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It was over.

Doctor Leonard McCoy was only numbly aware of the pneumo-doors to Sickbay hissing shut behind him. He moved, lethargic with grief, to the safe haven of his office, neither noticing nor caring if he was needed or wanted. He had a skeleton staff of nurses on duty; they could handle all those poor kids who had been blasted and burned and maimed by that bastard Khan's torpedoes. Right at this moment, he couldn't bear to look on any more pain and suffering.

Spock was dead.

The icy realization of that fact settled over McCoy like a leaden shroud. He locked the door behind him, then stumbled to his desk, flopping down in his lounger.

The service had been brief, but not brief enough. All those sad faces--Jim, young Saavik--and the bridge crew, Scotty, Uhura, Sulu and Chekov.

And in the middle of it all rested the somber, black, flag-draped torpedo casing that would carry Spock to his final resting place.

The physician reached into a portable bar by his desk, pulling out a glass and a decanter. Romulan Ale--a good, strong kick was what he needed right now. He filled the glass and knocked back half of the phosphorescent blue liquid. His eyes stung, but it felt good.

Why? he thought. Damn it, Spock, why? You always seemed indestructible. I saw you shot in the back with a blunderbuss, attacked by those damned Blastoneuron parasites, blinded, stabbed, shocked, and God knows what all else, and you always healed yourself, always had some Vulcan rabbit to pull out of your hat. When we finally opened that reactor chamber, I half-expected you to roll over and get up with that quizzical raised eyebrow of yours, and walk out under your own power.

But he hadn't.

McCoy downed the rest of his drink and poured another. No, Spock hadn't gotten up. They had put him in a body-bag and brought him down here. He had run a post-mortem scan on the Vulcan, unwilling and unable to do an autopsy. And it was on a table not two meters beyond his office door that McCoy had arrived at the sickening realization that Spock would never get up again. He was incontrovertibly, irreversibly, stone-cold dead--at least as far as medical science was concerned. Where his spirit was--if indeed it existed at all--was anybody's guess.

He took a thoughtful sip of his ale. Got to pull myself together, he mused. Other people need me. God, what about Jim? Ever since he first took command of this ship, he's been relying on Spock's advice. Hell, he was so hurt when Spock took off to Vulcan after the first five-year mission....that and Talya's death nearly destroyed him. How will Jim handle this?

And Saavik? She's just a kid, not much more than a baby. Spock had picked her off that death-trap of a planet, Hellguard, a skinny, half-starved little girl. Now look at her. But she still has so far to go. Hell, Spock had only learned in the past few years how to deal with the Human half of his nature, and Saavik's Vulcan/Romulan heritage is a lot more volatile. Can I help her? That green blood in her veins...

McCoy suddenly, inexplicably found himself blinking back tears. You green-blooded, inhuman...

He choked back a loud, ragged sob. Oh, God, Spock, he thought. You had to know I was needling you, didn't you? Inhuman? Nothing could be further from the truth. So many times you went to the mat, but then you always got back up. I just figured I'd always have a chance to set you straight, but now...

McCoy wearily sat back in his chair, nodding as he fought off the clutching fingers of fatigue. He shook his head to clear it.

And then he blinked once, twice, unable to believe his eyes.

He was back on the engineering deck, just as he had been yesterday. The ship had taken quite a beating in the cat-and-mouse dogfight with the renegade Reliant. Scotty and his crews worked feverishly to repair the groaning, bypassed engines, but it was too much even for them.

"Cap'n," Scotty said wearily. "I've got to take the mains off-line. It's r-radi...ation..."

The chief engineer collapsed. McCoy caught him, eased him gently to the deck, propping him against a console.

"Take it easy, Scotty," McCoy murmured. "You're played out. You can only push it so far."

He was coming.

He strode purposefully toward the main reactor roto-door with that unhurried, ground-covering Vulcan stride. Determination etched his features, setting them like stone.

McCoy got up quickly, blocking Spock's path. "Are you out of your Vulcan mind?! No Human can tolerate the radiation in there!"

