"The Captain has been extracted from the radiation chamber."
A glass poured.
"Doctor McCoy, Mr Scott requires your assistance in transporting the Captain to the medical bay."
Another glass poured.
"Doctor McCoy, it would be helpful if you could aid Mr Scott in bringing up the Captain to your medical bay."
"His name was Jim."
A glass slammed down to the table.
"His name was Jim, you Vulcan bastard! Goddammit man, he's dead, and you can't even say his name. He is not 'the Captain', he is James T. Kirk, and we called him Jim!"
His hand still stings from where he punched Spock a few hours earlier. He didn't mean to do it, but he was just so enraged. Jim was…dead…he was dead, goddammit, and the man couldn't even give him the decency of calling him by his name. He had been there whilst he died, and he couldn't call him Jim. His jaw still twitched at the thought.
But he needed to patch this up. More than likely the Vulcan would deem his apology unnecessary, and tell him the whole ordeal had been down to his 'heightened emotional state' (which would piss him off more), but it's what Jim would have wanted.
Dammit, he was already thinking about him in past tense.
Oh Jim, he thought softly, Jim, I'm so sorry.
I'm sorry that you had to die alone.
He pulled his communicator from his pocket, and programmed in Spock's operating number. After two seconds of static, a voice could be heard from the other end of the line.
"Doctor McCoy?" There was no trace of anger in his voice, no perceptible trace of loathing or desire for revenge. He did regret hitting him, but…today had just been a long day.
"Commander Spock, could you please join me in my office? I have an urgent matter to discuss with you." He knew the Vulcan was now acting Captain, but he couldn't bring himself to call him such. Jim was Captain of the U.S.S, Enterprise. Always would be.
"Certainly Doctor, I shall be there in approximately 2.4 minutes."
"Good to know."
He was tired. So tired of living like this. He supposes he has grown old now. Experienced too much. Lost too much. Drank too much, lived too excessively.
He stares down into the blue depths of the Romulan Ale, and wishes he were drowning in it.
"So, yeah, I'm sorry for hitting you in the face," he says awkwardly, shifting his weight from one foot to the other, trying to evade the cloud of sorrow that seemed to entice the two.
Spock stepped back and replied, mercifully, "It is not of importance. Humans tend to act irrationally in heightened emotional states."Goddamn Vulcan.
McCoy waved Spock into a chair, but he instead just stands uniformly next to it. McCoy makes a noncommittal grunt that could pass for 'do whatever you want', and sways back to his desk and drops into the chair, like a rock sinking in a river.
"I'm sorry you had to be there," McCoy speaks suddenly, his voice monotonous, seemingly too loud in the booming quiet of the room. The Vulcan makes no attempt to either accept or respond to his words.
Sitting safely behind his desk, protected from the logic of Spock, McCoy thinks of his daughter. He hasn't seen her for twenty seven months now; Jim had been trying to force him to go and visit her last shore leave, but he couldn't do it. Like all divorced men, he was afraid of his ex-wife, but even more so of breaking his daughter's heart when he had to leave again. It was the same fear he felt now, but he was his daughter, screaming and crying that his best friend had to leave, even when he wanted him to stay.
But he is unsure of if Spock feels the same way inclined. He wonders if he does feel fear that Jim is gone.
Remembering the old stories his mother used to read him, McCoy downs a glass of Ale, empties more of the bottle into the depths of his glass and takes an unhealthy gulp. He speaks, his voice laced with melancholic emotion and sheer pain, "So we shall not be afraid, even if the earth is shaken and mountains fall into the ocean depths; even if the seas roar and rage, and the hills are shaken by the violence."
"Psalm 46", the Vulcan replies tonelessly, although McCoy knows he feels a genuine sense of both gratitude and approval towards his words.
"You're afraid to live without him, aren't you?" he asks quietly, pushing the remaining ice cubes around his glass, trying to avoid eye contact, instantly regretting the question. Of course he wasn't – the goddamn Commander didn't feelfear. He didn't feel anything. The only answer Bones could expect was something like 'fear is illogical' or, 'I fail to see the origins of your statement Doctor'. Any answer from Spock would just make him feel worse.
