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If Saturn's Rings Should Fade Away (It'd Still be an Impressive Planet)

Chapter Text

Spock eyes the clock in the back of the classroom very carefully. It's in direct line with the teacher's vision, yet despite the designated end of the class having occurred, the teacher is still continuing his lesson. The students don't seem to mind or perhaps they have yet to notice that it is time to proceed to the next classes in their schedule. They appear to be enthusiastic about the presentation occurring in the small lecture hall, both class and teacher building on each other's interest in the topic. While well versed in a variety of subjects, specifically those of a scientific nature, Spock's understanding of this subject matter is rather stunted. The holograms of models have little meaning to him compared to those in the classroom. He straightens his uniform jacket and contemplates the likely outcome of his proposal should he barge into class before the teacher dismisses his students.

Humans are rarely logical, and thus disrupting the proceedings would most likely diminish his chances of eliciting a favorable response. He's been warned of the vindictive nature of the man he seeks. Spock will wait; however, punctuality is a desired trait in Starfleet officers. It is a trait he intends to enforce under his command.

Class finally lets out, fifteen point thirty-eight minutes late. The students file out, enthusiastic about the topics covered and engaged in boisterous conversation as they disperse to their next classes. Spock nods in greeting to the few cadets that acknowledge him as they pass through the door.

"It's rude to linger in doorways," barks the teacher from within the classroom as he starts to put items away in his attaché.

Spock raises an eyebrow. He thought he had stayed out of the professor's eye line during the lecture as he lingered in the hallway waiting for his opportunity to speak with the man. Apparently Spock miscalculated.

He makes his way into the lecture hall, past the rows of now abandoned desks, to the front of the classroom. There's something about the man before him that sets Spock on edge. He's studied up on his target with everything Starfleet could provide and even went so far as to contact former colleagues and classmates to assure his success in this mission. Everything he's learned has been a contradictory that further expands the riddle of just who is Doctor Leonard McCoy.

The source of his visit is busy cramming PADDs, and an actual paperback book in his attaché case. "Plead your case," snaps Leonard, closing his case with more force than necessary.

"My case?" asks Spock. "I'm not sure of your meaning professor..."

"Doctor," corrects Leonard, harshly. "It's Doctor. My PhD means I can save lives. A fact of which I'm sure you're aware since you've been askin 'bout me."

"You'll catch more flies with honey, Spock," rings in his head. Captain Pike had warned Spock about McCoy's difficult nature but insisted the benefits would outweigh the doctor's cantankerous tendencies. That conclusion has yet to be seen, but his mentor has yet to steer Spock wrong. Humans however, are not infallible.

Leonard stares expectantly at Spock as though he's waiting to hear the excuse for an unfinished assignment. "You stood in the hall for twenty minutes and didn't manage to find the time to have your sales pitch planned out?"

"You knew I was waiting in the hall?" asks Spock. It's this behaviour that perplexes Spock. Clearly the doctor is rather astute but is waiting for something specific from Spock.

"I'm not blind," huffs Leonard. "Figured if it was important you'd stick around. Plus you might cut to the point quicker if I kept you waitin."

"Very well," concedes Spock, "I have been given captaincy of the USS Enterprise and the authority to pick my crew for a five year exploration expedition."

"Congratulations, Captain," says Leonard half-heartedly as he picks up his case and starts to head for the door. Spock is quick to follow on his heels. "Finally get to step out of Pike's shadow?"

Leonard spares a glance over his shoulder to catch an inquisitive look on the Vulcan's face. "I remember you. You're kinda hard to forget," he says. "There ain't a lot of Vulcans left after Nero, even fewer still in Starfleet."

Spock remembers McCoy too. Captain Pike had him shuttled out to meet the Enterprise when an important delegate had contracted a new parasite. The doctor's stay was brief and he spent most of the month tucked away in medical, but Pike spoke highly of him and often. The delegate was saved and the negotiations were successfully completed, giving Spock no grounds to dispute Pike's claims, though he never interacted with the doctor himself.

"Based on your credentials and recommendations by Starfleet command, I have come to offer the Chief Medical Officer position to you," explains Spock, cutting to the heart of the matter. His mission starts in two months and the CMO position is the last one he has to fill.

