7: Knit the Raveled Sleeve of Care

While McCoy changed into his sleepwear in the bathroom, Spock glanced around the doctor’s spartan living quarters. The only personal belongings he could see were the books lined up by the bed. As he perused their titles, McCoy came out dressed in a simple black t-shirt and loose cotton drawstring pants.

“This is quite the collection,” Spock commented.

“Bah! Nothing expensive, just some old novels I picked up at a used bookstore here. Help yourself if anything catches your eye.”

“Do you have any recommendations?”

“Well, don’t read any of the Russian ones when you’re feeling down. And you probably won’t like Alice in Wonderland.”

“On the contrary, Leonard, I’ve read both it and Through the Looking Glass and found them to be a fascinating window into the Human psyche.”

“Oh? How so?”

“The adaptability of Alice to the bizarre creatures and occurrences which she encounters speaks to the resilience of Humans — especially at a young age — and, in general, the stories are considered to reflect the enigmatic memory processing of the brain through the dream state. Furthermore, Carroll was a traditional mathematician of his time, and he used the stories to satirize some of the new, more complex, and seemingly contradictory theories being introduced in that era.”

“Y’know, Spock,” McCoy drawled, stifling a yawn, “I think you’re actually helping; I’m falling asleep already.”

“Then I shall remain quiet so you may sleep… ‘perchance to dream.’”

“‘Sleep that knits up the raveled sleeve of care,’” McCoy mumbled as he lay down on his bed. “Just make yourself comfortable. If you really want to stay, that is. You don’t have to, you know — it’s not like I’m so drunk that I’m gonna fall down and hurt myself.”

“I suppose that is unlikely,” Spock replied in a lowered voice, perching on the edge of the bed, “but I offered to stay to provide companionship, not a security detail.”

“So if I do fall on my ass, you’ll only be here for moral support?”

Spock’s lips twitched. “I will encourage you to get up on your own, Doctor.”

“Well then, here’s my first constructive insult: that’s about as useful as a screen door on a starship.”

Despite the bluntness of his words, Spock could sense that McCoy was enjoying the verbal repartee. The steady emissions of HAPPY-HAPPY-GLAD-CONTENT-SLEEPY were tinged with delight and good humor.

“It would be illogical to install such a device on a starship,” Spock replied blandly.

“It’s a joke, dammit — don’t you get it?” McCoy responded with no heat behind the accusation. He was bending down to grab the blanket, which was just out of reach, so Spock pulled it up for him. Their hands touched briefly, almost electrifying the Vulcan and making him gasp aloud.

“What? What’s the matter?” McCoy demanded, alert now.

“I… I cannot explain it…. It felt as though… electricity passed between us.”

“Oh!” The doctor was silent for a moment. “Must be static electricity. It tends to build up in synthetic fibers, especially when the air is dry.”

“I know what static electricity feels like,” Spock objected. “This felt… like nothing I’d ever felt before.”

“You want me to take a look at it?” McCoy asked, already getting out of bed and opening a cupboard. “I’ve got a kit right here.”

“No, I do not think that will be necessary.”

“Well, lemme look, just to make sure.”

The light and magnifying lens did not show anything unusual on Spock’s hand, and neither did the tricorder. However, Spock noted that McCoy was now avoiding touching his skin directly.

“Maybe it was a fluke… a freak buildup of static charge,” McCoy suggested, but his feelings were indicating WORRY-WORRY-HIDE-AVOID. Spock was forced to conclude that the doctor had a better idea of what had caused the phenomenon but was, for whatever reason, reluctant to voice it.

“As there seems to be no permanent damage,” Spock said, relieved that his own concern was not being transmitted to McCoy, “I see no reason to pursue the matter.”

“All right… but if it happens again, I want you to let me know right away,” McCoy insisted as he packed away his kit. At least his emotions had calmed down, but he was no longer sleepy.

“I’m sorry, Leonard — I did not mean to wake you.”

“Oh, Spock, don’t apologize! It wasn’t your fault you got zapped.”

Curiously, Spock sensed guilt radiating from McCoy.

“It was not a strong charge, simply… startling. Perhaps if you lie down you will be able to relax again.”

