Spock stepped off the bus gingerly to avoid the grey slush coating the street. He knew that just two hundred years ago the Georgia air would still be warm from the day, but Earth’s climate change had not been kind to the southern United States. It was a frigid and dirty snow which clung to every surface. Salt crystals cracked beneath his boots as he walked. The sidewalk was near-deserted--it was, after all, nearly midnight on Christmas Eve, and Spock was in a town with a population of just six-hundred.
If Spock had any doubts over whether or not the humans here celebrated the holiday they were easily laid to rest by the sight of raggedy wreaths and dingy tinsel wrapped around the light poles. It may have been silver, once, but now it was a faded grey. Occasionally the wind plucked free a single leaf of tinsel and carried it away. Ahead of him, the fuzzy gleam of a red neon light declared the bar OPEN.
He tugged his knit cap tighter around his ears and pushed his way in. Immediately, his senses were assailed by the scent of stale beer and the not-so-dulcet tones of canned Christmas music trickling out of the staticy speakers. Spock scanned the bar and a rumpled man with wavy brown hair and a wrinkled blue shirt caught his eye.
He slid onto the stool two seats away from the man. It was best not to seem too eager, at least not before he had found out whether this was the man he sought. He ordered a whisky, neat, because that seemed like the sort of thing one drunk in a bar like this.
Spock sat nursing his drink for a few minutes with his ears perked for any sound. Even through the wool covering them and the grating sounds of holiday music he could hear the man muttering to himself.
“Damned thing...was just a little late...Needs to get that stick removed.” He took a long swig and slammed his empty glass down. “That man will never be father to my daughter.”
While no one was looking Spock leaned over the bar and dumped out his drink into the sink. With his glass empty he slid one seat closer to the man and said, “May I buy you a drink? You appear to need one.”
The man squinted up at him, pale blue eyes hazy, his mouth pursed in a sour line. “What’s it to you?”
“We are both here suffering alone tonight,” Spock said. “Perhaps we could suffer together?”
The man grunted. He waved over the bartender and indicated Spock with his hand. “He’s buying.”
Spock ordered two whiskeys. He took a sip of his, watching the man carefully. Was this really the man he sought? “You may call me Grayson.”
“McCoy. Leonard McCoy. Friends call me Blue.”
Perhaps he had allowed too much of his incredulity to become evident in his voice, because the man turned a piercing glare towards him. “You got a problem with that?”
“No, it is only…” He should have been Bones . “You are not a doctor?”
“What? What the hell?” He pushed away from the bar, standing on unsteady feet as if ready to fight. “Who the hell are you?”
“I apologize,” Spock said quickly. “It is only--I had heard of a Doctor McCoy in this town.”
He held very, very still, blinking at Spock with drunken anger. After a tense moment his shoulders slumped and he crawled back onto the barstool. “That was my father. I’m no doctor.”
“I see.” He waited until the man had calmed down to ask, “Then, may I call you Blue?”
“We ain’t friends.”
Spock nodded and went back to nursing his whiskey. He should leave now that it was clear this wasn’t who he sought, but something enticed him to say. Perhaps it was the smoky haze that permeated the room, or the waves of despair rolling off of the man beside him. They drank together in silence and Spock ordered another round. He was human enough to begin feeling the effects of the first drink, and judging by his companion’s slump the other man was well on his way to passing out.
“Perhaps you should have a glass of water?”
“Shut up,” he said, knocking back the rest of his whisky with nary a wince. “We ain’t friends, and you ain’t my wife, either.”
“Then perhaps you can consider me a concerned stranger.” He waved over the bartender and ordered two waters.
The man grumbled but took a gulp, crunching loudly on ice. He slid his gaze over to Spock and seemed to be looking at him for the first time. His eyes roamed unsteadily up Spock’s lanky form, paused for a moment near his neck, and then fixated on his knit hat.
“Your momma never teach you not to wear a hat indoors?”
“Indeed, she did not.”
He harrumphed. “Explains why you’re so damned impolite.”
“It is colder here than I expected.”
