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Soul's Rest, Soul's Excitement

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"I find your propensity for self-sacrifice alarming, Doctor."

McCoy looked up, his face wan and tired, to face the Vulcan spectre in the doorway to his quarters. He sighed, scrubbing his hands through his hair, declining to move from his seat on the side of his bed.

"Not now, Spock. I'm not able."

Spock raised an eyebrow, the only change of expression he would allow himself. Though it would hardly have mattered. The doctor did not look at him, staring instead at the limp dangling of his own hands, now resting across his knees. Something twinged inside Spock. Anger, perhaps. Fear. Or something else altogether, something for which he did not have a name.

"I apologise for disturbing you, Doctor. Nonetheless, I do not think this can wait until another time."

And there. A surge of response beyond weariness, a flash of genuine reaction. McCoy looked up at him, a flare of temper in his eyes, and that aggravating twinge inside Spock rejoiced. Illogical, in the extreme. But then, that was rather why he was here.

"Listen, Spock. I've had a long day, alright? The Vians did one hell of a number on me, and healed or not, I'm not able right now. I know you're angry. I know Jim's angry. But I just ... I can't do this now."

He trailed to a stop, the exhaustion once more the most visible portion of his expression, his entire body curling forwards beneath it. There were no wounds. Not anymore. But everything about the man screamed of pain and of weariness, of a man who had suffered and was not yet recovered from it. Were it not that Spock still had the shield he had thrown across his own emotions in the Vians' laboratory, the ruthless control that had allowed he and Jim to escape, he would have flinched, he thought. He would have reacted, in some shape or form. He would not have been able to help himself.

But he did have that shield, even still. He had retained it deliberately, perhaps, held it firm in anticipation of this very encounter, for his own safety and for McCoy's. There was anger in his breast. There had been from the moment he had felt the sting of the hypo against his back and realised that McCoy meant to die in their place. He could feel it, hot and seething. He dared not unleash it. Not until at least he had said his piece.

"I do not wish to cause you pain, Doctor. Please do not believe otherwise. I wished ... I am not certain. But I believe I wished to ask if there was ... something I could do. Some help I might offer. I do not enjoy seeing you in pain."

McCoy blinked at him, startled. Confused, even, and too tired to properly react to it. At another time, Spock might have expected some snide response, some witticism thrown up in sharp defense or to disguise gratitude. But McCoy only stared, stupefied. Worn past his ability to fight altogether.

"I'm already healed, Spock. I don't reckon there's much else you can do at this point." And he smiled, slightly, to take the edge off. To let it be known he was grateful nonetheless. The thing in Spock's chest spasmed violently.

"I could ..." he started, and then stopped. Considered. And finished, regardless. "I could make you forget, if you wished." As he'd done once for Jim. "I could remove the pain from your mind, or dull it enough that it would not disturb you--"

"No!" McCoy cut across him, oddly violently. Spock blinked, and the doctor made a visible effort to calm himself. "That is ... I'm grateful for the offer, Spock, but no thank you. I like my memories where they are, thanks."

Spock frowned. "Doctor, I would remove nothing without your permission. I would not attempt to harm your mind."

McCoy held up a hand, pain and sympathy and unease flashing across his features in quick succession. "I know that, Spock. I know you'd only do what was needed to help me. That's not ... that's not the problem. Alright? It's something else."

"Are you certain, Doctor? You are unwell. You are visibly exhausted, and yet when I came here, you had not attempted to sleep. I believe there to be a reason for that, and I believe that we both know what it is. Even if I dulled the memory enough to prevent dreams, would that not ...?"

"No," said McCoy, again. More quietly, almost gently. He looked up at Spock, his head tilted against his shoulder where he perched on his bed. Spock blinked at him, carefully. "Spock, I ... Look. I don't know how to explain this. But I don't want you to take it away. The memories, the ... What happened. I don't want you to take it. Even it means I don't sleep for a week, for a year. It matters to me. What happened down there. I don't want to lose it."

Spock found his eyebrow creeping up without much of his permission. "That is ... not a logical desire, Doctor." An understatement. A great understatement. Again, all he could allow.

"I know that!" McCoy snapped, half desperately. He came to his feet, stalking two steps towards Spock. "Damnit, Spock, I don't pretend to be logical. When have I ever pretended that? I just don't want to lose this, alright. What happened down there. I ... I paid for you. For the both of you, to keep you alive. That means something. I want to remember that it means something. I want to remember ... how much you both matter to me. How much I'd be willing to pay."

