Just ten minutes with a biocomp.  For at least the hundredth time today, the hypothetical bargain he would make with the controller of the universe ran through McCoy's head.  He knew all about human psychology under stress; he knew that bargaining was one dysfunctional preliminary to accepting a hopeless loss, and yet he couldn't stop the cliche routine from streaming through his head. 

Dammit, he didn't want to accept this situation!  He wasn't going to.  Somehow, he was going to get back home.  

Through the doorway, in the main ward, a terminal heart patient coughed.  Short of an implant team and the immunolytics needed to follow after the surgery, there was nothing McCoy could do other than morphine, and he'd given as much of that as he dared for now.  His face flushed hot as chronic frustration boiled to the top of his thoughts again. 

If I can't have ten minutes, I'll take five, or even three.  Two.  Hell, I could probably get by with one.  One corner of his mind amused itself playing the game of what information he would extract from the biocomps given the chance, so as to do the most good in the least time; the larger part of his brain busied itself in the current century trying to save the patients he could with creative thinking, compassion, hospital supplies that were more toxic than medicinal, hours of lonely work, and yes, the favorite staple of all doctors through the ages: luck

Not all improvements took a biochemical degree to implement.  Just tightening up the antiseptic procedures had probably saved scores of lives already.  Maybe he couldn't pass on future information, but he'd be damned if he'd let people die when he knew what to do and might somehow be able to recreate (or since they wouldn't be discovered for centuries, would 'create' be the more proper term?) the means to do it. He'd taken the Hippocratic Oath long before he'd even heard of the Prime Directive, and he figured seniority had to count for something in this mess.   Spock wouldn't have approved of that reasoning, but Spock wasn't here to argue, was he?

Spock.   McCoy lifted his head up from the microscope and rubbed his eyes.  It had been over eight months since he'd had the use of Retinax drops, and now he was definitely seeing the difference in his vision--or not seeing because of the difference--however one would phrase that. 

Spock.  When they had jumped it had been together--holding hands even.  When they landed, it had not.  So much for Spock's theory of time being fluid like a river.  If it was, one of them must have landed smack in the middle of a whirlpool, for Spock had been nowhere to be found.  Worse, Spock had been the one holding the chronacitron--their vehicle for returning to their own time.   Spock wouldn't leave voluntarily without him, but what if something had happened?

It must be infinitely worse for Spock, wherever he had ended up.  No one in this time had even seen an extraterrestrial.  Spock would have to stay in hiding or align himself with freaks--maybe a circus--if he hadn't been captured, the chronacitron confiscated, and jailed...or worse.   No, Spock might be an arrogant holier-than thou pain in the ass, but he was much too smart to be captured (or worse).  McCoy was sure of it.  Or almost sure of it.  So why was that stupid corner of his mind trying to start another bargaining game?

Amiens was where the locals told him he had arrived.  He'd stayed put for as long as his tricorder power had lasted, then yielded to the painfully obvious: he had no idea where of how to look given nineteenth century technology--or rather, the lack thereof.   As much as it irked him, he was going to have to let Spock be the one to find him.  More than he hated being lost in time, he hated the fact that he was going to have to let Spock win.

Given the inevitable, the Boy Scout hug-a-tree plan seemed like the best strategy, but which tree to pick?   He'd searched everywhere within a hundred-kilometer radius--including Paris, which might have been fun in better circumstances.  Spock wasn't nearby, so it made sense to move on a bit.  His French was almost as bad as his Andorian--which Spock swore was even worse than his Vulcan--and since one direction seemed as good as another, he crossed the channel to England.  

After that, the decision seemed obvious. Spock accused him of being a workaholic.  Maybe that was so--it takes one to know one, they say--but he would know exactly where McCoy would go.  The biggest, neediest collection of sick people speaking something close to Georgian English had to be the University of London hospital, and so McCoy settled in and stayed.

The choice had a second benefit. The oceans, seas, rivers, sewers and gutters of this part of the earth all flowed into London and carried with them all sorts of strangers and strange things.  The best stories of strange things were to be found in the hospitals and in the pubs, so McCoy made it a point to start his day in one and end it in the other.  Always in the proper order, of course.

But as week followed week with no news of a Chinaman with pointed ears and patient followed patient with more and more piling into the wards, his time at the former took precedence over the latter, until his nightly pint and perfunctory report from the bartender were more of a ritual than a conscious mission.   McCoy wasn't one to give into depression, but as the London autumn fell to winter with only stone-age medicine to look forward to during the day and sitting around waiting to be rescued at night, sometimes it was a close call. 

