by K.V. Wylie

Of all the souls that stand create, I have elected one.
When sense from spirit flies away, and subterfuge is done;

When that which is and that which was, apart, intrinsic, stand,
And this brief tragedy of flesh is shifted like a sand;

When figures show their royal front and mists are carved away,

Behold the atom I preferred to all the lists of clay!

I have no life but this, to lead it here;
Nor any death, but lest dispelled from there;

Nor tie to earths to come, nor action new,
Except through this extent,
The realm of you.

"Love" by Emily Dickenson

"He wouldn't tell you himself, but he'd want you to know. He has xenopolycethemia," Kirk said. He and Spock stood beside a pallet on which McCoy lay writhing in the aftershocks of the Oracle's attack.

Spock's hands tightened involuntarily. He swallowed hard against a spasm in his throat.

"I know of the disease," he said. He looked down at McCoy and thought, 'Why did the captain allow you in the landing party?'

He held the doctor's arm as the latter awakened and struggled to rise. McCoy gave him a peculiar look until Kirk said, "He knows, Bones."

McCoy's arm relaxed under his grip.

'You are too ill for this,' Spock thought with a measure of ill temper. 'I shall have to watch over you, more than I usually do. My job is to investigate this asteroid, not be your keeper.'

But Natira volunteered to stay with McCoy. The irony, not lost on Spock, was that the doctor became the Vulcan's keeper. McCoy bartered his body for Spock and Kirk's lives.

"Your decision is illogical, doctor," Spock said. They were on the inner surface of Yonada now and McCoy was telling them to beam away and leave him.

McCoy stepped away. "Is it, Spock?"

'Yes,' Spock said to himself. He could understand self-sacrifice, but not in this instance. It was not logical to choose to die here among these superstitious, fearful people with their goats and poultry and homemade clothes. The doctor was a proficient researcher. Given a sophisticated laboratory, he had a chance of finding the secret of his disease.

But the doctor would not change his mind. At last, to Kirk, Spock said, "I believe it is time to move on."

Resistance sprung up among the crew when it was learned that McCoy was on Yonada and the Enterprise had been ordered away. Spock was not immune to the mood, though he would never have spoken of it. Kirk delayed leaving, but there came a point when staying was beyond even his infamous wilfulness. He gave the order. Then McCoy's call came in. Kirk and Spock beamed back to Yonada.

Spock was unimpressed with oracles. He removed the Instrument of Obedience from McCoy's temple without a second thought, until Natira's cry.

"He is no longer my husband," she said to Spock, appalled and angered at his casual discard and disregard of the Oracle's metal thumbtack.

"He was never your husband," Spock said as gently as he could. "He never gives up for long. He wouldn't have stayed."

Spock retreated to the control room, hoping that would be the last conversation he would have with the High Priestess. Unfortunately, once back on the ship, McCoy would have nothing to do with the information Spock had copied from the Fabrini's data banks.

"It’s theft, Spock," he said. "Did you even ask?"

"Should we have an ethical discussion?" Spock said. "I repaired the ship, righted its course, and copied only that portion of the medical knowledge that pertained to your condition."

"You took without asking," McCoy retorted angrily. He was white and depleted, very ill now from the disease, and it was beyond his ability to return to his lab.

The Enterprise had her orders elsewhere. Spock took a shuttle and returned to Yonada.

Natira looked white too. Was xenopolycethemia contagious? Spock reviewed his notes and concluded no. The High Priestess was trying to cope with the loss of both McCoy and the Oracle's infallibility at the same time. She gave Spock harried permission to use whatever he wanted from the data banks if it would cure her husband-not-husband.

Spock left promptly before she might change her mind. He thought about the Oracle and the Prime Directive while piloting the shuttle back to the ship; if McCoy accepted the treatment now and survived, that was the sort of ethical discussion Spock would consider having with the doctor.

If the doctor survived.

The thought crossed all the medical staff's minds when they saw how exceedingly harsh the treatment was. The first injection made McCoy vomit for hours. The second injection seemed to strip the very marrow out of his bones. His white cell count plummeted. He bled under his skin, purple-scarlet bruises everywhere, the skin swelling even between his fingers and toes.

The time for the third injection came. M'Benga refused to give it. When Spock came off-shift, McCoy was sedated and strapped into a bed in an isolated room, and the entire sickbay staff spoke in whispers.

From the doorway, Spock looked at the doctor. He could hear M'Benga telling Kirk that McCoy wasn't strong enough to withstand the injections. The doctor would die.

It would be soon.

'Why should you die here?' Spock thought. This wasn't just disrupting sickbay; all of the crew were strained with waiting.

Kirk's footsteps sounded behind Spock. The captain went past Spock, to the bed, and laid a hand on McCoy's. "Our friend," he said quietly.

