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Second Star to the Right

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Thing about his name is, he hates it. His dad got to be "David", but he's "Leonard." The only people who call him that are the people he grew up with. That or Len, or Lenny. goddamn rednecks.

McCoy's just fine. Can't do that, "Doctor" will be all right.

Jim, are you fucking listening to this?

When he says she got the planet in the divorce, he means it. She got Jo, she got the house, she got their friends, the town- got his whole damn world.

Thing is, they were that couple. They'd been kids together in the same small town. his dad was the local goddamn doctor with his own practice; her mom ran the corner shop. They'd started going together when they were 14, and been married by the time they were 17. Not 'cause she was knocked up, but because he was off to med school the next year and it felt like if they didn't have something tangible it could all fall apart. No one told them having a ring on your finger wouldn't stop things from falling apart.

Jo'd been a bit of a surprise four years after they got married. He'd only just finished his baseline work in psychology, biology and pre-med and was into his residency when Jocelyn had commed him to say she was pregnant. He almost up and quit the program.


He made like he was thinking about up and quitting the program- he wouldn't have. He'd spoken to his parents about it, consulted with the director of the program.

"Look, McCoy. You're the youngest guy in the program right now. Lots of our residents have kids in the program. Don't throw away your future 'cause your wife is knocked up and you're having first-time-father syndrome," Dr. Meldrew had said firmly. McCoy had nodded, smiled, shaken the woman's hand, and decided to stay in, let the other residents take him out for drinks.

That he never spoke to Jocelyn about such a life-altering decision should probably have tipped him off that there was something broken in their relationship. But it didn't, and nine months later he was done his residency, Jo was a pretty little baby tiny in his arms, and Jocelyn was frantically filing applications with law schools in the area.

Dad'd told him to come work at his practice, and it became a father-son outfit, which was fine. McCoy was still studying his ass off for his psychologist certification.

The thing was, though, McCoy missed the menace of surgery, so on top of classes and the practice, he consulted at the hospital- and by consulted he means that on occasion he was known to wrench the goddamn instruments out of people's hands and fix the mistakes he could see they were going to make. Made a bit of a name for himself while Jocelyn went to law school and his mom watched Jo.

But every night he could came home and read her Peter Pan. He liked it- something about the idea of never growing up; the idea that those of them who were trapped, lost- there was somewhere for 'em. Should have been another sign: that he was feelin' trapped and lost. That he was fucking identifying with goddamn Peter Pan.

Jocelyn graduated with honors, and got accepted as an associate-looking-to-make-partner at Crane, Poole and Schmidt's Austin branch.

By the time they got around to being a family… well. It stopped clicking; he can't say for sure it ever did, out of high school. Hell, they were just kids.

He was 27 when she asked for a divorce, Jo 5 and just starting school. In retrospect, he thinks he was maddest because she asked before he did. But he didn't notice it building up for five years, didn't notice her spending time at the office deliberately. Lots of shit he noticed later- with time to think about it and Jack Daniels in his hand. Like the fact that that whole weeks she'd kept trying to carve out some time to talk, and he'd kept blowing her off. Really, it didn't come out of the blue at all. Only felt like it at the time because he was such a self-absorbed asshat.

"I don't know you anymore," Jocelyn said late one night after he walked in the door- a goddamn ambush. "I don't know you, and the hell you know me."

"Don't give me that shit," he'd snarled. "You go work out in that goddamn office from the crack of dawn- "

"Oh, you want to talk about careers? Let's talk about careers, Leonard! How about how you go in on your days off, you're on-call all the time- the only time you're home is when you're dead asleep! You're either at the hospital or you're at the practice. Jesus fucking Christ, Leonard! I could take it if it was another fucking woman- how the fuck do I compete with medicine?" she yelled. They both glanced down the hall towards Jo's room, straining to hear her make a noise, but she didn't stir. "It's not a marriage."

And the thing was, he'd probably have come around to that. Divorces were hard as shit, but- they weren't really married, not anymore. They were barely roommates, and he was okay living like that but clearly Jocelyn wasn't.

He was warming to it, even. Well. The wine was helping. And then her lawyer came over with her goddamn laundry list of demands and he was in more of a Johnny Walker Blue kind of mood. She wanted full custody ("you're hardly ever here! She needs a stable environment!" "I live- goddamnit, Jocelyn, I live in this fucking town!" "It's your postal address, yes."); she wanted the house ("I made this- you sleep more nights in your office!"); she wanted the dog ("The dog I picked out? Of course I want him!").

"Lenny, you know I love you," Dad had said when she'd kicked him out of the house that he'd been paying for. "But this thing with Jocelyn's got damn ugly. Maybe it's best if you… left the practice for a while."

McCoy had stared at him.

A year later he gives up. He signs all the papers, signs his whole fucking life away, including his kid. He puts on a brown leather jacket, hops a shuttle to San Francisco (firmly doesn't think about all the goddamn ways he could die), and signs up for Starfleet.

He's a celebrated surgeon: they want him so bad they don't give a fuck he reeks of whiskey.

"Excellent," he says when the recruiter chirpily tells him that he's now officially Starfleet-registered, and now he's going back to fucking school to learn interspecial biology and gravity-free surgery.

He needs a drink.

The bartender gives him a whiskey on the house, and that's how McCoy meets Jim Kirk.

Jim's not afraid of him at all- doesn't give a damn how pissed McCoy gets, and always gets him back to his dorm (he lives in a fucking dorm).

Takes a few weeks, but McCoy can recognize another lost boy when he sees one, and he and Jim Kirk are the only two lost boys in all of fucking San Francisco.

