As if getting your atoms scattered across the universe wasn't bad enough, it seemed like people kept ending up in the wrong universe. And, unfortunately, it seemed like McCoy was one of those people.
It was wrong--the Enterprise looked brand new, and Jim was her captain. Not that there was anything wrong with Jim being captain of the Enterprise--it was certainly better than the alternative--but this wasn't the way it had happened.
Hopefully Jim and Spock had made it back to the right ship or at least the same place. If they were in the same place, they'd figure something out, and Scotty could certainly come up with one miracle. Two miracles wouldn't be out of the question, but three was pushing it--even for Scotty and even if they didn't have some other disaster to deal with.
Whatever it was--it never rained but it poured--McCoy hoped to god it wasn't an unknown virus or anything else they'd need him for.
He was probably safe here, or as safe as anyone could be on any version of this ship. They all seemed to think he was just their doctor from the future. Most of them anyway.
"Head injury, my ass," said the young McCoy who wasn't supposed to be there either and who just had to be a clever son of a bitch. "You don't remember this because it never happened to you."
"But it's happening to you," said McCoy. "And I'm sure all those tests you've been running prove we're the same person."
The young McCoy glared at him. "I'm not going to ignore my gut just because some machine tells me to."
"Don't blame the machine, son," said McCoy. He needed to get out of here. He couldn't be much more than ten years older, and he was already doing the wise old doctor routine. "These machines have saved a lot of lives."
"The machines can't do it alone! Or do you think we should get rid of the human element?"
McCoy sighed. "I don't know, but I'll be damned if I'm going to be Spock in this discussion." He hadn't actually seen Old Pointy Ears yet, but Spock was the only one of them who'd actually been here before...whatever had changed this universe.
"Can't believe Jim let that green blooded psychopath back on the ship," the young McCoy muttered. "You want something to drink?"
"Got anything good?"
The young McCoy snorted. "Must be a long time since you've been on the Enterprise."
McCoy didn't correct him. "You're not planning to stick around?" He couldn't argue with green blooded, but psychopath?
"Are you out of your mind?" asked the young McCoy. "You're lucky you ended up here instead of stuck between universes or in little pieces out in space. And we could all still have our lungs collapse and our eyeballs melt if one lucky shot from the Romulans gets through our shields!"
He hadn't even thought about what he'd do when his own mission ended. Probably whatever damn fool thing Jim talked him into.
"What's he done this time?" asked McCoy.
"How should I know? He doesn't come down here unless he has to."
"You haven't been up to the bridge today?"
The young McCoy looked at him like he was crazy. "Why would I be on the bridge? I'm a doctor, not a navigator!"
Because it was very difficult to yell at Spock to do something about the current situation from sick bay--especially once Uhura had made it quite clear that the ship's communication systems were not for trading insults ("Gentlemen, if you insist on seeing who has the biggest dick, you will not being doing so through me." And then she'd absolutely refused to help them explain what the hell that meant to Spock.)
Because when things were going well and there was a pile of paperwork to do, sick bay could be an extremely dull place. And when everything was going well, Jim was usually bored and needed somebody to distract him before he started beating himself up for noticing Yeoman Rand's legs or brooding about what had gone wrong on the last mission.
Well, he'd figure it out eventually. McCoy wasn't in the mood to be his own mentor, and he wouldn't have listened to himself anyway.
"Right," said Scotty, "the thing is, we've still got absolutely no idea how or when it happened. Have you talked to that old Vulcan guy? Because sometimes when I figure something out, he's the one who knows how I did it."
"You're Montgomery Scott," said McCoy.
"Aye," said Scotty. "Who else would I be? More importantly, who are you, and why do people keep asking me that?"
"I'm Dr. McCoy."
"The Dr. McCoy who's in the wrong universe or the one who belongs here?"
"You mean you can't tell the difference?"
Scotty shrugged. "You do look a bit a like. But I've no idea about your--or his--thing. So, go and find that Vulcan, and bring him back here so he can tell me what I'm going to do about it."
There were several old Vulcans, diplomats hitching a ride somewhere. Scotty didn't know his name and hadn't been able to give much of a description, but McCoy had plenty of time. It'd been made clear he wasn't welcome in sick bay unless they needed him, and he didn't want to be needed.
One of the Vulcans looked a bit like Ambassador Sarek, but that wasn't likely unless Vulcans had started aging backwards. And, age or not, it wasn't quite Sarek. Certainly a relative, but not the man himself.
The mystery Vulcan sat down across from him in the mess hall as McCoy was trying to get through another reconstituted meal (Apparently some important advances had been made in neon food blocks over the past ten years).
"You know, doctor, if you continue to stare, people will assume there is something between us."
"Spock?" He barely remembered to lower his voice. If Scotty didn't know who he was, this was probably meant to be a secret. Although the stress seemed to have finally gotten to Scotty and much faster. "Are you sure it's logical to talk to somebody from your own past?"
"On what evidence do you base your assumption that I am from your future and not this one?" asked Spock.
