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Shades of Grey

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Title: Shades of Grey

Author: Gixxer Pilot

Summary: All he wanted was to spend a couple of relaxing days with his daughter, but apparently the cosmos were of the opinion that they weren't quite done screwing with Leonard McCoy's life.

Author's Notes: Gift fic for Space-Case-Writer13, who, every time I start a new Star Trek fic, asks me straight away if Joanna will make an appearance. Normally, my answer is no because I can never seem to work McCoy's kid into a fic, but this time, I actually had an idea that revolved around her. So, my dear, here you go. This fic's got a little bit of everything - a lot of humor, some angst, a side of drama, and a lot of family themes. (Grandpa!Pike FTW!) Though the end might be shocking, I promise it'll conclude on a happy note. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: Star Trek, and all its characters, is not mine. Please don't sue me. If Columbia Records can win a $2 million lawsuit against a woman for uploading twenty-four songs, I think I'd be screwed against the epic that is Paramount. I'm just playing in the sandbox and will return the characters no worse for wear.

Chapter 1

Six-year-old Joanna McCoy bounded down the platform of the shuttle dock to the waiting crowd of people, brown pigtails swinging back and forth at her shoulders. Behind her, a frustrated female voice hollered, "Jo! Wait!" while the young girl plowed ahead, unconcerned with the people in her way. Clutching her newly acquired PADD to her chest, Jo had one goal in mind. She weaved and ducked, moving against the throng of people like a salmon swimming upstream. When a familiar pair of legs materialized in front of her, Joanna planted her right foot and launched herself squarely into the chest of the waiting man, squealing in delight when she felt his arms wrap protectively around her.


Giving his daughter a gentle kiss on the head, Leonard McCoy said, "Hello, darlin'. How has my best girl been?"

Giggling into his shoulder, Joanna raised her eyes and said, "I'm your only girl, Daddy!"

McCoy's eyes widened, a shocked, surprised expression of mock-seriousness making its way across his face. As if hearing the news for the first time, he gasped dramatically. "Well, I didn't know that. I'm glad you told me and cleared that right up for me." Walking forward with his daughter in tow, Bones stopped in front of his ex wife. He took an unconscious deep breath, bracing himself for the inevitable onslaught. They'd been making progress, but 'progress' was always separated by about two thousand miles. Gruffly, he said, "Joss."

"Len." Her features were tight; she didn't look joyously happy, but at least she was being civil. Her face wasn't contorted in anger, and she wasn't throwing things at him. It seemed that a little separation and some time had done her well in the temper department, and it was a marked improvement since the last time they were physically in the same room. Jocelyn, for a woman whose biggest athletic achievement was standing on a ladder to hang a new picture, had surprisingly good aim with the vases she heaved at her ex's head. McCoy still had the scar right at his hairline to prove it.

Reaching down, Jocelyn picked up Joanna's pink patent leather backpack and small suitcase from the floor and handed it to him. She twisted her hands together, worrying through the small gesture. "Here's all her stuff. There should be enough clothes in there for four days, but if you need to, just buy her something. Her bedtime is eight o'clock and all the phone numbers you might need are listed in the message I sent you. There's a list of medications she takes-"

McCoy laid his hand gently over Jocelyn's. She halted her rambling and licked her lips. Recognizing it was a big step for her to relinquish control of her daughter for more than a supervised visit, he said, "It's okay. I've got it. I'm a doctor, remember?" It was the first time Joanna was going to be staying alone with her father since their divorce and his subsequent enlistment into Starfleet, and he wanted to have other opportunities. If that meant putting aside all the bullshit of the past two years to be able to see Joanna, McCoy was willing to do it. "I'll be staying in the family wing of the campus for this weekend. If you need me, call me at the number I gave you. Otherwise, Jim has all the information, too."

Jocelyn rolled her eyes, a move she'd most certainly picked up from Len. "Right. Jim. Your sex-crazed, genius but somewhat annoying roommate. Like I'm going to count on him."

"Jim's a good guy, Joss. A little immature, but he's loyal. I trust him," McCoy corrected, though it was without the stinging tone he frequently employed during the dying breaths of their marriage. Shifting his daughter on his hip, he peaked out the corner of his left eye. Joanna was sound asleep against Len's shoulder, her head nestled right in the crook of his neck. She had two handfuls of his shirt and was holding on to it for dear life. Quietly, McCoy picked up Jo's stuff and whispered, "I think it's time to go."

With one gentle hand, Jocelyn reached out and ran her fingers through Jo's hair. The little girl stirred and opened her bleary, sleep filled eyes. "Mommy?"

"Jojo, your daddy is going to take you for a few days, okay?" Jocelyn said quietly.

The little girl's warm brown eyes regarded her mother. "You're not staying?"

Jocelyn smiled and touched Jo gently on the chin. "No, sweetheart. Remember I told you about your big overnight trip to see you daddy, the special one where only he's allowed? This is the one. So, you be good for him and have fun, okay?"

Joanna nodded and settled back in to sleep against her father. "Okay, Mommy."

Len stood and wisely said nothing, instead willing his heart to stop racing before Jo felt it pounding through his shirt. "The trip really must have knocked her out," he said when he felt like his body was under control. It pained him to admit, even to himself, how excited he was to see his little girl for the weekend, and the anticipation nearly killed him.

"She was so excited. I don't think she slept all last night, and she loved the shuttle ride here," Jocelyn replied. "She kept bouncing all over the place. I had a hard time keeping her stationary for more than ten minutes."

"She doesn't get that from me," McCoy snorted. He inwardly shuddered at the mere thought of being in a cramped, confined shuttle, staring out in the endless black of space. Though it was a requirement for all cadets to learn to at least bring in a shuttle to land, it was a course McCoy kept pushing back, procrastinating until the very last moment. He'd have to do it next semester if he hoped to stay in the program, and it was something he had positively zero desire to do. He still felt like he wanted to climb the walls or puke when he got into one of those flying death traps, let alone be the one in control of it.

"No, definitely not," she agreed.

Readjusting his grip on Jo's stuff, he said, "I'll call you tomorrow night, Joss, so you can check in with her."

Shaking her head, Jocelyn said, "You don't have to, Len."

With a wave of his hand, McCoy cut her off. "I want to. You need to feel comfortable here as much as she does. If we're going to be good parents together, we at least have to get along."

Jocelyn offered a watery, nervous smile. "I think I can do that," For once, she was being completely honest. The stress of the divorce proceedings and subsequent custody hearings drained her physically and emotionally, and by looking at her ex's face, she could see it did the same to him. Sometimes, Jocelyn kicked herself for the cruel way she treated McCoy during their divorce. She really didn't need to go for his jugular, leaving him few other options but to join the military if he wanted a prayer to practice medicine again. But she was angry, hurt and embarrassed, and going at him professionally and personally was the only way she knew how to exact her revenge. Jocelyn had no professional career to call her own, and though she felt there was no other important goal than mothering, being an awesome parent didn't really carry much weight on a resume.

But in was in those rare moments of introspection that she reminded herself Len was no saint, either. She'd acknowledged her role in their failed union, but she felt that he was just as responsible for the implosion of their marriage as she. He worked too hard, drank way too much, and neglected his family at home. But she was ready to put it all behind her; all the irrational anger and finger pointing and blame games would only hurt Joanna in the long run if they couldn't stand to be in the same room for more than five minutes. She wanted to move on, and that meant forgiving him. Jocelyn stood on her toes and gave Joanna a kiss, patting Len on the shoulder. Turning, she walked back toward the shuttle, and back to Georgia.

McCoy stood and watched her walk away, Joanna's bags dangling from his fingertips. He had mixed feelings about his ex still, but at least some of the bitterness he'd harbored for nearly two years was beginning to subside. McCoy attested some of that to time, and most of it to Jim. The younger man listened patiently to what little bits the doctor would divulge each and every time, and did nothing more than be a friend. Len had to admit it was worth it, just to be able to hold his baby girl again. "Well, little girl. It's just you and me. What do you say we go check out our new home for the next few days, huh?"

McCoy walked across campus toward the family wing of Starfleet Academy's dormitories. Since starships were designed to house families, it was only prudent the school which funneled the personnel to the ships make similar accommodations. There were few cadets who permanently lived in the units with their families, and most, like McCoy, used them for visits. Truthfully, the doctor was just happy they existed, since he wasn't sure how it would have worked if Jo were forced to share a room with both him and Kirk.

Unlocking the door, McCoy sighed. He moved all his necessary stuff into the fully furnished apartment the night before so he knew there was nothing missing. After being in a dorm with Jim Kirk for the better part of six months, the small individual space he was able to secure for the duration of Joanna's stay was positively heavenly. The exterior door opened to a small entryway with a hallway straight ahead leading to two bedrooms and a bathroom. The kitchen was on his right, with a small dining area behind that. The living room separated the bedrooms from the kitchen, and was furnished functionally by a coffee table, couch and vidscreen. None of the rooms were spacious by any stretch of the imagination, but Len could have cried at the prospect of his own bathroom he knew was cleaned more than once a month.

Setting his keycard on the kitchen counter, McCoy walked Joanna back to the smaller of the two bedrooms. He laid his little girl down on the bed, placing her favorite blanket over her. Leaning over, Len dropped a gentle kiss on her forehead and simply stood, rooted in place, and stared. He'd missed this, the feeling home and love. He missed his real house, his real rooms, home cooked meals that weren't prepared by the truckload for mass consumption, and most of all, he missed the feeling of family.

He missed Joanna.

McCoy never admitted to Kirk how rough his divorce really was, though he figured the kid was able to draw his own conclusions. Kirk got half the story from his roommate during first semester through the impossible-to-miss screaming and swearing comm-fights, commonplace in the shared room; he got the other half when McCoy would drunkenly rant on about his relationship, his daughter and his failed life. Three semesters later, though he managed to cut back on his drinking and was slightly less pessimistic about the universe, the painful reminders that he'd lost his family sat in full view on his bookshelf. A holopic of Jo had its place, the only think Kirk wouldn't ever dare touch, next to McCoy's data PADDs for his classes. He kept the bottle of bourbon next to Jo's holo as a silent warning to himself of what alcohol and work cost him. It was his fault, too, something Kirk helped him realize. The strange thing was that he wasn't ashamed to admit it, though not that his new found sense of accountability made it hurt any less.

But standing over his sleeping daughter's bed, McCoy felt all the stress and tension that gathered the last two years slip from his body. His life might not be right; after this weekend, he'd go back to working hospital shifts while plowing through classes, living in a dorm with kids a decade his junior, all while trying to forget that his future has him destined for the deep reaches of space. But in that moment, standing sentry over Jo as nothing more than a father with his daughter, everything was just fine in the world.

He had to force his feet to move, tiptoeing quietly out of the room. Len pulled the door closed to douse the light from the hall, but left it open a crack in case Jo needed something. Flipping on the vidscreen as he passed, McCoy scowled when he realized there was nothing on. Channel surfing for twenty minutes, he finally gave up and snagged one of the PADDs he'd left on the coffee table. The doctor's concentration was decidedly elsewhere, so he set the article down. He walked into the kitchen, grabbed a glass of water, and headed straight back for the couch. Sinking into the cushions with a muted groan of pleasure, McCoy stretched his legs out on the coffee table, put his arms on the back of the couch, and let his head tip backwards into the cushions. The vidscreen chattered away in the background, the sounds lulling the doctor toward sleep. 'Just five minutes,' he told himself and closed his eyes for a short nap.

Joanna woke slowly to a plethora of unfamiliar smells and wrong sounds. She furrowed her little eyebrows, a gesture that was certainly a genetic McCoy trait. Lifting her head off the pillow, she shoved the pink felt blanket from her shoulders, letting it fall to the ground. Carefully, she slid out of bed and ambled toward the door. She pushed it open and wandered out in to the hallway. It was starting to come back to her; the packing, the shuttle ride, seeing her father. Confusion gave way to excitement as she rounded the corner, expecting to hear her father rattling around in what was apparently their home for the next few days.

Entering the living room, Joanna was met with the sight of her father, but instead of looking busy, he was sound asleep on the couch. Jo stifled a giggle when McCoy snorted in his sleep and continued snoring away. She nibbled on her lip, a mischievous expression ghosting over her face. With a good head of steam, Jo ran toward the couch, jumped up on the coffee table, and propelled her little body right into McCoy's lap.

Len woke with a start, nearly screeching in pain when a little knee made a solid connection with his 'family jewels'. He bit down on his lip and sucked in a couple of deep breaths through his nose, gently shifting Jo over and to the left so his testicle could stop sending rather unpleasant messages of pain to his brain. "Jojo, when did you wake up?"

"A little bit ago!" she exclaimed, bouncing next to him on the couch. "I was hungry. My tummy was rumbling."

At that moment, Joanna's stomach growled loudly, a sound that pulled a light laugh from the doctor. "So it is. I'll tell you what: let's go get a snack, and then we have to go meet a friend of mine for dinner. How does that sound?"

"Is there ice cream?" Joanna asked, pulling out her 'A' game sweet, cute and innocent smile.

"Maybe if you're good. We'll see, Jo," McCoy replied seriously, waving a finger at her in the air.

Joanna clapped happily. 'We'll see,' in daddy speak meant, 'Yes, I will cave to your every demand,' a fact the little girl learned early on to exploit.

Getting up off the couch, McCoy clicked the vidscreen channel to something more appropriate for children. He dropped the remote next to Jo and went to the closet to grab her carry on bag. Setting it beside her, he said, "Why don't you play for a little while so I can make you a snack. Then, we'll go get some real food, okay?"

"'Kay!" Jo answered, digging into her bag with gusto. A tsunami of toys came flying out, littering the floor of the living room with such speed that even the little girl herself didn't know what to play with first.

McCoy went to the kitched and started rummaging through the refrigerator. His search yielded a cup of applesauce and a small handful of carrot sticks. Balancing the snacks in his hand, he shut the door and grabbed a spoon, walking into the living room. Setting all three items on the coffee table, McCoy said, "Jo? Here's your snack."

Jo threw down her tiny plastic space ship and came to join her father. She sat and started nibbling away at the carrot sticks, a fact that shocked the doctor. "Thanks, Daddy."

"You're welcome, sweetheart," he said, tousling her hair. Scooting up closer to her, McCoy asked, "Jo, how would you like to meet a friend of mine? I think you'll like him."

"Okay," she answered after a serious round of contemplation.

Scratching his head, Len asked, "Is that a problem, Jo?" It wasn't as if Joanna was shy; genetics gave the little girl her father's looks but none of his introverted personality. Never had or would she struggle striking up a conversation or lighting up a room with her presence. It made McCoy shudder to think about how similar she was to Jim, and Jo was only six. Meeting Jim should be the last of his worries.

With an expression Len could only have described as 'desperate', Joanna looked him in the eyes and asked, "Does he have ice cream?"

McCoy threw back his head and laughed. Six year olds had wonderfully clear priorities.

Next Up: Jo and Bones have dinner with Kirk.


Chapter Text

Chapter 2

"Where are we going, Daddy?"

McCoy rolled his eyes good-naturedly. "I told you before, Jo. We're going to my room to see Jim, my friend."

"But we're staying over there!" she said, pointing back toward the family wing of the campus. Jo's face was scrunched up in confusion, a slightly pouty look worming its way across her face.

"We're only in there because you're here. Otherwise, I live in a little room with Jim. Remember? I told you that while you were eating your snack, or were you just concentrating on your food?" McCoy replied, smiling. He held his daughter's hand as they walked through the quad area of the school, the spring air carrying in a light smelling breeze from the bay.

