McCoy wandered down New Peachtree Street with no particular destination in mind. He was beginning to regret his decision to come to Atlanta. He had thought that coming here, to the city he had called home for so long before he joined Starfleet, would help take his mind off the last few hectic months of his life.
"Face it," he thought to himself. "You're not trying to forget Klingons or battle or Federation politics. You're not even trying to forget that Jim and Spock are still in rehab. You're trying to forget Teresa."
Even now, almost six months later, he could hardly think her name without a thrill running through him. It just figured that the one woman he found that he thought he could truly love would be the princess of an entire planet.
And have a half-Klingon baby to raise on top of that. He had gone over every detail in his mind time and again, trying to convince himself that it was merely a fatherly feeling, merely the fact that he had delivered her baby and she had leaned on him for help that he felt so protective of her.
But when he woke up in running sweat night after night, protective and fatherly were the last things he felt. He dreamed of holding her, of feeling her move under him while they loved each other until they were both exhausted.
Enough! He stopped to stare at the front of an old building, trying to take the thoughts of Teresa out of his mind.
The little building was a stark contrast to the chrome and glass structures that virtually covered the length of New Peachtree. Its stone facade and antebellum columns were almost extinct, even in this Southern sanctuary. McCoy went closer and saw the sign.
"The Plantation," and, in smaller letters underneath, "Where Southern hospitality never left. Come and sit a spell." A bar! Well, just now he could use a drink, and the atmosphere of this place might help him relax. He pushed through the double doors.
And stepped into the past. The tables and chairs might be made of the sturdiest neo-plastics designed to look like heavy cherry and mahogany, but McCoy wasn't about to try and find out. The hardwood parquet floor shone under his feet, and the oriental rugs were well-placed and plush. At the end of the room was a fireplace, and yes, it was burning real wood. How much did drinks here cost?
He was about to find out as he moved into a quiet corner and sat in a soft leather wing chair that would have been at home in a mansion of the nineteenth century. He sighed in pure comfort.
A waitress approached him, and he noted that whoever ran the place had not tried to duplicate the intricate costumes of the period. Just as well. It would be hell trying to wait tables in hoop skirts.
The woman was young and dressed in a form-fitting, high-necked, black dress that reached just below her knees. Standard waitress apparel. It neither took away from nor added to the decor. "Yes, sir? What may I get for you?"
"Do you make mint juleps here? With real mint?"
The waitress's face crinkled in a smile. "Isn't that the only way to make them?"
McCoy returned the smile. "Absolutely. I'll have one as soon as you can get it out here."
"Right away, sir. I'm Carla. If you need anything else, just tell me."
McCoy stared into the fire as he waited for his drink. Yes, this place was just what he had needed. Something to bring him back home, back to his roots. He had been so far away for so long. If only Teresa were with him. No! that line of thinking could do no good. Best try something else.
Just then, Carla was back with his drink. He took a sip and leaned back into the chair. "Heaven. Couldn't have made it better myself, and I've been makin' 'em for almost forty years."
Carla smiled. "Are you a bartender, sir?"
McCoy almost spit out the mouthful of drink he was about to swallow. "No, honey. I'm just an old country doctor. But mint juleps make mighty good prescriptions from time to time."
The waitress giggled. "I think I'd like to have you for a doctor!" She laid the check on the little cocktail table. "I can take that whenever you're ready."
McCoy pulled out his Starfleet credit chit. "Why don't you just run me a tab? I think I'm going to take the advice on your sign out there and sit a spell."
Carla disappeared to take care of the details.
McCoy went through three more mint juleps before he realized that the room had taken on a pleasant, rosy glow and that thoughts of Teresa were far away. The fire still burned brightly, and McCoy wondered again how much would be added to his bar bill in hidden charges to pay for that luxury. Burn on, he thought. Go to it.
Through his blurred eyes, he made out a woman standing next to his chair. "Carla? Thanks, honey, but I'm fine for now. Come back in about ten minutes."
"I'm not Carla, Leonard," said a warm, modulated, contralto voice. Where had he heard it before?
"Who...?" McCoy peered up at the woman, but she was back-lit by the fire, and he couldn't see her face. "I know your voice, ma'am. If you'd be so kind as to let me see your face..."
She sat obligingly in a chair she had pulled next to his. Warm brown eyes framed by chin-length auburn hair stared back at him. Familiar, yes, but he couldn't place her. He began to wish he were more sober.
