Notes: So, ages and ages ago, somebody (I think spockichi but I honestly can't remember) mentioned wanting to see a Spones version of Crystalline. However. Quite frankly, it exploded. When I hit 6,500 words and was nowhere near even hinting at slash, I figured I better break this down. So, meet a new series. This is the first (and friendship only) in an upcoming series. It will turn slashy later on, of course. (Yes, I am quite mad.)

Disclaimer: I do not own Star Trek 2009, and I make no profit from this work.


"Lieutenant Spock, a word."

Spock glanced up from his instruments, very vaguely surprised at the interruption. While the Captain often walked through the labs to observe, he very rarely spoke to any of the staff bar Commander Singh. While an intelligent man, and certainly versed enough in the sciences to grasp the vague meaning of their research papers, Captain Price had been an engineer before his promotion into the centre chair, and unless their research involved the transporter array, the support systems or the engine itself, his eyes did tend to...glaze over if he was captured by the labs too long.

In fact, he had spoken to Spock a grand total of twice - once regarding a disciplinary hearing involving one of Spock's colleagues, and once whilst rather inebriated at the last Christmas party, when Spock was still new to the ship.

Perhaps he was more than a little surprised, then.

"Won't take a moment," Captain Price drew him aside and with his usual aplomb and disregard for small talk, blurts out: "Effective immediately, your primary physician is being changed."

Spock had absolutely no idea why this was something to discuss with him, and certainly not on shift. He supposed it must be one of those things that humans felt needed to be said in person - which was made doubly ridiculous by the fact that he had never received medical treatment on board the Darlington. His last visit to a doctor had been his regular vaccinations at Starfleet Medical in San Francisco.

"May I ask why?" he asked.

Price grimaced. "Someone on the medical board threw a fit over the fact that we have alien personnel and no specialist." Price was not hired for his skills in tact, but then, Spock found his direct attitude rather refreshing, if a little undiplomatic. It was almost Vulcan. "We're taking on fresh staff when we dock tomorrow, including a new assistant physician. You're to report to him for a physical tomorrow afternoon, right after shift."

"Yes, sir."

It was wholly illogical, and Spock almost rolled his eyes at the situation. Vulcans were politicians at heart - better than Tellarites, even, for their ability to see right through lies, deceptions and sidesteps. Spock, raised by an ambassador, was no different. But Vulcans were politicians of a more ruthless sort; the sort that emerged from barristers, entirely used to shredding opposition without so much as twitching a facial muscle. They made condescending, frightening politicians and drew a mixture of respect and dislike for it from all corners of the galaxy.

If there was one thing that Vulcans liked even less than emotional outbursts, it was bureaucracy. They had little to no time for paper-pushers, and illogical paper-pushing was the worst sort. To occupy a place on the ship for a physician solely for Spock was ridiculous. He was one crewmember, out of three hundred and twelve aboard the Darlington on a permanent basis, and up to three hundred and forty-five in passengers, inspectors and visiting dignitaries, scientists, diplomats and officers at any given time. To hire a doctor on the basis of a single crewmember was preposterous.

Still, it was not Spock's place to argue with the powers that be, or their paper-pushing, illogical staff members, and he agreed, and promptly pushed the issue to the back of his mind.

That, it would later transpire, was a mistake.


His private console stirred to life and beeped at 1900 hours, drawing him up slowing through the layers of meditation as it continued to beep with the growing volume that spoke of an incoming live call. Having not been disturbed by the communications department to accept a hitched call (and therefore meaning that the call was originating from inside the ship), he assumed it to be one of the labs questioning whether to move his experiments or not.

He was wrong - the voice that broke into his quarters definitely did not belong to any of his colleagues.

"Lieutenant Spock?" the voice was a heavy drawl, quite unlike the clipped tones of the other scientists. It was distinctly rough, and low, almost slurred - those two words sounded like a lazier version of a sandstorm rubbing over the rocks at the primary western ridge above Shi'Kahr. "This is Dr. McCoy; I've been assigned as your primary physician, and you're down on my schedule for a physical today."

"I assure you, Dr. McCoy, a physical is not necessary at this time."

"You're Vulcan?"

Spock paused, wondering why on earth the doctor felt the need to ask. "I am."

"Then you oughta know it ain't logical to argue with your doctor. Which is me. Necessary or not, you're down for a physical, and what's more, you're late. So you can come down here, or I can come up there, but either way, it's getting done tonight."

