Numb with grief that Spock was actually entering the Kohlinahr discipline, and thus would not see his friends or family again, McCoy paid a visit to Sarek and Amanda.
The doctor got right to the point. “I’m determined to talk him out of this, and I was hoping for your support.”
“We don’t like it either!” Amanda blurted sorrowfully.
Sarek shot her a look and answered more moderately, “I always wanted my son to follow the Vulcan path, but not to this extreme, I will admit. I wanted him to suppress his emotions, not to banish them.”
“Can they really do that? Completely?” McCoy wondered.
“Yes,” Sarek confirmed.
“Well, we’ve got to stop him before he takes his vow with the High Master!”
“We may not entirely agree with Spock’s decision, but it is his to make. We are unwilling to interfere.”
McCoy’s eyes shifted to Amanda. “Is that how you feel, too?”
“Um.” Amanda’s eyes darted hesitantly to her husband. She seemed about to say one thing, and then changed her mind. “Yes, I agree with Sarek.”
“Uh huh,” McCoy responded meaningfully, not fooled for an instant.
Amanda blushed. Sarek remained impassive.
“Fine,” McCoy decided resignedly. “I’ll go after him myself.”
“You must not,” ordered the Vulcan.
“Are you going to forcibly stop me, Sir?”
Sarek hesitated. “Negative.”
“Then I’m going.”
“A human is not permitted to enter Gol without a Vulcan escort,” Sarek reminded him.
“I’ve been there before with Spock. I’ll sneak in; I still have the white robe.”
“I strongly advise against it. If you are caught, the Kohlinahru will be within their rights to punish you severely for your transgression. If they decide that you know too much about them, they may execute you.”
McCoy was stunned. “I thought the Kohlinarhu were peaceful.”
Sarek replied, “They generally are, but they have no tolerance for nonsense or for defiance of their customs.”
McCoy gulped, but put up a brave front. “I’ll just have to find Spock before the others find me.”
“Spock himself might hurt you.”
“I’ll risk it.” McCoy rose.
Sarek stood as well. “It is even possible that Spock may kill you.”
McCoy blinked. He verbally stumbled. “If he….” He cleared his throat. “If he does…kill me…, he’ll…break my neck, won’t he?”
“Most likely. That is our most efficient method.”
McCoy’s nerve broke. “I’m afraid of that; I always have been!” he confessed.
“I urge you not to go.”
“How will I know if he’s about to? Is there a distinctive approach?” McCoy wasn’t about to give up his mission, but he was willing to plead for some common sense self-defense suggestions.
“Yes,” Sarek admitted flatly.
Sarek started toward McCoy. His right hand rose toward the human’s neck, casually brushed the side of it, and slipped around to the back of it. Through the brief touch, he experienced a startling wave of fear from the supposed victim, mirrored in McCoy’s eyes.
Amanda cringed sympathetically.
McCoy whispered, “Oh I’m scared!”
Sarek released him. “Yet you knew that I would let go. How will you feel when you know someone will not spare you?”
McCoy shivered. “But I can’t believe Spock would do that to me.”
“He has changed, Doctor.”
The human shifted from foot to foot. “I have to try. Spock is my friend. He’s worth it.” With that, he left.
Sarek turned to a worried Amanda. “The stubborn human will of course get himself into trouble. I must follow him.”
McCoy tried not to sigh with relief when he entered Spock’s room. He let the hood of the white robe fall back away from his face.
Spock eyed him severely. “Doctor, you may not come in here.”
“Are you going to summon the guards to throw me out?”
“That will not be necessary. I will accomplish that task.”
“You’re not our first officer anymore, remember? You can’t order me.”
“I did not say that ordering you would be the method that I would choose.” Spock took one step nearer to his uninvited visitor.
McCoy gulped, but insisted, “Damnit, Spock, you can’t throw your life away in this place! We’re friends! You can’t do this to me! You can’t do it to Jim, or to the others! Blast it, you know that we love you, and you love all of us, and just won’t admit it! Like it or not, you’re part of my life!”
Spock stepped closer. “And part of your death?”
“You sound certain. But in your emotions, you are not.”
“You’re violating my mind?!”
“As you have violated my sanctuary. Also, you are a very emotional individual, who has always broadcast his feelings alarmingly. And you are afraid of me.”
McCoy backed away, but insisted, “No, I trust you.”
“You used to trust me, but now you have realized that I have changed.” He backed McCoy into the wall. “I am within my rights to execute you for this intrusion.”
Spock nodded. “You fear tal-shaya. You are correct. That will be the method that I will use.”
