Returns Only

Title: Returns Only
Series: TOS
Pairing: Spock/McCoy
Rating: PG-13
Author: Angie Tallahassee

This story was inspired by the "Gift" challenge and it's full of
ellipses; please forgive!  To quote the guy who so kindly left his exhibit open to the public: "Please feel me in return for my openness."
--- Bryan "Hello I Am The Artist" Lauch (I can only hope he was talkingabout feedback -- it not -- I don't want  to know.)  Anyway, all comments welcome.

Disclaimrs:  Paramount owns it all; I can't help it if the characters get  stuck in my head from time to time (not to mention the theme songs).  It's all a plot anyway.  I mean no harm by it, nor profit; I won't tell if you won't tell.

Returns Only

        McCoy paused just outside the dim shop, his hands shaking just a bit as he undid the paper that wrapped up his new trinket.  It was done in some sort of silver-colored alloy; the name of the metal didn't translate into any language McCoy was familiar with.  Or perhaps it*was* something he would have recognized, had he paid closer attention to the little magenta-faced dealer ... But it didn't matter what the thing was
made of, except that it seemed the perfect material, with its strange detached sheen.  H stopped still in the middle of the brilliant thorough fare when he suddenly realized that the thing reminded him decidedly of Spock.

        It was very small, a study of sculpture in miniature.  Abstract in form, the flowing lines defined a grace and strength like the spirit-essence of -- Flight, or something like that, he thought uncertainly.  Or maybe the emotionless soul of some alien bird, or maybe it meant the dreamlife of spaceflight; or maybe it was simple feeling itself, the restraint and altogether rightness that marked out a genuinely noble being.  McCoy was surprised to find himself waxing so romantic, like some sort of early Earth poet.  He ran his thumb along the thing's smooth surface and simply marveled at its beauty for a moment.

Right grace, he decide, that was the idea.  Strong as hell, he added mentally, but not ... blunt about it.  Restrained. "Hmph," he grunted softly.  "Crazy -- no real shape to it, don't know what's making me think this stuff ... "

        But then, he reasoned, it must be a mark of good art if it could penetrate even *his* thick head.  And damn well better be a quality piece of work, he thought wryly, for all it had cost him ... He shook his head, holding the liquid-silver chain between his fingers so that the tiny sculpture dangled like a pendant and shimmered, entrancing in the artificial sunlight.  Looking at the thing, he couldn't continue to berate himself; it was simply so enchanting, he hadn't been able to resist.  Funny, though, how he'd been drawn to it so.

        He sighed, re-wrapped it and shoved it into a pocket, stuffing his hands in after.  It had reminded him of Spock, and he'd almost mindlessly signed over an ungodly number of credits to make it his. And what for?  he asked himself.  Vulcans were hardly disposed toward giving (or receiving) casual gifts, and they didn't celebrate birthdays or Christmas or any of that.  No excuse, McCoy thought.  In the end it would just be another trinket in the doctor's little box of sentimental
items, because he'd certainly never be able to give it to the one who ought to have it ...

        Head bowed, he pushed through the shoreleave crowd and ducked into a grimy-looking bar.  Taking a warmish bourbon back to a table by the wall, he proceeded to try and drown his sorrows.  This new development made the truth inescapable.  He'd fought the idea viciously, tooth and nail, but the evidence had crept up on him all unawares; to be sure, if he'd had some warning, he might've been deeply entrenched in denial by now.  Instead he nursed a bad drink in a strange bar in a seedy space-station, wondering what hope there was for a gloomy old country doctor who'd fallen in love with his first officer. 

        He was feeling unbearably grimy and rough at that moment; the silverwork in his pocket was just a reminder of how miserably he compared with the elegant Vulcan.  Leonard McCoy, all sarcasm and outburst, it seemed.  That's all he felt capable of being, next to Spock; somehow the damned man always managed to reduce him to the simple, emotional country doctor he was; nothing more, nothing less, and certainly nothing worthy of Spock.  So he always did his best to make the distance not matter-- after all, why *should* he care what Spock thought of his character, unless he was up for a promotion -- which he didn't want anyway -- or-- in love with the man?

        He left the bar depressed as all hell.  Couldn't even afford a refill -- not after what he'd paid for the damn sculpture.  He resisted a sudden temptation to pitch it into a trash-disposal slot, and made his way purposefully back to the Enterprise, thinking grim thoughts about the illogic of love.
* * * * * * * *
        Days passed.  McCoy struggled through the tedium he nostalgically called "paperwork," trying not to think too much.  Invariably, thinking led to daydreaming, and daydreaming these days always led to Spock --and from there, there was no return.  So he avoided those paths that took him to confusion, and while he obsessively tried not to obsess, the distraction affixed itself as a major part of the cycle of his life.

        And the Vulcan always moved within his own field of calm.  McCoy was sharply aware of every tiny movement; in the lab, every time Spock reached to turn a knob, or spoke, recording an observation, the action was noticed and ... treasured.

