I think we established many eons ago that I am weird. On with the story!
He comes to awareness at the sound of his name. Except he finds that there is no equivalent to opening his eyes because Leonard has none.
Holy shit is the first, panicked response.
A familiar amusement surrounds him. It is so powerful here, it almost emanates flavor.
But where is here?
Here is nowhere and everywhere. The Abyss.
What—what are you? What am I?
You are the human Leonard Horatio McCoy.
Yes, I know that! Now where's my body?
It is preserved. Do not fear for your physical self.
How strange to have the full array of emotions and yet no bodily reaction. Leonard feels panic, sharp and coming in fast like a breaking wave; he recognizes the fright/terror/oh-god-help-me.
It must know how fucking scared he is. So Leonard settles for inventive, nasty mental images directed at the sea dragon which has done something horrible to his friend Jim.
Jim. Oh God, the kid. The knowledge is swift: The young man he met on a recruitment shuttle and with whom he shared a flask of strong whiskey; the idiot that never let him alone during the Academy years; the sneaky trickster that roped Leonard into a grudging respect for the wild, brilliant James Tiberius Kirk; and, later, the same battle-weary man and newly crowned captain that firmly told Starfleet Command that Dr. Leonard H. McCoy was the Enterprise's one and only CMO.
They've been friends since the beginning.
He remembers flawlessly down to minute details, the memories refitting themselves back into a gaping hole. In that moment, Leonard can see the process happening, notes that there are other places in his mind still wide open and lacking.
The word fascinating flies from him unbidden and immediately thereafter comes the hobgoblin's word! Sadly, he does not have body with which to giggle at the sudden lapse of Spock-ness.
Because Leonard is too busy marveling at the sensations of being just a collection of intangible thoughts, he barely spares consideration for the flicker deep down in the black Abyss.
Wonder overrides the initial terror. What have you done to me?
I separated soul from body.
How is that possible?
The amusement fades in light of something else. It strikes Leonard as a combination of gravity and great age.
Instead of answering his question, the creature poses another: Does memory return to McCoy?
He considers that and pokes again at the blank spots. There are fewer of them than before. I think so. At least, faster than it was.
A soul is bound to a physical form during a life cycle, young one is the explanation.
He believes that he follows. The link breaks when the body dies.
Are you saying that you killed me, you son of a bitch!
It replies sharply, I did not. The connection is merely weakened.
So put me back!
Why? The question is one of simple curiosity and no remorse.
And here lies the difference between them. Leonard is appalled at the idea of playing with a man's soul; this creature thrives on it.
How is he going to convince it to let him go? And if it refuses... He can only think to ask, What are you going to do with me?
There is a brief moment of nothing, as if the other retreats at his question. Then, out of the dark, a spear of thought hurtles past Leonard, screaming Wake! and Jem-me!
If he could gasp, he would. His circle of thoughts quiver instead.
The answering flicker reminds McCoy of a yawn. A thought floats into range, faint and alone. Hello?
Jim might have sounded that way as a boy.
Leonard tingles, projects strongly with all the pieces of himself Jim! Then he strains downward, only to discover that he is tethered. He fights against the hold, calling again, Jim, it's me!
Several thoughts are puddling together below, no longer asking Hello? but echoing Me? Me?
He tosses out the next best thing. Bones! It's Bones!
Leonard feels triumphant when the collection grows and pulses brightly. Bones?
Yes, Jim. Your Bones.
That which is the formerly missing Jim offers a crude shape to McCoy along with the insistence that it is the doctor Bones.
He thinks dryly, Thanks, kid. Nice to know this is how you picture me. He looks like a child's version of a crazed drug addict. How wonderful.
Without too much effort, he plucks at a part of his memory and tosses it back to Jim. The immediate response is surprise mingled with incredulity.
That's what Jimmy looks like when drunk, hints McCoy with satisfaction.
Quiet sets in as Jim changes in a way Leonard cannot quite comprehend. Finally, with Leonard straining for anything his friend might offer, he picks up a small whisper of a thought. You... made me a hangover remedy. The next part is rather petulant. It didn't work.
He is relieved. Nope. This might be a place to tread softly; Leonard hopes honesty counts for something. But that's hardly surprising. You were so sloshed you didn't even know what you poured down your throat. Remember what happened after that?
Mm-hm. Well, I do 'cause after you chucked over all my boots—
The thoughts switch from uncertainty to glowingly happy. You're alive!
No shit. I'm also pissed. At you.
Jim doesn't even need to form a thought. Leonard pictures all too easily those puppy-dog eyes. That just makes him madder. What were you thinking?
Okay, doing, ding-dong. That lizard bastard is captaining your ship. What could possibly be worth that!
He is inundated with Jim's confusion.
