Cold, steel blue eyes held riveted on the twisted form before them. They bore into its intricate design as if he expected to be able to cause some vile transformation if he only glared at it hard enough.
The image of Joanna's face haunted him as he stared at it. The way she always chewed on the corner of her lip, her little nose scrunched up and her eyes shining a smoky blue when she was eagerly anticipating something delightful from her father. When he'd promised to be at her spelling bee, science fair, school play, skating competition, dance recital: when he'd told her he'd spend the day at the carnival with her. He never forgot that look. It was frozen in his mind forever.
On rare occasions he remembered that his ex-wife's eyes had been the same when they'd first been together. He'd never noticed it at the time, but it was there. The same smoky blue color of hopeful expectation when she'd been asking him not to take the extra shift at the hospital, not to barricade himself in his study to find the answer to the latest patient's quandary. He remembered being constantly irritated when he'd had to push plates of withered food and mounds of melted wax out of the way to spread his research on the dinner table after she'd gone to bed.
"What do you want?" he rasped, snapping his head over to glare instead at the Ensign who had apparently materialized by some silent transporter beam in the middle of his closed office.
Somber brown eyes regarded him patiently, unwavering and professional despite the Doctor's unearned attack. "I am sorry to hear that Lt. Moore's condition continues to deteriorate. She is an invaluable part of the ship's science team."
Like that's going to make any fucking difference, McCoy thought instantly. "Don't worry," he snarled aloud with particular viciousness. "I'm sure Spock won't load her extra work on you and cancel your precious leave."
This young man didn't deserve such treatment. He'd done nothing to warrant it. What was worse, he gave McCoy no rewarding, richly deserved, angry response. Chekov just continued to stare at him with his warm, soulful brown eyes.
Stop being so fucking...you, the Doctor willed forcefully.
"I understand that you will no longer be taking your leave as scheduled. I wondered if, perhaps, I could be of some assistance?"
"Of course you can," he said tartly. "Give me a cure."
How the hell did Chekov know he'd canceled his leave? Was it posted on the damn ship-wide bulletin board? McCoy's jaw shifted, his thoughts softening for the first time in two days. Of course it wasn't. Pavel Chekov had some uncanny, innate connection to the crew of the ship that he served with. He always seemed to know when there was a problem: even when it was unvoiced. Unknown penpals wrote to lonely people, anonymous presents materialized for occasions that no one else even knew about. They were always incredibly appropriate gifts. Before the new navigator even knew her, he'd given Christian Chapel a beautiful working carousel for her birthday. She had never told anyone she had collected carousel horses as a child and, to this day, no one knew how he'd found out.
Of course, sometimes the gifts weren't anonymous. When they weren't, they tended to be ... well, Chekovian. After a week on board, Chekov had presented the ship's cook with a beautiful Russian Orthodox icon for the main kitchen's wall. It turned out to be Saint Euphrosynos, the patron Saint of cooks. He had said the kitchen staff needed all the help they could get.
Chekov was an extraordinary young man, the Doctor thought.
McCoy never spoke about the family he'd left behind to the people aboard ship, but he had no doubt that Pavel Chekov somehow knew that he'd been planning to meet his daughter to celebrate her birthday. His eyes shifted to stare again at the present on the desk he stood next to. The bow was made out of a beautiful transparent silk ribbon, the sweetheart roses tracing gentle patterns as it twisted and turned in a pattern that still transfixed McCoy. Chapel had found him struggling with it and affected magic with the writhing mass.
Why did that fucking bitch from the Science Labs have to come up with that ridiculous, mysterious, apparently terminal malady NOW?
The Doctor shifted his jaw as shame mingled with the toxic mix of emotion boiling within him. "I'll bet your father never missed your birthday," he muttered miserably. "Of course your father never missed your birthday," McCoy growled louder. "He got you up and dressed every damn day of your life."
"Well, not that week I refused to get dressed," the younger man observed helpfully.
