There were reports filtering through the ship about a ruckus occurring on deck six.
The first complaint had been ignored because Jim thought that engineering was just complaining because they had been shafted in favor of the science department when it came to next year’s budget. He ignored the second complaint because Riley said some ‘older man’ was ‘glaring’ at him and Jim knew that Riley had a small tendency to exaggerate from time to time. Jim started to take it seriously when the third, fourth, and fifth complaints came in.
He knew he had to do something when the sixth complaint mentioned being attacked by a hypospray out of nowhere.
Jim took it upon himself personally to make the trip to the bowels of the ship to see just what kind of mischief his command crew was getting up to because he had a feeling that if this was a practical joke to rival the one Engineering had pulled last month, there was going to be a shipwide communication about a halt in all practical joke procedures. He had his phaser set on stun in the event that he was about to face down something potentially dangerous.
It turned out that he probably needed a stim to keep himself from falling over.
“Good god, Jim, who let you into the fountain of youth?” came the oppressive drawl.
“…oh no,” Jim barely even recalled exhaling the words, but he was sure that they escaped his mouth at some point because the man in the strange beige clothes stared at him as if he’d lost his brain. He also vaguely realized that he must have stumbled and hit some kind of communications device because there were security guards at his side in a matter of seconds.
The older man was looking at him with severe distaste and Jim blindly struggled through his panic to figure out what you said in a situation like this. “I’m sorry?” he offered.
“Damn it, Jim, I’m a doctor, not a prisoner of war!” was McCoy’s sharp complaint as he was led away to the detention center, prying his arm away from the guards. “Give me back my arm, you brute, I’m more than capable of walking through the halls of my own ship, thank you very much.”
With that, he tore off down the halls of the Enterprise. Security lingered to look to Jim as if waiting for more orders, but Jim shook his head, not sure exactly what was going on. “Follow him and put him in a room for interrogation,” he offered tiredly because he had the feeling that today was going to be an increasingly long day. “I’ll get Bones and join.”
Bones had worked late into the previous evening and Jim knew that waking him up with a cheerful ‘incidentally, some older version of you is stumbling about the Enterprise’ was probably not about to get him a welcome reaction. Leaning heavily against the nearest communications device, he dialed in Bones’ extension.
“What?” came Bones’ gruff response within seconds.
“There’s something you need to see,” Jim noted with heavy hesitance in his voice. “Down in the interrogation rooms. You might want to bring a bottle of something with you, just in case.” As he hung up, he wasn’t sure exactly who that bottle was going to be for, but it might do someonesome good.
With that, he followed Security and tried to figure out exactly what you did when a second friend-slash-coworker imposter stumbled onto your ship. Well, besides telling Uhura to put in a call to New Vulcan. He could do that later. For now, he had to figure out what the hell was going on – and to make sure he stayed out of hypospray range.
McCoy was hovering with Jim as they stared at the intruder onto the vessel, dressed in one of the strangest pair of civilian clothes that anyone had ever seen. “And he says he’s Commander Leonard McCoy?” Jim checked warily with the ensign that had put the intruder into a locked room with a one-way mirror. McCoy was behind him and he was staring at this slip of a man that had been cursing out two of the ensigns to the point that the younger of the two men looked like he was about to cry. “Bones, I hate to say it, but he’s definitely got a lot of similarities.”
“Shut it, Jim,” McCoy muttered, staring through the glass. “What the hell kind of joke is this, anyway?”
“You think that I picked him up on our last shore leave? As much as I’m eager to get back at you for that last little prank that dyed my hair pink right before negotiations on Risa, this is a little far, even for me, wouldn’t you say?”
The ensuing reply of a look on McCoy’s face made it clear to Jim that no, it wasn’t even close to too far when it came to Jim Kirk.
“Okay, fine. If I said it was a prank, would you believe that I was capable of this?”
“Not a chance in hell,” McCoy said under his breath, staring at the duplicate man who held his body in a way that was intimately familiar. The eye-coloration was different and the build was slighter, but if McCoy bothered to look at the expressions on his face, then he didn’t even have to doubt it for a single second. This was him.
They stared together through the glass for a long time and Jim actually jumped when McCoy (the one in the room) turned on them and leveled a terrifying stare back their way.
