Title: Watching the Watchman (1/6)
Characters: McCoy, Spock, Kirk
Ratings: overall, probably just a K+; this chapter, T for implications
Word Count: (this chapter) 3256
Warnings/Spoilers: general TOS spoilers, including movie-era spoilers. This chapter, spoilers for Mirror, Mirror and all its baggage.
Summary: Five times Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock went all protective on Dr. McCoy, and one time McCoy showed them that he doesn't need y'all's coddling and can darn well take care of himself, thanks very much
A/N: This is a WIP that hopefully won't take forever to complete, but I wanted to at least post this and the next part tomorrow as a get-well present for writer_klmeri. *sends hugs*
He's always thought he's one of the most open-minded people in the history of space exploration. You have to be, to be a doctor – and a darn good one, thank you – much less a CMO of a famous exploratory Federation starship. And despite a fairly rigid upbringing in Earth's old "Bible Belt," he's fairly sure he's a bit more tolerant of controversial issues than many an old-fashioned Southern boy. Bigotry and xenophobia have no place in Starfleet, and a man who judges based upon appearance, age, disability, or orientation has no place in an organization that professes to be equal-opportunity.
He's even written a small paper on the subject and had it published in a fairly prestigious galactic medical journal, revolving around the fact that there still is no female captain of a starship within such a supposed equal-opportunity organization, and he was a little shocked at the controversial outcry it produced when it was published. The primary reason usually cited for the lack of female captains is medical in nature; namely, that their more emotional temperaments and physiology do not make for a hardened command presence under intense stress.
And that, as every medical officer knew, is a load of absolute bull. There are plenty of male crewmen who are as volatile-tempered or more so than any female he's ever encountered, and there are plenty of female command officers in the Fleet who have never had even a concern raised about their suitability to command. Sure, there are cases, as there are in any species, of certain candidates being obviously unsuitable for command – but that's not by any stretch relegated to the females of species, and it's actually only humans who still hold to that highly outdated opinion.
Weirdly enough, it was the Vulcans who, just last year, cited his little provocative paper the most favorably in the VSA's primary scientific journal, pointing out with what was the equivalent of Vulcan smugness that they've had female starship captains for at least a century, and what does that tell you about your ridiculously emotional lifestyle and outdated prejudice, you illogical humans.
All that to say, Leonard McCoy has always been one of the least prejudiced humans he knows.
And then, he transfers aboard the Enterprise, and is thrown into contact with the ship's Vulcan First Officer, one Lieutenant-Commander Spock.
And, he suddenly finds himself battling prejudice for the first time in his personal life.
It isn't so much that the Commander's Vulcan, though that certainly gives him a starting reference point for what really gets under his skin. It isn't the pointed ears, or the intimidating intelligence, or the superhuman strength, or even the perfect emotional detachment – nothing that makes Spock Vulcan is what really irks him, what raises his hackles quicker than any other crewman aboard can, including Jim Kirk at his most aggravating. It's not the quiet, almost shy, lack of interaction with other crewmen (though that's changing as the captain slowly breaks through that invisible armor), nor the refusal to retaliate when his best insults are flung at that impeccably-groomed head.
No, it isn't the fact that Spock is a Vulcan.
Then is it the fact that he's half-human?
Leonard has no idea what would possess any intelligent human woman to marry such a cold-blooded species (he suspects an arranged political marriage, until he meets Lady Amanda Grayson-Sarek a year later), but that in itself doesn't bother him; it's none of his business, and anyway you can't control who you love, no matter what form that love takes.
So it isn't really that Spock's half-human, he realizes, when he sits himself down to analyze his dislike of the man for his own purposes (Captain Kirk – definitely not Jim during that stern talking-to – has delicately raised concerns that McCoy's sarcastic barbs have started rumors aboard that he hates the First Officer, and that's unacceptable behavior in the chain of command). Nope, it's not that he's half human, because the poor devil can hardly help his ancestry.
