This story was originally published in Voyages II, the ClipperCon committee zine published by Marion McChesney and edited by Bev Volker. It’s probably the most “fannish” thing I’ve ever written, in that I just can’t see Paramount allowing McCoy and Amanda to have been lovers. Oh well, that’s what fan fiction is about.
By Steve Wilson
Since the days of her childhood, Saavik had not slept easily. On her birthplanet, sleep had been a luxury — a dangerous one. To stay alive, she had to stay alert. While most children learn good sleeping habits early, Saavik had never learned anything of the kind. Saavik had never known her parents, and had no desire now to ever meet them.
This was one of the many nights when sleep eluded her. It had been an eventful day, to say the least, culminating in the restoration to life of Spock, the closest thing she had ever had to a parent. She wondered what kind of environment he had been brought up in. Would he have trouble sleeping? Was he asleep now? Most probably not. The Vulcan healers, anxious to study the product of the first Katra ritual in thousands of years, had hurried him off to their chambers to examine him and determine the extent of their success.
Admiral Kirk and the others were asleep, though, most of them having literally passed out from exhaustion after having been provided rooms in Sarek and Amanda’s house. Sarek himself was away, joining the elders in their studies; but his wife slept. Saavik quietly passed the entry to Amanda’s bedroom. The door was open to allow for ventilation. Vulcan was hot at night, and humans didn’t easily adjust — even with the air conditioning at a level which made Vulcans shiver.
There was a slight rustle of bedclothes, and Saavik halted to see if she had awakened their hostess. Amanda lay still, quiet, having merely turned in her sleep as humans were so prone to do. In the dim light, Saavik saw a smile come to the lips of the older woman. She crept closer to the door, allowing herself a private moment to study that face of the woman who fascinated her so — a human among Vulcans, an alien. Just as Saavik herself was an alien — here and everywhere. She wondered often how an emotional human coped with a life so alien. Amanda was a constant source of mystery to her, but it was not her place to approach the Ambassador’s wife in public.
Still, a moment now would not be noticed by the others. She could look silently and wonder. Could her own mother have been like this? She didn’t know which of her parents was Romulan and which was Vulcan. Could either species have produced a woman so gentle, so kind?
Amanda muttered something, and Saavik started, afraid she had awakened her. She called the woman’s title quietly, but received no response. Amanda was talking in her sleep, obviously.
Saavik knew she should leave. No being had any control over what it communicated when sleeping, and to listen in would be a gross violation of privacy, un-Vulcan in the extreme. She turned away, but Amanda’s voice sounded again, this time louder. She could make out the words.
“Leonard…?” Amanda murmured sleepily. “The Guardian? escape? … what others? Damn you, Leonard McCoy, tell me who you are!”
Saavik didn’t know what to think of these statements. Her natural curiosity overrode her guilt at having heard privileged information. Spock’s mother was speaking to Dr. McCoy in her sleep. But why? To the best of her knowledge, she and the Doctor were no more than social acquaintances. They were both human, of course, and that factor could account for any number of unusual behaviors; but why should the Ambassador’s wife be speaking so emotionally to the Doctor? Was it merely the fancy of dreams? Or could the sharing of minds he had experienced with her son have something to do with it?
This was not information she should rightly have possessed, so there was no one whose opinion she could ask. Spock was in no condition anyway, and Admiral Kirk would be familiar enough with Vulcan etiquette to know that she had committed an invasion of privacy. Even if he did not condemn her, he would no doubt tease her for being “too human.” That might be even worse, she thought. She felt uncomfortable when humans examined her too closely. She knew that the feeling was a result of her own insecurity, that she doubted her own mastery of the Vulcan discipline and feared that someone might discover the hidden truth. Even though Kirk’s admonitions were gentle, and not as antagonistic as McCoy’s, for instance —
Yes, she would ask McCoy. Who better than the source of her confusion to answer her question? McCoy was so openly antagonistic toward Vulcan attitudes that he would probably not know to reprimand her breech of propriety.
In the morning, she decided, she would approach the doctor when he was alone. Saavik turned to go back to her room, planning to meditate for the remaining hours of the night. She might at least put her mind at ease if her body refused its required rest.
Near the end of the hallway that opened into the living area of the house, she heard soft footsteps. One of the others was about. Coming closer, she saw that McCoy and Kirk’s door was open, and the doctor, clad in a robe and slippers, was exiting quietly.
She waited until he had closed the door behind him to speak. “Dr. McCoy,” she whispered. “I trust I did not wake you.”
McCoy turned, surprised to see her. He smiled wearily. “Hello, Saavik. No, my dear. I’ve just been sleeping since this morning, and I got a little hungry. Thought I’d raid Amanda’s kitchen. What are you doing up?”
“I could not sleep. My mind has been… occupied.”
He nodded. “Yes, I understand. C’mon,” he gestured for her to follow. “I’ll fix us something to drink.”
Saavik followed quietly, marvelling at the resiliency of human character. Usually, Dr. McCoy was gruff and abrupt — with everyone. With Spock he was always deliberately infuriating. Yet now he was — how did humans describe the behavior? — charming. How did humans survive being so inconsistent?
She put these thoughts aside. They were trivial questions and could be answered any time. Now was her opportunity to ask the far more baffling question posed by what she had heard Amanda say. She and the doctor were alone, with little chance of being disturbed in the near future.
In the kitchen, a dim light warmed up from the ceiling to greet them as the computer registered the presence of life in the room. McCoy went to the food selector and keyed in a code. “Coffee?” he asked her. “Or would you like some hot chocolate?”
“Hot…?” Saavik began.
He laughed and keyed in a series of numbers. Two steaming cups came forth from the wall slot, and he handed her one. “Try it,” he urged her. “Even Vulcans like hot chocolate.”
“Saavik took the cup and sipped tentatively at the contents, as McCoy was doing. The doctor made a slight wince as the beverage touched his lips, attesting to its heat. When Saavik took a small amount of liquid in her mouth, however, she found it distinctly tepid. She always forgot that humans had such a low tolerance to heat. The drink, however, was pleasant enough. It had a rich, sweet taste. “Is this native to earth?” she asked.
“Yep. It’s a favorite of humans who have trouble sleeping at night.”
She nodded, filing the information away in her mind in case she ever came across a human who was having trouble sleeping. After a moment’s pondering of the brown liquid in her cup, she announced, “Doctor, I have a question I believe you might be able to help me with.”