“Yeah, sure.” McCoy settled back onto the bed, trying to hide his skepticism — not knowing that it was clearly perceptible to Spock. “Hey, maybe if you read me a bedtime story…” he joked.

“Which one would you prefer?” Spock asked, keeping his expression neutral.

“Oh, God, Spock! I was just kidding.”

“Even so, if it will help you sleep….” Spock picked up one of the books, then saw it was The Brothers Karamazov and put it back. “Perhaps an old Earth tale… you may be familiar with it. My mother used to read it to me when I was a child.”

“Oh? Which one?”

Three Little Pigs.”

McCoy burst out laughing, then continued to laugh until tears were leaking out of his eyes.

“I fail to see what is so amusing,” Spock said in confusion, which prompted McCoy to get a grip on himself.

“Sorry, it’s just… the thought of your poor Human mother, reading Three Little Pigs to you when you were only a pipsqueak but no doubt a logical Vulcan kid…. What in heaven’s name did you think of it?”

“It was an entertaining moral story, cautioning one to be wise in planning for the future and to not be satisfied with work that is less than one’s best. It also taught that with the proper preparation, one could overcome the various obstacles in one’s life.”

“You got all that out of Three Little Pigs? Well, all right, I suppose you could. But it’s a children’s story, Spock — you’re supposed to enjoy it, not analyze it to death!”

“I did appreciate the fact that my mother took the time to teach me such stories from her own culture. It also served to familiarize me with some of Earth’s fauna and their metaphysical symbolism.”

McCoy chuckled, sending out waves of amusement and happiness that washed over Spock.

“All right, then — do you need to read it off a PADD or do you remember it well enough without?”

“I believe I have it memorized,” Spock stated, then began reciting the tale. He tried to infuse the familiar lines with the same animation as his mother had for him, although it was difficult since McCoy’s silent merriment was vibrating through the room. “Then I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house in!

Before Spock could finish the tale, McCoy was shaking from the effort of reining in his laughter.

“It does not seem to be having the desired effect of lulling you to sleep,” Spock put in.

“No, no… I’m sorry, it’s just….” McCoy finally succumbed to the hilarity, doubling up on his side, and had to wipe his tears with a corner of the blanket. “I appreciate it, I really do! But—” He broke off to laugh so hard that he snorted.

“Perhaps you are more inebriated than I had thought,” Spock remarked dryly.

“Yeah, that’s it! In fact… I might be hallucinating this whole thing!” After taking in several deep breaths, McCoy was able to calm himself a little. “It can’t be true, can it? You, Spock, reading me a bedtime story?

“I was reciting, not reading — a minor point — but I do not see why it would be beyond the realm of possibility.”

“Okay, reciting, whatever! At any rate, your secret’s safe. Nobody would believe me, anyway!”

“You need not keep it a secret,” Spock began, then paused as he reconsidered.

“Oh, yes, I do! You couldn’t command half as much respect if the crew knew you have Three Little Pigs memorized!”

“Well, perhaps… you may be correct.”

“I know I am,” McCoy declared, then stretched out to lie flat on his bed again. “Okay, I’m wide awake now. What other Earth stories do you know?”

Spock listed a few, pointing out the lessons to be learned from them or, as in the case of The Boy Who Cried ‘Wolf,’ the illogical actions taken by the protagonists, which he had struggled to understand as a boy.

“They became more meaningful when I began living among Humans,” he explained. “In fact, that was when I most appreciated my mother having taught them to me.”

“She must have been an amazing woman,” McCoy mused. “Living on Vulcan, surrounded by Vulcans…. I don’t know how she kept from going insane.”

Spock was quiet for a moment before he said, “I do regret… not expressing to her… how much I loved and appreciated her. In Vulcan culture, any expression of emotion is considered… inferior, and so I did not even acknowledge… how much she meant to me.”

McCoy’s smile was sad but genuine. “I’m sure she knew, Spock. She was your mother, after all.”

“I hope she did. She was… exceptionally perceptive.”

“See? There you go. She knew. She probably understood why you were trying so hard to fit in too. And she lived to see you become an officer with Starfleet. She must’ve been so proud!”

“She… She was. She told me… she was.”

Having been in such close proximity to McCoy and inundated by his emotions for so long, Spock found his own feelings bubbling to the surface. His vision grew blurry as his nose stung.

