Fandom: Star Trek (2009)
Word count: 10,300
Disclaimer: Not my characters, not my world; only my fic; all gains purely spiritual in nature.
Summary: A few shore leaves, scheduled maintenance, a birthday party, a date, three letters, five other doctors, two whatevers, and one little girl.
Notes: The sequel to "Of Diving in Too Deep". Probably does not stand alone, but you're welcome to try. Both titles from "Overkill" by Men at Work. I'm tempted to say a lot of things here, but it's almost always better just to let the work speak for itself.
Thanks: To simply thank cordelianne and graceandfire as betas wouldn't do either of them justice. cordelianne must be thanked for listening to me talk endlessly - endlessly - about this story, for offering great suggestions, and for constantly enabling me with her enthusiastic feedback. (Yes, babe, I knew how helpful you'd been even before you 'reminded' me, but I love you for telling me how helpful you were, too.) graceandfire must be thanked not only for catching errors, suggesting edits and asking for clarifications, but also for the glorious and stimulating week or so of writing exchange which brought this fic to completion faster than I'd dared to hope. (Okay, so I'd hoped, but before you it was all looking awfully unlikely.)
And Possibly the Complications
In the end, they talk about it more than Bones thinks is necessary and far less than Jim wants.
Jim thinks he should exploit his hero status and try to get Bones and Joanna aboard the Enterprise.
Bones thinks Starfleet will never go for it no matter who Jim is and that children don't belong in 'open space.'
Jim rolls his eyes. "It's a ship, Bones. We have air and gravity and everything."
But Bones is unwavering in his convictions of disease, danger, darkness and silence.
"Fucking drama queen," Jim mutters.
He puts in the request for Bones to serve as his CMO, anyway, but Bones is right on at least one count – the admiralty turn him down cold.
Doctor McCoy's service profile is incompatible with assignment aboard a starship at this time.
And if Jim already hated the idea of going out there without Bones and Joanna – and he did – he hates it even more when it's written in Official Starfleet Bullshit.
But he kisses and hugs Joanna goodbye, tells her not to be too good while he's gone and promises to bring her lots of presents from space on his first shore leave.
He kisses and kisses Bones goodbye, tells Bones he won't be too bad while he's gone and makes a low-voiced series of much dirtier promises for that same shore leave.
And the Enterprise embarks on her first five-year mission with one Doctor Nalan Sarac as its CMO.
Bones does get his choice of 'compatible' assignments, and in his less selfish moments, Jim's glad Bones is posted at Star Station India, the same starbase where Jamelia and Vivek – whose official Starfleet status is now 'partnered' – have been serving since graduating last year.
He becomes particularly glad the first night of his first shore leave when – after Joanna finally passes out in Jim’s lap in spite of her best efforts not to miss a minute of Uncle Jim's visit – Jamelia appears and gently carries Joanna off to sleep at her and Vivek's place.
"I have always loved you," Jim calls after her before letting the door shut and pinning Bones up against it for a thorough exploration of every inch of Bones' body. If being a starship captain has taught him anything, it's the strategic value of a thorough mapping of the terrain of engagement.
"Did you just call me 'the terrain of engagement'?"
Jim possibly didn't realize he was saying that out loud, but oh well. He goes with it, shrugging. "What can I say, I have to record a captain's log every single day out there – and some of those days are really fucking boring – I've learned the value of metaphor."
"The value of metaphor?"
Bones raises an eyebrow and Jim's not sure if it's metaphor’s value Bones is doubting or Jim's ability to appreciate it.
Jim grins. "Hey, this is Captain James T. Kirk's first official mission – these logs are going to be fucking legendary."
"Please stop referring to yourself in the third person."
"And when people are studying them some day,” Jim continues, undeterred, “I don't want them to think I was just some kind of lucky idiot."
There's that eyebrow again. "You mean the kind of idiot who would stand here talking about metaphor when it's the first time we've been alone together in three months?"
"Hey..." Jim starts to defend himself, but stops. He has to admit the man's got a point.
"Being captain teach you anything about the value of just shutting up and getting the job done?"
"The job, Bones? Where's your sense of—?"
Bones cuts him off with the judicious application of a tongue down Jim's throat and Jim doesn't protest. That's another thing he's learned as captain, though he has never once admitted it: sometimes the doctor really does know best.
"So," Bones asks him later, after the best shared shower Jim can remember in god knows how long, possibly ever, "how's Doctor Sarac?"
Jim shrugs. "She'll do. For now. I mean, she's talented and all – they don’t assign just anyone to the Enterprise – but I'm pretty sure you're the better doctor." He considers for a moment. "You're definitely the better kisser."
Bones is giving him a look now and Jim searches it for jealously but finds only the typical exasperation.
Jim grins." What? There are like six, maybe eight people on the entire ship that ethical codes permit me to sleep with…and one of them is Spock. I think our CMO was an excellent choice."
Bones rolls his eyes. "You put that in the job description, Captain?"
Jim leers. "I'd put it in your job description. Primary duties: Close monitoring and careful maintenance of the captain's physical and psychological health, to include sexual servicing on a daily basis – twice daily when necessary, but not to exceed six times in a twenty-four hour period...unless in cases of extreme luck." Jim pauses to flick his tongue over his lips. “Feeling lucky, Bones?"
Bones snorts. "You're not all that, Jim. And six? Come on."
But Jim’s pretty sure he is all that, and that sounds a lot like a dare.
Jim's never been able to pass up a dare.
"Okay, now, deep breath..." Jim lifts Joanna out of the pool and over his head. "One, two, three – blow!" He plunges them both under the water and two streams of bubbles rise to the surface. Jim brings them up again a second later, grinning over at McCoy, sitting poolside. "See, Bones? She's a natural."
The way Joanna's grin matches Jim's, you'd think they shared DNA. "See, Daddy?” she calls. “I'm awesome." And she doesn't get that ego from McCoy, that's for sure. Trust Jim not to let the long-distance thing keep him from being a bad influence.
"Good job, darlin'. You'll be swimming on your own in no time," he calls, even though she's only two-and-a-half and the idea scares the hell out of him.
"Get in here, Bones." Jim keeps a hold on Joanna with one arm while he beckons with the other. "The water's perfect."
"Maybe in a minute." The truth is he likes to watch Jim and Joanna together. Lately Jo's taken to throwing tantrums, but when Jim visits he only ever gets her smiles.
Jim lifts Joanna up and dunks her again. She comes up laughing, then looks over at McCoy and pouts. "Daddy..."
"Come on, Bones," Jim says, matching both Jo's pout and her whine, but somehow managing to make them sexy – McCoy thinks it’s probably the eyebrows. "I'm dying to see you wet."
"Jim..." McCoy warns, feeling stirrings entirely inappropriate to a public pool at a family resort.
"Or at least take off your shirt so I can enjoy the view."
