by K.V. Wylie
There are places I’ll remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I’ve loved them all. 2
Leonard H. McCoy died. The good news was, he found out there really was a heaven. The bad news was, it's not where he went.
He felt more than saw paradise as he fell. He couldn't have described it a moment later except for a feeling burning in his heart.
He landed somewhere. He could see his hands, no longer as gnarled as his one hundred and forty years had made them. His legs disappeared into rolling mist.
Beyond that, he could see and feel nothing. At least until the basketball hit him.
Rather, went through him. McCoy saw it coming a second before it flew through his chest. It careened off something behind him and landed on some grass by his feet.
A boy appeared, grabbed the ball, and darted off without a word. McCoy watched him run past some swings to a basketball court where several other boys waited. Their game resumed as McCoy looked around.
He was in a park, on a bench by swings, a sandbox, and some trees. The sun was shining, earth's yellow sun, children played around him, and two women with strollers were walking on a red-gravel pathway.
"I was dreaming," he thought, relieved and euphoric. He hadn't died. He'd only dreamed dying.
The women neared him. McCoy stood and nodded cheerfully. "Hello."
The women ignored him.
When he sat, he noticed his hands again. They were young, the fingers straight, knuckles no longer swollen by arthritis. He could make a fist without pain.
The bench shifted. A man sat beside him.
"Good day," McCoy said, but the man merely took out a book and a sandwich.
"Can you hear me?" McCoy asked. He didn't get an answer. Then he remembered the basketball.
"You're right. It did go through you."
At first, McCoy thought that the man with the sandwich had answered him, but another man was sitting on the bench as well.
"I'm Sullivan," he said as he - McCoy shuddered - simply put his hand through the middle of the man eating his lunch, and patted McCoy's arm.
Sullivan was so strangely pale that McCoy stared at him. Except for two black pupils, Sullivan's skin, clothes, and almost translucent eyelashes were starkly white. McCoy half-expected to find powder left behind from his touch. 3
"You did die, if you're looking for a second opinion," Sullivan said in a rather good-natured tone. "You died peacefully in your sleep. Isn't it a lovely day?"
Disorientation and terror filled McCoy's chest. "W-when did I die?"
"Leonard, don't worry about it."
"When was it?"
"If you want to measure in linear time, which is difficult for me, a couple of minutes ago," Sullivan said gently. "Don't panic." 4
"I'm still dreaming," McCoy said without being able to believe the words. The man between them finished his lunch and opened his book. "This doesn't make sense. I thought I would meet people I knew, like Jim, my father. I wasn't afraid because I thought that was what happened. But I didn't see anyone."
"Leonard, the thing is, you're going to have to go back."
"Back? Back where?"
"Back to the whole birth, suffering, death cycle again. I'm sorry to break it to you, but, see, you did something you shouldn't have," Sullivan said. "This is your punishment, but it's all in how you look at it. I see it as a chance to make things right." He gestured across the park. "At this moment, your mother is in a hospital over there, in labour with you. We only have a short period before you'll be born. Is there anything you want to know before you go?"
"My mother's dead," McCoy said.
"You're hanging onto that linear time again," Sullivan said. "It's 2227, if that means anything to you, but I recommend viewing time a different way."
"It's 2227 now?" McCoy repeated. "Again? I have to live my life over as punishment?"
"So you're caught up?" Sullivan went to rise, but McCoy grabbed him.
"Wait. I had a good life. There was pain, but there were some very good things. This is not that bad a punishment."
Sullivan's easy-going manner dimmed. "Leonard, you did something you need to fix. It's big. You caused someone unspeakable grief. Because of that, there is something you can't have this time around. You can't have your husband, Spock."
He eyed Sullivan. "Spock and I were married for . . . decades. Or will be."
"Leonard, you're going to be born, you'll have your childhood. Everything that happened before will happen again, pretty much. You won't remember this conversation with me until you're fifteen or so. Then you'll enter medical school, enter Starfleet, and eventually be assigned to the Enterprise. You'll work beside Spock, see him, talk to him, for years, Leonard, all the while remembering what you once had with him, a memory that he won't have. And it's going to hurt, because you can't have him this time."
McCoy thought of the long, hollow of years opening up before him. "But if I change what it is I did?"
"Fix things and you will get to go to a better place when you die again. But with Spock, no matter what you do, his heart will not turn to yours."
McCoy put his hands to his face. They were trembling. "Please tell me that I won't feel the same about him."
"Leonard, you will still love him. It'll feel worse now, because he won't return it."
"What did I do that was so terrible? What did I do to deserve this?"
He didn't get an answer.
"I'm not allowed to tell you, Leonard."
"Then I can't fix it! If I don't know--!"
Sullivan took McCoy's hands in his and lifted him to his feet. "Leonard, look around. Why is this day different from all other days?" 5
The next thing McCoy knew, he was waking up in his bed from a bad dream. Earlier, he'd been playing baseball with Russ and Simon, and one of the flyballs had hit him in the head. He'd come home, swollen over one eye, but his father had taken one look and declared his head too hard to hurt. His mother had given him an icepack and put him to bed, for it was a school night and he shouldn't have been out so late anyway, trying to play ball in the dusk.
But the dream had been so vivid, he'd woken up in a sweat. There'd been a park bench and a strange white man named Sullivan and a sense of déjà vu, that he'd been in this bed before with a bag of what was now water, nursing a lump on his forehead. Russ had run home in panic when he'd seen the blood. McCoy had stood there in Simon's back yard, looking at drops of blood falling onto his hand, and wondering why the sight seemed so familiar.
And now he'd dreamt something impossible.
The light in his bedroom went on, and his mother came into the room. "Leonard? What's wrong, dear? I heard you yell."
"It was just a dream, mom," McCoy said, trying to convince himself.
She sat on the edge of his bed and peered hard at him. "Maybe I should keep you home from school today."
"I have to go. The teacher's giving a surprise quiz that will count for twenty percent of our mark."
His mother smiled. "If it's a surprise, how do you know about it?"
McCoy suddenly shivered, and tried to hide it from her. "I, uh, someone always finds out."
"Uh hmm," she said, shaking her head indulgently. "I knew you ran with a bad crowd, dear."
"Russ and Simon are great guys."
She kissed his cheek, then drew the covers up to his neck. "I was just teasing you. You can go to school, but try to get a little more sleep first, dear. It's not quite four yet."
After she turned out the light and left the room, McCoy rolled onto his side. In wan moonlight, he could see his desk, a window, and a trophy for horseshoes on the ledge. His book bag was on the floor. The homework from yesterday was in it and still not done. In his desk, carefully hidden under a souvenir rock he got during the family's vacation to the Grand Canyon, was a note from Ginny Lawson, passed to him during Latin class by one of her giggling girlfriends. It read, "I like your eyes. Ginny." He was fifteen, he had a dog, a hydrogen scooter, tapes about cowboys, and a couple of books with pictures you don't show your mother. Next year he would be taking pre-med classes at the teaching hospital, and his father said he could learn to drive the flyer.
He closed his eyes as he started to cry.
"Hurry up, Len! You're going to be late!" cried Nadi as he pounded up the stairs.
"I'm coming," McCoy said, trying to fasten his robe.
Nadi paused at the top of the stairs long enough to yell, "If you're late, that makes the program longer. The sooner we get through this, the sooner we get to party. Misha is waiting for me."
"Him and ten other boys," said a tall, willowy girl. She finished the buttons on McCoy's collar and handed him his cap. "Time to graduate, Len."
"Thanks, Deneve," McCoy said, as he risked giving her a quick kiss. The dressing area under the stage was open at two ends, and a professor could walk in at any time.
"You look handsome," she smiled, giving him a once-over.
"I look like an idiot," he groused.
She gave him a kiss, and not a quick one. Afterwards, he eyed her in surprise.
She shrugged. "Who cares if we get caught? What can they do now?"
"They could tell your father," McCoy said. It was the wrong thing to say. Her face dimmed.
"Dad will come around," she said, though both of them knew the reappearance of Atlantis was a more likely event. The McCoy family was too poor for the Del Vane family and also for this college which bore two wings named after the illustrious Del Vanes. McCoy was here due to scholarships and weekend jobs.
Pomp and Circumstance sounded upstairs, and Deneve ran up to join the procession. McCoy lingered in the dust and dimness. He remembered how tonight went, or would go. They would go to a party at a lake and Deneve would dump him for Nadi. Later, while he was sitting by himself by one of the bonfires, a girl who had drank too much would offer to make out with him, then throw up on his lap.
It wasn't as if he remembered everything - Deneve's kiss a few moments ago was new - but the major events were unaltered. He had known when his tonsils would be removed. He had known when his dog would die. He had known when his mother would be in a flyer accident.
He'd known, and couldn't stop any of it.
Under his breath, he said, "Isn't it possible to change anything? I thought that was why I was here."
He didn't expect an answer, and he didn't get one. Sullivan from his dream of four years ago had never appeared. He may not have existed, except in McCoy's head.
The Dean's welcoming address began, and McCoy knew she would soon be looking for him. He was valedictorian and, as part of his speech, he was to read a poem she'd selected. It was something by Tennyson.
McCoy checked his pockets, then rechecked them frantically.
"Damn," he said. "Not like I shouldn't have seen this coming."
He pounded up the stairs as he heard himself being introduced, and ran to the podium. A hall packed with people was before him, everyone looking up. Some looked bored, some were crying happily, and some were ready with digitals as they waited for their child to come on stage to get his or her diploma.
Are there more like me? he thought. Here for the second time, alone with what they know? Waiting for that moment they really screwed up, but not knowing when it will be?
He felt a flush over his face, and he grabbed the edges of the podium to steady himself. Unfortunately, one of the legs was off of the stand. It wobbled on three legs, and the jerky movement almost sent McCoy to the floor.
"Mr. McCoy, are you all right?" the Dean whispered.
No, he wanted to say. No, I can't believe I have to do all this again. No, I don't want to do this anymore.
What came out was, "I forgot my speech."
"Do the Tennyson reading then."
"It was with my speech."
"Make something up," she hissed.
Still holding the stand, he raised his head. For a second, he looked for his father, before remembering that his father wasn't there. David McCoy was at an outpost a hundred thousand light years away, teaching the natives how to purify their water and plant crops.
McCoy looked out at the faces again. "I suppose every class is told that they are the future, the ones who will take on the problems of the galaxy and solve them. Certainly, everyone in the graduating class has plans. Some are going on to further education, some are entering apprenticeships, and a few stupid ones are entering Starfleet service."
The Dean flashed him a look that he ignored.
"We all think we're moving forward. We've believed that, until now, we've been waiting to start, waiting to begin doing the important things for which our parents and our teachers have been preparing us, and now that we're graduating, the time of waiting is over. In the last few years, I've discovered that sentiment is a load of cow shit. There is no importance to the future. The most important stuff is happening now. And I have to warn my fellow classmates, no matter how many careful plans we make, we're going to screw up. We're going to hurt others. We're going to feel pain and loss, and sometimes we're going to be very afraid. We're not moving forward. We're just moving and, in seventy years or a hundred years, whenever our end comes, we're not going to know any more than we do at this moment. Our priority shouldn't be on making plans for the future. Our focus shouldn't be on what we hope to become or do. Living for a future goal is nonsense. The peak of a mountain is dead snow. Life happens on the sides of a mountain. 6 Don't bother trying to climb up anywhere. Just worry about what you are and what you're doing to other people at this second. In the end, that's the only thing that's going to count."
He finished to startled silence. A few people tried to clap, but most were just staring at him.
As he walked past the Dean, she muttered, "That speech wouldn't have passed the committee, young man. What were you thinking?"
Young man, McCoy thought. I've seen one hundred and fifty-nine years.
He joined his boggled classmates. Deneve leaned toward his ear. "Leonard, what was that?"
"I forgot my speech," he said.
"That was the best you could come up with?"
Nadi frowned at him. "I'm going into Starfleet."
I know, McCoy said to himself. In fourteen years, you'll die when the warp core overloads on your science vessel. I'll be in Starfleet by then, and an absent father to a beautiful little girl. Deneve will die in thirty-six years from a genetic disease that's already brewing in her cells. In thirty-six years, I apparently won't have Spock.
Nadi's name was called and he went up on stage for his diploma. Deneve sat forward, waiting for her turn. Digitals flashed around McCoy.
Can't anything be different? he whispered. Please tell me.
No answer came, so he graduated, took Deneve to the beach party, got dumped, and threw out his pants after the drunken girl vomited on his lap.
"I walk up on high and step to the edge,
David McCoy somehow slept, though he twisted and groaned in his sleep. His neck was taut from pain, but his body was exhausted and he'd fallen into a wearying unconsciousness.
Leonard McCoy sat in a chair beside his father's bed.
Please don't wake up. Don't let him wake up.
McCoy was exhausted himself. He'd received news of his father's illness just as he'd entered his residency. The news had come a year earlier than he'd expected. Begging favours had allowed him to switch his term to this hospital, though compassionate leave had been strongly suggested instead by the facility administrator. McCoy had chosen the leave the first time, staying with his father around the clock, day after day. He couldn't face that again.
