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In Case You Missed It

Chapter Text

 

Stardate 2265

 

He was dreaming again.

Leonard didn’t think that he would be the type to get smaller as he got older, but there he was, unmistakable in his usual spot next to Jim. He quite liked that short sleeved uniform. To his right, Spock looked like he had barely aged a day, and Jim had put on a little bit of weight. Leonard was amazed that his vanity allowed for such a thing, honestly. He looked healthy, though. Good.

“Back to the Sovanuim system, eh Bones?”

Jesus, he still calls me Bones twenty years from now, he thought with a surge of amusement.

His old self grinned. “Are you going to keep your hands to yourself this time, Jim? I hope for your sake that the Ambassador has retired.”

“I find it ironic that you chide the Captain’s behavior when you were too inebriated to find your way back to the ship,” Spock snarked. “I recall having to carry you part of the way.”

Jim barked out a laugh, and Leonard noticed that his hair was a little darker than it used to be. Than it is now, he corrected.

His older self glared. He recognized that glare. He saw it in the refection of the sickbay’s walls every time he felt like he wanted to stick a hypo in the other man just for the fun of it. He was rather gratified to see that he hadn’t lost his penchant for argumentation.

“Is that right, Spock? Was that before or after you got smashed on the chocolate bar?”

“Before the group of male dignitaries took an interest in you, I believe.”

“You make it sound like I was the only one they took an interest in, hobgoblin!”

“Boys,” Jim interrupted with a chuckle. “We will absolutely not be touching any of their fantastic alcohol this time, are we in agreement?”

Bones put a hand on the back of the Captain’s chair. “Or their chocolate,” he said.

“Or their chocolate.”

There was a period of silence before Jim ordered the bridge crew to approach at warp 3. Leonard took a look at Sulu, who wore a wide grin, and Chekov, who looked just as determined as he usually did. Uhura smiled at Scotty in the corner. Some people just got more beautiful as they aged, and she was one of them.

“Can we take some back with us, though? Just a bottle or two?” his counterpart asked, and Spock looked like he wanted to hit him.

 

The morning after the latest strange dream, he replicated a rather disappointing banana and sat next to Jim. “Have you ever been to the Sovanium system, space child?” he asked through a bite of chalky fake fruit.

Young Jim stared at him with one of his perfect eyebrows quirked. “The what, Bones?”

“Termanus. In the Sovanium system.”

“I haven’t. In fact, I’ve never heard of the Sovanium system. Are you alright?” he asked, as if Leonard was a child.

He winced and cursed himself. It was a dream. He had just been having a disturbingly detailed reoccurring dream, none of it was real. Or maybe the Sovanium system isn’t a part of Starfleet yet, the less logical part of his brain supplied.

“Hey, Spock,” Jim shouted.

The Vulcan set down his spoon from across the cafeteria.

“Jim, don’t,” Leonard mumbled pitifully.

“Ever heard of the Sovanium system?” his voice boomed. An ensign frowned and scooted farther away.

Spock shook his head with the patented humans are ridiculous face. Leonard tried really hard not to flush red. He was unsuccessful.

Jim frowned at him, smelling like his aftershave and the brown sugar from his oatmeal. “Maybe you should get more sleep.”

“Probably,” he admitted.

 

 

Three nights and two psychic-dreams later, and he wasn’t sure he had gotten any sleep at all. It was getting ridiculous. He shut his eyes for thirty seconds and he was in the sickbay watching himself stand over Spock’s dad with tubes of green blood pumping from a box. Then it was gone, just like that. Life went on, though, and so did his work hours.

A Vulcan and a Swordsman walked into the sickbay for their physicals. It sounded like a bar joke, honestly, and he told Sulu so as he prodded him with a tricorder. This Sulu was skinnier, he noted offhandedly.

“I want you to compare your calorie intake to what the gym says you burn for the next week or so,” he instructed.

“Fattening all of us up, doctor?”

“I can’t send you home to Ben all dried up and withered away, now, can I?”

He and Sulu had recently been getting together over cards and talking about their kids. It was disgustingly embarrassing, but he liked to have someone around that he could worry loudly with. They planned to get their girls together one day when Sulu’s was a little bit older, just so they had someone who understood, too.

“You look beat,” Sulu said. “Are you sick?”

“Who’s giving who the examination, now? I’m fine. You get back to the bridge.”

He gave Sulu (who didn’t seem entirely convinced) a vaccination and patted him on the shoulder.

“Alright, Divine Comedy, you’re up.”

Spock was playing on his Padd in the corner. He looked up incredulously. “Are you referring to me?”

“Who else?”

“I’m glad to see that your creative capacity has increased, Doctor, although I do not believe it is relevant or helpful to your current duties. Also, you will find that as a Vulcan’s internal temperature is higher than that of humans, I am the one who least resembles the entity portrayed in Dante’s Inferno.”

“I guess Keenser would be a better candidate, then, wouldn’t he?” He motioned to the sickbed. “And I’ll have you know that creativity is absolutely necessary to my profession. That’s way things get discovered, you know, by thinking outside the bounds of current accepted medical practice. Not that you would understand that. Open your mouth.” He peeked inside. Two less molars than humans, but nothing abnormal. “Say ‘ah’.”

Spock just glared.

“No? Fine.” The tricorder whirred about Spock’s person.

“Vulcans value creativity as well, Doctor,” Spock said.

“Do they?” he asked, disinfecting the area for a blood sample.

“Before…Nero, many devoted their lives to the pursuit of art and music.” His voice didn’t change, but Leonard felt the muscles in his hand clench.

“They still will after everything is settled, you know,” he said.

“Indeed.”

He set the tube of green in a slot and plugged in the time. “It looks like you’re due for your annuals, so three hypos for you today, sorry.”

“I sincerely doubt that.”

“What, that I’m sorry? I’m wounded, Spock.”

He slipped the solution into the hypo administrator with a click.

“Here’s for the human shit that’s going to be going around in a couple of weeks, just in case,” hiss, “autoimmune booster,” hiss, “and your own personalized intergalactic vaccination cocktail. Healthy as a horse. Tu muhl hafau. Off you go.”

Spock gaped. Mouth open, eyes wide, and all.

“What?”

“When have you been studying Vulcan?”

“I didn’t…” Oh. Was that vulcan? He certainly hadn’t been studying it. In fact, he didn’t know any Vulcan at all. He had only heard it once in a…

In a dream.

“Oh, shit,” he said.

“Doctor, you—”

“Well, I’m pretty busy, got a couple other things to do, why don’t you go hound Jim for something or other? Great. Stop crowding the sickbay,” he called after Spock, who looked openly bewildered.

He sat down quickly. Was it mental illness? He didn’t think so. Was it some sort of weird psychic phenomenon? Probably. Damn. At least he could treat psychosis.

 

“Hi, Jim,” he said to the mirror. “I just wanted you to know, I’m having psychic flashes to an indeterminate point in time and space where we’re really chummy. And I’m a better doctor than I am now. And Spock sometimes smiles, and you’re just as in love with the enterprise as you always were. It’s really nice, but distressing, and I think I might be going crazy.”

As crazy as I felt when Spock’s evil twin invaded my head, he tried not to think.

There was a bottle of something obscenely green that he got from a local on shore leave once. It was still in his cabinet because even he had limits on what exactly kinds of alcohol he put into his body, but today was the day for risks, as it so happened. He grabbed it by the square neck and stalked out of his room, blushing furiously as he passed Spock’s door. The ship was about as far from quiet as it could get, being a Saturday night. The weekend crew was switching over, so the hallways were crowded. Their voices hurt his skull behind his right temple. He shoved at Jim’s door, pushing the button repeatedly.

“Jesus, hold on!”

There was a thump and Jim opened the door wearing his command shirt and very thin, tight black undershorts that McCoy was trying very hard not to look at.

“It’s eight at night, why do you look like you just woke up?” he asked, looking behind Jim.

“Oh, I wasn’t asleep,” the captain chuckled.

He let loose the Glare™.

“She just left,” Jim assured him.

Leonard rolled his eyes and pushed past, avoiding the bed at all costs. He slumped into a chair.

“Cups?” he asked.

Jim didn’t say anything as he grabbed a couple of glasses from a corner. His eyebrow was quirked in concern and the smile looked a little bit forced. If Jim wasn’t cracking jokes, he really must look bad.

“This isn't going to sound good, Jim.”

“Okay.”

“I’ve looked over the DSM 9 about twenty times and I don’t fit any of the criteria for schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders, not that I would be able to tell if I had one, but my diet is regular and I haven’t—okay.” He took a breath. “Jim? I think I’ve been transporting to another dimension.”

Jim’s eyebrows lifted towards the sky. He put down the glass of Green Stuff that he hadn’t really touched. Leonard hadn’t even tried a sip of his, as uncharacteristic as that was.

“I’ve noticed that you have been a little bit off,” he said.

Leonard knew that he was getting a mirror of his own therapist look, but he couldn’t bring himself to care.

“It usually happens when I’m asleep. It feels like a serious anesthetic, like I’m starting to go blurry, and then it changes. I saw us, Jim.”

Something must have showed on his face, because Jim grasped his upper arm. “Tell me, Bones.”

He lifted the green to his lips and felt a burn travel down his chest. It was good. Citrusy. He twisted it in his hands and watched his fingerprints mar the dust of perspiration on the glass.

“I was on the bridge. Standing behind you, like...you know. My usual spot. It wasn’t me, though. I was standing in the doorway watching. Spock was looking through his little blue box, Uhura was smiling at Scotty, and damn, Jim. I could count the wrinkles on her face. I’ve never had a dream that detailed before. Then Spock walked over to us, and it was him, Jim. The old Spock. Younger, yeah, but it was definitely him. Definitely our Spock, too. And they just talked.”

“That’s it?” Jim asked, now fully attentive to his drink. “Just talked?”

He nodded. “The first time, yeah.”

“Wait, there were more times?

Leonard blushed. “It gets worse.”

“Oh god, it gets worse?” Jim was smirking.

“I spoke to Spock in Vulcan today, Jim. Look me in the eye and tell me that I would ever willingly learn Vulcan.”

“He may have mentioned something of the sort,” Jim said, artistically punctuating his words with a sip of green.

“What did he say?”

“He said that you looked like shit and that he thought you might fall over at the exam table. And then you pulled some Vulcan out of your ass and sent him scrambling,” he said.

Leonard ran his hand over the table. He wished it was wood so he could pick at it. “Said all that, did he?”

“I may be paraphrasing.”

Leonard studied the cuticle of his thumb. “What do I do?” he asked quietly.

“What would you do? If it were me.”

“Monitor your vitals day and night after a thorough psych scan,” he said without hesitation.

Jim nodded approvingly. “Well, then. I could watch over you as you sleep, if you like.”

He glared.

“Alright, alright! Get to it if you don’t want my help!”

Chapter Text

In a Universe That Was Not His Own:

He took two breaths as he awoke. One for stirring his mind, another for good measure. His lungs felt tired.

Leonard was a light sleeper. Even when he was a teenager, he could get out of bed as easily as if he just closed his eyes. When he opened the drawer to his shirts and found his pants, he thought he must have still been asleep. Either that or Jim had come in and played an elaborate joke.

He looked down at his hands.

“Jesus H. Christ, is that an age spot?”

He felt himself, then, all at once. There was an ache in his knees that hadn’t been there before and his neck was stiff like he hadn’t slept on a pillow. Leonard grabbed for the pants he had been attempting to put on and shook them. They were absolutely not the Starfleet regulation that he knew. What the hell was that little flare on the bottom?

A second glance around his quarters drove his suspicions to permanence. The hypospray still used manual inserts. The door was polygonal. His closet contained a shiny blue tee-shirt, high boots and softer science blues than those he wore. He was him, but not the same him.

