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Through a mirror darkly

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McCoy would have never let him live it down. And rightly so. ‘Not interfering at all,’ he could hear his old friend’s smirk in his head, mimicking his own words. ‘No knowledge of the future will be passed on – well, ‘cept for letting this Jim see all of it, but no more, uh uh. Logic dictates… basically just whatever you decide, Spock, isn’t that right?’

Spock let his gaze wander over the terrace of the Apple Club, where the evening crowd was starting to gather for another night of drinking. The Apple Club was the shadiest establishment on Minora 10, a space station notorious for its abundance of shady places. The two-level club played computer-generated music – rhythmic noise, Spock thought – and there were no waiters, just a golden-brown striped person managing the bar and sending drinks via table-beam. Judging from his observations over the past two days, Spock had calculated that customers received the wrong drink 8 out of 10 times, but he hadn’t witnessed anyone complain. The Apple Club’s customers seemed to appreciate any kind of alcoholic beverage appearing in front of them, no matter if it was what they’d typed into the table menu. There were no non-alcoholic ones on it.

Spock hadn’t touched his drink as he hadn’t the day before and the day before that. Customs, however, demanded a person not sit without a glass in front of them, and he was aware that he would already be drawing attention to himself as the only Vulcan around, if the Apple Club’s clientle had been prone to paying attention to anything. Most drinkers sat alone and even those arriving in pairs hardly ever talked to each other.

It was a dismal place.

There had been a time when just being around these people – most of them humans – would have irritated him more than he ever would have admitted to himself. Now, though, he could allow himself to acknowledge the compassion he felt for most of them.

‘You aged into the best of both worlds,’ McCoy had told him once when he’d visited him on Earth, so many years ago. ‘And damn you for it. Us others are just getting senile. Yesterday, I spent half an hour talking into my toaster cause I thought it was the terminal. And when I noticed and found the blasted thing, I forgot what it was I had wanted to record!’

Thinking of the old grumpy doctor, Spock looked down at his drink, an image of McCoy’s teasing smile popping up in his head. ‘Are you thinking of toasting to me? Why, Spock, you sentimental old fool.’

Of course, Spock didn’t, but lifted his gaze again to scan the lower deck of the bar. A newcomer had sat down at one of the free tables. He typed a quick order into the table menu, then ran both hands over his face and slumped in his chair. The man was tall, broad-shouldered, dressed in civilian clothes with a few days’ worth of stubble on his face and dark rings under his eyes. He looked tired, ill almost, and Spock instantly knew he had been right to come here.

He stood from his table at the railing and walked down the stairs to the lower deck, towards the man’s table.

“Dr McCoy,” he greeted him and met his gaze when McCoy lifted his head from where he’d supported his forehead in his hand, starring at the tabletop. “May I?” Spock gestured for the empty chair.

McCoy frowned, about to say something, then suddenly widened his eyes, staring at Spock. He jumped, when his drink materialized in front of him.

“The odds aren’t in favor of that being the beverage you ordered,” Spock told him.

McCoy looked up at him again, clearly at a loss of words. “You’re Spock, aren’t you?” he finally said. “The other Spock.”

“I am Spock,” Spock said.

McCoy nodded slowly, grabbed his drink and downed it in one gulp. “Can I help you with something?” he asked.

It almost pained Spock how much he knew that tone of voice. The brusque rudeness trying to cover up confusion and fear.

“Actually,” he said, “I am wondering if maybe I can help you.”

McCoy halted in his motion of typing in another order and glanced up at Spock, frowning suspiciously. “That so?”

“Yes.”

McCoy finished typing in his order and leaned back, watching Spock. “How d’you know I’d be here?” he asked.

“I had a hunch,” Spock said.

McCoy snorted. “Right. Okay, sit down,” he said, gesturing for the chair. Spock sat.

“You had a hunch,” McCoy repeated.

“I inquired about your shore leave destination,” Spock said, “and once I arrived here, I used my knowledge of your character to estimate your preferred water hole.”

McCoy barked a quick laugh. “Nice. I teach you that? Other me?”

“I may have picked up some of the idioms the doctor used,” Spock said.

McCoy nodded. His drink materialized and he picked it up to sniff at it. “You having anything?” he asked.

“No, thank you.”

McCoy sipped his drink. “I got a hunch, too,” he said after a while, not looking at Spock but into his glass.

“I expected that,” Spock said.

McCoy put his glass down and wiped a hand over his mouth, seeming to try and find his next words. Again, it looked so familiar, Spock felt something inside his chest tense. It was like seeing Jim again in that cave. How could this young man, who looked so much more robust than the McCoy he’d known, so much stronger, still convey the same vulnerability his old friend had? How was he still just McCoy? It was a wondrous thing and Spock was grateful for it.

“You know about us going to… that place,” McCoy said. He took another sip of his drink and finally looked up at Spock over his glass. “The other universe.”

It hadn’t been a question, but Spock nodded. “Yes. It’s the reason I inquired about your whereabouts.”

“It happened in your timeline, too,” McCoy said.

“Yes.”

McCoy put down his glass, played with it. “Did you see it? Did you go there?”

“No,” Spock said. “I wasn’t part of the away team. Like your Spock wasn’t. I read the reports and Jim told me about it.”

Spock watched McCoy carefully. There was, of course, still the chance that he was wrong. Not all of his experiences were necessarily repeated in this timeline. Yet, just the fact that he had found McCoy here of all places, in this kind of bar, made him think this particular incident probably had happened again. And – to quote his friend – not interfering be damned. He wouldn’t stand back and watch history repeat itself this time.

“And your McCoy?” McCoy asked. “Did he tell you about it?”

“Not all of it,” Spock said. “He concealed from the official report that my counterpart in what we called the mirror universe had assaulted him most grievously. He had forced a mind meld on him when trying to obtain information regarding the away team’s real identities. Doctor McCoy didn’t tell anyone about this assault until weeks later, when the damage to his mind was already so great he was unable to perform his duties.”

McCoy had frozen with his glass half raised and swallowed. “Damage to his mind, huh?”

“Yes,” Spock said solemnly. “It was something I should have noticed earlier. I still regret that.”

He anticipated the next question, of course, though it seemed to take McCoy some effort to bring himself to ask it. “What… How bad off was he?” He winced slightly as if bracing for the answer.

