Technically, only the captain should have access to the Alpha crew’s personnel files, but Jim trusts Leonard, trusts him with his life and the lives of his crew. He gave Leonard access when he asked for it, no questions asked, along with access to the personnel files of every other member of the crew.
Leonard hasn’t been on the receiving end of such unconditional love in a very, very long time. It’s a little bit frightening, how easy Jim hands that information over, and Leonard respects that.
Why does he want the files, one might ask. Well, quite frankly? Leonard doesn’t trust easy, and while he knows that he’s surrounded by good people— Starfleet’s finest, if the Admiralty is to be believed— the word good doesn’t really translate to a McCoy. Not the way civilians use it. Good in the mouth of a civilian might just mean they haven’t been caught doing anything unsavory in public. Good in the mouth of a civilian is white to Leonard’s clear, pitch black— because if he were to judge himself by civilian standards, he’d definitely fall on the wrong side of… well, everything. Morals, law, society… the list goes on.
He’s not alone in that, of course. Jim’s right there with him, if they go by civilian standards, just as stained by rebellion and anger as Leonard is. It’s a blessing; Leonard doesn’t think he could have trusted the kid if he was the goody two-shoes the news sites seem desperate to paint him as.
Jim, according to the man himself, takes after his mother. He’s a troublemaker, plain and simple.
His track record is a mile long. Leonard has known this since the Academy, of course, but it’s one thing to hear cheerful stories in a dark bar and another thing completely to read damage reports. Jim has spent a third of his life in the system, one way or another, wreaking havoc on the lives of those who dared claim authority over him and acting as a savior to those he deemed worthy of saving— which, to Jim, is just about anybody living under any kind of authority.
It says it right there in his file— Oppositional Defiant Disorder. He got the diagnosis when he was twelve, right before they shipped him to an unnamed farming colony.
Leonard knows that colony’s name. It’s probably the reason Jim was diagnosed with PTSD roughly two years later. No, not probably. Tarsus is definitely the reason he was diagnosed.
It’s funny, Leonard thinks as he reads through a transcript of one of Jim’s convictions (at sixteen, he was tried as an adult for his fourth B&E in six months and spent a year on a different, somewhat better prison planet). Starfleet regulations state that a recruit can’t have a prior record, but somehow, it doesn’t apply to Jim. Maybe his name saved him. Maybe it was Pike’s personal interest. Regardless, it’s odd, especially when heaped on top of the fuckery that is the psychological profile of one James Tiberius Kirk.
Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Mania. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Anxiety. That isn’t the profile of a person that should be sitting in a captain’s seat. That isn’t the profile of a man who should be leading a flagship into the vast unknown. Starfleet would never allow that, not without some other, underlying purpose.
Maybe it’s because Jim’s pretty. Lord knows that boy’s looks have gotten him things no one else would even think to hope for.
Regardless, it’s something to think about the next time Leonard has absolutely nothing to do.
Spock’s file is a tad more interesting than Jim’s, probably because, outside of work and Jim’s forced interactions, he doesn’t spend much time around the guy. But no, Spock’s file is an interesting read. Why? Because apparently, according to Vulcans, Spock follows in his brother’s footsteps (a brother, who knew?) and is, for all intents and purposes, a failure among his people.
Spock is considered volatile, aggressive, unhinged… one step away from true, honest crazy, if the reports from his tutors are anything to go by. His history may not be quite so littered with criminal offenses as Jim’s, but it’s full of fistfights, tantrums, screaming matches, and tears. How does Starfleet know this? Why does Starfleet know this? There’s no reason for them to care about a little boy’s emotional outbursts— except, of course, if the little boy happens to be the son of two very important people and the great-grandson of a very powerful, very stiff-backed Vulcan who was so sure of her own influence that she could say no to a position on the Federation Council.
Spock is another mystery. With all this information, coupled with the fact that a Vulcan’s unchecked emotions can be lethal to both the Vulcan themselves and anyone stupid enough to stand in their path, he should have been denied entry into the ‘fleet, same as Jim. Same as his brother, who had applied six years earlier.
But he wasn’t.
More surprises await Leonard in the depths of Alpha crew. It seems none of them had the sort of records that would make their mommas proud. Chekov, for instance, was picked up when he was thirteen, cooking books for some of the biggest names in the business. Sulu was yakuza, an enforcer for the Yamamoto Group, arrested for assault with a deadly weapon when he was nineteen. Uhura fleeced a foreign diplomat out of three hundred thousand credits by posing as a reporter— though, weirdly enough, she was never charged. Scotty stole a dollar from every bank account in the Federation and would have been living large on a pleasure planet if not for his taste for uranium-based experimentation.
Leonard saved his for last. Initially, it was because he thought he knew what he’d find. Now that he’s read up on his crewmates, however, he isn’t so sure. The ‘fleet knows things, intimate things, things that have never graced a legal form or a medical report, and Leonard has no idea how or why. He also doesn’t understand how in all the fiery hells any of them managed to make it onto the Enterprise, if they always had the information they apparently do. There’s no logical reason for the Admiralty to allow a bunch of (admittedly bright) criminals to stand as representatives of the Federation in the event of first contact.
Leonard’s file is as detailed and extensive as the rest of Alpha crew’s. His entire life is there, bared for all to read, neatly labelled and organized and explained in dry, succinct text.
Father to One (1) Joanna E. McCoy, Divorced. Alcoholic, Functional. Substance Abuser, Primarily Stimulants. Former Sergeant at Arms, Black Pistons.
Yeah. There’s no way in hell he— or anyone else— should be on this ship.
Clearly, something’s very wrong with Leonard, because all this new information? It just makes him like his people more. It makes him trust them more, trust in the knowledge that they’ll do whatever they have to, should a situation arise. People like them? They’re possessive. They’re protective. They’re trustworthy when it comes to the continued health and safety of the people they hold dear, and if there’s one thing that Leonard knows, is that every single one of these people consider the rest their friends. It tends to happen after shared near-death experiences.
Hendorff— or Cupcake, as most affectionately call him— is in the infirmary today, for vaccinations and a sympathetic ear. Leonard gets those kinds of visits a lot, from all the departments, but when Hendorff comes, it’s usually a good time to break out the liquor.
“Most of these kids barely scraped through training,” he tells Leonard over a glass of Saurian Brandy. “I’ve looked through their files— none of them started out Security. They started out in other tracks and washed out. Security track was all that saved them from being kicked out of Starfleet altogether. How am I supposed to trust the life of of our captain to these kids?”
That isn’t the real problem, Leonard knows. He can tell by the slant in Cupcake’s shoulders and the shadows in his eyes. Three of his lieutenants were killed in their last mission, barely of age and barely the soldiers the Enterprise needs them to be. Leonard knows that feeling, has lived it as he pulled the sheet over each of their bodies.
“Anybody can be a soldier,” he says slowly. “It’s just a matter of perspective. How are the others in your department?”
“They think they’ve been handed a death sentence,” he says. “‘Redshirt, Deadshirt’, that’s what they say. I can’t convince them otherwise— how could I? Our losses are astronomical, compared to other ships.”
“Our bad luck’s astronomical, too.”
“Do you think that changes anything?”
It doesn’t. Leonard knows it doesn’t.
“What were you, before?” he asks. “Before you joined Starfleet.”
“I did time,” he admits. “A nickel for manslaughter. I thought… I thought Starfleet was a new lease on life, you know? When they accepted me.”
That’s what Leonard thought, too.
“How about I sit in on one of your sessions,” Leonard says, sitting back. “I can give a few pointers, maybe. I mean, knowledge of anatomy can be helpful in a fight. And— not to brag— but I’ve won a brawl or two in my day.”
“At this point, any help would be welcome,” Cupcake says. He drains his glass and wipes his mouth. “Are you free next week? We’re doing refresher courses Tuesday and Thursday.”
“I’d be happy to drop by,” he says. “Gimme a time and I’ll clear my schedule.”
“This isn’t working,” Leonard mutters to Cupcake as he watches his security officers line up and go through their drills. “This is too practiced— fights aren’t the damn ballet. They need to be spontaneous.”
“They can barely get through these,” Cupcake mutters back. “What do you suggest?”
“Mind if I…?” He trails off, gesturing.
Leonard sighs and gets to his feet.
The security officers freeze.
The confusion on their faces is clear, but they obey anyway, falling back into easy, straight-shouldered stances that juxtapose the looks on their faces almost comically.
“The line on my right,” Leonard starts. “Take off your redshirts. Now.”
There’s an awkwardness among a few of them as they obey. While it’s regulation to wear an undershirt, most go without, so where he would prefer a line of black shirts, he has a mixture of black shirts, frilly bras, or nothing at all.
He sighs and wanders down the line, pausing in front of a young woman in a particularly scandalous bra and a face full of makeup.
“What’s your name, lieutenant?”
She’s flushed and uncomfortable under his gaze.
“Well, Bronson, let me ask you something,” he says. “Are you currently on-duty?”
“Are you trying to impress anyone in this room? Lieutenant Commander Hendorff, perhaps?”
Her flush deepens.
“Than why in holy hell are you all made up and wearing a bra out of a whore’s wardrobe?” He smiles meanly. “Tell me, Bronson, is this how you prepare for away missions? What’s your plan, should there be an attack? Fuck the enemy into submission?”
A murmur of shock goes through the group, but Leonard ignores them. His focus is entirely on Bronson.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure you put a lot of work into your looks. I’m sure plenty of our people appreciate it,” he says. “But this—” he snaps her bra strap for effect. “Won’t do you much good if you’re movement falls anywhere outside of a sashay or a gyration. All that makeup on your face won’t look too nice if you’re running for your life and it sweats off. Don’t come to work in this state again, you understand me? You’re a security officer. Act like one.”
Turning away, he glances down the line, then at the other security officers still in red. Some of them— women, mostly— are shifting uncomfortably. Bronson’s not the only one who’s wearing something scandalous.
“That goes for the rest of you, too,” he says. “You are the only defense the men and women serving aboard this ship have. Either take your positions seriously or put in for transfer. I won’t hold with this sort of behavior, and neither will Lieutenant Commander Hendorff, Captain Kirk, or First Officer Spock. Is that understood?”
There is a murmur of understanding. That’s not what Leonard wants.
“Bullshit, I can’t hear you. Is that understood?”
“Good. Now, I was gonna do black versus red, but seeing as some of your coworkers have decided to go against regulation, I suppose we’ll have to go shirt/no shirt. Those of you who are not wearing your regulation blacks and are not currently in red, please strip.”
A flurry of movement. More flowered bras are revealed, and in one case, no bra at all. Leonard ignores that young woman with all the professionalism a career in medicine has afforded him.
“The rules of this game are simple. Both sides will charge at one another, and the last man standing wins his team a free pass for the rest of this shift, barring an emergency. The losing team will stay with me and the Lieutenant Commander. The game will not end until there is only one man or woman standing.” He moves to stand beside Cupcake. “No holds barred, providing your tactics are non-lethal. The point of the game is to win. Am I clear?”
“Alright, then. Begin!”
It takes a moment, just a second of confused looking around, before finally, someone strikes— Bronson, coincidentally. She charges the man standing across from her, leaping at him with her fists at the ready and taking him down.
Then, it starts.
“What’s the point of this, exactly?” Cupcake asks over the sound of fighting.
“I’ve just proved I was an asshole,” he says. “And that I’ll humiliate the losers. Nothing gets a person going like the idea of being humiliated in front of a crowd, let me tell you.”
“Yeah, okay. And… this?”
“Spontaneity.” Leonard watches a redshirt go down by sheer force of pheromones alone. That Orion’s sneaky. He can appreciate that. “They’ll only really understand what’s at stake in a real war zone, of course, but this? This will teach them what it is to hit with purpose, and get hit in return. Competitiveness does wonders for a fighter’s ability, you oughta know that, seeing as you’ve done time.”
Cupcake barks out an incredulous laughs.
“You’re crazy, Doc,” he says. “What the hell did you do before you came to the ‘fleet?”
“I was a doctor,” he says, shrugging. “And I rode motorcycles on the weekends.”
It takes an hour for there to be a clear winner, and it’s the little Orion girl, huffing over a redshirt woman who finally goes down after a solid punch to the jaw. The rest of the security team is out of commission, groaning and nursing cuts, bruises, and in some cases, erections.
“No shirts win,” Leonard says. “What’s your name?”
The Orion turns to face him. A jade bruise is forming under her eye, and her lip is split and oozing sluggishly, but there’s a light in her gleeful eyes that’s familiar.
“Lieutenant Rova, sir,” she says, straightening. “Osira Rova.”
“Well, Rova, your tactics were both inventive and effective,” he says. “And sneaky as shit. Good on you— just remember that not all species will be affected by your physiological advantage.
“The shirtless team is allowed to leave. Go to Medbay first— only no shirts, mind you. The rest of you? You’re stuck here ‘til the end. We’re doing this all over again, from the beginning. Line up so I can split you.”
There are groans of complaint, but Leonard doesn’t care, because the fire in Rova’s eyes? That’s what he’s aiming for.
The no shirts grab their uniforms and file out, circling Rova to offer thanks and congratulations. The remaining redshirts dawdle, slow to pick themselves up and organize back into lines.
It’s clear as day that there’s a strategy this time, if the six giants on one side of the line are anything to go by— but that’s fine, because this time, he’s going to have them count off.
Because he’s a dick like that.
“So a little bird told me that you sat in on one of Cupcake’s training sessions,” Jim says when he slides into the seat next to him at dinner that evening. “How’d that go?”
Jim is… Jim is Jim. He knows why Leonard refuses to wear the short sleeve medical uniform, knows his past as well as anyone who hasn’t lived it can, and, well, Leonard trusts him. So when he asks, Leonard’s honest.
“They’re weak,” he says. “Cupcake’s doing his best, but right now? He’s fighting a losing battle. Their attitudes are better suited to office clerks, not soldiers.”
“They’re not soldiers, though.”
“They’re not supposed to be,” Leonard agrees. “But with our track record? They need hardening.”
“So you stripped half of them naked and made them fight each other.” Jim nods. “Makes sense.”
“Worked for me and you.”
“I guess,” he says. “Alright, Bones, I’ll let it go. But don’t come crying to me when one of them goes over my head to complain.”
“I doubt it’ll do anything,” Leonard says absently, spearing a replicated potato absently.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“‘I doubt it’ll do anything’. What do you mean by that?”
Leonard thinks back to the files, thinks back to a long list of crimes and mental illnesses that should have guaranteed rejections from Starfleet.
“I’m not sure,” he says. “Just… a theory I’ve sort of been thinking about.”
“I’ve got the time to hear it.”
Leonard shakes his head.
“It’s nothing solid,” he says. “Just a thought. It probably doesn’t mean anything.”
“Uh-huh.” Jim’s gaze turns serious. “You’ll tell me if it turns out to mean something, right?”
“Yeah, Jim. Of course.”
“You mind coming around again? I’ve been running those brawls, but they’re not so effective when it’s just me, for some reason.”
“Sure thing. How’s next week sound? I’m not off-duty Wednesday.”
“That’d be perfect.”
“Looks like some of you didn’t listen the last time I was here.”
He eyes the new batch of no shirts, inwardly pleased as some of them attempt to cover themselves. “That just won’t do. The rest of the redshirts, strip.”
The fear is palpable as the rest pull off their shirts. Out of seventy-four security officer, thirty-nine are out of regulation.
“Everyone without an undershirt, thirty laps through hall eight, to Medbay and back— no uniform shirts,” he says. “Starting now. The rest of you, count off one through ten, let’s go.”
“If I knew naked runs were part of your workout regime I’d hit the rec room with you more often.”
“... Shut up, Jim.”
Rova can’t hit worth a damn if she isn’t using her pheromones to disarm her opponent. While Leonard is a believer in using every tool at one’s disposal, this is going to become a problem for her, sooner rather than later.
At the same time, he doesn’t appreciate that her opponent— a hulking mass of a naturally immune Andorian— is driving this point home through the subtle application of cracked ribs.
Cupcake’s on the other side of the training room, talking tactics with a few of the senior officers, so he doesn’t see the way Rova’s determination turns to panic, doesn’t hear the gasping pain turn into whimpers when one of her ribs truly gives.
The Andorian shows no signs of stopping, of wanting to stop. It’s then that Leonard remembers that in every fight he’s staged so far, Rova and her opponent have been on opposite sides, and that usually, Rova’s side won.
“Rova, Uran, halt!”
Rova steps back immediately, but the big guy only uses her retreat to try and hit her again. She squeaks, surprised enough to fall back and jostle her ribs.
Finally, the Andorian steps back, a cruel smirk curving his face when he turns to face Leonard.
“Wipe that smile off your face, you arrogant piece of shit.”
Uran goes stiff. He’s a full head and shoulders taller than Leonard, not including his antennae, and it seems like he doesn’t enjoy being called out on his bullshit.
“What was that just now?” Leonard demands. “When I call halt, you halt. You obey a direct order from a superior officer. Or did you forget that?”
“I did not hear you.”
Leonard arches an eyebrow.
“Andorians have superior hearing to Orions, if I remember my years of Xenobiological training correctly,” Leonard says. “So tell me, Uran, how was it that Rova here managed to catch my order, but you, a member of a species with supposedly better hearing, did not?”
The vein in Uran’s jaw pulses. Andorians have a thing about being less than the best. Leonard has put himself in a dangerous position, which would be bad, except—
Except he likes, Rova. She’s a sweet kid, one who couldn’t make it through the nursing program. And she’s improved, she really has— Leonard’s been thinking about asking Hendorff to put her on the next away mission.
“What was your reason for this fight?” Leonard asks. “Because clearly, this was not a simple test of strength for you.”
Uran doesn’t answer.
“If you wish to fight to the death, you can fight me,” Leonard says, crossing his arms. “Then at least you can say you bested an opponent of equal standing.”
“You are no match for me,” Uran says, eyes flaring at the simple idea. “You are a doctor with grand ideas of military prowess. You stand to one side as your guards die in battle.”
“Oh, shit,” somebody mutters from somewhere behind Uran. Leonard wishes he could look, but he doesn’t. He keeps his eyes locked on Uran’s face, because the silence is heavy and psychologically effective.