Spock blinked again. He had, quite simply, never heard a physician - or indeed any member of the medical community - speak in such a manner before, least of all to him. It was...a shock, simply put.

"I...will be there momentarily, Doctor."

"Good. McCoy out."

He redressed, shedding his meditation robe for the more casual (although not by human standards) blacks that his mother had given to him upon his departure from Vulcan, and strode through the corridors ignoring the surprised glances in his direction. Once he had retired to his quarters at 1800 hours, it was unusual from him to be seen again before 0400, when he would make use of the ship's gym during the quieter hours. The exercise helped him to focus further against the constant waves of human thought - and worse, human emotion - surrounding him.

The nurse in the main bay almost dropped her tray when he appeared in the doorway, and blinked at him in obvious confusion.

"I have been requested to report to Dr. McCoy," he said.

"I, er...Doctor Mc - oh!" she stumbled. "Um, yes, he's..."

"This way, Lieutenant," that same low, rough voice from the call rasped into the bay, and Spock turned his head at a fifteen degree angle to eye the man dubiously.

He had half-expected a civilian Vulcan physician - there were plenty of them, and some even employed by Starfleet to administer to other telepathic species - but the combination of the voice, the words and the name had disabused him of the notion. The picture he met matched: the man was Human, probably around the age of thirty Terran years, and wore a stern expression wrought into a surprising number of lines on his face. Spock had seen enough Humans to note that this spoke of the man being facially expressive, and the words contributed to the picture of an emotionally explosive sort.

In short: this was not going to be pleasant.

He allowed the doctor to lead him into one of the smaller private rooms. It was, as were all the corners of every Sickbay, hospital ward and medical facility into which he had ever stepped since leaving Vulcan, too cool, and he aborted the attempt his body made to shiver.

"Up on the bed," the doctor indicated absently, fiddling with a tricorder. "How long you been in the service, Lieutenant?"

"Fourteen months, three days."

"And you go through the Academy?"

"Including my time at the Academy, four years, two months, three days."

"Well, your time sense is workin' just fine," McCoy shrugged, calling up Spock's file on the console. "And in four years, two months, however many days, nobody's taken a base line reading for you?"

"I endured an entrance medical exam at Starfleet Academy, stardate..."

"Since?" the doctor interrupted.

"I have been subject to routine scans."

"Yeah, scans," McCoy nodded. "But nobody's recorded a full-on physical for you since your entrance medical to the Academy, and four years is far too long to let that slide, especially for a science officer. So we're going to do it now and get these records updated."

"I see."

"I'm going to have the biobed taking your resting readings, and use a tricorder for what else I can, but this is going to have to be a hands-on physical at some parts. Now says here you're half-human," to Spock's surprise, the doctor sounded positively bored by the fact, where every doctor, physician, nurse and orderly he had ever met had been fascinated - rudely fascinated - by it, "but doesn't go into any of the detail that I need, which is primarily - are you telepathic?"

"Yes, doctor."

"How strong?"

"During my education on Vulcan, I tested within the top twenty-three percent of the ability range."

McCoy made a note on the file. "If you'd prefer not to get any telepathic interference, I can wear gloves for the hands-on part of this."

"That will not be necessary, doctor. My shielding is quite adequate."

"Uh-huh, good to hear, but I don't want you shielding more than you do usually," McCoy pointed out. "I need to get a baseline for your normal brain activity as well. Tell you what - you keep your shielding where it is for your work shifts, and I'll slap a pair of gloves on anyway. Better safe than sorry."

The amount of consideration he put towards Spock's telepathy was...strange, to say the least, but then, Spock supposed that he had been hired for his specialism in Vulcans - or at least Vulcanoid xenobiology. He had perhaps interned on Vulcan itself, or one of the Vulcan colonies.

"Very well, doctor."

McCoy remained quiet through much of the rest of the physical, guiding Spock to lie down and sit up again wordlessly as the bio bed chimed beneath him calmly, and frowning at the tricorder scans almost as though it were his everyday expression rather than the more typical expression of negativity for which most humans employed it. His facial expressions were, quite simply, fascinating - his face spoke, in ways that were completely alien to Spock, and he found himself almost transfixed, attempting to follow the patterns of his thoughts without the aid of telepathy.

