Ghosts

Acidqueen <a.q @ gmx.de>

 

Third Place Kirk/McCoy

 

Codes: Kirk/McCoy, Spock (Spock POV)

Series: TOS - Acidqueen's K/Mc series

Rating: PG

Summary: Spock learns something about his friends.

Disclaimer: Paramount/Viacom owns Star Trek, I own my brain. No infringement is intended, and no money is being made.

Archive: The KirkMcCoyFest at http://tostwins.slashcity.net/KMF.htm , my own website at http://www.syredronning.de/ , ASCEM, all others ask, please.

Acknowledgement: Thanks to Lyrastar for her beta! All remaining errors are mine!

 

 

***

 

It had been another long night at the conference on Pluto, and I was already prepared for bed, when someone commed me. For a moment I considered ignoring it, but then I looked at the console and saw it was a message to my private account, a number not many knew. Pulling a morning robe loosely around me, I voiced the acceptance code and sat down in front of the screen.

 

It had been a very long time since we last had met, and I could not even remember her actual surname, so I only said, "Joanna - what is the occasion for this call?"

 

She looked tired and old, her short hair was partly gray already, and her smile seemed forced as she answered. "Ambassador Spock, I apologize for disturbing you, but I found this number in my father's database and…well…I just didn't know who else could help."

 

"Please, drop the title, Joanna. Has anything happened to Leonard?" I asked in concern. I had not spoken to him in a long while…not since Jim's death, to be precise, although I had thought of him on occasions. But the moment had never seemed right for a call, as duties tied me more and more to my new role as Vulcan Ambassador. A spark of a very human guilty conscience rose in me.

 

"No…yes. I don't know. I fear he's…Well, you know how hard Jim's death hit him just when he was down and ill anyway, but he had been in a good mood in the last few weeks, and I thought he was going to be his old self again, but then…" She stopped and visibly searched for words. "One day he slipped up, and talked about Jim as if he had seen him the evening before. It was so unusual for him that I began to dig deeper, and finally he confessed that he was convinced he had seen Jim in his apartment. He even claimed that Jim had been coming around for some time now, and that was the reason why he was better again."

 

I could see her trying to fight back tears. She was concerned, and so was I. McCoy had always been, for all his emotional behavior, a very grounded and rational person. Seeing ghosts was disturbingly out of character for him.

 

"What would you like me to do, Joanna?" I asked her.

 

"Maybe…if you have the time…come here and talk to him? I tried to…make him realize that Jim's dead, but all he said was, 'oh yes, he's died many times before, it's no wonder he found a way to live once more. You should know Jim.' "

 

Indeed, we all knew Jim. And I had prayed for a miracle when he had vanished, had researched the possibilities - and found naught this time. I, like everyone else, had had to accept his loss. McCoy, on the other hand, had obviously decided to construct another reality in his mind.

 

"I am attending an important conference at the moment…" I began, and wondered just how important it really was in comparison to an old colleague and friend - and the carrier of my katra. I saw the hope in her features vanishing, and made a decision. "But I will arrange for a replacement and ask for leave for personal reasons," I stated firmly. "I should be able to reach Earth in about one standard day. I assume he will be at his apartment?"

 

"Yes, he's there. He hasn't gone out much lately. Oh, Mr. Spock, you're doing me a great favor, really. A very big favor," she repeated, her eyes wetting again.

 

"This is no favor, Joanna. This is what friends are for," I said, fully knowing I had been amiss with those duties lately. It was time to remedy this.

 

*

 

Leonard McCoy was visibly delighted when he saw me, but of course he would never say so openly; instead, he gave me a caustic welcome which showed me that not all was lost. Fascinating, how such a greeting could make me feel at home instantly. He cooked for us both, something I did not recognize and am not sure if I would ever want to encounter again. But it did not matter, as I had not come here for the food, or the admittedly very good brandy that the doctor offered me afterwards.

 

I searched his features over the course of the evening, and found a man who had grown older rapidly in the last months. His figure was slimmer than ever and his skin sallow, reminding me of old parchment. He had not worked since shortly before Jim's death. An alien virus had taken hold of him on one of his supervisory missions on the hospital ships near the Klingon border, and had struck him down heavily - until Jim's death had struck him even more. Had I ever told him that I knew about him and Jim? I cannot remember, the knowledge lost in death and resurrection long ago. But I did not tell him tonight. It would only enhance the problem, if there was any. So far, his behavior was almost that of the man I had known so well in the past.

 

"When will you go back to work again?" I asked him as we sat on his couch after dinner, each of us comfortably on his own end with a glass in hand.

 

He stretched out, his long legs draped over each other. "I don't know, Spock. Maybe I should just retire."

 

"You're too young for that, Leonard. Even as a human."