And Jim's there when McCoy calls, even if Jim insists on calling him "Bones" and- thing is, Jim doesn't draw his sob story out of him, and he sure as fuck doesn't pull Jim's out of him. It's organic- like, he couldn't tell you how he knows Jim's Daddy died on the Kelvin or that his mom was never around- he's got an older brother he loves but never really knew, and a shit-for-brains stepfather, but over the course of three years he learns it all. Feels like he's known Jim his whole damn life, and thing is-

He'll never say it out loud, but havin' to take care of Jim a bit? Keep him out of brawls and make sure he's gettin' that fucking bike checked out regularly? He's not gonna say it saved him. But, you know.

After Jocelyn, he's not too interested in women.

At all.

Not that that means he goes after cock, just- it was a real hard burn, and he ain't eager for another round.

So when he meets Christine Chapel during a mock-surgery his second term at Starfleet Academy? He figures hey, maybe they'll just be friends. Won't be any big thing. She's small and blonde and doesn't swear. Exact opposite of Jocelyn- and he figures it's safe. She's not his type.

Plus, she's engaged to some Starfleet scientist.

Except that she tells him during mock-surgery that they got engaged because he's leaving for some fucking dot in the sky, and McCoy knows exactly how that goes. Hell, that's been him: you get engaged because it feels like there's no other thing to keep you together.

Chapel doesn't think he's coming back, and even before he leaves she never wears the ring- not even on a necklace. It'd be reasonable to think she's doing it for the job if she didn't have this thumb ring she wears all the time.

They're neither of them drunk the first time she kisses him.

He asks her, of all damn things, if she's sure. She laughs at him, pushes him back on the bed and settles over him. Her fiancé's been gone for 17 hours.

It's not a regular thing. And he's not sure he's her only- she's his, but only because he can't be assed to go chase skirt. But it happens when they're both on top of the world, and it keeps it from going sour.

Also makes them work better together; knowing each other intimately like that. Helps the tension between surgeon and nurse.

Jim thinks it's hilarious.

The thing he realizes pretty quick about Starfleet is that they're all lost in some way.

Not- no. The good ones, the ones who'll make something of themselves, who'll go into the history books- the ones who've got something to prove: they're the lost ones.

Well-adjusted people don't do as well in Starfleet.

They're all lost boys and girls, looking to find goddamn Neverland second star to the right and straight on to morning.

He doesn't get why Jim doesn't join: Jim's as lost as any of them, if not more.

That's why when Spock fucking bullies him into joining? McCoy just smirks. After he gets pissed over having to be hauled out of bed to testify to Jim's character before a judge. That bastard's just lucky McCoy knew he was going back to Chapel, is all he's saying.

It's really just shit timing.

When the distress beacon from Vulcan hits, McCoy is doing Jim's immunizations. They're supposed to do them a few months before any captaincy applications are even looked at, and no one but McCoy is allowed to touch Jim's immune system, because he's allergic to the fucking galaxy.

There are old medicines and new medicines that would probably solve the problem, but McCoy just plays it by ear, administering cocktails that manage the symptoms as they present. When it's not getting scary, it's fucking hilarious.

Numb tongue.

The distress call goes out, and Jim's off duty, but he's got flop sweat and is blind in his left eye and his hearing is going. McCoy gets him on to the Enterprise.

"What the- what have you done?" Chapel demands, helping coax Jim down into a bed. She has a pair of black regulation pants on under her uniform, and for some reason it makes McCoy grin.

Christine Chapel is about nine different kinds of amazing.

"In the middle of his goddamn immunization regimen!" he snaps, turning to look at the doctor in charge. Puri, that asshole. He'll probably head down to Deck 6 to fuck off and not pay attention to the- all right, fine. They're not likely to see heat before they head off into space, but it's the principle.

And then Jim's figured it out: it's a trap, they're heading for a goddamn trap, and wouldn't you know he's right; Uhura can confirm it and everything.

"Shields up, red alert."

"Arrival at Vulcan in 5 seconds. 4…3…2..1…"

And it's a goddamn- graveyard in space. Fragments everywhere of what used to be ships, of what used to be- there are people floating there. And then they're being hit and he's turning and running back down to the med bay because Jesus Christ.

Chapel looks at him, and he does not have a moment of being absolutely fucking head-over-heels relieved she's not dead.

T'Pon, one of the other nurses, says, "We lost Dr. Puri, and the chain of command- "

"Let's make this easy," McCoy says, walking towards the disaster area. "I'm the head of the chain of command now. Get survivors up to deck 2- Chapel, you're in charge of mobilizing them. Perville, Savorsky, T'Pon, you're with me, we've got to look for survivors- "

T'Pon lifts her eyebrow, but thank fuck doesn't go rational on him now. He holds up the Feinberger and scans for life forms- they find one operations officer who's still alive, but not for long. "Jesus fuck. All right, everyone head back."

They pass a lot of operations personnel carrying the wounded, but he's down at least a third working space. The ones who are too far gone, who even he couldn't save (and even the ones he might be able to, in a clean lab, if he started right now) he sedates. T'Pon is conserving resources: she's just pinching them.

Starfleet Medical will have their asses if they ever find out about this.

He's heading back up to Deck two when Spock's voice says over the comm system, "Dr. Puri, report."

"It's McCoy. Dr. Puri was on Deck 6, he's dead."

"Then you have just inherited his responsibility as Chief Medical Officer."

McCoy glances back at the bright orange of the fire contrasting with the calm blue of their still-functioning medical equipment, at the bodies of the people he can't save.

"Yeah," he scoffs, turning back from the wreckage that used to be Deck 6. "Tell me something I don't know."

"Doctor, we must evacuate, the air is becoming toxic and soon the ship's defenses will seal the area off to purify it," T'Pon tells him. He nods, and they struggle up a nearby Jeffries tube (fucking transporters aren't even working in this section).