The smile he lets creep across his face is much the same.
“You really think so?” he asks. “Then I guess it means you’ll just try and pummel me the same way you tried to get Rova. Either way, you win the fight. And that’s all you want, right?” He steps closer, tilting his chin up so their faces are inches apart. “That’s what you’re supposed to do, isn’t it, Uran?”
The Andorian snarls.
“Fine, then,” he says, stepping back. “You want to prove something, Doctor? I’m game.”
Leonard grins and steps back, catching his the edge of his uniform blues and pulling it up over his head before tossing it aside.
The murmur of shock that goes through the crowd when they see his arms is… kind of entertaining, actually. Leonard supposes it’s not every day they realize their CMO is covered in tattoos of skeletons riding motorcycles, though, so he cuts them some slack.
Grinning at the bewildered Andorian, he puts up his fists.
“Show me what you got.”
Leonard’s knuckles are bloody. His mouth is bleeding. His left eye is swollen shut. Uran may not have managed to best him, but the fucker got in a few good hits.
“Teaching moment, gather ‘round,” he says. They obey, even Rova, though her pained hiss earns her a concerned look.
“I’m fine, Doc,” she says, giving him a smile. “Don’t worry.”
She’s going to Medbay as soon as he’s done. He’ll march her there himself.
“So,” he says, clapping his hands together. “Who was paying attention?”
There’s a show of hands.
“Okay. Did anybody see any strategies? On either side, I’m not picky.”
Some hands drop. Bronson’s stays up.
“He got you in the lip by accident,” she says. “You went for his antennae and… bent them.”
She looks a little uncomfortable saying that. They all look a little uncomfortable, honestly, but being the first line of defense is uncomfortable. He’d rather have them prepared than sheltered.
“That’s exactly right, Bronson. Andorians don’t really have ears the way most humanoids in the Federation do,” he says, nodding. “Lieutenant Uran was aiming to knock me out. If he’d managed to hit me hard enough in the chin like he’d been intending, he would have. Luckily, going for an Andorian’s antennae has a similar effect to boxing a Human’s ears— it can cause intense vertigo and can be incredibly disorienting. Anything else, Bronson?”
“... You kicked him in the balls?” she offers.
“I damn well did,” he agrees. “Take note, kids— aiming for the genitals in almost any species is incapacitating. If you have the chance, go for it. You want your fight done quick— every moment wasted on a single opponent could be a moment too long for a comrade who needs assistance. Anything else?”
“You attacked his pressure points.”
The woman who spoke is tall, built like a bulldog with hard features and close-cropped black hair. Her nose clearly has been broken before, though by who, Leonard can't begin to guess.
Her name is Gupta, if Leonard remembers correctly. She’s one of the few officers on board who doesn’t have a criminal record, though the murder of her father has yet to be solved, even by Starfleet.
“And those points were…?”
“Inner elbow, base of the sternum, back of the hand, and collarbone,” she recites.
“What track did you originally apply for?” he asks, cocking his head curiously.
Gupta doesn’t flinch.
“Medical,” she says. “I have a degree in Xenobiology.”
“You wash out of Medical, Gupta?”
“My professors thought I lacked the empathy necessary for the field,” she says, unbothered by his bluntness. “Looking at you, I do not understand how I scored so poorly during my residency. Clearly kindness is not a requirement.”
Leonard snorts. He likes this girl.
“I had my doctorate before I joined,” he says. “That probably helped. Anyway, yes, I went for the pressure points. I was going to go over key points most common in humanoid species, but seeing as you have a Xenobiologist in your midst, I think you ought to ask her.”
“I am also available to demonstrate,” she offers blandly. A few of the officers shuffle away from her at the comment.
Leonard loves this woman.
“So yeah. That’s what a real-ish fight looks like,” he says, nudging Uran with his foot absently. “Clearly not, because I wasn’t trying to kill him and vice versa— I think— but it was bloody and damaging and honestly? A pretty good workout. The problem is why I had to fight him.
“Lieutenant Rova here—” he gestures at the Orion. “— Has come out on the winning side of quite a few of our mock fights here. Lieutenant Uran came out on the losing side, most of the time. He apparently took offense to this, and went on to crack a few of Rova’s ribs, and break at least one. Now, if we were actually prize fighting here— and yes, that will happen, eventually, once you all stop hitting like bitches— I wouldn’t give a damn, but that wasn’t the case. He was attacking a comrade, and that? That’s fucking unacceptable.
“You are Security on a ship that has come in contact with a giant green hand. We have shit luck. You have seen friends and coworkers die at the hands of salt-sucking monsters and self-proclaimed gods. Competition is one thing, but in the end, all you have is each other. I mean, have you seen the Captain shoot? His aim’s atrocious.” Leonard sighs. “Redshirts, you’re our first line of defense, and until you realize that and take responsibility? You’ll keep dying. This behavior?” He gestures at Uran. “Will only get you killed when the next shitstorm hits. You need to take care of each other.
“So I’m going to chew you out. I’m going to embarrass you. I’m going to make you hate me, because the more you hate me, the more you’ll learn. By the time I’m done, Lieutenant Commander Hendorff’s going to have subordinates he can trust to take care of themselves, and you will be able to trust the man, woman, or other standing beside you when shit hits the fan. Am I understood?”
“Bullshit, I can’t hear you.”
“Sir, yes, sir!”
“Good. Go back to whatever you were doing. Gupta, grab Uran, would you? Rova, with me.”
“Belay that, Lieutenant Gupta. You may return to your drills.”
Leonard doesn’t know when Spock got there, doesn’t know how he didn’t notice the blue in the sea of red, but there he is, cool as a cucumber with one eyebrow raised as he approaches Leonard and his opponent.
“I must say, Doctor,” Spock starts. “I was unaware of your skill in combat.”
“Yeah, well, Hippocratic Oath and all that jazz. I don’t think it counts if I’m teaching, though, so it’s alright.” He pauses. “What are you doing here?”
“The Captain informed me you were assisting Lieutenant Commander Hendorff during his training periods,” he explains, hands clasped behind his back. “Your teaching methods are quite unorthodox, though I believe they might be effective.”
“Well gee, Spock, that almost sounds like a compliment.” Leonard jerks his chin at Uran. “Grab him for me, would ya? I’ve got Rova, here.”
“Doc, I’m fine,” she protests. “I can walk on my own.”
“Bullshit. You’ll pass out in the hall if I let you walk on your lonesome.” Broken ribs… are not fun. At least here they have the tech to actually fix it, rather than having her sit under a gallon of ice for a week or three. “Come on. Arm up, if you can manage.”
She can, and once Spock has Uran thrown over one shoulder, they make their way towards Medbay.
“Were you serious about the prize fights?” Rova asks after a minute of uncomfortable silence.
“Hmm? Yeah. Well, sort of.” Leonard shrugs. “I was thinking more along the lines of Fight Club rules. You don’t win anything except bragging rights.”
Rova stares, uncomprehending.
“Oh, you know— like that old Terran movie.”
Still no reaction.
“Next time everyone’s in Sickbay I’ll play it for you guys,” he says. “Great movie, bad idea, once it gets to the Project Mayhem stuff. The rules are alright, though. They suit what I have in mind.”
“And what are these rules?” Spock inquires, curious.
“I’ll tell you later,” Leonard says. “Here we are. Chapel!”
“Right here— Jesus Christ, Len, what happened to your face?”
“Hey, Chris,” he smiles through his swollen lip, causing the scab to crack and bleed. “I’m alright, just need a dermal regenerator and I’ll be fine. Rova here’s got some cracked and broken ribs, and Uran here— well, he needs a nap and something for a migraine. And if you could deflate his ego, that’d be great, too.”
“Right after I get through with the Captain’s— put him down there, Commander, would you? I’ll deal with him in a minute. Lieutenant Rova, if you’d just take a seat over here…”
Chapel bustles the Orion away, leaving Spock and Leonard alone.
“If I understood correctly, Lieutenant Uran attacked Lieutenant Rova outside of the boundaries placed upon their spar,” Spock says. “Due to hurt pride.”
“That’s about right, yeah.”
Spock nods, gaze intent on Leonard’s swollen lip and eye.
“We do not have a place for an officer who places pride over the wellbeing of his crewmembers,” Spock says. “I will put in to have him transferred as soon as possible.”
“I fail to see what is humorous about my statement.”
“Nothing, Spock. Just… good luck with that.”
Spock’s mouth pinches just slightly. Curiosity, Leonard thinks, with just a sprinkle of annoyance, to add flavor.
“The Captain mentioned to me that you are… developing a theory,” he says carefully. “Something involving the personnel of this ship.”
“It’s just a thought,” he says. “You know Jim’s given me access to personnel files, right?”
“I do now.”
And they say Vulcans don’t have a sense of humor.
“Yes, well, I get bored and read them sometimes— when I’m off-duty and can’t sleep, mostly. They’re pretty dry, honestly.”
“And your findings?”
Leonard’s mouth pinches into an unhappy frown as he glances around the mostly-empty Medbay.
“Let’s go to my office,” he says.
“... It just doesn’t add up, Spock. By all accounts, Starfleet should have rejected almost all of us, one way or another.”
Spock does not look happy to be included in that statement— though, technically, he isn’t. They just know his sordid past as a bratty rich boy.
“You believe that we may have some purpose beyond space exploration,” he says. “And believe that each individual was placed on the ship for a reason beyond their capabilities as officers.”
“You know Jim’s access codes also let me look at other ships’ rosters?” Leonard asks. “I’ve compared our Alpha crew to six other ships. So far? The worst they have on an officer is suspected theft. The Enterprise? I mean, Jesus, Spock, look at me.” He spreads his arms, bearing the intricate linework that crisscrosses his arms. “Look at Scotty. Look at Jim. By all accounts, we shouldn’t be here.”
“And yet, you are,” Spock says simply. “Until there is evidence of some kind to support your theory, I would suggest you put it out of your mind, Doctor.”
“Len?” Nurse Chapel pops her head in. “I have the dermal, if you want me to get started on your hands.”
“Thanks, Chris. You can just leave it here, I’ll take care of it.”
“You sure? It’s hard to do your own face—”
“I will assist him, Nurse,” Spock interrupts, taking the regenerator from her fingers. “Thank you.”
“Ah, yes,” she gets out. “Of course, Commander. I’ll… I’ll leave you to it, then.”
She disappears, just like that, door sliding shut behind her.
“She’s got a crush on you the size of Neptune,” he says. “You sure you’re not interested?”
“I am not,” Spock assures him, leaning against the desk beside Leonard. “If I may see your hands, Doctor?”
Leonard obeys without a second thought, letting Spock take his hand and running the regenerator over the broken skin of his knuckles.
“If you put in for Uran’s transfer, I’m pretty sure it’ll be denied,” he says. “The guy’s got six counts of assault and battery, three counts of domestic violence. Nobody else’d be dumb enough to take him.”
“Perhaps not,” Spock agrees. “But I also know that the Jimmy Carter has been short-staffed since an incident at the Neutral Zone. They would be happy to take on a new security member.”
Leonard rolls his eyes.
“Yeah, lemme know how that works out for you,” he says as Spock releases one hand and takes the other to repeat the process. “My bet’s that they’ll give you the runaround and leave him with us ‘til at least the end of the mission. Unless he’s killed, of course.”
“You would not leave him to die if he were to end up in your Medbay,” Spock says calmly.
“Well, no, obviously, but how often do redshirts make it back to my Medbay alive?” Leonard sighs, melancholy dulling the pleasure of a good fight. Spock’s grip on his hand tightens slightly. “I’m trying to fix that, obviously, but… what if I can’t?”
“Doctor, I often find that Humans are able to do anything they put their minds to,” Spock remarks. “You have decided to take on this project, and you will not rest until you have succeeded in turning each and every one of our security officers into uncouth barbarians hellbent on irritating me.”
“Well now, Spock, that’s not fair. The goal isn’t to irritate you,” Leonard says. “That’s just a bonus.”
“I did not say they would irritate me,” Spock says. “I said they would attempt to irritate me. Lean back.”
Leonard does, twitching as the familiar heat of the regenerator knits his lip back together.
“I suppose— if I’m proven right, of course,” he qualifies when Spock moves on to his eye, fingers digging slightly into Leonard’s scalp in an attempt to hold him still. “That it’s actually sort of a blessing that Starfleet wants us all on this ship. It means they aren’t actually going to do anything when one of these kids finally gets the balls to send a complaint over Jim’s head to the Admiralty, you know?”
“Your logic is unsound,” Spock informs him. “I do not understand how you developed such a theory with only a handful of personnel files and the coincidence of our positions on this ship.”
“Intuition is illogical,” Spock informs him, as if he hasn’t said it a thousand times before. “I will, however, give you the benefit of the doubt. I will look into the matter, and if I discover something of interest, I will inform you and the Captain. Is this acceptable?”
“More than.” Leonard grins. “You know, you’re not so bad for a hobgoblin. Excellent bedside manner.”
Spock will deny what he did was an eye roll to the bitter end, but Leonard knows what he saw.
“You are easily distracted by idle chatter,” he tells Leonard. “It is quite intriguing. My mother often said that doctors were the worst patients— though she may have simply been speaking about Sybok in particular.”
“Wait, you have siblings?” That’s horrific.
“He is from a previous relationship of my father’s,” Spock explains. “Sybok is nearly twelve years my senior. I believe you would enjoy meeting him. He is rather… my mother referred to it as ‘anti-establishment’. He did not believe in the traditions of the Vulcan people.”
“... Are you telling me you have a punk rock older brother?”
“More likely an anarchist,” Spock corrects, setting down the regenerator after a final pass over his eye. “Or perhaps a budding cult leader. Before the destruction of Vulcan, he was exiled to a desert planet on the far side of the quadrant. After the loss of so many of my people, he returned to help rebuild our race. He is a skilled healer, though his methods are… unorthodox.”
“A bit like mine, then?”
“... Perhaps less ethical.”
Oh, Leonard doesn’t like the sound of that.
“He… it is complex,” Spock admits. “But suffice to say, he is an unusual man. But I believe you would enjoy his company in a social setting. He goes to great lengths to stand against the principles of Surak. He would laugh at your jokes.”
Leonard tries to picture a laughing Vulcan. He can’t quite manage it.
“Does he look like you?”
Spock thinks about it.
“His features are not dissimilar to my father’s,” he says after a moment. “I have been told my facial features more closely resembled my mother’s. He also has a beard.”
“... Are you serious?”
“That question is illogical, Doctor. Vulcans do not lie.”
That’s… that’s amazing.
“I wanna meet this guy.”
“So long as you and Sybok do not talk of politics, I see no problem in introducing you,” Spock says. “I will contact him the next time we are in New Vulcan’s orbit.”
“You’re a real pal, Spock.” Leonard pauses, then grins.
“You appear to be in a good mood.”
“Is there a reason for it?”
“Oh, nothing.” Leonard leans back in his chair. “I was just thinking about what you’d look like with a beard.”
Spock’s nose wrinkles in distaste, just the slightest crease in the bridge of his nose.
“Do not say such things, Doctor.”
“Why? I think you’d look great with a beard.”
Jim appears in his room along with Spock three days later with three PADDs and a bottle of honest to God whisky. Leonard, who wasn’t expecting company, meets them at the door barefoot and shirtless.
“Cupcake has decided to rework a few aspects of our Security teams,” Jim says without preamble, handing him a PADD. “After a little prodding, he said it was a suggestion from you. So, since he has to get my authorization for all these changes, that means I have to look over everything and sign off. Since I have to spend my spare time doing this thanks to a suggestion from you, you have to help me.”
Leonard rolls his eyes.
“You know where the glasses are,” he says. “Get comfortable.”
“So, why exactly do we want to do this?”
“Smaller groups are tighter,” he says. “They work better because they have a more intimate knowledge of their fellow officers. Plus, it gives you the ability to put together balanced skillsets for away missions.”
“I get that, but they’re all security. They all had to pass the same basic training to be here.” Jim’s brow furrows. “And if we’re going by the way Starfleet works, by all accounts we should be putting together teams with one person from every department.”
“Yeah, except Starfleet protocol mandates that medical personnel are only to join away missions in the case of injury or disease unless under the express order of the captain,” Leonard says. “Engineering is not to leave the ship at all save for 303s— when another Federation starship is having engine trouble.”
“You are unusually well-informed on the subject,” Spock remarks.
“I was looking for loopholes,” he says. “Starfleet is particularly strict about inter-department relations, have you noticed that?
“As it stands, our Security officers are the most vulnerable. Besides the fact that most of them barely have basic training under their belts, they’ve got no other skills that could be used without breaking regulation. Unless, of course, they receive field training from the head of another department.”
“... Which again, I have to approve.”
“Yeah, you do.” Leonard grins. “I helped Cupcake put together the teams through two sets of criteria— their skills on the mat, and their previous tracks.”
“How so?” Spock’s eyebrow twitches into what Leonard likes to think of as ‘Curious Mode’.
“Well, let’s look at… Team A-3.” Leonard pulls up the file for them all. “We’ve got a group of four. Bronson, Abdul, Jor’ah, and Kwang. Their original tracks— before washing out into Security— were Command, Communications, Command, and Medical, respectively.
“Bronson’s a good leader, but outside of field tests, she was useless. Terrible at math, so no good as a helmsman, a short temper when not in full-out crisis mode, and her diplomacy marks were… bad. However, she’s an excellent problem solver. Before Jim decided to be an asshole—” he ignores Jim’s grin. “— she was noted to be one of the few people to ever come close to beating the Kobayashi Maru, and she did it without cheating. If it weren’t for the program’s coding… yeah. She’s good for when shit hits the fan and you two are kidnapped again.”
“Aw, Bones, you say that like it happens all the time.”
“Seventy-three-point-eight percent of our away missions involve some sort of arrest on our part,” Spock says. “Your plans are not always effective, captain.”
“Depends on how you look at the plan,” Jim retorts. “What if I want us to get arrested?”
“Anyway.” Leonard leans back. “Bronson’s a good shot— any long-range weapon, really. She won medals in high school for Archery and Shot Put. She’s decent at hand-to-hand, too but her strength really is in her aim. Considering you? It’s a necessity on any team.”
