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Good for the Soul

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Part 1 of 3


Leonard McCoy was beyond relieved to be off of the shuttlecraft.


It had already been about an hour since he and the other new recruits had landed, but he still felt like all of his bones were made of jelly, and his chest was still as tight as it had been when he’d boarded.


He shook his limbs out for what felt like the hundredth time and glanced around himself.


They were all gathered in what was most likely the common building. There were about eight tables, and each was designated a different letter in the alphabet. The line for M-O was packed with kids as bright eyed and young as everywhere else on the goddamn campus and McCoy scowled.


If only he’d been born with a last name that started with the letter Z. That line was much shorter, less kids to be sandwiched between.


He just felt so out of place.


The mid-morning sun filtered in through the high-reaching windows and illuminated their surroundings. McCoy eyed the flags that were hung along the ceiling, each one representing other federation planets and colonies. What was he thinking? Honestly, what was he thinking? Starfleet. Him, at the Starfleet Academy. He didn’t belong with such a big scale operation, especially not one that operated in space.


God. Fucking Jocelyn.


The damned woman had literally taken every last option from him, and this was what he was left with.


McCoy was miserable as it was. The next few years were going to be hell.


He was just glad orientation was almost over. He had to get his schedule and the key to his living quarters, and then he’d be free to mope for the rest of the day. He itched for his flask, but unfortunately he and that other recruit had finished it during the flight over.


Oh, that's right. That recruit.


McCoy had lost track of him almost as soon as they’d landed. He hadn’t realized they had gotten separated, after all McCoy wasn’t trying to get close to anyone, so he hadn’t felt any pull to be aware of who was near him and who wasn't.


It almost seemed like a shame. The two of them had been able to have an interesting conversation when they were seated next to each other, interesting enough to somehow more or less distract McCoy from the flimsy death trap they’d ridden in.


And there was something about the kid… He seemed just as out of place as McCoy felt. There had to be some comfort in that fact. McCoy ran his gaze over the other lines, but he couldn’t find… Wait, what was his name again? Fuck. McCoy had already forgotten who he was.


The alcohol had been running rampant in his bloodstream, so no matter how hard McCoy thought, he couldn’t quite remember what the kid looked like. Except for…


Blue eyes. Blue, blue eyes.




McCoy blinked in shock at the officer in front of him. He’d reached the front of the schedule table without even realizing it and he hastened to respond. “Uh—McCoy. Leonard McCoy.”


The officer flipped through the stack of papers on the table, before pulling out a large folder. “Here you are, Doctor. Your schedule has been modified to fit your hours at the hospital and you’ve been given a single-person dorm, lest you bother anyone else or anyone bother you.”


Damn, they were really on top of things. McCoy took the folder with a quiet thanks and headed towards where they said to retrieve their assigned dorm keys. He thumbed through the folder, looked at the map they provided and what his schedule for the next few months would be.


Looked like he had classes on Monday through Thursday—a total of four classes—and shifts at Starfleet’s hospital on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. His Sundays were completely open. McCoy couldn’t help but sigh. At least he would have one day to himself.


As he was passing by the services tables, McCoy’s attention was caught by what sounded like a heated argument between a medical officer and a… cadet?


Wait, not just any cadet. It was the kid from the shuttle, the one he’d sat by. There was no way those eyes could belong to anyone else.


McCoy paused in his step and listened in on what they were saying. The kid had seemed nice enough. What could he possibly get in an argument with an officer about?


“I don’t need a care physician, I have one!” The kid all but shouted.


The medical officer who was dealing with him gave him a hard stare. “That is unlikely, Cadet, we have not yet assigned you one.”


The kid immediately shook his head at the officer’s response. “No, no, I don’t need a new one. Doctor Puri, I need Doctor Puri to be my care physician.”


Puri? Wasn’t Puri Starfleet’s top surgeon? How in the world did this kid, this rundown and bruised kid, get access to Doctor Puri?