Deck 2 is still pristine, but now it's crowded as shit.

"We have Deck 1-3," Chapel reports. "We lost a lot of surgeons, though- most of us are Nursing staff."

They have to make do. Nice thing about a crisis is it doesn't matter who's actually in the chain of command: people will follow the person who yells loudest.

And that's always gonna be him.

They end up with six Vulcan elders, Jim with a broken hand, Sulu with burns and a few cuts that are dying to be infected, and the news that Vulcan is destroyed and Pike is lost. T'Pon is doing her job very effectively. McCoy doesn't say he's sorry, but he does let her have the roll of gauze he was reaching for, and her eyes say she gets it.

"Dr. McCoy, please report to the bridge for a senior staff meeting," Uhura's voice requests.

"Goddamnit." He steps out and joins things already in progress. Jim is sprawled in the captain's chair, which makes McCoy pause for a moment before deciding he doesn't care, standing to Jim's right. Spock is the only one mobile, and McCoy thinks that that means something.

"Have you confirmed that Nero is headed for Earth?" Spock is asking Uhura.

"Their trajectory suggests no other destination, Captain," Uhura replies. At least she's fucking professional- Jim's a bad influence on the other two kids on the bridge, who are sprawled out. Sulu and Chekov. God.

"Thank you, Lieutenant." Spock isn't here, though, McCoy can see he's already leaping ahead.

"Earth might be his next stop but we have to assume every Federation planet's a target," Jim points out, looking at Spock, who is looking out the viewing screen. Jim doesn't seem to mind talking to his back, and Spock turns, steps around the console, pauses by Jim.

"Out of the chair." god, could he sound any more indulgent? It's damn unnerving, and McCoy shifts his stance. Uhura joins him in standing. Only idiots slouch in chairs in crises.

"Well, if ze Federation is a target, why didn't zey destroy us?" Chekov asks. He's really adorable, and it's really, really terrifying that he's in charge of anything.

"Why would they? Why waste the weaponry, we obviously weren't a threat," Sulu scoffs, and yes, McCoy can see that, but then Nero is insane and-

"That is not it. he said he wanted me to see something: the destruction of my home planet."

"How the hell did they do that, by the way? Where did the Romulans get that kind of weaponry?" And that would be the most troubling thing, the thing that they all should be thinking about. Romulans with the weaponry to destroy a planet, take out Starfleet's…fleet, and block transportation/communication. It's downright unnerving.

"The engineering comprehension necessary to artificially create a black hole may suggest an answer. Such technology could theoretically be manipulated to create a tunnel through space/time." He glances at Jim to see if Jim's following this, and clearly Jim is, but that's not much help because Jim does theoretical math in his head for fun.

"Damnit, man, I'm a doctor, not a physicist," he snaps. "Are you actually suggesting they're from the future?"

"If you eliminate the impossible whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."

"How poetic." Jesus fucking Christ. Time travel. He just knows that this is going to give Jim ideas. He knows it. Goddamnit.

"Then what would an angry, future Romulan want with Captain Pike?" Luckily, Jim already has a crisis to deal with.

"As captain, he does know details of Starfleet's defenses," Sulu points out.

"What we need to do is catch up to that ship. Disable it, take it over and get Pike back." Everyone's leaning towards him, ready to do it, but then Spock harshes the mellow with;

"We are technologically outmatched in every way, a rescue attempt would be illogical."

"Nero's ship would have to drop out of warp for us to overtake it," Chekov points out. Kid's got stones, McCoy'll admit. No one else wants to break into this conversation.

"Well- then what about assigning engineering crews to boost our warp yield?"
"Remaining power and crew are being use to repair radiation leaks on the lower decks and- "

"Okay- " Part of him wants to tell Jim to shut up, that Spock is the captain and that Jim is here by an accident and because of his own damn immune system's hypersensitivity to everything. Another part of him thinks that if Jim and Spock are whatever the fuck they are? Spock should keep his own fucking house in order.

"- damage- "

"- all right, all right- "

"- to subspace- "

"- Communication levels, with all due respect we cannot contact Starfleet-

"- There must be some way we can- "

"- We must gather with the rest of Starfleet. Balance the terms of the next engagement." It's the first time he's looked at Jim since McCoy walked in. It's weird that he's here- it's weird that Spock's letting him be here. It is kind of hilarious that they talk over each other and don't even lose their train of thought, but still manage to listen to each other. They're married, and McCoy can't decide if he wants to puke or die laughing.

"There won't be a next engagement, by the time we've "gathered" it will be too late." McCoy watches as Jim hits the point of maximum frustration. "Look, you say he's from the future, knows what's gonna happen, then the logical thing is to be unpredictable!"

"You're assuming that Nero knows how things are predict how things are going to unfold, but on the contrary Nero's very presence altered the flow of history, beginning with the attack on the USS Kelvin and culminating in the events of today, thereby creating an entirely new chain of events that cannot be anticipated by either party."

"An alternate reality." Uhura realizes, moving towards the center of the bridge. She's looking between them almost like she can't decide whose side she's on.

"Precisely." Spock looks at her almost like she's the only other smart person in the room. McCoy kind of wants to throw something at his smug ass head. "Whatever our lives might have been, if the time continuum was disrupted… our destinies have changed. Mr. Sulu, plot a course to the Laurentian system, warp factor 3."

"Spock, don't do that. Running back to the rest of the fleet for a confab is a massive waste of time- " It's kind of amazing that Jim can absorb that they're living in an alternate reality, fighting a man in a ship from the future who really seems to have it in for Spock, and decide all of that doesn't matter and pick up right where he left off.