“I think that was an insult,” Jim remarks.
“Really? I believe Doctor McCoy was simply stating fact.”
“Abdul’s a teddy bear,” Leonard continues, flashing Spock a grin when he catches the Vulcan’s eye. “Started out with a concentration in Linguistics and Diplomacy. The guy’s got some thirty languages in his head, but he’s indecisive— not a good trait in a guy that wants to help build relationships with less-than-nice aliens. He’s a people person, though. Easy to talk to, friendly— he gets people off-guard. He’s also goal-oriented. If his leader tells him to run three miles in an hour, he’ll do it in half the time because he can. So long as he’s not in a leadership position, he can do anything.
“They call him the Hulk on the mats. Easy-going as he is, he’s also got four inches on Spock and’s built like a barrel. When he gets pissed off, he’s a fucking juggernaut. Rumor has it he might be the product of genetic augmentation, but I’m not inclined to prove that true— neither is Starfleet, in case you were wondering.”
“I saw mention of the subject in his personnel file,” Spock says, nodding. “I find it odd that Starfleet would shirk regulation on the subject.”
“Yeah, well, I already told you something fishy’s going on.” Leonard shrugs. “Anyway, where was I? Oh, right. Jor’ah’s got alien heritage, species unknown. Minor psi ability gives him an edge in a fight— the kid always knows when to duck. He’s also a pretty reasonable guy, a good counterbalance to Bronson’s temper.”
“Why’d he wash out of Command?” Jim asks.
“Officially? ‘Moral ambiguity’.” Leonard snorts. “He’s a little bloody-minded for the usual Kumbaya image Starfleet tries to maintain. I’m pretty sure they thought he’d go rogue if they gave him a ship.”
“His response to the Kobayashi Maru was to destroy the ship rather than attempt a rescue,” Spock puts in. “When asked for an explanation, he said in no uncertain terms it was better to destroy the ship than to allow the Klingons to take prisoners.”
“And you call him reasonable?”
“‘Reasonable’ probably isn’t the right word,” Leonard allows. “‘Efficient’ is probably better. He’s… off-putting, but he’ll obey a superior, and he’s dedicated to the protection of the Federation above all else. His family history is just a series of wars, from the American Revolution on. He’s a born soldier— his personal belief system combined with his practical combat abilities would impress a Klingon, I swear.
“Kwang is a special project of mine. I want to have her— and a handful of others from other teams— go through a combat medicine course before sending her out. She was in the nursing program before switching to Security track. There was a family thing, and she missed too much to graduate on time.
“From the age of six, she’s been trained in like, six different fighting styles. Barely five feet tall, this girl, but she’s fast and she’s brutal. Her nickname’s Hellcat thanks to a situation with the Orion girl, Rova— nearly clawed out the poor kid’s eyes after a session because Rova’s liberal use of pheromones happened to affect Kwang’s boyfriend at the time.”
“... How come I’ve never heard about this?” Jim sounds a little annoyed.
“Oh, it got handled pretty quickly,” Leonard says dismissively. “They’re pretty good friends now, all told. Possibly more, but that’s just a rumor.”
“Well, I guess that’s alright, then.” Jim pauses. “How long did you spend on this whole… thing?”
Leonard shrugs. “Two hours? Maybe a little less. It’s pretty easy to match people up when you know them, and even before Cupcake asked for help, I mean… I saw them in Medbay all the time.”
“And you read their files.”
“Fine. I’ll sign off on the teams, and the extra training for those that need it,” he says. “Now, what’s this about changing the uniforms?”
“Oh shit, really? I didn’t think Cupcake would take me up on that.” Leonard glances at the form. “It was just a thought. I figured changing Security uniforms to black would reduce the amount of times Communications officers get shot at— it confuses the enemy, when the guys shooting at you look exactly like the people that aren’t. Plus, it looks badass. I thought it might boost their confidence.”
“You realize the captain cannot actually authorize a change in uniform,” Spock says. “Uniform is not simply enforced by the ship. Starfleet standard requires all personnel to be properly dressed according to rank and department.”
“But,” Jim says, smiling. “It’s not like I always have the time to write up every Security officer if I happen to see them out of uniform. Neither do you, Spock, am I right?”
Spock inclines his head thoughtfully.
“While I schedule my day to the utmost efficiency, I do not feel it would be possible to discipline two hundred and thirty-three Security officers on a regular basis,” he agrees. “However, should they be out of uniform at formal functions, I feel I may have to take the time to do so.”
“I understand completely,” Leonard says, nodding seriously. “I’m sure there’s a way to show rank when out of uniform, isn’t there, Jim?”
“I mean, we keep spare rank insignias onboard in case of field promotions,” he says. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we ran out soon— it’s been a while since we ordered more.”
Leonard’s lip twitches. Spock’s got that sparkle in his eyes that means he’s laughing on the inside. Jim… Jim is the picture of sincerity, sipping his whisky like he isn’t just openly agreeing to defy Starfleet protocol.
Leonard’s got good friends.
“Black looks good on you,” Leonard says approvingly at the next training session he decides to drop in on. “Proper Deadshirts, now.”
There’s scattered laughter throughout the group, along with more than a few flushed faces.
“Hey, be proud. ‘Deadshirt’ sounds badass.” He grins. “Now we just need to make sure y’all live up to the nickname. Everybody lineup, we’re doing something different today.”
The apprehension is clear as they move into position. Whenever Leonard introduces something new, there’s usually a few broken bones. A lot of broken bones. Mostly broken bones.
He fixes them, at least. Or, Chapel does. He mostly gets stuck with internal bleeding.
“Teams,” he says. “Last team standing wins bragging rights and a little extra surprise. Go!”
At this point, they’re used to sudden starts. The word barely leaves his mouth before fists start flying.
The fights are going longer, now. Leonard’s not sure how he feels about that— on the one hand, they’re clearly getting better, but on the other hand, they just might be getting used to each other.
He might have to talk to Cupcake about shaking things up.
It’s down to Bronson’s team and Uran’s after about an hour— well, it’s not Uran’s team, he’s the Second to Roan, but he’s the one Leonard’s watching.
The teams are gelling better than even he realized they would. Roan’s team has taken the Andorian’s metabolism into account— they had him hang back until now, saving his energy for the final team. A little cocky, but it’s worked in their favor, this time. Bronson’s team, on the other hand, has made good use of Hellcat’s speed. She’s been carrying her regen the entire fight (God knows where) and quick-fixing cuts between blocks and punches.
There’s no pause between the realization that there are only two teams left and the final fight. Maybe there isn’t a realization at all on Bronson’s part, but it certainly is on Roan’s, if the way Uran jumps on Kwang is anything to go by.
Kwang goes down, but Abdul gets Roan’s medic just as fast, turning on his heel to nail Uran straight in the jaw before Roan dispatches him. Jor’ah lets out a roar that’s a little too deep to be Human and tackles the interpreter, leaving Bronson to face Roan on her own.
The fight is poetry in motion. Bronson and Roan are evenly matched, speed and strength balanced at opposite ends of the scale.
“Need a hand, Bronson?” Jor’ah asks over the grunts and cracks of the fight when he’s finished with the interpreter— Hex, is his name.
Bronson doesn’t answer aloud, but Jor’ah seems to know somehow to step back and watch.
Roan catches her by the neck and lifts her off the floor. Bronson struggles for a moment, legs kicking to find purchase before finally finding Roan himself. She kicks him, hard, in the solar plexus, forcing the wind out of his chest. He staggers back, gasping, when she kicks again, this time aiming for the skull.
He goes down, most definitely concussed.
Arching an eyebrow, she turns to meet Leonard’s eyes, one hand digging into her pocket. She pulls out a small, black tube, pops off the cap, and swipes it over her lips, turning them a soft, baby pink.
The defiance in her eyes makes Leonard snort.
“A-3 wins,” he says. “Nice job, Bronson.”
Her smile is smug when she turns to pull Kwang to her feet, Jor’ah doing the same beside her.
“Okay, teams who have unconscious members, you’ve got permission to take them to the Medbay. A-3, you’ve won bragging rights, and a little something extra.”
“And what’s that, Doctor?” Jor’ah inquires, apparently unbothered by the added weight of Abdul’s bulk supported by his left shoulder.
Leonard grins sharply.
“You’re going on the Enterprise’s next away mission,” he says. “Strap in, kids, you’ve got a field test.”
Everything falls to shit pretty quickly— but that’s expected, on an away mission.
Bronson’s team is handling the situation pretty well. None of them have died yet, which is probably a record, honestly. It seems there are perks to having psi ability on a Security team.
“I don’t like cages,” Bronson mutters as she paces the little cell she and Leonard share. They’ve been split off into pairs— Kwang was the only one to escape capture, by dint of being able to fit into very tight spaces.
“Do you find this funny, Doctor?”
“Just a little,” he says. “Well, not the prison part. You disliking cages is pretty funny, though.”
“Rumor has it you’re descended from Charlie Bronson,” he says. “The World’s Most Violent Prisoner— or, he was.”
“In Britain, maybe.” Bronson doesn’t stop pacing. “And that wasn’t even his real name. Lord knows why my father took it.”
“Seems like he was a fan.” Leonard shifts. “I mean, your name’s Charlotte.”
“Charlotte can be shortened to Charlie.”
“It can.” Bronson stops her pacing. “Just because my ancestor preferred life in a cage doesn’t mean I do.”
“No,” Leonard agrees. “But it does make me giggle.”
“You don’t giggle.”
“I do,” he says. “On the inside.”
Bronsons snorts and stares out through the bars— bars that they very quickly realized were electrified.
“Think the captain will get us out of this?”
“Probably,” Leonard says. “If not, well, Hellcat’s still out there. I imagine she’s called for backup. It’s protocol.”
“Most likely.” Bronson runs a hand through her hair, cringing when her fingers touch the singed edges on her left size. “What a complete clusterfuck.”
“Welcome to the Enterprise.”
“This is my first mission, do you realize that?” she huffs a sigh. “And I’ve fucked it up.”
“No you haven’t,” he says. “Everyone’s alive.”
And— good point.
“Backup’ll come,” Leonard says. “Unless something’s happened to the transporter again.”
“With our luck? Of course the transporter’s fucked—”
In the distance, there’s the sound of an explosion. Bronson’s head swivels to meet Leonard’s eyes.
“Looks like the cavalry’s here,” he says. “Wonder how long we’ll have to wait for our rescue.”
There’s a wet, muffled scream, and a moment later, Kwang appears in front of their cell, carrying a fistful of keys and a knife.
“Not very long, Doc,” she says. “Jor’ah and Abdul are already loose— they ran ahead to meet up with Roan’s team.”
“Where’s your phaser?” he asks when she approaches the lock.
“What do you think caused the explosion?” she asks. “We needed a way to draw them away from the prison.”
“Good work, Lisa,” Bronson says. “Now get us the hell out of here.”
Jim and Spock are well on their way to freeing themselves when Bronson finds their cell, bars bent from Spock’s attempts to pry them apart.
The way his hair’s sticking up would be funny if Leonard didn’t know he’s been torturing himself the past few hours.
“Bones, any uncertainties I’ve felt about your meddling in Security I take back,” Jim says, practically bouncing as the cell door slides away. “Clearly you’re doing God’s work.”
“Captain, Roan’s team has beamed down to aid in our escape,” Bronson says, holding up Kwang’s comm. “Stunners are ineffective against the Ch’sh’thikt.”
Immediately, Jim reverts to captain mode, eyes narrowing and mouth curving in a grim line.
“Authorize deadly force,” he says. “That should slow ‘em down.”
Bronson nods curtly and brings the comm to her mouth. Leonard turns to Spock.
“Lemme see your hands.”
Spock doesn’t move.
“The burns are minor,” he says. “I will be fine, Doctor.”
“Dammit, Spock, let me see!”
Spock would have sighed if he were Human. Sighed and rolled his eyes, as if Leonard was overreacting or some such thing.
His hands are overwarm in Leonard’s grip when he inspects them. His fingertips are an tender, swollen green, the palms of his hands two large, angry scabs.
“There’s probably nerve damage,” he mutters to himself. “Hellcat, you got any salve on you?”
“Give it here.”
A small tube is pressed into his open hand. He pops it open with his teeth and dumps it over Spock’s hands, ignoring the sudden stiffness when he rubs it into the wounds.
“It’ll relieve the pain,” he says, meeting Spock’s eyes. “As soon as we’re aboard the ship, you’re coming to Medbay. I don’t want you losing feeling, alright?”
“... Yes, Doctor.” Spock seems a little dazed, but that might be shock setting in.
Leonard hopes it’s not shock.
“Well,” Jim says, clapping his hands together. “Let’s go beat the bad guys— is that a fucking head?”
Kwang hastily stows the knife in her hands.
“I think we ought to focus on the matter at hand,” Leonard says, patting Kwang on the shoulder. “There’s a battlefield out there.”
Jim tears his eyes away from the head, landing on Kwang for just a moment before focusing on Leonard.
“Yeah,” he agrees, an odd quality to his voice. “Yeah, let’s go.”
Phaser fire is flying, as are bullets— or whatever the Ch’sh’thikt equivalent is. Regardless, there’s a lot of injuries, a lot of blood, and…
Leonard hasn’t been on a battlefield in a long time. It’s exhilarating.
Jim’s found himself another phaser, and Spock’s not far behind. Bronson’s shouting orders, Roan’s shouting orders, everybody’s shooting, and Leonard is doing his best to keep everyone alive.
He finds Hex holding his guts in behind a turned over cart.
“Doc—” Blood bubbles from his lips and he coughs, groaning when he jostles his wound.
“Don’t bother talking, kid, I got ya.” Bones pulls his borrowed tricorder as he presses his freed hand over the bloodied fabric of what might have been a baby blanket. “You’re okay, you’re okay—”
Agony cuts across Leonard’s face as phaser fire glances his temple. He screams, collapsing forward. He can’t touch his face to check if he’s bleeding, he’s elbow-deep in Hex’s guts right now, but he can’t open his left eye. He can’t open his eye.
Right, there’s a patient. He has a patient.
“Keep still, Hex, we’re gonna get you outta here in one piece, okay?”
“Jesus, Hex, shut up!”
Leonard sedates him with a hypospray from Hellcat’s bag, pulling bandages and emergency sutures and hoping he can make this work. He has to make this work, or else Hex is gonna die.
He doesn’t know how much time passes, but the next time he checks the kid’s pulse, it’s still there, and he isn’t bleeding anymore.
Sighing, he collapses beside Hex, suddenly exhausted, and digs under the boy for his comm.
“McCoy to Enterprise,” he says.
“Emergency beam up for one Ensign Hex,” he says. “Have medical ready with a biobed and a surgeon in the OR.”
Bones drops the comm in Hex’s lap, watching the man disappear into a shimmering stream of atoms.
He really hopes this fight’s over soon. He’s… he’s tired.
That’s Spock’s voice, he realizes dimly, head lolling as hands find the front of his bloody shirt before snaking up to check his pulse.
Spock looks odd when Leonard’s other eye is… whatever it is. Almost like he’s freaking out.
“Doctor, you will be alright,” he says. “The damage is not severe— you will be alright.”
“‘Course I will,” he says. “All I need’s a nap. Can I take a nap, Spock?”
“You are in shock, Doctor,” Spock says. “That would be inadvisable.”
“You oughta call me Bones,” Leonard says. “Jim does.”
“Would you like me to call you Bones?”
“I wouldn’t mind. Or you could call me Leonard. ‘S my name.”
“I am aware, Leonard.” There’s a pause. “Spock to Enterprise. Emergency beam up for Doctor McCoy.”
“The fight’s over?”
“It is not.”
“Then I need to stay!” Leonard struggles to push himself up. “I need to— I need to—”
Spock’s hand finds the junction between his neck and shoulder and pinches, and suddenly, Leonard doesn’t know anything at all.
“Is he going to be okay?”
Jim is stiff as a board beside Spock, hands clenched into fists.
“Nurse Chapel has informed me that a full recovery is unlikely,” Spock says. “But there was no damage to his brain— a miracle, if her words are to be believed.”
“Friendly fire,” Jim mutters. “What’re the chances that it was an accident?”
“Based on the Doctor’s position, not very likely, unless he allowed Ensign Hex to hold a phaser to his head.” Spock’s folds his hands behind his back. “Not to mention that it is clear he was shot from behind.”
“Did Hex see anything?”
“Unknown. He is still unconscious.”
Jim’s jaw clenches.
“The moment he’s awake, I want an answer,” he says. “Understood, Spock?”
Jim’s tension lingers a moment longer, then dissipates, shoulders slumping limply as he reaches down to touch Bones’ bare arm.
“Think he’ll still be able to be a doctor, Spock?” he asks, voice suddenly small. “It’d kill him if they decided he was unfit.”
“If Leonard wishes to remain the CMO of this ship, I cannot imagine any force in the galaxy would stop him,” Spock says. “Especially something so trivial as this.”
Jim huffs a laugh.
“You call this trivial?”
“He is not dead,” Spock says reasonably. “In that light, this obstacle is hardly worthy of note.”
“Yeah, well, I suppose if you put it that way…” Jim trails off. “We’re gonna find who did this, Spock.”
“And he’s gonna pay.”
“Tell me something trivial, Spock,” he says. “Something that doesn’t have to do with phaser fire and hospitals.
Spock thinks about this.
“I have been considering cultivating facial hair,” he offers. “Perhaps a beard of some kind.”
The surprise is evident in the startled laugh that leaves Jim’s lungs.
“Wait, seriously?” Jim asks. “You… with a beard?”
“I am considering it,” Spock says. “I am unsure that the style would suit my face.”
Jim turns to look at him properly.
“A proper Santa beard wouldn’t suit,” he agrees. “A goatee, though— I think that’d look good.”
“I will take that under advisory, Captain,” he says. “If you would excuse me, I must return to the bridge.”
“Sure, Spock.” Jim settles back in his chair. “I’ll be up in a minute.”
“You will not, Captain,” Spock says. “You must rest.”
“On whose orders?”
“No orders, Captain,” Spock says. “I simply believe the Doctor would be most displeased to find, upon waking, that you have neglected yourself.”
“You’re such a snitch.”