Spock watched him play with his glass again. This version of his old friend was younger than he’d ever known his McCoy. All the pasts of his old shipmates’ counterparts were different from their own in certain ways, sometimes minimally so, sometimes gravely. The Jim Kirk and Leonard McCoy he’d known hadn’t been at Starfleet Academy together, nor had he himself met them there. The dynamics of their relationships to each other were different; certain characteristics that might have been minor in someone’s personality as Spock had known them in his timeline could be major now. The Jim Kirk he’d met here hadn’t just been a younger version of his Jim Kirk, he’d also been a more energetic, more enthusiastic version of him. Sneakier, too. Harder, in a way.

And yet it had still been Jim. The instant trust Spock had felt for him hadn’t just stemmed from nostalgia or wishful thinking. The core of him, the very essence of what made Jim Kirk Jim Kirk had still been there. Spock had FELT it and wouldn’t McCoy have loved that?
It was the same feeling now with this doctor. And the thought that the young man in front of him was going through the same thing he hadn't been able to protect his McCoy from was – painful.

“He was suffering,” Spock answered. “Quite unnecessarily.”

***********
(Another Time, Another Universe)

“Bones put himself on sick leave,” Jim Kirk told Spock over his morning coffee at the mess room.

Spock raised a brow. “That’s highly uncharacteristic behavior for him,” he said. In his experience, the doctor didn’t like to stay far from either sickbay or the bridge. Several times over the years Spock had known him, he had refused to leave his post even when logic and a common sense of self-preservation would have demanded it.

“That’s what I said,” Jim said. “I went to see him earlier and he’s really ill. I don’t know how it developed so fast, he seemed fine just… well, the last time I saw him. Bit tired, but he’s always complaining about that, anyway.”

Spock wasn’t aware McCoy had a history of complaining about lack of sleep to the Captain, but it wasn’t surprising. The man complained about a variety of things, most of them beyond anyone’s control and usually not changeable, making the complaints a moot point. Spock would have stopped pointing that out to him some time ago – seeing how repeating behavior with a predictably unchanged outcome was illogical – if it hadn’t been for McCoy’s (also predictable) reactions appearing to have a calming effect on away teams and the bridge crew.

Telling McCoy anything he said or did was illogical was in fact as moot as the doctor’s own statements in most cases.

“I wasn’t aware he was experiencing discomfort,” Spock said. “Did he tell you which ailment he diagnosed?”

Jim took a sip of his coffee, thinking. “Some… space flu or other,” he said.

Spock doubted that had been the exact diagnosis. McCoy could be taxing, but he was a a gifted physician.

At Spock’s expression, Jim made a helpless gesture. “He’s gonna be fine, just needs a bit of rest. He says he’s too old to fight off ‘every damned virus ready to jump at us on whatever deadly rock’ I drag him to,” he said, delivering a very poor imitation of McCoy’s drawled grump.

“To my knowledge, the doctor’s age is still below half of a human’s life expectancy.”

Jim snorted. “Tell him that, he’ll love you for it.”

Spock chose not to comment on that.

“He said he’s been feeling under the weather for a while but thought it’d get better with the usual shots and it just didn’t, so he’ll stay in bed a day or two and stay hydrated. Basically, for once he’s doing what he always tells others to do. Rest and drink a lot.” Jim finished his coffee.

“If his health has deteriorated so unexpectedly, it’d be logical for him to seek treatment in sickbay,” Spock said.

Jim shrugged. “He says it’s not that bad. Why,” he added with a bemused smile, “are you worried, Mr Spock?”

Spock tilted his head in what McCoy called his ‘innocent pose’. “The health of the ship’s CMO is obviously a matter of concern to me, Captain.”

Jim nodded in mock seriousness. “Course. Well, rest assured, M’Benga is more than capable to run sickbay during Bones’ absence and if I know our CMO at all, he’ll be back on the bridge before you’ll even have had a chance to miss him.” He grinned.

Spock lifted his brow but didn’t comment on the Captain’s implication. A human might have found the prospect of working in quiet on the bridge for a number of days relieving. Spock, of course, was never fazed by McCoy’s comments, anyway, so it was of no consequence to him.

He didn’t think any more about the matter, until M’Benga commed him the next day to ask if he had time to help him with the translation of an old Vulcan text. M’Benga was fluent in almost all of the Vulcan dialects, but this particular text was several centuries old and some of the phrases and spellings went beyond even M’Benga’s thorough education.

Spock skimmed the text M’Benga had sent him to his PADD and asked, “May I inquire about the reasons for your interest in this particular topic?”

“It’s not for me,” M’Benga said. “Leonard asked me for help with it and I said I’d translate it for him. His standard Vulcan’s pretty good, but obviously this thing threw him.

Apparently there’s no translation available. I’m not surprised, it seems very niche.”

“Indeed,” Spock said.

“Well, I tried, but my First Century Southern Hemisphere is a bit rusty, I admit it.”

“Understandable,” Spock said.

“I highlighted the paragraphs where I really couldn’t make anything of it. Of course, Leonard’s reading it just for fun, I don’t think it’d matter if I got some parts wrong, but to be honest, I got curious as well. I’ve never read anything about pre-Surak telepathy laws. So if you do have the time, sir, it’d be a great favor to both of us.”

“Of course,” Spock said. “It won’t take long. Has Dr McCoy returned from his medical leave?”

“No,” M’Benga said. “I checked on him today and his fever’s persistent. We changed medication and if I don’t see any improvement over the next two days, I’ll have him admitted to sickbay for further tests.”

Spock frowned slightly. “If the doctor is still ill,” he said, “shouldn’t he be resting rather than spend his time doing amateur historical research?”

M’Benga chuckled. “He’s bored. Sick humans get that after a while of lying around doing nothing. “

Spock lifted one brow. “Indeed. In that case, I could recommend more constructive reading material than the one he is currently indulging in, about Vulcan healing meditation techniques. It should be much easier to understand, too.”

“Good idea,” M’Benga laughed. “He’ll appreciate that. Anyway, thanks for your help, Mr Spock.”

“You’re welcome, doctor. I will send you my translation.”

Spock sat studying the text on his PADD. He wondered where McCoy had even found it; it looked like a scan from a book. In the past, McCoy had sometimes surprised him with glimpses of a rather profound knowledge of Vulcan culture and history, until Spock had started to acknowledge that the doctor was actually rather interested in any alien culture and sought to educate himself about them as much as he could.

In fact, he had further concluded, McCoy’s comments regarding Spock’s heritage, his use of logic, his lack of emotions, the shape of his ears and the color of his blood were not something he would ever voice in the presence of another Vulcan. He might dispute Vulcan logic even to other Vulcans’ faces, of course – disputing logic wasn’t something McCoy seemed capable of not doing - but he wouldn’t remark on another Vulcan’s “cold-blooded”ness or their “pointy ears”. Other Vulcans, to McCoy, might be irritating in their controlled, stoic ways – but only Spock ever was a “Hulk-blooded overgrown bunny” or an “emotionless elf” or, of course, a “hobgoblin”.