And the thing is, McCoy has no intention of playing Jim's game until he sees in Jim's eyes that Jim knows he has no intention of playing along...and, hell, what can he say? He's always suffered from a perverse desire not to do what's expected of him.
He slowly lifts himself out of the lounger, standing and stretching his arms up over his head, revealing a strip of skin between the hem of his shirt and his waistband. Meeting Jim's eyes, he lets his hands drop long enough to get a grip on the hem, then pulls the shirt over his head in one smooth motion.
McCoy smirks slightly as he reestablishes eye contact, watches Jim's eyes follow his hand as he pretends to scratch a place on his shoulder then lets it trail down to rub at his stomach.
"Uncle Jim!" Jo says suddenly. "Ouch! Too tight."
McCoy watches with satisfaction as Jim makes a conscious effort to tear his eyes away from McCoy's chest and lighten his grip on Joanna. He watches Jim swallow before speaking again.
"Hey, Jo," Jim says, "wanna go on the waterslide?"
McCoy sits back down on the lounger, triumphant. Jo shakes her head back and forth.
"No?" Jim asks. "Why not? It’ll be fun."
It takes Jo a few seconds. "I'm scared," she finally admits.
Jo nods solemnly as she studies Jim. "You never get scared."
Jim smiles at her. "'Course I do, Jo-Jo. Everyone does." He glances up at McCoy, as if to make sure he’s listening, then back down at Jo. "I just don't let it stop me from doing the things I want. But, hey, I'll be right there with you. I won’t let anything happen."
Jo thinks about this for a minute, then nods.
"You won't be sorry," Jim promises, as he lifts her out of the pool and leads her over to the kiddie slide. “It’s gonna be awesome.”
Sure enough, by the time Jim and Jo hit the bottom of the slide, Jo is laughing and squealing and begging Jim to go again, and McCoy thinks she probably needs a bad influence around once in a while.
"So how come I never knew about this exhibitionist streak of yours?" Jim asks much later that evening when they're back in the hotel suite and Jo is tucked into bed.
McCoy shrugs. "Guess you just bring out the worst in me."
Jim just smirks. He never takes offense at anything he can take as a challenge instead. Laying a hand flat against McCoy's chest, Jim pushes him toward their bedroom. "I dare you to say that again in twenty minutes."
"Jim – no babysitter, remember? We have to be quiet."
"Oh, believe me,” Jim says as the back of McCoy’s knees hit the edge of the bed and he goes falling back, “it’s not my noise you’re gonna need to be worrying about."
Sure enough, twenty minutes later, McCoy is biting down too hard on his own lip to say anything at all.
"So how do you like Doctor Ixtin?" McCoy asks over a lingering breakfast, while Jo watches cartoons in the other room. He can still feel the bruising on his lips from his own teeth.
"Eh," Jim says. "The crew like him, I guess."
McCoy raises an eyebrow. "But you don't?"
Jim shrugs. "It's not that I don't like him...he's just so fucking...cheerful."
McCoy rolls his eyes. "You're cheerful."
"I'm charismatic," Jim corrects. "And charming. He calls all his patients 'buddy' or 'sport' and ends every one of his official communications with a different inspirational quote. It's nauseating."
McCoy chuckles. "So I take it you're not sleeping with this one?"
Jim looks surprised. "Are you kidding? It's the only time I can get him to shut up."
McCoy nods in genuine sympathy. "I know the feeling."
One week before Jim is due for another visit to Star Station India, McCoy receives a video transmission. The minute he sees Jim’s face on the screen, he knows the news isn’t good.
“Hey, Bones, shore leave is fucked,” Jim says. Then his eyes widen. “Oh, shit, Jo isn’t watching this, is she?” He smiles sheepishly. “Don’t say ‘fucked,’ Jo-Jo. It’s a bad word.”
McCoy laughs because he’s long since learned to watch all of Jim’s transmissions through privately first – and not just the ones that Jim labels ‘Private’ which, besides containing discussions of some of the more gruesome and stressful aspects of the Enterprise’s encounters, tend to involve copious amounts of dirty talk and self-pleasure. McCoy smiles slightly at the screen, waiting for it…
“Or ‘shit,’” Jim adds suddenly. “That’s also a bad word. And it’s not polite to swear, Jo, even if you’re really, really frustrated like your Uncle Jim is right now because he was really looking forward to seeing you. And also he’s a little harder up than usual right now – which I can say, right, because you have no idea what it means? Well, anyway, your Uncle Jim was kinda looking forward to some grown-up time with your dad and the thought of not getting it is making him a little…tense.” Jim pauses again and shakes his head. “I should erase this and start over, shouldn’t I? Oh, who am I kidding, you’re not dumb enough to let Joanna see this without watching it through first.”
McCoy rolls his eyes. “Duh,” he says out loud, then shakes his head at himself. Clearly he’s been spending too much time with Raj.
“Right, so I’ll record a message for Jo after this. Anyway, Bones,” Jim continues onscreen. “Shore leave. Fucked. And I swear it’s not my fault in any way. We’ve got a new assignment and it’s diplomatic and it’s gonna look bad if I’m not there. Plus, the Defiant has been redirected and won’t be crossing our path anymore and they were my ride to India, so even if we finish early there’s no way I’ll be able to make it there and back in time.” Jim sighs. “But, it’s not all bad. Spock says that on our way between the diplomatic shit and some science thing, we should pass through transmission range – for at least two hours if we drop out of warp. Which we are totally going to do, by the way, because even Spock doesn’t think the science is that urgent. So, anyway, we can, you know, actually talk back and forth and stuff. Which doesn’t exactly solve my…problem, but better than nothing, right?”
And it is better than nothing.
McCoy’s as disappointed as Jo about not seeing Jim in the flesh – though not half as vocal about it and for somewhat different reasons – but talking in real time really is the next best thing.
Jim is grinning this time when he appears on screen. “Guess what?”
“What?” Joanna asks. This is one of her favorite games.
“I finally beat Spock at chess.”
McCoy smirks. “Congratulations, Jim.”
“So,” Jim continues, “he totally had to help me rearrange a few things in our schedule and make it so that the most ‘logical’ place for the maintenance we’re due for in six weeks– which, by the way, is going to take at least five days – is…Star Station India! How awesome is that?”
Joanna squeals and starts jumping up and down.
Jim, McCoy notices, is kinda jumping, too. In his chair.
McCoy, of course, is showing more restraint and not jumping at all.
Well, okay, maybe a little.
On the inside.
“You’ll be able to come aboard and everything. I can show you the Captain’s Chair.”
“I’ve seen the Captain’s Chair, Jim.”
Jim winks. “Not from the angle I’m talking about, Bones.”
“I wanna see it!” Jo says.
Jim shifts his attention away from McCoy and grins. “And so you shall, Jo-Jo. So you shall. You’re getting the Grand Tour.”
Jo’s answering grin nearly splits her face and McCoy can’t help smiling, too.
Jim spends a few more minutes telling Jo all about the wonders of the Enterprise and letting Jo tell him all about anything that passes through her head.
