Fandom: Star Trek TOS x Reboot
Characters McCoy, McCoy', Spock'
Genre: Gen, unless you squint pretty hard
Summary: From the very first viewing I was drawn to that single crewman sucked through the hull of Kelvin. I wanted to know about her.
Remixed and marbled together stories: Ripple, Fly and a soupcon of Safe by schweinsty. They were small, so I took two. And a bit. *g*
"Dr. Taghshev to OB, stat."
Dr Zhohanna Taghshev jogged down the hospital corridor, through the obstetric nursing foyer and into room 12 without bothering to waste time by asking 'where?' It would be the McCoy delivery. The only patients more likely than doctors to be trouble would be doctors' wives, so this couple was a double whammy. Of course, you could also tell by the clamor of frenetic staff spilling out the door and into the common area.
A resident was already hovering over the biocrib, implements in hand. Zhohanna didn't arrive as soon as she once would have. Two decades of the quirks of artificial gravity had left her with arthronecrosis, worst in the weight bearing joints. That was part of the reason she got out of Starfleet and of space.
Her fingers hurt much of the time, but in a crisis they forgot. She pushed through to the grey, limp baby and took over processing information, exam changes and running decision trees in her head so fast they seemed automatic--especially to her. With both hands, she worked instruments through the tiny bends of the newborn girl's lungs and umbilical vessels, and in less than five minutes the readings had stabilized in a satisfactory state.
Xenoamnionitis was rare and poorly understood, but usually fatal. The process incited--ironically--by that first breath of air, it rampaged heartlessly though an unfortunate newborn, spreading and overwhelming the infant within minutes.
The monitors looked perfect, but still Zhohanna checked the infant over with eyes and ears and touch. She cauterized the cord stump, swaddled the baby with long-practiced deft and passed her to the parents who waited frozen, eyes saucer-wide, tracking her every move.
"Twenty-four hours and she'll be right as rain." Zhohanna waited for the parents to ooh and ah and count the fingers and toes and bond as she had waited for hundreds of men and women before them. Then--always too soon for everyone except her youngest patient--she transferred the baby to a neonatal incubette.
She was better, but not entirely out of the woods. If there were even a few particles left, she could relapse. But Zhohanna was pretty sure she'd caught it all. With a nurse working from the other side, she positioned the baby and set the nutritional infusion rate.
"Thank you." The father--Leonard?-- was at her elbow now. "I thought-- When I saw the monitors, I thought…"
He was young, but his face was old. She read in it the thought no parent could stand to hear out loud. He was a doctor, a surgeon, if she remembered right. That's the worst of all possible worlds--knowing the full extent of the danger, yet left impotent to help in any way those whom you would cheerfully die to save.
"It's nothing," she said. "My job. Anyone here would have pulled her through."
"I couldn't," Leonard said. It was the voice of a sickening realization, nothing of false effusiveness there. "I was watching. I couldn't have done that."
She laughed, for to her it was a commonplace thing. Not worth her time to discuss when there were other things to do. "That was just an old trick I learned in outer space when Medical was given an excess of boring time but not so much modern equipment.
"And I couldn't do what you do," Zhohanna said. "Big people, they scare me. There's so much to them. You can't get any perspective. You can't work on more than one thing at a time." She gave his daughter a final pat on the belly, then closed the incubette hatch and set the controls. She turned to him with her standard issue façade of a smile, but saw that he was having none of it.
He'd probably learned from the same teacher she had.
She let the smile fall away and reached in for what she really felt. "I'm glad your daughter's okay, and I'm glad if I helped. But you and I both know we don't make the keys to life and death. We just try to find the right one in time and jiggle it in the locks." She clapped his shoulder. "Stay with her as long as you like. I'll be back in an hour or so."
Leonard pulled his chair up to the bed and held his wife's hand as the cramps of the uterus contracting down set in. They gazed at her incubette across the room, discussed plans for her future and refigured names. Once born, she didn't look like a Jenny at all.
For a while the crisis brought them closer together, but eventually their careers and natures floated them back apart. Leonard would not leave while Joanna was so little, and as he watched his daughter grow into a girl and then a woman, he found that he simply could not.
