Title: Things that Never Happened I: Blue

Author: Nemo the Everbeing

Summary: After everything they've ever known falls to pieces, McCoy and Spock attempt to find some meaning in what is left of their lives. Not a happy story.

Author's note: Okay, I'm doing it. I'm writing darkness. This is nasty and gritty, and I truly want give some sort of hopeful ending, but Lord only knows at this point. Those who are willing are welcome to join me in this little journey into post-apocalyptic freakiness. Thanks to Janet for the Beta-ing.

Oh, and the idea for a series of stories entitled and about "things that never happened" isn't mine. I found this idea at Shallot's website when looking for Aubrey/Maturin slash. The site is http/ and the series of things that never happened is superb. Of particular interest for us is "All the Wonder." Aubrey and Maturin, visibly the characters and the world of Patrick O'Brien, but it's set in space. Let's just say that pushed my geek buttons very, very hard.

Chapter title notes (for geeks like me): 1: from Lifehouse's song, "Trying" from their album "No Name Face." 2: quote from the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" episode "Restless." Interlude: from Sacha Sacket's song, "Stuck in the Sunset" on his album "Shadowed." 3: from Dylan Thomas' poem "Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night. 4: from Ben Folds' song "The Luckiest," possibly the greatest love song ever written. 5: from the song "Elegia" by K's Choice, on their album, "The Great Subconscious Club." Epilogue: from Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem, "Ulysses"

Disclaimer: Only the AU is mine, and I'm still not making any money off it.

oOo oOo oOo

Chapter 1: To Find My Way

He remembers blue, or at least he thinks he does. His uniform used to be blue. Not any more, though. There's been no time since the collapse to change clothing. Most of the water is contaminated anyway, and what isn't needs to be preserved for drinking.

Even in all the browns and reds of his desolated world, he thinks that he remembers blue. Some days, blue's all that keeps him going. Especially now that they've lost Jim. They think he isn't dead. No, Jim Kirk wouldn't just die. The Pacifists got him, though, and Jim would probably be better off dead. It's terrible that he's comforted by the thought that Jim might be alive, knowing what the Pacifists do to Uniforms, but he's glad nonetheless. This way, he can dream about rescuing Jim. One clings to all the dreams one has in their world.

He remembers space, too, if he thinks about it hard enough. He remembers the sharp, clean lines of beautiful silver birds swimming in infinite blackness. He remembers laughing and joking with his friends when laughing and joking were more than fond memories, and he remembers blue. It always comes back to blue.

The whine overhead tells him that search-and-destroy is out in force tonight. Orders to shoot a Uniform on sight. Who would be more a Uniform than the legendary officers of Starfleet's flagship?

The once-renowned Doctor Leonard H. McCoy tips his head up to see the curving wings of the tiny attack fliers bearing down on them. A dozen, at least. It isn't necessary, but feels right to shout, "Spock, we've got incoming!"

The Vulcan, whose expression has taken on a caged ferocity since the collapse and the closing of the Vulcan borders, cocks his phaser rifle, charging the cels. Len reminds himself to pirate new cels off any fliers they down.

And then the tiny metal monsters are on them, and they're both firing into the air. Spock's always been better at all-out warfare than he. Natural predisposition. Len is better at the covert ops. He knows how to kill men in dozens of ways before they notice he's even there. Somehow, he remembers that should frighten him.

Not that it does.

Not anymore.

He stopped reacting to things like that when the Pacifists killed Pavel and Scotty.

Molten bits of flier crash to earth even as the gun turrets on their wings unfold. The two men scramble to grab as many twisted fliers and bits of metal from the ground as they can before taking off across the hard-packed earth. The metal burns their hands but they don't drop it. They can't afford the loss.

Phasers whine overhead and the plains become an eruption of dirt and rock. The men must go underground if they want to survive to sell their treasures. They must find the pits No guerilla resistence worth anything lacks pits. They're especially useful when fighting the flying death.

The ground directly behind them erupts. The two Uniforms barely find pit in time. Heedless of the dangers posed to his ankles (small considerations), Len dives straight into the hole and hears Spock follow.

The pit is deep and dark, twisting so that fliers can't navigate and follow. The two men slip and slide, arms scraping on rock and root as they tumble. Pain is a small price to pay for access to the pit. The pit is their link to the underground maze. If they're lucky, they'll find a good town where they can sell the metal and the flier parts. They're low on food and clean water.

They have to be careful where they go for their supplies. Len's heard rumors that some of the towns have completely shut themselves off, some have even gone cannibal. It doesn't surprise him. The collapse makes everyone crazy in some way. People with similar maladies probably draw together.

When he thinks like that, Len almost feels like a real doctor again, and not some of some glorified witch doctor. He can't believe the sort of medicine he's stooped to practicing. Last week a flier clipped Spock's forehead and Len stitched him up with an actual needle and thread. Not even an antiseptic or a pain killer for the procedure. The area is still green with inflammation. Len wonders if he has enough fliers to spring for an old dermal regenerator. It'll probably only be good for one or two uses, but the sight of those stitches makes his stomach clench. This sort of thing can't be medicine, but desperate times . . .

He's jarred back to reality as the pit opens up into the maze, and he slams into the floor, the wing of a burned flier digging into his side. Spock's heavy form falls down on top of him.

For a long moment they lay there, too exhausted to move or think. That's what the surface does to a person, but how are they supposed to get anything accomplished underground? How can they hope to overthrow the Pacifists when they're no better than clever worms?

Spock agrees with him. Len knows it even if he can't hear it.

They don't talk about the silent communication. They don't even know how it began. They do know when. Jim was captured, and Spock's thoughts began to make an entrance in Len's mind. At first, Len thought he was crazy. He's still not positive he isn't. Both of them could well be crazy. Entire damn world is probably crazy. It has every right to be.

