Hold the tribbles, people! They are just going to get put in a box for Blob to play with and if the little monster is half as energetic and rambunctious as it is now then you might well be sending them to an undignified death.

I know it was an uber cliffhanger, but look, see, next post! And early too! I am going for a scan after work and I very nearly decided to post it later tonight but I was slightly afraid I wouldn't have a house to come home to if I did!

Thank you as always for a wonderful ride! I hope you've had fun with this story and see you at the next xx.

"Spock, get him out of here!" Spock had moved more on instinct than desire, responding to Chapel's barked order in a fractured sort of daze, one that broke as soon as he touched Jim's bare skin. He was so cold it physically pained Spock to touch him and the shock of it provided a physical jolt from the stunned fear he'd inhabited.

"What's happening?" Jim demanded, his eyes half lidded and bleary. He'd only just begun the process of warming up and the latent effects of the hypothermia were still very much in act. He was dazed and confused. Spock wished he had a similar excuse for his inability to understand what was happening here.

They'd succeeded. They'd saved Leonard. This….this wasn't what was supposed to happen.

Spock carefully pulled Jim off the bed and away, giving M'benga and Chapel the extra room to work on McCoy.

"Bones? Bones!"

"Jim, let them work." Spock attempted to soothe him in vain. He pulled Jim further away, all of his weight limp in Spock's arms and his bare feet dragging on the floor. Of course he wouldn't cooperate. It was in Jim to rebel, not yield.

Jim continued to struggle, trying to get back to McCoy who wasn't responding to the frantic attempts to resuscitate him. M'benga and Chapel worked with the fluid efficiency that was born of countless experience, but beneath that was the edge of manic urgency that only came when the life one was trying to save was so very dear to them all.


"Jim, you have to let them-" Spock hushed him, trying to walk the fine balance of keeping Jim from interfering in his confused and panicked state, and injuring him in the process. There had never been a time when Jim had truly fought against him with all of his strength and will, and with the exception of that one, shameful time, Spock had never unleashed his full strength on Jim in return. Now though, weakened by the procedure as he was, Jim was fighting, hard and stubborn.

"No! I won't leave him, Spock!" Jim snarled. Spock's hands were wrapped around the bare skin of Jim's forearms, keeping them pinned against his chest. The unguarded contact gave him no protection from the violent barrage of Jim's emotions. He was psy-null – about as psychically sensitive as an ion blast to the face, as McCoy put it, but even if he could have shielded, Spock was certain he'd not have the wits to do it right then.

M'benga and Chapel continued to work furiously as Spock was utterly overcome, both with his own fear and that which Jim added.

Suddenly he could see his future ahead of him, a dark wasteland and the death of everything he knew and loved. He saw Leonard's death. He saw it break his daughter's heart and destroy his mother's health. He saw Jim, his eyes dead even before his body followed, reckless and broken and without McCoy to repair the damage, following his friend only a few months later. He saw himself, ripped apart by the loss of his brothers, drowning in an agony he knew only one cure for. But Kolinahr was just another kind of death for him really, one both feared and longed for. He turned his back on Nyota, on Starfleet and the stars themselves.

This was what it was to love.

And to lose.

"Time of death thirteen-twenty-three ships time. Doctor attending, Geoffrey M'benga."

Spock was pulled out of his trance by the words, caught by the sight of his friend, pale and still on the bed and the harried, exhausted faces of M'benga and Chapel. It seemed like only moments since Jim and Leonard had been bickering like usual. Seconds, no longer, but he knew it must be more. He felt it in the weakness trembling in Jim's limbs, in the numb ache where cold flesh met his own.


He was back on that precipice, watching his mother fall. In the volcano, waiting for death. In Engineering, watching it steal his friend just as he understood what that word even meant.

Jim's agony was breathtaking. His own too raw to bare touch.

He could see the future ahead.

He would not stand for it.

"Do it again." He ordered M'benga, hauling Jim back to Leonard's side, mindless of his boneless weight.

