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He woke to the soft hum of the ship. Totally in tune with the vessel, the slip from warp to sublight was enough to pull him from sleep. Kirk turned onto his side and faced his bed partner. Over the Vulcan’s silhouette he could just see the soft glow of the chronometer. Four hundred hours.



As quietly as he could, he rose from their bed. Spock had asked to be taken off bridge duty in order to supervise the lockdown of the science labs; the Vulcan’s day would not start for several hours. No sense waking him now. Kirk grabbed his clothes from where he had placed them the night before and headed for the shower.



“Lights, lowest setting.”



Kirk hurried through his morning ritual in the semi-dark; after all these years he could find his way around his cabin with his eyes closed. This small room, with its modest facilities that had sometimes been not quite enough for two, was no problem at all. He toweled off and tugged on his uniform. Time was running out and he wanted to be on the bridge when they slipped into drydock. They were coming home.



No, not home. Earth hadn’t been home for more years than he could remember. Maybe since the day he’d graduated from the Academy. He’d left for his first assignment on the U.S.S. Republic and could count on one hand the times he’d been back. He hoped this time wouldn’t be for very long. The first five-year mission was coming to an end. With any luck, they’d be leaving on another one within a matter of weeks.



When the bathroom door opened, Kirk was suprised to see the lights on in the cabin.



“I’m sorry. I tried not to wake you.”



Spock lay facing him. The Vulcan’s eyes were open but locked on a point slightly above Kirk’s right shoulder. “My requirements for sleep are less than a Terran’s. You need not inconvenience yourself on my account.”



Kirk’s lips tightened. Not this again. “Does that mean you’re getting up now? I thought you weren’t needed in the labs until later.”



The Vulcan swung his legs off the bed and sat up in one graceful movement. “There is much to be done before we reach Earth. I regret I will be unable to fulfill my duties on the bridge but–—”



“I already told you it was okay.” Kirk forced a smile. “I know you can’t be two places at once. Any chance we can meet for lunch?”



“I do not believe so. Mr. Scott wished me to assist him with the final shut-down of all unnecessary systems.”



“All right.” Kirk started toward the outer room. “I just thought this being our last day on the ship... If you change your mind, you know where I’ll be.”



“Jim?”



“What?” He halted at the screen that divided their quarters to give what little privacy the sleeping area had.



“All things comes to an end. That is the way of the universe.”



Kirk slowly turned around to stare at his lover. “What are you trying to say?”



Spock took a breath, the motion seeming to give him the time he needed to marshall his thoughts. “Only that for you to mourn the passing of a certain...phase of your life is not logical.”



“I’m going to miss the ship, Spock, and our lives on it. Aren’t you?”



Something almost like pain flitted across the otherwise placid features for just a moment. “No, I will not miss the ship.”



“Right. I forgot. Vulcans don’t miss what’s gone.” Kirk shook his head and turned to leave. “I’ll see you later.”



On his way to the bridge, he tried to figure out what Spock had actually been trying to tell him. They’d had too many of these types of conversations recently and all they’d done was confuse Kirk, as if the two of them were speaking at cross purposes. Whatever Spock had been saying, Kirk knew he didn’t like it. He didn’t like it at all.



* * * * *



The doors to the bridge flew open to controlled chaos. Most of the first shift crew had arrived early, causing a slight traffic jam with those coming off duty. Kirk slipped past Henshaw and Potter, the third shift navigator and helmsman who had only grudgingly given up their posts, and took his seat.



After a few minutes everyone was settled and the bridge took on its normal quiet air of competence. Kirk looked around. Everyone there. Everyone except Spock, of course. Chekov sat at the science station; so close to home there was no reason Sulu would be unable to handle both helm and navigation.



Kirk frowned. It felt...wrong. Spock should be here with him. There wasn’t anything in the labs his lover couldn’t have relegated to a subordinate. If he didn’t know better, he’d think Spock was deliberately avoiding him. That’s crazy. He gave himself a mental shake and turned his attention to the task at hand.



“ETA, Mr. Sulu?”



“We’ll reach the Sol system in seventeen minutes, sir.”



Kirk rotated his chair to face communications. “Uhura, contact Earth Central. Let them know we’ll reach drydock in...” he glanced at Chekov.



“One hour, twenty-three minutes, Captain.”



“One hour, twenty-three minutes. Then get hold of Admiral Nogura’s office. Set up an appointment with him for this evening. Both Mr. Spock and I will attend.”



“Yes, sir.” The young woman gave her attention to her task, her fingers flying over the board with her usual expertise. After a moment, she frowned. “Captain, I can’t seem to make contact. Something’s interfering with the signal.”



“This close in?” Kirk felt a frisson of disquiet.



“Sir?” Chekov frowned. “Sensors are picking up some sort of... storm heading toward us at sublight speed.”



“What kind of storm?”



“I’m not sure, sir.” Chekov continued to peer into the station’s viewer. “But there seems to be a cycle to it. One second it’s there, the next the area is clear.”



“Uhura, get Spock up here.” He didn’t think twice about it. He needed his science officer. He turned his attention back to the ensign. “What’s its trajectory?”



“Right for us, Captain.”



“From?”



Chekov straightened, a puzzled look on his face. “From Earth; right now it’s just this side of Neptune’s orbit. I don’t understand it, Captain. One moment it’s there, the next it isn’t. But it’s definitely coming our way.”



“Put it up on the screen, Ensign, extreme magnification.” Kirk swung his chair forward. The front viewer changed, replacing the normal field of stars with a gigantic maelstrom that winked in and out as it moved closer.



“Evasive maneuvers, Mr. Sulu. Get us out of its path.”



“Yes, sir.” The helmsman used his controls to swing the ship around, changing their heading.



“It’s no good, Captain.” Chekov was again watching the storm from the viewer. “It’s still heading right for us.”



“Uhura, sound general quarters. Sulu, change course, 45 degrees hard aport.” The ship lunged, fighting the drastic change in direction.



Kirk glanced over as he heard the turbolift doors open and acknowledged Spock with a nod. The Vulcan quickly took his station as Chekov moved back to his normal post.



“Spock, what the hell is that thing?” Kirk watched the storm fill more of the screen, getting closer with each reappearance.



“Unknown, Captain. Sensors are unable to ascertain composition.” The science officer was already scanning the incoming data, his earpiece firmly in place. “It appears to be slipping in and out of our space-time continuum, however, and heading straight for us.”



“And if it catches us?”



“There is a 95.672% probability it will take us... wherever it happens to go.” He looked at his captain. “I would advise a hasty retreat.”



“I am trying, science officer.” He frowned. “Warp two, Mr. Sulu.”



“Warp two, sir.”



The storm disappeared off the screen as the ship jumped into warp to be replaced with the safe and comforting stars. There was a general sigh of relief... that halted as the thing reappeared the next second. It was now much closer.

Kirk’s eye went wide. The thing was monstrous. “Go to warp five.”



Sulu glanced back in surprise but followed Kirk’s order without a murmur. Kirk smiled grimly. He had a good crew.

The ship shot forward, the sound of the engines temporarily drowning out the normal background noises of the bridge. Kirk rubbed his jaw and waited out the next cycle. He tensed as the storm once more reappeared. It was gaining on them.



“Warp ei–”



“We cannot outrun it, Captain,” Spock interjected. “I have calculated its speed at warp twenty and I believe it can go faster still. Time and space seem to have no meaning for it.”



“What do you suggest we do, then?” Kirk snapped as he turned to glare at the Vulcan.



Spock’s gaze swung over to the viewing screen. “Hold on.”



* * * * *



There was no jarring reaction, no bodies being flung from one side of the bridge to the other. All there was was the unearthly wail, a screaming, shrill noise that filled the ship and sent Kirk to his knees. Even with his hands pressed tightly against his ears he could hear it, the sound thrumming through his body. And all around him his crew fought the same battle.



It was as if the storm had somehow entered the ship. Vision obscured by the sickly green fog that swirled around him, Kirk stumbled to his feet and over to the science station but even Spock was being affected. The Vulcan’s arms were wrapped around his head as he huddled in his chair. Kirk needed information but shouting was useless. Nothing could be heard over the banshee cry.



Then, as suddenly as it started, it stopped. The quiet was complete, the crew silent as if they feared noise would bring the monster back.



Kirk brought his hands down and straightened. Around him his crew quickly pulled themselves together and remanned their stations. He turned to his science officer who was already busy at his computer. “Where did it go?”



Spock turned to face him. “Unknown, Captain. It seems to have disappeared as mysteriously as it originally appeared.”



“I think Starfleet is going to want to know more about it than that.”



“I am attempting to decipher the data obtained while we were within the storm but this is apparently a totally new and unknown phenomenon. Processing the information will take time.”



“Any damage to the ship?”



“Negative. The only thing affected seems to have been... us.”



With a nod, Kirk moved back to the center chair. Whatever that thing was it had left them relatively unharmed. As much as he’d like to look for the damn thing, they had their orders. It was time to head home. “Mr. Sulu, take us back to our original heading, warp one.”



“Aye, aye, sir. Warp one.”



“How much behind schedule did this put us?”



“We only lost ten minutes, sir.” The helmsman smiled. “We can make the time up easy.”



Kirk grinned back. “Just a nice, steady pace, Mr. Sulu. We’re in no rush.” He glanced over his shoulder. “Any luck with that transmission, Uhura?”



Frustration colored her answer. “No, sir. The interference is gone but now I’m not getting anything. No signal, nothing.”



“Spock?” He looked at the Vulcan. “Could there have been damage to the instruments?”



“No, sir.” He flipped through the switches on his board, intently listening to whatever was coming through his earpiece. “She is correct, Captain. It is not that we are unable to receive the signal, it is that there is no signal to receive.”



“How can that be? We’re within shouting distance of Earth.”



“I do not know but all transmission bands normally used by Starfleet or the Federation are dead.”



“Okay, so how about those not used by Starfleet or the Federation? There’s got to be something out there.” Kirk turned back to his communications officer. “Uhura, start going through every wavelength there is. Find me someone to talk to.”



The woman turned to her duty and Kirk shared a look with his science officer. This whole situation was beginning to sound awfully familiar. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”



Spock almost grimaced. “The odds of one ship being thrown back in time seven times in a five-year mission does seem to go against the laws of probability.”



“Maybe so. But right now my gut is telling me that’s exactly what happened.”



“Sir,” Uhura broke in. “I’ve picked up a signal on a very low frequency.”



“On audio, Lieutenant.”



“...Poland's military rulers have declared a state of emergency after imposing martial law and placing leaders of the Solidarity trade union under arrest.



“The country is effectively sealed off from the outside world with the military insisting the action is necessary to prevent the country from descending into civil war.



“Borders with East Germany, the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia have been closed and air space over Poland has been shut.”



“Turn it off, Uhura.” Kirk closed his eyes. Not again.



* * * * *



“...Poland's military rulers have declared a state of emergency after imposing martial law and placing leaders of the–”



Bodie reached out and fumbled around with the radio until finally managing to turn the thing off. The controls on his own were much easier but he wasn’t in his own flat. They’d decided early on to take turns sleeping over. He glanced toward the window. It was still dark outside and the room was cold. He shivered and turned to pull the willing body next to him closer.



“‘S time to get up already?”



“Depends on what you mean by ‘up,’ sunshine,” Bodie smirked as he buried his face into a mop of curls.



“Cowley will have a fit if we’re late... again.”



Bodie imagined that was probably true. They’d been able to hide their situation from their boss so far; they’d actually only been late once before, well, recently anyway, and they’d managed to come up with a half-way reasonable excuse for it. But he’d caught the man giving them an odd look, the Scot naturally suspicious. Bodie sighed and rolled away from the warmth and out of the bed. He liked being employed.



He shrugged into his dressing gown and watched his lover as the other man sat up and stretched. Bodie grinned. Ray Doyle first thing in the morning was a sight. The hair that during the day haloed the round face was mashed on one side, a crease from the sheets ran down one side accenting the broken cheek, and his wide-set eyes were droopy and full of sleep. He was beautiful. Bodie shook his head. Christ, but he had it bad.



“What’s so funny?” Doyle drew his legs up and propped his elbows on his bent knees. One hand absently tugged at his hair.



“Nothing, just thought I’d better hide all the mirrors. Seven years bad luck, you know.”



“Bastard,” Doyle remarked without heat. He quickly slid out of bed. “Just for that, I’m getting the shower first.”



“Just don’t use all the hot water,” Bodie shouted as he made his way into the kitchen. Might as well get the coffee going.



He grabbed the kettle from the stove and yawned as he filled it with water. God, he was tired. Four hours sleep just wasn’t enough. He wasn’t the young kid fighting in the jungles of Africa anymore, making do with two or three hours snatched here and there. Barely thirty, sometimes he felt ancient.



* * * * *



He was pouring the water into their cups when Doyle strolled into the kitchen. His lover was still drying his hair but had already dressed.



Doyle pushed him aside with his hip and handed one cup to Bodie. “Go on, I’ll finish here.” He threw the towel he’d been using over one of the chairs and started pulling things out of the refrigerator.



Bodie didn’t waste any time. He grabbed his coffee and headed for the bathroom. He rushed through his morning ablutions, brushing his teeth, showering and drying his hair with quick economy. Doyle apparently hadn’t thought to turn on the heat and the warmth from the shower was dissipating by the time Bodie’d zipped up his brown cords and thrown on a white poloneck. He grabbed his gun and coat from the bedroom and slipped them on as he made his way down the hallway.



When he walked into the livingroom, Doyle had just finished buckling on his shoulder holster and was sliding his gun in and out of it, trying to get it positioned just right.



Bodie picked up one of the foil-wrapped packages on the coffee table, raising his eyebrows in question.



“Bacon and egg sarnie okay? We don’t have time for a proper breakfast.” Doyle pulled on his coat and waved his keys at Bodie. “Time to go.”



“‘It's fine. We can pick up something later, after we’ve checked in.” He opened up the foil and started eating as he followed his partner out the door.



“What makes you think we’ll be leaving the office? Cowley’s probably got us spending all days in the files. He’s not going to want us to start anything, knowing we’re taking time off.” Doyle turned to lock up, his food and drink precariously balanced against his chest. “There’s a game on the telly, tonight. I thought we could pick up a take-away, spend the night at home and get a early start in the morning.”



Doyle was walking behind his partner, so he didn’t see the grimace that crossed Bodie’s face. He hadn’t forgotten about the fishing trip Doyle had dreamed up for their holiday, exactly. How could he? That’s all Doyle’d talked about for weeks. As if they ever really did any fishing. But the cabin Doyle always managed to grab was a nice place to just relax and forget about CI5, George Cowley and the fact that they got shot at on a regular basis. Thing was, Bodie had made plans of his own for tonight.



He glanced over at Doyle as they got into the car. He was sure his partner had noticed his lack of response. As Doyle started the car and squealed out into traffic, Bodie could almost see the gears grinding about so wasn’t surprised when minutes later Doyle threw a disgusted look at him.