"Following the orders issued by Captain Pike when he- "

"Pike ordered us to go back and get him. Spock, you are captain now- " And ah yes, there it is. To Jim, being captain means making the impossible decisions, it means doing what's right instead of what's "correct," damn the costs. Spock, McCoy's pretty sure, is all about by-the-book, maximum caution, minimum risk. Spock feels responsible for the safety of everyone on board- Jim will trust everyone to do their jobs to the best of their abilities.

"I am aware- " Spock begins, looking up at Jim from the side- weird fucking guy.

"- you have to- "

"- of my responsibilities."

"Every second we waste he's getting closer to Earth's door!"

"That is correct, and why I am instructing you to accept the fact that I alone am in- "

"I will not allow us to go backwards- " McCoy flinches- hell, everyone on the bridge flinches. Jim's scary as shit when he's angry, and Spock's going to make that Russian kid piss his pants if he doesn't bring that goddamn eyebrow back down.

"- command. I alone-"

"- instead of hunting Nero down!"

Spock stands, and he's taller than Jim. It's fucking weird to notice that then. "Security. Escort him out."

He could, probably, have done something. But the fact that he doesn't know what is kind of the point, and besides, Jim has both guards down and unconscious and is turning into Spock before the pinch comes- they move fast. Both of 'em. Jesus Christ, Jim.

"Get him off this ship."

"Wait a goddamn second," McCoy snaps, because it's Jim. Two other security officers move to bar him. "You want to have Angoliak flu? He's fucking allergic to every damn thing, it'd be just our luck that goddamn Vulcan nerve pinch would send him into a coma or trigger cardiac arrest."

They let him crouch and scan Jim, but everything looks normal.

He can feel it: everyone waiting for him to object Jim's marooning on Delta Vega. But Spock's captain, and there's a chain of command, and Jim was never supposed to be on board.

There's a Starfleet base on the planet, and hell, at least there he'll be safe. Never mind the fact that they're all going to die without him.

He heads back down to Medical after- doesn't want to see Jim launched.

He ends up having to do three surgeries in fifteen minutes, and it takes his mind off of things until Spock requests to see him.

He does another- leg reattachment for a kid who was on Deck 6, and then heads up.

Doesn't he know McCoy has a job to do, the bastard?

"You wanted to see me," he prompts.

"Ah, yes, Doctor. I am aware that Jim is a friend of yours, I recognize that supporting me as you did must have been difficult." Like he and Jim haven't been fucking for over a year. Like McCoy is the only one of them "emotionally compromised."

"Is that a 'thank you'?" he sneers.

"I am simply acknowledging your difficulties."

Bones exhales, looks around. It's been a long fucking day, he's got kids dying on the table downstairs because he's up here having a little heart-to-heart with a man who doesn't even know what a heart is. "Permission to speak freely, sir.

"I welcome it."

"Do you?" he snorts. "Okay, then. Are you outta your Vulcan mind?" The look on his face would be almost funny, if they weren't all about to die. "Are you making a logical choice sending Kirk away? Probably. But the right one? You know, back home we got a saying: if you're gonna ride in the Kentucky Derby then you don't leave your prize stallion in the stable."

"A curious metaphor, doctor, as a stallion must first be broken, before it can reach its potential."

"My god, man. You could at least act like it was a hard decision!" He doesn't even know what to do with Spock's response. They all know Spock was gearing Jim up to be a captain, and the way he says that- Jesus. If this is some kind of training exercise McCoy's going to choke them both.

"I intend to assist in the effort to reestablish communication with Starfleet." Ah, not about Jim, then. Okay. "However, if crew morale is better served by my roaming the halls weeping, I will gladly defer to your medical expertise. Excuse me."

He goes to talk to security personnel. McCoy doesn't even know what the point of this conversation was. "Green-blooded hobgoblin."

The Enterprise has 23 Vulcans- 18 now. And the thing is, of all the Humanoid species, Vulcans are the most… you either know Vulcan biology and physiology or you don't. Databanks are full, but they're not highly specific, and Vulcans are telepathic and that changes fucking everything.

He realizes as he does surgery on an Elder who'd lost part of her leg and is currently trying to bleed out on him that what he needs, if they ever survive this, is M'Benga. Geoffrey Fucking M'Benga, who studied at the Vulcan Science Academy, who should be here instead of fucked off wherever he is.

He makes a mental note of it.

McCoy's not- he's not good at calming people down. He's good at yelling at them and beating them into submission, but right now? When Jim (who a lot of these people know and like) has been marooned on Delta Vega and Vulcan just blew up and there's a ship they can't hope to fight, he doesn't have the right words. He can't yell their fears away, which just pisses him off more.

He feels like a kid. He feels fucking lost.

So he does surgery and he monitors recovery; he puts his psychology degree to good use. Honestly? When Jim asks him what he was doing during this time, McCoy won't really be able to tell him, because he's just… on autopilot.

Then, two hours later, Jim is back on board.

And McCoy'd thought it couldn't get any worse.

Whatever fights he and Jocelyn had; whatever fights he's seen go bad between two people who love each other, he's never seen anything like this. Jim's not just being Jim, he's being deliberately, ruthlessly cruel, and Spock falls into the ditch Jim digs him.

They all just stand there- those of them who know Jim and Spock are so damn confused and shocked it's like they've been hit by a phaser on 'stun'- everyone else is just freaking out. Except maybe Papa Spock.

"I like this ship! You know, it's exciting!" Oh god, McCoy's going to kill that Scot.

"Well, congratulations, Jim. Now we've got no captain and no goddamn first officer to replace him," he growls, annoyed, now. Deeply relieved- god, he could kiss Jim- but this isn't how a chain of goddamn command works, and without the chain of command they've got no order- and then things'll really be anarchy.

