Disclaimer: Most of the characters and situations in this story belong to Alliance Atlantis, CBS, Anthony Zuicker, Paramount, the Bride of the Great Bird of the Galaxy, and other entities, and I do not have permission to borrow them. All others are mine, and if you want to play with them you have to ask me first. No infringement is intended in any way, and this story is not for profit. Any errors are mine, all mine, no you can't have any.

Spoilers: general eighth season.

Okay, so I had this dream...



Never mind. Boubabe14 and Smacky30, I apologize. Deeply. This story is dedicated to Mingsmommy, Tres Mechante, Elfling65, Cincoflex, and Inalichenmanner, who are all complete nutbars. Every one of them.

Of course, what does that make me...?


Sofia sighed, and prepared to go through the round of questions yet again...not that she expected better answers this time. "What did you see when the gunfire broke out?"

The man opposite her had his arms folded and a sour expression on his rather lived-in face. "I told you, I didn't see a thing." He had a slight drawl, and pain lines in his forehead, and Sofia's cop gut wanted to trust him.

Her head, however, smelled a rat.

"So you're saying that a full-scale gun battle erupts thirty yards away and you see nothing?"

The witness snorted. His eyes were a vivid, tired blue, his features pleasantly ordinary. "That's right. As soon as those young fools started shooting I took cover."

Behind an abandoned car, according to his statement earlier. Sofia wondered wearily why he had been in Las Vegas' most dangerous neighborhood; he'd denied all the obvious reasons.

I suppose he would, though.

"Yet we found you right next to one of the victims." She gave him stare for stare, unintimidated.

The man--he'd given his name, reluctantly, as "McCoy"--harrumphed. "I'm a doctor," he growled.

Sofia regarded him with professional doubt. "I'm sure the AMA would be happy to confirm your credentials." He had no ID on him, just a handful of odd-looking toys and something that really resembled a shoulder bag.

McCoy's face went still. "I'm...not licensed here."

Sofia sighed. "Of course not." She tapped the table, rapidly running out of patience. His prints weren't on file, he hadn't run from the responding officers, and while the victim he'd been standing over was dead, the man opposite her had been applying pressure to the kid's gunshot wounds as though he'd never heard of AIDS. Strange as it seemed, he looked to be that rara avis, a true innocent bystander.

She pressed her thumb between her eyes, trying unsuccessfully to stave off a headache, then sighed again. "All right, Mr. McCoy. You're free to go, though we'd appreciate it if you'd look at some mug shots for us first."

He squinted at her, a thoughtful look; Sofia thought absently that when he wasn't sulking, his face showed an astonishing flexibility. His eyebrows, in particular--

She blinked. I need coffee more than I thought.

McCoy smiled slowly, and the expression was surprisingly warm. "Sure. Why not."

So she escorted him from Interrogation Three to a friendlier room, observing him covertly as they walked. His outfit was subtly odd, not fitting any fashion that she knew, but this was Vegas and they got all types. The cut of his brown hair looked to be left over from the previous century, though.

Sofia got him settled at the table where he could look out into the corridor if he chose, and turned to go fetch the books of booking photos, but his voice stopped her. "Head ache?"

She shrugged, glancing back. "A little."

McCoy reached into his bag--they'd returned his things after a search turned up nothing of interest--and pulled out a small box that he tapped once against his palm. A white pill dropped out, though Sofia couldn't actually see an opening in the box.

He extended his hand. "Here, take this."

Sofia thought about illegal drugs, about dangerous herbs, about her mother warning her never to take anything from a stranger. And then she thought about how much worse her headache was likely to get.

What the hell. It's probably just aspirin anyway.

She took the pill and tossed it down dry. McCoy watched her swallow, then nodded, serious and satisfied. Sofia refrained from rolling her eyes until she had turned away.

It was forty minutes later and deep in a discussion with Captain Brass that she realized that her head didn't hurt at all.

Dr. Leonard McCoy, MD, PhD, Commander, and Chief Physician of the starship Enterprise, was royally annoyed. Inconvenienced, endangered, discomfited, but most especially annoyed.

And when he got back where he belonged--assuming he did, and he wasn't going to lay any bets just now--he was going to have a few words with that bunch of interfering Orions, the Guardian of Forever, and Spock--in that order.

He grumbled to himself and kept turning pages, letting his eyes search automatically for those half-glimpsed faces full of sneering bravado and pathetic youth. Projectile weapons--barbaric.

Wincing, he rubbed at the ache in his side. It was never easy to lose a patient, even if that poor boy had been doomed from the second the bullets tore into him, and stress only made his condition worse.

Taking a deep breath, McCoy managed a quick relaxation exercise, admitting to himself if to no one else that Vulcans were good at meditation techniques, even if he'd never say so to Spock.

I should've known better than to listen to him.

It had started small, which was unusual for the Enterprise's Science Officer, but when he'd mentioned the Rihannsu McCoy had felt his ears pricking up--no offense meant to the company at the time. Enterprise had been due for some heavy maintenance, which meant extended shore leave for her crew, and after that unfortunate encounter with a Withiki parasite cloud he'd been looking forward to rest, recuperation, and recreation.