"You don't remember." Her voice was tinged with real regret. "Axanar--The Blue Sk'yak?" she prompted gently.
"Ki?" His memory was returning, along with a minimum amount of sobriety. "Kiellen Lorne? It is you!"
"The same. How do you like my place?" Her glance took in the room.
"Yours? I thought you swore you'd get no closer to Earth than Titan Base!"
"See where swearing got me? About ten years ago, I started reading a lot about Atlanta in the Wall Street Galactic. It piqued my interest, and I made a visit. Did a little research into the history of the city and the region. Then, on my next trip, I found this little piece of real estate. I think we were made for each other. We've been here eight years now, and there are no signs of slowing down. What about you?"
"I'm afraid I am slowing down, Kiellen," McCoy said, memories starting to come back to him. "Can you get Carla to bring me another drink?"
"Ah, Leonard, drinking to forget didn't do you any good then, and it won't now. You don't need a hangover; what you need is a good meal and someone to talk to. I've got just the thing. Come on."
Signaling to Carla, Kiellen took McCoy's hand and steadied him to his feet. She led him to the back of the bar, where the corridor led to the men's and ladies' rooms and the small kitchen. A covered door led up a steep staircase that opened into a spacious, well-furnished apartment that matched the decor downstairs--Southern antique.
She led him to a sofa. "Sit. This is my office. My apartment is through there." She indicated a door. "I learned when I got into this business twenty-five years ago that if you want to stay on top of things, you have to be on top of things--literally! I'll have Carla send us up a tray. What would you like?"
"Whatever. 'Bout to fall asleep."
Lorne spoke to Carla on the intercom and ordered food. McCoy was concentrating too hard on keeping his head from spinning to pay much attention to the menu. After she switched off, Kiellen came to the couch and pushed him gently back.
"You've had more than you realize. I don't water my drinks--especially my favorites, like mint juleps. Here, take those boots off. I think you should rest a bit before we try to eat." She made him comfortable.
How nice it felt to have someone take care of him for a change. The worry, the worry, it was always there, and you had to hide it under professional concern. He drifted in and out. He felt her pat him on the cheek. "I've got some paperwork to do. I'll take care of it and let you know when dinner is served. You just rest."
"Umm." It was the best McCoy could manage. He lay there, trying to focus on Kiellen working at her desk. He remembered the first time he had met her on Axanar, a brash young barmaid with a rough mouth, capable fists, and underneath it all, smooth skin and a willing body. They had had fun. Shore leaves with her had stuck in his mind when other, more exotic, or more erotic, had faded. Kiellen was real, and it looked as though the barmaid had blossomed into a very capable businesswoman.
The lethargy and light-headedness was giving way to a very heavy feeling in McCoy's bladder. He struggled up. "Where's...?"
She pointed to the door she had mentioned earlier. "Through there."
He went through the door into a den/sitting room and into the bedroom. The lavatory was large and contained a whirlpool tub and soak pool. McCoy steered his thoughts away from it and tended to business. He returned to Kiellen's office in considerably greater comfort.
She was neatening a stack of papers. "Ready for a snack?" She indicated a roll-in table and covered dishes that had arrived while he was in the other room.
She pulled up a chair to the couch and did the unveiling. McCoy found his appetite returning after taking the first few bites. There was a feast of small appetizers and light fare, finger foods, just right to satisfy his alcohol-induced hunger. Finally, he could eat no more. He pushed back his plate.
"Kiellen, you missed your calling. You should have opened up a gourmet restaurant instead of a bar."
"That's next on the list. It's taken me this long to find a decent chef. But enough business. Are you here on shore leave?"
He sighed. Might as well tell her the truth. "Of sorts. Medical leave of absence. Six months, with an option for six more if I decide I need it."
"Were you injured?" There was real concern in her voice.
"No--that is, not really--I..." He didn't know where to begin.
She decided for him. "It's a woman, isn't it?"
"Kiellen, how do you know these things?"
"Hell, I was raised in bars. Men just don't look the way you did when you came in today unless there's a woman involved somewhere. Am I right?"
"On the nose."
"So tell an old friend."
And he did. The story came pouring out of him, like lancing a boil. The whole Serenidad/Klingon/Federation mess: the assassination of Teresa's father, Teresa's kidnapping, the torture, being captive of the Klingons, delivering the baby...he hold her all of it. He spared no one, not Kirk, not Spock, not himself, not even Teresa.