When Joanna was fourteen, Leonard's father asked for his help. Because it was his father, the man he loved and respected beyond all others--the physician who had taught him about welfare, empathy and compassion long before he could even pronounce those words--Leonard did exactly what he asked. He did it although every bone in his body shrieked that it was wrong. He did it although by both the most ancient and most modern codes, it was something no healer should ever do.
He did it because he loved his father, and if he couldn't heal him, he could at least bring surcease to suffering. Not one more day of pain, not one more hour, not one more anything of anything.
Two weeks later, when he finally caught up on his backlog of work he read the medical bulletin that would have saved his father's life.
How does a good man go on with his life after a horrendous mistake that cannot be fixed? He can try, but to a good man 'can't be fixed' means can't be fixed, and sometimes there's nothing to do but start over.
When Joanna was seventeen and left for college, Leonard left for space.
In 2336, Admiral Leonard McCoy died in a Starfleet hospital bed with a day nurse in crisp, old-fashioned blues outside his room. Spock was undercover--hard to imagine with those ears--everyone else was dead, and mostly he was ready to go. Truth be told, he wasn't sure why he'd hung on for so long, except maybe to show that damned Vulcan that he could. On the wall was a holo of Enterprise--NCC-1701--the only one if you asked him, which nobody had for years. He'd had it put up directly in his field of vision. When he looked at it, the crew sprang alive inside his memories, and he relived the very best days of his life.
He felt it happening, although he couldn't say how he knew. It was nothing he had been taught in school. Nothing clinical, nothing to do with readings he'd seen on a scanner or biocomp or anything he'd learned from the thousands of other life forms he'd studied. He just knew, perhaps as whales or birds know to migrate with the season. Leonard knew that he was about to move on.
His last thought was that the next time he saw Spock, by God, he'd have that common frame of reference for their discussion of life and death. The joke would finally be on Spock.
Leonard kept his eyes on Enterprise for as long as they would focus and hoped he would see them all again.
"Dr. Taghshev to medical bay." The call jolted Zhohanna out of a deep sleep. She skidded into her boots and hit the corridor at a trot, not bothering to call ahead. It would be the Kirk maternal-fetal unit. With a specialty in perinatal medicine, she wouldn't be of use for anyone else on Kelvin right now.
They told her in training that officers' wives were always the most trouble as patients with officers only slightly behind them. She hadn't been in Starfleet long enough to decide if that was true, but she had been there long enough to decide it could not be dismissed as false.
Then the ship shuddered and klaxons went wild. She hadn't paid enough attention in Starfleet training to know what all the emergency indictors meant, but even a doctor could tell that it was something very bad. Maybe she would be called on for general trauma. She hoped she remembered how.
There is nothing worse than costing a life entrusted to you by not being good enough.
The concern didn't have time to mature into worry as in the next moment, her eardrums exploded, all the breath was sucked from her lungs and she was blown through the former hull of Kelvin and out amongst the cold and deadly silence of the stars.
It was a bit like the training simulation, except this time there was neither a timer nor anyone manning an override. This time was for real, and Kelvin was already hundreds of meters away. This time, when it was over, she would be dead. As a brand new experience, her brain struggled to comprehend.
Kelvin appeared otherwise undamaged. Even the air bleed had been stopped. Zhohanna wasn't even sure she was seeing the offending breach. She wondered if she was the only one to die. She saw no one else--nothing else floating. She was alone in space. Alone and so very cold.
As callous as that emotion seemed, it made her sad. No one should have to die alone. She flipped her body at the waist to look around.
Then she saw the alien ship. It filled her vision. It filled space. Kelvin seemed insignificant beside it. She wondered if this would be the end of all her shipmates. She wondered if this would be the end of everything she knew, and she decided that if her own life would buy their safety, she'd willingly pay the price. Not that she had a choice.
Bargaining. That's what they called it in psychiatry. It was pointless. That's why she preferred to work with babies. They were the root of life, unencumbered by the forced artificial convolutions of thought.
Babies. Her thoughts returned to Winona Kirk. Who would deliver her once she was dead? But 99% of the time a trained monkey could catch a baby. Women had been having babies before she was born and they would continue doing it long after she was gone. Her patients would go on without her.
Assuming they weren't all about to die.
She let go of the life she had known.
She decided, in the end, that she supposed we all die alone.
She wasn't sure how long she had been in vacuum. In a crisis, time always slowed down for her. In a delivery suite, it gave her more time to work. Now, it gave her more time to die.