"As you have so often pointed out, Doctor, I am not Human."

"You're not going in there!" McCoy grated with all the force he could muster.

"Perhaps you're right," the Vulcan conceded. "What is Mister Scott's condition?"


Even as he turned to glance down at Scotty, McCoy realized his mistake.

Strong, but gentle fingers seized a nerve at the juncture of his neck and shoulder. But as McCoy sagged into semi-consciousness, time froze. He found himself suspended in an instant of eternity, alone with the Vulcan--his friend.

"Spock, why? Why did you do it?"

Spock sounded almost sad. "Need you ask that question, Doctor? There are over four hundred people who still live because of what was done. Was my life not worth that? Was it not a small sacrifice to make?"

"No! I mean--I don't know, damn it! Why you?"

"Who else? A Human would not have survived long enough to reach the manual override."

"Damned Vulcan superiority again!" McCoy spat. "This wasn't the first time you used that logic, and this time it killed you!"

"Necessary," Spock murmured. "It was the only possibility."

"But, God man--you're gone! You're needed here. What about Jim? Saavik? They depended on you!" He paused and unshed tears glistened in his eyes.

Spock's tone softened. "You will survive, Leonard, You must help them, especially Saavik. Jim has always sought your counsel, but Saavik will withdraw into herself. For all her strength and resiliency, she is very vulnerable. Help her...as you helped me."

McCoy started, and the Vulcan smiled fondly.

"I understood, Leonard. Your insults, the verbal jousts, they were your way. I enjoyed them as much as my Vulcan blood allowed. I valued your friendship more than you could know."

Tears spilled unashamedly down McCoy's cheeks now. The instant in time was unraveling.

"Spock...God, I'll miss you."

"Illogical, Doctor." Spock's smile became enigmatic. "Besides, there are always possibilities."

And time flowed again.

Spock's hand found McCoy's temple. "Remember," the Vulcan murmured.

Then he removed Scotty's anti-rad gauntlets, put them on, and strode into the reactor chamber--and his destiny.

"Spock!! Good God, man, get out of there!!!"

McCoy's head snapped up, his eyes wide with remembered horror, his face shining with cold sweat and tears. A dream. He was still in his sickbay office.

The glass of Romulan Ale had spilled, lifting the finish off his desk. He idly wondered what it was doing to his stomach lining.

He shivered. God, it had all seemed so real, as if he had actually been talking with Spock. Somehow, strangely, he derived a certain measure of peace from it, even if it had only been a dream. Spock must have known. He had died knowing that he had friends--that he was loved.

McCoy glanced at his desk chronometer. He had been out longer than he'd thought. He still had time to go back to his quarters and grab a quick shower. The Enterprise was scheduled to leave orbit around the Genesis planet in less than two hours and head back to Ceti Alpha V to rescue the survivors of the Reliant's crew.

For the living, life must go on.

McCoy sighed. He tied in his desk viewer to the ship's mainviewer. The serene blue-green globe of the galaxy's newest planet floated into focus. Somewhere below, on that lush, burgeoning firmament, rested Spock's torpedo-casing sarcophagus. McCoy poured another glass of ale and raised it in a toast to the image of the Genesis planet, which blurred behind the tears.

"May you sleep undisturbed through the ages, Spock of Vulcan."

His voice broke on the traditional Vulcan salute to the dead, but he steadied himself and drained his glass. He stood up, taking one last glance at the viewer.

"S'long, Spock."

He left his office, weary and numb. It would be a long time before any of them got over the Vulcan's death, but he knew that Spock would not want them to grieve over him for long. Death came to everyone sooner or later, and somehow, his sorrow was not as crushing as it had been. He would make it, and he would help the others make it, too.

He glanced around Sickbay, checking his patients. They needed him, too, and he would not let them down. He wanted to be on the bridge for their departure from Genesis. After that, he'd come right back here.

McCoy strode out through the double doors. They hissed shut behind him, and for an insane instant, he swore he heard that familiar voice calling to him,


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