"Au claire de la lune, mon ami Pierrot,
Prete moi ta plume, pour ecrire un mot.
Ma chandelle est morte, je n'ai plus de feu. Ouvre moi ta porte, pour l'amour de Dieu.”
—Jean-Baptiste Lully, 1633-1687 CE
The stark peaks, gray sentinels of a cold world that had never known life, looked down indifferently as the three men in Starfleet uniforms came hurrying over the ridge. Dr. McCoy, carrying three hastily-grabbed survival packs, ran and stumbled in the coarse gray sand and trailed a stream of fine and intricate curses. Captain James Kirk saved his breath for running and for carrying his unconscious First Officer. Commander Spock of Vulcan hung limp in the Captain's arms and dripped green blood from a small cut in his scalp and a large one across his ribs.
"Find some shelter fast, Jim, " McCoy panted. "That craft's going to blow any minute!"
"Up there!" snapped Kirk, turning his face toward a dark gap in the rising mountainside. "Looks like a cave. Run for it!"
They ran. The heavy wind pushed at their backs as they pounded across the narrow valley, scrambled up the jumbled rocks and clawed their way into a dark hollow. It wasn't much of a cave: a low-ceilinged rough-floored crack in the mountain, with no useful dimension but its depth. The Enterprise officers scrabbled their way into the stony tunnel as far as they could get before the light failed.
"Far enough," said Kirk, carefully setting down his unconscious burden. "Open that marked kit. There should be a sub-space communicator in it. Dig out the light in any—"
He was interrupted by the distant but monstrous roar of an explosion. McCoy yelled something unintelligible and dropped flat. Kirk threw himself down across Spock, shielding him from the hammering shockwave. Above them the mountain shuddered and roared.
When the last rumbling had gone from their ears, they were in total darkness.
"Landslide," Kirk explained unnecessarily, brushing rock-dust and pebbles off himself and Spock. "It must have closed the entrance. Find us a light, and let's see how badly he's injured."
McCoy grumbled as he found a pack, grumbled as he pawed it open, and grumbled as he dug through its contents for a light. "—Bad enough using the transporter. Now I won't dare set foot in a shuttlecraft for fear it'll go blooey, and for no particular reason. Hereafter I'll walk, thank you. Goddam idiot mission anyway; formal tea with a bunch of windy diplomats. Not worth diverting the ship, so we take the shuttlecraft. Good ol' shuttlecraft! Safe, says you? 'Beep-beep' says the warning light! Bursting pipes all over the—Ah, here it is."
McCoy flicked on the light and set it down on a level patch of stone. Its glow revealed a grim scene: the tight gray tunnel of the cave terminating in a narrowing crack at one end and a mass of rubble at the other, the three survival packs tumbled on the uneven floor, Spock lying limp and bleeding with his head in Kirk's lap, and Kirk ignoring his own cuts and bruises as he gently wiped dust and sweat and green blood from Spock's closed eyes.
"Find the marked pack," Kirk spoke without looking up. "Dig out the big communicator. Follow the instructions written on it, and call the ship."
"Hadn't you better do that?" McCoy asked, looking sidelong at the Captain. "You know the gear, and I have to look at Spock."
"Oh. Yes. Take care of him, Bones." Kirk gently relinquished Spock to McCoy's care and went to the packs.
"Jim," said McCoy as he worked his tricorder, "quit kicking yourself, will you? You didn't make the shuttlecraft malfunction, you didn't make that feed-line burst, and you certainly didn't make Spock jump between the blow-out and you. It's not your fault, dammit!"
"I know, Bones. I know..." Kirk studied the way his fingers yanked out the straps on the marked pack. "It's just that he's always doing things like that. Whether it's hostile wildlife or berserk machinery or attacking Klingons or whatever, he's always ready to jump between me and danger, always there to push me aside and take it on himself... I never asked for that, Bones. I never wanted him to hurt himself for me." The pack surrendered to his tugging and fell open, revealing the sub-space communicator.
"Oh hell, Jim. Haven't you done the same for him?" McCoy answered over the hum of the tricorder. "Friendship is a give-and-take proposition. Besides, he can give you dozens of perfectly logical reasons for everything he's done—that pig-headed, pointy-eared, stubborn—"
The rest of McCoy's fond epithets were drowned in static. Kirk maneuvered knobs and dials and antenna controls until he was rewarded by the sound of Chief Engineer Scott's voice, distant and distorted but definitely there.
"Captain, what's wrong? Where are ye?"
"We don't know, Scotty. The shuttlecraft malfunctioned and we crash-landed on the nearest planet we could reach. We don't know our location, and we're using the emergency communicator. How long will it take you to find us?"