Spock stared at him. It was ... He couldn't do otherwise. The thing in his chest had leapt, a sensation he had no understanding of, and in its wake all his thoughts and actions had been choked off. He stared, blankly, and could not interrupt.

"You were angry," McCoy went on, standing vibrating in front of Spock, his hands knotting and fluttering at his sides. He held Spock's gaze, stared defiantly up at him, and Spock's thoughts were oddly empty in the face of him. "I know you were. You're angry every time, and I understand that, I do, but I couldn't have made a different choice. Not ever. You and Jim ... you're mine, alright? Not to own, not to ... to use, to have, none of that, but just to protect. To keep safe. You're worth dying for. Both of you. I want to remember that, even if it doesn't make sense. Can you understand that? Even a little bit?"

"I ..." Spock struggled, muted between the shield in his thoughts and the emotions in his chest, and McCoy didn't let him finish. Couldn't, perhaps. McCoy stepped close before Spock had managed more than the word.

"You're mine, Spock," he said, reaching up to rest his hand in the centre of Spock's chest, palm over the place Spock's heart would have been had he been human, an oddly desolate expression on his face. "It doesn't ... it doesn't have to mean anything for you. You didn't even really have to know. It's not for you. Just for me. I just want to remember how much it matters, is all. I'm sorry."

Spock swallowed, the edges of his control gently disintegrating within him, and felt his arm move without conscious thought, felt it rise to hover beside the doctor's face, fingers spread and questioning. McCoy flinched immediately, though his hand didn't move from Spock's chest, and reared his head back out of range.

"Spock, I've just said--"

"I know," Spock said across him, his voice calm if oddly hollow, his eyes piercing into the other man's. "I would not forget, Doctor. I would not take from you without your permission. Please believe that. I want ... I wish to show you something. I don't have words. I would share something with you. Will you allow me?"

McCoy stared at him, frozen. He licked his lips, fear and unease and something else warring in his features. And then, mutely, he nodded. Just once. He tilted his head towards Spock's fingers once more, allowing them to brush across the psi points at his temple. Allowing Spock's mind to merge with his.

The surge of suddenly clarified emotion hit like a rampaging sehlat. McCoy's pain, his exhaustion, they flooded forward as a tide, and behind them ... a desperation, a fierce determination, and that other thing. That clearer, less tangible thing, bright and near-overwhelming. A lightness of spirit and of soul. Possessive, protective. Something that once upon a time Spock had only imagined in the context of the plak tow, but this had none of that violence. This demanded nothing, needed no appeasement. It was not possession as a mate demanded possession, was not instinctual, or not in that way. It was simply ...

Mine, thought McCoy, painfully, helplessly. Without lust, without expectation. His hand pressed against Spock's chest, and in his mind there was everything Spock meant to him, everything Jim meant to him, their bodies his to put back together, their natures his to defend, their friendship his to cherish. Possession without ownership. Possession that bound the possessor, and not the possessed.

Spock closed his eyes, the last of his shields crumbling, and cupped both his hands around McCoy's face. Gently, as gently as he could, while his mind poured out in return, and strove to show the doctor ... what he felt, in his turn.

Horror. Terror. Pain. Fury. The need to fight, to protect, to offer himself in their stead. The surge in his chest at the sight of their pain, the echo of it in his own chest. The desire to stand between them and any harm, to stand between them and death, the horror when he found himself incapable. That thing, that soundless, wordless thing, that held their value above his own, that knotted in his chest beyond the means of any Vulcan control to remove. The thing that needed them, that wanted them, that would die for them.

{If the pain our friends are willing to endure for our sake is a measure of our worth, Doctor, then you are not without value. Indeed, to some, you are valued beyond price. If we belong to you, myself and Jim, then by the same measure you must belong to us.}

"Spock ..." McCoy breathed aloud, his voice half-strangled. Spock shook his head, and pressed his hands closer, offered his mind deeper.

{I cannot speak of this, doctor. I do not understand it. I do not know its name. But I would have you know it. I would have you see, for the next time you would offer yourself to torture in our stead. I know not what it is, but it is yours. Do you believe me?}

He opened his eyes, looked at the man held between his hands, and McCoy stared back at him. He was weeping. Openly, without sound, and Spock almost flinched from the sight of it. Tears trailed silently past the pads of his fingertips, and were it not that Spock could feel as McCoy felt, were it not that he knew they were from joy and not sorrow, he would have flinched.

