"You know, it still feels odd," Kirk said, ending the silence that had fallen between them.
"Being reduced in rank."
"Yeah, I'm sure it will for a while, but I still think being a captain is the best thing for you. I told you that quite some time ago, if I recollect rightly."
"Yes, I know. I know. I guess... well, if circumstances were different, maybe it wouldn't bother me as much. I *have* been pretty keen to get out from behind that desk, it's true."
"What circumstances were you thinking of? Spock?"
"Yes, Spock, in a word. You know, when Sarek told me ... when he said I had to go back to the Genesis planet, I didn't think much about details. Or much about what would happen later. I mean, someone says to you 'we can raise this guy from the dead' you don't exactly ask a lot of questions."
"You *were* pretty busy making arrangements."
"Bailing you out, you mean. Yeah, sure. And yet--funny it never occurred to me to wonder about the future. Who knew there'd be one? Stealing the ship, and then the destruction of the Grissom, and David's death--boom, boom, boom. So fast. So much disaster, before I'd even dealt with ... with Spock's death."
They sipped quietly for a time.
"And then Vulcan." Kirk spoke with effort.
"Well, you know I was caught the same way, Jim. Remember when T'Lar pointed out all of a sudden that 'fal tor pan' was dangerous, and what did I want to do about it? Wouldn't you think it'd occur to a physician that separating two psyches, or souls, or whatever you gonna call 'em, would be just a mite tricky? Never crossed my mind until she asked."
McCoy stirred a footstool with a gentle shove, gestured at the calm evening all around them with his glass. "Beautiful night, ain't it, Jim? 'It is a beauteous evening, calm and free ...' Always loved that. I miss evenings, in space. Dawns too. That damned dark's so absolute. Planetfall always shocks me."
"Yes, it's a fine evening. I know what you mean. The day they figure out how to reproduce shifts in season and daylight on board, the Fleet will cut space-depression in half. Put you out of business, Bones."
"And won't it make me glad, Jim-boy. Sometimes I think you believe I *like* sick folks."
"That gleam in your eye gives you away. I bet your granddad *loved* those pointed needles, didn't he? Confess ..."
"It's true they didn't break down the way the hypospray sometimes does. There've been landing parties ... Jim, this what you really wanna talk about? History of the Fleet's medical technology?"
The doctor studied his companion, his friend of many years. Grooves of pain on his face, yes, they were familiar. That tic beside one eye most evenings, before the booze kicked in. That too. Drumming fingers? Nope, hadn't started yet.
"You know, Jim, havin' Spock parked inside my head told me a bit about you. Or mebbe confirmed what I'd suspected all along."
"And that would be?"
"Jim, you love pain. Always have. Probably that's what makes you what you are. If you didn't love pain, couldn't live with it, you'd make a lousy commander. Gotta send crewmen to their deaths. Order torpedoes fired. Wage war. No pain, no command."
"All right, all right. Yes, sure. Command school goes all through that, the psych profiles, the testing scenarios. You know as well as I do that Kobayashi was just one of them. What's your point?"
"I'm gettin' there, don't rush me. Remember Alexander? Alexander the Great? Remember the Academy tactical sequence on Great Commanders?"
"When Gary began calling me 'Julius Kirk', yeah, I remember."
"Well, do you remember when Alexander had to destroy the fort on his supply line? The fort that was full of women and children, and he had to torch it?"
"Alexander said, 'It was necessary.' For the sake of his command, his men, he had to do the necessary thing, and go on."
"You're telling me--what?"
"Maybe it's time to accept it. To accept that Spock is not coming back. He doesn't really remember, Jim. He doesn't remember you, how things stood with you."
"Tell me something I don't know, Doctor."
"My point is that maybe it's time to move on, concentrate on your job, let Spock go. Move on to someone else, maybe. Accept the pain, move on."
Kirk exploded from his chair and began pacing the length of the balcony. If he had had a tail, he would have lashed it. "Why don't you ask me to cut off my hand? It'd be easier. Look, do you think I'm *enjoying* this? To see Spock every day. To work with him, every day. To talk with him, argue with him, to know that he knows intellectually that we were bondmates, and know--that he knows nothing. Doesn't feel, doesn't care. He went up Mt. Seleya an empty shell, and came down the perfect goddamn Vulcan. Wouldn't Surak be proud.