McCoy shook his head, and the tears came. He tried desperately, “You made a mistake in coming here, exactly as I did just now! We all make mistakes! We can’t help it! We’re only hu…!” He stopped himself.
But Spock understood, and his eyes lit. “If I had entertained any thought of sparing you, that remark just ended it.” His right hand rose, nonchalantly brushed the side of McCoy’s neck, and slid around to the back of it.
McCoy’s nerve broke before his neck could. He cried out, and squeezed out the tears. They ran down his cheeks.
Spock quirked a brow. “I would not make noise, if I were you. The other Kohlinahru will hear you and come.”
McCoy continued to sob, but lowered his volume cooperatively, although he muttered weakly, “What difference can it make? I can’t be any more dead if they do it, than if you do!”
“That is true. But you still fear them more than you do me. Hm. That is interesting.”
“What is?” McCoy asked miserably.
“I see in your mind that this is the second time today that you have been in this position. The first was…with my father.” Spock’s voice betrayed his surprise. “Curious. You asked him to show you the position for tal-shaya so that you would know for sure if I were going to do it to you. And are you sure, Leonard?”
“Please! Stop it!” he whimpered.
Spock experimentally pressed a tentative finger against the precise spot on the bone. “But Sarek did not go this far, did he? Did he show you this? This is the place, Leonard. Pressure here, and you die.”
McCoy sobbed breathlessly.
“You were even afraid when Sarek did this, even though you knew that he would let go. You should never have risked finding out how you would feel when it became real, with me.”
“Oh please, oh please, let me go! I promise I’ll never return!”
Spock turned to him in surprise, and his grip on McCoy’s neck loosened minutely.
The human slipped from his grasp and collapsed to the floor.
Spock looked down at him. “You are not unconscious. Rise.”
Instead, McCoy crawled desperately toward Sarek, where he stood in the doorway.
Spock stepped on the doctor’s leg to restrain him. “You are eager to return to Earth and tell Jim about this.”
McCoy looked back up at him guiltily and said nothing.
Spock continued, “On the other hand, you are sincere about your vow to stay away from here. In fact, you intend never to return to Vulcan at all.”
McCoy admitted it, “That’s for sure! Please!! Please!!!”
Sarek demanded, “Release him.”
Spock consented, “Take him.” He removed his foot.
Sarek lifted McCoy and carried him out of Gol.
The human blubbered, “I should’ve listened to you! I’m sorry!”
Sarek carried the contrite and shuddering human back to the house, for Amanda to comfort. He knew that his human wife would be far more adept at the task than he. He was correct.
Amanda sat on the sofa, with McCoy’s head in her lap, and stroked and soothed and shushed him. She treated him like a son. After all, he and Spock were not so very different in age. And Amanda frankly enjoyed the opportunity to console a comparative youngster who would appreciate and welcome her ministrations, as her real son never could.
Sarek watched this display with open curiosity. The front door opened, and Spock entered. McCoy saw him, screamed, and fled to the guest room. Sarek and Amanda rose to confront their son.
Spock surprised them. “I am sorry. I realize now that the course that I was choosing was the wrong one. McCoy did help me to see that. May I go to apologize to him, as well?”
“Don’t frighten him!” Amanda urged.
“I shall not.”
Sarek nodded his approval.
Spock entered the bedroom, and remained nonthreateningly in the doorway. Even so, McCoy backed up against the far wall.
“My parents would not have allowed me in here if I intended harm. When I contemplated what I had learned from your visit, I realized that I did not wish to dispose of my emotions.”
McCoy was astonished. “J…just from what I said?”
“Somewhat. But less from what you said, and more from what you felt. I revealed a number of your feelings aloud to you, as I sensed them, but there were some that I intercepted that I did not report.”
McCoy watched Spock in sudden dread, paling.
Spock confirmed, “When you said that you loved me, your feelings were more powerful than the friendship that you implied.”
The human tried to retreat deeper into the wall.
Spock began to approach slowly. “Your feelings provoked me into confronting my own. I realized that I have strong feelings for you, as well.”
“But…but…, I didn’t mean for you to find out about it! You had no right to take it from my mind! No don’t!!” he shouted as the Vulcan hand rose.
Spock’s eyes searched McCoy’s.
“Oh no no no!”
“Why do you protest? You have lured me out of Gol, as you wished, and shown me the value of emotions. Now I am indulging the deepest desires that you have in my regard. Why are you not joyful?”
“I will not injure you.”
“If you truly read my thoughts, then you might!”
Spock let himself smile. “Yes. But if the notion came from your own thoughts, then why resist?”