Oh god, if he was in a different universe, how would he ever get back? Would he tell them? Would they notice if he didn’t? How old was he, even? It would be incredibly suspicious if he up and searched for his birth date, but that didn’t even matter, did it? Did he still have Joanna? How old would she be, twenty?

He took a deep breath. In through his nose, out through his mouth. His eyes were a little bit droopy. That would take some getting used to.

He was Leonard Horatio McCoy, one way or another.

He could handle a little inter-dimensional travel.

“I’m going to go out there,” he said to himself, “and do my goddamn job.” He wasn’t about to leave his ship, whichever version of it, without a Chief Medical Officer. A hypospray was a hypospray in any section of the universe.

I have no idea what time my shift starts, he thought. Oh well.

 

Nurse Chapel, dear Christine, was washing the sickbeds with sonics as he slid awkwardly through the door.

“Doctor? You’re not supposed to be here for an hour.”

“Yes, well. It might be too early for whiskey, but it’s never too early for work,” he said gruffly.

Christine just rolled her eyes. “I don’t know why I’m surprised.”

Breathe, asshole. You can improvise. You brought Jim back from the dead with a mutant alien’s blood. You can get through this.

“Well, Nurse, what are my orders?” he tried to make it sound as jocular as possible.

She laughed. “It does seem a little bit empty after yesterday, doesn’t it? I don’t think we’ve got anything other than a couple of physicals.”

“Thank god,” he said.

“Although,” she began.

“Oh no.”

“Scotty called earlier and asked to schedule an emergency first aid training for the engineering department. Might as well get it over now, shall we?”

He couldn’t do much else besides groan unintelligibly.

 

The end of his shift came along and he sauntered to the bridge on a quest for vengeance. There was a certain red shirt in the corner next to Chekov who inspired a rather strong burst of ire.

“Mr. Scott,” he barked. “As much as I desire the ship’s crew to have adequate knowledge of first aid, I’m thinking about issuing the Engineering department a saw, a bottle of vodka, and not much else.”

Scotty grinned. “Aye, doctor, there’s a reason I sent them off to you.”

“No, no, I don’t think you understand,” he said. “One of them told me that he cauterized a wound with live wire.

“Which one was it? I’ll put him in charge of the transporters for ye.” Scotty cackled as he left the bridge.

Leonard shook his head. A long day in an aging body was a long day indeed. He could use a glass of good old water. Without thinking, he took his usual place behind the captain’s chair. It was exceedingly surreal to see a Jim that was not his Jim staring back at him with warm eyes.

“Rough day, Bones? Too bad I couldn’t help out.”

“I have no doubt that if you were there, you would have added to the mess.”

He felt his heart rate rise. What do I say next? What do I say next?

A warm presence fitted itself next to his shoulder.

“Doctor? Are you feeling quite well?”

He just about shot a foot in the air as Spock actually touched him on the arm.

“I’m fine, Spock,” he said, “Don’t worry about me.”

Sue him if his voice was a little softer than usual. He could see the resemblance so strongly between his Spock and this Spock, between this Spock and the ambassador. There was a pang of regret a mile wide that he couldn’t stifle. I could have gotten to know him in my world as well. Leonard McCoy, wishing for two Spocks. He really must be crazy.

Jim was looking at him curiously.

“You two stop fussing, or I’ll order both of your physicals done by trainees.”

Jim didn’t stop, unsurprisingly.

That night, he felt the world shift, like falling under a deep sedative, counting backwards from one hundred and feeling his mind slowly begin to blur. He rushed to his quarters. If he was here, where was the other Leonard McCoy?

He dug through the box of miscellaneous items until he found something suitable to write on. There wasn’t any earth paper that he could see, but a booklet of thinly pressed Tellurian parchment lay untouched in the bottom. He found an old fountain pen—the same one that he had, actually—and began to write.


Have you been catching glimpses of another place as I have been? I reorganized your dresser for you, mostly to prove that I can. Maybe whatever pretentious asshole is behind this will give me the satisfaction of seeing you try to find those godawful pants.

As inconvenient as this is, I enjoyed my stay. I hope that you found my ship as pleasing as I found yours.

Best wishes,
L. H. M

P. S. I admire your whiskey collection. Consider it a sign of respect that I only opened one bottle.

The blur was getting stronger, and he couldn’t move his hands quite like he wanted. Leonard sat on the side of his…the other Leonard’s bed.

“There’s no place like home,” he said.

 

There was a glass of water waiting for him on his table, accompanied by an actual pill and a hypospray cartridge. His first emotion was confusion, his second was hope, and his third was dread. He picked up the little pink sphere, examined it, and slugged it down. There was a letter. Signed by himself. Funny thing, parallels.


Bit of a shock seeing Jim so young, but I don’t know why I was surprised. He hasn’t changed a bit. Your little girl called on video today. She said hello, that she misses you, and that she wants a Starfleet dress for her birthday. Get the girl a Starfleet dress. It better damn well be blue.

You’ve got a good place here, kid. Don’t fuck it up.

Regards,
L. H. M.

 

Jim grasped it gently. He read it once, looked up, and read it again.

“Shit,” he said. “That’s not your handwriting, but it’s you alright.”

“He left me a hypo on the table.”

Jim grinned. “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, eh?”

“More like the apple doesn’t transform as it flies across dimensions for no goddamn reason,” he said bitterly, kicking a pair of Jim’s pants across the floor. He was in his underwear yet again. “So you believe me, then?”

“I don’t know, Bones. When was this…switch?”

“Must’ve been yesterday.”

Jim’s jaw dropped. “No way.”

“What? What?”

“There’s no doubt about it—oh my god, this is too funny. Makes so much more sense, let me tell you.” Jim cackled and patted his cheek from across the table.

Leonard leaned back. “Stop that. What happened?”

He rocked the chair back and balanced it on two legs. “Well. So you get to breakfast and stare at the replicator for at least five minutes before ordering what you usually do, and you sit down next to me with the biggest frown I think I’ve ever seen. Then you turn to look at me and you just start laughing your ass off.”

“That’s it?”

“At lunch you patted Spock on the back and he just about came out of his skin. Twice.”

“Damn.”

“And then you waved your tricorder over Keenser for no apparent reason, which I don’t think offended him, it’s hard to tell, and Bones, this is the best part.”

“Oh, god.”

“You said, and I quote, ‘hell, Jim, it’s hotter in here than three possums bumping uglies in a cornsack,’” he cackled. “I think Spock was going to have an aneurysm.”

Leonard hid his face in his hands. “I hate you,” he said.

“Oh, don’t be like that. I’m pretty sure old you said it just to screw with you.”

His ears were still burning. “Oh, it is on.”

“Faster than Uncle Tim at a BBQ?”

“Fuck off.”

 

 

Spock had him cornered. There was no escape.

“Doctor,” he said.

“Spock. What can I do you for?”

He thwarted another escape attempt. “Doctor, Nurse Chapel has alerted me to her concerns about your condition.”

“Concerns? What would those be, pray tell?” he glared. “And why did she call you?”

Spock, apparently satisfied that his victim wouldn’t bolt, clasped his hands behind his back. “She reports uncharacteristic lapses in concentration, and that you, I quote, ‘look really dim lately.’” He paused. Leonard was almost sure it was for the dramatic effect. “I am aware of the fragility if the human psyche, therefore I deemed it necessary to address the situation.”

“Fragility of…” Leonard rolled his eyes. “Why, Spock. I had no idea that you were worried.”

Spock raised an eyebrow.

“For god’s sake. I’ll order a psych scan if it will make you feel better.” In fact, he had already scheduled it. “When the report gets in, you’ll be the first to know.”

“That is acceptable.”

Yes, that would work out quite well. He would get the readings back from the last few days’ round-the-clock monitoring soon, too. If Spock was the one to verify that he wasn’t crazy, then there would be no question.

Chapter Text

Leonard was not dreaming. No, Christine was way nicer to him in the alternate universe. 

“Doctor McCoy, the file you ordered is ready,” she said.

“Thanks, Christine.” He took the Padd from her and thumbed through the tabs.

She stayed where she was, head tilted and arms crossed.

“Did you need something?” he asked. She was giving him a very worrying stare, one that suggested she knew exactly whose vitals those were and that she wasn’t going to let it go without an explanation. She would only be that adamant if she had read them, and if something was wrong.

“Leonard.”

“Christine. Spock told me about your little conversation.”

When he didn’t offer up much more, she clenched her jaw. “You may be chief medical officer, but if you insist on working while unstable, I will forward a copy of those vitals directly to the captain. Am I understood?”

He sighed. “There’s no need. I’m going to have Spock take a look anyway.”

Her face softened. “If there’s anything I can do…”

Leonard squeezed her shoulder in thanks before retreating to his office where no prying eyes could look over his scans. He appreciated her attendance toward health—that was what made her such a good nurse—but when those icy blue eyes were turned on him, even he felt a twinge of terror. He flipped the Padd back on.

 

Digital Psychological Assessment sampled by CMO Leonard H. McCoy.

Data collected 12 hours and 4 minutes ago.

Subject: Leonard H. McCoy

 

There was a lot of information about brain chemicals, action potential, and neurons, but it all seemed within normal limits. His potassium levels were a little high, but he had just been on Lovinian. The imbalance would be gone within a day or two. He was looking for elements and compounds that didn't normally belong in Terran life forms, but all he could see were the various antibodies and vaccinations that he had administered on Starfleet's orders. He forwarded to the next tab.

 

Conclusion: Subject’s brain is structurally neurotypical. Analysis suggests selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors for minor chemical imbalance.

 

Nothing unexpected at all in that field, then. No psychosis, no delusions. He was as healthy as he had been since he was twenty five.

Next would be his vital scans over the last two days. He flipped the page. It showed normal, healthy protein uptake, heart rate and respiration rate. His blood pressure was a little low, but it had always been that way. Leonard glanced at his scans from when he and himself had pulled a Freaky Friday.

“What the hell?” he said, rubbing a hand over his brow.

Well, now. That was odd. And bad. He could see why Christine was worried.

He hadn’t been sleeping. At all. The scans showed that rather than regular REM cycles, he was in some sort of trance. From an outsider perspective, it would look more like Vulcan meditation than psychic insomnia. He didn’t have to be a doctor to know that severe sleep deprivation could be very dangerous, especially with his job. There were things he could do, chemicals he could use, but they were risky and he would build up a tolerance almost as quickly as they would put him to sleep. Even then, how would heavy sedation affect the other version of himself?

He rubbed his temples. He wanted to sleep. He really, really wanted to sleep.

“Are you busy?” a soft voice came from his doorway.

“Uhura?”

She smiled. Her hair was falling around her shoulders, and she held a steaming cup in each hand.

“Here,” she said, holding out the blue one to him. “Andorian bean tea. No caffeine.”

“Thanks,” he said, surprised. He took a sip. It was weird. “What brings you to this neck of the woods?”

“Thank the Captain,” she said, taking a drink of her own. “He asked me to bring you something. I’ve never heard him so polite before. He better not make it a habit.”

“He still can’t leave?”

She shook her head, displacing steam. “I shouldn’t even be gone, but I know Spock can handle my position while I’m out for ten minutes.”

He nodded. “Take a break while you can. Those earpieces get tiring after a while. Want to sit down?”

“You wouldn’t have time for a short…consultation, would you?”

“You brought me food. I’ll do anything,” he said. He set the Padd to the side and cleared away a couple of papers. “I can’t let my psychiatry license go to waste, anyway.” Most of the crew went to Christine anymore for help with mental health. he preferred it that way. It was hard to offer the right type of assistance to those who he couldn't be impartial toward, and there was no use for a therapist who cared too much. He had a suspicion that Uhura didn't want a psych evaluation, just an excuse to breathe in fresh air.