Len winces as he stands. He notices that the flier's wing has torn a new hole in his mud and blood-caked uniform. He's cut, too, but he doesn't think he's punctured anything. Probably just scraped a rib. No bones broken, nothing protruding.

Thank God. They wouldn't have the money to get that fixed.

Spock touches the wound. He looks at Len with a question.

"It's fine," Len says.

Spock cocks his head.

"It's fine," Len repeats, not because he thinks Spock will be anymore convinced, but because it's something to say. It combats the silence.

For a long minute, Spock just stares at him. Finally, he nods.

"Do you know where we are?" Len asks.

Spock considers, blinking slowly and looking around.

Flash. An image of a familiar face appears in Len's mind. He smiles. It's always good to see her, especially since she's likely to give them a free meal. She also has connections to other units, and might be able to pass along information. Maybe even about Jim. Either that or she'll just send them on another damn-fool mission.

Len breathes out a noise that might have once been a laugh. "You have the damndest sense of direction."

Spock shrugs with his eyebrows before walking. Len falls in behind him, marveling at the changes wrought in the Vulcan. Before the collapse, McCoy would have bet that Spock didn't even know the meaning of the word "trudge". Now Len watches him and Spock trudges. His movements and gaze are listless. Spock is not wholly Spock anymore. He is suspended between the physical world they survive in and another altogether preferable world he can't quite reach.

Spock, Len decides, needs a blue of some sort, if only to sustain him. It's probably selfish, but Len cannot survive the loss of his Vulcan. He knows his limits, and that loss will be it. If Spock leaves him, Len will volunteer for one of the Kamakazi missions.

Spock's head turns fractionally.

"You heard me," the doctor says. He tries to give the sentence some fire, some anger, anything but dull monotony. He thinks his pitch varied somewhat, but he can't be sure.

The Vulcan stops and turns.

"Look," Len says, pausing to bite his lower lip and cross his arms, "I know that there's no reason to go on. It hasn't escaped my notice."

Spock's expression is unreadable.

"That doesn't mean you just up and die on me, though," Len says.

Spock continues to watch him.

Flash. Spock knows. He understands. Doesn't want to, but understands. It's not about living, it's about not dying. Maybe it makes no sense, but it's real and necessary and . . .

Len needs blue. Needs it now and fast and he doesn't care about the pain. Spock knows. He always knows. He reaches out and presses his fingers into Len's face, their only contact. Len hates to be so exposed, but he needs this. Spock needs it, too, and it's been so long . . .

The mind meld no longer requires any words. The tenuous thread that's constantly connecting their minds simply draws taunt and crashes them together. They don't gel. They annihilate. They leave nothing but vast sweeping undertow. Len feels the experience like a needle lancing his mind.

He feels the pain and horror first and foremost. Hand in hand with these is the inability and unwillingness to express those emotions. It chokes the Vulcan and presses hard at the backs of his eyes. He's filled to bursting with the pain, but will not, cannot let it go. To let it go will be to lose Jim completely. To let it go will be desolation.

This meld, though, this is safe. This is where Len can siphon off Spock's misery, taking it into himself and processing it for the both of them. They usually find a private place to do this. They want to keep the extreme emotional experience only between the two of them, but privacy is getting scarce. An abandoned tunnel must suffice.

It's been far too long since they last melded. If they hold off for too many days, Spock will shut down. If he shuts down, Len will have to go into the Vulcan's mind and retrieve him. The process is painful for both of them. The misery Len will have to process will be horrific.

They keep these cleansings regular and frequent. It's been five days since the last meld, and Spock's misery and pain slice through Len. He feels them and works through them. He's a master at dealing. He's been doing it for years. Now it's his job. He deals for two. The pain can't really hurt him. Can't strike him as deeply as blue.

Through the pain, it wells, pushing through the gaps and forcing itself into his mind. Vibrant. Real. It hurts his mind worse than Spock's pain, but it's worth it. It's blue. It's real blue captured in his mind in crystalline perfection. It doesn't matter that it will fade. For the moment, he's got it and it's got him and that's all that matters. Blue crashes over Len, blowing his mind outward and inward all at once, filling his senses and leaving them empty.

Both he and Spock know that a Vulcan should be doing the meld with Spock. Len is a doctor of the body, not the mind and soul. There are no Vulcans left on Earth, though, and Len must take the place of a Vulcan healer. One makes due with what one has. The human embraces the raging contradictions flowing through his brain, and is washed under, ripped apart by the pain, even as blue lifts him above it all.

The meld always ends right before Len passes out from the intensity. Spock knows when to disengage. Len opens his eyes to find that he's leaning into Spock, pressing close and holding tight. He's sobbing, as he does every time. His tears are soaking the Vulcan's shoulder. He can't say whether the tears come from the pain or from the blinding vision of blue. He can't say if he cares one way or the other.

The sobs slow and then stop, but they stand for a moment more. They can't pinpoint what it is that lingers between them. Maybe it's just the basic need to touch and be touched. The world has become devoid of contact since the collapse. The longing after the bond doesn't feel like the need for contact, though. It's much deeper and more complex than that.

For a second, Len gives himself over to whatever the emotion is between them. To him, it really doesn't matter because whatever the definition, it's a feeling. He never feels anymore. He's sacrificed emotion for survival and convinced himself that he's doing what must be done. He lifts his head and hesitates. Then he presses his chapped lips to Spock's cheek. It's lightly stubbled, and he can feel the scrape. His chest hurts and he steps away. Spock watches him without expression and then starts walking again. Len follows.