been so much. The yelling. The panic. The crazy shuttle ride. Then more yelling and shoving just to get Tomkins to sickbay. Then it all went away. The noise. Jim. The red shirts. Tomkins. The shuttle got quiet. And still. And that’s when it hit me. I had held a man’s intestines in my hands and had shoved them back into his living body. I had cheated Death for Tomkins’ life. If I hadn’t been there, he might not have made it.” McCoy breathed deeply. “That’s when I began to shake. I couldn’t face it anymore. Then I turned to you.”

“I am happy that I was there, Doctor.”

“I don’t know what I would have done without you, Spock. I didn’t know that I was that affected. But it suddenly piled up. The death. The pressure. The lives I have saved. And the ones that I haven’t.” He shrugged. “And I guess I just folded. And you gathered me in.”

Spock held his tongue. He knew that McCoy had to say it in his own way.

“But I have never felt so protected and so safe, as I felt in your arms yesterday. To be able to huddle there, against someone else, and just hide from it all. You were so understanding, so tender. I was lucky that you took care of me, and I appreciate everything that you did for me.” Tears sprang into his eyes. “I just wanted to thank you so much.”

Even with his Vulcan hearing Spock had to strain to understand what McCoy had said there at last.

“I just wanted you to know that,” McCoy said in a louder voice. He thought for a moment. “Thanks for being my friend, too,” McCoy said and cleared his throat. “I haven’t always been that to you.”

“In your own way, Doctor, you have.”

“But not enough! Understand?! You’ve got to hold me more accountable! I might not be able to step up and help you in the same way that you helped me. That bothers me. And that has to change. I have to be more of a friend for you. I feel bad because I haven‘t been. It isn‘t right. I don‘t deserve your friendship. Not after the way things have been between us.”

“It is you who does not understand, Doctor. You have consistently been my friend longer than you realize you have.”

“Thanks for saying that.“ McCoy squeezed Spock’s shoulder. “We’ll work on it, okay?”

Spock could only nod. Now he did not know if he loved McCoy more as a friend or something more. Would this new feeling for McCoy jeopardize their friendship that was suddenly blossoming? Now that McCoy wanted to be friends, is that all that he would ever want to be with Spock? Was Spock now in a worse position than he had been before?

Spock considered bringing forth his new cursing skills to cover the angst and ambiguity that he was feeling. It seemed an appropriate time for some colorful language.

McCoy trailed his hand down Spock‘s arm, and the moment was over. “I’m sorry if I got Tomkins’ blood all over your uniform and upper body yesterday.”

“Everything was washable, so no harm was done.”

Spock did not mention the two yeomen he had frightened when they saw his appearance in the hallway after he had left sickbay yesterday. The yeomen had thought that he had been injured, or had at least been in a horrific fistfight with a Romulan. Spock had to admit that he had liked the ministrations and inquiries of the young ladies before he had placated them sufficiently. They had been very sweet to hi, and he had felt like a big brother to them.

McCoy’s frown deepened. “I also want to apologize for my loss of control when you were holding me yesterday. I didn’t know that I would break out into sobs like that, or that I couldn’t seem to stop myself from weeping. I guess that it all suddenly got to be too much, and I unloaded on you. I hope that I didn’t bruise you too much with my hands.”

“Think nothing of it, Doctor.” Spock’s shoulders and upper arms were a mass of bruises from where McCoy’s kneading hands had assaulted him, but that was Spock’s secret. He would not give up any one of those bruises if they had helped relieve McCoy’s inner pain.

“I just had to hold onto something living and solid. I couldn’t seem to get close enough to you. I couldn’t seem to touch you enough. I know that it sounds morbid, but I wanted to tunnel inside you and pull your safe, living carcass around me. Then I would‘ve felt safe.”

Spock remembered holding the doctor close to himself and trying to protect McCoy with his own body. He had run his hands up and down McCoy’s person in wonder. Spock finally had his hands on that body that he so desired. Sure, it would’ve been much better if McCoy wouldn’t have been grieving. But Spock was selfish and had touched the doctor as much as he had wanted. McCoy thought that Spock had been giving him succor, but Spock’s ministrations hadn’t all been for pure motives. And it had been a glorious experience for Spock, despite McCoy’s anguish. Discovering McCoy’s body with his hands had been glorious for him. He could live on those memories for a long time if he wanted. But he sensed that he wanted to take the next logical step and do more with McCoy's body than merely touch it.

