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The Rising and the Setting

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“Bones.”

“You’ll have my report in the morning.”

He felt Kirk grab his arm, so he stopped but not without pulling it away. “I don’t want your report; I want to talk.”

“The only thing I want to talk to is a bottle of whiskey and the four walls of my quarters.” He sealed his lips into a thin, sharp line, and that seemed to be enough to make the captain take a step back. Bones took a step back too, eyes locked on Jim Kirk’s. But all he could see was her—she was so clear. It was so clear.

He turned slowly, shoulders hunched as he made his way back to his quarters. They were as silent as history as it moved and circled through the Guardian, through time and space. Bones poured a glass of bourbon, but he found himself only staring into it.

Perhaps by allowing her death, Kirk maintained the timeline. McCoy did not need to know, he did not want to know the details, as he could imagine Spock reciting them in his report. Perhaps Jim had been in love with her; he remembered the way her eyes lit up when she spoke about her young man. But Bones didn’t want to know.

What he knew was that she was good, genuinely good by the standards of any time. And he knew he had seen too many good people die senselessly. He might have been able to save her...even after the fact...perhaps even with the primitive tools of the twentieth century and a gruff prayer grunted in between curses.

His chime sounded, but he ignored it, forcing the tumbler to his lips, swallowing without tasting.

“Talking be damned,” he muttered, ignoring the chime yet again.

Bones wasn’t surprised when he heard the doors open. Rank could even override privacy, but he wasn’t about to let it happen so easily. He pushed himself up, feeling more than age stiffening his bones.

“I told you, you’ll have your report tomorrow. Now get the hell—“ He grunted when he saw Spock’s placid face instead of Kirk’s. Bones sat back down, deflated, tired. “What do you want?” he muttered.

“Doctor, I believe your emotional response to Edith Keeler’s death...”

Bones looked over his shoulder, seeing the Vulcan there with his hands clasped behind his back. “You can stop playing counselor right now if that’s what he’s sent you here for. I don’t need your goddamned psychoanalysis.”

“If you assume that the captain has sent me here, you are incorrect.” Bones had turned away, but he could tell that Spock was raising one of his eyebrows. “However, had he not prevented you from saving Ms. Keeler, the timeline would have been irrevocably damaged. Our present, as we know it, would not exist.”

“He watched her die, Spock.” Bones put down the half empty glass and rose slowly. “We watched her die.”

Spock cocked his head. “The needs of the many, Doctor...”

“For God’s sake!” He ignored the ache in his knees as he stepped towards Spock and grabbed his shirt, balling the fabric in his fists. It was something Jim would do—something ridiculous and dramatic—he thought, as he pushed Spock’s back into the bulkhead. “I’m a doctor; I took an oath to do no harm. And now I have blood on my hands, just as you do...just as Jim does.”

“The blood of billions upon billions, the ruins of civilizations not yet to be would have been on your hands otherwise,” Spock said calmly.

Vulcans were stronger than humans, stronger than a lot of other humanoid races—Bones knew that. But when Spock touched his hands, that touch was gentle. He stared at his own fingers as he let the fabric slip through his hands. Her life—the life of one good woman, one woman that he might have loved, could have loved—for the path of time.

Who was he to say what decision was right? Who was Spock? What were any of them against a damnable paradox, between a celestial rock and a hard place? Either way, with or without them, the rising and the setting sun would not change.

“Jim knows what he has done,” Spock said. “And I believe you realize it now as well.”

“I let her die, Spock...” Bones looked down at their hands. He found his fingers, unbidden, twining themselves with Spock’s. It wasn’t the same; it wasn’t the same as separating those who would live from those who would die in a triage unit. Every life he couldn’t save haunted him. But he didn’t save hers; Kirk and Spock jumped through the portal, through the Guardan, and after a moment, he followed, escaping the gathering crowd.

“No doubt the Captain suffers the same guilt, but the decision was the logical one.”

Bones’ eyes were half closed, and he could feel Spock’s hot breath on his cheek. The temptation for the cold comfort was there; all he needed to do was turn his head, let their lips meet. He knew Jim would not have waited so long to give in, but he did not know why Spock was there, with him instead of their captain.

“Logic be damned.” He pulled away, straightening himself as he stepped back. McCoy did not want Spock’s pity—if the man was even capable of that. But it was the only explanation he could find for Spock’s actions, and he wondered if he himself would not have thought to do the same if their roles had been reversed. “Comfort Jim with your logic; I don’t want it.”

“Nether my company nor my counsel has been requested in the captain’s quarters, Doctor. I am here now as...a friend.”

McCoy finished his bourbon and slammed the glass. He didn’t want comfort; he wanted to hurt, but he couldn’t go to Jim. He couldn’t go to him this time—not yet at least.

“You’re a lousy friend,” Bones grumbled. But he stepped to Spock once again, this time kissing him hard.

Bones felt Spock grip his hips and moaned into his lips as their bodies, their pelvises crushed together. If Spock needed something from this, Bones didn’t know what it was. He didn’t care—not then. He needed the memory of her face, the memory of her kindness to disappear, if only for a few hours. He needed that before he could see Jim again, as he saw him before.