“Oh,” the doctor leaned both his elbows on the table and clasped his hot chocolate in both hands. “And what might that be?”
“I was…” She paused a moment, outlining in her mind a logical strategy to follow in asking the necessary questions. “I was passing Amanda’s room just now, and I heard her stirring. When I listened to see if I had inadvertently awakened her, I heard her talking in her sleep. I believe this is common among humans?”
“Yes, it is.”
“I was somewhat …” she searched for the proper word. “puzzled by the things I heard her say.”
“And what did she say?” he asked, taking another sip and leaning his chair back on its hind legs.
“She mentioned your name, and something about escape. And a legal term, I assume — guardian.”
McCoy choked on his drink and almost fell backwards out of his chair. Saavik rushed to his aid, fearing he might injure himself in his weakened condition. He recovered quickly, though, regaining his balance in time to bring the chair down on all four legs.
“Are you all right, Doctor?” asked Saavik, disturbed by this display.
He breathed deeply for a moment. “Yeah, yeah … I’m fine, I guess.”
“I apologize if I upset you,” she offered. Humans were such confusing creatures, one never knew what might prompt a negative reaction from one of them.
He shook his head slowly. “No, no. That’s all right, It’s just that I didn’t expect anyone to ever ask me about this.”
“I take it then that Amanda’s words held some significance to you?”
He nodded. “Yeah.”
“But I was under the impression that you only knew each other in a social context. The tone of her voice, if I read human intonations correctly, was very emotional. If such emotion is employed between casual social acquaintances, I must reevaluate my understanding of –”
“No, Saavik,” interrupted the doctor, “you don’t need to reevaluate anything.”
“Then there is an emotional tie between yourself and Captain Spock’s mother?” McCoy was silent. “If I am intruding in your privacy, I will question no further.”
After a moment’s silence, McCoy rose from his seat. He took her hand and lifted her gently from the kneeling position she had assumed by his side. With an arm about her shoulders, he led her to the living room, gesturing to the couch. “I guess it’s time someone heard the story. God knows I’ve never told Jim … You may as well get comfortable, honey, it’s gonna be along rest of the night.” He sat and began to explain …
The whole damn thing started with the Guardian. “Guardian,” in this case, isn’t a legal term. The Guardian is a gateway into time. It’s a kind of machine — well, it’s a being I guess. I’m not sure exactly what the thing is, to tell you the truth; and it won’t give you a straight answer if its life depends on it.
Anyway, the Guardian of Forever is a time portal, pure and simple. It lets you look into and visit the past. Starfleet uses it for top secret historical research. The Enterprise visited it a few times to investigate something on which the Federation needed more information.
We’d been ordered there this particular time to observe the Federation Council meetings concerning some of our earliest encounters with the Klingon Empire. It seems our devoted leaders needed a more complete transcript of that meeting in order to solve a current problem. If they’d just bothered to tape the damn things … well, that’s government.
Well, as usual, Jim and Spock dragged me along on this mission. They were always doing that — guess they needed a cool head along to keep them outta trouble. We went through the time portal and materialized inside the Federation Council Chambers on that specified day of the hearing that we were supposed to make a record of it
We weren’t visible to them. The Guardian does this neat little trick we call “etherealizing.” It makes us sort of outta phase with the time we’re observing so that we can see and hear everything, just as if we were really there; but no one can see or hear us. Keeps us from screwing up the works, I suppose.
We all had our tricorders running. Sarek had just gotten up to address the assembly. He was brand-new then, still wet behind the ears, appointed only a month before. He was giving Vulcan’s opinion of the matter — as I recall the Klingons had just swooped in one day and wiped out a few thousand Federation citizens. I don’t remember the whole issue — I never listened much to galactic politics. I’m just a simple country doctor; I don’t really understand politics or politicians too well. Nor do I want to; I’m happier this way.
I don’t know what happened. Maybe the damn Guardian blew a fuse or one of its vacuum tubes cracked — who knows? But one minute Jim and Spock were there and the next minute they were gone. And I felt a little sensation like… sort of like switching from one-half gee to a full gravity all at once. Ethereality isn’t a weightless condition exactly; but there’s something different about it, different enough that when you drop out of it all of a sudden, you know about it.
I dropped out.
Here I was in the middle of the Council Chamber, no idea in hell how I got left there, no idea how I was going to explain it to anyone else, and definitely no idea how I was going to get out — except that it might involve phasers and handcuffs and security escorts.
Sarek spotted me first. No major feat — I was standing right in the center of the damn room, practically breathing down his neck. The whole lot of ambassadors and guards and newsmen went crazy. They started chattering away in a thousand different languages, wondering where this crazy human came from all of a sudden. There was no transporter effect or anything, I just popped in. I’m sure some of them thought I was a Klingon spy come to assassinate Sarek. Hell, some of them probably thought it was the second coming. Personally, I hope when Christ does return he isn’t wearing a Starfleet uniform.
Sarek was the first one to talk right to me. He was loud enough to be heard, but naturally he wasn’t upset or anything. “Who are you, sir?”
I stammered. Then I stuttered. Then I got clever; I said, “Damn good question, Ambassador.”
Well, before he could ask me anything else, the security police worked their way through the crowd that was filling up the center circle of the chamber and two of them grabbed my arms and pulled me back. “Don’t worry Ambassador,” one of them said. If that damn fool guard had had any brains he would have seen that Sarek wasn’t worried at all. Now me, I was terrified.
I hate having to think fast. Medical men are trained to make split-second decisions when necessary, but we’re also trained not to like it so that we don’t get too impulsive. Now I had to think fast. Once they hauled me away into a nice little cell, there was no chance I’d be able to do anything to help myself; and God only knew whether Jim and Spock were in any position to help me. For all I knew they were dead or trapped somewhere else in time.
There was only one person I thought I could turn to to help me. I called out across the room to Sarek, “Ambassador, I need to talk to you! It’s about your son!”
Then I slumped and let the guards carry me off while I silently thanked Jim and Spock for another fine mess they’d gotten me into.
It was a few hours before Sarek showed up — although I had no doubt that he would. The guard admitted him and told him told him to stand outside my cell. They obviously didn’t trust me enough to let me near him without a force field between us. I guess I didn’t blame them. I was, after all, a raving madman who had just appeared out of thin air in the middle of a top-security area.
