Disclaimer: Star Trek is the property of Paramount/Viacom. This story is the property of and is copyright (c) 1976 by Gerry Downes. Originally published in Stardate Unknown #2, Gerry Downes editor. Rated PG.
"Well now," McCoy said gently, "glad to see you're waking up. How do you feel?"
"All ... warm and floaty," Sharyn murmured dreamily. "Where are we?"
"Back on the
"Just some routine repairs. Rest awhile." His last words were unnecessary, his patient was already asleep.
McCoy dimmed the lights a little lower and walked quietly to his office. The door closed silently behind him and for a moment he just stood there. Then he broke out of his numbness, took a bottle and glass from the cabinet and sat down at his desk. He stared at the empty glass, then sighing, he got up and changed out of his lab shirt, glancing down again, almost compulsively, at the waiting glass.
It seemed to look back at him, mocking him with its hollow promise. His hand started automatically for the bottle and he noticed the tremors. He placed his hand down firmly on the desk.
"It's just fatigue," he told himself. "I'm just worn out, that's all it is." He concentrated very hard on not reaching again.
The door buzzed and Spock came in. McCoy glanced up, saw who it was, and waved him to a chair.
Spock didn't take it but continued to stand, hands clasped behind his back, waiting for the right words to come. He finally decided there was no easy way, and since the Doctor hadn't asked him to leave he might as well begin.
"Doctor, when we were prisoners of the Ilyrani, Ensign Richardson was severely injured."
"Tell me about it. I just finished patching her up. I'm tired, Spock, leave me alone.
"Her injuries occurred when she was raped, Doctor," Spock said quietly.
"Get to the point. If you have one."
"While you were being questioned, I melded with her mind to ... help ease the trauma for her."
McCoy looked up. "I wasn't aware of that." How much did Spock know?
"Doctor, the Ensign was pregnant. I do not believe she is pregnant now." It was not an accusation, exactly.
McCoy sighed heavily. He felt very old tonight, old and exhausted. After a long moment, he looked back up and met Spock's faintly disapproving gaze.
"If she was pregnant, Mr. Spock, she isn't any longer. Now unless you have something further to say, kindly let me get drunk in peace."
"Oh yes, alcohol. You have an unfortunate tendency to hide yourself in a bottle, Doctor."
McCoy's eyes blazed for an instant, then the blue fire dimmed -- there just wasn't any strength left to continue. He opened the bottle and filled his glass. "Every man has his own way of coping with life, Spock."
He took a long, slow swallow; it burned with familiar flame in his throat, and slid down to light a small friendly glow in his stomach. He refilled the glass.
Spock watched, calmly. "Does it? Help you cope, that is. I fail to see any possible benefit in that liquid."
"That's because your blood's too green. Now mine," McCoy tossed down another mouthful, "It mixes with mine just fine." There still wasn't any expression on Spock's face, so he added helpfully, "I drink to forget."
"Indeed. How are your memories the following morning?" the science officer asked, carefully polite.
"Same as ever, worse, hell, I don't know." He would have welcomed anger, but he was just too empty for it.
"Anyway," McCoy continued, "there's more to it than that. Drinking is a ... comfortable routine, a custom, a ..." He wasn't getting anywhere, he could tell. "This bottle's like an old friend, Spock, a non-critical friend," he added pointedly.
Spock changed the direction of his argument. "Did you make the correct decision about the Ensign?" To seem less like a judge, he took the chair McCoy had offered earlier.
The Doctor leaned back, thoughtful. "Yes, Spock. She's not much more than a child herself, and she's suffered enough." He stopped abruptly and poured another drink.
"Would the pregnancy and birth have damaged her further?" Spock was relentless.
"Physically, probably not. Mentally, yes. There is no way she would have accepted it."
"Did you ask her? She might have preferred to have the child and place it for adoption."
"With who? The Ilyrani would have killed it as defective, and what human would take a child like that? No," he added harshly, "I didn't ask her. Satisfied?"
"Perhaps some non-human species ..." Spock began.
"Oh sure," McCoy cut him off. "Raise it as a laboratory freak somewhere ... Why didn't I think of that?"
"Then you are convinced you took the correct action, even though you have destroyed an innocent life." Spock's voice was very quiet, inflectionless, but the words still hit McCoy like knives that had been effectively dulled just the proper amount.
"Yes, damn your Vulcan ethics, yes I do." He gulped the rest of his drink and glared at Spock.
