Neither touching nor touched – It wasn't a pretty picture; and after another moment of pained contemplation, Jim dismissed it as something he wasn't readily going to be able to solve.
"So – what?" Kirk asked, "You're advocating that I suggest my Second-in-Command bend some rules? That I order him to be selfish? Just what, exactly, are you asking for, here, Bones?"
"Aww, Jim. I don't know." McCoy shook his head, and Jim could sense his helplessness. The hazel eyes studied him for a second, then dropped, weary.
"Long as I've known you, you've been good at figuring out what motivates people, makes 'em tick. It's as natural to you as breathing… You get inside, and charm 'em, and before they know it, they're eating out of your hand. But, Spock, now, you don't know. You haven't gotten in – and something about him makes it so you won't use what the good Lord gave you to get inside. Unless you got something there to remind you, you forget what it means to be Jim Kirk."
Jim started to challenge that assertion - to say that he tried; but Bones shook his argument away with a frown.
"Truth is, Jim, we're all a little bit selfish. You, me, Sulu – even Uhura. Human beings, we want to be selfish – and sometimes, frankly, we need to be. And that's okay: We struggle to balance that desire against the parts of us that want to do better, and we mostly win. Important thing is, it's a fight we're all in together - and somehow, that makes it okay: We look around and know, more or less, we're winning the fight.
"But something about Spock makes people want to be more like him – and I am not so sure that that's all too great a thing.
"Spock has been through a lot. A lot, Jim: Stuff that, if we tried to think about it, would just tear us apart. But he keeps on going.
"Honestly, I can't even imagine what that fight must be like. But he keeps on going, somehow.
"The rest of us just see that - that he keeps going - and not the fight, at all. We have no idea…"
The doctor was silent a moment, somber; before the clear hazel eyes were directed, again, at Jim – the concern in their depths plain as a warning beacon.
"You try to be like him, Jim, and you are going to lose every time. You can't win that one: You're not him. You're not like him – and no matter how hard you try, you never will be.
"You can trust him, rely on him, keep him with you every damned second if you want to – but you will never be Spock, and it'll be a damned shame if you continue to try."
There was a long silence when McCoy finished speaking, and Jim knew there was really nothing he could say. "Are you done?"
"Yeah, I'm done." The doctor slumped in the chair, his hands helpless on his thighs. He shook his head - trying, maybe, to dispel the visions prompting his words. Then he glanced up. "Except -– "
Jim raised his head warily. "'Except'?"
"Well, Spock has had his whole life to be him, you know? Years of training, and all that Vulcan rigamarole…
"I told you: After Pike called, I got to wondering. And yesterday, while you were at lunch, I called him back."
The mere mention of lunch was enough to chase away the comment that leaped to Jim's lips, and he stared at McCoy in silence.
Thankfully, Bones misinterpreted that silence. When he spoke, his tone was apologetic: "Yeah, I know. But it seemed to me that, since it was ship's business, it was justified, and you really wouldn't mind." The doctor had the good grace to look sheepish. "And, Captain, I am telling you now." The half-hearted smile was crooked. "Hannity put the call through. She is pretty and all - and I suppose she's good at her job - but that girl does not have one ounce of curiosity."
He raised his shoulders in a tiny shrug. "Anyway, I left a message; and Admiral Pike called me right back. We had maybe ten minutes - and, given the distance, the connection wasn't all that great - but I guess he'd been thinking, too, because he just wanted to talk."
Remembering, McCoy was thoughtful as he leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. After a minute, he looked up, his face questioning.
"Jim, someday, when someone asks either of us about our friendship, what're we gonna say? Tell some story, laugh a little? Try to explain an in-joke that really makes no sense? The person asking isn't gonna get much from the words – they weren't there to know the true meaning behind them – But they are gonna get a sense of that history we were talkin' about before. They're gonna know how we feel. I am not gonna lie: Talking to Pike was a revelation to me… He and Spock were friends, Jim. Good friends: The kind of friends who got history, added up from a whole bunch of little things that you can't just tell to somebody else.
"Thinking back made Pike smile, laugh even, and he told me a story about a concert they went to – he and Jenny, Spock, some other guys on staff - and the dinner they had afterwards. I am telling you, Jim, I know who he was talkin' about, and I know it's the same guy - but unless you knew why I called, you wouldn't recognize Spock from the way Pike talked about him."
The hazel eyes were earnest, as though they might convey that feeling through the desire to do so, alone.
"The Spock Chris Pike knew was the Spock from Before – and, yeah, he was Spock - Vulcan, and all - but he had personality, you know? He had things to say that still make Pike laugh, and things he was interested in, that didn't take place in a lab. That was a guy who is missed, now, at the Academy; who people will still ask after, when they run into Pike, now and then.
"Who Chris'll still ask after, even if he has to make a call halfway across the Spur."
After a moment, he sighed, and spoke low. "Maybe that Spock wasn't always so quiet, so contained and careful…" He ended the thought, with the lift of a tired palm. When he spoke again his voice was only a little more decisive: "Anyway, he sounds like a guy I'd like to meet someday." The palm pushed down on the top of his thigh, and there was a pause as he pushed himself heavily to his feet.
"You know," he said, "before he rang off, Chris asked me something."
Jim's hand fell from where it had been pinching the bridge of his nose. He looked up into the worn face of the man in front of him - a face unable to hide all the worry, and the pain that came with his job. "Oh?"
"He wondered about some song Spock used to play all the time. Wondered if we'd heard it, what we thought… When I said I'd never heard of it, he didn't look surprised - just sad. Said that was a shame."
With one last shake of his head, the doctor headed toward the exit.
He had almost made it to the door when he turned back. He lifted his eyes from the floor to ask slowly, "You still taking Spock with you tomorrow?"
"Yes, Bones," Jim said, almost too tired, himself, to bother, "I am."
Bones nodded. "Yeah, well – Make sure you take Jim Kirk, too."
Then he was gone, and the door had closed behind him.
Jim was left, alone.