He thought sometimes about Zarabeth. It was hard to ascribe emotions to his relationship with her, after the fact, so to speak. But he could remember his feelings at the time. Oh, he could remember. It was like being inhabited by something hot, something wild and uncontrollable. It wasn't like pon farr. His memories of his Time were hazy, as was to be expected, but he knew the difference between the Burning then and the more subtle flame that had lit inside him in Zarabeth's cave.

It was a strange thing, that. He was barely aware of the joint consciousness of Vulcans most of the time, of the weight of Katras past and the presence of minds still alive. He didn't speak of it. McCoy would scoff, he was sure, talking of hive minds, of bees and termites and the Denevan parasites. This was nothing like that. The Vulcan awareness of the All was a deeper thing than that. He had noticed it when the Intrepid died, the deaths of all those Vulcan minds so sharp that the sensation had pierced him to the core. That was one of the rare times that the consciousness of other Vulcan minds had made itself truly known. That, and the time in Zarabeth's cave, when the only other Vulcan minds in existence were warlike, primal, feeling so deeply that their feelings radiated over millions of miles and touched his own mind, lonely and isolated on Sarpeidon. He hadn't been aware of his own loneliness at first, but he must have been reaching out, desperate for the presence of another steadying influence. And instead of steadiness he had found passion and fire.

Spock shifted in his chair, aware of his hands clenching at that memory, a sliver of that passion and lack of control inhabiting him again. In the warmth of his quarters, in the half-dark with the redness of his drapes all around him, with the scent of incense from his firepot and the ancient Vulcan weapons and sculptures about the walls, it was easy to remember passion and deep, deep feeling.

Zarabeth… Eyes of blue. A soft, small nose and soft lips and a copper-coloured drape of hair about her shoulders. Those furs that she wore, an anathema at first to his modern Vulcan mind, but so warm and soft and enveloping, covering her skin that was pale and soft, making the scent of her radiate in billows of warmth when she moved. It was easy to forget McCoy as he lay there unconscious, struck down by the cold. Easy to think of nothing but the smell of her and the softness of her skin and the slight smile that touched her lips. She was haunted, she had seen trouble, but that made her open to kindness, open to the touch of his hands.

'Oh, you're hot,' she had said as his fingers touched the soft flesh between rib and hip. His heat was a surprise to her, a wonderful thing to a woman who lived in a world of ice, to whom body heat had been restricted to placing her fingers in the crooks of her own knees or armpits to warm them. She had known no succour but her own body for so long. His mind touched drifting images, of her curled under furs, satiating her needs with her own hands. Those images had inflamed him and a sigh had passed his lips without him realising, and her eyes seemed to light at the need in his.

He tried sometimes to reach out with his mind, to feel if she was there somewhere. Of course she was not. She had lived and died long, long ago, long before the death of Sarpeidon's sun, long before his own birth, even before the birth of Surak. Her people had no Katra that lingered behind. He could feel nothing, and it was best that way. But it was hard to put her out of his mind. His feelings for her had not been born of the influence of spores or of hormones raging out of control. They had been born of a loosening of his mind, a need originating in his flesh. She had been warm and soft, she had not questioned him. She had simply taken him, accepted him, made him whole.

Oh, Zarabeth.

The keening thought had surfaced in his mind before he could stop it. It was a sliver of ice in the centre of his being, the sharp edge of a knife cutting into his control. He remembered his hands slipping over her, his fingers tracing her face as if to touch it would better fix it in his mind. He had always known, somehow, that he would be leaving her behind. He had known that destiny, how ever illogical was the thought of destiny, would not allow them to stay together. His was a solitary path.

His fingers on her face and the soft breath escaping her mouth, warm to his skin. That slight parting of her lips like an invitation, his hand in her hair, touching the fragile, solid curve of her skull, touching the inchoate whirl of thoughts.

Inchoate… No, that was not fair. Her mind was not so unfinished. Chaotic, perhaps, but not inchoate. There was keen intelligence in there, mixing with keen need and aching loneliness.

Her fingers moving up beneath the sleek fabric of his top. No Vulcan ritual there. No circling of fingertip on fingertip, no deep connection of minds. Her fingers touching the blades of his ribs, circling the softness about his nipples, tracing down his breastbone. Her laugh like the light ripple of a stream as she lifted his top and the hair upon his chest tickled her cheek. Her mouth on him, her tongue cool and wet on the heat of his skin.

And her. Her. Barely any clothing to rip from her body. Beneath those cloaks she was naked as a sylph, light as a bird in his arms as he carried her to a pile of furs and lay her there. McCoy was in the other chamber, in her bed. They had no bed but furs scattered on the rock, and he laid her there like a prize and moved his fingers beneath the scraps of skins covering her breast and loins. No underwear there to hinder him. Just her body, moist and welcoming, her lips parted with soundless joy, her head arched and her neck bare and exposed to his mouth and tongue. Nothing to hinder him as he slipped his clothes from his own slim hips and lay over her, needful and ready, and satiated the longing of years alone.

He thought of her now, in the quiet of his quarters on the Enterprise, and wondered. He thought of the time afterward, after they had left her there, trapped and alone on a frozen world. Trapped to live out a natural lifespan alone. If, in fact, she was still alone when he left… How many times had they lain together while McCoy was sleeping? How many times had his blood rushed in his ears and the core of his body burned for her? Unprotected sex. That was the human word for it, as if intercourse were a battle which required armour. No doubt their disparate biology was completely incompatible. But then, they were not so disparate. No so different really.

He thought of her and pressed his fingertips together and closed his eyes, and sighed.