No, he suddenly realizes it's the fact that the Spock refuses to acknowledge that half-human side, in any shape or form, that really gets under his skin.
And that, he suddenly realizes, is actually a form of xenophobia, because who is he to dislike a man for concealing a part of his character that he doesn't like?
After that brilliant realization, his tone and view of the First Officer change. He still pokes at Spock's humanity and Vulcanity, but there's rarely animosity behind it anymore (the fact that it's obvious Spock worships the ground Jim walks on, lack-of-emotions or not, has something to do with that change of mindset). He still pushes Spock's buttons every chance he gets, but not out of a desire to force the First Officer into acknowledging his partial-human ancestry.
He just does it now because it's fun.
And he never, ever forgets the day when Spock finally breaks out of his non-confrontational shell and pushes back.
They're in Officers' Mess at the time, because Kirk has this ridiculous idea in his head that forcing him to eat with Spock will somehow magically show him what the captain obviously sees in the green-blooded encyclopedia. Jim has spent the entirety of the meal either whining about his enforced diet, or refereeing between the two of them when his sniping at Spock is met with only silence and then escalates into something a little too bordering on meanness.
Finally, and he still can't even remember what exactly he said or what started it, Spock calmly lays his fork down on his salad, re-fuses his eyebrows to their proper position, and delivers a terse, pointed verbal smackdown – Vulcan style.
The total unexpectedness of the response (and it was a darn good one, too!) leaves him staring in total shock across the table. Spock only sends him a look that can't be anything but Vulcan smugness, and proceeds to return to his salad.
By the time Jim finally manages to extricate his half-chewed carrot stick from his windpipe, McCoy's grinned and flicked a food cube across the table. Spock's suitably scandalized expression at his human lack of manners is just icing on a very, very tasty cake.
Does it mean they always get along after that? Heck no. He still can't stand Spock when he's at his Vulcan coldest, and Spock is equally annoyed at his continual insistence upon bringing up his half-human side. He still mouths off inappropriately during a crisis, and there's one very tense time that he thinks Spock is actually considering strangling him, during an argument in the transporter room just after they've lost Jim's transponder signal in the middle of a planetary war. He still pokes fun at anything he can that's related to Vulcans, and Spock in turn uses all his command authority to make his life in Medical a nightmare when he does. He still yells and even throws things when Spock refuses to show emotion when McCoy thinks he should, and Spock still delivers scathing, even hurtful retorts when he's under intense stress.
His old psych professor would have called it a dysfunctional relationship, he thinks, but then again don't they all have to be dysfunctional fools, to want to fly around the universe in a glorified sardine tin looking for trouble?
Because when Jim returns from the Preservers' Planet, grieving and furious with both of them but Spock especially, it's to Sickbay Spock goes that evening, long after they both should be sleeping but aren't. And when one of Spock's protégés in Bio Lab Three is seriously injured on a landing party, McCoy makes the first and only house call he's ever made to the First Officer's quarters to let him know she'll be all right with time. When Spock collapses on the Bridge with a high fever one day, scaring the alpha shift crew half to death because he never gets sick – McCoy only is professional as he can be about the whole thing, rather than laughing because the poor fool has somehow contracted chicken pox as a half-human adult (not like he could get it on Vulcan as a little kid, McCoy supposes, and who would think to inoculate a Vulcan against a human illness?).
And then, they get trapped in a mirror universe of their own. A much more bloodthirsty, ruthless, cutthroat universe, where their own counterparts are frighteningly similar yet possessing some crucial differences such as lack of moral restraint and ethics – as if the darkness within each of them has simply been nurtured here instead of buried deep under training and sense of right and wrong.
It's more than a little frightening, and if this is how Spock feels about his own half-human side – that it's a side of him he never wants to see again – then McCoy realizes before they've been in the mirror universe for twelve hours that he has no business trying to provoke Spock into confronting it. This Spock, this cold and ruthless commander – still loyal to his own captain, but so cold-blooded that it makes their Spock look positively human – is what their own First would be, if all that is good and noble about human emotions had been ground out of him by the harsh reality of this world.