It seemed that what to most people not that knowledgeable about certain humans’ customs would look like insulting or even hostile behavior was, in McCoy’s case, actually quite the opposite. It had taken Spock more time than he was ready to admit to learn to decipher the complicated code of meaning behind McCoy’s communication.
One helpful observation had been that the doctor would quite often remark on the Captain’s weight, often calling him downright fat, other times just insinuating Kirk was overly indulging in sweet delicacies.

Since that was obviously not the case – the Captain was in fact very healthy and as far as Spock could tell hardly ever ate any dessert at all – Spock had concluded that this was a case of “teasing”, something humans did to their friends or people close to them. They would – without it ever having been communicated out loud – rightly assume the other person knew they were being teased and would not take the comments to heart or feel insulted or slighted.
Kirk seemed to know that McCoy knew that he wasn’t overweight and didn’t need to watch his diet.

It was all very confusing.

Furthermore, McCoy – if Spock understood it correctly – also teased Nurse Chapel, Lieutenant Uhura, Mr Scott and Doctor M’Benga, though he only borderline insulted the latter two like he did with Kirk and, well, Spock.

Based on the data Spock had collected regarding this phenomenon of human communication, the logical assumption was that McCoy wasn’t insulting him or even cared much about their difference of opinion in most cases, but that he was teasing him, like he did with other shipmates he considered his friends. Staying true to his apparent goal of making understanding human communication as hard as possible for Spock, McCoy clearly demonstrated that him calling Kirk pudgy, Dr McBenga a hopeless nerd and Spock a hobgoblin was his way of showing affection. And not only that, but he seemed delighted beyond measure when anyone teased him back. What had started as a few shameful occasions of Spock losing his temper and replying to the doctor’s words with his own brand of thinly veiled sarcasm had by now turned into something Spock sometimes did on purpose – just because he knew McCoy enjoyed it.

He lived among humans, so it was logical to adapt somewhat to their habits of communication. His “sparring”, as the Captain called it, with McCoy had the sole purpose of putting the man more at ease around him and making their working together more efficient. Well. He might find it enjoyable himself, but that wasn't something he needed to dwell on or disclose to anyone.

It didn’t take Spock long to translate the few paragraphs of the text that had presented M’Benga with difficulties. He found himself drawn into the found, just like M’Benga, since he also had never read that particular piece before. It was a rather poetic, clearly First Century re-telling of old myths regarding Vulcan telepathy. There weren’t many pre-Surak sources, since most of Vulcan at that time hadn’t developed a written language. The people’s myths and heritage lines had mostly survived through oral history. Only a few richer, more developed areas on the planet had invented material to write on.

It wasn’t a part of Vulcan history much taught at schools, either, and though there were some historians specialized on pre-Surak civilisations that Spock knew of, he hadn’t read their works. His interests had been elsewhere.

This account that McCoy had found somewhere featured a Vulcan society in a Southern area of the planet that was as remote from anything now considered Vulcan as possible. There was a cruel king, bloody torture, oppression, rebellion and telepathic violence. Most of the text concerned itself with the latter, detailing the victim’s symptoms, their slow and painful descend into madness, complete with gruesome hallucinations and physical ailment.
There was a story about one healer’s attempts to ease the victims’ minds through blood-letting and hot stones placed n their foreheads. Another had pierced holes into their heads.

Spock didn’t exactly know what kind of reading material Dr McCoy preferred, but given that he was rather upset when faced with cruelty of any kind, Spock didn’t think this was something McCoy enjoyed to consume when he was “bored”. Nor was it educative in any way; it wouldn’t help a human understand Vulcan culture as it was now. It was of historical interest merely because it was old, but there were no insights to be gained from reading it.

Still, Spock sent his translation to M’Benga’s PADD and kept the text on his own, reading it again.

The completely illogical – actually, bizarrely paranoid – thought hit him that McCoy was planning to confront him with this. That he was collecting munition for another sparring match. But he dismissed it right away. Even McCoy didn’t go so far as to hold all of Vulcan history against him. Not to mention the fact McCoy probably identified with these pre-Surak Vulcans much more than with modern ones. He might not approve of drilling holes into patients’ heads, but he’d surely approve of the victims' loved ones to “cry and wail”, as it said in the text, instead of modern Vulcan grieving methods.

The question remained – what did McCoy hope to gain from reading this? And thoroughly, even going to the length of asking M’Benga for help with the translation.
Spock decided to deliver the translation he had provided to McCoy himself. Not because curiosity drove him to, but because it was more efficient this way. McCoy wouldn’t have to wait for M’Benga sending it and Spock would also be right there to answer any further questions in case there were any. He was only doing his colleague a favor.

He picked up his PADD and left his office for the turbolift.

It was only when he’d already chimed McCoy’s door that he remembered the doctor was ill and that he might interfere with needed rest by forcing him out of bed. He didn’t have time to consider alternative actions, though, before the door opened.

“Oh. Spock – what can I do for you?”

McCoy did look ill; he was wearing what Spock estimated were three or four black uniform undershirts, blue flannel pyjama bottoms and mismatched socks. He was pale with red-rimmed, tired eyes and dark shadows under them as if he hadn’t slept well for a long time.

Spock studied him for a brief moment and wondered if Dr M’Benga was seriously expecting him to be fit for duty again within two days, then said, “I’m sorry to disturb your rest, doctor. I merely wanted to give you my translation of the text you asked Dr M’Benga to help you with.”

McCoy frowned, then looked at the PADD in Spock’s hand. “Oh! He couldn’t do it, either, huh?” He gave a lopsided smile. “Figures. Well, thank you. You didn’t have to come all the way here. C’min,” he turned around and walked into the room, “we can just put it on my terminal.”

Spock walked in and frowned when McCoy stopped to steady himself against the wall, before making his way over to his desk.

“I’m sorry he bothered you about it,” McCoy said, sinking into the chair with obvious relief.

“It didn’t bother me,” Spock said, approaching the desk. It was littered with coffee mugs and empty hypos. Spock raised an eyebrow, but McCoy didn’t see.

“Anyway, thanks,” McCoy said. “I really appre…” He stopped abruptly, squeezing his eyes shut and pressing his fingers against his forehead. Spock thought he could hear him try to suppress a whimper.