"About ten hours, Captain. Can ye last that long? Are ye in any danger?"
"Not immediately. We're sealed in a cave, but there's plenty of moving air—probably some of these cracks lead to the surface—and we have survival packs. Some injuries, but we're all alive. We can wait."
"Verra good, sir." Scott sounded definitely relieved. "Leave the beacon on and we'll follow it in. Call us if anything happens."
"I will, don't worry. Oh, and Scotty, find out who the idiot was who supposedly checked out that shuttlecraft, and pin his ears back for me."
"Aye, sir. I'll have him crucified t' a bulkhead by the time we reach ye. Scott oot."
Kirk acknowledged, shut off the transmitter save for the signal beacon, and turned to give McCoy a questioning look. The doctor raised his eyes and smiled reassuringly.
"It looks a lot worse than it is, Jim. Mild concussion, scratches, bruises, a cracked rib—nothing worse than that. He'll be all right with proper care. Now let me have a look at you."
"Never mind me; I've got nothing worse than bruises. What kind of care does he need?"
"Who's the doctor here, anyway?" McCoy complained, giving Kirk a quick once-over with the tricorder. "He needs his wounds cleaned and bandaged, of course. He should be kept quiet and comfortable—and warm. This cave's cold, and with that concussion he can't go into his healing trance."
"See to it," said Kirk, turning away from the disquieting sight of Spock's half-open, unseeing eyes. He untied the remaining packs, dug out one of the phasers, set it for heat and warmed several rocks in the cave wall. Next he chose a comparatively smooth area of floor, opened up the sleeping bags and spread them there, one on top of the other, hoping that the multiple layers would soften the underlying roughness of the stone. Last, he spread out the smooth light thermal blankets in triple thickness over the opened sleeping bags. By the time he was satisfied with the results, McCoy had finished stripping away Spock's torn shirt and had cleaned and bandaged the wounds. Kirk studied the Vulcan's pale immobile face with worried eyes, and asked, "Will there be any danger in moving him?"
"No, not if we're careful." McCoy put his tricorder away and helped Kirk lift and carry Spock to the nest of sleeping bags and blankets. "Good," he commended. "We can lie down on either side of him and help keep him warm. Heat up another rock there by his feet, and I'll get his boots off. Also, we'd best roll him on his side, keep pressure off that cracked rib, and...Jim, do we really need that light?"
"Not particularly," said Kirk, examining the rock he had just heated to glowing. "Why?"
"Then turn it off. His eyes are more sensitive than ours, and strong lights could disturb him. Right now he needs rest and warmth more than anything else. If he could just slide from this into normal sleep..."
Kirk turned off the light, pulled off his boots and slid under the blankets, guided by touch and by the red glow of the heated rocks. His hand brushed against Spock's bare arm. He paused, then settled himself under the blankets with meticulous care. The triple layer of sleeping bags was surprisingly comfortable, and the satiny texture of the bag lining and blankets seemed downright luxurious. He relaxed in the growing warmth and felt his own multiple aches begin to fade.
"—But we'll have to keep him still, " McCoy was saying. "There's a chance he may slip into delirium and start thrashing around. If that happens we'll just have to hold him down, and with his strength that won't be easy."
"We'll manage." Kirk sat up to pull off the remains of his tattered shirt, being careful not to disturb Spock with the motion. As he settled back down he discovered that there was no way to avoid the Vulcan's outflung arm. He finally pulled it under his back and lay down on it, which wasn't uncomfortable, though the feel of that warmer-than-human hand against his bare skin was faintly disturbing.
"That's it, " McCoy said. "There's nothing more you can do right now, except catch up on some much-needed sleep. Quit worrying. Doctor's orders."
"Yes, Doctor." Kirk acquiesced and lay still. McCoy kept quiet too, listening to him breathe, knowing damned well that he wasn't asleep. Jim, McCoy thought, you may be the best Captain in the fleet, but if you don't stop fretting yourself over every last detail ? That's my job, anyway. He pressed one hand against Spock's neck, feeling for the pulse. Heartbeat regular... physically as good as could be expected. But mentally! Who knows. What's going on in your thick, mulish, pointy-eared head, Spock? What surprise is your labyrinthine Vulcan mind going to come up with this—
Just then Spock groaned.
"Bones, what—" Kirk threw off all pretensions of sleep.
Spock stretched and arched his back, crying out vague and broken syllables.
"I was afraid of this, " said McCoy, darting a protective hand over Spock's bandaged ribs. "Hold him still!"