“You forgot, didn’t you?”



“Don’t know what you mean, mate.”



Doyle scowled. “You forgot about our fishing trip, didn’t you? You might as well tell me now, Bodie, because you know I’m going to get it out of you eventually.”



Bloody hell. He knew he couldn’t hold Doyle off for very long but he’d hoped for at least a pleasant ride in. “I didn’t forget.” He tried to sound offended. “Isn’t like you would have let me, is it.”



“Don’t give me that. You like going up there as much as I do.” Doyle’s eyes narrowed. “It’s got to do with tonight, doesn’t it?” Then the lights went on. “You bastard! You’ve going out with a bird, aren’t you?”



Bodie shook his head and turned to stare out the window. “Doyle, we’ve already talked about this. You know this is something we have to do.”



“Yeah, I know, but you seem to have an awful lot of fun doing it, don’t you, Bodie? Can’t let a week go by without chatting up someone new. Who is it this time? Lauren? Kathy?”



“‘It's not like that and you know it.” Christ, but he hated when Doyle got this way. As if things weren’t hard enough as it was. “You’re the only one I want to be with; you know that. But you know we’ve got to make it look like we’re still interested in women.”



“Yeah, can’t let anyone know two of CI5’s finest are a couple of poofters, now can we?” Doyle bitterly shot back.



Bodie didn’t know how to respond to that, so the rest of the ride in was made in silence. They pulled into the carpark and Doyle got out, slamming the car door and starting off without a word.



“Doyle!” Bodie quickly extricated himself from the vehicle. “Doyle, wait up!”



His partner didn’t even slow down. Bodie shoved his hands into his coat pockets and trudged toward the building. It was going to be a long day.



* * * * *



“All right, Bones, you go first.” Kirk leaned back as he addressed his CMO. The two men, along with Mr. Scott and Mr. Spock sat around the large table in the main briefing room. He’d called this meeting to get answers and McCoy seemed the best place to start. Kirk’s concern for his crew was paramount.



“The crew’s in pretty good shape. A few complaints of ringing in their ears but that should pass. As loud as that thing was, there wasn’t any real damage done to the eardrum itself. Ramirez in engineering has a killer of a headache but that’s more from the spike in his blood pressure than anything else. He’s only been on the ship a few months, he was one of the replacements we picked up on Starbase seventeen, and this was his first time dealing with anything out of the ordinary.”



“He’ll be all right?”



“Oh, yeah.” McCoy nodded. “Kid that age bounces right back. I should be so lucky.”



“What’s the matter, ride too wild?” Kirk grinned at his friend.



“Let’s just say I could have done without one last adventure before I finally get off this tub... no offense, Scotty.”



Kirk switched his attention to his chief engineer. “How about the ship, Scotty?”



“Everything checks out fine, Captain: engines, transporter, communications, everything. All systems are up and working. But however we got here, the engines dinna engage. As far as they’re concerned, we’re right where we were before that crazy storm swept us up.”



“That is because we are, Commander Scott,” Spock noted.



“Explain.” Kirk swiveled to face his science officer, who sat at the far end of the table next to the computer terminal.



“We are exactly where we were when the ‘storm,’” Spock tightened his lips in obvious distaste at the inaccurate description, “was first noted by our sensors.”



“What are you talking about, Spock?” McCoy cut in. “That wasn’t Starfleet we were listening to earlier.”



“I did not say we were in the same time, Doctor, only the same place. The temporal anomaly has sent us back into your planet’s past. December 13, 1981 as calculated by the old Earth calendar, to be exact.”



“This temporal anomaly, is there any record of it having been this way before?” Kirk asked.



“Only by implication, Captain. There are reports of people on your planet going missing and then reappearing in a ‘cloud of noise’ sometime later. There is no record of it having been come upon in space, however. We are, unfortunately, the first. In any event, it was often the person who was taken who reported the matter. Usually, that person was not believed and most instances were regarded as the result of hysteria or alcohol.”



“But you say they always returned.”



“I did not say that exactly, Captain.” Spock sat forward and rested his elbows on the table, his fingers steepled. “In every instance where the phenomenon has been reported, there is always a second sighting days, but sometimes, years, later. The people or persons swept up in it have not always reappeared with it, however.”



McCoy’s eyes went wide. “Are you saying there’s a chance we won’t get back?”



“Not necessarily, Dr. McCoy. Actually, the odds are definitely in our favor for doing so.”



Kirk brought up his hand to stop any response McCoy might have made and addressed Spock. “Why do you think that?”



“As I said, usually the reports were not believed. Why should they be? There was never any substantiated proof that what the person said had actually occurred... except for one time.”



“You have the floor, Science Officer.” Kirk leaned back, suddenly sure there would be a way back to where they had come because he could always tell when Spock had figured out the answer to something. The Vulcan was in his element and it showed.



“On July 13th, 1980, a US nuclear carrier disappeared off the waters of Pearl Harbor and reappeared approximately three days later. According to the exec, a Captain Matthew Yelland, the ship was thrown back in time over forty years, to December 6th, 1941.”



“Wait a minute–”



“Quiet, Bones. Proceed, Mr. Spock.”



“There was, of course, a board of inquiry. Captain Yelland had lost several men in those three days, including his air wing commander, whose body, by the way, was never recovered. Much of his story could not be corroborated; too much was supposition on his and his officers’ part. But what could not be denied, was the body of the Japanese pilot they had on board, a pilot whose identity was later verified through photographs and those who had known him who were still alive. Petty officer Jiro Simura was thirty-seven when he and his plane disappeared while on long-range patrol for the Japanese task force, the Japanese task force that was at that moment preparing to attack Pearl Harbor. The body removed from Captain Yelland’s ship was that of a young man of the same age.”



“So you’re saying that, not only could we be left in this time if for some reason we’re not on the ship but that it would be possible for someone on board the Enterprise at the time of the anomaly’s return to be pulled through time with us.”



“Correct.”



“Well, there you go.” Mr. Scott happily slapped the table. “As long as no one takes it into their head to be leaving the ship, my engines can keep us going for however long it takes that... that, whatever you want to call it, to return.”



“There is, unfortunately, a vital reason to leave the ship.”



McCoy rolled his eyes. “We should have known.”



Spock ignored the remark and proceeded. “In order for me to computate just how long it will be before the anomaly’s return, I will need the exact time of its last appearance and subsequent reappearance.”



Kirk frowned. “Wasn’t that information in the computer? I would think getting into the military’s database would be child’s play for you.”



“The information was removed.”



“But you know by who.” It was not a question.



“A Mr. Warren Lasky, systems analyzer for Tideman Industries happened to be aboard the carrier during its visit to the past; had, in fact, been ordered there by his employer. It was assumed at the time, because Lasky had designed the carrier’s computers, he was there to oversee their use. Yet he had little contact with the computers during his visit. It was only after a subsequent visit, two days later, that the information went missing.”



Spock turned on the tri-view screen set in the middle of the table. A picture appeared of an elderly, balding man of approximately seventy-five years of age. “In any event, this is Richard Tideman, Mr. Lasky’s employer. This,” the picture moved to make room for a second picture, “is Commander Richard Owens, the carrier’s lost air wing commander.”



Kirk’s eyes widened as he realized what it was Spock had found. He glanced over and saw both McCoy and Scotty raptly viewing the screen.



“Well, I’ll be damned.” McCoy finally broke the silence, though he kept looking from one picture to the other. “It’s the same man.”



“Correct, Doctor.”



“So, why do you think he had the records removed?” Kirk managed to pull his gaze away from the image.



“That, I do not know, though I would speculate to keep his old life from interfering with his new one. But from what I have managed to retrieve from Tideman Industries’ computers, whatever information was taken is now being housed in the company’s corporate headquarters, as is anything else dealing with the occurrence per Mr. Tideman’s orders.”



Kirk pressed the intercom button. “Mr. Sulu, sublight speed to Earth. Take us into orbit but keep us high enough to escape detection.” He toggled the next switch. “Uhura, contact ship’s stores. Have them bring clothing comparable to those of Earth, late twentieth century, to my quarters for myself and Mr. Spock.”



“I knew it!” McCoy exploded. “Didn’t I tell you, Scotty, that these two would find a reason to beam down?”



“We need that information, McCoy. If that storm decides it’s not coming back for a couple of years, it might be a good idea to figure out some other way of getting home.” Kirk’s voice was heavy with sarcasm.



“Aye,” the engineer added worryingly, “there’s no way the ship’s power would last that long, not taking care of the whole crew. We’d run out of supplies in less than ten months and that’s assuming nothing went wrong with any of the systems.”



“So, why can’t someone else go?” McCoy protested.



“Because Spock’s the only one who knows what to look for.”



“Oh, and of course you have to go along to keep him in line, is that it?”



“McCoy, we don’t have time for this,” Kirk snapped. “Spock and I will be beaming down as soon as we make orbit. But I want you to get two transponders ready, just in case. We’ll swing by sickbay after we change.”



“I’ll get the transporter ready, then.” Mr. Scott rose and headed for the door only to stop at the entryway. “Where exactly am I beaming you, Mr. Spock?”



“London, England, in what was then known, or now known, as the United Kingdom. I will feed you the exact coordinates from here.”



“You have your orders, gentlemen.” Kirk stood up. “And time, as they say, waits for no man.”



* * * * *



Bodie sat with his back to his partner, listening to the furious slamming of the keys of the typewriter as Doyle pounded out another report. It was something Doyle had picked up while with the Met, doing a credible job of typing, unlike Bodie who still hunt and pecked his way through his paperwork.



He grimaced and tried to get his mind back on his own work. They’d been at it all day; Doyle had been correct in assuming their boss would keep them in the building, wasting a day pulling records for the other agents in the field. Bloody Cowley. Bodie could almost think the man had done it to punish them for actually taking leave time.



But it was hard staying on track, knowing that Doyle was deliberately not looking at him, was still fuming over their argument from this morning. Ray hadn’t said more than a dozen words to him all day.



He heard a snarled curse and glanced over just as Doyle pulled the sheet of paper from out of the machine, wadded it into a ball and threw it quite forcefully into the corner. Another sheet was hastily inserted and the pounding began again.



Bodie’s jaw tightened. He’d had enough. He couldn’t take it any more and turned around to glare at his partner. “You’re going to break that thing if you don’t slow down.”



“Sod off, Bodie.” Doyle didn’t even look up. “I’m trying to finish this.”



“What for? Murphy’s still on the case. It’s not like he’s not going to change half of the stuff you’re putting in there.”



“What’s the matter? In a hurry to leave? Well, don’t let me hold you up.”



“Oh, so we’re back to this again, are we? Christ, Doyle! You act like I want to go out with someone else!”



Doyle’s head jerked up and he looked wildly toward the door. “You trying to get us thrown off the squad?” he hissed.



“The place is like a tomb. No one’s going to hear us, even if there was still anyone down here. Besides, they wouldn’t know what I was talking about, now would they.”



“I don’t care; it's not something we should take a chance with.”



“You’re a fine one to talk. You don’t think they’d start to wonder if both of us suddenly went off birds? And it’s not like you haven’t got your leg over a few times.” Bodie remembered all too well how hard it’d been to watch Doyle have his way with a couple of women within months of them getting together. Hell, Ray had practically lived with one of them.



“That was the job and you know it.”



“You could have fooled me, mate. You certainly didn’t have any trouble squiring the lovely Miss Esther around. I wouldn’t have been surprised if you had told me you were moving to Hong Kong with her.” Bodie had never been so scared in his life. He’d thought he’d lost his lover for sure to the woman agent who had suddenly come into their lives.



“It was an undercover job, Bodie! And Cowley’s the one who set up us living together. What was I supposed to do? Tell him, ‘sorry, sir, but Bodie wouldn’t like this, no, not at all’?”



“No, but there’s nothing in the fine print that says you have to have quite so much fun while you’re at it.”



Doyle just stared at him for a moment. “You said it didn’t bother you.”



“Well, I lied, all right?” Bodie took a deep breath, trying to control his anger. “Listen, it’s already going on seven. I don’t have to pick up... I don’t have to be anywhere until eight-thirty. Let me drive you home; we can talk in the car.”



“You think talking is going to make it go away? I hate this, Bodie. I hate not being able to touch you or say the things I want to say to you in public. I hate that I have to pretend to like some poor woman who doesn’t have a clue that I’m thinking about you while I’m with her. Even worse, I hate the feeling in my gut everytime I know you’re going to be with someone else. I don’t know how much longer I can handle it.”



Bodie ducked his head, afraid of what he’d see in his partner’s eyes. “You saying you want to end it then?”



The quiet frightened him, it lasted so long. So he was surprised by the feel of Doyle’s strong hands on his shoulders, the long, slender fingers holding tight. He looked up to see Ray smiling at him with tender affection.



“You dumb crud. You’re not going to get rid of me that easily. Come on. I might even let you buy me a beer.”



Bodie smiled back. Doyle’s moods had always been transitory. “Since we’re going to your place, you’re on.”



Doyle shook his head in a ‘why me’ manner and started for the door.



Bodie got up, grabbed his coat and followed his partner out.



* * * * *



They materialized in a darkened lane. It was early evening but the buildings to each side of them shadowed the narrow street and hid them from the traffic that passed just feet away. With a nod to his first officer, Kirk led them around to the front of the building. An unpretentious structure, it nevertheless took up half a city block.



Trying not to be too noticable, they peered into the glass-enclosed lobby. All that could be seen was a bank of elevators lining each side. A directory hung on the wall at the back.



Kirk glanced to the left and right. “I think we’d be pretty obvious if we tried getting in through here.” He backed up to the edge of the sidewalk and, shading his eyes, peered up the front of the building. It rose only three stories. The blueprints they’d managed to find in the databanks showed Richard Tideman’s office to be on the top floor.



“There is usually a back way into most establishments,” Spock noted.



“Good idea, first officer.” Kirk moved back and rested his hand on Spock’s shoulder; they’d need to return to the secondary roadway. Turning the Vulcan around, he couldn’t miss the slight tightening beneath the dark gray coat Spock wore. Damn, he’d thought that all behind them.



Since the storm, his lover had acted almost normal. Spock hadn’t protested coming along with him, hadn’t affected that super-Vulcan facade Kirk had grown heartily tired of. Instead, he’d seemed to have relaxed back into the man Kirk had shared a bed with for the last two years, the man who’d stood at his side for the last five. Yet, here Spock was, at it once again. Whatever was going on with the Vulcan, wasn’t over yet.



Forget it; get on with the mission. Kirk mentally chastised himself. Pushing aside any personal consideration, he acted as if he hadn’t noticed Spock’s withdrawal and led them back toward the side street.



Debris cluttered the path and it looked more like a docking area than an actual thoroughfare. Kirk batted aside a stray paper kicked up by the wind as they worked their way along the side of the building. About a third of the way back they came upon a recessed door. There was just enough room for both of them to stand and be hidden from view.



“Where do you think this leads?” Kirk looked through the small window of reinforced glass. It showed a small hallway that lead in both directions. Just within sight was a stairwell.