“Doctor,” he asked. “Are you-“

“Ugh, it’s fine.” McCoy waved him off with one hand, gently massaging his forehead with the other. “Just a headache.” He let go of a deep breath and opened his eyes again. Spock could see his hands trembling, when he closed the opened file on his terminal and connected to Spock’s PADD.

“It appears,” Spock said, “you have spent time sitting up reading that would have been more constructively spent resting.”

McCoy didn’t look up from the translation he had dragged onto his screen, but merely pointed at himself, said “Doctor”, then pointed at Spock and said, “not a doctor.”

Spock suppressed a sigh. “Quite correct,” he said. “However, your behavior reminds me of a saying from Earth regarding the quality of patients with medical degrees.”

McCoy still didn’t look at him, but was scanning the text. “There’s no such saying,” he muttered. “That’s fake news. Don’t believe everything you hear, Spock. Ah,” he added, pointing at a particular paragraph in the text. “There. Now it makes sense.” He nodded. At last, he lifted his head and cast Spock a tired smile. “Well, thanks again. I couldn’t make heads or tails of that part.” He suddenly winced again, eyes snapping shut as if against his will. He briefly shook his head as if to clear it as a shudder racked through his frame.

Spock frowned, when he identified the emotion trying to break through his shields, the one that was always rearing up when he witnessed this particular human in distress. It was partly concern – for the well-being of the ship’s CMO as well as his friend's – but also anger at McCoy for once more being blatantly counter-productive in regards to his own health. If he could have considered emotions logical at all, this one would have definitely been it. At any rate, it was logical to address the doctor’s obvious lack of professionalism. As always.

“Dr McCoy,” Spock started, “you are clearly unwell and in need of rest. Is educating yourself about ancient Vulcan history a necessary step towards your convalescence?”

For a moment, he thought he’d seen McCoy flinch at that, but the doctor was shaking slightly by now; he could have been mistaken.

“It’s something to do while waiting to get better,” McCoy said, giving Spock a wry smile. “You know us humans – we get bored.”

“You do not look bored, but ill. You should be in bed, resting.”

There was that spark in the faded blue eyes and for a second Spock anticipated a biting remark, the beginning of one of their verbal “sparring matches”, resistance, anything – but then McCoy hissed, when a particularly harsh shudder grabbed him and wrapped his arms around his middle as if to hold himself together. He swallowed thickly and nodded, not looking at Spock. “You’re right,” he said. “Enough for today.”

He stood and swayed on his feet, reached out to steady himself against the desk. When Spock reached out to hold his arm, he hastily stepped around the corner of the desk, away from the Vulcan, grabbing the desktop for balance.

Startled, Spock raised his brows.

McCoy’s ears burned red. He cleared his throat, gazing up at Spock sheepishly. “I got a monster headache,” her said by way of explanation, “and with your...” He feebly gestured for Spock. “… telepathy thing, you don’t wanna touch me right now.”

That was new. McCoy had never shown concern about Spock’s ability before. He wasn’t usually initiating contact, true, he was too respectful of the broader Vulcan definition of “personal space”, yet he usually didn’t refuse Spock steadying him when Spock offered, no matter how injured he was. Maybe his new-found interest in Vulcan telepathy made him more sensitive.

“I appreciate your concern,” Spock said. “But I can assure you I am capable of shielding from a headache.”

“Of course.” McCoy nodded, but didn’t move or stopped gripping the desk. He looked like he’d fall over if he tried. Standing up had, apparently, robbed him of his energy. “I meant no disrespect, Spock,” he added tiredly. He seemed to be waiting for Spock to leave.

“I didn't perceive any,” Spock said. He tilted his head slightly, studying the doctor. “I haven’t heard from the Captain or Dr M’Benga what it is exactly that is ailing you,” he said.

“Oh, nothing interesting,” McCoy said dismissively.

Spock lifted one brow.

“Some… space bug.”

The brow climbed higher up into Spock’s hairline.

“I’ll be all right in a day or two. Like you said, I need some rest. Shouldn’t stay up reading old shit...” McCoy lifted a hand for a gesture, but quickly grabbed the desk again and bowed his head as if to hide his expression from Spock. He drew in a deep, loud breath.

The anger-concern emotion was flaring up, drumming against Spock’s shields. He took a step towards McCoy to help him to his bed as it was clear the man wasn’t going to manage the short walk on his own.

McCoy jerked back violently. His back hit the wall next to the desk. He pressed his palms flat against it, barely keeping upright. “I mean it, don’t touch me.”
Spock frowned. “Doctor, you are being unreasonable.”

“Yeah. Course I am. I always am, you keep telling me so. And I’m sick, as you’ve pointed out numerous times now. That tends to make humans even more illogical than usually. I have a fever, I’m probably delusional or something, it’s all very messy and emotional and gross and you don’t wanna see it. Better get out and let me sleep. Please,” McCoy added as an afterthought. His knees buckled.

Spock watched him, recognizing he was feeling… lost. He reached for the nearest logical solution to the problem at hand. “I shall comm Dr M’Benga,” he said, moving for the desk.

“No!” McCoy took a step away from the wall as if to stop him and instantly collapsed back against it. “Ah… fuck,” he muttered, shaking his head once more in that motion Spock thought looked like he was trying to get rid of a ringing in his ears or the sensation of dizziness. “Just leave, Spock, please,” McCoy said, once more pressing his palms against his eyes. “I’ll be all right, it never lasts long, I just need…” He trailed off, suddenly sliding down the wall, his legs not supporting him any longer. Strained, shaky breaths could be heard, as he lowered his forehead to his dragged up knees. Visible tremors shook his curled up frame.

Spock considered calling M’Benga, anyway, but then recalled McCoy’s earlier reaction to him touching him and frowned deeply. Human behavior often presented itself like a complex riddle with several variables missing. He thought that he was looking at one of those right now.

Quietly, as to not alert McCoy to his action, he lowered himself to kneel in front of the doctor on the ground and put his hand on his shoulder.
Instantly, he jerked back again. He’d purposefully lowered his shield, acting on an assumption, and the absolute shock he’d received from the human’s mind was enough to make him gasp.

McCoy’s head snapped up, hitting the wall behind him. “I told you not to do that!” he exclaimed. “Shit. Are you all right?”

Spock sat back on his heels, staring at him. Was HE all right? The doctor’s mind was breaking apart bit by bit like a burning house crashing – but was HE all right?

“Spock!”

“What caused this?” Spock asked, aware his voice was trembling. He all but slammed his shields up, forcing control upon himself.

McCoy sighed. “An unwanted telepathic encounter.” He was tugging the sleeves of one of the shirts he was wearing over his knuckles as if trying to hide his hands. “I’ve been trying to figure out how to treat it.” He sounded ashamed of his failing.