This is incomprehensibly cruel, he said to Sullivan or whatever phantom might be around. He opened his eyes and looked pointedly at an empty chair across the room. If you're here, I want a word with you.
If anything could hear him, it stayed hidden.
His father shifted, and McCoy held his breath.
Don't wake up.
A skeletal hand groped blindly upwards. McCoy took it gently in his.
"I'm here, Dad."
David McCoy was blind. His nerve endings, including those to his retinas, had been destroyed by Pyrrhoneuritis. Though he now weighed a bare seventy-four pounds, the pressure of his body against the mattress was agony.
"Stop the pain, son."
His father's breath smelled of chemicals. I forgot mouth care, McCoy thought guiltily. A package of lemon swabs had been left for that purpose, and such care was easier to do while his father slept.
"Hang on," McCoy said. "Dad, please. We're so close to a cure."
Four weeks, McCoy knew. Four weeks until an obscure medical team on Starbase Fourteen would announce a therapy. He'd tried contacting them last year to offer his services as an intern. He'd sent message after message, and had even tried booking passage on a ship, but the Starbase was closed to all except Starfleet personnel. They wouldn't even confirm if Pyrrhoneuritis was on their list of research projects the reason having to do with industrial spying, and whatever drug trials might be in progress were locked behind a bulwark of bureaucratic protectionism.
"Just stop the pain," David McCoy pleaded.
Three different painkillers dripped into the elder McCoy's body though an I.V. tube feeding into the least emaciated vein the nurses could find.
"Release me, Leonard."
Is this 'the' moment? McCoy asked the empty air. For Godsakes, how am I supposed to know?
"I'm here. Try to sleep, Dad. We're so close now."
David McCoy cried as he tried to raise his body up from the bed. McCoy tried to help, but his touch was torture. His father gasped and jerked away.
"I'm sorry," McCoy said.
"Make it stop!"
Someone had spoken to him from the doorway. The only light in the room was from a lamp over the bed, and McCoy couldn't see who was within the shadows.
The person who stepped forward was the hospital Pastor. "I didn't see anyone in the hall. Are you waiting for someone?"
McCoy shook his head. "Not really."
The Reverend tied a red ribbon to the end of David McCoy's bed. 8 "I came earlier, but your father was asleep then too. You could use some rest yourself."
"There will be time enough for that . . . later." To prevent his ripping the ribbon from the rail, McCoy took several steps away from the bed.
"Would you mind if I prayed?"
"Would it do any good?" McCoy retorted.
"I'd like to think that it does something."
The Pastor opened his Bible. Before he could speak, McCoy interrupted, "Do you know anyone on Starbase Fourteen?"
"Starbase Fourteen? Where's that?"
"Never mind." McCoy walked into the hallway. Most of the doors to the other rooms on the ward were closed, but a halogen light shone at the nurse's station.
He rested his head against the cold side of a metal laundry cart as the Reverend's voice floated out to him.
"I will bring you down from under your burden. I will deliver you from your bondage. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm. I will take you to Myself." 9
A piercing cry of pain cut the air. McCoy caught sight of someone coming out of the nurse's station as he rushed back into the room.
His father had caught his leg in a bed rail.
"He moved before I realized it," the Pastor said as he reached for David McCoy's leg.
"Don't touch him!" McCoy said sharply. He grabbed his father's leg, lowered the bed rail, and let go of both in a split second, but it wasn't fast enough for his father who screamed in agony at the contact.
A nurse ran in behind McCoy. "Give him something!" he yelled over his father's cries.
"There's nothing more I can give him, Doctor," the nurse said as he took readings with a scanner.
McCoy hovered over his father, afraid to touch him again, caught in helpless indecision as his father screamed over and over.
His father couldn't hear him. Another wrenching spasm overcame the elderly man's body, and he cried until flecks of blood appeared around his mouth.
The nurse reached for a restraining strap. McCoy yanked it out of his hand. "No!"
"He'll hurt himself," the nurse argued.
"He won't be able to take the pressure!" McCoy snapped. Abruptly, his father quieted.
The nurse checked his scanner again as McCoy fell into a chair, still holding the strap. "This can't go on."
The Pastor stepped forward. "Leonard."
"Go away," McCoy said, his voice so quiet that the other men exchanged a look.
"If you can't do anything, get out," McCoy repeated.
"I'll call your father's physician," the nurse said. He and the Pastor left.
McCoy sat for a few minutes, looking at the floor without seeing it. Finally, he raised his eyes to his father's face. "Nothing I do changes anything."
He caught sight of the ribbon. He untied it and threw both it and the strap on a table. "When they announced a cure, why didn't I find out what it was? We've been through this before, dad, and I did what you wanted. I stopped the respirator and you died. And when I heard those bastards had a cure, I didn't want to know what it was. I was afraid to know. I was afraid that it was something I should have known. If I'd been a better doctor, maybe I could have found a cure myself. And now you're dying again, and I could have stopped it this time. I could have stopped this if I'd read just one fucking magazine article!"
His father's head jerked.
"Please, no," McCoy whispered, but his father's blinded eyes opened.
"I'm here," McCoy said. "I'm here."
"I can't take the pain! Release me!"
"You deserve a better son," McCoy said softly.
When the physician came, McCoy escaped into the hall again. The sound of his father's screams and sobs followed him there.
A porter paused by him. "Go home and get some sleep, son."
McCoy shook his head. "There's no one else to stay with him. If I can just get him to hang on a little longer..."
"You want him to keep on like that?" The porter shook his head sadly and continued down the hall with his gurney.
The physician couldn't do anything, but McCoy hadn't expected otherwise. He returned to his father's bedside.
"Four weeks," he whispered to his father who may or may not have been able to hear him anymore. "Twenty-eight days. In hours it's, I don't know. I can't think."
By the time the first blue glow of morning began lightening the dark sky, McCoy was hoarse.
"How often are you going to die like this?" he asked, his hand on his father's, and his eyes on the empty chair in the corner. "Do I come back a third time if I don't get it right? A fourth? Do my parents keep dying, over and over? What is this supposed to prove?"
His father's wrist was wet. The vein had wrung itself out and the I.V. bag had leaked. McCoy withdrew the needle and reached for a new one from a tray, but found his hand on the controls of the respirator instead.
From the bed, his father seemed to be watching him. McCoy moved, but his father's eyes didn't follow him.
His father couldn't see that he was touching the respirator, yet McCoy felt as though his father knew what he was doing, all the same.
His father's lips moved. McCoy bent down.
"I want to go home. Let me go."
McCoy squeezed his eyes for a moment against a sting of tears. "I'm sorry, dad. I'm so sorry."
At first it seemed as if the dials wouldn't turn. The respite was momentary. The controls suddenly flipped and would not turn back on. David McCoy choked briefly, then stilled.
McCoy turned in his identification card at the nurse's station and left. The Medical Academy would remove his hospital rights and forbid him to practice medicine while they investigated. He would undergo three extended sessions of interrogation by various members on the board. The completion of his residency would be delayed by a year.
His father had a living will, though, and McCoy knew that, as next of kin, the Academy would eventually determine he'd been within his legal rights to turn off the respirator. He decided to wait them out at his father's house.
The trip there took the rest of the day. McCoy hadn't been home in many years, not since his mother had died, and the sight of the house startled him. The bushes along the front walk were wild from being untended, and the grass was matted with weeds. When he opened the door, a suffocating smell of dust and something earthy greeted him. Small tracks of mice along the baseboards accounted for the second odor.
He slept on the couch with the windows open.
In the morning, he found a package of stale coffee. He drank it on the front porch and watched the sunrise cast harsh red and yellow shadows across the lawn.
A door banged and a small child ran out of the house next door. Another bang sounded as her mother chased her.
"By your flyer," McCoy said. The little girl had crouched behind one of the landing struts. Then he squinted at the women. "Aarie?"
She smiled at him in recognition. "Leonard! I haven't seen you in ages! How are you? How's your dad doing? I know that he's in the hospital in San Lucas."
"My father died early yesterday morning."
The smile disappeared. "I'm so sorry to hear that." Yidi, sensing the sadness in the air, came out tentatively from behind the strut. Aarie picked her up and said, "David used to give Yidi candies. He was such a sweet man. When is the service?"
"I don't know yet," McCoy said. "I have to wait for the hospital to release his . . . body, and I have to find his Will so that I can be sure of his last wishes."
"Is there anything I can do?"
McCoy shook his head. "Thank you anyway. How old is your daughter?"
"Three next Thursday. We're going to have a party." Aarie hugged her child. "I'll bring some food over later for you. I'm sure there's nothing in the house."
"No, I’m fine." McCoy went back inside. A sudden feeling of desolation had overwhelmed him at the sight of the little girl, which had nothing to do with his father's death. Joanna would be one next month and, no doubt, his ex-wife was planning a party. He wouldn't be invited.
He put his cup in the kitchen sink and went into his father's study. To his surprise, his father's personal papers weren't there. The desk drawer where he'd thought they would be was empty except for a few old bank records. There was nothing much in the rest of the drawers, and the bookshelf was bare except for a dictionary and a dead spider.
McCoy began searching the other rooms in the house. David McCoy had moved out of the bedroom he'd shared with McCoy's mother, when she'd been alive, and had apparently been using a small guestroom. Another desk had been set up, along with a computer and lamp. David McCoy's books were here too, including his beloved collection of old botany texts. At last, in a pigeonhole of a bureau and covered in months of dust, McCoy found his father's financial records, insurance papers, and Will.
As he extracted them from the bureau, a small paper that had been wedged in behind them fluttered out and fell to the floor.
Curious, McCoy flattened it out. The paper was yellow with age and something had nibbled the edges. It had a definite mousy smell.
Though the ink was fading, McCoy could see it had been written neatly with fancy flourishes. He held it up to the light in the window.
"The four questions," he read. "Ma nishtana. Why is this night different from all other nights?"
A sudden, hard knock at the front door made him jump. He turned to go downstairs, then thought it would probably be Aarie with a casserole of some sort. That's what people did around here; when someone died, they brought food.
McCoy wasn't in the mood for the sight of her and her little girl again. The knocking came again. He ignored it and finished reading the paper.
"This night we eat only unleavened bread. This night we eat only bitter herbs." McCoy frowned. "What is this?"
He tucked the paper back into the bureau, washed his hands, and returned to sorting his father's papers.
"I'm seated in a railway station
Rain and a crowd of people hurrying to do last minute shopping blurred a mass of multicoloured Christmas lights on the San Francisco streets. McCoy dodged grim adults and squealing children, darted around a soggy Santa at a street corner, and jumped into the last car of a public shuttle just as it pulled away from the stop. The lurch of the car sent him tumbling into a woman seated on one of the side benches.
"I'm sorry," McCoy said.
She gave him an indignant look. He apologized again and looked around for an open seat. The only spot left was beside her.
He sat down and shoved his rucksack behind his legs. "What a zoo. I suppose everyone's trying to get ready for Christmas."
She pulled out a hand-held reader and turned her head away from him. When a little blue flash indicated she'd found the article she wanted, he asked perversely, "Any good?"
"This sentence I'm reading is terrific," she muttered. 11
McCoy well recognized sarcasm. He was in his second lifetime of perfecting it. In a deceptively polite tone, he said, "Let me know when you're finished reading that sentence, and I'll ask about the next one."
He heard giggling. Across the aisle, two women watched him.
"Where are you off to, sailor boy?" asked one of them. Though McCoy was in civilian clothes, he realized she'd recognized his rucksack as Starfleet issue.
"I have to report to my next ship," he said.
"On Christmas Eve?" asked the second woman.
"We leave spacedock tomorrow," McCoy replied. They were bothering the woman with the reader, and he enjoyed the fact that they were.
The first woman smiled. "If your ship leaves tomorrow, that gives you tonight to celebrate the holiday."
She emphasized the word celebrate. Leaning forward, she added, "I like blue eyes and my sister likes military men."
The woman with the reader shifted in irritation beside McCoy. Her movement made him decide to play along with the sisters.
"I suppose I could be late for my check-in."
The second sister said, "I'm Gudrun and this is Ursula. 12 What's your name?"
"Leonard, guess what we do for a living?"
"I'm hoping you're not police officers," McCoy said.
They giggled again. Ursula said, "We're Chocolate Bunnies at the Bay Hilton."
McCoy blinked. "You're what?"
"We dress like bunnies and hand out chocolate to the guests at the cabaret," said Gudrun. "My ears and tail are in my purse. Do you want to see them?"
The woman with the reader looked up in consternation when McCoy said, "I definitely do."
Gudrun pulled out a pair of pink ears and put them on. "I can't find my tail."
Ursula said, "Don't you remember? We were in a rush to get out tonight."
"Oh yes." Gudrun winked at McCoy, then flipped up the edge of her coat. "Here's my tail."
She was wearing a little bit of something held together with feathers. McCoy got an eyeful. The woman beside him stared in shock.
"And here's mine." Ursula gave a little wiggle and flashed McCoy too. Then both sisters demurely tucked their coats down.
