McCoy barely managed to suppress a grin and bent forward to pluck a bit of sweet grass to chew. The wind stirred, smelling comfortably of dust and sun and something pungent, and he leaned back against the fence post casually and slid a slyly merry look at the Vulcan beside him. "You owe me fifty credits."

Spock's ebony eyebrow lifted. "I think not, doctor."

"Oh yeah?"

The Vulcan sniffed dignifiedly, drawing his robes about him against the noise of cattle bawling in the pens. "I have yet to hear her analysis."

McCoy snorted and jerked a chin at the sudden drum of hooves. "You telling me that ain't it?"

Dark eyes turned, following the sound, and inevitably softened.

McCoy's blue eyes glinted impishly. "Now that's how jeans are supposed to be worn."


He grinned unrepentantly now. "Hey, I'm just saying what you're thinking."

Spock's eyes positively bulged. "Doctor!"

McCoy snickered. "Yeah, I thought so."

The Vulcan all but sputtered.

McCoy chuckled, chewing on his sweet grass. "She likes that damn hat, too." He lifted a wicked eyebrow at Spock. "'Course, you might want to brush up on your women skills some, the competition's three to one odds on you in the bunkhouse bets."

Spock's eyes abruptly narrowed and the Vulcan stared coolly at her companions on horseback. "Indeed?"

McCoy smothered a grin manfully. "Yep. Nothing like an exotic young thing to catch a man's eye. Of course, seen as they normally just get the back end of a herd to look at all day, I'm surprised we haven't had them droppin' like flies off their horses every time she rides by."

The Vulcan edged forward, uneasily watching every rider near her as if they had suddenly become gravity mines.

McCoy let his drawl thicken. "'Course, seen as she ain't betrothed or nothin' a shore leave whirl would be good for the girl, don't ya think?"

Spock's head snapped around and he gave McCoy a look that should have started a prairie fire instantly.

McCoy laughed. "You have it so bad, my friend!"

The Vulcan winced and gave the doctor a foul look. He straightened his shoulders to restore some of his dignity. "I have been her teacher-"

McCoy rolled his eyes. "So?"

"It would be highly inappropriate for me to take advantage of a previous relationship-"

"Like hell it would."

"The divergence in our ages is sufficiently large to inhibit-"

"Spock, there ain't nothing inhibiting in a younger woman."


"Loves her like hell."


"She'll grow on him."

"Our careers diverge and-"

"It's not going to matter one damn bit."

Spock looked down at the sweet grass beneath his sandals. "We have only begun to renew our friendship. I do not believe she holds any . . . interest . . . in me beyond that."

McCoy snorted. "Yeah, right."

Spock's head lifted instantly and his dark gaze sharpened on the doctor. "You have some . . . evidence . . . to the contrary, doctor?"

McCoy grinned and went back to watching them work the herd. "You mean like something she said?"

The Vulcan moved closer. "Yes."


Spock sighed.

McCoy slid another sideways look at his friend, enjoying himself immensely. "Watch and learn, Romeo." He spat out the sweet grass and let loose a piercing whistle.

A dirty white cowboy hat turned instantly and Saavik swung her horse smoothly around and galloped around the outer edge of the herd. She pulled up before them, holding the roan as easily.

McCoy used all of his stolen Vulcan control to keep his face perfectly straight as he watched Spock look up at her, almost hesitantly.

Herd filthy, sweat stained and positively blackened with dust, she tilted her head curiously and looked back down at him.

Spock swallowed.

Her eyebrow lifted.

Spock cleared his throat.

She waited patiently.

McCoy growled.

"I, ah, I was wondering," said Spock quietly, "if you were enjoying your leave."

McCoy sighed. "Unbelievable."

Saavik's brow furrowed. "It is a fascinating experience in historical reenactment. Why?"

Spock looked at McCoy for help.

McCoy made sure he was suddenly looking for his next bit of sweet grass to chew.

One of the other riders whooped to get her attention, then did a bit of daring horse skill that was one fourth insane and three fourths pure male.

Saavik looked amused. She turned back to Spock, still waiting.

McCoy made an impatient noise.

Spock straightened, clasping his hands behind his back. "Please carry on."

McCoy gave the blue sky a glower.

Another of the riders hallooed for her attention.

Saavik started to turn her horse and then she stopped. She pulled off her dirty white hat, letting her dark hair tangle in the wind, and wiped her brow, squinting into the sun deciding.

McCoy began to grin.

Saavik took a deep breath and put her hat back on. She turned her horse back and calmly held out a hand to Spock.

Spock hesitated.

Her eyebrow lifted challengingly and a glint made her eyes mischievous. "Unless, of course, you are afraid."

McCoy frowned, confused.

Spock, however, was not. He and Saavik looked at each other a long moment. Then he slowly inclined his head and took her hand.

McCoy shook his head, chuckling around a bit of sweet grass, as the roan ambled away towards the direction of the sun, the two Vulcans talking softly, almost shyly, amongst themselves.

"Amanda," he grinned unrepentantly to himself, "care to make a bet?"