Leonard wakes up with the feeling of bandages on his face— heavy, post-surgery bandages, that cover his left eye and wrap around what Leonard can feel is shaved skull.
That’s not good.
Groaning, he pushes himself up on the biobed and pluck the PADD off the edge to have a look for himself. It’s annoying, considering the lack of depth perception, but he knows the dimensions of each bed like he knows his own hands, like he knows the dimensions of his Medbay.
Condition, stable. Surgery, successful.
Well, he supposes it would be, considering that he’s not dead. His eye, apparently, was too damaged to save.
“Well, fuck,” he says, disgusted as he sets the PADD back in its pocket. “I’m a goddamn pirate.”
“Doctor!” Chapel’s voice sounds from somewhere to his left— he has to swivel completely to look at her.
“Hey, Chris.” He tries a smile. “How long have I been out?”
Christine stares for a moment, then throws herself at him, pulling him into a hug.
“You scared the shit out of us, Len!” she cries, squeezing. “Len, Len…”
“Hey, hey, don’t be cryin’ now, I’m still alive.” He eases her onto the bed. “And still dashing, too, I imagine.”
Chris huffs a laugh, wiping at her eyes.
“Yeah, sure, Len,” she says. “At least, once your hair grows back.”
“Yeah, buzzcuts never did much for me.” He pulls up his legs to make room for her. “What happened, Chris? How’s Hex? I was working on him when…”
He trails off, looking at Chapel in askance.
“Officially it was friendly fire,” she says. “But there are rumors…”
“What kind of rumors?”
She shakes her head.
“No. You’ve gotta rest, Len, while you can. You’ve got a long road ahead of you.”
The reminder makes him grimace. Physical therapy, possible reassignment or even a discharge… his prospects make him wanna punch something.
He stomps down on that feeling.
“Before I do, can you do a favor for me, Chris?”
“Tell the Captain I’m awake?”
“Bronson, can I talk to you for a minute?”
Bronson blinks and turns to find Hex, looking worried and weak in his wheelchair.
“Of course,” she says. “What’s wrong?”
He glances at his team, then back to her.
“Could we go somewhere private?” he asks. “It’s… it’s important.”
Hex has always come off as a nervous sort of guy, somebody Bronson would write off if she’d met him in a bar. In fact, this is the first time she thinks the guy’s ever met her eyes without flinching.
“Yeah, okay.” She goes to grip the handles of his chair, and pushes him away, not noticing the way Roan looks at them as they go.
She wheels him into her quarters. Her roommate, thankfully, isn’t there, so when she shuts the door, they are well and truly alone.
“What is it you want to talk about, Hex?”
Hex fiddles with the edge of his sleeve for a moment.
“The Doc,” he says. “He saved my life.”
“He did,” Bronson agrees. He saved all their lives, but Hex… Hex would have been another name on a long list if Doctor McCoy hadn’t been there, hadn’t worked through a damn phaser wound.
“He was…” Hex swallows. “I… they say it was probably an accident, what happened to him.”
“That’s what they say.”
“What do you mean, Hex?”
“I could see,” Hex says, his eyes bright and watery and so, so scared. “I could see— over the Doc’s shoulder, when he was fixing me up. I tried to warn him, but—”
“Hex,” Bronson says slowly. “Do you remember who did it?”
Hex nods. He’s crying now, but Bronson’s going to ignore that.
“Uran,” he says. “He said— I confronted him, and when I did, he said he’d kill me if I said anything.”
“No one’s going to kill you, Hex,” Bronson says, taking his hand. “I’m happy you told me.”
“I wanted… I tried to talk to Roan, but Uran’s been so far up his ass I haven’t been able to get a minute alone with him.” Hex sniffs. “They’re best friends, Bronson. What if I— even if I told him, would he believe me?”
Bronson shushes him, running a hand through his hair.
“Of course he would, Hex,” she says. “You’re no liar. Everyone knows Uran’s had a problem with the Doc since he got his ass beat. Everyone.”
“What do I do?”
“You’re going to keep quiet and let me handle this,” Bronson says. “I’m going to talk to Roan, and then, we’re going to talk to Commander Spock. If this doesn’t come out, the Doctor might find himself on the wrong side of a phaser again pretty soon— no matter how big of an asshole he is, we’re not gonna let that happen. Okay?”
“Commander Spock’ll kill him,” Hex whispers.
“He’s a Vulcan. Vulcans don’t kill.”
“They do when their lovers are on the line,” he says.
“They’re not fucking.”
“Maybe not, but the Commander won’t leave the Doctor’s hands alone,” Hex says. “He’s going to kill Uran, Bronson.”
Bronson has no idea what Hex is talking about, but honestly? It’s not relevant.
“If he kills him, it’s not our problem,” she says, straightening. “A person like Uran is not the sort of person we need on this ship, Hex. By shooting Doc, he proved he had no loyalty— the man was trying to save your life, the life of his teammate, and he shot him anyway. No, he can hang. We need more people like you, not Uran.”
“I’m a coward,” he says. “A Cultural Histories washout who can barely throw a punch.”
“You told me something was wrong,” Bronson says. “You asked for help even though you knew Uran could make good on his threat. That’s not cowardice, Hex. Quite the opposite, in fact.”
Hex sighs and takes a deep breath.
“When Command Spock came to debrief me, I lied and said I couldn’t remember,” Hex says. “I lied, because Uran already came to visit.”
Bronson says nothing.
“You’re really gonna help me?”
She thinks of Doctor McCoy, of the way he humiliated her and continued to do so until she proved herself. She remembers the pride on his face when she looked him in the eye and put on her lipstick, standing over Roan in the victory that led her to her first away mission— her first successful away mission, if one considers that this is the first away mission to have no casualties.
“Damn right I am,” she says. “Come on— we’ll be missed if we don’t show up for dinner, and you’re too fucked up for people to believe we were fucking.”
Roan is quiet for a long time after Bronson explains the situation, hands folded in front of his lips as he reorganizes the information to suit the little boxes his mind is made up of.
“I was wondering,” he says finally. “Why Uran was suddenly being so friendly. He wasn’t happy to find he was my second when the teams were listed.”
“But with Hex being in a position to have him court-martialed, I understand,” he says. “What do you propose be done, Bronson?”
“Commander Spock ought to be informed,” she says. “I would go to the Captain, but…”
“Kirk’ll do something drastic.” Roan hums. “I must speak with Hex.”
“He’s always scared,” Roan says dismissively. “I need him to not be scared of me.”
“He isn’t, though.”
“He went to the leader of a different team rather than approach me,” Roan says. “I would have agreed if he wanted a moment alone.”
“He was terrified of Uran, not you.” Bronson leans forward. “Listen, Hex? He’s… Hex. He’s uncertain of himself.”
Roan stares, expectant.
“He needs your support,” she says. “Go and tell him it was good that he told anyone at all, and that next time, he can trust you, because your job is to make sure he’s safe. Got it?”
“You think that will help?”
“I think it’s a start.”
Roan gives her a long look.
“You like him,” he decides. “You think he’s sweet.”
“Hell no!” she says. “He cries too much.”
“You are kinder to him than you are to others,” he says. “But it’s of no consequence. I will speak with Commander Spock. Will you come with me?”
“I—” Bronson stops. “I’ll come. Do you want me to get Hex?”
“Where is he?”
“He’s been hiding in my quarters,” she says. “He normally shares with Uran, and considering the fact that he can’t really run right now…”
“Understood.” Roan stands. “Best not to stress him. We will speak to the Commander alone.”
“You are certain of this?”
“Lieutenant Hex said that Uran threatened his life if he spoke up,” he says. “And then proceeded to run interference to further dissuade Hex from turning to me.”
“So, for lack of options, Lieutenant Hex turned to you,” Spock says, looking to Bronson.
“Very well.” Spock straightens, folding his hands behind his back. “Lieutenant Roan, your team will be patrolling the airlocks tomorrow.”
Lieutenant Roan stiffens.
“Starfleet protocol states that, should there be a possibility of danger for our maintenance crew, a Security team will patrol with them,” Spock says. “Considering the Enterprise’s unusual propensity for discovering trouble in the darkest corners of space, I have decided to make that a standard aboard this vessel. You will aid the Engineering team by clearing each room before they enter. Is that understood?”
“Yes, sir.” Roan pauses, glancing at Bronson before looking back to Spock. “If I may ask, sir, would it be more efficient if my team were to split up and clear each room alone? It would allow the Engineering team to move more quickly.”
Spock’s eyebrow twitches.
“Exactly what I was thinking, Lieutenant Roan,” he says. “Check the schedules tomorrow morning. There will be a few routine tests that will be conducted during your patrol. I would not wish for your team to be lost to the darkness of space.”
Roan nods sharply.
“Understood, sir,” he says.
Spock tilts his head to one side, eyes intent on Roan’s face.
“Uran’s actions are not a reflection on your ability to lead, Lieutenant Roan,” he says. “You performed admirably during the events that led to the loss of Doctor McCoy’s eye. Occasionally, however, there are what the Doctor would call ‘bad apples’. There is nothing to be done in such a case.”
Roan’s jaw clenches.
“It was my oversight that has put my team in jeopardy,” he says. “If the Doctor wasn’t as bullheaded as he was, I would have a dead team member, and the doctor himself have died.”
“A mistake you will not make again,” Spock says.
“No, sir. I will not.”
“Then all is well.” He turns back to Bronson. “You did well to inform Lieutenant Roan before coming to me, Lieutenant Bronson. I have made note of it.”
She nods, uncertain of what to say, but Spock seems to understand anyway.
“You are both dismissed.”
They’ve left Spock’s office and turned the corner before Bronson finds her voice.
“Holy shit,” she says softly. “Spock’s gonna kill him.”
“No, he’s not,” Roan says. “I’m going to kill him. I just happen to have gotten Commander Spock’s blessing.”
“What do you mean?”
“What I mean is the Commander implied a potential accident,” Roan says grimly. “And tomorrow, when I inform my team that we’re on patrol, I’m not going to tell Uran that there was a change in the airlock schedule. I’m not going to tell him, and I’m going to let him go and clear one on his own, one that I know that will open while he’s inside. And he will be sucked into space, bad attitude and death threats and attempted murder and all.”
“Why?” Bronson doesn’t like how quiet her voice goes, how uncertain.
Roan levels her a steady, certain look.
“Because I serve my people,” he says. “And my subordinate attempted to kill the man integral to our recent success and our continued health. Doctor McCoy is our healer, our teacher, and the father of we Deadshirts. He is family, and this sort of dishonor will not stand.”
Bronson takes a deep breath and nods.
“I… agree,” she says. “What a fucking world this is, that I agree.”
Roan’s lip quirks into a humorless smile.
“We’re all a little barbaric,” he says. “But maybe that’s why we work well together.”
“Ain’t you supposed to be doin’ some exercises or some shit? What are you doing throwin’ a ball around?”
Leonard rolls his eyes (eye?) at Jim’s over the top accent.
“Hand-eye coordination,” he says. “I’m having trouble with depth perception.”
Jim’s expression turns to concern.
“Could that fuck you for the eval?” he asks, pulling up a chair next to the Doctor.
“Almost definitely.” Bones gives him a grin that’s more teeth that anything else. “I keep walking into doorframes.”
“But you can still work, right?”
“I’ve worked under shitty conditions,” he says. “High stress, bad lighting, lack of equipment— I’m sure I can learn to work around this too. I just need time.”
“When are they coming?”
“Two months,” he says. “We’re going to meet them at a resupply.”
“That doesn’t seem like enough time,” he says.
“It isn’t. But I’m CMO, and if I’m unfit, they need to handle it quickly.” Leonard snorts. “I’ll tell you this much— if they don’t have me discharged or at least reassigned, I’m just gonna assume my theory’s right.”
“That they put a bunch of criminals on a ship for a reason.”
Jim rolls his eyes.
“Can the replicator make tinfoil hats?” he asks. “Because you’re starting to sound a little paranoid, Bones.”
“Just ‘cause you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you,” he says. “Until there’s something that proves me wrong, I think…”
“You think what?”
“I think there’s no getting off this ship alive.”
“Why do you say that?”
“I wanted Hex transferred to a rehab center,” he says. “He’s at risk for a lot of problems that I can’t treat without help, and if something goes wrong at the wrong time, he could die. I got the response this week.”
“They denied my request, stating that, while I was correct in that he was at risk, there are no indications that anything would actually happen, and so there’s no reason to move him. Which, I should point out, is bullshit. Protocol states that should an officer be in danger of medical complications and cannot receive adequate care onboard their ship, they’re to be transferred immediately.”
“So, why didn’t they do that?”
“Fuck if I know.”
Jim purses his lips.
“Okay, I’ll admit it’s fishy,” he says. “I’ll ask Pike about it next time he calls. Maybe he can help Hex out.”
“Maybe.” Leonard turns to look at him. “But you mark my words, if I’m still on this ship after my evaluation…” he trails off, shaking his head. “Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark, Jim.”
“Yeah,” Jim says. “I think I might be getting that.”
“Captain, Doctor McCoy’s shooter has been found.”
Jim freezes, setting down the chess piece slowly.
“Really?” he asks. “When?”
“Yesterday evening.” Spock makes his move, apparently unbothered by the Captain’s sudden tension. “It was Lieutenant Uran.”
“It was intentional?”
“Yes. He was apparently offended by the Doctor’s treatment of him in the training rooms,” Spock says. “He was also displeased with his placement on team A-7 as a second, rather than team leader.”
“So he shot Bones?”
“Where is he now?”
Spock arches an eyebrow.
“He suffered an untimely accident while on patrol early this morning,” Spock says. “Apparently he did not see that the doors of airlock six were scheduled to be opened.”
“Completely by accident, huh?”
“It was unfortunate,” Spock says, serene. “The paperwork that has been generated by the accident is… irritating.”
Jim stares. And stares. And stares.
Then he grins.
“You killed a guy because he hurt Bones,” he says. “T’hy’la, I think you’ve got a crush.”
“Vulcans do not have crushes, Jim.”
Jim rolls his eyes.
“The whole murder thing just went right over your head, didn’t it?”
“It is no business of mine if Lieutenant Uran was not careful,” Spock says. “Besides the paperwork, of course.”
“Of course.” Jim shifts in his seat. “I fully support your courting of my best friend, by the way. If you happen to be interested in doing so.”
“I will take that under advisement,” Spock replies. “Your move, Captain.”
“Boy, that pretty face of yers is fucked up.”
“Gee, thanks, Jack,” he says. “Knew I could count on your support.”
The man on the vidcall grins, pulling scars and crinkling tattoos in such a way the he only looks more intimidating.
“You ain’t never needed support,” Jack says. “What you needed was a kick in the ass and a purpose— which, if you don’t mind me sayin’, I think you’ve found.”
“Yeah, I thought so too,” Leonard says. “But with this eye, I’m not sure they’ll let me stay.”
“Well, if they don’t, you know there’s always a place for you here,” Jack says. “I’m looking for a new Vice President, ya know, and you still have standing among our people.”
“I appreciate the offer,” Leonard says. “But I don’t think I could go back, now.”
“I understand. But know yer brothers are here for ya.” Jack’s smile goes soft. “We’ll come if you call.”
“Thanks.” Leonard pauses. “How’s Jo?”
Jack scratches his cheek thoughtfully.
“Fightin’ with her ma,” he says. “Joss don’t like her hangin’ ‘round the club. Calls it a den of sin, or some such.”
“Well, she ain’t wrong,” he says. “Keep an eye out for my girl, will ya?”
“What kinda uncle would I be if I didn’t?”
There’s a ping at the door. Leonard doesn’t even bother to get up.
“Come in!” He turns back to Jack. “Listen, I’ll talk to you in a bit, okay?”
“Sure thing, Wild-Eye,” Jack says. “Keep me posted, will ya?”
Leonard ends the call and turns around to see… Spock.
“Hey, you’re up late,” he says, crossing his arms. “What’s up?”
Spock stares a moment.
“You are not wearing your bandages,” he remarks.
Leonard shifts, suddenly uncomfortable.
“I’ve gotta let it air out,” he says. “Plus, I mean… I can’t wear bandages forever.”
“You cannot,” Spock agrees. He steps closer, eyes intent on the scar.
“It’s ugly,” Leonard says unnecessarily, because of course Spock can see that.
“It is different,” Spock says. “May I?”
It takes a second for Leonard to understand, to register the hand half-raised towards his face.
He nods, just the smallest jerk of his chin, and the next moment, he feels Spock’s fingers trace over the edges of the newest addition to his face, fingertips tracing the point where scar tissue meets skin.
The touch is delicate, careful, like he’s afraid to cause Leonard pain. It’s a sweetness Leonard’s familiar with, revealed only in times of the most extreme stress.
“I’m okay, Spock,” he says, reaching up to lay a hand over Spock’s. “I’m alive.”
“They were unsure you would survive,” Spock says. “I— I assumed the worst.”
“It’s illogical to assume.”
“... You are correct, Doctor.”
He seems unsettled, uncomfortable. Clearly Leonard’s injury is bothering him even more than he imagined. That Vulcan calm is ruffled, so obvious that even Leonard, down one eye, can see it.
“I’m going to do something very Human,” Leonard informs him. “Okay? That’s your warning.”
“Doctor? I— oh.”
Spock is stiff when Leonard hugs him, but that’s okay, because Leonard expected no less. He holds onto him for a moment, then two, then, right when he’s about to pull away, he feels Spock’s arms come up to return the illogical Human gesture.
“Doctor,” Spock says after a moment.
“I feel that I am obligated to inform you that we have discovered who it was that shot you.”
Leonard sighs, leaning his forehead on Spock’s shoulder.
“And who was it?”
“And how are we dealing with it?”
“He had an accident with an airlock.”
He— wait, what?
“Spock,” Leonard says carefully. “Did Jim kill a guy recently?”
“... Did he order a guy to get killed?”
Leonard thinks about this.
“Did I what?”
Oh, he totally did.
Leonard sighs, pulling away.
“In the club,” he starts after a moment. “There was infighting all the time— petty bullshit, mostly, about girls or work or booze. It never mattered for long, though, because we were all brothers, or we were supposed to be.