"Got nothing to say, sailor boy?" Gudrun asked.
"I was just thinking that I should get out to the Bay Hilton sometime."
"We have a gig on Rigel II," Ursula said. "Is your ship going that way?" 13
"If it isn't, I'll get out and push it that way."
"How gallant," Gudrun said. She got up, came over to McCoy, and gave him a snuggling kiss. "Our stop's coming up. The invitation's open."
She smelled sweetly of chocolate and perfume, and McCoy was tempted. "Going AWOL is kind of serious."
Ursula gave him a kiss on the other side of his neck. "Then make sure you come to Rigel II."
They got off the shuttle in a flutter of feathers and laughter. After the shuttle pulled away from the stop, McCoy noticed the woman with the reader eyeing him.
"What ship are you reporting to?" she asked.
"Your first ship?"
"No," McCoy said, wondering what was behind her questions. "I've been in Starfleet for fifteen years, though this will be my first deep space assignment."
"The Enterprise is all over the news," she said. "I'm sorry I was rude to you earlier. Good luck out there."
She got off at the next stop, leaving McCoy alone in a little empty spot on an otherwise crowded shuttle. The mumble of voices from the back was not loud enough to distract his thoughts that were, unfortunately, running towards the next hour. Within thirty minutes, he would meet James Kirk for the first time in this lifetime. In fifty-nine minutes, he would see Spock.
He could delay both by taking the transporter as soon as he reached check-in, and hiding out in Sickbay all night. Last time, his aversion to transporters had put him on Jim's shuttlecraft, the latter having exercised captain's privilege and taken the scenic route to his ship. Last time, he'd stepped off the shuttle and been startled by the sight of a tall, alien Vulcan who'd been there to receive his captain back on board.
He closed his eyes against the rocking of the shuttle. A creep of nausea came up his throat that had nothing to do with the motion.
Though the rain outside was pounding down harder, McCoy walked slowly to the Starfleet check-in point after leaving the shuttle, and was soaked by the time he presented himself to the Lieutenant on duty.
"Welcome, Doctor," the Lieutenant said. "The Science Office will set up your security clearance and computer passwords once you're on board. The Enterprise departs at oh four hundred tomorrow. If you have any requisitions for Sickbay, please submit your requests by oh two hundred. The transporters are to your left."
"Thank you. Will the captain be taking a shuttle to his ship?"
The Lieutenant nodded. "It's likely, Doctor. I think he likes the ride. A shuttle is to the right."
McCoy went to the right, sat near the back, and waited, fingers drumming on the arms of his chair. The minute he expected Jim, the latter came, preceded by a pilot.
Kirk peered at him. "Are you my new CMO?"
The Doctor stood, but it took him a moment to find his voice. The James Kirk that faced him was so young that golden light seemed to shine off his face. The suffering and loss of the coming years would bow him down and make him more cautious, but that was in the future. The man before him stood straight, but he did not stand quietly. A confident eagerness kept him rocking from foot to foot.
"I'm Leonard McCoy, sir," he said at last.
"You just came from the Antares, didn't you? Come up front with me and see how big the ship is you're going to," Kirk said congenially.
The pilot flew the shuttle in a gentle arc, coming first on the opposite side from the loading hatch before swinging around. Kirk watched his ship, keeping up a running commentary while McCoy surreptitiously watched him.
"She's a modern ship, but she has a classic look to her, doesn't she? I'm not her first captain, but I prefer that. Virgin ships have no spirit to them. They're too young."
"The Enterprise has a spirit and a soul."
Kirk glanced over. "Have you sailed on her before?"
"No," McCoy shook his head, perhaps harder than he needed to. "But I can see it."
"Piper never really settled in on her," Kirk said. "I think he was looking forward to retirement even before I came on board. This five year mission was not what he wanted either. We had a lot of interest in the CMO position, but Commodore Wesley suggested you. You hadn't applied for it."
"No," McCoy said.
"But you accepted."
McCoy turned and looked out at the Starship. "There was a certain...inevitability about the assignment." To shift Kirk away from the subject, he said, "I hear that you are not easy to pin down for a physical, sir."
When he didn't get an answer, he looked back. Kirk wore a smug smile.
"Perhaps," he said.
"I'll take that as a yes," McCoy commented. "Let this be a warning that I'll be scheduling one as soon as I get on board."
Kirk chuckled. "We'll see. Wesley didn't say whether or not you were familiar with Vulcans. They're quite rare in Starfleet. I have one on board, and since he's doubling as both Science Officer and First Officer, his physical should probably be the first one on your list. If he goes down, two departments do as well. Do you know much about Vulcans?"
"Commander Spock's physiology is eighty-three percent Vulcan and seventeen percent human. His heart is at the bottom of his rib cage, his blood pressure is almost non-existent, and his blood type is ridiculously rare."
Kirk looked a little stunned. "I'll, ah, take that as a yes," he said, echoing McCoy's words back to him. "Our general orders are to travel through the Alpha Quadrant to Sector 3-1. All unknowns are to be investigated and geophysics will be up to their ears with mapping. I suspect the Old Man will want the Enterprise to enter into the Beta Quadrant, though he hasn't officially said."
"I know," McCoy said.
"Much of the Alpha Quadrant is unexplored and who knows what's out in the Beta Quadrant," Kirk said.
Romulans, McCoy said to himself.
Kirk turned back to look at his ship. "It should be interesting."
"It will be," the Doctor said so softly that Kirk didn't hear. His heart began hammering as the pilot docked the shuttle with the Enterprise.
The hatch door rolled open and the whistle sounded that announced the captain's presence. Kirk strode forward so quickly that McCoy had to jump to follow him.
McCoy stepped onto the ramp, and there was Spock.
"Captain," Spock said with a slight nod. He stood rigidly at attention, hands clasped behind his back, and deck lights bouncing off his sleek, dark hair. Beautiful, frighteningly impenetrable eyes turned in McCoy's direction. McCoy thought he would fall apart.
"You may call me Mr. Spock. You do not need to use my rank."
McCoy couldn't find his voice. If you only knew the names I've called you, he thought. If you only knew the names I've whispered to you in the darkness of our bedroom.
Spock, perhaps puzzled when the Doctor didn't reply, asked, "How may I address you?"
"Leonard is fine," McCoy said, the sudden hoarseness of his voice taking him off-guard.
"Such a designation is below protocol," Spock said.
Kirk was already on his way out of the bay. Spock abruptly turned and followed him, leaving McCoy with a Yeoman.
"Doctor, may I show you to Sickbay?" the Yeoman asked.
"I know the way," McCoy said.
"As you wish, Doctor." The Yeoman went to attend duties of his own. McCoy was left alone in the docking bay.
He half sat, half collapsed onto a container of supplies. Closing his eyes, he listened to sounds he had last heard over a hundred years ago - the swish of doors, voices in the corridor, intercoms buzzing, the movement of four hundred people, and, underneath it all, the powerful throb of the Enterprise's engines.
Faintly, he heard Uhura's voice and then Scotty's brogue, answering her. A few minutes later, Sulu's calm tones sounded.
McCoy opened his eyes and forced himself up. "Here we go."
Picking up his rucksack, he walked into the corridor.
He passed lights, security panels, and accesses to Jefferies tubes. He paused at the spot where Kirk and Kang had laid down their weapons and called a truce.
McCoy shook himself. Where they would do so. Just beyond it was the room where the incorporeal people of Zetar would attack Lieutenant Romaine. He'd better make sure the decompression chamber worked.
He took a turbolift and went to his quarters first. Dr. Piper's name was still on the nameplate. Inside was the regulation bunk and desk. No mementos .
In Sickbay, without thinking, he said, "Christine!"
Startled, Nurse Chapel looked over. "Doctor?" she asked.
"I'm sorry. You looked like someone I knew," McCoy said.
"My name is Christine," she said. "Christine Chapel."
"I'm the new CMO. Call me Leonard."
She nodded. "We've been expecting you. Sickbay should be in order. Let me show you around."
He followed her from room to room while pretending not to know where anything was. She finished at his office that was, like his quarters, standard and impersonal.
McCoy spent the rest the night in Sickbay, fruitlessly double-checking stocks and supplies Christine had done her job thoroughly. The klaxon sounded at three-thirty to warn crew and stragglers that the Enterprise would soon be departing.
Last time, he'd gone to the bridge, staking out his spot behind the command chair. This time, he stayed in his office, the monitor on his desk tuned to the bridge viewscreen. He felt the heavy shudder of the ship as she broke her moorings. Spacedock disappeared from the screen as the Enterprise swiveled and began a graceful flight into the gleaming, inky expanse of space.
The excitement within the walls seemed to beat almost as hard as the warp engines, and McCoy was sure illegal bottles of alcohol were being opened all over the ship. M'Benga would have a bottle of something, and McCoy could have sought him out for a celebratory drink. Instead, he went to the officer's observation deck and, with a hand on the old, wooden ship's wheel, looked out at the stars.
When would the moment happen, that moment when he was supposed to change everything? Did it have to do with Natira or Edith Keeler, or with the death of a crewman under his care that he should have saved? Or would it be something smaller, an instance he would normally not notice?
The door opened and someone came into the room behind him. He recognized the footsteps before he felt the movement of the wheel as Kirk stroked it gently.
"Captain," McCoy said.
Kirk nodded soberly, though his eyes were dancing. He nodded at the spectacle before them. "Upon your first voyage, did you yourself feel such a mystical vibration, when first told that you and your ship were now out of sight of land?" 14
"Melville," McCoy said. "Would you happen to know any Tennyson?"
"He would have come up if I'd taken one more year of Historical Lit."
"I was supposed to do a reading at my college graduation, but I forgot to get the poem. I haven't thought to look it up since."
"The Valedictorian read from The Odyssey at my graduation from the Academy," Kirk mused. "I suppose it fits."
"Who's got the Bridge?" McCoy asked. "The Vulcan?"
Kirk chuckled. "Yes, The Vulcan. The only ones of my Bridge crew who aren't afraid of him are Lieutenant Uhura and Lieutenant Sulu."
He's just as afraid, though he'd never admit it to you, McCoy thought, remembering when Spock had told him of feeling intimidated by the five year mission, and being ashamed, thinking it a Human weakness. They'd been married seventeen years then, and living in a house on the side of a mountain. McCoy had felt honoured at being trusted with such an admission from his proud Vulcan.
McCoy glanced beside him. Kirk was looking out at the stars, his expression unreadable.
I wish I could tell you that I know how it feels to leave your child behind today, McCoy thought. David's three. Our children look so little at that age. But since you haven't told me about him, I'm not supposed to know. I can't say anything to comfort you. I wish I could tell you that I won't be going near cordrazine, that Rayna is an android, and that I'll be making you take the ship to Vulcan the second the plomeek soup hits the wall.
"Deep thoughts?" Kirk asked.
"I've never been accused of having those," McCoy said.
"Neither have I," Kirk said with a laugh. "Come down to my cabin, Leonard, and we'll have a celebratory toast. I have an illegal bottle. I can't let the crew see their captain drinking, so we'll keep it between us."
"Orion Spirit Juice?" McCoy asked.
Kirk looked startled. "Uh, yes."
"Lucky guess," McCoy said as an explanation. "Let's go."
"Take away the love and the anger
McCoy watched Spock methodically test the bars on the door of their cell, the latter's knuckles white-green as he twisted every hinge and joint.
"Mr. Spock, these people have been dealing with slaves for two thousand years. They keep their tools in order. I doubt any of those bars will shift even the barest quarter inch."
Spock didn't answer him, nor did he turn around. He continued his careful exploration until McCoy came up beside him.
"Flavius didn't want to hurt me, but they kept whipping him," the Doctor said. "That set him off. Anyway, I want to say thank you for saving my life, even though you'd probably say you only did so because the loss of one of the ship's physicians would impair efficiency."
Spock glanced at McCoy. "Indeed."
McCoy shrugged and returned to his bunk which was slung to the wall at three, rusted points. He sat where the cold wall felt the least raw on his back. Spock came over and stood before him, but didn't immediately speak.
"What is it?" McCoy asked.
"Doctor, you are the only crew member who does not refrain from unnecessary speech in my presence."
"Is that a problem?"
"It is curious," Spock said. "Since our encounter with the Romulans, I have noticed a definite evasion in the crew."
"They are not comfortable near me."
McCoy sighed. "And you think that has something to do with the fact that Romulans and Vulcans look, well, exactly alike?"
"I have not perceived any other reason for my observation."
Spock regarded McCoy dispassionately. Of course, in the year and a half on which they'd been on the Enterprise, Spock had not regarded him in any other way.
"Most of the crew have never seen a Vulcan before, Mr. Spock. Give them some time to figure out that Vulcan and Romulan philosophies are not the same." McCoy closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead tiredly. "We should try to get some sleep."
He felt Spock still watching him. He finally opened his eyes and said, "You're freaking me out. You could try blinking now and then."
"My inner nictitating membranes are adequate."
"Then at least sit down."
Spock sat on his bunk, on the edge and stiffly. "Doctor, what will happen here tomorrow?"