She was so cold. Her thinking was slow. It was too much effort to flip to move. Her heart had petered down from its initial adrenaline-fueled race. Now it was as slowed as everything else around her.
As a doctor, she knew how this scenario played out. The beats would come farther apart until the next one didn't come at all. She tried to count, to pace them, but the effort to collate time was too much.
All the best people, when there is nothing else left to do, they do whatever there is to the very best of their abilities. She was a doctor--a student of life and death. When all that was left to do was die, she studied that.
She cataloged every sensation, every change, every loss of body and mind, in order, with a calm acceptance that this loss was forever--no turning back. When her last thoughts were formed, it was not that this was so bad, but that she had no one to whom she could pass on her hard-won study of death.
Jenny McCoy lived for three hours eighteen minutes, all of it under the beneficent ravages of the hands and instruments of the hospital's two top perinatologists. Her parents weren't allowed to hold her until the last heartbeat had waned, the light had evaporated from her eyes, and the combined wisdom of the medical staff agreed that it was time to quit.
Drugged and in unprecedented anguish, Jocelyn didn't remember what she said--or even saying anything at all. To this day she swears she never spoke those words, but Leonard could never forget the way she spat them at him: "What kind of doctor can't even save his own child?"
It wasn't the bitterness or her lack of faith in him that curdled. It's that from the time they'd met, he'd always known that she was wiser than him, and he had to believe that in this, she was right.
It was all downhill from there. Having lost too much to sustain their former selves, they had to let each other go.
By the time the divorce became final it was a relief on both parts. Or mostly a relief, at least.
Leonard's college roommate had been in space for six months. What he talked about most was the vulnerability and helplessness that infuses everything when separated from oblivion by only twenty centimeters of duranium and the abilities of your fellow crew.
"In space," he'd said over too many beers one night, "it's simple. There's out there, and there's in here. If you're in here, breathing, eating, drinking --and if your buddies are in here doing the same, then life is good. Everything else is unimportant. Because if you haven't been out there yourself, you've all known someone who has. One day you figure you'll all be out there--one way or another--but for now you're not. And as long as you have that--as long as you're in here--everything else is small enough for you to handle."
Maybe it was the beer or the prismatic refraction of memory, but right then that sounded perfect. Two days after what should have been his fourth anniversary, Leonard McCoy joined up.
It had been twenty-two straight hours of matching body remains in space debris to Starfleet DNA records and making files. It was a job for an obsessive-compulsive accountant with a strong stomach, not a doctor, and yet as de facto CMO, the job fell to him.
McCoy was up to 662 confirmed deaths, and that didn't include the six billion on Vulcan.
He had signed up to salvage lives, not catalogue their destruction. He hadn’t even been given a fighting chance to help.
There were a million alternate ways for a man to live his life, and Leonard did not want to live his life doing this.
He was exhausted, but not ready for sleep. He pulled up the standard Starfleet bureaucracy form for a ground transfer and began to fill in the multitude of blanks. He wouldn't sleep peacefully until this was a done deal.
Truth be told, it wasn't the death. It wasn't the loss. It wasn't the horror. Bad things happen in life. They always have and they always will. Any doctor knows you can't save them all; all you can do is your best. And if your best isn't good enough, you can stand aside or go find your patient the help they need.
God help him, but McCoy was not convinced that Jim Kirk was this ship's best chance. The Kobayashi Maru had pretty much demonstrated that. Try again until you win. Gleefully blowing up ships with lives--alien lives--like toys. Pow, pow, pow. How could he take a fealty oath to that?
McCoy had tried to make Jim see reason while he wheedled his way into yet another trial, for doctors understood what chess players never could: there are no do-overs--no rematches--in life.
"Ceci n'est pas une pipe," Jim had said while McCoy ranted on.
"What?" The arcane bits of knowledge Jim pulled out of his ass often blew McCoy away. At least it shut him up.
"It's not a pipe," Jim had said. "It's a picture of a pipe. It's a picture. It's not a battle. It's a picture of a battle. It's a sim. No one died."
"You're missing the point. It’s a test of how you think," McCoy said.
"No, you're missing the point. It's a test of how you think. I think it's not a battle. It’s a sim, and I can beat it. And I did. What do you want? A captain who traps himself in artificial rules even if they drag down his command? In space, you can't think inside a box. There are too many other dimensions out there."