It had turned some better in the past few months--since he'd run into John.  The winter was breaking up now.  It hadn't snowed in a week or two and the cabbies said their horses had decided it was spring.  Still, it was unreasonably cold and there were so many sick.  McCoy refocused he microscope slide and focused in on the blood cells.  This diagnosis would be easy.  Microcytosis, basophilic stippling, Cabot bodies--it was classic lead poisoning, the only problem now was to track down the source.  He'd ask John when he got home. For all John's tall tales about Sherlock Holmes, he was a decent detective in his own right.

Ironically, it had been a poisoning case that brought them together in the first place. Strychnine, to be exact.  The plant had gone extinct long before the twenty-fourth century, so although the name sounded vaguely familiar, McCoy never would have recognized the symptoms. 

A visiting doctor had, and had rushed over with a heavy sedative. Risus sardonicus he had called he facial finding as he injected higher and higher doses of a barbiturate, often fatal in overdose itself. "I know something of poisons," he had said as they shared tasteless, lukewarm tea keeping watch by their patient's bed.  "I have been privileged to work with a man who knew all that is knowable about them, both professionally and also from more personal experience than I care to realize."

"Knew?" McCoy asked absently.  He put a hand to the patient to check his pulse.

"He died."  The doctor took a swig of tea.


The new doctor gave a rueful grin.  "Not exactly. A giant spider.  Three years ago, he left his web for one single, foul purpose and took away with him the most extraordinary man the world will ever know."  

At McCoy's perplexed expression, the doctor shook his head and cleared his face.   "Don't mind me.  As great a loss as it is to the world, I took it much harder than most.  I am surprised you haven't heard about it. Or has he already been forgotten?  It seems just yesterday to me, but it has been three years."  The fine lines of the doctor's face worried in pain.

"I'm sorry.  I'm not from around here," McCoy tried in way of explanation.

The man's expression cleared and gave way to a little laugh.  "Of course you aren't.  You're American."  He gestured over McCoy's attire.  "I should have realized.   Sherlock Holmes would have a splendid go at ridiculing me now.  I claim to try to follow his methods, yet overlook the entirely obvious." He inclined his head. "John H. Watson at your service." He extended a hand.

McCoy took it, his mind spinning.  So Sherlock Holmes was real!  How long was that literary hiatus for? Damn, he couldn't remember.  There was something about a speckled band and some orange pips, but damn, how long was he gone?  If he could find Sherlock Holmes, then Sherlock Holmes could find Spock...  Where was that waterfall?  Rikenblade?  Rikenbahn?  Rikenbatt?  Damn, if only he had ten seconds with the library computer.

Mind still whirring, McCoy pumped his hand.  This could be his in.  If he couldn't find Holmes, he could wait for him here.  He came back to Watson eventually, he was sure of that.  But after how long...?  "Dr. Watson!  And your friend is...was Sherlock Holmes, of course.  I'm delighted to meet you.  Doctor Leonard H. McCoy."

"I've heard remarkable things about your work here, Doctor."   Watson indicated the ward.  " You've set the medical community on its ear.  Where did you attend college?" 

"Medical University of Harvard."  It wasn't true, but it was the oldest American school that came to mind.  Mentally, McCoy crossed his fingers against the lie and concentrated on the greater good.  "And now that I place the name, I can tell you I've heard great things about you as well.  Perhaps we could work out exchange of sorts?"

"Perhaps we could." 

A nun arrived bearing hotter but equally insipid tea. Watson accepted.   "Thank you, sister, yes, I will."  They toasted teacups.  McCoy moved in to his house near Paddington station the next day.

Speaking of home,  McCoy leaned back and stretched.  He checked the pocket watch that John had given him, insisting that the image a doctor projects is more important than knowledge.  Ordinarily McCoy would have argued, but in this primitive time it might well be true.  McCoy figured that if worse came to worse, for want of a protoplaser, he could always stuff the watch into a bleeder and plug it up.   Ten thirty. He closed the watch cover.  He had stayed much too late again.

McCoy picked up his bag--another gift and another expected prop--and wrapped his topcoat a tightly around him.   Paris had it over London in terms of weather, that was for sure.  And food, and men, and clothing, and disinhibitions....  When he got a chance, he should probably see about studying a little more French.

No, scratch that.  He was getting back to his own time.  He wasn't staying here.

The Laughing Adder was his usual stop.  Anhelt waved and drew him a bitter, easy on the foam.

"News today?"  McCoy swallowed gratefully.  London did win as far as beer.  He'd have to grant them that.

"The HMS Paladin is in from Alexandria today, the Valencia from Spain and the Lady Cottingham from the East Indies.  One of the Spaniards had three nipples they say."

"Three nipples?" a lady of dubious virtue butted in from over her glass.  "What would 'e want with an extra of his own, when 'e could 'ave both of these lovelies right here?"  She pushed her bosom towards McCoy's face and  laughed exposing an appalling reduced number of rotting teeth.