McCoy stared at him. "Excuse me?"
"Do you know when or if we will escape from this cell?"
"How could I know that?"
Soberly, Spock asked, "Do we escape?"
"I have no idea," McCoy said warily. "Do you see a crystal ball in front of me?"
The Vulcan continued watching him steadily as he spoke. "On Alfa 117, you stated that the captain had been duplicated by a faulty transporter before the examination of the unit was complete. Before we arrived at Cestus III and encountered the Gorn, you told the captain he needed to know the chemical ingredients for gunpowder. On Gamma Hydra IV, you diagnosed radiation poisoning in the landing party before the first symptom appeared and before our scanners picked up any traces of radiation in the atmosphere. Psi Two-Thousand, Miri's Planet, Delinia Two, Rigel Five, Delpha System, Suvin, Turkana Four, Yandora Colony, Irdini Seven, Tau Ceti, Coridan Sixteen, Kea Station, shall I go on? You synthesized the correct antitoxins and antivirals on the first attempt. And, at our last stop at a Starbase, you requisitioned twenty packets of T-Negative plasma."
Evenly, McCoy said, "I like to be well prepared."
"Explain how you created twenty-three correct antitoxins the first time."
"Lucky guesses, and I can't believe you've been keeping count."
"The odds of such luck being continually in your favour are six billion, seven hundred and fifteen million, eight hundred thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine to one."
"I'm gifted then," McCoy said.
"Your record shows no particular instances of exceptional ability. You have progressed through your career in a steady and normal manner."
"Mr. Spock, it's that sort of charm that makes you such a favourite with the crew."
The old Spock would have willingly entered into the repartee. This Spock would or could not. His expression did not change as he regarded the Doctor. "Vulcan is, for most purposes, closed to outworlders. Certain, personal Vulcan concerns are not discussed, even among ourselves, however, when it was my time to return to T'Pring, you understood, and convinced the captain to take the ship to my planet. How did you know?"
"I guessed," McCoy said, wearied by the Vulcan's constant scrutiny of him. Perhaps it was the exhaustion, or perhaps it was that he had not found a bit of warmth in the Vulcan's eyes since he had stepped on board the ship, that caused McCoy to say, "You don't know me at all. I think that's what hurts the most."
"I do not understand, Doctor," Spock said.
"Maybe I just dreamed that you used to call me Leonard. Maybe it never really happened. Or maybe this is unreal, just a world of shadows. I feel like Scrooge, standing in the middle of all those people, calling out to them, but they don't hear him." 16
"I have never spoken to you in an informal manner," Spock said.
McCoy pulled himself together and sat forward. "Mr. Spock, you asked me if we live or die tomorrow. It's not a rational question, unless you've suddenly started to believe in clairvoyance."
Spock hesitated, perhaps unsure how to react to the charge of irrationality.
"I've been reading," McCoy said. "Life, the universe, whatever you want to call it, it's not linear. It's a bunch of...encounters, over and over. This moment, right here, exists forever. This is not the first time we've been in this cell. It's not the last. We will always be in this cell during this moment. I've fathered two daughters, but I only have one. I've been married twice, but there is only one license on record. I've buried my father twice. I don't mean that I interred him, dug him up, and interred him again. I mean he died twice of Pyrrhoneuritis because I shut off his respirator. This whole thing is unfathomable and complicated. And cruel. As for this damn cell, we're always going to be in it, even after we leave it!"
McCoy noticed that his outburst had accomplished one thing. He'd managed to get half an expression onto Spock's face. The Vulcan was looking at him askance.
"What, precisely, have you been reading, Doctor?"
"Is it not true that, in quantum theory, an electron can be in more than one place at once?"
"You have been reading quantum physics?" Spock asked, the way someone might ask a flea if it had heard the latest news from the universal stock exchange.
"All these moments happening, over and over, have to do with position and momentum, the equivalent of quantum pornography." McCoy said. "An electron can be going along, quite happily, and then someone with a microscope decides he wants to get a look at it. But by looking at it, he disturbs both where the electron is and how it's moving. Nobody knows why, but, for some reason, simply viewing it is enough to change it. The electron creates a ghost of itself for the guy with the microscope to play with, while the original electron goes unseen on its merry way. Now there are two of them, the exact same electron, one in view, and one not, because they're in two different places. Sometimes the electrons remain in communication with each other and keep moving in tandem, and sometimes they don't. When another person with a microscope comes along, the electron ghosts again."
"Chaos theory," Spock said disdainfully. "Illogical."
"Unproven, but not illogical. You work with equations all the time that are only theories. They haven't or can't be proven, but they affect things and you account for them."
"Chaos theory contains no viable equations by which to even circumstantially prove it. You are stating that we existed in these moments or time line before, but, at some point, someone 'looked' at us. An original configuration remained and a ghost reality branched out in another direction which may or may not mirror the original configuration."
"You got it," McCoy said. "Maybe it's the same as that mess we got into when we were trying to deal with the Halkans."
"A mirrored dimension is mathematically allowable, proven by the existence of matter and antimatter, and by the Newtonian principal that for every action, there is an equal reaction. Your concept of a duplicate reality that is the same as the original reality, and not a reverse reaction to it, is unbalanced and cannot be supported by any equation or scientific principal."
"If this is so irrational an idea, why would you ask me what the future holds? How did you think I could answer that?"
"I did not know what answer you would give," Spock admitted. "You said, in the original configuration, that I called you Leonard? That seems too familiar. Also, how could you know what the original configuration was, when I do not?"
A little unsteadily, McCoy said, "I guess I really did just dream it, Mr. Spock."
"Is this the conversation you dreamt we had the first time, Doctor?"
"Why do you sometimes call me Mr. Spock, and other times simply Spock?"
"I keep forgetting that we don't know each other." McCoy took a breath that hurt his throat.
Spock fell silent.
McCoy lay back on the bunk. He could hear a faint tramp of boots as guards somewhere made their rounds. A few city noises could be heard as well, motors that he assumed were from vehicles, and every so often a vague thump of music. He had no idea where Jim was - another cell or somewhere up above in the executive offices perhaps. That particular information hadn't been in the report last time.
"Doctor, the quantity of T-Negative plasma on board is excessive and it has an expiry date. You must deem a need for it soon, yet you didn't bring it when we beamed down. Do you believe that you will soon need to treat me on board the ship for a severe injury?"
"Mr. Spock, I didn't order the plasma for you," McCoy said.
"There are no other Vulcans on board."
"As of yet. The fact that you keep harping on about certain points means you haven't been able to completely cast aside our discussion about electrons. Didn't Schrodinger's Cat prove you can't create certainty for any future event?" 17
"Doctor, my questions are solely an inquiry into your actions, not the universe's."
"If that's the case, write off my actions as absurd and go back to playing with the bars of our cell."
Oddly, Spock did so. McCoy fell asleep soon after, waking the next morning to the sounds of raised voices as people reacted to the planet-wide power failure. After they beamed back to the ship, McCoy rechecked his stock of T-Negative while the ship turned its course towards Babel. Spock did not seek him out to pick up the thread of their discussion.
Eight days later, the Tellarite Ambassador was murdered. As McCoy bent over the body, he heard Spock say, "On Vulcan, the method is called Tal-Shaya."
Kirk looked uneasy. "Spock, I broke up an argument between the Ambassador and your father."
"Indeed, Captain. Interesting."
"Interesting? Spock, do you realize that makes your father the most likely suspect?"
"Vulcans do not approve of violence. It would be illogical to kill without reason."
"If there were a reason?" Kirk asked reluctantly.
"If there were a reason, my father is capable of killing, logically and efficiently," Spock said.
McCoy raised his head. "Jim, Ambassador Sarek didn't do this."
"I'd like not to believe it," Kirk said.
But in Spock's parents' quarters, while Kirk was trying to find a way to tactfully broach the subject of Ambassador Gav's murder, Spock said, "Mother, if only on circumstantial evidence, father is a logical suspect."
Before Kirk could try to mitigate some of the horror on Amanda's face from Spock's words, Sarek fell under the furious pain of a heart attack. McCoy, sidetracked with it, felt a wash of guilt when Kirk was carried into Sickbay an hour later, the victim of an attempted murder.
He was stitching the last of the captain's wounds when the latter woke up and blearily asked, "Am I in France?" 18
McCoy eyed him. "You're on the Enterprise, Jim."
"I'd like to get my hands on the guy with the sledgehammer."
"The one who hit you?"
"The one inside my head. How long have I--?" Kirk winced.
"Don't try to get up," McCoy said. "Mr. Spock's got the bridge. He's fully capable of dealing with the ship that's playing hide and seek with our sensors."
"I have to operate," McCoy sighed. "He had another attack a few minutes ago. He'll die if I don't fix that valve."
"Connect me to the bridge, Bones," Kirk said, gesturing at an intercom.
McCoy did so, after another stern warning that the captain was not to move.
"Spock," Kirk said. "Turn the bridge over to Scotty and come down to Sickbay. Your father's going to be in surgery soon."
"Why should my father's surgery require me to leave the bridge, Captain?"
"Well, don't you want to be here?"
"Sir, my presence in Sickbay is irrelevant to the course of my father's treatment. As well, Starfleet regulations do not recognize personal concerns as sufficient reason to disregard the command structure."
"Spock, wouldn't your mother want you to be with her right now?"
"Captain, I may not relinquish my responsibility to the ship until you are able to resume your duties."
Kirk muttered something after indicating to McCoy to shut off the intercom. "Don't you need Spock for something, Bones?"
"No, I don't," McCoy said. "Which means that you can stay in that bed and I won't have to worry about you while I'm operating on Sarek."
"Bones, that's his father lying in the next room," Kirk said.
"Jim, Sarek would not understand if Mr. Spock was to leave the bridge in order to sit in a waiting room for four hours. Mr. Spock does care, but he can't show it, especially in front of his father. It's the Vulcan way."
Kirk eyed the Doctor. "What was in that hypo you gave me? You're actually defending him?"
"You're delirious. Go to sleep," McCoy told him.
"I don't know who's more power-hungry, you or Spock," Kirk groused.
"Me," McCoy retorted.
He came out of surgery later to find Kirk on his feet, regardless.
"How's Sarek?" Kirk asked.
"I think he's going to be fine. He's already awake and has regained some of his lovely green colour."
"Bones, I'll convince Spock I'm all right. Once he's down here, I'll turn command over to Scotty and go to my quarters," Kirk said.
"Sure you will," McCoy said, managing some sarcasm despite being ready to fall over from exhaustion.
"While you were operating, Spock caught our spy, and the ship playing tag with us destroyed itself," Kirk said. "Unfortunately, our spy died because he had a poison pill in his antennae. Once security clears his body, you'll be getting it. Spock has done everything. There's nothing that I can do, so I promise I'll rest."
"You're more stubborn than a Kentucky Mule. If, after getting Spock off the bridge, you do not go straight to your cabin, I will find some new and unusually painful test for your next physical."
"Duly noted," Kirk said with a chuckle. "After we unload this boatload of ambassadors and diplomats, we are due for some serious shore leave. What do you say to Rigel II?"
McCoy thought back to his last public shuttle ride in San Francisco. "I know a couple of people on Rigel," he mused.
"Don't we all?" Kirk commented. "Maybe I'll pull rank and make Spock join us."
"I thought you were pissed at him for not leaving the bridge to Scott."
"I am, but you're the one who pointed out he was just acting like a Vulcan. It occurs to me, Bones, that I don't know much about him. I didn't even know Ambassador Sarek was his father. That thing with T'Pring was a shock too. Did he marry her?"
McCoy shrugged. "I don't know." Which he didn't. The last time, T'Pring had challenged. This time around, he'd convinced Kirk to take the ship to Vulcan well before Spock entered full-blown Pon Farr. Spock had beamed down by himself, and if there had been a challenge, Spock never said.
"He was back up here in two days. That's a short honeymoon," Kirk said. "Of course, that could be normal for a Vulcan."
Two days wasn't, McCoy knew, but kept it to himself. The last time this had happened, the initial peak in Spock's cycle had been merely a hint of things to come, and the emotional release of the fight with Kirk had been enough to relieve the stress. When McCoy had been married to Spock, the cycle had taken a week.
This time there'd been no fight with Kirk. Either Spock had fought Stonn and killed him, or he'd married T'Pring.
McCoy hated both possibilities.
"Maybe I'll ride, maybe you'll walk.
"Come in," McCoy said to the door signal. He was surprised to see Spock enter. The Vulcan hadn't been to his quarters yet.
"The captain requires our presence for shore leave," Spock said.
'He's invited us," McCoy said.
"An invitation from the captain has the force of an order," Spock replied, "even in an off-duty setting."
He stopped by the side of McCoy's desk and glanced at a picture on the computer vidscreen. He didn't say anything, so McCoy offered, "I got a letter from my daughter in the mail packet. That's a digital of her taken on the field at her soccer practice."
Spock put three data tapes on the desk. "Here are the science department summaries for your research logs. The medical report for our last mission is still pending, Doctor. When will it be ready?"
McCoy closed down his mail. "I don't know. Next month or the month after. Did you know I had a daughter?"