The silence deepens, and McCoy watches as Spock's shoulders tense considerably. He takes another relieving swig of the Romulan Ale (screw it's illegality – he's sure the Federation won't press charges after the day he's been forced to endure). The pause becomes so extended that it is embarrassing, and McCoy is filled with regret for asking Spock what he realizes to be, an extremely personal question.
He does not expect an answer.
When it comes, he does not expect what it entails.
Stumbling over his words, shaking like he has never seen him before, not even after the death of his mother, Spock takes a seat in the Doctor's office and breathes, "I am afraid to try."
Oh Captain, my Captain.
And that's when he knows. The hobgoblin – no, Spock – feels, and feels more deeply than he does. As a Doctor, empathy and sympathy are just a natural occurrence of trying to save people's lives, but he can only imagine how irregular and horrific these feelings are for Spock. How isolated he must feel – never truly fitting in on his home planet because he was so goddamn defensive of his family, but never having full access to humanity because of his "flawed" logic. A child, a man of two worlds, now facing a life trying to survive without the aid of the one person who knew him, and cared for him.
McCoy almost reels away by the extent of Spock's agony; the loss of his mother, and now the loss of Jim. Anger and rage and sorrow and heartbreak seem to radiate, seem to ionise the atmosphere around him, and the silence that was once deafening now seems to be alight with the sound of a Vulcan's heart shattering in front of him.
And no medical procedure, nothing McCoy can offer him, will make it any better.
"Spock-" he sighs emphatically, not meaning to continue. He pauses, waiting for the Vulcan to make an excuse to leave, like he normally does when confronted with feeling, but the good Doctor is surprised – almost pleasantly – when Spock makes no such movement.
Instead of continuing, McCoy rises from his chair, his right leg numb from too much alcohol, stalks to his cabinet, pulls out another glass and pours Spock a more than generous helping of Ale. He sets it down next to the Vulcan and pulls his chair from behind his desk so he is sat within a metre radius of him. McCoy isn't quite sure of what to do, how to act – he is unsure of whether or not it is safe to be near Spock at moment, considering how he reacted last time he revelled in his emotions, and Jim nearly died.
Well the bastard had to go for real this time, didn't he?
McCoy stared down at the floor and imperceptibly shook his head. Jim Kirk. He remembers meeting him, probably scaring him although he looked unfazed. Unloading on him over three years about how bitchy his Senior Medical Officer was, how bitchy his ex-wife was, how bitchy his life was becoming. And then, even when they joined Starfleet, how he always moaned and groaned and complained about how everything was always action-packed and dangerous and well…exhilarating. Jim had made him feel alive. Chasing and battling and fighting with all these incredible creatures; seeing the universe, and having to acknowledge its goddamn splendour. And now it was just the opposite.
Now he just wants to get off this ship.
Now he just wants to die.
"Doctor," Spock interrupts unsteadily, staring down at the ale which is now clutched tightly in his hand, "I am unsure of what direction to take."
And he sounds so terrified that McCoy snaps out of his trance and focusses on his patient – he can't help Jim anymore, damn him, he can't help Jim, but he can do the next best thing. He draws his head up, smacks his whiskey glass down on his desk, and quickly dries his face. Tears huh, tears over Jim Kirk. If he could see him now he'd be laughing for the entirety of the next mission.
"You know, when I first got divorced, I ran away. To Starfleet," McCoy began, his voice like a harsh whisper in the dark, "Met Jim here, and spent every day of three years working my ass off to get assigned to the Enterprise."
Spock, retaining his impeccable manners, interjects, "I fail to see the…relevancy to the current situation. It is illogical for you to speak of your journey here."
"It may be damned illogical but it's important so listen!" McCoy states loudly, sheer frustration, tiredness, bubbling harshly to the surface and exploding out. He takes a deep breath. Spock is not my punch bag, he repeats to himself. "I ran away from my ex-wife, and my daughter. I thought it was the right thing to do."
"It wasn't," Spock finishes for him.
"Excuse me?" McCoy asks, voice full of contempt, although the Vulcan was right.
