When I reached the bottom of the stairs, Leonard's presence was quite strong. I knew then that this was where he had hid himself.

"Doctor?" I called softly, not wanting to presume familiarity if he was still feeling threatened.

"Who's there?" The voice was a whisper on the cold breeze flowing through what appeared to be a tunnel ahead of me. I attempted to examine it, as it seemed to be lit by a gray light. To my consternation, I could not make out any details other than it was one of many tunnels, and it was the only one with light emanating from it.

"It is Spock. I have come to aid you." I kept my voice low and non-threatening. Leonard was already under stress. I did not want to add to it.

"Spock?" The wind whispered. "Spock, is that you?"

"It is I." I spoke louder this time, and headed into the lit tunnel, the area from which the wind flowed.

As I walked, I detected more of the gray light that had allowed me to manuever down the stairs. The color of the light gave me a great sense of alarm. I had expected sunlight in the space Leonard called his own, as he was generally a cheerful man.

The gray brought many questions to mind. Had his pain been deeper than we realized? Had it already pervaded his essence?

I started running toward the light, hoping to reach him before any more damage could be done. But when I came to the other side, I was surprised to come to a field of grass, lit by the gray---silver light.

Instead of the barren landscape I had just left, I was looking around what appeared to be the lands of Georgia, or some other temperate area, highlighted by Luna, Earth's moon. Sitting in the middle of the area, gazing up at Earth's satellite, was Leonard McCoy.

I immediately headed toward him in order to ascertain his current state. My footsteps made the grass rustle, disturbing his contemplation. As I neared, he looked over at me and nodded calmly. "Hi, Spock."

I nodded back, returning his greeting. "Are you well?" I asked as I sat next to him in the grass.

"As well as I can be, considering that I'm trapped." He sighed. "I don't know why I'm here. I haven't been out in this field in years."

"What is this place?" I asked, looking around at the serene area.

"My uncle's farm." Leonard replied. "I came here after my marriage and my career fell apart. Uncle Carl put me to work tending the horses. The manual labor kept me busy but it also gave me time to think."

He looked around us contemplatively. "But it was sitting in this field that changed my life. Hell, this was where I decided to join the Academy."

I examined the field, attempting to understand the motivating factors of this place. It appeared to be a good place for meditation, but I suspected it had further significance for the doctor.

After a few moments, he revealed its true meaning by pointing to the sky. "See that light? Someone told me that was a Vulcan ship. They had come to Earth to help negotiate some trade agreement. It was supposed to make the Federation richer in some way.

"Now I knew ships went in and out of Spacedock everyday. But this was the first one I paid attention to. The first one that seemed real to me.

"I had never been off the planet, but when I heard about the trade agreement,

I remember thinking that I needed a piece of that. It was probably an insignificant thing to the Federation president, but it stirred something inside me. I wasn't greedy, but Jocelyn had just about bled me dry by that point. Space seemed like an opportunity I couldn't pass up."

I should not have been surprised by the ulterior motive of his entrance into the Academy. However, our third was such a self-sacrificing being that I had not factored his divorce into my analysis of why he was on the Enterprise.

But even with that information, I was indeed surprised--and rather confused. His story was missing important details.

"I was told that physicians are adequately compensated on Earth," I commented.

"They are, when they have a good reputation," Leonard sighed. "As my divorce was being finalized, the Terran Medical Association was investigating the man I had partnered with in my practice. Don Lurie had made some shady deals to get enough money to set up the clinic and five years later, they were coming back to haunt him.

"When the TMA found out, they sent me a message saying that they wanted to talk to me about what I knew. Jocelyn saw the note, right after we had had a bad row about who got what in the settlement.

"I think she was so upset that she didn't read it correctly. From what I gathered later, she thought they were investigating me. So she told her friend, who was the town gossip. That ended my medical career in Peachtree City, Georgia. Nobody wanted a fraud as their doctor, and they weren't willing to listen to my explanation that I wasn't the one who was in trouble.

"So when I looked up and saw that ship, I knew I wanted to be up there on it, with whomever was inside. Because they had to be better than my 'friends' on Earth."