“Because there’s a huge difference between fantasy and reality! Just because I like to dream this, doesn’t mean I want to live it!”
“Because I’m frightened of you! Because it’ll hurt!!”
“Now, Leonard,” Spock said. “We both know that you want it to hurt, just a little. So that you will feel that I am in command of you. Ah yes, of course.” The realization came to Spock. “That also explains why you are resisting me: you want to be forced. It is part of the game.”
McCoy moaned, “Please stop violating my mind!”
“Let us face reality, my human friend. Although you definitely did not want me to kill you, you did want me to at least threaten tal-shaya, and you did enjoy it, particularly the touch of my hand on your neck, and especially as I revealed physically and verbally the precise location of vulnerability. You went to Gol hoping to receive such an experience. And further, you enjoyed Sarek’s briefer demonstration of tal-shaya earlier. Interesting.”
“No, I feared it!”
“And enjoyed your fear. I register a definite fear-thrill in your memory of the two incidents.”
“No!” McCoy’s hands went out to fend off his touch.
Spock seized the wrists effortlessly. “And I know why you have just now feigned resistance. There is something else that you want.” He transferred the two human wrists into one hand, and reached for McCoy’s shoulder with the other.
“No!! It’ll hurt!!!”
“You hope. And this protest, too, is part of the game.” Spock nerve-pinched McCoy slightly harder than was necessary to achieve unconsciousness, and was rewarded with a brief but bursting surge of fear-thrill from the human mind, in conjunction with the wince and the pained cry. Then he caught the limp human in his arms and deposited him on the bed. He awaited the human’s awakening, while planning his next mode of “attack.” He knew that he must be careful not to pass the limit of McCoy’s endurance, and stop long before causing the man to die of fright, howevermuch such a death would be in ecstasy.
The bedroom door opened, and Sarek entered.
Spock turned faintly green. “Father.”
At the sight of the unconscious human form on the bed, Sarek merely stated, “I cannot say that I am surprised.”
“Indeed?” Spock struggled to conceal his shock at his father’s nonchalance.
Sarek went on, “When McCoy asked me to demonstrate tal-shaya to him, I felt his fear-thrill as he endured it. Later, I stood outside of your chamber in Gol, and listened to your conversation with him; I was there longer than I let on to either of you. I felt again his strong waves of emotion, even as I stood there listening. I knew then that we were dealing with a masochist, who employs his apparent cowardice as an enticement to those who would indulge him, and from whom he desires abuse. The fact was confirmed beyond any doubt as I carried him home: held in my arms, he unknowingly sent his emotions and thoughts coursing through me. Part of his grief lay in being separated from you prematurely, without enough having happened. He was sorry that the experience was over so quickly and wanted more. Being safe here again was rather an anticlimax. Then, when you came home so soon, surprised us with your apology, and seemed so eager to see him, I probed your feelings as well, and discovered reciprocity. In fact, you do have a slight sadism to complement his masochism.”
“Fascinating,” Spock commented.
Sarek went on, “Why else would he have fled into this bedroom when you arrived, unless he wanted to make himself vulnerable to you, to give you an opportunity to inflict more Vulcan ‘methods’ upon him? Surely he would have been safer remaining in the living room with your mother and me, if protection were all that he desired.”
Sarek gestured. “I assume that you nerve-pinched him?”
“Good. He wanted it rather badly. Part of his disappointment, as I carried him away from Gol, lay in the fact that you had not done that. He had been hoping that you would. Subconsciously, he had been trying to plant the suggestion of it into your mind by slipping to the floor in Gol and feigning unconsciousness, hoping that you would get the idea, and render the state real. I felt a stab of sorrow and loss from him when you merely informed him that he was not unconscious, and ordered him to rise. That is the real reason why he disobeyed you and crawled toward me: not to seek my protection from you as it appeared, but in order to provoke you into sufficient anger to enforce your order, by making his ‘unconsciousness’ a reality.”
Spock was moved. “Father, I am deeply impressed by your insightful understanding of McCoy’s feelings. And of mine,” he added significantly.
Sarek refused the praise. “It was no great feat, since your feelings and mine are so similar.”
Spock stared hard at Sarek.
In response, Sarek stood beside him, awaiting McCoy’s awakening.
Spock nodded slowly in understanding.
When the human came to, moaning at his hurt shoulder, and turned his head to see the two Vulcan watching him, eyes lit, for just one brief moment he lost the ability to play the game. He smiled radiantly at both of them, and breathed a fervent “Thank you!” Then his eyes widened, his face paled, and he went back into his pleasureful act of fear.
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