"I don't know what a Vulcan might call it," McCoy said, hoarse and hesitant through his tears. "I don't know what it means to your people, Spock. But to me ..." He stopped, his hand curling into a fist in the cloth at Spock's chest, a shaking knot of bone and skin above Spock's breastbone. "It feels like love, to me," he whispered, and through the meld came a spiral of fear, of joy, of that wordless, desperate thing.

Love. Perhaps love. Desireless, but not passionless. Not the love of mate, of wife or husband, but love nonetheless. Something deep, abiding. Possessive and protective. Something that meant mine. Yes. Perhaps, Spock thought, that was a kind of love.

"You are mine, Leonard," he said, letting his hands slip gently from McCoy's face, trailing them down to cup at the back of his neck, to cradle his head, his mind, his soul, without the searing connection of the meld. "As you mean the word, so also do I. For you, and for Jim. If perhaps ... not quite the same way." There was something else with Jim, some tinge to the feeling that was not present with McCoy, but he wasn't sure how much that mattered. Only the tone changed between them. Not the quality. "I lay no claim upon you. I will not. But as you love, so do I, and in that I believe we belong to each other. As Jim is my soul's excitement, you are my soul's rest. I ... would ask that you remember that. If you can."

McCoy only stood for a second, his chest heaving silently, trembling between Spock's hands. The exhaustion was back, a fatigue that had reached up and sapped the last of his strength all at once, but it was not weariness Spock felt through their remaining touch. Joy, even still. A hollow brightness, empty and singing, where pain had been lanced away and left only relief behind it. There was a silence inside him, and it centered on Spock's presence, and drew courage from it.

"I'll remember," the human said softly. "Always, Spock. I don't know that that's a thing you can forget."

No, Spock thought. While McCoy crumpled gently in his arms, while he carried his friend back to his bed and put him down to sleep, hopefully, without nightmares. No, it was not a thing one could forget.

Or at least, it should not be.

---

The doctor -McCoy- rested back against the wall of his father's house, sitting on the ground with his head tilted back and his eyes closed. In the shade, out of the direct sun, which was certainly wise, but perhaps the lack of glare only made him look more washed out. Exhausted, battered, weary beyond belief. For some reason, even with all the turmoil and fragmentation inside him, the sight struck some chord of memory in Spock. It prompted something, awoke something beyond the veil of his recent death and resurrection. He didn't know what. There was too much that was uncertain now, too much without name and without memory. But it was there. It moved within him.

"Doctor?" he asked softly, stepping out of the sunlight even as the human's eyes flickered open, sharpening as clouds of tired confusion were forcibly dispelled. Spock watched them track towards him, watched first recognition, then alarm, then a strange, muted joy appear inside them. "Forgive my intrusion. I wondered if I might speak with you?"

McCoy smiled, wide and wry, and gestured to the ground beside him with an elegant wave of his hand. "Well sure, Spock. Whatever you need. Pull up a floor and tell me what's on your mind."

Spock raised an eyebrow, glancing down at his off-white robes, then to the dusty ground, then to the laughing, knowing look in the human's eyes. In his friend's eyes? Yes, he thought. This man, at the very least, was his friend. He must have been, to do what he had done. And so Spock ignored the illogic, the indignity, and carefully sat himself down at the human's side, sharing the warmth of the wall between them. McCoy's expression shifted, that joy flaring, delight and pain and open amusement. Again, something twinged inside Spock for the sight of it, and for a moment he had to pause in his purpose.

Only a moment. He remembered shortly, and found perhaps some new urgency to it, some new meaning, in the simple joy his presence brought the man.

"I wished to apologise, Doctor," he said carefully, looking away from the other man, out into the Vulcan sunlight instead. He felt the motion in the wiry body beside him, felt some shift in the shoulder against his, but remained resolute. "I am told that the effort of carrying my katra has caused you some harm, that you have endured a great deal of suffering for my sake. For that ... I am truly sorry."

There was a pause. A strange, heavy thing, though logic would dictate that silence could not have a weight. Logic did not seem to have much to do with this, however. McCoy was still, was silent, for a long, strange moment, and then ... then he chuckled. Gently. And rested his hand on Spock's arm.