Spock knew he was still downright staring. He probably looked unacceptably emotional. Why hadn’t he been made aware of that? McCoy had been attacked – injured – yet the Captain hadn’t said anything about it, nor M’Benga. “When did that happen?”

“In the mirror universe.”

“That has been-”

“Some time ago, yeah,” McCoy cut him off. “It got worse over time. I thought I could handle it,” he said softly, bowing his gaze. “It was just… strange memories – memories that weren’t mine – and headaches and…” He shrugged, still not looking up. “I’m a Starfleet doctor, I’ve been trained to deal with emotional stress, I really… really tried.” It sounded like he wasn’t even talking to Spock anymore. And he was defending himself. Squeezing his eyes shut again, he ran a sleeves-covered hand over his face.

Spock could feel his own hands starting to tremble. He enforced his shield. “My counterpart did that to you,” he said. “He forced a mind-meld on you.”

McCoy peeked up at him, gave a tiny, apologetic nod.

“Why?” Spock asked.

“He wanted information on us. He knew something wasn’t right about us and when I was alone with him, he…” McCoy shrugged once more. He smiled ruefully at Spock. “Sorry, Spock. I didn’t want you to find out.”

Spock didn’t even waste energy on trying to figure out why McCoy thought it necessary to apologize to him. “Did you tell the Captain not to disclose-”

“No,” McCoy sighed, “that… Ugh, blast it.” He leaned his head back against the wall, blinking up at the ceiling. “Jim doesn’t know, either. I didn’t tell anyone.”

Was this what humans meant when they said they felt “speechless”? Spock wondered. Though, it was really more like he had to fight down the most violent urge to grab McCoy by the shoulders and shake him. “Why didn’t you?” he asked. “You’re a doctor, you must have known you’d been severely injured. Why didn’t you seek immediate help?”

To his utter surprise, McCoy laughed a little. It was a humorless sound, bitter and tired. “No,” he said, “I didn’t. This is… unheard of.” He looked up to meet Spock’s gaze and it was like the doctor’s own shield had been lowered. Suddenly, his eyes looked full of despair and the gauntness of his face seemed more pronounced. He looked beat, defeated. “It was just a headache at first and then a few nightmares and maybe a glimpse of a memory I knew wasn’t mine and I thought...” McCoy scratched his head. “I thought it’d just go away. No one knows jackshit about Vulcan mind-melds, you’re the only Vulcan on the fleet.” He shook his head. “When it got worse, I started reading about it, I thought there must be mentions of a treatment, anything. But it’s not something you guys really DO, is it? Not here, anyway,” he added with a bitter snort.

That was the truth, of course. It was a crime to force a mind-meld on anyone, there was a law against it. Yet Spock couldn’t think of a single case he knew of where it had actually happened.

“You should have informed your superior officers,” he said. “You need medical help beyond… bed rest,” he finished, sounding incredulous to his own ears. What had McCoy been going through all this time? He had only put himself on medical leave two days ago.

“No shit, Sherlock,” McCoy said and rubbed his forehead. He drew in a deep breath, slowly let it out. “I’m sorry. I’m not…” He closed his eyes. “There are case files dating back… oh, decades, some uproar, riots in Romulan colonies… some cases on Vulcan, very rarely though… Apparently the victims all went insane.” He opened his eyes again to look at Spock. “Or, well, what’s the term? They ‘ceased to be able to function in Vulcan society’. Once the hallucinations become too bad or they believe the foreign memories to be their own, they…” He drew in one corner of his mouth. “What I mean is, I haven’t found anything about treatments. When it happened, the victim went nuts, end of story. And these are Vulcans we’re talking about, and Romulans. Telepathic beings,” he added as if for emphasis.

There was so much data to be evaluated in that outburst, Spock had to restrain himself to not bombard the doctor with questions. “Are you experiencing hallucinations?” he chose to ask first.

“Yup.”

“And you are reliving my counterpart’s memories.”

“Hm mm.” McCoy nodded, hugging himself.

“Doctor-”

“What isn’t in those files,” McCoy said, averting his gaze again, “are any mentions of physical symptoms. The Vulcans and Romulans this happened to didn’t develop high fevers or nausea or weakness. I guess cause of y’alls superior physical disposition,” he added drily.

Spock’s gaze softened. “You wanted to read the pre-Surak text to see if you could use any of the information given on how non-controlled emotional humanoids dealt with such abuse.”

“Yeah and did you read it? They went nuts, too.”

“They were still Vulcan,” Spock pointed out.

“And I’m just a mere human. I don’t have any damned ‘shields’ or anything. I was… NOTHING to him, a fucking flea on the wall he could squash if he chose to and he did. And he wasn’t even trying to hurt me,” McCoy added harshly, “isn’t that great? He didn’t care if he did, but he didn’t purposefully hurt me. Just him reaching into my mind like that was enough to completely destroy it. That’s how weak us humans are. I’m sure you appreciate knowing that.”

“I do not,” Spock said.

McCoy arched his brows apologetically. He sighed. “No. Of course you don’t. I’m sorry, Spock. I… Don’t listen to me.” He shook his head, hugged his knees tighter to his chest.

Spock watched this most stubborn human he knew reduced to a curled up heap of scared misery and couldn’t quite stop the compassion from showing on his face. “Why did you not tell me about it?” he asked. “I am, as you are so fond of pointing out, Vulcan, after all.”

McCoy huffed an appreciative snort at Spock’s attempt at humor.

“My expertise in the matter of mind-melding might have been beneficial to your research.”

“Probably.” McCoy wasn’t looking at him. With trembling fingers, he was picking at loose seams on his sleeve.

Spock lifted a brow. “If you are aware of that, I don’t see-”

“You’re not a doctor, okay?” McCoy sounded upset, but still wouldn’t meet Spock’s eyes. “You’re not a Vulcan doctor, either. Do you actually KNOW what to do in a case like this?” Here, he peeked up at Spock with his head still bowed.

“I do not, but-”

“But,” McCoy said with a bitter laugh that took Spock off guard. “But you have JUST the idea how to go about it, don’t you?”

As understanding at what McCoy was implying sunk in, a frown deepened on Spock’s face. “Doctor, you must know that I wouldn’t do anything that might cause you harm.”

McCoy cast him a wry look. “Sure I know that. So obviously the truth remains that there’s nothing we know of so far that can be done and telling you in particular wouldn’t have made any difference.”

