"Let me go; I can walk."  McCoy struggled to regain his feet.  His head felt like he'd won first prize at the pan-galactic Romulan Ale chugging contest.

"Illogical,"  T'Lar observed from her litter.

He made it almost to the head of the steps before he crumpled.  An adept caught him and carried him down the mountain.

McCoy awoke in soft, clean sheets that smelt of jasmine in bloom and a woman's touch.  His head felt modestly better--as long as he stayed lying down, that is. He found that out the hard way.  But--mercy of mercies--the room was climate controlled for what felt like 22 or 23, and so he was quite content to remain right where he was.

"How are you feeling?"

The voice was vaguely familiar, and yet something echoed in him that he should know it better than he did.

He focused: Amanda. He crinkled his forehead--another mistake--and peered inward.  "A little sick, a splitting headache, completely exhausted, but all right."  And very alone.  For the first time in fifteen years or more, he was really alone.  "For the most part, a lot better than before."

"Hmm.   The most part."  She moved better into his line of view and studied him critically.

Time for a new subject--one that he actually wanted to discuss would be nice.  "How is he?" 

She drew up her shoulders and tugged her wrap more tightly about herself.  "Alive.  Intact--mostly.  Whether or not the death changed him--"  She shook her head.  "I guess we'll all know in time. " 

"We all change all the time."  He'd meant it to sound reassuring, but somehow it fell flat.

"You know what I mean."

Through his mind rolled a memory of Biancus IV, a moonlit seashore, the two of them just sitting--sometimes talking, more often not--for hours while the tricorders ran recording the nocturnal life.  Come dawn they had stayed put to watch a brilliant sun come bursting through the wispy clouds.   If he were forced to give away all his memories through all the planets and all the ships and all the years, that stolen hour between dark and day spent holding hands--barely brushing minds--and watching the sky perform its glories just for them would probably be the last one he would allow to go.

"Yes," he said. "I know." 

The catch in his voice was tiny, but she must have heard it all the same.  Years of reading Vulcans would do that--as he knew so well himself.

"You must be thirsty."  From the bedside table, she poured a drink from a pitcher, but he waved it away.  Nothing in there could possibly be worth the consequences of raising his head.

"Sweet tea," she cajoled.  "With lemon and fresh mint.  I grow them here."

McCoy propped himself up and drained half the glass. 

The bedding sighed as she sat down beside him.  She refilled his glass and poured one for herself.  "When people ask me if I miss Earth, I have to honestly answer 'no'.  I'm very happy here; I don't 'miss' a thing.  But sometimes little details like this take me back to an earlier me in a way that nothing on my new planet matter how long I've called it home."

"I know what you mean," he said.  "It sort of brings back everything from that time and place.  The feelings, the people.  It makes it all real and alive again.  The people we were; the people we've lost."

"It's nice to have someone to share that feeling with.  The past lives on when someone else validates our memories and makes them real."  The glasses made a crisp tinkle as Amanda touched hers to his, and they drank.

He leaned back on the pillow and closed his eyes.   The oddest feeling nagged him that something happening was wrong.  He realized what it was: nothing.  The bed hadn't quivered; Amanda hadn't moved.  He opened his eyes to find her face intently searching his.

"What was my son like?" she asked.

How could he answer that in a few minutes?  An hour? A day?   How could he convey Spock's sense of wonder, the drive to unravel the mysteries of everything--not to prove he could, but because every drop of knowledge gleaned was precious to the collective civilized mind?    What words would do justice to Spock's silently borne burden of Vulcan, or his splendid, treasured failures in private when it finally broke under the strain?  Would Spock want her to know the years of loneliness he had suffered, and if not, how could one make clear the joy inherent upon discovering it to be utterly and irrevocably gone?

Was there a way to explain these things to someone else?  As the only person with the unfettered ability to get under Spock's skin at will, he had seen things from the inside in a way that no one else in the universe ever could.

Did he even want to try to share the best of it?  What was the proper way to describe to  the man's own mother the thousands of wonderful times they had bedded to make love or the thousands of more wonderful times they had bedded yet had not?  And what of pon farr?  Once every 2500 days when Spock had permission to be happy, when they could be as free and giddily, goofily, madly illogical as they wanted--was that a flash of insanity, or was that a flash of the elemental man?

It didn't matter; they were all Spock, and none of it could be squeezed into any words he knew.

"He was...phenomenal," he tried.  "He was everything I would have liked to have been to better myself, if I weren't so selfish as to want to keep the crazy emotions in my heart."  He tapped at his chest in illustration. 

"We're you in love?" Her voice was earnest.

McCoy looked away.  "Amanda--"

"Leonard, you have a daughter, don't you?"


"Is she happy?  What does she like?  Has she been in love?  Has she been hurt?  Was it all worth it?  Does she have a good life?  Please don't be reticent over any misplaced ideas of decency.  I want to know my son." Her voice was quiet and almost unnaturally even, but she never let her eyes leave his face. 

He swallowed once.  "We were lovers.  I loved him, but as for being in love, I don't know.  We were--" He thought of the word happy, but put it aside for now.  "Content.  We fit well together, very well.  Maybe even a bit too well for our own good upon occasion--you know how a close fit can sometimes chafe--but whatever it was, it worked for us.  We never talked about labels or looked into it too hard.  I think that once we fell in step together, neither of us was eager to go overturning any rocks."

"You must have loved him very much to risk the fal tor pan for him."

Sarek had compared the separation of one katra layered over another to the peeling of a vegetable.  With a sharp instrument, it is simple to do: simply scrape off the skin in flakes and leave the fruit unscathed.  But to separate the two and leave each whole--to remove the peel in one single, undamaged sheet without once gouging the flesh--now that is an improbable act.  The stronger one is likely to emerge better off at the expense of the softer.

"And you," Sarek had said, "are the softer of the two."

Kirk had made a face, but said nothing.

"Don't bet the farm on that," McCoy had said.

The twitch of Sarek's eyebrow had been almost as painful in its weak recollection of a more familiar one, as was the thunderous silence in the place where the obvious straight-line should have been.

"I did love him very much, but--" McCoy dropped his eyes.  "Yes, I did.  I do."

"But...?  Please tell me what you were about to say."  She clutched his hand with a strength that took him by surprise.

"It doesn't matter; it wasn't anything about him." 

"If it is about the man he loves," The last word was phonated carefully.  It was not a casual choice.  "Then it is about Spock, and it matters very much to me."

McCoy looked down at the hand he held.  He stroked its wrinkles, hard-earned through the circumstances of many years.  They were the hands that had bathed Spock, held him, nursed him, fed him, cleaned his bottom, wiped his tears, brushed his hair and--at age seven--given him ritually away unto the world of men.  If anyone anywhere could understand, it would be her. 

He took a breath and swallowed hard.  "Amanda, I didn't do it for him."