"And what evidence do you base your assumption on?"
"Now I'm not sure you're Spock."
"Why was I court martialed?"
"Because you hijacked the damn ship. Why'd you do it?"
"I wished to be of assistance to Captain Pike."
McCoy nodded. "Well, it's good to see a familiar face that's actually familiar," he said. "Even if it is yours."
"I see you still have no appreciation for the finer things in life.," said Spock.
"Only wine gets better with age, Spock," said McCoy. "You look absolutely awful."
"From what I understand, wine is not meant to be looked at."
McCoy wasn't sure, but he had a feeling he'd just been given a come on line. From an ancient Vulcan of all people. Or it could just be a statement of fact, since wine was for tasting, not--no, the damn hobgoblin was definitely smirking again.
"Am I going to make it back?"
"I cannot say."
"What the hell do you mean you can't say? Have you gone senile?"
"Unless another timeline has been created, the fact that I am here to speak to you proves you will return," said Spock. "But, from my point of view, this reality did not yet exist at the time of your disappearence. Therefore, I have no memory of it."
"Spock, that doesn't make any sense," said McCoy. "How can I be somewhere that doesn't exist?"
"It exists now," said Spock. "It is difficult to explain."
"Time travel?" asked McCoy. There was nothing worse than time travel--confusing, never knowing what tense to use, and the risk of erasing yourself because you kept your great-grandfather from chatting up your great-grandmother. "Jim didn't come with you?"
"He was unable to accompany me. I am from over a hundred years in your future."
"I don't see why Jim would let a little thing like that stop him."
"It is perhaps for the best," said Spock. "I have a great deal to do here, and I suspect Jim would wish to devote his time and energy to making this reality match our own."
"A great deal to do here," said McCoy. "Isn't that changing the future?"
"It has already been changed. And I see no point in spending the end of my life alone, mourning people who have been deceased for several decades."
"You never did have much use for feeling."
"As I have said to you before, my expression of grief would not change the situation," said Spock. "I am Vulcan; my friends are human."
"Don't get cocky, Spock. Human medicine's advancing every day. And never underestimate a powerful little emotion called spite--I'll figure out a way to live to two hundred if it'll piss you off."
Spock almost smiled. "You forget that I do not get 'pissed off.'" And then he was serious again, or at least Vulcan neutral. "Doctor, if I were to tell you not to give medical assistance to a certain person--"
"I'd ignore you, of course," said McCoy. "I don't care what you claim would happen or will happen--I'm not going to let somebody die just to spare myself some grief. Although the next time your emotionless, green blooded ass is in trouble, I might be willing to consider it!"
"And if I told you that Jim--"
"Does it get him killed? Or worse?"
"It does not."
"Then it doesn't make a difference."
Spock sighed. "I did not think it would," he said. He held up his hand in the Vulcan salute. "Live long and prosper, doctor."
McCoy could never get the damn hand thing right, but he tried anyway. "You too, Spock."
"Cheer up, Bones," said Kirk. "You can stay as long as you like. What's wrong? Are you not getting along with yourself?"
"About as well as you'd get along with yourself, captain," said McCoy.
"What're you talking about? I'm awesome."
The sentiment was familiar, even if the phrasing wasn't.
"Bones, do you have any idea how lucky you are?" asked Kirk. "I mean, I would have so much sex with myself."
"Captain, may I remind you we are on the bridge?" asked Spock. The local one. The one McCoy knew probably would've just raised an eyebrow.
"Look, I cannot be the only one here who wants to fuck me," said Kirk.
"Pretty sure you are," said Uhura. "Captain."
"And if any of you guys have any weird, twentieth century hang ups about this sort of thing, I just want to point out that wanting to get it on with James Tiberius Kirk doesn't mean you're gay--it just means you're human. Or you know, whatever."
"Captain, I do not and never shall have any desire to engage in reproductive activity with you," said Spock.
Kirk winked at him. "Half of you does, Mr. Spock."
McCoy wondered if he should stay. Obviously nobody here was trying to keep Jim out of trouble.
"Jim, would you say I've done an adequate job as your Chief Medical Officer?" asked McCoy.
"More than adequate, Bones," said Kirk. He grinned at him. "Nobody could replace you."
Uhura and Spock had to be lying. "Jim, as long as I'm here, there's an Enterprise without me."
"We'll...we're working on it, Bones."
He wondered if Jim's quarters on the Farragut had been like this, only smaller.
"I meant it, about you staying," said Kirk. Without an audience, he seemed a bit smaller. Jim could be moody--he took things too personally sometimes and assumed more of the blame than he deserved--but this wasn't quite like one of Jim's dark moments. "We could figure something out."
"Jim, you don't need two of me around, giving you hell," said McCoy.
"Bones, where we come from, are we friends?"
"Of course, Jim."
"You're like the only friend I've got."
"I know he's got that damn Vulcan pride of his, but you know Spock--"
"I don't think he likes me," said Kirk. "I think he's only here because--did you meet the other one?"
"Yes. I think he may have come on to me."