Leonard lets out a laugh, but Spock fails to see the humour. The opportunity to serve aboard the Enterprise is a high honor, second only by the opportunity to be at the forefront of frontier exploration that promises to reveal new discoveries in science and medicine.

"I'm a teacher not a ship's surgeon. Not anymore at least," concedes McCoy.

"Accepting the post would change your status back to an active serving officer." After the incident with Nero had been settled, McCoy had taken an extended leave of absence from duty. There is nothing in the records about it other than being classified as medical leave. He returned to serve at Starfleet medial for year which included the month aboard the Enterprise, before taking an earth position as a professor at Starfleet academy, teaching advance xenobiology classes for the last five years. It's a peculiar career path for a man that was a shining and promising star in frontier medicine.

"That's the least of my concerns, Captain. Not all of us can just drop everything and fly out in to the black on some sparkly tin can."

"It is the duty of every officer to be prepared..." starts Spock. Status can change in a moment, and even though an officer expresses desire to stay on earth, they may be required to serve elsewhere. McCoy may be holding an inactive post but for all intents and purposes he is still an active officer, not having officially retired from Starfleet.

"Some things are more complicated," counters Leonard, feeling the last of his patience die a quick death. "I wouldn't be a good fit." He's not a stranger to receiving requests to join crews, though they have dwindled in the last few years. Leaving earth for a posting on a vessel just isn't an option these days, even if the idea sounds good on paper. Most people have gotten the hint and leave Leonard to teach the next group of cutting edge physicians that are going to change the face of medicine. The front lines just aren't for him anymore.

"As a commanding officer, I can have you reinstated as an officer with an active post," points out Spock.

Leonard rounds on Spock, jabbing him in the shoulder with each hate filled word he utters, "Try it and see what happens!" He storms off after that muttering to himself all the way.

Spock stands there in the hallway looking in the direction McCoy stormed off in. Everyone else he has approached for assignment aboard the Enterprise has considered it a high honor. No one has turned his down yet. Based on his interaction with McCoy, he thinks the doctor is correct, he wouldn't be a good fit, but McCoy's name is the only one Captain Pike insist that he recruit out of the page of recommendations he gave Spock for various positions on the ship.

Perhaps more research is required to sway Dr McCoy to consider the post.

"That sounds like McCoy," chuckles Pike, as Spock recounts their encounter.

Spock frowns. "If you knew he would not be receptive to my offer, why would you insist I make it?"

"Consider it your first real test of your captaincy," says Pike seriously, leaning closer to the camera. "Get McCoy to be you CMO. Consider that my final order as your captain, Spock," says Pike before taping the communication video closed.

Spock opts to draft a letter asking McCoy to reconsider his offer. He's prepared to listen to considerations McCoy might need to un-complicate his situation. He sends a copy of the letter to Nyota Uhura for review. Their relationship may have turned from romantic to platonic years ago but she is willing to help him navigate the treacherous waters of human behaviour whenever he needs it. Perhaps she can help him phrase it so the doctor will reconsider.

Spock presses the doorbell yet again. He would assume no one is home but he can hear someone thumping around the old large farmhouse and it was a rather long drive to get here, to simply turn around because McCoy is being stubborn about answering the door. The door finally opens. Spock's mouth hangs open as he tries to rethink his opening line now that he's faced with someone other than McCoy.

"What do you want?" demands the disheveled young man. He's probably a decade younger than McCoy, with blond hair, intense blue eyes and an impish grin that dances behind his eyes even if he's scowling at Spock and blocking the door like McCoy`s personal bouncer. There's a scar that runs along his hair line starting from his left ear, creeping over his eye and terminating in the middle of his forehead. While his hair is kept on the shorter side, it's shaggy enough that falls over the scar unless he moves his head abruptly. It's only slightly more noticeable than the one running jaggedly down his left forearm near the wrist.

The young man must notice Spock's gaze because he shifts his body so his left arm is tucked behind him.

"I was looking for McCoy," states Spock.

"Well you found him," replies the young man as he continues to stare down Spock as though daring Spock to challenge the claim.

"Dr Leonard McCoy," restates Spock.

"Oh, you wanted Dr McCoy," he adds in a tone that suggests he never actually thought Spock had come looking for anyone other than Leonard. "He stepped out for a bit so you'll have to wait."