She grinned gratefully. “I thought it was unethical for a psychiatrist to treat their friends.”

“I’ll make an exception this time.” He took another sip. Definitely the better side of weird. “What’s on your mind?”

Uhura sighed. “If I have to check one more frequency for Romulan that isn’t going to be there, I think I’m going to explode.”

Leonard laughed. “Oh, that’s what this is? You mean to tell me that you’re getting peevish and exhausted because you haven’t had time to do anything but sleep and eat for the last month and a half?”

She opened her mouth as if to protest, but he held up a hand.

“Don’t worry, I’ve got a prescription for that. We’re headed through Omicron Delta, aren’t we?”

“We should be there in a day and a half, if everything goes as planned,” she confirmed, “which it won’t. I’d give it a week.”

There was a planet in Omicron Delta by a name that he could not remember that had come up in a dream: something about the best shore leave of his counterpart’s life. He even remembered the plot on the star chart. Besides, Uhura wasn’t the only one who could use a little bit of a break.

“I’ll talk to Jim about a shore leave. Tensions are getting high among the crew anyway, I had to stop a fight yesterday.”

“If anyone can get through to him, it’s you,” she said. Her chair squeaked as she stood. “I should get back to the bridge. Thank you, Leonard.”

“Hey, wait,” he said, remembering the Padd that was resting against his tricorder case. “Would you mind bringing this to Spock for me?”

She hesitated.

“It’s not still awkward between you two, is it? I wouldn’t subject you to that.”

“No, we’re fine! Well, there are the occasional weird moments, but it’s a hell of a lot better than when we were together,” she assured him, reaching a receiving hand out toward his Padd.

He grabbed it mock-possessively. “Are you sure? I saw a hesitation, there.”

Uhura rolled her eyes. “Even Jim doesn’t want to talk to him when he’s working on an equation. I’ll leave it at his station. He won’t even notice I’m there, and I won’t have to get between him and his math. Everybody wins.”

“Let me write him a note, and I’ll let you go,” he said, smiling in thanks.

He wrote, I told you so. Yes, I see the sleep problem, and I’m working on it.

 

That night gave him an excellent chance to do so, actually. He slept for four solid hours, REM and all, before waking far too early in unfamiliar pajamas.

“Lights,” he said, peeling off the thin covers. His neck ached.

Well, it looked like he wasn’t the only one who had been prepared. The same hypo and pill awaited him next to a piece of paper—earth paper, not the parchment he had used last time. The handwriting was elegant and curved, the kind he had tried for and abandoned during grad school.

I have a theory. When I sleep, I go to you. When you sleep, you come to me. When we both sleep, we get some actual rest.

If we’re going to make this work, we need to take some naps. I doubt you’ll have any objections to that, I sure as hell don’t. My off hours begin about six after yours do, so I’ll request a change in bridge schedule to a couple hours earlier, and you request later. That combined with an hour of sleep at 18:00 your time will be enough to get us through the day. We can adjust more later on if it becomes a problem.

Besides that, I know you, so I know that you didn’t take the hypospray I set out for you, paranoid sonofabitch. At least do it while in my body. I value my health even if you don’t.

Don’t drink the green shit.
L. H. M.

“Well, too late for that,” Leonard said, pocketing the letter.

 

He brain stuttered as Old Spock stumbled through the door of the sickbay. His hand was clutching his right side, blood leaking from between his fingers.

“Doctor, please work quickly, I must get back to the captain,” he said, swaying.

“Damn it, Spock, do you have no sense of self preservation?” he bellowed, tricorder buzzing. “Lay down. Nurse, prepare transfusions.”

“Yes sir,” Chapel said, handing him a Vulcan-specific anesthetic hypospray. He grabbed it gratefully.

“Come on, keep your head up,” he ordered, steadying Spock’s head in one hand and pressing the hypo to his jugular with the other. Spock shuddered as the hiss of chemicals entered his blood stream.

“Doctor,” he began, “I am going to enter a healing trance. I will need you to,” he sucked in an unsteady breath, “to do exactly as I say when I wake up.”

Leonard shushed him as Chapel began the transfusion process. “I know how Vulcan healing trances work, Spock. Either M’Benga or myself will be there.”

His communicator buzzed. “Bridge to Sickbay, Kirk here.”

“This is McCoy.”

“Have you stabilized Spock?”

Spock, who had not yet attempted to enter his trance, responded. “I am here, Captain.”

“Good. Bones, I need you down on the planet, we’ve got three ensigns whose vitals have started…well, I don’t know what to tell you. Just get down here, alright?”

“What about you?”

His voice held no small amount of frustration. “I can’t leave the bridge, they require me on constant visual.”

Leonard sighed. This was not how his day was supposed to go, not at all. “Alright, Jim. I’m on my way.”

“Doctor,” Spock said from beneath a box of green tubes and bright light, “This planet is home to many hostile life forms—”

“Yes, like every other landing party that I’ve been on. This is not,” he said with a hypo for emphasis, "my first rodeo.”

“Do make an attempt stay out of harm’s way,” Spock said sharply.

“Doctor, his blood pressure is returning to normal,” Christine said, holding the tricorder like it would make the process go faster.

“Good. He’s going to be out for a few hours. Get M’Benga in here as soon as you can.” He paused. “I’ll be fine, Spock, you just worry about yourself.”

“Vulcans do not worry.”

He couldn’t help but laugh a little at that.

 

We were assaulted by an Orion pirate vessel today while orbiting Tritus IV. Spock was injured, but we gave him a transfusion and he went into his healing trance. Jim is fine, just a little antsy. Ensigns Daniels and Bertov didn’t make it.

My Jim knows about our little problem if you need anything in my timeline. And I did take your pill, so now who’s the paranoid one?

Cheers,
L.H.M.

 

In his real timeline, he sat in Jim's quarters, looking at nothing in particular. 

“Jim, how do I befriend Spock?”

He choked. “I’m sorry, did you—”

“Oh, stop being so dramatic.”

“Did you just say that you wanted to be friends with Spock? Are you ill?”

“I’m not ill!” He took a steadying breath. “I’m already his friend, I just want him to be friends with me. He told me that he respects me, but you can respect someone and still hate them.”

Jim raised his eyebrows. “He told you that?”

“He was delirious, so I’m not sure it counted.”

“It counted,” he said, smiling.

“Stop that.”

“Stop what?”

“Stop fucking grinning at me like that!”

“Why don’t you tell me what brought this on?” Jim said, lacing his fingers together on the table.

Leonard glared. “Why, of course, doctor Kirk. Why don’t I lie down and tell you about my mother while I’m at it?”

“You can lie down for me any time, Bones.” He raised his hands in surrender. “Seriously, though. I’ve been trying to get you two to be civil for years. What changed?”

He tilted his head in thought. “Did you notice that I was gone yesterday?”

Jim nodded. “You…he…held himself totally differently. I pulled him aside at one point and asked him if he was the…you know. The real McCoy.”

“Did he admit it?”

He nodded.

“Do you think I should tell the other Jim?” he asked, running his hand over the bumpy fabric of the chair. His fingers played with the seam.

“How do you know that he hasn’t already?”

“It’s just a guess.” He thought of Old Spock’s stoic look covering kind intentions and shook his head. “He’s…they both really care about him, and their worrying would be absolutely incessant if he let it slip that anything was off. I don’t know how he’s going to play off our new sleep schedules.”

“Is that why you want to be friends with Spock? Because you like it better when we all care about each other?”

Leonard spluttered.

“You are fond of our resident computer, aren’t you? Oh, Bones, that’s so sweet!” he said, beaming.

“Dammit, Jim, you don’t have to put it like that!”

“Oh, but I—”

A piercing alarm shattered the peace and the lights flashed in tune with waves of sound. Leonard’s mind went from disoriented to overly sharp at the speed of light.

“Bridge to Captain Kirk! Come in, Captain!”

Jim scrambled for the transmitter on his wall. “What is it, Sulu?”

Sulu’s voice pushed through the static. “A Klingon vessel, sir. They’ve locked us in their tractor beams.”

“I’m on my way, Kirk out. Bones, you’re with me.”

He nodded, pulling on his other boot. He should have expected to get called in, a doctor was never off duty. The door swung open as Jim dashed into the hall, Leonard close behind. There were ensigns running every which way, some as out of uniform as he was himself, others in hardly any clothes at all. It was a flurry of primary colors all tinged red by the emergency lights in the ceiling.

Spock met them on the bridge.

"Vessel incoming, sir."

Sulu shot an alarmed look their way. “The Klingons have fired, captain!” he said as a rattle shook the bridge.

“Shields?” Jim asked, leaping into his chair.

“Holding, sir.”

"Well, they just came out of nowhere, didn't they? Vessel class, anyone?"

"Class Defiant Equivalent," Spock informed them.

Jim frowned. A Klingon vessel so far into deep space wasn't uncommon, but a lonely escort ship was. There was something missing.

“Uhura, transmissions?”

“No, sir. Nothing,” she said, spinning dials so quickly her hand seemed like a blur.

“Sulu, I want you to bank in at sub-warp speed. Thirty degree angle to the right. We’re going to break out of that beam.”

The pilot grinned, stars from the screen contrasting sharply with the dark of his hair. “Sir, yes sir!”

Leonard held his breath, knuckles white on the edge of Jim’s chair. When Jim spoke, he felt vibrations through the floor.

“Warp six, Sulu!”

“Warp six achieved!”

The Enterprise shuddered forward, halted for just a moment, and lurched out of the tractor beam so fast that Leonard left his breath back with the Klingons. Jim leaned forward, drinking in their speed and the light of the stars speeding by. A grey speck appeared above them.

“Captain, our scans have discovered one other Klingon vessel in the area,” Spock said.

They dove to the right, narrowly avoiding a bright beam of light and a burst of energy. Shockwaves sent a tingle from the finely wired circuits of the chair to the tips of Leonard’s fingers. He smelled the thick tinge of burning plastic and the unmistakable residue of a photon torpedo. Shit, Leonard thought. He hated space. He hated fights. He really hated space fights.

“Phaser capacity,” Jim ordered, the note of his voice one that Leonard heard so rarely. It sent a chill through his spine.

“Phasers at one hundred percent, sir,” said Sulu.

Chekov looked up in alarm. “The other ship is headed towards our flank. Sewen hundred kilometers and closing.”

Jim didn’t move. The new ship was still approaching on their screen. It was bigger and sleeker, with a deep red emblem painted on the side that was probably meant to inspire fear in potential enemies. Leonard would be the first to admit that it was working. The other vessel had disappeared from their screens. They were caught right between two of the most dangerous enemies known.

“Face ship one head on. Chekov, how much will the Klingon vessel have to compensate for the gravitational pull on the torpedo?”

“Thirty eight point two degrees, sir.”

“Excellent. Sulu, prepare impulse power. I want you to put us right next to that ship, just so that we're out of range. Until then, stay right where you are.”

Sulu’s face adopted a look that bordered on rapturous. His hand flew towards a dial. He and Jim exchanged looks.

“Enemy ship is firing, sir.”

“Wait for it.”

The tension in the air was so thick he could have sworn it was clogging his lungs. A ball of light sped towards them from the ship in their front screen, leaving a trail of dissipating energy behind it. Leonard could almost taste the shock wave already.

“Now, Sulu! Chekov, shields at fifty percent!”

Leonard watched Sulu’s hand shove the warp meter as if it was in slow motion. The Enterprise rumbled as it rose to maximum speed, and the encroaching photon torpedo zipped by so quickly it left a mark behind his eyelids. There was an explosion, muted by space but vibrating as surely as if it had been their own vessel dissolving into stardust, and the telltale smell of burning rubber seeped through the vents.

Jim grinned. “Phasers on low power, disable their command center,” he said, and the ship in front of them began to smoke.