"She just had to be so bold. If she hadn't gotten herself kidnapped in the first place or if Spock had shared his memories of her agonies, then maybe I--"
"Maybe what, Leonard? Maybe the Klingons would just now be attacking full force and lay the whole planet to waste to get what they wanted. You ought to be glad that they tried to use intrigue. At least it gave you time to know Teresa. You really love her, don't you?"
"I believe I do. I'd like to think that in other, more normal circumstances our feelings would still have grown, but I know that being captive together is such an intense thing, and there's the baby, too. I practically forced her to deliver it, and--"
"And you just don't know." She finished for him. She bent her attention on covering the dishes, putting them back on the cart and rolling them outside the door. She came back and sat next to McCoy on the couch.
"Leonard, when was the last time you had a woman?"
"C'mon, you're a doctor. You must have asked that question hundreds of times in all the starhours you've seen."
"But, what?" Her hand had crept up his neck and was fondling his ear, now his cheek, now brushing the hair back from his forehead.
He was conscious of being very warm. He fought to answer her question. "It's been a while since I was the object of that question."
Her other hand took one of his and brought it to her mouth. She planted little playful kisses on his knuckles while she continued to stroke his face. He had never known his eyelids were so sensitive.
"So, how long?" she asked, between finger-kisses.
"Too long," he admitted.
"I thought so." She began to unfasten his shirt and kiss his throat and neck, running her tongue from his ear to his collarbone.
He shivered with pleasure. "Kiellen, no..."
"Why not?" she whispered in his ear, her tongue never stopping its dance. She had his shirt completely undone now, and was kissing his belly, tonguing his navel.
He pulled her back up to face him. "Why are you doing this?"
"Because I want to. Because I know you want to, whether you'll ever admit it or not. And because you're an old friend and we had so much fun together. Now shut up and enjoy it!" She fastened her lips firmly over his and stopped the rest of his protests. She sucked his tongue greedily, nipping at his bottom lip, while her fingers played light over his chest, his arms, his ribs, his back.
He had never, never felt like such an object of intense concentration before. He soaked it up. His shirt was off, and she was working at the waist of his trousers. He helped her undo them, then watched as she slid them off and then removed her own clothes.
Kiellen kissed her way slowly down his belly, her tongue leaving trails of fire wherever it touched. He groaned, then she started at his knees and began slowly, exquisitely, to work her way up, biting and sucking the insides of his things before she finally reached her target.
He felt the familiar tightness, but he didn't want to climax now, not yet. Gently, he took Kiellen's head and pulled it away from him, coaxing her back up beside him. "That was good, so good," he whispered in her ear, reaching between her legs. He was surprised and even more aroused by the wetness that met his eager fingers.
Kissing her, working his tongue into her mouth, he began to stroke rhythmically between her legs. He felt her back arch and turned his attention to her breasts. This time the groan came from her, and he felt her nipples quiver under his mouth. Her scent rose around him and made him as drunk as the liquor had earlier.
He moved down her flat stomach, kissing, kissing, giving her the same pleasure she had given him. Finally, she moaned with unbearable pleasure and was still. He moved up beside her, kissing her flushed face.
Her arms went around him. "You've learned a few new tricks since last time. I approve," she breathed. "Now, it's your turn."
McCoy woke to the feel of silk on his skin. He opened his eyes and tried to ignore the headache that was beginning at the base of his skull and working its way around his entire head.
The room was unfamiliar--wait! He was still at Kiellen's. He had vague memories of the two of them struggling up off the rug in Ki's office and hobbling to the bed, where they collapsed, unconscious.
McCoy stretched luxuriously. He could not remember when his body had felt so relaxed, so ready for anything that he might choose to throw at it. He reached across the immense bed and touched Kiellen's still sleeping form.
She awoke instantly at his touch and smiled at him. "Hi." She snuggled closer and kissed him on the cheek. "Leonard, you're wonderful. How 'bout a bath?"
"Kiellen, I..." Now that the alcohol had worn off, McCoy was very uncomfortable. How had he let last night happen?
"No, no. It's okay. Just a bath. Which we both need. Come on."
He followed her into the bathroom. She disappeared around the corner to the soak pool while he made his toilette. She peeked around the translucent partition and beckoned slyly. He went to her.
The programming on the pool computer was superb. Invigorating bubbles rose up all around him in the lukewarm water, stimulating his circulation. He noticed that circulation was not all that was being stimulated.