His expression was daring Spock to disagree. Treading lightly when approaching a subject wasn’t one of Spock's strong suits, but for the doctor’s well-being he was willing to do his best. “It may well be,” he said after a moment’s thought, “that the minds of non-telepathic beings are in fact more resilient than those of telepathic specieses.”

McCoy frowned.

“As you’ve said yourself, Vulcan victims have not fallen prey to physical symptoms, but considering the time that has passed since the attack and your mental state as it is presenting itself now-”

“Are you trying to say that I’m surprisingly with it?” McCoy asked, bemused.

“Indeed I am.”

“Oh yeah?” McCoy widened his eyes. “The walls are covered in blood. I can fucking smell it, Spock.” He sounded slightly hysterical and once more Spock wondered how he had functioned up until this point without any of the people around him realizing something was very wrong.

“Yet you know it is not real,” he said softly. “What I was explaining before is that Vulcans feel emotions much stronger than humans. Our neurochemistry is such that finding a way to control emotions was necessary to ensure our survival as a civilization. Humans have the freedom to incorporate their emotions into their personality, because they have equal access to the rational parts of their brain.”

“That… sounded like a compliment.”

Spock ignored that comment. “It is logical to assume that your mind has not been as affected as a Vulcan mind would have been,” he said. “And that there is a way to treat your mental symptoms that most likely would not have worked for Vulcan patients.”

Silence followed. Spock sat back, waiting, letting the doctor breathe and watch him, his thoughts visibly racing. He had tensed up so much Spock could see veins on his neck.
“None of the Vulcan healers in any of the sources tried another mind-meld to heal the victims,” McCoy said at last.

“Understandable,” Spock said. “The risks of being overwhelmed by a mind that tormented would have been too high.”

McCoy reached into his sleeve and scratched his arm so violently Spock wanted to tell him to stop. “But you think with a human – with ME – it’d be less dangerous.”

“I do,” Spock said. “I would also be willing to offer my assistance.”

McCoy clenched his jaws, watching him.

“It seems to me,” Spock said, “you haven’t used the resources at hand in order to find a cure, Doctor.”

A harsh laugh broke out of McCoy, desperate, almost a sob. He clamped his mouth shut, shook his head. “I don’t know if I can, Spock,” he said in a very small voice.

Spock softened his in return. “I will not harm you. I promise you that.”

McCoy raised his brows in surprise. He sniffed back a tear threatening to fall. “I’m so tired,” he said in that same broken voice.

“I know.”

“I couldn’t tell Jim, because… when I realized what was happening...” McCoy drew in a shaky breath. “… I couldn’t tell him I was gonna die.” He sniffed once more, rubbed his index finger under his nose. He bowed his head again, unable to look at Spock. “I was gonna beam to Minora 10 when we passed it and… resign… and…” He shook his head.
It hit Spock with surprising impact how much McCoy had suffered over the past weeks. How afraid he had been and how utterly alone he must have felt, hiding his condition from his friends.

“Leonard,” he said.

McCoy’s gaze wandered back to him. His eyes were watery.

“You are not in your right mind. Your thought process is inhibited. Jim wouldn’t want you to do that.”

“You don’t understand. I can’t be CMO like this, I’m useless. I can’t let it interfere with Jim’s mission, I… probably need to be locked up or something!”

Spock inwardly braced and put a hand on McCoy’s quivering shoulder. “Jim cares more about you than the mission. I do, too. We will not abandon you and we will find a way to help you.”

McCoy’s forehead sank onto his knees.

Fighting against the rush of emotions assaulting his shields took a lot of energy, but still Spock reached out to put his hand on McCoy’s head and after a moment's hesitation gently stroked his hair. “You are not going to get ‘locked up’ and you are not going to die. Not without a fight,” he added.

“I can’t fight anymore,” McCoy muttered into his knees.

“I didn’t suggest you should,” Spock said.

McCoy’s shoulders shook, but he didn’t reply to that. After a moment, Spock moved closer to fully put his arms around the crying doctor.

 

*****************************************

 

Spock watched McCoy study the contents of his third drink, a brackish brown liquid leaving sticky smears on the sides of the dirty glass.

“I don't think alcohol intake of any kind is advisable in your current condition,” Spock said, “but this,” he nodded at McCoy's glass, “looks particularly untrustworthy.”

McCoy glanced up at him, back at his sludgy drink and put it down. “My current condition, eh?” he muttered. With a tired sigh, he ran a hand over his eyes. “How did you figure it happened to me, too?”

“During my mind-meld with Jim, I saw glimpses of his life in this timeline. You haven't changed.”

McCoy snorted. “Unless you have, that's not meant to be a compliment, is it?”

Spock lifted one brow in the manner his McCoy would have recognized as his “Vulcan smile”. Judging from this doctor's lopsided smile, he did, too.

“So I'm still an idiot,” McCoy muttered. He unconsciously picked up his glass again, but noticed in time and put it down before the liquid could touch his lips.

Spock's gaze softened. “You are still too dedicated to your profession to let a person die, no matter how dangerous they are,” he corrected.

“Yeah.” McCoy nodded grimly. “Shoulda figured he wouldn't stay under long, though,” he said. “Jim keeps telling me not to turn my back on people too quickly.”

“It has been my experience also that that is sound advice more often than not. Sadly,” Spock added and earned another surprised snort.

“Sadly.” Bowing his gaze, McCoy fidgeted with his glass. Spock noticed his hands were trembling harder than before. The doctor briefly squeezed his eyes shut as if suppressing a wince, then took a deep breath and looked up again. “So was he okay? Eventually?”

“I was able to help him reduce the emotional and mental strain he was under significantly enough so he could be treated for the physical effects of the invasion.”

McCoy tilted his head slightly, eyes narrowing. “Vague answers? Really? You HAVE changed.”

Spock had missed his old friend for long enough that he embraced the sudden stab of emotions at that; it was such a McCoy reaction. “Eventually,” he said, “he was 'okay'.”

McCoy looked down for a long moment, rolling the glass between his hands. “I was under the impression you had vowed not to interfere.”

“Indeed,” Spock said. Their eyes met.

Averting his eyes again, McCoy put the glass down. “No hallucinations,” he said solemnly. “So far. I guess that's something to look forward to, then.” When Spock didn't reply, he continued, “I can't say that he… didn't try to hurt me, though.”

Spock lifted his brow.

“He...” McCoy drew in a long breath, ran a hand through his hair. “Apparently, that universe's Spock and McCoy get along as well as you and I do… You know, you-you and I.”

Spock lifted one corner of his mouth in the barest hint of an understanding smile.

“So I assume he did it to his McCoy, too, because… he had access to his memories.”