"I presume the Captain agreed to this?"
"It's a medical decision -- he doesn't know anything about it."
"He'll see your log entries."
"It's not in the log, either." McCoy's voice grated defiance. "Now if you want to bring charges, go right ahead."
This had gone a little too far, and Spock switched back to his original topic. "If you are convinced you are right, why do you persist in drowning yourself in liquor?"
"Because it helps, Spock. Because it helps." McCoy poured another drink, but he didn't pick it up.
"I see no long term beneficial effects," Spock persisted.
"All right, so it only helps temporarily. Now unless you have something else to say, please get out."
Commander Spock stood up, but he made no move to leave. Instead he went over to McCoy's wall cabinet, took out the remaining two bottles and another glass, and sat back down across from the Doctor. Setting the bottles on the desk carefully, he casually began to open one.
"Just what do you think you're doing?" McCoy asked, astonished.
"I have heard it is not good to drink alone, and since I also am somewhat troubled..."
McCoy snatched the glass away before Spock could pour anything into it.
Spock merely reached across the desk, took McCoy's glass and drank its contents. "Spock, you shouldn't be drinking that stuff -- you're going to get a headache like you won't believe!"
Spock set the empty glass down and refilled it. This time McCoy took away the bottle. Spock raised an eyebrow.
"Interesting. Apparently one set of values applies to me, and another to you. Is that correct?"
"Yes. No. Hell, I don't know. Here," McCoy slid the bottles back, "Go ahead, get drunk, why should I care?"
Spock surveyed the desk top. "I trust this is not your entire supply, Doctor. Three bottles will hardly be sufficient..."
"Spock," McCoy was exasperated now, "what are you trying to prove? Exactly what in god's name are you doing?"
"I am merely attempting to show you the uselessness of your actions. Whenever you are tired, or troubled, you turn to drink. You have been deteriorating, slowly, by inches, over the years. And I intend to show you what it is like to watch someone do this."
Spock couldn't quite keep all the concern out of his eyes, and McCoy caught a fleeting glimpse of it.
"Don't tell me you're becoming emotionally involved, Spock. I don't think I could take it." He knew his words were caustic, wounding, but he was hurting inside himself, so he didn't take them back.
"Emotions have nothing to do with it," Spock answered in his best professional-officer tone. "I see a valuable chief surgeon whose guilt feelings and bad habits are slowly destroying him."
McCoy started to interrupt, but Spock held up a warning hand so he slumped back in his chair, silent.
"If this medical officer continues on his present course of action, in approximately 2 years 7 months and 16 days he will be forced to leave Starfleet service, to the great detriment of the Federation."
Now Spock was finished, and McCoy could finally reply. "And it's illogical to waste, is that right?"
"Upon what do you base this exacting calculation?" McCoy asked sarcastically.
Spock was not offended.
"Using the average number of stressful situations the
McCoy poured another drink. "Thank you, Mr. Spock, you have restored my faith in Vulcans."
He raised the glass, but Spock leaned over quickly and caught his wrist in a gentle, but firm, grip.
"Leonard, please don't."
McCoy set the glass back down. For some reason, he felt very close to crying. "What else do you suggest?" he asked raggedly.
Spock let his hand remain on the Doctor's arm. "You always keep your burdens to yourself. If you would tell me what is bothering you..."
"Listen, just because you've been in my mind a few times doesn't give you the right..."
"Doctor," Spock broke in quietly, "I would not presume on that. And I do not know everything about you -- your mind has several memory blocks not be easily passed. I am asking you," he continued very gently, allow me to share your trouble."
"No. I don't want you fooling around with my mind--I don't want you taking anything away from me!"
"Do you enjoy your misery that much?"
McCoy didn't answer.
Spock continued persuasively, "I will not erase your memories, Doctor. But it is easier sometimes to understand them if one is not alone."
"My life may not be much, Spock, but it is mine," McCoy said at last. "How do I know you'll leave my memory intact?"
"I pledge my actions with my life," Spock answered, his voice perfectly level.
McCoy pulled his arm away. "Not good enough. I could never demand the payment if you lied, and you know it."
Spock sat back, very straight, his face an unreadable mask. When he finally spoke again, his words fell like crystal on the air. "Then let me pledge with friendship, for I consider you my friend."