"Oh. Yeah." Joanna was proving her age, her attention span lasting a couple of minutes at most. Her head was on a swivel, taking in everything about the expansive campus. Suddenly, she stopped, pulling Len off balance with her. Hands on her hips, Joanna asked seriously, "Why is everyone dressed in red? And why aren't you in red?"

"Well, I normally am, but because you're so special to come here, I got excused from work and school for a few days." McCoy said as the pair hit the front steps of the dorm. With his key card, the doctor deactivated the lock and lead Joanna up the stairs, ignoring the pointed, shocked stares of his dorm mates. Len scowled when he stopped outside his shared room; after living with Jim for almost two years, he shouldn't have been surprised at the message that greeted his eyes. On the whiteboard hanging on the outside of the door, Kirk wrote, 'Giving head. Cum back in ten.' With his shirtsleeve, McCoy reached up, erased the lewd message and opened the door. "Jim! You'd better be wearing clothes, because we're coming in!"

The young girl's eyes roamed around the new surroundings. Way smaller than her temporary home on the other side of campus, the new place was just one room. The door opened to the right side of the room, with a half dresser supporting a mini-fridge directly in front of the door, leaning against the wall. In front of that was a set of bunk beds, which were surprisingly both made. A vidscreen was directly to Jo's left, adjacent to the closet. On the opposite wall from the beds sat Kirk and McCoy's desks. Kirk's was cluttered with various trinkets and PADDs, while McCoy's was much neater. The bookshelf on the wall directly opposite the vidscreen and next to the bunk beds held a plethora of eclectic titles, and as Jo noticed, a holo of her. She wandered over to it and fingered it gently. Pointing, she exclaimed, "That's me!"

"It is you," McCoy said, a little self-conscious that the first thing she gravitated towards was her own picture. At least he'd remembered to stow the extra large bottle of bourbon before she arrived. He walked over and sat down on the bed, lifting Jo in his lap.

Kirk shifted in the upper bunk, the springs squeaking under his weight as he sat up. Two feet and a set of legs appeared over the side, and before Jo realized it, another person was standing in front of her. Jim's feet landed with a graceful thud on the carpet and he turned around to greet her. The blonde man knelt down and peered through to where Joanna was hiding. He gave her his best smile and said, "I'm Jim. What's your name?"

Suddenly shy, Joanna wrapped herself around the backside of her father's torso when she realized there was another person in the room. She hadn't seen Jim upon their entrance, and her excitement over the new surroundings distracted her from noticing him. With trepidation in her eyes, she asked a hesitant, "Daddy?"

"Remember what I said before, Jo?" Len asked with a weary sigh, recounting the six times he told her that she'd be meeting his roommate today. "That's Jim, my friend."

"Oh." Her face visibly relaxed when McCoy said 'friend' in reference to Kirk, but she said nothing more. Though she seemed more curious and less afraid, she still wouldn't look Kirk in the eye.

Tilting his head to the side and laying on the charm which was way over the line of totally cheesy, he said, "I heard there was a pretty little girl visiting us tonight, but I never realized she'd be this beautiful." Kirk cracked a grin when he could practically hear his roommate rolling his eyes.

Before Joanna could formulate an answer, McCoy grumbled, "She's six. Your infantile charms won't work on her."

Just because her sole purpose in life was to prove her father wrong, Joanna squeezed her way past McCoy's chest and the headboard of the bed and stopped right in front of Jim. Giving him the once over, she gave Kirk a shy smile and responded with a simple, "Hi."

Jim smirked. Still squatting, he angled his face up toward McCoy, a triumphant expression dancing in his eyes.

McCoy growled. "Not a word, Jim. Not a goddamned word."

Joanna gasped. "Daddy! You said a bad word!"

Closing his eyes, Len went through in his head every dirty and lascivious phrase he'd ever heard, cursing Jim to the high reaches of heaven. Trust his daughter to form an almost instantaneous bond with Kirk and for the two of them to be making his life miserable five minutes in. Looking down at Jo, McCoy said, "I'm sorry, darlin'. It slipped out and you know it's not good to swear. I know that, too, but Mr. Jim here isn't behaving himself like he should." The doctor threw a glare of warning toward his roommate, the latter still silently guffawing.

"Hey! I'm doing just fine over here. It's the cursing doctor who can't control his mouth," Kirk said after he was able to stem his laughter to a manageable level.

Joanna dissolved into a fit of giggles. "You're funny!" She looked behind her to McCoy. "Daddy, Mr. Jim is funny!"

"Of course. Of all the people, you latch onto my roommate. God help me," McCoy muttered. Perhaps a change of subject and a change of venue would be in order and would help distract Jo. "I thought someone was hungry. Who wants spaghetti?"

Two hands instantly shot up, one adult and one child. "I do!" Kirk and Jo exclaimed simultaneously.


The walk to the restaurant was blissfully short, and Jo chatted liberally with Kirk as they went. McCoy could clearly see that she was relaxing in Jim's presence, something he wasn't sure should worry him or make him happy. Upon entering the little Italian place across from campus, they were able to secure a table in the back of the party room where the helpful server set Jo up with a PADD and some colored pens. She drew away happily while the two men chatted amongst themselves.

"So how'd you pull this off, Bones? I want to know how you got Starfleet to excuse you from two days' worth of classes without failing you," Kirk asked when the server delivered their drinks.

"Pike, actually. He's taken to meddling in my personal life as some type of sport, since lord knows that running Starfleet Academy isn't enough for him to do," McCoy replied, taking sip of his water. "He said he thought it would be good for me to see my kid every once in a while, and that he felt it might make me less of an a-" He abruptly cut himself off, remembering Jo's presence and corrected it to, "less of a jerk if I saw her more than just over a comm line."

"Jocelyn was okay with it?" Jim asked hesitantly. Though he knew things had improved significantly, it was still odd to him, after all the screaming and swearing, that one call from a Starfleet captain could change Jocelyn Darnell's perception of Leonard McCoy.

Taking a deep breath, McCoy rotated the glass around a fixed point on the table and stared into it, as if it was a magical crystal ball with all the answers to his somewhat fucked up life. "I don't know. I think she was nervous about it. Hell, I was nervous about Jo even coming. What if she hated me? What if she cried the whole time? I don't blame Joss for having reservations, especially given my history."

Kirk read between the lines. McCoy's 'history' was that of an unofficial alcoholic, and a snarky, irresponsible drunk at that. Jocelyn had plenty of ammunition to fire salvo after salvo at her ex in divorce and family court, and she'd pulled out all the stops. Jim was thrilled to see that Bones and Jocelyn managed to move on from all the hate and bitterness, but it still made him cringe to think about just how low his best friend fell in the immediate aftermath of his divorce. "Yeah, all that crap was to make you the stunning person you are today," Jim said, giving Bones a manly shove to the shoulder.

"Thanks." McCoy smirked, lifting up his water glass and taking another sip. He'd not, by a long shot, quit drinking, but his paranoia over keeping Jo safe while she was in his charge precluded any type of alcoholic beverage from entering his system for the duration of her stay. He'd come this far with Jocelyn, and he wasn't about to screw himself out of what was likely his one and only chance to get it right. His ex was willing to work with him, but her message was loud and clear: put one toe out of line, and she would not hesitate to cut his balls off with a dull, rusty saw.

Their food arrived as McCoy finished talking. Len helped Jo cut up her spaghetti. He gave it a stir so she wouldn't burn her mouth before digging into his own plate. For a few minutes, a blissful silence descended upon the table; the only sounds made were the ones that came from three hungry, happy people satisfying their need for good company and good food. But trouble, whether minor or major, tended to follow Jim, and the current outing was no exception.

Joanna set her fork down, a serious expression on her face. With the same bunched up eyebrows and creased forehead she'd used earlier when she woke up in the Starfleet apartment, the little girl pondered her words carefully. Jo looked her father in the eye, and in the instant he shoveled a gigantic forkful of lasagna in his mouth, she asked, "Daddy, what's giving head?"

With an epic clatter of dishes, Kirk's hands banged down on the table, a loud, long belly laugh making its way from the younger man. Jim quickly grabbed some water to wash down his spaghetti as to avoid choking on it, wiping the tears from his eyes with the back of his hand. Wheezing pathetically, Kirk couldn't even speak, let alone form a coherent thought. He settled for clapping Bones on the shoulder and pounding his fist a couple of times on the table while he rested his forehead just to the right of his plate.

In a totally opposite reaction, McCoy spit his lasagna all over the table. His eyes bulged so wide Joanna was momentarily frightened that something was wrong with her father. The fork he was holding pinged innocently off the dish where the doctor dropped it while McCoy's jaw nearly hit the floor. Gasping for air, he reached for his napkin to wipe his face from the sauce that dribbled down his chin. "Joanna Lynn McCoy! Where in god's creation did you hear that?"

"I read it! It was on your door, where Mr. Jim was," she answered matter of factly. Totally unaware of the ruckus she'd caused, Jo picked away at her child's portion of spaghetti. "Why? Is it bad?"

McCoy looked over at Jim with a perfectly murderous expression on his face. In Kirk's defense, Len himself didn't think Joanna got a good enough look at the message scrawled on their door, but apparently he'd been wrong. He'd never admit that to Jim, but the thought was at least there. In a deep, dark tone, McCoy stared right at Kirk and warned, "Jim…"

Kirk put his hands defensively, doing his best to hold in any remaining laughter from bubbling to the surface. His success was varied, the entire booth shaking as Jim fought not to make a sound. "What? I didn't know she could read like that! What is she, six? Most six year olds can't read full sentences, let alone remember what they said a half hour later!" Trust Bones to have a kid who was not only adorable, but also brilliant to boot. Had he known how smart Joanna truly was, Kirk probably would have written something more PG on the board, but it was rather amusing to see McCoy seven shades of red while he tried not to rant.

Joanna piped up, insistent. "Daddy! Tell me what it means!"

Len let out a strange noise of frustration, wishing a hole would open up under the table so he could crawl in it. For once in his life, he wished Jocelyn were here to help him out. She'd know what to say, and how to answer Jo's question without really answering it. Women were much better at things such as that, as most of the female species developed something that his instructors labeled as 'tact'. It was a newly discovered skill he clearly lacked, and even with his brilliant brain, he had positively no clue what to say. Sighing, McCoy took the coward's way out and settled on, "Baby, I can't tell you what it means. It's a grown-up thing."

Jo crossed her arms over her chest and literally pouted. The expression on her face and her body language sent Kirk into an entirely new fit of giggles, since Jo's pose matched exactly to McCoy's when he was pissed off. The only difference was that she wasn't cursing him out, calling him every name under the sun and then some, or jabbing a hypo rudely into his neck. Puffing out her lower lip, Jo practically whined, "That's not fair, Daddy."

"I know, Jo. But sometimes life isn't fair. You'll have plenty of time for grown up things when you're older. For now you don't need to know what that is," McCoy said as gently as he could. Under the table, he stomped as hard as he could on Jim's shin, hoping it'd leave a nice heel impression. Len took a bit of sick, twisted pleasure in the muted squeak of pain that emanated from Kirk, and the glare he received in return.

"God! Stop it, Bones!"

Len leaned over and laid his open palm on Jim's shoulder. In a harsh whisper directly into Kirk's ear, McCoy hissed, "Jim, you can thank whatever deity you pray to that my daughter is sitting in front of you. I'm trying to raise her to be a lady, so killing you with my bare hands wouldn't be very appropriate for her to see."

Jim wasn't sure if the correct response was to laugh or to be afraid. He settled eventually on laughter, letting his mischievous nature shine straight through. "You'd have to catch me first."

"Don't tempt me," McCoy said, low and deadly.

Jim shuddered at the feral look in McCoy's eyes. He scooted back as far as he could in the booth, wondering if it would be appropriate to hop over the table and sprint out the door. Normally, Bones was totally harmless; he was a doctor, not a brawler, and he showed it every time he was forced to do anything that resembled hand-to-hand combat. Kirk always soundly whipped him, and did so without ever once breaking a sweat. For all of eternity, Jim would always be the superior fighter, the one who would take down the threat while McCoy mumbled about unnecessary risks. But apparently, accidental teaching something lascivious to his best friend's daughter totally changed the course of the game.

Maybe Bones wasn't so harmless after all.

Next Up: Joanna meets Captain Christopher Pike and takes another shuttle ride.

Chapter Text

Chapter 3

Mornings were not Leonard McCoy's thing. He did evenings well. He and late nights got on quite perfectly. Hell, he was even on speaking terms with mid-afternoon. But above all else, he hate mornings with a searing, burning passion. Dragging himself out a nice, warm bed at the ass crack of dawn was up on Len's list of likes right along with lion taming or flying in the front seat of a shuttle piloted by Kirk. Normally, his mornings consisted of being dead tired because he stumbled in to his room at oh-dark-thirty after working a long shift at the hospital that directly followed his classes. If he got three hours' sleep, McCoy normally considered that a small victory, caffeinated, and dealt with the injustice of it all.

It was a curious feeling to wake up feeling rested and relaxed as he did the morning after Joanna's arrival. McCoy had become so accustomed to the perpetual state of exhaustion that any other feeling was foreign, and one that took some initial re-adjustment. Though Len hated to admit at any point in his life that Jim Kirk may have a valid point, he begrudgingly came to the conclusion that Jim was right: he needed to do something to de-stress. Seeing his daughter for the first time in two years seemed to have done the trick. Not only did he sleep through the night, he did so without the dreams that normally plagued him in his sleep. Though wouldn't quite classify them as nightmares, his dreams often tormented him, reminding the doctor often of what he'd lost. Joanna, McCoy theorized, appeared to have a calming presence, despite the fact she was nothing but a bundle of energy.

After dinner the night previous, the trio of one adult (McCoy) and two children (Kirk and Jo) found themselves at a local mini golf course. Jim insisted on the activity, much to the doctor's chagrin. What erupted could only be described as ridiculous and juvenile, with Jo and Jim ganging up on McCoy to splash him with as much water as possible with their clubs from the small water trap that ran around the course. Kirk was really pushing his luck, but Len tolerated it, just to see and hear his daughter laugh. By the time they started their walk back toward campus, Jo was fast asleep against Jim's shoulder, since she insisted she was too old to be carried by her father. Jim, on the other hand, was fair game when she finally tired enough to agree.

Len alternated between cursing Jim in every language he could think of for ruining yet another pair of shoes, and smiling in Jo's general direction. Splitting up at the quad, McCoy carefully peeled his daughter from Kirk's arms. They arrived back at their apartment, and after she cleaned herself up for bed, he commed Jocelyn to let Jo talk her mother. The little girl recounted her day animatedly, thankfully leaving out the portion about Kirk and his lewd message, though she did whine that she was denied ice cream. After putting Jo down for the night, McCoy hit the rack, satisfied with how the day went.

Blinking a few times to clear his vision, McCoy scrubbed one hand over his face as he sat up in bed. Yawning liberally as he staggered to the bathroom, Len tossed in a stretch of his shoulders and back for good measure. He splashed a little cold water on his face, examined his rather messy hair, brushed his teeth and took a leak, not necessarily in that order. When he was finished, he opened the door with a singular goal in mind: coffee, and coffee fast. But as he took one step out toward the kitchen, he nearly yelped in surprise.

Standing in front of him in her nightgown, Joanna was busy rubbing the sleep from her eyes. With a giant yawn and stretch, she said, "I have to go to the bathroom, Daddy."