Sarek was very reasonable. For the first time in my life, I was glad to see some good old Vulcan restraint. “They tell me your name is Dr. Leonard McCoy,” he said first. “And that you claim to serve in Starfleet on the USS Enterprise.”
“That’s right, sir.”
Sarek kind of gave me an expression that looked like he felt sorry for me — if I stretched my imagination real far. “Dr. McCoy, the USS Enterprise will not begin construction until next year at the earliest. Furthermore, if you have knowledge of its workings — and the guards assure me you gave adequate description of the project — you are either a spy or a very high-ranking official.” Then he looked at my uniform, which was fine except that it wouldn’t come into style for fifty years or so yet. “Your uniform resembles Starfleet’s design, however –”
“Ambassador,” I interrupted, “I know it sounds unlikely, but I am telling you the truth. My name is Leonard McCoy, and I am Senior Medical Officer aboard the USS Enterprise.” He looked thoughtful for a moment and I thought I might be getting to him. Then he said, “You mentioned my son.”
“Yes,” I said, growing excited.
“I have no son.”
I swore. Loudly. I hadn’t considered that I was back so far in time that Spock wouldn’t be born for … three years. Sarek and Amanda probably weren’t even married yet. I had done a very thorough job of making a complete ass of myself. “You must have thought I was raving. I don’t blame you if you send me to a rehab colony.”
“I would think that an extreme measure, given that the facts of your situation have not been fully examined. The guards tell me you were very uncooperative; you wouldn’t answer their questions.”
“I couldn’t answer their questions.”
“You do not know the answers?”
“Oh, I know them all right,” I said hopelessly. “But no one would believe them — and if they did the future of the entire galaxy would be in big trouble.”
One of Sarek’s eyebrows raised in an oh-so-familiar fashion. “Indeed?” He reached over, pulled a chair up in front of my cell door and sat down, looking genuinely excited for once. “I must say, Doctor, I am intrigued. Could you tell me your story?”
I didn’t have to think that over. I had been thinking about it for hours. If I told anybody about the future and the Guardian, I could cause repercussions that might change the future. On the other hand, if I didn’t, I’d most likely be stranded in the past and then the future would be in even bigger trouble. If I had to spend the rest of my life here, I would have endless opportunities to make a mess of the continuum. I had to tell someone, and Sarek was the only one I could think of.
I explained the whole situation to him — leaving out as many future references as I could. I didn’t tell him about Amanda and Spock. He didn’t even ask about his son. I guess he figured the less he knew the better. I admired his restraint. If I had been told I was going to have a son someday, I would have sure asked questions.
I didn’t tell him that I had come here with Spock; I just said I had been with “friends.” I gave him the least technical explanation I could about the Guardian; of course I couldn’t have given a technical explanation if I’d tried. .
Now, I would have thought that my story would have rattled even the new Ambassador from Vulcan, but Sarek just stood there, hands folded and barely protruding from his robe. Blasted Vulcan control! I would’ve liked at least a nice “I’ll be damned!” Instead, all I got was, “Fascinating.” (Actually I think that means “I’ll be damned” in Vulcan.)
I sighed heavily. “I don’t suppose you have any suggestions?”
He seemed to need some time to think about that one. “Assuming you are speaking the truth –”
” — and that you are not in some way mentally incompetent –”
“There is,” he said almost hesitantly, “a method by which I might verify your story.”
“The mind meld?” I guessed. “No, sir. That’s impossible.”
Sarek’s eyebrows (both of them, for a change) shot up. They shot up slowly, but they did shoot up. I suddenly realized that a human with knowledge of mind melds was a bit of a rarity — even in my time.
Sarek nodded the way he always does. Except for a little gray, he hasn’t changed much over the years. “I see. A meld would probably reveal too much of the future — assuming you are from the future. The problem is, I have no way of verifying your account. The fact that mind meld is dangerous provides you with a convenient method to cover the possible untruth of what you have told me.”
I didn’t blame him for doubting me. I would have had me in Sickbay under nineteen different kinds of observation by now. I shook my head. “Maybe we’d better forget the whole thing.”
“No, I hardly think that a wise course of action. If you are telling the truth, your presence here creates a danger to the fabric of time. I have done some study in this field,” he explained in that Vulcan tone of explanation. He was starting to find the theory of the situation more engrossing than the reality of my predicament. “If you are from the future,” he said after a lengthy piece I didn’t really understand, “we must see to it that you are returned.”
Now, that was intelligent. “But how will you verify my story?” I asked.
“The situation requires some meditation on my part. I take it you would prefer me not to ask for assistance in the matter?”
“Yeah — I mean no! Don’t tell anyone!”
“Agreed.” He gestured toward me with one hand from behind his sleeve. “Come.”
“To the Vulcan Embassy. I will arrange lodging for you there.”
“But –” I started, eying the heavily-armed guard outside my cell.
“Do not concern yourself, Doctor,” he said calmly. “Being an ambassador allows me certain privileges.”
Five minutes later, I was in a transit tube car on my way to the Vulcan Embassy in San Francisco.
I’ve always liked the Vulcan Embassy; it has style. Before anyone tells me they’ve caught me consorting with the enemy, let me point out that the Vulcan Embassy is a converted twentieth century mansion. They built houses with character then — not those prefab, computerized monstrosities they ask too much for nowadays. Of course, the Embassy had computerized the house — they were Vulcans, after all — but the apparatus was well hidden.
Sarek led me to a room and showed me the available facilities. I was happy to have my own food selector; I was raised in Georgia on Southern cooking. I can’t palate that alien stuff some places serve.
He bade me good night — it was well on toward midnight by now — and left me alone. I guess I’m not the most relaxed person in the world; I’ve never been able to sleep very well when something’s wrong. Even when nothing’s wrong, I sit up half the night wondering what’s going to go wrong tomorrow. And I don’t sleep very well in a bed I’m not used to, so I took a few tranquilizers and punched up a book on the screen — I think it was Poe, I was in one of those moods — and I finally drifted off about oh-two-hun — damn military! Two o’clock.
I was up with sunrise the next morning, hoping to get an early start at finding a way to prove my story to Sarek or just plain and simply get back to my own time any old way. I took a shower, brushed my teeth, ate my breakfast while looking out at San Francisco harbor of some forty years before my time, and then ventured out of my room. I had free run of the house and grounds, since I wasn’t a prisoner while under embassy protection. I wasn’t about to go outside the fence, though. A troublemaker I’m not — usually.