McCoy looked back up, startled. After all the times I've wanted him to show a little feeling, why does he have to pick now to go human on me? For the first time since they had started this conversation, he was truly shaken. An eternity ticked away before he could answer. And then the words were almost a whisper.
"What do you want me to do?"
"Let me meld with your mind. It will be less painful for you than trying to tell me, and you could not lie, even to yourself."
"All right." McCoy fought down an irrational surge of fear. "But let me show you in my own way. Don't force it."
Spock was sympathetic. "Would it be easier for you if I showed you something of my own life first?" For Leonard McCoy's sake, he would do it.
In spite of his apprehension, McCoy smiled a little. "I have enough problems of my own, Spock. Don't give me any of yours."
"As you wish."
Spock stood up and came around the desk. McCoy couldn't help pushing his chair back slightly -- this mental intrusion had its own similarities to rape and while he knew the touch of Spock's mind, and even though he had agreed to it, he still felt afraid to go so deep and confront -- himself. It would be so much easier to go on the way he was.
Spock saw indecision wavering in the Doctor's eyes and before McCoy could change his mind and refuse him, he quickly reached out his hand, placing his spread fingers very precisely on McCoy's face.
"Leonard. It is only I. Open yourself to me. Be with me."
Spock's low voice was hypnotically compelling and his mind was even more insistent, opening McCoy's barriers, stepping over obstacles, swiftly penetrating deep into his old and older memories.
//You promised not to force me...//
//I apologize. Shall I leave?//
//No, it's good to have you with me--I've been alone so long.//
//This area here -- you have kept it closed to me before. Let me see it now.//
//Please Spock, I can't -- I just can't.//
//Are you so afraid of me?// The thought was shaded gray with sorrow.
//No, but I'm ... ashamed. You see? I'm even hurting you -- Spock, let me go.//
//Go where? To run back into that bottle on your desk?//
//Yes - oblivion. Let it wash away these memories. I can't forget it.//
//If you wish to lose this memory, I can take it from you.//
//No. No, you promised.
Spock, please, for god's sake, help
//Then let's go there now.//
//Can't we wait -- a little longer?//
//You're fighting me, Leonard. I cannot bring myself to stay, if you won't help, at least a little.//
//All right, but remember, you wanted this, not me.//
Memories drifted slowly by, dazzle-thoughts, remembered loves, and love long lost. Beautiful, so beautiful -- I loved her very much at first you see how lovely. But I was young and so intense to study medicine. I poured myself into it, med school, internship -- Spock, I learned so much, you can't believe the wonders that were opening to me.
Spock watched the images change and shift and with McCoy's narration he lived through them too and took even the emotions of these people unto himself. It was very painful -- this was not a happy time, for any of them.
We grew apart, I brought her just enough of myself to have a child -- what a darling baby. She cut short her own career, and she began to lean on me for her life -- Spock, I couldn't give enough. I was so busy and so tired and I started to resent her needing me that much.
Michele was so different from Laura -- she understood -- she gave me freedom to be myself -- there, you see how good she is -- the sweetness that she brought into my life. Laura, forgive me, but I love her.
Even while McCoy's emotions assailed him, coloring these thoughts vivid hues of recalled love and guilt, Spock held to his own personality, to see the substance behind the Doctor's remembered dreams. And now at last, the pivot point was reached.
The conversation -- McCoy still had it word for word, even to the expression in the woman's eyes. She had been so casual, so general about it, and he had tortured himself often over the years for not seeing deeper.
Her words spoken, she left him, and went away for a vacation on Cygnus ... McCoy abruptly stopped the images -- this was only too familiar, but he was shaking. Spock waited patiently for the Doctor to regain his strength.
//I'm sorry, I thought I could do it, but I can't. It hurts too much.//
//Perhaps if we discuss it, here, in private .... //
//Did you hear what she was talking about? Did you?//
//Yes, she wanted to know your feelings on abortion and ...//
"Did you hear me? Going on about the sacredness of life?//
"Spock, she was pregnant. By me -- and I didn't know it until later, when it was too late. She died on Cygnus 10, Spock. I had a friend get me the medical examiner's report -- some amateur had botched it, Spock, she died!//
The pain in McCoy's mind was almost unbearable, but there was still more, and utterly defenseless now against his self-inflicted punishment he let it all pour out.
"Have you ever seen a foetus just a few weeks old? Even then, there's enough cell differentiation to know it's human. Spock, it was a boy, a perfect baby boy, my son! He'll never know anything of life, or love, or anything! If only I'd understood what she was trying to tell me, if I hadn't been so noble and so unreachable...//
This was dangerous; Spock interrupted.