"It is noted in your personnel file." Spock gestured at the data tapes. "I have been cross-checking reports from our departments and noticed two discrepancies."
"On Corinth Four, you listed Mrs. Nancy Crater as deceased on the day of our arrival. Also, the initial beam-down party into the S.S. Botany Bay listed twenty intact sleeper pods. After the captain's landing party beamed down, the landing party of which you were a part, the medical log states that nineteen pods were found intact."
"Typos, miscounts." McCoy shrugged as he took a jacket out from his closet. "Do you have any children, Mr. Spock?"
For a second, he thought the Vulcan wasn't going to answer. Then Spock said, "No, I do not."
He turned, and McCoy saw the barest frown cross his face. Surprised, McCoy glanced around to see what the Vulcan was looking at.
It was a plaque over McCoy's bed.
"I had that made at Starbase Six," McCoy said.
Still frowning, Spock said, "It is familiar, yet I know I have not read that inscription before."
Hairs prickled up McCoy's arms. "It's from a poem," he said softly, not wishing to disturb Spock's expression. "Why does it seem familiar?"
"It is not familiar, therefore I am misinterpreting my response."
"Déjà vu," McCoy said. "Jim's been complaining of the same thing."
"And you?" Spock asked, his eyes coming to rest on the Doctor.
"That would be my whole life," McCoy said. "Except for a few, important details."
"Doctor, you must have known my father had a heart condition before he came on board. That was why you stocked the T-Negative plasma."
"You received this information from his physician?"
McCoy shook his head.
"How did you know then?"
"He had a heart problem in the other time-line."
Spock glanced at the plaque briefly before returning to the Doctor's face. "Since our conversation on Eight Ninety-Two Planet Four, I have investigated your quantum theory. It is insupportable."
"So far. The unimaginable immensity of this universe is only a brief spark in a still greater reality." 20
"More poetry," Spock commented.
"Why bother to keep asking me if you don't like the answers I'm giving you?" McCoy said. He gestured at the plaque without looking at it. He didn't need to look. He knew it by heart. "Since the one sheaf is thrashed, and its seed stored already, to beat out the other sweet love inviteth me. And into that which, thrust by the lance, made satisfaction both," he said, watching Spock carefully while he spoke. 21
To McCoy's satisfaction, the same small scowl again crossed the Vulcan's face.
"Why are those words significant, Doctor?" Spock asked.
"T'Pau, in an odd burst of humour, gave us a similar plaque which we hung over our bed."
"Our what?" Spock actually took a step back.
"Mr. Spock, don't worry about it. I've been assured that it's not going to happen again."
"Assured by who?"
McCoy shook his head.
Spock started for the door, but paused. "Does the captain know of your…theory of the universe?"
"No. What good would it do to tell him? He wouldn't believe me any more than you do."
Reluctantly, Spock said, "Not that I would reinforce your delusion, but are there events coming of which the captain should be aware?"
"Honestly, I don't know," McCoy said. "The littlest things seem to be able to make such big changes that I…don't know."
"One of the reasons your theory is insupportable is that you appear to have precognitive knowledge which no one else has."
"You just won't let this go," McCoy muttered. "I doubt I'm the only person this has happened to. What's the real problem for you anyway? Are you mad because you're not in the loop? You should be grateful you're not."
"This isn't fun for me, Mr. Spock! To go through this hurt and pain again is…devastating! Can't you see that?" He took a breath. "No, you don't see it. You don't have any normal feelings. If you did, you'd realize this is a curse. It's been dumped on me because I'm supposed to do something, and I have no idea what. And I'm starting to think that I missed doing whatever it was, and that everything's going to get a lot worse. God only knows how worse, and I don't think I can take it. It scares the shit out of me." He stomped past the Vulcan to the door. "Now shut up and let's go the hell on shore leave!"
They beamed down to Rigel II. Kirk sensed the tension, and his glances at McCoy showed he was aware that, as they walked through the main city, McCoy was continually maneuvering so that Kirk was always between the other two.
Spock walked stiffly, hands gripped behind his back. He answered all the passing questions Kirk put to him as though they were on the Bridge in the presence of the crew. McCoy didn't say a word.
Probably in desperation, and to get out a sudden rainfall, Kirk led them into a bar.
"Let's celebrate anything," Kirk said, as he ordered a round of drinks. "My compliments to your father, Spock, but let's drink to getting rid of the rest of the ambassadors and assorted pain-in-the-ass aides and baggage at Babel."
"Hear," McCoy said, raising his stein before downing half of it in one draught.
Spock took a small sip before turning to gaze curiously around the bar. Behind his back, Kirk gave the Doctor a questioning look. McCoy ignored it.
Kirk took a generous gulp of his drink. "On Rigel, they say if you drink hearty during a storm, you'll be laid before morn."
Spock glanced back, eyebrows threatening to go up.
"Unless you're married," Kirk said, "in which case, you might not want to indulge too much."
Spock didn't take the opening. McCoy finished his drink and ordered the next round.
"You said you knew some people here, Bones?" Kirk prompted.
"Chocolate Bunnies," McCoy said.
Kirk obviously knew what Bunnies were. He tipped his stein. "Here's to Easter."
Vulcan inquisitiveness took over, and Spock asked, "Are these animals?"
"Hopefully," Kirk smiled.
"Bestiality?" Spock asked.
"That's up to you," Kirk told him. "Personally, I'll stick with women."
Fittingly or fatalistically, at that moment, three women came up to the bar beside them. Kirk paid for their orders and it wasn't long before all six were sharing a booth. The booth consisted of one seat that curved around a table. Spock may not have realized the logistics when he entered into the booth first, but he realized them soon afterwards when the women, enticed by his pointed ears, crowded onto the seat around him and left him with no escape route.
The women lost no time in caressing Spock's ears. The Vulcan's protests were ignored under a barrage of female interrogations. What planet was he from? How long had he been in Starfleet? Were those pointed ear tips natural, or had he gotten them surgically refined?
Kirk, looking amused, joined in the playful teasing, though he stopped short of actually touching his First Officer. At the other end of the seat, McCoy nursed a beer, listening as, slowly, Spock did start to answer the women's queries. He was from Vulcan. His mother was Human. He'd been to Earth twice, as a child, and had seen a blizzard. No, he'd never had surgery on his ears.
Then came the last answer. Yes, I am married. Her name is T'Pring.
"I'm going to look for my friends," McCoy said to Kirk. He didn't bother saying anything to Spock who he could now barely see behind the headdresses of the women.
McCoy threw some credits onto the table and walked outside into the wet air. Night was just coming, and storefronts were lit along the street. A mass of people was travelling towards one end of the road. McCoy vaguely followed them. His thoughts and emotions were a mess, and he wasn't really paying attention to his surroundings, so it startled him when the pavement under his feet suddenly changed to soft turf. He stumbled. A man behind him said to someone, "Drunk." Laughter followed.
He looked around. He was in a large park, densely packed with bushes and boulders that looked as if they had spilled down in a landslide. Moss covered everything except for the ground that was more mud than anything. Despite this, people were settling down, some having brought blankets to sit on while others were simply lying back in the mud or perching on the rocks.
One end of the park lit up. McCoy saw a stage, canopied against the rain, and a band that launched into a furious, loud song. The people around him yelled in approval and clapped.
Though the song wasn't to his taste, it had been a long time since he'd seen a live band. McCoy claimed a boulder.
A few songs later, he was drenched. So were the people around him, but it appeared nobody was in the mood to complain. The people McCoy could see were removing clothing in bits and pieces and pairing or tripling off, prompted by two things. One, they were passing around hand-rolled cigarettes that gave off a specific, sweet odor McCoy recognized from his college days. Two, the pulsing rhythm of the music could be felt in the ground and through the rocks. McCoy could feel the vibration up his spine and also in another, more sensitive area of his anatomy.
He thought about leaving, but the drifting smoke and the buzz from the music was innocently diverting. For a little while, he could pretend nothing else existed, he was nothing more than one person in a crowd, no ship above him, and no lost hope in the bar down the street.
A woman nudged his leg and offered to share what she was smoking. "Top of the line Yasgur-blend," she said. "No street stuff." 22
McCoy shook his head and lay back on his boulder.
Another band came up on stage and played. Their music was just as raucous and they brought fireworks that detonated out of time with their drums.
"I'll be deaf by morning," McCoy thought, but he didn't move. He wanted to be lost in the noise.
A burst of red and gold skyrockets lit the park as brightly as summer daylight. In the flash and lingering afterglow, McCoy caught sight of feathers. He turned his head.
Looking back at him with huge grins were Gudrun and Ursula.
McCoy sat up, but the mass of people and rocks between them was too thick. The women must have come to the same conclusion for they stood, then sat again in the same spot. They looked at McCoy in dismay. Then Ursula said something in her sister's ear. They mouthed something to him, which he could see, but couldn't hear. He got the idea, though, when the women demurely leaned back and began to undo their feathery brassieres.
McCoy felt uneasy with the offered voyeurism and glanced away. He should have guessed their preferred method by their display in the shuttle. True, he was in the middle of what would be best described as an orgy, but he'd been keeping his eyes off the actions around him. Also true was that the thump of bass had caused a mild, pleasant arousal, however he'd done nothing to further that either.
The devil on his shoulder made him look again. Gudrun and Ursula were no longer looking in his direction, but their self-assurance that he would watch made it extremely erotic.
They caressed their breasts while apparently engrossed with the display in the sky. Their movements were revealed in every flash of gold fireworks, and the afterimages that burned on his eyes were haunting.
Ursula reached down to the hem of her skirt. The next explosion overhead showed she was naked underneath. She spread her legs a tiny bit and arched towards him.
Quickly, McCoy drew a sharp breath and closed his eyes. He would not. 23
He pulled out his communicator.
As we are, so we love. 24
Spock was the one who beamed McCoy up. Taken aback, the Doctor said, "I thought you'd be busy for a while."
"My shore leave was sufficient. The captain remained," Spock said. "I judge he is capable of dealing with the state of affairs below. You are quite wet."
"It was a dark and stormy night," McCoy managed, wondering how much of his earlier excitement might still be visible through the soaked material of his trousers. 25
As he stepped off the platform, the Vulcan's eyes flicked downward. Lovely, McCoy thought. Damn Vulcan has to have eyes like a ferret. He looked aside and started for the door.
"A moment, Doctor," Spock said. He withdrew a coat from a locker and offered it to McCoy. He made no comment as to why he was offering the garment, and his gaze was back at regulation height.
"Thank you, Mr. Spock."
The Vulcan returned to the transporter controls and busied himself at a panel.
The Doctor avoided the Vulcan after that. Nothing came up that required him to speak to Spock, and he stayed out of the Mess Hall and Officer's Lounge.
The respite was broken when Kirk disappeared during a landing party expedition on Planet Seventeen-Three-Five.
McCoy spun around and around, tricorder out. "Jim has to be somewhere! Could he be inside the obelisk? My scans won't read inside it."
Spock consulted his tricorder. "The alloy is fairly resistant to probe. I perceive only low-grade mechanical readings, however, there is no sign that this structure has recently opened or, indeed, opens at all."
"It does open," McCoy insisted. "It's where the controls are to deflect the asteroid. Those symbols are notes in a song."
Uncertainly, Spock scanned the marks. "If they are musical notes, the scale and arrangement is unfamiliar to me. Doctor, we have to leave now. The Enterprise must arrive at the deflection point in time to divert the approaching asteroid."
"I'll stay here and keep looking."
"The Prime Directive forbids such action," Spock said. "We must not interfere with this culture."
"Too late. Jim's here somewhere, and he's hurt," McCoy said.
"Doctor, at the Enterprise's best speed, we will meet the asteroid at the deflection point and return within four hours. It is risky enough that the captain is here, but I trust that if we cannot find him, neither could the indigent population. We will return."
"We won't within four hours," McCoy said, a bit frantically. "Mr. Spock, please trust that I won't bother these people, but I need to stay here."
"I can waste no further time arguing with you, Doctor," the Vulcan said as he pulled out his communicator.
McCoy found himself caught in the beam. Before the gold specks of transport had cleared from his vision, he heard Spock ordering the Enterprise to the deflection point.
It took less than thirty minutes for McCoy to hear the rumblings of the crew as far down as Sickbay.
Maybe the phasers will work this time, he hoped. But they didn't, and the overload of the phaser banks reduced the ship to sublight speed. It would now take the Enterprise sixty days to return to the planet, and the rumblings of the crew grew worse. No one wanted the Vulcan in charge, apparently. He was too cold, too alien. He didn't care. The captain would never have left someone behind on the planet.
After three weeks of this, Spock removed himself from the bridge and holed up in his cabin. He was still in command, just not as visibly so. The mutterings of the crew died down a little.
The ship was in its second month of travelling backwards when McCoy went to Spock's quarters. The Vulcan was in an off-duty, mouse-coloured robe, and barely looked up at McCoy's arrival. 26
"Please be brief, Doctor."
McCoy found a three-legged stool and pulled it over to Spock's desk.27 Images of the obelisk played across Spock's computer screen.