He stayed for a while, talking to McCoy who was restless under the sedation and didn't wake. M'Benga checked in once and so did Chapel. Another nurse came and went. Then it was only Spock and the doctor.

"Why should you die here?" Spock asked again, coming to the bedside. The late shift crew sounded in the hallway. The lights dimmed in sickbay to create an artificial night. Then all the noises died off and the illusion that there was no one else around settled in the room

Spock thought illogical thoughts. He thought of McCoy's smile in the Galileo, just before Spock set the fuel on fire. He remembered finding the doctor on the floor on Miri's planet, refusing to risk the antitoxin on anyone but himself. Spock remembered McCoy's audacity when he lied to T'Pau about what he was injecting into Kirk.

Spock untied McCoy's restraints and thought about ethics. The doctor moved in his delirium towards the edge of the bed. Spock held him, tried to find a comfortable leverage, considered the mechanics of the bed, then with a small shrug, got up onto the bed himself.

With his back against the wall and his legs stretched over the side, he just fit under the overhead scanner. He cradled McCoy to his chest with one arm and placed the fingertips of his other hand to the doctor's temples.

He heard Chapel's startled gasp before he was aware of her presence. Spock looked up into her wide eyes.

"Nurse, tell Dr. M'Benga that Dr. McCoy will now be able to tolerate further injections." Spock's voice was harsh. He could feel McCoy against him and in him. Wisps of soporific confusion, pain, and alarming frailty burned his mind.

Chapel ran. When M'Benga entered the room, he gave no sign of what he thought about it. He eyed Spock and McCoy briefly and gave the injection.

Immediately, Spock felt the drug's force. His blood caught fire, lines of racing, spitting flames down his arms and legs. His skull exploded.

Unprepared, he nearly broke the meld. It was only a faint cry from McCoy that halted him.

"I'm here," Spock whispered. "You're not alone."

He closed his eyes, trying to find his centre while McCoy jerked against him in agony. Then he heard, very clearly, McCoy say, "No more."

Spock opened his eyes. M'Benga stood beside the bed, a hypo in his hand and a worried look on his face.

"Did he speak?" Spock asked, panting, clutching McCoy hard against him.

"I didn't hear him," M'Benga said, one eye on the scanner. "You'd know better than I would."

Spock reached inward. "There is no pain."

It was a lie, but he only had to convince one of them. The doctor was hard to find though, his mind swallowed in a haze of narcotics and bedlam. He was only vaguely aware of the Vulcan and probably thought the latter was part of a nightmare.

"There is no pain," Spock repeated. He tried to visualize the fire as a welcome visitor, healing as it burned. He pictured tissue and blood cells thriving in the furnace, pulsing and dancing in the whirl, and he sent the image down to McCoy.

"Trust me," he whispered. "Reach for me."

He finally found the doctor in a chasm of devils. To McCoy, Spock was just one more. He fought against the Vulcan. He hated him. He reached for darkness.


Spock's yell brought all the staff running. M'Benga made an involuntary move to grab him, but Spock pulled away.

"Don't touch me."

"Don't do this," M'Benga said.

"It is my choice to stay with my friend," Spock snapped back and M'Benga took a step away.

M'Benga said softly, "Mr. Spock, there are at least two more injections."

"We will take this one moment at a time," Spock said. With a start, he realized the words weren't his. McCoy had said them once, long ago, before Spock had met him.

The meld had gone too deep. McCoy's mind was more complicated than Spock had realized; there were levels like passages leading into basement after dark basement. McCoy had shoved much of himself down below and battened a door overtop, but the meld had opened the lock.

Unwillingly, Spock caught glimpses of a past that was not his. Phantoms drifted by - a dark-haired woman, a child, a man walking a darkened hospital corridor. He saw another bed on which a thin, pale man was lying. McCoy's voice said, "We will take this one moment at a time."

"My friend," Spock murmured. He imagined cool mist and drifting snow. He pictured a hammock swaying gently in a breeze. Rain fell from a cloud. "There is no fire," he said. "There is no pain. Breathe with me."

An hour later McCoy slept peacefully in sickbay and Spock was in his quarters on his knees, heaving over a waste disposal.

In the morning when Spock turned up on the bridge for his shift, Kirk was waiting for him.

"Mr. Spock, a moment please," Kirk said, indicating the turbo lift.

Once they'd entered, Kirk said into the intercom, "Down half a floor and stop."

The lift complied. Then Kirk turned to Spock, crossed his arms over his chest, and said, "M'Benga told me what happened in sickbay last night."

"Left on his own, Dr. McCoy cannot withstand the injections," Spock said.

"There's a problem," Kirk said angrily, "because one, you didn't clear this with me. Two, you look like death warmed over. And three, what makes you think that you can withstand the injections either?"

