Oh dear god. Another one.
Granted, Dr. Leonard H. McCoy had no evidence against a bizarre coincidence. Both Vulcans happened to be named Spock. One was Commander Spock, and the other was Ambassador Spock. Couldn't they at least pick out nicknames? This is going to be damned confusing.
"I know, I know," McCoy grunted to the pregnant Vulcan whose belly he was scanning. "You're fine. The baby's fine. You're clear. Next patient."
"You were muttering under your breath," the Vulcan woman told him.
"Sorry ma'am. Wasn't about you."
The Vulcan nodded and hefted to her feet while another took her place, this one only a few months along. McCoy supposed, no, knew, that these women were nothing short of a miracle. There was no lack of appreciation for them or the children they carried. They were beautiful women who bore the lives of the future, but if he had his way, they'd all be staying on Earth until they gave birth. He'd had this conversation with Ambassador Spock earlier. That had gone so well, too.
"Dammit, man, we're talking about the future of Vulcan, here!"
"Please be respectful, Doctor."
"Dammit, Ambassador, we're talking about the future of Vulcan, here!"
"I, of all people, should understand that, Doctor."
"Leave them here, and there'll be no risk to them. Take them on a shuttle to France and you've got a problem. Rocket them into space and you're running the risk of miscarriage and premature birth."
"Is your field of expertise Vulcan obstetrics, Doctor?"
"You put me in charge of these people. You better be damn ready to listen to my opinion!"
"You took the course on cultural diversity in the Academy, correct?"
"How did you know?"
"You must have mentioned it. If you'll recall, much of Vulcan mysticism relies on their homeland. We are born and laid to rest on our own soil. It is vitally important to these women that they have the chance to give birth at home."
Which had been the end of it. McCoy had taken his leave, and he might have imagined the heavy sigh that resounded from behind him as he bade the ambassador farewell. A hundred fifty years old or not, you're still a pointy-eared asshole. Out of all Starfleet, you could've picked any of the best doctors to commandeer for your little puddle-hop, but you had to drag me out for it.
Now he was at this assembly line of pregnant Vulcan women, checking each before they went on board the passenger ship to transport them to their new colony. The new planet was livable, but not very much like Vulcan. It was one of those rogue planets nobody had bothered to claim yet. McCoy had heard it was humid and swamplike, the exact opposite of Vulcan's all-over high-gravity desert. But a planet was a planet, he supposed. At least it wasn't too far from where Vulcan had been. They'll already know their way home, he thought wryly.
Fortunately, the ambassador had hired an obstetrician to monitor the women while they were on board, but he hadn't bothered to show up on time. That left McCoy, temporary Chief Medical Officer of this voyage, to do the dirty work until he showed up. At least humanity had passed the days of using their fingers to do a scanner's job. For that, McCoy thanked all the med techs who came before his time. God love 'em all.
And God love Jim Kirk. McCoy glanced up at the pest that had lit near his shoulder. "What?"
Kirk had the most annoying habit of jostling him by hitting him hard on his shoulder. Maybe best friends were entitled to do that to each other. In that case, McCoy would have to start getting back at him one of these days. "Not fair of them to take you from us," said Kirk. "I'm stuck with Van Skoy."
McCoy swore under his breath.
"You got it."
"To hell with 'em, Jim, I'll stow away aboard the Enterprise if I have to."
"For once," Kirk said with a smirk, "I am going to advise you not to mutiny. Besides, we'll only be a few kilometers away. You'll be flanked by the Enterprise and the Crosswinds all the way there."
"I never felt safer," McCoy replied acidly.
Kirk gave McCoy another rough pat on the shoulder. "Hey. This'll be a milk run. The only reason the Federation's top two warships are escorting you is because the cargo is endangered."
"You're all set," McCoy barked, sending the last pregnant woman into the ship. "And Jim, next time you call a bunch of refugees cargo, try not to say it in front of their pregnant women."
Kirk gave a snarky reply and a grin, hit him again, and went to attend to his own duties. That was his relationship with Jim Kirk. It wasn't precisely big-brother-little-brother, but McCoy did get the impression that he was constantly looking out for the man. Of course, Kirk would then surprise him by turning around and looking out for himself, or even more, looking out for McCoy. McCoy did not need a little upstart trying to protect him. On the other hand, he had survived their last (and first) Big Dangerous Mission. He supposed he owed Kirk for that. Saving humanity and all.
Now that was a voice McCoy did not want to hear. He had just stood up and was placing his folding chair back on a rack when those sickeningly neutral tones set his hair on end. Hearing that voice meant he was in for an interminable show of infuriating arrogance. McCoy even went so far as to regret standing up for Spock against Kirk (One time!). He was convinced it had made the Vulcan even more intolerable. Worse, it may have given Spock the idea that McCoy could be pushed around. Above all, as much as he tried to be tolerant and understanding, McCoy couldn't bring himself to shake his inherent disapproval of the very concept of wiping away one's emotions. It was simply wrong. Emotions are a man's conscience. If he can't feel for the people he's taking care of, he has no business taking care of them. Cold-hearted green-blooded bastard.