The young man turns and ambles back through the house. He has a rather pronounced limp that hinders his speed. "Don't stand in the doorway; you'll let all the bugs in. Leonard hates bugs," he calls over his shoulder.

Spock steps inside with that rather informal invitation. While he cannot see any physical resemblance between the young man and Leonard, they seem to share a similar disposition. He follows his guide through the hallway heading to the living room. The hallway is covered with photos, mostly of a little girl that seems to grow up by the time he reaches the living room. McCoy is in a lot of them, looking every bit the proud parent, so the girl must be the daughter Spock discovered in his research. She turned eighteen this year so that shouldn't be one of the complications Leonard referred to.

Also in the pictures of the later years, is the young man, looking just as disheveled as he is now and just as proud as Leonard. "Are you Leonard's brother?" asks Spock, eliminating other options based on the evidence or lack of evidence he has observed.

The young man chuckles. "Sure. Let's go with that."

Spock doesn't get the joke but he often fails to see the humor in things. He sits down on the couch in a formal and rigid manner, feeling like he's intruded in a world he doesn't belong. He never would have expected McCoy to be the farm type, yet here he is, on a piece of land two hours outside of San Francisco. There are even animals running around the property.

"You want something to drink? I think we have tea or water, or... tea," offers the young man staring at the kitchen intently like it will tell him what is stored there.

"Tea would be appreciated," says Spock, employing a social method Uhura taught him. His host gets up with a great deal of effort and makes the arduous journey to the kitchen. There's a cane leaning against the couch that would no doubt make his efforts easier, but he doesn't seem inclined to make use of it.

"Leonard doesn't get many visitors out here, especially ones in uniform. What brings Starfleet out here anyway?" shouts the man from the kitchen whom Spock has designated 'brother McCoy' until he can access McCoy's file and look up the name that the young man seems to be with holding.

"I've come to see if he will reconsider a posting on my ship," states Spock, over the rattling and clanging in the kitchen.

Spock's eyes take in every detail of the house. Every square inch goes against what Spock would have calculated for McCoy. He would have hypothesised the doctor would live in a modern sleek apartment in the heart of the city, close to the academy and medical, yet not too far from the trendy shopping and dining the city affords. Part time husbandry in a cluttered and messy dwelling is a far cry from the sterile surgical rooms McCoy made a career from.

"What ship do you command?"

"I am taking command of the Enterprise," answers Spock.

The house fills with the ringing of smashed glass as shards tap dance across the wooden kitchen floor. "Fuck!" yells the young man, followed by the sound of more glass shattering as it collides with the wall.

Spock starts to get up to see what's happening when the front door opens and Leonard walks in. His face contorts from surprise to anger as he sees Spock standing in his living room.

"You just don't take no for an answer do you?" he demands.

Some more glass shatters in the kitchen and Leonard's irritation at Spock turns to concern for the man in the kitchen. "What did you do?" demands Leonard, glaring hard at Spock as he hurries towards the kitchen. He puts his hand up to stop Spock from following. "Stay there. I'll deal with you in a minute."

"Jim?" is all Spock can make out before Leonard shuts the kitchen door.

It's an hour before Leonard reappears. Spock looks but he can't see 'Jim' anywhere in the kitchen. Leonard looks particularly angry and somehow equally exhausted as he comes back in the living room. "What do you want, Spock?" he asks tiredly.

Spock stands at attention. "I've come to ask you to reconsider my offer."

"I've told you no in person and in writing to all seven of your letters. Isn't that enough?" Leonard flops tiredly into an oversized recliner, like he has nothing more to give this world.

"It is not the answer I seek," says Spock.

Leonard looks longingly back towards the kitchen. "We don't always get what we want."

"He wants you to serve aboard the USS Enterprise. That's a hell of a thing to turn down," says Jim, appearing from another room. He's changed his clothes but even the new long sleeved shirt isn't long enough to hide the fresh bandages on his hand.

"Jim, don't those chickens need feeding?" asks Leonard, exasperated.

Jim scowls like a petulant child but finishes putting on a worn flannel coat. "Yeah, yeah. Adults are talking. I get it," he mutters before heading outside in a huff.

"Jim, don't be like that," Leonard calls after him but the door is already closed behind Jim.