“Hey, honey,” McCoy interjects when there’s a lull, “do you think you could go play in your room for a while so your daddy and Uncle Jim can talk about grown-up stuff?”
“Don’t wanna.” Jo frowns at him, clenching her tiny fists, and he can practically see the tantrum rising in her throat…
“Do it for me, Jo-Jo?” Jim asks. “Please? When we’re done, I promise you can come back and say goodbye.”
Jo eyes Jim and spends another few seconds considering the tantrum, but finally relents, turning away from the screen to stomp off to her room.
"'Do it for me?'" McCoy mocks when she’s gone, batting his eyelashes.
"Hey, it worked. What can I say? She loves me best."
"That's because she doesn't have to live with you."
"I am a joy to live with," Jim says. “Just ask Spock.”
“I’m sure,” McCoy says, rolling his eyes. “Just be glad you don’t have to deal with all her tantrums. She’s at that age, I guess.”
There’s a slight pause and he catches Jim swallowing before Jim forces a smile. “I guess.”
“So what’s the deal with Doctor Usnavia?” McCoy asks for a quick change of subject. “Not your type?”
The light returns to Jim’s eyes. “Oh man, Bones, I didn't realize there was anyone – in the universe, I mean – who liked giving hyposprays more than you. And let's just say, the neck? Not her favorite injection site.” The grin Jim flashes threatens to outshine his eyes. “She’s awesome. And smoking hot. I mean, her legs? Holy shit. And she’s funny as hell and she has a great poker face and she could totally drink you and me under the table. Oh, and the other day she busted out these cigars that were un-fucking-believable. If I can ever get her to tell me where she got them from, Bones, that’s where we’re taking our next shore leave. I don’t care how far away it is. She’s not a bad doctor, either.”
“And she totally won’t fuck you.” McCoy laughs and then shakes his head because now all the ‘Private’ vid transmissions Jim’s been sending this last month make a lot more sense.
“You don’t have to enjoy that so much,” Jim whines.
“I have a deep appreciation for anyone willing to prove to you that you’re not as irresistible as you think you are.”
“Am so,” Jim says. “Besides, it’s totally not personal. She just happens to be categorically opposed to sex with any and all humanoid males. I can’t help it if I have a dick. I mean, come on, it’s a great dick. Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, when we were playing Texas Hold ’em, I totally got her to take a bet where she would have had to fuck me with a strap-on – and I had four nines, Bones, four nines – but then she goes and lays down this straight flush. It was tragic."
Which totally explains that last ‘Private’ vid.
McCoy thinks he should maybe send a thank you note.
“I like this woman, Jim. Hold onto her. You need to be around people who aren’t afraid to tell you ‘no.’”
Jim rolls his eyes. “You mean like my entire senior bridge crew? Not to mention you…”
“I don’t tell you ‘no’ half as often as I should.”
The levity drops from Jim’s face so fast it’s startling. “You do when it counts,” he mutters.
McCoy’s own smile evaporates. “I think you have me confused with Starfleet, Jim.”
“Well, it’s not like you’re fighting them on it.”
They stare at each other for a long moment.
“I better call Jo back in,” McCoy says at last. “You’ll probably be moving out of range soon.”
McCoy turns away from the screen to call toward the other room. When he turns back, Jim’s face is still serious and steady.
“I want the tantrums, too,” he says.
Jim is getting impatient.
Okay, so he's always impatient, but he's at serious risk of letting it show and that is not going to help his cause.
"I'm sorry," the daycare worker says, but she doesn't sound it. "I've got a Jamelia Shorter and a Vivek Kundra here, but I don't see...what was your name again?"
"James Kirk," Jim grinds out. "Captain James Kirk."
"Yeah," the woman says, barely glancing back at the screen, "you're not here."
“That’s because I’m usually out captaining a starship. But now I’m here and I just talked to Bo—I mean, Doctor McCoy, who just went into emergency surgery and probably won’t be out for several hours, and I assure you it is more than alright for me to pick up Jo-Jo.”
The woman rolls her eyes. “Oh, well if you assure me…”
“Look, I’m not some creepy stranger. I’m her…” Jim trails off.
The woman raises her eyebrows. “Yes?”
“Well, I mean, she calls me ‘Uncle Jim,’ but I’m more like her…Well, see, me and Bones—I mean, her dad, Doctor McCoy—we’re…I mean, we’ve been…”
Jim wants to put his fist through the wall, but he does his best to summon a charming smile.
“Look, I swear to you, I—”
“Oh my god, Elsie,” says a rapidly approaching young man, obviously also a daycare worker, “do you know who this is?”
“He says his name’s Joe Kirk.”
“James,” the man says. “Captain James Tiberius Kirk of the U.S.S. Enterprise. You know, youngest captain in the history of Starfleet? Federation hero? Saved Planet Earth? Any of this ringing a bell?”
“I’m not from Earth,” Elsie says.
The man rolls his eyes. “What does he want, Els?”
The man nods at her. “Well, give her to him, then.”
“Oh, what? Just because he’s some kind of celebrity, I’m supposed to know that he—”
“Didn’t bring the Federation flagship all the way to Star Station India just to abduct Doctor McCoy’s daughter?”
Elsie shrugs. “It could happen.”
The man shakes his head. “Have you ever talked to Joanna? She never shuts up about her ‘Uncle Jim.’”
The genuine smile Jim had on his face when he first walked into the center – before he encountered Elsie – finally reappears. “She doesn’t?” he asks.
The man gives Jim a slow once-over and then nods. “Can you blame her? I’m Kyle, by the way, and the news vids really didn’t do you justice.”
Jim shakes the hand that’s offered, but before he can figure out how to actually respond, he hears the sound of little running feet and a cry of, “Uncle Jim!” and he reaches down to scoop Jo up and swing her onto his hip.
“Hey, you,” he says, giving her a kiss on the top of her head, “ready for your tour of the Enterprise?”
Jim looks over at Elsie. “May I take her now?”
Elsie still looks unimpressed.
Kyle also looks unimpressed – with her. “Els…”
Elsie sighs. “I guess,” she says at last.
Jim doesn’t stick around to let her change her mind.
Jim grins as Bones materializes on the transporter pad. "Hey, you," he says.
"Hey," Bones says, quirking his lips into that barely-there Bones kinda smile.
He steps off the pad and Jim meets him halfway for a long kiss 'hello,' grateful for the empty transporter room.
"Jo's asleep in my quarters," Jim informs him as they break apart. "Tired?"
"Wired for the moment."
"Tour it is, then. What do you want to see first?" Jim waggles his eyebrows. "The correct answer, by the way, is 'Captain’s Chair.'”
“Sickbay,” Bones says.
"Killjoy," Jim mutters.
When they get there, Jim is surprised to see his CMO.
"Hey, Doc, what're you still doing here?"
"Catching up on paperwork," the doctor says, nodding toward the PADD in his hand.
