Kirk had been elected cook for the evening and he cheerfully got to work. To supplement their small fuel supply, he sent Spock to find more firewood. He began slicing the vegetables they'd packed in for the huevos rancheros, whistling under his breath. McCoy relaxed on his sleeping bag and watched through half-closed eyes. Kirk seemed more at peace than he had in weeks, and McCoy was wondering why. Being around Spock? Having had a little human comfort from someone who cared for him? Enjoying the wilderness? With Kirk, it could be anything and everything.
Kirk softened the green peppers and the onions in the pan with some oil. He tossed in a little salt and pepper, and some of the herbs he'd chopped up. While he worked, he treated McCoy to a lecture on why this was "quite probably the perfect camp-food," since it involved almost no waste, used ingredients that kept pretty well, included protein and vitamins, was acceptable to carnivores and vegetarians, until finally McCoy put up a hand and said "Enough!"
"Didn't think you were much of a cook, Jim-boy," McCoy drawled, "when d'you get so keen on a balanced diet?"
"You know me, Bones--I like to rise to the occasion."
McCoy grinned and shoved him with a foot. "I'll say," he replied. "But don't you want to get the eggs in with the onions right from the start, to pick up some of the taste?"
"I believe the line is, 'You're a doctor, not a cook,' isn't it? These'll do fine like this. You put the eggs in too early and they burn. This is right on schedule--a nice fast dinner before it gets dark. I'm bushed."
Kirk was just about to add the eggs to the mixture when they heard Spock returning. They looked up as he entered the clearing and dropped his load of wood a short way from the fire. He chose a few small sticks and turned to hand them to Kirk.
He came in from the shower wearing Kirk's red bathrobe and rubbing his black hair with a towel. He gave a half-smile when he saw his companion at the stove, a little flushed and damp from all the dashing about with dishes and knives.
Jim grinned at him. "That was a long shower, for you."
"I was dirty."
The human gave him a big grin and kissed him, hard, pulling him forward by the sash. "I bet you were. I was there, remember?"
The taller man said nothing. He reached behind the human and turned off the gas under the pan that held the peppers and onions, gently frying in oil. With his other hand he roughly swept the surface of the counter clean. Kirk could hear vegetables bouncing on the floor and a couple of dishes smash to pieces. The sharp smell of Tabasco filled the air.
Spock lifted an eyebrow. Kirk hopped onto the counter and beckoned him with a cockeyed grin. Imperiously Spock laid him down on the brightly colored tiles, ran a hand full length along his beloved's body, studied him with an appreciative eye. He climbed onto the counter and knelt between Kirk's legs. He gracefully pulled aside Kirk's robe and then his own, gracefully palmed the oil bottle, gracefully began ...
Abruptly he dropped the wood directly onto the grill, causing the frying pan to tip and dump its contents into the fire. Kirk leaped backward, swearing , and McCoy rolled to his feet out of the way of the boiling smoke.
Together they shouted at Spock to watch what he was doing, that he had ruined the food, that he had--
After a moment they realized Spock had not responded and McCoy's medical instincts took over. "Spock, you ok? Look, come sit down for a minute. What's up?"
Spock shook his head dully as if he'd been in a prizefight. "Doctor, I am not ... it is nothing. I merely ... I was reminded of something." The Vulcan struggled to stand but was held down by McCoy, who noted in surprise that he was able to restrain Spock. Surreptitiously the doctor ran a hand up Spock's back and cupped it around the base of his skull. The Vulcan blinked a few times but didn't seem to notice what McCoy was doing.
Their companion was paying little attention. He was trying to reconstruct the grill and clean up the mess that had nearly put out the fire. After struggling for a moment, he said, "Well, Bones, looks like we're gonna eat your 'old family recipe' after all. The only thing left is a couple of eggs--not enough to feed us."
"That's OK, Jim, I don't mind. But it's gonna take a while longer--those beans will have to cook for a bit. Guess I better get crackin', eh?" The doctor rose and set to work.(%) (%) (%) (%)
At last, after dark had fallen, McCoy's recipe was ready, and they had eaten hungrily. Spock had pulled himself together while they waited for the food to be ready, and now he was calm enough to note how easily Kirk tossed back some of the doctor's "special ingredient." Hmn. That was new. McCoy's influence?