“If you would allow me?” Spock pulled out one of the instuments he’d brought along and took his place in front of the door. While Kirk kept lookout, he aimed the device at the doorknob. There was a brief spark. Kirk cringed as the lock fell and hit the ground, the noise echoing between the two buildings.



“Okay, let’s go.” With the lock gone, the door had fallen open an inch. Kirk grabbed the edge and pulled it the rest of the way open.



“Did you see someone, Captain?” Spock had turned and was intently watching the area across the narrow street.



He glanced back. He’d started into the building when Spock’s words stopped him. “Where?”



“To our left, across the way, approximately fifty two point seven feet.”



Kirk’s eyes narrowed. In the gathering dusk, it was difficult to see anything that far away. “I don’t see anyone.”



Spock’s lips pressed together. He watched the area for another few moments but finally turned back to Kirk. “I must have been mistaken. I believed I saw movement.”



“Maybe it was a cat. I’m sure there’s plenty of strays around here.”



“Perhaps you are correct.”



“Come on,” Kirk grabbed Spock’s arm. This time there was no withdrawal. Either he’s afraid for me or too involved now to let me affect him. “Let’s see what we can find.”



* * * * *



Doyle impatiently waited next to the car. His partner had been right behind him as they’d taken the stairs, the lift being once again out of service. Next thing he knew, he was standing all alone in the carpark. And Bodie had the keys.



The door to the building slammed open and Bodie sauntered out. There was a look of satisfaction on his face as he approached Doyle. He unlocked the car door and slid into the driver’s seat.



“Come on, Bodie. It’s brass monkeys out here.” Doyle’s arms were wrapped tightly around himself. With a grin, Bodie flipped up the lock and Doyle hurried into the relative warmth of the car. “Took you bloody long enough. What the hell were you doing in there, anyway?”



“Had some plans to change.” Bodie only glanced at his partner, his attention on the street as he pulled out into traffic. “What you fancy to eat? Chinese okay?”



“I thought you didn’t have the time.”



“I’ll make the time,” Bodie responded, happily.



“Why not? There’s the place right around the corner from my flat; you seemed to like it last time.” Doyle hesitated. “Sure this is okay? I wouldn’t want you to be late. You’ve got little enough goin’ for you to begin with.” He couldn’t help himself. He wasn’t mad anymore but he wasn’t going to let Bodie off that easy.



“Ta very much, mate. Actually, the lovely Karen will have to do without the benefit of my manly presence tonight. Poor dear was crushed, absolutely crushed.”



“What’d you do?” Doyle leaned toward his partner when no answer was forthcoming. “Well?”



“Gave her a ring, told her we’d been called out on an obbo.”



“Now why’d you go and do a thing like that for?”



Bodie looked ready to slug him. “You were the one–”



“I know what I said. But I can take care of myself. I don’t need you to be coddling me.” Doyle threw himself against the seat. “I’m not one of your birds, Bodie. I can look after myself.”



Doyle heard his partner take a deep breath before responding.



“Thought we’d get an early start, like you said. ‘It's what you want, isn’t it, Ray?” The words were said hesitantly, as if Bodie wasn’t sure if that was what Doyle wanted.



“Ah, Bodie.” Doyle shook his head. He was helpless against the little boy that seemed to reside within his lover. He sometimes thought that’s who he had fallen in love with first, the childlike side Bodie usually kept hidden behind his facade of indifference. He looked over to see his partner trying to watch the road and him at the same time. He chuckled. “Watch where you’re going, you bloody fool. And, yes, that’s what I want. As if I wasn’t as susceptible to your dubious charms as anyone else.”



With a smug smile, Bodie turned back to his driving. Doyle knew as far as his partner was concerned everything was fine now. But as the smile faded from his own face, Doyle wondered how many times they could have this same argument before it finally tore them apart?



* * * * *



“Since we have the time, take a right up ahead.”



They were a couple of streets from the takeaway but Bodie automatically took the turn. “Where’re we going?”



“Got a grass who might have some information on the robberies going on around here. It’ll only take a minute.”



“You know where to find him?”



“He usually hangs around the pub down the street.” Doyle hoped the man was there. As an informant, Steve left a lot to be desired but he’d brought him some good leads from time to time.



A street away, Bodie slammed on the brakes and threw the car into reverse. “Did you see that?”



“See what?” Doyle craned his neck around, trying to make out what it was his partner had spotted.



Bodie pulled the car over to the kerb and killed the engine. “Thought I saw someone moving around in there.”



“I don’t see anything.”



Bodie opened his door and got out, drawing his gun at the same time. “Over there, by the fire escape.” He started making his way down the darkened street.



“Wait up!” Doyle hissed. He climbed out of the car and hurried to catch up to his partner.



Cautiously, almost back to back, they worked their way further into the shadowed side street. Every so often Doyle would glance up at the windows that stared down at them from both sides. This would be a lousy place to get caught in.



It was unnerving, the dead quiet except for the low moan of wind as it blew intermittently. When the sound of metal crashing on metal broke the stillness, both men dove for cover. Doyle saw Bodie duck behind a large rubbish bin pushed up against one building while he himself made for the alcoved door on the other side of the street. He waited, breath held, for whoever it was to make a move. Laughter was the last thing he expected. He was about to call out when he saw Bodie stand up and walk toward him.



“‘S a moggy.” Bodie’s eyes sparkled as he pointed toward where the sounds had come from. “See? You can just make out his eyes.”



Doyle peered into the darkness. At first, all he could see were two yellow orbs that seemed to float by themselves in the gloom. But then, as if annoyed with the two humans who had invaded his domain, the large and surprisingly well-fed cat got up and scampered away. Doyle grimaced in disgust and holstered his weapon. “Leave it to you to get us sidetracked by a bloody animal. Come on, let’s go home.”



“Oi, look at this.” Bodie had turned toward the door.



Doyle squatted down and picked up one of the pieces of what used to be a door knob. “Looks like it’s been burned off. Maybe we should investigate it. You want to call it in?”



Bodie patted his jacket. “Must have left me RT in the car. Where’s yours?”



“If I had it with me do you think I’d be asking you to call?” Doyle had done Bodie one better; he’d left his radio transmitter on his desk.



Bodie wagged his finger at him. “No need to get touchy. Looks like we’re on our own.” He pulled open the door and started in.



With an exasperated sigh, Doyle pulled out his weapon once again and followed his partner.



* * * * *



Kirk heard the click of the last tumbler falling into place. He glanced over his shoulder and grinned at Spock. He remembered the last time his first officer had used this particular skill. It no longer hurt to think of Edith. “You’ve still got the touch.”



Spock looked at him and lifted an eyebrow. He’d removed the wool cap that had hidden his ears from view the minute they’d got inside so nothing impeded the elegance of that particular expression. He grabbed the handle and pulled open the safe. “I believe I have found what we’ve been looking for.” He gathered the papers and tapes from inside and brought them over to where Kirk was shuffling through the contents of a tall filing cabinet. “It appears we were correct in surmising that the information would be stored here.”



“I think this is the rest of it.” Kirk took out one of the files and opened it up on top of the cabinet. “I can’t believe all the background he was able to find on the anomaly.” He flipped through the photos that made up the bulk of the file. “He’s even got pictures of the damn thing.”



“He’s had many years to accummulate the data...and he knew what he was looking for.”



“Well, it’s certainly going to make our situation easier.” Kirk closed the drawer. “Go ahead and start scanning it into your tricorder. I’ll check out the outer office again and then we can get the hell out of here.”



They’d bypassed the smaller desk that sat in the front room. Kirk figured it for the man’s secretary. Chances were he wouldn’t find anything but he was here, so he might as well make a thorough search.



The instument Spock had used on the door worked just as well on the middle drawer lock. Kirk shoved the small device into his pocket and grabbed the wide, shallow drawer with both hands.



“All right, mate, just let it go, nice and gentle.”



Kirk froze and looked up. At the door, the speaker stood with a gun in his hands, the barrel aimed directly at him. Kirk remembered quite well what those things could do, so he slowly let go of the drawer and raised his hands. “This isn’t what it looks like.”



“Sure it isn’t. But you’re going to come around here and spread your hands on the desk, anyway.”



Kirk did as he was told. The man was taller than him and probably outweighed him by twenty pounds. By the looks of it, it was all muscle. With a resigned sigh he went around the desk and laid his hands on its surface.



“Doyle, get in here!” The man yelled toward the outside hallway as he started toward Kirk. He warily approached his captive. Kirk’s feet were kicked further apart and the man began to pat him down.



“I’m not armed.”



The man ignored him.



“Bodie, where are you?”



Kirk glanced over his shoulder and caught movement at the door. A second man, ‘Doyle,’ he supposed, cautiously entered. He, too, had a gun drawn. Though not as big as the one called Bodie, he apparently knew how to handle the weapon in his hand.



“Need any help?” Doyle asked.



“No, this one won’t be any trouble. But check the back room just to be on the safe side.”



“I’m alone,” Kirk interjected.



Bodie grabbed him by the collar and spun him around. “Well, then you shouldn’t mind if we look for ourselves, should you? Now, sit.”



Kirk sat. He’d left the door open to the other room, so hopefully Spock had heard everything and transported up. Maybe if he could distract this one, he’d have the chance to join the Vulcan.



“Is that your partner?” Kirk nodded his head toward the back room.



Bodie just glared at him.



Kirk shut up after that. He’d been in enough head-to-heads with Klingons to know what that kind of look meant. No sense antagonizing the man.



They heard the crash and both men almost instinctively started for the door. But Kirk was stopped by the gun that was immediately drawn back to him; what had stopped the other man could only have been a rigid discipline.



“Doyle?” Bodie kept his eyes on Kirk but his attention was directed to the back. “Doyle, what’s going on? Bloody hell.” He started inching toward the door, his eyes darting between Kirk and the back office, though the gun never wavered. “You stay right there.”



Kirk watched him, knowing the man had to make a choice. Obviously Spock hadn’t beamed back up and the man’s partner was probably now unconscious. He could tell Bodie wasn’t quite sure if he should let him go or not.



The decision was taken from him when the door flew open wide. Spock stood just on the other side, one arm holding the unconscious man against him, his other hand gripping the back of the man’s neck. One quick twist is all it’d take.



Bodie froze. He didn’t know it was something Spock would never do but it gave Kirk the opening he needed. He lunged up from the desk and kicked out, sending the gun flying. At the same time, Spock pushed the limp form at Bodie, effectively preventing him from retrieving the weapon first.



Kirk grabbed it up from where it had fallen and pointed it at their erstwhile captors. “Okay, now it’s your turn. Sit over there, out of the way.”



Bodie dragged Doyle over to the wall. He sat and cradled his partner in his arms. “Doyle? Ray, wake up.” He glared at Kirk. “What’d he hit him with?”



Spock moved over to stand next to Kirk. “I assure you, sir, I did not strike your companion.”



“Well, he didn’t faint, now did he.” Bodie lightly tapped at Doyle’s jaw. “Come on Doyle, wake up.”



“He’ll come around in a couple of minutes.” Kirk grimaced. “He’ll have a hell of a stiff neck and a killer headache but he’ll be fine.” He glanced at his first officer. Luckily, Spock had had the wherewithal to put his cap back on. “Where’s his gun?” He kept his voice low.



“I left it where it fell,” Spock responded quietly. “I saw no need for its use.”



Kirk balanced the weapon in his hand. “This came in handy this time. I wish we’d brought a phaser, though. It would make it a lot easier dealing with these two.”



“If caught, a phaser would have been difficult to explain and could be a danger if it had fallen into the wrong hands. The tricorder was a necessity, as were the communicators.”



“Where is your tricorder?”



“On the file cabinet. Mr. Doyle entered too quickly for me to retrieve it before I was forced to deal with him.”



“Fine, you can get it later. Did you find anything else?”



“Only this.” Spock handed Kirk a leather holder that flipped open to reveal identification.



“CI5?”



“It appears to be some sort of law enforcement agency.”



“Police?”



“I do not believe so. Firearms were not carried by officers of the law in this time and place.”



“Whatever they are, what do we do with them? We can’t let them see us leave.”



“Perhaps when Mr. Doyle regains consciousness, they can be persuaded to leave.”



Kirk gave him a speaking look. “Right. I doubt either will be in a compliant mood.”



Nor a happy one, going by the groans emitted by Doyle as he came to. He grabbed the back of his neck and grimaced. “It feels like someone tried to twist my head right off.”



Bodie helped him to his feet. “Take it easy, mate.”



Doyle opened his eyes as he finally managed to stand on his own. He squinted at Kirk and then glared at Bodie. “That’s your gun, innit? Nice going, Bodie.”



“Well, I don’t see you holding on to yours.”



“All right you two,” Kirk interjected. “Just calm down and everything will work out just fine.”



Both men turned and glared at him.



“What do you plan on doing with us?” Doyle asked.



“Why, letting you go, of course.”



“Of course.” Bodie smiled.



Kirk didn’t think he’d ever had anyone smile at him like that. How the man managed to make you think he’d gladly skin you alive while smiling at you was anyone’s guess. Kirk was just glad they’d be long gone before the man had a chance to try anything. “Look, we got what we came for. We didn’t plan on anyone interfering.”



“Hear that, Bodie? We’re ‘interfering’ with their nice little robbery.” Doyle shook his head in disgust.



“Whatever our reason for being here, we’re ready to leave now. So if you two would kindly be quiet, we’ll be moving along. Spock, would you see our... guests to the door?”



“Gentlemen?” Spock stood aside and motioned them toward the exit.



Neither budged.



”What about our weapons?” Bodie finally asked.



“I’m afraid not. You might try to do something we’d all regret. You can have this, though.” Kirk handed his ID back to Doyle.



The man took it and glanced at his partner. Kirk could swear they were exchanging information. He knew from experience how easily he could get something across to Spock with just a look. “I wouldn’t try anything if I were you. Between this gun and Mr. Spock, we’re more than capable of handling you both.” He shot a look at the Vulcan. “We’ll watch them from the stairwell landing. Once they’re outside, we can come back here.” Kirk figured, even if the two men turned right around to come after them, it would still give him and Spock plenty of time to transport out.



Spock nodded and fell in behind Kirk. They walked slowly, keeping a safe distance from the two agents until they reached the stairwell. Spock held the door open, while Kirk kept the gun trained on the two men. “On your way, gentlemen.”



Grudgingly, the two men gave ground and started down the stairs. Kirk leaned over the railing and watched as they slowly took each flight. He could hear them talking to each other, probably planning their next move. Kirk couldn’t help but smile. They’d both been so angry, but whether at Kirk or at each other was hard to say. Finally, they reached the bottom.



“Just head out the door and close it behind you,” Kirk shouted down the stairwell.



Nothing happened at first. Kirk was almost afraid the two men had already started back up the stairs when he heard the door open and then close.



“All right, let’s get our things and get the hell out of here.”



They returned to the back office. Spock had his tricorder slung onto his shoulder and Kirk had just opened his communicator when they heard shots ring out downstairs.