"Alright," McCoy broke, breaking the reverie. "Now for the touching and the Q&A. Y'ever get uncomfortable with the way I'm touching you, or need a break from it, let me know. I doubt you're all that tactile, are you?"

"Not typically, no," Spock allowed - though he was more used to it than other Vulcans of a similar age, thanks to his mother's inability to keep her hands to herself when he was a child. She had been a very Vulcan mother in many ways - her emotional control was typically exemplary for a Human, she had encouraged his adherence to the Vulcan way of life and had praised his intellectual achievements in the same quiet not-praise as his father - but she had hugged, and often, and so Spock was wholly used to the feel of human hands.

He had not expected this, however.

When the doctor touched him, the latex was positively cold, and through it, he felt nothing.

It was almost disturbing. Even shielded, touch carried an impression of the mind of the toucher - fleeting, ghostly, almost empathic rather than telepathic imprints left to shiver on the skin. The impressions were as fine as a wet fog in the morning in a valley, or the ocean mist that drifted up from the bottom of the cliffs, but they were there. Even through the shields, they were there.

Through the physical latex shield, however, nothing came through. The doctor's touch was as empty as a machine; he carried all the imprint of the scanners that Spock had been using that very morning. There was nothing there - no mental hum, no ghostly imprint, no vague mention of the consciousness and sentience that had to linger on the other side of Spock's walls. There was nothing there.

An involuntary shiver rolled up Spock's spine, and the doctor's frown deepened slightly.

"Cold?"

"It is irrelevant."

"Well, your body temperature is at the Vulcan norm, so I can't say I'm surprised. You wearing thermals?"

"Yes."

McCoy hummed, pressing those empty fingers up into the hinge of Spock's jaw, feeling for -

"My tonsils adhered to the Human norm."

"Explains why they ain't there," McCoy nodded. "Adhered?"

"They were removed when I was - in Terran years, seven years and four months of age."

"Fair enough," McCoy said, making another note on the file. "Shirt off. I need to double-check a couple of these readings."

"Such as?"

"Shirt off, and you'll figure it out when we get there," McCoy drawled. He still sounded vaguely bored, as though Spock was not going to rile him up with stalling. As though he had infinite patience, and his will would be done whether Spock liked it or not.

That was, of course, entirely possible.

Spock stripped off his shirt and thermal undershirt, and started when a cold, plastic - no, latex, not plastic; it merely felt like it - hand began to press against his abdomen, feeling along the muscle wall in turns. After a moment, McCoy abandoned that apparent line of enquiry and began to physically count his ribs.

"Why do you not simply scan...?"

"Quicker this way," McCoy said. "They're programmed to find problems, not give baseline data. I'd have to reprogramme them and frankly, I can't be doin' with all that nonsense. I'd need to programme them to you too, or they'll give me stuff like this."

"'Like this'?"

"Like this," McCoy tapped at his sternum briskly. "That thing's tryin' to tell me your liver is having palpitations, but I know my medicine better'n that, Lieutenant. Your heart ain't Vulcan enough to register - not quite big enough, for one - but in entirely the wrong place and beatin' far too fast to be human."

"I see," Spock said.

"Fifteen pair," McCoy added vaguely, before stepping back and snapping off the gloves. "That'll do, Lieutenant. How many hours of meditation are you getting?"

"Approximately five in a twenty-four hour period, dependent upon alerts and shift changes."

"And sleep?"

"Five hours in a night."

"Alright," McCoy nodded. "Your calorie intake is too low; I'll be monitoring your mealcards and if necessary, I'll call you back in here in a couple of weeks for a diet plan. You might want to think about increasing your sugars, but we'll have to play that by ear; you're between the Human and the Vulcan norms, and because some damn fool's not kept records, I don't know which way we need to be shooting."

Spock had absolutely no idea why he would want to shoot anything, or why that would assist in Spock's blood sugar, but he opted not to question, simply sliding down from the biobed and assuming parade rest. "If that is all, Doctor?"

"Sure. Sure, that's all. Go on, git."

He remained unsure of whether he had been insulted, or told to leave - either way he left, and did not expect to see the doctor again for some time.

He was wrong.