McCoy was still confessing. “I needed to know that somebody was still okay in my world. And I appreciate what you said. I don‘t know the words that you used, but the sound helped a lot. That gave me an anchor in the world, also.”

“You would do the same for me, Doctor.”

McCoy managed a smile. “No, I would have cussed you out for getting injured or ranted that I had better things to do with my time than babysit you. I would have said anything, except to let you know how much you had frightened me. I would have done anything to keep from giving you the hug that you needed to get and that I needed to give.”

“You would have intended it in your heart,” Spock mumbled for lack of something better to say.

“Now how in the hell would you have known what I intended in my heart?! Especially since I‘ve never let you know anything like that before?!” He breathed deeper. “I hope I can correct that.”

“Doctor, you had good intentions--” Spock persisted.

McCoy held up his hand. “Don’t try to defend me! Bring me to task! Somebody needs to!” He quieted himself. “I hope you know, Spock, that when I say and do some of those things to you when you're injured, that I’m actually scared out of my mind for you and hoping against hope that I can save you. I don’t want to lose you, Spock. And if I generally don’t act like your life doesn’t mean anything to me, I want you to know for once that it does.”

McCoy was offering unvarnished friendship, another thing that Spock had craved for so long. He could barely speak. “Thank you.”

“We are friends and colleagues.”

Lips continue to work, Spock prayed to whatever gods were out there. “Thank you, Doctor.”

But Spock received this fresh pledge of friendship with mixed feelings.

Great! McCoy thought of him as a friend and a colleague. Spock supposed that he should be happy for that much.

“And I have never felt as cherished and as protected as I felt in your arms yesterday, Spock. I want you to know that.”

“Thank you.”

Damn it! Why could he not stop saying that inane expression of gratitude?! McCoy must think him demented! Why could he not tell the doctor what he really wanted to say?! Why could he not tell McCoy what he really wanted to do with him and especially to him?!

“Are you blushing?” McCoy asked, puzzled. “Is that what that deep coloration is? Are you blushing?” He twisted his head, trying to understand. “Why are you blushing? Am I embarrassing you?” he asked, taking the wrong meaning.

“No, no.”

“I did not mean to embarrass you. I know that getting emotional bothers you. Forgive me. I was being insensitive. And that’s the last thing that I wish. I should be more considerate of you.”

“Doctor, that is not the problem. Just know, please, that it is not your fault.” A team of wild horses, or even a team of tame ones for that matter, would ever pull the truth out of Spock. He hoped that there would be a wonderful time in the future when he could confess all to the doctor.

Then Spock knew that he had to do more for his friend who was trying to express his thanks. “I appreciate what you have been telling me, Doctor.”

McCoy breathed deeply. “Thank you.”

“I know that it took a lot for you to admit that you needed to lean on someone else.”

“Thank you.”

Now McCoy was taking his turn with the inane expression. Spock decided to break the cycle before their heart-to-heart discussion entered the realms of the ridiculous.

“Is there any way that I may be of further service to you, Doctor?“ Perhaps he might still be able to determine if McCoy could ever have romantic feelings for him.

McCoy gave him a tired, yet mellow smile. “Be a sport and dance with me, alright?”

The suddenness of the request startled Spock to his core. Dancing?! With McCoy?! In his arms?!

McCoy’s smile deepened. “Maybe after this rumba is over? Maybe something slow, so I can feel your arms around me again?”

Spock sucked his breath in sharply before he could stop himself.

“Forget it.” McCoy turned away. “It was a bad idea, I can tell,” he muttered.

“Wait.” Spock’s hand snaked out and he caught McCoy by the forearm.

Startled, McCoy looked up.

“I did not decline to dance with you.”

McCoy stared at the hand on his arm, and Spock removed the offending hand as if McCoy’s uniform had burned him at his touch of it.

“Sorry,” Spock muttered. “But you misunderstood me.”

McCoy was staring at him. “Do you mean that you wanna dance with me?” he asked a little breathlessly.

“That is what I am saying.”

“Well, if you did, I missed it.”

“It was implied. Somewhere. In what I said. Or did not say.”

