Never and Always Touching and Touched by Djinn

It is an odd aftereffect of the Fal-tor-pan, one that I do not speak of. But I can hear McCoy's thoughts. Perhaps "hear" is inexact. I can "feel" his thoughts. Yes, that is more accurate. I can feel the emotion that surrounds them, that builds as he lets himself obsess.

It is most wearing.

I have not told him, of course. I imagine he would have much to say on a Vulcan's lack of courtesy for imposing on his mental privacy. That it was "my own fault" for trespassing when I stored my katra in his mind. He would find a way to work "green-blooded" and "pointy-eared" into whatever diatribe he embarked upon. The doctor is passionate but not particularly creative in his invective.

He is not passionate at the moment. In fact, he sits quietly, in a way that is out of character for him. He is watching them. Watching her, to be more precise. Doctor Chapel.

Christine. I should call her Christine. We did, after all, share the experience of the Pon Farr. A time in which I took pleasure in her body, far more pleasure than I later took in her company. I hurt her, but I believe we both knew that I would do exactly that. And the experience freed her from her long infatuation with me. I certainly found confirmation of my own truth that day. Discovered that nothing had changed for me when I looked into her soft blue eyes and wished they were hazel instead.

I have long known the truth. That day she found her own truth. I wonder if McCoy will ever find his.

He is obsessed in a darker, more bitter way than Christine was with me. Or than I am with Jim. Perhaps the difference is only McCoy has memory after memory of Christine leaving him, telling him goodbye. A hundred last times. A hundred never agains. And then the last one. The time that really was last, only he did not know it then. And now he does.

I wonder if he would like to go back and relive it, this time with the knowledge that it was the last time for them. Would that set him free?

I do not think it would.

I would prefer not having these memories. I would wish that the time my katra spent with McCoy was free of these recollections, that he and I had never touched. But I do carry these things I should not know inside of me. Things about McCoy. How he feels about Jim, me, and her. How he loves us. How he hates us. Only the hatred he has for Jim is new, not a memory but a constant assailment as McCoy watches the woman he loves fall increasingly in love with his friend.

Christine looks over at McCoy. Her eyes narrow, as if she does not quite trust him. I believe she would be wise not to trust him. Not that he would hurt her, but his need of her is extreme. I have felt the darkness within him and have had reason to be glad that he is not a man of violent tendencies. For I should fear for both her and Jim if he were.

I on the other hand, have not always been so restrained. My primitive nature has, at times, shown itself. I must make sure I am far from them when the burning comes again. I am not sure I would not challenge her for him. In my deepest self, I feel that Jim is mine, even if there is no evidence for it, no external truth to support my claim.

McCoy glances at me. His smile is tentative. I nod back. It seems to be all he expects. I can feel no disappointment from him as he turns back to watch Christine.

It makes me suddenly uneasy that he expects so little of me. That I am the only one here who cannot hurt him. Even if I am the only one here who does not want to hurt him. Does not plan to hurt him. Will not hurt him.

This hurts.

There, I have admitted the unthinkable. I feel pain. I hurt.

Christine looks over at me now. I meet her eyes, and it is a shock as always to see how steely hers have become since the time we shared our bodies. She is not the woman I knew, and I do not believe that she loves me any longer.

She loves Jim. He loves her. It is most unexpected this love of theirs.

Most uncalled for.

I realize I am clenching my hands. She seems to smile, but then the smile changes into something less friendly. A smirk, I believe. A smirk as she watches me slowly uncurl my fingers.

She knows. She has always known. And she is not afraid to put me on notice. He is mine, she seems to say.

And I know she is right. Jim is with her, does not want to be anywhere else. I have seen him watching me, as if he is puzzled. He knows how I feel. I am sure of it. But he will not act. It is his way. To not push, not cause waves where there are none now. He will ignore the feelings he would rather not hear acknowledged.

He has no need of my devotion, not when he has hers. Yet, ironically, I believe it was his grief over my death that led him to her, his extreme sense of loss that propelled him into her arms, and into her bed. It was love for me that led to him loving her.

It is most unfair. I resist sighing. It is an indulgence that I must not give into. I am Vulcan. It does not matter what Sybok said about our pain and our emotion. I am Vulcan and I follow the Vulcan path. And Vulcans do not sigh.

At least not in public.

"Enterprise to landing party." It is the hail we have been waiting for.

"Kirk here."

"Ready to beam up, sir."

The planet's radiation field makes it impossible to use the transporter except once every four hours. We missed the first window, had to amuse ourselves--as Jim said--for the next four.

It was a painful thing. To watch them, to feel McCoy's pain, to deal with my own strained reactions.

They appeared to feel little pain. Did not seem aware of the turmoil they were causing inside McCoy and me. But I realize that the doctor and I both excel at wearing a pleasantly bland mask. We both want them to be happy.

We both want them to break apart. We both might be willing to help that process. It is a prospect that should give me pause, make me call on logic and Surak and all things Vulcan to help me overcome these base urges. But I do not call on any of those things.