Kirk grabbed the Vulcan's free arm, McCoy pinned his legs, and together they fought to hold him down. It was harder than either of them had expected; although Spock moved slowly and aimlessly in his delirium, he was still incredibly strong. He arched backward, his arms closing blindly around the Captain's ribs, hard enough to squeeze the breath out of Kirk's lungs; then he recoiled, thrashing fiercely enough to lift McCoy partly off the floor. Between spasms he groaned and muttered incoherently and Kirk and McCoy lay still and panted and tried to summon strength for the next round. Little by little the struggles slowed, and the broken syllables took on recognizable meanings.
"... No..." he murmured vaguely. "No... not dream... no... "
Dream! Kirk wondered as he held Spock's arm away from his bandaged ribs. "Bones, I didn't know that Vulcans could dream."
"They do," McCoy gasped. "They just don't like to think about it. No control then. They—Look out! Here we go—"
Again Spock twisted and heaved, and his friends strained to hold him. Kirk couldn't be sure, but he got the impression that the Vulcan was trying to struggle away from something. What kind of danger?, he wondered. What could frighten him so much! "It's all right, Spock," he murmured, squeezing his friend's shoulder. "It's all right. Nothing can hurt you. There's no danger here, only me... "
The words did no good. Spock arched backwards, feebly trying to thrust something away, crying out in near-terror. "No! Control... not fall... no... bad dreams... Don't! Please, no!"
Kirk held tight, riding down the nightmarish bucking until it sank down to a heavy trembling, then raised himself on one elbow to see how McCoy was doing. In the sullen red light from the heated rocks, the doctor's face was covered with sweat and visibly strained with fatigue, but he glanced up at Kirk and winked reassuringly. Kirk wasn't entirely reassured.
"Bones, can you tell what's frightening him so much? What does he mean by 'bad dreams'? Is that some effect of the concussion?"
"No, no. That's been going on for some time," McCoy panted. "It's nothing special. Don't worry about it."
" 'Going on for some time'? What do you mean, don't worry? Dammit, Bones, what's wrong with him? Tell me!"
"It's really nothing worth mentioning," McCoy sighed, wishing that Kirk wouldn't worry like a mother hen, particularly about Spock. "Nothing's wrong, except that he came to me about a week ago complaining about bad dreams. He asked if I knew any medication or technique that would make them go sway, that's all."
"That's all? Spock? Having bad dreams? What kind of bad dreams?"
"Dunno, Jim. He either couldn't remember them or didn't want to tell me, but for him to come to me at all, they must be real rip-snortin' nightmares."
"Nightmares... Bones! It couldn't be—He isn't in—"
"Oh no, nothing like that," McCoy hastily assured him. "That was my first guess too, but I checked him over and found no such thing. He's definitely not in pon-farr. Physically, he's quite normal. All I can conclude is that he's got something on his mind, but wants to deal with it himself."
"That isn't much of a conclusion," Kirk complained.
"He didn't give me much to go on," McCoy countered. "He just marched in and asked me if I knew any special techniques for controlling dreams. Of course I questioned him, but he was wearing his Super-Vulcan face—which told me only that he was upset about something—and I couldn't get anything else out of him."
"I see... " Kirk muttered. "That fierce Vulcan need for privacy..."
"Well, whatever it is, we can't deal with it right—Oh no, he's starting again! Hold on, Jim!"
This time the dream-wrestling was long and slow, and both Kirk and McCoy were shaking with fatigue by the time it was over. Long after the thrashing had subsided they held him sandwiched tightly between them, too weary to move away.
Eventually McCoy dredged up the energy to check Spock's bandages, and was relieved to find them in place. "No harm done, thank God," he panted. "Let's hope he doesn't do that again. I couldn't take it." He pushed himself away from Spock and rolled over on his back, aching with strain and exhaustion, hoping he could safely sleep. He noticed that Kirk hadn't let go, still had one arm wrapped around Spock's shoulders and the other cradling his bandaged head. Worrying yet, McCoy thought. But maybe he's right. Spock needs certain reassurances that he'd never dare ask for...
Spock was mumbling again, and now the syllables sounded a little more coherent. Perhaps he was speaking some form of Vulcan that the simple implant-translators couldn't pick up. Then again, the translator might have been broken in the crash or the scramble afterwards. McCoy felt for the spot in his arm where the translator rested under the skin, but found no injury there. Then Spock's voice steadied slightly, and McCoy began hearing definite words.
"No... again... not Vulcan... can't... Please! Not... again... "
The dreams are surfacing, McCoy thought. Now maybe I'll find out what's eating him... Right on the heels of that thought came a stab of embarrassment that he'd dare to eavesdrop. While shame and curiosity chased each other around the inside of his skull, he saw—dark against the red-glowing rock—Spock's free hand slide up Kirk's arm to his shoulder, then to his neck, then his face.
