As soon as the three of them felt the solid floor of the Enterprise beneath their feet, Bones and Jim fell to the ground, laughing and shouting for joy; Spock simply sat, looking around at the lights around him and listening to the roar of the ship under and around him. Scotty and the bridge crew watched this with worry, eyes narrowed as they tried to figure out what the three of them could have encountered in order to make them act like that. That was when they noticed them. Jim and McCoy jumped up, running over to them and hugged each of them tightly in turn, laughing the entire time.

"Scotty! Oh God, Scotty! Sulu! Chekov! Uhura! We never thought we'd see you again!"

"Captain? Doctor?

"It is good to see you again…" Spock said softly, brown eyes bright. The three of them looked at each other before tearing their winter costumes off, leaving them in their partially-sodden, sweaty uniforms.

"Captain, what happened?" That voice drew their attention automatically, and the three of them turned to regard two pale faced security officers that they thought they would never see again.

"Mathews? Greare?" Jim asked softly, turning to look at the two security officers that had been dragged away from them. "You're alive? What happened? We thought you were dead!"

"We thought the same of you three, sirs; it's lucky for you that the planet wouldn't let us out of orbit and that Scotty over there wasn't about to leave without you. As for what happened… I couldn't tell you, sir…" Greare answered, blushing slightly. "I sort of fainted after a few seconds; Mathews did the same… But you, sir, what happened to you three?"

The three of them stiffened, looking at each other quietly and then turned back to the Ensign. "You don't want to know, but it was terrible, Greare… It was terrible."

As far as the bridge crew, Scotty, and the ensigns knew, that was the end of it. Their heads of command had been pulled into something they weren't interested in talking about. Something that hurt them all and something they put behind them swiftly.

The three of them had been unable to find a reason for the town, for finding out what it wanted, why they had been called, but they weren't all that sure they wanted to know. There was no being that they could understand, no force, just a town.

Next moment they had been giving orders to take them out of orbit, and they had all gone their separate ways, ordering the snow gear burnt as they went to get showered and dressed. McCoy scrubbed and scrubbed the blood and grit away, rubbing it out of his hair and watching as it swirled down the drain, happy to see it go. Jim and Spock shared a bathroom, so took turns, Jim going first as Spock spent time meditating, replacing and checking each and every mental layer that had been torn and building them up, stronger than they had been.

Now that he knew the weak spots, he could work to cover them up.

When he opened his eyes, Jim was sitting quietly in front of him, hair dripping and dressed in a clean uniform. Jim gave him a soft smile once he saw that he had his attention and gave a nod. "Your turn."

"Thank you, Jim…" Spock inclined his head, just the tiniest hint of a smile tilting a corner of his mouth, declining to mention the fact that his captain was stating the obvious. He stood up and moved to the head.

"Spock…" The half-Vulcan paused in the doorway. "Um…this is going to sound odd…but do you mind if I stay here tonight? I, uh…there's these…videos in my room, you see…and I can't…find them all, and it's just… I don't really want to be alone. Not right now."

Spock paused, blinked at him and inclined his head. "No trouble, Jim. Would you like to invite the Doctor as well?"

"You wouldn't mind?"

"It is as you have said, Jim. No one really wants to be alone at this time." With that he entered the head after grabbing a robe that Jim recognized as Vulcan in design, likely his off-duty wear. McCoy had put them on advised medical leave for a few days to recover. As Jim made his report, he hoped that the Brass would agree with them.

Back in his room, McCoy rested his head in his hands in front of his console, waiting for a reply that might or might not come. When he had explained the situation to Uhura, with as few descriptions as possible, she had understood immediately and agreed. When something finally picked up it was basically an answering machine. Bones sighed, but knew he had reached his daughter's personal phone and decided to chance it.

"Jo….Jo, it's your dad. I know I haven't talked to you in a while, honey… It's just… It's been hard. When yer mom and I broke up…it was never about you. It was never about you. I've always loved you, Jo, yer my little girl, and your mom and I broke up because of…us. The both of us, your mom and I. We had problems we couldn't overcome, and I left like a coward because I couldn't stand being around her. You…you never entered my mind. I love you, Jo. I always will. I'm so sorry things didn't work out between your mother and I. I wish I could be there, see you grow up. You're going to be a heartbreaker when you get older, you know… I'm rambling. I'm sorry. It's just…"

"Daddy?" McCoy straightened in his chair, turning to look at the view screen and looking at the small, brown haired girl staring at him, her eyes wide and her hands covering her mouth. McCoy turned to look at her directly, eyes welling up at the sight of her.

"Oh, God, Jo…. I'm so sorry."

