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Different Lifetimes

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Leonard McCoy was slumped back in a chair, half empty glass of bourbon in his hand, at a table in the mess hall that was empty sans two people sitting at the table with him: Jim Kirk and Montgomery Scott. The Enterprise was currently in dock for repairs and the crew had been granted shore leave, which is why the mess hall was currently empty. Scotty, of course, couldn’t leave the ship alone with strangers. McCoy wasn’t in the mood to socialize tonight and Kirk had offered to keep him company. So here they were, drinking into the night.

Really, McCoy wasn’t sure why he was in such a dreary mood. They had been wandering around deep space for just over a year now. Not that he would ever admit it, but McCoy had been enjoying the time in space; the time away from Earth was doing him good. But there was still something back on Earth that could be responsible for his negativity: his daughter Joanna. She had been five when he and her mother had divorced. She was ten now.

Kirk and Scotty were talking animatedly across from him. They had all had a couple of rounds, but liquor had always worked as a proper depressant for him, unlike his friends. They knew to leave him to his sour thoughts and enjoy themselves. He appreciated that they would keep him company in his misery without bothering him.

Just as he was finally relaxing with the bourbon, he heard a very peppy voice as the doors to the mess hall swished open. McCoy groaned as Pavel Chekov bounced into the mess hall. With him was Hikaru Sulu, Nyota Uhura, Spock, and to everyone’s surprise, the elder version of Spock from another timeline. McCoy knew from Spock that Spock Prime would be on the station, as Spock and Uhura had made plans to meet with him. McCoy had not expected the Ambassador to board the Enterprise.

“Ambassador Spock! My old friend!” called Kirk, rising quickly to his feet and wearing a bright smile on his youthful face. Scotty was quick to get behind the bar to round up a few more glasses. Uhura and Sulu both smiled at McCoy as they joined him at the table. McCoy forced a small smile; there was no reason to be rude. Chekov was too distracted with talking Spock Prime’s pointy ears off to acknowledge the gloomy doctor.

Soon, they were all sitting around the table. While the rest of the crew was chatting with growing smiles and jokes, McCoy found the Spock Prime had grown silent. In fact, if McCoy didn’t know Vulcan culture, he would say the Ambassador was sad. But maybe the human half of him was. This was his old crew, the young crew from his past. In the few years that Spock Prime had been a part of this timeline, he had spent time with the Enterprise crew, but somehow managed to continue to avoid speaking with McCoy alone.

“So can you give us a little hint of what the next four years hold?” asked an intoxicated Kirk, knowing full well that Spock Prime had made it clear that he would not be interfering further with the timeline than he already had.

The elder man cocked an eyebrow and folded his hands together. “That would be spoiling the fun, Captain.”

“Ah, yes, the fun of dark space and the excruciating joy of a sudden and terrible death,” muttered McCoy, which caused Uhura to scowl, but Scotty let out a chuckle.

Kirk poured out another round, saying, “That’s our good doctor, always such a ray of sunshine.”

“But it will be fun…that’s what you saying right?” asked Chekov eagerly. The kid adored the older Spock, even if he was a bit afraid of his younger version. They all laughed again, except for both Spocks and McCoy. With the vodka in his system, Chekov’s accent was slightly stronger as he prattled on, “You said we stayed together for longer that the five year mission…so that must mean we are successful.”

Just as he always did, Spock Prime would give little morsels of his past to the crew. Logically, he had reasoned, because the timeline had been altered already with his arrival, it would not be detrimental to answer small questions about his own past. McCoy had pretended not to care when Spock Prime never singled him out like he had the others.

Sulu was boasting for weeks after the Ambassador let it slip that he spent most of his years captaining his own ship. Uhura learned about her successes as a universal translator that had brokered deals outside of the Federation for peace and goodwill. Scotty spent a year trying to decipher the equation Spock Prime had given him to save Starfleet during their first meeting. Chekov wanted to know about technology from the future. Apparently there was a thing called a holodeck that the young man was obsessed with.