“Come on!” Kirk grabbed the gun he’d just deposited on the desk and ran out the door and through the outer office. Whatever was going on outside, the two agents they’d forced out there were unarmed. The weapon was heavy in Kirk’s hand.



When they got to the bottom of the stairs, he signalled Spock to a halt. It had been quiet after those first shots but that didn’t mean someone wasn’t still out there, waiting for them to stick their heads out.



Kirk slowly opened the door a couple of inches and peered out. He could make out very little in the dark. While they had been in the building, night had fallen. “I don’t see anyone.”



“If you would allow me, Captain.” Spock quickly took his place and looked outside. “I believe there is someone approximately thirty feet away. They appear to be alone.” He opened the door wider and started out.



It was hard to keep up but Spock seemed to be having no trouble seeing in the nearly pitch-black for he quickly approached the huddled figure sitting along the edge of the street.



“Bodie? Damn it, Bodie, open your eyes.” Doyle had his partner cradled in one arm while he used his free hand to press against Bodie’s chest. The other man was unconscious or dead.



Kirk knelt in front of him. So close, he could see the blood pouring out from between Doyle’s fingers and the tears that slipped unheeded down the agent’s face.



“You bastard, don’t do this to me! Bodie!” Doyle suddenly pulled the limp figure tightly against his chest. “You hear me? Come on, Bodie!”



Kirk looked up at Spock, who stood behind the two men. At his nod, Spock opened his communicator while Kirk took hold of each man by a shoulder.



“Spock to Enterprise. Emergency beam-up.”



No sooner were the words spoken, than Kirk felt the welcoming affects of the transporter take them.



* * * * *



He didn’t know where he was. He didn’t know how he’d got here. Didn’t matter. All that mattered was Bodie. And Bodie was dead, or dying. No matter what the older man with the kind face had said.



“Everything will be all right, son. I’ll patch him up, good as new.”



Doyle didn’t believe a word of it. Did they think he was stupid? He knew a killing wound when he saw one.



Who were these people? He recognized the two from the office. Not like any thieves he’d ever seen. One of them had taken charge. Captain. He remembered the other men calling him captain. Was he on a ship?



Doyle looked around, not really interested in his surroundings but too bound by habit and training to do otherwise. He hadn’t noticed when they’d first brought him here how very odd the place was.



It didn’t look like any hospital he’d been in. There was no smell of antiseptic, no drab furniture or off-colored walls. Everything was clean and bright. There was nothing that spoke of death.



Doyle ran his hand through his hair. It was sticky. He had Bodie’s blood in his hair. On his hands. On his clothes.



He felt sick. But they’d told him to stay put, that they’d get right back to him. After they had pulled him away from Bodie. Doyle hadn’t wanted to let go but they had done something to him. He’d felt an odd sensation on his arm and then he hadn’t felt so bad anymore. The awful despair that had been eating him alive had eased a little.



They sat him down and then they’d taken Bodie into the back room and left Doyle on his own. But he couldn’t leave, now could he? He had to stay here so he could say goodbye when they let him see Bodie again.



They must have drugged him. He felt disconnected from himself, as if he was only an observer. Doyle took a shuddered breath. He should get up. Find out what they had done with Bodie. Bodie, whose blood had poured from the wound in his chest. Doyle vaguely remembered trying to stop it with his hands. He looked at his hands. He should find a basin, wash the blood off.



To think only this morning he’d worried about Bodie going out with women. Wouldn’t have to worry about that, anymore. Doyle felt a bubble of laughter rise up and stifled it. Be gettin’ bloody hysterical next. If it meant seeing his partner, alive and whole, he’d step aside for however many women Bodie felt he had to date. It seemed such a small, stupid thing to argue about now.



He heard a noise, the same weird, swishing noise he’d heard several times already.



“Mr. Doyle?”



The older man was back, the one who had said he would take care of Bodie.



“How do you know my name?”



“Captain Kirk told me about you and your partner, Mr. Bodie.”



“‘S just Bodie. No ‘mister.’”



“All right. Well, Bodie is going to be just fine.”



Doyle wanted to believe that. “Can I see him?”



“Not just yet. He’s in reg- He’s in recovery right now. Tomorrow would be better. Besides,” he gave Doyle a measured look, “you look like you could use some rest. Why don’t I have someone take you where you can get cleaned up and get some sleep?”



“I don’t want to leave Bodie. What if he wakes up and I’m not here? Give him a bit of a fright, his partner being gone.”



“He won’t.” The man gently took Doyle’s arm, pulling him up from his chair. “Come on. I’ll fix you up on one of the beds in here. But first, I think you’d better get washed up.”



That sounded okay. He wouldn’t be that far from Bodie. And it would feel good to be clean. Doyle looked directly at the man and struggled to get his thoughts in order. “Where am I and who are you?”



“Where you are doesn’t matter, does it? You’re safe and your friend is going to be okay. As to who I am,” the man smiled, “Dr. Leonard McCoy, at your service.”



* * * * *



“Jim, wait up.”



Kirk turned at the sound of his friend’s voice. He slowed his pace, letting the doctor catch up with him as he made his way to the briefing room. “How’d the surgery go?”



“Pretty good. The man’s in excellent shape. That helped a lot.”



“No problems, then?”



“Well, I didn’t say that exactly,” McCoy responded as they made their destination.



They entered, Kirk taking his seat at the head of the table. Spock and Mr. Scott were already there. Kirk had called the meeting as soon as Spock had informed him that his computations were now complete.



Once everyone was settled, Kirk got things rolling. “Mr. Spock?” Kirk nodded to his science officer.



“I have finished correlating all the information from Mr. Tideman’s records. Added to my own observations of the anomaly, I was able to computate its trajectory. It should reappear in seventy-four point six two hours, which seems to be within its normal time-frame. Tideman reports that the ship he was on when pulled through time returned to its time after approximately one day, though three days had passed there. The reverse will happen to us; three days will pass in this time, less than one in our own. The information he was able to acquire, along with my sensor readings of the anomaly, bears that out.”



“Three days.” Kirk pondered the information. “So, what do we do, just sit here for three days and hope it finds us?”



“It will find us, Captain. Make no mistake about that.”



“What makes you so sure, Spock?” McCoy asked.



“Because Captain Yelland reported that they tried to outrun the storm when it first appeared and a day later when it reappeared. They were unsuccessful both times.”



Kirk nodded his head. “Spock’s right, Bones. We tried the same thing and it did just as much good. All right, we sit for three days.” He looked over at his chief engineer. “Can the engines take the screens being up for that long a time?”



Scott shook his head. “I’d not recommend it, Captain. If something should go wrong, well, we’ve no place to go for repairs.”



“Since moving around doesn’t seem to cause a problem, I’ll have the ship taken out of orbit. We can park ourselves outside the Oort cloud.”



“What about our two guests?” McCoy asked.



“You tell me, Bones. What shape are they in?”



“Well, Mr. Doyle was a bit shaky there for awhile but he’ll be okay. I’ve got him pumped full of tranquilizers right now. It seemed the only way to get him away from his partner. He’s sleeping on a bed in sickbay; he should be out for several hours. I’ve got Chapel watching him.”



“And the other one? Mr. Bodie, wasn’t it?”



McCoy grinned. “Just Bodie, as I was quite properly informed.”



“That’s his first name?”



“Hell if I know, Jim. But that’s what he goes by according to Mr. Doyle. Anyway, he got through the surgery with flying colors. I’ve got him in regens right now; shouldn’t take more than sixteen hours, all told. After that, maybe a couple of days of rest and he’ll be good as new. Like I said, he’s in great shape. That made a big difference.”



“Big enough difference that we could transport them back once he’s out of regens?”



McCoy shook his head. “I’d advise against it. If there were complications, he couldn’t get the help he’d need down there. He’d die for sure.”



“How long do you advise we keep him?”



“As long as we can. He’ll be somewhat weak the first twenty-four to thirty-six hours, so I’ll want to be giving him supplements. He’ll barely be back to normal by the end of the three days.”



“Great,” Kirk groused, pondering yet another problem.



“Captain, what are you planning to do with our ‘guests’?” Spock interjected. “Since we will be returning to our own time via the anomaly, we will not have the option of using the ship to return them without their memories intact.”


“I’ve been thinking about that. First off, I don’t want any word about us being from the future. As far as they know, we really are little green men from Mars.” He smiled at Spock who pointedly ignored the remark. Kirk’s lips tightened and he took a deep breath. To hell with you. “Second,” he turned his attention back to the doctor, “Bones, I want you to sound them out. Find out how much trouble we’re in for if we have to take them with us.”



“But if they don’t find out–—”



“That’s a pretty big if. Remember, they’re both some sort of law officer, which means they’re used to figuring things out. Your best hope is to keep them off balance, keep them preoccupied with something else.”



My best hope? Why mine?”



“Because you’re the one who’s going to be around them the most.”



“Captain,” Scott broke in, “do you think they’ll be causing trouble? Maybe you should lock them in the brig until it’s time to return them to Earth. It would be easier all the way around that way.”



“I don’t want to do that, Scotty. They didn’t do anything but be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”



“Well, they can’t stay in sickbay,” McCoy adamantly proclaimed. “What with the hookup to the computer library at every bed, there’s no way to keep the information about us from them.”



“You’ve got a point.” Kirk frowned. “Scotty, can you rig up one of the guest cabins so that the terminals only have limited access?”



Scott thought for a moment. “Aye, it probably can be done. It might play havoc with some of the systems, though. I’ll have to reroute the lights and room temperature gauge through another terminal.” He got up. “I’ll get right on it.”



“Wait up, Scotty.” McCoy stood. “If that’s all, gentlemen, I suppose I’d better go see to my patients.”



“Yes, that’s all. I’ll drop by later to see how they’re doing. Oh, and Bones,” Kirk waited until McCoy, who was almost to the door, turned and gave him his attention, “I still want you to stay with them, find out as much as you can.”



The doctor gave him a sour look and continued on his way. As soon as McCoy was out the door, Kirk turned to his science officer. “I want to see you in our cabin at the end of your shift.”



“I need to–”



“I don’t care what you need to do, Spock. You be there at oh-one hundred hours.” He looked squarely at his lover. “I’m making that an order.”



And with that, Kirk got up out of his chair and left the room. He’d had enough.



* * * * *



McCoy took his time getting back to sickbay. He decided to accompany Scotty while the engineer reconfigured the terminal in one of the guest cabins. Since it was usually for VIPs it only had one bed, so they had to get another one moved in. McCoy had a pretty good idea they weren’t going to need it but he figured it wasn’t anyone else’s business so he kept quiet. As a doctor, he often found himself privy to information, either through examination or from the ramblings of a patient under sedation. In either case, it wasn’t his knowledge to give.



After that, he’d gone by ship’s stores and picked up something for Mr. Doyle and Bodie to wear. He didn’t think either would want to go around in those god-awful jumpsuits Starfleet’s medical department considered the height of fashion. He dropped the clothes off in their cabin, making sure everything was ready for them before finally heading for his office.



Chapel was sitting at her post, thoroughly engrossed in whatever was on her terminal. She turned and smiled at his entrance. “He’s still asleep.”



“Which one?”



“Well, both, actually, though I think Bodie will be coming out of regen sooner than we thought. He’s already starting to move around a bit. It took awhile for Ray to finally fall asleep, though.”



“Ray?”



She fought the blush starting to suffuse her face. “That is his name, Doctor McCoy. Besides, he’s the one who told me to use it.”



McCoy gave it up. She was too easy to rattle; took all the fun out of it. Instead, he came over and leaned against her desk. “What else did he tell you?”



“Not much. Only how worried he was for his partner. Even drugged, he managed to keep a lot to himself but it would have been hard to miss, how much he cares for Bodie.” She hesitated. “I think they’re lovers.”



He smiled but didn’t deny or confirm her remark. Instead he stood up and started for the back room. “I’m going to check on both of them.”



He checked on Bodie first. Christine was right; the young man was already showing signs of coming out of it. The monitors showed his vitals had strengthened considerably. McCoy sighed. He would probably be sleeping here tonight; it wasn’t a good idea for a patient to regain consciousness while locked in the regen chamber. It could be a disquieting experience, even for those who knew what was going on, to awaken in what looked an awfully lot like an old-style coffin.



Doyle was sleeping soundly. The shot McCoy had given him would keep him sedated for another twelve hours or so. Not necessarily asleep, but easier to manage. How the hell they were going to keep them both managable for the rest of the three days was another matter.



Law officers, sort of. Jim had been vague on that point. McCoy studied the sleeping man. Wonder what happened to his face? He ran his medical scanner over the distorted area. Just as he’d thought; the right cheekbone had been replaced with some sort of plastic inset. Probably got it in the line of duty. There had certainly been enough scars on the other man.



McCoy snorted. If his captain had his way, and he usually did, he’d be learning all sorts of things about these men. Well, that would have to wait until morning. He lowered the light setting and was at the door when he heard his name.



“Dr. McCoy?”



“McCoy walked back to the bed. “Yes, Mr. Doyle?”



“Can I see Bodie now?”



“Tomorrow. He’s still recovering from the surgery.”



Doyle frowned. “He’s all right then?”



“He’s fine, son. He just needs his rest.”



“He’s a growing boy.” Doyle chuckled lazily. “Shouldn’t be lying about.”



McCoy tried not to smile. “We’ll make sure he’s on his feet tomorrow. But until then, I think you should get some more rest, too. It’s been a rough day.”



Doyle nodded; his eyes were already half shut. “‘M just going to close my eyes for a bit.”



McCoy quietly left the room. He knew he’d have his hands full come morning.



* * * * *



Kirk sat in the semi-dark of his cabin’s sleeping area. The only light on was the one over the bed and even it was at its lowest setting. Sort of like his mood.



He thought if he wasn’t so mad he’d probably be nervous about his upcoming meeting with Spock; who knew what would be left between them at its end. But he was tired of whatever game it was Spock was playing.



It was funny in a twisted sort of way. Kirk was sure that if anyone had been laying bets on who would end up playing games in this relationships, odds would have been high in his favor. After all, he was the one with the reputation for short-term romances as opposed to long-term commitments. But that didn’t mean he hadn’t wanted someone to commit to; he’d thought he had found him.



He glanced at the chronometer; almost time. His stomach muscles clenched as if preparing for a blow. Kirk stood up and walked out into the outer area just as the doors to the cabin flew open.



Spock hesitated at the entrance but then seemed to resolve himself to the situation and continued in. He walked over to Kirk, who had taken a seat at his desk.



“You wished to see me, Captain?” Spock stood rigidly at attention, his hands clasped behind him.



“Sit down, Spock.”



The Vulcan took the seat on the other side of the desk. He did not look at Kirk.



“I want to know what’s going on, Spock.” Kirk brought up his hand to still any response. “And before you tell me ‘nothing’ is going on, I’m telling you right now that I don’t believe it. We’ve been together too long for me not to be able to tell when you’re lying to me. So, no more lying. I think you owe me the truth, don’t you?”



