A/N: This is the beginning of what will be a long story by my standards. I have written more and will continue to work on it, but it may be slow going. Please be patient and tell me what you think.
The day everything changed started off inauspiciously. Jim Kirk figured that was the way with world-changing days: they snuck up on you slowly until you let your guard down and then they jumped you. So it was with this day.
Jim got up early, woken by the rising sun as it shone through his bedroom window and straight into his eyes. He dressed, dragged a comb through his sort-of-thinning hair, and grabbed an apple to eat on the way to the stable. He munched happily on it as he led the horses out onto the field he kept for them, then settled at the base of a large oak tree as they congregated around the muddy brook that ran through the property.
The sky was cloudless. It was going to be a hot day and while the crops could probably do with a bit more rain, Jim wasn't worried. He preferred sunny days anyway. His father had often scolded him that he ought to worry more about the number of bushels per acre and less about his own contentment, but there you were. George Kirk had always been a farmer and if he'd ever dreamed of doing something more, he'd forgotten those dreams long ago. He had no doubt imagined that a 10 year tour of duty would instill in his younger son more of an appreciation for Iowa. In some ways, he'd been right; Jim enjoyed the quiet: no threat of typhoons, neighbors who kept to themselves (they were Amish). He was, for the most part, content.
Jim would often find his mind wandering, imagining a life with more excitement, more pizzazz, more bang for his buck. The most exciting thing that happened around here was the occasional bar fight over the outcome of the last football game. No matter how cliché it sounded, Jim wanted something more. He wanted to be a hero.
He'd been one in the marines, sort of, but none of what he'd done then seemed very important in the scheme of things.
Sometimes he wondered if his restlessness was a symptom of something else. Loneliness was the most likely candidate. His best friend lived 4 states away; Carol had moved back to New York and thus prevented him from even meeting David; he hardly ever saw his parents and his brother lived on the other side of the world with his family.
Jim shook his head, tossing the apple core away. When did you get so maudlin, old man? He gave a self-deprecating snort. No, not old yet. But old enough that I should give up on adventures. There was too much to do today for that: people to call, deals to finagle, weather channels to watch, and the possibility of a broken drain pipe on the southern quarter to investigate.
What started off as a gorgeous day had followed the trend of Midwestern weather and changed to something else entirely by mid-afternoon: cloudy with a chance of thunderstorms. Jim glanced up at the sky as he walked along the gravel road which split the old family property. He didn't so much mind the possibility of getting wet, but he wanted to get the horses inside quickly—lightning made them skittish.
Speaking of—a bright flash caught the corner of his eye and before Jim was even able to think, battle-instincts had caused him to dive into the ditch and something huge, burning, and definitely not lightning roared overhead and landed with an earth-shaking crash.
Jim stayed still, face pressed into the ditch-weeds, until it seemed like the world wasn't going to end after all. He lifted his head to see black smoke caught by the hot wind and blowing over his head. Good thing it wasn't August: brown and dead corn stalks burned like nobody's business. Of course, it wasn't as though most of this field was going to be of any use to him now, what with a meteorite smashed into it. Holding his shirt up to cover his mouth and nose, Jim headed towards the blackened lump in the center of the field.
A meteorite! A clump of carbon from outer space and it was his. Jim grinned into the cloth. Maybe he could sell it. Or get someone to polish it and hang it in his living room in lieu of a deer's head. Gary would have gotten a kick out of that. Jim shook his head. Was it the smoke getting to him or the excitement? He hadn't thought about Gary in years—and it was just a hunk of rock from a bit further away than usual.
By the time Jim reached the meter-deep crater in the earth, the fire had burned out and most of the smoke had been blown away. He stood at the edge, looking down at meteorite, but what he saw didn't much resemble a rock. It was sort of egg-shaped, light grey, and much too smooth except in places where it had what could only be described as dents.
