A/N: Thank you guest flah7 for reviewing again! The necklace dialogue was one of my favorite parts of Beyond. *g*

Chapter 5

McCoy was heavy, like someone had siphoned out his bone marrow and replaced it with lead. Everything felt weighted down, and he wanted to drift back into the calm sea of oblivion, but a persistent sound kept buzzing in his ear.

"Bones, can you hear me? Squeeze my hand if you can hear me."

The voice seemed achingly familiar. McCoy had never really been able to turn down the owner of it. He'd followed the kid into space, after all. But what did Jim want? Oh, hand… Now that McCoy concentrated, he realized he wasn't just a congealed lump of sinew and bone, but that he had arms, and there was a warm pressure encasing his left palm. He tried to squeeze back.

"That's it," Jim encouraged. "Open your eyes."

That seemed an even more daunting task, but McCoy tried to obey. It felt like peeling paint off a bulkhead, and he immediately winced at the glaring brightness. Something about this situation seemed vaguely wrong, too. Usually he was the one calling Jim back from the brink of…whatever the hell was making him feel like he'd gone ten rounds with a gorn.

Wait, why did that sound familiar? There was something important McCoy needed to remember. He forced his eyes open and blinked blearily as Jim's face slowly coalesced to his left. The kid broke into a beaming smile.

"Hey. How are you feeling?"

Was that a trick question?

Questions… No, questions were bad. There had been lots of questions. About Jim, and Spock, and the Enterprise. McCoy squeezed his eyes shut. No, no, no. Don't think. Don't think. He couldn't let them take any more from him.

"Bones?" Jim called worriedly.

Was Kirk actually here? Or was McCoy's likely hemorrhaging brain conjuring a hallucination in his last moments? Maybe this was a memory being projected on the screen…although McCoy couldn't recall where it was from—and dammit, he was trying not to think.

"Doc?" Jim queried, that tenor of concern still seeping through.

There was the whir of a medical tricorder. That was safe, McCoy could let his mind go there… No. He wrenched his thoughts away from the mechanisms and various settings that could potentially be used for harm by anyone with the know-how to manipulate it.

"I'm not detecting anything," someone else responded. "Leonard, are you in pain?"

Pain, yes, focus on the pain, not on identifying the doctor or revealing anything about him. McCoy held his breath, focusing on the way it made his head feel like it was splitting open. Maybe it was at this point. Maybe Selmar would just scoop out what he wanted that way.

"Bones, you're safe," Jim picked up. "You're back on the Enterprise."

He really wanted to believe that, but it could have been a projection, another memory torn from his head. And he couldn't risk opening his eyes and triggering more.

"If I may," a third voice spoke up on his other side, calm and level. A hand settled on his shoulder. "Leonard, you are no longer connected to the device. Your thoughts are your own."

That…that couldn't be a memory. Not if Spock was talking to him about current things. Hallucination was still a possibility, but McCoy slowly let out the breath he'd been holding, and decided to open his eyes again. Jim was in the same place, looking at him with tense concern. Dr. M'Benga stood behind him, tricorder in hand and expression professionally schooled as a doctor's should be. And on his right was Spock, gazing down at him with Vulcan neutrality. McCoy cautiously roved his gaze around the sickbay. The only monitor was the one above his head with his bio readings, not some invasive slideshow of past events.

"Jim," he rasped.

Kirk started to smile again. "Yeah. You gave us quite a scare there, Bones."

"Where's Selmar? And Uhura? The crew, did he hurt anyone?" McCoy started to push himself up, but Spock's hand was still on his shoulder and easily pressed him back down.

"Easy, Bones," Jim said. "Everyone's fine. And Selmar is dead."

McCoy stiffened. "Dead?" His first feeling was relief, and maybe a little satisfaction, but that was followed by horror at himself. He was a doctor; he wasn't supposed to revel in anyone's death, even a sick bastard like Selmar.

Jim nodded. "The symbiote and the host. We figured out his plan and stopped him before he could get near the ship or crew."