"That starship-shaped box is the only thing keeping us mortal humans alive," McCoy snapped. "They make drugs for people who start believing in their own realities in their heads. Drugs and little rubber rooms."
"I know," Jim had said, no longer smiling. "Some guy who looked a lot like you pumped me full of them between the time I was ten to fourteen."
It was hard to tell with Jim, but McCoy got the sense that wasn't a joke. In fact, most of Jim's jokes were only funny because they were completely true.
"Trust me, Bones," Jim had said, and slapped him across the back, the smile carefully in place again.
And McCoy did, although he never quite trusted himself for trusting Jim.
He signed the form appropriate to his request. It alarmed him how easily the Starfleet paperwork came to him. He'd never thought of himself as a regimented type of guy. For seconds, his stylus hovered over the button that would make the reassignment official, but he balked on touching it to the screen.
Some things had to be done in person if you ever wanted to look yourself in the eye again. Or not get reamed out six ways from Orion by your interim commanding officer.
He looked to the chronometer. He'd been up for over thirty hours now, but he wouldn't--couldn't sleep until this was behind him. God knows where Jim would be, but he'd bet the peach farm it wasn't in bed. At least not his own.
McCoy picked up the PADD and headed to the door.
His first step out, he collided with a chest.
"Leonard McCoy." The gnarled face morphed into a subtle smile in a way he'd been taught Vulcans did not do. It had the effect of a private joke, albeit one gone high over McCoy's head.
"It seems that in any timeline, our interactions are destined to be--tangled." The Vulcan chuckled, but not really. It was like an impression formed in McCoy's mind's eye while somehow bypassing outside sight and sound.
It had to be the Spock from the other future. He'd heard, of course, but with all the casualties and morbidity reports, he hadn't had the time…
"You know me?" McCoy asked before he could prevent the obvious from blurting out.
"Intimately," Spock replied. "As well as I know myself. Or at times, even better. When I needed you most, you carried me."
McCoy shuffled on the balls of his feet. All Vulcans of a certain age were intimidating in their sagacity, but this was something more. The way that gaze penetrated clear down through him, sent shivers and stirred something vestigial within him, like a secretly implanted trigger he didn't even know he had.
"Which relates to why I came to find you."
"Yes." Spock's eyes dashed to the PADD then back up. "It appears that my timing is fortuitous, even if my errand may be moot."
Spock couldn't read the datatext upside down and from that angle, or could he? For no good reason that he could think of, McCoy was ashamed. He turned the PADD screen in against his thigh.
"I'm a doctor, not a space rodeo rider," McCoy tried. "This isn't the job I thought it would be. Besides, my father isn't well. I shouldn't be out in deep space. If he gets worse…"
His father had once told him that thinking up a list of reasons is a sure sign you're trying to talk yourself into doing the wrong thing. He said that right things speak for themselves.
Suddenly McCoy found himself pressed up against the bulkhead. The PADD slipped from his fingers and clattered to the deck, but he couldn't reach for it, couldn't see. The heat of Spock's hand seared into his temple, and his mind floundered ineffectually to steady itself as it exploded into dimensions it had no way to comprehend.
Time either stood still or flowed for twelve decades. McCoy gasped, frozen, no capacity left to do anything but breathe in and out and try not to go insane.
Eventually Spock removed his hand. All of McCoy's senses rendered only a blazing white.
At length the furor ebbed and McCoy tested uncertain legs against the deck as he settled into his own mind again. "Aren't there rules against that?" He passed a brusque hand across his face, becoming angrier with each pass it took to finish the job.
"Almost certainly." Spock seemed unperturbed, an eerie contrast from the fervor of the meld only seconds before. He supported the bulk of McCoy's weight with a single arm that looked like it should not have strength equal to the task.
"Then why'd you do it?" McCoy collected himself gradually and found his feet.
"I had a…feeling it was the proper thing to do." A cryptic smile more in the eyes than the mouth flashed again momentarily, and then it was gone, leaving only weary lines.
McCoy reached backwards and lowered himself into a chair. When had they moved back inside the cabin? "You were really dead?" He was still reeling, struggling to process the memories of two lifetimes--one not even his--that had blended in a way even the old masters couldn't understand or explain. Slowly they congealed and coalesced into at least a comprehensible order, one miracle at the forefront.