Jim circled it warily. Three-quarters of the way around there was a variation in the shape of the metal. A door? Why would a meteorite—okay, a thing from space—have a door? Maybe that was why he was thinking of Gary again: the dark-haired and somewhat irresponsible fellow marine had introduced him to several sci-fi cult classics and now, looking at this thing… under the bumps, the dirt, and the carbon scoring, there was something distinctly escape pod-ish about it.
Jim's father would probably say that this meant Secret Government Space Station Projects Gone Wrong. Gary, who Jim was more likely to trust with these kinds of things, would have said it meant Extraterrestrial Intelligence. As in aliens.
He probably should have been terrified, should have run back to the street and back home and forgotten about this until Someone Else found it and it became Someone Else's Problem, but that feeling in the pit of his stomach wasn't fright, it was excitement. Finally something was happening.
Jim tugged off his T-shirt, wrapped it around his hand as protection, and reached for the surface of the escape pod's door. He had barely brushed the smooth metal when he pulled away with a hiss; even with the T-shirt it was too hot to touch. However, it seemed that the contact had done something: slowly, deliberately, the hatch swung open. Staring in awe, Jim barely noticed the smarting in his fingers. I am about to be the first person in the world to see a real alien. It occurred to him to wonder what he'd done to be so lucky—or unlucky as the case may be.
The door finished opening. Jim took a semi-shaky breath then was all business. Carefully avoiding the still hot edges, he leaned inside to find damaged-looking control panels, a chair, and in that chair…an alien? It (he?) didn't look like the little green man of drunken campfire stories; instead he looked pretty human. Jim was inclined to think it was a human—until he noticed that the dark green stuff on the man's clothes and face was, in part, coming from a cut on his forehead. Green blood. Okay, you've got me convinced.
Jim knew enough first aid from his time in the service to know that moving the man could be a very bad idea—but he also knew that calling an ambulance was completely out of the question. They would probably be carted off to Area 51 and locked in a big warehouse full of wooden boxes or something. No, the best plan for now would be to get this guy to his home and then call one person he knew he could trust and who knew a bit more than just first aid.
Though, Jim considered as he raced home to get his car (the alien wasn't going anywhere and carrying him a mile and a half was not happening), they probably didn't teach much about alien physiology at med school.
Jim Kirk tumbled through life wishing for something more, but his best friend Leonard McCoy did not. Or at least, that's what he said. McCoy had no dreams of being what he called a 'Saturday morning cartoon hero' like Jim did. He was a practical man: he knew he wouldn't be much use in a fight and he didn't mind. Let people like Jim break heads, if they must. He was content to come in later and pick up the pieces.
A doctor was all he'd ever wanted to be and a doctor was what he was—and a damned good one too, if he said so himself.
Except when it really mattered. But although he was prone to emotional over-dramaticism—ask anyone who knew him, they would tell you—McCoy was essentially a private man and this was a private matter. The only people who knew were his boss Doctor Lloyd and the other unfortunate who'd been in the room, Nurse Jake Wettach. Probably his research partner, Doctor Kate Ranum, had heard about it too by now. She was going to need to find someone else to work with. He felt rather bad about that, but no turning back now.
They didn't know the whole story, though. That was between him and God.
Now he sat on the over-crowed city bus and wondered what he was going to do with his life.
Leonard McCoy tried not to jump when the cell phone in his pocket started vibrating. It had taken him long enough to figure out how to get the damn thing to do that instead of ring—he wondered how long it would take to just get people to quit calling him. He shot the lady in the seat next to him an apologetic grimace as he twisted to retrieve the stupid phone. Don't be Lloyd, don't be Lloyd, don't be—It was Jim.
"What." McCoy was not in the best mood today. Actually, that was an understatement because as far as shit-tastically horrid days went—and he'd had a few—this was probably about number 3 on the list.
"Hey, Bones, okay, I know it's been a while but I need to call in a favor."
"Oh god, what did you do this time?"