McCoy snapped his jaw closed and silently moved out the way. He was happy that, in his semi-comatose morning state, he'd remembered to at least pull on a pair of gym shorts before exiting his bedroom. He wasn't sure Joanna would appreciate seeing her father half-naked in the morning. Tugging at his head in a futile effort to control some of the massive bedhead at which Kirk was so fond of poking fun, McCoy said, "Okay, Jo. Wash up when you're done, and I'll start some pancakes."

One more trait father and daughter appeared to share was their loathing for mornings, but as soon as the word 'pancakes' left Len's mouth, Joanna instantly perked up. Rocketing into the bathroom, Jo was a flurry of activity as she went about her morning business.

Shaking his head once again in amazement, McCoy padded into the kitchen, clicking on the vidscreen to a children's program on his way through. Perhaps it was a bit of the proud papa syndrome, but he couldn't help but marvel at how brilliant his daughter was. Not was she reading and comprehending at an age level much higher than her own, she was already growing to be somewhat self-sufficient. It was a very welcome surprise that, after only two years, Jo required nothing but simple reminders to do her everyday tasks.

He heard the door open as he was measuring out the pancake batter. Joanna bounced into the room, settling on the couch while she quietly waited for her breakfast. Len stuck his head around the corner, wanting to make sure she was behaving herself. In his experience, albeit limited, children who were silent were usually finding new and inventive ways to get into trouble, and he was certain Joanna was no exception. Happily, she seemed no more interested in anything other than watching the educational program that McCoy chose on his vidscreen flyby.

"Joanna? Breakfast is ready," Len said, dumping a healthy portion of syrup on the two pancakes he made for Jo. He knew there was a real likelihood he'd be paying later for allowing Jo to consume so much sugar with her breakfast, but he couldn't help but indulge her. Plus, it was breakfast. She'd burn it off before lunch, or so was the theory went.

Jo was up off the couch and at the table without her feet hitting the ground. She dived into her food, syrup flying in every direction. McCoy grabbed his own plate and sat down in front of her, pushing a small glass of orange juice in her direction. He cut a chunk from his stack and shoved it in his mouth. For once, he could eat like a civilized human being at an appropriate rate, since Jim wasn't there to steal his food off his plate. "Good?" he asked with a raise of his right eyebrow. It was more a rhetorical question than an actual one.

"Mmm-hmm," Jo mumbled, her mouth full of pancakes and orange juice.

The truly wonderful thing about children was that they seemed to be perfectly happy if sweet food was somehow involved. McCoy took full advantage of the so-called quiet time to contemplate the day's activities. There was one thing he had been ordered to do while Joanna visited, and he'd prefer to get it done sooner rather than later. Taking a drink from his coffee mug, Len said, "So, Jo? I was wondering if you'd be up to meeting another friend of mine today."

The little girl shrugged. Kirk wasn't a bad guy, and Jo decided that she rather liked spending time with him. Hopefully, this new person would be just as awesome as Jim. "'Kay. Is it far away?"

Laughing, McCoy responded, "No, Jojo. It's just across campus. This friend of mine, he's a captain. Do you know what that means?"

Joanna shook her head.

"It means he's a very important person, so I need you to behave when we're there. Do you know how your mommy and I are in charge of you, making sure you do everything right, you eat your food, and you don't hurt other people?" McCoy asked, as seriously as he could.

Joanna's face contorted into a scowl. She hated being addressed as if she was an infant in the way her father was doing now. Normally, 'little kid speak' was code for, 'Please don't screw this up,' from her parents. Jo rolled her eyes. Yes, of course she was aware that her parents were the ones 'in charge' so to speak, a fact that sometimes irritated the independent little girl. It didn't mean she couldn't manipulate the situation to her advantage, but she did understand the principles behind it. It didn't mean she had to like it. Dutifully, she said, "Yes, Daddy."

Len nodded, wiping some syrup off his lips with the napkin he snagged off the kitchen counter. "Well, this friend of mine is named Captain Pike, and he's in charge of me like your mom and I are in charge of you."

"So he tells you when you have to go to the bathroom?" she asked, fork hovering halfway to her mouth. A nice little pile of syrup was forming underneath as the sticky substance dripped off the edge of the pancake.

He should have known better than to use that sort of analogy with his literally minded daughter. Rolling his eyes and guiding the fork back over his daughter's plate, McCoy sarcastically said, "Yes, Jo. Captain Pike tells me when I should go to the bathroom." Sighing, Len realized it would be funnier if what Jo said weren't so true, but such was life in the military.

"Oh," she replied. "That's nice."

With a purse of his lips, Len folded his hands on the table and said, "Jo, this is serious. I really need you to behave today." McCoy cringed internally as he thought about what Captain Pike might say if Jo asked him the same question she asked Kirk the night before. He really wasn't looking forward to spending his first posting on some distant starbase in a forgotten corner of the galaxy because his daughter pissed off Starfleet Academy's head disciplinarian.

Joanna put her fork down, finished with her food. She looked up and cocked her head to the side. She knew that look on her father's face. She'd seen it before from her mother, the one Jo would get when there was something important coming up. "Why do we have to go anyway?"

"Because Captain Pike helped me with some arrangements so we could spend time together this week," Len answered, leaving out some of the more sordid details. Joanna didn't need to know that it was Pike who commed Jocelyn in order to facilitate a more healthy relationship between parents. "I thought the least you and I could do is to say thank you."

Joanna growled lightly, the sound causing McCoy to double take. It was the same one he often made when Jim was involved. Resigned, Joanna felt properly chastised, though she was entirely unsure as to what she did wrong. She realized she'd said something that made her dad uncomfortable at dinner the night previous, but since no one would explain in to her, she wasn't sure why she was wrong. Now, she was being scolded for something she might do, and that was just wholly unfair. Tapping her fingers on the table edge, she pouted, "Okay. I'll be good."

Skeptically, Len gave his daughter the once over. He'd discovered in just a few short hours that, though she was incredibly smart, Jo was still a typical child in most other ways. She leapt before she looked, and blurted things out without thinking through any type of consequences her words might have. It wasn't as if he expected her to have developed adult foresight at six, but it wouldn't be a terrible thing to have a little brain to mouth filter. Innate curiousness was probably not a valid excuse Pike would accept should Joanna insult the captain's rank, sexual preference, mother or favorite food. But, the scowly acquiescence he got from Jo was probably as good as he was going to get, so McCoy took it, sent a prayer heavenward, and hoped for the best.

Taking in Jo's sticky fingers and the mess she'd made of her place at the table, Len heaved himself out of the chair and began collecting the syrup-encrusted dishes. He literally had to peel Joanna's plate from the table, the dish giving with a pop when the suction the syrup made gave way. In a small bit of consolation, at least her plate was empty. After he dumped the dirty dishes in sink, McCoy turned and said, "Now, are you done? If you are, we need to get you cleaned up so we can go. The captain is a busy man, and I don't want to keep him waiting."

The little girl nodded. Hopping off the chair, Joanna made her way over to the sink where her father lifted her up. He helped her wash her hands and wiped her face with a washcloth. Setting her down, McCoy rinsed his own hands and then dried them on the dish towel. "Jo, why don't you go pick out some clothes, and then get dressed."

Hesitating, Joanna bit her lip. It was a definite personality switch from the confident little girl. In a quiet voice, she said, "Mommy helps me with that." Indeed, the daily routine of clothing selection had become a bit of a tradition shared between Jocelyn and Joanna, and was really the only bout of homesickness she'd experienced thus far during her visit.

Oh. Well that was a bit of a surprise. Scratching his head, McCoy asked hesitantly, "Do you think I could help you with that today?" Internally, he cringed at the thought of what Joanna might pick out, or worse, what he'd choose. Kirk always told him he had the fashion sense of a blind man, with what the way Len always grabbed clothes at random and threw them on. McCoy always responded that beggars couldn't be choosers when in the medical field. He wore what was functional, what was comfortable, and most importantly, what wasn't covered by blood or vomit.

"I don't want foo-foo," Joanna stated, placing one hand on her hip and tapping her foot. "I don't like it. Mommy makes me wear it, and I feel dumb in it."

Laughing, Len replied, "Okay. No foo-foo. Got it." He followed his daughter into her bedroom and went to the closet where he'd hung her clothes. Opening it, he pulled out a pair of jeans and a purple hoodie with a cream colored undershirt and held it out for inspection. "What do you think?"

Jo wrinkled her nose. "It's okay, I guess."

"Well what's wrong with it?" he asked, surprised. Turning the garments around, he inspected them. There were no flowers, hearts, stars, or anything otherwise that could construed as girly on the pants or sweatshirt. Both were clean, simple and functional. Len was at a loss as to what could possibly make Joanna dislike what he'd chosen and what Jocelyn sent.

"They're girly colors, and I'm tired of girly colors," Joanna whined. "Mommy won't listen to me on that. She says that little girls need to look pretty all the time, but I think that's stupid. I want to play in the dirt, not wear dresses." She sat back down on her bed, crossed her arms over her chest and glared at the offending clothes.

Pursing his lips, he cocked a finger in Joanna's direction. With a crooked smile, he said, "Come with me, Jo. I have something I think you might like." He led Jo to his bedroom, dug to the bottom of the dresser of his drawer and pulled out a small wrapped package. He handed it to her and smiled. "I was going to wait to give this to you, since I didn't know if you'd like it. But here. Let's see what you think."

Jo snatched the package from his hands and scurried to climb up on the bed. "Can I open it?" she asked, bouncing. At Len's nod, the little girl literally tore the paper off, bits and pieces flying in every single direction. She opened the box to reveal a pint-sized Ole Miss football jersey. Len had it numbered for effect, choosing 10 in honor the Mannings and the deep-set tradition the family had with the school. With careful fingers, Joanna lifted the garment by the neckline and held it out in front of her. The entire time, she said nary a word.

The little girl's face went blank, and for a second, Len thought he was about to be treated with the biggest, most explosive temper tantrum the world had ever seen. Panic began to form in his throat while his brain spun a million different responses to her inevitable meltdown. How could he have read that so wrong? What if she locked herself in her room all weekend and refused to talk to him? What if she commed Jocelyn to come pick her up? What if? McCoy's brain second guessed every decision he made in the few short hours he'd been entrusted with Joanna's care. Shaking his head, Len mentally cursed himself for his own stupidity. Jo was a girl, and even though she claimed to dislike 'girly' things, this was probably over the line. Little girls didn't wear football jerseys. They wore pink, and used nail polish. "It's okay if you don't like it. You can tell me, and you're not going to hurt my feelings."

Joanna gripped the jersey tight in her tiny fists and cocked her head to the side as McCoy rambled on. She cut her father off by leaping off the bed and into his arms. With a gigantic smile on her face, she practically squeaked, "Daddy!"

Shocked, Len struggled to pick his jaw up off the floor. Wait. She wasn't mad? Pleasantly surprised, he fought to find the right words, instead settling on an incredulous, "Jo? You like it?"

Nodding so vigorously Len was sure she'd cracked one of the vertebrae in her neck, she wormed her way out of his arms, practically bouncing around the room. Dancing with her new gift, Jo exclaimed, "I love it! I love it! It's so cool! And it's even got a number on it!"

"Yeah, the number covers about eight people through the past 300 years of players at that school, so I think you're good, Jo," McCoy quipped, pointing toward the name emblazoned in white tackle twill on the back of Joanna's jersey. It wasn't as if he felt she'd have any concept of the magnitude of the Manning family, but he'd purposely picked one of his favorites. Len also knew it was one number that was popular with the majority of the Ole Miss alumni, and he figured he couldn't really lose with a rather ubiquitous football family. "You're okay with it? Really?"

"I like it," Jo proclaimed, fixing McCoy with a pointed stare. It was genuine; she hadn't yet learned how to lie that convincingly.

Laughing in relief, Len plopped down on his bed. He ran one hand through his still-messy hair and breathed out a giant sigh. He honestly wasn't sure what he would have done had Joanna thrown a mega tantrum short of calling Jim, and that, for the part of him that was at least somewhat male, was not a viable option. Apparently, he still had a lot to learn about his daughter's likes and dislikes; though it was nice he was treated to the positive outcome of that guessing game instead of the negative. 'If you have a lot to learn, whose fault is that? Not just Jocelyn's,' Len mentally berated himself. The thought that he knew next to nothing about his own flesh and blood made him stop, and a lump formed in his throat.

Len let his eyes slip over to where Joanna was still dancing about the room, babbling with glee to no one in particular. Though she seemed like a happy, well-adjusted child, the doctor had to remind himself what he'd missed in the last two or so years. So much of Joanna's personality developed while he was conspicuously absent, and that thought did not sit well in the pit of his stomach. He was certainly happy he and Jocelyn began to slow process to iron out their relationship enough to be parents together, but he reminded himself that he'd be limited to comm chats and letters once he graduated and received his first posting. But that was a thought for another day, and McCoy forcibly shoved the plaguing self-doubt to the back of his mind. While she was here, in front of him, Len was determined to soak in Joanna's joy over such a small gift.

Unaware of her father's introspection, Joanna's mouth worked a mile a minute. She was listing the reasons why she loved her new gift, and she even managed to complete a sentence and take a breath every once in a while as she did it. "It's Ole Miss! They're my favorite! Do you wanna know why?"

Len tried in vain to catch up to his daughter's conversation with herself. "I don't know, Jo. Why don't you tell me?" he asked, humoring her.

"Because they have the best football players from anywhere! They're so awesome," she exclaimed happily, holding the small garment up to her body and checking out her reflection in the mirror that was hanging on the back of the door.

Len rolled his eyes. "Oh, and I thought it was because you had some sort of family connection with the place."

Joanna looked shocked. "Daddy! Football! There's nothing else."

"I know that. But there's something else that's pretty cool about that place, too. Do you want to know what it is?" he asked.

"What?" she asked, genuinely confused.

"That's where I went when I was learning how to be a doctor," Len supplied, kneeling down behind Joanna. He put one hand on her shoulder, brushing her hair gently from her face. She might have his features and structure, but her eyes were all Jocelyn. McCoy cringed to think how hard it was going to be to keep the boys off her once she got older. It was a task he was secretly glad would fall mainly on his ex's very slight shoulders, though Len made a mental note to talk to Pike about lessons on how to intimidate via comm.

Joanna turned, her arms dropping to her waist. A serious expression on her face, she said, "You mean you had to go to school to be a doctor? You didn't just come that way?"

With a hearty belly laugh, McCoy said, "No, Jo. I had to learn how to help people, just like how you have to learn to behave yourself." Len cringed when he thought of all the late nights, the stress, the ridiculous workload, and the inhumane expectations medical school placed on a student, all in the hopes of weeding out the mentally unfit. Compared to the real thing of say, an emergency room residency, medical school seemed like a walk in the park.

Shrugging, Joanna said, "Oh. Okay." She slid the jersey over her head and spun around in a circle again for good measure. It was a little big, but she could grow into it. At least, that was the hope, if the jersey made it through the weekend. At the rate Jo was headed, it was likely she'd never take it off. "Thanks, Daddy."

Using the rusty muscles in his face that controlled the smiling expression, Len gave Jo a hug and said, "You're welcome. I'm glad you like it."

"The Mannings are the best, Daddy!" she said to a shocked Len. If he had any doubt to her comprehension of football traditions, the one sentence wiped them all away in a matter of seconds. Laughing to himself, McCoy stood to exit the room with his daughter. Passing the threshold of the door, Joanna tossed a, "Mommy would never let me wear something like this. So cool!" over her shoulder.