"I told you it was complicated," says Leonard in what sounds like an apology as he shows Spock to the door. "Maybe in another life time Spock, but I just don't see it working out in this one."

Spock gets in his car. He still doesn't have the answer he came out here for and the enigma that is Leonard McCoy has just grown more tangled, yet the doctor didn't say no specifically this time.

Leonard sits as long as possible, his fingertips pressing craters into the leather arms of the chair as he waits. The sun starts to set, beginning its slowly lazy journey down the hills in the distance. The soft patter of rain drops beginning to fall spurs Leonard into action, throwing on a rain jacket and grabbing Jim's from the closet. All he needs is for Jim to catch his death out in the rain and the pathetic whining that inevitably follows a sick Jim.

The chickens are feed and settling into their coop for the night. Jim's not there, so Leonard continues meandering through the yard. The path is well worn from Jim's daily morning and evening routine. Bacon the pig and Wellington the cow are munching happily in their pens. The morose names were Jim's idea, though to exercise Jim's dark sense of humour after the Nero incident, or to simply remind himself not to get too attached to the animals, Leonard's never been sure. No matter, the animals they've purchased have earned a reprieve from death by anything other than natural causes.

The rain is starting to come down a little harder now, not torrential yet but still not fit for man or beast. The horses have even demonstrated the good sense to head into the barn, while Jim is still outside somewhere. Leonard would be concerned if it wasn't part of Jim's usual pattern when things are bothering him.

Jim's hanging out with the sheep. One of the ewes birthed a lamb a couple weeks ago and watching the young thing discover the world has become one of Jim's new favorite things. Leonard stands there and watches Jim for a couple of minutes. Out here, when Jim thinks he's alone, are the few moments when all the stress and disappointment drains from his eyes and he's that enthusiastic lover of life that Leonard met on that shuttle to the academy all those years ago.

Leonard misses those days.


Jim's leaning heavily on the metal rails of the sheep pen, a good indicator that his leg is bothering him something fierce. Of course the kid didn't take his cane with him when he left the house and Leonard has more than a sneaking suspicion that Jim doesn't use it around the house when Leonard isn't there to nag him.

"Even the animals have the good sense to come in out of the rain," says Leonard walking over and draping Jim's coat over him. Jim snuggles into it pressing back into Leonard.

Jim shrugs. "I thought you just kept me around for my good looks."

There's something hesitant and unsure in Jim's voice, a broken piece that Leonard's never been able to set right after Nero, that creeps through even when he's trying to make a joke. He hates to see what everything has done to Jim's confident swagger. "Well not only," hums Leonard, squeezing Jim a little tighter before letting out a soft laugh.

Jim snickers too, before tipping his head back to plant an awkwardly placed kiss on Leonard.

"You should take it," says Jim seriously.

"It's not that simple, Jim," sighs Leonard.

"It could be," counters Jim, changing his gaze to focus on the shaky lamb. He clenches his teeth as he waits for Leonard's answer.

Leonard feels Jim tense up. It's an old conversation that just goes round in circles. "I'm happy here," he insists. It sounds convincing enough and for the most part it's true. He has the most important thing, wanting anything else would just be selfish at this point.

"Maybe I need a change? He seems pretty desperate. And he did come all the way out here. You could probably get anything you want," says Jim suggestively.

He's not wrong. Most people give up after the initial no, but Spock has made seven written request and two personal visits one of which included the trek out here with a pretty tempting offer. CMO of the flag ship out on a five year mission to parts unknown; aside from all the horrible ways they could and probably will die, the medical breakthroughs are enticing. Being out there in the fray is far more exciting than grading papers and instructing students on the difference between Kelpians from Torra Five and Torra Six.

"I like him," states Jim.

Leonard rolls his eyes. "You would." Spock isn't the kind of friend Jim needs. The two of them will have Leonard tied to the port nacelle and heading out to deep space in no time. He kisses the top of Jim's drenched head. "Don't confuse stupid with likeable, kid."

"Sound advice, you should take it," replies Jim.

"Well, I like stupid," counters Leonard as he steers Jim towards the house. He has to carry most of Jim's weight, his leg tired of the abuse of the day.

"He'd give you anything you want," insists Jim. "It could work this time.

"Mmm-humm," hums Leonard, continuing their slow trek indoors.