"Yeah we do."


"Pike made him first officer," Sulu says, watching Jim cross and sit in the captain's chair, sprawling and owning it the way Spock didn't.

"You gotta be kidding me." He can't fucking believe this- Jim just gave up on the one good thing in his goddamn life (and god help him, he's calling Spock Jim's good thing) to take over the ship.

"Thanks for the support."

"I sure hope you know what you're doing, Captain," Uhura snaps, but she sits at her post: they all take their posts. Jim's captain, and they're all to fucking shell-shocked and wrung out to interrogate that too deeply.

"So do I."

And the thing about Jim is- he leads by committee. McCoy's got no illusions that the final decision will come down to Jim (god help them all), but they're all talking over each other as soon as Jim gives them an opening to argue about their next move. It's just typical that it's the fucking kid who's got the best idea.

When Spock walks back through the door, offers to go on the suicide mission himself, McCoy wants to throw something. One of them, maybe. Idiots.

"I won't allow you to do that, Mr. Spock." god, they're so formal. But there's a hint of a smile on Spock's face, and that's it.

McCoy gives up. They're fucking impossible to figure out, and apparently suicide missions are like foreplay to them.

Fucking Jim.

It probably means he's a bad parent. But he doesn't think about Jo- really consciously think about Jo, until they rise out from being Titan and begin firing on the Narada; until they're almost sucked into the black hole.

A part of him, up to this point has somehow figured they'd pull through: but he doesn't see a way out, and it's not really his way to be optimistic.

What kills him is that he'll never get to see her grow up: he'll never get to meet the person she's going to be.

He'll never have gotten to say "good-bye."

Turns out? He doesn't have to.

Jim needs a full regimen of antibiotics and healing when they beam back aboard, but Chapel has to do it because McCoy's busy making sure Pike's not a quadriplegic.

"You're not going to like this prognosis- I don't think I can save them," he mutters, looking at the readouts. Hell, Pike won't be a quadriplegic; but the legs are beyond even McCoy's ability to fix.

Pike looks at him. "They did good, those two."

It takes him a second- he thinks maybe Pike's reacting to the sedative strangely and talking about how his legs did good. Hey- he's been treating Jim for years, he's used to strange reactions and stoned ramblings. But then he realizes that no, Pike's not talking about his legs at all.

"I'm talking about you losing your goddamn legs," McCoy points out dryly, "and you want to talk about the epic love story of Spock and Jim?"

"They saved the planet."

"Probably means you should appoint Jim your successor."

"Not Spock?"

"No," McCoy says, and Pike smiles slightly. "You know, he said the exact same thing."



He has seventy five missed calls.

Eight of them are from Jo, seventeen of them are from his mother, and one is from Jocelyn.

"Daddy. Daddy. Daddy. You- look, I know you're going to listen to this, so when you do, I want you to comm me right back. I know you're okay. You're okay?" He's pretty sure Jo didn't mean to make the last bit a question, but he comms her immediately.


"Daddy." He can hear a dull sound like she's just sat down, and Jocelyn's voice in the background saying, "Oh my god, is that him? Leonard? Leonard, you motherfucker, is that you? You bastard!"

"Mom, shut up!" Jo shouts, and McCoy winces.

"Jo, I'm fine. Only a few bruises."

"But- all the ships blew up and- "

"Turn on the news. I'm pretty sure they're broadcasting our grand arrival on loop- "

"Oh my god. Oh my fucking god."


"Shut up, look! Look! You're on the holo! You're- Daddy, would it kill you to smile?"

He figures she must be reassured that he's all right if she's nagging. "It might. Do you want to take that chance?" he asks as seriously as he can manage.

"Not funny, Daddy. God."

"Look, Jo, there's a shitton of debriefings to do- I'll talk to you later tonight."

"On video."

"On video," he agrees with a sigh as Uhura beckons impatiently. She's got a hand around Jim's arm and from the look of it she's about to cut off all the circulation. "Jo, I've really got to go. I love you, baby."

"I love you too. Tonight," she emphasizes, and he agrees before disconnecting.

The swarm of reporters and then the briefings (hours and hours of briefings before they're even allowed to shower, which…they're all a bit ripe, what with the day they've had), and then they're released.

There'll be a ceremony, but McCoy doesn't give a shit. They're alive, and they got the bad guy, and he gets to talk to his daughter when he gets back to Jim's.

The weirdest thing (besides the fact that they fought what Jim's been calling "a particularly troubled Romulan" from the future) is the 20 or so Vulcan Starfleet cadets who come to them and ask to be assigned to the Enterprise.

Okay, they come to Jim, but McCoy's in the apartment, so he feels like he's being asked, too.

Jim asks one, Sadek or Saiek or S- something- k, why they're not heading to New Vulcan.

"Starfleet needs competent personnel. We have ever been part of this Federation since its inception: we will not now withdraw from its most visible arm."

Which makes sense, but just makes Jim even more annoyed with Spock, who seems to think that it's his duty to return- no, not return: to go to New Vulcan and… breed or something.

McCoy also thinks that all the other Vulcans assume Spock is going to be on the Enterprise. The thought of Spock being any kind of a draw goes against everything McCoy stands for, but he supposes- if it was him, he'd want to make sure no other Nero ever happened, and even if he'd been on the ground, and had heard about the Enterprise- that's the ship he'd want to be on. McCoy'd want to be on Jim's crew even if he didn't know him; to be on the ship that survived and destroyed Nero; under the captain who managed it. It's… he guesses even Vulcans feel that pull, they just probably couch it in "logical" terms.

Even McCoy knows that Spock's becoming something of a Vulcan legend.