"When was the last time you got some sleep?" he asked.
"Doctor, you said these symbols were musical notes."
"Spock, did you hear me?"
"I have been unable to decipher them. Are you confident of your opinion?"
"They were notes before," McCoy propped an elbow on the desk and tiredly dropped his chin onto it. "You're overworking yourself due to guilt. Jim would have tried the phasers too. Don't listen to the gossip. It's not your fault the ship's crippled."
"I do not listen to gossip," Spock said. "I proceeded logically. There is no guilt."
"There was a time when I wouldn't have believed you. Now, I'm not sure."
Spock turned off his vidscreen. "Doctor, I do recognize the signs of guilt and distress. You are displaying them. Are you under the impression that you could have changed the events on Planet Seventeen-Three-Five? If so, the impression would be mistaken."
McCoy shifted away from the desk. "Pardon?"
"Take comfort where you can," the Vulcan said.
"You're offering--?" McCoy shook his head. "Spock, I don't...you don't know what I know."
"Jim has married. Her name's Miramanee. She and their unborn child are going to die just as we get back to the planet, and I don't know that I can stop it. If you'd have left me there, possibly I would have been able to do something!"
Dispassionately, the Vulcan said, "You once told me that you were 'repeating your life' because you were supposed to make a particular change, though you did not know the circumstances of the change. Do you believe that this woman's death is the event you are supposed to affect?"
"When you reel things off as if they're just bits of an equation, it's cruel," McCoy retorted. "We're talking about people's lives!"
Spock inclined his head. "Accept my apology, though you must agree that an emotional display on my part would not be of advantage to us." He leant forward. "Doctor," Spock paused. "Leonard. When you expressed a strong desire to remain on the planet, I surmised you had a distinct reason. Based on other conversations between us, I concluded you believed you knew how subsequent events would unfold. Am I correct so far?"
"Have you ever been wrong?" McCoy muttered.
"Yes, I have," Spock replied. "In those same conversations, you admitted there had been some changes already in your theoretical ghost time-line. I chose to take the Enterprise to the deflection point and I decided that you could not remain on the planet while I did so. Guilt on your part is, therefore, unwarranted. To continue to indulge this emotion is remarkably egotistical."
"Listen, you--!" McCoy started, but the Vulcan interrupted smoothly.
"Are you the centre of the universe, Leonard, that you can alter events however and whenever you wish? Do you possess such a divine power?"
McCoy abruptly silenced and turned away. He could feel himself trembling and it angered him.
"There is a Vulcan word, Fahldoom. There is no exact translation. The closest meaning is, 'meant to be'. It is balanced by the principle of Teshuvah, which encompasses alteration and consequence. You may not have one without the other. If they are not in harmony, the natural order falls into chaos," Spock said. "If the captain has taken a woman and fathered a child, and they die, as tragic as that is, it may be what is supposed to happen."
"Then why do I know that it's going to happen beforehand if not to change it?" McCoy cried, his tone betraying him even more than his shaking hands.
"I cannot explain," Spock said, "but you are no more than one individual in this cosmos. What you seek to do is beyond anyone's power. My mother is fond of a Human saying. Do what you can and leave the rest to faith."
"You use the word faith to me?" McCoy challenged. "You, a literal, passionless two-legged mechanism?"
"It is not a word to which I am partial," Spock replied. "It has no precise definition, yet I believe it is a word of some meaning to you."
"It's a word that leaves a bad taste in my mouth," McCoy told him, and left almost at a run. If the Vulcan wished to go without eating or sleeping, he was going to leave him to it.
When the intercom buzzed in Sickbay the next morning and he could see it was from Spock, he almost didn't answer it.
"McCoy here," he said reluctantly.
"Doctor, you are correct. The obelisk is meant to deflect asteroids and the symbols are musical notes. The symbols are part of a fifteen note, nonharmonic scale. The obelisk was left by a super race known as the Preservers."
McCoy cut Spock off. "Can you open the damn thing now?"
"Yes, I believe I can."
"Good." The Doctor shut off the connection. When the Enterprise arrived back at the planet, he was prepared and he did everything he could for Miramanee.
But she died.
Kirk returned to the bridge a quiet man. Spock returned
the science station, and McCoy stayed in his office.
"I may be numberless, I may be innocent
Days passed. Shifts changed. The Enterprise crew mapped empty space and waited for the next new phenomenon to appear. One night, as McCoy was preparing for bed, the door chime sounded in his cabin.
"Enter," he said, thinking it would be either Jim or Scotty, however, it was Spock who passed through the shadows at the doorway and came inside.
"Doctor," Spock said. "Am I disturbing you?"
"No, is something wrong?"
"I have not seen you for a number of days and wished to ascertain your status."
"I'm fine. Is that all?"
"Yes." Spock didn't move.
Finally, McCoy said, "Are you sure?"
"Yes," Spock said, then added, "It was important that I knew you were well, though I do not know why."
"If I wasn't well, it would be noted in the daily summaries from my department," McCoy said. He sat on the end of his bed. "Spock, I don't know what you're driving at, but if this is about the nature of the universe again, I've had enough."
"I agree," Spock said. "We are at an impasse in that line of inquiry. You cannot prove your theory, and I cannot disprove it. It would be logical to let the matter lie."
They silenced again.
"Tea?" McCoy asked at last.
"Thank you." The Vulcan sat in a chair, back straight, as the Doctor dialed up a Vulcan brew through the processor.
After he poured two cups, McCoy said, "I need to apologize for my outburst in your quarters. I didn't understand that you were genuinely trying to comfort me rather than win an argument."
"Offering consolation is new to me," Spock admitted. He took a sip. "This tea is acceptable."
"Thank you," McCoy said, managing a tired smile.
Spock nodded at the plaque on the wall. "I read the book from which your quote was taken."
"Really? I never have." McCoy thought about it for a second. "Which is kind of odd, I guess."
"The book was originally written in Italian, but I do not know that language. I read a translation in Standard, which made the meter of the poetry awkward. The story concerns the journey of the author through the levels of a metaphysical place known as Hell. It is a morality tale." Spock took another drink from his cup. "I do not recommend the Standard translation."
"Does he get out of Hell?"
The Vulcan nodded. "Yes, and he subsequently enters into an equally abstract place known as Paradise. Though the author states that entrance into either Hell or Paradise is a consequence of an individual's personal ethics and is decided by a deity, the direction of his journey indicates that author is, himself, choosing the direction he takes by his choice of which guide to follow."
"Now that you've given away the ending, I won't bother to read it," McCoy said. At Spock's look, he added, "That was supposed to be a joke."
"Ah." Spock said. He quieted once more. McCoy saw his gaze travel to the plaque.
"Do you have a specific question you want to ask me?" McCoy said. "As long as it's not about physics, I suppose I wouldn't mind."
"You called me literal and passionless, yet I conclude in your alternate view of reality we were intimate."
Hearing Spock say those words in a dispassionate voice saddened the Doctor. He wasn't sure how to answer.
"Our temperaments do not seem suited," Spock said.
"You weren't the same."
"I was emotional?"
"Not...um...you weren't the same as you are now. You were more." McCoy looked down into his tea. "Are you saying you believe me?"
"I said I could not disprove your theory, but I have insufficient proof to accept it," Spock said. "If I may ask, what was I 'more' of?"
"You just seemed more accepting of everything you were, more, I don't know, experienced or balanced. Spock, I'm not comfortable with this subject."
"My apologies," the Vulcan said. "I am curious."
"Yeah, well, what does it matter? It's different here." McCoy got up and put his cup in the disposal unit. "So you weren't really concerned about my well-being. You were curious about something I said to you."
"Doctor, you have been in my thoughts since your agitated display in my quarters. Though I pointed out it is impossible for you to actually do what you think you need to do, I was still worried that you were headed for a crisis."
"I'm not, so your work here is done."
"My work?" Spock stood too.
"You're no longer in charge of ship and crew, so you don't need to be concerned about my mental state. Actually, the mental state of the crew is my job."
"Have I offended you?"
"This whole universe offends me." McCoy glanced over. "Did you just admit to feeling worried, or did I mishear that?"
Spock looked uncomfortable. "Worry is illogical and unproductive."
"That's not answering the question."
"Doctor, I am bound to logic. It is the Vulcan way of life."
"How's all that logic working out for you?" McCoy asked.
"Do you wish to discuss Surakian philosophy?"
"No," McCoy retorted. "I'm saying that you're the one who showed up on my doorstep and asked what you were like in a different reality. I didn't bring up the subject."
Spock eyed McCoy for a moment. "You are correct. I did introduce this subject. You are aware that a logical solution was insufficient when I was in command of the Galileo shuttle."
"Your lighting the fuel on fire was quite the sight," McCoy commented.
"It was the proper thing to do, and it was irrational," Spock admitted. "I desire to be...more."
McCoy shook his head. "I'm sorry, Spock. I wouldn't begin to know how to teach you that."
Spock turned towards the door, then stopped. "I was worried about you."
McCoy took a breath. "Just out of curiosity, if I was to say, hey, you want more experience with illogic? Then let's go to bed. What would you say?"
"I'm not offering. I'm saying, what if?" McCoy persisted, keeping his voice casual.
To his surprise, Spock did not retreat behind a Vulcan façade. Softly, he said, "I would say that I may not. I...am what I am."
The Doctor shrugged, then returned to his chair behind the desk. He hadn't been surprised by the answer, but he had been startled by the Vulcan's quiet voice in answering.
Spock clasped his hands tightly in front of him. "Leonard, if I had not joined to another, do you truly believe I could fulfill you?"
"I have no idea," McCoy said. "Because you're not the same. I think I get it now, what you were trying to tell me about Fahldoom and Teshuvah. I'll be sending you a list of things I think you'll need to watch out for. For Jim, I mean. He's going to go through more hurt than either of us."
"Why would you send such a list to me? Do you foresee that you will not be here?"
"I can't stay. I'm banging my head against a wall here." An eyebrow raised and the Doctor smiled. "I'll miss that sight. I don't think you're even aware you're doing it, half the time." The smile faded. "You can get a replacement physician at Starbase Fifty, and M'Benga can bump up to CMO."
"Efficiency will be affected without you." Spock left. McCoy's eyes lingered on the shadowy doorway for a few minutes. Then he turned on his computer and began writing his resignation to Jim.
"Just being alive, it can really hurt
Kirk didn't reply to the resignation for several days. McCoy had been about to call him, as the ship would soon be passing by the Starbase, but the captain finally came to Sickbay of his own accord.
"Why?" Kirk asked, standing in the doorway of McCoy's office.
"Jim, please sit," the Doctor said, indicating a chair.
"No," Kirk said. "Why, Bones? Why now? Why all of a sudden? What happened?"
"Do you want the whole Sickbay to hear?"
Kirk stepped forward and the doors closed behind him. He began pacing. "I want an answer, McCoy. You're one helluva doctor. You're the only one around here who'll stand up to me, and you're a good man. If something has happened that makes you think you need to leave the ship, then tell me."
McCoy clasped his hands tightly under his desk and lied. "Jim, nothing happened here. It's a personal concern that I didn't want to be part of my official resignation. It has to do with...someone I once knew."
The captain stopped moving. "Can I help?"
"You can stay out of trouble."
"You're leaving me here with that Vulcan," Kirk said. "He's damn efficient, but a cold bastard. You've been my buffer."
"I have?" McCoy asked, startled.
Kirk finally flopped in a chair. His fingers began furiously tapping at both armrests. "If you feel you need to go, I wish you Godspeed, but, Bones, try to make it temporary. When we get to the base, I'll go down with you and buy you a drink. Don't take off before I do that."
"Of course not," McCoy assured him.
The tapping slowed. Kirk glanced at the vidscreen which showed the Bridge's main screen. "You're going to miss one helluva ride."
McCoy nodded distractedly. Kirk had missed part of the ride already, specifically the trip through the Guardian of Forever and the fight with Spock on Vulcan. Have I made things worse, he wondered? Kirk didn't have the pain of losing Edith Keeler, but he also didn't have those two months spent with Spock as they worked to save the course of history. Spock hadn't been forced to fight Kirk during the madness of Pon Farr, but neither had the Vulcan experienced both the pain of believing he'd killed the captain, and the joy of discovering he hadn't.
Had McCoy been too much between them? Is that why Kirk thought of his First Officer as a stranger, and why Spock was still so removed from his own feelings?
"No matter what I do, it's wrong," McCoy said, to himself he thought, but Kirk glanced over.
"Jim, maybe you could try playing chess with Spock? Or working out with him on the rec deck?"
"So I can get both my brain and my ass beaten?"
"He's part Human. You've met his mother. Her warmth is in him somewhere."
"Bones, we've been through this before," Kirk sighed. "His mother may have raised him, but she raised a Vulcan."
The intercom whistled. The captain hit the panel. "Kirk here. Anything happening?"
"Just advising you of the shift change, sir," said Chekov.
Kirk stood. "I could almost hope for a Romulan."
"It's nice to have a break," McCoy said.