As the transporter takes us, as Jim and Christine hurry off the pad, leaving McCoy and I to trail along, I instead try something different. Something new.

If I can feel McCoy's thoughts, can he feel mine?

I send him my own bitterness, my own pain. See if he will understand it, if he will even receive it.

He gets to the door and I think he will not know what I have tried. But before the door can open, he turns, one eyebrow going up in the way he has perfected. The most human rendition of my own expression that I have ever seen.

"Most people knock before they come in, Spock."

So he did hear me. I suddenly wonder if he has heard me before and has just never said anything about it.

I walk across the room as if nothing is amiss. The transporter chief will only wonder for a moment at McCoy's words.

"In private, Doctor," I murmur.

He turns, begins to head to sickbay.

"More private," I say softly.

He looks at me, his face a perfect mask. No thought, no emotion is evident. In this moment of stillness, he could be a Vulcan.

"I need a drink anyway," he says, and leads me to his quarters.

We were on the planet most of the day, and he is fighting anger and pain and some sort of emotion that I am having trouble reading. I decide not to remind him we are setting a bad example for junior officers by going off shift twenty five point two minutes before it is over. I follow him in silence, not knowing what this will accomplish but strangely unwilling to turn away from him.

His doors open and I look back, realize that his quarters are across from hers, take in the dreadful import of that. "Do they come here often?"

"No. Thank god." He is answering honestly. Not hiding, not making jokes. It is an indication of the intensity of his hurt that honesty is his first impulse. It is generally the last place he goes.

He walks to a cabinet, pours something golden into a large glass. "Drink, Spock?"

"No." He knows I do not drink. I cannot decide if he has relaxed enough to tease me or if he believes I am in a suitable state to finally desire alcohol.

He brings the bottle with us, puts it reverently on the table as he sits on the couch. I follow him, sit down, too close perhaps. I move away slightly.

He drinks. Half of the liquid is gone when he stops.

"Cures what ails you," he says, as he sets the glass down.

"Temporarily, perhaps," I say.

"Better than nothing, my fine Vulcan friend." He leans back, closes his eyes.

I am struck by how frail he suddenly looks. He has never been strong physically, but his personality is such that he seems larger than life. Even to someone with as little whimsy as me, he has always seemed indestructible.

But he is not. She can destroy him. Or he can destroy himself...over her.

"God, I'm tired, Spock." His voice is hushed, as if he lacks the strength to carry the words across the couch to me.

"You are in pain."

He sighs. "What do you know of my pain?" It is not a taunt. He is asking.

"You kept my katra safe. There is a resonance that lingers."

He lets his head roll to the side, slowly opens his eyes. "Define resonance."

"I can sense your emotions. Where your thoughts take you."

He makes an odd sound, dismissive. "Then I feel sorry for you." He sits up and reaches for his drink. The rest of the liquid is gone in one gulp.

He starts to pour another, and I surprise myself by reaching out, pushing his hand away from the bottle.

"You do not need that," I say.

He slams his glass down. The heavy crystal hits the table with a thud but does not break. "You don't have the first idea what I need, Spock."

I lean in. "Her. You need her."

His mouth tightens; he jerks his hand away from mine. "Like you need Jim?" His tone is cutting, unkind.

I have heard it many times, but never on this subject.

He immediately looks down. "I'm sorry, Spock. Forget I said that."

This time I do sigh, allow myself a long, satisfying exhalation of air and sound. "But you did say it." I wait for him to meet my eyes. "And you are right."

There. It is done. I have said the unspeakable truth. As much as I can. I love Jim. I want Jim.

I can never have Jim.

McCoy leans back again. "It's so goddamned unfair, Spock. Christine and Jim? How the hell did they get together anyway? One minute I have her, the next minute he's taken her away."

I notice that his face shifts when he says that he had her, as if he does not believe his own words.

"I'm just so damned lonely," he says, turning to huddle into the cushions, mumbling the words into the fabric.

It takes me a few moments to work out what he has said. He looks sad. Sad and old and defenseless as he draws his legs up and hugs himself with arms that seem very thin to me suddenly.

Lonely. He is lonely. I touch his shoulder gently and am assailed with his pain. Mind to mind his unhappiness is a small intrusion, but touching him is a full-scale barrage of pain and bitterness and dark empty longings.

"I am sorry, Leonard." I do not use his name often and it feels odd, as if my mouth has not properly formed the word.

He looks up at me. "I love her."

I nod.

"She loved you, you bastard." He hits at me, but the blows barely register.

"I did not love her."

"She called your name out. I'd bring her pleasure--pleasure like she'd never known--and she'd call your goddamned name out."

I look down. This is a sharing that goes deeper than I am comfortable with. Information I would rather not know.

But it does not surprise me. I touched Christine's mind during the Pon Farr. Was forced to in order to protect her, to keep her safe when she was risking all to save me. I touched her mind and felt the obsessive, destructive love she held for me. I felt it and I was moved by it. Moved to pity. Moved to action.