The medical officer didn’t glare, but McCoy got the sense that they really wanted to. “Doctor Puri is very busy and does not have the time to be a Cadet’s personal caretaker.”


“Look, I’m not asking for special treatment,” the kid insisted, “but Doctor Puri knows me. I’m Kirk, James Kirk. Just tell him I’m requesting him!”


That’s right, that’s what his name was. James Kirk.


Kirk… Where had McCoy heard that name?


The medical officer actually gave James a full on glare this time, and as they responded their lips pulled back in a mild sneer. “You being George Kirk’s son does not grant you special access to Starfleet’s top surgeon. I’m sure it must be very difficult to be told no, but Doctor Puri cannot be requested to adhere to the whims of a mere Cadet.”


Oh, shit. He was George Kirk’s son? McCoy remembered when the Kelvin Incident had happened, it had been all over the news and even though he had been too little to really understand its significance, it was a major event that was talked about even still.


James spluttered in offense and McCoy shook his head, before turning to continue on his way to retrieve his uniform. He didn’t need to hear anymore.


God, what a brat. McCoy hated people like that, the ones who thought just because their daddy was someone famous they could ride on their coattails and get whatever they wanted.


He snorted. James had probably had everything in his life handed to him on a silver platter, and was probably expecting everyone on the campus to willingly go under his thumb. McCoy didn’t want to have anything to do with someone like that.


A spoiled infant like James wasn’t worth Leonard’s time.



It was the first day of classes.


McCoy’s first class wasn’t going to start until 10 am, but he’d been awake since 6 am. Not on purpose, exactly. He just couldn’t sleep. He’d been lying awake all night, tossing and turning, and every time he slipped into unconsciousness dreams of Jocelyn and Joanna forced him awake.


He hadn’t even gotten started and he was already prepared to give up.


He didn’t belong there. He didn’t belong at Starfleet.


He belonged with his daughter, he belonged in Georgia, but there he was instead. Miles away from his home and instead in the clutches of Starfleet’s medical track.


McCoy turned on his side in the stiff bed provided in the dorm. His room was more like a small apartment, with its own bathroom and kitchen and separate living area provided. He blinked at the dimly lit, completely bare wall opposite him. He would never be comfortable there.


He glanced at the clock on the bedside table.


9:25 a.m.


Well. It would be best for him to start getting ready for class.


With great difficulty, he sat himself up and out of his nest of thin blankets. Starfleet issued bedding wasn't the worst, but it certainly wasn't the best. There was nothing about it that felt comforting. Nothing about it that felt like home. 


His dorm only had one bathroom, which was only accessible through his room. Which was fine. He was never going to have any guests over, so he was never going to have to worry about someone having to cross through his bedroom to take a piss. 


McCoy took a brisk shower, temperature colder than he preferred, as a means to liven up and steel his nerves. He didn't know what was in store for him, but no matter what Starfleet was going to throw his way, he would take it with gritted teeth and forward momentum.


McCoy was a man that believed in following through with one's choices. He chose to join Starfleet. He was going to suffer through it with as much dignity as he could, and that would include looking his best. 


With a rough towel around his waist, McCoy shaved off the stubble that had been festering on his face in his days-long bar binge. Once that was done with, he took a moment to observe his own freshened appearance. His skin looked... well, not soft, but not as haggard as before. His complexion had been practically gray before, due to a mix of unfettered depression and alcohol that had been stealing every ounce of presentable healthiness he had.


Now that he'd showered for the first time in longer than he'd like to acknowledge, he was already looking better. Like someone Starfleet would be proud to have as an officer. 


God, it was still such a strange concept. Him, an officer of Starfleet.


He eyed the clock on his nightstand while he dressed himself, noted that he still had about fifteen minutes before he'd have to start worrying about being late, and turned to the full length mirror provided in the room. 


His own appearance shocked him to stillness.


