Somehow, they had migrated in their sleep; their heads now lay just inches apart. Yet unaware of the shift, Leonard McCoy woke up with a start. He glanced around the clearing and tried to take inventory of what might have woken him up. Maybe it was only his bladder politely requesting attention. Maybe it was pine cone digging into his back. More likely it was the chill from the soil where his body had slid up and partially off the side of thermal sheet. Serves me right, McCoy thought. What sort of a damned fool sixty-year old would spend his precious few weeks of liberty sleeping outside on the forest floor? I could be on Wrigley's Pleasure Planet right now, he thought with a mental sigh.

Perhaps it was an owl or a raccoon, but whatever it was, there seemed to be no alarm. The moon had set and the night was still and calm. Everything was quiet around their little bivouac. He could see Jim across the fire slumbering evenly, the uncanny instincts of the Fleet's legendary captain clearly still at ease. And Spock--

Pushing up on his elbow, McCoy turned to check on Spock. He jerked his body back upon seeing how close they had come during the night. Hastily, McCoy pushed himself back onto the center of his mat and wriggled a few more inches away. But Spock slept on, thankfully, undisturbed.

McCoy, however, could not say the same. Something about the innocent vulnerability of sleep was astonishing. Something about the unbeknownst proximity, never and almost touching and touched, played cruel tricks on his mind.

He had been pronounced cured after the fal-tor-pan. It wasn't the after-effects of the link that haunted him now. He didn't need a healer to tell him that. It was something far more mystical than any ancient Vulcan mental technique. Something he understood far less.  It was something doctors weren't supposed to have with their patients.

It was something off limits for him.

McCoy wrapped the bivy-blanket tighter about himself and tried again for sleep. The cicadas chirped and the leaves rustled a gentle lull, but what he heard foremost was the rhythmic sounds of Spock's breathing near his ear. He was not at the least bit surprised when sleep failed to come. He told himself that the problem must be his full bladder after all. He was good, very good at this. He almost made himself believe it was true.

He rolled over to push up again, but found himself staring at Spock's tranquil face instead. He propped up on his elbows and just watched the Vulcan sleep.

His hair was impeccably in place as always. Even asleep the blasted Vulcan would not tolerate any less than perfection. Ironically, his face looked older than it had before he died. The lines were heavier, more deeply ingrained, as if he had already borne so much in just these few, short months.

Spock's nostrils flared with each inspiration. Some how the motion was hypnotic. McCoy hung on each breath as the muscles rose and fell in cadence. The little ridges between nose and mouth twitched with every cycle and tweaked up the corners of those lips. If he didn't know better, he might have thought it a vestige of a smile.

Those lips. He followed the deep creases down from the nose to where they closed the mouth in brackets. His medical textbooks said those lips were one of the most sensitive places of Vulcan anatomy. What he wouldn't give to test the assertion himself. With each rise and fall of Spock's chest, the lips parted just a tad--so inviting, so tempting, so close.

Damn! If he kept this up, it would be a good, long time before he would be able to take that pee. McCoy tossed off the blanket and fumbled for his boots. The nearly empty whiskey flask tipped over and, try as he might, the alloy thermal mat crackled underneath him as he moved.

Jim looked over once, but with a nod from McCoy went right back to sleep. McCoy hitched up his jeans, which seemed to be too loose for his body now, and looked around for the little footpath through the grove.

The California night air was cold even in summer. Feeling suddenly very small and alone, he shivered and hugged himself through his shirt. Every time came out here he forgot how different it was from his memories of his youth in the South. But so many things change, all one can do is adapt to the present. At least this adaptation would be simple. With a sigh, he shrugged on his jacket and set off to find a thirsty tree.

With a zip of the metallic fly, he undid his jeans and made the universal sound of man at his simple pleasures. Modern medicine may not have cured the common cold, but at least at sixty a man could still enjoy a good whiz when he wanted. Feeling much better already, he tucked himself back in place.

"What did you mean by that remark, Doctor?"

"JESUS!" McCoy jumped and whirled, his heart flying a mile a minute.

"Spock, you don't just sneak up on a man while he's--alone. What the hell were you thinking?"

Spock stood placidly, barely two feet away. He wore only faded jeans and a thin, Vulcan tunic but he seemed completely unaffected by the chill. "I was thinking that your answer may be something that either or both of us would prefer to keep private. It was my specific intention to accost you alone. And I seem to have succeeded."