"I hear that," Bones says.
Jim looks between the two men. "Doc, this is Leonard McCoy. Bones, this is Doctor Yasharian, who should be off the ship and in a bar by now."
"Not much for the bars these days, Captain."
Which kinda makes sense to Jim considering that the man is pushing eighty and not even all that well preserved for his age.
Jim catches Bones' eye and sees that Bones is taking in these same facts, spots the smirk Bones is barely managing to conceal and knows exactly what Bones is thinking.
"No," Jim hisses, jabbing a sharp elbow into Bones' ribs. "Ew. Gross."
He turns back to Doctor Yasharian and flashes a smile. "Well, you know what I always tell Bones, here - you're only as old as you feel."
The doctor smiles back at Jim, turns white as a sheet and promptly collapses.
Jim catches him on the way down, helps Bones get him into a med bed, and then steps back to let Bones work.
When Bones swears softly and calls time of death less than an hour later, Jim can't actually say he's surprised. He has shit luck with CMOs.
"Still wired?" Jim asks, voice low, trying not to think about Yasharian’s granddaughter, whom he had a class with once at the academy.
Bones shakes his head. "Tired."
Jim nods. "Me, too. Let's go to bed. I'll do the paperwork in the morning."
Bones is still asleep when Jim and Jo wake up in the morning and Jim figures he could use the rest, so he takes her into the other room, replicates some cereal for her and some coffee for himself and sits down across the table from her with a PADD to inform Starfleet of Doctor Yasharian's untimely demise.
When Bones wakes up and comes out of the bedroom, Jim gives him a short kiss to avoid what tends to be atrocious morning breath, hands him a cup of coffee, and heads for the shower.
When Jim gets out of the shower, Bones is alone in the room.
“Where’s Jo?” Jim asks.
“Spock came by looking for you and I asked him to take her for a while.”
“You left Jo with Spock?” Jim, brow furrowed, decides the sentence needs more emphasis. “You left Jo with Spock?” Yeah, that’s better. “Aren’t you afraid she’s going to come back logical or something?”
And when Bones doesn’t even crack a smile at that one, Jim knows that Bones didn’t send Joanna away so they could have some sexy-fun-time.
“What is it?” he asks.
Bones picks up the PADD Jim had left lying on the table and looks at Jim like Jim’s supposed to know what he did wrong now.
Which he totally doesn’t.
“What?” he asks again.
“What do you mean ‘what’? You filed a request for me to serve as your new CMO.” Bones shakes the PADD for emphasis. “What the hell, Jim?”
Jim thinks about trying to distract Bones by asking where Bones gets off going through Jim’s files, but he knows it won’t work, and what the fuck is the point anyway? He’s not sorry.
“I always file a request for you to serve as my new CMO. Every time the position is vacant.”
Bones gapes at him. “And you never thought to mention this to me? Or, you know – here’s a crazy thought – ask for my permission?”
“Don’t worry, Bones, it’ll be turned down in…” Jim pretends to glance at the chronometer, “about four hours. Seven at the outside.”
“That’s not the point, Jim.”
“Oh really? What is the point, then?”
“You shouldn’t go around doing stuff like that behind a person’s—”
“So, what, you thought I’d just given up? Have you even met me before?”
Before Bones can come up with an answer for that, Jim’s door chimes.
Jim sighs. “It’s Spock,” he says.
“What?” Bones frowns. “But they’ve only been gone for…”
“Let me guess – when you decided to pawn Jo off on Spock, Spock asked you what to do with her and you told him to ‘take a walk around the ship’?”
“Yeah, well, Spock’s a fast walker and he tends to be literal to a fucking fault. Next time, just tell him exactly how long you want them gone for and I can assure you, you won’t see them again even a minute earlier. So – we done here?”
Bones thinks for a second, sighs, then nods.
“Come in, Spock,” Jim calls.
And apparently, Bones really was done, because it’s been over two days and he hasn’t brought it up again and he doesn’t seem to be holding any sort of weird grudge and things haven’t even been awkward between them.
Jim received the expected response from Starfleet informing him that, Doctor McCoy's service profile is incompatible with assignment aboard a starship at this time.
Five hours and forty-five minutes after he sent his request. Right on schedule.
What Jim wasn’t expecting was the message sent to him and Bones a little over twenty-four hours later, informing them that that, while new personnel assignments were being sorted out, the Enterprise would be leaving spacedock after their maintenance without a new CMO. In the mean time, the message continued, Doctor McCoy had been tasked with completing a medical review and inventory of the vessel to ‘ensure maximum efficiency of operations’ until the vacant post could be filled.
So now they’re back on the Enterprise, hanging out in sickbay and the back of Jim’s mind is trying to work out how he’s going to talk Bones into sex in the Captain’s Chair while the front of his mind entertains Jo with a silly story about a diplomatic feast on a planet they visited a couple months back whose inhabitants only ever ate a type of cheese that looked like monkey brains.
The door to sickbay swishes open.
“Ew!” Jo says. “Did you have to eat it, too?”
“As the captain is an important diplomatic figure and the Erstergians were potential allies of significant strategic value – and given that both Doctor Usnavia and I had conducted extensive covert testing of the substance which revealed that it would cause neither physiological harm nor gastrointestinal distress – it was only logical that he do so.”
Joanna looks confused.
Jim looks over at his First Officer, who is standing in front of them now, Lieutenant Uhura at his side. “You’re a crap storyteller, Spock,” Jim says. He turns back to Jo. “And yeah, Jo-Jo, I totally ate it.”
“You’re telling me. What my officers’ ‘covert testing’ had failed to reveal was that it tasted like cow chips.”
“What’re cow chips, Uncle Jim?”
“Jim…” Bones calls warningly from over by a cabinet full of tricorders.
“Someday we’ll go visit Iowa and I’ll show you,” Jim whispers.
“You could just as easily show her on one of the ship’s computers, Captain.”
“Trust me, Spock, some things are meant to be experienced.”
“If you say so, Captain.”
“Who’s your friend, Mr. Spock?” Joanna asks, studying Uhura. “She’s pretty.”
“Jo-Jo, this is Lieutenant Uhura,” Jim says. “She’s my communications officer, which means she can speak a ton of languages.”
“What do you say when you’re introduced to someone, Jo?” Bones calls from another cabinet.
Joanna reaches up to offer Uhura her hand. “Pleased to meet you, Ms. You…Ya…” She falters.
Uhura crouches down in front of Joanna and shakes her hand. “You can call me Nyota.”
“That is so not fair,” Jim mutters. He looks back up. “So, Spock, what’s happening? You need something?”
“I told Lieutenant Uhura of the time I spent in Miss McCoy’s company the other day and she expressed a desire to share in the experience.”
Jim grins proudly. “She’s kinda irresistible, isn’t she?” He turns to call over his shoulder. “Bones?”
“Yeah,” Bones calls back from under a far med bed, “sure.”