Which is just fucking weird.

The worst thing? The worst thing is that being in charge of the medical team is that he has to personally vet and approve every goddamn one of them.

Assembling a medical team would be a lot easier if Starfleet Command (and Starfleet Medical Command) would fuck the hell off.

This is brought home when Chapel slams her hand against Jim's apartment door (because McCoy is not staying at the dorms, no way in hell), and informs him that she's been assigned to the Kennedy.

"The hell they did," he growls. Chapel is his head nurse. He's got her nice and broken in to his style, and she's sure as hell got him used to hers. They click well under pressure, and their sexual tension is familiar and comfortable. He doesn't need goddamn distractions: he didn't sign on to the Enterprise initially to be its CMO- but enough people died he'd been promoted and fuck if he's not going to do a good job of this.

God, he sounds like Jim.

She lodges expedited formal protests and goes to Jim to lodge a formal expedited complaint with him (also playing the dead fiancé card- apparently the gormless wonder was on one of the ships that blew up- unbeknownst to her until his personal effects showed up on her doorstep). Jim holds it up to McCoy and demands, "Wait, what the hell am I supposed to do with this? If you want her, go fight them yourself." Which McCoy takes to mean that no, Jim hasn't convinced the green-blooded bastard to join the crew as first officer yet, thanks for asking.

First, McCoy goes to Starfleet Central Command and threatens to delay launch until he's redone everyone's blood work. That doesn't work, so he glares, and then goes to Jim. They both storm SCC.

"Look, this is unbelievable, but we lost all Jim's immunization records in the damage on the Enterprise," McCoy says tells them. Not really, but Jim's criminal record is, apparently, merited, and then they'd gotten Scotty to double-check, so it fucking looks like Jim's immunization records really did go down with Deck 6. McCoy has them in his pocket on a datafile, but there's no need to tell them that.

"I'm feeling very vulnerable," Jim says, tugging on his collar and clearing his throat. "Bones, I'm very concerned about this. Perturbed. I may in fact be perturbed."

"So am I, Jim," McCoy agrees. They're the worst actors in the world, but there's not any chance that Jim won't actually let McCoy redo all of his records, and it's Starfleet legend that if there's something that no one else is allergic to? It's Jim. And the bastards know it, too. They also know that Commander Spock is not going to be any help in haranguing Jim back into line, and now-Admiral Pike thinks Jim's funny as all get out.

They also know that this is a ploy: that they're being played, but there's not a damn thing they can do about it, so they give him Chapel, and what do you know? Jim's immunization records magically reappear. He feels bad there's no easy trick to getting Spock on board.

He goes to see Jo. He picks her up after school, and she screams at him in sheer delight and then makes him tell her everything, tell her all about Jim, about Spock, about Nero.

It feels- nice. Talking to someone about it who wasn't there but who isn't going to use it against him.

She listens very seriously to his highly-edited version of his life these past few years, and then punches him in the arm.

"What the hell?!"

"You're such a jerk," she sighs. "You come visit me and then you leave for five years. Awesome. Buy me ice cream."

He does, and ridiculous things that she probably doesn't need but he wants her to have; doting on her like he didn't know he'd missed doing.

He has money; hazard pay, his promotion bonus, but not much of it is gonna do a damn bit of good where they're going. So if he wants to spoil his daughter… what the hell?

Jocelyn doesn't even yell at him when he brings home their daughter with bags full of tech and other things that apparently twelve year old girls like.

"He didn't buy my affection, Mama," Jo groans, rolling her eyes at them so hard McCoy's pretty sure she's going to fall over. "He just primed the pump."

"Clearly your daughter," he observes.

She surprises him by hugging him. "You're sure you won't stay- "

"No. I gotta stop by my folks', but then I've got to get back."

She nods. "She misses you. You should try to get back to see her."

"I will." He turns to get into the hovercar to head to his parents and then she says,

"I asked her if she wanted to change her name when she was 10. To my name."

He freezes; it's an unexpected attack.

"She said she's a McCoy. I think it's her way of keeping you close." He doesn't know what to say to that, and she smiles faintly. "Go fuck off, Leonard."

And he does.

He goes after M'Benga because T'Pon mentions that the Enterprise has the highest number of Vulcans of any Starfleet ship serving right now, and the highest concentration in Starfleet anywhere not on New Vulcan. M'Benga is a goddamn expert- went to the Vulcan Medical Academy and didn't even do that badly for himself.

"I should be on New Vulcan!" M'Benga protests.

"You're a goddamn surgeon, what're you gonna do that the Vulcans can't do better?" McCoy snaps back. "Mostly they're gonna need fertility specialists and biologists. I got a crew that's 13% Vulcan, and I didn't take that many courses. I got T'Pon in medical- the rest of them are in Science. C'mon, Geoffrey. Don't yank my dick."

"God, McCoy," M'Benga groans. "You're such a philistine."

"That's the jealousy talkin'." McCoy points at him and pours him another shot. Jim walks in the door.

"I fucking hate Vulcans!" he shouts, and slams his door behind him.

They're both quiet.

"He's trying to recruit Spock to be his First Officer," McCoy explains. "Negotiations have gridlocked."

"Ah." M'Benga's quiet for a minute. "He's the captain."


"Looks like you're going to need me more than New Vulcan. All right, McCoy. I'm on."

"I'll drink to that," McCoy says, and toasts him. M'Benga laughs, knocks back the shot, and takes his leave, shaking his head.

"Jim, if you're jerkin' off I'm going to make sure you can't get it up for the rest of your- "

"Jesus, Bones." Jim snorts. He's half-dressed, getting ready for bed.

"M'Benga's on board."