“Aw, dammit, Spock! I didn’t mean to make you cry,” McCoy protested, sitting up to stare at him awkwardly.

Spock sniffed hard, then managed a small laugh. “I realize that… but it is a… good sort of emotion. I miss her… terribly… but it is good to remember her.”

“Yeah…. They’re never really gone as long as we remember them.”

Spock allowed himself to feel the sentiment rising within himself while being suffused with McCoy’s feelings of GUILTY-SORRY-HEAL-COMFORT-CONCERN-HEAL. Then he was struck by a sudden epiphany.

“He reminds me of her.”

McCoy’s depth and strength of feeling, his dogged determination to protect his fellow crew members, his unending passion for making others whole and happy again — though different in quality, the essence of his personality was remarkably similar to Spock’s mother, who had cared for her son jealously, tirelessly, and with all-consuming dedication. She had only ever wanted him to be happy and healthy; so did McCoy. It was humbling and — in that moment of emotional vulnerability — Spock had to admit, comforting.

“I must apologize, Leonard,” Spock slowly said, “for being… very counterproductive to your rest.”

“Oh, dammit all! It’s nothing that a good cup of coffee can’t fix. I don’t have any surgeries tomorrow — at least not scheduled, thank God.”

“I am glad for that. I would blame the alcohol, but as you know, it does not affect my Vulcan physiology.”

“It’s all right, Spock… you’re allowed to miss her. You’re half Human, after all… and even Vulcans must grieve, in their own way.”

Spock nodded and sniffed again, which sent McCoy off the other side of the bed to retrieve a box of tissues. Accepting it gratefully, Spock blew his nose and dried his eyes.

“Well, butter my ass and call me a biscuit,” McCoy said with some perplexity. “I don’t know what’s gotten into you, Spock, and that’s a fact. First you’re reciting children’s stories and now you’re actually showing emotion? What’s next — playing a banjo at a hoedown?”

“What, exactly, is a ‘hoedown’?” Spock asked, not bothering to hide the smile that was creeping into his face.

“A square-dancin’ party. Next time we go to Earth, I’ll have to take you to one.”

“It sounds… fascinating. But as for my… very Human conduct tonight… I can only surmise that you have been influencing me with your sentimentality.”

“Oh, so now I’m a bad influence on you?” McCoy huffed, quirking one eyebrow.

“I never said it was a negative thing, Leonard.”

This caught McCoy completely off guard and unable to formulate a reply.

“You should lie down… try to get some sleep,” Spock urged. “I have interfered with your rest long enough.”

“All right,” McCoy conceded as he lay back down yet again. “But Spock… seriously, are you feeling all right?”

“I am feeling…” Spock began, then stopped as he realized his own word choice. He let the smile form on his lips before restating, “I feel fine, Leonard.”

“You sure you’re not coming down with Draconian measles or anything?”

“I am sure.”

“’Course, not much I could do for you even if you were,” McCoy said with a sigh. “Some things you just have to let run their course…. It’s getting late, Spock. If you need to turn in—”

“There is still enough time for me to get an adequate amount of sleep,” he quietly assured him. “Just rest now. I will remain silent, in meditation, so as to not disturb you any further.”

“You’ll have to show me how to do that sometime,” McCoy mumbled, his eyes already closed.

“I would be happy to,” Spock whispered, pulling the blanket up over McCoy’s chest without touching him. He watched for a few minutes as the Human’s breathing slowed and his emotions — revolving around CONTENT-HAPPY-CONTENT-SLEEP — grew quieter. Then, for what he gauged to be half an hour, Spock turned his attention inward and meditated to quiet his own thoughts. Lacking a specific light source to focus on, he imagined one with his mind’s eye, and somehow it reminded him of his mother as well: warm, inviting, and brilliant.

When he finally opened his physical eyes, he felt mentally refreshed. He wondered if the waves of peaceful feelings emanating from McCoy might have had something to do with the light within having been colored with affection and repose. He also wondered, as he saw how close his hand had landed to McCoy’s (though still separated by the blanket), what that near-electrical shock had been and why the doctor had seemed hesitant to voice his theory on it. Deciding that solving the riddle could wait, Spock silently left the room.

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