“Hey, Jo,” Jim asks, “do you want to go play with Spock and Nyota for a while?”
She nods and smiles.
Jim watches the three walk out of sickbay, then looks over at Bones punching things into the inventory PADD, and suddenly he doesn’t care if Bones is done or not.
“Look, Bones,” he says, “maybe fate is trying to tell us something here. Ever since I took command of the Enterprise without you, I’ve been bleeding CMOs like nobody’s business – no pun intended. Doctor Yasharian is my fourth in less than a year and he only lasted three weeks.”
Bones looks up from his PADD. “Jim…”
“And I’m sure Starfleet has been trying to find a way to blame me. Hell, I’d be blaming me, except I know I didn’t do it. I mean, it’s no secret that you’re the only doctor I really want. Only I obviously didn’t arrange for Sarac to be an intergalactic fugitive. And I had no idea that she was wanted on that planet when I assigned her to the away team, honest. Starfleet obviously needs better background checks. And, yeah, maybe I was occasionally tempted to inject Ixtin with a flesh-eating bacteria – I mean, the man was fucking irritating – but I was nowhere near his mother when she came down with it, and not even Admiral Archer thinks I’m that much of a dick. And I totally wanted Usnavia to stick around – but who am I to stand in the way of true love. Sure, it would have been helpful if she’d fallen for someone who could actually have come aboard and hung out here instead of an honest-to-god princess who couldn’t leave her kingdom, but, man, you should have seen the way they looked at each other.”
“Jim, please don’t—”
“They’re running out of doctors even qualified for this post, Bones. They had to bring Doctor Yasharian out of retirement for this. And you can see how well that turned out.”
“Jim, whatever you’re going to suggest—”
“Just stay,” Jim says. “That’s all you have to do. Just stay on board – you and Jo – and we’ll just leave. The ship needs a doctor and you’re a doctor and what’s Starfleet really going to do about it anyway, once we’re out in space?”
“You could be court-martialed. We could both be court-martialed.”
“Oh, please, if they haven’t court-martialed me already, why would they start now? If there’s one thing I’ve learned since you snuck me on board this ship, it’s that it’s easier to get forgiveness than permission.”
“No, Jim. Of all the crazy plans…”
“All my plans are crazy, Bones. And they’re all brilliant. Sometimes you just have to trust your instincts. Or my instincts. Forget your instincts and trust mine. This is what Starfleet, with all its regulations, doesn’t get, okay? It’s what Pike knew and Spock Prime knew and it’s what’s gotten us this far. Sometimes you just have to do what feels right. Don’t you remember how it was when we were fighting the Narada? Fighting for Earth? When I was the on the bridge and you were in med bay and we saved the fucking world – didn’t you feel it, Bones? Didn’t that feel right?”
Bones sets down the PADD and steps closer. “Jim, it’s not that…I just…”
“At least think about it first,’” Jim says, reaching up to put two fingers over Bones’ lips. “We still have two days left. Just think about it.”
If there’s one thing Jim hates more than waiting, it’s waiting patiently. Or at least pretending to wait patiently, which mostly involves not nagging, not cajoling, and not spending every waking moment filling Bones’ ears with how awesome it would be if he stayed on the Enterprise.
In other words, keeping his mouth shut.
Jim hates keeping his mouth shut.
He also hates that things are awkward between them now, with everything there is not to say, but at least the Enterprise inventory keeps Bones busy and close by and Jim’s got Jo for cuddling and roughhousing and mutual fawning adoration.
It could be worse.
The two days pass too quickly, like they always do.
They spend their last night before the Enterprise’s scheduled departure down on the starbase, and they fuck slowly and quietly in Bones’ bed, and Bones hasn’t said anything at all about tomorrow, but then he hasn’t been packing either.
By morning, time has slowed to a crawl and Jim swears he can hear the chronometer ticking.
His comm Chirps and it’s Spock, letting him know that repairs have been completed, the paperwork filed, and that the majority of the crew are back on board. In short, that embarkation should proceed as scheduled.
Jim thanks Spock and signs out.
Hell of a time for routine maintenance to actually be routine.
He looks across the breakfast table. “I guess it’s time.”
Bones looks back at him and nods. “Jo,” he calls without breaking their eye contact, “come say goodbye to your Uncle Jim.”
Jim can barely swallow around the lump that suddenly appears in his throat. “Bones, please…”
“I can’t, Jim. You know I can’t.”
“You could,” Jim says, not even trying to keep the bitterness from his voice. “You just won’t.”
“Dammit, stop looking at me like that,” Bones hisses, eyes on Jo’s still-closed door. “She’s not even three years old, Jim. I’m not going to let you turn my daughter into some sort of stowaway.”
Whatever other arguments he had planned die abruptly on Jim’s lips. He only has two words now. “Your daughter.”
Bones’ eyes widen. “Jim, I…”
“No, you’re right.” Jim shakes his head as sharp-edged laughter scrapes up through his tight throat. “I mean, I can’t even pick her up from the fucking preschool.”
“Daddy,” Joanna says as she runs into the room, “Uncle Jim said a bad word!”
“That’s okay, darlin’,” Bones tells her, and Jim doesn’t know how he can sound so fucking normal. “Just give him a hug and a kiss goodbye, alright? And then run back to your room.”
Jo does as she’s told and Jim doesn’t trust himself to do anything but keep silent and squeeze her tight, breathing in the smell of her soft, shiny hair.
Somehow he lets her go.
He hears the door to her room swish closed and forces himself to stand up. He pulls out his communicator.
“Kirk to Enterpise.”
“Look, Jim,” Bones begins as he stands and starts to come around the table, “I didn’t—”
“One to beam up.”
Once upon a time, McCoy had firmly believed that the worst part of this whole plan would be the three consecutive shuttle rides – from Starbase One to San Francisco, from San Francisco to Atlanta and from Atlanta to Savannah.
Now he knows better.
He now knows that the shuttle rides were just the first stop on his slow and steady descent into Hell.
Sartre was right. Hell is other people.
And in the special hell reserved for Leonard Horatio McCoy, those people are what Southerners call kinfolk – Jocelyn’s kinfolk, to be exact. And McCoy doesn’t know what in blazes could possibly have possessed him to enter willingly into the lion’s den.
Well, except that he – okay, Joanna – had been invited and it seemed like the right thing to do at the time.
Because why not spend three days of precious shore leave stuck in a big ol’ house full of people who are probably just waiting for you to die so they can have Jocelyn’s daughter back?
“Now, L.H.,” Aunt Mimsy is saying and, god, how he hates being called by that name, “tell the truth. You don’t really think space is any place to raise a little girl?”
McCoy grits his teeth and keeps a smile plastered to his face. This is no less than the fifth time that he’s been through this conversation since he arrived in the Darnell family home. “We’re on a starbase, ma’am. We’ve got air and gravity and everything.”
“Come now – children belong with family.”
“She is with—”
Mimsy cuts him off with a tsk. McCoy hates being tsked. “A single man alone is not a family, L.H.”
