~ Here on Earth ~
. . .
HERE ON EARTH
(Star Trek, published 2002 by Merry Men Press)
The sky held that peculiar golden glow that only occurred after a storm over San Francisco Bay and nowhere else in the known galaxy. The City itself appeared to gleam, each pane of transparent aluminum glittering like polished glass, every titanium-sided building reflecting the golden-peach twilight. The bay rippled a restless apricot-tipped blue so deep it could have been the black of space but for the hint of cobalt hidden beneath each half-hearted wave.
Such was the welcome San Francisco gave Leonard McCoy on his return from his mandatory two week stay in Stockholm. He was tired. He was grouchy from the day’s travel. And he was looking forward to spending some well-earned downtime in the roomy house Jim owned where he and his two closest friends were spending the duration of their time on Earth.
Rather than bother his roommates, McCoy had grabbed an airtaxi at the transport stop and headed directly home. Standing at the end of the long drive that lead to the bay-side house in Sausalito, he felt as though weeks of tension had suddenly disappeared as he flung his single bag over his shoulder and moved up the tree-shrouded path.
From inside the entryway, he could see Spock seated at one end of the long sofa that faced the picture windows which gave a spectacular view of the bay beyond. The Vulcan was curled in one corner, legs drawn up beneath him, a book open on his lap. McCoy knew his entrance had not gone unnoticed and grinned at the lack of reaction from Spock.
With a shake of his head, McCoy made his way upstairs to his room, quickly unpacked and changed clothes before returning to the main floor.
Rolling up the sleeves of his denim shirt as he entered the living area, McCoy said, “So, where’s Jim?”
Without looking up from the book he was reading, Spock merely replied, “London.”
“London? What the hell’s he doing there?” McCoy asked, taken aback.
After a prolonged, and blatantly purposeful pause, Spock closed the heavy book, one finger marking his place, and looked up. “He is presenting at Oxford.”
“Presenting what?” The view beyond the large windows beckoned and McCoy perched in the recessed seat, calmly regarding Spock’s profile.
“A lecture on astrophysics.”
McCoy’s lips bent in amusement. “Jim?”
Regarding the doctor stoically, Spock replied, “Yes, Doctor. Jim.”
“I’d think that would be more up your ally.”
Not bothering to pretend not to understand the slang, Spock suppressed a sigh, turning to look at the doctor in silhouette against the nearly dark sky. “It was Jim who was invited, not I.”
“But still,” McCoy mused. “Astrophysics?”
Spock shifted to sit up straight, bare feet planted on the floor. “You doubt Jim’s ability to address the subject sufficiently?”
McCoy shrugged, reaching to turn on a small lamp on the wall behind him. “Well, I guess he knows what he’s doing.”
“As well as I,” Spock stated firmly, relaxing back into the sofa, returning his attention to his book.
“Really? I mean, I know he had to pass astrophysics in the Academy and all, but…”
Allowing himself to sigh this time, Spock again marked his place and closed his book, turning once more to regard McCoy. “Jim Kirk,” he began slowly, as though addressing a child, “is one of the most brilliant men I’ve ever met. Should he be required to do so, he could man any station on board the Enterprise and perform with expertise. There isn’t a reading he doesn’t understand, a theory involved in the design, building or running of the Enterprise he hasn’t absorbed. He is, after all, her captain.”
Shifting around so that his back was to the view, McCoy said, “Sorry I asked.”
Spock tilted his head, presenting McCoy with an expectant look.
“What?” McCoy demanded.
“May I now return to my reading?”
“All you had to do was say you were busy…,” McCoy grouched.
If Spock hadn’t thought it utterly undignified to do so, he would have rolled his eyes.
McCoy turned back to the view and Spock watched him for a long moment in the low lighting that now traced the doctor’s back, only giving a hint as to his facial expression.
“I trust your trip went well?” Spock finally offered.
McCoy turned to him again, crossing his arms over his chest. “I guess so, seeing that they didn’t call too much from my logs into question. Managed to keep me tied up the entire two weeks, though.”
“The Surgeon General questioned your judgment?”
McCoy grinned at Spock’s honest disbelief. Say what you would about the two of them, neither seriously questioned the other’s abilities in his field of expertise. “Not really,” he finally answered. “Scoured, scrubbed, dissected, filleted, probed and scanned every log from the past five years, yes. Questioned my judgment, no. Nothing I wasn’t expecting. After all,” he paused dramatically, “we are the first crew to complete a five-year mission relatively intact.” It was something they’d all heard so many times in the past month, it was becoming a running joke.
Spock’s face softened in an abbreviated version of the smile he would never admit to owning. “Yes, we are.”
“So, I wasn’t too surprised when they called me to Stockholm for the third degree. Wasn’t so bad. Joanne was there for a meeting on the delegation heading to Tyrus Six next year. She didn’t ignore me when we ran into each other. What more can I ask from life?”
“Was it not pleasant seeing your daughter?”
McCoy waved a dismissive hand. “I loved seeing her. She seemed genuinely happy to see me. I think pregnancy’s good for her disposition.”
Spock nodded, observing, “It is difficult to think of you as a grandfather.”
“No shit!” McCoy laughed. “You think it’s hard for you? I always figured that if Jo ever did have kids, I’d either find out about it long after the fact or would be on the other side of the galaxy when I got word. But, here I am, Earth-side and staying for the foreseeable future.”
“When is she expecting?”
“Three weeks.” McCoy’s expression revealed that his thoughts had turned inward. “Imagine that.”
“You seem quite pleased.”
“You bet your pointy ears I’m pleased. Just wait until it happens to you, Bucko. You’re going to be the proudest daddy this universe is ever likely to see, never mind how you’ll react to becoming a grandfather.”
Spock blinked at him in seemingly utter surprise. “I do not believe either is an event I am likely to experience.”