I was admiring the woodwork on the staircase and wondering how much they would ask if I wanted to buy the place as a retirement home when I saw her. She was entering the computer room off the main lobby, and stopped to see who was coming down the stairs.
I hadn’t expected her to be so beautiful. I mean, I knew she was beautiful, even at sixty plus years, but … I guess I just hadn’t ever looked at her as a peer before. Beauty takes on a whole new meaning when considered from that angle. She wasn’t Spock’s mother now, nor the wife of the ambassador of all Vulcan. She was jut beautiful.
She smiled, and I realized I had been staring. I smiled back for a moment or so, and then thought of something stupid to say. “Hello–” I started to say “Lady Amanda.” She was a lady, but not that kind, not yet. And I wasn’t supposed to know who she was yet. ,
Sarek must’ve heard me, ’cause he came out of the computer room just then. “Good morning, Doctor. I trust your accommodations were sufficient.”
“Beautiful,” I mumbled. Fortunately, Vulcans are naive enough about humans that Sarek thought I was talking about the house. I recovered and said dumbly, “I mean everything is fine.” Amanda and Sarek both must have realized I was blushing, but they didn’t say anything.
“Good,” said Sarek. He gestured to Amanda. “May I introduce Amanda Grayson? She is a linguist, studying on special attachment to the embassy.”
I nodded and kept smiling. “Hi.”
“And this is Dr. Leonard McCoy of Starfleet.”
Amanda was holding my gaze. I started to feel very uncomfortable, “Doctor McCoy? A medical doctor?”
“What are you –”
Sarek interrupted quickly. “Dr. McCoy and I have some pressing matters to attend to, Ms. Grayson. If you will excuse us.”
She smiled. “Of course, Sarek.”
Stupid damn Vulcan! Who could be fool enough not to pay any attention to that smile? I wondered if Amanda had fallen in love with him yet, or if she was just being polite. God help me, some part of me hoped desperately for the latter.
Sarek sat me down in one of the house’s sixteen parlors and faced me. “I believe you,” he said flatly.
Well, I was astounded. “That was fast,” I said. “What convinced you?”
He reached into his pocket and took out my communicator. “This. I took it to one of our communications experts here last night. She analyzed it and confirmed that the design was some three to four decades in advance of current communications technology,”
“I see.” I settled back into the sofa and raised my hands expectantly. “Since you’ve obviously given the matter a lot of thought, what now?”
He inclined his head and said quietly, “While you are correct in assuming I have given the utmost priority and a great deal of thought to your problem, you are mistaken if you think I have uncovered a solution.”
I slumped. “I thought as much. Your belief is comforting Sarek. But it doesn’t help one bit if there’s no way for us to return me to my time.”
He steepled his fingers the way Spock always does. “This ‘Guardian of Forever’ you spoke of yesterday. If you returned to its world now, you could use it to return to your own time.” I didn’t know if he was asking me or telling me.
I just said, “Right. But I don’t have any way of getting there.” ,
“You do not know its location?”
“Not really, no. I mean, I might find the system if you showed me a star chart — might! — but that area of space was only mapped about two years ago. I mean thirty-eight years from now — oh, hell, you get the idea.”
“I believe I do.”
“Besides that, I can’t take you or anyone else there in a ship. I can’t let anyone in this time know where the Guardian is, no matter how much trust I have in them. The Guardian’s very highly classified. If the Klingons –” I shut up. It wasn’t a good idea to let Sarek know too much about the people he was currently negotiating with. I had said too much already. “Anyway, I can’t take anyone else there, and I can’t fly myself.”
“A most interesting problem,” Sarek said casually.
That pissed me off. Only a little, but it did piss me off. “Ambassador, I don’t find any of this damned interesting.”
Sarek looked really surprised. “Oh? Indeed? The science of time mechanics holds no interest for you?”
His head shook just so slightly. “Why do Humans allow their emotional state to interfere with more fit pursuits of the mind? The information that could be gained from observing an occurrence like this –”
“Dammit, Spock –” I stopped. Now I had done it. I just sat there and kept my mouth shut, figuring that was the best.
Deciding that he wasn’t going to get me interested in any “more fit pursuits,” Sarek changed the subject. “Tell me, these colleagues of yours who were with you — do you not think they will have deduced the reason for your disappearance and are now working on a method by which they may return you?”
“Probably,” I said irritably. “I don’t know.” The whole situation was beginning to get on my nerves. A few hours trapped in the past was distracting, but I didn’t want to be here any longer. I wanted to go home.
Sarek stood up. “If you will excuse me, I will meditate on the problem.” He stopped when he got to the door and said, “May I recommend that you attempt meditation as well? Your emotional state is hardly beneficial to the situation.”
Before I could get anything sufficiently foul out of my mouth, he was gone. I supposed I shouldn’t have been mad at him; he was only trying to help. He was just so much like Spock!
I was beginning to wonder if I would ever see that particular ugly Vulcan’s ugly face again when Amanda came into the parlor, distracting me from my grim thoughts. She paused, smiled and walked over to me. “Hello again,” she said. It was that smile.
I wished she hadn’t smiled it. I wished she’d frowned or scowled or smirked or just stayed away from me. I didn’t like how she made me feel; I didn’t like it one damn bit!
“Hello,” I gulped.
She sat down where Sarek had been and began to study me. I must have adjusted my position on the couch a hundred times in those few moments. She was wearing one of those light, springy dresses — loose over all, but just tight enough where it needed to be. I often recommended to my elderly patients with heart conditions that they move to a puritanistic planet which didn’t allow dresses like that one.
I was spellbound.
“So, you’re a doctor. You didn’t tell me what your business was at the embassy. Are you planning to emigrate to Vulcan?”
God what a thought! Still, it was as good an excuse as any. I gritted my teeth. “I’m thinking of relocating, yes.” Now that wasn’t exactly a lie.
“How exciting! I’ve been wanting to see Vulcan for years, but I’m so busy with my teaching now. Have you been there before?”
“Two ore three times, yes.”
“And you have friends?”
“Our … our first officer’s family lives there.” This was getting easy!
“Oh, is your first officer a Vulcan?”
Oops! As far as I knew, there were no Vulcans in the fleet yet. “No, his — parents are human. They’re attached to the embassy there.” Always keep the story as true as possible, that’s what Jim taught me about lying.