Leonard gaped with the security officers behind him that looked like they might lose their breakfast.

“Uhura, hailing frequencies open. Enable visual.”

“Visual accepted, sir.”

The captain squared his shoulders and glared at the tattered remains of the ship in front of him. He didn’t even give the one behind a second glance.

“This is Captain Kirk of the USS Enterprise. You’ve lost one ship today,” he said as a flickering image appeared, “but you do not need to lose another. We have the facilities to treat your wounded. Prepare yourselves to beam aboard.”

A humanoid woman, dark skinned and dark haired, stood proudly, her hair matted with fresh blood. “Klingons do not surrender,” she choked out.

“And I am not asking you to. Your ship is not damaged beyond warp speed. We will heal your civilians and leave you to return to your city.”

She gaped at him, face twisted in a mix between fury and confusion. Kirk spoke before she could begin.

“The Federation does not consider victory over a civilian vessel to be an honorable one. You will let us heal your wounded.”

Leonard paled. A civilian vessel, not a military one. They wouldn’t have stood a chance against the Enterprise at full power. The one that they had defeated earlier had been a guard ship, an attack dog. Klingon or not, they were women and children, not soldiers.

The Klingon captain glanced behind her. “We cannot beam aboard. Too many of are wounded. I must see to them.”

Jim nodded. “In that case, we will come to you.”

Chapter Text

Stardate 2235. Leonard was sure that he was in his own universe because Old Jim would actually think before he did something stupid.

 

“Jim, what the hell do you think you’re doing? You said it yourself, they’ve got warp power. Now, I’ll never refuse treatment to an injured person, but that is a Klingon vessel! One opening and they’ll knock us out of the air!” He scrambled after Jim as he headed toward the med bay.

“We damaged their phaser banks, Bones, they don’t have any way of knocking us out of the air. It’ll be fine.”

“It’ll be fine, he says as we beam into the middle of an ambush.”

They gathered a very confused Christine from her office and left M’Benga in charge of the Enterprise. Leonard was confident that if everything else went to shit, at least the sick and injured would be in good hands.

As soon as they materialized on the Klingon bridge, Leonard pulled Jim and Spock to the floor. Some of the consoles had evidently burst into flames, burning wires and plastic and who knew what other materials that would be toxic to breathe, at least for humans.

“We need to clear the air,” he whispered to Jim. He got a nod in response.

“Ma’am, my chief medical officer informs me that the air must begin circulating throughout the ship,” he said, motioning to the door.

She waved her hand in response and a panel receded into the ceiling. The smoke gushed out like it was in a vacuum.

“Fascinating,” Spock said.

One of the officers, this one heavily armored and very dark skinned, tried to place himself between his captain and their party. She brushed him away impatiently.

“Gvak and Tessar will show you to the civilian quarters,” she said.

The officer, apparently Gvak or Tessar, raised his eyebrows so high Leonard thought they might grow wings and fly away. He turned to his captain, mouth open, but she shot him down with a glare that could start a fire.

“That would be very much appreciated,” Jim said, motioning for the unhappy first officer to go first. Spock placed a hand on his arm to still him.

“We require you to order your security personnel to hold their fire,” he said, and Leonard could hear a hint of a threat through his carefully moderated tone.

“They are under my orders not to harm you and to accept aid as it is offered.” She tilted her head in the same way that Spock did when he was mocking humans. “There is no need for defensiveness.”

Jim nodded in approval. “Alright. We’ll take care of your officers and then head straight for the civilians, is that…acceptable?”

“Actually, Jim,” Leonard said, spotting several unconscious Klingon officers on the floor, “you take Christine and go on ahead. I’ll catch up with you in a minute.”

“That’s fine. Spock, you stay with him.”

Spock moved to stand by the Klingon incapacitated personnel. Jim was escorted out, and Leonard rushed to his new patients. He passed his tricorder over the younger looking one who lay sprawled on the floor. There was a dent in the metal panel next to where he might have been standing. He was very, very dead.

He shook his head at the captain, not waiting for confirmation before he reached for the other.

Spock had stripped the older man of his heavy metal plating and moved his head to that Leonard could get more accurate readings. He was burnt. All visible skin was a crisp, and it was as if his metal plating had acted as a frying pan. They were lucky it had not been fused to him. If he made it, it would take a special procedure to give him back a face, but that required time and energy that Leonard did not have. The Klingon physicians would have to do it on their own once they got back to base, if he wanted it done at all. For a Klingon, the scar tissue might be a badge of honor, he didn’t know. The tricorder finished its readings.

“This one will make it,” he said to the Klingon leader, “But I can’t save you.”

She took a step forward. Her face was ashen and her eyes were bloodshot, but deep brown skin and the patterns on her forehead created elegant beauty that was not lost on him. He strangled a surge of pity.

“I am aware,” she said. “My name is Yarta. Your assistance, although unwillingly accepted, is appreciated.”

He reached for a hypospray. “Leonard,” he said, standing beside her to feel her clammy skin. He pressed the needle into a cavity behind her temple. Klingons were somewhat similar to Vulcans in enzyme ratios, and he knew Vulcans very well.

“Your medicine will not help me,” she said, accepting the treatment anyway.

“It won’t,” he agreed, “this is only a catalyst. You won’t need as much oxygen for your brain to work.”

“A bandage for a dead man.”

He clenched his jaw. He didn’t know if he would have been able to do it, to stand so strongly, all eyes on him, while he was slowly bleeding into his brain. It wasn’t just a Klingon trait, either. He knew men—both of them present—who would have done the same. Still, her overwhelming strength of spirit wouldn’t last forever. It was obvious by the look on the surviving officers’ faces when they left with Jim and Christine that her orders would only hold as long as she was alive. It didn’t matter if she was betraying the honor of her people as that they could live, she wouldn’t be able to feel the consequences anyway.

She pushed him gently back to the man on the floor, because of weakness or a last rush of compassion he didn’t know.

He smeared a paste over the shattered skin while Spock removed fragments of rubber that would cause infection. The salve would barely last until they got back to their base, but he didn’t know if he had enough power in his regenerator to get him through the whole ship.

“Leonard,” Spock said, standing. “We must catch up with Jim.”

“You’re right.” He turned back to Yarta and nodded, the notion lost as her eyes were on the stars, and slipped through the door.

Jim’s trail wasn’t hard to find. There were bodies on the floor and propped against walls, some of them untouched and others bandaged lightly. It was incredible that just a small phaser blast had done so much damage. He followed the line of casualties until he found Christine and Jim surrounded by an escort of red shirts. Christine was running her tricorder over the bump of a pregnant woman.

“Chris,” he said by way of greeting.

She glanced up, relief washing over her face. “The baby is fine, they just need to rest.”

“Good. Now that we’ve found you,” he said to Jim, “I’d like us to stay in groups. Jim, you go with Christine. Spock, come with me. We don’t have that much time.”

“What do you mean we don’t have time?” asked Jim. “Did something happen?”

“We’ll be fine as long as we hurry, but get to it. Her orders to stay violence free are only going to last so long.”

Jim nodded. “I’ll comm you when we’re on our way back to the command center.”

 

Thankfully for them, the vessel wasn’t a huge one. There was one wing of civilians, a military unit (that was thankfully unharmed or their excursion might have gone a lot worse) and a medbay that reluctantly accepted their supplies. Twelve deaths on his count, and many more injured. It was bad, but as Spock continued to remind him, if it had been any other captain but Jim, the people would be completely destroyed.

It was still painful to see. Almost as bad as the lecture Jim was going to get when he told the Admiral about willingly sending a fully-staffed Klingon vessel back into space. Leonard had faith that Jim would find a way to worm out of it. He always did.

“We’ve done as much as we can,” Christine greeted from where she stood regenerating a nasty head wound on an older man.

“I know first response isn’t your field, Christine, but you did damn good,” he said, and she gave him a shining smile.

The door to the Yarta’s bridge was open, and several more conscious Klingon officers than were strictly comfortable glared at the Enterprise security. Spock hovered behind him like his own personal protectron unit.

“Bones!” Jim shouted.

He shoved past the red shirts. “What is it?”

Jim knelt over Yarta on the floor, grasping her creased forehead in his hands like he could heal her with willpower alone.

“She just collapsed,” he said.

Leonard reached down and pressed his fingers against her pulse point. Beneath the faint warmth of body heat clinging to her, there was nothing. He knew before he had walked into the room.

“She’s dead, Jim.”

“But we were just talking! Can’t you do something?” Jim said, looking panicked. His unwavering compassion for all forms of life was one of the things Leonard admired most of him.

He grabbed Jim’s arm and urged him to his feet. “A Klingon’s frontal skull is one of the hardest organic substances known to the federation,” he said, “But beneath those ridges is an artery pattern more delicate than the veins of a leaf. She got hit hard, Jim. She knew she wasn’t going to make it.”

“You knew?” he said.

Leonard nodded. “I gave her something to ease the pain. It was all I could do.”

Jim squared his shoulders and spared one last glance at the fire-scorched command center. The officers that had guided them looked like they were three seconds away from disobeying their captain’s last order.

“Alright,” he said, flipping open his communicator. “We’re ready to beam up, Scotty.”

They disappeared in a flash of light.

 

He materialized perfectly on spot, the only insides that had been scrambled were the insides of his head. Jim patted the operator on the shoulder. Leonard couldn’t imagine the kind of things that man had to beam up daily.

Sulu let out a relieved breath as they walked onto the bridge. His hand stopped clenching the alert button. “Captain!”

“We’re back, Sulu.”

“And thank god for that,” the pilot said before excusing himself for a cup of coffee.

Leonard pressed his knuckles into his temple. When he blinked, he saw bleeding Klingon children and Yarta crumpled on the floor. It wasn’t as easy to push out of his head when he knew it had been him that saw it, not his old counterpart.

“C’mon, guys. I need a drink,” Jim said, corralling Leonard and Spock toward his room.

“Captain, there is one hour left of alpha shift,” Spock said.

“An hour that nobody cares about, Spock. You’re having a drink with us, no argument.”

Spock raised an eyebrow but conceded the point.

“There is something I would like to address,” Spock said as Jim handed Leonard a glass of smooth single malt. Spock accepted his own glass somewhat reluctantly.

“It’s chocolate liqueur,” Jim said. “You’ll like it. Probably.”

“How are you getting this on the ship?” Leonard said admiringly.

“I have my ways. Anyway, Spock, you were saying?”

“Leonard,” he said, “you should not be so willing to be left alone with enemy personnel, injured or not.”

“That’s an idea I can get behind,” Jim agreed.

“Oh, as if you don’t do the same thing,” Leonard said, Spock’s use of his first name coloring his cheeks.

“The captain was trained for combat. You were not,” said Spock.

“I wouldn’t have done it if you hadn’t been there,” he said, guilt seeping into his chest.

His Spock’s glare was the same as the Old Spock’s poorly veiled concern. It had been a bit stupid, he reasoned. Fatally wounded or not, kind heartedness notwithstanding, she had been a Klingon. Of course, he learned today that that didn’t matter as much as he thought it did.

Spock tilted his head, overly perceptive eyes burrowing into his thoughts.

Jim grinned, throwing an arm over both of their shoulders. Leonard expected Spock to shy away, but he just rolled his eyes.

“I’ll be more careful if you will, Bones.”

Leonard nodded, heart no longer as heavy thanks to the alcohol and Jim’s warmth pressing into his side. “I’ll be more careful if Spock is more careful.”

“Am I expected to say that I will be more attentive to my well being if the captain does the same?” Spock asked, dry humor thicker than the tang from Leonard’s whiskey.

Jim just laughed and tried to get Leonard to feed him so he didn’t have to let go.

As much as he hated to admit when Jim was right, he did like it better when they all cared, even if caring too much hurt.