Frankly, McCoy doesn’t know if he’s ‘single’ or not at the moment, but he knows damn well that he’s not alone. And neither is Joanna.
“Trust me, ma’am, there is no shortage of people in Joanna’s life who care for her very deeply.”
Before Mimsy can insist – like each of McCoy’s inquisitors before her – that only her “true” family can care for Joanna “properly,” the doorbell rings.
McCoy lurches from his seat and lunges for the door like a drowning man for a life preserver. For all he knows, this new relative will be the worst yet and he’s leaping from the frying pan into the fire, but McCoy is willing to take the risk.
He doesn’t get another relative, though.
He gets Jim.
For a moment, they both just stare.
Jim is the first to manage a weak half-smile and a quiet, “Hey.”
“Hey,” McCoy answers. They’re the first words they’ve exchanged – written, recorded or otherwise – in almost two months. They hover in the air between them. “I wasn’t sure you’d come,” McCoy adds finally.
“Jo-Jo’s third birthday? I wouldn’t miss it for the world. And you know how I feel about cake.” Jim pauses. “Unless I’ve been uninvited?”
McCoy shakes his head. “No, Jim. Never. I wouldn’t…. I couldn’t ever…”
“I mean, I know she’s not my…mine, but it’s just…. I’ve known her since she was this big,” Jim shows the size with his hands, “and she means so much to me, and...”
McCoy stops Jim with a hand on his arm. “Of course she’s yours, Jim. I never meant to say she wasn’t. You just left so quickly and I…. She’s always been yours, in every way that—”
“Uncle Jim!” Joanna appears out of nowhere and goes hurtling past McCoy and into Jim’s arms.
Case in point.
And McCoy has to chuckle as they hug because he swears the girl has some kind of sixth, Jim-attuned sense that allows her to hone in on him whenever he’s in the vicinity.
Only after watching them for a few seconds does he realize that Jim is still standing outside the house. He’s just stepping aside to usher Jim in when a tsking Mimsy appears, slapping at his shoulder.
“L.H. McCoy,” Mimsy scolds, “why in heaven’s name are you making this handsome young man stand outside on the porch?” She reaches forward to get a hand on Jim’s elbow. “You must forgive L.H. his deplorable manners. Now come on in, darlin’, and Mimsy’ll get you a drink.”
Jim crosses the threshold, raising an eyebrow as he passes McCoy and mouthing, L.H.?, and McCoy shoots him a glare that dares him ever to utter those two letters together out loud in his presence.
“Now what’s your name, sugar?” Mimsy asks.
Jim shifts Joanna to his left arm and reaches out with his right.
Mimsy offers her hand and Jim – the bastard – lifts it to his lips and brushes a kiss over her knuckles.
“Captain James T. Kirk of the U.S.S. Enterprise, ma’am, at your service.”
Mimsy practically swoons.
“Jim…” McCoy begins.
Suddenly reminded of McCoy’s presence, Mimsy turns on him. “Well, don’t just stand there,” she snaps, “get the Captain a drink.”
And that’s the last notice anyone takes of McCoy for the rest of the evening.
Apparently, Jocelyn’s family only hates Starfleet officers in the person of Doctor Leonard McCoy. Dashing young captains in the person of Jim Kirk, they adore.
The whole thing might have pissed McCoy off…if he wasn’t so damn relieved.
Having slipped through the crowd surrounding Jim to place a cold beer into his free hand, McCoy slips back out again and out of the house, settling himself on the porch swing with a glass of the good whiskey.
When Jim finds him there on the porch hours later, McCoy is nursing his third glass and reading from his PADD.
Jim sits down next to him on the swing, pushing it a bit with his legs. “You’re working?” he teases.
“Just some articles I’ve been meaning to catch up on.”
“I put Jo to bed upstairs.”
McCoy nods. “Where’s your fan club?”
Jim groans. “They’re all out back. I’m just hoping they’re too drunk to notice I’m gone.”
“From your lips to God’s ears,” McCoy mutters.
A moment passes.
“You were right, you know,” McCoy says at last.
“’Course I was,” Jim agrees, without hesitation. Then: “About what?”
McCoy chuckles. God, he’s missed that.
“About me and Jo staying at the Academy. Bringing her here would have been…”
“A fucking disaster,” Jim finishes, emphatically. “Those people are crazy. And they kinda hate you.”
McCoy rolls his eyes, but he wants to finish this. “So if I never said it before – thank you.”
Jim shrugs. “What’re friends for?”
McCoy nods and takes a deep breath. “So, look – about earlier – I want you to know that…” He stares straight ahead. “I mean, whatever happens with you and me, I just want you to know that I’d never keep Joanna from you, okay? You can always see her or talk to her whenever you want.”
“Bones,” Jim says, “look at me.” McCoy does. “Are you breaking up with me?”
“Jim, you haven’t talked to me in two months.”
“You haven’t talked to me in two months.”
McCoy frowns, looking away again. “What are you? Five? Look, the point is, I know you’re mad that I wouldn’t let you take Jo—”
“You and Jo.”
“Me and Jo on the Enterprise, and I’m sorry I made you think that you don’t have any rights to her – because you have every right – but I’m not sorry about the decision. I’d make it again if I had to.”
McCoy stops and looks at Jim again, waiting.
Jim sighs. “I’m not mad,” he says. He tilts his head. “Okay, well, I am mad. But I’m not mad at you, I’m mad at the situation.” Jim pauses and amends again. “Okay, I am mad at you, but I’m only mad at you because you’re not mad at the situation.”
“Oh,” McCoy quips, “well that clears it right up.”
“Whatever,” Jim says. “You know what I mean.”
And the truth is, he does.
“Because it’s a shitty situation, Bones,” Jim continues. “And I hate it. And I don’t understand why you don’t hate it, too.”
McCoy hears a bark of laughter split the night air and thinks it might be his own. “You think I don’t hate it? Of course I fucking hate it. You’re Joanna’s father and my…whatever, and we miss you all the fucking time, but that’s just the way it is and there’s nothing we can do about it.”
“Yeah?” Jim says. “Well, I don’t accept that.”
“Well, I can’t not accept it, Jim.” It feels like all the air has disappeared from his lungs, his breathing short and ragged. “We can’t all just walk up to the biggest guy at the bar, look at the four friends standing behind him, and throw the first punch. And we sure as hell can’t all come out smiling.”
“Bones, I’m not asking you to—”
“You’re asking me to want something I can’t have. And I’m sorry, but where’s the good in that? I know you hate to settle, but did it ever occur to you that some things are worth settling for? Worth taking however you can get them?”
“So, what?” Jim asks, and it hurts to hear him sound so subdued. “We just go back to the way things were?”
“If you want.”
“Is it what you want?”
McCoy shrugs. “It’s better than nothing.”
The seconds it takes Jim to answer feel like hours.