"I understand. You underwent a trauma, and planned a trajectory for escape, but now your life is built up on bitterness and…cowardice," Spock says calmly, although his voice is close to cracking. He looks up and stares the Doctor in the eyes.Yes, he sees the recognition of his words, he sees the confirmation that yes, of course he is right, but it is masked by increasing hostility and ferocity.
McCoy ensconces his fingers into fists to stop his hands rattling, but also to stop himself from leaning out of his chair and landing another solid, satisfying punch in Spock's face. Pointy-eared bastard. How dare he call him a coward? Or rather, how dare he confront him with it?
Teeth gritted, he clutches the armrest of the chair and glares. "And your point is?"
"When we run from losing those we love, we lose who we are."
Well shit, the Vulcan had a point.
Incredibly, when the Doctor has the courage to look up from the fascinating patch of carpet on his floor, he sees a tear dripping down Spock's face. The Vulcan's hands are tightened around each other, and his glistening eyes stare down in shame at the floor. The tear rolls steadily down his unblemished pale cheek, running around the curve of his lip, and steadying at the jut of his chin before falling and settling in the fabric of his trousers.
It's like witnessing a planet being blasted apart. The magnitude of torment is impossible to imagine.
"It wasn't your fault…" McCoy begins.
"If I had been there to stop him, then he would never have gone in there!" Spock spits out rabidly, "If I had done my job as Commander to protect the Captain, then I could have prevented his death. I could have serviced a change in position, and gone in myself. My life does not matter, and yet the Captain sacrificed his own to save every member of this crew. It should have been my responsibility!"
The stench of guilt is overpowering, and McCoy tries desperately hard to abate it, but something else bursts from his mouth.
"His name is Jim."
Spock looks up in agony.
He fixes his words.
"It is my fault that…Jim…Jim Kirk is dead. It is my fault."
"Listen to me," McCoy says after thirty or so seconds of pitiful quiet. He scrapes his chair across the floor until he is sat right in front of Spock, so close their knees are mere millimetres from touching. "Now listen here.
"You and I, we're the people who knew Jim the best. We both know that he was reckless and inconceivably arrogant, and did whatever he wanted whenever he wanted. But we also know that he loved this ship, and everyone on it, more than anything else in existence. Even if you had been there, he never would have let you go in, and would have argued every logical point you made until he just ran in there anyway.
"He would never leave the command of this ship, or what he believed to be his duty as Captain, to anyone else in this type-a situation. The kid was a goddamned little shit when it came to obeying regulations, and nothing you could have said or done would have stopped him. And you know that. Stop being illogical."
Spock retires his eyes to the floor once more, just trying to contemplate the passion and animation with which McCoy spoke. Of course he was right. For the first time, Spock wholly acknowledged that the Doctor was right.
He supposed, despite the genealogy and emotional responses, that himself and the good Doctor were very similar. Jim had trusted them both with his life a thousand times, had come to them when he needed help, and loved them both an extraordinary amount. They had always been the people he trusted most, the men he listened to, and those whose opinions he had the highest regard for. They were the people he made time for – to listen to Doctor McCoy's continuous criticisms of everything in the universe, but also his effort and attempt to 'humanize' Spock, and to make him feel…well, to simply make him feel.
Spock rose from the chair, ale in hand, and wandered purposefully to the window in the Doctor's office, and was unsurprised when McCoy followed him there, collecting his glass from his desk as he did.
They both looked out at the universe, at what Jim had introduced them to. At what Jim had made them love.
Spock cleared his throat, allowing the tears to stain his cheeks. He was not ashamed. "You are correct. Jim Kirk was a "goddamned little shit" when it came to orders, but he was more than that. He was my friend, my Captain, and a hero."
McCoy, ever the professional, nodded stiffly,
He looked out over the horizon.
He knew what he wanted, and what was needed to be done.
"What we do Spock, is we hunt down that evil bastard and make him pay," McCoy hissed terribly, overwhelming woe seizing his body,
He saw Spock nod instantly, and returned his gaze to the stars. Hands still tremmoring, eyes still wet, and heart still breaking, Spock lifted his glass up in toast to his Captain, and spoke the words, "As I believe Jim would have said – 'let's get the son of a bitch.'"