Prologue: The End
The End……it was a simple phrase but full of complex layers, dashing any hope of alternatives and reeking of finality. It suggested no options, no modification, no differing outcomes. Not an end but the End, the elimination of all possibilities save for the reality starring you in the face. And if you didn't happen to like that particular reality……well, suck it up bitch, cause it was the END, the only one, so you'd better fucking learn to live with it!
For Leonard McCoy, CMO of the Federation Flag Ship Enterprise, recognizing the End was a skill honed in past experience. The End of his father, the End of his marriage, the End of the comfortable life he had built for himself in Georgia. A few simple stylus strokes on a series of PADDs had effectively signed his soul over to Starfleet and he had found himself reluctantly strapped into a recruit shuttle, informing the wild-eyed, self-assured kid sitting next to him that he might just have to throw up on him.
Well, if this was the End, then perhaps that moment qualified as the Beginning; a loose, semi-friendly exchange over a hidden flask, two hardened individuals still in their civvies plunked down side by side among apple cheeked young recruits in their bright, crisp cadet reds. An exchange of names, a "Jim" to a "Leonard" and the seeds of a nickname that would stick like glue. Leonard had been raw and reticent, unable to risk anything when he had so little left, but in Jim Kirk he had immediately discovered a kindred spirit, a man who was equally unwilling to part with his few remaining shreds of self.
So it had begun, not as a friendship but merely as a mutual respect for personal space. But it had quickly started to morph, a transformation spurred on by the strange promise of relief for an instinctual need. It had lain between them since that first meeting, and when Jim had somehow bribed, hacked or finagled his way into Len's dorm room, the doctor had to admit he'd been glad.
And sure, it hadn't happened all at once, but when Leonard thought back on the Beginning, he marveled at how quickly he had allowed Jim in. It was the first time in years Leonard felt comfortable with the person he lived with. And the juxtaposition of this new, simple camaraderie with the kid from Iowa to his parent's expectations or his ex-wife's demands allowed him to relax boundaries that he'd held erect since he was twelve. And once a chink had appeared in the armor, the crazy kid had assaulted with determination.
Jim Kirk was brilliant, that much was obvious. But he was also broken and flailing, with nothing but stubbornness and bitterness to hold him down. The kid had no anchor but he read in Leonard a need to protect, to nurture and care for, to make and keep commitments. If they were going to make it then Jim needed someone to give a damn and Len needed someone to give a damn about. And Jim Kirk, master strategist in training, had recognized that they fit each other's needs. They'd pushed and goaded and gotten under each other's skin and emerged a little smoother around the edges.
That had been the first year.
After that, they had moved on to confession. Jim was all intuition and he just knew that something was going on inside that brilliant but guarded head. Carefully steered conversations and some well timed beer and bourbon chasers led to full-on disclosure; Jim's mom, Len's wife, Jim's dad, Len's daughter. The deep, dark, ugly and beautiful bits you usually buried that were laid bare in the face of acceptance.
This had gone on for months, the two of them, studying done for the night, a bottle on the table as they sat sideways on Leonard's bed, backs against, the wall, personal boundaries dismissed, shoulder touching, knees connecting. There was no declaration, no relationship defining talk; it just happened that one night Jim finally asked the question. "Bones, what happened?"
What had happened? He'd done what they all wanted, gotten the degrees, married the girl with the right family, provided bragging rights to the McCoy clan with his medical genius and research strives. Then his father had become ill, had demanded a cure and for the first time, Leonard had failed to live up to expectation. With his father's life hanging in the balance, he had run up against a medical dilemma he couldn't solve. And his father, the restrained, unemotional David McCoy who was so in control he hadn't even shared his symptoms until it was too goddamn late, had broken apart in pain and begged his son for death.
And Leonard had granted it.
He'd told Jim this as they huddled on his bed, brandy bottle empty on the floor, Len's eyes emptying down as his face as Jim held him, pressing Len's cheek into his chest, and stroking his hair and back. Leonard's breath had hitched, and he'd cried in a way that would have made David McCoy frown in disgust. Grimacing at the face of condemnation that still plagued his mind, Len said, "So now you know. I'm a doctor and I killed my own father."
"Is that why you left?"
"Not exactly…….but mostly. It just made me doubt myself. See, I always did what they wanted, always followed their plan, but I never really felt like I was one of them. I was a doctor, I helped people, really helped people. Not the kind of help where you attend charity luncheons and sip tea and discuss the plight of the poor orphans or some shit like that. And when I did that, helped him die, a part of it was that I didn't want him to think I was weak! And what did that make me, Jim? I felt like I was abandoning the one thing I had that made me different. I'm supposed to heal people. I just couldn't lose that. But it still took a while to leave."