McCoy stopped dead in his tracks. Putting his face in his hands, he thought, 'Jocelyn is going to kill me.'

Next Up: I lied. Chapter three got a bit out of hand, so Joanna meets Captain Pike in chapter four. Depending on perspective, reviews are mixed as to how well that will go.

Chapter Text

Chapter 4

There really was only so much strategic reorganization one commander could do before indecision invariably set in.

Christopher Pike was on his third "redeployment" of desk items for the week. After pouring over different battle plans and layouts, he made the executive decision to reassign certain items to new places in order to increase productivity. Functionally, he was still of the opinion that his comm would be better served sitting on the right side of his desk, but practically, it physically Jenga-ed itself much better on the left. The blotter and appointment calendar needed to stay within an arm's reach, but that, Pike decided, would not work. It was too hard to get at his coffee mug with all the garbage in his way. So he dug every single thing out of every nook and cranny of his enormous mahogany desk and gave them all new homes from top to bottom. But as many times as he'd redistributed the items on his desktop and in the desk itself, it still seemed cluttered to him, even though it was, in actuality, quite clean and functional.

Or, perhaps it was the true fact that he was bored as hell.

It wasn't necessarily a bad thing that the entirety of Starfleet Academy was behaving, but Chris wondered why they all felt the need to pick the same time to suddenly learn manners. Because he was low on paperwork (the heavy load of monthly paperwork was completed last week), he didn't have any students to scare straight. And since he also managed to con Kirk into assisting the advanced hand-to-hand instructor and thereby had no free time, there really wasn't much for the captain to do. Jim was his biggest problem child, and if he was, by some miracle of god staying out of the brig, that meant there really wasn't much else to do. So, Pike reorganized his desk three times, reorganized his office twice, and cleaned the entire thing from top to bottom once.

If the engineers didn't get the warp engines ready for testing on the new Enterprise in the next twenty four hours, Pike swore it might get ugly. At this point, inciting a riot by yelling 'fire' in the middle of the two thousand seat lecture hall while Starfleet Protocols 101 was in session seemed like a more viable option. It'd at least give him something to do. But before he could actually put his brilliant plan into action, the captain's comm beeped. Pressing the button, Pike said, "Yes, Gloria?"

'Dr. McCoy is here to see you, sir, and he has a…guest with him,' the young yeoman said. Pike could hear the smile in her voice and he found the corners of his own mouth turning up in response. He genuinely liked Cadet Stuart. She was a sweet girl, and a hell of a secretary. Pike initially chose her because she knew how to deflect high-ranking Starfleet personnel without ruffling feathers, but he'd come to regard her elevated competency and her deadly accurate bullshit meter. Basically, no one got through the door without going through her first, and at five feet tall and no more than one hundred pounds soaking wet, she was a lot more intimidating than she appeared at first glance.

"Send him in, Cadet." Pike quickly cleared his desk of any privileged or sensitive information and folded his hands on the blotter. When the door swung open, the sight that greeted him pulled a fatherly smile from the battle-tested captain.

With his back to his superior, Leonard McCoy was practically dragging a small girl through the door of Pike's office. A stream of whiny protest marched from her mouth while the doctor pleaded with her to cooperate. Chris refused to call it begging, since the snarky, opinionated man he recruited off a bar floor in Iowa could not possibly have the genetic makeup to beg, but it was damned close. The little girl's voice was muted by her father's torso, but Pike's still crisp hearing picked up something about 'ice cream' and a 'promise' made, along with a veritable boat load of more whining about how the aforementioned promise wasn't kept. The captain smoothed out the features to his face to the passivity to which the Academy had grown accustomed. "Dr. McCoy."

The doctor's back stiffened. He gently shushed the little girl and turned around to face Pike, coming to attention. "Sir."

Pike waved him away with one hand. "At ease, McCoy. You're not on duty, you're not in uniform, and you're not a cadet. At least not this week." The captain leaned to his right. A tiny face poked out from behind McCoy's legs, brown hair spilling over her shoulders. Chris leaned forward in his chair to address his newest visitor. Conscious that his 'commander' voice often inspired fear in young kids, Pike ratcheted his booming, deep tenor down a couple before he asked, "And who might this be?"

The little girl took one look at Pike and decided in a second flat that the captain was not of her interest. She stepped out from behind McCoy and crossed her tiny arms over her chest. Glaring up at her father, she continued her whining in earnest. "This is lame! I don't wanna be here! Why are we here?"

McCoy shut his eyes, suppressing a groan of displeasure. Firmly, he responded, "Joanna, we talked about this already this morning. I told you we would come meet Captain Pike and then we'd go do what you wanted. But this was first, and you agreed. Fair is fair."

Pike cleared his throat. It was endlessly amusing to see one of the academy's most outspoken cadets, one who normally sent his peers running for cover with just one glare, reduced to justifying his actions to a young child. If only he'd known, Pike might have conspired with Kirk to sell tickets to the show. Not only could he and Jim have made some nice money, but the captain bet his every last bit of dignity that there were several hundred people on the Starfleet Academy campus who would absolutely love to see Leonard McCoy taken down a peg or three by his own child. Shifting in his seat, Chris half grinned. "Problems, McCoy?"

Under his breath, Len swore, but not loud enough for Joanna's hearing to pick it up. It was hard, after going nearly two years without having to check his mouth, to suddenly have to eliminate any and all profanity from his vocabulary. For McCoy, that was a nearly impossible feat. "I told her we'd be coming to visit you today, and she was okay with it when we left the house. Probably had something to do with all the pancakes I was feeding her," he quipped. "But on the way over here, she decided that she didn't want to come and instead would rather go play in the dirt."

"But you promised yesterday we'd have ice cream! And I didn't get any! And then you yelled at me at dinner, and wouldn't tell me why!"

Pike responded with a raise of his eyebrow.

McCoy sighed deeply and pinched the bridge of his nose. The whims of his child were simply infuriating. As much as he loved her, it appeared that she had a built-in knack for poor timing. Turning to Pike, he responded to his superior's unasked question. "We met Jim yesterday for dinner."

"And you thought that was a good idea, Doctor? Introducing her to Kirk? If Jim were the last person on Earth, I'm still not sure I'd trust him with my kid." the captain replied, a slight bit of incredulousness creeping into his tone. His gaze fell back to McCoy's guest in tow. He could see she was still absolutely seething, if the red face and scowl was any indication. Chris swallowed down a chuckle, for there was no doubt in his mind the paternal origin of the small girl standing in front of his desk. Pike was one of two people on whom the famous McCoy scowl had no effect, and it appeared that Len passed it down to his offspring. He silently cheered her Ole Miss football jersey while trying to decide if he should feel sorry for McCoy when his daughter got old enough to really rebel, or chalk it up to good, old-fashioned payback. For posterity's sake, Pike amended, "This is your daughter, is it not?"

"Yes, sir. This," Len said, ushering Jo out from beside him, "Is Joanna. Jo, this is Captain Pike, my boss," McCoy said, making sure to emphasize the 'captain' and 'boss' parts of his introduction.

Secretly, Pike been looking forward to this day ever since Kirk approached him about the possibility of helping McCoy repair a bit of his fractured family. Jim, though immature and reckless, was more observant than most gave him credit and figured out early on why exactly his roommate was so miserable in the first place. Though Kirk tried to brush it off as a 'for the good of the academy' idea, Pike knew that Jim truly cared about McCoy and wanted his daughter to have the chance to know her father, the one he never had. After the Kelvin, Chris knew the mending of fences while there was still an opportunity to do so was important to Jim, and in turn, important to Chris. Pike jumped at the chance to help, and even went as far as to comm Jocelyn Darnell in order to facilitate the process. And since Joanna McCoy was now standing in front of him, it was certainly a call he didn't regret making.

Pike lifted himself up out of his chair and walked around his desk. He fixed the younger McCoy with a friendly gaze and knelt down, his right knee giving a loud pop as he lowered himself to Joanna's level. Len winced, thinking of all the possible things a crack that loud could mean. Extending his hand, Chris said, "Hello, Joanna. I've heard a lot about you from you mom and dad. It's nice to finally meet you."

Joanna chewed on her lower lip. Something was just off, and the little girl wasn't going to stop until she figured out what it was. Joanna's gaze ping ponged from Pike to McCoy and back again. Scratching her head, she contemplated what she knew. Her dad was nerdy dork. He said boring things and did 'grown up' stuff. He scolded her when she did something bad. He had wrinkles and grunted a lot when he had to get up off the floor. If this Captain Pike fellow was in charge of her daddy in the way he was in charge of her, there was something wrong. With the way he was grinning, there was no way this new person could be as un-entertaining as her father, and he certainly didn't look like her grandfather. Walking up to the keeling man, Joanna looked Pike right in the eye and asked simply, "Why aren't you old?"

Chris blinked. Once. Then twice. He stood and rubbed one hand over his face. "'Why am I not…' What?"

Mortified, McCoy took a giant step forward and quickly scooped Jo off the floor. He covered her mouth with his hand before she could utter another word, much to his daughter's dismay. His face burned bright red, the doctor stammering a quick, "Captain, sir. I'm sorry. She just blurts this out and I never know when to expect it." With his arms full of squirming, angry six year old, McCoy heaved out a sigh. Addressing his daughter, Len said, "Joanna, calm down and then I'll put you down."

Joanna's eyebrows descended into a deep canyon of discontent. Muffled words leeched their merry way through McCoy's hand while Jo's face turned a deep crimson and her tone more insistent. Both Chris and Len were having trouble picking out exactly what she was saying, but it sounded something to the effect of, 'Not fair,' and 'Mean, old, boring people.' Her eyes darted wildly back and forth, and McCoy was forced to suppress a bit of déjà vu at the face his daughter was making at him. It was the one Jocelyn employed when she was really, really pissed.

McCoy glared at Jo, and she glared back at him. The two looked like they belonged in the OK Corral instead of in front of a dignified, decorated Starfleet Captain. Practically growling, Len said, "Jo, I'm serious. When you stop talking all that garbage and after you apologize to Captain Pike, I'll put you down."

In Joanna's mind, her dad was being really lame, and the younger McCoy wanted nothing to do with the nonsense that was spewing from her father's mouth. She'd apologize if and when she felt like it, or when it made sense to, but not a moment before. Unlike most children her age, Jo had no trouble saying she was sorry, but she needed to understand what she did and why it was wrong. The explanation part of parenting was something she subconsciously decided her father needed to practice if he wanted her respect. Since she'd been effectively shushed without logical reasoning at dinner the night previous with Jim, there was no way she was going to apologize to Captain Pike unless someone explained to her why asking such a simple question deserved such an extreme response. But in order to articulate that, she first had to be able to talk. With her dad's massive hand over his face, that was becoming an impossible feat.

Joanna reached deep into her bag of dirty tricks and pulled one out, one she reserved for special occasions. Desperate times called for desperate measures, and being held hostage by her father, off the ground and silent, definitely qualified as a desperate time. Jo generated all the saliva she possibly could in the two seconds she had. Her father mistakenly took her silence as the white flag of surrender and eased up his grip on her mouth. When Jo felt Len's hand relax, she extended her tongue and licked her dad's hand from bottom to top.

With strangled yelp, McCoy leapt back and dropped Joanna to the floor. She landed with a thud on her backside, legs stretched out in front of her. She said not a word; instead she sat, looking completely smug while McCoy danced around Pike's office in search of a tissue to wipe his hand. He snagged one off the bookshelf, and after wiping all the crud from his hand, wheeled back toward his daughter. "JOANNA! What has gotten into you? That is not how you address and treat adults, and you know that. We've taught you better!"

"Mom taught me better!" Joanna fired right back, breaking her silence for the first time. Since he'd bailed out on them over two years ago, Joanna was absolutely insulted that he would think he had anything to do with raising her. She willed herself not to cry and instead laced her words with an angry, aggressive tone. "She taught me! Not you! You weren't there! You left us!"

Chris inwardly flinched. His eyes darted over to McCoy, who, despite all his effort, couldn't halt a hurt expression from flashing across his face. The younger man was, for once, without a witty comeback or snarky response. He looked helplessly around, meeting Pike's stunned gaze. Sighing, Chris squatted next to Jo again, and then took a seat beside her. He crossed his legs and sat silently. "Joanna?"

Why couldn't all these annoying adults just leave her alone? She didn't want to be in this office, and she certainly didn't want to be near her dad. He was really getting on her every last nerve, with all the meeting people and making her do things she didn't want to do. She missed him, but didn't miss all the times he had to be right or wouldn't let her have her way. She flicked one glance over at Pike. He didn't look upset, and he wasn't yelling at her. At least that was a start. In fact, he kind of had a dorky grin on his face. She nearly laughed, but quickly remembered she was supposed to be mad. Refreshing the scowl, she snapped, "What?"

Looking up toward Len, Pike motioned with his head for the younger man to sit. McCoy did so dutifully, his ass landing in one of the padded chairs opposite Pike's desk. Chris felt badly that Joanna had said what she did; though she didn't know the magnitude of how cutting of a statement she made, it didn't mean her words didn't come with a freshly applied antiseptic sting to them. In a quiet voice, softer than anyone would ever think the command-tested captain capable, Pike asked, "Joanna? Would you look at me, please?"

Jo's head popped up automatically, her dark eyes meeting Pike's lighter set. There was something about the captain she liked, though she couldn't quite put her finger on it. His voice was deeper toned than most men's voices she'd heard, especially when he spoke quietly. It was soothing and friendly, but at the same time, Jo realized that it commanded instant respect.

"That's better. I don't like talking to the sides of people's heads," Pike said lightly. He scooted closer to her and dropped his voice even further to a near whisper. "Joanna, I know you didn't mean what you said to me, so I want you to know I'm not mad at you. But what you just said hurt your father a lot. And I know you didn't mean that either, but you should understand something, okay?"

Joanna sniffled, though she held back any tears that may have threatened to fall. "What?" she asked in a nearly inaudible whisper.

Chris thought carefully before proceeding. After talking with Jocelyn over the comm, he had many fewer negative thoughts toward the woman. But how to proceed without stepping on either Jocelyn or Len's toes would be tricky. Pike was suddenly glad for the diplomatic negotiations and trade course he took when he was at the academy and made a mental note to revisit making that course mandatory. The only way to successfully navigate a familial minefield like the one he inadvertently placed himself in full view was to be honest, but not too honest. "This might not make a lot of sense to you, Joanna, but your daddy didn't want to leave you."

Jo snorted. "But he did, and now he's here with you instead of being at home with me and mommy." A couple of tears fell from the corner of her eye, but she wiped them away quickly with the back of her hand. "He left us. And he never told us why. Mommy won't tell me why. Maybe it was my fault because she won't tell me."

If his heart constricted any more in his chest, Pike was certain McCoy would be resuscitating him on the floor of his office. Chris was fully aware of how ugly the McCoy divorce had been and had always secretly worried that in the shuffle, Joanna would be the one to suffer for it. It was one time Pike was really upset that he was right. "Oh, Joanna. It wasn't your fault. It never was, and it never will be. It's just grown up stuff."

"That's what mommy always says, and I don't understand it!" she cried, angrily picking away at the sole of her tennis shoe.

Clearly, Joanna processed information at a much higher level than the average six year old. Her cognitive and logical abilities were exemplary, something Pike could clearly see after only ten minutes with her. A simple explanation wasn't going to pacify her, and that was both a good thing and a bad thing. Looking down, Pike half-grinned. It was just one more bullet for him to dodge while he answered Jo's question. "You don't need to understand all the grown up stuff that went on the since you were really little. The only thing you need to know is that there are a lot of times parents want to be places they just can't be. I know your daddy wanted nothing more than to be with you the last two years."