The captain snorted as he left. McCoy waited until he was sure Kirk would have been out of Sickbay, then he took a package and a folded piece of paper from a drawer, and went to Spock's quarters.
The Vulcan seemed to have been expecting him. The door swished open before the Doctor had a chance to buzz.
McCoy gave him the paper first. "I'm handing responsibility for Jim over to you."
Spock unfolded the paper and scanned it quickly. "You believe these events will come to pass?"
"I'm not sure. It's just in case."
"There is nothing here about me."
"You want your future? Go get a Tarot deck."
Spock refolded the paper and locked it in a drawer. "And your future?"
"My leaving the ship now changes it. I hope." McCoy put the package on Spock's desk. "Do what you want with this, either keep it or throw it out. It's the plaque from over my bed."
"I will keep it," Spock said. "Have you decided on a destination?"
"The Starbase has a list of places that need a doctor. I'll throw a dart," McCoy said. "Jim believes I'm leaving due to a personal situation. I'd appreciate it if you didn't tell him why I'm really going."
"I would never encourage or spread your illogical view of the universe," Spock said seriously.
McCoy took a few steps towards the door. "Even though you're different, I do still love you." He went into the hall before the Vulcan could respond.
Ten days later, McCoy stepped off an F-Class shuttle into the worst blast furnace of heat he'd ever encountered. Waiting to meet him was a small, elderly man who smiled happily.
"Yes," McCoy said. "Leonard McCoy."
"I am Japoch. It is so good you have come." Japoch bowed. "We have not seen a physician here in three years. The women have prepared a house for you to live. I will take you there, yes, and you can settle? Then I will show you around our village."
McCoy picked up his rucksack, with the arm that wasn't aching from a dozen inoculations, and followed. Hoping he was just feverish from all the new antivirals in his system, he asked, "Is it summer now?"
"Summer?" Japoch asked.
"It is the growing season, Doctor. If you would accept, the women would be happy to make for you some cooler clothes, yes?"
"I may take you up on that," McCoy said. Pulling his now-sticky collar away from his neck, he glanced around.
McCoy had picked Manderley with the throw of a pencil, much to the amusement of the Commodore in charge of Starbase Fifty. When the Commodore had seen where the pencil hit, he'd suggested another throw. Manderley was in a section of space too close to the Klingon border. Federation ships visited as infrequently as possible. Fortunately, due to the lack of any natural resource on the planet, the Klingons visited even less.
The village was a few, rough huts gathered around a central pit full of ashes. As McCoy walked by, a woman sitting on a stone by the pit looked up at him and smiled.
He nodded in return. Then some children ran up and stared at him, giggling as he passed by.
"Do I look like such a fool?" McCoy asked.
Japoch chuckled. "Perhaps, in those clothes." He pointed out a rectangular, prefabricated structure. "Another ship made for us a hospital, but it is no good to us without a doctor, yes?"
"I suppose not," McCoy said quietly.
A forest of high trees with thick, green-blue leaves surrounded the village. The trees cast off a banana smell that pervaded the air and accompanied McCoy into the hut assigned to him. A small table and cot were the only things inside, along with a vast quantity of insect netting.
McCoy dropped his sack on the table and said, "I was looking at a map during the trip and saw notes that other villages are nearby. Is there someone who can guide me to them?"
"The people will come to you," Japoch said.
"Some of the other villages are many miles away. That's quite a distance to come if you're ill," McCoy said.
"They are grateful and so they will come here," Japoch insisted. "When we heard you were coming, we sent word. Many are on their way already. Please, you will stay here to meet them?"
"Of course I will meet them," McCoy assured him. "Now how about that tour?"
"Time isn't holding us
On his hands and knees in a pile of wet mud, Leonard McCoy was planting pieces of potatoes. He made a hole for each small piece, tucked it down, and gently covered it over. When he'd finished two rows next to a line of string bean seeds, he put a hand to his back and straightened.
A young girl ran up. "Doctor!"
"We're having a dinner tonight in the square, to celebrate Meeko's new baby. Please come?"
"I'd be happy to," McCoy said. As he stood, he noticed Raqua was eyeing his garden critically.
"Those won't grow," she said.
"I know they haven't for the last three years," he started, but she interrupted.
"Momma says six."
"Four," McCoy corrected. "But this is the year."
She shook her head at him before scampering off. She'd tell her mother that the Doctor was trying to grow those odd plants again and, by the time he arrived for dinner tonight, everyone in the village would know. They'd be kind about it, though, and would probably offer all sorts of suggestions to help, despite inwardly thinking his persistence with his garden a bit delusional.
McCoy went into his hut and drew a glass of water from a tank. He'd spent his first three weeks on Manderley throwing up because hadn't purified his water properly. Then he'd suffered rashes and fevers for another two weeks from firebug bites. Each night while lying in agony on his cot, he'd be a bare step away from calling Starfleet and getting the hell out. Then, each morning, dozens of people would show up from the neighbouring villages, each of them suffering far worse than he was, some going blind, some nearly debilitated from disease, and he'd think, "One more day." Day after day passed, and people began showing up for other reasons. Come to our baby's naming ceremony, Doctor. Come to our son's wedding. Come, Doctor, we have had a good crop of pharo-wheat and have made sweet-cakes. Come and eat with us.
He knew he'd become part of the life here when he attended his first funeral and the villagers offered him solace instead of blame. He couldn't save everybody. He'd wanted to, but the people living here had never expected it. He did what he could for them, and they were happy for it. Death was more a part of their lives anyway than it was for his. They had stories about where spirits went afterwards, which they shared with him. They would politely ask for his stories in return, but he never had any.
And he finally stopped thinking about leaving when, after a fire swept through the village and he was busy dealing with the wounded, the people rebuilt his hut first. A couple of the men had even braved the flames to save his few possessions. 31
Glancing outside at his little rows of raised dirt mounds, he considered what he might try next to keep the Beakybirds away. So far he'd put up reflective pinwheels, surrounded his crops with plants he'd thought the birds didn't like, and even built a couple of scarecrows. The birds had defied all. In fact, their actions lately had been particularly taunting. Instead of just stealing whatever he managed to grow and taking off, they'd suck out the juice while the vegetables were still attached to the stems, and leave the wilted remnants for him, often cawing brazenly from the treetops when they saw him appear. 32 During the last visit from a Starfleet supply ship, the First Mate offered to make a motion sensor, but McCoy hadn't wished to subject his neighbours to the noise of the alarm.
He wondered if this was the sort of off-the-wall problem Spock would have liked to solve.
McCoy paused. He hadn't thought about Spock in he had to think how long he'd been here eleven years. Sure, the Vulcan had crossed the back of his mind every so often the way lost acquaintances do, and especially so after getting a mail delivery. But he knew from Jim's letters that Spock was busy, well and, lately, on Vulcan. Events hadn't gone exactly the same as they had before, and wouldn't, but all seemed right with the universe. In his own way, he had to admit he was happy here.
McCoy dropped his glass. In front of him, Sullivan had suddenly popped into existence.
"Are you happy?" Sullivan repeated.
The Doctor fell onto the edge of his cot. "You are real!"
Sullivan glowed more brightly than McCoy remembered. His white light blazed through the interior of the hut, and the Doctor could hardly look at him.
"I'll tone it down," Sullivan offered. By the time he took a seat on the cot beside McCoy, he was shining at a manageable level.
"Please don't tell me I have to go through my life a third time. I know I've made mistakes, but I'll take whatever's due," McCoy begged.
Sullivan patted McCoy's leg. "Don't worry, Leonard. You did ok."
"So I changed what I was supposed to change?"
"No, I'm afraid you missed that. Again."
McCoy felt his heart thud. "What did I do? Was it Jim? Sullivan, I've tried so hard not to hurt anyone. Except--"
"I know," Sullivan said. "Think back, Leonard, to the day after your father died. You were in his office upstairs and there came a knock on the door."
"My neighbour said she was going to bring some food."
"Your neighbour's child was dying," Sullivan said. "The small girl, Yidi, found a bush of berries in the yard and put some in her mouth. She choked and stopped breathing. Her mother knew you had just gone into the house, but the door was locked. She knocked and called for you, Leonard, but you did not go downstairs. The girl died before the paramedics could arrive."
McCoy looked at him in horror. Then, slowly, he lowered his head into his hands. "How could I have been so stupid?"
"You even left a note. Why is this night different from all other nights? It wasn't one of my father's papers! I should have known that!"
He felt Sullivan's touch against his cheek.
"Please send me back! I promise that this time--"
"You've done something else as well," Sullivan said. "This action was deliberate. Tell me what happened when your ship discovered the Botany Bay."
McCoy lifted his head back up and said to Sullivan, "I destroyed the stasis controls to Khan's pod."
"He woke briefly when his air began to expire and he saw you, did he not?"
"And called to you?"
"And you did not help him?"
"I stood there and watched him die. Spock nearly caught me on it when he discovered the counts of intact stasis pods were different between the initial landing party's and mine." McCoy lifted his head. "This damns me as well, and so be it. Spock will live. David Marcus will live."
"You think that Khan needed to die?"
"He caused so much death."
"You judge him?" Sullivan asked. "He was a good husband. He loved his wife and took care of his men. His mind turned to revenge while grieving for his wife and some of his people, and his mind turned to James Kirk who promised and failed to check on the colony he set up on Ceti Alpha Five. Instead of killing Khan, you could have reminded your captain to keep in touch out there. Do you disagree?"
"No, I don't," McCoy said finally, "but, Sullivan, I saw what he did the first time."
"Well, I can't say that admission helps your soul much," Sullivan commented idly. "What you've done, you've done."
"How can you be so...flippant? I killed him."
"Leonard, if you could see what I've seen, you would never stop crying."
Sullivan smiled. Taken aback, McCoy could only stare at him.
"Anyway, back to my first question. Are you happy?"
"Do you expect me to be, after what you've just told me?" McCoy asked.
"It's over. Leave the dead in peace."
"Sullivan, Yidi is why you sent me back!"
"I sent you back for you," Sullivan said. "I went to a lot of trouble, but I had faith in you." He gestured around. "There is no glory for you here. You won't find any miraculous medical cures and nobody in the great galaxy beyond probably cares much what happens in this little village. But you came and you stayed and you gave everything you could to these people. Can you believe that you have been forgiven? Didn't you realize it when you discovered you were happy? Will you trust that what I am saying to you is true?"
McCoy searched Sullivan's face until his eyes burned. "I wish I could believe you."
"Don't be stubborn," Sullivan laughed. "You were very close to figuring it out, just before I showed up. Live, Leonard. Love and accept your life, love the lives around you, and forgive yourself. Does your Creator not find joy in seeing you enjoy the gift of life He has given to you? Is that not reason enough to be, well, here?" Sullivan asked.
McCoy shook his head. "If what you're saying is right, it's a bad cosmic joke that takes two lifetimes to figure out. I'm not a dumb man."
"One and a half lifetimes in your case," Sullivan said. "Whose fault is it that you make everything so complicated? At any rate, two lifetimes isn't all that long, Leonard, but if you think it is, we apologize for the inconvenience." 33
He winked as he stood. "Leonard, look out your doorway."
"I promise you that you'll be blessed." 34
Someone was beaming down outside McCoy's hut. The sparkles cleared, and there, in the bright sunlight, stood Spock.
McCoy stared. Then he looked for Sullivan, wanting confirmation. Sullivan was gone.
"Doctor, I trust you're well."
McCoy squinted at the Vulcan.
"May I come in?" Spock asked.
McCoy gestured inside. "It's nothing to boast about, but you're welcome."
Spock bent and entered the hut. He cast a look around, then took a chair and placed it in front of McCoy. The Doctor sat back on the edge of his cot as Spock settled carefully on the seat.
"I thought you were on Vulcan."
Spock nodded. "I was for some time. T'Pring and I divorced and I subsequently entered into the study of Kolinahr. I interrupted that pursuit last month. Are you familiar with recent events over your home planet of Earth?"
McCoy thought for a minute. "Voyager? I mean, Vejur?"
"Either appellation was correct. What name it may use now is unknown."
"Did you do that stupid thing again?"
"Try to meld with it?"
Spock eyed the Doctor. McCoy thought he saw a small glint of amusement touch the Vulcan's eyes.
"I did try to meld with it," Spock admitted.
"It's a wonder your brain wasn't blown clear out of its battery casings," McCoy muttered. "I'm sure I warned you about this on the list I left you."
"The last line was, 'Do not meld with big, scary objects'," Spock said. "You might have been more specific."
"Are you saying that Vejur did not fit into the big, scary objects column?"
Spock inclined his head. "It may have."
McCoy sighed. "Would you like something? I have water and juice."
"Either would be fine. Thank you."
McCoy poured Bluenut juice into two tumblers and handed one to Spock.
Spock took a sip. "This is made from a local plant?"
"They grow on the trees."
The Vulcan looked around as he sipped his drink. "This area is pleasant. I assume, from the gradient that the seasons do not undergo any significant change."
"There's a wet season. The crops have to be picked before that or they rot. Otherwise it's really hot all year round," McCoy replied.
"Your work is agreeable?"