"I am physically stronger than a human. I possess more endurance, can tolerate more extremes in temperature-"

"Spock!" Kirk cut in. "Look in a mirror and then tell me that I'm not going to lose both of you!" He took a breath. "Another thing. I really doubt Bones agreed to this. What the hell did you do anyway? Meld with him?"

"I mitigated the side effects by taking some of them on myself," Spock said. "It is logical. What cannot be borne by one-"

"Logic, my ass!" Kirk interrupted again. "Did. Bones. Agree?"

"He is not in a position to be asked," Spock said. "His permission or lack of it is irrelevant."

"It's very relevant," Kirk shot back.

"It is not," Spock said calmly. "On Miri's planet, Dr. McCoy injected himself with the antitoxin after you told him to wait while you attempted to locate our communicators. Despite the command protocol, he decided to risk himself. I may choose to risk myself."

"Spock," Kirk said in a dangerous voice. "Shall we read Starfleet regulations together? On medical matters, McCoy outranks me. Only on medical matters, and only him. This
is a direct order. Keep your tail out of sickbay."

Spock stood at attention, hands clasped behind his back. McCoy had said no more.

But no one else knew it.

"The injections are the only option available," Spock said. "I can tolerate the side effects. Dr. McCoy cannot. As a Vulcan and as a Starfleet Officer, it is not permissible for me to do nothing when I am in a position to help. Dr. McCoy would do the same if the positions were reversed. If Dr. McCoy was capable of voicing a refusal of my assistance, I would abide by his wishes, however, he is currently incapable of speaking. Unless you lock me in the brig, Captain, I will not stay out of sickbay. I am following the correct path."

Kirk eyed Spock. The Vulcan who had defied Order Seven to take Christopher Pike to Talos stood before him. It was an eerie sight. Kirk had often wondered what Spock and Pike had been to each other.

As for what Spock and McCoy were, Kirk knew, and he knew McCoy would never allow this. In a quieter tone than before, he said, "As per Starfleet regulations, on medical matters, McCoy outranks me. You don't. Stay out of sickbay or I will lock you in the brig."

"Then you must do so now," Spock said. "And Dr. McCoy will certainly die."

"Do you think I want him to? Don't you think I'd take the damn treatment myself if I thought it would help?" The moment the words came out of Kirk's mouth, he knew he'd been beaten.

 "My point, sir. If you could take it on, you would," Spock said. "I can take it on."

"Spock, you know we don't have to ask him. We know he'd say no."

"But he has not been asked."

Kirk put his hands to his forehead and rubbed his temples. "When you start hinging your logic on shaky little points like that, I worry."

Spock waited. At last, Kirk said, "You may go there once more, but if I don't like the look of you afterwards, you're going in the brig."

"Yes, sir."

Kirk started the lift again, but sent it down towards crew quarters. "You're off duty. Get some sleep."

The lift doors opened, but before Spock could leave, Kirk asked, "Did you really get onto the bed with him?"

"I needed to maintain physical contact with him and he would not stop moving. I did not wish him to fall."

Kirk shook his head. "If Bones gets through this, I'll enjoy seeing his face when he finds out."

Spock arrived at sickbay three hours before the next injection was due. McCoy was beginning to wake and Spock could sense it through the meld.

He stood beside McCoy's bed and said, "Doctor, I have violated your privacy a second time. I went into your quarters. I wished to find something in which you take pleasure, a favourite tape or a frequently dialled station. You may turn me into the captain when you are well."

Spock had found several tapes of old, Earth novels as well as McCoy's communicator. The memory card in the communicator held music files that intrigued Spock even as he was taken aback by the discovery of the doctor's taste in music.

He set the communicator on a table and accessed the music. Chapel peered through the doorway almost immediately, wondering about the racket.

"What is that?"

"The music on Dr. McCoy's communicator," Spock said.

"He likes that?"

"Apparently, Nurse."

Chapel considered asking Spock to shut off the screeching, but Spock was a senior officer and there were no other patients in sickbay. She decided to get some earplugs and work in the
back lab.

The music lulled McCoy. After moving in his sleep to the side of the bed near the communicator, he didn't stir again.

By the time the next hypo was due, all of the medical staff were in the back lab.

M'Benga looked unhappy. "Mr. Spock, are you sure?"

Spock was waiting. He wasn't in the bed this time, but he'd placed one hand on McCoy's chest. The meld was wide open.

"The captain has given his permission."

M'Benga gave the hypo. Spock closed his eyes and shuddered.

Kirk arrived in sickbay far later than he wanted to. It had been a long day of Starfleet communiqués and petty frustrations. In between annoyances, he thought about calling M'Benga. The problem would be in hearing bad news when he couldn't leave the bridge. Besides, he reasoned, if it was really bad, M'Benga would call.

Which still left him feeling guilty as hell. One of his closest friends was dying, and instead of being there, he was spending the time talking to sniffy Commodores.