Starbase Eight, after all, was in the Boise system, which was blessed with three M-class planets. And while the citizens of Iota, Sigma, and Gamma had no imagination when naming their homeworlds, they did produce some of the best single malts found outside of the Sol system.

He'd even signed up for a three-world distillery tour.

But then Spock had cornered him and started up with his top-secret mission to save the galaxy, again, from some idiots mucking about in time...again. This time some damn fools were apparently trying to prevent the proto-Rihannsu from leaving Vulcan to found their own Star Empire, and since McCoy had experience with that particular species--

Well, it was all water under the proverbial bridge, just because some more damn fools, Orion "free traders" this time, had blundered down to the Guardian of Forever just when Spock was getting ready to use the thing, and in the ensuing firefight McCoy had fallen through the Guardian and into another battle--more primitive, but just as deadly.

And now getting back depends on Spock surviving, then figuring out where I went, and then talking the Guardian into cooperating. Not odds I like.

Spock surviving was almost a given, the man had more lives than a cat, but the rest of it was not so sure. McCoy sighed and closed the book in front of him.

I'd feel a lot better about my chances if I hadn't dropped my phosphophthylate when I went through the Guardian.

With the parasite medication, McCoy had been anticipating an easy and pain-free recovery from the Withiki infestation. Without it, his lifespan could be measured in weeks, and not very many of them either.

Well, there's no point in worryin' about it just now. Where'd that pretty detective go?

The analgesic had worked; that was easy to deduce from the relaxed lines in her face. McCoy bantered with her a little--he did love a smart woman--but she was clearly busy. He accepted her card--pretty quaint, an actual wood-pulp sheet with her contact codes--and was released out into the world again.

A world, and time, that had no place for him. McCoy found himself wandering the sidewalk, racking his brains as he tried to remember something, anything, about the history of Las Vegas.

In his time, Vegas was a rebuilt city five times the size, lush and green with manufactured water, but it was still something of a gambling haven. He'd never been there himself, but...

He halted, taken by a vision. Ahead lay the glittering lights of the Great Mohave Casino, and suddenly McCoy knew exactly what he was going to do to pass the time before he died, or Spock found him.

Smiling, he felt for the platinum rounds that Spock had given him in preparation for their leap to ancient Vulcan. Now where around here would I find a pawn shop?

She'd actually gotten off work early, for once. Not for the first time, Sofia blessed her career change to detective; they had two of the killers from the shootout and a good lead on the third, but the CSIs were still processing shell casings and footprints. Captain Brass had told her to pack it in for the night, and Sofia hadn't argued.

The morning sun felt good on her face as she left the PD behind, and on impulse she decided to take herself out for breakfast. It was too pretty a day to hurry home.

She put down the top on her guilty pleasure--otherwise known as her Mazda convertible--and drove towards the Strip, playing eenie-meenie-miney-mo with the casinos. She was in the mood for something classier than diner food.

Eventually she settled on the Atlantis, and took the long way up from the parking garage, passing through the poker tables on the way to the restaurant. Her eye caught on something familiar, and with a faint sense of startlement, Sofia recognized the witness from earlier in the night, seated with four others at one of the tables and looking pleasantly blank over his hand.

Moved by an impulse to see what the mystery man would do, Sofia halted and watched as the game played out. The stakes weren't sky-high, but they were fairly respectable, and the hand that McCoy won wasn't his first victory of the night to judge by the tidy pile of chips in front of him.

As the game finished, the players relaxed, one rising and moving off, and McCoy stretched and looked around, spotting Sofia as he turned his head. That slow smile spread over his face, and his eyes lit.

Sofia knew she should nod and keep walking, but abruptly she couldn't remember the last time someone outside of work had been glad to see her. So she smiled back.

McCoy swept his chips into his little bag, said something she couldn't quite hear to his opponents, and sauntered over to her, still smiling. "What brings a lovely lady like yourself to this joint, Detective?" he asked.

His flattery was outrageous, but the glimmer in his eyes was humorous, an enjoyment of the joke and an invitation to share it. Sofia felt her smile widen.

"Mimosas," she answered. "And the lobster salad."

One corner of McCoy's mouth climbed. "Well, how about that. We just broke for lunch ourselves. Would you allow me to buy you a drink? From one civil servant to another," he added drolly.

Sofia regarded him. He was a complete mystery who wasn't telling all he knew, and there was definitely something fishy going on. But the Atlantis was a very public place, and he seemed...fun.

He's not a suspect, and I'm off the clock.

"Sure, why not." Sofia was aware of feeling slightly reckless, but it also felt good. She'd been too cautious lately, and it hadn't really gotten her anywhere.

Maybe it was time for a risk or two.

"That," McCoy drawled, "is the best news I've had all night." He held out an arm. "Shall we?"

Amused, and feeling vaguely like an escapee from the Wizard of Oz film, Sofia linked her arm through his.

"So tell me, Detective, what's this city like?" he asked as they started towards the restaurant.

Sofia glanced over at him. "I'll give you all the details, if you'll call me Sofia. And remember that I carry a gun."

His grin widened. "I never go against the wishes of a lady, Sofia." Without bending his spine, he managed to give the impression of a bow. "Most of my friends call me Len."

Sofia chuckled. "And are you really a doctor?"

He reached over and patted her hand where it was hooked over his arm. "My dear, I've been known to cure a rainy day."