"Yeah, that's weird, isn't it? I think he made Spock stay on."
"Well, you shouldn't tease him like that," said McCoy. "At least not in front of people. He can't be used to humans yet and...and Vulcans are a bit weird about sex." Maybe he should tell him for Spock's own good, but that just didn't seem right.
"You're standing up for Spock?"
"He's a pain in the ass, Jim, but...well, he's our pain in the ass."
"Yeah, apparently we were supposed to have this amazing friendship or something," said Kirk. "I think Old Spock might've been wrong about that one."
"I'm sorry, Jim," said McCoy. "Give him a few more years. Where I come from, you two didn't meet until you'd both been in Starfleet awhile."
"I don't know why I let it get to me," said Kirk. "Considering all the other shit I've been through." He sat down on the bed. "Can I just say it's really fucked up hearing you talk about Spock like this? You two hate each other."
"You know we just..." McCoy stopped. No, apparently this Jim didn't know. Or maybe here he and Spock really did hate each other.
"It's stupid, but I thought if you stayed here, that'd be at least one more person who was willing to put up with me," said Kirk. "And we've really got no idea how to fix it."
And there was another difference--this kid just pretended to have Jim's confidence.
Kirk must've picked up on because he scowled and said, "And now you're probably thinking about how I'll never be as good as my father."
"I hardly know the man," said McCoy. "Jim, I don't think I've ever seen you fail at anything. Or give up."
That father business was strange. McCoy couldn't even remember the man's name, and Jim was the one who was likely to be in the history books. Something told him he should just let it go.
"That mean you'd fuck me?" asked Kirk.
"I would, Jim," said McCoy, "except that would be when they'd find me and beam me back. And you and Spock would bust my balls about it for months."
And because some things were the same everywhere, Kirk was already taking off his shirt. "Oh, come on, like nobody's ever been beamed up naked?"
"As far as I know, nobody's ever been beamed up in the middle of sex," said McCoy. If he ever got back, he was going to be much stricter about that diet and exercise regimen he kept trying to put Jim on. Sure, Jim wasn't twenty-five anymore, but it was worth a shot.
"And I've got to be better than Old Spock," said Kirk.
"I don't know," said McCoy. It wasn't like he'd never seen Jim naked before--at least 215 people on board the Enterprise had--he'd never seen him just take off his pants before anything else. Maybe McCoy had been wrong about the confidence. "Maybe he's got experience."
Kirk moved closer. "You think he'd be up for a threeway? Because I think he'd go for it. He said the mind meld was just because it was faster than just telling me, but I think it was kind of like brain sex."
"Jim, this isn't right," said McCoy. "I don't belong here, and I'm too old for you."
--and then he was on the right transporter with the right Jim and Spock. Because of course nobody would go looking for you if you'd never actually been missing. (And hopefully the younger Kirk wouldn't take his disappearence personally.)
Jim was the only one of them wearing the right uniform--McCoy had borrowed a few things off himself, and it looked like Spock had gotten a similar uniform from somewhere.
"Well, gentlemen, I see you've been busy in the past thirty seconds," said Kirk.
McCoy glanced at Spock, who shook his head slightly. "What do you mean, Jim?"
"Somehow you've both managed to change clothes in the transporter beam," said Kirk.
McCoy looked down at himself. "Well, I'll be--I told you we can't trust these damn atom scramblers!"
"Fascinating," said Spock.
"You're telling me that this is just some sort of equipment failure?" asked Kirk.
Thank Heaven--or at least pointed ears and pitchforks--that Scotty wasn't manning the transporters this time.
"Captain, the odds that we would all have arrived at the same time if Dr. McCoy and I had originally been somewhere else long enough to acquire different uniforms are--"
"Thank you, Mr. Spock, I don't need to hear the exact odds," said Kirk. He didn't believe them, but he wasn't going to keep questioning them either. "I'll talk to Scotty about the equipment. Meet me in the conference room--in regulation attire--in fifteen minutes."
"Why?" McCoy asked Spock as soon as Jim had left. "You don't know where I've been."
"I did not wish to explain to the captain where I have been," said Spock.
"Let me guess--about a decade ago but dead wrong?"
"An interesting turn of phrase, doctor. Wherever I was, I will simply say that the U.S.S. Farragut was even more unfortunate than we remember. Had the anomaly not resolved itself when it did, I would not have been able to return."
"But of course you're not going to dwell on that," said McCoy.
"Of course not. But the captain would."
"And since it was your idea to...suggest that nothing happened, you're going to have to remind me where we just beamed up from and why."
"We do not have a great deal of time. May I suggest--"
"Be careful, Spock," said McCoy. "You keep trying to get into my brain, and people might think there's something between us."
"I have noticed humans often ascribe a sexual motive to something when they wish for that to be the case," said Spock.
"And I've noticed Vulcans are so repressed Queen Victoria'd tell you to loosen up," said McCoy. "How much time do we have?"
"My place or yours?" That got the double eyebrow raise, which was about as close as Spock let himself get to an eyeroll.