He closely observed the old familiarity that the two humans showed each other. Had it always been like this? Had he simply never noticed? They did not seem to be acting any differently than they usually did, but he had to admit that he was facing a new question. Kirk and McCoy, lovers.
He watched his two companions with a new awareness. He concluded that he had never really understood either of them. The difference between a manner of life based on logic, and one based on intuition and emotion--the gulf was perhaps unbridgeable, after all. It had sometimes been clear that Amanda and Sarek did not comprehend each other fully.
Dr. McCoy was now tinkering with the pots and pans. Spock studied his friend and rival with guarded eyes. He had never considered McCoy in the role of lover before. An examination now offered few clues, aside from the obvious--shared experiences, shared life history and similar background. Yet that described others in the ship's crew also. Why *this* man? Why *now*? Spock found no answers.
They managed to spin away the rest of the evening as the fire sank. Watching their easy, cheerful exchanges, Spock convinced himself that the others would have preferred to be alone--perhaps to continue their physical relationship. The notion that someone would be James Kirk's t'hy'la, and not seek that intimacy whenever possible--it was not logical. Yet he could not think of a plausible reason to leave them, nor did he want to. It was not for Leonard McCoy to know that power, the sliding together of minds and hearts, the blissful union of flesh. It was *his,* *his* right. Spock dug his fingers into his palms for the hundredth time. At last he reached for his harp in order to keep his hands busy.
From the corner of his eye McCoy had watched Spock during dinner. He was not a little puzzled and worried--that was a damned strange business with the firewood. Like some kinda fit, it looked. Maybe some sort of short circuit in his brain? Damned little information those Vulcan healers had offered him about what he could expect Spock to experience down the road. And to put someone in that kind of shape on the bridge of a starship ...
Spock seemed fuddled by simple questions and comments. Even more so than usual. The "marshmellons" didn't seem to bother the Vulcan, and he was mistaking song titles for command instructions--what was *with* this fella?
McCoy found that the events of the last twenty-four hours were distracting him and keeping him from thinking very clearly. The emotional upswing of bedding his old friend-- // no words for that ... // -- and then the crash when he thought Kirk had been killed. And Spock too, as far as he had been able to see from where he stood. He was still shaking inside from seeing them apparently destroyed before his eyes. And now one of them was acting *very* strangely, maybe needing medical help. Goddamn.
To be social, McCoy put the best face he could on the singing, which he had never much enjoyed. He was relieved when it quickly broke off, and he was pretty sure he wasn't the only one who welcomed the privacy of darkness. He willed himself to sleep quickly. // looks like I'm the only one playing with a full deck // Best to be prepared for the next day. Maybe then he'd get a chance to talk with Jim about their actions the preceding evening, and to figure out what was up with Spock.(%) (%) (%) (%)
At a little distance from the humans, Spock closed his eyes and laced his fingers together. With other stimuli taken away, images began to spark brightly against the insides of his eyelids. Anger dominated the lot--anger that his recollections had come back, that they had come back *now* when it was too late--the old anger he had known between the warring sides of his heritage was strong tonight, very strong.
His keen hearing unwillingly picked out Kirk's movements against the forest's soft night-noises. An arm sliding here, a leg moving there. A glorious golden image shimmered before his eyes--James Kirk, flushed and sweating, convulsing under his own spread hands against the dark sheets of a bed. Kirk reaching for--him, for Spock, his bondmate.
The two of them walking along the Promenade, a dark Vulcan cloak flapping in the salt breeze. Kirk's apartment, the human pulling his shirt off, stretching his arms out, learning the linvod sha'tha.
Kirk, no, Jim, taking his hand, pulling him in close. Taking him in to his bedroom. The big bed, four times the size of an Enterprise bunk, Jim helping him lie down on it.
*He* was the one, he himself. He was James Kirk's lover, his t'hy'la. He could call up lots of memories at will, now--his own, from long, so long ago. Clear memories like crystal, hard and lasting. How could he have lost images like this?
But--Kirk had chosen another. Their lifetime friend and companion. What now?
Just then a brilliant light stabbed through the forest. Spock and his companions sat up and shielded their faces against the light and the stirred-up dust.
The voice of Commander Uhura broke apologetically through the dazzle of the shuttle's headlights. "Mr. Scott apologizes for having to send the shuttlecraft . . ."