"Nothing! It's just that this meteorite landed in my field, except it was an escape pod thing, like from the movies? And anyway, there's this alien guy and he's hurt pretty bad I think so do you think you could get up here because I don't want to call a hospital because they'd probably just lock us up and study his guts."
McCoy closed his eyes and prayed for patience. Sometimes it was really, really hard being best friends with an utter lunatic like Jim Kirk—a man who seemed pretty normal until you got to know him and found out that he liked to do things like climb mountains without any safety equipment. For fun.
"Look. Jim," he said in what he hoped was a reasonable tone of voice, "I have had the worst day in a very long time and all I want is to go home, get drunk, curl up in a miserable ball, and cry. Is that so much to ask? So please just knock it off with the alien nonsense and tell me why you really called."
A pause. "I'm sorry Bones, but I wasn't kidding. There really is this guy who is probably an alien—his blood is green."
"Jim, there are no such things as aliens!" McCoy snapped, losing his always tenuous grasp on patience. The woman next to him shot him a weird look. He's nuts he mouthed at her, gesturing at the phone.
"I know. But he is one—and he's hurt. I know it's a long drive, but I'm sure you could use a vacation. I have booze…you could tell me about your terrible day after you stitch him up. I'm only trained in CPR and the putting-on of bandages—I can't really do anything for him unless you come. Please. Seriously, I'll never ask anything of you ever again, I promise."
"Yes, you will," McCoy sighed. Bastard knows me too well. "Okay, fine. You're damn lucky you have me, you know that?"
"Yeah, Bones, I do."
McCoy huffed into the phone, snapped it shut and shoved it back into his pocket. This was ridiculous. He could hardly run off to Iowa on a whim to-to do what? Suppose for a minute that Jim had really found a bona fide alien—what could he do? He was trained in human medicine, nothing else. There were a million-and-one things that could go wrong, incompatibilities, possible allergies, substances fine for humans could be poison to an alien. Stitches might do more harm than good, medication would be out of the question, if there was any inner damage to organs he would be utterly useless…and on top of all that, he would be working out of a first aid kit! Sure his first aid kit was a bit more comprehensive than your average person's, but all the same.
And if the alien, by some miracle, survived…what if it were hostile? Even if it weren't, would it wish to stay on Earth? Humans had barely gotten out past Mars (and look at how well that turned out—contact lost with the shuttle and all aboard presumed dead): the technology needed to send the being home would be unthinkable!
McCoy shook his head. It was an utterly impossible situation and yet he'd promised to get there as soon as he could. Perhaps there was one positive aspect to being fired today. Maybe when he'd calmed down a bit he would admit that it had been his own fault and that it would be more accurate to say that he'd quit in a fit of pique, but the bottom line was the same: he was a doctor out of a job.
Not that it wouldn't be easy to get rehired-he could put on a tie and play nice at a job interview with the best of them—he just didn't want to. Not right now. He didn't know what he wanted to do, but going to see Jim didn't seem like such a bad idea.
Intellectually, Jim knew that the drive from Atlanta to Riverside took nearly a day even if you went non-stop and yet he found himself pacing around the creaky farmhouse he called home, impatiently awaiting a rap on the door. Every few minutes he peaked into the guest bedroom where he'd put the alien. He hadn't been able to do much for him save lay him on the bed and wash some of the blood off his face. This particular action had better revealed the alien's features: high cheek bones, deep-set eyes beneath peculiar upswept brows, and ears which tapered to a point. Jim supposed that if the alien's dark hair wasn't so matted with blood and his skin wasn't such a clearly unhealthy pallor, he might even be handsome, in an odd way.
Jim finally gave up any pretense and settled into a chair next to the bed, as though by sitting there he could prevent the alien from dying before Bones showed up. The bleeding was slowing, at least. Unfortunately, he didn't seem to be breathing much either.
As the summer thunderstorm raged around the house, Jim wondered why he cared so much.