The Doctor glanced back and Chekov winced guiltily when he had the older man's attention again. "I gave him two black eyes when I kicked him in the face. It was horrible display of disrespect."
McCoy scowled at him. "You were two, Chekov."
"Yes," the man insisted miserably. "I should have behaved better."
The Doctor smirked despite his foul mood. Someone had taken a great deal of time to teach Chekov good manners and concern for others. It wasn't surprising to McCoy. He had learned that traditional Russians felt that teaching their children 'moral upbringing and good breeding' was even more important than a basic education. Their language even had a special word for it: vospitaniye.
"Your father even carried you to breakfast every day," McCoy continued, purposely fishing. He wasn't disappointed.
"Yes, well, he had to give me a piggyback ride lately," Chekov insisted melodramatically. "We're the same size now."
The Doctor met the wide brown eyes for the first time. They were patient and warm. He felt sure he didn't deserve the respect now that never seemed to waver from them.
People thought Chekov worshiped the ship's Captain. They thought he tried to imitate Spock. They even debated on a constant basis exactly whose protégé he was. The Navigator was aware of all this. McCoy knew it because he and Chekov had discussed it at length. And they were all wrong.
Chekov had a remarkably sound sense of self, the Doctor was continually reminded. The younger man admired and respected all of the ship's officers but had an uncanny ability to identify and emulate specific qualities and abilities in each of them. His apparent wide-eyed admiration was a thin veil which quickly dissolved when anyone took the time to ask him about it. It was just that no one ever took the time to ask.
"I'm surprised your father didn't even spank you when you kicked him in the face," McCoy observed curiously. Every parent eventually tapped toddlers occasionally. Sometimes it was the only way to get their attention. According to Chekov, Andrie had never done so for any reason.
The young man shook his head now. "He told me that I had a right to my own feelings. My father always said that you have to embrace your own emotions, no matter what they are."
No one would argue that Chekov hadn't learned that lesson.
The man stopped, soulful brown eyes purposely capturing the Doctor's. "If you don't, than you're doomed to spend all your time warring with them instead of actually living your life."
McCoy always felt that someone should have given Andrie Chekov a damn psychology degree. Something way beyond a doctorate. A PPPPhd. The Enterprise's Doctor knew even as he thought it that just hearing Chekov repeat Andrie's words had made McCoy recognize and accept the anger he felt toward his patient. No, it wasn't right. It was downright selfish: but the anger was real, it was all his, and no one outside him could say what was real wasn't acceptable. He was angry at her for getting sick. Damn angry.
And knowing this, it no longer held him. The anger was gone and McCoy was left with an all-consuming heartache that he had long ago learned to live with.
The young man approached him then, moving close enough so that the Doctor could feel the man's body heat on his skin. "Could I not be of some assistance?" Chekov repeated, reaching out to clasp McCoy's arm. The warmth of the younger man's hand settled a deep sense of comfort on him.
Chekov had a remarkable ability to sense what the people around him needed emotionally and the Doctor often considered that he was unusually mature for his age. He must have known it because he hid it well.
McCoy felt a not-so-subtle sense of pride because he knew the respect he always saw deep in Chekov's eyes was something different from the respect the man had for the ship's other officers. After a difficult beginning, their relationship had become something the Doctor had never expected: something he didn't even realize he'd value. Nothing McCoy knew he needed until he had it.
What Russians treasured most in life was long hours of conversation regarding everything beginning with the sunrise and ending with the meaning of life—usually in the same discussion. Chekov's favorite debate had always been a daily commune with his father. Although Sulu was his closest friend on board, he'd come to rely on McCoy for a fatherly point of view on life. He'd actually appeared in sickbay on several occasions with strange, unexplainable maladies until McCoy had told him he was welcome to stop by to simply talk to the Doctor any time he wished. He'd even got used to the Russian's comfort with...and need for...less personal space and physical contact when discussing important matters. Now it wasn't unusual for the young man to materialize unexpectedly anywhere McCoy happened to be.