"Then why wasn't he?"

"Sweetheart, sometimes grown ups do silly things, and what they do or where they are has nothing to do with you at all. Your mommy and him didn't get along very well, and so it was best for you to stay with her. It's not easy, and it's not fair, but that was the best choice. But you know what? Nothing about why your daddy is here and your mommy still in Georgia was ever, ever your fault," Pike concluded. He chanced a glance up to McCoy who sitting stoically in the chair. Though the doctor tried to create the persona that he was nothing but an hard ass with a giant chip on his shoulder and not a care in the world as to what others thought about him, Pike knew that in McCoy's case, the opposite was the real truth. Chris watched Len's throat work back a lump that seemed to have formed there, the younger man's eyes shining with a silent thank you.

The trio of people sat silently in Pike's office, none of them bothering to move. Joanna quietly digested all the information she'd been given while she plucked away at the carpet fibers under the chair. Len sat, rubbing one hand over his face, and ever so thankful that someone else was here to help him answer Jo's incessant questions and to calm her down. She'd unfortunately inherited his short fuse, but seemed to have developed a way to calm down faster than he did. For his part, Pike only hoped what he said both made sense and did the job dissuading some of the anger Jo clearly felt toward her father.

Breaking the silence, the little girl said, "It's Jo."

"What?" Pike responded.

"My name is Jo. No one calls me Joanna, unless they're not my friends."

A bright smile spread over the captain's face. "Well, does that mean we're friends then, Jo?"

"Yeah, I think you're okay."

Up above him, Pike heard McCoy exhale a breath of relief. He picked himself up off the floor with a groan, Chris' reconstructed right knee protesting all the way to standing. "Well, then. I'd say we've got that settled, right?"

"I'd say so," Len replied. He could feel the tension seep out of the room when Joanna bounced happily to her feet. "Should we try this again? Jo, Captain Pike. Sir, my daughter, Jo."

"It's nice to meet you, Jo. And yes, for the record, I am old," Chris said with a laugh, sitting back down at his desk.

McCoy rolled his eyes and snorted. "Don't encourage her."

Joanna piped in her opinion from somewhere behind Pike's desk. "Hey!"

Chris waved a dismissive hand "Relax. I'm going to take that as a compliment, McCoy, if she thinks I don't look old enough to be your boss."

Len let out a little chuckle. "Thank you, sir. And I'll be sure we have a chat over what's appropriate to say when we're back home tonight."

"Ah, kids say what they want to say. You can't stop them," Pike replied. "Come to think of it, that sounds like someone else standing in this room, but he isn't a child." When Joanna giggled, clearly catching the implications behind Pike's words, the captain made a note to be more covert when insulting others in front of Jo in the future. She was good; he had to credit her for that.

McCoy and Jo hung around for another half hour, shooting the breeze over Jo's latest schooling, McCoy's latest rants, and Pike's latest gossip. They were about to get up and leave when McCoy's comm rang. The doctor scowled at the screen when he saw the caller. He walked over to the corner of Pike's office and barked, "I told you I'm on vacation and not to be called. What part of 'not here' do you idiots fail to understand?"

A harried, freckled cadet, one who looked barely old enough to be out of diapers, replied, "I'm sorry sir! We know you're gone, but we need your help. There was an accident in one of the engineering programs today, and we're just swamped. We need another trauma surgeon, sir. We can't keep up!"

"I'll be there in five. McCoy out," he replied, snapping the comm closed without waiting for a reply. Shit. He replied without thinking about Joanna. Here was the whole point of his weekend, and now he had to figure out something to do with her so he could go work. After the blowup she just had, Len cringed when he thought of how well being dumped off at Fleet Care for the afternoon might go. There was only one last option, and he wasn't sure he really wanted to use it. McCoy already owed Pike his soul for helping orchestrate Jo's visit, so to impose on the man further was not a great choice. But as Len's eyes bounced back and forth from Jo to Pike, both talking animatedly between one another, his choice became clear. Taking two quick strides across the room, Len said, "Sir, I hate to even ask this of you, but something's come up at the hospital, and they need me. Could I ask you to watch Joanna for me? It'd only be a couple of hours."

Pike made a 'shoo' motion with his hand. "I got it, McCoy. Go take care of whatever Kirk blew up on my campus, and cuff Jim upside the head for me if he's not dead."

"For once, Captain, I don't think this was Jim's fault," McCoy replied. He surprised even himself with that statement, and judging by the look on Pike's face, the older man was equally stunned. "Call me if you need anything. Joanna already got her medications this morning, and she doesn't have any allergies to food or anything else like that. Are you sure this isn't a problem, Captain? I can take her to Fleet Care for the afternoon."

"I'll have none of that, Doctor," Pike replied firmly. "I have a very light schedule this week, and I'm due some leave time that the brass is always insisting I take. Maybe I'll burn some of that today and take your daughter up to spacedock. The new Enterprise was towed up last night, and I'd like to inspect her."

"If you do that, sir, you'll be her hero for the rest of her life," Len answered honestly. "I'll call you when I'm done."

Len dropped a kiss on Jo's head. "Jo? Is it okay if Captain Pike watches you for a couple hours while I go do some stuff at the hospital? I promise it'll be this one time only, and after I'm done, I'll let you pick whatever you want to do. Is that okay with you?"

Joanna nodded vigorously, happy with her father's choice of babysitters. "Yep!"

"Go, McCoy. I'll take good care of her." Pike said as Len finished hugging his daughter.

"I have no doubt you will, sir. Thank you again. I owe you."

"No you, don't, McCoy. You owe her," Pike replied as the doctor practically sprinted out the door. When his office door clicked shut, Pike said, "Well, missy. It looks like it's just you and me. What do you think you want to do?"

"Can we get ice cream?" she asked as sweetly as possible.

Pike checked his watch. It was only 10:30 in the morning. Shrugging, he said, "Sure. I know a great place off campus."

Joanna smiled, taking the older man's hand as they exited his office. She was beginning to like this Captain Pike fellow even more than she thought she would. Her only hope was that he would take her to do something fun, because even though she loved her father, he was still so boring.

At least, that's the consensus her six-year-old brain came to.

Next Up: Well, that's actually up to you guys this time. I can either write what Pike and Jo did while the good captain played babysitter, or I can just expose it all and get to the ending of the story. Let me know what you think.

Chapter Text

Chapter 5

When he'd been offered his first command post, Pike knew at that moment he'd reached a personal impasse. One fork of the road was the fast track sprint to the captain's chair; the other was a slower, more leisurely jog toward captaincy with a family and a life on Earth. He'd chosen the former, giving his life to Starfleet and to his rapidly advancing career. Chris would be lying if he said that he never wanted a family of his own, but his choice meant that a family with children became one of the unfortunate victims of circumstance.

He'd never truly regretted it, cashing in a spouse and children for a set of shiny captain's stripes, but there were times that he wondered what it could have been like to be a family man. He tried not to think about it too much. If he were honest with himself, it wasn't always easy, seeing his colleagues and friends with their respective broods. There were moments that the jealously he kept tucked safely away bubbled up, but he'd learned to control it.

Over the years, he found ways to combat the occasional bouts of melancholy, albeit in a very unconventional fashion. Instead of the family many others enjoyed, Pike learned to surround himself with the crews of his respective posts and later Starfleet Academy's cadets. Chris became a master at taking the raw, cynical product that was the collective military attitude and molding it into something nearing a family. While they kept him company and often provided entertainment, the chord struck was still dissonant, as if there was one note, one factor, that wasn't quite right. He would often sigh and wonder, then shake the feeling off as quickly as it came.

And then, one random day, he peeled the two best Starfleet cadets off a couple of separate bar floors in Riverside, Iowa. Go figure.

From that moment on, literally nothing in Pike's life remained constant. Professionally, Kirk pushed every last button, and even found ones Pike didn't even know he had with his insane antics and no holds barred attitude. Jim would be good for Starfleet, if he could survive long enough to actually graduate. With the rate Chris was forced to discipline the young man, it'd be a miracle of God if Kirk actually made it to commencement. At best, he'd be booted out on his ass. At worst, he'd be dead. Pike was under the impression that Jim was trying to become the most famous cadet ever by working his way through, from cover to cover, the Starfleet Academy cadet conduct manual while rewriting said manual, in an effort to raise the aforementioned Captain's blood pressure exponentially. Kirk might say he was doing so with style. Pike just wanted to slap him.

Jim had a nasty habit of dragging even the best mannered and the most polite cadets into his cess pool of shenanigans. While Leonard McCoy fell into neither of those categories, he did at least harbor some common sense. It put the doctor a couple of rungs above most cadets on campus, but it still was not enough to keep him from regular discipline adventures in Chris' office. Pike couldn't picture a more Odd Couple-ish pair; the extroverted and hyperactive Kirk was a stark contrast to the somewhat dour and sarcastic McCoy. But Chris realized early on that they were a necessary duo, and if that meant doing double duty while bailing them both out of jail, well, that was the price he had to pay. After all, it was his fault Kirk and McCoy were at Starfleet in the first place.

Privately, Pike thought McCoy wasn't so much of the straight arrow as he projected himself to be. A man who could swear in paragraphs without once repeating himself could not, under Pike's Rules of Command, be classified as a non-threat to good order and discipline. It was just that, when compared to Jim Kirk, nearly anyone looked angelic. But as much as he wanted to punch them both in the face on a regular basis, the pair managed to become Chris' family, the one he thought he'd never have. They might not realize it, but Pike treated them both like the sons he always (okay, sometimes) wanted.

When he heard through scuttlebutt that Dr. McCoy needed some help arranging a visit for his daughter, he'd secretly jumped at the chance to assist. It was fairly simple to set Len up (Pike refused to call the man 'Bones' and he didn't think McCoy would allow it anyway) in the family quarters and to clear the man's schedule. He worked a full time ER and surgical rotation on top of classes, so appealing to the logical side of the hospital administration staff, as in the side that agreed McCoy was probably overdoing it, wasn't a difficult task. After a brief meeting that laid out the plan, Chris had the head of emergency medicine ready to cover Len's shifts himself, whenever it was McCoy's daughter made it to campus for her visit.

When he'd accomplished step one of his mission, Pike set about the much harder task of step two: convincing Jocelyn to agree to an unsupervised visit. He'd not been privy to all the details of the McCoy divorce, only what he could find by researching the local paper and from what he'd heard from various sources, mainly Kirk. Len himself was rather tight-lipped on the subject, his eyes darkening and scowl deepening whenever the subject was mentioned. It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that it was an ugly divorce, and more than likely the reason McCoy ended up as a bartender at a little dive bar in Riverside when Pike found him.

Though Pike couldn't empathize with the man's situation, he could certainly sympathize. McCoy was hardly the first subordinate of Pike's to discover just how unfair life could be, and he wouldn't be the last. His fatherly affections toward Leonard were initially nothing but a package deal because of Jim. In the beginning, they were also laced with thinly veiled pity that made for a rocky beginning between the captain and the doctor. One spectacular blow-up between Pike and McCoy in the middle of Chris' annual physical solved that properly, and the two called a temporary cease fire at Kirk's behest.

It took quite a bit of introspection for Pike to finally understand why McCoy often acted the way he did. As a trailblazing, fast-tracked command officer, Pike was often years younger than his subordinates. It made for several awkward moments when he was a lieutenant. Jim gently reminded him that it was much of the opposite for McCoy, finding himself back in a school setting surrounded by cadets a decade his junior. Hell, he was older and much more experienced than the chief attending emergency physician at the hospital. And unlike Pike, McCoy did not have the luxury of simply ordering his peers around. He was just as much of a maggot as the rest of all the cadets in red, not a young hotshot lieutenant who had all the right answers.

He thought it'd be the familial thing to do, to offer his assistance. Pike figured he stood a better chance at convincing Jocelyn Darnell to allow Joanna to travel across the country to see her father than anyone else at the academy, stuffy admirals included. Lord help anyone if Pike left it up to Jim. No, if he wanted to do something right, he had to do it himself, and the sooner he could arrange the visit, the better. Chris was the happy recipient of several incident reports, all dated for the past few weeks, outlining just how bearish McCoy's behavior really could be. According to Jim and his keen observation skills, it was a bit of homesickness on the doctor's part. So one weekend, Chris signed out a shuttle and took it on a day trip to Atlanta. Four hours and a much less hostile Jocelyn Darnell later, he had his agreement. Short of confirming his actions didn't include any type of sexual favors, how he made a believer out of Len's ex-wife was a secret Pike would take to his grave.

And so, with the circle of insanity nearly complete, Christopher Pike, decorated commander and captain of the Federation's newest but still under construction flagship, found himself playing babysitter.

To a six year old.

And he absolutely loved it.

After spending one hour with Joanna McCoy, Chris came to the conclusion that he was a genius. He'd handled the impromptu job so well, Pike thought he might even have to write a book. (It also didn't hurt that, as his day job, he was the official babysitter to 1200 Starfleet Academy cadets. He'd had some practice.) It might be an appropriate way to secure a comfortable retirement. Perhaps dealing with Jim Kirk on a daily basis did have some merit and in the end, may have some literal payoff. Chris immediately struck that thought from his mind, for it would only validate the little shit's already annoying ego.

He had some paperwork to finish up quickly, so Chris downloaded a game to his personal PADD to entertain Joanna while he worked. The little device beeped and howled, Joanna squeaking and yelling right along with it. Pike had positively no idea what the object of the game was other than to cause as much mayhem as possible, but Jo seemed to enjoy it. Chris sneaked a quick glance over the rim of his glasses at the youngest McCoy. The overstuffed chair situated in the corner of his office seemed to swallow her whole, but her extra large personality wasn't the least bit hindered by her diminutive stature.

Chris signed off on the last report with a tap of his stylus. The tip clicked loudly on the surface of the PADD when he dotted the 'I' of his last name with finality. He pulled off his glasses and threw them in the top drawer of his desk. Looking over at Joanna, Pike said, "Well, what do you say? Should be get out of here for a while?"

Jo's head bounced up from her game, the index finger of her right hand hitting the pause command. She rocketed off the chair and skipped over to Pike's desk. She took a seat up against the stack of drawers that made up the left side and squeaked out, "Yeah! Where are we going?"

"Well, I don't know. I think that's up to you. You're the guest here. But first," Pike started, hitting the comm button. "Gloria? Would you mind coming in here for a minute?"

Chris' faithful yeoman sauntered in the door. He'd be sad to see her go when she graduated this year; Gloria Stuart had been some of the best help Pike could have asked for. Not only did she do her job well, she knew how to find just about anything for him, that object's legal status not withstanding. The captain suppressed a smile when he thought of the hell she was going to give her first CO. Stuart was a firecracker, and Pike hoped whoever got her was ready for a fight. The first thing he learned about Cadet Stuart was that she only did something once it made sense to her, and sometimes, military orders were simply not logical. Chris made a mental note to send her CO a big bottle of scotch to deal with the headaches she was going to cause.

While still laughing to himself, Pike stood up and walked to the small armoire in the corner of the room. He extracted a careworn pair of blue jeans and one of his favorite soft, grey Starfleet Academy t-shirts. "I need you to watch Joanna for a couple of minutes while I go change. Can you do that?"

Gloria's face wrinkled in confusion. "Joanna? Joanna McCoy?" She looked around the room, her brown eyes searching for either the girl or her father. "I-Didn't she leave with Dr. McCoy? I went to deliver those requisitions to supply and by the time I came back, they were gone."