What Humans failed to understand concerning touch telepaths, Spock had found, was that simply removing their bodies from the telepath in question did not cut off all access to the thoughts and feelings of the Human mind. Simply put, Humans forgot that touch telepaths were as capable of reading body language, facial expression and voice as psi-null life forms. Vulcans were perhaps not particularly good at it, due to their own lack of such cues, but Spock had spent years in the presence of Humans and had taught himself to respond to the most overt.

Voice was...the most difficult one.

Vulcans listened to each other's voices perhaps the most out of those cues; when not permitted to access the mind, the voice was the only medium left available in most cases, and for all that Humans regarded the Vulcan voice as monotonous and flat, Vulcans themselves had better hearing.

Simply put, Spock found the Human voice to be almost as pressing and tiring to hear for extended periods as the Human mind, and especially when there were many of them.

On landed posts - stations, planetside bases, and so on - it was easy to remove oneself from a crowd of people. On a ship, one could not - there was only one mess hall available to those below command rank, for example, and only three recreational rooms. While Spock could avoid the recreational rooms - he had no need of them - he could not avoid the mess hall, and he had taken to partaking of his meals in the quieter, more antisocial hours.

Which is why he was understandably surprised when, some two weeks after his physical, a tray was smacked down opposite his own in the mess hall at 0415 hours.

"Mind if I join you?" the doctor drawled. Spock had not bothered to assimilate his voice into his world (as he would not see him often enough to make it worth the extra time meditating) and was struck once again by the hot rasp of sand.

"No," he managed to respond, and the doctor sat, stabbing a fork in his direction.

"I want you in Sickbay for a quick scan this afternoon. After alpha shift'll do fine. I've drawn up a diet plan for you."

"That is hardly necessary."

"Who's got the medical degree here?" McCoy responded, but it was still almost...idle. As though he had heard the same argument before. "I know Vulcans. You won't admit there's a problem until you're at the gates of Hell, and even then you'll try and deny it. Don't test me, Lieutenant. You're not getting enough calories, and that's that. I updated your mealcard but God knows when the systems on this hunk of junk'll actually apply the changes."

"The Darlington is not 'a hunk of junk.'"

McCoy snorted and grinned around a mouthful of toast. "I'm impressed you even knew what that means."

"I have spent over four years consistently surrounded by Humans and their somewhat liberal uses of language," Spock replied calmly. "'Hunk of junk' is hardly the most puzzling expression that I have heard."

"Uh-huh? You still talk like a Vulcan."

"Why thank you, Doctor."

McCoy snorted again; it was an unpleasant sound, but Spock found himself confused as to what it meant. He seemed to be replacing laughter with snorting, but in Spock's experience, Human men performing that particular array of sounds were being scornful or derisive, not experiencing amusement.

"Vulcans," he muttered, almost to himself. "I musta been crazy when I signed up to specialise in Vulcans."

Spock privately agreed.


Spock was not prone to socialising amongst the crew - they did their jobs, he did his, and that was that - and so it was some time before he saw Dr. McCoy again. The medical staff were on slightly staggered shifts from the main crew to avoid gaps in Sickbay during busy hours, and the Darlington was understaffed medically regardless. They had hired McCoy for Spock, but he was trained for the other Human crewmembers as well, and was kept busy.

The Darlington was an armed science vessel, and minor injuries amongst the laboratory staff were commonplace. While Spock heard of McCoy - and his growing reputation as the grumpiest, scariest member of the medical staff to have to visit - he did not see him again for some time, the only evidence of the doctor's continual, watchful eye the adjustments made to his mealcard every couple of weeks, and the one threatening message left on his personal communications device on the one occasion that he missed lunch.

It was a surprise, therefore, to find the man waiting in the transporter room when Spock reported for planetside duty as part of an ongoing investigation, some six weeks after the doctor's arrival on board.

"Medical wants some samples," he shrugged, and grinned. "And I fancied some time dirtside. Can't be doing with this rust-bucket for too long. It ain't natural."

The engineer at the transporter array bristled, but McCoy ignored him.

"If you find ship life objectionable, why did you sign on to Starfleet in the first place?"

"Had to get off Earth," McCoy shrugged. "Aimed for a planetside posting - hell, that's why I studied Vulcan physiology. You don't get too many Vulcans actually flyin' around in these things. 'Cept you."

"Indeed."

The conversation was paused by the transporter, but if Spock had expected it to end, he was yet again surprised.