Spock remained silent at first, staring at nothing for long moments. Finally, he gave a short nod of his head. “Perhaps you are right. I anticipated this would be an extremely unpleasant confrontation, one I wished to spare myself. But Jim,” he finally looked directly at Kirk. “It is one I wished to spare you as well.”



Kirk swallowed past the tightness in this throat. “Go on.”



Spock stood and walked over to the room’s partition. He was turned slightly away, so the light from the sleeping area cast shadows on his face, turning his features dark and forbidding. “I remember what I felt the first time we joined, here, in this bed. Exultation. Gratitude. And a completeness I had never thought to have.” He took a shuddering breath. “Yet, always, then and since, a disquieting fear that I was paying a very high price; perhaps, too high.”



“Are you telling me that for two years you’ve felt cheated?” Kirk practically ground out the words.



“No!” Spock whirled to face Kirk but then brought himself up short. “No, that is not what I am saying. I am Vulcan, yet what we shared was not of Vulcan but of Earth. When we are together, here,” he glanced at the bed, “I am not Vulcan.”



“Even Vulcans have sex, Spock.”



“Yes, they do.” He raised an eyebrow almost mockingly. “But as you are so fond of saying, we do not ‘have sex,’ we make love.”



Kirk rose and approached Spock. He couldn’t remember ever being as angry as he was now. “I never thought I’d have those words thrown in my face, though. I knew there were things about our relationship that made you uncomfortable; even I’m not that dense. But I tried my damnest to make it as easy on you as I could. I gave you every opportunity to talk about it.” He rubbed his temple, fighting a headache, fighting the urge to lash out physically. “Damn it, Spock, why the hell didn’t you ever say anything?”



“What was I to say? That I did not desire what we had? I did. I did not wish to lose you. Instead, I found I was losing myself.”



“No, not yourself,” Kirk remarked bitterly. “Only your Vulcanness. But you’re half human, too.”



“I am quite aware of that fact, Jim. If I were not, there would never have been a need for this discussion because we would never have come together to begin with.”



Kirk felt like he’d been slapped. “It’s only your Terran half that loves me? Is that what you’re saying?”



“Perhaps.” Spock’s answer was barely a whisper. He cleared his throat. “But perhaps that is what I need to ascertain. I need to know who and what I am, where it is I belong.”



“And how were you planning on doing that once we got back to Earth?” Kirk froze as realization dawned. “You weren’t going to stay on Earth, were you?”



Spock looked away.



“You were planning on leaving me and you weren’t going to say a word.” Kirk turned and moved back to his desk. He couldn’t stand being near his lover anymore. “I never took you for a coward, Spock.”



“I wished to spare you this.”



“This? This? What do you think I was going to be feeling when I got to Earth and suddenly realized you weren’t there anymore?”



Neither man spoke after that. What, after all, was there to say? If after all this time Spock still didn’t know what he wanted, what could Kirk possibly say that would make any difference now? He only wondered how he could have missed all the signs. It was all so apparent now that everything was falling into place. Well, if Spock needed an end to it, he’d give him one.



“You should be able to put up with me for two more days but I’ll try to stay out of your way.”



“Jim–”



“Let me finish. You may not know what you want but I do. And a lover who isn’t sure if he wants me or not isn’t it. So you go ahead and continue with whatever plans you’ve made; I won’t stand in your way. Hell, I’ll help you pack.” He swallowed hard. Only one more thing to say. “I don’t want to sleep with you, Spock, so if you can use your old quarters I’d appreciate it. If not, I’ll find somewhere else to bunk.”



Spock looked like he was about to say something but then only nodded his head.



Kirk started for the door. “I’m going for a walk. I’ll expect you out of here when I get back.”



Kirk carried himself forward, most of his energy going to putting one foot in front of the other, and was so very glad the corridors of the ship were usually empty this time of night. He didn’t know if he could carry off normal right now. Tomorrow. He’d have it together by tomorrow.



Two years; two very short, very happy years. He had thought they’d have forever.



* * * * *





“Bodie. Bodie, wake up.” Doyle looked back over his shoulder. “Why won’t he wake up?”



“He will, son. Just give him a few minutes.”



Doyle turned his attention back to his partner. Bodie had been removed from the strange apparatus he’d been sealed in and was now ready to be awakened. Was he ever in for a surprise.



“Come on, you lazy sod. Wake up.” Doyle lightly punched Bodie on the shoulder. Doctor McCoy said he was fine, after all, and Doyle didn’t want to be by himself in this strange place they’d found themselves for a minute longer.



Bodie groaned and, batting away Doyle’s hand, resettled on his side, his back to him.



“Maybe you should let him sleep awhile longer.” McCoy was standing at the foot of the bed, his attention on the panel above Bodie’s head. “He’s going to need quite a bit of rest for a day or two.”



Doyle scowled. Not bloody likely. “He’s just fakin’ it. Come on, Bo-day.” He dragged out Bodie’s name the way he knew his partner hated. “Time to get up.”



“Go ‘way, Doyle.” Bodie tried pulling the covers up over his head but Doyle grabbed the blanket and held on tight. After a moment, Bodie gave it up. With a disgusted grunt he turned to face Doyle and froze. “Where are we?”



Doyle grinned. “You wouldn’t believe it, mate, not in a hundred years.”



“Try me.” He sat up and gave McCoy a dark look. “Who are you?”



McCoy moved to stand next to Doyle. “Dr. Leonard McCoy.”



“Doctor?” Bodie ran his hands over his chest, then looked at Doyle. “I’m in hospital?”



“You were shot. Don’t you remember?”



“Not really.” Bodie glanced at McCoy. “He fix me up?”



McCoy cleared this throat. “Yes, and if you don’t mind I’d like to check you over.” He gave Doyle a slight shove and took his position next to the head of the bed. He took out his medical tricorder and started running it over Bodie’s body.



Doyle, who had switched places with McCoy so had a good view of his partner, had to try very hard not to laugh at the look on Bodie’s face. But he imagined it wasn’t much different from the one that had been on his face not so very long ago. He’d awakened to a place he was still having trouble believing in.



At least Bodie wasn’t getting violent, probably because he had his partner nearby. Doyle had had no such comfort. It had taken the doctor and a couple of bruisers McCoy had called from who knows where to keep him down. It was only the promise of seeing Bodie that had finally settled him.



“Can I get up now?” Bodie asked once McCoy had finished.



“I’m afraid not. I’d like to run a couple of tests first. Once I’ve got the results, I’ll release you into the care of your partner.”



“Hear that? You’re in charge of taking care of me.” Bodie smiled playfully.



“‘It's nothing I haven’t been doin’ for years. You need a keeper, you do.”



“How about getting me something to eat then? I’m starving.”



Doyle rolled his eyes. He’d wondered when Bodie’s stomach would demand attention.



“I’m afraid that’s going to have to wait awhile, too. I don’t want you eating until the test results are back,” McCoy interjected. “I’ve get Nurse Chapel to stay with you until then. Be right back.”



Bodie watched McCoy leave and didn’t speak until he was out of the room. “Yeah, I’m in hospital all right.” Bodie sunk down against the pillows behind him. “‘M going to waste away to nothing.”



“Hardly that. I’ll tell you what, Dr. McCoy is taking me to breakfast after he’s done with you. I’ll make sure they bring you something.”



“That’s it, rub it in.” Bodie brightened. “You going to bring me some grapes?”



“‘Fraid not, mate. I don’t think they have grapes where we are.”



At that, Bodie finally gave the room a look. “Where are we, Ray?”



Doyle really did try to keep a straight face. “We’re on a spaceship.”



Bodie just gave him a blank look.



“‘I'm not kidding. We’re on a bloody spaceship.”



“Ray, cut it out. It's not funny.”



Doyle sat on the edge of the bed. Suddenly, it really wasn’t all that funny. He laid his palm flat against Bodie’s chest. “You were shot, right here. Don’t you remember?”



He appeared only puzzled at first, as he grasped at memories, then Doyle saw something like fear appear on his lover’s face and knew that Bodie remembered.



Bodie brought his hand up and closed it over Ray’s. “I thought I was dying.” He frowned and his eyes sought Doyle’s. “You were crying.”



Doyle shrugged. “Yeah, well, you know me. Can’t seem to keep the waterworks off.” He brought his free hand up to touch his lover’s cheek. “But they saved you. They’ve got the most amazing stuff, Bodie, like you’ve never seen before. I thought they were lying at first, telling me you’d be okay.” He bit his lower lip, his control tenuous. “I was sure you were going to die on me. But Dr. McCoy worked on you and then put you in some sort of machine and now,” he shook his head, still awed by it all. “Now, you’re all right.”



“So, who shot me?”



“Um...”



“You don’t know, do you?”



“Wasn’t really thinking too much about it, Bodie, not with you bleedin’ all over the street! Besides,” Doyle calmed down, “they brought us up here before I knew what was happening.”



Bodie moved Doyle’s hand away from his chest and pulled open the front of the outfit he found himself in. The area was unmarred. “There’s not even a scar.”



“That’s not even the half of it. Wait to you see this place. There’s stuff you aren’t going to believe.”



“So, we’re on a spaceship.” He looked around again. “Where they from?”



“Dunno. They won’t tell me.”



Bodie gave him a tight smile. “But we’re going to find out, aren’t we, mate?”



Doyle smiled back. “Yeah.”



* * * * *



Kirk scanned the room as he entered the officer’s mess. It was almost empty as usual, the main reason he’d told Bones to meet him here with their guest. The less contact Doyle had with the rest of the crew the better. And, to tell the truth, Kirk wasn’t much in the mood for company, either.



He got himself a cup of coffee from one of the food slots and headed for a table at the back. His yeoman would be by soon with breakfast. Settling in his seat, he slowly took a sip of the hot liquid as he looked around. A couple of tables over, Giotto was having a quiet conversation with his newest security recruit. To their left, Lieutenant DeSalle sat, his fork held halfway to his mouth as he perused some sort of report. Mr. Scott seemed to have infected his assistant with his own single-mindedness; DeSalle was getting just as bad as the chief engineer when it came to his off-duty activity.



Kirk sighed and rubbed his neck. DeSalle wasn’t the only one focusing too much on one thing, or make that person. Spock. Since the night before Kirk had been able to think of nothing else.



What the hell had gone wrong? Spock had been happy, Kirk would bet everything he had on that. When had their being together become such a problem that the Vulcan had decided his only recourse was to return to his home planet? Because Kirk was very sure that’s where Spock would end up. Which made no sense to him. Vulcan had made it pretty clear where they stood in regards to Spock’s Vulcanness.



And what was he supposed to do? Pretend everything was just fine and go on with his life? He wanted another mission but what would it be like with someone else at his side? He cringed at the idea. Spock, the Enterprise, they were tied together in Kirk’s mind. He didn’t know if he wanted one without the other.



No, strike that. He’d take Spock any way he could have him.



The doors to the mess slid open and McCoy entered with Doyle in tow. Glad for the distraction, Kirk studied the man with his CMO as they approached him. There was a certain look of confusion on Doyle’s face; well, Kirk supposed that was to be expected. But beneath that there was still that hard resolve Kirk had caught a glimpse of on the planet.

“Hey, Jim.” McCoy grabbed a chair and sat, motioning Doyle to do the same.



“‘Morning, Bones.”



“I don’t think you two were properly introduced yesterday.” McCoy nodded toward Doyle. “Captain Kirk, meet Ray Doyle. Ray Doyle, Captain James Kirk.”



“Mr. Doyle.” Kirk nodded his head in acknowledgement. He wondered if Doyle even remembered his presense in sickbay the day before. “I hope you and your partner are doing better today.”



“Dr. McCoy says Bodie just needs rest now.” He stared at Kirk a moment. “You’re the one who brought us here.”



“That’s right. I’m sorry you got involved with all this. We never imagined our little... expedition would end up causing injury to anyone.”



McCoy looked about to respond to that slightly edited version of the truth when Kirk’s yeoman approached the table with their meals. “Ah, breakfast.” McCoy uncovered his plate and grinned at Kirk. “You remembered.”



“I don’t see how you can eat that stuff.” Kirk turned to Doyle. “Is steak and eggs all right? I wasn’t sure.”



Doyle stared at his plate. “Um, sure.” He picked up his fork and hesitantly poked at the steak. “Is it from a cow?”



McCoy almost choked on his grits. It hadn’t occurred to them that Doyle would, quite logically, think the food was from another planet. “It’s perfectly safe, Ray,” he assured. “Go ahead, eat it.”



After the first gingerly tasted bite, Doyle seemed to be okay with his meal. But as he ate, he continued to survey the men and place around him. “Dr. McCoy says there’s over four hundred people on the ship.” Doyle studied the few other crewmembers in the room. “Where is everyone? On duty?”



“Most are at their stations, yes,” Kirk informed him.



“Military ship?”



Kirk was impressed. “Why do you think that?”



Doyle shrugged. “Don’t know. Maybe because they all remind me of Bodie when he’s on duty. Fixated.”



“Your partner is in the military?”



“Was. Still very disciplined.” Doyle grinned. “Besides, I can’t see everyone wearing the same thing if they didn’t have to.”



“Good point,” McCoy responded.



Kirk gave him a look and then redirected himself to Doyle. “Be that as it may, we are more an exploratory vessel.”



“You come here to ‘explore’ my planet?” Doyle was suddenly very serious.



“No, Mr. Doyle, our coming here was completely by accident, I assure you.”



Doyle let it drop. “So, when can me and Bodie go back?”



“McCoy?” Kirk asked.



McCoy shook his head. “I already told him it would be a couple of days. His partner isn’t completely healed.”



Doyle tensed. “You said he was fine.”



“He is, he is. But your planet doesn’t have the necessary facilities if something were to go wrong. As long as you’re on board this ship, he’s perfectly safe.”



“You telling me we’re stuck here?”



“No, not exactly,” McCoy temporized.



“What’s that supposed to mean, ‘not exactly’? You planning on holding us here?” Doyle scowled at Kirk.



Kirk leaned forward, planting his forearms on the table. “We don’t want to do that, Mr. Doyle. And right now, it doesn’t look like we’ll have to. Let’s make sure it stays that way, shall we?”



Doyle’s gaze swung from Kirk to McCoy and then back. “You tellin’ me as long as we don’t cause trouble–”



“You won’t have anything to worry about.”



* * * * *



McCoy kept finding himself glancing at their passenger as he led Doyle to his cabin. It was, dare he say it, fascinating to watch the man in action. He missed nothing as they traversed the corridors of the Enterprise, studying the face of everyone they passed, marking doors and passageways. The drugs were finally all out of his system and a full meal had done the rest. Doyle had woke on the attack and demanding answers; talking to his partner had made him worse. But his time with the captain had only exacerbated the problem.



Kirk may have thought he’d settled the matter; if he did, he was sadly mistaken. McCoy only had to look at Doyle to know the man’s innate determination was not to be denied. The slightly fuzzy-headed charmer he had said good-night to last night had been replaced this morning with a sharp-witted and dangerous man and Doyle had kept McCoy on his toes as he’d attempted to pry the truth out of him.