“I see,” she smiled again. “Forgive me if I seem to be grilling you. It’s just that I haven’t seen a human for some weeks now — ”
“Don’t you ever get out?” I blurted.
She laughed, and suddenly I didn’t want to go back to my own time. “Well, I must admit I’ve been very busy with my studies lately. I’m on leave from the University, you see. The head of the department is taking over my lectures and he sends me the papers to grade.”
“A woman as beautiful as you should get out more. It’s a shame to have you wasted on all these unappreciative Vulcans.” It slipped! I couldn’t help it!
“Why… thank you, Doctor. That’s very kind.” Her eyes sparkled.
“My dear, I only report the truth as I see it. And please, call me Leonard.”
“All right. Amanda?”
“Good. I detest hearing Ms. Grayson all the time. I’m very interested in Vulcans as a people, but they’re so awfully stuffy!” She looked at the antique clock over the mantle. “I was just about to have some lunch on the terrace. Will you join me?”
“I’d be delighted.” I knew I should turn tail and run upstairs, but dammit I was enjoying myself!
We got lunch from the nearest food selectors — they were the old style; they took almost five minutes to complete the order — and headed outside. The garden behind the house was the most beautiful I’d seen in some time. It has always amazed me that Vulcans are so cold and yet always have beauty around them — like Sarek had the most beautiful woman in the universe around him all the time. To my regret, but hardly my surprise, I was growing increasingly jealous at that thought.
We carried our trays to the meshwork tables decorating the brick patio and found a sunny spot. It was spring-like out, and it felt good to sit in the sun. Even displaced in time, even in Southern California, I got the feeling of having just recovered from a long winter.
Amanda picked at her food daintily. I sat quiet for a while, thinking of something conversational. “I guess you eat alone pretty often around here?”
She laughed. “Oh, sometimes. The Vulcans aren’t completely unsociable, though. They’re always quite content to join me for a theoretical discussion of comparative linguistics.”
I made a sort of nauseated sound. “That must get dull — I’d rather eat alone.”
“And Sarek eats with me on occasion. I think he feels it’s his duty to get to know as many aliens as possible — for the sake of universal harmony.”
Maybe she believed that — maybe he did, too… for now. I knew the truth, and it was beginning to grate on me more and more. It’s funny how you can get so riled up over things you can’t change. Of course, those are usually the kinds of things I get the most riled up over. I hate being helpless. Right then, I really wished that I could change what I knew must happen, that I could make Amanda turn away from Sarek before they even came together. I didn’t really care about the future of the universe. Of course, changing the past would mean Spock’s never being born, and I’ll admit… No. Whatever else Spock and I have said to each other, I wouldn’t… couldn’t deprive him of the opportunity to be born.
Still, I wasn’t too sure my thoughts at that time regarding Amanda were very gentlemanly. I realized that I had gotten quiet and was toying with my food. Amanda was looking at me funny. “Is something wrong, Leonard?”
“Oh, no,” I stammered. “I was just… looking at the birds. I don’t see birds very often.”
She looked up as I did. Thank God, there were a few of the feathered monsters passing overhead. “I guess you don’t at that,” she agreed. “Really, I don’t think I could take being cooped up in a ship like that all the time. I’m rather an earthbound person, I suppose.”
Now that seemed like an odd comment for a woman destined to spend over three-quarters of her life on another planet — a very un-Earthlike planet. I didn’t say anything more about it, afraid I would slip something about the future. And she didn’t even know I was from the future. I went back to her earlier comment, the one that had bothered me so much. Isn’t it funny how you always dwell on the things that bother you the most? “Do you get along with Sarek pretty well?”
“Leonard,” she said by way of correction, “nobody doesn’t get along with a Vulcan.”
Hah! Your son, lady! I tried not to laugh. “Oh, of course. What do you talk about with him?”
“His family, his planet. I’m really fascinated with Vulcan. It’s so…”
God-forsaken? I thought. “Different?” I said.
She shrugged, not satisfied with the word.
“I suppose. Sarek makes it sound like a beautiful place.”
“Surprising, isn’t it? Vulcans claim to be so unfeeling, yet they’re so artistic. In many ways, they’re everything the human race has always aspired to being.”
“Oh, but their body temperature is much higher than ours.”
She actually said that with a straight face. She burst into laughter immediately afterwards, but while she said it, she had a straight face. I laughed too. “You really need to get away from them.”
“It does rub off,” she admitted. “But it has advantages. I find that Sarek’s suggestions have helped me concentrate on my work. I’ve gotten much more efficient. Why, I translated almost half of a Vulcan philosophy texts in one night last week. I completely lost track of time. Their way of thinking… they can get so caught up in a problem. I really admire that.”
“Sounds like you admire a lot about them.”
“Oh, I do. And you must too, if you’re moving to Vulcan.”
“Well,” I half-lied, “they grow on you.”
“Yes,” Amanda agreed. She had finished her lunch and put her tray aside on the brick wall separating the patio from the garden. “Despite their coldness, they’re… well, they’re so honorable. It’s said Vulcans don’t lie. I think that’s a little extreme; but, if they do, I’ve yet to see it. I would think the circumstances would have to be extraordinary.”
Could have told her a few! I just nodded. I was getting just a wee bit uncomfortable, as Scotty might say, sitting here discussing the virtues of Vulcans — especially given that the particular Vulcan she was thinking of was Sarek. I had no doubt. “Well,” I said finally, “I haven’t dealt with too many Vulcans. Sarek’s the only one I know well. But I suppose they’re all right. You… like Sarek, don’t you?”
“I suppose I do.” She stared at me a moment, and for a moment, God help me, I envied those damn Vulcans. At least they could read minds. “But Leonard, she said emphatically, “he’s a Vulcan.”
I coughed up my last bite of food. Graceful. Damn graceful. Was she hinting what I thought she was hinting? Why did she look at me that way? We both knew she wanted Sarek… or did we? This was not helping me find a way home, I decided suddenly. And besides, I was making myself miserable. I got up. “Excuse me. I have to get inside. I promised Sarek I’d meet him this afternoon.”
I walked to the house, tense, waiting for her to say something, praying I’d get inside before she did. Coward. Only a few more feet left…
“Leonard.” I turned. “How about dinner?”
Don’t do it, I thought. Don’t torture yourself. Tell her to have dinner with Sarek. Right. I was going to tell her just that. One, two, three… “Sure. See you at seven.”