The red cadet uniform provided somehow made his physique seem blockier, larger. More put together. It probably had to do with all of the straight lines included in its design, the stiff uniform giving him a posture more proud than he had expected. 


He ran his hands over the surprisingly soft fabric hesitantly. Its texture was almost like velvet, the seams so tight and rigid, yet allowing the room to breathe.


McCoy sighed at his own reflection shakily, eyeing the Starfleet insignia he could see on his own neck through the mirror. "You've made this bed," he whispered. "Time to lie in it."



Autumn was right around the corner, and so the walk to his first class was warm and almost soothing. If there was one thing he could say about Starfleet Academy, it was that the campus was a beautiful place. It had a great view of San Francisco's harbor and it had a decent amount of foliage and green grass scattered around. All of the buildings and grounds were clean, almost as though dust or dirt couldn’t reach that side of the city.


McCoy looked over his schedule and map, just to make sure he was going to the right building.


His first class was Federation Law. It was a required class regardless of which track he followed. Understandable, but still annoying.


Fortunately, it didn’t take him long to find where it was to take place. The room it was held in was spacious, and the seats climbed up in a way reminiscent of an auditorium. McCoy was early. There were a few cadets here or there, but the seats were mostly empty.


He contemplated going to the back for a moment, but ultimately decided that would make him seem too suspicious or something. He settled for the middle, close enough to comfortably see and hear but far enough away to blend in with the rest of the students.


As other cadets began to filter in, McCoy was once again struck by how young they all were. God, it made him uncomfortable. He felt like he was infiltrating a high school, since most of the cadets were freshly eighteen. At least the human ones.


He heaved a deep sigh, resigned himself to his situation, and pulled out his tablet to distract himself until the class started.


He checked through his mail, in the off chance that his daughter or mother messaged him, but it was empty. He swallowed back the disappointment of being left on his own.


Rubbing his hand over his eyes, he reminded himself that this was his own decision. He could’ve gone anywhere, but Starfleet was his final choice. It was yet to be clear whether or not that was the right choice.


“Hey, Bones! Looks like we’ve got class together!”


McCoy jumped at the suddenly loud voice, this person the first one to actually raise their volume above a whisper. He glanced up hesitantly, just to see who would make so much noise, and swallowed back dread when he realized who it was.


James Kirk. Shit, fuck, McCoy did not want to be around this kid.


And then it occurred to him that James’s previous statement had been directed at him. That he was grinning at McCoy expectantly.


He scrambled to recall exactly what James had said, and then grimaced when the kid’s words registered. “ ‘Bones’ ?” he asked in disbelief. What the fuck did that mean? Was that what this spoiled son of a bitch was going to start calling him?!


“Yeah! You know, ‘all I’ve got left is my Bones’.” James said the last part in a hideous mimic of McCoy’s timbre.


“What- what the hell are you talking about?” he asked. God, people were staring now. He didn’t want any attention, he just wanted to suffer through these next few years alone in silence, with as little contact with others as possible.


James was still grinning at him, not in the least bit perturbed by McCoy’s glare. “It was the first thing you said to me. Back on the shuttle,” he said.


McCoy wracked his brain to remember how their introductions to each other had gone, but he’d been so drunk then that no memory came up. But even if it was something he had said, there was no way James could remember that. “What- No it wasn’t,” he said decisively. “How the hell could you even remember that? That was days ago!”


James smirked smugly and shrugged. “I remember everything I hear.”


That was unlikely.


“I highly doubt that, but whatever. Don’t give me any weird-ass nicknames.” McCoy pointed a finger at the self-righteous little shit, intent on making something very clear. “We’re not friends. Leonard is fine—but even that is too personable. I go by McCoy.” He didn’t want this kid to start thinking they were familiar or something.


James rolled his eyes skyward like he was thinking hard, his lips jutted into a pout, before he finally said, “Mm. No, I think I like ‘Bones’ better.”


There was no way that was going to stick. Not on McCoy’s watch.