Night shift was still an hour away, but already the corridor lights were beginning to dim. Twilight, Kirk thought, remembering the red-streaked twilights in Iowa. If Bones survived - he stopped himself - when Bones was better, the two of them were going to head of to Iowa, ride horses, drink whiskey, and watch a few sunsets.

M'Benga was at McCoy's desk. He looked up at Kirk's arrival and smiled.

"Well?" Kirk asked.

The doctor nodded at the door. "Go and see, sir."

Kirk hesitated in the entrance. McCoy was asleep. So was Spock. But they were both on the bed, Spock sitting on it with his back against the wall and McCoy curled around him.

"Is this, ah…" Kirk couldn't find a word. "A Vulcan thing?"

"I did my internship on Vulcan," M'Benga said. "I've never seen it before. I have an urge to take a picture so that I can blackmail Len."

"Make a copy for me," Kirk said. He sobered. "How did this round go?"

"Mr. Spock took the brunt of it," M'Benga said. "He said he was coping, but he would say that. Leonard's white blood cell count is rising."

"That's good?" Kirk asked.

M'Benga nodded. "Very good."

He left. Kirk went to the bed and said softly, "Spock."

The Vulcan stirred.

"Spock," Kirk repeated. The Vulcan opened his eyes, instantly awake.

"Look me in the eye and tell me how you are," Kirk ordered.

"My condition is acceptable."

Kirk sighed. Vulcans could drive anyone to the edge. "Break the meld and get some rest. In your quarters."

Spock got off the bed, moving stiffly. "Captain, I--"

"That's an order," Kirk said. "I'm here. I'm staying."

"Captain, I was going to say that I already have broken the meld."

Kirk eyed him suspiciously. He indicated the bed. "Then what was this?"

Spock blinked. "I do not remember getting onto the bed. I was in a chair. I remember feeling ill and Dr. M'Benga giving me a sedative. After that…" He stopped.

"If you don't remember this, then how do you know you're not still joined with Bones?" Kirk asked.

"Dr. McCoy pushed me away." Spock straightened to an officer's posture though his legs were trembling.

"Maybe you'd better stay here," Kirk said.

"I require only rest, Captain. I will report to the bridge tomorrow for my shift."

"Stop here in the morning. Let M'Benga check you out first."

Spock went to his quarters, ordered juice from the reconstitutor, and lay down on his bunk. His stomach tightened at the smell of the drink, but he took a sip anyway. His mind was not on his stomach however. Dr. McCoy was stronger now, strong enough that when he woke he would know that Spock had melded with him.

Such an act was a violation not only of Vulcan ethics, but of Vulcan law too. Spock was willing to accept the penalty. What he was unsure of was facing the doctor.

The next day, Spock managed to slip in and out of sickbay without seeing McCoy. He took his shift on the bridge, then stayed late to catch up on the various minutiae and reports that had accumulated in his absence.

The time came for McCoy's injection, but Kirk was with him. Spock remained on the bridge.

The day after that, the mood on the ship lifted. McCoy had visitors from every department, including all of the bridge crew. Except for Spock.

Finally the last treatment was given. Despite his excellent internal sense of time, Spock watched the chronometer. Kirk was in sickbay, but he had left Scotty in charge. Spock's shift was over. He did not have to remain on the bridge.

At length he was compelled against his own judgement to go to sickbay. An entourage surrounded McCoy.

"The Fabrini treatment has been successful," M'Benga said.

Kirk was holding McCoy's arm. "Bones, why is the cure often as painful as the disease?"

"That's a sore subject," McCoy said. He looked pale, but content.

"We don't use the word cure, Captain," M'Benga said. "We use the word remission."

"Geoff, I'm going to tempt fate and use the word cured," McCoy said.

M'Benga chuckled as he herded the entourage out of the room. "Get some sleep, Len. You can have visitors later."

Spock would have left with the others, but McCoy looked directly at him and said quietly, "Mr. Spock, we have to talk."

Kirk glanced between the two of them before deciding to leave the Vulcan to his fate. What Spock had done was between he and McCoy. Kirk just prayed he wouldn't have to write any reports on it. Or pick little pieces of Vulcan up off the floor.

Spock came to the side of the bed. "Doctor, I accept responsibility for what I have done to you. You may report me either to the captain or to the Vulcan Consulate."

"Spock," McCoy started.

"It was a grievous violation-"

"Yes," McCoy said. "But-"

"Against your will-"

"Good Lord, will you shut up for a moment?" McCoy asked, raising himself to his elbows.

"Doctor, within the meld you said no more."

"Not to you," McCoy said. "To the treatment. Though if I'd known at the time that you'd melded with me, I would have said no to you as well. When I realized what you'd done, I was furious. Then Jim said something to me. He said, 'Spock fought harder than you did'."

Spock paused, struck by the comment.

"You went through hell with me," McCoy said. Then he looked into Spock's eyes. "Why?"