Pike turned. "He was gone. Medical apparently can't handle any crisis without him, so they called him to assist on his week off. Joanna, as you can see, is right here," Chris said with a wave of his hand.

The young lady's jaw dropped. "You mean she was here the entire time and you didn't tell me? Do you know the level of how not right that is?" She put her hands on her hips and simply glared. How anyone could remind him so much of his mother while still being young enough to say 'Dude' was a mystery beyond comprehension.

Pike threw his head back and laughed. Chris was, quite obviously, not a stickler for the strict adhesion to the proper decorum normally associated with the military. He was fine with respecting the uniform and those with higher ranks, but Pike did by no means believe that Starfleet should be full of robotic automatons that had no personality whatsoever. Part of the lure of working for Captain Pike, he'd heard, was that it was okay to have a little bit of individuality and flair. Putting his hands up in front of his chest, the captain replied, "Okay, okay! Uncle! Maybe I can talk McCoy into letting you babysit. Would that be a fair attempt at a peace offering?"

Stuart crossed her arms over her chest. Her eyes darted back and forth. Pike could see the thought process running through her brain. He cocked a little smile and walked forward. Extending one hand, she stuck it out in front of her boss. "Deal. Now go change, sir."

Pike grabbed the garment bag out of the drawer of the armoire and whistled as he walked to the bathroom attached to his office. He could hear Gloria talking with Joanna near his desk, gossiping about the Colts' chances to repeat as Superbowl champions. He changed quickly, folding his uniform with care and laying it on the sink. While he brushed his teeth and resituated his hair, Pike thought about the potential things he could take Joanna to do.

Should he take her to the campus science labs? No. Definitely not. The students' tendencies to test volatile substances reminded him to steer clear. The gaping hole in the back of Lab C was tangible proof of that, and while Pike might have been a bit of thrill seeker, Joanna was his charge. Whatever they did, it had to be safe. Chris kept thinking. The shuttle training sims would have been a good call if not for the senior class' ramp up to the final simulation of their academy careers. Every spare second was booked, and Pike knew that he'd never be able to slip Jo in when careers depended on the pass or fail of the shuttle exams. Scratching his head, Pike leaned up against the sink and tapped one thoughtful finger against his chin. He was quickly running out of entertaining ideas when a thought struck him.

The Enterprise was in spacedock.

He'd promised Joanna ice cream.

There was a killer Ben & Jerry's up at spacedock.


It had always been his intention to take Jo on a shuttle ride, but he needed to find a reason to tool around in the first place. Visiting his newly constructed ship was a fine justification for him. But, while he didn't need any excuse to go oogle his baby, Pike wasn't sure Joanna would share his lust over a pile of bolts, warp cores, and highly advanced space hearty materials. There was only so much of an under construction ship a six year old would find amusing, even one as smart as Jo. Still, going up to see the Enterprise was probably a more preferable activity than staying on campus. The little girl looked bored stiff sitting in his office, though she was doing an admirable job of being polite about it.

Chris smirked and pulled his personal comm from the pocket of his pants. First, he made a quick call to the shuttle bay to reserve a small craft for him and Jo. When the ride was secure, he dialed up McCoy's frequency and sent him a quick message outlining his plans. Pike make it clear he was going to take Joanna up to see the Independence, and that the doctor could meet them for lunch after he was finished. Yanking open the bathroom door, Chris stifled a laugh when he saw Joanna and Stuart execute a perfect post route, using the stress ball from Jim he kept on his desk as the football. Gloria cheered loudly when Joanna caught the ball, planted and spun, hopping over an invisible defender to cross the 'goal line' made by the two chairs that usually sat opposite the captain's desk. Clearing his throat, both girls whirled around. "Having fun?" he asked with a singular raise of his right eyebrow.

Stuart tried in vain to wipe the smile off her face. "Yes, sir. We were just exploring some alternate uses for your office chairs. Turns out they make good goal markers."

"Looks like it's working well. Just don't let anyone catch you doing that, Cadet. I'd hate to have to actually impose discipline on you in this office if an admiral walked in on you playing football with the stress ball Jim gave me for Christmas," Pike replied with a tug of a smile pulling at the corners of his mouth. He looked down at Joanna. "You ready to go, young lady?"

Jo tossed the stress ball at the surprised Stuart and ran over to the door. She waved a goodbye to Gloria and said, "Thanks for playing! It was fun!"

"I'll take that as a 'yes'," Pike said dryly, grabbing his ID and keys from the desk drawer. To Stuart, he said, "Hold down the fort for me while we're out, will you?"

Gloria smirked cockily. "You know I always do, sir. Your messages will be waiting on your chair for you in the morning."

"Thanks, Cadet. Make sure you go home on time tonight. That's an order," Pike said as he closed the door behind Joanna.

The pair walked out the door and down the hallway of Starfleet Academy's administrative building. Out of uniform, most cadets didn't know what to make of the plain clothed captain. On the whole, the majority hid their surprise well when the advanced hand to hand and tactics instructor walked through campus with a six-year-old girl in tow. A few drew themselves to attention before being waved off by Pike, and the odd handful openly gaped. It drew and eyeroll and a laugh from Chris, and some puzzled expression from Joanna.

The little girl looked around, wary of all the strange people in red staring at her. "What are they looking at?"

"Me," Pike replied, without so much as a flicker of hesitation. "I'm in charge of a lot of people here, Joanna. I suppose this is a little weird for them."

Something seemed to click in Joanna's head, something her dad told her earlier that morning. Two plus two suddenly started to make a whole lot more sense. Her eyes lit up and she blurted out, "Oh! You're the one who tells my dad when he has to go to the bathroom!"

Chris stutter stepped and coughed. He executed an about face that would have made his first DI proud and stared down at the little girl looking innocently up at him. It would be wise to discipline her, but the amount of amusement she provided was enough to trump the more sensible side of his brain. After all, he did babysit Kirk on a daily basis, and Jo wasn't allowed to fly a shuttle, or take advanced hand-to-hand combat. She wasn't hanging out to bars, nor was she able to attract trouble as Jim did. Or, at least, that's what the captain hoped.

With a shake of his head and an airy chuckle, Pike replied, "Yes, I have told your dad when he should go to the bathroom." It might have been funnier had it not been completely true, though he'd never admit it to Joanna. Chris mentally amended that it wasn't so much that he ordered the man to visit the head, but rather that he needed to exit it before the shuttle could take off. But Pike decided the shuttle incident was a story best left for another time when Joanna was much older. And by 'older', Pike really meant old enough to understand the humor in the situation.

Joanna kicked a rock with the toe of her tennis shoe. She shoved her hands in the pockets of her jeans, unsure what to do with the new information the captain provided. She opened her mouth once, then twice, and finally settled on a simple, "Oh," as her reply. Jo jogged a couple of steps to catch back up with Pike's measured stride. After about fifty yards of silence (some sort of record for her), she looked up and squinted when the late afternoon's sun hit her face. In the best kid-voice she had, she asked the million dollar child question: "Where are we going?'

An airy chuckle escaped Chris' throat. "We," he began, "Are going to take a little trip. I heard you had fun on the shuttle ride here, right?"

Joanna practically bounced. "Yeah! It was cool! It was loud and shaky, and I was kind of scared at first, but then I realized how fast we were going and I thought it was fun! And they gave me some pretzels and they let me sit up in the cockpit when we landed."

How was Joanna possibly Leonard McCoy's child? McCoy, the same man who Pike and Kirk had to nearly peel from the ceiling of the sim the first time through and who'd puked for twenty straight minutes afterward, could not possibly have passed on genetic markers to a daughter who actively enjoyed flying. It was a commentary on irony, and Chris thought it was pretty damned amusing. Reaching down, he tousled Joanna's hair, earning a scowl from the little girl. This time, Pike did laugh out loud, as it was the same one the captain often saw from her father when the elder McCoy was dealing with Jim Kirk. "Well, Jo, I'm glad you liked the shuttle ride, because I'm going to take you up to spacedock. There's a ship there that's being repaired, and I thought maybe you'd want to go see her."

"We get to go into space?"

Pike simply nodded. "I'm going to take you up in your own shuttle, and if you behave yourself on the way up, there may or may not be a treat of some sort waiting for you at spacedock. Is that okay with you, Miss McCoy?" Chris finished with a sly smile. His father always told him that bribery worked quite well on him when he was a child. It was nice to employ some of the oldest tricks in the book, even if it meant admitting that his parents weren't total idiots all the time.

In the grand tradition of children, and secondarily of people with the last name McCoy on Starfleet Academy grounds, Joanna replied to Pike's question with actions instead of words. But instead of rudely jamming a hypo into his neck or calling him a fucktwitted idiot to his face (and gladly taking the reprimand for it), Joanna grinned and bounced around the captain's feet. Chris ruffled Jo's hair, earning a scowl from the little girl. "Shall we?"

He motioned with his head for her to follow. She obliged willingly and the pair started making their way toward the hanger bays. Chris flashed his badge at the entrance. Signing his name on the registration PADD for the shuttle, he strapped Jo in her window seat in the back and began pre-flight. While his hands danced over the controls, repeating the motions he'd executed probably thousands of times before, Chris stole a glance back through the open cockpit door. McCoy Junior was happily playing in her seat, fascinated by both the inner workings of the shuttle, and of the buzz of the hanger bay itself. Pike smiled to himself, content and at ease.

Life, indeed, took more than a few strange twists and turns. When Pike thought all hope was lost, that he'd given his entire life to Starfleet and toasted black any chance at a normal life, fate dropped Kirk and McCoy into his lap. Chris decided that Joanna, Kirk and Leonard might not be his family, but they family all the same. And in the end, Pike decided that was all that really mattered.

Next Up: Bones gets into one of those flying deathtrap shuttle things.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: If I owned Star Trek, Karl Urban's apparent allergy to shirt buttons would be explored completely, and J.J. Abrams would already be contracted to direct the next film. So if it isn't clear enough, Star Trek isn't mine and I make no profit. More's the pity.

Chapter 6

If he had to deal with one more whining, pathetic, bone-headed intern, McCoy swore the JAG was not going to be able to hold him accountable for his own actions. After his emergency shift in medical, he felt a strange urge to test the durability of the drywall with his fist. Certainly, it'd be the preferable way, though it'd be completely improper. Starfleet had, in fact, outlawed the use of human subjects in case studies, so grabbing the nearest intern and pummeling the life out of him was probably something that would be frowned upon.

As if his day wasn't bad enough, the message from Pike had him ready to jump from the top of the Starfleet hospital roof. Of all the stupid, irritating places the captain could take his daughter, the man had to go to spacedock. When Pike mentioned visiting the Enterprise, McCoy didn't think he was actually serious about taking Jo that far away. But, as he'd found, his daughter was able to weasel her way into or out of just about anything, and it appeared she's wormed her way right into the heart of one of the highest ranking people on campus.

Shrugging out of his white lab coat, McCoy growled at a passing first year nurse. She jumped, yelped in fear and scurried off to another part of the hospital for her break. He shoved his stethoscope and coat in his locker, changed his shoes, and slammed the small storage space shut. It rattled the entire bank of lockers, the small structure shaking like a bunch of scared medical student withering under his glare. McCoy walked out the door of the lounge and nodded at Chapel on the way out the hospital entrance. He walked across campus toward the shuttle bay, alternately thanking Captain Pike for watching Jo without hesitation while also cursing the man out for taking her to a place that would force him to set foot on a 'flying deathtrap' of a machine.

He entered the hanger bay and swiped his ID card. When he stopped at the sign in sheet, a few curious workers in the bay threw confused looks in his direction, but wisely said nothing. McCoy's fear of flying was legendary stuff around campus, since outwardly, there was not much else that phased him. People like Chapel, Pike and Kirk knew better than to believe such obvious bullshit, but they kept their mouths shut to preserve his image. It was paramount to all for the medical staff to believe that Len was a rock, and if they knew he had fears and doubts just like everyone else, the trio knew McCoy felt his ability to lead in a crisis might be greatly compromised.

The doctor plopped heavily down in the assigned seat of his shuttle and strapped himself in. The five point restraint bit into his shoulders as the pilot began preflight. The shaking, rumbling sensation he felt in the seat of his pants was something he'd never really get used to, nor would he like it. McCoy closed his eyes and swallowed down the welling nausea, cursing that he didn't have time to give himself a Dramamine hypo before he left. He adjusted his breathing to keep it slow and even. In through the nose. Hold. Out through the mouth. Slow. Steady. 'Shuttles are safe. They're fine. You're over this,' he kept telling himself. The doctor forced his mind to another topic, and inevitably, his thoughts drifted toward his daughter.

McCoy didn't mind one bit that Jo and Pike hit it off. In fact, he was quite pleased that she'd taken to Jim and Chris. Both men were, for obviously different reasons, very important to him, and McCoy would be lying if he said that their acceptance didn't mean a ton. But what he really despised, with a burning, searing passion, was flying. Thanks to Jim, he could get in a shuttle now without puking the entire ride or needing a fifth of Kentucky's finest beforehand. He still didn't know how to fly, but he was a medical track cadet. He had more important things to do than learn how to glide a shuttle back down to the ground. It was a requirement he needed to complete, but McCoy fully intended on putting it off until the very last moment.

All too soon, the shuttle was linking up at spacedock. McCoy looked around, surprised that he'd daydreamed through an entire flight without once thinking about panicking. He'd barely even registered the liftoff, which was a feat in and of itself. He unclicked his safety harness and exited the shuttle, following the signs to one of the meeting rooms Pike set up as a meeting point.

The door to the small room swished open, and even the crabby doctor couldn't help but laugh. Seated in front of him, Joanna was working away at the biggest ice cream cone imaginable to man. The three scoops of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry were nearly as tall as her head, and she couldn't quite seem to figure out where to start. Next to her, Pike sat across the table, quietly eating his own, albeit much smaller, mint chocolate chip cone, smirking as Jo growled in frustration.

The little girl heard the door and looked up. "Daddy!" she practically yelled, carefully balancing the treat in the holder set on the table top. "Captain Pike got me ice cream!"

"I can see that," McCoy answered, eyeing the stack of sugar rush with trepidation. He wondered silently if he'd be at DEFCON 4 when Joanna inevitably went into hyper drive from sweet overdose. Shifting his eyes over to a very causal looking captain, Len suddenly felt the compunction to update each and every one of Pike's boosters. He knew the smug bastard did this to him on purpose. But really, who was McCoy kidding? He'd have done the same, exact thing if he were in Pike's place. There was no need to be sanctimonious now.

Joanna's exclamation of delight alerted the captain to McCoy's presence, and he tipped his head in the doctor's direction. In response to Len's silent Eyebrow of Doom, Pike nonchalantly said, "Your daughter said that you wouldn't let her have any ice cream. I think that's a crime, and the last time I checked, I still outrank you." He motioned to the set of utensils on the table. "Grab a spoon and a chair, McCoy."

With a growl, McCoy sat down but did as he was told. It was low even for Pike to pull rank, but Len silently accepted the spoon Chris handed in his direction. He stole a bit of his daughter's strawberry ice cream, ignoring Joanna's protests, and glared over the massive stack of the sweet treat at Pike. He savored the sweet richness of the treat because really, this ice cream was quite good. Not that he'd admit it, but it really was good. Remembering he was supposed to be pissed, Len swallowed quickly and then pointed his spoon at Pike. "You know she was being punished for talking out of turn when I wouldn't give her what she wanted, right?"