“You gonna talk to him or do I have to do this myself?” Bones grumbled.
“No, no,” Jim said, trying to bolster up his confidence. “I’ll go do it. Just uh, if I don’t make it out, my will is…”
“Jim, man up and get in there.”
So that was what he did. Jim whined a little more, gave Bones the petulant look where he tried to get out of it by sending in one of the ensigns, but inevitably he manned up and took a deep breath, ready to accept responsibility for whatever the ship’s part in this man turning up was. He was barely in the room before he felt like he was being studied like a piece of meat.
“God damn it,” McCoy sighed.
“What?” Jim asked the older man in alarm.
“How on earth did you wind up with eyes that goddamn blue?” he snapped. “The one thing I had going for me on shore leave was the color of my eyes and now you’re stealing that, too?” While this tirade is occurring, Jim was sliding into the chair opposite the man, settling in and getting comfortable and trying not to sneak a peek at the mirror to see if his eyes were as blue as McCoy said they were.
He failed on that count.
“I’m going to need your full name, your serial number, and a personal history,” Jim offered apologetically.
Jim wasn’t sure whether he was more worried or relieved when the man who was purporting himself to be Leonard McCoy rattled those things off with ease. He felt a distinctly tumbling sensation in his stomach that might have been sheer relief as he relaxed back into his chair and took a deep breath.
“Okay,” Jim sighed. “Now tell me about the Enterprise.” The old-Spock had put so many pictures and stories in Jim’s mind that all he needed to do was corroborate some of those and he had the feeling that they could officially claim this man was Dr. Leonard McCoy and they could start finding a way to get him home.
“Well,” McCoy started. “There was this one instance where a strange woman beamed on the ship. Knocked us all out and the moment I woke up, I discovered that they had stolen Spock’s…”
Jim cast a look through the window and with only a flick of a facial expression, he managed to apologize to Bones.
Sorry, but it’s you. Really, really you.
Maybe calling Ambassador Spock and telling him succinctly that, ‘we have something that belongs to you’ wasn’t the greatest idea, but it was the best idea they had at the current moment. It was better than Bones’ idea to send the older-McCoy into space and see who claimed him first in the process. Jim would be one of the first to admit that this was all on the weird side, but it was still some version of Bones, who looked like him at the right angle, looked at Jim like he was McCoy, responded to Bones, and was just as brilliant. And when he smiled… Jim swallowed hard to try and coax himself back to some kind of reality before he could get carried away with fantasies.
“So, you’re Leonard McCoy from the Prime universe?” Jim asked politely, hands beside his plate as they ate dinner and Jim tried to make nice.
“Damn right I came first,” McCoy growled and stabbed at the salad on his plate, jabbing at Jim’s dinner with his fork. “Don’t think I don’t see that second helping of dessert, Jim. I’ll show you some holovids of your waistline where I come from if that’s what it’s going to take for you to lay off the sweets.”
Jim’s face went through various stages of alarm as he stared down at his stomach and rubbed a hand there slightly. “Just because you look like you’d vanish if you turned sideways,” he retorted with a huff.
“It’s called being kept in good condition,” McCoy drawled. Jim’s Bones had gone off to Medical citing that he didn’t want any part of this freakshow. “Besides, no one gave it a second look in San Francisco.”
“And that’s where you just were.”
“Spock’s calculations were supposed to get us back to the future at the exact right time. Looks like I got slung out of the slingshot,” he noted dryly. “Turns out he got me into a place where all of my shipmates are obnoxiously pretty and I was overfed as a child.”
“I don’t know,” Jim said defensively. “I like it.”
McCoy raised one of his eyebrows and oh, god, seriously, that was way too similar for Jim to be anything but utterly freaked out.
“How old are you, anyway?” Jim asked, trying to pass the time before the Ambassador found his way into range.
“A man never asks a question like that,” McCoy said ruefully. “Old enough, that’s the ticket. I’m old enough.”
“And you are quite admirable looking for your age.”