Damn, simperin’ coward!
Well, I did go and meet Sarek that night, and we discussed all sorts of “fascinating problems in logic” and made absolutely no progress of any kind . This went on for about a week. During this week, I saw quite a bit of Mandy, as I was starting to call her. I’ve always liked that name, Mandy.
After dinner one evening, we decided to go for a walk by the full moon in the garden. I hadn’t really explored the garden yet, and I was glad to take the opportunity, especially with her. It had been months since I’d been on earth and taken a walk under a full moon, and I’d missed it. Looking at Mandy in that light, I realized I’d been missing something all along.
We stopped by the fountain in the lowest tier of the garden and sat by its edge on the low stone wall. Mandy was trailing her fingers in the water, breaking up the reflection of the moon and making it ripple through the mirrored surface. “You know,” she said, ” I once heard that people used to toss coins into fountains like this one and make a wish — I think my grandmother told me that. I suppose nowadays anybody who had a coin wouldn’t be so frivolous as to throw it into a fountain.”
I laughed and shook my head. “Oh, the unromantic twenty-third century and its credit accounts.” I gazed at her, leaning back toward the water, watching the stars. Trying to keep my mind from dangerous thoughts, I said, “I haven’t seen a coin in years — my granddaddy had a few, used to show them to me when I visited. Don’t know what ever happened to them.”
“Probably. But if I had them,” I rambled without thinking, “I’d gladly toss them in there for a chance to make a wish with you.”
She smiled, and my heart began to dance. I’m a medical man, I know a human heart can’t dance, but I also know for fact that’s exactly what mine was doing.
Mandy went back to looking at the stars. “We could still wish on one of those. I guess to you they’re just balls of flaming gasses, aren’t they?”
I shrugged. “I’ve never really stopped to think about them.”
“Why did you go into space, Leonard?”
I didn’t really want to get into that. I try never to dredge up that part of my life — it’s over and that’s enough for me. “I don’t know,” I evaded, “I guess everybody needs something to do with their time.”
“And your something is outer space.”
“Yeah.” Eager to change the subject, I reached down and scooped up a handful of the smooth, round stones that surrounded the fountain.
“Did you ever skip stones in the water, Mandy?” I asked, studying them. “Granddaddy showed me that, too, when he used to take me fishing… ”
I started to think about Granddaddy and our fishing trips. He was my mother’s father — the one I took after — and he lived up in the mountains. He taught me all about being a boy in the mountains instead of an androgynous carbon unit in the city complexes. Visits with Granddaddy made up my fondest memories of childhood. There was just a… I don’t know… a feeling I associated with those times, a happy feeling buried far up in the mountains in an old- fashioned grave. Just like Granddaddy.
And, strangely enough, I was getting that childhood feeling back — for the first time in thirty years. Was it… Mandy?
“What are you thinking?”
I jumped. “Oh, sorry… uh…”
“You do that a lot.” She was looking at me with a teasing smile.
“What were you thinking?”
“Just that I’m…” I hesitated, feeling the danger. If I admitted the truth to her, to myself, I would open a door I might never close.
She studied my face, my eyes for a moment. My pulse quickened. I felt like a cadet at inspection time. “You don’t say that often, do you?”
I shook my head.
Mandy drew close to me, her hands on my shoulder. Her breath was on my face. My palms were sweating; that hadn’t happened in… well, years.
“Leonard,” she whispered.
I knew what was coming. I’d prayed for it, but it terrified me. I couldn’t let the illusion go on, and I knew this was my last chance to stop it. But… dammit! I wanted her, wanted nothing but to be with her, to promise her a future.
But I couldn’t promise that. She already had a future… with another man, a full and happy future. I could only cause her pain.
She was looking at me, waiting. Waiting for me to offer her something, to ask her to come with me. And there wasn’t a damn thing I could say! I looked away from her.
She took hold of my arm, trying to turn me. “Leonard, what’s wrong? There’s something you’re not telling me?”
Again, I shook my head. I groaned.
“What?” she asked, growing frightened.
“It’s impossible, Mandy.”
I started to stand. “I think it’s better for both of us — ”
Her voice jumped out and grabbed me. “Don’t say it, Leonard! I know what you’re thinking and please, don’t say it! Something’s happened here, between us. Don’t tell me you don’t feel it.”
“I feel it.” The words crawled out painfully. “But,” I softened my tone, “Mandy, we don’t have a chance. I’m sorry.” I felt tears coming to my eyes, the same tears that were now falling down Amanda’s cheeks.
“I know it hasn’t been long, only two weeks, but I — ”
I came to her and covered her lips with my fingers. “Mandy. Don’t hurt yourself. It’s useless.”
“Don’t say it,
She collapsed against me in tears I realized. I was crying, too. I hadn’t cried in years, not since my wife had left. Actually, it had been a little bit before she had left. I had given up crying in those days. Now I was feeling things inside that I thought I would never feel again… prayed I would never feel.
“Why?” she asked against my shoulder. “Can’t you even tell me that?”
I looked down at her, brushing a tear from her cheek. She looked in my eyes… and it happened. Our faces came together, and we kissed.
I forgot everything. I forgot where and when I was. Only one thought was in my mind. I loved Amanda Grayson.
We went inside, although I don’t remember doing it. And we went to my room. Neither of us said a word; we didn’t have to. We knew what we were thinking. We knew what we wanted, just at that moment. I won’t go into any details, but I slept that night, for the first time since I’d been there.
I did something dumb that night, something utterly silly, crazy and romantic. I slipped out of bed, made my way down the hard wood steps, and ventured out into the cold night wearing only my bathrobe.
The stones were freezing! And sharp — some of them hurt my feet. It had been so long since I’d been out at night barefoot, I’d forgotten the joys of cold, wet, cut feet, with bits of dirt and leaves on the soles.
The Vulcans — bless their pointed hearts — had planted rose bushes in the garden. I went to the big red one and looked for the best, most perfect rose to place on Amanda’s pillow. They were all likely specimens; the Vulcan gardener was dedicated.
I reached for one, a beauty; but then, on the ground I saw it. It had fallen not long ago, a somewhat bedraggled rose, frayed around the edges. It wasn’t perfect, nor was it beautiful, but…
I’ve never cared much for people, never been very nice to them or sentimental about them. I guess I’m just a bitter old man, but I do have a funny streak. I feel sorry for things. I can’t explain it, it’s crazy — just as crazy as Scotty loving his engines. But I felt — don’t laugh! (You wouldn’t, would you?) — I felt that if I left that rose behind and picked another, it would cry.