In this universe, dead isn't necessarily forever. Sometimes you can do it all over again.
"Yes," Spock said. "In the sense of any current comprehension of the term."
Maybe sometimes there were second chances after all.
"Which leads me to what I came to discuss," Spock said.
"What you came to discuss?" McCoy could not suppress the inane urge to laugh. He'd just lived an entire lifetime--two, in…he checked the chronometer-- seventeen minutes, and this man still had something he wanted to discuss.
"My anatomy and physiology are, if not unique then nearly so, and most if not all of the medical personnel familiar with it are dead. Except you."
"I don’t know anything about you," but even as the words came out, adopted memories pushed themselves to the foreground of his consciousness, His protoplaser dissecting through fascia, dissecting delicate lymphatics and vessels in patterns not described in any text, repairing a liver not quite Vulcan, clearly not human, calculating endocrine cascades, aphaeresing T-negative blood and filtering out human elements. He saw Spock waiting in wry amusement for the realization to dawn.
For some reason, that pissed him off.
"I'm not special," McCoy said even as the reams of knowledge and understanding of Spock's hybrid phenotype sorted and nestled into the pigeonholes of his brain. "If you don't trust the doctors here, you can do what you just did with me."
"I cannot. The knowledge is his, not mine, and he is dead. However, you and I have been as one. I lived within you. As even once poured, the flask retains the damp and the water retains the musk. What you and I share is unique and intrinsic to us. You are the only physician qualified to aid Lieutenant Spock."
"Horse feathers! You didn't live 200 years, go through all this, watch two planets blow up just to come here and beg me to hang around waiting for a chance to save your hide."
If McCoy knew anything about heroes, he knew they didn't do petty, self-serving things like that.
"Partially correct, but you give me too much credit. In this reality, everything I knew--or loved--is lost to me. Except perhaps what we have shared. I did it because the man I knew should not be forgotten."
"I'm not him," McCoy said, although even as the memories congealed, he knew it to be only a partial truth.
"I am acutely aware of that." Spock's voice was almost devoid of inflection, yet something in the phrasing jolted McCoy's gaze up and his thoughts away from himself. After a lifetime, this man had come looking for him. What had they shared that Spock had not allowed into the meld?
He searched Spock's face, but there were no answers there.
And yet he was him, in some twisted metaphysical way. Like an emergency exit is not an exit, or maybe even worse than that, but the longer the not-memories took root within his mind, the less he could separate the life he'd lived from the one he hadn't.
Who wouldn't give an emperor's ransom to live his life again starting with all the hard-won wisdom of a lifetime presented painlessly at the start? To take that second run at the Kobayashi Maru, this time with the cheat?
But there was one more thing.
"In your universe…my daughter…where is she now? Do you know?"
Spock paused. "Joanna Porter nee McCoy died in a mudslide during a Red Cross mission to Altini VII. She was fifty three years old at the time and had been with the organization for nineteen years."
McCoy nodded. It seemed real, but distant. Like reading a history book while standing on the field where the battle had been fought. "It's funny what didn't change, you know? I always thought I went into space to get away. Never occurred to me I might be going toward something instead."
Joanna. He'd ask Spock more about later. At the moment he failed to process the unconscious shift in that apparently he'd decided to stay
"Jim. As captain. Is he really okay?" Even after assimilating the combined improbable adventures of two lifetimes in space, this seemed the most improbable concept of all.
To McCoy's surprise, Spock became quiet. For a moment he wasn't sure he was going to respond. Perhaps if he hoped to save lives, getting off now was his best bet after all. But then Spock locked his gaze with an intensity that startled him.
"In my time with Jim I came to see that he is everything that is strength and hope and beneficence for humanity, all embodied into one. In all my years, I have never known anyone I would trust or respect more."
The moment was suddenly too heavy. Then Spock's eyebrow quirked. "Of course, he could use some…tempering."
McCoy laughed out loud and felt something old and curdled slip away, like old clotted blood that had been just waiting for a break to slide out and away. He desperately craved sleep, but it would be a healing sleep; it no longer felt like running away.
He saw Spock regarding him in a way the Spock he knew never would and McCoy wondered what else was between them that Spock had chosen not to reveal.
It bugged him, yes, but he let it go as he picked up the PADD, cleared it and set it on the shelf.
Without any surprises, life would just be the same thing all over again, and what fun would that be?