The Doctor's sense of satisfaction at being needed by Chekov for personal reasons beyond the scope of his medical practice was deep and profound. He reached out and picked up the soft, pale blue present tenderly then. Joanna had eyes they still miserably identified in the text books as hazel. They were, in fact, a wonderful mix of colors that churned and changed with every emotion and shift of light. The wrapping paper he'd found was the exact smoky blue color that filled them when shining in anticipation. Why, he wondered, could I not manage to be there on her birthday just once in her twenty-four years? Was that too much a dream to hope for?
"I was sending a message," he finally intoned with resignation. "But I doubt I'm going to make it down at all now. If you could just deliver this present for me, it would be a great help."
Chekov reached out and took it easily, without hesitation, and his fingers traced over it with reverence. "Is this the music box you were considering?"
The Doctor's eyes widened slightly. Had Chekov stopped by when I was looking at them on my computer? How on Earth does he notice and remember everything so inconsequential to everyone else? "Yes," he said. "I was able to get it with music from her favorite ballet." He hesitated then, staring at the package a moment. "Joanna dreamed of being a dancer when she was a little girl," McCoy divulged uncharacteristically.
"You've said she danced well," the younger man agreed.
McCoy eyed him. He hadn't said it to Chekov.
"What's her favorite ballet?" the Navigator asked amiably, brown eyes full of sincere interest.
"The Nutcracker," the older man answered with a note of apology.
Chekov smiled easily, showing no sign that he found it as tiresome as he always claimed it was. "Every girl dreams of being the Sugar Plum Fairy."
The Doctor's smile was wistful. Not his Joanna. When her interest in medicine peaked, she had resisted her father's urging to become a doctor. She had never wanted to be Albert Schweitzer. She had not even wanted to be Florence Nightingale. Joanna had only wanted to be there to ease the discomfort of endless hospital patients. To be the nameless, shadowy nurse in the hospital that did her job so well that you forgot your stay was his daughter's driving ambition. She'd always had simple dreams.
"Joanna dreamed of being Clara," he said finally, eyes straying to the smoky blue color of the paper on the box in Chekov's hands again. The Bolshoi Ballet had performed the Nutcracker in Atlanta the Christmas she was twelve. He'd promised to bring her to the auditions on Saturday. She had stressed how important it was to her that her father was there. She didn't even dream of being Clara when the possibility of her dream coming true came near: her smoky blue eyes were filled with the hope of just being one of the children. Just one of the nameless children in a real ballet performance ...
McCoy had found her late that night bundled in the big chair by the door, curled up in her thick winter coat and her arms cuddling her treasured dance bag. Her sleep-exhausted eyes were swollen and red. It was the very last time Leonard McCoy had ever made his daughter cry.
She had simply stopped expecting anything from him. And she stopped dancing.
"She dreamed of being Clara," the Doctor repeated, glancing up to meet Chekov's wide brown eyes again, his own blue eyes distant. The young man showed no signs of impatience or intolerance: he simply stood there quietly and waited while McCoy repeatedly drifted out of the room.
"Excuse me, Sir, but does your daughter not know anyone else on the Space Station?"
McCoy snorted quietly in response. The young woman had carefully planned to be here when the Enterprise made her scheduled stop. The ship had even been on time. It was a sheer miracle. Or it would have been had his work not got in the way. Again.
"No, she doesn't know anyone here."
Chekov nodded amiably. "Than would it not be acceptable for me to inquire of her if she would like my company for any of the cultural offerings available this week?"
McCoy gave a rueful smile. The Ensign had resorted to asking his questions in the negative Russian fashion. It wasn't that they were dogged pessimists: it was considered unacceptable to make someone uncomfortable or appear bad in public. They always asked questions in a way which gave a person a graceful way out. "No, it would not be acceptable. .."
"Don't you have plans to spend your leave with Sulu and Uhura?" he asked.
"Yes," the Ensign agreed immediately, but he flashed the older man a shameless smirk. "When you spend all your leave time with the same people you spend every day with, however, you often end up needing a vacation worse when you come back than when you left."