"Doctor. The ambassador wishes to know if the patients are all aboard."
By "patients" he meant "pregnant women and geriatrics." "Yes," McCoy replied professionally. A professional reply was the best he could do for Spock. "They're on there."
Spock gave a curt nod. "Then you had best board the ship yourself. The longer you are not there, the greater risk to your patients."
Damn you, you smug little Vulcan. I just sent the last one on three seconds ago, and you know it. But McCoy was in no mood for a confrontation at the moment—not with this Spock, anyway. "Then I won't take up any more of your precious time, Commander," he said smoothly. "Your ship needs its first officer."
Spock stiffened. Without waiting for a response, McCoy hoisted his bag onto his shoulder and boarded the passenger ship himself. It was the last time he would see Spock before his universe tilted.
"McCoy to Bridge! What the hell is going on?"
Captain Ponzioni's haggard face answered the comm. "Romulans, doctor. Apparently they think we've intruded on their territory. You will have an influx of patients. Ponzioni out."
Master of the Obvious. McCoy had already been wrist-deep in an emergency surgery when he had contacted the captain, and at least twenty others with minor wounds had flooded his Sickbay. What the hell are the Romulans doing here? They're shacked up in the Beta Quadrant, for god's sake! Jim wouldn't keep me in the dark when something like this's happening.
"Doctor McCoy! It's the ambassador!"
Not now. Please not now. But there was no choice. McCoy left the surgery-in-progress to another doctor and quickly sterilized his hands. A fresh pair of gloves were thrown at him, and he found himself ushered to a new bedside, staring down into the bloodied face of Ambassador Spock.
"It is...too late, old friend," whispered the Vulcan. His eyes were wide. He was clearly in shock.
McCoy ignored him. He'd been called many strange things by patients before. He scanned the ambassador, detachedly reviewing the shrapnel protruding from his torso. He's not going to live. "Is he medicated?" he asked a nearby nurse as he yanked his gloves on.
"Then give him an analgesic, dammit! The man has holes in his chest!" The man is dying. The ambassador taking care of these people is dying.
"Doctor!" gasped Ambassador Spock.
McCoy looked down into the rapidly-clouding eyes of the Vulcan. "Let me do my job," he said gruffly. "We'll take care of you." We'll make you comfortable, anyway.
Spock shook his head. "No time, my friend. No time."
A hand sticky with bright green snatched McCoy's sleeve and drew him in. McCoy was halfway to extracting his clothing from the dying man's grip when Spock's other hand reached for him, shoving his fingertips into receptive tissues around one side of his face. The doctor suddenly felt very, very strange. The chaos of the sickbay dimmed and slowed to a crawl, like someone had adjusted the light and speed levels on the movie of his life. He heard—or something like it—the voice of the ambassador.
"You will never remember being entrusted with everything of mine that is not physical. Not from the Spock you know. Once I chose you out of necessity, as I do now. If it were not necessity, I believe I would still choose you, who I trusted before."
"What?" McCoy wasn't sure if he'd actually spoken.
Spock's fingers dug harder into McCoy's face. "Remember."
"Doctor. He's gone. You have other patients."
McCoy stared down at the ambassador's body. Around him, the dull buzz of the red alert alarm penetrated his brain. Ambassador Spock was dead. The doctor wet his lips, but couldn't remember what he should do next. With every flash of the red lights, his head pounded. He couldn't think. He yanked the glove off his left hand and touched his cheek, feeling the tiny smears of green blood the ambassador had left.
"Doctor? Are you okay?"
"Yes." It was the first word that came to mind. McCoy was always okay. He always had to be okay. Blearily, he pulled his other glove off and exchanged the tainted gloves for new ones. A gentle hand lay on his shoulder, and he looked into the eyes of one of the nurses.
"The ambassador was their hope," she said softly.
McCoy nodded, but had a vague feeling that had nothing to do with his sudden sense of shock. New gloves were provided, and he was ushered back to the surgery he had been performing before. One of the nurses handed him a pair of forceps, and he had no idea what to do with them. The unconscious body lay open before him, and he found himself shoving the forceps back into the nurse's hand.
"Sorry," he mumbled. "I can't do this."
The nurse stared at him with wide eyes. "Doctor?"
"I'm not performing a botched surgery. I gotta..." Suddenly the world blurred around him, and he was face-down on the floor with a bleeding lip. He felt hands turning him, saw the ceiling, and spiraled into darkness.