"Hate those things," the doctor grumbled, peering around. It was early morning on this part of the planet, its sun rising in the west, barely visible over a mountain range in the distance. "What did you sign up for? Far as I know, Vulcans don't get ex-wives."

Spock thought of T'Pring, and found himself struck with the odd urge to smile - bitterly.

"I felt that my skills would be put to better use in the employ of Starfleet."

"Better than...what?" McCoy prompted, pausing to rescan a hideously pink shrub. The scanner dismissed it for whatever purposes Medical had, and they walked on.

"I do not understand your query."

McCoy squinted at him in the sunlight. "Better use than in what? What was the other option?"

Spock paused, wondering how much the Human knew, before admitting: "The Vulcan Science Academy."

"They turn you down?"

"No; I was accepted."

McCoy stopped dead. "Hang on. You were accepted by the VSA, and you turned it down for Starfleet because Starfleet could better serve your skills?"

"...Indeed."

The doctor's gaze was calculating. Perhaps Spock had forgotten, perhaps his own physician on Vulcan had been too tightly controlled, but this was the realm of the medical profession - detection. They were calculators as much as Vulcans were, and behind that undoubtedly shrewd stare, Spock almost imagined the cogs turning.

"Right," McCoy drawled. "Right."

The tricorder in his hands beeped twice, and he turned away to examine another shrub. The conversation was dropped - and Spock was left unsure of what, exactly, the doctor had calculated in that brief moment.


Whatever the doctor had calculated - and Spock was lost as to what the Human had concluded - it apparently warranted further study, or further observation. Spock could find no other reason for the sudden company waiting for him in the quiet hours in the mess hall each morning. It could not even be called conversation: McCoy apparently did not care whether Spock responded or not, and they would either discuss ship's business and the 'screaming goddamn inadequacies' of the medical department and their liaising with the biochemistry labs, or McCoy would monologue on the same topics and Spock would let the sand wash over him and wonder, albeit vaguely, why it had never felt like a sandstorm.

Perhaps two weeks after their shared away mission, however, McCoy broke the pattern by sitting down opposite Spock and, instead of launching into a lengthy (and vivid) description of the latest case of incompetence to stray into the realms of the Sickbay, said: "I'd like to try something."

"Explain, Doctor."

"Feel free to turn me down here, but I'd like to carry out a little experiment of my own," McCoy said, reaching out to lay one hand on the table close to Spock's covered wrist. "I'd like to touch you."

Spock blinked. "You have touched me before."

"Not skin to skin," McCoy said.

That was true - the doctor was unusually sensitive and aware of his proximity to Spock at all times, and was very strict about eliminating the possibility of accidental contact. Oddly, for being the man to actually speak to him in the most disrespectful manner aboard the Darlington, he was the most respectful of Spock's personal space.

"What do you expect to discover?"

"Just testin' a theory."

Spock felt his eyes narrow without conscious thought. "I am not an object of scientific interest, Dr. McCoy." Except that he was, and always had been.

"Nothin' to do with scientific interest," McCoy drawled. "Doesn't matter now. You kind of proved my point."

"Which was?" Spock asked stiffly.

"You don't like to socialise, but it ain't nothing to do with bein' Vulcan."

Spock blinked. "Explain."

"You didn't like the sound of that experiment, and that's normal. I tried that on more'n one Vulcan in my career, and on the whole, they don't like it. But they don't like because they don't want to be touched. You didn't like it because you didn't like the idea of bein' an experiment."

Spock narrowed his eyes again. "Doctor..."

"I've been askin' around, and you know what I got? They'll wax lyrical about your work ethic, but none of them have a clue who y'are, and what's more, they say it's just a Vulcan thing. You don't socialise with them, you don't talk to them, and they don't talk to you - and you know what? That ain't normal. I've worked with Vulcans, Mr. Spock, and the minute you throw them a philosophical or scientific bone, they're scrappin' over it like strays in Atlanta in the winter. They'll talk just fine; you too. You've been talkin' to me just fine."

"What is your point, Doctor?"

"My point is that you're the most Vulcan bein' I've ever met," McCoy said quietly, "but you're only half-Vulcan."

Spock felt every muscle in his body tense. It felt unnatural, almost; for all that he was impolite and abrasive and downright rude by Human convention, Dr. McCoy had never really caused discomfort in any of their conversations. To be anything but marginally intrigued at the strange opinions that the man held seemed odd. Wrong, but he could not define and categorise it thus.