"...Jim?" The whispered word was quite clear.
He's beginning to come out of it, thought McCoy. He may not know where he is, but at least he knows who he's with...
"Yes, it's me." McCoy heard Kirk's quiet reply. "I'm here, Spock. I'm right beside you. Lie still."
"Jim... " Spock repeated. "Here... yes... "
He'll keep quiet now. McCoy was grateful. He won't try to move, thrash around, hurt himself... Maybe he'll sleep. Then I can sleep too.
"I dream," said Spock, softly but distinctly. "It has come... This happens... only in dreams..."
What happens? McCoy wondered. 'This'? A bash on the head? Red-lighted darkness? Or is it something to do with Jim?
"...In dreams... " Spock continued. "All things possible... allowed. I need not... fear to speak..."
McCoy kept perfectly silent, holding his breath. If his ears could have moved they would have pricked up like a cat's.
"It's all right," Kirk whispered again. "Don't be afraid. You don't have to be afraid of anything." McCoy felt the faint tug at the blankets as Kirk's hand moved to Spock's shoulder, patting him gently.
"I fear... waking... " Spock insisted. "Dreams... forbidden? Bones was right..."
McCoy twitched in surprise. 'Bones' he said! He really does think of me that way! Of course he'd never admit it, not awake...
"...I remembered... dreams... knew... what they meant... wanted to tell him... but I was ashamed... "
I'm a doctor, goddammit. McCoy felt hurt. I know how to keep confidences. I wouldn't have teased you with it, whatever your secret is...
"Don't be ashamed, Spock." Kirk's voice held an infinite gentleness. "You don't have to be ashamed of anything. Not now, not with me. You can say anything you want to. It's all right."
Jim, you'd make a pretty good psychiatrist, McCoy admitted with a faint twinge of envy. Better than I can do, right now. Keep him calm, encourage him to talk it out, always bear in mind that he's quite out of his head...
"Must tell... cannot contain it... "
Oho! At last! McCoy felt almost gleeful until he heard Spock draw a deep shuddering breath that strained the bandages.
"Thee has won, Jim... Thee has defeated me. Not all Vulcan in me could withstand thee... "
McCoy gulped, considered the use of the formal Vulcan phrases and what that implied, and made some guesses as to what was coming next.
"What? Defeated you?" Kirk sounded genuinely puzzled. McCoy wanted to kick him for his outrageous ignorance. "How? What do you mean, Spock? How have I won, and what?"
"... I am as a fortress, taken by siege... " The words were muffled, as if Spock had buried his face against Kirk's chest. "Thee has worn away my defenses... breached the walls... "
Military terms, yet! McCoy marveled. He really is badly shaken up!
"... Thee has freed the prisoner... I was commanded... to keep bound. I... failed my trust... to Vulcan lost... lost... "
"I don't understand." Kirk's words shivered with distress and concern. "What did I do? How did I hurt you? Please tell me."
There was a faint sound of weight shifting on the deep-piled sleeping bags as Spock turned his face toward the Captain. "Thee has seduced me into feeling," he said, very clearly.
McCoy winced at that choice of words, feeling through the twitch of the blankets that Kirk had flinched too.
"Thee has caused me... to feel a thing... I cannot deny it... cannot control it. It is with me constantly... when I look on thee... when I hear thy voice... when I stand beside thee... Oh friend, my friend," Spock almost cried. "Thee has caused me to love thee, and now what shall I do?"
Kirk gave an almost-inaudible gasp, and his arms quivered under the blankets.
So now you know, thought McCoy. The human half rises, and with a vengeance... vengeance for all its imprisoned years. I saw this coming a long time ago. I knew that impossibly emotionless pose had to crack someday, knew it would be hard for him, hoped he'd keep enough Vulcan control to accept it without too much pain... But no. No such luck. He's too rigid, too brittle, breaks before he bends... Now he's cracked open all the way down to the bedrock, the core of his mind laid bare... McCoy felt tears start in his eyes. Dammit, Spock! I tried to warn you, ease you into accepting it... But you denied, made excuses. Why wouldn't you listen? Did my teasing hurt you that much?
Across Spock's body, Kirk reared up to look for McCoy. "Bones?" he whispered urgently. "Bones, what should I do?"
No! McCoy held absolutely still, wanting to yell at Kirk, No! Don't call his attention to me! He'll never forgive himself if he know I heard...
"Bones!" Kirk's appeal went unanswered.
"... Jim?" Spock whispered, sounding almost frightened. "Where are you? Where... where have you gone?"