"Your memories ain't all back yet, I see," he said, while Spock turned to look at him. He smiled, an odd little grin, to match the odd light in his eyes. "Still missing a thing here or there, are you?"

Spock blinked, shaking his head a little. It was true, of course, but he could not quite see the relevance. "I do not understand, Doctor."

McCoy's expression shifted. Something moved across him, something wild and deep and utterly without name, and Spock stared, bespelled. The human moved, came up onto his knees and moved in front of Spock, and there was not enough left of Spock's memories to name the emotion on his face, or the emotion that stirred in his own chest at the sight of it.

And then ... then McCoy reached out, and pressed his palm against Spock's chest, and something in Spock's mind abruptly shattered, and remade itself anew.

"Mine, Spock," McCoy whispered, his fingers flexing softly in Spock's robe. "Don't you remember? Mine."

A pain. A horror. A joy. A completion. Something that had been without name, and then gained one. Love. For one man, for two. He remembered sacrifices, he remembered loyalty, he remembered a love. Not all of it, but enough. More than enough.

"Mine. Yes. Doctor, I ..."

Sunlight moved on McCoy's face. Not sunlight. The sun was yet behind him. But joy. Warmth, love. Yes.

"You know, when you told me all those years ago that I was your soul's rest," he said, laughing faintly, his weight light and gentle on Spock's chest, "I don't reckon I thought you meant it literally. I didn't think it meant I'd be carrying your damned katra around before we were through. I thought it was your usual impossible Vulcan way of saying we were friends."

Spock stared up at him, with a fragment ... humour, perhaps. Amusement. An abiding fondness, and something deeper. They moved through him without ripple, and he smiled in his turn, raising an eyebrow.

"... Was it not?" he asked, and was rewarded by twin flashes of annoyance and rueful joy. McCoy shifted up onto his haunches, shaking his head in amusement.

"If it was, Spock, then Vulcans have one hell of an intense definition of friendship," he noted wryly.

Spock blinked, feeling the second eyebrow move to join the first, while a shock of memory ran through him. Nothing clear, nothing whole, but fragments of sensation, of meaning, circling that word, this man, circling friendship and McCoy, and also Jim, shards of fear and fury and possessiveness and defense. Fragments of memory, but whole enough to draw meaning from. Whole enough to understand.

"Doctor," he said, soft and dry and smiling. "If I am remembering the circumstances correctly, I do not believe that is an accusation that can be leveled solely at Vulcans. Do you?"

McCoy blinked, stared for a second, and then ... then he laughed, bright and harsh and ragged, and crumpled forward a little, so that Spock hastily reached up to catch him, to bear him up above him. McCoy only shook his head, warm and weary in Spock's grasp, and leaned down to press their brows together, the touch a bolt of foreign emotion, of love and grief and warmth and gratitude.

"I guess not," he murmured softly, humour bubbling through him, pain. "Ah hell, Spock. I missed you, you aggravating bastard. You know that, right? I'm real glad to have you back."

Spock swallowed, half-muted, and trailed his hands across the man's arms, wrapping up around his shoulders, cradling instinctively against his head. Cupping it, holding the mind and the soul and the spirit safe, by nothing but instinct and a memory half-remembered.

"As am I," he allowed, quietly. "I am grateful, my friend. Though I could wish it had not harmed you to bring about. I grieve that I have caused you harm. My apology was offered without memory, but it was sincere. It still is. I ... am sorry."

"I'm not," McCoy said, almost immediately. He curled into Spock's touch, let the Vulcan tug him gently down and around beside him, so that they could rest shoulder to shoulder once more. "I'm not at all sorry, Spock. I said that the first time, remember? Pain is no price at all for your life. Wasn't then, isn't now, won't ever be. You judged me right the first time. Don't start worrying about it now."

There was silence, for a moment, and then ...

"I cannot help it, I think. Your pain is my pain, and worse. I do not have all of my memories, but I think this was always so. I do not think I was ever happy with your tendency towards sacrifice, Doctor. Nor Jim's, for that matter. Will you tell me I am wrong?"

"Heh. No, I guess not. Given that I hated your guts for a good month or so after you up and died for us." He sighed, nudged Spock's ribs with his elbow. "We never much enjoy it when it's the other one doing the sacrificing. But at least ..."