"I was on that ship," I said quietly, after a moment of remembrance. I had visited my parents on Vulcan before I took my assignment as an apprentice educator at the Academy. I had returned to San Francisco on my father's diplomatic ship, as he was headed to Earth to aid the Federation's negotiation of mining rights on Rigel XII.

Leonard blinked, then shook his head. "I should have known."

"I do not see how you could have," I replied, watching his face.

"Didn't your...other self...say that all of us being together was fated?"

I inclined my head in agreement. "Perhaps it was your fate to see my father's ship. But my other self could not have forseen what has happened to our relationship. He was bonded to his Kirk, but not McCoy."

"I had a feeling they weren't a trio in all senses of the word." He paused, looking suddenly worried. "Did we...they hate each other?"

"No. I believe that their 'fights' were the most important part of their relationship, and they never grew closer because they were content with what they had. The Elder spoke of the doctor most fondly, perhaps as a human would speak of a brother."

Leonard nodded thoughtfully. "I could see that...if it was just the two of us."

"It is certainly a reasonable conclusion. But Jim's need of both of us has intertwined us in a way I am not sure even the 'fates' could have predicted. He needs us for things the other Kirk learned elsewhere. I believe this has somehow has changedhis needs for love. Do you agree?" I laid my hands palm up on my legs, attempting to convey an openness to his thoughts on the subject. This discussion might indeed set us on paths that would change our lives. I could not appear unwilling to confront it.

"Yeah. He thinks we should be part of everything he's involved in." The doctor shook his head. "A fine mess we're in, isn't it?" He looked up at that small twinkling light again. "All because I had to get off this damned planet."

"Do you regret meeting me?" I asked, trying, but not succeeding in hiding my worry. This meld was deep. It was almost impossible for me to hide any part of myself. Although normally, this would be uncomfortable, I found myself content to show that emotion. I had come to trust this man without realizing it.

As for Leonard, it was obvious that he did not regret crossing paths with Jim. His relations with the rest of the crew were more than adequate. However, our relationship was odd by any standards, and therefore difficult to quantify. Although I truly believed our verbal battles were simply a way to compromise on our extreme differences, it was possible that I misperceived his intentions.

So I was quite relieved when the doctor shook his head. "You're a good man. You've been good for Jim in so many ways. But me and you, together with him...it could ruin what we've created. The chain of advice and decisions, the harmony of the crew. Changes in those could be disastrous.

"If we felt more for each other, it'd be different. But we don't. The whole thing feels...contrived. We both love Jim. But without loving each other, do we really have that Y'Eros thing?"

I shook my head. "We do not."

Leonard nodded. "I don't want all of us to end up like I did with Jocelyn. We're both bitter because we made bad decisions, even though we tried to fix them by divorcing. I'm starting to find myself again. But Jocelyn...

"If you asked her, she'd tell you how her life is better now that she doesn't have me hanging over her. But from the contact I've had with Joanna, I could tell it's mostly a story. I got the better deal from the divorce. She may have gotten all the money, but I found people I could trust."

"Do you believe that by joining with us, you risk losing that?" I believed we were at the crux of the matter, so I listened intently.

"I know I do." The doctor wiped his forehead agitatedly. "I have friends that will have my back forever if I play my cards right. Your other self showed me that. So I can't risk it all unless it feels like I have a winning hand.

"Right now, I feel like I'm not even holding a pair of twos. To win the pot, I'd have to take some big risks. But a marriage isn't something you want to bluff your way through."

I was familiar with the rules of poker, so I did not need to ask him for clarification. His metaphor was clear. The risk of losing the friendships outweighed the benefit of more intimate relationships in his mind.

I respected his logic, and his attempt to protect the current state of affairs between the two of us. Therefore, I decided help him by taking a risk of my own, in order to keep the equilibrium we had. "If I can convince Jim to halt his attempt to pursue a romance with you, would you consent to leave the bond as it is? You may shield yourself from us. I will teach you how to do so adequately."