"Nowhere," Kirk sighed, sinking back down on the bed. "I'm right here, Spock. I won't leave you. I'm here... my friend... "
An unidentifiable motion rustled the blankets. Holding his breath, McCoy turned to look. He could see little in that dull red light, but that little was enough.
Spock was pressed tight against Kirk, clutching him like a drowning man clinging to a floating timber. His expression had softened to something very like a frightened child's, and his eyes were wide open, unfocused and glassy. Kirk hadn't moved away; his arms had closed around Spock, holding him tight. His cheek rested against the Vulcan's disheveled hair, and on his face was printed an aching tenderness that he would never have admitted by daylight.
"My friend, my friend Spock... " His whisper was softer, and ragged. "I didn't realize you could... feel like that. I didn't know... Oh, don't be afraid! Please don't be frightened. Don't be ashamed. You haven't done anything to be ashamed of. Love isn't such a terrible thing... No, it's not terrible at all."
Accepted! McCoy dared to breath again. He can even accept it in himself, even though he's a starship Captain with his own pose of cool-headed toughness to maintain... much like a Vulcan. A brave man, Jim—and an honest one. If Spock can go this far, so can he.
"... Half-human... " Spock groaned. "... The human blood... betrays... me... "
"Yes, half human." Kirk's quiet murmur was muffled in Spock's hair. "But it really isn't so horrible to be human. We're not such monsters. We can be kind... and loving. Love is one of the best things we have. It isn't such an awful thing to feel... Spock, listen to me; I've known you long enough to be sure of this. The human in you isn't a bad man. There's nothing vicious or cruel or selfish about you. You can trust that human side! You can trust your feelings—they're not evil!"
"But what should I do?" Spock asked again. "Here logic fails. All is darkness... I'm lost... and afraid... and cold... cold... "
"I'll keep you warm," Kirk promised. His hands rustled against the cloth as he pulled the blankets up to Spock's ears. McCoy quietly pulled up his side of the blankets too, resentful that he had to move with such stealth and pretend he was no part of this.
"... Cold... always cold... logic does not warm... " Spock's voice sounded close and velvety under the blankets. "Warm me... yes... oh yes..."
"There. There. Hush. You're safe. Rest... " Kirk's whisper took on a gentle rhythm, soothing and hypnotic, almost like a lullaby. The enveloping blankets pulled and sagged, tightened and relaxed, in a steady repeated motion.
"... Yes... ah, yes... hold me... yes... " There was no mistaking the deep, quiet rapture in Spock's voice. It was the sound of ancient wounds at last beginning to heal.
McCoy blinked in surprise as he realized that Kirk was literally rocking the Vulcan in his arms, and almost singing him to sleep. How long has it been since anyone did that for him? McCoy wondered, marveling at the incredible image of Kirk as loving parent and Spock as small lonely child. Mother and child reunion...Of course! His mother adopted Vulcan ways, couldn't give him as much affection as he needed, and he didn't dare ask... All these years he's been yearning for this, and fearing it... And that's why he can't deal with human females! The revelation hit McCoy like a punch between the eyes. His mother was human, so all women—for that matter, all things human—are like her: forbidden and fascinating and forever tempting his human side with the promise of joy like this! And Jim... human, but not female, so he's comparatively safe... Oh, Holy Freud!
McCoy lay still, considering all that, listening to the gentle rhythm of acceptance and love and solace long overdue. This act of healing was happening less than a foot away from him, and he had no part in it, and it left him feeling rather lonely. Time seemed to have stopped, doubled back on itself to a long-past childhood, returning to fill a hollow that had stood too long empty.
... Making up for lost time, McCoy smiled. Hold on, Jim. God only knows how much of this he needs. Be patient. When he's full-fed he'll fall asleep, like any small child... Provided that he stays at the small child level...
He could never be sure, afterwards, just when it changed.
"... Yes... warm... this is right... " Spock's words were growing fuzzy and indistinct. McCoy hoped that meant he'd fall asleep soon. "...Warm... hold me... touching... " The tone took on a soft purr, like a drowsy kitten's. "... No guide but feeling... touching... yes... " There was a faint sliding sound of skin on skin. "... Touching... good to touch thee... so warm... close... closer... more... " There was a different sliding and the blankets tugged crosswise to the rocking rhythm. Spock turned slightly, stretched under the yielding cloth, and slowly pressed the whole length of his body against Kirk's. Waves of heat poured off his back like the breath from a furnace. "...More of this... yes... there is more... good... "
McCoy went rigid with alarm. Oh no, he's growing up too fast! Doesn't Jim realize? Dammit, Spock, go to sleep! Sleep... Make him sleep. Hypospray, in the medical kit. But I'd have to rummage around in the dark. He'd hear me, and what then?