 

"Our natural life span was seventy, once. My body seems to tell me lately that it still is," he drawled. "You know that deep space radiation hardly helps to preserve anyone."

 

"I know," I said, thinking of my latest medical results and the unhappy gazes of the physicians. They did not give me much more than 180 years - which would nevertheless be longer than McCoy would ever live. I found him suddenly even more fragile, and longed to touch him, assuring him of his liveliness. But I did not.

 

"I do not think retirement would do you any good. You are a man of action."

 

He chuckled. "You know, you're not the only one who's been telling me that." He sipped at his drink before he placed it down on the table. "Why are you here today, Spock, when you haven't even called once in the past few months? It was Joanna, was it?"

 

"What if?"

 

"I should be angry with her for thinking I've gone nuts. But I admit, at first I thought that too…Jim Kirk, grinning at the end of my bed, making bad jokes about my pajamas…couldn't be real. I pinched myself to wake up, but I didn't. I was awake. And he's been here."

 

He met my eyes, challenging me. "He was here that night, Spock. He came closer, and sat down next to me. Held me…" He stopped, but I could imagine the further proceedings. "And that was only the first night."

 

"Do you have a scientific explanation for this?" I asked, well aware that we had already once proclaimed Jim dead when he was, in effect, caught in another dimension. Not every ghost was unreal, as space had taught us.

 

He shook his head. "I don't, Spock. Jim doesn't either. And I admit, I'm not interested in any explanation. I was very down at that time. Depressed, really. And he changed that. Like he always could cheer me up, when I allowed him to do so."

 

"I hope," I said quietly, "that my arrival today also…cheered you up a bit, Leonard."

 

"It did, Spock." His eyes suddenly shimmered wet. "Sorry, I'm becoming an old fool," he said roughly, and averted my gaze.

 

This time, I did reach out for him, pulling him into a light embrace. "I am the one who has to apologize, Leonard. I fled your pain and everyone else's, including my own, by immersing myself into my new career and taking up any duty I could get, just to avoid thinking of Jim or the Enterprise…or you."

 

"Wish I could've done that, Spock," he whispered onto my shoulder. "I really wish that. But I could barely crawl to the funeral, as you saw for yourself. For weeks, my world was just black, a deep, dark, black hole sucking in all my life energy. I had to stay here in SanFran, tied to my bed. I missed the stars, Spock. Can you imagine? I missed them, for the first time ever."

 

I could not answer his painful admissions, only tightened my hand around his arm and pulled him even closer. Apologies were irrelevant and useless here; only future action could undo some of the harm.

 

We sat in silence for a while, and at some point I registered that his head had slacked against me. He had fallen asleep, and for once he looked peaceful. I gathered him in my arms and carried him to the bedroom, softly placing him onto the bed, arranging the cushions and blankets under and over him. I wondered if I should undress him, but then could not bring myself to do it.

 

Switching off the light I closed the door behind me as I went back to the living room, where I sat down on the couch and began to wait.

 

*

 

What woke me up, I did not know. No door opened; no steps could be heard. There was no flow in the air, testifying movement, nor breathe, indicating a human life. Yet there he stood suddenly - Jim Kirk, in civilian clothes for once. His back, as always, was straight; a kind of easy smile lingered on his lips that I had not seen for a long time before his death. Or should I say, 'his vanishing' now?

 

"Spock," he said in disbelief. "Spock!" He drew close and pulled me to a stand, catching my hands. "It's really you," he said in wonder.

 

"I could say the same…Jim," I managed to reply, while my brain absorbed information like mad. His hands were warm, substantial, though I knew it could not, should not be. He radiated happiness, as he stood there and, like a steady stream, it flowed through our physical contact.

 

"Why are you here? Did Bones say something?"

 

"No. It was in fact his daughter who alerted me, fearing for her father's…mental health."

 

"Ah?" He looked confused for a second, then grinned. "He's seeing ghosts. I can tell. You realize you are too?"

 

"You are not a ghost, Jim. But you're also not truly alive. What has happened to you?" And why did you not visit me, I wanted to ask, but feared the answer. My hands clutched his harder, taking in the life I felt there in contradiction to my statement. He might not be alive by traditional biological standards, but then, had we not seen life in many variations?

 

"I…am I, Spock." He withdrew his hands, sitting down on a chair opposite the couch. I sat down, too. "It's really hard to explain. That energy band that captured me…it's a kind of a brain-controlled fantasy world in there. You can get anything you want. You can be anything you want to be. But it's not real. It's all fake, you know."

 

I nodded, although I did not truly know. "And you…escaped it?"

 

"Oh yes. After a while I found out that I could be…elsewhere, if I wanted. There's no place like home, I say and snap my fingers and - whooosh - I'm where I want to be."

 

"Is it really that easy, Jim?"