//What happened after?//
//I gave myself up to my work, Laura -- poor Laura, it wasn't her fault -- she found someone else and divorced me a few years later. I don't blame her, how could I even ask her to stay with me?//
//Did she know .... about this other woman?//
//No. Why should I hurt her with my foolishness?//
//And so you came away to space.//
//Yes. And here I am. Full circle.//
//Not entirely. This situation is much different. And the fact that I do not agree with you does not invalidate your decision. You used your knowledge of humanity to make your choice, even your own personal emotions. I do not have these things to draw on when I make my decisions.//
//Logic is everything, eh?//
//No. But it is much less complicated and therefore easier to live with than the tangled paths you use to find your answers.//
//I don't have any answers. Not any more. I'm just an...//
//... old country doctor?// And here, deep inside McCoy's mind, Spock could not hide a gentle smile.
//I was going to say -- a human being, with all the frailties and faults that being human means.//
//One of those faults is the loss of objectivity when one is emotionally involved.//
"I can't help the way I am, Spock.//
//Nor can I. But look on it again, with my eyes.//
//I can't look on it again. I just can't.//
//You do it all the time, Leonard. This place has been worn smooth with your constant worrying of it. You can bear it one more time.//
//You still can have confidence in me?// He felt so worthless, so shamed.
//Yes. Now look. See here. And here. The troubles with your wife, long before this other happened.//
"So what? No marriage is perfect. If I'd tried harder...//
"I perceive at least three separate flaws that would have ended your union before your daughter was fully grown, not the least of which is that you both married an image of each other, not your actual personalities.//
//All right. We were young. We were attracted to each other.//
//I have observed that often causes difficulties for your species.//
//Don't be so smug. You're half-human, remember?//
//Constantly. But we are not examining my problems.//
//If you're going to play analyst, Spock, get on with it.//
//Do not resent the truth. There comes a time when we must all give up our fantasies. Now, listen to Michele. No, not just this time, all the times. She is not as perfect as you remember her. You see? She loves you, but not enough. She would not have kept the child, not even if you left your wife. Leonard, can you see that?//
//Then I could have raised him alone -- he was mine, too!//
Spock shook him mentally. His thoughts were stern. //She was coming to you for the operation -- that was all she wanted.//
//No, it wasn't like that.//
//Yes, it was.//
Softly, moaning. //No. No.//
//Leonard, that life is gone. Nothing can bring him back.//
//Don't you think I know that? Why do you think I threw away my life?//
//Your life has not been wasted. What have you done since this? Saved lives, more lives than you can count. And how many children have you brought into this galaxy?//
//Life isn't a mathematical equation, Spock. The good doesn't cancel out the mistakes.//
//True, they do not cancel. But they do combine to balance. And your life is weighted heavily towards good.//
//That won't bring my son back.//
//No. Would destroying the father who is left?//
Slowly, reluctantly, but accepting it at last. //No.//
//Can you live with it, now that you can see the truth?//
//I don't know -- I'll have to try, I guess. It's still not a memory I'm proud of.//
//Truth is its own beauty, Doctor.//
With these words Spock broke the contact, but not abruptly. He kept McCoy surrounded by his warm presence and only gradually withdrew back into his own mind. And he left just the tiniest piece of himself behind -- that hesitant smile he hadn't quite been able to hold back before.
"Dr. McCoy. Doctor. Doctor, are you all right?" McCoy's eyes slowly lost their blank look and refocused. in his own office, and he was tired, more tired than he had before. But curiously, he wasn't cold with it; he had used to feel cold when he was tired.
"Yes, I .... Spock, I'm fine. Fine." He waved the science officer's hands away.
Spock leaned against the desk and regarded McCoy with concern. "Shall I walk with you to your quarters?"
"In a minute. Don't get me wrong, Spock." A slowly widening smile spread itself over McCoy's face, "but I'd still like to have a drink. Would you, uh, care to have one with me?"
After a brief hesitation, Spock nodded. "You realize, of course, that it is merely a waste of brandy."
McCoy stood up and got fresh glasses from the cabinet. He was still a little shaky, but the disorientation was fading rapidly. Carefully, he poured a scant half inch of amber liquid into each glass, and handed one to Spock.
"Mr. Spock, if you don't mind, I'll be the judge of that."