“The one time somebody pulled a gun on another member— because we still carry guns— he killed him. It was a fight over… pride.” Leonard frowns. “I was a Sergeant at the time, so I was the one called to handle it.”
“How did you handle it, Leonard?” Spock sounds horribly, horribly intrigued.
“I tied him to a tree,” he says. “There were coyotes ‘round where we lived, so it was only a matter of time before they found him.”
“Did you go back to see what became of him?”
“Nah,” he says. “I went home, tucked my daughter into bed, and slept the whole night through. Never thought about it again, ‘til now.” He tilts his chin, meeting Spock’s carefully blank eyes. “You been able to sleep through the night, Spock?”
Spock arches an eyebrow.
“Vulcans do not dream, Doctor,” he says. “And I think that if I were able, I would not consider Uran’s death a burden. He betrayed the loyalty of our crew.”
Betrayal is the perfect word for it. They still call Rodney a traitor when he’s mentioned at the club, and he’s been dead for some ten years now. He’d killed one of his own, and was punished in kind.
“So long as you’re sure.” Leonard pats him on the shoulder bracingly. “A drink before you go? I have to get up early, tomorrow.”
“You are still on medical leave,” Spock remarks.
“I’m helping Cupcake out with drills,” he says. “Apparently the kids in Alpha’s Security have been worried about me.”
“As I imagined they would be, Doctor.”
“We’re off-duty— you can keep calling me Leonard, if you want.” Leonard smiles. “Shall I break out the chocolate liquer? I’ve got a bottle saved just for you.”
Spock thinks about it.
“Perhaps just one,” he allows.
The Doctor’s smile is blinding.
“What in the world are these?”
“Team patches!” she chirps. “See, they’re velcro, so you can pull ‘em off for inspections!”
Leonard leans closer, peering at the cheerful little rainbow that now lives on her shoulder.
“I’ve gotta ask,” he says, straightening. “Why a rainbow?”
“Well, I’m green,” she says, marking off with her fingers. “Sh’riras is blue, Gupta is brown, and Dede’s human-black. So we’re a rainbow.”
“Okay,” he says. “It’s a nice thought.”
“It’s good you think so,” she says. “‘Cause the idea’s caught on— most of the Alpha security teams have patches now. It’s pretty cool, actually.”
It’s a mark of family, is what it is. Leonard thinks it’s very sweet, not to mention an important step in the right direction.
“She made one for you too, Doctor,” Gupta adds over Rova’s shoulder.
Leonard arches an eyebrow at the blushing Orion.
“Did you, now?” he drawls.
“Well—” Rova shrugs sheepishly. “Everyone else was getting them, and…” She reaches into her pocket and pulls out a small black patch. “You’re one of us, Doc.”
Leonard feels very warm, suddenly. He turns the patch over in his hands, running his fingers over the well-stitched pattern of white crossed bones on a black background.
“Thank you, darlin’,” he says, reaching out to press his forehead to hers. “Put it on me?”
She does, already armed with clear velcro and scissors, and after a minute of careful alignment, he’s got a patch too, an angry black line settled halfway down his bicep.
When she steps away, the rest of of Alpha’s Security has lined up to watch. The looks on their faces is odd— mixtures of respect and guilt and anger and pity. He can understand all four of those emotions, but he can only tolerate three.
“Alright,” he says, clapping his hands together. “I heard we’re down a man nowadays, but that’s alright. One on one, rotating— you guys are gonna get to fight me today.”
There is a sudden, palpable spike of apprehension. Leonard lets an evil smirk creep across his face.
They’re almost ready for a fight club.
“You look straight-up scary, Bones,” Jim remarks when Leonard finally finds his way back onto the bridge. “You need to grow your hair out immediately.”
Leonard knows he looks like hell. His good eye is bruised, his nose is a little bloody, and his hands are wrapped up to stop the tender knuckles from splitting open before he gets to Sickbay.
“I’m a scary guy, Jim,” he says, patting him on the shoulder amiably. “Anything interesting going on?”
“Nope.” Jim pauses. “Hey, Bones?”
“What’s that on your arm?”
Leonard blinks and glances down. Oh, right.
“Lieutenant Rova started making team patches,” he explains, tearing off the little black strip. “She made me one, too.”
“Oh my God, that’s adorable,” Jim says, taking the patch. “She made you bones!”
“Yes she did.”
“Put it back on, it’s so cute.” Jim slaps the patch back onto Leonard’s arm, causing the doctor to wince when he hits yet another bruise.
“Doctor, I believe you are meant to be recuperating,” Spock says, eyebrow arched reprovingly. “Not getting into fights.”
“Hand-eye coordination, Spock,” he says, gesturing at his face. “Nothing gets a guy in the mood to learn like the promise of a fist to the face.”
Uhura rolls her eyes at him from behind her console. Chekov just looks concerned.
“But Doctor, you do not look well,” he says earnestly. “Why have you not gone to Medbay?”
“Because, Chekov, I wanted to see the look on Jim’s face when he realized that I can and will one day kick his ass.” He looks back at Jim, who’s grinning like he’s gonna get lucky.
“Well, Doc, I’m not so sure about that,” he says. “I mean, you’re kinda getting on in years, not to mention your injury…”
“It’s called wounded, peanut,” Leonard says, crossing his arms. “Injured’s when you fall out of a tree or somethin’.”
Jim put up his hands in apology.
“Regardless,” he says. “I doubt you could actually beat me, Bones. I mean… it’s just not happening.”
“You sure?” Leonard rolls his shoulders thoughtfully. “Because if you’re sure, you could meet me on the mats and prove it.”
The sparkle in Jim’s eyes is a familiar one, reckless in the same way he was when they first met.
“Bring it,” Jim says. “Gimme a time and a place and I’ll come.”
See, that’s what Leonard loves about his best friend. Always willing to get into a fight. Leonard needs a fight, a proper one— not one full of green little kids in fresh black uniforms and more experience watching people die than killing. Jim? He’s got what Leonard needs, and that’s a way to get the frustration out.
Spock doesn’t look like he approves, but sometimes? That’s just icing on the cake.
You know what’s hard? Asking Pike if Starfleet is secretly doing something really, really weird. Because— besides implying that there’s some shady shit going on— Jim has to try and word it without giving up the fact that maybe some of the people on his ship shouldn’t be on his ship, and while logically Pike should already know this, there’s always the chance that he doesn’t, and Pike is a good, lawful sort. He’s the kind of guy to go digging, especially if he realizes that Jim is essentially surrounded by murderers and other ne’er-do-wells.
So Jim chickens out at the last minute and lets Bones’ suspicions go unvoiced, which he regrets pretty much the moment the call ends.
He promised Bones he’d look into it, promised he’d prove his paranoia wrong (at least, Jim promised himself that he’d prove him wrong). But he didn’t. He just… let it slide.
That’s just not on.
Lucky for him, he knows somebody else who’s kind of important in Starfleet. Okay, very important. Integral. She’s also very well-informed.
“Mom, can you look into something for me?”
Winona Kirk gives him a look that would make lesser men shake in their boots.
“What the hell have you gotten yourself into, kid?”
This one's posted during a break between the lifting of heavy things and the putting down of heavy things. Exciting stuff!
The week leading up to Leonard’s inspection has been a study in coping mechanisms. Jim is doing his best to act like nothing’s wrong, which would work if Leonard didn’t make it his personal duty to watch the captain’s stress levels. Leonard himself isn’t even bothering to hide his nerves, though his anxiety comes from a different place than Jim’s. See, Jim’s stress is that Leonard might be sent away. Leonard’s stress is that he won’t be.
Not that he wants to leave the Enterprise, of course. For all that he hates the very concept of floating through space in a tin can, the Enterprise is something like home, and he hasn’t really had one of those since… since he was living with his parents.
Isn’t that just a depressing thought?
Out of the three of them, though, Spock’s probably the worst. Leonard usually considers him a bit of a hardass, but he’s positively waspish now to anybody who isn’t Jim or Leonard himself. He also won’t stop touching— something that brings Jim no end of amusement.
“He’s worried, Bones,” Jim says over drinks in the privacy of Leonard’s quarters. “He doesn’t want another Doctor— nobody does.”
That sentiment is repeated by most everyone, from his crew in Medbay to the crew in Security.
“We’ve gotten used to you,” Bronsen explains during one of the rare rest periods he allows them during his training sessions. “If you leave, we’re fucked.”
And… yeah, he thinks so too.
So, when Doctor Margaret Cooke steps of the transport, thin-lipped and not a hair out of place, he is reasonably nervous, even if the little voice in the back of his head reminds him that he’s probably just fine.
“Doctor McCoy,” she greets, offering him an attempt at a smile when she reaches out to shake his hand. “Your eye seems to have healed up well.”
“It’s all thanks to Doctor M’Benga,” he says. “You’ll be meeting him in Medbay, of course.”
Doctor Cooke nods.
“Of course.” She pauses, eyeing the decidedly empty room. “Where, if I may ask, is your captain?”
Leonard does his best not to flinch. Fuck.
“In Medbay, ma’am,” he says. “There was a minor incident that led to both our captain and first officer having extended stays in the favorite place.” With terrible cases of stab-itis, he might add.
That, of all things, makes her chuckle.
“I remember when I was still on the Reagan,” she says. “I had to tie Admiral Richards— he was a captain then, of course— down to give him vaccinations, I swear.”
“I just don’t tell him when he’s due anymore,” Leonard says. I just stab him whenever he gets close enough.”
“Now there’s an idea,” she says thoughtfully. “I am still Admiral Richards’ primary doctor, you know, and he hasn’t much changed.”
“No, don’t go snuffing out my hope,” Leonard says. “I was hoping the captain’d mellow with age.”
“No,” Doctor Cooke sounds almost wistful. “In fact, I think Richards got quicker.”
Doctor Cooke has a sense of humor rather close to Leonard’s own, and all in all, her visit proves to be rather enjoyable despite the evaluation looming over Leonard’s head. He knows he isn’t doing fantastically— he’s walked into a doorframe at least twice with her in the room, and he hasn’t quite figured out how to set up his desk now that he can’t see half of it without making a hundred-and-eighty degree turn.
Damn corner desks. Who thought the extra space would be helpful for anything other than more clutter?
Obviously, Jim doesn’t like her on sight.
“I can’t understand how you can stand to be in the same room with her, Bones,” he says when they’re alone in his quarters, Spock quiet between them. “She’s here to get rid of you.”
“She’s just doing her job, Jim.” Leonard sighs. “Besides, with the way Starfleet’s handling it…” He trails off, uncertain.
“The way Starfleet’s handling it what?” Jim prods.
He runs a hand through his hair. He really needs to cut it, but at the length it is now, it’s harder to see the scar on the side of his head.
“She got sent to us pretty fast,” Leonard says. “Which means one of two things. Either they want me off this ship and out of Starfleet, or… I’m right.”
Jim rolls his eyes.
“Bones, come on—”
“Have you looked into it?”
Jim’s mouth pinches.
“I’ve got someone on it,” he says shortly.
“An old friend. Don’t worry about it, they’re discreet.” Jim sits back. “And what if you are right? What are we supposed to do then?”
“How the fuck should I know. I’m a doctor, Jim, not… you.”
There’s a beat of silence.
“I suggest,” Spock says. “That we act as though the Doctor will not be leaving the ship. Normality will be our greatest weapon until Doctor Cooke leaves us.”
“... I could always hack her evaluation,” Jim says thoughtfully. “Change it if it’s bad.”
“Don’t do that,” Leonard says flatly. “Just let it go, Jim. It is what it is. Kaiidth.”
Spock’s eyes widen.
“I was unaware you knew that phrase, Doctor,” he says.
“Hex taught it to me last check-up,” he says. “He wanted to go into Linguistics, you know.”
Hex is a good kid. Timid, but smart. Empathetic. He’d been trying— in his own, awkward way— to cheer Leonard up.
“He’s an interpreter on that team that had Uran, right?” Jim asks. “The one who saw you get shot.”
“I think you’d like him,” he says. “He’s an excellent chess player, as I understand it.”
“Yeah— but he prefers two-dimensional.”
“Can’t be that good of a player, then,” Jim says, smiling slightly.
“Won’t know ‘til you play him.” Leonard yawns. “And on that note, I’m going to bed. I’ll see you both at breakfast tomorrow, alright?”
Jim waves, turning his attention back to the chessboard between him and Spock, and Leonard takes his leave.
He doesn’t expect the knock on his door an hour later.
“Leonard.” The Vulcan catches Leonard’s elbow as he steps into the room, eyes shining in the dim light. “May I speak with you?”
“Sure— sorry, I was… trying to sleep.” Leonard gives him a wry smile. “What can I do for ya?”
Spock’s grip tightens.
“If the corruption of Starfleet is as you say, you will remain on the Enterprise,” he says. “If it is not, then you will be discharged.”
“That’s about the size of it,” he says. “I shouldn’t really be here Spock— after all, what’s a surgeon without two good eyes?”
“You are still our Doctor, Leonard,” Spock says. “And a mentor to the most vulnerable of our number. Our Security Personnel have never been as strong as they are now, and that is due to your guidance. You will always have a place among us.”
“I became a doctor so I could escape the fucking violence,” he says. “I’m tired, Spock.”
“You are no soldier,” Spock agrees. “But you are a wonderful teacher, in all the ways that matter to them. They trust what you’ve taught them— I don’t believe they held such trust before, these… Deadshirts.”
Spock’s mouth quirks, and— that’s an honest to God smile. A small one, granted, but it’s definitely there.
“I suppose it holds a certain charm,” he admits. “Though the humor that comes with it is… somewhat macabre.”
“... Are you referring to the funeral jokes?”
“Something might have been said about not needing to change when they were killed in action, yes,” Spock says. “They all seem to think they’re quite intimidating.”
“They should be,” Leonard says honestly. “They’re the closest thing Starfleet has to a military, after all.”
There’s a long pause, long enough that Leonard starts when Spock leans against him.
“My hope that you are correct is illogical,” he murmurs, bowing his head. “It means many terrible things for the future of this crew. At the same time… if you are correct, you will not be taken from us. From me.”
His hand slides from Leonard’s bare elbow to his hand, his thumb rubbing little circles over his scarred knuckles.
“I cannot bear the thought,” Spock admits, sounding helpless. “I cannot bear the thought of you being taken from us.”
Leonard finds his arm wrapped around Spock’s shoulders.
“Neither can I,” he says. “But if I’m right, we’re all fucked, Spock. We’re all probably slated to die horrible deaths, you know that?”
“I find I care very little,” Spock says. “Another flaw in my logic.”
They stand like that for a long time, long enough for the exhaustion of the day to truly catch up to Leonard. He does his best to stifle his yawn, but…
“I should let you rest,” Spock says, pulling away. “I will see you in the morning.”
“You will,” Leonard promises. “Night, Spock.”
“Good night, Leonard.”
It isn’t until Leonard’s curled up in his bed that he realizes that— well, he can still feel him, sort of. Feel Spock, he means. It’s almost like he’s still there, his presence an afterimage in the little quarters of the Chief Medical Officer. It’s…
Winona Kirk isn’t an expressive woman. She’s beautiful, yes, but she’s… well, if she weren’t Jim’s mother, he’d call her an ice queen.
That being said, Jim can read the grim pinch in her mouth all too well when she calls him.
“You’re not gonna like this, Jimmy.”
Jim grits his teeth.
Winona sighs, running a hand through her loose blonde hair.
“It’s common knowledge that Starfleet put the best and brightest on the Enterprise from the beginning,” she says. “Every single one of your crew— sans Security, obviously— is somewhere in the top ten percent of their chosen fields. Most of them were recruited to Starfleet after proving themselves in civilian life… even you.” She smiles wanly. “Among the Admiralty, Tarsus is your… your crowning achievement.”
Jim doesn’t flinch, for all that he wants to. The way she says it… it’s clear she’s quoting someone.
“Pike knows too,” she admits. “He doesn’t look at it the same way as some of the others but… he’s aware. He didn’t know until after you got your captaincy, though, if it makes it any better.
“Initially, Pike was supposed to captain the Enterprise. He’s a good officer, loyal, but… he has a reputation, when it comes to Starfleet politics. His record as a military machine is pretty impressive, actually— never lost a battle during his fifteen years captaining the Farragut. He’s the main reason the Farragut mostly only did border patrol, thanks to that, and why he was supposed to be given Starfleet’s flagship.”
Jim knows about Pike’s record, knows about his awards for courage and valor.
“So what does that mean for me?”
“The flagship is the first ship most non-Federation peoples have contact with,” Winona says. “Sixty-eight percent of all first contact missions go to the Enterprise, you know, and seventy-four percent of most primary planetary excursions— that’s why you need the best scientists communications officers, and diplomats. It needs to be the best equipped to handle any situation that might help establish peaceful relations between the Federation and whatever new planetary government they encounter. That’s why the Enterprise is equipped with the best medical staff, the best equipment, the best historians and cultural archaeologists.
“It’s also the first ship to be called upon in battle.” Winona’s brow furrows. “The flagship will lead us into war, whether it be Klingons or Romulans or goddamn dragons. Therefore, it needs the best weapons tacticians, strategists, and engineers. They all go to you. Everything goes to you, so long as it meets a certain criteria.”
“What’s the criteria?”
“Starfleet is concerned about three things,” she says. “Discovery, defense, and most importantly, public image. So, with that in mind, their crown jewel— the Enterprise— must have a crew that suits those concerns. You have the best and the brightest, in every field that requires a bit of brains. You also have the most beautiful. Tell me something— if you weren’t attached to that Vulcan boy of yours, wouldn’t you find yourself tempted?”
He would. He really would. But—
“I wouldn’t do that.”
Winona smiles at him.
“No,” she agrees. “You pay attention to rank, and to convention. You wouldn’t put another person in a position where they thought they couldn’t say no to you. You were always good about that sort of thing.
“Each and every one of your crewmembers is beautiful, and young, and idealistic— perfect for press photos and diplomatic events. Perfect to be martyred, if it came to it.” Her smile dims. “Their track records, however, are less than divine, for the most part. Sealed, of course, within Starfleet databases, inaccessible to the public, but still. Not stuff that would recommend them to Starfleet.