Joanna McCoy laughed and tried to hug her monitor in futile joy at seeing him. "Daddy, you called! I thought you had forgotten about me, Daddy…"

"I could never forget about you… Jo…never." If he found that he wanted to hug his own monitor he didn't say, simply stared at her with moist eyes. "It's so good to see you. You've gotten so big."

Joanna laughed, and father and daughter talked long into the night.

But when Joanna hung up, and McCoy was left alone in the darkness of his quarters he felt a sliver of unease slowly creeping up his spine. He stood up and blinked when Uhura contacted him. "Sorry, Doctor, but Jim requested that I let you know that you could go to Spock's quarters when you were done," she summarized quietly.

McCoy sighed, pushing the button to reply. "Thank you, Uhura…"

"It's no problem, I'm glad to be of assistance."

With that McCoy grabbed his sleep clothes and left to Spock's quarters. He came in during a rather animated tale by Jim, his arms waving over his head and his voice rising and falling. When they noticed McCoy the both of them turned around to smile at him on one side, while the other inclined his head in recognition. Bones looked down and smirked at the sight of the multiple pillows and blankets strewn about the floor of the Vulcan-warm room, and the bowls of food laid out.

"This a sleepover?"

"Yep. Isn't it great?" Jim asked, throwing his arms over head, smirking sarcastically; when Bones opened his mouth to snark, Jim cut in with a quiet, "Spock's never had one."

McCoy's mouth clicked shut, and he nodded. "Well. Guess we'll have to fix that now, won't we? Normally there's movies brought to this thing. Do we have anything?" he asked, smirking back, the two of them amused beyond belief at the thought of having a sleepover of all things.

Jim pointed to a projector at the back corner, giving him a wide smile. "Loads. Usually the movie genre of choice for these things are scary movies, Mr. Spock, but considering recent events… I think it's safe to say we could all agree on a comedy?"

"I don't know, Jim… I don't think I'm going to find any horror movie as jarring as I used to, now that I've been in one…" McCoy placed his hands behind his head and leaned back onto Spock's bed, expression mildly amused. Spock was watching the both of them in confusion.

"Perhaps I am mistaken, but I thought that 'sleepovers' were usually events held by teenage girls…"

The two of them looked at each other and burst out laughing. "Well, if you want to we can possibly find a way to paint your nails."

Spock straightened up. "That will not be necessary."

The both of them cracked up laughing. "You're right, Spock, it is, but I think a little randomness would be beneficial after that shit we just got dragged through, so… yeah, sleepover's our best bet. You know…keep the monsters away with just a bit of humor… So, comedies, yes or no? Or do we want an action movie?"

They continued discussing movie genres and the pros and cons of each, Spock placing his two cents in where he deemed it appropriate.

When they finally couldn't keep their eyes open and were sleepily watching the ending of a comedy that none of them found particularly funny, Jim began slowly whispering to his two companions stories about Tarsus IV. The two of them listened quietly, slowly waking up with every word. When he finally trailed off, they sat there quietly, not saying a word, until Spock began whispering quietly, speaking of his mother, his planet, speaking of what it felt like and what his life had been like. They gave him their undivided attention, and finally he tapered off. Bones finally began telling the both of them about his conversation with Joanna.

When they were finally done they lay in silence, quietly contemplating everything that had happened until they couldn't keep their eyes open.

They might never understand why the Town turned in such a manner, what exactly happened to those people, why the officer was spared…although they had a theory to that. She had survived the storm that had torn the roof off of the Town Hall, killing all the people that she was supposed to help save, the others in her jurisdiction dying as well. She was trapped in a town that tested her, left her alone for years, looking for survivors that didn't exist - her test, her failure, her pain. The agony of one person was enough to shift the entire area, make it feed off of any pain and despair that came in from others. They had been its main course. It was not a particularly encouraging thought, but it didn't change what it was.

It was a night to remember, even if they had nightmares every time they fell asleep. It was worth it just to wake up and know that they had friends who knew more about them than anyone else would ever hope to know. But the best part about that was they didn't care; they still were there when the other woke up, ready with grumbling 'we're safe', 'everything's alright', 'we're still here'.

It was a feeling that seeped into their bones and drove deep in their hearts.

Jim never was able to find the last of his porn stash, and the first time Uhura intercepted a communication and placed it on speaker only to have the signal break up and come out as static, the three of them that had been in the Town jolted to attention, McCoy falling off the railing he was sitting on and the other two standing up. The rest of the bridge crew had stared at them, and they slowly sat down, trying to play it off as nothing.

It hadn't worked, and they had been forced to laugh. Except for Spock, but Jim and Bones had recognized the slight tic at the corner of his mouth. He had been laughing just as hard, and it was a privilege to be let in so deep, no matter the cost; they would always have each other.