Chapter Text

Stardate ???? - Not in Leonard's timeline for long, unfortunately. 

 

 

Leonard could feel in advance when his body was going to house another for a day or so. There was a bit of a tingle in his fingers and toes, he sometimes saw double (only sometimes) and he had a little bit of difficulty hearing. He started to feel worn. Not tired so much as the sort of drowsy humidity that clings to the earth before a thunderstorm, charged with electricity but heavy with the rain.

He wasn’t sure which one of them was the static and which one was the moisture, but it was sort of like osmosis: their minds moved to the place with less concentration of himself. He was sure the other McCoy felt it, too.

Tonight he put on pajamas because he knew the other preferred to sleep in a little bit warmer of a room than he. The letter was already waiting on his dresser with an account of what happened the day before and their current mission, and there was nothing he needed to do but fall asleep. That was easy enough.

 

You were right about the schedule, and it’s working well for me, but it doesn’t solve everything. I have found that so far, we wake up as each other when we are somewhere close in the galaxy, but I don’t know why it isn’t more constant. It is possible that proximity is our independent variable, but I doubt anything we test will be definitive.

Good luck,
L.H.M.

 

Leonard stepped through the door and ran face first into Old Spock.

Spock steadied him with a hand. “Doctor?” he asked as Leonard dabbed his nose with his wrist. “Are you well?”

“I’m fine, Spock. Must’ve had a bit too much caffeine this morning.”

Spock raised an eyebrow. “I suggest you familiarize yourself with the replicators, then.”

“If I had the time to sit around and experiment on coffee, you can be sure that I would have done so,” he snapped, walking toward the bridge.

“If you would wait a moment Doctor, I had wondered if you would meet me in the labs at 19:00 hours,” Spock said. “There is an experiment that I think you would find quite intriguing.”

“Well…alright, I don’t see why not.”

He didn’t have much time to ponder what Spock had to show him before he was ambushed by Jim near the entrance to the turbolift. His hair was mussed like he had gotten into a confrontation with a very enthusiastic young woman, which, had that had been the case, Leonard wouldn’t have been the least bit surprised, but he was bleeding from a scratch on the crown of his head.

“What the hell did you do?” he asked, dragging him towards the home of nurses and needles.

“I was helping out in engineering,” he started, “and—ouch, Bones.”

“Let me guess, one of Scotty’s experiments exploded.”

“No, but I had to lift Scotty into the engine compartment and his wrench fell on my head,” Jim explained.

Leonard shook his head in exasperation. “It’s bad enough that they’re a plague unto themselves, must they spread it to the rest of the crew?”

“So dramatic, Bones. What has engineering ever done to you?”

He lifted an eyebrow that was painfully reminiscent of a certain green-blooded individual.

“Maybe it would be better if there were, say, two of you to help ease the symptoms,” Jim suggested.

“Uh-huh.” He pushed Jim onto a cot and activated a dermal regenerator.

“There would be less complaining if we were to swap you both out for landing crew missions.”

“I can safely say that if there were another me, he would be no less adverse to your off-world escapades,” he mumbled. “You’re healed. Stay away from Scotty.”

“Thanks, Bones. I’ll tell him you said that!”

“Do it. Stop crowding the sickbay!”

M’Benga, who had been waiting in his office with a box of vaccines, ensured that his skills be immediately put to use stabbing young people with hyposprays.

 

 

“Shit, Spock, I’m sorry, I got caught up with vaccinations,” he gasped as he stumbled through the doors to the science labs. Spock was adjusting the slide on a microscope in the corner.

“That is quite alright, Doctor. I have heard that the Enterprise is rather difficult to navigate for those who have not spent much time on it.”

Leonard glared. “Excuse me? What are you trying to say, you green-blooded hobgoblin?”

“Nothing at all. I was merely attempting to limit your insecurities.”

“My insecurities,” he muttered. “Clearly you must be an expert, what with that sort of finesse.”

Both to his relief and his disappointment, Spock didn’t rise to the bait. “Hardly.”

“So? What have you got to show me?”

Spock motioned to his microscope. “Take a look.”

Leonard peered down the eyepieces to see a blue cell, evidently xenofauna, organelles all a brilliant red. All in all, it wasn’t that unusual. He glanced up at Spock who had, judging by his apathetic expression, expected such a response.

“Examine the RNA sequence,” he said.

He plugged in the magnification level and isolated a strand of RNA. The machine whirred and began to zoom in, the magnifying light diving through the cell as if they were falling through space. It ended on a single line of blue.

“Oh my god,” Leonard said, ignoring Spock’s ever rising eyebrow. “What did you do? How did this happen? What’s with the amino sequence? This is fascinating. Spock, do you know what this could do?”

Spock raised the other eyebrow. “Given that I was the one conducting this experiment, Doctor, I can safely say that I do.”

Leonard abandoned the slide and grabbed for the incomplete Starfleet report. He hadn’t seen a file so thick since his doctorate thesis. He leafed right through the ribosomal interaction, since if Spock was indeed the one who did the experiment there wouldn’t be any mistakes, and found the section on biological and medical significance. He had expected it to be barren and incomplete, but it was…finished. And signed.

By himself.

“You tricked me,” he said incredulously. “I can’t believe it. I…you…I can’t believe it.”

Spock raised his eyebrows. “I am unaware of the circumstances that you describe, Doctor.”

Leonard glared. “And they say Vulcans can’t lie. You must not hate that human side of you very much.”

If he hadn’t been practicing with his own Spock, he might have missed the half-smile.

“Indeed not,” Spock said, laughter in his voice.

Well, he was caught. No undoing what was done, he supposed. He could deny it, which would be largely ineffective at this point, or he could admit it and leave his counterpart to deal with the damage. Jim’s casual joking throughout the day made far too much sense. He sighed and leaned back in his chair, fighting the urge to let his head drop against the table.

“Alright,” he said. “Where’s Jim? I know he wouldn’t miss a reveal like this.”

“It seems there are constants across all universes,” Spock said, inclining his head to the door.

There was a shuffle, a bang, and the storage compartment opened with a hiss. Jim at least had the good sense to look a little bit guilty. There was a small tear in his shirt. How he had managed that while in a literal box was beyond Leonard.

“Was it really necessary to hide in the closet?” he asked with a half-hearted glare.

“My, ah, apologies,” he said, acknowledgement rendered obsolete by the huge self-satisfied grin that was stretching across his face. “It’s not that you didn’t play a good role, but…”

“You must remember that we have encountered other universes in the past, admittedly ones less pleasant than yourself,” Spock said.

This was news to him. Despite the surge of embarrassment that he felt down to his toes, he was a little bit relieved to know that he didn’t have to hide anymore. “Well, if you feel like sharing…" he prompted.

“We might as well do so over dinner,” Jim decided, pulling Leonard to his feet. “We’ll tell you all about it as long as you let us in on some stories of your own, how’s that for a deal?”

“I’m sure this is a bad idea,” he said.

“Probably.”

 

He didn’t think he had ever laughed so much in his life.

Leonard told them the story of how how they had met in his world. He told them about how Spock put a tracking device on his girlfriend and how Scotty was rescued by a kindred spirit on a strange planet. Leonard didn’t let a word slip about anything important in case there were timeline points that couldn’t be avoided.

In return, Jim told him of how Spock had seduced a beautiful Romulan ship captain in order to steal a cloaking device and about a time when the older McCoy saved the last member of an alien species by patching her up with concrete. He described the exotic, brutal nature of the mirrored enterprise and how they had escaped only because McCoy had released the truth through a mind meld. Spock spun a wild tale about when they had been stranded on a planet with only androids and an intergalactic criminal and how the entire crew had put on a bizarre, illogical play to escape.

Leonard smiled at them unabashedly. “That went better than I thought it would,” he said during a lull in conversation.

“What did you think we would do, eat you?”

“More like…restrict his work hours,” he said.

“I would never,” Jim said. “Totally illogical.”

Spock shook his head the slightest bit as if to say, “yes, that was a surprisingly accurate conclusion based on the history of our past interactions.”

“It’s due time that we all turned in, I think. Go get some rest, Bones. I’m sure all will be…back to normal…in the morning.” Jim winked and squeezed his shoulder before leaving to his own quarters.

“Good night.”

“Good night, Doctor,” Spock said, disappearing alongside Jim.

The note he left next to his ‘report’ read as follows:

 

They know.

I don’t know where I slipped up, but they’ve been casually making jokes about our predicament all damn day long. And I thought Spock didn’t have a sense of humor.

You tell those assholes that it was good to meet them. Maybe next time they can stop acting innocent and actually start a conversation.

L. H. M.

 

When he woke up, he found a similarly sarcastic pink piece of paper, the kind on which Chapel wrote prescriptions for children, taped to his mirror.

 

You can thank me later,

L. H. M.

 

There was a pile of poker chips laying on his bed, twenty five credits, a bottle of something that had undeniably come from Scotty, and a rock.

It dawned on him that the older McCoy had already succumbed to the temptation to tell his crew, and that he, the young Leonard, had very thoroughly been played.

Chapter Text

2235, and for once, Leonard would much rather be sleeping. 

 

“Admiral Cartwright, sir, all we need is for you to confirm—”

“Kirk, Starfleet regulations are nonnegotiable. If what you’re asking will…”

No, sir,” Jim said, his ears bright red with anger. “I’m not asking you to give me permission to violate contracts, I’m asking if you would be willing to—”

“I’m not willing to send one of our ambassadors to sit and watch a family feud!”

“It’s not a family feud,” he bit out, “this is an interplanetary conflict! Are you content to let those people—”

“Jim.” Spock’s voice rang out in a sharp staccato that tore Jim’s eyes from the Admiral.

Cartwright looked smug, as if someone interrupting Jim’s tirade was proof that he wasn’t fit for captaincy. Leonard was thankful that Spock had the emotional control that he did or there would have been no one preventing Jim from telling the Admiral to kindly suck his own dick.

Leonard was standing behind Uhura, her knuckles white against the communications panel. He pried off her hands and tried to set them in her lap away from sharp objects and pointy things, but she latched onto him instead. Well. She couldn’t stab anyone with his hand, so mission accomplished.

“Jim,” Spock said again, his face animated like it was only when he was looking at Jim.

And Jim would have had to be an entirely different man to be able to resist the plea of concern on his first officer’s face. He nodded, took a deep breath, and visibly counted to ten. Ironically, it was a strategy Leonard had taught him.

“Sir. I apologize if I wasn’t clear, I’m used to my crew being able to read my mind.” His signature smirk was back to full strength. “Would you hear me out?”

No matter how much of an asshole Cartwright was, he legally could not refuse a consultation for a Captain. “Make it quick, Kirk.”

“Of course, sir. As I’m sure you know, we are not the first federation vessel to visit Goma. The USS Halcon, 2109, crashed here after a malfunction during a standard observation mission sent them flying into space. All crew members died of suffocation long before the ship ever crashed through their atmosphere. Nevertheless, their vessel was primarily intact and the natives on the planet slowly developed the intelligence required to operate their systems. More importantly, their missiles. I don’t know whether or not they plan on mass genocide, but if the neighboring planet keeps butting in, that’s where it’s going to go. If they do, sir, it’ll be on us.”

The man on the screen looked like he was grinding his teeth hard enough to crack them, but he nodded.

“And if you get the counselor killed, it’ll be on you.”

“Acknowledged. Is that permission, sir?”

“Yes, Captain, it is.”

 

These were the worst. The ones where he sat useless in the sickbay next to equally displeased looking Chapel and M’Benga, twiddling his thumbs and trying not to bite his lip hard enough to draw blood. Jim and Spock were on a hostile planet with nukes, for god’s sake. Spock’s presence on landing party instead of taking his place as temporary command of the ship in the Captain’s absence was proof of how all of his beloved logic went out the window for Jim.