“Oh, hell. You’re acting squirrelly again, and I shouldn’t take advantage.” He set his drink down on a convenient table and looked squarely at Spock. “But I am gonna take advantage.” He held out his hand.

As if on cue, different music started.

McCoy grinned. “Donna Summer’s Last Dance. Two dances for the price of one. Slow and fast.” He smiled and beckoned with his hand. “Come on. It’s impolite to keep a lady waiting.”

“Miss Summer?” Spock asked with some understandable confusion.

“Yeah, her, too.”

Spock closed the distance between them and said firmly, “I will lead.”

McCoy looked a little startled, but impressed, too. He demurely allowed Spock to fold him into his arms.

Spock began the steps as soon as the music started a new line, and he and McCoy glided across the floor to the slow ballad. After a long instrumental introduction that neither man had ever heard before, the song finally relented at last to the lovely voice of Donna Summer.

Everyone in the room who was listening to the torchy voice of Miss Summer was struck by the loving care with which she formed the words in her throat, then released them to float through the room.

Last dance
Last chance for love
Yes, it's my last chance
For romance tonight

Listen to the words, Spock prayed. Listen to the words, Doctor. They are echoing what is in my heart.

McCoy didn’t care who was watching. He tucked his head back into Spock’s neck where it had been yesterday. McCoy sighed. He had been wanting to do that again ever since yesterday. But he had wanted to do it when he wasn’t so upset. Who would’ve thought his opportunity would have come so quickly?

Spock smiled softly as he gently guided McCoy through the simple box step pattern. Just what he remembered from holding the doctor in his arms yesterday! But now the doctor wasn’t as upset. Now the doctor could concentrate on him.

I need you by me
Beside me, to guide me
To hold me, to scold me
'Cause when I'm bad
I'm so, so bad

Then the music changed to disco.

“Can you handle this faster music, Spock?!” McCoy demanded as he began gyrating in time to the music.

“Yes, I can, Doctor,” Spock replied as he broke into some fast footwork of his own.

“What is that dance called?!” McCoy asked as he laughed and tried to follow Spock’s steps. “Jitterbug?! Rock ’n’ roll?! Crazy apes in the jungle with heat rash?!”

“Yes! Yes, to all of the above!” Spock hollered back as he and McCoy gyrated together and danced to the fast rhythm. It felt like the music was celebrating the happiness that was suddenly bubbling up inside Spock.

This was what he wanted! Him and McCoy! Dancing! Celebrating being alive!

So let's dance the last dance
Let's dance the last dance
Let's dance this last dance tonight

Spock spun McCoy out, then just that quickly he spun McCoy back into his arms with McCoy’s one arm bent behind him. McCoy was pressed very close to Spock’s chest as Spock bent him backwards.

McCoy stopped moving. “Take me, Spock!” he screamed with glazed eyes.

Puzzled, Spock looked around. “To where?”

“I don’t care! Hell fire, I don’t care! Wait! I know! To a dark corner!”

“What?” asked a stunned Spock as he stopped moving, too.

The music flowed around them, but both of them had ceased to dance.

McCoy continued to stare at Spock, but a huge grin broke out over his face. “Okay! Have it your way then! Forget the corner! Just take me!”

“I take it then that you have feelings for me, too?”

“You get me to somewhere private and I’ll be happy to show you how many feelings I have for you! Right now, that drapery behind you looks secluded. And it’s close. Wanna take me on a tour behind it?”

Spock grinned, which was actually quite an accomplishment for him. Nothing major broke in his face, but all of it felt quite strained.

“Gladly, Doctor. Right after our song finishes.”

McCoy’s face had pure joy written on it. “Gotcha!”

Spock arched one eyebrow. “No, Doctor. I believe that I have you.”

McCoy threw his head back and laughed.

Spock had caused this response? He wondered what other responses he could stir in McCoy.

With that, Spock whirled the doctor away from him, but McCoy was smiling because he knew that he would be whirled back into Spock’s arms in another moment. And that‘s all that was important to either one of them. And when he got back to that coveted spot, McCoy planned to throw his arms around the Vulcan, rub his body up and down on that other luscious body, and see if that gave Spock any ideas.

And if that didn’t work, McCoy would go to Plan Two. Nobody survived Plan Two, not even stubborn aliens.

On the other hand, Plan Two might be fun, just for the hell of it.

Yes, it's my last chance
For romance tonight