What McCoy didn’t understand was Kirk not seeing that. His friend was usually a master at reading people. Something was definitely off. And what was with the threat? He had thought Doyle was going to come unglued. It had surprised McCoy, and Kirk by the looks of it, when the man had passively accepted his situation.



And where the hell had Spock been? Usually, whenever Kirk planned on taking on someone, Spock was right there next to him.



“What’s with the crawlspaces?” Doyle stopped, disrupting McCoy’s musings.



“They’re maintenance conduits.”



“To fix things on the ship? Mind if I take a look?” Doyle started to climb into the cramped access point.



McCoy grabbed his arm. “Uh, better not. You might disconnect something. Come on. Maybe Mr. Spock can show you around later.”



Doyle reluctantly came along but only after casting a last glance at the portal. “Mr. Spock? Have I met him?”



Have you ever. “He was with Captain Kirk on th–...on your planet.”



“The one with the wool cap? He did something to me, didn’t he?” He massaged his neck, as if the pain was still there. “Gave me an awful headache.”



McCoy nodded. “Yeah, it does tend to have that affect. But I’ll let him explain it,” he stated as the doors to the cabin opened. “Ah, speak of the devil.”



Spock was seated at the computer terminal. The cover was off and parts of it lay on the desk. “Dr. McCoy.”



“Spock, you remember Mr. Doyle, don’t you?” McCoy grinned.



Spock stood up. “Mr. Doyle.”



McCoy had to admit, Doyle had nerve. There was only a fraction of a second of hesitation before he extended his hand. “Mr. Spock.”



“I’m afraid Vulcans don’t shake hands,” McCoy said before Spock could comment.



“Sorry.” Doyle pulled his hand back and looked at McCoy. “If he’s Vulcan, what are you?”



“I’m sure you’ve never heard of the place.”



Doyle grimaced. “It's not bloody likely.” He turned his attention to Spock who had retaken his seat and started working again. “Something wrong with the computer?”



“Mr. Scott was unable to complete the restructuring of the temperature controls due to a problem with one of the original components.”



“So, how come he’s not doing it?” McCoy asked.



“Captain Kirk felt his presence was needed elsewhere.”



Now that was odd. He’d have to ask Kirk about that. “You going to be here awhile, Spock?”



“I should be able to complete the repairs in fifty-four point seven minutes.”



“Great, I have to see to my patient. Why don’t you show Doyle here how everything works? Once you get it working that is.”



“That would be agreeable.” Spock didn’t even look up.



Doyle clearly didn’t like that. “Why can’t I go with you?”



“You’re going to need to know how to make certain things work: the lights, the shower. After that, Spock can take you to sickbay. If you like, you can stay there until I’m ready to release Bodie.”



Reluctantly, Doyle agreed and McCoy left his charge with the Vulcan. He didn’t know which one he felt sorrier for, Doyle, for having to put up with Spock’s facade of non-emotion, or Spock, who was going to have to use every ounce of Vulcan logic to keep Ray’s curiosity at bay. He chuckled. Served them both right.



* * * * *



Kirk entered sickbay to find McCoy busy at his desk. “How are our two guests?”



McCoy looked up. “Bodie’s still asleep; Ray’s with Spock.”



“With Spock? What’s he doing with Spock?”



“I asked Spock to show him how everything works.” He glanced at the chronometer. “Though I thought they’d be done by now.”



“I’m suprised he went along with it.”



McCoy studied his captain. After a moment he put down his stylus and leaned back in his chair. “Take a seat, Jim.”



Kirk grimaced but sat down, anyway. McCoy could be like a dog with a bone when it came to ferreting out Kirk’s problems. He might as well get it over with. “I’ve just got a few minutes.”



“Why’s that? We’re just sitting out here in space, waiting for that thing to come back, aren’t we?”



“It’s a bit more complicated than that.”



“Our guests?”



Kirk nodded. “That’s part of it. I know I handled Mr. Doyle badly at breakfast; he’s obviously not the type to take threats well. But right now I just want to get through the next two days so we can go home.”



“You said part of it. What’s the other part?”



“Spock.”



McCoy rolled his eyes. “Now, why am I not surprised? What’s he done now?”



“He’s leaving.”



“Leaving? The ship?”



“The ship, Starfleet...me.” Kirk drew a deep breath. “Seems he doesn’t know who he is, anymore.”



“Damn that man! I knew he’d pull something like this.”



Kirk frowned. “You knew? How come you knew and I didn’t?”



“Because you’re too blasted close, that’s why. Jim, he’s been dropping hints left and right for months now.”



“So why didn’t you say anything to me?”



“What was I supposed to say?” McCoy bristled. “You were so all-fired in love, you couldn’t see what was right in front of you. You certainly weren’t going to believe me when I told you your lover showed every sign of bolting.”



“Like what?”



“Like what? Like finding any excuse to be on another shift–—”



“That was because the mission was ending. He needed to be in the labs.”



“That’s hogwash and you know it. He was avoiding you. And even I could see how super-Vulcan he was acting around you. Not around anyone else, just you. If that didn’t tell you something, I don’t know what would.”



Kirk was stunned. “I didn’t know it was just me.”



“That’s when I knew there was trouble, Jim. Because, around me, he was the same as he’s always been. Whatever was wrong, it had something to do with you. What else could it be but that he was having trouble accepting your relationship?”



“I don’t know what to do, Bones. He’s planning on going back to Vulcan, I’m sure of it.”



“What for? They’re not all that crazy about him there, either.”



Kirk ignored the sarcasm. “That’s what I don’t understand. Why go back? They’ve got more problem with him not being full Vulcan than he has.”



“Is that what he told you, that your relationship makes him feel less Vulcan?”



“Basically.”



McCoy got up and walked over to where he stored his liquor. “I know it’s early but I think we both need one of these.” He poured them both a drink and brought them over, handing Kirk his. “Cheers.”



Kirk only snorted before draining the glass. He stood up. “I better go. Mr. Scott’s waiting for me in engineering. Seems there was a problem with the modifications to the VIP quarters.”



“That’s right. Which reminds me, why Spock? How come you didn’t have Scotty go himself?”



“I didn’t think it was a good idea. We’re pushing our luck as it is. Introducing our two guests to our chief engineering officer....”



“Ah, I think I know where you’re coming from. A bit too close to home, as it were.”



“Exactly. I’ll see you later, Bones.”



Kirk was almost to the door when it flew open.



“...wasn’t even thinking about that, I was so worried about Bodie.” Doyle slowed his steps when he saw Kirk.



He’d entered with Spock at his side, the two in the middle of a discussion, one Spock was apparently enjoying if you went by his relaxed manner. It just made Kirk feel worse.



The Vulcan looked Kirk’s way and stopped just inside the door. “Captain.”



“Spock, Mr. Doyle.”



Doyle glanced at Spock and then looked at Kirk. His eyes narrowed. Kirk thought he was going to say something but instead the man only nodded and went around him to approach McCoy. Kirk could hear Doyle asking about his partner but Kirk’s full attention was on the Vulcan before him.



“Did you finish the repairs?” Of course he did. Kirk was only thing Spock had left undone.



“Yes, sir.” A slight hesitation. “If you will excuse me.” Spock left without giving Kirk time to refuse his request.



Kirk moved out into the corridor and watched his lover walk away. When Spock was out of sight, Kirk turned in the other direction and set his steps towards engineering.



* * * * *



“You about done?” Doyle took the tray with both hands.



Bodie threw the napkin down and nodded. “Stuff’s a bit better than hospital food but not by much.”



Doyle took the tray and placed it on the counter across from the bed. “You’ll like what they’ve got in the rest of the ship. It's just like being home.”



With a chuckle Bodie swung his legs over and sat up. “Not like anything from my home I hope.”



“Nah, like a restaurant, it is. You can even have them bring your meals to our room.”



Bodie rubbed his hands together. “Well, what are we waiting for, then?”



“For Dr. McCoy to say it’s all right for you to leave.”



“Where is he?”



“Said something about another patient.” Doyle sat down next to Bodie. “Do you know, there’s over four hundred people on this ship... well, maybe not people.”



“What’s that supposed to mean?”



“Remember the two blokes breaking into that office?”



“Before I was shot.”



“That’s right. One’s the captain of this ship. The other one...” Doyle stopped, not sure how to put it.



“The other one, what?”



“Well, he’s not quite human.”



“Ray, if we’re on a spaceship, none of them are.”



“I know that. But they look like us, right? Spock, the one with the cap, well, there’s a reason he was wearing it.”



“What-”



“Ah, I see you’re ready to leave us,” McCoy announced as he walked in.



“Back home?” Bodie asked.



“Nah, mate, just to our cabin.” Doyle stood up and addressed McCoy. “That’s right, isn’t it?”



“I’m afraid so. But I’m sure it’s only temporary.”



Bodie appeared ready to object, so Doyle gave him a look he knew Bodie would understand to mean the explanation would be forthcoming once they were alone. It must have got across because, instead of arguing, Bodie stood with a studied nonchalance.



“Ready whenever you are, Ray.”



Doyle grabbed Bodie by the arm and tugged him toward the door. “Come on, you. See you later, Dr. McCoy,” he called back as he pulled his partner out of the room.



Once in the corridors he stopped and let go. He looked one way then the other and frowned.



“You’ve got us lost?” Bodie asked.



“Just getting me bearing. This way.” Doyle walked briskly away to the right.



“So what was that about not going home yet?”



“That’s one of things we need to find out. Nobody’s coming right out and saying it but they keep hinting around that they might not be able to send us back.”



“Why? Something wrong with that machine of theirs?”



“I don’t think so. I think it’s got something to do with us.”



“You think they want to keep us, Ray?”



Doyle scowled. “They can want all they want, we’re not staying.”



“I don’t know, seems like a nice place,” Bodie remarked in an offhanded manner.



“Don’t start, Bodie. We’re going home and that’s final.” He hadn't managed to get much out of Mr. Spock, but what he had had convinced him that this place could never by home.



“It's not like we can swim home, Angelfish.” Bodie grabbed Doyle’s arm to slow him down. “You sure you know where we’re going?”



“Mr. Spock showed me. We’re not to leave this floor, though.”



Bodie took in their surroundings. “Wouldn’t know how, now would we.”



Doyle chuckled. “Picked up a bit while you were asleep. We’ll figure it out. All right, here we are.”



Bodie was surprised when the doors of the room opened to them and Ray walked right in. “What if this had been the wrong room?” he asked while making a survey of their cabin.



“Wouldn’t have opened.” Doyle kicked off his shoes and made himself comfortable on one of the beds. He opened up his arms. “Come on, let’s have a cuddle.”



With a grin, Bodie came over to sit on the edge of the bed. He pulled off his shoes and then leaned over, resting his arm on the other side of Doyle’s body. “You lusting after me body, Ray?”



Doyle tugged at him until Bodie was lying with his head on his chest. “Just want you close, that’s all. Almost lost you, didn’t I. If it hadn’t been for them bringing us to the ship....”



“I wouldn’t have been shot to begin with if they hadn’t taken our guns.”



“Yeah, there is that. But I suppose I can’t blame them; they were trying to get away without us finding out who they were.”



“McCoy tell you that?”



“No, Mr. Spock.”



“That’s right. You were telling me about him. Not quite human, is he?”



Doyle pondered that a moment. It hadn’t turned out to be as true as he had first thought. “He doesn’t look quite like us. He’s got pointed ears to begin with.”



“Got a bit of the elf in him?”



“No, you daft sod, all his people have ears like that.”



“How do you know?”



“I asked him.. He says they think it’s because their planet’s air is thinner, needs them like that to hear better.”



Bodie pondered the idea. “Really different, are they?”



“No, not so different. Except they don’t believe in showing emotion.” Doyle shook his head. “Imagine pretending you don’t feel anything.”



Bodie laughed. “Not doing too good a job of it since he’s the captain’s lover.”



“How do you know that?”



“Overheard the captain and Dr. McCoy talking about it. Apparently, Mr. Spock wants to go back where he came from, some place called Vulcan.”



“Things not working out between them?”



“Captain Kirk didn’t seem to know. Spock just told him he wanted to leave.”



Doyle thought about the stern but caring man who had taken the time to show him how things worked, how to get around the ship. He’d reminded him a bit of Bodie with his facade of indifference, though Spock had obviously had more practice at it. But to someone who had spent so many years learning his partner’s body language and what every little facial expression meant, the alien had been fairly easy to read. “I wonder why he’d do that, just up and leave without an explanation.”



“McCoy thought it had something to do with Kirk, something about their relationship not being what Spock wanted.”



“I can’t imagine it, just walking away from someone you love like that. Just think of all you’d miss.”



Bodie started working on the buttons of Doyle’s shirt, slowly undoing them one at a time. “Know what I’d miss.”



Doyle slapped his hand. “Cut it out, you randy toad. You’re supposed to be resting.”



“Resting?” Bodie brought his head up, “Bloody hell, Ray, I’ve been in bed for the last day and a half. If I’m going to have to get in another one, I’d like to have a bit of fun while I’m at it.”



Doyle looked at him for a moment. Coming to a decision, he rolled away and stood up. He quickly divested himself of his clothing. “Well, come on, don’t just lie there, get undressed.”



Bodie didn’t argue. Instead, he got off the bed and started working at getting his shirt over his head.



While his partner finished getting his clothes off, Doyle tugged the blankets down. “But you’re going to just lie there and enjoy it. I’m not going to be the one to explain to the doctor why you’ve had a relapse.”



Undressed, Bodie happily lay down in the middle of the bed. “I’m all yours, sunshine.”



Doyle got on the bed and straddled his lover’s body. The wide expanse of Bodie’s chest was flawless, even now, and Doyle found himself slowly caressing the smooth, pale skin. “Look at you, there’s not even a scar.”



Bodie looked down at himself and smiled. “McCoy said there wouldn’t be. Would have been hard to explain, in any event.”



Doyle felt the prickle of tears. He’d almost lost this man. Scar or no scar, underneath the skin Bodie’s body was still healing. Doyle gazed down at his lover, blinking away the moisture. “You’re so bloody beautiful. Don’t know how I kept me hands off of you for so long.”



“Don’t start keepin’ them to yourself now, love.” Bodie reached up and pulled Doyle down until their lips almost met. “You touch all you want.”



Doyle closed the gap between them, taking his lover’s mouth in a kiss. Enfolded in Bodie’s arms, he let it deepen until the heat between them became unbearable and he began to move. A slight pistoning of his hips at first, he could feel Bodie’s growing response. His lover groaned beneath him and brought his hands up to tangle in Doyle’s hair.



He tried to take it easy, allowing their bodies to rock gently together, letting the sensations slowly build between them; he would never forgive himself if Bodie were to come to any harm. But they were both so hard, their organs trapped between them, full and heavy. The feel of Bodie’s cock, slick and hot against his own, was making it difficult to keep from thrusting against the body beneath him with the ferocity his desire was demanding.