"Just what are you tryin' to prove?"

Spock rose. "If you will excuse me, Doctor, I must go to my shift."

He arrived twenty minutes early for his shift in lab five, and in what his colleagues would undoubtedly describe as a bad mood.


The warning shriek of Ensign Burns sounded approximately 1.339 seconds before the explosion occurred - enough time to throw up his arm to protect his face in pure reflex, but not enough to move out of the way. The explosion struck the underside of his left forearm with a wall of fire and everything between his fingertips and his shoulder burst into pain. The force of the blast threw him backwards into the bulkhead, and promptly the pain in the back of his head began to rival that in his arm, although they were discomforts of entirely different sorts.

"Medical to biochemistry one!" someone was screaming even before Spock's shaking legs allowed him to slide to see on the floor.

The smoke alarms were going off, and the blast doors on the storage units began to close, shuttering with thumps that rattled into Spock's skin from the force of them. He closed his eyes against the pain and took a deep breath, focusing on the draw of air into his lungs and curling his mind around it, beginning the difficult process of shutting down his pain receptors whilst they were demanding his attention.

"Oh shit."

Even in two words, and from a distance, he registered the arrival of the rough sands, and a moment later there were warm hands on him - and there...

They had never touched, and for a brief half-second, the touch was no different to any other - but Spock's shields were lowered, damaged by the injuries and his concentration on blocking the pain, and so the sensation slipped past: the sharp sear of salty tang, like breathing cool air washing in off the coast on Earth, so alien, so unlike anything on Vulcan, so strange and so foreign and so clearing...

"It's alright..."

It was an ocean mist in the half-lit morning, rising up to dampen the skin and paper the lungs, ripping the impurities out of the world and replacing them with a clear coolness so sharp that it hurt, piercing him to the core - how could sand and surf exist together, and how could they not?

His mind drank in that of the alien, his toes curled in sand suddenly real, and he slipped away.


His fingers were warm, and pushed that warmth through the skin effortlessly. It was the feel of the psi-null: the general, wide channel of those unable to focus or transmit selected information, and so it was broad, all-encompassing warmth that wrapped around his higher cerebral cortex like being underwater. From that layer - a thick layer, comforting in the same way as an embrace to a small child from a loved one - the flitters of thought and emotion began to bleed through, dull thumps and pokes, like clumsy fingers digging into his mind, prodding and shifting, stirring through his psyche like a soup spoon in a stew, but endlessly warm, the Shi'Kahr ridge at sunset, heavy warmth that was difficult to breathe...

And then a new emotion poked through - too alien yet to analyse, but it was that sharp, cool mist from before, that Earth shoreline in the morning, and he did not understand...

Spock cracked open his eyes, vaguely registering the sting on his cheek, and realised that he had been in a trance - a deep one, judging by the lethargy to his thoughts and the weak fluttering of his shields against the presence of another mind.

Another mind.

He forced his eyes to open further, and McCoy glanced up from his tricorder, a frown etched into his features. A day's growth of stubble covered his jaw; his eyelids caught on the grit of dry eyes when he blinked, and he suddenly removed his hand from Spock's uninjured forearm and flushed.

"Sorry," he rasped, and the warmth ebbed for a moment, caught between resurrecting itself at the sand, or leeching away with the ocean. "It's been a long two days."

"Two days?" Spock blinked. His time sense beat frantically against the inside of his skull, and he feel the strange tightness in the cranial bones that spoke of interference.

"You cracked your head damn hard," McCoy grunted, passing the tricorder over his head and chest. "We had to go in and drain blood off your occipital lobe, but you went into that trance of yours pretty easy after we got that sorted. Your arm'll be fine, but you're on light duties until the grafts heal over properly."

There was a short silence, in which Spock paused to gather scattered thoughts from where surgery and healing had thrown them, and McCoy stared at him, almost fidgeting.

"Look," McCoy said abruptly. "For what it's worth, I'm sorry about the other mornin'. I crossed the line, and..."

"I believe," Spock interrupted quietly, "that I...overreacted."

McCoy paused, cocking his head, then slowly leaned one hip against the biobed. "You did, huh?"

"Indeed," Spock said. "You must understand, Doctor, that I am the first successful hybrid between my parents' species. I have always been of great interest to the medical community, and I..."