He trailed off, an odd note in his voice, a vaguely shattered thing, and Spock turned to him, watched the worn blue eyes track out blindly across the desert. McCoy didn't look at him. Didn't look at much of anything, really. He was staring into something else. Memory, perhaps, or something stranger. His mind had gone distant, and Spock frowned a little after it.

"At least?" he prompted, carefully, and McCoy snapped back to himself, glancing across with eyes that were wide and startled, and then dark. Then ripe with that nameless thing.

"At least you gave me a way to get you back," the doctor said, his voice low and ragged, thick. Spock blinked at him. "You gave me a weapon, Spock. You died, but you gave me a way to bring you back, a way to stand between you and death and tell the bastard he couldn't have you. That ... That wasn't something I endured, Spock. It was an honour, and a joy. Maybe it was a pain in the neck, but it brought you back, and I wouldn't trade it for anything. It was a gift. I promise you."

There was no answer to that. Even had he had all his memories, even had he known this man as fully as he once had, Spock didn't think there could have been an answer even then. He blinked, swallowed, and then ... then held out a hand, two fingers extended in a mute offering of the only thing that seemed even halfway worthy. Without desire, even still, without lust, but not ... not without passion. A strange, hollow sensation, a brightness without end. He held out his hand, and McCoy touched fingertips to his with the same strange, half-hollowed expression on his face, that same lanced joy in his mind. A silence inside him, centered on Spock's presence.

Soul's rest.

"... Spock? Bones?" The voice was hesitant, almost wary, and when they turned as one to Jim there was even a flash of pain there, a flash of longing. James Kirk looked down at them from where he stood in the sunlight, and there was something infinitely uncertain and infinitely desperate in his eyes.

Without words, Spock felt the leap of love in McCoy through their joined skin, the tangle of warmth and affection and desire and caring that the other man directed towards their friend. Pity, love. Amusement. Mine, whispered a voice in his memory, and Spock remembered that it hadn't only referred to him. Remembered that his voice, in return, had not only referred to Leonard.

"Jim," he said, almost testing the shape of it, the memory of it, and in his memory the word had a warmth, a love, a protective possession about it. Almost like Leonard, but not quite. Jim, he thought, perhaps realised, had drawn not only passion, but desire. Soul's rest, and soul's excitement. He wondered if he had realised it before. He thought perhaps the man beside him had.

"Hey, Spock," Jim answered gently, crouching down to peer at them both, looking between him and McCoy with equal worry and equal ... equal love. Equal possessiveness, equal desire to protect. Oh. Perhaps, Spock thought, he realised now. "You two okay down there?"

"We're fine, Jim," McCoy murmured, leaning back against the wall with a small, faint smile on his lips, breaking his touch with Spock to reach out and catch Jim's hand, to tug him down to join them. "The hobgoblin here was just trying to apologise for using my head as a rent-a-shuttle, that's all."

"Ah," said Jim, with a small and perhaps uncertain smile of his own. "And what did you tell him in response?"

McCoy only chuckled faintly, and without so much as a word of warning pulled Jim's hand into his lap and then Spock's after it, and pressed them both together beneath his own. He bore down through their mutual, startled flinches, and simple held them between his palms until he was sure they were both looking at him, and both there to stay.

"I said he was welcome any time, Jim, if he thought it might save his life. I said we'd both be lost without him. Don't you agree?"

Jim blinked, still stunned, still silent, and Spock broke a little bit. Felt something crack, one last time, and realign itself within him.

"If it matters at all," he said, reaching out to brush Jim's cheek with his spare hand, feeling the warmth of Leonard's on his first, "I would be lost without you in turn. I have been, in fact. I believe I know that now. I would be lost without you both, and find myself without wish to experience such loss again."

Jim breathed. A shuddering exhale, a startled fear and a longing, and then that love. That thing between them, that voice that whispered mine, and had for so many, many years. More wild, more desirous than Leonard's, but a difference only in tone and not in quality. He breathed, and leaned his cheek into Spock's hand, and looked at them both with a smile that was like the sun's rising.

"Then we'll just have to make sure you never do," was all he said, was his only answer, and it was enough. In truth, it was more than that. An infinity. In this moment it was, Spock thought, perhaps all that mattered to him in the universe.

Mine, he thought once more.

And was content.