Title: Out of the Silver Sea

Author: Jedi Buttercup

Rating: T

Disclaimer: The words are mine; the worlds are not.

Summary: Buffy sighed as she reached for her clothes, withdrawing more from Leonard's reach with every word. Ebbing away, like a tide rushing back out to sea. 1400 words.

Spoilers: Star Trek (2009); general post-series for B:tVS

Notes: 24 Days of Ficmas 2011, Day 13: for kerrykhat. Prompt: "Buffy Summers/Leonard "Bones" McCoy to "Echo" by The Hush Sound.

The slight form in his arms stirred, drawing Leonard's drifting thoughts back toward consciousness.

"You left Earth because of me, didn't you?" she asked quietly, breaking the breeze-cooled silence of the beachside room.

It took him a minute to remember where he was, and he used that moment to gather his thoughts. They were on the Shore Leave planet: the one the Enterprise had run across unexpectedly the year before, and scared themselves half to death on before they realized the entire place responded to each visitor's unspoken desires. It was a popular vacation destination, now.

He didn't need that time to recall the identity of the woman spooned up against him, though; he'd recognize her anywhere, any time. Under any circumstances, but especially the ones they'd just finished reenacting.

"You shouldn't ask questions you don't want the answers to, darlin'," he drawled, smoothing a caressing hand down over her side, lingering to rub at the slight ridges of scar tissue on her hip.

Damndest thing, running into her like this- but he wasn't all that surprised. Conjured by the planet, or visiting it herself- either way, Buffy Summers would be gone again with the dawn, same way she always was. Same way she had been since the very first day he'd seen her at his father's practice, clawed up by something out in the bayou backcountry. He'd taken her out to dinner after the stitches were set and bandaged; he'd been on a break at the time, both from school and from Jocelyn, and she'd been a damn fine woman with a silvery laugh and hungry green eyes.

Dinner, of course, had led to dessert- and an early morning departure. But a lot of water had swept by since that first, passionate encounter.

"You did," she sighed, then squirmed under his hands, shifting until she'd turned over to face him. "Kinda hard to miss the fact that you went to the recruiter the day after my last visit."

Leonard closed his eyes against the flash of memory that rose up at her words: not the curve of her mouth as she'd smiled and walked out the door that morning, but the sudden, gutting conviction that had gripped him as she transported away that the pattern of their meetings was never going to change. He'd let so much pass him by, waiting for the woman to trust him enough to settle. He knew she was some kind of top secret government agent, and that her first few visits had been as much about finding a doctor who wouldn't talk than any specific desire for his companionship. But when she'd kept coming back, when their evenings and nights together had grown playful and tender as well as scorching...

He'd thought she would grow to trust him enough to finally let him in a little. But she never had. Years of those brief visits, sometimes several in a month and sometimes only one in several, had worn him down. Always patching her up from the harm her job had done her; always rambling on about his hopes and dreams and receiving only scattered nonspecific anecdotes of long-gone friends in return. She talked about everyone but herself- and that last day, he'd finally had enough.

He could hope until the stars fell from the sky, but only if he had reason. He was a doctor; he knew when there was no life left in a thing.

If he'd seen it sooner, maybe he'd have been less inclined to salt and burn the Earth behind him. Maybe he'd even have made things up with Jocelyn; and maybe little Joanna Treadway would be his daughter instead of that bastard Clay's. But he couldn't go anywhere on the planet he could be sure Buffy wouldn't turn up eventually, and the vast, empty black ocean above had seemed positively welcoming by comparison.

Leonard had told Jim, the first day of their friendship, that his ex had got the whole damned planet in the divorce. That all he had left was his bones- and that had been God's honest truth. She'd taken everything he had to give, one raw emotional bite at a time, and never given back in return.

Maybe it was her training. Maybe it was her age- after a decade of knowing her, she looked no older than she'd done when he'd first seen her in bloodstained jeans, a ripped shirt, and a lean, toned body that couldn't be any older than twenty-five in his father's exam room. Before she'd made him her rock and guiding light out of the dark places her work took her. She could well have extraterrestrial blood; it had been a long time since First Contact, and some species' genomes meshed easier with humans' than the pointy-eared, copper-blooded Vulcans'. Whatever the reason, though, the result was the same.

He opened his eyes again, stroking another path over warm, sweaty flesh from her shoulder down to her belly, where an old stab wound had left a raised, pale line as souvenir. "It's not that I don't love you," he said, the corners of his mouth turning down at the pained light in her eyes.

Rather than snipe back, though, she just smiled at him, sadly. "But love hurts sometimes. I know how that song goes. Boy, do I ever." She sighed, then shifted closer, pressing her soft, slight breasts against him as she captured his mouth in a kiss that tasted of salt, vanilla lip balm, and- strangely- goodbye.

His body stirred at the fire of her touch, but she was pulling away again before anything more could come of it. "I never meant to teach that to you," she continued. "But you're so real- I don't meet many people these days anchored enough to remind me what I'm fighting for."

Buffy sighed as she reached for her clothes, withdrawing more from his reach with every word. Ebbing away, like a tide rushing back out to sea. It had always been that way, the morning after- but there was a little more finality to it, somehow, this time.

"You're not the only one who has that effect on me, you know," he said, driven to reach out- despite everything- as though it might miraculously keep her with him for a change. "Seems like I can't get away from it, no matter how far I go. I've made my own damn bed; might as well enjoy lying in it." It might hurt, like grasping a bare blade- but there was joy in it, too, that he might could learn to appreciate again, if he tried. Maybe even already was; he hadn't exactly stood still since their parting.

She smiled at that, a quick, blazing flash of teeth. "So I'm not the only wild blonde in your life? Good, you deserve a little excitement. I always told you that you'd enjoy the world outside of Georgia. But you were right to leave, Leonard; you were meant for more than delivering babies and wiping noses and waiting around for little old me to turn up again."

"We'll just have to agree to disagree on that," he drawled, a pang shooting through his chest as she finished lacing up her boots and stood. Grief- but not as tearing as what he'd felt before. Healing, maybe, like flesh finally knitting to close a deep wound; he didn't feel the need to drown himself in alcohol this time. He supposed he ought to call that progress. "I'm a doctor, not an adventurer."

"You're a Starfleet doctor now. Same diff." Buffy grinned at him again, then turned toward the door, stopping with one hand on the frame.

He closed his eyes again. He didn't want to see her leave; didn't want to know whether she'd ever really been there in the first place, or if his subconscious had conspired with the planet to offer him some kind of closure.

"There'll always be a part of me with you," she murmured, in lieu of farewell.

"That's what I'm afraid of," Leonard muttered to himself, then sighed and climbed out of bed, too, heading for the cleansing warmth of the shower.

Might as well hunt Jim down and see what trouble his captain and best friend had conjured up for himself this time. But there was no sense in bringing the baggage of his own morning along for the ride.