"...So warm... strange... like brightness... " Spock's purr deepened. "Lost... follow the brightness... warmer... yes..." More whispers of flesh against cloth, and flesh against flesh. "...Yes... good... soft fire... I must... what? What should I... " Under the purring came more sounds of sliding, stretching.
"Easy, Spock. Don't—don't hurt yourself." Kirk's voice held a growing note of apprehension.
"No, not hurt... not afraid... trust... gentle fire... so warm... " A great hunting-cat's purr, and the rustling of wind in leaves, or of a long caress. "...This is right... sweet burning... but what is it?... I know not... what I want... must have... must do... but I burn..."
"Spock," Kirk whispered nervously, stirring in the blankets. "Spock, be careful... Keep still now. Be still!"
"... Burning... I must... what?" The deep purr was thick with blind urgency. "Jim, help me. What must I... " Unmistakable surf-sound of hands closing tight on bare flesh. "Is it this? This seems... yes... yes!" The blankets tautened and sang as Spock rose on one elbow and began to roll forward.
"Dear God, no!" Kirk's whisper soared to a near-scream. "Not that! Spock, no! No!" The blankets racketed like wind-beaten sails as he struggled to get out of the Vulcan's grip.
Jim, don't panic now! McCoy drew breath to shout at him.
Spock's reaction halted both of them.
"Don't hit me!"
"What?" Kirk gulped, stopped cold in mid-flight.
"Please... Jim, please... " Spock moaned, shaking so hard that McCoy could feel it through the sleeping bags. "Don't hurt me. Not again... not like this... what I feared... please... "
"I—Spock, I won't hit you." The fright was fading from Kirk's voice. "I won't hurt you. What made you think I would?"
"Twice... twice before... " The words came, incredibly, in quiet sobs. "My control... broken... once by disease... once... pod-flower spores. I was defenseless... opened to thee..."
"Oh. Yes, I remember."
"... And thee hurt me... even struck me... when I was most... " Heavy sobs smothered the end of his sentence.
"I remember," Kirk lamented. "Oh, I remember... "
So do I, thought McCoy, cringing at the stark memories of Kirk telling him about those two incidents, each time late at night in his quarters, just the two of them and a brandy bottle, and Kirk almost pleading for some relief from his drayload of guilt. But both times it was necessary! McCoy wanted to cry to Spock. The ship was in danger and he needed your help, had to snap you out of it. You know that... but you still ache from it. And to think I once believed that it was harder for Jim than for you!
"Spock, I'm sorry... " Kirk's apology was whispered against the Vulcan's bowed head. "Oh God, but I'm sorry! I didn't want to. Not then, not now. I won't hurt you. Not like that, not again, I swear it. Won't hurt you. Not you. Not now... " Slowly, amazingly, his voice slipped back into that gentle, steady, sleepy rhythm, offering more comfort than words.
He's going to risk it! McCoy marveled, listening to the rustling-leaves sound of Kirk's arms moving under the blankets, slipping quietly around Spock's still-shaking body, settling firmly and drawing him close, and resuming the slow, easy rocking. Little by little the shivering faded, the smothered weeping grew less and still less, ending at last in a long sigh of vast relief. McCoy sighed too, hearing the old scars fade and knowing he couldn't have done it. But you'd never show those wounds to me, would you, Spock? Damn your stiff-necked pride!... And mine. He pressed his forearm over his eyes and listened to that strange enchanted cradle-song weaving up the rips in the tapestry of time. Oh sleep, child! he silently implored. If you stay awake much longer, you'll grow older...
"Jim..." Spock asked quietly. "Is this what love is?"
"Yes." Kirk's reply was infinitely tender. "Oh love, yes. This and more... but never deny it. Never be afraid of it... and I won't either."
"...My friend... I love... I can love... " The vast, profound joy in Spock's voice was unmistakable. So was the rippling undertone. "It is warm... so bright... like the sun... "
Here we go! thought McCoy, as his heart tried to jump right out of his chest. Nothing can make him stay a child... innocent... Jim, don't be afraid! No matter what happens—
"...Shining, golden... sun of my mother's world... love... yes... " The rippling purr deepened, followed by the whispering-leaves sound of arms moving against satiny cloth and bare flesh. The blankets pulled taut, slipped loose and pulled again, like impatient sails in a rising wind, as Spock moved up and forward.
There was a sharp gasp from Kirk, but no other sound. No motion. No resistance.