I had a hand in her ability to move on. To forget. It is not impossible, in the throes of a deep meld, to subtly influence someone. To move them onto a more beneficial path.

Beneficial for me. And she has never complained.

I helped her walk away from me, and in so doing, I apparently pushed her into the arms of my friend. My love.

It is beyond ironic.

McCoy is pouring another drink. I do not try to stop him this time. He drinks it fast, then puts the glass down.

I look away, unsure what to say, what to do. I feel his hand steal into mine. His skin is warm not hot. Human. Like Jim's. Like Christine's.

I turn to look at him. His eyes are red, as if he has been crying, but he has not been. He rubs at them with his free hand, and I move closer, stop his hand.

I am taken by surprise by the wave of tenderness for him that comes over me. I have not always looked out for him the way I should have. I have sometimes let regard for Jim allow me to forget that this man was my friend too, that he was in danger also. I have sometimes let Jim be the only thing in my world. The only thing I could see.

I should not have done so. For now McCoy is all that I have left. And I am all that he has.

Jim has found love. And, whether it lasts or not, it is strong now and will not be denied. In time, he and Christine may pull apart the same way they came together. But there is no guarantee of that.

And even if they do, he still will not choose me.

McCoy's eyes widen. I have not moved my hand, and I am obviously broadcasting my own pain, my own desire.

I find I do not care. Am willing to share with him, with this man who carried my katra with such care, with such single-minded devotion. Willing to share my pain in a way that would make Sybok proud, even if my brother completely shied away from this dark longing for Jim, settling instead for that older hurt that Sarek had caused.

McCoy sobs, the drink making him maudlin. "How am I supposed to do this? How are we supposed to just watch from the sidelines?"

I let go of his hand, smooth his hair back. He leans into my touch. I feel a wave of that odd emotion I sensed from him earlier. Finally identify it.

It is desire.

I let go of him. Get up slowly.

He laughs and the sound is as bitter as T'Pau's healing tea. "I'm never good enough, am I, Spock? I'm just never good enough." He stands up unsteadily, walks toward me.

He reaches for my face and I shy away.

He shakes his head, his expression becoming intense and angry. "Why am I never good enough?"

His hand is out, this time for a slap not a caress. And I catch it, hold it, feel the pain again, feel the love he has for me. Love that he doesn't show because he doesn't think I care. So many emotions battering me as our fingers touch and our skin conducts heat and errant thoughts and feelings.

"You love her," I say.

"And you love him." He moves forward, his hand tightening on mine. "And they love each other. And who the hell loves us?"

He is standing close, close enough to see that I am, indeed, aroused by him. By his passion and his anger and his willingness to seek life in me.

Although some more rational part of me wonders if we will simply be trading one obsession for another.

"It's not fair that we don't get to be loved, Spock." He presses up against me. "It's not fair that they are the only ones who get to be happy. Who get to be satisfied." His hands are running down my body, they are firm and skilled.

I realize he may love Christine, but he has been with a man before. He is too good to be a novice. Too skilled at making me tremble, at pushing me down to the couch and ripping my uniform off and giving me untold pleasure, to be unfamiliar with the differences between loving a man and loving a woman.

I am very careful to call his name out when I come.

His lips, as they touch mine, are like velvet. His arms around me are strong, not frail. His eyes though are blue, blue like Christine's, not hazel.

I must learn to forget how attractive a thing hazel is. I must learn to appreciate blue. As I bend to give him pleasure, I resolve to do that. As he moans and jerks beneath my hands and mouth, and finally calls out my name, I feel a rush of satisfaction. This is mine. This moment is mine. Not Christine's. And not Jim's. Just McCoy's and mine.

His hands on my head are very gentle. I look up at him, see that his eyes are bleak. That they mirror a feeling that is rising in me.

Second best. We will always only be second best. He pulls me up, kisses me again.

"Settling sure feels good," he whispers, as if reading my mind. He strokes my face, runs his fingers lightly over my cheeks, my temples, the tips of my ears.

I shiver. He lays his fingers against the psi points on my face, as if he can initiate a meld on his own. I feel his emotions battering at me as his fingers press deeper. Lust and affection and pain. Always pain.

I reach up, quickly make the connections, and push into his mind. He welcomes me and his mind closes around me, offering warmth and a shared space in which to ache. I give to him my own pain, feel his battering back at me. I see Christine through his eyes; I show him Jim through mine.

It is highly arousing.

We make love then, sex going from something that is comforting to something that is intensely desired. I am not in love with him. He is not in love with me. But there is love of another kind. Regard. Compassion. And reluctance to cause each other any further pain. I lose myself in him, and for the first time since the re-fusing, feel the beat of his mind in mine settle and finally find some peace.

He falls asleep in my arms, his hands pressed tightly against my chest.

As I watch over him while he sleeps, I decide he is correct. Settling can indeed feel wonderful.

FIN