McCoy bowed a little.  "Had he only known what awaited him, madam, no doubt he would have given his extra back."

"Oy, aren't you the charmer.  And with a luvely accent too.  American, is it?"

"Something like that."

"I thought so."  She stroked his cheek and gave him a disturbing leer.  "I'd give you a free one, luv.  You're as cute as a bug."  She plunked her hand firmly atop his package.

Idly McCoy wondered how many sexually transmitted germs existed in this time, and how many could be squeezed concurrently into the same body.  Spock would know, and if he brought even one of them home, he'd be hearing it from Spock until Vulcan froze over.  Not that he was tempted.  One of the benefits of having hooked up with another doctor was it wasn't hard to sell him on the benefits of condoms.

McCoy bowed again, a little more deeply this time.  "Regretfully, I must decline.  I'm a little...tired tonight, and it would shame me to risk leaving a lady...unsatisfied" 

She reclaimed her hand and tossed back her beer.  "Suit yerself, luv.  You know where to find me if you're ever feeling up to it."

A coupled of men in workmen's clothes guffawed.

Behind the bar, Anhelt shrugged.  "The blokes from the Indies line are over there."  He tossed his head. "I don't see no deformed ones amongst them--just uglies if you ask me--but you may want to have a look for yourself."

Gratefully, McCoy took his glass and wandered over. One-armed sailors, one-eyed sailors, scarred sailors, sailors with tales of island black men with every known physical defect and a few McCoy figured just had to be made up, but nary a word of shiny ebony hair with pointed ears.    He bought them a round of drinks and hailed a handsom back to their house.  By the time he made it, it was well past midnight.  To his surprise, the fire was unlit and John was apparently not about.

Had McCoy thought about this a little further, he might have had an advance clue.  Losing his wife had been hard, no doubt. but beyond even that, there was a sadness, a loneliness about John that never entirely went away.  It lessened somewhat during their time together, and so their private evenings were sacrosanct.  It wasn't like John  to go out alone, but too tired to wonder about it, McCoy crawled in bed and was asleep even before his eyes closed.

Morning came with a rush and the bustle of heavy boots flying down the hall into the bedroom--not to mention a room full of now sub-arctic air. John burst in his coat open and flapping, his face flushed and beaming from ear to ear. "Leonard!  The most wonderful thing has happened!  You will recall my dear friend Sherlock Holmes; he has returned form the dead!"

About bloody time, McCoy thought.  He couldn't take another London winter. "That's marvelous," he said.  He tried to sound surprised, but he'd always been a lousy liar.

Watson misinterpreted the queer note in his voice.  He looked down to his conspicuously unused side of the bed.  He sat and cleared his throat.  "Leonard, it is not my preferred course of action to reveal another man's secrets, but I do owe you some further explanation, particularly as there must be some...changes in our accommodations."  He paused. "Or perhaps you may have already surmised--"

Despite the chill, Leonard sat up and took his hand.  "Something like that.  Yeah.  Anyway, there's nothing you could say that isn't already revealed on your face.  I thank you for all your help, and I'm very happy to see you so happy."  McCoy kissed him and swung his legs over the bed, matching feet into awaiting slippers.

"There is no need for you to go right away," Watson rattled on.  "We will occupy his old rooms in Baker Street.  I shall dispose of this house presently, but you may take your time seeking new lodgings.  I hadn't meant for you go now.  I told him about you, should you be wondering.  Not that it much matters with Sherlock Holmes." Watson chuckled softly, his eyes glazing back in time as if in fond remembrance.  "He would have found me out anyway."

McCoy hopped into trousers and struggled with the buttons of his borrowed shirt.   He felt his chin:  stubble, but it would take too long to boil hot water, and he wasn't putting the icy stuff in the washbasin anywhere near his skin; a shave would have to wait.   "Thanks.  I'll work something out, but to be honest, I'm eager to meet your Sherlock Holmes.   With all I've heard about him, I was hoping he could help me find my...friend."

Watson stood up.  "Of course he can!   How stupid of me; I should have thought of that." 

McCoy turned to him.  His voice was soft like the one he used for his most delicate patients. "Perhaps you had other things on your mind."

Watson came to him and kissed him thoroughly.  "Perhaps I did."  His eyes roved his face as if to preserve every inch in memory.   Tenderly he stroked his cheekbone with his thumb.  "I shall miss you, you know."

McCoy smiled.  "I'll think of you often, but we both know where we're supposed to be, and it's not here." 

Watson nodded.  "May you be as fortunate as I in your own search."  He dropped his hand from McCoy's face.

McCoy swore as his collar popped up again for the third time.  "Help me with the collar?"  It was hard to believe that over three hundred years later they still hadn't learned to make a shirt collar that a man could wear neatly and still breath.