Poor, pathetic little flower.
I scooped it up, hoping Mandy would understand such a silly gesture. Stuffing it in the pocket of my robe, I turned to dash for the house, anticipating warm feet.
And my heart sank.
There he was, a cruel figure in the moonlight, the gold of his uniform turned silvery green.
Not now! my mind screamed. He stood there a moment, accusing. No, that was my imagination. Jim had no reason to accuse me. He rushed to me. “Bones! Thank God!” He grabbed my arms and swung me around. “We didn’t know what had happened, we thought you’d been killed when the Guardian failed. We still don’t know what caused it, it blacked out for about an hour… but God, I’m glad to see you!”
He was smiling, grinning from ear to ear he was so happy to have found me. His happiness was killing me, tearing me apart. How much could a man take, I wondered? How often could his heart be ripped to pieces and still survive the strain?
His smile faded. “Bones! We’re going home. What’s wrong?” He looked me over. “And what are you doing out here?”
I pulled away. “I… Jim, I can’t go.”
“What do you mean, can’t go? Bones, you have to!” His expression was grim now. My friend was gone; he was a starship captain now.
I was coming apart. “I can’t, Jim… I can’t explain. It’s — I…” I shook in frustration. I wished I could smash something. “God dammit!”
Jim was next to me immediately. “Bones! We’ve got to go. You’ve been here too long! Come on, we’ve got to get back to the drop point — the Guardian has to pick us up.”
He could tell I wasn’t listening to him. “Bones! Please.” He stared at me, trying to look through my eyes into my mind. “Bones, what’s happened?”
I slumped, defeated. “I can’t tell you, Jim. Please let me have just five minutes.”
I said, now determined. “Jim, I’ve got to have five minutes!”
Jim straightened his shoulders and said harshly, “Dr. McCoy, I order you to come with me.”
I was growing desperate, another minute and I was going to clout Jim on the head and run. “Jim, please! I’ll come, but give me five minutes.”
He stared at me. Who knows what he was thinking. Maybe he figured I’d lost my mind. Maybe I figured the same thing. “Is it that important?” he asked.
I nodded. He gestured.. “Five minutes, or I’ll come in and drag you out.”
“I’ll be here,” I promised grudgingly.
I left him and reentered the darkened house. After the brightness of the moon outside, my eyes took time to adjust. I had to feel my way through the rear hallway into the foyer.
As my hand caught the ornate end of the stairway railing, I heard a creaking from above me. Someone was coming down the steps. It couldn’t be… she keyed the lights on.
I meant to play it innocent, but her expression was accusing… and scared.
“Why are you out of bed?” I asked.
Her voice quivered. “I woke up, and you were gone. I…”
“Well,” I started to explain.
Her eyes were wet. Did she know? How?
“Leonard,” she said flatly. “I heard.”
“How?” was all I could manage.
She shrugged, trembling (Rage? Fear?) “Through the windows:”
Had we been that loud? I hadn’t realized. “Oh.” I looked at the floor guiltily.
“Leonard, who was that man? What was he talking about?”
“He wants you to leave with him, doesn’t he?”
I swallowed. “Yes.”
Mandy came toward me and took my hands. I pulled away. She noticed. “What’s wrong? Oh, Leonard, what’s going on? What was he talking about? ‘Drop point’ and ‘Guardian.’ ”
“It’s… ” I damned myself for the words, “a secret.”
Mandy shook her head, tears streaming down her cheeks. “Why?” she demanded. “Is that the kind of work you do?”
I said nothing, letting her believe it. She turned away, her hands slipping from mine. “And you knew you’d be leaving, didn’t you?”
Again, my silence answered for me. Amanda’s fists clenched. “You. bastard!”
I started toward her, my hands reaching. “Mandy — ”
“You — led me on! You knew!”
“Mandy,” I said again, a lump in my throat.
“No,” she sobbed. “Don’t say it! Don’t say anything.” She stared at me, and I wanted to die. I watched, helpless, paralyzed, as Mandy moved up the first few steps. She faced me a last time. I would never forget that awful, betrayed stare. “I… love you, Leonard.”
As she disappeared up the steps, I slumped against the railing. “I love you too, Mandy,” I choked.
My eyes were wet, and I reached into my pocket, trying to find a tissue. My hand caught something limp — the rose. The one I’d meant for Mandy.
Mandy. Poor, pathetic little flower.
We stepped out of the Guardian. Spock was waiting there for us. “Welcome home, Doctor,” he said flatly. I stared at him a moment. Spock, the product of a union that had broken my heart. “Is something troubling you, Doctor?”
So much like Sarek, I thought. “Not a damn thing, Spock. You’re as ugly as ever.”
“I fail to understand why you would expect my appearance to have changed, Doctor. And as for your choice of terms — ”
“Never mind, Spock,” said Jim, chuckling and squeezing my shoulder. “Let’s get back to the ship.”
“Wait,” said a voice. It was the Guardian, its voice booming across the landscape.
Jim turned to it. “Yes, Guardian?”
“The one named McCoy must remain. There are adjustments to be made.”
Spock raised his eyebrow. “What adjustments?”
“They do not concern you,” said the Guardian pompously. I’ve always disliked the Guardian. I wonder whose personality they programmed it with. I wouldn’t have liked him either. “Kirk and Spock will return to the vessel McCoy will remain momentarily. Go now.” Jim looked at me, unsure. “Go on,” I said. “I’ll be fine.”
He squeezed my shoulder again and nodded. “C’mon, Spock,” he said, pulling out his communicator. “Beam us up, Mr. Scott,” he told it, and they were gone.
I was alone on the Time Planet. It wasn’t a pleasant place to be alone. The howling wind fit my mood, though. It suggested desolation as i passed between the ruins. “Well?” I asked the Guardian.
“The past must be corrected,” it said. “Your intervention with Amanda Grayson has caused perturbations in the time stream. They must be calmed, or they will damage the fabric of time.”
“What can you do?”
“I must correct Amanda Grayson’s memory. I must cause her to forget what passed between you or her relationship with Sarek will be hindered.”
“Why do you need me here?” I asked resentfully.
“Since you are the cause of the time disturbance, I must use your memory to pinpoint the periods of interruption in history accurately.”