"Spock-" There were tears on M'benga's face. He hardened his heart to them.

"Do it again." He growled, propping Jim against the bed and turning him so they were face to face. "Jim. Jim, look at me." He implored, his fingers hovering over the meld points on Jim's skin.

He saw the broken deadness slowly start to seep across Jim's blue eyes and shook him hard. "Jim! Help me find him."

Jim's eyes widened, full of tears and he nodded rapidly, his face turned trustingly into Spock's hand.

Spock didn't wait. He reached out and touched Leonard's meld points, his skin somehow warmer than Jim's despite everything.

He could be killing all three of them. He found he didn't care. If this didn't work, they were dead anyway.

McCoy's mind was a whirling vortex, death stealing away everything about him that they knew and love.

Spock was not thinking. He used nether finesse or care. He hurled himself after McCoy's retreating spirit, dragging Jim behind him.

The spark still remained, not yet relinquished to death. Spock saw it, he felt it, and he threw Jim towards it, trusting.

Jim was psy-null. McCoy was not, and as Jim's thoughts collided with the last of Leonard's consciousness, it did what Spock prayed it would and latched itself on to the floundering thoughts, sensing familiarity and love, and adhering to it tightly.

And with Jim clinging to McCoy, Spock dug his heels in and pulled.

It was a losing battle, fighting against the pull of the vortex, trying to escape the gravity of a black hole…

But they had done it before. They would do it again.

So he pulled.

McCoy sat up with a jolt, choking on oxygen as his lungs screamed back to life. The suddenness of his actions sent Jim and Spock crashing to the ground, their coordination and steadiness completely shot by the meld.

"Oh my god!" Chapel breathed, both she and M'benga surging forward to stabilize McCoy's condition.

Jim was unconscious against Spock's side, out cold from either the shock or the drugs still in his system. Spock no longer had skin contact with him, but he could feel the surge of his emotions anyway, jumbled and confused.

No more so than McCoy, whose thoughts were practically screaming in Spock's head.

That, he thought dimly, might be a slight problem.

But his consciousness fled before further concern could trouble him.

"I hate you all."

Spock knew that tone, even floating on the edge of consciousness. When Nyota sounded like that, he usually ended up stumbling awkwardly over an apology.

Sure enough, as his eyes opened her face was the first thing he saw, wan and worried, softer than the anger in her voice.


"Hey," she whispered, brushing his hand with her fingertips. "How are you feeling?"

"Confused." He admitted. "What happened?"

"You are a self sacrificing asshole, that's what happened." She said, glaring at him properly this time. "My god, Spock, you nearly died. You all nearly died."

He followed her gaze and found Jim beside him and McCoy besides Jim. They were both sleeping peacefully and for a moment he contented himself with watching the steady rise and fall of fragile human breathing. They were alive. They were safe. It had worked.

"We did not." He said, still somewhat confused.

"No." She sighed. "You know, you three deserve each other. You're all as stubborn as hell. Not to mention selfish, reckless, idiotic, suicidal, insane-"

"Your opinions on my personage are not as flattering as they once were." Spock commented wryly.

"I can continue in Vulcan, if you like?" She simpered, much of her anger fading away.

"Please do not. I fear your linguistic fluency in my mother tongue might cause irreparable damage to my ego."

"I doubt it. You've been spending too long with Kirk." She said, smiling and taking his hand. Hers was the terribly human habit of expressing concern as anger. That had taken much adapting to.

"It's always my fault." Jim mumbled, his eyes still closed.

"It is always your fault." Nyota agreed. "Even when it isn't."

"What did I do this time?" Jim yawned tiredly, not yet fully coherent. That followed, his eyes popping open as he lurched upright. "Bones!" He saw McCoy beside him and shook him roughly. "Bones! Bones, wake up!"

"For christsake Jimmy, let me sleep man!" McCoy moaned, turning to bury his face in the pillow beneath his head.

The potent rush of pure happiness that spiked through Spock's senses echoed Jim's exultant cheer. Spock reeled in surprise, unable to account for the foreign emotions in his head.