"Sun of Earth..." The words were blurred, crossed by the hushed sound of fingers running through hair. "Thee are sunlight... cast in bright colors... Thy hair is like rough bronze grass... so strong... " A different, velvety whispering of skin on skin. "...Such great eyes... bright bronze pools... revealing everything, everything... expressive... unafraid... Oh, how can thee be so fearless? Not to deny... feeling, unhidden... Friend, oh friend... lend me that courage. Show me... how not to be afraid... to feel... and to reveal it..."
Kirk's only reply was a small brief sound that might almost have been a sob, and a faint rustling of blankets in an unidentifiable motion.
"...Warm... so smooth... flesh in rolling hills and valleys... new world to explore... by touch... oh, the joy of it!" The words were almost indistinguishable in the rising, thunderous purr. "Thee are beautiful... delightful past telling... Oh, I do love thee!"
Spock moved with the sound of an incoming tide, feeling his way blindly, but growing surer with every touch. There was a soft rasp and creak of shifting weight, and a clink of colliding belt-buckles.
Kirk's breathing came in long leaping gasps, climbing suddenly to a choked cry. "Easy! No! You're hurting me—"
McCoy froze, wondering what in all the worlds he should do.
Spock shifted, pulled back, his tiger-purr rough-hewn into words. "No... not hurt... never, never hurt thee... " Soft hissing of sliding hands. "Not hurt... opposite... please thee... so... Is this right? Touch... there..."
The sound of moving hands halted a moment, paused almost uncertainly, then changed. There was a tugging, a creak of leather, then a shockingly loud rip as cloth was torn away. Kirk gasped, but didn't move or cry out again.
"Yes... yes... so... " It was hard to identify the sounds as words. "Almost same... matching... thus... yes..." Fingers whispered across hair, then flesh again.
"There," Kirk gasped. "There. Better... Oh, God...”
The sounds slowed as Spock settled gently, by infinitely careful degrees, matching himself inch for inch over Kirk's motionless body. The heavy rumbling in his throat blanketed the harsh gasping of Kirk's rapid breathing, and a faint sound that was something like a smothered cry. The satiny whisper and tug of the blankets settled into a slow regular pulsing, and the rippling purr and ragged breathing of their two voices fell into cadence with it.
McCoy sweated in the close heat, bit his knuckles until he thought they'd come apart, and tried not to think too precisely of what was happening less than eighteen inches away. Vulcans... design slightly different... Fragmentary images flickered past his determination. Central shaft alike... but those two flexible side-tendrils... they twine... lash them together... No, don't ask! Oh, Jim... God, what is he feeling?
Then he heard, undeniably in Kirk's voice, a long splintering groan—exactly like the sound of an oak beam giving way under too heavy a load. Following that came another silk-whispering of motion, cutting through the surging rhythm like wind across waves. McCoy felt the hair lift up off his scalp, and he turned his head slowly, carefully, until he could be sure of what he was seeing.
Even under the roiling blankets, in black silhouette against rocks that glowed like coals, there was no mistaking it. Kirk was no longer lying still. His arms were moving across Spock's back, his body arching upward and sinking down again, both in regular pulses that matched the Vulcan's rhythm perfectly. His head was thrown back, and Spock's hands were nowhere near it, and even in outline his expression was plainly readable.
It isn't the mind-touch, McCoy thought dizzily. Spock isn't doing it. That's him, all his own! My God, I didn't realize... He turned his face away, certain that if he kept watching them he'd start gibbering in another minute. I let it go too far, he kicked himself. But what should I have done? Where could I have interfered without hurting Spock? And now... how much will this hurt Jim?
Behind him, the sound and motion changed. The cadence grew heavier, faster. McCoy gritted his teeth and desperately wished they'd hurry; he couldn't take much more of this. The pulses of sound came quicker, closer together, like birth-pangs, like drum-rolls of thunder heralding an oncoming storm. The pattern was overlaid with a fierce last-minute motion, and McCoy turned just in time to see Kirk pull Spock's face down against his own, and then both of them went rigid save for one long heavy shuddering that shook them from head to foot for seconds that stretched into eternity, and their twin cries were drowned in each other's throats.
I think I'm going to faint... thought McCoy. He turned away and concentrated on taking deep breaths until he was fairly certain that he'd stay conscious. Behind him all motion stopped. McCoy curled up into a tight knot of misery, and quietly beat his fist against his forehead. What am I going to say? How am I going to handle this? They've got to wake up sometime!
At his back, there was a stirring, a sliding, a pressure on the sleeping bags, as Spock slipped back to his original position in the warm nest of cloth between Kirk and McCoy. He stretched, sighed, gave one last drowsy purr, and sank quietly into a deep normal sleep. McCoy kept absolutely still, hardly breathing, until he was certain that the Vulcan was safely unconscious. Once assured of that he moved one hand, stealthy as a pickpocket, checking to see that the bandages were still in place. They were. At least there was no harm done in that department. He sagged with relief, gratefully soaking up the temporary peace of silence.