At that, Spock lifted both brows. “You know that-”

“-because he shoved them all into my mind? Yeah.” McCoy drowned the sticky brown liquid at last and grimaced. “Jesus fuck, that's foul.”

“What other symptoms are you experiencing?” Spock asked, concerned. At first glance, the doctor had looked less affected by the mind-meld than his McCoy had in his memory, yet it seemed this other mirror universe's Spock's actions had been mush harsher.

“Eh, just… The common ones, I guess,” McCoy said. He was already reaching out again to type in another order, but Spock gently put his hand over his to keep him from it. McCoy shot him a quick look, but withdrew his hand. “Insomnia… or more… nightmares, so I'm avoiding sleep. Can't keep much down. Headaches. Blurry vision sometimes. Had a few nosebleeds; I'm not prone to those.” He shrugged. “Mostly, though… the memories.” He shuddered. “HIS memories.”

Spock watched him, waiting. The doctor was kneading his fingers, staring at the tabletop. “You can't really blame him for being the monster that he is. That place...” He shook his head. “It's hell. He killed his father, not because…” He peeked up at Spock and saw the compassion in the old Vulcan's eyes. “Yeah. Not like… we did. Your me and I, but because he had to to survive himself. And it wasn't merciful, either. By the time he started to study medicine, he'd already taken apart more people than I have done regular autopsies. And he didn't study it to heal. He wanted to find out as much about anatomy as he could, so… So he could...” McCoy trailed off, swallowing hard. “I need another drink.”

“No, you do not.”

Despite himself, McCoy didn't argue, but nodded. He tugged at his fingers again as if trying to tear them off his hands. “He lost an eye… Some poor creature clawed it out while he was cutting it open alive.” His voice broke. “He doesn't even remember the pain, just the… JOY of killing as slowly as possible.” A bitter laugh burst out of him, edging on hysteria. “He fucking GAVE that eye to J… to his Kirk. In a glass. They're in a relationship, too.”

Spock had gathered this timeline's Jim Kirk and McCoy were from what he'd glimpsed in Jim's memories. He kept his silence, letting McCoy talk. It was obvious the doctor hadn't told anyone about all this before.

“A sexual one, anyway,” McCoy said. “I wouldn't call it intimate. I don't think McCoy is capable of love.” He closed his eyes, scratching his forehead. “He likes being dominated by Kirk. He plans on killing him in his sleep some day. Keeps envisioning the shock in Kirk's eyes when he realizes. Wants to see the light fade from his eyes…” His hand wandered down to rub at one eye vigorously. “Spock knows all that about him. He made sure McCoy stays away from him by… planting something in his mind. He made sure I saw. The Vulcans in that universe are… different. Their logic…” McCoy drew in a shuddering breath. “Let's say it's not focused on the good of the many.”

Spock nodded.

“When he found the memory about my Dad...” Closing his eyes, McCoy bowed his head. He took a moment to draw a few calming breaths. “He made sure to intertwine them as closely with his McCoy's memories as he could. I-I can't… I know it's not how it happened, but… But sometimes I don't,” he finished in a small, scared voice and buried his face in his hands.

It was easier for Spock by now to let emotions flow through him, yet keep them at bay enough for him not to be overwhelmed. However, some times were harder than others. He couldn't stop himself from placing a hand on McCoy's shoulders.

McCoy lifted his head. He sniffed. “He used what he saw about Jim and me, too. These past weeks I… Jim thinks it's stress - one of my funks, anything – but… I can't keep going on like this and he's gonna notice and...” As if suddenly reminded of Spock's presence, he turned his head to look at him. “Fuck, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to-”

“You haven't told anyone about this, have you?” Spock asked.

“No. Your Leonard got it right, didn't he? I tell any doctor, they'll have to send me to the looney bin for evaluation and a nice padded cell. And then Section 31 will probably have a field day with me. No thanks.”

“But you have not told your friends, either. Or your mate.”

“No. I can't.” McCoy's expression hardened. “I won't.”

“It is most probable that since I could assist the Dr McCoy of my timeline, your Spock could-”

“I won't tell them,” McCoy cut him off. “And that's that.”

Spock tilted his head slightly. “Explain.”

“How many other versions of themselves had your crew met?” McCoy asked. “Except for you, when you came here?”

“The only ones they met were their counterparts from the mirror universe.”

“Yeah and those were,” McCoy gave a half shrug, “what, just another freakish thing to encounter in the great wide depth of space. A one-time thing, just a particularly odd away mission. Was your Leonard scared of you at all, when he came back?”

Spock lifted one brow. “No.”

“Not even after what happened to him?”

“Though his logic was often flawed, his thinking was rational enough to realize the Spock he had encountered and I were different entities.”

McCoy nodded. “I'm scared of Spock. I try not to let it show and I'm sure he hasn't noticed, but there it is. I'm scared of Jim, too. Of myself.”

“Why?”

“You,” McCoy said. “You're from another universe where incidents happened differently from ours. Jim didn't tell me everything he saw, but some things. Our selves that you knew weren't bloodthirsty monsters, I'm sure, but they were different from us. And yet we ARE… them, only that our lives were shaped by the differences in the timeline.”

“That is correct,” Spock said. “However, I fail to see how that alters your reaction to the universe you've encountered from that of the Dr McCoy of my timeline.”

“Maybe because he didn't have as much reason as I have to realize that we all… could've really been those people. Do I remind you of him?”

Surprised, Spock raised his brows. “Yes,” he admitted. “Very much so.”

“Yeah. You remind me of Spock. The Jim I saw in that bastard's memories reminded of my Jim. He was a terrible monster and I know Jim would never do any of what he did, but… he… WAS Jim. God help me, but… he… FELT like Jim.” MccCoy chuckled humorlessly and shook his head. “You must think I'm being terribly illogical.”

“Surprisingly enough,” Spock said, “I do not.”

McCoy shot him a glance, but didn't comment. “So… you see, I can't tell them. I know now that if things had happened differently, I could've been capable of the most horrible atrocities. There's no need to inflict that knowledge on my friends. Much less the man I love.”

“I don't think Spock would fail to point out the obvious errors in your thinking,” Spock said.

“I've no doubt he would,” McCoy said with a wry smile. “But he'd still come to the same conclusions I have.”

Spock was about to argue, but McCoy cut him off. “I dare say I know him better than you do,” he said.

“If that is so,” Spock said, “it would be a good argument against your assumption that inherently all universes' versions of a person are the same.”

McCoy watched him for a moment. “I'm not telling them,” he said eventually.