“Here’s the problem with putting people on the flagship— a couple of them are going to die. So why would they waste good, upstanding officers on the Enterprise if there’s a chance of war with the Romulan Star Empire? Why do that, when you can find a whole pool of officers who are just as bright, just as capable, and desperate for a second chance? Officers that would be a loss, certainly, but perhaps not as great a loss as others.
“The true criteria of the USS Enterprise is this: Best, brightest, and most expendable.”
Jim sits quietly for a long moment.
“This— that doesn’t make any sense, Mom,” he says. “Why? Why would they go to so much trouble, just to make my ship a fucking suicide mission?”
“It wasn’t always like this,” she says. “Before the Kelvin, this sort of thing didn’t happen. Besides people like me? There was no need for this kind of shit. Not until Admiral Marcus.” She scoffs. “I’ve never liked that bastard. It was him that designed this… this. He’s the one that sniffed out the students best suited to the Enterprise as he envisioned it. He’s the one that recruited men like Doctor McCoy and Hikaru Sulu. That was all him. He thought Pike would be the best to lead them— a military man at heart, loyal to the end, a good leader and a good man who knew sometimes the best thing wasn’t always the right thing— but then, Pike got into shit, and you took the helm.
“You’re the perfect leader for the merry band of misfits he assigned to the Enterprise, Jimmy,” Winona says. “You’re all of those things, but stronger, crueler, more realistic. You know what happens when the good guys lose. You lived it. Admiral Marcus trusts in the instincts born in you from those experiences to save the Federation, to sacrifice each and every one of your crew’s lives to prevent an enemy from conquering Earth.” Winona’s mouth quirks. “Doesn’t hurt that you’re carrying your father’s name and wearing his face, either.”
Jim was holding a pen in his hand, having been in the middle of reports when she’d called. It snaps.
“Mom,” he says, almost pleasantly. “Do you mind doing a side job for me? Just a quick one, I promise.”
Her laugh is… not a nice laugh.
“As much as I’d like to do that, Jimmy, Admiral Marcus is probably the only thing keeping you from getting booted out of Starfleet altogether. You’re good enough at your job— you all are— that any minor… indiscretions, let’s call them… can be swept under the rug.”
“Things like having a cyclops for a CMO, for instance?”
“You were always a smart kid,” she says, a little mournful. “They’re not gonna cut him loose. McCoy’s good at keeping your crew in line, not to mention he’s a damn good doctor. No matter how bad his record is, he’s the only one they think has any sort of conscience, out of your entire crew. Isn’t that funny?”
“Why’s it funny?”
“Jim, he’s got a pile of unconfirmed bodies trailing behind him.” Winona shifts. “I mean, you’ve gotta know he was in a gang.”
“Motorcycle club,” Jim corrects absently.
“Yeah, okay, fine. But still. He’s a killer, same as half the crew— same as you.”
Jim doesn’t argue with her. He knows who he is.
“So if we’re supposed to be so…” No, that’s a dumb question. Of course they’d give them shit Security. They’re expendable too, in their own way. “What about Hex?”
“One of my crew. He’s been injured— there’s a good chance that, should complications arise, we won’t be able to take proper care of him.”
“Not Starfleet’s problem,” she says. “Like I said, Jimmy, besides the fact that it’d kinda suck if all you pretty, young things died a horrible, fiery death, Starfleet couldn’t give a rat’s ass.”
Anger burns behind Jim’s eyes. It makes him want to— it makes him want to cry, honestly, but crying never helps anybody.
So instead, he smiles.
“Good to know,” he says. “Thanks, Mom— for everything.”
“Of course, Jimmy.” Winona pauses. “Listen, don’t let yourself get too down. You’re a good officer, above all else. You have an outstanding service record, and with the recent drop in casualties, you might be looking at the best record in all of Starfleet history. Your crew—”
“My crew is probably just the beginning,” Jim says, still smiling. “There are dozens of other ships being built as we speak. How many of those are going to be relegated to holding… undesirables?”
“Out of forty-four new ships? Six. Maybe seven.”
“Well, I’d like a list of those ships, if you can manage,” he says. “Their captains, their crew. I want it all.”
“Gonna make friends, Jimmy?”
“Something like that,” he agrees.
“I’ll do what I can,” she says. “You’re lucky I am who I am, kid. Otherwise, you’d be dead already.”
“They could fucking try,” Jim says.
“That’s the spirit.”
“While it’s clear that you haven’t quite gotten the hang of it yet, there’s no real reason to have you discharged,” Doctor Cooke says, looking up from her evaluation form. “You’ve adapted terrifyingly quickly, you know.”
Leonard forces a smile.
“I’ve had to,” he says. “But it’s nice to know my efforts have been for the best.”
Doctor Cooke nods sharply.
“Quite,” she says, pushing herself to her feet. “And on that note, I think it’s time for me to start heading home, don’t you?”
“Only if you really want to,” Leonard says, and his smile is perhaps encroaching on something a little less pleasant and a little more angry, judging by the odd look Margaret gives him. “We’re a fun bunch, really.”
“Oh, that much I’ve seen,” she says, laughing. “That Mr. Scott was a rabble rouser even in the Academy, from what I hear— though he does make some rather Engine Wine.”
“Just keep that part to yourself,” Leonard says, wagging his finger in mock severity. “Can’t have the wrong sorts of people hearing about it.”
Doctor Cooke rolls her eyes.
“I’m half-certain Chief Engineers are chosen according to the quality of their shine, Doctor McCoy,” she says. “It’s the unwritten requirement.”
Leonard’s quite sure there’s more than one unwritten requirement, but he’s not about to say so.
“Well, Doctor Cooke,” he says, holding out a hand for her to shake. “May I say it has been a pleasure?”
“It was probably better than you were expecting,” Margaret says. “I know how stressful inspections and evaluations can be— I lived through them too.”
Leonard doesn’t answer, smile fixed on his mutilated face until she finally leaves.
Then, only then, does he pull out his PADD and tap out the message.
I’m in the clear. Guess I was right. -LHM
He sends it to Jim and Spock. Jim answers first.
My quarters, both of you. Now. -Jim
Leonard’s mouth twists as he sets aside the PADD. That is not the beginning of a good conversation, he can feel it in his bones.
Well, he better get going. Captain’s orders.
“And your mother was certain of this?”
“Yeah,” he says, not looking to Spock in favor of peering into the neon glow of his Saurian brandy. “She’s got connections to back everything up… Looks like you were right, Bones. We’re ready-made martyrs.”
Leonard’s mouth pinches.
“I can’t exactly say I’m happy to be proven right,” he says. “In fact, I’m a little sad. I’m sorry, Jim. I know what the ‘fleet means to you.”
Jim shakes his head, humorless smile pulling at his boyish features.
“I always knew it was corrupt, even if I tried not to… well, it doesn’t matter anymore, I suppose.” He rubs a hand over his face. “Well, I suppose now it’s just a matter of deciding what to do next.”
“What do you mean by that, kid?”
“Starfleet says our destiny is to die pretty for the good of the Federation,” he says. “I say that death isn’t an option, not for me, not for the people under my care. Not for you, or Spock, or anybody else who’s been damned to a… to a suicide ship.” He shakes his head. “You’re my family, closer than anything I left back home on earth. I can’t lose you over some bullshit like this.”
“You seem rather decided, Jim,” Spock remarks. “Are we defecting?”
“Not yet.” Jim shifts. “First, I’ve got to talk to the crew.”
“Jim, no,” he says. “Do you realize what this could do to these kids? They’ve entrusted their lives to Starfleet, not—”
“And I’m going to ask them if they’ll entrust their lives to me,” Jim says, and there’s real iron in his voice now. “Hell, most of them already have, one way or another. I’ve come to my decision, and those who choose to follow me are welcome.”
“And the ones who choose not to follow you?”
“I’ll drop them off at the next port,” he says simply. “So long as they’re safe, I could care less if they choose to stay with me or go home to their families.” Jim pushes himself to his feet.
“I’ve made my decision,” he says simply. “This is my home, and I’ll be damned if it gets used as cannon fodder in a metaphorical war against the universe. Fuck that. Fuck that.”
“... I don’t think I understood that,” Leonard says to Spock.
“He is referring to the fact that the Enterprise and its crew was built for the sole purpose of standing between a potential enemy and the Federation simply so the news stations have something to use to boost recruitment numbers,” Spock explains, because he’s good like that.
“I may be a touch drunk,” Jim admits. He’s been drinking since he got off the call he had with Winona.
“More than a touch,” Leonard says. “Go to bed. If you feel the same way in the morning, I’m sure Spock’ll be happy to help work out a speech for you to give at dinner or something. Right, Spock?”
“Of course.” Spock gets to his feet, wrapping a familiar arm around Jim’s waist. “Come, Jim. I’m sure the Doctor wouldn’t mind if we left him to his own devices for a moment.”
“I’m a pretty bad host, huh, Bonesy?”
“Damn right you are, Jim,” he says. “But it’s okay. We’re bad company, the lot of us.”
Spock disappears with Jim into the back room, then returns a few minutes later.
“I do not believe he will change his mind when he wakes,” Spock says, taking the seat closest to Leonard.
The doctor sighs.
“You’re probably right,” he says. “So, what do we do?”
“It would probably be better to disseminate this information before the official announcement,” Spock says. “Speak with the medical crew and security. I will handle the other sciences, engineering, and communications.”
“No doubt they will have learned of this development before the announcement simply due to inter-department communications,” Spock says. “But if you think it necessary, I will speak with them as well.”
“Please do,” Leonard says. “Somebody’s going to have to talk to them, and they get shafted with shit like this just because Jim’s technically their Space Dad.”
Spock arches an eyebrow.
“Please elaborate, Doctor.”
Leonard rolls his eyes.
“You know,” he says. “Like how you’re Dad to all the little sciences kids, and Scotty’s the Drunk Uncle of the engineering crew. Everybody’s got a… you know, a familial role within their department.”
“... The science crew considers me a paternal figure?”
“Well, yeah. You take care of them. You always visit to make sure they’re okay whenever one of ‘em ends up in sickbay, you’re the one who writes their recommendations and checks their projects and helps them when they get stuck.” Leonard shrugs. “So. Space Dad.”
Spock hums thoughtfully.
“That is… fascinating,” he says. “What are you to your crew?”
“Medical? Grumpy Grandpa,” Leonard says.
“And to Security?”
“Well, I mean, I was going for Worst Nightmare, so…” he shrugs. “They’re not my crew.”
Spock arches an eyebrow.
“They have marked you as one of their own,” he says, nodding to the patch on Leonard’s shoulder. “You are certainly something to them.”
Leonard supposes he has a point. At the same time.
“You know I’m not supposed to hurt people, right? As a doctor. I took an oath and everything.”
“The Hippocratic Oath refers only to the injury you might cause to your patients,” Spock says. “And it has never bothered you before.”
“It did. It does. It always will.” Leonard rubs a hand over his face. “But you know what’s a real bitch? I like a good fight. I like it a lot.”
“You are not alone in that, I believe,” Spock remarks. “You have, I assume, read both my records and the captain’s?”
Leonard thinks about lying, though he doesn’t know why.
Spock shifts in his seat.
“It was never the act itself of fighting that I enjoyed,” he says. “But rather the knowledge that I left a lasting impact on those who would speak ill of— of my mother.”
Leonard smiles ruefully.
“I suppose that’s a part of it, yes,” he agrees. “There’s something satisfying about seeing the guy who’s face you beat in looking a little purple the next day.”
“Or emerald, in my case,” Spock says. “Unfortunately, my victory was always tainted with the public knowledge that my emotional control was lost.”
“Yeah, I suppose that soured it a bit.” Leonard leans forward. “Between you and me? If you lost your shit and kicked somebody’s ass in front of anybody off the Enterprise, whoever saw it would probably get you a box of chocolates.”
“I will keep that in mind, Leonard.”
Doctor McCoy has always looked like a man on the verge of snapping. Hex always made a point to stay out of the doctor’s way, careful of going to his scheduled medical appointments on time and taking his hypos as instructed. The easiest way to get into a doctor’s good graces, Lawrence has always found, is to do as you’re told with minimal grumbling.
It isn’t that McCoy is particularly cruel or even unkind— it’s just that the man is sharp, his edges honed by something that Hex doesn’t want to contemplate. The tattoos that scream across the man’s skin don’t come from a life lived quietly, after all, and his tongue is harsher than any whip.
He’s been returned to light duty, provided he comes in every morning for check-ups and tutting, which is why he’s in the small rec room designated to Security personnel when the Doctor walks in, stony-faced and stiff-shouldered as he makes his way to Hendorff’s table.
The room goes suddenly quiet, all eyes on the lone blue shirt among them.
“A few things have come to the captain’s attention,” he says, tone oddly muted. “Important things that have drastically changed his perspective on his service— and our service— to the ‘fleet. This change in perspective is going to impact every member of this crew, one way or another, and I want you to be prepared before his official statement. Do you understand?”
“What’s going on, Doc?” Rova asks, frowning.
“More than half the people on this crew shouldn’t be here,” he says. “At least, not according to Starfleet standard. This crew— myself included— have criminal records prior to their recruitment to Starfleet. For those of you to whom this is applicable, I’m sure you were told it would be a second chance, a way to right past wrongs.”
Hex glances around. People are shifting in their seats, faces pale and worried.
“We criminals— or suspected criminals, in some cases— were chosen based on the fact that we are intelligent, experienced in the field in one way or another, and are pretty enough to get our faces on recruitment posters. Or we were.” McCoy rubs at the scar over his eye absently. “We look good for news cycles, whether we’re saving planets or dying fiery deaths at the hands of the Klingons.”
“What about the rest of us?” Roan asks quietly. “I have no criminal record to speak of. I was a Boy Scout, for God’s sake.”
“You washed out of Command, though, didn’t you?” McCoy smiles sharply. “Security is something of a mixed bag, as I understand it. Most of you failed out of your chosen courses. You took Security because it was the only way to stay in the ‘fleet. Am I right?”
“It’s okay, there’s no need to be embarrassed,” McCoy says. “But the fact is, a ship doomed to die isn’t going to need particularly well-trained Security officers, does it? So, you all got stationed on the Enterprise, to die a glorious death. Cannon fodder, basically.”
“How long have you known this, Doctor?” Jor’ah asks calmly from his place beside Bronson.
“... I’ve had access to your files,” McCoy admits after a moment. “Those, along with certain recent events—” Hex is pretty certain McCoy glances over at him, for just a moment. “— led to my forming a few theories, and I brought them to the attention of the Captain and First Officer. Unfortunately, my suspicions were proven correct, and, well…” he shows them his palms in a helpless gesture. “The Captain didn’t take it very well, let’s put it that way.”
“What’s going to happen, then?” Gupta asks. “Are we defecting?”
“Not quite, I don’t think. But something near enough that we could get into trouble.” McCoy scratches his stubbled chin absently. “He’s going to tell the crew at large at dinner, officially, but Commander Spock and I want you to be prepared. We don’t know the inner workings of the Captain’s mind— or at least I don’t— but I know this much: he’s going to give each and every one of you the option to leave this ship, regardless of regulation. If you don’t want to stay aboard, you can go home. He won’t ask any of you to follow him into whatever he has planned, not if you’re uncomfortable or scared or whatever it is you feel. He wants your consent, first and foremost.”
There’s a long pause.
“I won’t leave,” Bronson says finally. “No matter what happens, I won’t leave.”
McCoy smiles sadly at her.
“I’m happy to hear that,” he says. “But I still want you to think this through. The Captain’s angry— so’s Spock, even if he’s not showing it. If you stay, there’s a good chance we’ll make good on that fiery death option.”
“I don’t care,” Bronson says. “This is my crew. I have people to take care of. I’m not leaving them.”
“I second that,” Roan adds.
“Me too,” Rova says, nodding sharply. She looks scared, a lot of them look scared. This isn’t what they expected, joining Starfleet— at least, it wasn’t what Hex expected. “You guys are my friends. It’d be pretty shitty on my part to leave my friends behind.”
“I don’t know the Captain personally,” Gupta remarks quietly. “Do you trust him, Doctor?”
“With my life.” There’s no hesitation. “And your lives, too.”
Gupta nods thoughtfully.
“I trust you,” she says. “Therefore, I have no reason to leave.”
There are more murmurs of assent, more nods of agreement. A few of them pat their team patches, eyes hard as they look between their teammates.
Hex isn’t so sure. He’s still useless, mostly, just out of his wheelchair. He won’t be much use to a captain gone rogue. He needs to think, he needs to make his decision quietly, on his own.
He hopes he makes the right one.
Jim’s speech is comes as no surprise to the Alpha crew, when it finally happens. He should have expected that Spock and Bones would take it upon themselves to spread the news in an unofficial capacity, and while he knows he should be annoyed, he’s more grateful than anything. He has a feeling Uhura would have kicked his ass if he sprung it on her mid-shift.
“We will not be severing ties to the Federation,” informs the ship. “But we will no longer be at the mercy of men who think our lives are worth nothing. As your captain, I promise you: the lives of my crew will be held above all other orders. I will not allow you to be used as martyrs. I will not allow you to be sent into a glorified suicide mission. We will do what we can to help those in need, but we will never, under any circumstances, sacrifice ourselves for a warmongering crusade against our neighbors. Is that understood?”
He pauses, taking a deep, steadying breath. Bones’ hand is on his shoulder. Spock’s thought pulse comfortingly in the back of his brain.
“It’s three days until we reach the Corellian Station,” he says. “Those of you who want out can go. For the rest of us, it’ll be business as usual. Take your time reaching your decision. I won’t force anybody to stay who doesn’t want to be here.” He stifles a tired sigh. “Kirk out.”
There’s a beat of silence.
“I am not leaving,” Chekov says finally.
“Neither am I,” Sulu adds.
“It goes without saying,” Uhura says. “We’re not leaving you, Jim.”
He smiles, grateful.
“Thank you,” he says. “All of you. I— I’m sorry.”
“Nothing to be sorry about, Captain,” Chekov says. “It’s not your fault I took part in the family business.”
Family business, he says. Well, that’s putting it politely.
Jim has very good friends. At least Starfleet gave him that much.