No, not quite silence.
From just beyond the innocently sleeping Spock came a soft, repeated rasping sound. It took McCoy several minutes to recognize it, and a few minutes longer to believe what he was hearing. Alone in the dark, trying very hard to stifle the sound, Jim Kirk was crying.
Professional habits snapped McCoy into action. He straightened out, careful not to waken Spock, rolled over and pushed himself up on one elbow. "Jim?" he whispered. "You okay? What's wrong?"
"Bones—" Kirk fought to get his voice under control. "I had to do that. No choice. After what he said... To refuse him would have been... inhumanly cruel... I've hurt him... so many times... I only wanted to... "
Right then McCoy made his decision. "Jim, " he said. "What the hell are you talking about?"
"Wha—" Kirk grunted as if the wind had been knocked out of him. "But you were—Didn't you—"
"I was asleep," McCoy insisted firmly. "Look, it's been a long, hard day. The crash, the scramble afterwards, the cave-in... I'm afraid that delirious wrestling match with Spock took up the last of my energy supply. As soon as he calmed down I... Well, I just fell asleep. Didn't wake up until he elbowed me in the ribs just now. I'm sorry I left you in the lurch like that, but I was awfully tired."
"But—but didn't you hear what he was saying?" Kirk sounded more than a little disorientated. "He started talking right after the delirium stopped..."
"Well, I recall him raving a little... " McCoy remembered an earlier thought. "But I couldn't make head nor tail of it. He was speaking in Vulcan, after all."
"Raving... in Vulcan... " Kirk managed to digest that. "But your translator—It's good for all known languages—"
"That damned tinker-toy?" McCoy replied innocently. "I lost it."
"You lost it?" Kirk spluttered in whispers. "How the hell could you lose a subcutaneous insert- translator???"
"Uh..." Damn! I should have said it got broken! "Well, I scraped my arm when I hit the floor during the explosion, and—and I banged it around some more while we were holding Spock. It must have gotten lost somewhere in there." Damn! Damn! Damn! Now I'll have to—Oh shit, it's going to hurt...
"Your translator... got lost... " Kirk took all that in, thought it over carefully, and didn't say anything further.
"You sound pretty worn out, Jim," McCoy continued, thoughts racing ahead of his words. "Sounds like you're beginning to rave a bit yourself. Why don't you get some sleep? I'll take the next couple hours' watch, if you like."
"Sleep... " Kirk muttered. "Yes, I could use it."
McCoy grinned and climbed out of the rumpled bed, pausing only to find and pick up his medical kit.
"Bones... " Kirk's voice stopped him.
"Yes?" Please, no last-minute confessions!
"Uh, you're welcome." What the hell! How much does he know? "Ah, think nothing of it, Jim. Just get some sleep."
McCoy moved away, making a show of checking over his medical kit, hiding his very real dismay when he couldn't find the local anesthetic, carefully ignoring the way Kirk gently pulled the blankets up under Spock's chin and then curled up beside him with his face nestled against the Vulcan's warm shoulder. McCoy took out his phaser, heated a few more rocks, and otherwise made himself look busy until the deep, steady breathing behind him indicated that both of them were safely asleep. Then he sat back on his heels and reviewed the whole incredible situation.
Well, now we're all committed, he thought. We've smashed customs and taboos and regulations right and left, and I guess we're just going to keep on doing it ? Oh, the chances we take and the rules we break, all for love! He studied the way Kirk's arm lay protectively across Spock's chest, remembered that muffled weeping in the dark, and considered that this was the only time he'd ever know Jim Kirk to cry. For whom, he wondered. For Spock, or for himself? Probably both... driven by a passionate tenderness that both their worlds deny... He smiled fondly at Spock, noting how the Vulcan's face seemed much younger, more relaxed, with certain lines of tension gone. You pointy-eared, romantic, lovestruck kid, he thought. So he seduced you into breaking the rules? Well, you can consider yourself properly avenged!
He would have watched them awhile longer, but his arm itched. It reminded McCoy of the inevitable next step. Well, let's get on with it, he told himself, resolutely turning toward the inadequate light of a heat-glowing rock. He rummaged in a medical kit until he found a scalpel.
It took ten minutes of sweaty, painful, bloody work to lay open the skin on his forearm, find the translator and dig it out. It took only a few seconds to smash the offending machine into a thousand pieces, and bury the fragments under the largest available stone.