Spock had no answer. None that he could admit to himself anyway, much less to McCoy.

McCoy sighed. "At least you're not trying to pawn off that specious argument you used on Jim. He didn't buy it either, by the way. What you did was not logical."

"Yet the Captain allowed me to continue," Spock said.

McCoy's arms were giving way. He lay back on the bed. Spock stopped himself from assisting him.

The doctor closed his eyes. "Thanks, Spock."

"You're welcome," Spock said, though McCoy's posture bothered him. He couldn't pin it down, but something was still wrong.

He glanced at the scanner over the bed. Physically, McCoy was fine.

McCoy was asleep within a moment. Spock watched him for a few minutes, then left.

Spock's suspicion about McCoy was not unfounded. The doctor recuperated, he returned to sickbay, and the cycle of the Starship carried on, but the doctor was quiet. He no longer joined Scotty for an evening drink or played poker with Kirk. Spock's attempt to start a debate over logic was met half-heartedly. There were no more famous arguments between the two of them.

Spock thought the doctor's mood had something to do with Natira. McCoy had married her. He must have had feelings for her, yet he turned down Kirk's offer of 'being in the vicinity' when the asteroid ship made landfall.

The Vulcan came upon the doctor late one night in the officer's lounge. Spock had been recalibrating his sensors, a painstaking task that was not finished until it was nearly time for day shift to resume. It made little sense to retire in his quarters only to have to report to the bridge a scant hour later, so Spock went to the lounge to have breakfast.

McCoy, sitting in the back by an observation porthole, frowned when he saw the Vulcan. He checked the chronometer and frowned again.

"Have you been here all night?" Spock asked.

"I guess I have," McCoy said. "I lost track of time."

Spock ordered two breakfasts and joined the doctor at a table. An unattended library reader in front of McCoy beeped to indicate that it had been waiting to advance to the next page of whatever novel the doctor had ordered. Spock turned the reader off after noting that the novel was still on its first chapter.

The Vulcan did not understand the concept of small talk. He simply asked, "Doctor, what is wrong?"

"Nothing," McCoy said. "I'm fine, I'm cured, there's no crisis at the moment, and everything's just hunky-dory."

"You are being untruthful," Spock said and McCoy blinked at him.

"Spock, I have no reason not to be fine."

"Do you wish to leave the service and remarry Natira?"

"The answer is no and the question is, is this your business?" McCoy returned neatly.

"It is my business," Spock said. "I am your friend."

McCoy picked at a piece of toast, not immediately answering. Spock waited. Finally, the doctor said, "I don't know what it is. It doesn't make sense. I was prepared to die. I had all the loose ends tied up."

He shook his head. "Never mind. I don't know what I'm saying. I should just be happy."

"I understand," Spock said. "A significant event has occurred to you that has not been shared by anyone else except indirectly. You have gone through a change, but must now return to a place that has not changed, and you are expected to carry on as you did before."

McCoy was startled into silence. He recovered quickly. "Is this how you felt when you thought you had killed Jim?"

The Vulcan nodded.

"I'm sorry. I should have been there for you," McCoy said. He pushed his breakfast away.

"If you had offered, I would not have allowed it. I am a Vulcan," Spock said.

"Just as I wouldn't have allowed you near me during all this if I'd had a choice," McCoy sighed. "We're quite the pair. What's wrong with us?"

"We are what we are."

"Stupid and stubborn."

Spock took a piece of fruit from his plate, regarded it, and put it back. "Your taste in music is unusual. It is very old and specific to a time and culture that no longer exists on Earth. Some of the songs on your communicator are not accessible in any database I have so far searched. How did you discover and acquire this music?"

"I heard some songs in a bar when I was a kid and I've been collecting music from that era ever since. I paid a fortune for some of it," McCoy said. "The songs are from the country where I was born, but, back then, it was in the midst of a terrible war it would soon lose. The young generation who were being drafted to serve in this war created songs of protest and freedom. There was quite a cultural shift."

"Protest and freedom," Spock repeated softly, thinking how aptly that description fit McCoy. He made a sudden decision. "If you will take a few days leave with me, I believe I know a way to help you."

"Spock, I'll be ok. Even just talking helps," McCoy said.

"Correction," the Vulcan said. "I believe I know a way to help us both. It is not entirely legal however."

A smile went across McCoy's face. "What the hell," he said. "I'm in."

"I thought you might be," Spock commented. He picked up the fruit again and began eating.

McCoy's memories of the Guardian were fuzzy, but he remembered enough to know that he wished to be anywhere but here. Spock had piloted the shuttle. McCoy hadn't known where they were going until they got here. All he knew was that Spock had insisted they wear old-fashioned civilian clothes. Very old-fashioned. Spock had also tied a bandana around his ears.

"This is a quarantined planet," McCoy said.

