Thanks to my betas, T'Aaneli and Greywolf for their time and effort.


The old man stood in front of the observation window and stared at the stars as they streamed passed. It was cold in the room and his bones ached from long hours of standing, but he didn't move. Damn infernal spaceships. Why do they always have to keep them the temperature of a freezer? What are they trying to preserve anyway? 

He sighed. 

Who was he kidding? He was always cold these days. Even in the muggy Georgia summer. 

"Sir. Wouldn't you be more comfortable in your quarters?" 

McCoy stiffened slightly. Oh God. Not him again. McCoy turned slightly to look at the young man standing behind him. 

"No." He turned back. Annoying upstart. What was his name...Farms...Barnes? Why did the man have to stand so close? 

"Admiral. It's 22:00 hours. Wouldn't it be wise to retire now?" 

McCoy sighed again. It was just his luck to get stuck with a ninny assistant like this guy. 

More like a babysitter. 

The man was a nuisance. Always sticking his ugly nose where he wasn't wanted. Asking him meddlesome questions-- "Would you like to take a rest, Admiral? Do you need a chair, sir? Are you tired? May I get you something? Let me clean that bit off your chin? Do you need to use the bathroom? May I wipe your ass for you, sir?" It was enough to drive a man to drink. 

Speaking of... 

McCoy spoke to the window as he addressed the lieutenant. "If I wanted to go to my quarters, young man, I would. I don't need prompting from you. Understood?" 

"But Sir--" 

"You're dismissed, Lieutenant." 

McCoy heard Barnes come even closer. "Sir, why don't you let me walk you back to your quarters? You have a big day tomorrow. You need to get your rest." He placed his hand on McCoy's arm. 

McCoy turned his head to look into lieutenant's round face. His blue eyes snapped coldly. "Boy, remove your hand before I have it arranged to be permanently removed from your arm." 

McCoy watched Barnes swallow nervously as he withdrew his hand. Well, waddya know, still have some fire left. Who'd of thought? What a coward. I'm 141 years old fer chrissake. 


Barnes started to protest. 

"I said leave." McCoy turned back to the window. There was quiet for a moment, then he heard soft steps and the door open and close. 

Some of the tension left his shoulders. He waited a minute, to make sure Barnes wasn't coming back, then he turned and made his way to the replicator. 

"Whiskey shot." He needed something to warm his old bones up. It was only synthahol anyway, one shot wasn't going to hurt anything. He'd sip it like a baby, so as not to overload his system. 

Hell, I'm still a doctor. I know my own limitations.

Chuckling softly to himself, he moved with his shot glass back to the window. This time, he rolled one of the chairs over and sat down, gingerly holding the precious liquid in his hand. He was shit out of luck if he spilled any, 'cause once he sat down there was no getting up. At least not without great effort. 

He settled back, making himself comfortable. "Computer. Raise temperature by 20 degrees." The computer chirped in reply. 

There. Now that's more like it. He raised his glass and took a tiny sip and resumed his watch. 

He had never thought of stars as being beautiful. That had been Jim's deal, not his. Why, to listen to the man, you could have sworn he was talking about the most precious gems in the universe, not these pale sparkly little bits. McCoy had never understood the appeal, but that never mattered when Jim was around. 

Spock had understood. McCoy remembered the light in Spock's eyes as he listened to Jim talk. Yes. He had understood. Heck, he probably felt the same way. Damned elusive Vulcan. He sure knew how to pull the wool over my head. Over all our heads. McCoy took another sip. 

And now Spock was gone. Where to, nobody knows. Just up and left without a word. They think he went to Romulus. No doubt on some damned fool idealistic crusade. 

So now he was alone. 

Jim was gone. Spock was as good as gone. And he was alone. 

The brightness of the stars was suddenly too much, and McCoy closed his eyes, ignoring the tears that slid down his face. 

The bastard hadn't said a word to him the last time they had spoken two months ago. McCoy had nearly died of shock. Spock called about as often as the Earth shifted its axis. McCoy could barely admit, even now alone with just his thoughts, how happy he had been to hear from Spock. 

He cursed himself silently, glad he was alone so nobody could see him cry. He wiped the tears away. 

Ten minutes. That had been the length of the conversation. Enough time for him to say "Spock! How the hell are ya? Yes, I'm still alive, damn it. I see you've got some gray there. Well, it's about time." 

You could have told me. I know how to keep a secret. 

When Jim had been killed, it had been so sudden. He had cried like a baby, cursing every curse he had ever learned and several original ones as well. But when they told him about Spock, he just went cold. 

McCoy shivered a bit. He opened his eyes and looked back out onto the streaming stars, taking another sip. He felt closer to Jim out here among Jim's stars. That's what they've always been to him--Jim's stars. 

He was tired. Maybe he should go to his quarters. The more he sat here in the dark, the more melancholy he became. Spock would not have approved and the last thing McCoy wanted was to give that Vulcan any reason to look down his nose at him. But he stayed seated, lacking the energy to wrestle himself out of the chair. 

Maybe I'll just take a nap here. I'm sure Barnboy won't mind.

Grinning slightly at the thought, McCoy carefully placed the rest of his whiskey on the arm of the chair. Then, with one last look at Jim's stars, he closed his eyes. 


the end.


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