“Always cold this time of year. Our own personal micro-climate.” His blue eyes dropped to meet Spock’s gaze. They held there a moment, suspended, and for a moment Spock saw clarity in his gaze. Perhaps he was the man Spock sought? Then he looked away, back to his water. “Guess you don’t have anyone to celebrate the night with.”
“I do not celebrate Christmas. But as a general point you are correct. I am alone here.”
“Figured. No one who ends up here has any other place to be.” He was slumping further into his seat. “Only people here are the folks who’ve had everything taken from them. It’s just one damned thing after another. Can’t go out the front door without someone taking your shoes.”
Spock glanced down. “Your shoes do appear to be intact.”
“Yeah, well. I had to fight for them.” He finished the last of his water and stood, listing heavily to one side. He moved to pat Spock’s shoulder and missed, making contact on the second try. “Thanks for the drink, stranger.”
Spock watched the man wobble from the bar, worry forming at the sight of him going off into the cold night. He considered his options and covertly checked his watch. He still had a few hours before he needed to check in, so Spock paid his tab and followed Blue outside.
It had started to snow light, dry flakes that squeaked when he walked. He spotted the man a block away stumbling down the street, his hair gleaming under the artificial yellow glow of the street lamps. He didn’t even have a jacket, Spock realized, and he hastened to catch up.
The man glanced at him as he came alongside. “You following me or somethin’?”
“I was concerned for your safety. You are not in possession of all your faculties at the moment.”
“When am I ever?” he grumbled. He turned away again and stumbled. Spock shot out a hand to catch him, holding fast to his arm and keeping him steady. The man squinted at him again. “You are a strange one.”
He found himself lost in Blue’s eyes, searching near-frantically for some sign, some faint hint that this could be the one he needed. “...You are also strange,” he said after far too much silence.
Blue frowned but he didn’t pull away. He leaned into Spock’s grasp. “If you’re gonna be weird at least be a gentleman and walk me home. It’s that way.”
Spock followed his point and began walking into the darkness with Blue leaning heavily against him. He could feel Blue’s lightness, all the places where he was too thin and too broken. Blue turned his head and breathed out warm air against Spock’s neck and Spock felt his skin pebble in response. He had a sense-memory, then, of carrying Leonard over some alien landscape. What planet had that been? How long ago was that? Leonard had been injured and bleeding, and Spock had felt that tight knot of fear in his side.
The house was just outside of town, ramshackle and lopsided. It had come off its foundation by nearly a foot. The porch light was burnt out but Blue led him up the front stops with relative ease, stopping in front of the door to fish his keys out of his pocket.
Spock hung back, uncertain, as Blue unlocked the door and pushed it open. He didn’t go inside right away. Instead, he reached back with one hand, groping towards Spock without looking at him.
“I am here.”
He reached out and their hands met. Blue’s shoulders slumped. “...You wanna come in for a cup of coffee?”
Spock hesitated, knowing enough about Earth culture to understand a euphemism when he heard one. “I do not wish to take advantage of you.”
“You could. If you wanted.” The man turned to face him then, his gaze matter-of-fact. “But if you don’t want to, you don’t want to. Just keep me company, stranger.”
Spock followed him inside.
He stood in the small kitchen with its cracked tile floor and watched the man brew a pot of coffee. It was late--or rather, early now--but Spock’s body wouldn’t react to the caffeine regardless. They sat together on the couch, and Spock enjoyed the warmth of the coffee. The house was cool and drafty. It was an excuse, at least, to keep his hat on.
“Why’re you here?” the man asked after a while of silence.
“I do not know what you mean.”
“I mean, here. In this podunk little town drinking whiskey at the worst bar in available. You’re clearly not from around here.”
“No. I am from...far away from here.”
“So? Why here?”
“I was looking for something. For someone.”
He sipped his coffee. “For Doctor McCoy.”
“Sorry to be the one to tell you this, but my Dad’s been dead for years.”
“I am sorry to hear that.”
He leaned his head back against the couch, his blue eyes slipping shut. “You one of his old patients?”