“You have stated yourself you are finding it increasingly difficult to function in your relationship with Jim and judging from your symptoms, you cannot perform your duty on board the Enterprise any longer. How do you propose to proceed?”

“Well,” McCoy said with a long sigh, “I was gonna get batshit pissed, before you showed up. Haven't planned much further than that.”

“I do not believe you, Doctor.”

“Hm. What was your Leonard planning on doing? Before you made him spill the beans?”

Though not familiar with that particular idiom, Spock still recognized it as one and refrained to ask for clarification. “He did not tell me, but I have good reason to believe he had contemplated suicide.”

“Hm.”

McCoy had averted his eyes, but Spock kept his level gaze on him. “A most exaggerated and illogical reaction, given that had he informed me earlier, measures to ensure his recovery could have been taken immediately and his suffering could have been minimized.”

“Well, he was probably scared shitless.”

Spock nodded. “Indeed.”

McCoy snorted. “You should spend more time with our Spock, seriously. We'd all benefit from it.”

“Thank you,” Spock said. “I believe.”

McCoy smiled.

“I have vowed not to intervene in any way that could alter this timeline,” Spock said.

“Indeed.”

Spock's gaze flew up to meet McCoy's teasing one. “Yet I have broken that vow by seeking you out.”

McCoy waited.

“If you are adamant in your refusal to allow your friends to help you – as illogical as I deem that decision – there appears to be no acceptable alternative to offering my assistance to you.”

McCoy narrowed his eyes, head turning slightly. “Meaning?”

“As I have relayed to you earlier, I have experience in easing the symptoms caused by a forced mind-meld. I believe myself quite capable of teaching you how to cope with the impact of the intrusion. I have also successfully repressed a human's memories of a certain incident enough for them to never remember them again.”

“You have… Who?”

“I will not tell you.”

McCoy reigned in his shock and gave a curt nod. “Fair 'nough.”

“Are you willing to accept my help?” Spock asked.

McCoy thought about it and slumped back in his chair. “I'll be honest, the idea of letting you perform any more of that telepathy crap on me gives me the creeps. If no one ever marches into my mind again, it'll be too early. But logically,” he said drily, “does it look to you like I have a choice?”

“Yes.”

“It's a manner of speech, Spock.”

“I am aware of that. It does seem particularly important for an ensured recovery that you are aware of the fact that you DO indeed have a choice and that you are choosing to accept another mind-meld that will not be forced this time.”

McCoy raised one brow. “Did you study human psychology in your time?”

“In a way,” Spock said. “One could say I studied the psychological makeup of two particular human individuals quite closely.”

“Yeah? Then what was that about not every universe's version of a person being inherently the same?”

“I believe your recovery is already under way, Leonard,” Spock said. “Since you are willing to quarrel with me.”

McCoy laughed. “Well, all right. Shockingly – I agree with you. And I choose to accept your help. Thank you,” he added sincerely. “I mean it. I know you don't break your vow lightly.”

“Your survival and well-being are far more important to me.”

McCoy looked at him, too shocked to speak, and nodded. “Thank you.”

“There is one thing I need to prepare you for, before we start the meld,” Spock said. Noticing that now it was him who was averting his eyes – nervous despite himself – he looked back at McCoy again. “I cannot ensure that during our connection, you will not encounter any of my memories. I will try to shield as much as I am able to, yet there is always the possibility… especially with you, as my mind is more familiar with yours than with any other human's.”

McCoy widened his eyes.

“The reason for that will most likely be among the memories you may experience, therefor I find it prudent to warn you in advance. It might come as a shock to you, otherwise.”

“You're scaring me, Spock.”

Spock ignored that. “However, I must remind you as I did with Jim that it is most important you do not share what you see with anyone else. This timeline must go on without my influence. Even though the incident that I am talking about is already in the past for you, I implore you not to share it with others. Except Jim,” he added. “I wouldn't want to relieve you of one secret only to burden you with another. But I must ask you not to disclose it to Spock under any circumstances.”

“Good God, what is it?” McCoy asked nervously. “I didn't screw your Dad or something, did I?”

“No.”

“Okay. Oh.” McCoy's eyes flew open. “Shit, did we-”

“No. We did not unite in a physical sense.”

“You're creeping me out.”

“When my crew encounter Khan Noonian Singh,” Spock said, still forcing himself to not look away, “it wasn't Jim Kirk's life that was lost, it was mine.”

“Oh. Okay, yeah, I see why-”

“Before I died,” Spock cut him off, “I transferred my katra – my soul, you would say, though it is not what it is, exactly – into Dr McCoy's mind. Jim Kirk retrieved my body, paying… the highest price.” Spock lowered his gaze in sadness, before he looked up again. “Eventually, my mind and body were reunited and I lived. My mind will recognize yours.”

He didn't say that he was actually looking forward to touching McCoy's mind again, one last time. The expectation filled him with equal parts sadness and joy. He knew full well the young doctor would know how fond he was of him and his older version the moment their minds would meet and also that Spock trusted him enough to react appropriately to that. Trusted him with some of his innermost emotions even though he knew the doctor for only a bit over an hour now. Maybe McCoy's thesis about different versions of themselves that scared him so much had some truth to it after all.

McCoy stared at him. “… your mind… in… You crammed your whole self into his head?” It sounded more like a statement than a question.

“It is not a correct description by far,” Spock said, “but it is very close to how Leonard described the experience.”

“I bet. Thanks for telling me, so I can make sure never to hang around my Spock if he's ever in danger of dying. Any other scary shit I need to be aware of?”

'I saw you die,' Spock thought, but shook his head no. He would make sure to keep that memory well hidden behind a wall of memories of friendship.

A sudden thought seemed to hit McCoy and his expression lost all of the amusement it'd shown before despite his forceful display of being appalled. “You'll see the other McCoy's memories. Of that place.”

Spock softened his gaze. “Do not concern yourself with that, Leonard. My belief in you is firm. As is that in my old friend.”

McCoy smiled fondly. “God, I hope our Spock turns into you, I really do.”

“As do I. For his sake.”

McCoy snorted. “If you say so yourself.”

“Indeed.”

McCoy chuckled. He nodded slightly, pushing his empty glass away. “Well. Thank you, Spock. Do I get to have one last drink before we leave? I'm assuming we're not gonna perform Vulcan Voodoo right here.”

“No, we will not,” Spock said and stood. “And no last drink.”

McCoy sighed and stood up. “Still bossy,” he said.

Spock lifted his brow at him. “As I believe the Captain would say to that: don't pout, Bones.” With that, he turned to lead the way out the bar.

THE END