Sláinte

by J. Rosemary Moss

Spock paced his cabin. Meditation eluded him; no doubt because he was still not satisfied with his decisions over the course of his first command. True, his last, desperate decision had worked brilliantly—but that was largely due to the vagaries of random chance.

Two men were dead. Arguably at least one of those deaths was the result of a poor decision on his part. And Spock had failed the humans under his command on an emotional level. They had looked to him to help bury their dead and to say words of consolation over the bodies. But how could he have done so when such distractions would have taken up valuable time—time that might have cost the crew their lives?

A call from outside his cabin distracted him. He hesitated for a moment and then squared his shoulders. "Come in," he said.

The door slid open, revealing Dr. McCoy. The human was smiling at Spock and bearing a bottle of some sort as he entered. The bottle contained Saurian brandy, from the looks of it.

"What can I do for you, Doctor?" Spock asked, forcing his voice to remain neutral.

"I thought you might like some company," McCoy said, helping himself to a chair with startling familiarity. "That was quite a time—wasn't it?"

"I presume you refer to our brief mission aboard the Galileo Seven," Spock said, remaining on his feet. He did not, however, object to the doctor making himself at home in his cabin. For some reason that Spock could not quite fathom, it seemed natural that he should do so.

"Of course," McCoy agreed as he leaned back in the chair. "I thought we should have a celebratory drink--that last minute, against-all-odds chance you took saved the day."

"But two men are still dead," Spock pointed out.

The doctor nodded as he set the bottle down. "Yes," he agreed. "We'll drink to their memories too." He paused and gave the Vulcan a grin that was both wry and apologetic. "Spock—I know I gave you a hard time down there. And so did Lt. Boma. But it wasn't your decisions: it was that damned cold logic of yours."

Spock raised his eyebrows. "I am a Vulcan," he reminded the doctor.

"I know," McCoy said. "But Spock—look, you shouldn't have been so callous about the possibility of leaving folks behind. And you should have done your duty as a commander when the men wanted you to say a few words over Latimer's body."

Spock sighed and resumed pacing. "It seemed, Doctor, that all of us would die down on that planet if we did not sacrifice one person. Do you not think it would have been a better choice to leave one person behind?"

McCoy grinned. "Boma and I rescued you, didn't we? We weren't going to leave without you."

"That was most illogical of you," Spock chided.

But the doctor shook his head at that. "We made the right choice."

"But only because my emotional and desperate decision chanced to result in our rescue."

"No Spock," McCoy said. "It was the right thing to do regardless. Even if that idea of yours didn't work, and we had all died, it would still have been the right thing to do."

Spock considered that as he stopped pacing. At length he sighed again and took a chair opposite McCoy. "I do not agree, Doctor. The needs of the one do not outweigh the needs of the many."

The doctor said nothing to that; he just regarded Spock steadily, his blue eyes revealing nothing.

Spock looked away from his gaze. "Doctor, I do not know what words would have been appropriate for Latimer's burial. If I am ever in such a situation again—"

"You talk about his faithful service, his death in the line of duty and our debt to him," McCoy explained. "It can be short and sweet, Spock. That's all the crew was looking for."

Spock shut his eyes, rehearsing such a speech inside his head. "I see," he managed. "Thank you, Doctor."

McCoy nodded. "Let's crack open this brandy, shall we? You did a hell of a job, Spock. I'm damned proud to be serving under you. And if we had all died—well, I'd have been damned proud to die with you."

"But my errors, despite my logical choices—"

"All commanders make mistakes, Spock," the doctor insisted. "Hell, Jim probably made a mistake sending us on that mission under those conditions. He's probably crucifying himself over that—we oughtta invite him over for a share of the brandy. And Scotty too—he worked a miracle on that shuttle."

With that--and without bothering to ask permission—McCoy leaned over toward the computer, hailed Jim's cabin and invited him over. Receiving an affirmative answer, he proceeded to hail Mr. Scott.

Spock realized that if Jim and Mr. Scott made their way to the cabin, there would be no time to try again to regulate his breathing and still his mind. The peace and calm of the meditative state would continue to elude him. Instead, Jim, Scotty and McCoy would spend the night talking and drinking and laughing over jokes that made no sense to Spock.

Really, Dr. McCoy should have asked him if he wished for such an evening.

Nonetheless, Spock could not bring himself to reprimand the doctor for his presumption. Perhaps, the Vulcan thought, an evening with his friends and a moderate amount of Saurian brandy would prove even more beneficial tonight than hours of intense meditation.

"Open the bottle, Doctor," Spock ordered as he rose from his chair. "I shall procure glasses for the four of us."

McCoy grinned as he picked up the bottle and raised it toward Spock. "Sláinte," he said. "And thanks, Spock—you did good."

Spock felt a hotness creeping over his face that was suspiciously like a blush. That was illogical, for while he valued the doctor's praise, he should be able to accept it without succumbing to the all too human emotion of gratification.

He turned away from the doctor and set about procuring the glasses. McCoy, no doubt, had noticed the tell-tale way his cheeks must have turned green—but for once the Doctor had the grace to keep his mouth shut.

The End