“What? Fatherhood? Sure you will…”
Spock shook his head. “No,” he said, an edge of resignation in his voice, “I will not.”
For a moment, McCoy sat speechless, then he said, “I know you’re no longer bonded, Spock, but you’ll find another woman and everything’ll be fine. Isn’t your father looking for someone?”
“Yes, he has been making inquiries since the unfortunate events with…”
“T’Pring,” McCoy supplied.
“Yes. However, his choices have been…”
“Look, Spock,” McCoy interrupted, knowing a difficult subject when he saw one, “it’s no big deal just yet, right? Like I said, everything will work out.”
When Spock seemed lost in thought, McCoy took the opportunity to change the subject. “Just go back to your book, Spock. What are you reading, anyway?”
Spock held up the book in his hand to show the doctor.
McCoy rose from the window seat and moved to the chair beside the sofa at Spock’s side. “Finnegan’s Wake? You’ve got to be kidding.”
A raised eyebrow was Spock’s only comment.
“Of course you’re not kidding, Spock. I know you aren’t kidding. But, and I know I’m going to regret asking this, would you please tell me why you’re reading James Joyce?”
Both eyebrows popped at that. “It was on Jim’s bookshelf.”
McCoy blinked at the Vulcan. “And I suppose that’s reason enough.”
“In fact, yes. It is.”
McCoy had no response at first, then he asked, “How long have you been at it?”
“At it?” Spock asked, puzzled.
“Come on, Spock. How long have you been trying to plow your way through that incomprehensible mess?”
“I am currently about to begin my second hour of reading this book,” Spock told him.
“And you’re… Wait a minute, you’re almost done with it? In an hour? Oh, I give up,” McCoy added, remembering who he was talking to. “So what have you been doing the rest of the day?”
“Reading,” Spock responded succinctly.
“I swear… Okay, Spock. Let’s play it your…” Just then, McCoy’s eyes shifted to the stack of books on the floor between his chair and the sofa. “You mean you’ve read all these books today?”
“War And Peace, The Satanic Verses, Lust For Life, The Chosen, Bones of the Moon… there must be…”
“Sixteen,” Spock supplied.
“Sixteen books? In one day. I thought you’d be relaxing while I was away,” he said under his breath.
“I am,” Spock calmly insisted.
Meeting the dark eyes, McCoy finally smiled. “You don’t realize I know you better than you think I know you,” he said slyly. “You consider this,” he gestured to the stack of books on the floor, “relaxing because it’s fiction. Am I right? Huh?”
Spock looked away.
“And not just any fiction, either. Some of these books are out-and-out fantasy. Hyperion, Beloved, The Hidden Hills. Spock, I’m surprised at you,” McCoy teased.
Spock’s irritated tone only made McCoy smile more. “And you’re reading these just because they were on Jim’s shelves?”
“If you require me to repeat myself…”
“Oh, shut up,” McCoy griped affectionately. “I’ll leave you alone. Jeesh,” he added as he stood and moved off toward the kitchen, “can’t even tease a guy about reading like a damned computer. Wait a minute, what am I saying? Spock is a computer…”
Having stopped listening the minute the kitchen door shut behind the other man, Spock returned to his book.
The next morning dawned wetly, a new storm having arrived during the night. The sky was tortured with whipping wind and flashes of lightning, the bay nearly invisible against the fall of heavily driven rain. The temperature inside the house was below human comfort, let alone Vulcan comfort, so McCoy started a fire as soon as he had the coffee on.
It was a rare morning when McCoy was up and about before Spock and this morning was rarest of all. The Vulcan nearly stumbled into the kitchen just as McCoy was pouring his first cup of coffee, looking utterly rumpled and disreputable. With a bleary nod to the doctor, he retrieved a canister of milk from the cooler, poured most of it into a tall glass and drank it all before turning to look at his companion.
“It’s raining,” he said.
McCoy grinned widely. “It is indeed,” he agreed sweetly. “A perfect day for staying inside in front of a fire – which, I might add, I have already begun – and reading the day away. Unless you had other plans?”
Spock shook his head and shuffled past the doctor, headed for the living room and the now-roaring fire. Dressed in jeans and an overly large sweatshirt, Spock looked as far from the impeccable first officer of the USS Enterprise as it was possible to be as he tucked himself into his usual position at the end of the sofa.
Having watched Spock’s progress with amusement, McCoy grabbed his coffee and joined the Vulcan, sitting close to the fire.
It wasn’t until that afternoon, having read about as long as he could without succumbing to sleep, that McCoy rose and stretched before heading into the kitchen for something to eat.
“Spock,” he called over his shoulder, “you hungry?”
Looking up for the first time since he’d changed books several hours before, Spock seemed surprised that anyone else was in the house with him. “Indeed,” he said, also rising.
McCoy watched as the Vulcan did his own version of a huge stretch and only then saw that the sweatshirt Spock wore had to be Kirk’s. The front read: Must you stay? Can’t you go? That the slogan on the Vulcan’s chest reflected Spock’s view of most non-duty social interaction caused McCoy to laugh, the irony tickling his funny bone.
Spock froze where he stood just inside the kitchen. “Something amuses you?”
Unable to speak, McCoy just pointed to Spock’s chest.
The Vulcan looked down at himself and nodded. “The shirt is warm,” he explained. “Jim told me I could wear…”
“More like insisted, I bet,” McCoy laughed. “I can’t imagine you putting it on without some protest.”
“As I said, it is warm.”
McCoy held up both hands in surrender. “How about cucumber and honey?” he asked, pulling down the peanut butter for himself.
“Thank you,” Spock replied, retrieving the loaf of hanruke from a cupboard and taking out four slices.
They ate their sandwiches in silence before returning to their reading.
. . .