The Doctor laughed out loud. "Ensign, that's a profound truth you've developed there." The young man's soulful eyes were still fixed on him: still waiting for an answer to his question. Was it acceptable for Chekov to entertain his daughter? he questioned himself.
The young Ensign was relied on by every morale officer. It didn't matter who'd been saddled with job during the current month. When the ship was approaching any landfall—be it land or station---Chekov researched and posted every available diversion long before the current morale officer had time to consider doing it. They'd come to expect it. Performances, exhibits, lectures: the young man had a knack of finding every worthwhile diversion available.
Sulu had told the Doctor that The Seaman's Friend Society on Earth had done the same for countless centuries. They'd made sure sailors had alternatives to the more seedy entertainment available at every port. Not that Chekov never took advantage of the seedy alternatives: he simply had a zeal for learning and made sure he didn't regret missing an opportunity to do so. It never occurred to him not to share the information he found.
"Have you finished that Security course you were working on?" McCoy asked the fatherly question as the inspiration hit him. Since leaving the Academy, Chekov had continued to take extension courses without pause. His latest course choices had been in Security. He'd told the Doctor the topic hadn't even occurred to him as interesting until he actually posted on a deep space ship and discovered the almost cultish way that a Security Team operated on a ship. It was as if they had their own culture, their own underground society which ensured the safety the crew without anyone really noticing how they did it. It was just accepted that they did, and that they always would.
"Yes, Sir. The Security Chief administered the last part of the final exam nine days ago. I have not received the results yet," he added.
McCoy's jaw shifted ruefully. The Doctor knew if it had been him taking the course the Ensign would have showed up on the morning of the final exams to encourage him and bolster his confidence. Hell, he would have made sure he helped me study. Chekov didn't have a fatherly slant toward McCoy, he just paid attention to people. He was just a nice guy.
"Have you decided which course you're going to take next?" he asked, feeling like he had to atone at least somewhat for his fatherly lapse. "You should continue to take Security Courses," McCoy told him. "They interest you and they contain material which is totally new to you. That's important to you: you need the mental challenge."
Chekov grinned happily at him then, his dark eyes shining brilliantly.
The Doctor winced. He couldn't even be a proper father to a stranger. "You're father never would have told you what to do," he observed dismally.
"No," the Ensign laughed. "When I asked him, he mentioned I appear to enjoy challenges and left it for me to figure out. I like it when you order me around. Maybe that's why I joined Starfleet...I always just wanted to be told what to do my whole life."
"I wouldn't criticize the way you were raised if I were you," the Doctor advised. "You turned out alright."
"It is not acceptable to approach your daughter," Chekov concluded then. "I'm sure I will be able to convince Sulu to visit the archeology exhibit from Tarsus XII with me."
"Don't get jumpy with me you young upstart," McCoy snapped out, glaring pointedly at the Navigator. His bright blue eyes were shining. "I'll tell you what I think when I'm damn good and ready, son: and not before."
He jammed his arms across his chest and glared at the younger man harder.
Chekov smirked shamelessly, happily.
McCoy glanced away, but his laughter was obvious. The Doctor had taken to calling the young man 'son' soon after he posted to the Enterprise. When he had learned how close the man was to Andrie, McCoy had apologized: but Chekov said his own father had never used the word and he liked it when the Doctor did. Even when forced to define their relationship, Andrie apparently identified himself as Pavel's father. Although the habit seemed strange at first, it reminded the Doctor of times David McCoy had identified him as nothing more than 'my son.' It belatedly struck him as demeaning.
Was it alright for the young man to entertain his daughter? he considered. Chekov had actually asked permission to act as a chaste escort. Hell, James Kirk would have just swooped in and...
"I would appreciate it if you'd look out for Joanna this week. Thank you for offering. Maybe I'll still be able to break away by her birthday."
Maybe I'll just find the solution soon...
Maybe just this once...