"Yes," Spock said. He retrieved a rucksack from the shuttle, walked up to the Guardian and addressed it in Vulcan. Something had been pre-arranged because the Guardian's circle swirled and then paused.

McCoy stepped back. "We're going to jump?"

"It will be fine," Spock said. He took McCoy's hand and led the way.

They landed in a field of mud behind a yellow, rusted bus. Rain touched McCoy's face. He looked up into a blue-grey sky, then back down as Spock tugged him forward.

They came around the bus and onto a plain full of people.

McCoy stared. The horizon was end-to-end multitude. The doctor had never seen such a crowd. As he looked around, he noticed that most of the people were young and human and dressed in unusual clothes. Some were wearing robes, others were in tattered jeans and shirts, but everyone had something very colourful in their outfit, a shirt or a hat or loops of beads.

Some people were sitting. Others were on their feet, dancing and swaying. There were mothers nursing babies, couples kissing, small barbecues going, dogs and children running around, and laughter. Everywhere McCoy looked, there were smiles and laughter.

A young girl nodded at him and held up her hand, two fingers extended and separated. "Groovy, dad. Are you digging this too?"

McCoy blinked. Her gesture looked like the Vulcan greeting.

Spock held up his hand and returned her greeting. "We are. Live long and prosper."

She smiled before turning her attention down the field ahead of her. That was when McCoy realized that everyone was moving in the same rhythm and looking in the same direction.

"I hear music," McCoy whispered to Spock.

"It should be music you recognize," Spock replied. He nodded ahead of them. About half a mile away was a large stage. A band played under bright lights and between huge black boxes McCoy eventually determined were speakers.

"Oh my good Lord," McCoy said. And he nearly sat down in shock.

"Who is on the stage?" Spock asked, intrigued by a live rendition of a song he'd only heard so far on McCoy's communicator.

"Joe Cocker," McCoy managed, thunderstruck. "The Joe Cocker. Oh Spock…"

"Let's find a place to sit," Spock said.

They moved forward. McCoy found it hard to take his eyes off the singer and consequently kept tripping over people. A roar sounded overhead. He looked up and stopped in shock.

"What is that?"

Spock followed the doctor's gaze. "A helicopter, I believe."

The song ended on the stage and an announcement was broadcast.

"You may have noticed the helicopters. It's the military, man, but they're with us. They're bringing doctors. Don't sweat it. They with us!"

Joe Cocker started another song as they found a patch of ground near some scaffolding. Spock spread a blanket and they sat.

McCoy was mesmerized. He'd heard this song many times, but to see it was beyond his imagining. Joe Cocker jerked and jumped as if speaker wires were running through him. He played an imaginary guitar. He raised his arms to embrace the crowd. He cried as he sang. McCoy stopped breathing.

Another artist came on stage. People were getting to their feet. McCoy found himself standing too and singing along.

"One, two, three, what are we fighting for? Don't ask me, I don't give a damn. The next stop is Vietnam. And it's five, six, seven, open up the pearly gates. Got no time to wonder why. Whoopee, we're all going to die!"

Spock gently tugged the doctor back down onto the blanket. "I do not believe you would wish the admiralty to see you doing this."

He was teasing and McCoy knew it. The mood of the people around them was infectious.

A guitar wailed on-stage in a long, sweet riff that seemed to go through McCoy from his toes to his head. A naked man nearby looked over with a grin and asked, "What are you on, man? You have oceans in your eyes."

McCoy took a moment to realize what the man was asking. He caught on when smoke drifted by. "I'm not on anything."

"I did a hit, but it didn't do nothing for me like what you got," the man said happily. "Here man, not that you need it." He handed his cigarette to McCoy.

The doctor took a small puff. "Thanks," he said, handing back the hand-rolled smoke to his neighbour.

"We are stardust," he whispered to the Vulcan who looked more amused than shocked.

The rain came and went as the afternoon wore on. Bands came and went in between showers. There were more announcements and helicopters. People were in continual movement around them, finding a spot for a while before moving on. And all during it, McCoy sat, lost in the music, unaware that he had a smile on his face. Spock, covertly watching him, was relieved.

The Vulcan had brought food and water, which they shared with the people around them.

"You're heaven, cat," one girl said to Spock, taking a sandwich and kissing him.

Spock returned the kiss, caught McCoy's look, and said, "We are stardust."

McCoy laughed out loud.

More announcements sounded. Someone's girlfriend was having a baby. Someone else was to meet her friend at the telephones. Because of the rain, people were asked to move away from the scaffold towers.

The stage crew were going to need some time to set up for the next band and it was getting dark.

"I need to find a refresher," Spock said. "We should stay together."

"I have to go too," McCoy said. They got up and managed a meandering route through the herd, eventually finding some portable washrooms near a fence.