McCoy cries furiously at the monster, What have you done to him?
When there is no answer, he tries the equivalent of rage. Whatever Leonard ends up communicating, it causes Jim's now-golden thoughts to wobble and ask repeatedly, Bones? Bones?
He ignores Jim. You asshole, I'm talking to you! You have NO right—
Do I not?
The presence of Other returns, suddenly looming. Do I not, McCoy, have a right to live?
Not at his expense!
Jem-me was not unwilling. He agreed.
You tricked him, I know you did. Each shove against the trap he is caught in proves useless. All Leonard wants is sweet escape and Jim.
A hunter lures prey. This has always been. This shall always be.
He argues, the fight in him waning, We're not animals. Not animals. People. People, damn it.
The creature easily brings the hammer home. You are prey.
Leonard sends out a tendril of regret/love/despair in the direction of the incomplete pieces of James Kirk.
Jim's Bones? lacks understanding.
Jem-me fades, the creature remarks. Here, in the Abyss, his soul is without purpose, without Destiny, and it grows weary.
Let him go, McCoy pleads. Let Jim go free and I'll stay. He adds half-heartedly, I won't even fuss, I promise.
The void grows heavy with consideration. But the monster breaks his heart with an unyielding No, McCoy.
Jem-me's destiny is mine. Yours is not ripe.
Then why the fuck did you bring me here! Frustration pulls him in all directions. To torment me, is that it?
When you are healed of your illness, it lets the words drift slowly to him like an offering of pearls in the night sky, you may trade.
He's been here before, dealing with a devil. How do I know you aren't lying like the other—the hatchling?
You cannot know.
And the harness that binds him reins the soul of Leonard into a solid mass. He feels the vestiges of a cry not his own, a cry of Don't leave me! from a Jim that is smashed back to pieces by the ungentle force of the sea dragon's will.
He utters his own cry of Jimmy! before the sensation of burning, real, alive burning consumes him like fire.
The body of Leonard McCoy sits up and gasps, the echo of scream in his ears. He opens his eyes—every physical sense of living sharp, over-sensitized—and realizes he can see.
Leonard has been returned.
His mind is blank except for a single, lingering thought of a name.
Light from the corridor pierces through the darkness of the Captain's quarters. Spock steps into the room, sensing a presence. "Lights, 100%" Jim's climate control is programmed to recognize the First Officer's voice commands. Shadows bow under the brightness of the lighting.
Spock remains quiet as he surveys the area. When he steps into the personal bedroom of James T. Kirk, it is to the sight of a man huddled against a far wall.
The Vulcan kneels next to the glassy-eyed doctor and gently touches him. Leonard's silence is unnerving.
"Doctor, are you injured?"
McCoy shakes his head.
Then Spock does something he would not have thought possible many years ago. He takes one of Leonard's hands into both his own and squeezes lightly.
The man's eyes fall shut for a brief number of seconds before opening wide again. "Spock?"
"Spock, I—I have an awful headache."
He examines McCoy's skull for signs of trauma. There are no visible contusions.
"Do you know where you are?"
Leonard silently looks around, his throat working. Finally, he says, "On the... Enterprise."
"Affirmative. You are in the Captain's quarters."
Leonard asks, after a moment, "Where is he?"
He determines that there is no delicate way to phrase the news. "Captain Kirk has disappeared."
McCoy says nothing.
Because Spock does not desire to dwell on the implications of that silence, not yet, and because there is a hope in him now that he cherishes, he talks without prompting. "Doctor, I have conversed with a... colleague."
Still, Leonard does not speak.
Spock forges ahead. "There are a people we must seek, the Fabrini. They may hold medical knowledge we do not."
As if the words are pulled from him, the doctor asks slowly, "What kind of medical knowledge?"
"A cure," Spock says gravely, "for xenopolycythemia."
Leonard inhales deeply. Spock is uncertain of what he expected from the doctor, but this quietness does not rank within the top possibilities. "Leonard, you are certain you are unharmed?"
The man named Leonard McCoy ignores his inquiry in lieu of saying, rather faintly, "Okay."
He waits for the human, as he always does.
"Okay," Leonard speaks with a returning strength, "let's find the Fabrini."
Spock acknowledges an inherent guilt. "What of Jim?" he asks, already prepared for the answer.
McCoy gives him an indecipherable look. "There's nothing we can do for Jim right now."
Yes, he has accepted this—though not without consequences. So Spock of Vulcan, First Officer and Science Officer of the Enterprise, friend of Leonard McCoy and James Tiberius Kirk chooses a path that is no less painful than its alternative.
He helps the doctor to his feet and promises, "We will return for Jim."
"We will," agrees the other.
Oops. Didn't I mention that this is storyline was going to be a trilogy?