“I am only Ambassador because of my time with my friends, my crew,” replied Spock Prime cryptically.

Scotty slapped the straight-backed Spock on the back with a loud laugh. “Look, Vulcans have friends! I learn something new every day.”

Spock shifted uncomfortably, but McCoy had his suspicions that the attention by his peers was welcomed. The young Vulcan rarely opened up to the crew, but never protested the apparent closeness that his alternative version had with his crew. McCoy thought that the human side of Spock wanted to have friendships like his human crewmates. But that was just speculation- the hobgoblin never actually made an effort to make friends with anyone but Uhura and Kirk.

Spock Prime raised his glass and said, “Friendship is what makes the journey of life worth living.” The rest of the crew followed suit and there was a clinking of glasses. McCoy halfheartedly raised his own glass, but quickly knocked back the liquid left in the glass.

“Ah, come on Bones,” teased Kirk as he propped his feet up on a chair. “Join in on the friendship!”

“I toasted,” protested McCoy, annoyed at his drunk friend. The rest of the group had been quietly ignoring him. They had been in space together for eighteen months and all knew that a grumpy, drinking doctor was best left alone. He had other ways of showing his friendship. Like saving their lives every time they did something stupid.

Kirk shook his blonde head and quipped, “You’re just mad that the good Ambassador here doesn’t talk to you.”

McCoy could kill the kid. Murder him really. It wouldn’t take much effort- Kirk wouldn’t see it coming. Especially as drunk as he currently was. Apparently, McCoy was doing a good job of glaring, because the rest of the table fell silent. Uhura was the first to jump in with, “So Ambassador, how is New Vulcan?”

McCoy was grateful that she tried, but the tension at the table didn’t dissipate. Spock Prime was looking at him now, but not with his usual blank Vulcan stare. There was feeling behind the eyes of the old man and McCoy had to look away from his intense gaze.

Clearing his throat, Spock Prime broke the awkward silence by saying, “I apologize, Doctor. I did not intend to be neglectful.”

“It’s nothing,” protested McCoy with a grumble and reached for more bourbon. Seeing that no one at the table was prepared to drop the subject now that it had been breeched, McCoy continued, trying to excuse himself of the accusation. “It’s really nothing. I figure there’re only two reasons why you don’t really look at me. I die pretty soon or you hate me. Pretty simple.”

The Ambassador unclasped his hands and fiddled with the ring he wore on his left hand. “I regret to say that neither of those conclusions are correct.”

“Don’t worry about it,” muttered McCoy, his cheeks reddening with embarrassment, but Spock Prime shook his head.

“No, you would want to know about your life in my timeline.”

Looking around the table, the rest of his friends were leaning in with great interest. And the nagging notion that Spock Prime could tell him about a future that could possibly still happen was eating away at him. Maybe it was the glasses of bourbon or the way his friends had fallen silent, but McCoy wanted to know more; he needed to know more. Trying to cover for his lack of response, he grumbled, “But you don’t like talking about our futures…”

“You have a granddaughter,” Spock Prime murmured without any pretext.

McCoy sat up straight for the first time all evening and stuttered, “Joanna has a daughter?”

“Her name is Amanda,” was his simple answer. To his left, Spock turned his head in curiosity, but did not speak. Spock Prime’s reveal left McCoy speechless, unsure of what to say next. None of the others had been told this much detail about their futures. Or the possible future…it all was convoluted in McCoy’s opinion. Spock Prime reached into the folds of his Vulcan robes to pull out a small device and asked, “Would you like to see her?”

McCoy was so overcome with emotion at this point, that he could only nod as an answer. A granddaughter. His little girl had her own little girl. No one at the table moved a muscle as Spock Prime placed a small pad on the table and typed something in Vulcan into the interface. The pad emitted a blue light that suddenly morphed into the figure of a middle aged woman. “She has three children.”