"Yes." McCoy waited. Spock must have had some reason for coming, obviously something to do with Vejur or he wouldn't have mentioned it.
At last, Spock said, "I discovered news of interest to you and I desired to bring you this information in person. It has to do with the disease from which your father died."
"My father died because I stopped his respirator," McCoy said.
"I remember our conversation on this subject," Spock said. "You stated that people no longer died from that disease because there was a cure. You are technically correct."
"This is your news?" McCoy retorted.
"People no longer die from Pyrrhoneuritis because they die from the cure."
McCoy's breath caught. "I don't understand. That's not what I read."
"All those who suffered and underwent the cure died within a year or two," Spock said. He took a data tape from a pocket and handed it to the Doctor. "Whatever physical losses your father suffered from the disease could not have been alleviated. The cure you believe exists does seem to work at first, but it subsequently reverses and destroys nerve tissue more quickly than the original affliction."
McCoy regarded the data tape as if it would bite him.
"In my estimation," Spock said, "you did not kill your father." He finished his juice and set the tumbler on a table. "I became aware of this information last year. I delayed telling you, and my reason for doing so is insufficient." He trailed off at the sight of McCoy's face.
McCoy quickly turned away. Spock found a box of tissues and offered him one.
"I'm not...it's something in the air," McCoy tried, wiping his cheeks.
"I cried three weeks ago," Spock said quietly.
The Vulcan's words didn't sink in at first. At last, McCoy said, "You what?"
"My meld with Vejur rendered me unconscious. When I awoke, my first thought was of you. I had knowledge that would have been of comfort to you, and I had not contacted you. I am sorry."
"It doesn't matter," McCoy said. "I know now."
"It does matter," Spock said. "I could not dismiss your last words to me before leaving the Enterprise as human sentimentality. You are not the first to speak of love to me. Others have done so, incorrectly. Circumstances never warranted it, and such emotions are an indulgence foreign to my Vulcan upbringing. But your words sounded familiar in the same manner that the words on your plaque were familiar. I felt as if I should understand this familiarity, and it frustrated me to be unable to do so. When I learned of the follow-up studies regarding Pyrrhoneuritis, I hesitated to contact you. My own reluctance and fear kept me from doing so."
"Fear?" McCoy repeated. He frowned at the Vulcan. "What could you fear?"
"You," Spock admitted. "When I came out of the meld with Vejur, I cried because I had failed you. You carried a burden that I refused to believe in or assist you with. You spoke honest words to me without asking for anything in return, and I did not even acknowledge them. My mind was unsettled. My Vulcan disciplines did not aid me. I was afraid that, if I was to speak with you again, and you said those words, I would betray my inward confusion and discomposure. I could have given you a year less of your personal grief over your father."
"Spock, I'm a doctor. I could have kept up with medical journals on my own," McCoy said.
"That is how I justified my actions. It is no justification," Spock said.
"I do think about my father every so often," McCoy said, "but I don't have much time to do so here. In fact, lately, life has been fine. I've felt good here."
Spock nodded. He put his hands in his lap and straightened his back. He looked very Vulcan. "After you left, I experienced loss. Illogically, I missed you. You were my closest friend."
McCoy tried to make a joke. "I'm sorry to hear that."
The Vulcan eyebrow went up. McCoy added, "The first time around, you and Jim were very close."
Spock considered that. "If you say so," he said doubtfully.
"Somehow it didn't work out that way this time," the Doctor said. "I think I may have interfered between you two the wrong way. Not that I meant to."
"If Admiral Kirk and I were close, that is one thing. What you indicated we were, is another," Spock said.
"Spock, if you're trying to save me personal grief, this is really not the subject to pick."
"Doctor, my life so far has been barren. I have noticed it since you left, and my meld with Vejur has confirmed it. Something vital is missing, and I believe you hold the key. I do not wish to cause you any pain. If you want me to leave, I will immediately do so, but...I do not want to leave."
McCoy eyed him, unsure. "What you want then?"
Spock met his eyes. He raised one hand, fingers extended, and gently touched them to McCoy's. "Allow me to remain with you. Teach me to believe what you believe."
"I don't know that I believe in anything."
"Leonard, it is evident that you do."
The Vulcan's touch was fiery. McCoy felt himself react to it. "Spock, the problem is--"
Spock's eyes went to the cot and back to McCoy's face. "Leonard, teach me that too."
McCoy looked down, up, anywhere, but at the Vulcan. "The problem is, I don't think you understand what you're asking me for."
Spock touched the side of McCoy's face, to steady him. "I am asking for everything," he said, his tone now rough and urgent sounding.
He leaned forward, then paused, unsure. McCoy felt as if he tumbled forward. Their mouths met and captured each other's.
Giggling sounded. They abruptly pulled back, and McCoy's face flushed at the sight of two women with water jugs just outside his doorway.
They laughed again as they set the water down on his front mat.
After they left, McCoy said, "Now the whole village is going to know about you." He stood with a reluctant glance at the cot. "We can't right now," he said. "You can stay, but we have to wait for night. There are certain social rules here."
A smile touched the Vulcan's features. McCoy wanted to laugh at the sight of it.
"The ship I came in waits above," Spock said. "I brought some research equipment that, if previous supply rosters are reliable, you do not possess here."
"Some of this is a bit primitive, but I have the latest medical equipment."
"I have brought general scientific instruments and additional memory for your computer. I wish to assist you in your service to these people, but I also thought we might work on a project together. Are you aware that the Enterprise met with a ship carrying the descendants of the Fabrini people?"
McCoy nodded, a little sadly now. "Yes."
Spock noted the expression, but didn't ask. "The information contained in the computer banks aboard the Fabrini ship is vast. I have brought copies of the data here, but I have not had the leisure to examine it properly. A substantial part appears to be medically based. I hope you will agree to research the data with me."
"Yes, we can do that," the Doctor said. He changed the subject. "I've been invited to dinner tonight, for the celebration of a new baby. These people celebrate everything. They have nothing, but they make the most of it. It's rather nice, actually. Will you come so that I can introduce you?"
"Of course," Spock said. "Have these people met with a Vulcan before?"
"I don't know. They're not likely to be afraid of you, though," McCoy chuckled.
Spock stood. "I will have my instruments and personal effects beamed down. I might also ask for some larger bedding materials."
"Don't bother," McCoy told him, trying to keep a straight face while he added, "I'm pretty sure that, once everyone knows we were kissing, a larger cot will appear. There aren't too many secrets here. And the elders have been nagging me about finding someone."
The Vulcan looked amused again. He took out a communicator, but paused at the sight of a book on a table.
"You prefer the same type of book as Admiral Kirk. I saw this title in his quarters once."
"It was his book. When I left the Enterprise, he gave it to me, with a particular passage marked." McCoy picked it up and handed it to Spock. "Jim remembered that I had forgotten the poem I was supposed to read at my college graduation. He found it."
"Alfred Lord Tennyson," Spock mused. He read the passage.
"Much have I seen and known; cities of men and manners, climates, councils, governments. Myself not least, but honoured of them all; and drunk delight of battle with my peers far on the ringing plains of windy Troy. I am a part of all that I have met, yet all experience is an arch where through gleams that untraveled world. We are not now that strength which in old days moved earth and heaven. That which we are, we are; one equal temper of heroic hearts, made weak by time and fate, but strong in will. To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield." 35
He looked up into McCoy's eyes. In a voice full of warmth, he said, "Indeed."
1. Teshuvah is often defined as repentance, but a more basic translation is 'to turn.' Teshuvah means to 'turn' inward, to judge ourselves.
2. From the song, "In My Life," by the Beatles.
3. In Jonathan Livingston Seagull, by Richard Bach, Jonathan is urged to strive to reach perfection by a pure white seagull named Sullivan.
4. Anyone who has read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams knows that this particular bit of advice didn't help Arthur Dent much at all.
5. I changed the question that Jewish children ask their parents during the celebration of the Seder meal at Passover. The actual wording is why is this night different from all other nights? One of the implied answers, though not one of the actual four, is because this is the night we were set free.
6. "To live only for some future goal is shallow. It's the sides of the mountain that sustain life, not the top. The sides are where things grow." Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert M. Pirsig.
7. From the song, "The World I Know," by Collective Soul.
8. Madonna's fashion statement aside, wearing something red is a legitimate custom in Jewish Kabbalah, as well as a couple of other mystic faiths/practices. In this case, the colour red corresponds to one of the ten sefirot emanations of God: the sefirot of Gevurah/Might, or the left arm of God.
9. Exodus 6:6-7
10. From the song "Homeward Bound," by Simon and Garfunkel.
11. The woman's reply is from The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. When asked on a bus by a stranger if his book is any good, Holden Caulfield answers with this sarcastic comment. McCoy and Caulfield might be related. Both of them chase crowded public conveyances.
12. If Kirk was on the shuttle, he'd waste no time picking up and sleeping with Gudrun and Ursula, the two main characters of Women in Love, by D.H. Lawrence. Though I'm rooting for McCoy to be as reckless and shag the girls in the back of the bus, he'll probably spend the night getting sickbay ready instead.
13. The sisters pop up again, in full bunny gear, in Shore Leave by Theodore Sturgeon. Under Yeoman Tonia Barrows' disapproving eye, McCoy explains them by saying, "I was thinking about a little cabaret I know on Rigel II. There were these two girls that I --" To my disappointment, the good doctor does not complete the sentence.
14. Moby Dick, by Herman Melville.
15. From the song, "Love and Anger," by Kate Bush.
16. A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens.
17. Edwin Schrodinger never carried out his theoretical experiment with his imaginary cat, yet his kitty is as famous as the equation E=MC2. In his lifetime, Schrodinger was not as well-known as Einstein, but he was as fascinating. Ursula K. LeGuin paid homage to him in an appropriately named short story.
18. King Lear, Act 4, Scene 7. King Lear has been ill, and this is his first question upon waking up. The reply to, "Am I in France?" is "You are in your own kingdom, sir." King Lear and James Kirk seem similar to me, especially in the scene immediately before this one in which Lear goes on about how adultery may have more virtues to recommend it than getting between "lawful sheets." Then he takes off his clothes.
19. From the song, "Drive," by R.E.M.
20. Star Trek: The Motion Picture, by Gene Roddenberry. This line is part of Spock's musings in sickbay after he tries to meld with Vejur..
21. The Divine Comedy: Paradiso, by Dante. In the poem, the words have nothing to do with homosexual love, but, boy, don't they sound like they should?
22. All McCoy needs is to hear Jimi Hendrix playing the guitar, and his trip to Woodstock is complete. The original Woodstock was held on a farm owned by a man named Yasgur.
23. This scene is from Ulysses by James Joyce. While pretending to be unaware of Leopold Bloom watching her, Gerty Macdowell looks up at a fireworks display and slowly exposes herself to him. In the book, Bloom masturbates, and the description of it is written in an awesome stream of consciousness both intimate and elegant. I don't have a tenth of Joyce's talent, and my words cannot possibly do any justice to the scene, so McCoy will not be masturbating tonight.
24. Studies in the Psychology of Sex, by Havelock Ellis. Ellis was a progressive, compassionate, and neurotic product of the Victorian era. His books stick in your mind, but they are difficult to find.
25. "It was a dark and stormy night," is the beginning line of Snoopy's lost novel in Peanuts, by Charles Schulz. The line is originally from a novel known infamously as the worst novel ever written, Paul Clifford, by Edward Bulwer-Lytton. It's available on-line, but who's got that sort of time?
26. Spock has a mouse-coloured dressing robe, and so does Sherlock Holmes.
27. In mythology, the city of Delphi was on the slope of a mountain, and a seer called the Oracle of Delphi lived there. The Oracle would speak prophecies while sitting on a three-legged stool. The image of an Oracle on a three-legged stool also shows up in the Matrix trio of movies. In my story, whenever McCoy thinks or speaks about what's going to happen in the future, I put him somewhere where there is three of something. The podium at his graduation has three legs, there are three women on the public shuttle, his bed on planet Eight-Ninety-Two-Four is nailed to the wall in three places, and Spock puts three data tapes on McCoy's desk before they talk about the plaque on the wall. I don't have the wherewithal to make anything really meaningful out of this triad symbol - it was just fun to do.
28. From the song, "A Thousand Years," by Sting.
29. From the song, "Moments of Pleasure," by Kate Bush.
30. From the song, "Once in a Lifetime," by The Talking Heads.
31. In the book Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurier, the hero and heroine's house a.k.a. mansion. is named Manderley, and is destroyed by a fire near the end of the story. In this little fic, we're nearing the end too.
32. The main character of Bunnicula, by Deborah and James Howe, is a vampire bunny who sucks vegetables instead of people's necks. Bunnicula is one of my favourite children's books. So, too, is Walter the Farting Dog, however I couldn't find a suitable spot to make a reference to him.
33. "We Apologize for the Inconvenience" is apparently God's last message to Humans, at it is least in the book, So Long and Thanks for All the Fish, part of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams.
34. From the song, "Blessed," by Elton John.
35. These breath-taking words are from the poem "Ulysses."
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