So Leonard would wait. Every once in a while an engineering grunt with a broken nose or a minor laceration would walk in and the three of them would race to be the one who treated them. It didn’t do much to quell their nerves, but at least it gave them something to do.

And then the ensigns started coming en masse.

“Oh, no no no. Christine, call M’Benga back here,” he shouted.

M’Benga ran into the room. “Holy shit,” he said, helping a young woman onto the table and sonic cleaning the gash on her leg.

Leonard accepted a box of supplies from Christine and sat several patients down at once.

“What the hell happened?” he asked a twig-like blonde man, regenerating the gash on his temple before wiping the blood away with a towel.

“Shrapnel,” he said. Smoke too, if that cough was any indicator. “Turns out the weapons were faulty. Nobody on our side got much more than a scrape, but the locals are pretty bad off.”

“Shit,” said Leonard. “Chris, you and M’Benga are on your own. Jim’s gonna want—”

There was a beep from the intercom on the side of the wall. “Bridge to sickbay, this is Uhura, Bridge to sickbay.”

“This is McCoy,” he sighed.

“The Captain wants you beamed down immediately. Transporters are ready. He says you’re going to want an extra regen or two.”

“Thanks, Uhura. I’m already on my way.”

M’Benga sighed and shook his head.

 

“C’mon, Bones. Let’s watch a movie. Something obscene and western.” He guided Leonard through the door.

He was still itchy—overwhelmed by the feeling of dried blood crusted between his fingers and the way it stuck them to each other, and he reflexively opened and closed his hands, remembering the way it flaked off and balled up if he rubbed the pads of thumb and forefinger together. Open, close. Open, close. Jim grabbed his hands to stop him from drying off phantom blood.

He barely registered as he was shoved into Jim’s quarters. Jim pushed him onto the bed and removed his boots. He was too tired to protest. The movie clicked on, Jim slipped in next to him, and he fell asleep. Unfortunately for him, it was hours before he would have been able to actually rest. His mind was almost as exhausted as his body, but the old him wasn’t in bed. He opened his eyes immediately after he shut them…to the cold interior of what looked to be a cave.

“The decision is mine,” he heard Jim say. He looked ill. Scared, even. “If there are any decisions to be made, I’ll make them. If and when it becomes necessary.”

His counterpart prepared a hypo, brushing away Jim’s protests.

“I'm still Chief Medical Officer of the Enterprise. I'll tell you what you need and when you need it. Would you rather have the bends?” it seemed like whatever was in that hypospray hadn’t been medicine. Kirk wobbled and Spock led him gently to the cushions. “That's it. Just lie down and relax.”

“How long will he be asleep, Doctor?” Spock asked, not looking perturbed in the least.

“Between the emotional strain and that attack of bends, he’s in pretty bad shape,” Old McCoy casually reloaded his hypospray and slipped it back into the case that was perpetually attached to his hip.

“I'm not criticizing your actions, Doctor. On the contrary, I'm quite grateful for it. The captain will be spared the strain of making so difficult a decision. You have simplified the situation considerably.”

Leonard paled. He had almost missed the other figure in the room. There was a girl, a beautiful one, her emotions clear on her face, and she was worried. Very much so. Almost as much as he was. It didn’t take a whole lot of context to know that whatever was happening was dire.

“While the captain is asleep, I am in command. When the Vians return, I shall go with them,” Spock continued. Despite his expression, his voice was grave.

Old him held an expression that suggested he was going to do something incontestably reckless.

“Don’t,” Leonard whispered, caught between fear and pride. Surely there was another way. There had to be another way. But no one came, and Spock was so close to volunteering himself as sacrifice. He saw the hypospray coming a mile away. It’s what he would have done, after all.

Spock sagged to the floor. Aliens came and his counterpart went willingly, but he saw the shake in his hands. For once, he wished he had context for the situation. At least he would know what to expect. He saw them begin to fade and the temporary recalibration of body functions told him that he had been transported with them.

It looked like a laboratory. A stereotypical mad scientist’s lab.

The sinking fear that was paralyzing his joints worked its way up to his neck as he saw the chains hanging from the ceiling and the tubes of frozen humans and the life monitors on the table. He couldn’t watch. He also couldn’t take his eyes off of it, or so it seemed. All he could do was hope that Jim and Spock woke quickly. They didn’t.

He closed his eyes. Heat seared through his abdomen up to his shoulders in lacy tingles of fire and pain. Leonard tried to move his arms but his joints were already at their limit, shaking with the effort to keep upright. He tried to cough. He tried to move. Another jolt of electric agony and there was nothing. His lungs begged for air, convulsing and pulling like they would jump right from his chest, and his tendons ached and screamed as they stretched. The veins in his neck pulsed like they were running on the brink of overuse and his skin must have been one hundred degrees. He couldn’t see. It was black, the world was black, and there was no telling which of them had taken that last hit.

“Bones? Bones!”

Like a barrier had broke, the swell of his nerve impulses poured through and he sucked in air like he had been drowning. Leonard opened his eyes, gasping huge breaths, fists twisted in the sheets.

“Oh, thank god,” Jim said. “I thought you were dying. Nurse Chapel should be on her way.” He put a hand on Leonard’s forehead, apparently not finding his temperature to be anything other than satisfactory.

“Don’t,” he rasped. “I don’t need help. It’s…”

He tried to sit up. Jim held him down. “Yeah, you do. You weren’t breathing. At least have her check you over and make sure you’re okay. Please, Bones?”

“Call Christine off, Jim. It wasn’t me.” He averted his eyes from Jim’s open concern.

“I’d have to be an idiot not to figure out that it had something to do with your other self,” he snapped, “but what if it happens again? Maybe it would be better if she knew anyway.”

A pressure built in his throat. The sensation of choking had faded, but grief felt just about the same. “It won’t. He’s dead.”

Chapter Text

Stardate 2235; Leonard woke up in his own timeline when Jim was pulling his pants on.

 

“’Time is it?” he grumbled, rubbing sleep from his eyes. He ran his thumb over a pillow wrinkle that stretched down his forehead.

“Time for you to get up,” Jim said. “We’re getting breakfast, and then we’re doing what we should have a month and a half ago.”

“Do I dare ask?” he fumbled around the bed frame for yesterday’s pants. He found his shirt instead.

“Euch, don’t wear that,” Jim said. “Just put on one of mine. You’re not that much bigger.”

Leonard raised his eyebrows in a very good Spock impression.

Jim blinked. “Okay, maybe not. I suppose we can go back to your quarters first.”

“I’m not going to get rid of you all day, am I?”

“Nope.”

 

“There’s one thing I don’t get,” said Jim, inhaling his oatmeal.

“What might that be?”

“Why you haven’t told Spock? You know he’s spotted something off.”

Leonard picked at his eggs. He found a mushroom and skewered it. “I don’t…want him to think that the only reason I like him is because I’m friends with him in another universe, I guess.”

Jim hummed. “That seems kind of…”

“Pathetic?”

“I wasn’t going to say that.”

“You might as well have.”

“I was going to say,” he said, dragging his vowels, “that it made sense. If someone pulled a 180 and started flirting with me only after having been told that we look good together, I’d take it with a grain of salt.”

“Okay, I can see your point, but did you really need to liken in to that?

Jim slid his cup back and forth on the textured table. It sounded like sandpaper. “So sorry. How about this?”

“Jim, no,” Leonard protested weakly.

“Ahem. So if this guy crossed universes and saw us…whatever, close—and then returned to our universe, decided that it would be better if we didn’t hate each other,” he paused for dramatic effect, “and made an attempt to be nice to me after that… oh. Wait. It sounds less like awkward attraction and more like actual human decency, doesn’t it? Or is there some awkward attraction, too?”

“There is absolutely not,” he denied, throwing a carrot at Jim’s dancing eyebrows.

“Are you sure? Cause that would be pretty hot,” he snickered at Leonard’s tomato red face.

Leonard felt fabric brush against the back of his neck and he dropped his fork with a clatter. Spock gave him a slightly perturbed look as he sat next to Jim.

“What would cause an elevated temperature?”

“I promise,” he said, “you don’t want to know.”

Jim offered Spock an apple (a fresh, non replicated apple). He accepted it after having examined it thoroughly. Jim had tried to get Leonard to eat one, too. It looked delicious, but his stomach was still feeling...unfriendly.

He knew Jim was right, and he knew Spock was worried, otherwise he wouldn’t get that little crease between his eyes whenever Leonard mysteriously disappeared for his nap hour, but he didn’t want to spill everything. Not yet. Still, it was undeniable that the man’s Vulcan mind had picked up on something. He probably had Christine ready to forward all of Leonard’s scans. Maybe it would help if he were to see for himself that nothing physical was wrong.

“Spock,” he said, questioning his sanity a little bit, “I’m going to go through some tests later today. I’d like you to supervise them.”

Jim gaped. A glob of oatmeal fell from his half-raised spoon.

Spock, as unflappable as ever, cut his fruit into several tiny pieces. “I would be pleased to assist,” he said, victory shining in his eyes.

Leonard smirked at Jim and his stomach lurched even more unpleasantly when he realized that he would be spending the day with the entirety of Spock’s considerable intellect focused on him.

 

In fact, he had several highly qualified persons overly attentive to his being over the next few hours, including Jim, Spock, Christine, and M’Benga, who was only there to oversee equipment use. Christine gave him a radioactive sugar hypo and sent him to sit in the science department’s newest acquisition: the Andorian F2890 Neuro Scanner. He hated it. It was awful and claustrophobic and judging by Jim’s expression, they weren’t finding anything.

M’Benga was hovered over a Padd, displaying the results to Spock. They both looked as if they would barely notice a red alert.

Jim tapped on the side of the glass.

“While they’re occupied,” he said, “I’m going to do the asking questions part of this because it’s the only thing I’m qualified to do.”

Leonard sighed. “Fire away, Jim.”

Jim flipped his pen and mimed pushing up his glasses. “When was the first time you experienced effects?”

“Three months ago. I went to sleep and I saw him like I was in a dream.”

“Third person view?”

“Yeah.”

“Did you have to follow him everywhere? Like down the turboshift and stuff?”

“I started to feel fuzzy when I got too far away,” Leonard confirmed. He had tried escaping to the other side of the Enterprise, but it had just gotten increasingly uncomfortable. It was more interesting to tail his doppelganger, anyway.

“You think it’s a matter of proximity then?” Jim inquired.

“No, actually. I suggested it to him, but then I thought about it, and most of the instances lined up with our locations in this quarter of space except for once. We switched places when I was across the galaxy from him, which screwed up the whole system,” he explained.

“The most extreme effects but the farthest away,” he said, scratching another note on an actual piece of paper.

“I’m out of ideas, kid.”

“Do you have a list of the places we were when you experienced…dissonance?”

“You’d know if you checked your mail, I sent it to you an hour ago.”

Jim frowned. “Hey Spock,” he called, “can I borrow your Padd?”

He nodded. Jim ran to Spock, who handed it to him without looking up from the data that M’Benga held out for him, and dashed back.

“So we have eleven switcheroos and thirty instances where you saw his timeline from a third person perspective.”

“As far as I know, yeah.”

“And you figured out that you see what he is doing when you’re only one of you is sleeping. When do you switch places?”

Leonard frowned. “See, that was why I came up with the proximity theory. The locations with the asterisk represent our location the morning after I return to my own body. I thought that the closer we got, the more often I would switch.”

“But it’s not?” Jim finished.

“No. I can’t see how else they would be related, though.”

“Well, we do have a living computer here,” Jim said, editing the document with quick, confident movements. “I’ll just show him a list of your starred ones and see if he finds a connection. If it isn’t distance, it has to be something else.”

Right on cue, Spock approached them with a tricorder and a data Padd. He let the machine buzz around Leonard and jotted down a number.