McCoy finished first. As he waited for Spock, several girls walked by him, taking off their tops. They were headed towards a lake that the doctor could just see down a hill by some trees. If the noises and murmurs he was hearing was anything to go by, a lot of people were making love in the shadows around the trees.

The Vulcan came out, looking distressed at the primitive facilities.

"I know," McCoy said. "Everything just drops into a hole underneath. It has atmosphere."

"It does indeed," Spock remarked.

McCoy noticed a group of people sitting on the ground by a camper. He and Spock watched them before exchanging a glance.

"They're meditating," Spock said approvingly.

"Eastern religions were a big influence during this time," McCoy said.

They joined the group. A young man at the front said, "That's it. Breathe in and out. Feel the energy, man. All you have to inhale is some clean air. Don't need nothing else."

Spock and McCoy followed the yoga progressions. A girl beside Spock touched his arm and said, "Can you feel it?"

He gave her the Vulcan greeting.

Leaning over, McCoy whispered, "Did you smoke something too?"

"Just clean air," the Vulcan replied.

McCoy heard a long guitar trill. He stood up and looked back towards the stage. "It can't be," he whispered, rapt.

Spock stood with him.

"Santana," McCoy said. "He's playing Soul Sacrifice. Listen to that guitar, Spock. It's beautiful."

"Do you wish to find a spot closer to the stage?"

"No," the doctor said. "I can, ah, groove right here." To hear better, though, he moved away from the yoga group. Spock followed him. Without having a direction, they somehow ended up lying in some long grass under a tree.

In the growing dimness, with just stars and music overhead and his responsibilities farther away than he could fathom, McCoy felt contentment such as he'd never known before. "Thank you, Spock."

"You are welcome," Spock said.

"How are we going to explain this when we get back?"

"We will not. No one will know."

"Shuttles keep a record of their flights."

"Not ours," Spock told him.

"I like you when you do illegal things," McCoy said. "Are you sure no one is going to know?"

"I am sure. Everything you want to do will remain between us alone."

Serious now, McCoy said, "Don't tempt me with statements like that."

Spock rose up on one elbow and took McCoy's hand. "Do what will give you pleasure."

McCoy didn't know what to say at first. He eyed the Vulcan.

"Are you surprised?" Spock asked.

"You are a Vulcan," McCoy shook his head. "And you act untouchable."

"I can be touched," Spock said. "At certain times. We have already been in a bed together, in sickbay. Has no one told you? It is all around the ship."

"Jim told me." The doctor caressed one of the Vulcan's ear tips. "I didn't believe him at first." He began to laugh. Santana was playing another honey-sharp improvisation. They were safe and buoyed in the midst of four hundred thousand people. And he was going to live longer than he thought.

The ground under them was damp and the air was beginning to get cool. They took off their clothes anyway and dropped them in little heaps in the grass.

McCoy had tended to Spock often enough that he'd seen his body already. Spock had never seen McCoy's body though. Closing his eyes, he explored with his fingertips starting at McCoy's face. He touched beard stubble over the cheeks and along the doctor's jaw. He felt the expanse of the collarbone, ran a hand over one shoulder, and then along the side of the doctor's abdomen. Spock found a ruffle of hair from chest to stomach that he followed down and around to McCoy's flank. He touched the inside of McCoy's thigh, and then came up the underside of the doctor's hardening penis to the tip.

Spock opened his eyes to find the doctor eyeing him wryly.

"Well?" McCoy asked. He was propped up on one elbow, waiting.

"You are acceptable," Spock said.

"I'll pretend you said something nicer than that," McCoy said. He leaned over and kissed Spock.

The Vulcan's lips were soft, but demanding, and he quickly took the lead, opening McCoy's mouth under his. But as Spock's mouth began travelling down McCoy's neck, the latter said, "I wouldn't go too far with that. We're covered in mud and rain and God knows what else."

"It is all acceptable," Spock replied. He was aroused now and it had been too long since he had touched another man. Mud wasn't going to stop him.

He nuzzled McCoy's chest, running his lips over the dark hair until he came to a nipple. It was hard and tight. Spock sucked it between his teeth and McCoy gasped.

"Did that hurt?"

"Yes," McCoy panted, looking down at the Vulcan with dilated darkened eyes. "Do it again."

The Vulcan complied, alternating between both nipples until they stood up red and angry. Then McCoy suddenly flipped Spock over and straddled him. Their erections rubbed as McCoy bent over Spock's chest and sucked bits of skin. He butterfly-nipped from neck to groin and back up, deliberately missing the Vulcan's cock.

Spock strained up. McCoy rose too, frustrating the Vulcan.

"Tease," Spock whispered.

"Foreplay," McCoy corrected. "Shall we have a safe word between us? The second either one of us says it, everything stops."

"Then let us not have a safe word."

The doctor was serious. Spock finally nodded and said, "Kirk".

"That's the last image I need right now," McCoy said.