Shaking off Bodie’s hands, he threw his head back and took in gasping lungfuls of air. He was so close. The taste of this man, the smell and feel of him, surrounded Doyle, chasing away the last shadows of Bodie’s near death. As he felt his orgasm wash over him, he lowered his head to bite into the hard muscle of Bodie’s shoulder and keened out his release.



Beneath him, Bodie moaned his name and he felt a warm gush of liquid that pooled together with his own.



They lay together for several minutes as their breathing returned to normal and their bodies cooled. After awhile Doyle got up and got a flannel from the bathroom, barely remembering how to get the water running. He wiped himself clean then did the same for his partner. When he was done, he threw the soiled cloth in the recycler; it seemed these people had no problem with same-sex relationships but he wasn’t taking any chances.



He returned to the bed and pulled the blankets up to cover them both. He nestled against his lover’s side, his head on Bodie’s chest. “This all right? Not too heavy for you?”



“It's fine. I'm not made of glass.” He ruffled Doyle’s hair. “Love you, Ray.”



“Love you, too, Bodie. Go to sleep, now.”



Bodie chuckled. “Bit early in the day, innit?”



Doyle yawned. “Got lots to do tomorrow.”



“Like what?”



“Like find out where these people are from, what they’re doing here.”



“And go home?”



“Yeah, and go home.”



“That’s all right, then. ‘Night, Ray.”



He pulled Doyle closer against him. In hardly any time, Doyle heard Bodie’s breathing even out into sleep. A couple of minutes later, he followed him.



* * * * *



Bodie swore. There was no way around it; he was lost. He could have sworn he’d followed a pattern, up one level, keeping to the right until he came to another ladder. But when he’d tried to reverse his steps, he’d wound up here, wherever here was.



It had all sounded like a good idea this morning. He had woke to his partner already up and busily gleaning as much information as he could from the computer in their room. Not that there was that much; whoever these people were, they’d taken the precaution of blocking a lot of it. But Ray was nothing if not tenacious.



For all the good it had done them. After two hours of asking the computer questions in every different way they could think of, they knew little more than when they started. At that point, they had decided to try another route. While Doyle kept their hosts from getting suspicious by meeting McCoy for breakfast, Bodie would try to find out something by making his way to other parts of the ship.



He had been lucky at first. Not too far from their cabin he’d run into a ladder of sorts. The choice of going up or down was taken from him when he heard voices below him. He’d quickly made his way up to the next deck.



It hadn’t been much different from the one below it. That was, in fact, his problem. One careless moment and he’d got turned around. With nothing to distinquish one floor from the next, there was no way to tell if he was on the right one or not. So far, every door that had opened to him had only led him to rooms empty but for table and chairs.



Another funny thing were on the signs on the doors. He and Doyle had thought the ones near their cabin were in English for their convenience but, from what Bodie could see, they were all in English, on every deck. What was that all about?



Well, best to keep going. He was about to start toward another rung of steps when he heard voices coming toward him. Without thinking about it, he slipped through the first doors that opened to him.



It was dark at first. Within a moment his eyes adjusted and Bodie walked forward almost in a daze. All those stars! He tentatively approached the window and put out his hand to touch the glass-like barrier. He was surprised at the warmth he felt there.



“It is quite beautiful, is it not?”



Bodie whirled and peered into the dark. He hadn’t notice the figure sitting on one of the low benches set back away from the window. “Who’s there?”



The person rose and came forward. It was the one Ray had told him about, the Vulcan. Wasn’t lying about the ears.



“Bloody hell, mate, you gave me a start.”



Spock nodded his head, as if acknowledging blame, but it was the stars he watched. “I often use this place for meditation. My focus was inward; I did not realize you were unaware of my presence.”



“Should wear a bell.” When no response was forthcoming, Bodie followed Spock’s gaze out into the stars. “I’ve never seen anything like this. Even in Africa you couldn’t see this many stars. ‘The infinite meadows of heaven.’”



“Then this is not your first time far from home.”



Bodie looked at the alien in surprise. He hadn’t expected humor from the man. “Not this far and home’s looking better all the time.”



“One tires of the unfamiliar.”



“Never thought of it that way. Besides, ‘s not like I was ever forced before; I was always where I wanted to be.”



“Yet, you returned to the place of your birth. Why?”



“It was time,” Bodie said with a shrug. “I’d seen what I’d gone to see, done what I’d gone to do.”



Spock finally turned his way. “Or perhaps you came to realize that what you were looking for was there all along.”



“Not sure what you mean. Far as I know, I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, except maybe excitement. I was fourteen, didn’t know me arse from me elbow but never seeing England again was never part of the deal.” Bodie returned the stare. “Still isn’t.”



“Perhaps.” Spock returned to study of the stars. “Would it be so terrible, then, never to see home again?”



“I don’t know. I guess as long as I was with Ray it wouldn’t be too bad. I think it would bother him more, though. Ray, he’s the sort who gets attached to things. He’d miss the people and places more than I would.”



Spock was silent for long time. Bodie was about to leave when the Vulcan spoke again. “What if you were forced to return alone?”



“Not going to happen, mate.” He said the words almost casually but he would kill whoever tried to separate him from Ray.



“It was not meant as a threat.”



“Wasn’t it?”



“No, it was not. Forgive my curiosity but I fail to see why you would refuse to stay, knowing on your planet your relationship with Mr. Doyle is untenable.”



“Our ‘relationship’?”



“I was able to eventually ascertain your status as Mr. Doyle’s...companion.”



Bodie studied the Vulcan. “That must have been some talk you and Ray had.”



“We spoke of many things. I found him quite astute and his conversation quite fascinating.” The Vulcan’s demeanor changed slightly, losing some of its cool detachment. “Yet when he first spoke of you, it was with the implication that he barely tolerated you, not at all the impression his actions on the planet implied. When I asked him why his words and actions were in such opposition to each other, he appeared confused, as if what I was saying held no meaning for him.”



“Ray’s a sarky sod; no getting around that. But that’s just his way. He doesn’t mean half of what he says. I know what he feels for me and no man could ask for a better partner. He protects my back and I protect his.”



“So he implied.”



“You sound like you didn’t believe him.”



“I regret giving you that impression; that was not my intent. I merely found him quite volatile, so that I did not always know if what he related was hyperbole or actual fact.” He tilted his head and his brow drew together in thought. “Perhaps it is your place to temper his more capricious nature. Yet, there is no logic to your relationship. You are two men, on a planet where such a partnership is actively condemned, in a profession where one or the other could easily be taken by death.”



“It's worth it. He’s worth it. I’ve been alone; spent years tellin’ myself it was what I wanted. ‘Don’t get involved,’ that was my motto. Stay cool. Then I was partnered with Ray. Hot tempered, caring way too much about everything, I thought we’d kill each other for sure. But before I knew it, he’d become everything to me. He’s like a storm that blew into my life and turned it on its head. Haven’t had a peaceful day since. Give that up, just so I can have a nice, safe life? Ta, very much, mate, I’ll pass on that.”



“There is much to be said for following the dictates of society. Surely, there are times when what you wish in your life goes against that which you need in your life.”



Bodie snorted. “You sound like Ray. Always tearin’ things apart, having to know every last bit, can’t just be satisfied with what you’ve got. You must send that captain of yours round the bloody twist.”



Spock stiffened. “Captain Kirk appreciates the fact that I am constantly seeking knowledge.”



“I doubt that,” Bodie shot back. “There’s such a thing as being too curious. Don’t be too anxious to look for answers to everything, you might not like what you find...or the price you might have to pay.”



Bodie wasn’t sure what the look Spock gave him meant but it appeared their conversation was at an end when the Vulcan turned and walked over to a red-edged control panel on the wall and pushed a button.



“Spock to Captain Kirk.” Spock spoke into what had to be some kind of transmitter.



“Kirk here. What is it, Mr. Spock?”



Spock turned and deliberately stared at Bodie. “It seems one of our guests has decided to acquaint himself with the ship.”



“Doyle’s with Dr. McCoy, so you must be talking about Bodie.”



“That is correct, Captain. What are your orders?”



Bodie almost felt sorry for Kirk. Spock could have been talking to a stranger.



“Take him back to his cabin. I’ll pick up Doyle and meet you there. Kirk out.”



Spock nodded toward the door. “After you, sir.”



Ah, well, he’d tried at least. He smiled at the Vulcan and sauntered toward the door.



* * * * *



Doyle glanced up from his plate when the doors to sickbay opened. He and McCoy had been having an enjoyable conversation over lunch, as Doyle had simultaneously tried to get information from McCoy while keeping the doctor in the dark as to Bodie’s whereabouts. But from the lack of expression on Kirk’s face, Doyle had a sneaking suspicion his partner had been found out.



Kirk advanced his way and, fists planted on his hips, glared down on him. “Mr. Doyle, where is your friend?”



Doyle stole a look at McCoy. The doctor was looking back at him and shaking his head.



“You gonna tell me that fool partner of yours is gallivantin’ through the ship? He’s supposed to be resting.”



“I tried talkin’ him out of it. But there’s no holding Bodie back when he’s of a mind to do something,” Doyle responded. It was partially true.



“Where is he, Jim?”



Kirk turned to the doctor. “He ran into Spock on the observation deck, who is at this moment escorting him back to their cabin.” He motioned toward Doyle. “The same place Mr. Doyle will be going now.”



Doyle shrugged and stood up. He hadn’t liked lying to McCoy; he thought of the doctor as almost a friend. But he and Bodie had felt it their only chance at finding out what was going on around here; it wasn’t one either man had felt they could pass up. He really hadn’t wanted Bodie prowling around on his own, either. But his stubborn partner had felt himself better suited for the job and nothing Doyle could say had made any difference. “He’s all right, isn’t he?”



“He’s fine and he’s going to stay that way until we beam you back down tomorrow morning because both of you are going to be confined to quarters,” Kirk snapped.



“So, you’ll be sending us home?”



“Yes, Mr. Doyle, we’ll be sending you home.”



Doyle smiled in relief. That’s all they’d wanted all along.



McCoy pushed back his chair and got up. “Mind if I come along? I’d like to check my patient out.”



Kirk nodded and then motioned Doyle forward. “Come along Mr. Doyle.”



When the three men got to the cabin, Bodie was sitting on the bed, propped up by the pillows from both beds. Spock sat at the computer, his attention focused on the screen.



“Hello, sunshine.” Bodie smiled at Ray, who walked over and sat next to him on the bed.



“You okay?”



“Never been better.”



McCoy approached the bed from the other side. “Let me be the judge of that.”



Bodie watched in fascination as the small instument in McCoy’s hand whirled and hummed over his body. “What’s it saying?”



McCoy finished and snapped the device off. “It says you’re in perfect health and that you’re going to rest for the next eighteen hours if you want to stay that way.”



“We being locked up for the night, Ray?” Bodie asked.



“‘Fraid so, sunshine. It's for the best. Need your strength for all those fish you’ll be catching, now won’t you.”



Bodie turned back to McCoy who nodded but when he spoke his question was for Kirk. “You decide we weren’t dangerous?”



Kirk’s voice wasn’t exactly warm but it had lost the edge of anger it had had. “Never that, Mr. Bodie. But I did decide you weren’t a threat...not to us, anyway. Nevertheless, there will be two guards at your door to make sure.”



Spock stood and approached Kirk. “I have taken the liberty of disabling the computer except for those operations considered vital. They will not be able to extract any information. They were not successful the first time but I would not wish to allow them another try.”



Doyle looked back at Bodie, who only shrugged. But Doyle could read volumes in that one gesture. They were going home, together. What else could possibly matter?



* * * * *



Kirk sat at his desk, his elbows propped on its surface, his forehead resting against the palms of his hands. It was late and he was tired, yet he was unable to sleep. Tomorrow morning, according to Spock’s calculations, they would be back in their own time. They would be home, and then Spock would walk out of his life.



He didn’t understand it, none of it. What did Spock think could possibly be accomplished by leaving? He was who he was, neither wholely Vulcan or Terran, but a unique blending of the two. Loving Kirk hadn’t changed that. Leaving him wouldn’t, either.



Kirk swore when the tone signalling someone at his door sounded. It was two hundred hours, for god’s sake. He sat up, straightened his shoulders and folded his hands on the desk. “Come.”



It was Spock.



“May I enter?” the Vulcan asked but there was a hint of hesitation in his voice.



“Why not?” When Spock didn’t move, Kirk sighed and added, “Sure, Mr. Spock. What can I do for you?”



Spock approached the desk. “It is quite late. Perhaps another time...”



“I couldn’t sleep, anyway. Sit down and tell me, to what I owe the privilege of your company?” It surprised him how little sarcasm had been in his tone; maybe he was even more tired than he thought.



Spock took the chair on the other side of the desk. “I wished to thank you.”



Kirk’s eyes widened with surprise. “For what?”



“For deciding to allow Mr. Doyle and Bodie to return home.”



“They didn’t find out anything and now they won’t have a chance to.”



“But you did not know that when you made your decision.”



Kirk noticed it wasn’t a question. It seemed that, though Spock was still a mystery to him, the reverse wasn’t true. “No, I didn’t. But I did finally know what kind of men they were.” He leaned forward, unconsciously moving closer. “I read their histories, or their futures, to be precise.”



“What did you find?”



“That they’ll have a pretty rough time of it; Earth during this period wasn’t exactly tolerant of same-sex relationships. And they’ll have some close calls. Doyle will almost die and both men will be faced with a situation that will seriously put in doubt their belief in the organization and the man they work for. There will be a serious injury that will necessitate bringing their relationship to light and force their retirement from public service. They’ll be ridiculed by some, actively hated by others, yet, through it all, they’ll stay together.”



“You sound as if you envy them.”



“Wouldn’t you?” He studied Spock, trying to see beneath the calm exterior. “No, I suppose you wouldn’t. But, yes, I envy them. And in spite of that envy, or maybe because of it, I couldn’t force them to stay. They want to go home.”



“Yet you would not spend time with them; may I ask why not?”



“Because it would have been to painful to watch.”



Spock appeared to ponder that for a moment before replying. “I am not sure I understand.”



Kirk’s tone was wistful. “Oh, Spock, even you’re not that dense.”



The Vulcan’s lips tightened and he looked away. “I truly hoped to make you understand why I must leave.”



“I’m sorry, Spock, I never will. Those two men willingly go through all that and never falter in their devotion to one another. Yet, you,” Kirk’s shook his head, not sure if he felt like laughing or crying, “are willing to throw away what we have because of something no one but you appears to have a problem with.”



“Jim–”



“No, let me finish. I love you and I’m just tenacious enough to think that you still love me. I don’t know what this thing is that’s more important to you than that love. Whatever it is, if you ever find it, I hope it’s worth the price. But remember this; absence doesn’t really make the heart grow fonder. It just makes you forgot. Love can’t exist in a vacuum, Spock.”