“Good timing, Spock.” Jim looped his arm through Spock’s elbow. “You want to do me a favor and look through this? Tell me if there’s anything that these places have in common?”

Spock accepted the Padd. His brow furrowed just enough for those who knew him well to see. “We were at each of these locations within the last three months,” he said.

“Besides that.”

“Each one is no more than eight light years from a planet that we landed on,” he continued.

“Keep at it,” Jim said.

“All of them are some variation of class M.”

“Right.”

“The atmospheric conditions in each would require the landing party to be given a chemical cocktail to prevent major neurochemical realignment,” he said.

Jim glanced at Leonard, who couldn’t help but grin, and lunged forward to press a kiss to Spock’s cheek. (He staggered back and blushed).

“You’re brilliant, Spock, I knew we could count on you. Go help M’Benga power this thing down. Bones and I have to have a discussion.”

“Yes, Captain,” he said uncertainly. M’Benga waited for him with a raised eyebrow.

“Bones,” Jim began, punching equations into his Padd at the speed of light, “when you saw things, was it always along a linear timeline?” He dropped a stylus and fished for it under a bench.

“Yeah, as far as I know, but there might have been instances when more time had passed for him than it did for me,” he said.

“So, what if it’s not proximity, not a mirror at all, it’s your brain chemistry?”

“That…might actually be it,” he mused.

The planets that he had been to would have required protective hypos to shield from certain radiation or elements in the air. Not all of them were the same—planets Mervus and Char for instance required zinc reinforcement, where as the planets Hera II and Forchafu, the former outliers that had broken the location theory, required a delayed release anti-paralytic.

“I think you’re right. It happened right after I was on Lovinian. The potassium increase was registered on the scans I took. And then the next time, I took a hypo to maintain homeostasis, which would return anything to average human standards. He must have taken one, too. That makes sense, Jim, because if our brains aren’t naturally enough to cause resonance, the things we both do to go on landing parties to the same planets are actively aligning our minds!”

Jim beamed at him. “See why you consult friends, Bones? See why you can’t do everything on your own?”

“Yeah, yeah. Fat lot of good it does me now, anyway,” he mumbled.

The glass around him swung open and he shakily stepped onto the deck where Jim steadied him with an arm. The disinfectant smelled like rubbing alcohol.

“I’m sorry, Bones.”

“I know, kid. It’s not your fault.”

Spock approached them with the data from the test. “Doctor, may I have a word?”

“Of course, Mr. Spock. Lead the way.”

Spock walked him back to the sickbay in silence. It wasn’t quite awkward, but it was tense. For a moment, Leonard thought that Spock had somehow figured it out from the list alone and had decided to confront him.

“If you wish it,” Spock said, disrupting the quiet, “even if I am not conventionally available, I would not be opposed to…listening.”

Leonard smiled ruefully. “Never thought I’d see you offer 24/7 emotional support.”

“Nor did I.”

“Thank you, Spock,” he said, resting his hand on the other man’s arm. “I’ll think about it.”

“Appreciated, Leonard.”

 

 

Eight days and seven hours later, Leonard woke up on the wrong Enterprise.

Chapter Text

The clock beeped. He was at home, in his own universe, in his own body.

It was weird to wake up alone after how much time he had been spending in Jim’s quarters. Now both sides were chilled instead of one and the thin sheets weren’t doing much to help. He slipped out of the covers, wiggling warmth back into his toes, and padded across the rough carpet floor.

Old McCoy was alive. Healthy as a horse, too. He found himself grinning while brushing his teeth.

Leonard joined Spock and Jim at breakfast. Jim was devouring an omelet and Spock picked at replicated strawberries. (Jim was leaning ever so lightly away. Leonard remembered what had happened the last time he had eaten a strawberry. It hadn’t been pretty.)

“Good morning, Jim, Spock,” he said cheerily as he sat down with a blueberry muffin.

Spock raised an eyebrow. “May I ask what has contributed to your amicable mood, Doctor?”

Leonard shook off the ridiculous idea of messing up that obscenely perfect helmet of a hairdo. A little torture never hurt anyone, he thought, and ruffled Spock’s hair anyway, earning him a somewhat scandalized frown.

“A good thing, Spock,” he said, “a good thing.”

“I’m pleased to hear that,” he said, trying to look dignified and comb his hair back at the same time. Jim cackled.

 

That night in the alternate universe: It Was Not A Good Thing.

Not a good thing at all. Even the smoke crawling down his lungs couldn’t quite mask the acrid burn of fried electrical circuits. The walls were scorched where phasers had hit, and there were pools of blood scattered on the ground like small lakes. The cabin swam with fear, and his counterpart was on edge like he had never seen before. Rats scattered in between crates.

It was the first time he had ever been off of their Enterprise, and if he were in a corporeal form, he might have lost his breakfast.

There were people. Hung by their ankles over the promenade, left to bleed like gutted animals, so fresh that their blood hadn’t had time to drain from their bodies.

A girl he had never seen before, Romulan maybe, looked as nauseous as he felt as she waved a beeping tricorder over the bodies. Nothing. Nothing, at least, until she pointed it to a...biohazard box. He gulped. Jim punched buttons in a panic, praying that whoever was inside hadn’t gotten touched by too much radiation. It was becoming a little too much of a trip down memory lane for Leonard’s liking. When it didn’t open, Old Jim broke the glass with his fist. Chekov and another man came tumbling out. The dark skinned man, a captain, was either unconscious or severely in shock, Leonard couldn’t tell without getting closer.

“What happened, Chekov?” Jim asked.

“Oh, Captain,” he said, trembling. “It was Kahn.”

Leonard’s vision swam.

“They put creatures in our bodies to control our minds,” he continued, his voice a rough plea.

“You’re alright now,” Old McCoy said, placing a hand on his shoulder.

Wake up, wake up, this is a dream, he told himself.

Jim’s next command was to find Carol Marcus, and did they ever, along with a bright eyed blonde boy who seemed a little bit trigger happy, which was understandable given the circumstances. Leonard couldn’t look at her, at either of them.

“Mother,” the boy said, “he killed everyone we left behind!”

“Please, David, you’re only making this harder,” she snapped, her gaze not leaving Jim.

Leonard's mind flashed to his own Jim, dead on a sickbed and Spock, irate, with tears still in his eyes. He shoved down the nausea. He would not see that again. He would not.

Wake up, he pleaded.

The captain that they had saved only a minute ago from the box Chekov had been locked in raised his phaser to point at Jim.

He gave a good fight, despite everything. Despite the creature that tore through his brain, linking him to the most powerful enemy the Federation had ever seen. Leonard grabbed for the fabric on his counterpart’s shoulder as the man broke through the mind control that bound him. The phaser he pointed at Jim turned toward himself, and when he pulled the trigger, two creatures screamed instead of one.

I shall leave you as you left me. As you left her, marooned for eternity at the center of a dead planet. Buried alive. Buried alive.

An ungodly shrieking snapped him back to his own universe.

 

On his own ship, in his own universe, with no sign of a struggle and no sign of Khan, his heartbeat still pulsed at his fingertips.

“How many times have I called you at night in the last few months?” he asked, ignoring the throbbing pain in his temples.

The bridge was in a rare state, dark and entirely empty. Most of the personnel enjoyed shore leave on Delta Gamma VI. The computers had locked the Enterprise in orbit until further instructions. It was strange without all the fuss and beeping alarms. Some of the buttons glowed red and blue, but without the overhead lights, the stars seemed a thousand times bigger. The surface of the planet below reflected a pale green glow not unlike that of the moon from Earth.

“A few times,” Jim admitted, although it didn’t look like he had been to bed yet that night, “And I assume there are more to come. It would be easier if you would agree to stay with me.”

“I need some semblance of normalcy in my life, Jim, and if the only thing I can control is where I sleep, then so be it.” He leaned against the back of the captain’s chair with a sigh. “What did you do to my alarm clock?”

Jim slumped into someone’s chair and flipped his communicator open and closed with a flick of his thumb. “Reprogrammed it. Your environmental controls are now monitoring your vitals. If anything wonky happens, your alarm clock will play that nice tune I left you. After thirty seconds, if there is no response, I’ve given it the capacity to administer a light electrical shock.”

“You’re an asshole,” he said. “Thank you.”

Jim sent him a half smile. He listened to his communicator flip shut one last time and stuffed it into his pocket.

“You want to tell me what happened? Or did you call me to the bridge for the ambiance?”

“Older me wasn’t asleep tonight,” he began. “In the last few days, he’s gotten completely used to the schedule that we set up a while back. Not tonight.”

“Why not tonight?”

“There was an emergency.”

What emergency?”

Leonard pried the name from his tongue like it was made of lead. “Khan.”

Jim’s reaction was almost comical: his eyes widened like he had gotten punched in the stomach.

“Oh, no. Bones…”

“Oh, yes,” he said, his voice wavering. “He’s worse. With you, it wasn’t so personal. With them…well, he blames Old Jim for the death of his wife. He intends to kill everyone Jim ever loved.”

I shall leave you as you left me. All alone.

“Is he to blame?” Jim asked.

Leonard shrugged. “The man is completely psychotic, and I don’t use that term lightly. He’s got the same genetic enhancement, so I’m guessing it’s some sort of degradation.”

“Is he the same as ours, then? Physically? Would I be able to recognize him?”

Leonard barked out a laugh. “Jesus Christ, no. He’s not so white, for one, and he’s got the worst David Bowie hair that I’ve ever seen.”

Jim snickered.

“It gets worse. He willingly wears a shirt with an enormous chest window. You’d love it.”

“My god,” he laughed.

Jim sobered quicker than he had hoped.

“Are you going to be okay, Bones?” he asked.

“I don’t know. No. I will be, but I’m not going to like it.”

“You don’t have to be, you know. You’ve got us.”

“I know I’ve got you, that’s just the problem. I can’t do it, Jim. I stood over your body once. I’ve always acknowledged the fact that I might have to do it again, but not like this. Not by the hand of the same man.”

“You don’t know that he will…that I…”

“That the old you’ll get blown up by radiation? I don’t need to. Yeah, if you get your fool ass killed, the other me will find a way to bring you back, but I…I can’t watch you fade from me, it doesn’t matter the universe.”

“What if you have information?” Jim asked. “Something you could tell them so that they could…change the circumstances.”

There was a period of silence where Leonard swore his heart was going to break into pieces.

“I’m sorry,” Jim said. “I shouldn’t have said that.”

Leonard shook his head. “The Hippocratic Oath doesn’t mean as much to people who aren’t doctors, I know. I won’t do it. Not for one life, not for all of ours.”

“That’s how Khan was created in the first place,” he finished.

“That’s how the Eugenic Wars of the nineteen nineties started, yeah. And yet I can’t just sit by and watch them burn, Jim. I don’t know what to do.”

Jim stood from Sulu’s seat and padded over to him. He brushed a strand of hair from Leonard’s forehead.

“I admire you, Bones. I wouldn’t be able to restrain myself. I would try to play god, and I would regret it.”

“I don’t know if my ability to sit by and watch is something to be admired,” he said, gritting his teeth and crossing his arms hard enough to hurt his ribs.

“Stop that,” Jim chastised. “Did you ever consider that, just once, everything might be okay?”

He had. He had prayed to whoever might be listening to his pitiful plea in the vastness of space that this little adventure could end happily. He still hoped it might, and he knew it was hope that would crush him the most when something finally went wrong. He shivered.

“Only in my dreams,” he whispered.

Jim stepped forward and threaded his fingers through Leonard’s hair, brushed away the chill on his skin, and kissed him, slowly, like he was trying to erase all of Leonard’s worries with gentleness. He didn’t forget where they were like people did in the movies, and time didn’t stand still. They were still there, alone on the dark bridge, the stars in stasis as they orbited a lonely planet. A single satellite drifted by like a leaf on water. His mind kept conjuring images of his friends in danger, but Jim was sighing into his lips and even those fears floated to the back of his mind.