Then, McCoy hadn't caused the downfall of the Enterprise or anyone's death at Selmar's machinations. But he had endangered them. God, did Jim even know what McCoy had done? He must have, if they knew about the neural device. Shame washed through him, and he barely heard M'Benga explaining the medical stats of McCoy's condition. He found he didn't quite care at the moment. Jim had saved them all once again, but it had been a close one. It usually was, but this time it had been McCoy's fault. He'd violated his oath to do no harm. Or, Selmar had violated it for him. But it made no difference, as the result was the same.

Spock read over Dr. M'Benga's report for the second time, perplexed at its contents. While the acting chief medical officer had cleared Dr. McCoy for duty three days ago, McCoy had overridden the overseeing physician's judgment and declared the opposite, that he was, in fact, unfit for the active roster. And according to M'Benga's report, Spock saw no reason for the negation.

However, he had not seen McCoy since the doctor had been released from Sickbay. Perhaps a complication had developed that Spock was unaware of. As First Officer, it was his duty to ensure the ship's CMO was well. But more than that, it concerned him that McCoy had apparently retreated into isolation. Normally Jim would be the one to corner the doctor and discover the nature of the problem and resolve it, but the captain had been busy with several follow-up reports to Starfleet about the incident. Thus, it fell to Spock to seek the doctor out.

He headed to McCoy's quarters where the logs showed the doctor had been spending most of his time. McCoy had barely ventured out to retrieve sustenance from the mess, which was also of concern. Spock hit the com button on the outside of the door. A moment later, it swished open to reveal Dr. McCoy, one hand bracing himself on the wall, the other holding a glass of amber liquid. His hair was disheveled and there were dark circles under his eyes.

"What do you want?" the doctor grumbled.

Spock arched a brow at the man. "You are inebriated."

"No, I'm drunk."

If Spock were prone to spontaneous external expressions, he might have sighed. "I do not believe this is an advised method of recuperation."

McCoy scowled. "Well, you're not a doctor, so shut up." He turned and staggered his way toward the couch.

Though it was not an open invitation to enter, neither was the door shut in his face, so Spock stepped inside. The door slid closed behind him, once again dousing the room in the low lighting McCoy had the controls set to. Spock roved his gaze around the haphazard condition of the space—bed a mess of tangled sheets, PADDS scattered across the desk and some on the floor…four empty glasses with faint brown residue in the bottoms sitting on a small center table.

"Doctor, your sobriety is necessary for your performance of duties," Spock pointed out.

McCoy grunted as he plopped on the couch, some of his drink sloshing over the rim of the glass. "I haven't been cleared."

Again, Spock lifted a dubious brow. Did the doctor not think that Spock read the reports? Or was he too intoxicated to remember things accurately? "Dr. M'Benga has provided a thorough examination and re-certified you."

"Dr. M'Benga is an idiot."

Spock found himself somewhat caught off guard. He knew for a fact that Dr. McCoy did not hold his colleague in such disregard. This show of hostility was both unfounded and uncharacteristic. "Doctor, I fail to see the logic in you depriving the Enterprise of her CMO."

McCoy let out a derisive snort. "The logic, Mr. Spock, is that the Enterprise is better off."

"That is an incongruent statement."

McCoy slammed his glass down on the table with a discordant clink. "Dammit, man, I'm compromised!"

Spock simply stared at him. "You are emotional. Something alcohol does not temper." Perhaps it would be better if Spock returned when McCoy was sober. Though, given the evidence, that would not be in the foreseeable future…

"You're damn right I'm emotional!" McCoy exclaimed. He shook his head in apparent disgust. "I'm probably the one person on this whole ship who knows the most about everyone. I'm their doctor! And that was used against you all. Against you and Jim. Don't you get it, Spock? I can't be trusted!"

Spock found himself utterly astounded. "Is that what you believe, Doctor?"

"Those are the facts, Spock," McCoy said bitterly. "Thought you'd appreciate them." He snatched up the glass again and drained its contents.

Spock thought he was beginning to see the problem. "I do. And I can tell you that you are mistaken, on several counts. Are you aware how the neural device is intended to function?"

McCoy shot him a dark glower. "Yes, Spock, I'm very aware of how it functions."

Spock ignored the venomous tone. "The device forms a link to neural pathways, extrapolating signals in the brain in order to project them onto a visual medium. I have studied the mechanisms, and it is meant to be a relatively smooth process."

McCoy rolled his eyes with a scowl. "What's your point?"