The hands kept rubbing circles on his back. "Why?"
Leonard sighed and drew away, shifting to the edge of the bed. "About six weeks after my father's…..death……we finally isolated the necessary compounds and found the cure. It wasn't even that complicated to administer, just six hypo injections over a period of three months and the patient is fine. They called my research pivotal, tried to give my some goddamn award and shit. And my mother was offended that I had refused. Didn't like how my actions reflected on the family. The wife agreed, thought it was bad form. Said I wasn't who she thought I was. Started running around on me and then asked for a divorce. You know the rest. I got taken to the cleaners, bumped into Pike, and ended up here."
Leonard ran a hand through his hair and starred across the room at nothing. Jim scooted to the edge of the bed and draped his arm around Len's shoulders. "I get it, Bones."
"Yeah, kid, I'm sure you do. It doesn't make it okay. Not for a doctor to kill his patient."
Jim contemplated shoving him but he knew his doctor too well. Bones rose to the challenge of a raised voice but calm, logical discussion often worked with him. Gently pulling Leonard to face him, Jim said, "Look, you've been beating yourself up about this for two damn years and there isn't anything I'm gonna say to you in two minutes that's gonna make it all okay. But let me just ask you, what exactly did you do? Fail to foresee the future? You saw a man in terrible pain who you couldn't help. You did everything you could and when it finally became too much, you gave him the only kind of assistance you could. I know it goes against the official rules and regulations but those things are only theoretical anyway. They don't always work in real-life situations."
Leonard had tried to pull away but Jim's grip was firm. "You're a good man, okay. You don't hurt people, you help them the best way you know how. You've helped me! I'd remind you that there is no way you ever could have known that you would've found the cure so soon, but you're brilliant so I'm pretty sure you already realized that. You need to stop psychoanalyzing all the minutia of your decisions and start forgiving yourself!"
So Leonard had worked on it. He'd clung to Jim's words, calling them to mind when guilt or despair threatened.
That had been the second year.
From then on, it was all familiarity. What couldn't you say to the guy who knew your deepest, darkest secrets, right? For Leonard, who had never had a relationship that wasn't based on someone's agenda, this complete openness and trust was a heady thing. And even though they still never discussed it, he could tell where this was heading. So when it finally happened, he hadn't really been surprised.
They'd been doing it again, sitting on Len's bed, watching a movie, Jim absentmindedly cuddling into his chest, when Leonard had felt the change. Air which had tasted innocuous a second before suddenly crackled with sexual tension. He breathed slowly, taking care not to move or create any disturbance when he'd felt a fingertip slowly tracing the thin line of exposed skin between his shirt and sweats.
He'd always kind of expected alcohol to be involved, a drunken tumble after a night at the bar, a simple excuse that would allow them both to look at each other and chuckle the morning after with a good natured "Oops, too late to stop now." But on second thought, this was the Jim Kirk way, to plot a course and pursue it relentlessly and as he was pressed firmly into his bed and methodically divested of his clothes, Jim maintained eye contact. It was Jim and it was Len and dammit they were doing this together and there would be no room for denial or pretending. Jim stripped him with his eyes open, kissed him with his eyes open, fucked him with his eyes open, their foreheads pressed together and their quick, panting breaths intermingling in a warm fog.
Afterward, as he lay sprawled across his bed in a post-coital puddle, Jim had leaned up and slipped an arm beneath his neck, cradling his head and drawing their mouths together. As Leonard had drifted on the current of sweet, giving kisses, he'd felt Jim take his hand, gently entwining their fingers, pressing them back into mattress and his eyes had spoken volumes as they met Len's. That had been the extent of the conversation, a question posed in azure blue, a quick nod of assent from Leonard and the two of them were one. As far as Len was concerned, it had meant forever.
Len had been content. Hell, he might even have been happy. But then he was grasping the true meaning of shit storm, climbing through the wreckage of a starship sickbay, receiving a promotion through the violent demise of his superior and watching the love of his life dive headfirst into near-death as they witnessed the destruction of Vulcan and fought to save Earth. Then the grief addled Romulan was dead and before Len could say aviophobia he was the CMO of the federation flag ship, serving under Captain James T. Kirk and it had been terrifying and wonderful because they were together.
That had been the third year.
So they were in space, and for a brief moment Leonard had actually allowed himself to believe that it would all work out. It had to, because he'd given so much, trusted so much, allowed so much in. Because when he'd decided that this was forever he'd meant it and he'd been pretty sure that Jim had, too.
But that was before Jim had met Spock.
And that had been the beginning of the End.