McCoy double-checked his fly as his heart rate settled down to normal. "What answer?" he grumbled distractedly.

Spock replied patiently, "Your answer to my question: What, precisely, did you mean when you said, 'I liked him better before he died'?"

"Oh, that." McCoy feigned indifference. "Nothing. I just had too much to drink. Forget it." McCoy pulled his jacket tighter around himself and made as if to slide past Spock, but the Vulcan effectively blocked the trail back to the clearing.

"Unlikely," Spock contradicted. "Even not knowing the quantity of whiskey added to the bipodal seeds, by allowing for the approximate amount poured by Jim and the amount remaining in the bottle, you could have consumed no more than one hundred forty milliliters at that time. With your body mass of sixty-three point two kilos--"

"Sixty-seven," corrected McCoy irritably.

"I think not," said Spock. "You have not been paying sufficient attention to your own health of late. Your nutritional state has been the worse for carrying my katra and I regret that considerably.

"In any event, by my computations, the maximum blood ethanol level that you could have attained would have been 0.06 milligrams per milliliter, certainly not enough to raise your level of irrationality above its already considerable baseline."

McCoy bristled precisely on cue. "My level of irrationality? All right, Spock, you want to know what I meant? I mean, I liked you better when you were a fag. And I think it's ridiculous to call something a 'refusion' when it changes something as basic as sexual orientation."

Spock wrinkled his brow. "I do not understand your reference, Doctor."

McCoy exploded. "A fag! A rump-rider. A poofter. A fudge-packer. A fairy. Jesus, don't tell me you don't even remember that. You've had more men than a Starfleet academy barber's chair. Why, just a week or two before you died, I had to clear up your case of the Deltan drips from your little tryst with that --"

Spock cut him off sharply. "I have a partial memory of the incident and I have reviewed log entries on it. There is no need to rehash it now. And I do understand your vernacular. It is also my understanding that your alleged cure gave me indigestion for days.

"What I do not understand is your sudden interest in my sexual preferences or your evident concern over the fact that they have changed."

McCoy searched his face but found no guidance there. He sighed. It didn't look like he would be going back to sleep anytime soon. But maybe this was for the best. Looking around, he spotted a fallen tree. He wove his way back to it and plopped down. He patted the spot beside him in invitation.

Spock looked it over, then primly sat.

McCoy explained, "It was kind of nice having you in my head. Allergic reaction aside, sometimes I kind of miss it. Lots of times really. I could have gotten pretty attached to it." McCoy kept his voice low and he stared at his hands as he spoke. But the words were smooth and even, as if he had thought about this before.

"I see," said Spock.

McCoy shook his head firmly. "No, you don't. Doctors aren't supposed to fall for their patients. I never had a problem before. Not even on Vulcan, after the ritual. It just wasn't an option. I never thought about it--thought about you--like that. But after you transfer from active Fleet service to the Diplomatic corps, I won't be your doctor anymore. And ever since you made that announcement last week--" His voice trailed off.

"I see."

This time McCoy did not correct him.

Instead McCoy said, "Ironic isn't it? Carrying your katra for the fal-tor-pan made me want so much more from you. Restoring your mind to you made that impossible. How crazy is that?

"Reprogramming, that's what it is! They had a chance to twist your future for the benefit of the future gene pool of the planet and they took it. They get the house lineage they want. You don't even know
the difference."

"If I am unaware of a difference and therefore unaffected, then why should it distress you, Doctor?" asked Spock.

McCoy rubbed his temples. "I got the idea you liked being a part of me too. I sort of hoped you might like it again. But we'll never know; they took that chance away from both of us."

"You believe my sexual orientation was intentionally altered, Doctor?"

McCoy gestured helplessly in the air. "I don't know, maybe 'intentionally' is too strong a word. Maybe I am just a little too close and seeing conspiracies everywhere. But Amanda did say that the retraining of your mind must be in the Vulcan manner. That has to have made the difference. How else do you explain such a huge change? It's no secret that homosexuality is almost non-existent on Vulcan, having been declared without useful purpose by the High Council. It could just be that. But either way, I don't think they even tried to restore that part of you, and that isn't right. Whether or not a Council approves, you are who you are."
Spock considered. "It is true that my brief period of death emphasized the urgency of birthing heirs to the House of Sarek.  While I wouldn't discount such a theory, I do not believe such a plan would be carried out without my knowledge or consent. And I did not consent to such an arrangement, although in the interest of the good of the many, I would have considered it carefully."