Jim didn’t know if a switch was flipped or what, but suddenly McCoy’s whole face lit up at the sound of Ambassador Spock’s voice. Not only did his face soften, but his lips curved upwards and he actually laughed. “Spock!” McCoy said with great delight, nearly vaulting up from his chair and racing across the room to pull the Vulcan into a hug, a gesture that was not so easy considering Spock’s resistance. “Well, I’ll be damned,” McCoy chuckled, his tone bemused and high. “It’s really you,” he marveled. “Looking dignified as ever. You must be…well, I’d assume far over a hundred. Nothing more than a flick of the eye for you.” McCoy stepped back and studied him generously and fondly before suddenly anger took over like a light had been flicked on. “Now listen here, you son of a bitch…”
“I do not take kindly to your insults against my mother…”
“Your mother be damned…”
Jim flinched on McCoy’s part, not that the doctor knew what he was saying.
“…your calculations, your little guess, something was off because instead of being back on Earth saving the world with those space-whales, I’m here!” He was spitting out every last word with an energy and vitriol that Jim hadn’t really seen out of Bones in a long time (not since he was TA’ing that class and the kids decided they didn’t want to try hard enough to pass the final). “Just what are you doing here looking so old for, anyway?”
“I’m sure you can deduce, Doctor, that I am the victim of a temporal anomaly, though at a differing point of origin.”
“Damn it, man, I’m a doctor, not a physicist,” McCoy grumbled. “Put it simply, Spock,” he coaxed, using encouraging hand motions that made Jim tip his head to the side and let himself entertain a little bit of a fantasy involving those surgeon’s hands. And then suddenly instead of discussing it, Jim watched in sudden consternation as Spock lifted a hand in the air and McCoy nodded.
He definitely remembered that whole mind-meld business. He just wasn’t sure where his first officer (okay, not his, at least, not in this universe) got off melding with his doctor-to-be. Or doctor-that-would-be. Maybe.
They broke apart and McCoy was smiling ruefully, brushing two of his fingers to the Ambassador’s and shaking his head. “All that time carrying your katra and you still can’t explain it best with words.”
Jim mouthed ‘katra?’ to no one in particular.
“I apologize, doctor. I admit that seeing you so healthy and virile has put me in an emotional place that I cannot explain.”
McCoy grinned and shook his head. “Trust you to say you’ve over-emotional when you can’t even bear to flinch your forehead at me.” He leaned in slowly and pressed his lips to Spock’s in a dry and chaste kiss, kind and quiet and slow.
That was also approximately the moment that Jim’s Bones came up beside him.
“Jim,” Bones said.
“I think I’m having hallucinations. I’m seeing the older-me kissing Ambassador Spock.”
“Oh, yeah, no. No, that’s definitely real.”
Bones looked pale. “I’m going to go back to Medical where everyone is sane and no versions of me are currently trying to meld into a Vulcan’s body while pushing his tongue down his throat. You coming, Jim?”
“Oh god, yes, please save me,” Jim begged.
Jim was the last one to find out. This might have been fine if it was some stupid gossip like that little piece of news that was travelling around about Chekov’s allergies to cats, but this was kind of huge. This time, it was news that said Spock-Prime wasn’t going to be travelling through space in an effort to make sure all the rights were in place so that the wrongs didn’t have time to push them down. Instead, he was going to settle down on New Vulcan.
Hearing, ‘And McCoy-Prime is going with him’ wasn’t exactly what Jim had anticipated happening. Neither did Bones, really, from the sour and confused look flickering over his face. Being the last to know didn’t do much damage to his ego, but it sure got him moving fast considering they were due to send all passengers to New Vulcan within the hour.
He knew (logically, said some bemused part of his mind) that Ambassador Spock wouldn’t just go without saying goodbye to him, but he still moved like his ass was on fire, racing to the guest quarters that they had put the Ambassador in.
He staggered to a stop while eavesdropping on a seemingly rough argument.
“You couldn’t have slept last night? We’re going on a long shuttle-ride, damn it, and you’re not in the best shape of your life…”
“I would ask you to refrain from comments about my age, Doctor.”
“It’s Leonard and I’m concerned, you copper-blooded computer!” McCoy was snapping. “I come out of time-travel to find you looking worse for the wear, still grieving my damn death, and acting like you don’t have a thing to live for and that just isn’t right. I know Jim isn’t with us anymore, but you’ve got me, Spock. You’re going to always have me and…”
McCoy trailed off sharply and Jim frowned, wondering what had caused the sudden interruption. He found out soon enough when Ambassador Spock rounded the corner and regarded Jim with an upward lift of his brow.