       He was also very much aware of the little sculpture's small
weight against his chest.  He half-wanted to rip it off, hurl it
against the wall, anything to be rid of the constant reminder; but then, it was his own damned stupidity, he thought.  To hang such a thing around his very *neck,* close to his heart, must be some sort of masochist,

        And with every shaky breath Spock's presence took over more of his consciousness.  He couldn't concentrate, couldn't keep his mind tight on anything else ... *Dammit, McCoy!* he finally thought.  *It'll kill you, if you don't say something ... *

        With trembling fingers he lifted the charm from around his neck, held it half-reverently before him.  "Spock?" he began.

       "Yes, Doctor?"  the Vulcan answered, without looking up.

        "Spock, I ... look at this, would you?"  He was astonished at how calm his own voice sounded.

       Spock glanced over.  Surprise was evident on his face, but his words betrayed no emotion.  "That is an interesting piece, Dr. McCoy.  Where did you find it?"

        McCoy, for a moment, actually couldn't remember the name of -- "M'verIlss?  Mm, yeah, M'verIlss Dealer's Market.  It's a little, um, art shop on Starbase 21."

        "Ah."  He was clearly ... fascinated.  "Would you mind if I examined it?"

        He licked his dry lips.  "Actually, Spock, I ... bought it for you.  It reminded me ... of you," he finished, somewhat weakly.

        The proverbial eyebrow lifted.  "Really?"

       McCoy nodded, handing the charm to Spock, who looked it over appreciatively.

        "A thing of great beauty," he pronounced.  McCoy *thought* he might've seen the merest glimpse of a smile.  "I must admit to surprise,"  Spock added.  "What led you to purchase such an undoubtedly expensive gift?"

        He frowned.  This was delicate ... but ... for peace of mind's sake it had to be said.  But ... dammit, how ... in those seconds he broke out in a cold sweat.  He wiped his palms on his pants and looked Spock in the eyes .. but finding this too difficult, he looked away.

        "Spock ... "  He offered up a silent prayer that he would make it through this.  "Spock, I ..."  Stopping, he decided he needed to pace a bit.  He walked across to the Vulcan's other side; then, feeling foolish, walked back. "What I'm getting at is ... "  He bit his lip, knowing he must be shaking like a leaf.  "You've come to mean ... quiet a lot to me, Spock.  And this is very hard for me to accept and I'm *trying* to get over it, Spock, , but I..."  He faltered.  Better just say it then..  "Spock, I'm finding myself very attracted to you in a very *emotional*
and -- even -- physical way and Dammit, Spock, I know it's insane but I'm starting to feel like I need you ... "  he blushed furiously, hearing himself describe his feelings in such clinically elaborate detail "... need you, Spock, I think I'm in love with you, crazy as that sounds, and it's eating me alive."  His voice ragged, he ended softly, wondering what on Earth he'd done, and wanting very much to drop dead right there.  Especially considering that being so close to Spock had charged him so
... to arouse him, physically, as he'd blurted.  And he shook where he stood, unable to move, sure Spock would size him up and see a pathetic man, from the emotional mind to the illogical swelling between his legs.

        For what seemed an eon, there was silence from the Vulcan.  Then, finally, softly ... "Dr. McCoy, look at me, please."

        He obeyed the gentle command, raising his eyes to meet Spock's brown ones.

        "I was warned that you might be forming ... such feelings toward me," he said, somewhat subdued, and McCoy wondered fleetingly who the informant might be.  Perceptive bastard, he thought, couldn't keep his mouth shut.  "But I did not believe the rumor," he continued.  "Doctor, you must know that this is an awkward situation.  You must abandon these thoughts.  It is ... most dangerous."  the tone was quietly

        McCoy couldn't move -- gaze fixed on Spock's face, thoughts raced through his mind ... what did he *mean*?  he could mean anything ...

        Spock was obviously ignoring, politely, the doctor's physical condition, and concentrating on the words McCoy hadn't thought out.  "I will not embarrass you by reciting a list of reasons why your ... romantic hopes could never be fulfilled.  Neither you nor I would be capable of that sort of relationship."

        "I could be,"  McCoy choked out, a strangled exclamation.

        The Vulcan shook his head.  "I do not believe it."  He paused.  "Under the circumstances, I do not think it would be proper for me to accept your gift."  he laid the pendant softly on the lab table.  "You will no doubt resent my company just now; I shall continue this project -- later."  In silence, Spock shut down his experiment and left.

        McCoy stood still in the lab long after Spock had gone, thinking, breathing shallowly, feeling miserably hollow.  His arousal had left him of Spock's departure; all that remained was a wet sort of feeling, like cold ashes.  Congealed.  Useless.

        Slowly, with mechanical motion, he slipped back into his office, tucked the trinket into a drawer.  Put his head down in his arms and simply sat, trying as hard as he could not to think, and feeling altogether emptied.  Then a stream of words flowed by him for which he couldn't gather enough energy to declare aloud, even to himself in the empty dull office.  *So that was all, then ... worked out worse than I'd thought ... still in love with him, though, I guess ... guess I'll have to pull myself together ... not just now, though.*  And his subconscious psychologist advised his brain to take a nap, and as he drifted off to sleep he wondered briefly about the melting point of alien
silver metal sculptures.