“I don’t know…” McCoy looked intently at the hologram of Amanda, whose blue eyes looked so familiar. This was his granddaughter. He had family in the future. Joanna had a future. He just hoped he was a part of it. The woman in the hologram wore a bright smile and a Starfleet uniform. McCoy could see Joanna all grown up in this image, as if he was looking at his little girl.

As if reading his mind, Spock Prime continued, “You had a great impact on your daughter in my time, as I know you will in your own. There are some things that are fated to be. Your granddaughter adored you and gave the eulogy at your funeral when she was a cadet in Starfleet. She was a pilot.”

“I don’t know what to say…” repeated McCoy, this time able to speak the entire sentence. Wiping away tears he did not know had formed, he stared at his future granddaughter.

“I regret that Amanda is grieving me in my timeline. We were very close as she was named for my mother,” admitted Spock Prime. His eyes glanced over to his alternative self, but the young Spock showed no emotion at the mention of his mother.

A sobered Kirk asked gently, “So your mother was close with us? We knew her?”

Nodding, Spock Prime replied, “I believe that you all have lost a great deal but never having the opportunity to know my mother. She always believed my friendship with humans made me a better Vulcan.”

“That’s why you’re telling me this?” asked McCoy, finally tearing his gaze from Amanda to look at the Ambassador. “Because you don’t think that this Amanda will exist because I never knew Spock’s mom?”

“I believe your granddaughter will have another name because Joanna will never meet my mother.” Spock Prime reached out and shut down the pad. McCoy wanted to protest because he didn’t want to lose this thread to his estranged daughter. But the image gave him hope for Joanna; the Joanna in this timeline. “Leonard, I never met offence. I wasn’t sure how to talk to you.”

The use of his first name surprised McCoy. He knew that his Spock would know his given name, because he had read all of the personnel files, but Spock would never call him anything other than his title. But McCoy was getting the sense that Spock Prime had a different experience with his version of Leonard McCoy.

“I’ve heard I have deplorable bedside manners, but I didn’t know I was hard to talk to,” he tried to joke, but the words fell flat.

“It is difficult for me. In my time, I knew you for almost a hundred years. When you died over a decade ago, much like the others at this table, I thought I would never see you again. It has been harder for me to separate the Doctor I knew from the one sitting here.” It wasn’t a secret that in Spock Prime’s timeline, everyone was dead. It was a simple fact of time. Human lives were much shorter than Vulcans.

“I thought Vulcans compartmentalized all that emotional crap,” McCoy snapped back, but immediately regretted it. It was the quick temper that led to his divorce and several failed friendships over the years. There was no need to treat the aging Vulcan in such a manner.

But Spock Prime didn’t seem to mind. In fact, for a split second, McCoy thought he saw the corner of his mouth turn upward in a smirk. “But as you have always pointed out, I am only half Vulcan. But I assure you, even Vulcans are sensitive to matters of powerful emotions.”

For the first time all evening, the young Spock spoke, “I do not understand your logic. You have said countless times that Captain Kirk is your greatest friend and yet have no problem speaking to him. Doctor McCoy is no different.”

Spock Prime hesitated to answer at first. Then he spoke a single word, “T’hy’la.”

Whatever the word meant, it received a reaction from the well trained Vulcan. His eyebrows knit together in a frown and he glanced toward Uhura in confusion and back at Spock Prime. Uhura, in turn, had wide eyes, as she was the only person at the table to understand the term.

With a low voice directed at Spock, Spock Prime added, “You understand why I did not mention this before. Events have occurred that are different from my timeline. Although Nyota and I were always close, we were not romantically involved. I found a different mate.”

“She is not my mate,” replied Spock cryptically. Although his comment caused a bit of a ruffle with the rest of the crew, Uhura was unfazed. “We have discussed it and chose not to bond at this time. Lieutenant Uhura and myself are satisfied with the human term of dating.”

“I’m sorry, but the rest of us are missing something,” imposed Kirk. “What is ta-high-whatever you said.”