The captain rolled his eyes and bit off a big chunk of the cone, his teeth crunching loudly against the cookie holder. With his mouth half full, he asked, "What could she have possibly said that was so wrong?"

McCoy leaned over and whispered what Joanna had asked in the middle of the Italian restaurant when they went to dinner with Jim. If Jo had been watching (which she wasn't, because that ice cream cone was epic), she would have seen Pike's eyes bulge, his eyebrows shoot up to his hairline, and finally, she would have seen the captain struggling not to laugh out loud. Eventually, the need for air won over the hopes he'd make no sound, and a tiny laugh escaped Chris' throat. He cleared it quickly and then schooled his face to passivity. With a mischievous twinkle in his eyes, he asked, "What's so wrong with that?"

Len's blood pressure ticked a few points higher when his brain registered that the good captain wasn't equally as appalled as he had been. Instead, Pike was turning bright red as he tried not to burst out laughing. "You cannot be serious. If you had a daughter and she said that in the middle of a restaurant because she heard it from Kirk, you'd have him running champion makers for the next month."

"Yes, but that doesn't mean I don't think it's funny. There's a difference, McCoy. Besides, it's not her fault that she's brilliant and that your roommate is an immature pig."

"Okay, point," McCoy sighed while he continued to 'help' Jo eat her ice cream. He was surprised to see that it was almost gone. Apparently, he'd been far hungrier than he thought, but he should have known better. A sandwich from the vending replicator in the hospital would only take him so far. He also should know better than to eat three scoops of ice cream on an empty stomach, but hell with it. He was on vacation. Joanna, for once, sat silently while she ate. Len knew it was more of the result of the ice cream she was shoveling in her mouth, but he'd take the silence any way he could get it. Finally finished, she leaned back in her chair and set her very sticky hands on the conference room table.

Pike produced a towel from what seemed like thin air and held it out to Joanna so she could wipe her face and hands. The simple action made Len double take and rub his eyes in confirmation. The captain was a constant source of surprises, and the easy manner Chris had with children was yet another layer to his personality McCoy was still discovering. It was amazing the man had no kids himself, because he was really a natural dad. Len mentally slapped himself for the thought. 'Of course he's a natural parent. Look at what he deals with every day, idiot.'

Free from sticky goo, Joanna bounced over toward her father. She picked up a small golden replica of a Federation starship on her way by the display. She cradled it in her tiny hands and, flying it through 'space' while making the appropriate warp drive sound effects announced, "Daddy! I'm going to fly spaceships when I grow up!"

"That's great, honey." Bones narrowed his eyes, suspicious, and turned his gaze back toward his commanding officer. He dropped his voice a few decibels so Jo wouldn't hear him before asking, "Sir, permission to speak freely?"

Pike snorted. "You always do, McCoy, permission or no."

Hands on hips, eyebrows narrowing, and an evil, hard glint in his eyes, McCoy growled, "What else did you show my daughter?"

Pike laughed and put his hands up in mock surrender. "Nothing, I promise. I gave her a little tour of the new ship and showed her around spacedock, but nothing else, I swear to you. Captain's honor," he said, holding up his right hand. "It's just a sugar high, McCoy. She'll be fine."

Leonard looked over his shoulder and Joanna, the little girl still running and jumping off every available surface while shooting imaginary photon torpedoes at the enemy Klingon vessel. He turned back toward Pike, the older man propped in his chair with his hands folded on his stomach. He looked rather smug, and that was annoying the doctor. "You did this on purpose."

"Did what, McCoy?" Chris asked innocently.

"That's what I thought," McCoy replied. "Joanna? We should go. Say goodbye to Captain Pike and then make sure you have all your stuff."

Jo paused in mid-leap, hopping down from the chair with relative ease. She dragged her feet back towards the pair of adults, shoulders slumped and nearly pouting. She gently placed the ship back on the table. Looking up at Pike she said, "Thanks Mr. Pike. It was fun playing today."

"You're welcome, Jo. Behave for your father the rest of your time here, okay?" Chris straightened and looked McCoy in the eye. "She's a brilliant girl. You should be proud of her. Funny and outgoing. Don't know where that came from, but I don't think it was from you."

"Oh, I am very proud of her. You have no idea," McCoy replied, blushing slightly at the compliment. Under his breath he muttered, "But you haven't met my ex."

Pike let the rare act of embarrassment pass; as much as he enjoyed busting the man's balls, he knew where to draw the line. He also didn't need McCoy to know that he had a lot more to do with Joanna's visit than McCoy believed. All the doctor thought Pike did was clear his schedule and get him the family quarters assignment for the week. The true specifics were one stipulation Jocelyn and Chris had laid out early on in their conversation. Under no circumstances was he to tell Len that he'd been in Georgia. They both agreed it was for the better, as private of a person as he was.

Unaware of his CO's thoughts, McCoy did his fatherly duties and did a quick once over of the room. Satisfied he didn't forget anything, he turned back to Pike. He and the captain shook hands, and Leonard said, "Thank you for all of this, Sir. I owe you."

"I'll put it on your tab, McCoy. Extra push ups next week. How does that sound?"

The doctor rolled his eyes. "Just fabulous. Have a good night, Captain."

Father and daughter waved goodbye as the doors to the conference room slid closed and Captain Pike disappeared behind them. They made their way down to the shuttle bay and to the correct gate. Joanna looked up at her father and practically beamed. "We get to go on another shuttle ride!"

"Yes, we do, Jo. But just like you did for Captain Pike, I need you to behave for me, okay? Can you do that?"

Jo nodded.

The deck officer called their flight number and McCoy led Jo inside. Leonard said a silent prayer as they crossed the threshold of the door. Flying as an individual on a shaky craft was one thing, but having his daughter in tow changed the game completely. The barrage of pessimistic 'what ifs' marched through his mind. He willfully pushed them aside and smiled tightly at Joanna, squeezing her hand when she practically flounced aboard. Swallowing back the lump in his throat, he led them to their seats.

He knew he had precious little time with Jo at the Academy, and McCoy wanted to make the best of every minute. If that meant taking a ride on a shuttle, an act of which he was still absolutely fearful, he'd do it just to make his daughter happy. He planned to take her to the local fair Chapel suggested that was in town after he ate something that was freshly prepared and then had a proper shower. Len was strangely excited to take Jo to the fair. According to his head nurse, there were all sorts of crafts and games, and he knew right away it'd be perfect for her. Who said Leonard McCoy didn't have a softer side?

He made sure Joanna was strapped in tightly before he did up his own restraints. He dropped a gentle kiss on her forehead and ruffled her hair when she squeaked in protest. Len looked down at Jo, smiling softly as the little girl strained in her seat to look out the windows of the shuttle. She turned her head back toward her father and said excitedly, "Isn't flying the greatest?"

McCoy nearly rolled his eyes. No, flying was not the greatest, despite Jim and Chris' attestations to the contrary. While he could tolerate flights in small doses now, he didn't necessarily like the things. He still thought they were flying deathtraps that had their own power sources, but he'd learned to harness his fear and not let it consume him. He felt the telltale rumble of the engine start up and heard the thrusters fire. The hull of the shuttle bay floated slowly by, and before long the shuttle's windows was carpeted by the blackness of space with the stars as outlines. It reminded him where he sat in the universe and how insignificant he was. But he wasn't about to burst his daughter's bubble, and to appease Joanna, he replied a curt, "It is," while he worked on controlling his breathing so he wouldn't panic.

Joanna accepted her father's obviously BS answer, settled into her seat after takeoff was complete and watched the stars and the ships pass by. She didn't even notice the rest of the craft's occupants, focusing solely on what was going on outside her window. It was positively heavenly to watch, and it fascinated her endlessly. How could such a little tiny ship protect them from all that was out in space? How did it fly? How could it work? She had so many questions that she needed to find the answers to, and she couldn't wait until her next visit to ask Captain Pike.

The doctor sat silently and observed as the shuttle descended through earth's atmosphere. He felt the switch from artificial to actual gravity, the planet's way of welcoming back the craft as it approached Starfleet's shuttle port. All the while, he sat wondering if Pike had inadvertently created a monster when he took Jo up in the co-pilot's seat. It seemed her head was still in the cosmos and that he'd be lucky if it came down any time soon, if she came down at all. In his mind, he hoped Joanna would choose a career path that would give her safety, but he also knew that he couldn't force her to spend her life working on something she hated. If that meant his little girl put herself in harm's to follow her calling, then that was how it had to be. Leonard knew he had several years before she'd make that choice, but it didn't make the thought any easier.

But before he could think of anything else, McCoy was literally shocked and jolted out of his reverie. He heard a loud bang, and then the little ship shuddered violently. As a doctor, Len knew very little about flight controls, but it didn't take Pike's advanced fight skills to feel the physical clues of a craft in distress. In an instant, his body was pressed forward in the safety harness as the ship lost forward momentum. It also veered sharply right, the back end of the ship kicking hard left. McCoy felt his body being pushed forward by the sudden loss of momentum, and despite the tightened restraint, his ass was pressed up against the left armrest of the seat. Instinct told him to reach for his daughter. McCoy threw his arm over her body protectively in a vain effort to shield her. Jo shrank back in her seat and whimpered silently.

"Daddy?" she asked tentatively. Jo knew she was no wimp, but right now, she really wished she had her favorite stuffed teddy bear. The shuttle she rode in on the way to California was fun. The ride to spacedock had been fun. Captain Pike let her sit up front as long as she promised not to touch anything and he told her what the buttons did. But this ride was not fun, nor was it as cool as the one with Mr. Chris. She was scared, but she didn't want to cry. Instead, she gripped her father's wrist with her tiny hand. "What's going on?"

McCoy looked down at his daughter and tried to mask the gut-wrenching, pit-of-his-stomach terror that was cascading through his mind. It would do Joanna no good to see her father panic. He swallowed the lump in his throat as the shuttle gave a massive shake and then sank a few hundred feet. He squeezed her hand back and smiled weakly. Praying his voice didn't tremble or crack, he answered, "I don't know, baby. But we're going to be okay."

"How do you know?"

He hated lying to her. But right now, it was as much about assuring himself as it was keeping his daughter calm. "I just know. Starfleet doesn't take bad people to fly their ships, even the shuttles." McCoy closed his eyes as soon as the sentence cleared his mouth, because he really hoped he was right.

The washboard turbulent ride only lasted for about ten seconds, and then, the shuttle went strangely quiet. Not even the pilot was making so much as a sound, aside from the flipping of switches and the rapid click-click-tap as he accessed data from a PADD strapped to his leg. The rest of the passengers, a security team from spacedock, all sat silently in their chairs. They looked strangely unaffected, but McCoy's medical training allowed him the luxury of noticing the smallest physiological details. The white knuckles, the short, choppy breaths and the widened eyes of his companions all gave away clearly their fear. He looked into their faces and saw the multitude of his own emotions staring right back.

The cockpit was clearly visible to McCoy from where he sat, and he craned his neck around to get a better view. But as he did that, he felt the shuttle begin tipping to the right, like someone had taken out the supports to the right side of the craft. It was a maneuver the old war planes of the 20th and 21st century often executed when they were fighting in the skies with another aircraft. McCoy had seen it in books and on films, but never felt it in real life. The bank started out slight but became more pronounced as the seconds ticked by. Joanna screamed in his ear when the shuttle passed forty degrees of right tilt. At that angle, the passengers were trying desperately to hold onto something tied down so they wouldn't slip out of their seats.

Looking out the window, Leonard felt a sudden rush of confusion. There was clearly a problem with the shuttle. Control was minimal, and lord only knew what was wrong with the propulsion system. Logic dictated that they'd immediately head back down to the safety of the ground, but they were inexorably climbing. And the shuttle kept banking steeply to the right, tilted like a seesaw with only one person sitting on it. He was sure they were going to roll over and then tumble from the skies when Leonard heard the right engine fire up. The whine from nacelle was music to his ears, because it meant that something aboard the Godforsaken piece of shit was working.

Slowly but surely, the right side of the shuttle began to come up and at the same time, he saw the horizon out the window level off and then slowly pitch down. He had no clue what was going on, but all he knew was that the craft didn't feel like it was going to roll over and crash any more. McCoy felt the telltale pop in his ears as the craft descended lower toward the planet's surface. He heard one of the other passengers mutter something about differential thrust, and he hoped that was referring to a temporary method of steering the pilot was employing, rather than the only thing they had.

Before, he could feel they were climbing. Now, after the shuttle leveled out, it felt like they were dropping, and dropping fast. McCoy saw the clouds rush past and he heard the strain from the engines to keep the craft level, but he could still feel a slight bank to the right. They were still turning. Somewhere in the back of his mind, the logical part screamed that they were in trouble, but with Jo sitting next to him, he refused to believe it. Len's eyes darted around the cabin, hoping to find any clue that the pilot was regaining control of the obviously crippled ship.

The next words McCoy heard from the flight deck made his blood run cold.

Up in the cockpit, their young pilot was struggling to keep the craft level and in flight. He radioed in a very controlled, "Mayday, mayday, mayday. This is Trainer 797. We are experiencing a total loss of flight input controls. Power has been compromised. We have had some type of onboard failure. Flight control inputs are unresponsive. I say again, I have no attitude control."

A couple of gasps from the passengers sitting closest to the cockpit door were audible over the deathly silence of the shuttle. The pilot heard them and clicked on the public address system before a full scale panic could engulf the entire interior of the craft. "Folks, I want to be honest with you," he began in a no nonsense fashion. "We are experiencing a failure of some kind. I still have a rudimentary way of controlling the craft, but we're going to need to make an emergency landing a soon as possible. It's going to be a hard one, and I need you all to do exactly as I say, when I say it. When I say 'brace', I want you all to put your heads down as close to your laps as you can get them. We'll be on the ground shortly."

Len clenched his jaw while the speaker to the PA system cut out. This was not good, and he'd have given his right arm for Joanna to be anywhere but on the shuttle with him at that very moment. Why didn't he just have Pike fly her back down? Why did he have to go get her? Why this shuttle, of all things? But, he didn't have time to dwell on regret. If he wanted his daughter to live, he needed to put into action the instructions given by the pilot, and hope that God didn't want Jo yet.

The surface was speeding closer, and McCoy could make out the campus of the Academy through the cockpit window. It was tiny, but there was no mistaking their heading. From their altitude, the buildings looked like play toys and the few people he could see resembled little ants. A few miles in the distance, Len could see the landing pads and the old runways of the outdoor shuttle port. Logically, McCoy knew the importance of making the landing pads. If they'd put out a mayday, then the hospital would have been alerted to a shuttle in distress and would have prepared for any scenario they could think of. Emergency extraction teams would be mobilized, as well as fire and rescue squads. But, everything was at the landing pad.

The pilot's next words solidified his thoughts. "We have to make the pad! I see it! We're gonna make that landing pad!" the pilot yelled over his shoulder to his flight officer. "We do that, we've got a chance!" The open cockpit door gave McCoy a clear line of sight the flurry of activity. He wished like hell he knew more about flight controls, or flying in general. He knew that, even if he had learned to fly, there would be little to nothing he could offer, but at least he wouldn't be sitting helplessly on his hands.