He doesn't know what possesses him to not leave the other Spock lying in a pool of his own blood on the floor of that mirror Sickbay; even Jim, though he looks like someone's killing him slowly, is ready to do so. But he's a healer, even if in this mirror universe that's a dubious title at best, and besides there's just something inside him that says if it were his Spock having been attacked by mirror universe counterparts, he would hope that his mirror self would at least make the poor devil comfortable before escaping. It's a matter of ethics, professional and personal, and he can't just walk away without satisfying his own moral code.
He forgets, unfortunately, that this mirror universe – and this version of their Spock – evidently has no concept of morality.
Jim is oblivious afterwards, and McCoy doesn't blame him for that; he's command-focused as James T. Kirk always is – upon fixing every problem he encounters for everyone he encounters. McCoy would just as soon see them all kill each other like they obviously plan to, but Jim just has to have the last word, to try and change this icy version of his precious First Officer. When they return safely to their own universe and own Enterprise, the captain's too relieved, and too eager to see what happened to his beloved ship while they were gone, to notice. Uhura and Scotty appear to be just fine, though they promise to make their way to Sickbay shortly for a precautionary checkup, and the two of them leave the transporter room teasing each other about their rather revealing uniforms in that other universe.
He manages to wait, invisible as he unfortunately is so many times, until the door has closed behind them, before his legs finally give out and he collapses more than sits with a thud on the cold transporter pad, willing his hands to stop shaking at the turbulence in his mind.
And it's only then, after he's spent a good ten seconds trying to control his breathing so he doesn't work himself up any further, that he realizes Spock never left the room – is still standing behind the transporter controls, watching him with a hint of unease in his non-expressive features.
His first instinct is to act like nothing's wrong; which is impossible, because he couldn't stand up steady now if he tried, and Spock's no idiot anyhow, clueless as he is about human emotions. His next idea, to wave it off as simple exhaustion, has more merit; it's not entirely a lie, and Spock won't know the difference since he sees humans as the considerably weaker species.
It might have worked, too, had Spock not chosen that moment to disregard his own aloof Vulcan-ness. Rounding the transporter station, Spock crouches in front of him, actually showing some mild concern for what has to be the first time McCoy's ever seen, at least directed at him and not the captain.
"Doctor, are you well?" he inquires, and reaches for a discarded tricorder, hesitantly lifting the other hand in some sort of helpless gesture of comfort.
And that's what does it, betrays him to the one person he really, really does not want anywhere near him right now – but those long, thin fingers are too close to his face, and he can't stop the flinch no matter how much he wants to.
The tiny flicker of warmth in Spock's eyes dies out, and he looks a bit…stung, more than anything else. But their First is a Vulcan, and McCoy's never been more grateful for it, because it means Spock doesn't say anything like a human would, only reaches for the tricorder and begins running it over him from the ground up.
The low hum reaches a higher pitch when it reaches his head, and it only then occurs to him. His heart sinks dismally as he realizes that most likely, the medical technology will register any alteration in his brainwave patterns – and that the variance will be at its highest right now. If he could have put the examination off for a few hours, he might have been able to bluff his way out of it. But now…it's obvious from Spock's expression that he can tell something's very different.
Very wrong. And Spock, of all people, would know how to interpret a scan like that.
The whirr reaches a crescendo as the scanner pauses over his frontal lobe – and then suddenly dies with a horrible grinding screech. Startled, he looks up, and sees that the tricorder's now cracked all the way across in a spiderweb of fractures, a few scattered bits of plasticene and duraplas now sprinkled on the floor.
Spock looks down at the instrument, as if he cannot himself believe that he's just broken a tricorder with his bare hands, and then delicately sets the instrument down on the adjoining transporter base – but not before McCoy sees the burning fire of thinly-veiled fury in his eyes, something so dark and so coldly menacing that it's eerily reminiscent of that barbaric mirror universe.
But oddly enough, it's not in the least frightening.
