DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Ingrid Cross and is copyright (c) 1980 by Ingrid Cross. Rated PG. Originally published in Odyssey #4.

After Images

Ingrid Cross

He walked around his office, stopping occasionally to touch an item on a shelf, a book on the desk. He wanted to reassure himself that everything was as it should be. The outer rooms were as orderly as they always were, all items and personnel the same as when he and the others had beamed down to the Halkan Council and then into that ungodly nightmare.

He whirled around as footsteps approached and stopped in his doorway. "Doctor McCoy?"

Spock stood there, his expression clearly requesting permission to enter Leonard McCoy's private domain. The doctor hesitated, then spoke politely.

"Come in, Mr. Spock," he said formally, moving to step behind the desk. The furniture provided the barrier he needed at the moment.

The Vulcan came into the room and reached for the door lock on the wall. McCoy leaned forward and spoke sharply. "Don't!" Spock looked over at McCoy, one eyebrow raised. "I mean," the doctor said, somewhat ashamed at the brusqueness in his voice. "I meant I'd prefer that you leave the door open, Spock."

Spock inclined his head as though he understood and remained standing where he was. "Doctor," he began. "I just talked with the captain. He told me of your experiences in the other universe."

McCoy could not meet the other's eyes, but toyed with a report lying on his desk. "He did," he stated flatly.

The first officer seemed uncomfortable. "Captain Kirk also mentioned your ... encounter with my counterpart."

McCoy brushed the remark aside with a quick, nervous gesture. "Let's just forget about that, shall we?" He turned away and replaced a book on the shelf above the desk.

"No."

The doctor did not turn back, but only waited. He could hear Spock move closer, and his stomach muscles contracted involuntarily with sudden fear.

"I will not drop the subject, Doctor. It is obvious you have been deeply affected by the experience. When you and the others beamed back to this ship, you were the only one who openly avoided me."

''Very observant of you, Mr. Spock," said McCoy dryly. 'Go away,' he thought wildly. 'Just leave me alone and get the hell away from me.'

"It's very difficult to speak to you when your back is toward me," Spock chided gently.

McCoy turned reluctantly, still avoiding eye contact with Spock. He was afraid of the Vulcan. For the first time in all the years they had worked together, he was terrified of the alien who stood before him.. It was not a feeling he was proud of, but he found it perfectly natural. His experience with the other Spock, on the ISS Enterprise, had left him badly shaken. He could see that Spock's hands even now, reaching toward him steadily across an entire universe, the fingers molded into the position for a mind meld. For as long as he lived, he would see those hands and feel the contact with the bearded man from another dimension. Echoes of the ripping sensation flooded his memory and he shuddered.

Spock watched the doctor carefully, searching for the correct way to reach him. The thought of what his counterpart had done to the physician sickened him, and he was aware that great damage had been done. The McCoy who stood before him was a stranger; no longer was he the man who could easily probe at his Vulcan exterior gently, trying to reach beneath the veneer in order to establish a friendship. He could feel the fear flowing from that friend, and his posture spoke the same message. His shoulders were hunched as though to ward off any unwanted word, any unauthorized touch.

Spock was fully cognizant of the relationship that lay between them, despite the constant surface rivalry. He had come to enjoy that feeling even though he could never admit to it publicly. But now he had no idea how he could re-establish camaraderie. The ignorance in that area rankled.

"Doctor, you realize I would never do what he did to you?"

McCoy finally looked up at the first officer. Spock saw the anguish there in the blue eyes, the horror of remembered violation...the absolute and complete terror. "Intellectually, yes. Yes, I know you couldn't do that, Spock. But--"

"--but not emotionally," Spock finished.

McCoy slammed his open fist against the side of his desk. "Yes, emotionally! Do you have any idea how that felt? I was raped, torn apart, brain cell by brain cell! I was forced to betray Jim, Scotty and Uhura ... something I had never thought possible. And all because of you!" He stopped suddenly, his expression open, his shame nakedly exposed.

Spock sighed softly. It was better that McCoy spoke of the experience, especially to him. But the pain in the words touched him far deeper than he cared to acknowledge. He chose his words with great care.

"Doctor, as a Vulcan, I am aware of the power which exists in the mind meld. However, I am ethically compelled to restrict the use of the device to matters of the utmost importance. I cannot, nor would I, ever do such a thing to another person without their permission. There mere idea of what has been done is abhorrent to me. Do you understand?"

McCoy shook his head firmly. "He was a Vulcan." His simple statement revealed the heart of this entire matter.

"That Vulcan exists in another dimension, where all our rules and ethics have been reversed. His moral standards are the opposite of yours and mine. He would not understand my reasons for restraint, simply because such reasons are not part of his culture. And that makes the difference. For both of us."

McCoy was puzzled. His fingers still played with the edges of the report folder, but his attention was occupied elsewhere. Spock stepped closer to the doctor, still maintaining the barrier of the desk.

"Doctor, you have saved my life countless times. I owe you a considerable debt. I do not wish to jeopardize our relationship. However, if you feel you cannot work with me, I will make every effort to see that I do not interact with you more than is absolutely necessary."

McCoy glanced at him sharply, and Spock continued smoothly. "If you feel this would resolve the issue, I will carry through on my promise."

"You know as well as I do that such a 'resolution' would affect the running of this department, much less the ship!" said McCoy heatedly.

Spock nodded. "Of course. However, the First Officer and the Chief Medical Officer seldom have any reason for personal contact."

"But you're the head of the Science Department!" McCoy argued. "That responsibility alone dictates that we work together!"

The first officer did not reply. McCoy ran a hand through his hair and considered Spock's proposal. Memories flashed through his mind in rapid succession: Spock and Jim on Earth, stepping through time and space to find him when he had accidently taken an overdose of cordrazine; Spock in his quarters, urging him to kill the creature who had taken Nancy Crater's identity ... then later coming by his office to help him accept the situation. And finally, having Spock request his presence on Vulcan for that godawful wedding ceremony.

All these actions were backed by more, less significant experiences when he and Spock had worked together are a team to keep Jim out of trouble or to battle some danger to the Enterprise. He recognized anew that these events were special to him, that only a close associate-- 'No, dammit! Say friend,' he told himself fiercely -- would have done those things because he wanted to.

He moved away from his desk and stepped in front of the Vulcan. The brown eyes watched him guardedly. For the final time he allowed the recent trouble to come to mind; then he deliberately pushed aside the repugnance and held out his.hand.

"No," he smiled slowly. "No, I don't think I'll let you off the hook that easily, Spock. You're going to have to put up with me like you always had to." He kept his hand extended toward the first officer, who looked down at it and then back at McCoy's face.

Spock slowly shook the physician's hand. For a brief instant McCoy saw the start of a smile. And then, as usual, the emotional response was tucked away in the depths of the Vulcan soul. Spock walked to the door and turned to look at him.

''We leave the planet's orbit in 15.6 minutes. I'm certain the captain is awaiting your usual, illogical presence on the bridge."

Leonard McCoy guffawed and followed Spock out the door. "You should be glad I'm there, Spock. Keeps your logic circuits in order."

The Vulcan's answer floated over his shoulder as he disappeared through Sickbay's doors. "Indeed, Doctor. I have been hoping my presence would be a positive influence for you. I have always felt that perfection breeds perfection."

THE END