Leonard raised his eyebrow. "Why should I help you leave it open like that?"

Although on the surface, his question sounded accusatory, his expression indicated that he was truly curious and did not intend to hurt me.

"I fear the bond between Jim and myself will not survive without your presence. You are such an integral part of Jim's life that his psyche demands it. But perhaps with time, I can convince him that your participation is unnecessary. Or perhaps I can convince him to live without the bond."

"Don't bet on that last one, you'd lose. Jim thinks the bond is the best thing that ever happened to him." The doctor raised his eyes to the moon and watched as the Vulcan ship passed over its image. "Yeah, I'll do it," he said softly. "Because I love Jim and because I'm willing to trust that you'll have my back if anything changes."

I inclined my head most solemnly. "I will. If you wish, I will take the t'zaled, the blood oath, to insure all know the truth of this."

"No. No. I don't want you to swear anything. I just want you to love and protect Jim...and keep me from disrupting your relationship, if you can." Leonard stood up and offered me a hand.

I took it and stood up as well.

The doctor nodded to himself, as if satisfied with our discussion. "Now that we have that straightened out, tell me how to get the hell out of here."

"I will show you." I took his other hand and briefly accessed our links with Jim to help Leonard destroy his defenses and return to consciousness.

Once he was free, I broke the meld and opened my eyes.

My first glance was at the doctor. I was glad to see him awake and appearing quite healthy. When he saw me looking at him, he nodded to me contentedly.

Now that my mission was complete, I sat up and turned to Jim. He was watching us and smiling happily. "I see your operation was a success, Dr. Spock."

I quirked my eyebrow, as I was unsure why he was comparing me to a 20th century pediatrician.

Leonard shook his head at Jim's amusement and slapped my shoulder lightly. "Thanks, Spock."

I inclined my head, then attempted to calm Jim. The bond was filled his fear that something was amiss, as he did not sense a completed three-way connection. So I immediately informed him that this was not so. "No, the bond is not finished. Nor will it be."

I held up my hand as Jim's face showed signs of panic. "Leonard and I have agreed to let it remain in its current state. We do not love each other, and it is an imposition to force him into a bond where he does not feel love from both sides."

The doctor nodded. "I'll be there for you, Jim. I'm not going to try to force you to let me go again. Spock told me what the two of you have depends on me being near, so I'll be in your head too, just shielded."

Jim shook his head, trying to deny our decision. "It's not going to work."

"It will." I went over to Jim and gently coaxed his head up to look at me. "Leonard has agreed to this compromise because he believes a full bond would be detrimental to the relationship between him and myself."

Jim, however, was most stubborn.

"You're wrong. I'm not breaking my vow. You two obviously need to work at this harder. Or maybe you just need more time." Jim crossed his arms and glared at me. He believed this state of affairs was my fault and he wanted me to fix it. Immediately.

But even if that were my goal, I would have to first take care of an oversight.

"Vow? What vow?" Leonard looked from Jim to me and back again.

"Jim took a vow of celibacy," I said when the captain remained quiet. "He swore to not engage in sexual congress until he can do so with both of us."

As I said this, I could feel Leonard's gaze upon me, so I turned my head to meet his eyes.

We exchanged worried glances. We knew, from previous experience, that Jim could not remain celibate long without it beginning to affect his performance on the bridge. He relied on sexual congress as a release for the stress of leadership and of restraining himself in ways he did not like.

Without that release, he was dangerous. His mental and physical health suffered in ways I had not believed was possible for a human.

This knowledge had come from Jim almost losing his captaincy. Before we had married, Jim hadspent a span of two months without physical intimacy. By its end, Leonard has been ready to declare him unfit for duty. Out young captain had made the Enterprise recklessly charge after a Klingon merchant ship because, as Leonard had put it, he needed a 'thrill'.

Therefore, by maintaining that vow, Jim had left us no choice but to join in a bond that we did not want or risk disaster.

end part 6 and story

I hope you liked this story. But of course we're not done yet! Please join me for the next and last story in this series, Union Amongst Three (Plathau svi'rehek). Thank you.