"I can't tell you how tired I am of that phrase," McCoy muttered to the treetops.

"An illogical attitude for one sworn to the service of Starfleet."

McCoy grinned marginally and relented. "Yeah, I guess you are the last of the line, huh?"

"Sarek and Amanda have no other offspring," said Spock.

"And it looks like they have Saavik all set up for you."


"You two seemed so--intimate during those months on Vulcan. Different than before."

"You are correct in many of your deductions. We are intimate."

McCoy shrugged his forehead.

"But not in the sense that you imply. She has been accepted into my family by Sarek. She's now my kin by choice. It is a status that, for reasons of Vulcan biology, cannot be afforded to offworlders or you and Jim would have known of it long ago."

"Like--your T'Pring?" McCoy ventured.

"There is no translation. The closest I could come would be 'younger sister'," Spock clarified.

"So you aren't--"


McCoy snorted happily. "Well, I'll be!"

But Spock continued, "While our ways may seem inexplicable to you, Vulcan is not a dictatorship. Children have mates selected for them in preparation for the onset of pon farr, whenever that may be. Unbonded adults are free to do as they please and choose the mates they wish. But in our post-reformation society, adults are guided by logic. Naturally, most agree with the consensus of the Elders. This often presents the appearance of coercion, but free will is always preserved.

"After I transfer to the diplomatic corps, I shall select a wife of my own choosing."

McCoy laced his fingers and pressed squeezed his hands firmly together. "So, you are a confirmed heterosexual?"

"So it would seem."

"And it doesn't bother you that this choice was taken from you?"

Spock appeared puzzled. "As the choice was never mine in the first place, it is irrelevant."

"But don't you miss any of your old--contacts?" McCoy pressed.

"Not that I am aware of, but as those are reconstructed memories as well, I cannot answer the question as you mean it."

McCoy shook his head. "I still don't like it Spock, and I don't mean just for selfish reasons. It seems damned unnatural to me. Telling a man what he used to think."

"It is, for your species, but it was done in mine for hundreds of years. And as for any alterations, I consider it an equitable arrangement. I am, after all, alive."

McCoy chuckled softly under his breath. Goddamit, but that copper-toned, pointy-eared egocentric bastard had gone and won again.

"Yes, you are, Spock. And I'm mighty glad of that on any terms. And you're right; it is more than a fair trade. Thanks for the reminder. I shouldn't quibble over the terms of a miracle. Sometimes I need a little swat on the ass to straighten my head out. "

"Anytime, Doctor." Spock rose formally from the tree trunk. "Goodnight."

McCoy watched him walk away. The pale fabric of his Vulcan tunic fluttered behind him, making him look almost ghostly as he moved farther and farther away. McCoy watched longingly as Spock pulled himself under his blanket and straightened his body. Then, once again, everything was still.

McCoy sat by himself for several minutes. He cursed himself for twenty-seven kinds of a fool for even thinking of such a thing. He and Spock together. He had to be dreaming. Maybe it was for the best this way. Just not in the cards. Certainly this was far better than the flat out rejection for personal reasons that he could have encountered under different circumstances. And far, far better than always holding out a distant hope.

Resigned, McCoy heaved himself off the log. He wandered back to the camp and fell back on to the mat, suddenly too tired to even think. For a passing moment he thought of removing his boots, but he decided it would be too much trouble and so he just pulled up the blanket.

His hand did find the whiskey bottle, however, and he drained it dry in one swig. He was asleep within the minute.

When the dreams came, this time he welcomed them. Maybe it was the whiskey. Maybe it was the freedom of sleeping under the all-knowing stars. In any event, tonight he made no attempt to shake them off.

It always started with a mundane scene. He was in sickbay. His patient laid obediently, eyes closed, naked from the waist down under the surgical hood. The biobed beeped steadily and the mediscanner registered Spock's unique readings, near Vulcan norm. McCoy sealed the wound and raised the hood.

'All done, just let me check my work. Spread your legs.'

Spock pulled up his knees and spread his hips. He grabbed his organs and held them to his belly revealing a tempting, quivering asshole.