The landing pad's 'X' loomed through the cockpit windows, and McCoy took a deep breath and braced himself for impact. The tinny, automated voice of the proximity to ground warning system audible from the cockpit echoed in his ears. The 'woo-woo' of the alarm wailed and the cadenced call of 'Pull up, pull up, pull up!' bounced off the walls of the shuttle. McCoy felt almost weightless in his seat as the shuttle sank down to the surface Earth at a obscenely steep rate. The ground was zipping by, faster than he ever felt or saw before. Len knew they were going too fast – he'd never approached at this speed before. He heard the pilot firewall both throttles to maximum when the young man realized they were sinking much too quickly, but it was too little, too late. The green grass and the ocean clearly visible out the port side of the craft, just past the profile of Joanna's frightened face. Len squeezed his daughter's hand once when he felt the right side of the shuttle dip downward as it wanted to for the entire flight.

A split second later, they hit the ground.


The craft hit the runway and then skidded. The horrible screeching of shearing and shredding metal roared in his ears. McCoy felt his body being slammed into his seat with such tremendous force that he thought the bone-jarring impact and extreme g-forces exerting pressure on his strained frame might just kill him outright. He could feel the shuttle bouncing up off the ground again, and then crashing back into the earth. Somewhere in the distance of is consciousness as the small craft began to spin and cartwheel uncontrollably, he heard Joanna's screams, and then…

…Woke up in his own bed in his room.

"Bones. Hey, Bones! Wake up!" Jim stood over McCoy and shook the man's shoulder hard. Whatever he was dreaming about, it couldn't have been pleasant. A half second later, two green-gray eyes snapped open and in that instant, Jim saw true, unadulterated terror running through them. Embarrassment followed shortly, and Kirk cocked his head to the side, stepping back and allowing his hand to fall from its former position affixed on the bare shoulder of his roommate. At the risk of asking a very stupid question, Jim carefully queried, "You okay, man? You've been muttering in your sleep for the last half hour. What's going on?"

McCoy squinted, closing his left eye and dropping the right to half-mast. Jim Kirk's worried face hovered above him. McCoy's entire body shook once, the doctor's eyes wide and frightened. He looked down at his hands, willing them to stop shaking. Saying nothing, he sat up in bed, threw the covers aside and staggered toward the bathroom. He made it to the toilet just in time to empty his entire dinner of coffee and pretzels from the night previous into the bowl, directly before his stomach decided that it wanted to turn itself inside out just for fun. He hit the flush button with his hand, and then leaned back, somehow wedging himself in the narrow recess of space that made up the area between the countertop, toilet and wall. McCoy's head hit the sheet rock when he let it fall back, a dull, hollow sound echoing off the bare walls of the room.

Kirk could hear McCoy's heart racing from down the hall. He was sure the rushing, pulsing blood coursing through the doctor's body drowned out any sound Kirk made as he approached the bathroom, or so Jim hoped. He was honestly worried; in the fourteen months since they'd arrived at Starfleet Academy, Kirk had seen Bones in just about every state: angry, sad, melancholy, drunk (a lot of that one), proud, irritated, pleased, and on the rare occasion, happy. But he'd never seen him scared, which was the only way he could describe his roommate's state at the present.

As he approached the doorway, Jim tried to make a sound so he wouldn't completely startle his already flighty friend. Poking his head inside, the worry encompassing Kirk's brain increased tenfold. McCoy was sitting, bent at the waist, left knee up against his chest and right stuck between the toilet and the countertop. His head was tilted back, eyes closed with both hands up shielding his face. Kirk asked tentatively, "Bones?"

For a few very long seconds, McCoy didn't answer. He didn't move, he didn't blink, and Kirk wasn't even sure if he was breathing he was so still. Finally, from behind the hands that shielded his face, Len said, "Jim. I think it's time I learned how to fly a shuttle."

Kirk was taken aback. Of all the things McCoy might have said, that was not even on the radar. But he also knew better than to push his best friend because Bones would just clam up if he did. He'd made the mistake of well-meaning meddling once before when he'd brought up Joanna and Jocelyn. He'd even gone so far as to comm the little girl on Bones' birthday in hopes that she'd want to say hi to her father. Jocelyn was less than pleased, and though she didn't go absolutely apeshit crazy on Jim, the look in her eyes as soon as she saw her ex in the background was enough for Kirk to know that he'd very much overstepped his bounds. One screaming, swearing argument later, McCoy stormed out the door sans comm, keys, and wallet. The result was a three day AWOL for McCoy and a frantic search by Jim and Pike to locate the doctor before he was either killed, arrested or deserted Starfleet completely. Bones eventually turned up, but to this day would not tell Kirk or Pike where he'd been or what he was doing.

Jim hated to be the guy that always stated the obvious, but when McCoy was in one of his funks, Kirk felt it was his civic duty as McCoy's BFF to set the man straight. He took a seat next to the doorframe of the bathroom and rested one of his arms on his bent knee. With as much tact as a Kirk could manage (which was none), Jim said, "Bones, you hate to fly."

McCoy's head lolled slightly to the right, looking where he could see Jim from the corner of his vision. "I know that, infant." He turned back toward the countertop. With a giant, put out sigh, Bones amended his statement. "I'll always hate it. But that doesn't mean I shouldn't learn."

"Not that I'm upset that you finally understand Starfleet operates in space, but this kind of sudden. What gives?" Jim replied, trying to keep the tone light. He could still see the visible lines of stress and worry pulling at his friend's face.

"You might say it was a little bit of an epiphany," McCoy answered cryptically. He pulled himself up off the floor of the bathroom, splashed some water on his face and made his way back to the shared living quarters. Bones sat down heavily on the bed and rolled his neck. He was still wound up and tense, and he knew Jim could see it. But there was nothing he could do about it, so he hoped the kid would at least have the common courtesy to leave it alone for the night. He activated the holo of Joanna he kept on the bookshelf next to his bed and stared at it, smiling ever so slightly.

Kirk wandered up and stood at the entrance to the main room. He leaned up against the door frame and watched as his roommate zapped the holo after a few long seconds and then retrieved the bottle of Kentucky bourbon from his desk. He set it next to Jo's holo and stepped back.

"What's that for?" Kirk asked when his curiosity couldn't contain itself any longer.

McCoy shrugged. "It's a reminder," he said and then crawled back in bed.

Kirk furrowed his brows but did the same, ordering the lights off when he settled in. he laid awake the rest of the night, thinking about McCoy's strange dream and even stranger reaction. Sometime just before sunrise, he grew frustrated, slipped silently out of bed, and threw on some PT clothes to go for a run. He passed McCoy's bed on the way out the door. He was happy to see the older man was dead to the world, and quite a bit more at peace than he'd been a few hours earlier.

Using the miles to help sort out his thoughts, Jim wondered what exactly McCoy was dreaming about before he'd woken him. Kirk caught snippets of it; every once in a while, Bones would actually say something that was intelligible, but mostly it was just grunts and whines and small whimpers that came from the sleeping doctor. Jim knew it had to have something to do with Joanna, but he couldn't quite figure out why McCoy had this sudden urge to learn to fly when the entire campus knew how terrified he was of shuttles. Nothing was meshing, and it was bothering him.

As the sun crested the horizon, Jim trudged up the stairs to his room, still no closer to finding the solution to his friend's erratic behavior. He punched in his code and, waiting for the somewhat temperamental door to slide open, leaned against the frame. He nearly jumped in surprise when he saw McCoy was not only awake, but showered, dressed and on the desktop comm. Kirk checked his watch. 0600. McCoy was not a morning person, and usually would sleep until the very last second if allowed. The fact that he was up and at 'em voluntarily spoke volumes about the importance of…whatever he was doing.

But as Jim looked closer, the reasoning for McCoy's madness was clear. Kirk's face broke out into broad smile as a five year old Joanna McCoy bounced happily in front of the viewscreen on the other end of the connection, babbling away to her dad about learning to ride a horse. In the background, Jocelyn Darnell watched carefully, a small smile tugging at her lips. Jim looked at the face of Bones' ex. He could see that she wasn't exactly pleased, but she wasn't swearing at him, either. She looked almost…civil. And Bones. Kirk couldn't wait to go to advanced tactics, if only to tell Pike of the new developments.

McCoy was smiling and laughing.

Jim tried to stay silent, but his shoulder accidentally bumped the whiteboard that hung next to the door, the one that housed the chore list for the room. McCoy swiveled around in his chair, eyebrow raised and amused smirk on his lips. He turned back toward the comm, said something to Jocelyn Kirk couldn't hear, and then cut the connection.

Kirk took two steps into the room, feeling like an intruder in his own room. "Bones, I didn't want to interrupt. I mean, you didn't have to end the call."

"It's okay. She needed to get going anyway," McCoy said with an air of nonchalance, gathering his books and preparing for the day ahead. He responded to Kirk's question and his sudden comm of Jocelyn as if it were nothing, as if it weren't a big deal.

"Okay, hold it. These last six hours have been really strange. You guys hated each other a few weeks ago. You thought she wanted to castrate you, and now you're talking like nothing ever happened. Help a confused brother out," Jim said dumbly. He could have slapped himself for being such an insensitive ass, but a highly developed brain to mouth filter wasn't exactly a Kirk trait.

"No, we weren't, but we both realized that it's stupid for us to be fighting like we were when Jo's stuck in the middle. We had to grow up, for her sake. I don't want my kid growing up thinking she has to choose a side for which parent she hates less," the doctor answered honestly.

Although Jim was happy that McCoy and Jocelyn were finally talking, it still didn't add up. Kirk grabbed McCoy's arm when his roommate tried to bustle past. He looked the man directly in the eyes, searching them for any type of reasoning for the sudden about face. "Bones, what's really going on? What happened last night? Why the sudden civility? And what's with your need to learn to fly? I mean, not that I won't teach you, but you hate it! You hate everything about flying!"

McCoy sighed and then sat down on his unmade bed. "That was step one, talking to Joss. It was overdue, but you know that. We should have done this a long time ago." He was silent for a couple of minutes, contemplating what to say. He yanked at a hangnail on his right thumb, wincing when he pulled the piece of skin free. The cut bubbled up with bright red blood, but Bones ignored it. Without looking at Kirk, McCoy asked, "What's your biggest fear, Jim?" Before Kirk could answer the clearly rhetorical question, McCoy added, "Mine's not being in control. Or being helpless. Take your pick. Probably a big reason why I'm a doctor."

A thousand different thoughts converged in Jim's brain all at once, each one fighting to be labeled and compartmentalized before heading off to be neatly packaged as the whole picture of the puzzle. Kirk forced his brain to slow down and slowly, the stream evened out which allowed he think clearly. As he went through the evidence piece by piece, the light bulbs started going off in his head. He knew what Bones was getting at, and how hard it was for him to admit it. Things were making a little bit more sense, but the picture was by no means completely clear. He needed just a little bit more. "And that dream last night? Was that about…" Jim trailed off, letting the sentence hang in the air. He hoped maybe an opened ended question would prompt McCoy to talk about whatever crawled under his saddle and died.

"Jo," Bones replied tightly, still focused on nothing but his hands.

"Aha," Kirk replied, sensing that he was going to get nothing more from his tight-lipped roommate. Jim nodded silently and patted McCoy on the shoulder. He took in the tense shoulder and clenched jaw, knowing that his friends needed a few minutes to compose himself. Kirk hopped off his bed and made his way to the bathroom to shower and change for the day. As he went through his morning routine, Jim thought about what McCoy just said and how it related to the incongruous event the night previous.

Whatever happened, Jim knew he wasn't about to get the full story any time soon. He could probably take a few stabs at what happened in Bones' stream of semi-consciousness and be reasonably close, but that wouldn't be proper. All he knew was that McCoy had a dream about something, and if it scared him enough to want both mend his fractured relationship with his ex and learn to fly a shuttle, it had to be a hell of nightmare.

Jim was glad both his best friend and his best friend's ex were finally pulling their heads out of their asses. Kirk wasn't exactly annoyed per say, but the pattern was almost cyclical. McCoy, Jim thought, should consider a separate career in acting, because the man was damned good at pretending the lack of relationship with his only child didn't bother him much at all. For a month or so, Bones would go about his life while pretending it didn't hurt to leave Joanna behind in Georgia. He'd make his rounds, pull his shifts, do his coursework, and act like it was the most natural choice he'd made. But then, something would remind him of Jo and he'd crawl into a bottle for the night to forget the pain and hurt, even if it was only for a few hours. His hangover the next day was his punishment for his own perceived inadequacies as a husband and a father, and he accepted it as something that just happened.

The expectation, because of the established history, was that McCoy would reach straight for the bourbon on his desk as soon as Kirk woke him. Jim's heart sank a bit when Bones beelined for it. But he couldn't help the open shock when, instead of taking one long gulp straight from the bottle, he put it next to the holo of Jo instead. Jim was starting to understand what Bones meant by how it was, "Reminder."

It was a reminder of what he'd lost, but also what he could still gain back.

His face covered in shaving cream, Jim laughed out loud. He got it. It made sense now. The twinkle in his eyes was obvious as he finished up his routine and then cleaned up the sink. He pulled on a fresh t-shirt and buckled his pants. Rounding the corner in their room on the way to the closet, Kirk vowed that he would do whatever he could to help facilitate some sort of reconciliation between Jocelyn and Bones. He would also put good credits that Captain Pike would stand right next to him on that.

Jim peeked out into the living area of their room. McCoy's face would probably wear the perma-scowl for the entirety of his life, but his step had a lightness to it, an assuredness that it certainly lacked before. Jim knew it wouldn't be an easy road; he had firsthand knowledge how hard it was to be inexorably tied to a military officer, but he thought McCoy would make it. He had friends and colleagues who supported him, and an entire network that would be willing to help. The only thing that could possibly derail a successful resolution was the literal end of the world, but that wasn't bloody likely.

As he was throwing on his shoes and scrambling to find the Warp Theory PADD he'd tossed across the room the night before, Jim had a thought. He sincerely hoped that taking steps in the right direction to cure the absence of Joanna in his life meant Bones would get to see his daughter at some point during their stay at the Academy. Not only would it be good for the man, Kirk admitted to some slightly selfish urges to spoil the miniature McCoy as much as humanly possible. Not that he'd want a little bit of payback for all those uncomfortable physicals Bones always insisted he needed. No, not at all. Jim wasn't the type of person to do something that underhanded.

Bones must have read his thoughts, which in Jim's mind, was not necessarily a good thing. It meant that he and Bones were getting to know each other more they probably ought to. Right as Kirk was walking toward the door of their room to head off for class, a broad hand stopped him from exiting. When Jim looked into McCoy's eyes, there was no trace of the earlier bit of melancholy, only a bit of playfulness that often lacked in Bones' demeanor. In his most officious doctor voice, McCoy said, "Jim? If you ever meet my daughter, she'd better not learn a damned thing about sex from you. I'm her father, and I get to have the talk with her." Grabbing his books from the desk, McCoy added, "When she's forty."

Jim smiled and picked up his PADD and comm from his desk. Kirk always wanted a younger sibling he could corrupt, and that thinly veiled threat from McCoy sounded distinctly like a challenge. Since he was a Kirk, he didn't believe in no-win scenarios. He just hoped Bones was less lethal with his fists than he was with the damned hyposprays. Idly, Jim wondered just how many different vaccines were out there that McCoy could give him before he had a reaction to something. The answer was probably 'a lot' but it would be worth every single one of them just to spoil the hell out of Bones' kid. It was bound to be a rough job, but someone had to do it.


Author's Note (Supplemental): I hope you all have enjoyed the ride for this one. As per the usual, it started off as one idea and then completely veered off into another part of the galaxy. But, I learned long ago not to force the muses. I let them go where they like, and hope that the result isn't too bloody awful. Whatever your feelings, whether you loved it, hated it, or just though, "Meh," a comment would be lovely! Thanks for reading!