By J. Rosemary Moss
Spock caught the tense, clinical scent of Dr. McCoy hovering over him. He opened his eyes, inciting surprise in the doctor's. Spock pressed his advantage by gripping the doctor's wrist as he brought himself to a seated position.
"Why did the captain let me live?" he demanded.
The doctor's eyes widened at him—but he did not seem afraid. He seemed, on the contrary, captivated.
Spock stood up and applied more pressure to the doctor's wrist, making it clear that he could break it—and that he was willing to do so. He watched as pain flickered in McCoy's eyes…but there was still no fear there.
Fascinating. Spock knew of Dr. McCoy's weaknesses. He was sentimental and soft—surely such a man would break easily...especially now that Spock held his life in his hands. It would be as easy to snap his neck as to break his wrist, after all.
And yet the doctor did not fear him.
But neither was the doctor answering him. Spock could see that McCoy had no intention of volunteering any information. But he would provide the information regardless—willingly or not.
Spock continued to put pressure on the doctor's wrist as he backed him up against the wall. Then he brought his free hand to the doctor's face and placed the tips of his fingers on the doctor's forehead.
"Our minds are merging, Doctor," Spock informed him.
To his astonishment, Spock felt the doctor start to relax.
"A forced mind-meld, Spock?" McCoy thought at him. "But I can't call you Spock, can I? You're not him. But you're a version of him—you're a side of him that's ruthless enough to invade my thoughts and risk screwing with my brain."
The words, as yet, made no sense to Spock, but he could feel the doctor relaxing even further as he continued to speak with Spock through the meld.
"You've still got Spock's sense of honor, don't you? It may be half-buried and half-twisted, but it's still there. So I know that I can trust you, Spock. Not my Spock, but still Spock."
And McCoy meant his words—for with that he opened his mind completely to Spock, offering no resistance.
"Our minds are one," Spock confirmed as Bones—why did Spock suddenly think of the doctor as Bones?—bombarded his mind with knowledge and memories.
And then Spock understood. This was not his McCoy. 'Bones' did not belong here—and neither did this Kirk, Scott or Uhura.
"I feel what you feel," Spock said. And what he felt, primarily, was McCoy's utter trust in him.
Spock began to sort through the doctor's thoughts and memories. He felt McCoy's anguish and guilt at his father's death—the doctor still blamed himself. He felt McCoy's pain and anger at his wife's betrayal—and his cowardice as he ran off to Starfleet, leaving even his daughter behind.
"I know what you know," Spock said, his voice a hoarse whisper now.
But McCoy was aware of that. Spock protected his own memories from the doctor, but the doctor had a rough idea of which of his memories Spock was picking through. Yet Bones accepted his probing with surprising equanimity...and a certain wry amusement.
Spock continued to delve into McCoy's mind. He saw himself—no, his counterpart—remarkably at ease with both Bones and Kirk. He saw the bonds of affection that tied the three men together. They were not merely allies, but friends.
And then Spock felt the force of McCoy's true feelings for his counterpart. And Spock's newfound knowledge was not lost on McCoy.
"You know just how I feel about your God-damned, green-blooded, pointy-eared counterpart," McCoy thought at him. "And you know that it's only cowardice—the same cowardice that made me turn tail and flee from Jocelyn—that keeps me from seeking Spock out one night, placing my hand over his and telling him just what I think of him."
It was cowardice. That was extraordinary, for this McCoy was not the weakling that Spock had imagined. Spock knew him through and through now. He knew that McCoy's given name—Leonard—had been well chosen. This doctor did, indeed, have a lion's share of courage.
And yet the man was a coward when it came to his personal relationships. This McCoy could meet the stare of an opponent. He could endure threats and torture without betraying his friends—and yet he could not face his wife in the wake of her betrayal and he could not confess his true feelings to 'his' Spock.
Spock kept probing the doctor's thoughts and memories. He had a rough understanding now of the parallel universe to which the doctor—along with Kirk, Scott and Uhura—belonged. They had inadvertently switched places with their counterparts during the ion storm. And now Mr. Scott had devised a way to switch them back again.
Spock had all the information he needed from McCoy now…but he was reluctant to break the meld. This human fascinated him. He was far more intriguing than his counterpart. He was, indeed, sentimental and soft—but he had a steel to him that his counterpart lacked.
This McCoy would prove a worthy friend and ally. And he would prove an even worthier bond-mate. That was a shocking thought; only fools mated with their fellow officers in Starfleet. And yet Spock knew that he and McCoy—this McCoy—could successfully bond. Neither would betray the other for the sake of advancement.