"You're alive!" Jim cheered, tugging on McCoy's arm like a particularly giddy child. "You're alive, you're alive!" His excessive joy dragged McCoy back to consciousness and the doctor stared at Spock with wide eyes as Jim practically crushed him in an enthusiastic embrace.

"I've missed something here, haven't I?" McCoy frowned at Spock, absently patting Jim on the shoulder.

"I am very pleased to see you awake, Doctor." Spock said honestly.

McCoy's eyes widened further. "Pleased?" He muttered. "I'm dead, aren't I? The hobgoblin's smiling at me and Jim's lost his goddamn mind. No other explanation." He was speaking more to himself than the rest of them.

"No, you asshole!" Jim beamed. "You're alive! How'd you feel? Any tingling? Tingling's bad, right? Or is it good? I can't remember but holy shit you're okay!" He held McCoy at arms length to get a good look at him, babbling away at high speed. Then a moment later he was releasing the doctor, turning where he sat and throwing his arms around Spock, who went stone still in shock. "You did it! You did it! Thank you, thank you…"

"Okay kid, you need to calm down before you give the hobgoblin a nervous breakdown." McCoy said, peeling Jim off Spock with his customary eyebrow raised.

Nyota was chuckling at the bedside, her smile hidden behind her hand as Jim shook his head violently. "No, no I'm totally calm!" he said with a manic energy that made Spock nervous and McCoy bewildered – Spock didn't need to see his face to know that, he could feel it. "You're okay! Spock's okay! I'm okay. No one is dying and we're all alive and fuck me, we should have a party or something."

"A party?" McCoy echoed cautiously.

"With cake." Jim nodded, flopping back against the bed. "Hey Uhura." He said absently.

"You're ridiculous." She told him fondly. "You all are."

"What did I do?" McCoy protested.

"Well you gave Chris and Geoff a heart attack with your Lazarus impression for a start." Nyota told him. "But you'll be pleased to know that there is no sign of the xenopolycythemia left in your system."

Spock felt McCoy's growing trepidation. So too it seemed did Jim, who sat up again, all levity pushed aside behind gentle concern. "Bones?"

"I died?" McCoy frowned. "I don't remember."

"Good." Jim said firmly, and Spock suddenly had a flash of bright lights and searing pain, of fear and determination and relief.

McCoy felt it too. "What the hell was that?" He demanded, looking at Spock accusingly.

"What was what?" Jim frowned, unaware of what was happening. He, unlike Spock and to some extent McCoy, had no control over his emotions at all.

"That!" McCoy growled. "What the hell did you do?" He asked Spock angrily.

"What I had to." Spock responded simply.

"What does that mean?" McCoy demanded.

Jim looked between them both, lost. "What's going on here?"

"You were dying. I took measures to see that it did not happen." Spock found himself reluctant to reveal just what measures they had been, but he could not understand why.

"Stop beating around the damn bush. What did you do?"

Spock met his gaze firmly. "I pulled you back."

"How? What did you do?" McCoy pushed. "I can feel you in my head. It is you, isn't it?"

"Technically it is both Jim and myself." Spock hedged. "Though we are not in your head in the literal sense."

"Wait, I'm in Bones's head?" Jim cut in. "How am I in Bones's head?"

"I think the question should be why are you in my head?" McCoy scowled at Jim. "You can't feel it?" Jim shook his head, eyes wide. A moment later he whimpered and clutched his forehead. "Shit," McCoy hissed, catching his elbow and supporting him. "I'm sorry."

"That was you?" Jim murmured.

McCoy didn't release his arm and turned back to Spock. "You created a telepathic link between us." He accused.

"It was unintentional." Spock admitted. "I can teach you to control it. With practice, we can force it into dormancy."

"That's not the point!" McCoy snapped. "I wasn't dying was I Spock? I was dead, and you could have killed yourself coming in after me and Christ, you dragged Jim into it as well! What were you thinking?"