"Good. That's good." Jim nods. "Scotty says he's got the crew he needs, I got Cupcake kicked out- "

"Do you even know his name?"

"No, but that's not the point."

"Right, carry on."

"Uhura's working on the systems with Scotty so that Chekov can, you know, speak Russian to it without all the "Wictor Wictor" shit. Which, I admit, is hilarious, but not when it's my life on the line. Rand has duty rosters all done, your Chapel is getting all the females on some kick about pants or leggings under the uniform, which is fine, but I have no idea where I'm going to find a budget for it." He collapses theatrically onto his bed.

"Went that well, huh?"

"Jesus Christ, he's fucking impossible."

"Jim, if you don't pick someone else they're going to try to saddle you with someone to keep an eye on things. I'm one of the oldest people on board and I'm only 31. We're none of us favorites, who you've got in the chain of command. They hate Scotty more than they're scared of you, sure, but I'm not exactly- "

"Miss Congeniality?"

"- their favorite- what?"

"Old movie. Never mind. Look, fine, so I'll find someone in Sciences. Scotty's pushing Romaine. I think I had a few classes with her."

Bones nods. What the hell do you say to that?

Once they're on the ship, pushed out into space, things settle. Scotty's a good drinking buddy. Jim and Spock are still fucking married, but no one's touching it with a ten-foot pole.

Things are good.

It lasts seven months:

The entire ship is in chaos, caught in a real live Kobayashi Maru. He has to run down and pull Scotty out of the core room to keep him from getting radiation poisoning.

Worse than he already has, that is.

"It's completely offline, Captain!" Scotty shouts. "Warp drive's completely down if I could - "

"No one," Bones breaks in, "is going into that goddamn room! The radiation poisoning will kill any human who walks in!"

And then Spock's voice says, "As you are so fond of observing, Doctor: I am not Human."

Which is true, but he is half-Human, and even most Vulcans have radiation sensitivity on par with Humans. There are a few recorded anomalies but-

"Are you out of your Vulcan mind?" he snaps just as Jim shouts:

"We'll find some other way! Uhura, have security prepare evacuation pods- Spock, if you even think of pinching me, I will haunt your ass so hard you've got no idea- "

But in the meantime Scotty has crossed wires and moved crystals ("here! Hold this! It's all bloody spit-and-glue but she'll hold!") and then he shouts, "Captain! Back online!"

"Sulu- " Jim begins, but there's the jolt (ah, inertial dampeners sacrificed to get them to warp).

It's quiet after that, just scanning Scotty and everyone else before heading back to med to deal with the injuries from the hits they took (a mild concussion, three broken arms, a few bruised ribs), before Spock says, "Doctor McCoy, please join me in Captain Kirk's quarters. It is urgent."

He takes off at a dead run with his bag in hand.

"What the hell's wrong with him?" McCoy demands, because Jim's on his bed, twitching and white as a ghost, sweat a sickly sheen over his entire body.

"A mind-meld gone awry," Spock says as McCoy opens his bag, shifting his hands on Jim's face, and Jim turns into him, breath rasping in his throat like he can't breathe.

"It's killing him!" He's reading the results from the scan: Jim's heart is going too fast, his brain waves are off the chart, and his lungs aren't getting enough air.

"That would be a correct assessment, Doctor."

"Goddamnit, Spock we've got to get him to- "

"If you will permit me," Spock snaps, and McCoy steps back because that was a goddamn emotional reaction.

"Our minds," Spock says, "one and together. Touching, yet not touching. Apart, yet never apart."

"Touching," Jim gasps, "yet not touching. Apart… yet never apart…"

"We are one," he hears them say together.

"Are you two getting married?" he demands, but they can't hear him at all.

"I find myself desiring to find your stepfather and commit acts of violence against him," Spock manages.

Jim laughs, helplessly, into the curve of Spock's neck.

"Next time we dock at Earth, I'll take you to Iowa," Jim promises in that horrible breathy voice, and then they both kind of collapse into each other and McCoy calls for two stretchers, taking them to the med bay for monitoring.

"I hate them so much," he tells Chapel.

"Yes, I know you think you do," she agrees, pulling a blanket over them with a fond smile.

"This is our chain of command!" he explodes. She raises an eyebrow at him, and seven hours later they resurface.

"You goddamn motherfucking idiots!" Bones snaps.

"Doctor," Chapel says in an amused voice, because she's always nearby when his rage reaches homicidal.

"Don't "Doctor" me, Chapel. These two idiots have been out for seven hours because neither one of them has an ounce of brains or logic in their fucking heads!"

"Chapel," Jim manages around a very dry throat. "The doctor will take two shots of whisky and then about 8 ounces of Scotty's home brew."

"Yes, Captain," she laughs, and steps out of the room. Hopefully he will end this day with that drink in his hand.

"Now, she's gone. What the fuck did you two- "

"My alternate counterpart passed to Jim relevant information in order to obtain his cooperation via a mind-meld. However, as Jim and I had already melded prior to the Ambassador's attempt, Jim's mind was adept at finding things which perhaps the Ambassador did not expect to have to guard. These memories have been leaking into the captain's subconscious, triggered by certain events." He sounds so sanguine. McCoy is going to kill him. Or…other him. A Spock is going to die.

"And you've known this for seven months?" McCoy demands.

"I have only just realized the extent of the matter. Jim has known for quite a bit longer."

Jim winces, and clearly speculates on whether or not he can pretend to be asleep. Spock glares at him as McCoy narrows his eyes, and Jim just decides to look pathetic.