 

He looked more soberly. "No. I always leave a part of me behind. I cannot really escape that thing. But I don't really want to - I've never been freer, Spock." He leaned forward, an amused glint in his eyes. "Can you imagine going anywhere just by thinking you want to be there? On the Klingon home world? On Betazed in spring? On Mount Seleya in winter? Not that I really want to be there ever again. But I've visited Vulcan once, in honor of Lady Amanda."

 

My throat was dry. I acknowledged his wonder, but I was unsure how to handle it. "And sometimes you come here…?" I asked.

 

"Oh, yes. He loves me to come - sometimes. Not too often. He said he doesn't want to chain me down here." Kirk laughed. "He's trying hard to keep up his grumpy reputation. But sometimes, when I arrive, I know he's been waiting for me…not that we have a real schedule, mind you. Too hard to keep track of time in my state. But we've a rhythm in which we are drawn together."

 

He met my gaze, suddenly very serious. "Where's he now? Joanna didn't do anything stupid, did she?"

 

"Stupid?"

 

"Like transferring him into an asylum or something." He was about to stand up in concern, but I held him back.

 

"No, Jim. She only called me. Leonard was tired and went to bed some time ago."

 

Kirk sat back again. "How did you know I would come tonight, Spock? I mean, *I* didn't know until a moment ago that I would like to see him."

 

"I cannot explain," I admitted. "Maybe it was purely coincidence."

 

He rubbed his chin with his fingers in thoughts, a movement I had seen more times than I could count. "Could it be we're all connected in some way?"

 

"I lack sufficient data for that hypothesis."

 

"With your katra in Bones, there was no residual connection?" He faced me, eyes searching for the truth. "I've never asked you, but are you…in tune?"

 

"Very little," I evaded. Even I was not fully aware of the possible synchronization between us. It had never been a topic of conversation. And I presumed Leonard would have cornered me if he had found out more than I had.

 

"Hm." Jim was not convinced, but he didn't press the matter.

 

"Well, I'm here for him tonight," he suddenly said, and stood up. "We can talk another time -"

 

"Jim!"

 

He stopped his movements, hardly facing me.

 

"Jim - why did you not visit me?"

 

He stood there, head slightly bent, arms lose. I could see his thoughts, his reasoning. It hurt to wait for an answer.

 

"I don't know," he finally said confused, and turned to me. "I don't really know."

 

"I…would have loved to see you. I would love to see you…more often now."

 

"Guess I thought you didn't need me anymore," he said. "New career, new friends. You didn't come for the relaunch."

 

"McCoy didn't come, either."

 

"He was ill."

 

"I could have been ill, too."

 

"But you weren't."

 

"No."

 

He turned back to me. "So you'd like me to visit you…some day?"

 

"Very much, Jim."

 

"Do you love me?" A question he had never dared to ask. A question I would never have dared to answer in the past.

 

"I do. Yes." Today I knew I always had.

 

He looked thoughtfully at the door to McCoy's bedroom. "He and I…we've never talked about love. We didn't want to admit it. No strings, no ties - nothing more than decades of service together." He laughed, not really happy laughter. "But when I had broken up with yet another woman, shut down yet another failed relationship, he was the one I went to. For advice and a drink and a roll in the hay. And he didn't mind," he added, as if not believing the truth. "He just didn't mind."

 

"He loves you," I said.

 

"Guess he does. But he wouldn't say it."

 

"You don't need to hear it to know it, Jim. And he doesn't either."

 

"Sometimes I had guilty thoughts about him. After all, he's a family man. I'd never have stood in the way if he wanted to marry or something."

 

"Like with Natira."

 

"Yes. I would have given him freely. Well. I didn't possess him anyway. If Len McCoy makes up his mind on something, there's no way to change it."

 

"I always had the impression that you could change it," I stated.

 

"Sometimes. More than others, probably." He drew closer. "I've got to see him now, Spock. I really feel like it." He reached out for me with his hand, then decided differently and hugged me tightly. "I'll come to visit you soon, okay? I promise."

 

"I would be...very grateful," I replied hoarsely, leaning into the embrace.

 

"And please tell Joanna...well, maybe not the truth, but something to set her mind to rest."

 

"You do not want it to become known that you are still...around?"

 

"No, definitely not," Kirk said with emphasis. "I can't even imagine what hell it would raise. And I most definitely don't want to be claimed by the Fleet again."

 

"I can understand."

 

He was almost at the bedroom door when he turned again. "If you want to do me a favor, Spock…look after Bones from time to time, would you?"

 

I nodded wordlessly. He smiled, then vanished behind the door.

 

In silence I gathered my robe and left the apartment, granting my friends the most possible privacy. There was much to think about. But my mind, for once, was at peace, knowing that I would meet them both again - soon.

 

*****

 

Challenge 45: Alternate ending of “Generations”: Kirk has survived and sees his old love again. Will they continue?