"That I had no other choice." Spock responded icily, shaking off Nyota's hand and her worried glances between them.

"You should have let me go!" McCoy yelled.

"That was not an option."

"That was not-"

"Okay! Time out!" Jim said, forcing himself between the two of them. "Cool it! Look, Bones, Spock made the right call, okay? You not being dead? The single best outcome."

McCoy turned his glare on Jim. "And you're happy with two people just pitching up camp in your head?"

"It's not like you're random strangers is it?" Jim shrugged. "Maybe if it were anyone else, sure. But it's you and Spock and I trust you more than I trust myself most times. I mean, it's not ideal sure, but compared to the alternative?" He reached out and took Bones's shoulder in his hand. "Look at me, Bones. If this was the only way? You honestly mean to tell me you wish Spock had let you die?"

Leonard McCoy was a man of deep and complex emotion, and they had been locked up tightly for too long, afraid of being aired for so many reasons. In many ways the three of them were very much alike. They all hid their true feelings beneath masks, be they of logic, irritability or carefree charm. Without those masks, there was no hiding.

It was a freedom Spock had long craved, a price Jim considered low indeed for what it bought, but that brought with it great fear for McCoy, who kept his hurts close and quiet.

Eventually he shook his head, his eyes bright with tears. Spock scarcely noticed Nyota silently leave them to their privacy.

Jim's smile was gentle and warm. "It'll be okay." He promised, glancing over his shoulder and fixing Spock with the same look before touching his forehead to McCoy's. "You're alive and we're all together. Everything else we can deal with."

McCoy nodded against him. "Yeah. I'm…yeah. I'm sorry Spock."

"There is nothing for which you need to apologize." Spock reassured him. "If anything it is I who-"

"No. No, you didn't do anything wrong. I'm being an ungrateful bastard, I should be thanking you and-"

"Bones." Jim cut his rambling short. "Stop it. It's okay. You're allowed to be angry you know."

"That's my line." McCoy grumbled.

"It's a good line."

"Stole it."

"Sucks being on the other side, doesn't it?" Jim said fondly.

"Don't think this is going to make me go easy on you next time." McCoy huffed.

"Of course not." Jim rolled his eyes. "God forbid you pass up on the chance to - ow! Did you just insult me in my head?" He accused indignantly.

McCoy snorted and smirked over Jim's shoulder at Spock. "You know this could actually be useful."

Spock raised a curious eyebrow. "How so?"

McCoy turned a wicked smile on Jim, who shuffled back towards Spock in alarm. "Well that's grossly unethical." He grumbled.

"I will teach you how to control it." Spock promised them, marveling as always how humans could bound so rapidly between such contrasting emotions, the sensation even more astounding now he had it in stereo.

"Bones…why do I want carrots?" Jim accused. "And salad and cottage cheese who the hell eats cottage cheese?"

"Very useful." McCoy nodded, ducking under the pillow Jim threw at his head.

"Why am I even glad you're alive again?" He huffed.

"Good question." McCoy smirked. "Especially since you're overdue your physical."

"Spock, teach me how to tell him to fuck off in my head." Jim demanded.

"A telepathic link is not intended to be your personal means of delivering childish insults to one another." Spock glared at them. "You do enough of that as it is."

"No I know." Jim brushed that aside. "But seriously, teach me. I can say it in Vulcan if that makes you feel better?"

"Vulcans do no tell one another to 'fuck off' Jim."

"Oh please, it's all in the subtext."

"What would you know about subtext?" McCoy demanded, spurring the argument ever onwards. There was something soothing about, something natural, comfortable, and so very nearly lost to them.

Spock found himself leaning back and letting the words wash over him. He pushed their consciousness to the edge of his own until they were simply a consistent buzz in the back of his mind, reassuring him that they were safe and well.

It was not ideal, but they had encountered worse. Spock would teach them and in time they would probably come to forget all about it. But Spock would not, and that buzz would ground him even when he floundered the most.

It was but a small price to pay, and one he did so gladly.