“Well, what do you want me to do?”
“It is done,” announced the Guardian. I guess it had worked while we talked. “Observe.” A picture appeared in its center, a picture of the past I had just left. Amanda was mounting the staircase of the old house which contained the Vulcan embassy. She came to Sarek’s office door and knocked. His voice responded from beyond the heavy wooden door, and she entered.
Sarek looked up from his desk where he had been studying computer data. “Good morning, Ms. Grayson. What can I do for you?”
“I, uh — ” Amanda looked puzzled, like she had all of a sudden forgotten something. I had no doubt but what she had. The tears were gone from her eyes and her face was clear and beautiful again. “I was just wondering where Dr. McCoy had gone with the captain?”
“I believe he had an emergency to attend to aboard his ship. The captain will no doubt see to it that Dr. McCoy is taken to his destination once the situation has been attended to. I doubt he will return.”
Amanda seemed surprised but not upset. “Oh,” she said. “Is that all you know?”
Sarek thought a moment, then disproved the rumor that Vulcans can’t lie. “No. He asked me to convey his apologies for his abrupt departure, and wanted me to tell you… goodbye.”
Amanda smiled and nodded. It was clear she had forgotten nearly all that had passed between us. She remembered me as someone she had lunch with sometimes. “Well, I suppose it must have been important for him to go. When he gets to Vulcan, perhaps he’ll send you his address?”
“Perhaps,” Sarek agreed.
“Good. I’d like to drop him a postcard sometime.” Amanda showed no trace of the emotional turmoil that had gone such a short time before. I didn’t know if Sarek had overheard our argument. If he had, he must have figured by now that something had changed her memory. I hoped he could i proceed now with a clear conscience.
Amanda started out the door and halted, looking back at Sarek. She seemed to remember something she had been putting off for a while. I cringed. “Sarek,” she asked, smiling that smile, “I wonder if I could persuade you to join me for lunch later.”
“I would be honored,” he said.
The image faded, and the forlorn winds blew around me, chilling me. At least, I guess that’s what made me shiver. “All is as it was before,” said the Guardian. “The damage has been corrected.”
“You altered her memory?”
“I did. It is not beyond my abilities to intervene, but I am programmed to avoid it where possible. In this case, it was necessary.” There was a compassionate tone to its voice as it continued.
“If you prefer, McCoy, your memory of the incident could be changed in a similar manner, to avoid further inconvenience.”
I considered the Guardian’s offer — I really did. It would mean that the pain would go away, the pain I was so afraid was going to tear me apart. But then, it would also mean that I would have lost her again, lost her so badly that I would not even remember having her.
What was the old saying? ‘It is better to have loved and lost… ‘
Mandy had brought alive in me feelings that had been dead for fifteen years. She’d made me happier than I’d been since my marriage had come apart. She’d made me hurt more than I’d hurt since then, more than I thought I’d ever hurt again. She’d shown me a capacity for emotion I thought I’d lost for good.
I felt alive.
“No,” I told it, “thank you. I’ll keep my memories.”
Saavik swallowed the last of her fifth cup of hot chocolate. She felt pleasantly sleepy as the first red glow of dawn came through the curtains of Sarek and Amanda’s living room.
McCoy, relaxed in the recliner across from her, spread his hands. “So, that’s the story. Pathetic, huh?”
Saavik considered. Did Dr. McCoy honestly want her to call his tale pathetic? It was an extremely painful experience in his life, and pain was the one feeling Saavik truly understood. What perverse streak of human nature would wish to make a joke of such pain? “No, I did not find it so. I am… ”
“Don’t be, honey. It was a long time ago, and everyone’s forgotten. Time takes the pain away.”
“Completely?” Saavik asked hopefully. Would time take away the pain of her recent losses? She wasn’t sure she wanted it to.
“No. Never. If we didn’t have pain, we wouldn’t know what to do with happiness.” The doctor smiled at her and winked. He rose and crossed to her, offering her his hand. “I think you might be able to sleep now. Just consider it a bedtime story.”
“Bedtime?” Saavik asked. “Doctor, it is well after oh-six-hundred hours. I would hardly say — ”
McCoy laughed, though she didn’t think he was laughing at her… exactly. “Never mind, Saavik. Get some sleep.” He motioned her down the hall, and she went. She did feel tired.
McCoy smiled after the girl as she went into her room. He never thought he’d be telling a bedtime story to a sleepy Vulcan. He didn’t think sleepy Vulcans could be cute.
He kept smiling as he went to the window to watch the scarlet sunrise over the alien landscape. Even though the story had brought back some of the pain, it had helped to tell it, for the first time in fifteen years. And the memories, some of them, were very pleasant.
He was safe with Saavik. She would never tell anyone, least of all Amanda, the one person who could really never know.
“Hello,” said a voice.
McCoy started, turning to see Amanda of Vulcan standing in the kitchen doorway. This wasn’t his Mandy, this was the woman he had first met on the Enterprise and had to pretend with now for years. She smiled at him. That smile… a chill went down McCoy’s spine.
She shrugged, and a half-smile came to her face… she knew. “I guess the Guardian didn’t do its job very well, did it? Your story should have just sounded like… I don’t know, a lie? But it didn’t.”
He cursed himself. What a fool he’d been! How could he have given in and told? Here, of all places?
Amanda must have seen the pain and self-recrimination in his eyes. She came forward and took his hand gently, stroking it. “I came to see who was awake, and I heard you telling Saavik; and everything came back to me. I know it wasn’t a lie. You’re not a very capable liar, Leonard. I didn’t believe you that day you left, telling me you were running away. I don’t know why — ”
“Lady Amanda — ” he began.
“Don’t be formal, Len. It’s back. What we felt may be over… but it happened. Sixty years ago.”
McCoy smiled. “Fifteen years ago.”
Amanda laughed and came toward him, taking his hand. “And now you’re older, and I’m just old.”
“I wouldn’t say that.” He grinned.
“It doesn’t bother me, really. I’ve had a good life, and there’s still a bit left of it. And I have a lot of good memories…” She squeezed his hand and smiled at him in the half light. “A few more, after tonight. I’m glad I heard, Leonard. As you said, our memories are important, and I’m glad mine are back.” She kissed him on the cheek and hugged his neck with one arm.
“Thank you, Leonard. And don’t worry, it’ll be our little secret.”