"Then do not say the word," Spock replied, deftly moving McCoy onto his back. The doctor's legs went around the Vulcan's body as Spock rubbed his cock against McCoy's.

"Wait," McCoy said, turning his head to the side.

Spock looked around, wondering what the doctor had heard. People were around them, but it was night now and Spock and McCoy were out of sight in the grass.

McCoy grinned. "I want to take you higher."

"Then let us continue."

"No, that's the song." McCoy sat up, sending Spock to the side. He peered over the grass, squinting at the lit stage. Then he glanced back at Spock who was, for a Vulcan, dour.

As way of apology, McCoy leaned over and sucked the head of Spock's penis. There was a slight taste of smegma, murky though not objectionable. His organ was probably in the same shape, but it would provide lubrication for what he had in mind.

He kissed the vein along the bottom of Spock's penis, and then sucked the balls one at a time into his mouth, almost unhinging his jaw to get them in. Spock spread his legs and McCoy took the advantage, delved between the Vulcan's cheeks, and licked between them. His tongue found the pucker of Spock's anus. And something else.

McCoy laughed and spit to the side. "You have grass up your butt."

Humoured, Spock looked at him. "Leonard, we are lying in grass. It is everywhere."

The doctor brushed away the plant life he could and sucked the edges of the Vulcan's pucker again. He heard Spock draw in a heavy breath and his anus twitched.

McCoy got to his knees and tapped the opening with his erection. "Yes?" he asked.

"Yes," Spock managed, but before McCoy could push in, the Vulcan scooted away.

"What's wrong?"

"I need to urinate again."

McCoy grabbed Spock's cock. "Hold it."

Their eyes met. An eyebrow slowly crawled up and Spock nodded, "All right."

He didn't know where the doctor was going with this, but he was willing to follow. He lay back again and McCoy moved on top of him. He felt the doctor's cock against his entrance, his body's involuntary resistance, and then the jab inside. He closed his eyes as he felt himself filled. It had been far too long.

Spock met the doctor's thrusts, relaxing the passage until he felt the gratifying rub against his prostate. He moaned in relief and pleasure as the doctor's erection prodded the nodule over and over, however, underneath the delight was the ache of his bladder.

He could say the safe word, but the mixture of ache and stimulation was unlike anything he had felt before. "I would not have thought this of you," he said softly, opening his eyes.

"That's been said to me before." A shadow passed across the doctor's features, or maybe it was someone walking by. The only light now came from the stage.

McCoy kissed him, perhaps to hide his face or maybe to shut Spock up. As he bent down, he put more pressure on Spock's bladder. The Vulcan jumped.

"Say the word," the doctor whispered.

"No," Spock, sweating with the effort to reach orgasm without peeing. The sensations of excitement and pain intertwined, running up and down the same nerve endings. The Vulcan's thighs trembled. He grabbed McCoy's arms hard.

McCoy pushed in deeply, driving the Vulcan's body heavily beneath him, and stilled. "Say it," McCoy urged in Spock's ear.

"No!" Spock groaned. He propelled the doctor off him, turned on his side, and peed hard in the grass.

McCoy crouched at the side, panting, his organ engorged and glistening. Spock still held his arms. The Vulcan looked over at him and was undone at the sight.

"I'm coming," Spock said suddenly.

In a movement too fast to see, the doctor took Spock's penis and sat down on it. Spock felt the fiery friction around the sore, over-stimulated head of his penis. He cried out and came, the come boiling up his shaft and ejecting in raw, orgasmic spasms.

When it was over, he fell back, wiped out. He barely noticed McCoy stiffen and come as well, but he felt the doctor lift off and then lie down against him.

McCoy kissed Spock, gentle now. Then, without getting up, he groped around them, searching for their clothes.

"Not now, Leonard," Spock said when McCoy plopped a pair of pants on his legs.

"We have to. We have to stand."

"Stand?" Spock glanced over in surprise.

The doctor grinned back at him. "That's the Star Spangled Banner."

The Vulcan blinked. "That sounds like a cat being strangled by a guitar and then exploding."

"You have no soul," McCoy teased. He dressed and sat up. "Spock, it's actually him."

Spock struggled slowly into his clothes. He had no inclination at the moment to do anything, much less sit up enough to see the performer on stage, but he had enough energy to be amazed at the doctor's curiously fannish ways.

"Listen," McCoy said. "He makes love to that guitar the way you make love to your sensors."

"Leonard, you were born three hundred years too late," Spock murmured sleepily.

"Excuse me while I kiss the sky," McCoy said, making it sound like a retort. He dropped back down beside Spock.

"When I wake up, I will ask you to explain that to me," Spock said as he wound his arms around the doctor.

"Don't wake up too soon," McCoy said back. "It might take me three hundred years to figure out what it means."

Spock felt the doctor nuzzle his ear. It was the last thing he felt before he fell asleep.

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