"That the experience nearly killed you. And it was not due to an incompatibility with your mind," he added before the doctor could provide that protest. "I have reviewed the logs of your time under the device. When Selmar asked you for codes, you gave him an image of the captain's personal vault."

McCoy's face twisted with repugnance. "I know, Spock."

Spock could admit that, at times, Dr. McCoy was a brilliant man, but at others he was remarkably dense. "Leonard, the only thing of 'value' Jim keeps in that vault is saurian ale. When Selmar asked about the first officer, your mind produced an image of the necklace I gifted to Nyota."

"Which he used to track and capture you, I know." McCoy surged to his feet. "And I know you insist you don't feel anything, but I'd damn well hate me for that."

Spock did have to admit that when it came to Nyota's well-being, his normally careful measure of control and composure was greatly tested. But he would never blame someone for something beyond their control. And he would certainly never hold any ill feelings or thoughts toward a friend who had suffered such atrocities.

"Doctor, there are countless things you could have divulged to Selmar. Things that I confided to you about New Vulcan, details of my work that you were privy to. Instead, you gave Selmar the necklace."

McCoy pinched the bridge of his nose. "I'm too drunk to follow you, Spock, because you seem to be making my point."

Oh, but how the doctor could test his patience sometimes…

"For each point of interrogation," Spock said earnestly, "you gave up only the most innocuous details your mind could summon. Humorous anecdotes. Rather than allow your thoughts to go where Selmar intended, you forced other information forward. I believe that is why the neural device caused such significant damage." Spock regarded McCoy with no small amount of respect. "Leonard, you showed a degree of mental fortitude that is both admirable and remarkable. Contrary to what you believe, you protected the integrity of this crew to great detriment to yourself. By those actions, you are not only trustworthy, but to be commended for valor."

McCoy gaped at him, mouth slightly parted in a dumbfounded expression. But Spock had been around humans long enough to recognize the warring glimmers of hope and doubt in the man's eyes.

At last, Dr. McCoy swallowed hard and pushed whatever he was feeling back behind his prickly exterior. "My god, Spock, that almost sounded like a compliment."

"As I said, I am merely correcting your erroneous summation of facts."

McCoy let out a small smirk, a trace of his usual temperament returning to the surface. But then his eyes clouded with haunted memory. "You- you're sure? About…I tried so hard, but I didn't think it did any good."

Spock nodded. "I am certain, Doctor. Selmar may have used the information he brutally extracted, but he did not get what he originally intended."

McCoy ran a hand over his hair. "Well…" He cleared his throat. "I guess that's something."

"It is the only thing that matters." Spock cast a pointed look around the room. "Now, I suggest you get some proper rest and refrain from further alcoholic consumption."

McCoy rolled his eyes as Spock turned toward the door.

"I'll, uh," he spoke up. "I'll rescind my last report."

Spock paused to incline his head in acceptance and approval. He was pleased that Leonard would be all right.

Jim felt like an awful friend. He'd barely been able to check on Bones with Starfleet contacting him almost non-stop. At first there were lots of discussions about what to do with the two alien prisoners, and then more discussions after one of them passed away, and finally even more when it came time to turn over the last surviving war criminal. Jim was glad to be rid of him, and didn't plan to give him a single further thought. All Kirk cared about was making sure his crew was safe and sound.

Which, now that he finally had a minute, he realized couldn't be said of his CMO. From what he'd heard from a few crew members, McCoy had hardly left his quarters and was avoiding everyone. A brief conversation with Dr. M'Benga confirmed that Bones wasn't even willing to resume his duties in Sickbay, which was a big red flag. Usually Bones threw himself into his work when he was stressed. Jim had figured McCoy would take this whole experience hard, and he wished he had told some of those Starfleet admirals to call back later.

Jim opened a private channel from his ready room. "Kirk to McCoy."

"McCoy here."

"You had anything to eat today, Bones?" he asked without preamble.

"What are you, my mother?"

Jim smiled. The gruff response was actually encouraging. "I'm gonna take that as a no. And neither have I. Meet you in the mess in ten?"

There was a prolonged pause before McCoy responded with a tentative, "Alright."

"Great. Kirk out." Jim closed the com. That was easier than he'd anticipated.