"Great," Bones exclaims dryly. "And now what, we have to deal with Jim having psychotic breaks thanks to your alternate- "

"Hey!" Jim protests. "It wasn't a psychotic break- "

"You shut up," Bones snaps, pointing at him, because he just doesn't want to hear it from Jim right now. "Look, Spock- "

"On the contrary, Doctor. The captain and I have now bonded; with my help, he will be able to differentiate between the Ambassador's memories and his own experiences. For the duration of time which you perceived us to be unconscious- "

"Unconscious- your brain scans were off the fucking charts!" he explodes- "unconscious" his ass! Perceived them to -

"That is to be expected during a bonding- "

"Bonded," McCoy repeats, pinching the bridge of his nose helplessly because he really is going to kill someone. He can't do this for another four years. He can't. He's going to have a heart attack. A stroke. "Oh, that's just great. So when some Starfleet hoity-toity asks me if I think either one of you is emotionally compromised- well, it'll be about you, because Jim is always compromised- "


"I'm just supposed to gloss over the fact that you two are fucking married, now? Goddamnit, Jim!"

"In this matter, Doctor, yes. We would appreciate your silence and your assistance."

Jim looks at him. "Bones."

McCoy stares at the both of them, and then sits on the bed across from them, defeated. "You know, before I knew the two of you, my life was so much simpler. I'm ordering daily brain scans to make sure nothing extraordinary's going on- Spock, your parents bonded, right?"


"I want you to contact your goddamn father and find out what the fuck we're in for. Jesus." McCoy points an accusing finger at Jim as he glares at Spock. "Him I expect this shit from- you're supposed to be the good influence!"

"You would have preferred him catatonic or dead?" Spock inquires, like that's even the point that pretentious green-blooded sonovabitch-

"Okay, enough of that, we're due for… something, not here," Jim interrupts.

"Get out of my infirmary," Bones agrees. "Chapel! Where the hell're those goddamn drinks?"

He determinedly slogs through an interview with Sarek, which gets disgustingly gritty and he wants to bleach his brain, but at least Sarek is more professional and not deliberately goading than his spawn.

This is life on the Enterprise.

Then there's Pon Farr, and Bones wants to die.

He and M'Benga determine that it's a latent biological drive: the impetus to reproduce kicked into overdrive by the slaughter of so many of the species. Pon Farr happened younger, and built up more slowly, which was how Spock managed to survive a goddamn month of putting them through fucking hell before finally getting with the program. They realize, with a sinking feeling, that they're going to have to deal with this a lot, given the 50-or-so Vulcans on board the Enterprise (so many more than originally they'd thought they'd have, but what? Jim was going to turn people down now? Bull).

"Fuck my life," McCoy groans.

"I'll drink to that," M'Benga agrees. "Why the fuck did I let you convince me this was a good idea?"

It's unexpected that he hates that he's going to be missing Jo's birthdays. Not that he's been there physically since her fifth, but he managed to video-con her on her sixth, seventh and eighth. But now he's in deep space, and they get a yearly R&R, but his first year he uses it to go with Chapel to bury her father, and his second year he uses it to go to New Vulcan, where they just happen to be having a medical seminar.

They still send each other messages, and he sends her things from planets they visit and tokens from the people they meet, but it's not the same as-

He knows that what he's doing is important. That they'd all have died a million times over if it wasn't for him, and he loves his job (as much as he complains). He just feels like maybe he abandoned his kid, even though Jocelyn's a great mom and Jo does well in school and her videos are always full of laughing stories of her very ordinary life. She talks about the boys she's crushing on (must be that because Daddy's so far away he's not a threat to potential boyfriends).

He can't help but get shit-faced after he talks to her, because that wasn't what he wanted.

And sometimes it's Jim who cleans him up, but sometimes it's Christine.

And sometimes he decides not to pick up the absinthe, or the Romulan Ale- sometimes he knocks on her door and she lets him in, and sits with him as he swears angrily.

It's just that there's this weird disconnect: most of them don't have families- don't have kids- waiting for them. They have parents, siblings, but it's one of the factors that goes into evaluating whether or not crew members are eligible for the five-year mission into uncharted space. He's the only one he knows of who has a kid, and even though he's been gone now for the majority of her life, he still- it's weird to remember that that part of his life exists when he's in the throes of an alien pandemic or a genocide. It's weird to think that Greensborough exists at all, because it's such a quiet little place in the middle of nowhere. Less than a speck.

On the last year of their five-year journey (which is going to be renewed, because Starfleet needs them kind of desperately, it turns out), he takes Christine back to Greensborough, where his dad still has the only doctor's office in the area and Jocelyn's mom still runs the corner store. It's like nothing's changed, even though everything has.

Jocelyn smiles at him and he doesn't even hate her new boyfriend too much, just wants to punch him a little. Christine has a moment where she looks at his mama like she's insane when she asks Christine to help her with a pie, which sends Mama onto a tear about these "high-falutin'" women he always picks up, and at least maybe this one he'll make an effort with.

"I think," Christine says, as they leave, "that you should go by yourself, next time."

"Now that's support," he snorts, wrapping his hand around hers, looking up into the sky. It's still disease and danger wrapped in darkness and silence, but it's also home, in a strange way. It's a place where there are things to keep him occupied, it's the place where they're all a little lost.

And maybe space is the only place they can be found.

"Where to?" he asks Jim as the settle in the bar in San Francisco where they first met. Christine heads off with some of the other nurses to dance and celebrate: it's review time, but as much as they're a crisis-in-progress, they're also fucking amazing, and they all want so desperately to go back out into the black it's ridiculous.

"Second star to the right."

"Jim." He rolls his eyes.

"What? I saw that battered hard copy of Peter Pan you have. C'mon, Bones. Do I get to be Peter?"

Bones looks at him, then turns to the bartender. "Whatever you've got that don't taste like piss," he says flatly.

Jim tilts his head back and laughs.