McCoy bent his face in closer and closer, homing in on his target. A circle of fine, black hairs fanned out coquettishly around it. McCoy blew a fine stream of air through his lips. The little hairs waved a reply and the asshole winked, invitingly, in response.

Moving slowly and deliberately, McCoy stuck out his tongue.

There was no smell. There was no taste. Perhaps, in dreams, there never is. He ran his tongue around the rim and flicked it, repeatedly, over the little hole. His only focus was the delicious friction of his tongue over the skin and the hair and the trembling contractions of the muscles beneath.

With his hands, he pushed Spock's thighs apart to the limit. He pressed his whole face into the valley of Spock's body and sucked and probed and licked. He felt the heavy scrotum bobbing against his forehead and realized Spock would be masturbating himself. The thought excited him to no end and he jabbed his tongue hard against the sphincter.

McCoy ran his hands up the thighs and over the ripples of Spock's body. Now they were both naked, on the bed in his cabin. Spock jerked himself with one hand and massaged one of his own nipples with the other hand. McCoy found the other nipple with his hand and squeezed it hard enough to hurt a human.

Spock moaned out his name. "Leonard, what do you want?"

McCoy thrust his tongue in.

And then the scene changed again. McCoy was on kneeling on his stomach with Spock behind him, between his legs. McCoy felt a hot hand spread his cheeks and a glorious burn as he was no longer alone;  Spock was inside him somehow. McCoy hooked his legs around Spock's thighs and pulled him in tighter and tighter still.

Spock leaned forward and pressed his palms into the fine blades of McCoy's upper back. He forced McCoy down into the bedding, pinning him there with his strength. Then slowly, magnificently, like some ineffable unseen force, he began to move from behind.

And McCoy rocked his ass, as he had had women do for him. And they moved together and it felt so good and the tension built and his balls throbbed and he rubbed his dick to the rhythm of the one in his ass and all lines between them blurred and he no longer knew who was in whom until--

"Get that damn light out of my face!" McCoy shouted. Disoriented, he struggled to his feet.

Uhura stepped out through the underbrush and relayed the news. Reality came crashing in.

Jim spoke next. "Well, gentlemen, it appears shore leave has been canceled. Pack out your trash." With a gleam in his eye for his next great adventure, Jim began to break down the campfire, his mind already back on the ship.

With a groan, McCoy reached for his boots, feeling an urgent pressure in his pelvis. His bladder was about to burst. Hadn't he just gone? And, wait a minute--his boots? He looked around. The campsite looked otherwise just the same.

"Coming, Doctor?" Spock extended a hand down to him. In the darkness, without the glow of the fire, Spock's dark sweater almost allowed him to blend into the night. Dark sweater? Hadn't it been beige? As Spock pulled him to his feet, he knocked over the whiskey bottle. It was at least a quarter full.

Spock released his grip but McCoy did not. Dream blended with reality and he no longer knew what was real and what was merely a diversion of the mind.

They stood there locking eyes, neither one sure what came next. It occurred to McCoy that Vulcans were touch telepaths, but still he did not drop his hand.

Finally, he just blurted out the words. "Spock, are you gay?'

Jim looked up from his rucksack in dismay. "Bones! What's gotten into you?"

McCoy ignored him. "Spock? Are you a butt-banger or aren't you?  It's a simple question. Yes or no?"

Spock looked improbably unruffled. "Ah. Unfortunately I cannot give such a simple answer. I have not yet had a chance to be oriented in this incarnation. I would assume that my basic psyche remains as before my death, but the origin of sexual orientation has not been well established. It is possible that subtle cues in my life, memories that were not preserved, will affect the outcome."

"So, you think you're gay--but you don't know?"

"That is what I said, Doctor. But my unique situation would make an interesting case for the study of factors affecting sexual orientation, don't you think?"

"Running a study wasn't exactly why I was asking," McCoy sniped, tucking the bottle into his jacket.

Jim tossed McCoy's backpack to him. "Spock, Bones. Our ride's waiting. Let's go. Your little games can wait." Jim jogged off toward the landing site.

Spock picked up the bedding rolls. "That is a pity, Doctor, for I was hoping that you would be willing to assist me with said experiment." He tossed the rolls over a shoulder and casually strode off after his captain.

McCoy stood open-mouthed for several heartbeats then took off after him at breakneck speed.