The Vulcan seemed to start at his words. “You are telling me if I leave you will find another.”



“That’s exactly what I’m saying. There’s a quote I remember from a late twentieth century writer. He wrote, ‘the heart has its own mind, and its business is joy.’ I want to be happy. I’d prefer being happy with you. If that’s not possible, then....” He spread his hands.



Spock gave a short nod and stood. “I understand, Captain.”



“I hope so, Mr. Spock.”



When the Vulcan walked out of the room, Kirk slumped against the desk. He’d played his last card, hoping that Spock would come to understand what it was he could lose. If Spock wanted to throw himself into the depth of hell, that was his business, but there was no way Kirk would willingly follow him there. Never mind that at this moment he couldn’t imagine ever being happy again. He would go on and, someday, he would know joy again.



* * * * *



They came for them early the next morning. Doyle was still in the shower when he heard voices coming from the outer room. He hurriedly dressed and exited the bathroom while still tucking in his shirt. And it was his shirt. Both he and Bodie now wore what they’d had on when they had first come aboard.



They were finally allowed to see more of the ship. Though still kept away from the rest of the crew, Doyle at least knew for sure that there was more to the crew than the handful of people they’d seen so far.



As they walked the corridors of the ship, flanked by Mr. Spock and Dr. McCoy, Captain Kirk leading the way, it made him momentarily rethink his desire to return home. He tried to imagine what it would be like to travel the stars. But then he stole a glance at Bodie and knew the two of them needed to return home. Their lives were there, doing what they did best. Together.



Taken to breakfast, Bodie didn’t appear to have a problem with the food, seeming to take it at face value. Doyle imagined, after the places his partner had been, as long as it tasted good he would eat it.



But Doyle wasn’t fooled for a minute. Just as he spent a lot of the time watching the three men with them at the table, so Bodie never stopped taking in their surroundings. They were partners, and you covered your partner’s back.



How different would life here have been for them? Looking at Kirk and Spock, he wondered. He and Bodie may have to deal with loving each other on a world where two men together was not well tolerated, but at least that love was never in question. They’d had to fight too hard to make it a reality to throw it away the way these two men seemed to be.



He glanced at Bodie who smiled at him. Not for anything, mate. You’re mine and nothing ever’s going to change that. I won’t let it. I almost lost you once; anyone tries to take you away, will have to go through me.



Finally, it was time to leave. They were walked to another room, on yet another deck, and led to a large platform with discs spaced equidistance apart on its surface.



“Each of you stand on one of them.” McCoy directed. “It won’t hurt a bit.”



Doyle eyed the doctor, not certain if he was joking or not. “You sure?”



“Didn’t the first time, did it?”



“Come on, Doyle. It's time to go.” Bodie had already stepped onto one of the discs.



“All right, all right. Just making sure.” Doyle looked over at Spock, who stood behind a console of what Doyle assumed were the controls. “Where you puttin’ us?”



“You’ll be transported to the same place from which you were taken. I have scanned the area; there are no others nearby. It is only oh five hundred in your time zone.”



Doyle nodded and hesitantly stepped up on the platform next to Bodie. He didn’t remember the first time they’d used this on them but he wasn’t looking forward to going through it again.



“That’s all right, son. I hate travelin’ that way, too. But look on the bright side; this will be your last ride in it,” McCoy quietly said before stepping back to stand next to Captain Kirk who waited just inside the doorway.



“Oh, I almost forgot to give you these.” Kirk approached both men and handed them their guns. “You won’t need them but I thought you’d like them back.”



Bodie grabbed both weapons and handed Doyle’s over to him. “Here, try to keep hold of it from now on.”



Doyle was about to respond when Kirk’s laughter stopped him. He looked at the man in surprise.



“I think this is where we came in. Have a good trip, gentlemen.” Kirk stepped away. “Mr. Spock, energize.”



* * * * *



They materialized in the same spot he remembered holding Bodie in his arms; blood still stained the pavement.



“Bloody hell.”



Doyle looked over at his partner. Bodie was gingerly going over his body, as if making sure he was in one piece.



“You all right?” Doyle wasn’t sure he was but he wasn’t the one who’d been shot.



“I think so.” Bodie shivered in the morning chill. “Let’s get out of here, Ray.”



They looked at each other and, in silent agreement, started back to the car. Bodie glanced back. “Sure liked to know who shot me.”



“Already been taken’ care of, sunshine.” Doyle beamed.



“How’d you manage that?”



“Had a talk with Mr. Spock. He and Captain Kirk took it personal, you being shot because they had our guns.”



“And you weren’t above twistin’ the knife a bit, I take it?”



Doyle shook his head. “Wasn’t like that, Bodie. They’d already seen to it, anyway. Seems we interrupted a robbery.”



“That’s right, It's what we were looking into to begin with. Wonder if it’s the same person Steve was going to tell me about.”



“Don’t know but the dumb crud left the loot behind.”



“How’d that help them find him?”



“Mr. Spock wouldn’t say, exactly. Something to do with their equipment being able to find the bloke from his having touched the stuff. He didn’t go into details.” Doyle had been amazed by the little the Vulcan had shown him.



“And?”



“And, what?”



“What’d they do with him?” Bodie looked ready to thump him.



“They didn’t do anything with him. But they did put in a call to the authorities, so the Met sent someone out to his flat and apprehended him. Turns out the place was full of stuff he’d nicked.”



They reached the street and, surprisingly, found their vehicle was still there. Bodie unlocked the door and slid into the driver’s seat while Doyle settled in the passenger side.



Bodie sat there for a moment, mulling over what he’d been told. “What about me?”



“What about you?”



“In case you forgot, Doyle, he shot me! He going to get away with that?”



Doyle looked pointedly at Bodie’s chest. “And how you plannin’ on proving that?”



“Well, I....bloody hell.”



“Exactly, mate.” Doyle rested his hand on Bodie’s arm. “Best we can hope for is the coppers have so much on him he’ll be behind bars for years.”



“Doesn’t seem quite right.”



“No, it doesn’t but it's all we’re going to get.” Doyle squeezed Bodie’s arm. “But you’re alive. Didn’t think I’d have that for awhile. It's enough for me.”



Bodie stared into Doyle’s eyes, as if he could find the answer to his dilemma there. Finally, he started the engine. “Where to?”



Good. Get past it and move on; it was what he’d come to expect from his partner. Doyle thought about it for a moment. “We still have plenty of holiday left and the cottage’s ours for another five days.”



“You don’t want to go home?”



He shook his head. “Don’t think that’d be a good idea. The Cow gets wind we’re still in town, he might get it into his head to call us in.”



“Yeah, bloody Cowley.” Bodie tilted his head in reflection. “Ray, do you think he’d believe us if we told him what happened?”



I wouldn’t believe us and I was there. No, mate, best to just forget it ever happened. Come on, the cottage’s got a nice, comfy bed that’s callin’ to me.”



With a knowing smile, Bodie accelerated away from the kerb and out into the street, the car quickly gaining speed. Neither man looked back.



* * * * *



McCoy slipped quietly into the observation deck. The Vulcan’s dark silhouette stood out against the sea of stars. With some amount of trepidation, the doctor approached his silent friend.



“Good evening, Doctor.”



“Spock.” McCoy immediately noticed the tenseness. Spock was standing with his hands clasped loosely behind his back, but his spine was stiff and his eyes never moved from the view before him. McCoy turned to look out the window for a moment. “One never does get tired of it.”



“‘The infinite meadows of heaven.’”



“Who said that? Certainly not you.”



“Bodie, though the quote is on loan from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. ‘Silently, one by one, in the infinite meadows of heaven, blossomed the lovely stars, the forget-me-nots of the angels.’”



“They were quite a pair, weren’t they? He and Ray.”



The Vulcan remained silent for awhile before finally responding. “Their love of life was surpassed only by their love for one another.”



“Why, Spock, are you being romantic? I didn’t think you had it in you.”



“Did you not, Doctor?” The Vulcan glanced over, one brow quirked.



McCoy shrugged. “I’ve had my doubts recently.” He nodded his head toward the scene outside the window. “That’s telling me you don’t. While the ship is slipping into drydock, Jim’s on the bridge and you’re down here saying good-bye.”



As they watched, the stars were partially blotted out by the cage-like structure that slowly surrounded the ship. They were home. In their own place and time.



“This seemed as suitable a place as any to do so. The Enterprise has been my home for sixteen years, seven months, six days; even I will find it difficult to depart its familiar environment.”



“I know what you mean; I’m going to miss her, too. But we brought her home and all in one piece... a day late, maybe, but nobody’s perfect.” McCoy chuckled. “I can’t wait to read Jim’s report about this.”



“Starfleet will be most interested in what we have learned. Now that we are able to calculate the anamoly’s trajectory, it can be studied and markers placed to ward off the unsuspecting.”



“We certainly were unsuspecting.” He thought a moment. “Is that why you didn’t want to be on the bridge right now? Because of Jim’s reaction to you during the trip back?”



“His comportment toward me was completely professional.”



“Well, that’s the whole problem, isn’t it?”



Spock finally turned away from the window. “I knew the captain wished to be in the center seat when we arrived. My presence there would only have lessened his pleasure.”



“You actually think he’s enjoying this?” McCoy snorted. “He’s probably going to lose the ship and apparently you right along with it. Yeah, Jim Kirk’s having a hell of a time.”



“He would have enjoyed it even less had I been there.”



“Why? Because you had the bad taste to throw his love back in his face?” McCoy cut off the objection the Vulcan was about to make. “You’ve made a mess of it, Spock. And I have to say, the only thing that surprises me is how long it took you to do so. My only question is, what are you planning on doing about it?”



“I do not know. I was so sure the path I had chosen was the correct one; our... association could only bring distress and an uncertain future, for both of us. Also, I feared the situation and its ultimate affect on me. Yet, I have come to learn that for those with the courage to face it, such situations can bring their own joy.”



“Maybe you should be telling Jim this.”



“That had occurred to me, Doctor. My only concern now is, what will be his reaction to my flagrant and completely illogical reversal?”



“He’ll be on the ship until this evening when he beams down to be debriefed; probably on his way to his cabin right now. Why don’t you meet him there and find out? Might as well start finding some of that courage you’re going to need.”



Spock gave McCoy a long look and then raised an eyebrow. “If you will excuse me, Doctor.” He started for the door.



“Where you going?” McCoy called after him.



The only response was the sound of Spock’s footsteps as he walked out of the room.



“Damn, fool Vulcan,” McCoy muttered. But he was smiling.



* * * * *



Kirk opened the door to his closet. Most of his stuff Starfleet would have boxed and transported to his apartment but there were a few things he didn’t want to leave to chance. He pulled down the small valise tucked up on the top shelf. Throwing it on the bed, he got as far as the dresser before turning around and plopping down next to the empty bag. God, he didn’t want to do this.



He rubbed his face with his hands. So little to show for five years of his life. Yet, he couldn’t find the energy to deal with even this small amount. All he could think about were the long years stretching out before him, alone.



The tone at his door startled him. It was probably Bones, come to play his country doctor routine. Kirk really wasn’t up to it but he’d known it was coming. McCoy could be as constant as the stars.



“Come.” He stood up and moved toward the front area. Surprise stopped him just past the bedroom threshold. The door had opened and his first officer had stepped inside.



Kirk felt himself tense. He had thought they’d had all the discussions they were ever going to have. “What can I do for you, Mr. Spock?”



“May I sit, Captain?”



“I’m sort of busy right now, is this going to take long?”



Spock looked down and Kirk caught the tell-tale bob of the Vulcan’s larynx. Spock was nervous. Somehow, that made Kirk feel a whole lot better.



“That will depend on you, sir.”



“Very well, Mr. Spock, sit.” Kirk moved into the room and took the seat behind his desk.



The Vulcan sat down, his hands clasped tightly together.



Whatever had propelled him this far apparently deserted him, for he remained motionless and silent.



“Um, Spock, you were going to tell me something?” Kirk finally asked.



Spock took a breath. “All things come to an end. That is what I told you.” He closed his eyes for a moment. “Yet, I find myself questioning that precept.”



Kirk tried not to react, though has heart had started pounding in his chest. “Are you?”



“Capt– Jim, have you ever questioned your humanity?”



“No, I can’t say I ever have. You’re either human or you’re not. It’s not a state of mind, it’s a biological fact.”



Spock nodded. “Yes, that is how it is for most beings.”



“Except for you.”



“Yes, except for me.” Spock tilted his head to one side, in a movement Kirk found both endearing and heartbreaking at the same time. “Has that not ever made you wonder what, exactly, I am?”



Kirk leaned forward, his elbows propped on the desk. He wanted to reach out and touch Spock so badly yet he knew the time wasn’t quite right. “I’ve always known who and what you are, Spock. You’re my first officer, my best friend and, whether it’s something you want or not, the man I love.”



“And for that, I will be forever grateful. Never think otherwise, Jim. But I have spent a great deal of my life wondering. Who am I? What am I? The answers seemed vitally important yet forever out of my reach.”



“‘Seemed’? Has something changed then?”



“Nothing has changed, yet everything has changed. What is the point of knowing who and what you are if you lose all that you are in its quest? Which is more important, the knowing or the possessing? Three days ago, I would have said the knowing.”



“Is this because of Bodie and Doyle?”



“In part. Their place in each other’s lives was a given, beyond question, in a time and place that did nothing but question their right to those lives. Yet, they wished to return there, together.”



“They loved each other.”



“Yes, but I believe it is more than that. I love you, yet I was willing to destroy what we had in order to continue my pursuit, to ‘know.’ Of which it implied more, conceit or cowardness, I do not know.” He knit his brow. “Yet, it is almost inconceivable to me now that I would have entertained such a notion.”



“Spock,” Kirk finally reached out laid a hand on Spock’s arm. “Does that mean you want to stay?”



“If you will have me. There is no place I would rather be than at your side.”



Taking a breath, Kirk rose and came around the desk until he was standing in front of the Vulcan. He pulled him to his feet and slowly wrapped him in an embrace. “I’d thought I’d lost you.”



Spock’s arms circled Kirk’s waist, tightening around him until their bodies were pressed together. “You will never lose me, not as long as it is in my power to prevent it.”



Kirk pulled back just enough to be able to see Spock’s face. His eyes roamed over the sharp features, drinking them in. Loosening one arm from around Spock’s neck, he slowly traced his fingers across the beloved countenance and smiled. “I can give you those answers you’re looking for, Spock.”



“Can you?” Spock’s voice was tinged with the emotions he could no longer contain.



“Yes, I can.” Kirk slowly swiped his lips across the Vulcan’s in not quite a kiss. “But you have to come in and get them.”



Spock brought one hand up and placed his fingers along the meld points of Kirk’s face. “Is that all I will find?” He tugged Kirk closer, the needs of his body only slightly less than that of his mind.



Kirk gave a slight shake of his head and brought his mouth to Spock’s. “The heart has its own mind, remember?” he whispered.



Spock’s fingers tensed and Kirk felt himself falling into the meld. And felt joy.
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