Three people don’t return to the ship once they’ve docked, one of them being one of Leonard’s nurses. All of them have families, young children at home, so Leonard’s not surprised by the decision, and wishes them each the best of luck.
Nobody else leaves, though, and that says a lot more.
“We’re doing something new today,” Leonard announces a week after Jim’s ship-wide speech. Half the Alpha Deadshirts perk up. The other half stiffens, wary, and rightfully so. Most new things Leonard has introduced have started out painfully.
“At this point, most of you have seen Fight Club,” he says. “Courtesy of Medbay. The rest of you, I know, have watched it on your own time, because it’s a good fucking movie.”
There’s laughter, agreement. There’s a sudden, palpable sense of anticipation in the air.
“Are we going Fight Club?” Rova asks hopefully.
“We’re doing Fight Club.”
Spock is… stubbly.
It’s not unusual, anymore, for Leonard to see the Vulcan looking less than his best. Spock spends a lot of time in Jim’s quarters, after all, doing things with the Captain that Leonard would rather not think about too hard, and Leonard also spends a lot of time in Jim’s quarters, usually because he passed out on the couch the night before. So a stubbly-chinned Vulcan isn’t exactly an unusual occurrence in Leonard’s life anymore. That being said…
This is starting to look intentional.
The crew’s noticed it, of course, and there are whispers as to the reason why. The Captain’s preference, rebellion, personal reasons, biological reasons… the list goes on, and Leonard laughs at it all, because he knows why— or at least, he has an inkling.
He’s starting to entertain the idea that Spock might give a shit about his input.
Still, the roughness suits Spock, in its way. He has a remarkably soft, almost childish face, considering how expressionless he likes to keep it, and the fuzz of his incoming beard seems to sharpen it, drawing attention to the cleft in his chin and the almost severe edges of his jaw. It looks good on him. It looks really good.
There has been a shift on the ship, a subtle one, but a shift nonetheless. The crew has always respected Jim, of course— he’s their captain, and a damn good one at that— but now, it’s something more.
Leonard can’t quite put his finger on it, on how it’s changed. It’s almost like there’s a new layer of awe to the way the ensigns talk about Jim, the way the Beta shift crew accepts the bridge at the end of Alpha and the Gamma passes on control at the end of their own shifts. It’s an… it’s almost like reverence, something that they can’t quite keep out of their voices, that straightens their backs and draws their eyes whenever he walks down the corridor.
Leonard doesn’t think many of his crew have ever had someone look out for them in the way that Jim’s promised to do.
Jim, naturally, doesn’t notice. His smiles are just as warm and his conversations are just as friendly, and when he walks into the mess hall he makes a point to talk to Chekov’s little group of ensign friends and ask Yeoman Rand about her sister’s new baby. He doesn’t notice anything at all, and somehow, that just makes it better. If he noticed it, he’d think himself undeserving, after all, and he’s anything but that.
The next mission the Enterprise is given is a mission of mercy, ferrying desperately needed medical supplies to a newly-instated Federation planet. It should be routine— painless, if tedious for Leonard and his away team— but it’s nothing that could end in horrible, gristly deaths.
Except for the fact that Spock has the planet’s dossier on hand when Leonard walks into that meeting.
The introduction of Sorasia II into the Federation is fraught with controversy. There is presently a rebellion/revolution (depending on one’s perspective) on-planet, and while the current government seems to have it well in hand, there is a faction still fighting, consisting mostly of apparently vicious warlords and henchmen galore.
“I’m sending down a security team with you,” Jim says. “Team Rainbow, by Cupcake’s recommendation. Don’t argue— it’s a precaution.”
“I wasn’t going to,” he says. “Rova’s team has been doing well on the mats— they’re due for a field test.”
“We aren’t expecting trouble,” Jim says. “So I wouldn’t call it a field test. But just in case…”
“With our luck we’ll beam smack in the middle of an ambush,” Leonard says, smiling humorlessly. “Don’t worry, Jim, I won’t fight you on this. I’ll even arm up myself, if it makes you feel better.”
“That won’t be necessary, Bones— not unless you’ve got anything useful?”
“Left my shotgun at home, sadly.” Leonard smiles. “Maybe I’ll write and have it shipped out to us, eh?”
“I believe we have better weapons available on board, Leonard,” Spock says primly. “And I for one do not wish to entertain the idea of a weapon like that falling into the wrong hands. It could get… messy.”
“Good point,” Leonard says. “Picking buckshot out of a buddy’s ass can get a little tedious, after a while, even if you do have sedatives on hand.”
“Wait, you’ve picked buckshot out of somebody’s ass before?” Jim pauses. “Wait, you’ve done that without anesthetic?”
“Oh, yeah.” Leonard pats a bare arm lightly. “My specialty was arms transport, you know. Guns are still pretty common below the Mason-Dixon, since people collect ‘em as antiques, now. It takes barely any work to get them working again, and the damage is far more painful if you shoot somebody with a bullet proper than a stunner. If you know the right kind of troubled young men, you can make a lot of money selling that sort of thing.”
“... And how did this lead to buckshot in somebody’s ass?”
“Oh, one of the new guys started a thing with one of said troubled young men,” he says, shrugging. “Then he cheated on said troubled young man. The guy got him twice, six months apart from each other— the first time I wasn’t prepared, though, so we had to do it just like that.”
“That sounds… excruciating,” Spock says carefully. “And unnecessary.”
“It was,” Leonard agrees. “But I was nineteen at the time, and just started pre-med. I was already used to the violence, by then, and we pretty much just sat around and made fun of the poor fuck the entire time he was healing up. We thought it was funny.”
Spock nods thoughtfully.
“Be that as it may,” he says. “I am pleased to have met you now then when you were young. Maturation and empathy has done a great deal for you.”
“You think? I was certainly prettier back then.” Leonard scratches at his chin absently. “Less angry. Also two eyes, that’s always a good thing, right?”
“You’re still pretty,” Jim promises. “I’d eat you up if it weren’t for the fact you’d give me indigestion.”
“I find it discomfiting that you think so poorly of yourself since you were wounded,” Spock says, brow furrowing as he peers at Leonard. “You have more to offer than a pretty face.”
Leonard arches an eyebrow.
“Just what every girl wants to hear,” he says, rolling his eyes. “It’s fine, Spock. Just how I cope.”
“You should find another way, then,” Spock says. “I do not like it.”
“Er…” Leonard shifts awkwardly. “Sorry, Spock.”
“You should be,” Spock says. “You are a good man, Leonard, and do not deserve such cruelty, even from yourself.”
Jim’s eyes are sparkling, though Leonard can’t begin to understand why. This is arguably the most uncomfortable conversation he’s ever had— that Spock’s ever had, too, judging by the slight greenish tinge to his normally sallow cheeks.
Leonard’s friends are so goddamn weird.
They go down to the planet the next morning, and naturally, everything goes wrong. Leonard doesn’t know what, exactly— someone had stunned him before the actual fight broke out— but all he knows is one minute, he was handing out hypos, and the next, he’s on his knees, hands tied behind his back and staring into a trough that’s stained with what is almost definitely blood.
“Federation interference will not go unpunished!” Somebody behind him is saying. Leonard assumes that they’re the enemy, and looks to either side.
His team is lined up beside him, all in similar positions. Rova is directly to his right, at the end of the line.
“Rova!” He hisses.
The woman jerks, turning her head to reveal a large, nasty bruise developing around her eye and forehead.
“Doc, you’re awake! Thank God.”
“What’s going on?” he whispers.
“We’ve been kidnapped and sentenced to death,” she informs him quietly.
“What, again?” This must be the sixth, maybe seventh time for Leonard this last year.
For a moment, Rova looks like she wants to giggle, but she doesn’t, pale and nervous and so fucking scared. Leonard’s scared too, of course, truly, having moved beyond pants-shitting fear into cold, terrible numbness.
“The guy’s a warlord,” she mutters instead. “Kruk-os eh Fack, apparently. Anti-Federation type.”
“I gathered,” Leonard mutters. “What’s with the tub?”
“They’re going to behead us and send the video back to the captain.”
Oh, well, that’s nice. Apparently their warlord is something of a showman.
“What the fuck kind of a name is Fack, anyway?” He mutters peevishly. “I refuse to be murdered by a person named Fack, Jesus Christ—”
“Silence!” Fack booms from directly behind them. “You will suffer for your insolence!”
Rova makes a noise, sort of like a laugh that got choked with a sob.
“Um, well, sir— uh, lord, I guess?” she starts. “You’re already going to kill us. Publicly. What more can you do?”
Leonard stiffens, because there’s a lot more that can be done to a girl like— wait. The species of Belphegor have no genitals and reproduce asexually— that’s probably why Rova’s pheromones aren’t knocking the guy on his ass despite the distinctly lustful quality of Leonard’s fear erection right now. Never mind, he’s not worried.
“You will die, scum!” Their guide shrieks from Rova’s other side. “You may kill us, but our place in the Federation is strong! You will not—”
There is now an approximation of an axe hovering between Rova’s face and their guide’s, hiding the guide from Leonard’s view.
“You will die first, then these representatives of the Federation,” the warlord informs their guide coldly. Apparently, they have incensed the warlord.
The axe is removed from its worrying position near Leonard’s face and Fack— Jesus, Fack— and Leonard looks up to see a heavily pierced Belphegian standing over their guide, blade pressed against their neck as they aim their swing.
Leonard closes his eyes when the axe is raised, but he can’t block his ears against the wet, blocky sound of a sharpened blade slicing through flesh and bone. The cold feeling in his stomach becomes heavier, more immediate.
Fuck, they’re gonna die. Jim’s not their to save their stupid asses.
The tub fills slowly, with the thick, viscous blood of the dead Belphegian. It’s weird, how Human it looks in color. Vaguely, he wonders if it’ll go brown when Rova’s head joins their guide’s.
“Oh, shit,” Rova mutters as the blood-slicked axe touches her neck. “Oh, fuck no—”
Leonard doesn’t want her to die alone, he doesn’t, so he keeps his eyes open for her, fixed on her mint-pale face instead of the axe that’s rising, rising—
His eyes can’t keep track with how quickly she moves, dumping herself head first into the trough and out of the way of the falling axe that buries itself in the dirt where she’d been kneeling just a moment before. Orions are known to be flexible, Leonard remembers belatedly as he watches her loop her tied hands under her feet. Orions—
Orion women have larger breasts on average than their Human counterparts, which, while uncomfortable if one is to do anything in the way of sports, does wonders for extra storage, as any of Leonard’s female friends will tell him. The Belphegians, being relatively genderless, were baffled by the distinct physical differences between the male and female forms they’d been presented with in Leonard’s away team. Their kidnappers didn’t think to check for the small knife that Rova has taken to keeping tucked in her Starfleet-issue sports bra when not actively doing drills.
Why didn’t Leonard think of that?
Clearly, she’s been practicing on her own time with the weapon, because she moves with a speed Leonard’s only seen Sulu use when she draws that knife, so quick that she leaves its sheathe behind and cuts herself in the process.
She doesn’t notice the injury, though, too busy taking that knife and stabbing it into the warlord’s leg.
Fack lets out an ungodly screech, dropping their axe in favor of grabbing at their wounded leg. Leonard wastes no time, rolling onto his back and pulling the same move as Rova, pulling his legs up high and wincing at the strain as he brings his hands forward. God, he’s getting old.
There’s no time to think— they need to make this quick, before their would-be killer’s screams bring looky-loos with more weapons— so Leonard reaches for the forgotten axe on the floor, pushing himself to his knees and burying the razor sharp edge in Fack’s skull with one wild, unwieldy swing.
Their screams come to a sudden stop, leaving the room eerily silent.
Leonard reaches for Rova’s knife, freeing his hands of the ropes that bound them. Then, he frees Rova.
“Jesus fuck,” she hisses. “Jesus— holy fuck, holy fuck—”
She’s covered in blood and hyperventilating, eyes bugging like a startled horse as she rears back against the wall of the trough, blood sloshing around her ankles.
Leonard catches her hands, careless of the blood.
“You’re okay, Rova, you’re okay,” he says, about three steps left of soothing. “You did good, see? You saved us.”
“I just killed a guy,” she says, a little hysterical. “I just—”
“You did what you had to do, Rova, to protect the team,” he says. “Look— look at me, Osira. Look me in the eye.”
His hands find her cheeks, steadying her head so she can’t do anything but obey. She’s panicking, green eyes rolling frantically.
“You’re okay,” he says again, ignoring the blood on her hands as she reaches out, fumbles at his shoulders, then neck, then face. “You did exactly what you were supposed to do— you protected us. You did— you did Facking great, get it? Facking great.”
A breathless laugh bubbles past Rova’s lips, hands shaking against Leonard’s skin as she tries to pull herself together and breath.
“Ye— yes. Yes,” she says, nodding her head violently. “I— Facking great, fuck. You’re horrible, Doc.”
“That’s why you guys love me,” he says. That gets him a smile, a little calmer than the laugh.
“I need to get out of the blood,” Rova says, letting her hands fall to pull at his shirt instead.
“Sounds like a good plan.” Leonard lets go, hauling her over the lip of the trough and setting her on her feet. When he’s certain she’ll support her own weight, he lets go, taking his borrowed knife and quickly cutting the bindings of the rest of the team before handing it back to Rova.
“We need to figure out what they did with our communicators,” he says flatly. “Our luck’s shit, so chances are, they’ll be useless and we’re going to need to fight our way out of here— does anybody by any chance know where ‘here’ is, by the way?”
“A bunker, of some kind,” Dede says, helping Chapel to her feet. “I got a glimpse when they were bringing us in.”
Which means they’re probably underground. Today really isn’t Leonard’s day, is it?
He looks over the team, eyes lingering on the two nurses he’d brought with him. Chapel’s not a fighter, he knows, and Barkowski’s always preferred the hypospray to the sword.
“We can circle them,” Gupta says, seeing the problem. “Keep them in the middle. But we’ll need more weapons.”
Leonard sighs, looking over to the axe still embedded in Fack’s head. He reaches for the handle, pulling it free with a grunt and hoisting it over his shoulder.
“I’ll lead,” he says. “Grab as you go. When we get back on the ship, I am getting Jim to sign off on blade training. This shit is getting ridiculous.”
They’ve had forty missions since Jim became the Captain of the Enterprise, and seven— maybe eight?— of them have ended up with him being kidnapped at weapons-point. Jim and Spock have had even more close encounters, and all three of them have gotten stuck with something pointy and decidedly metal at least once since the beginning of this bullshit. This will not go on. Leonard refuses.
“Fall in line,” he orders, shifting the axe on his shoulder. “We’re doing this.”
Grim-faced, his team obeys, Deadshirts pulling around his nurses tightly, fists clenched as they stare at the only door in or out of this room.
Leonard turns away, eyes narrowed.
He kicks down the door.
Leonard has never fought with an axe. A knife, yes, a piece of pipe, a bat… but never an axe. However, he has chopped wood, so he’s not completely deficit.
Bodies are not like wood. They squish and spray copious amounts of fluid of varying levels of ick depending on where you cut them, as his team is currently getting to find out first hand.
Gupta has an axe now, too, and Dede’s picked up something like a sword. Sh’riras, the Andorian on their team, has found a club, and has judiciously applied it to whichever skulls come within range of her swing. In another life, she’d be the Babe Ruth, except skinny and blue.
Chapel’s the one who finds their communicators, having been shoved by Gupta into an empty room with Barkowski when twelve of their captors came rushing down the hall, weapons raised and screaming.
The communicators, for once, actually have a signal.
“Chapel to Enterprise,” she hisses. “Chapel to Enterprise.”
“Enterprise here,” Uhura says, words staticky.
“We’ve been captured,” Chapel says. “We’re in a bunker of some kind. Can you lock onto our signals?”
There’s a pause.
“There’s too many life signs,” Uhura tells her. “And— oh, three less life signs. Two less life signs. Four less— three less. Never mind, we’ve got you.”
Chapel bursts out of the room.
“They’ve locked onto our signals!” she cries.
“Beam us up!” Leonard shouts.
The familiar golden light of the transporter fills the room, and Chapel breathes a sigh of relief as her atoms filter away.
This is the worst away mission she’s been on yet.
Jim doesn’t know what he was expecting while he waited for Bones and the team to reappear in the transporter room, but a bunch of reject zombie movie extras wasn’t it, he’s pretty sure.
Bones has an axe, a bonafide, golden, pointlessly decorated axe. Sure, it’s a little bit weird-looking, but in its barest, simplest form, he’s holding a goddamn axe, red with gooey, food-coloring blood just like the rest of him.
Which, also? They’re all holding weapons. Primal weapons. Weapons that aren’t supposed to suit civilized Starfleet officers the way they apparently do.
Leonard grunts, handing his axe over to Rova so he can strip off his ruined blue shirt and toss it to the ground.
“Captured,” he grunts. “They executed our guide. Had to fight our way out.” He takes the hem of his black undershirt and tries to wipe the blood off his face. It doesn’t do much, just smears angry patches of red across pale skin, so he gives up, sighing as he takes his axe back.
“I’m going to go take a shower,” he announces, glancing over at the rest of his equally bloodied away team. “And I’m pretty sure you’d like to do the same. Jim, you don’t mind if my team gets cleaned up, do you?”
“Oh, no, not at all,” he says. “Doctor McCoy can debrief me for now— I want the rest of your reports by tomorrow afternoon, though.”
“Sir, yes, sir!” The Deadshirts bark, startling Jim a little bit.
Bones smirks, dismissing them all with a wave.
“Grab Spock,” he says, hefting the axe up onto his shoulder as the Deadshirts and the nurses file out from behind him. “He’s going to want to hear this too, I’m sure.”
Jim looks at Bones, looks at the axe gleaming in his hand, and then over at the engineer that seems to be a moment from bolting or vomiting, Jim’s not sure.
“Let’s do it,” he says. “Meet you in twenty, your quarters?”
Bones nods, stooping to catch the edge of his discarded shirt as he steps off the transporter pad and heads out into the hall.
Jim knows what violence looks like, what violence does. He knows what it’s like to be afraid and have to fight tooth and claw to keep your life, and he knows that’s what happened down on the planet. He saw it on the faces of the rest of the away team, the shock of messy, intimate death and the relief and guilt that follows it.