“It means, in the best non-Vulcan translation, a friend and lover; something like a brother in soul,” replied Uhura.

“Soulmates?” asked McCoy with a tight chest.

It was all making sense now. Although he knew that his friends were having trouble with the thought that Spock and himself have anything more than an embattled friendship, Spock Prime’s treatment of him over the past few years was now clear. The fleeting glances and short conversations were merely a matter of the old Vulcan’s insecurity regarding his lover. While the idea of knowing Spock in such an intimate manner was absurd to him, he could understand Spock Prime’s hesitation.

Suddenly, Spock Prime seemed very aware of the audience he had as he stared at McCoy. With an uneven tone, so unlike a Vulcan, he said, “I am sorry for this shock. I should not have said anything. I have said before that the timelines can be very different. But I felt that Doctor McCoy should know why I was avoiding him. I was avoiding this conversation, but I never intended for it to have an adverse effect on you.”

The Ambassador stood up and gave a nod to the table before turning his back and quickly exiting the mess hall. The uneasy silence that followed his departure was interrupted by Uhura urging Spock to go after Spock Prime. But Spock was staring across the table at a bewildered McCoy and he wasn’t the only one. But his friends seemed to understand that he wasn’t prepared to talk about it.

When Uhura’s words finally registered with Spock, the First Officer prepared to leave and speak with the older version of himself. But McCoy interrupted him, saying, “I’ll check on him.”

McCoy tried to ignore the buzzing in his head from the alcohol he had drank throughout the evening as he wandered through the ship. He wasn’t sure what made him think that Spock Prime would be on the bridge, but that’s where he found him. Spock Prime was standing in front of the Captain’s chair with his eyes closed. McCoy chose to stand equally silent behind him, until the Vulcan was ready to speak.

When he did, his voice was heavy and he sounded more like a human than McCoy had ever expected. “I apologize if I have strained your relationship with Spock or embarrassed you in front of your friends. I have never been able to act logically with my Leonard either. But when I saw you tonight, I knew what you were feeling. I had seen that lost look in my Leonard’s eyes over the years and through our bond, I knew how he felt.”

“I’m sorry.” McCoy didn’t know what he was apologizing for, but it was all he could think to say. Spock Prime turned to face him and there was a single tear track on his weathered face.

“No, Doctor, I am sorry. I overstepped. I never meant…” McCoy shook his head, stopping Spock Prime midsentence.

“I’m relieved actually.” McCoy shifted nervously on his feet, rocking back and forth. “I never thought I’d be happy…not after the divorce. It never occurred to me that I could find love again. And even if what you had with the me from your life, isn’t meant to be in this one, it gives me hope.”

“It was my great honor to be your bondmate, Leonard McCoy, even if it was a different lifetime. With your permission, I would like to show you how much love you are capable of sharing,” said Spock Prime seriously. McCoy did not hesitate to step forward, silently granting the Vulcan permission with a single nod.

Spock Prime’s fingers were shaking as he placed them on the side of McCoy’s face. Closing his eyes, he focused his mind to McCoy’s, initiating the meld. Everything rushed inside McCoy at once. An overwhelming sense of joy, pleasure, and a deep love; there was a feeling of home and safety that was intertwined with a passion that McCoy had never felt before. But most of all, there was Spock Prime, and the genuine mixture of Vulcan and human emotion.

When Spock Prime released him from the meld, he stepped back, letting McCoy adjust the sensation. McCoy now knew what t’hy’la meant and he knew that he did not possess the words to describe it. He needed Spock Prime to know how much this meant to him, this sharing of emotion, but all he could whisper was, “Thank you.”

Although McCoy was lacking the ability to articulate his thoughts about what had just happened, Spock Prime seemed to know. McCoy was comforted by the fact that all had been laid bare between them. They both had needed this moment. No matter the lifetime, Spock would always be there for Doctor Leonard McCoy.