“Fine,” Jim says. “But I’m not giving up, you know.”
“Alright,” Jim says. He looks over his shoulder at the house. “So, Joanna’s asleep in your room…”
McCoy nods, thinks for a second, then stands. “Come on,” he says. “I know a place.”
Jim follows McCoy down the porch steps and away from the house.
“Why L.H. McCoy,” he says, affecting a truly awful Southern accent, “are you taking me for our makeup sex to some place where you used to neck with your ex-wife?”
McCoy stops walking and turns to face Jim. “If you swear never to use that name again, I’m taking you to the only private, flat surface on this property that isn’t currently occupied by a child or a bitchy Southerner.”
“Never again,” Jim says solemnly. “I swear.”
McCoy turns and starts walking again.
“Though I kinda have this thing for bitchy Southerners…”
“Shut up,” McCoy grumbles.
And Jim does.
For about thirty seconds.
McCoy rolls his eyes. “What?”
“You’re my…whatever, too.”
On the day Joanna turns three-and-a-third – a fact which she proudly announced over breakfast that morning and McCoy doesn’t know how he ended up with a daughter this fucking smart – McCoy meets a beautiful woman.
Beautiful and brilliant, and if anyone asks, it’s definitely the brilliance he noticed first.
The hospital on Star Station India is hosting a medical conference and Doctor Ethenia Whye gives this mind-bending paper on rapid xeno-brain-mapping in emergency surgery that nearly gives McCoy a hard-on.
He finds her afterwards to shake her hand and ends up inviting her to dinner.
They talk shop all the way through dinner. As they near the end of a lingering bottle of wine, things take a turn towards the personal. She’s already told him that she’s between projects at the moment, travelling around, presenting papers, hoping something will capture her interest. Now she leans forward, places her hand over his on the table, and looks at him with searching eyes.
“God, Leonard, I just feel so…restless.”
He recognizes the invitation for what it is, and hearing that rarely used name on her lips does something to him, but he looks her in the eye and slowly shakes his head.
“You’re beautiful and brilliant and I’m probably ten kinds of fool for passing this up, but I’m already seeing people.”
“People?” she repeats, arching an eyebrow. “Where’s the problem then?”
McCoy shrugs. “Two’s pretty much my limit.”
She nods and smiles. “Fair enough, I suppose.”
And then something occurs to him.
“Restless, huh? Have you ever considered serving aboard a starship?”
Ethenia shakes her head. “I enjoy the occasional patient,” she says, “but I’m a researcher, not a GP.”
McCoy’s lips quirk a bit at the edges. “Are you familiar with the U.S.S. Enterprise?”
Jim makes his way to Transporter Room Two to welcome his new temporary CMO. The Enterprise hasn’t been given a permanent one since Yasharian, just a series of short timers on break from or in between other assignments. In a way, Jim is relieved. He’s not exactly superstitious, but the position was beginning to feel cursed.
The sad reality is that Starfleet is still feeling the losses of the Narada incident, and Jim’s bad CMO luck has left the personnel office scrambling.
When he gets there, Scotty reports that Doctor Whye is ready to beam up. Jim gives him the go ahead, then catches his breath as she materializes before him.
She smiles at him.
“Permission to come aboard, sir.”
“Permission granted,” Jim says, mentally kicking himself for not keeping the leer out of his tone. Contrary to some appearances, Jim does care about being a professional.
Doctor Whye seems unfazed as she steps forward. “I brought you a note from Leonard,” she says.
Jim frowns. A note? From Leonard?
But sure enough, she’s pulling a small folded piece of paper out of her pocket. Jim takes it from her hand and unfolds it. Never did get you that anniversary present, it reads.
Two months ago, he officially completed the first year of his captaincy. He and Bones had ‘celebrated’ on his last shore leave, but Bones had also promised him a gift…
Jim does a double-take and almost chokes on his own saliva.
He’s not entirely sure he can, or should, ever look Doctor Whye in the eyes again, but he sort of has to, so he does.
And that’s when he realizes something.
She’s read the note.
A week later, McCoy receives a short transmission.
A bare-chested and bemused Jim frowns out at him from the screen. “Really, Bones?” McCoy doesn’t have to wonder what Jim’s talking about. He can see the edge of Jim’s bed in the background – and Ethenia Whye’s foot and exceptionally well-turned ankle hanging over it. “I mean, thanks,” Jim continues, “but really?”
The transmission cuts out and McCoy hits the button on his console to record his reply. He rolls his eyes at the screen.
“I'm a doctor, Jim, not a pimp. Doctor Whye is a highly qualified medical professional who was looking for a new challenge and a temporary change of scenery, and who is perfectly capable of making her own professional and personal decisions. It's not like I sent you a hooker.”
He pauses and gives the screen a smirk.
“But you can thank me later.”
The first thing McCoy notices when he keys in the code and steps into Jamelia and Vivek’s rooms is the quiet.
Just as he’s seriously starting to wonder if he’s walked into the wrong apartment, or possibly an alternate universe, Jamelia appears from the kitchen.
“Morning. Want some coffee?”
“Sure,” he says automatically, still puzzled.
“What’s wrong?” Jamelia asks as she turns back to the kitchen
“It’s just so…”
“Quiet? I know. Eerie, right?” Jamelia reappears with two mugs of coffee, moving toward the couch. “But at the same time, kind of amazingly wonderful. Sit down. Relax.” McCoy sits and Jamelia hands him one of the mugs. “My amazingly wonderful partner took the kids to the playground. They should be back in an hour or so. Unless you needed to take Jo now. He’s got his comm. I can give him a call. Of course, I’ll hate you forever for depriving me of my well deserved hour, but…”
McCoy smiles. “That’s okay. I’m not in a hurry.” He leans back into the couch and sips at the coffee, distracted.
Jamelia takes a long whiff of hers and then a small sip. “Now this is what I call a morning off.”
McCoy nods absently, taking another sip.
“So, you look lost in thought today? What’s up? How’d the date go last night?”
McCoy shrugs. “It was okay.”
“Just okay? I thought things had been going well.”
“They had. They are. Really well. Erica’s great.”
Jamelia snorts. “Some people would smile when they said that. So, what? Magic’s gone, you’re gonna break up with her?”
McCoy shrugs again. “I don’t know. I don’t want to. I mean, it’s not her.”
“So it’s you?”
McCoy sighs. “Actually, it’s Jo.”
Jamelia’s eyes widen. “Jo doesn’t like her? That’s so weird. You’d think they’d get along great.”
“It’s not that.”
“She doesn’t like Jo? Oh, that’s it. It’s time to dump her ass. Who in their right mind could possibly not like—?”
“They’ve never met.”
“Jo and Erica. They’ve never met.”
Jamelia’s mouth is open and she’s blinking at him. “You’ve been seeing her for almost three months.”
“Yes, thank you. She made sure to point that out last night as well. And she’s right. It’s time. Maybe past time.”
“So what’s the problem?”