“No. I am...merely an admirer of Doctor McCoy’s work.”
They sat in silence for a while, finishing their coffees. When they were done Blue set aside his mug. He slid closer to Spock and pulled the mug from his fingers, setting it aside as well. Spock watched curiously as the man slid a little closer still, his head tipping to one side. Spock’s heart beat against his side. How long had it been?
Leonard--Blue tasted of coffee and whisky. His lips were rough and chapped, but warm. The contact ripped a terrible sound from Spock, deep and animalistic, and he grabbed Blue’s shoulders to hold him close. It was the same; it was the same.
Blue climbed into his lap and Spock opened up beneath him. He let Blue kiss him senseless, lick into his mouth and trace his teeth. He let Blue tug his shirt up to untuck it, found himself arching into the contact of those skilled hands against his stomach. This man should have been a surgeon, in this world and every other.
Spock felt a hand on his neck, a single finger tracing the edge of his knit cap and treading dangerously close to his ears. He pulled away and stilled Blue’s hands.
“I am sorry,” Spock said thickly.
“C’mon,” Blue murmured, his voice all southern-charm and unkept promises. “I’m not that drunk. I know what I want, and it’s you.”
Spock gulped. “I-I cannot.”
Blue sighed and slid off Spock’s lap, landing in a rumpled heap on the far end of the couch. Spock wanted him back immediately. It was selfish, he knew, to desire that warmth and that familiarity from a man who was nothing like the one he’d lost.
“You got a place to stay?” Blue asked after right himself.
“No. I was merely passing through. I’ll be gone before morning.”
Blue didn’t seem to find that odd. He picked at the hem of his shirt, looked sideways at their empty coffee mugs. “I got a bed. I won’t try any funny business, just...These winter nights are cold.”
“Yes,” Spock breathed, falling in love again despite himself. “They are. Quite cold.”
He let Blue pull him to his feet. Followed him down the narrow hallway to the single room where an unmade bed greeted them. Blue struggled out of his shoes and Spock slipped off his boots. He followed the man under the covers, let those arms encase him. He pulled Blue close and shivered as Blue’s cold nose pressed against his neck.
“Mm,” Blue murmured. “Knew you’d be warm…”
Spock held him tightly. “I would not want you to catch a chill.”
He chuckled, low and sweet. “How kind of you.
Blue relaxed in slow increments. He was nearly asleep when he spoke again. “That name…”
“Grayson. That ain’t your real name, is it?”
“No. It is not.”
Blue hummed. “That’s okay,” he murmured. “Sometimes I feel like my name ain’t right either.”
Spock hugged him as he fell asleep, absorbing the gentle rhythm of his breathing. Around them, the Earth continued to spin, but for a few moments all Spock knew was the weight of this man against him, the pleasure of this transient closeness.
As the clock passed four a.m., Spock disentangled himself. Quietly, he slipped on his boots and made his way back into the living room. He held up his watch and fiddled with the buttons, inputting the “all clear” code.
“Mr. Spock to Mr. Scott. Do you read me?”
“Loud and clear, Mr. Spock.” Mr. Scott’s voice was small and tinny through the watch’s speakers.
“This is my 24-hour check in. No unusual circumstances to report. No side effects felt from travel.”
“Did you locate the anomaly?”
Spock looked back down the hallway. He’d left the door ajar and he could see just the tips of Blue’s fingers hanging over the edge of the bed.
“I did, yes.”
“Is he our man?” Mr. Scott asked hopefully.
“No,” Spock said. “I’m afraid he is not what we’re looking for.”
“Ah, a shame. Well, I’ve got the coordinates for the next jump already calculated if you’re ready to come back.”
He wasn’t ready, probably would never be ready. But duty called. “Yes. I am prepared for transport.”
As the transporter whine took him he saw Blue’s hand shift against the bedspread searchingly, as if looking for something. Or someone. There was a faint sound, barely perceptible over the transporter beam, and he could almost trick himself into believing it was Leonard calling to him.
Spock closed his eyes tightly and felt the cold melt away.