"Well, I can't let go. I won't let go. Bones, he was my *bondmate*. No one else for me, Bones, no one but Spock. Even if I'm on my own, even if he *never* comes back. He's the only one. Even if his mind never reaches for me again. I can't 'move on'."
The doctor rested his head against the padded back of his chair. That bad, then. But probably not surprising. He knew first-hand the depth of Spock's feeling for James Kirk before the accident--everyone did, who considered that the Vulcan had offered his own life for his captain. For the Enterprise, sure, for the crew--but anyone who thought at all knew that the sacrifice was for Jim Kirk first and foremost.
Not a little ironic to find that the sacrifice had been not Spock's future, but Kirk's.
McCoy sighed. Quietly he said, "So what are you gonna do, Jim? You can't go on like this."
Kirk slammed a fist down. "Can't I? Watch. If this is what it takes, yes, I can. Spock's alive and well. Mmm, almost well. He gave his life so we could go on, and we'll damn well *go* on. You, me, the whole nine yards."
The captain moved more calmly back to the railing, looking north over San Francisco, which was beginning to glitter in the dusty haze of the soft evening.
McCoy said easily, "Jim." No response. Again he spoke. "Jim. You're killin' yourself. If you're gonna let him go, *let* him go. Transfer away. Or transfer *him* away. It's unreasonable to torture yourself bein' around him all the time."
The captain turned with a lop-sided smile. "A transfer certainly would be logical, wouldn't it, Bones?" He sighed. "But you know, the three of us, the Enterprise crew, we make a great team. Even the Fleet brass recognize that, or they'd have busted us up long ago. No, I'll manage. I'll find a way."
He drew a deep breath and continued. "It's more important that we go on, even when we limp. Not logical, but true."
"Limping, my ass. Limping is one thing. Pretending not to notice you're hemorrhaging from an artery is another matter altogether, my friend."
"Enough, Bones. Enough. I'm doing the best I can. Don't push me harder."
McCoy rose from his chair and gathered their glasses. He headed in to the living room to refresh the drinks, and a few phrases from the antique music-player floated toward him.
now it seems to me some fine things have been laid upon your table / but you only want the ones that you can't get
//'the ones that you can't get',// McCoy mused. //ain't it the truth.// He splashed some soda into his own glass, poured his companion's neat. One advantage of shoreleave was first-class booze, readily available. Goddamn synthehol was enough to drive a man to drink. //just the kind of 'illogical human statement' Spock'd be on in a minute,// he reflected to himself. //god, I miss that man. too.//
He found the master board and hit Repeat Track, and raised the volume.
"Come on in here, Jim, somethin' I want you to listen to."
Captain Kirk stuck his head in the door with a quizzical look. Clear piano notes began to fill the room, then a man's voice, hardened with years of tobacco and liquor.
Desperado, why don't you come to your senses
Kirk stalked across and switched off the sound. He turned, with almost an angry look on his face. "You telling me I'm being self-indulgent?"
"Hey, it's your music, not mine. I assume it's part of the James T. Kirk Western Music collection? Horses, broad open ranges, desperadoes, banditos . . ."
Kirk flopped into a chair and closed his eyes. "Guilty," he said. "Though actually it's the piano that gets me. Piano sounds kind of like Spock's harp used to, back when he still played it."
"Ah, Jim. I'm sorry. Look, you want me to do this, instead of you? You want me to request a medical leave for you, or a transfer? I could certainly get Spock transferred off active duty, considerin' the state of his memory. I already told you he's not exactly firing on all thrusters."
"No, Bones, no, that's not the answer. It is true, though, what you say about me and pain. It *is* important to me. But I never figured on this particular pain. Never thought much about loss before. I hate that word, loss. I hate not being in control of things." He looked around for his drink, tossed it off in one gulp.
"You know, Bones, I don't feel like we're gettin' anywhere here. You mind if we call it a night?"