Deftly, Watson fixed it up.  He reached for one of his own cravats and arranged it in a fashionable knot.   "Perhaps you'll join us for an early lunch at Simpson's?  You can discuss the case with him there."

"Elementary, my dear Watson."  McCoy bounced on his toes.  He'd been dying to say that ever since they'd met.

Sherlock Holmes proved every bit as irritating, eccentric and intractable as he had ever been portrayed, and then a wee bit more.  It reminded McCoy acutely of a certain Vulcan, and he wondered if there was any place around here he could buy a sympathy card for Watson.

Citing the need to send all blood to his digestion or to his brain, but never to divide the lot, Holmes steadfastly refused to discuss any new case until after his meal.   Instead he waxed rhapsodic about the wonders of Scandinavia, the Orient, Persia, Africa and other little known corners of the globe. From his coat pockets he produced souvenirs and curios, and spread them on the table.  Most were of the gruesome or potentially lethal variety, such as the cheerful berries he stated had cost a daughter in Bucharest her mother, or the innocuous looking phial of gray powder he casually tossed onto the tablecloth with a comment that a pinch ingested would be fatal in seconds.  McCoy's appetite waned precipitously after that, but Holmes and Watson carried on as chipper as two robins in spring.

Not all his finds were so straightforwardly treacherous, it seemed.  Holmes went on at length about a priceless treasure uncovered in the ruins of Constantinople and smuggled out of Byzantium at great risk to himself should he be discovered, and of his adventures at great peril to life and health in the diamond mines of southern Africa.

The diamonds he scattered across the table to the ohs and ahs of those around.  History had recorded correctly--or Watson had:  Sherlock Holmes was an inveterate showman. 

When the fruit tart and Sauternes had been cleared away and Holmes beckoned to the waiter to bring tea and the larger exotic item he had left in his carriage, McCoy really should have known what was coming.  Back on board the Enterprise, he kicked himself for days afterward. He blamed the wine for dulling his senses or his understandable preoccupation with the assorted deathtraps scattered mere inches from his food, but the short version was that Spock won again.  When he walked in with a deerstalker on his head and an Inverness tossed over his uniform, McCoy laughed so hard he forgot to be pissed off at the way he'd been set up.  He grabbed Spock in a giant bear hug, and imprudently kissed him on the neck where--when sensibility returned--he urgently hoped no one could see.

Logically or not, Spock didn't make a protest.

When he turned around, McCoy cleared his throat.  "We've got to be on our way.  I don't think we'll meet again. I don't know how to thank you both."

"Unnecessary," said Holmes.  He lit his pipe and tossed the match insanely close to a lump of clay he had identified as a heat-sensitive high explosive.  "Everything is understood."  He raised his hand as if to wave goodbye, but before pulling it down, spread the middle fingers apart in the shape of a V.

"Well I'll be."  McCoy bounced on his toes.  He turned to Spock.  Spock's two longest fingers were paired together Vulcans did with their...

"Spock!"  McCoy spluttered in the middle of the floor.  "Did you--?"

"Come, doctor, I believe we have a date with a chronacitron."  Spock pushed aside the flap of his Inverness to reveal a small device hanging from his tricorder, then hooked McCoy under the arm.

"Don't give me that."  McCoy shook him off.  "Did you or didn't you?  I have a right to know." 

"Keep your voice down, Doctor.  The Prime Directive--"

"--won't exist for another two-hundred years." But McCoy did drop his tone to be pitched for Vulcan ears alone.  "And I'll keep my voice down when you keep your pecker down.  Pon farr is one thing, but whoring around on me just out of the blue?  That's...wrong."  Despite the words, McCoy's fuming sounded as familiarly happy as a tribble shitting in honey.

Spock rose to the bait.  It was so good to have him back.  "Speaking of blue, I assume that blotch protruding from beneath your collar is bruise from...running into a door?"  Spock nodded blandly at one of the more impressive hickeys McCoy had ever received.

"That's different," McCoy grumbled.  "Humans have needs."  He was finding his tempo again now and falling back in step as if the eight months has been eight minutes. 

Spock rolled his eyes and led the way to the door. "I am well acquainted with human needs.  Human needs have increased the distribution of tranquilizers among Vulcans living on among Terrans to forty-seven point eight six one times that of Vulcans living on Vulcan."

"Have you considered that is because having to live on Vulcan is so damn boring, it is a tranquilizer...?" 

The door swung shut behind them and clicked.  Holmes gathered his items from the table and dropped them all cavalierly into one pocket.  "I think, Watson, that is our cue to depart. Shall we?"   He extended his hand. 

"Delighted."  Watson accepted it and let himself be pulled up.  Arm in arm, they left for home.