But McCoy did not wish to remain here. He wanted to go home…even if that meant facing a Spock who offered only friendship to him. But if the good doctor were trapped here, he would, in time, accept Spock as a partner. Spock had little doubt of that. This McCoy had the strength of character to make the best of his circumstances.
Spock broke the mind-meld abruptly. He needed to focus on his calculations. Dr. McCoy only vaguely understood how Mr. Scott intended to return the party to their own universe. Spock would have to quickly fill in the blanks on his own. He needed to know if it was possible to return Kirk, Scott and Uhura while keeping the doctor here.
"What now?" McCoy asked, speaking out loud for the first time. But then he realized that Spock was in the midst of calculations, so he shut his mouth. He didn't open it again until he could see that Spock had reached his conclusion.
"What now?" McCoy repeated. There was no fear whatsoever in his voice.
Spock raised his eyebrows at him. "You are a fool, Doctor, not to fear me. I am not 'your' Spock and I am quite capable of harming you."
And 'Bones' did not realize just how close Spock was to harming him. Spock was now certain that he could keep the doctor behind even as the others changed places with their counterparts. And he could do so in such a way that Kirk would not realize what had happened until it was too late. He would just have to sabotage one transporter beam…
But this McCoy trusted in Spock's honor...and Spock found himself incapable of betraying that trust. There would be no tricks or treachery on his part. He would help all four officers return to their own universe.
"I know that," McCoy was saying, still with an almost annoying lack of fear. "But you're going to help us get back, aren't you?"
"Yes," Spock confirmed, recognizing that he was consigning himself to a lonely purgatory. "I am."
With that, Spock released the doctor and hailed the bridge, ordering them to cut off power to the transporter room.
"I thought you were going to help us!" McCoy shouted, not bothering to disguise his outrage.
Spock narrowed his eyes at him. "I suggest that you watch your tone, Doctor," he warned. "I am merely ensuring that your captain does not leave until we reach the transporter room."
But Spock couldn't quite leave it at that. And so he shaded the truth in his next words. He wanted to see how McCoy would react to the possibility of remaining behind. "It is unlikely that they can leave without you—I believe all four of you are necessary—but that is not certain."
Spock paused and cocked his head at the doctor. "It's almost a pity. I find you more…interesting than your counterpart."
He watched the doctor's reaction carefully. There was no mistaking it—McCoy was horrified at the thought of remaining here. Yes, the doctor wanted him. That was partly, no doubt, because he identified him with 'his' Spock. But it was partly because he found him intriguing by his own rights. Nonetheless, he could not stand to think of remaining in this universe.
"But I must have my captain back," Spock continued, "And, if I understand what your Mr. Scott intends, that may not be possible if I keep you behind."
It was a lie, but McCoy accepted it. And the relief in his face was quite evident. It was tinged with a certain ironic regret, but it was relief just the same.
Spock nodded at the door, giving the doctor a silent order to accompany him. McCoy obeyed him. Spock took hold of his arm in a warning grip—he did not think the doctor would attempt anything foolish, but it was as well to be certain—and the two men made their way to the turbo lift.
The turbo lift was empty as they entered. Spock entered the proper floor with his free hand and turned back to McCoy.
"You should speak your mind to my counterpart," he advised.
Bones stared at him for a long moment. "Why?" he managed at last. "You think—you think there's some chance that he returns my feelings?"
Spock raised one eyebrow at him. "On the contrary, Doctor, I think that highly unlikely. But I also think that cowardice does not become you."
McCoy treated him to a sour smile. He seemed to accept the criticism and recognize the irony: the Spock who wanted him belonged to a different world. His Spock cherished him as a friend, nothing more.
It seemed, then, that McCoy was consigned to a purgatory of his own.
Much later Spock sat in his quarters, considering 'Bones.' He had sent the doctor back to his own universe, along with his compatriots. And he had noted that last pleading glance of the doctor's—a glance that asked him to look after his counterpart.
Spock would do so. But this McCoy was not Bones. He had the doctor's sentimentality and perhaps a trace of the doctor's compassion—but not his courage. That had been beaten from him long ago. Spock would do what he could to protect the man, but he would never respect him.
Spock frowned thoughtfully. He had heard other tales of inter-dimensional travel. Perhaps this was not the last time that he would cross paths with the mirror version of McCoy. The possibility of meeting him again was worth researching.
But he had more important things to think of at present. Both the mirror-Kirk and the mirror-McCoy had given him much food for thought. It was time to consider whether a better, more logical world could be salvaged from the Empire.
Whatever personal satisfaction he hoped to achieve for himself with his research would have to wait. The needs of the many, after all, outweighed the needs of the few.