“I don’t know. It’s just…Jim is coming, in a couple of weeks.”
“She doesn’t know about Jim?” Jamelia pauses and shakes her head. “No, of course she knows about Jim. You always tell them about Jim.”
McCoy nods. “On the first date. Jim, Joanna – full disclosure.” He frowns and takes a longer drink of his coffee. “Things just usually don’t last long enough for any of it to matter too much.”
“Right. So you’ve never actually introduced anyone you’ve dated on the base to Joanna? How have I not noticed this before?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t think it was a big thing. I just, you know, never got around to it.”
“And now that you have, it’s starting to feel like a thing.”
“Yeah, I suppose it is. Joanna’s just…. She’s a part of my life I’m not really used to sharing.”
“Except with Jim.”
McCoy nods. “Yeah, except with Jim.”
They both pause for another long drink of coffee.
Jamelia looks at him. “Children can have more than two parents, you know.”
“Believe me, I know. Hell, I just keep waiting for Jocelyn to reappear…. But that’s not it. Not exactly.” McCoy takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. “Last night, Erica fell asleep and I was lying there, trying to picture it. And it was pretty damn easy. Erica and Jo – you’re right, they’ll get along great – and me. The three of us, here on the same base. And she’ll come over for dinner and then I’ll put Jo to bed and she’ll stay the night, and there she’ll be again, at breakfast. And maybe she starts dropping Jo off at pre-school sometimes, or picking her up, depending on my schedule, and suddenly it’s a whole routine. Easy as you please. And then, every couple of months, Jim’ll show up, and it’s not like Jo and I won’t be happy to see him, but he’ll be like, I don’t know…the fun uncle…the old friend…the great fuck…”
Jamelia nods slowly. “The guy you go out to see, instead of the one you come home to.”
And it’s like she’s tugged on tiny a string and suddenly the giant knot in McCoy’s brain has come untangled and everything is laid out before him.
“He’s the one I want to come home to.”
Jamelia gives him a smile, and McCoy swears it’s the same smile she gave Angie last week, when Angie added two plus two and came up with four. “Now,” she says, “what are you going to do about it?”
“I think you should write a letter to Starfleet Command,” Jamelia announces a few weeks later, two days after the end of Jim’s latest visit.
“A letter.” McCoy is skeptical.
“Absolutely. I mean, it’s been almost nine months and they still can’t fill the CMO position on the Enterprise. I think this is a great time to remind them that there’s someone ready, willing and able to do the job, if they’ll just pull their heads out of their asses long enough to see it.”
McCoy snorts. “I’m sure Jim has the reminders more than covered.”
Jamelia smiles. “I’m sure you’re right, but that’s Jim. I’m talking about you. You letting them know that that’s what you want. I know you’re afraid to try and fail, but it’s one letter. What have you really got to lose?”
“I’m not afraid,” McCoy mutters. “I just…”
He makes the mistake of looking into Jamelia’s eyes and decides that capitulation is the better part of valor.
“Alright – one letter.”
One month later McCoy receives a transmission from something called P.U.F.F.S.
Frowning, he hits ‘play’ and is surprised when Jim’s face appears on the screen.
“Dear Doctor McCoy,” Jim says. “On behalf of Personnel United for Family-Friendly Ships, I would like to thank you for your participation in our recent letter writing campaign.”
Campaign? McCoy’s eyes narrow.
“As you may or may not know,” Jim is continuing with an obnoxiously straight face, obviously reading from an in-screen teleprompter, “P.U.F.F.S. has been hard at work for nearly three years now urging Starfleet Command to consider allowing those Starfleet personnel who are parents or guardians of minor children to serve aboard starships, accompanied by those children, if they so desire.”
McCoy shakes his head. “Damn it, Jim.”
“Though, at times, this has seemed a futile and, let’s face it, thankless pursuit, our negotiators have persevered in their travails with admirable diplomacy and resolve.”
McCoy rolls his eyes.
“And so, today, I am pleased to inform you that, at long last, we have met with our first, concrete success. Starfleet Command has agreed to allow its flagship, the U.S.S. Enterprise, under the command of none other than yours truly, Captain James Tiberius Kirk, to bring aboard two families as part of a pilot project which, if successful, will be expanded to other starships with research and/or exploratory agendas.”
Suddenly, McCoy finds himself holding his breath.
“You should expect to receive a transmission from Starfleet Command later today offering you this assignment. I know I speak for all members of P.U.F.F.S. when I say that it is my sincere hope that you will accept that offer, and that you and your lovely daughter, Joanna, will join Lieutenants Jamelia Shorter and Vivek Kundra, and their children Angela and Rajesh, in coming aboard the Enterprise when she docks at Star Station India in ten days. We thank you for your consideration. Sincerely, James T. Kirk, Personnel United for Family-Friendly Ships, President.”
McCoy blinks a couple of times – just a little something in his eye – then hits the button to record his reply.
“Dear stubborn, insufferable, ostentatious, marvelous son of a bitch: Yes. Yours truly, McCoy, Chief Medical Officer, U.S.S. Enterprise.”
Joanna is the first one off the shuttle when it docks aboard the Enterprise, instantly finding her way into Jim’s waiting arms.
McCoy follows more slowly, wrestling with their luggage. Once he’s piled it on the floor of the shuttle bay, he finally looks up and over at Jim, raising a single eyebrow. “P.U.F.F.S.?”
Jim shrugs. “What? It’s catchy.”
McCoy starts toward him, shaking his head. “You started an organization dedicated to getting kids aboard starships – three years ago – and decided not to bother telling me?”
“Actually, she started an organization dedicated to getting kids aboard starships three years ago and decided not to bother telling you,” Jim says, pointing to Jamelia as she emerges from the shuttle. “I just joined an organization dedicated to getting kids aboard starships three years ago and decided not to bother telling you. You know, technically speaking.”
McCoy turns to look at Jamelia. “You did this?” He jerks a thumb in Jim’s direction. “And then you went and made him the president?”
“Well, only after I saved the planet,” Jim says.
Jamelia nods. “Never underestimate the power of a good figurehead.”
The surprise on McCoy’s face melts into a smile. “I guess I owe you one. Or, you know, one more.”
“Wait a minute,” Jim says. “What about me? What about owing me one?”
McCoy shrugs. “You were just a figurehead.”
“I was so much more than a figurehead,” Jim declares, affronted. “And, besides, I’m the captain here.” He jabs a finger in McCoy’s direction. “As captain, I order you to owe me one.”
McCoy looks at Jim and thinks that, when it comes right down to it, he may just owe Jim everything.
He even thinks he may tell Jim someday.
Possibly when he’s unconscious.
For now: “I think we need to have a talk about personal/professional boundaries, Captain.”
Jim just grins, wide as McCoy’s ever seen. “Bones,” he says, “that is a discussion I look forward to having early and often.”
And that’s when McCoy realizes it’s going to be a long four years – and that he’s looking forward to every minute of it.
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