Kiellen point out various knobs on the side of the tub. "Bath gel, mild soap, scented soap--but that's a bit too feminine for you, I think. You'll like the gel--it has kind of a sea scent. Here, let me."
Her expert hands worked up a rich lather across his chest and under his arms. As she reached around to get at his back, McCoy found himself bending down to capture her mouth in along, deep kiss. She tasted of mint toothpaste.
She returned his kiss, tongue for tongue, and they soon found themselves outside the pool where the floor gave under their weight like a firm air mattress. The whole side of the pool was a giant bed!
McCoy liked looking at Kiellen on the floor beneath him. He studied her body. She was still young, though closer to his own age than many of the women he met these days, especially in Starfleet, and she obviously took good care of herself. Her breasts were full and soft, and he didn't want to wait any longer. He took a nipple in his mouth, pulling it gently with his teeth. She gasped, then spread her legs wider and let him work, their passion building steadily until they reached their climax and collapsed in exhaustion.
"So this is your idea of a bath?" he said when he could speak again.
"Can you think of a better way to start your day?"
They slid back into the pool and washed this time in earnest. They traded back scrubs, and McCoy reflected that you really did miss a lot when you had to wash your own back. He felt wonderful, but still thoughts of Teresa nagged at him. Had he betrayed her? They had made no firm commitment to each other--still, this morning and last night had been so good, so intense. And what did Kiellen want?
As though she could read his mind, she spoke. "You're thinking about the princess, aren't you?"
"Do you feel guilty?"
"I feel goddamn great is how I feel, but I do feel like I've gone back on some unspoken word."
Kiellen scooted around in the pool to face him. she shook a finger in his face. "Listen, Leonard. I didn't make love to you last night to take you away from anyone, or to make you break any commitment. I saw you when you walked in, and as soon as I could read your expression, I knew I better not say anything right away. You were in pain, man! I know there's a lot of ways to ease pain, and I sell one of them right downstairs. But there's none better than what we just did. I know that when I'm hurting deep down, I want to share it, to give it away even just for a little while. I just wanted to help." She slumped in the water.
McCoy had to hug her. "You did help, believe me, you did. I can think about Teresa now, not just brood about her. The tension is gone, the frustration. Thank you. Thank you for buying this place, and thank you for being here when I needed it most, and didn't even know it. Still friends?"
Kiellen Lorne hadn't gotten to where she was as a professional by sulking. "Of course we're still friends. Now I want to know one thing--are you really going to take a whole year off from Starfleet?"
The doctor's thoughts turned to Jim and Spock and even the ship. Kiellen was right. He couldn't afford to be gone that long. "Lady, you should hang out your shingle. I need to go back. I could do with a little more time off, but it's time to get back to the routine. Besides, I've got a couple of patients that I need to kick in the butt. Where's the nearest drop tube from here?"
"Couple of blocks down New Peach. Carla will show you. I owe her the time off. She's been acting boss while I've been enjoying the pleasures of your flesh up here."
"Leonard, this place never closes. Carla's a cocktail waitress when I need her there, boss when I've unavailable, chief cook and bottle washer every third Thursday. I own the place, but it'd go under in a week without Carla."
"You must pay her well."
"I do. And she has a few other reasons to stay. She's my daughter."
McCoy decided not to ask Kiellen any more questions. He'd had enough surprises for one day and night. Pulling on his clothes that had been washed and pressed during the night (Carla again, said Kiellen), he took in the surroundings once more. Yes, this would definitely be a place to bring Jim one day. Hell, even Spock might like sitting in front of that fireplace.
"Well, I better go. I want to report in before I change my mind. Carla can just show me the way down the street. I think I'll be safe on my own." He held out his arms to her, and she went to him.
They stood for a moment, just hugging.
"Thanks for sharing my pain, friend. The best thing I ever did on Axanar was take up with you."
"You better believe it, man. Out with you now, and don't forget to send business my way."
On the street in the new morning light, McCoy could hardly believe he had entered The Plantation only the afternoon before. He felt like years had been lifted from him, felt ready to plan and to go on with his life.
Maybe, once he got Jim and Spock back on their feet, and the Enterprise was back up to speed, maybe then he could go and visit Teresa. In the meantime, he would not lose touch with her. Or with Kiellen Lorne. She was a valuable friend, one he knew he could turn to when he was troubled. And besides, she made one hell of a mint julep!
Whistling, he headed for the drop tube and Starfleet.
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