"Grew tired of always bein' poked and prodded," McCoy finished.

"...Yes."

"Can't say I blame you," McCoy said, shrugging. "But me? I ain't here to poke and prod you. I'm a doctor, not a medical researcher, and sure, I can learn a lot from you that the Vulcans won't tell us, but that ain't my job, and I'm not out to do it. I'm only asking you to share what I need to know to handle you."

It was a rough reassurance - not at all poetic, not at all practised, and delivered as casually as an enquiry into his eating habits, and yet...it was reassuring, all the same.

"Fact is, Spock, you're stubborn as hell, you're argumentative when you want to be, and you're just about the most passive-aggressive son-of-a-bitch I've ever met, and goddamnit, I was married to Joss," McCoy looked like he very much wanted to throw up his hands, but didn't. "I guess it just doesn't sit right with me that you isolate yourself this damn hard. You don't talk to others, you don't like to be touched, and you sure as hell don't argue with your colleagues the way you've been arguing with me."

"I believe that you are exaggerating..."

"Like hell I am," McCoy rolled his eyes. "And yet I get the feeling this distinctly ain't you. That if I got you real riled, I'd see something else - someone else - entirely."

He bent close, like children exchanging secrets.

"I think I'd like to meet that man, Mr. Spock."


And so it began - the doctor shadowed his off-duty time. What exactly he was looking for was lost on Spock, but he seemed to be looking for something, and in true medical fashion, he refused to cease his actions until he had found it. Spock should have been annoyed - even Vulcan decorum permitted annoyance when one was persistently and continuously followed by a third party for no logical purpose - and perhaps it would have been in his interests to be annoyed, but he was not.

Eventually, he grew used to the company.

The doctor was not someone that he really would have chosen to associate with outside of work hours, if Spock was honest with himself. He was rude, brash, abrasive, and overemotional to the point where even other Humans noticed it. His argument, when they debated (on anything), was consistently filled with emotional rhetoric and baseless arguments. They had no foundation in logic, and yet he treated that emotion with the weight Surak afforded to control. Ethics became a topic revisited again and again, and he worried at it like a child over a scraped knee, picking and poking and peeling. They became almost infamous for it: long, heated (on McCoy's part; Spock was never anything but calmly logical) debates and arguments. The mess hall, between 0400 and 0500, became theirs.

And yet...

When Spock debated with Humans before, it was generally only the once. They did not like arguing; they were more hostile to those disagreeing with their point of view, to the point where Human-Tellarite relations were sore and permanently in danger of bruising, and Vulcans were no exception, no matter how logical the Human in question. They did not like those who disagreed, and surrounded themselves with those who did agree - it was the price that such a social species had to pay, evolutionarily speaking, but it made for a sometimes unpleasant working atmosphere.

The doctor, however, did not fit these parameters.

He deliberately sought out the topics on which they disagreed - when they did agree (rare though it was) then it was very unlikely that they would ever speak of it again. He would rile himself up over Spock's responses, though he stopped just shy of openly insulting him, and on more than one occasion, he stormed out of the mess hall and ended their debate then and there. And yet he would always be back in due course, and ready to begin again.

It was most puzzling...but Spock eventually grew accustomed to his presence, and occasionally even found himself looking forward to early hours before shift.

After a while, the doctor began to increase the pressure. In the beginning, he had not pushed for more than breakfast debates and strict adherence to his medical orders; as time passed, however, Spock found himself subjected to steadily increasing numbers of invitations to various ship functions, or even (on two occasions by the time he challenged the doctor over the matter) to the doctor's quarters to watch the newest scientific documentaries released by the Federation Artificial Intelligence Board.

"Eh," the doctor shrugged when Spock called him on it. "You're the most isolated man I've ever met, bar the odd patient with serious psychiatric problems, and it ain't healthy. If I have to batter at those walls for the rest of my damn contract on this ship, then that's what I'll do."

"This is going rather beyond your job description as my physician."

"Sure," McCoy shrugged. "But I'm not doin' it as your doctor."

"Then as what are you doing it?"

"Vulcans," McCoy snorted. "Can't recognise a friend when one falls in their laps."

Spock blinked. "You are not in my lap, doctor."

"Well, whaddaya know," McCoy drawled, and grinned in that lazy, half-amused way of his. "Maybe you do get it after all."