Bones doesn’t have that look, not even a little. Jim supposes he shouldn’t be surprised, considering Bones’ history and all, but something about the way the doctor seems so unbothered—
No, that’s not quite right. He is bothered, but not by the killing. He doesn’t care about the killing either way, now that it’s done. Blood spattered and flushed and tense, his discomfort has nothing to do with murder, and everything to do with why he had to murder in the first place.
He killed for his team, for his pet project Security officers and his nurses that he knows so well. He killed for his crew, to save lives that he would have felt the loss of even more acutely than Jim himself. The captain may be the one held responsible for the lives of his crew, but the doctor is the man who touches those lives with nothing but his hands and hypo full of hope.
Something about seeing Bones stand the way he did, legs spread and knees slightly bent as if to leap at a moment’s notice, blood on his face and spattered across his tattooed arms, eyes wild at first before relaxing into something almost humorous if not for the tension hiding just under it… it was kind of hot.
Maybe Jim ought to talk to Spock again, you know. To talk about their dynamic with the ever surprising Doctor Leonard Horatio McCoy. After all, Spock’s always been willing to share with Jim. That’s what makes them so great together.
“Mhmm.” Bones leans back in his chair, eyeing the whisky glass balanced in his hand idly. “Rova handled herself well, though, once she got over the shock, as did the rest of her team. I’d suggest they get honors of some sort, except, well— Starfleet doesn’t award the sort of things that need to be done in a situation like that.”
Jim knows that. For all that they applaud valor and bravery in their officers during wartime, something like this is… usually overlooked. Which is bullshit, because Rova saved Jim’s best friend and essentially the rest of the away team with her actions, and even if Jim puts in for her to receive a medal, it’s highly unlikely she’ll be awarded. If anything, she’ll get reprimanded, having fucked up the squeaky clean reputation Starfleet and the Federation try to uphold on a newly-minted Federation planet.
Maybe Jim can do something about that. After all, Rova was the one to start the whole patching trend among the security department…
“It would be prudent to inform Starfleet of the current unrest and potential danger of sending officers to the planet,” Spock says, jerking Jim out of his reverie. “It is unsettling how easily you were taken from your hosts.”
“Spock, they probably knew it was dangerous,” Bones points out. “That’s why they sent us.”
Spock’s mouth tightens.
“Then what is the next step?” he asks. “What do we do?”
He sounds a little hopeless when he asks, looking to Jim in hopes of some sort of answer where his logic fails him.
“Well,” he starts slowly. “I suppose I could get in contact with some people, maybe see how big this rebellion really is. I mean, technically our mission isn’t complete until Bones hands out those vaccines, and we don’t have anything particularly pressing to do at the moment…”
“You’re suggesting we clear out the remaining factions,” Bones says flatly. “Jim, if I wanted to be an exterminator, I would have gone into business with my cousin Louis.”
“I know, I know— but you said you wanted to field test your teams, right?”
“Cupcake’s teams,” Bones corrects.
“Your teams,” Jim repeats. “Everything they are is because of you, and don’t even try to deny it.”
“I can’t send them in on their own,” he says. “This’ll take time and strategy, and even if they’ve gotten better, they still need training— weapons training, specifically. Which reminds me— you’re going to sign off on blade training for me, and we’re going to be arming the security team.”
Jim arches an eyebrow.
“Am I, now?”
“Even if they take our weapons, it’s better if everyone knows how to hold a knife,” Bones says. “We lucked out in that Rova was doing some practice on the side, but what happens next time, when the team gets picked up and all they’ve ever held is a phaser? They need a little more flexibility than their current training gives them.”
“I agree with Leonard,” Spock says, because of course he does. His crush was almost beheaded a few hours ago.
“Alright,” he says. “Tomorrow morning, first thing. But right now, I’m going to go write a speech.”
“What’cha need a speech for?”
“I’m going to ask the crew tomorrow morning how they feel about war,” Jim says. “Because in a month’s time, I’m going to start sending people to collect intelligence on the whereabouts of the remaining rebel factions. Then, I’m going to send more people, and we’re going to arrest who we can and kill who we can’t, and ensure Sorasia II and its controlling government is able to take part in Federation law and order. We have standards, after all.”
Spock shifts, looking uncomfortable, but Bones just gives him a humorless smile and holds up his glass.
Jim’s mouth twists to mirror him, and he holds up his own glass to clink them together.
“To doing what we want,” he says, and they drink.
Three days pass, and then, a Vulcan ship enters the orbit of Sorasia II. A Vulcan ship, not Federation, which is… interesting.
Leonard isn’t surprised when he gets a call fifteen minutes later to join the captain and his guests in conference room three. He is, however, a little confused when he meets Cupcake in the hall.
“They called me too,” he says, shrugging when Leonard looks at him. “Must be Deadshirt-related.”
“It always is, these days.” Leonard sighs. “Have you decided on your recon teams?”
“I’ve been doing some shuffling around,” Cupcake admits, moving to open the door for them. “But we still need to talk strategy— I don’t want to send our people in without a few things in place.”
“Of course— Jim and I have a few ideas, but there hasn’t been a decision yet,” Leonard says. “If this meeting doesn’t go on for too long, how about you and I have lunch? Jim can sit in, if he’s not busy.”
“That’d be great, let’s do that—”
“Doctor McCoy, Lieutenant Commander Hendorff, good of you to join us.” Jim smiles at them both from where he’s seated at the head of the long conference table. “If I might introduce you to our guests, Lady T’Pau and Healer Sybok.”
Both Vulcans raise their hands in salute, but Leonard is almost immediately distracted by the healer. Unlike most Vulcans he’s met— besides Spock, of course, who has developed a rather sharp goatee— Healer Sybok has a beard. A proper, full one, too, to match his lion’s mane of salt and pepper shoulder-length hair. He’s also… smiling.
“It is nice to finally meet you, Doctor McCoy,” Sybok says, stepping forward to hold out a gloved hand. “Spock has told me a lot about you, and your insights.”
Leonard looks at his hand, looks at Spock, then takes it, shaking once firmly before letting go.
“Spock talks about me?” he asks, tilting his head. “To you?”
“Sybok is my half-brother, Leonard,” Spock explains. “And Lady T’Pau is my grandmother.”
Leonard’s eyes widen, and he looks between them all.
“Well, then it’s nice to meet you, too,” he says. “Though I’m sorry to say I haven’t pried nearly deep enough for Spock to say anything about a brother— I thought I was being polite, but clearly I’ve been in remiss.”
He says it lightly, but the look he shoots Spock is pointed.
“A reserved child, Spock has always been,” T’Pau says. Her tone is flat, but Leonard has spent a lot of time around both Vulcans (or, a Vulcan) and grandmothers to know gentle indulgence when he hears it. “It is a defining trait.”
“Spock called them after I signed off on your weapons training,” Jim says, stepping forward. “Spock thought we might be able to multitask.”
“An ancient art, many Vulcans once used,” T’Pau says. “A precursor to the teachings of Surak, it was, to teach Vulcan minds clarity on the field of battle. Still employed on occasion, it is, when a Vulcan child has particular difficulty mastering the art of meditation.”
“... Like berserkers?” Cupcake says after a moment, frowning slightly. “But… opposite?”
“I do not know the term,” Sybok admits.
Cupcake looks at Jim, who nods encouragingly before continuing.
“Berserkers were a type of Northern warrior,” he says. “German or Norse, I can never remember which. They’d work themselves into a sort of… I don’t know, it was a trance, sort of? They would use their rage to accomplish supposedly impossible feats of strength— apparently, it wasn’t unusual for them to ignore or not notice altogether that they were injured.”
“That is an inexact comparison,” Sybok says. “But not far from the mark.” He looks at Jim. “I believe we ought to have a seat. These explanations can take some time for those unfamiliar with the practice.”
“I’ll have drinks brought up,” he says. “And maybe lunch. I get the feeling this is gonna be a long conversation.”
Vulcans, on the whole, have never been stupid. Even if they didn’t quite have the science down yet, they knew it was the strength of their emotions that was as often the cause of tragedy, strife, and bloodshed as any plague or failed crop. They knew they had to find a way to control it without damaging the delicate balance of a society still in its infancy.
That being said, ruthless logic is still logic, and Vulcans above all are efficient when they handle community issues. As a world still bathed in the blood of tribal disputes and war, they combined the control of one’s heart with the control of one’s weapon, and for a thousand years, the class of warrior scholars was among the most respected.
As Sybok explains, a couple of things come together for Leonard— important, useful things, that they need as soon as possible.
The earliest written accounts of the warrior class were lost in the destruction of Vulcan, but their words remain. On multiple occasions, from multiple authors, times, and places, it is written that prolonged study of the fighting style led to what Leonard would describe as an eidetic memory. It also implies an ease learning new languages and what would later develop into advanced mathematics. There’s no doubt in Leonard’s mind that— if it affected the non-Vulcans of the crew the same way— that sort of training might come in useful in more ways than one, especially for the Enterprise.
They’re going to need spies, after all, if they plan on playing war games, and the ability to memorize faces, conversations, and documents will come in handy.
Leonard wants to ask about that, actually, but he’s not sure how much their Vulcan guests know about their situation, so he keeps quiet, taking notes on his PADD while Cupcake asks questions and Jim makes easy observations in between toothy, pleased smiles and furrowed, thoughtful looks.
“The weapon most commonly used for this technique is called a shik-ah,” Sybok says, finally opening the long, rectangular box that had been sitting on the table since the beginning of the meeting. “The only world in Vulcan that has no Standard translation.”
Bones leans forward to get a better look. The blade itself is small, twenty inches or so, the unfamiliar metal shining an eerie blue unlike anything he’s ever seen. It’s a double-edged sword, quite literally— it’ll slice through skin and bone like butter.
“This looks like it should come with a shield,” he says after a moment, looking at Sybok. “Or a second shik-ah.”
“Warriors of old carried shields made of seh’lat skin,” Sybok agrees. “Seeing as the preferred breed is listed as endangered, I thought it best to rely on more modern technologies for that.” He pushes back his sleeve in demonstration, revealing the edges of an angry black tattoo and a wide, silver bracer, devoid of any marking save for a single line etched along the outer forearm. Crooking his elbow, he raises his fist, thumb facing his chest, and smacks himself soundly on the sternum.
A blue shield snaps into existence, distorting his face with a hum of white energy. It stretches from just beyond the first knuckle of his fist to an inch beyond his elbow, and reaches from his waist to the base of his throat.
“Handy,” Jim says. “Can I get it in a size four?”
Sybok— laughs? Sybok laughs, a big, boisterous belly laugh that definitely fits Leonard’s stereotype for a man with a beard like that.
“This is the only one available,” he says. “But, if you permit me, I will happily lend a hand in developing more for your crew.”
Jim nods once.
“I want everyone outfitted,” he says, looking at Spock. “Not just the Deadshirts. If you’re on this crew, you have a shield. No excuses.”
“Logical, captain.” Spock glances at the shield thoughtfully. “Though we may need supplies.”
“Worry not, Spock,” T’Pau says. “Aboard my ship, the necessary parts are. Easier to travel with pieces, it was.”
“In case we were stopped.” Sybok makes a face. “Which we were. Apparently Lady T’Pau of the Vulcan Council is not allowed to simply travel without three separate Federation ships hailing us.”
“Well, why would you ever want to?” Jim murmurs. Sighing, he pushes himself to his feet.
“We’ll begin training immediately,” he says, nodding to Sybok and Lady T’Pau. “I know the journey was long. Please, feel free to freshen up in our guest quarters— my colleagues and I will need a moment to organize everything, anyway.”
Lady T’Pau nods, rising slowly from her chair.
“Vulcan has always known all is not so clean and bright as the Federation would have us believe,” she says, peering at Jim intently. “But the Enterprise, I believe, is the last straw.” Nodding to Leonard, she makes her way out into the hall, leaving the men... to deal with it.
“A Vulcan just used a metaphor, Bones,” Cupcake mutters, eyes worried when he looks at Leonard. “I think we’ve stepped in shit too deep.”
Clearly, because a Vulcan councilwoman sort of just gave their plans for treason her blessing— at least, that's what it sounded like to him.
“Yeah, ‘cake,” Leonard says, reaching for his teacup and wishing he’d thought to bring his flask, instead. “I think I agree with you.”
“Sybok wishes to remain on the ship to aid you and Lieutenant Commander Hendorff,” Spock says as they watch Sybok and T’Pau dance through a demonstration of shining metal and unnatural flexibility. “My grandmother would also prefer it.”
“He’s a weirdo, to other Vulcans,” Leonard says, not looking away from the spar. “Isn’t he?”
Spock is silent for a moment.
“Sybok claimed to hear the voice of God from an early age,” he says after a moment. “He brought shame to my father when he was expelled from the Vulcan School of Healing after his teacher discovered he was tampering with his patients memories, turning them into slaves of his will in an effort to find a ship and a crew willing to help him in his quest to find the source of the voice. He was sent to a rest home in an effort to help him regain control of his emotions.” Spock pauses. “I was not aware he had survived the destruction of Vulcan until I reached out to my grandmother for aid. My father remains unaware of this fact.”
“In short,” Spock agrees. “I have a feeling, however, that my grandmother has hidden more from my father than Sybok.”
Leonard hums, suppressing a smile.
“You’ve got a feeling, huh?” he asks. “Guess your dad doesn’t much agree with the way T’Pau does things. Or vice versa, if the most logical decision she could see was to let your father continue thinking one of his sons was dead.”
“I have reached a similar conclusion,” Spock says. “But then, my grandmother has always been a radical.”
“She allowed my father to marry my mother,” Spock points out. “By all accounts, she is more progressive than most would think.”
Well, that’s good to know, Leonard thinks. Spock’s had a lot of hardship in his life. It’s nice to hear there’s somebody around who might just be in his corner.
“Is she gonna stay with us, too?”
Spock shakes his head.
“She is political figure,” he says. “Considering our unique situation aboard the Enterprise, it is better for her to remain at a distance— at least, for now.”
“This is going to get very big very quickly,” he says. “And it’s going to blow up in our faces, isn’t it?”
“Perhaps,” Spock agrees. “But it is better than doing nothing at all. The Federation should know better than to allow the situation on Sorasia II to remain as it is— wars do not just go away, they are only postponed to someone else’s advantage.”
“That’s Machiavelli,” Leonard says idly.
“Very good, Doctor.” Spock is doing that thing where he’s smiling without smiling when Leonard turns to look at him. He seems… happy, almost, shoulder to shoulder with Leonard as Bronson allows Sybok to use her for another demonstration. “I thought it fitting.”
“It’s certainly starting to be,” Leonard agrees, sighing quietly. “I hate it, a little bit.”
“Which is why we must work to change it,” Spock says. “The actions we have begun taking are the first steps to something more meaningful. What we do here and now may change the Federation forever, though for better or for worse, I have yet to tell.”
Jim is standing to the side with Hendorff on the opposite side of the room, their heads bent together over a PADD as they no doubt make plans for war. Leonard watches him for a moment, then sighs.
“We’re going to follow that crazy fuck to the end of the universe, aren’t we?” he says, resigned.
“Of course,” Spock says. “We love him.”
“We do,” Leonard agrees. “In different ways.”
“Now that, Leonard, I am unsure of,” Spock says. “But my theory is not one I can prove, quite yet.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Spock looks at him, then, and there’s a purpose in his eyes like Leonard’s never seen. Slowly, purposefully, he raises a hand, two fingers extended.
Leonard knows what that is, and his cheeks go pink.
“I— you— what—” Leonard stops, eyes darting between Spock’s face, Spock’s fingers, and Jim, still distracted by his PADD. “Does Jim know?”
“He and I have discussed the possibilities,” Spock says. “He is not averse to an arrangement, should you be interested.”
“I had no idea,” he says. “You… like me?”
“I think you need a stronger word, Leonard,” Spock says, and there’s a teasing, playful note to his words. “Do you accept?”
Leonard… Leonard thinks about it. He thinks of the fear that had sparked up his spine when Spock found him missing an eye and quiet, increasingly intimate conversations over tea and whisky in the late hours of the ship. He thinks of a hug, one he remembers fondly, and how maybe, there might have been something there.
“I… am possibly the most oblivious man in the known universe,” he says, looking at Spock.
There’s good humor sparkling in Spock’s dark eyes when he meets Leonard’s gaze, warm and familiar.
“I am afraid, Leonard, that we are as of yet unable to prove such a claim,” he says. “But I find I am not displeased. Jim will have someone else to tease, now.”
“That might require some more conversation,” Leonard says. “But okay. Yeah. This… would be nice.” He moves, then, raising his hand to mimic Spock’s gesture before touching his fingertips to Spock’s the same way he’s seen Jim do it a hundred times. It seems like a simple gesture, and it is, but Leonard can’t help the shiver of nervousness that runs down his spine when their fingers touch.
“No need to be nervous, Leonard,” he says. “Not because of me.”
“I’m not nervous,” Leonard lies. “I’m just out of practice.”
He thinks he sees Spock’s lip quirk, but it’s gone before he can prove it.
“Rest assured, Leonard,” Spock says. “I believe I can help you with that.”
Spock is dating Jim, and while Leonard has entertained the thought, he’s never followed through, though apparently some sort of conversation was had, because Jim hardly looks up despite the fact that Leonard is pretty damn sure that he and Spock have some sort of crazy mental link that they won’t admit to. Spock is dating his best friend (and boss), they’re all on duty, Spock’s grandmother and brother are both here, there’s a war looming on the horizon and they’re going to be the reason why it happens, and here Leonard is, making out with him in front of literally the entire Alpha Security crew.
Eh, fuck it.
So! Last chapter. It's not perfect, but it's done, with more than enough space for it to grow should I get the itch to expand beyond the implication of a dark universe, which I probably will, though when, I don't know. I'm trying to get my life together, guys, and the first step is finishing my current WIPs— we'll see how far I can get before the clock strikes midnight and I turn back into a sloth.
Anyway, thanks to all of you for reading this, and for having patience with me while I wrote it! I know it's technically quarter after twelve at this point and technically January second, but fuck it, Happy New Year! May blessings be upon you all in this upcoming year!