Spock sits back on his heels, and looks at him. The silence is blaring in his ears, ringing and rebounding off the walls and the quiet hum of the ship's engines (or that could just be an effect of the headache, he's not quite sure of much at this point).
"Where was the captain during this?" Spock finally inquires, and there's such a burning edge of potential murder in the tone that he's actually a bit afraid for Jim.
"In the transporter room with the others," he manages quickly, sandwiching his hands between his knees so Spock can't see them shaking. "Left the other you and me in Sickbay, Jim had clocked him over the head and I didn't want to just leave him there to die of an untreated fractured skull..."
"And this, Doctor, is how he repaid that kindness." It's not a question, and he's glad, because he really doesn't want to answer it or even think about it anymore, not now.
"Spock, look –"
"Doctor." The interruption is gentle, far more gentle than he's ever heard from this most unemotional of beings. Spock's eyes are glinting with some weird emotion, not really pity but not compassion either, and still a heck of a lot of barely-controlled anger. He's never seen that before, and it's actually a little comforting. "You have been…most grievously assaulted. I do not know the human protocol for…coping, with such a thing. Would you prefer I remove myself from your presence until I am instructed otherwise?"
He manages a shaky little smile, that he's actually quite proud of. And in that moment, he realizes – he'll never fear Spock like you'd think he would, after what happened in that other universe. Something deep inside him knows that while there may be such a side of darkness to Spock here, his Spock would rather die than do such a thing; and it's that instinctual heart-knowledge that lets him take Spock's hesitantly-offered hand and stand to his feet, far more calm than is probably healthy at this point.
"That won't be necessary, Mr. Spock," he says, and something seems to snap in the Vulcan's spine; he relaxes slightly, almost becoming smaller, and closes his eyes for a moment. "Walk me to Sickbay, though, will you?"
"A moment, Doctor." Spock steps to the wall-comm, pressing the private channel button. "Transporter Room Two to Captain Kirk."
"Kirk here. What is it, Spock?"
"Sir, I must speak to you immediately. Are you able to come down to Sickbay?"
"Spock, it's really not a good time –"
McCoy jumps slightly at the tone, which is almost thunderous in its quiet fury. Obviously Jim gets the message loud and clear, because his affirmative is almost hilarious in its rapid cluelessness.
He has no idea what Spock says to Jim, because Spock marches the captain into his office while Chapel is seeing to his own comfort, and he hopes the Vulcan went easy on the poor captain; it wasn't Kirk's fault by any stretch. Even if it was a bit foolish to leave him alone with an enemy, who knew a Vulcan could make such a rapid recovery from a nasty fractured skull? Jim may have not been paying attention, but it wasn't his fault – and in fact, if he'd been present, he would no doubt have been the victim rather than McCoy. That's a relief to him, in a way, because he wouldn't want whatever Jim and Spock have to be tarnished by a memory like that.
Just the same, he's still a bit meanly glad to see the captain scuttling into his cubicle an hour or so later, white-faced and looking like he's just been disillusioned with life as a whole. Spock spares him one last look, full of knowing and what looks to be a silent apology, before leaving them alone, and for that he's grateful; because regulations dictate he must talk about the incident to someone in order to be re-certified for duty, and he'd rather it be the captain than anyone who is less informed about the severity of the assault.
Jim is no less horrified than Spock, and adds a starship-load of guilt on top of all that, but McCoy thinks they've all learned something valuable – about themselves, and about each other – and so the mission isn't a complete waste. It takes him a while to recover, as these things do; but in the meantime, he actually feels as if Spock sees him in a new light, not just that of a slightly-irritating colleague. And while it's a little weird to have a Vulcan actually take interest in you and try to make what amounts to small shop talk as you walk through the corridors…it's kind of nice, though he'll never admit that to a soul.
And if for the next six months, both of his superiors are stupidly adorable in their efforts to protect him from everything from illegal germ warfare to tripping over his own feet, well. Never look a gift horse in the mouth, his momma always said.