He headed down to the mess, arriving just as McCoy did. Jim furrowed his brow as he took in the shadows under the doctor's eyes. They weren't as prominent as he'd been expecting, though, so maybe Bones wasn't doing that badly.

The mess wasn't very full at this time, so they grabbed some trays from the replicators and picked out a table in the back corner for some privacy. Jim watched McCoy pick at his food, eating a bite only once every minute or so.

"You doing okay?" Jim asked.

McCoy shrugged one shoulder. "Yeah."

"It's okay if you're not. What Selmar did…"

Bones flinched at the name.

"You can't blame yourself," Jim hurried to say. "No one here or at Command does."

McCoy set his utensil down. "I know. And I did, at first. But then I had a talk with Spock."

Jim's brows shot upward. "You talked with Spock?" he repeated. Those two were like oil and water…despite the friendship they'd formed over the years, Jim couldn't quite picture Spock dealing with the usually emotionally charged McCoy.

Bones shrugged. "The pointy-eared hobgoblin makes sense on occasion."

Jim just shook his head. Man, he wished he'd seen that bonding session between the two. For Bones to agree with Spock's logic…oh, Jim was gonna be playing that card a lot in the future. He tamped down his mischievous excitement as McCoy's expression fell a fraction.

"But…I do think I need a little more time to fully…deal with everything," Bones admitted.

Jim nodded in understanding. "I'm here if you want to talk. Or have a nightcap."

McCoy's lips curved upward. "I'll take you up on the latter. Just don't tell Spock; he doesn't approve of alcohol as medicine."

Jim scoffed. "What does he know? Alcohol doesn't even affect him."

McCoy straightened. "Speak of the devil."

Jim craned a look over his shoulder and saw Spock and Uhura entering the mess. Uhura spotted them and immediately made a beeline for their table, Spock trailing behind.

"Hey." She smiled at McCoy. "How are you doing?"

"Fine," Bones replied, but at least he sounded a little more genuine about it. "I've been cleared for duty."

"Glad to hear it," she said.

"You doing okay?" McCoy asked.

Uhura nodded, and slipped her arm in Spock's. "Nothing some good company and a cup of tea can't cure."

Jim frowned as his gaze landed on the blue stone hanging around her neck. "You're still wearing that?" he blurted.

Uhura shot him a perplexed look, then followed his gaze to the necklace. She reached up to finger it. "Why wouldn't I be?"

Jim exchanged a look with McCoy, who seemed equally mystified. "Um, well, I just thought you'd take offense to the whole tracking device thing."

"It is not a tracking device," Spock interjected, and Jim thought he sounded somewhat miffed, which only provided further amusement. "It is a Vulcan amulet made of vokaya, a memory stone."

Jim fought to hold back a full grin. "That happens to emit a signal easily tracked," he pointed out, glancing at Bones again.

McCoy put his hands up. "Leave me out of this one."

Uhura put one hand on her hip. "That signal brought us back together after we'd been lost and separated. I find that rather romantic."

Jim shrugged. "Okay, sure."

"Which is why I had one commissioned for Spock also as soon as we arrived at the starbase," she added.

McCoy made a startled choking sound. "You did?" he asked, perking up slightly and smiling almost wickedly at the Vulcan. Jim grinned too. Oh the joke possibilities…Spock on a leash, Spock being radioactive when he sets off alarms…

Uhura narrowed her eyes on them. "You know what, considering you two seem to get into trouble more than us, I'm thinking Spock and I should have some made for you."

Jim blinked. "Uh…"

Spock's eyes glinted with a hint of smugness. "I concur. It would be most advantageous to locate the captain and doctor when they go missing."

"Hey!" McCoy protested. "There is no 'when' with me. For Jim, yes."

"How did this get turned around on me?" Kirk exclaimed.

"You really need me to make a list?" Bones retorted. "Because I'm sure Spock could recite every single incident in chronological order."

Jim shook his head with put-upon exasperation, but the truth was he was glad to see his friends, his family, whole and well and together again. Because if he could say that at the end of the day, then it was a good one.

A/N: And that's all! Thank you to everyone who followed, favorited, and reviewed and indulged my little jaunt into this fandom. I hope to write more for it again!