“Captain,” Spock greeted, while McCoy found fit to glare behind him. “You are fashionably late.”
“Seems like you’re never on goddamn time when it matters,” McCoy muttered. “We’re just packing up to go, Jim, we’ll be outta your hair in no time.”
Jim wanted to protest that he didn’t exactly mind his hair being lived-in, but he couldn’t agree that this would be a good situation on a long-term basis. It was still odd to catch a sideways look at Bones and see him older and somewhat more settled, like he wouldn’t get pushed over the edge by the mere mention of the ex-wife. It made him think about what he would do if Kirk-Prime stumbled through the rifts in the universe, but he pushed it away and tried to focus on the here and now.
“Bones is planning to meet us in the transporter room to see us off. Do you want me to have some yeomans come help you with your stuff?” Jim asked, which was apparently the wrong thing to say. McCoy seemed to take offense and swiped his sole bag into his grip, scowling as he bumped past Jim in the hall.
“I may be old, but I can handle a bag,” McCoy snapped. “I wasn’t aware you had so little faith in me.”
“I…” Jim opened his mouth to protest and then sealed it right shut.
Sometimes, the best way to play this game with Bones was to just go absolutely quiet and let silence drive Bones all the way to Frustration-Ville. This seemed to do the trick because Jim only managed to count to twenty before McCoy started huffing with frustration, only calmed by Spock’s hand on his.
Jim didn’t want to ask about these particular dynamics or how he fit into them, so instead of saying a word, he delivered them to the transporter bay and prayed that McCoy-Prime didn’t cause too much of a scene during the short walk. Luckily, he only glared too hard at one young ensign and caused the young man to trip into a wall – forcing Jim to sigh and call down Chapel to come and claim the klutz – before they arrived at their destination.
Jim crossed the room to find his way to his Bones’ side, finding something reassuring about the fact that he got to keep one, even with all the wild universe-hopping that was going on.
“So I guess this is it,” his Bones started by saying, extending a hand to his Prime-universe counterpart. They seemed to be getting along better, now that Bones had decided to ignore McCoy’s thing with Spock or however it was going to be described. They fell into a conversation riddled with intense medical terminology that only confused Jim, so he took the opportunity to turn to Ambassador Spock and bid his goodbyes.
“You’ll take care, right?” Jim asked.
“I believe the Doctor will ensure I do not do anything illogical,” Spock noted with something like bemusement lurking past his lips. “And I will ensure that his presence does not cause a paradox. Past that, I am sure we will all meet again, Jim. We are and have always been…”
“My friends, I know, I know,” Jim cut him off and before Spock could beat him to it, he offered the Vulcan salute and lingered back to Bones’ side to drag him away from McCoy. He kept one hand securely on Bones’ back and watched as McCoy picked up his feet to join Ambassador Spock on the transporter pad.
This was about the moment that Jim took deliberate leave of his sensibilities and decided to turn and plant a good, fierce, hard kiss to Bones’ lips because turnabout was so fair play.
Turned out it was just the right timing because as Jim pressed an afterthought of a kiss to Bones’ lips, he was just in time to ease back and see the bright lights shining around the bodies of the two Prime-universe residents. More importantly, he was just in time to see the look of furious irritation crossing McCoy’s face.
“Damn it, Jim,” McCoy was ranting even as he was being corporeally dispersed. “That is just not f…”
Jim couldn’t be sure if that was supposed to be ‘fair’ or a different profanity, but he couldn’t help his smug little smile either way. He was also in time to ease back and catch a look of distinct displeasure on Bones’ face.
“What?” Jim asked innocently.
“Maybe I should be seducing Spock…” was all Bones grumbled.
Jim had about two seconds before Bones left the bay and Jim was left desperately hurrying to try and do something about that. “Aw, come on, Bones, I didn’t mean it!” he pleaded, traipsing after Bones in a hurry.
Jim was in so much of a hurry that he missed the activation of the transporter and the presence of a gold-shirted man standing in the middle of the transporter. “…Where…am I?”