“It’s going to turn out fine,” he said, and Leonard felt too much like molasses to protest.

 

 

“I’m going to leave a note by your bed,” he said, setting a glass of water and the usual pills down next to it.

“For him?” Jim asked, kicking open the bottom drawer of his dresser. “Just in case you wake up here?” he wiggled his eyebrows.

Leonard didn’t take the bait. “Yeah.”

“The water, too?” he asked, unfazed.

Leonard hummed noncommittally.

“That’s the cutest thing I’ve ever heard.”

“Fuck you very much.”

“Does he leave you notes, too?”

Leonard rolled his eyes and slid the note on top of one of Jim’s various books. “We’re never sure where we’re going to wake up, so there are notes lying all through our quarters. He has them everywhere. Most of the crew on their ship leaves me letters, too.”

He had found one from Old Uhura out of the blue, just after he had found himself universe-hopping again, lying on her console. It mostly said that he was a sweetheart and that things were fun when he ‘kept them guessing’. They hadn’t switched bodies yet, but when they did, he wanted to surprise her.

“And you haven’t told your own Spock why? You already know that he’s…fond of you.”

“Would you believe me if I said it was to piss him off?”

“Partly, sure, but I’d be more inclined to believe you if you said you didn’t want to be on the receiving end of his passive aggressive glares for the next month and a half,” Jim pointed out smugly.

He groaned. “Don’t remind me.”

“Heh, that’s what I thought.”

Leonard felt the ghost of a hand across his back. He understood Jim’s hesitance. He felt it himself—a kind of odd apprehension, the knowledge that if they started something now, they wouldn’t make it. Like two pieces of paper stuck together with no glue.

He spent the rest of the day preparing himself for nighttime. Nothing happened. He went to sleep, there was a brief period where his counterpart awoke before him and they wandered around. There was a letter at the other man’s bedside that simply said, “I’m sorry”.

His new personalized alarm went off on time and he woke up to a usual day on his own space ship.

He could do this. He had to. The thing was, he wasn’t really sure that he would be able to do it while sane. How many people would die while he prayed that he wouldn’t have to go to sleep at night?

If only he had the emotional control as Spock. The other man felt, of course, as all Vulcans did, but he didn’t show it and he didn’t let it influence his actions. Leonard had seen him in a meditative trance once or twice, all brain power focused on one task, everything else abandoned.

Actually…Vulcans weren’t the only ones who could perform such a practice. Humans had done it plenty throughout history. Maybe if he asked Spock to help him, it wouldn’t be so bad.

Chapter Text

The Correct Universe:

 

“You did well for a human.”

“Gee thanks,” said Leonard, stretching his legs. Apparently there were poses associated with beginning meditation, and although yoga was not at all what he signed up for, it meant he got to spend time with Spock. That didn't make it any less taxing. He didn’t think that attempting to focus his mind would exhaust him so.

Not that he would admit it, but it had helped. Immensely, in fact. He was sure that he hadn’t gotten the Vulcan mystical mind clear thing down, but it had given him time to sort through his thoughts the human way. He had pondered over what he knew would happen with Khan. Going by Spock’s little correction touches on the back of his neck and on the soft skin around his wrists, he had read the turmoil boiling from his skin. He had probably known how conflicted Leonard felt.

But as he had pondered the morality of his decisions and all the weighty material that might have been more pleasant to think about under the influence of a good brandy, he also thought about stupid things. Them, mostly. He and Jim. He and Jim and Spock. He wondered if Spock had picked up on any of that, too.

Besides Leonard’s tendency toward the romantics, he had made a decision. He would tell the Other McCoy that he had seen Khan. He had, this would make Spock very proud, ran through calculations and possible outcomes and determined that nothing could be too terribly offset by the mere knowledge there had been a similar occurrence in another universe. He hoped.

He pulled his sweater on as he exited Spock’s overly heated quarters.

“Really, though, Spock,” he said. “Thank you.”

“Leonard,” Spock said, looking smug, “It was my pleasure.”

He ground his teeth. Did the Vulcan know he was doing that? Probably. Was Leonard willing to take the chance? Not particularly, no. He grumbled as he shouldered his way into Jim’s room down the hall.

Jim was folding clothes over his bed. He didn’t even look up as Leonard walked in without knocking.

“I’m gonna tell him tonight, Jim. I’ll write him a letter in both universes.”

Jim smiled sadly. “You just can’t let it happen, can you?”

“Oh, I won’t tell him anything compromising. I’ll just explain why I can’t.” He sighed, running his fingers over the veins along Jim’s wrist. “That’s already too much, but I…”

“I know,” he shushed. “It’ll be okay.”

Leonard hummed noncommittally.

“So where were you tonight? Usually you’re joining me in the mess hall. Had someone to entertain you?” Jim wiggled his eyebrows.

“As a matter of fact I did. I was entertained by a Vulcan who was trying to teach me to meditate.”

He dropped a sock. “You’ve got to be shitting me.”

“Oh boy,” he said, collapsing on top of Jim’s folded clothes. “I wish I was.”

“Get off,” Jim said, shoving Leonard’s legs to the side and rescuing his folded pants. “If you’re going to sleep here, take those clothes off. And as much as I would like to do it myself, that’s not what I mean.”

“Hnnnnn.”

“Shirt. Off.” Jim wrestled Bones’ blue science uniform from him and tossed it on the floor. Leonard helped by kicking half-heartedly at his pants. Jim removed those, too, tickling the back of his knee while he was at it.

“I hate you,” Leonard mumbled, kicking at the air where Jim had been.

“I love you too, Bones. Go to sleep.”

Jim climbed in next to him, carefully keeping three inches of space between them. Despite the distance, he could feel the warmth seeping into him. Leonard had been half asleep when he heard Jim whispering to him.

“Bones?” he said, breath puffing against the back of his neck.

“Jim.”

“Whatever happens, you’ll wake up here. Everyone will be safe. Different things happen in different universes, but I’ll always be here.”

He twisted around and pulled the other man to hi chest, locking his arms around Jim’s waist. Jim curled around him, brushing his hands through Leonard’s hair and sighing. He kissed Jim on the pressure point below his ear. You’d better be, he thought.

 

The Other Universe:

 

As expected, his other self wasn’t asleep. It would’ve been very hard to be with the ship shuddering under phaser blasts and the red alert sirens blaring.

“Doctor McCoy!” someone shouted, and they both turned.

“Get her on the table. Hey Christine! I’ve got a present for you!”

A pair of engineers carried a squirming red shirted woman onto a sickbed table and set her there where she curled up, moaning. Christine ran from the other end of the medical area. Her hair was falling out of its intricate weave. She glared at the Old McCoy as he indicated to her ‘present’.

“I’m going to focus on the unconscious ones,” he explained.

“Well then, get to it!” she snapped, pushing the girl’s hair from her eyes and holding a regenerator over her abdomen.

Leonard wanted nothing more than to grab a tricorder and help out, but as he was little more than an annoying poltergeist at the moment, that wouldn’t be happening. An alien of unknown species was ushered over to M’Benga with a hand over his eye. Engineering was really, really in a bad state. Khan, indeed.

“Engineering to Sickbay,” called a somewhat weak voice. “Engineering to sickbay, please come in.”

Christine held up both bloodied hands and shrugged. M’Benga silently shook his head as he administered disinfectant hypos into an eye socket. The medical trainees that were running around didn’t even seem to hear the intercom.

“Hell,” Old McCoy said and peeled off his gloves. “McCoy here. What’s the problem?”

There was a hiss of static and something that sounded like an explosion.

“Mister Scott is unconscious, sir. He took a blow to the head. I don’t think it is a good idea to move him.”

“Well isn’t that a pleasant surprise? An engineer with a mind for medicine. You made a good decision. I’ll be down in a second,” he said.

He left as a burn victim from the transporter room was carted through the door.

Leonard phased through a door to follow after him. He almost laughed when they got to engineering. He had never seen it in such a state—there were wrenches and blowtorches and high powered lasers scattered all over the ground. And automatic tool was drilling a hole into the leg of a table. If Scotty hadn’t been concussed, he would have had a cow. Old McCoy muttered something and reached down to cup the man’s head. He winced.

“Tha’ hurts a bit, mate,” he said.

“Yes, I’m sure it does. Now, I want you to stay there while I call an ensign for a neuroregen. You even think about getting up and I won’t even have to make you regret it, understood?”

“Aye, Doctor. I can give orders from here just fine.”

Old McCoy smirked dutifully. “You won’t be giving any orders until I sort you out. You over there, what’s your name?”

“Kumail Bajwa, sir,” said a dark skinned Ensign in white. Part of his uniform was torn off.

“Ensign Bajwa, is there something wrong with your wrist?”

The man glanced down as if he forgot he was cradling the limb. He shoved it behind his back. “No sir, it just hurts a bit.”

“If you don’t get that checked out when we’re a little more settled, I’ll have you vaccinated for Tellurian Shingles.”

“Yes sir!”

The doors swing open and McCoy’s shoulders relaxed as a dark haired medical ensign shouldered through. They carried a number of hyposprays and a kit.

“Well, give them to me before you drop them,” he said.

The Ensign scrambled to obey. McCoy held Scotty’s head in place while he stuck a regenerator to the base of his skull.

“You’re probably going to pass out for a few minutes,” he warned.

Scotty managed half of a protest before he was out like a light.

“You can go back to medical,” he said to the nurse. “I’m going to see to the rest of these folks. Good work, Ensign.”

They beamed. “Thank you, Doctor!”

McCoy rolled his eyes. Leonard sighed in sympathy. They both migrated to a humanoid who was sitting on the floor, clutching both sides. His alternate self had slapped a hypo in the figure before Leonard had even gotten time to make a diagnosis. Practice makes perfect, he supposed.

Old McCoy slid his equipment back into the satchel on his hip. “That’ll take effect in a few minutes. When it does, haul yourself up to the sickbay.”

They both relaxed. It was impossible to catch a breath when it seemed like the entire ship had a broken arm or a piece of shrapnel poking out from between their ribs. Old McCoy leaned forward and flicked the switch on the rogue drill. The chair it had been vandalizing cracked and fell to the side. The engine room still buzzed with activity, ensigns running to and fro with masks and tools, but there was something off. Part of the usual hum was missing. It was too quiet to mask the tension.

Another swish of bleach-white doors revealed Spock. He strode into the promenade and slid down the latter in the minimum number of steps possible.

For a man that had no emotion, it was easy enough to tell when he was in a grave state. Leonard stepped back. THat was an expression that he had seen...only once before. No.

“What are you doing, Mr. Spock?” Old McCoy asked.

Spock didn’t acknowledge that he had heard. He walked forward with intent, posture dignified, right to the opening of the warp core.

“Stop,” Leonard said, finally noticing the offset pedestal in the center of the tube. “Don't!”

“Are you out of your Vulcan mind?” Doctor McCoy said. “No human can tolerate the radiation that’s in there!”

“As you are so fond of observing, Doctor, I am not human.”

He stepped forward and Old McCoy grabbed him by the shoulder. “You’re notgoing in there!”

“Perhaps you’re right,” conceded Spock. “What is Mr. Scott’s condition?”

Leonard relaxed. So did his older counterpart.

“Well,” old McCoy said, “ I don’t think that he— ”

The neck pinch came out of nowhere. Not even Jim would have seen it coming. Vulcans don’t lie and they don’t deceive, but Spock was always the exception. Leonard stood slack-jawed as his older self crumpled to the floor. A common misinterpretation of the Vulcan neck pinch was that it left the victim unconscious without any variation. That was not the case. At times, the user could manipulate the effects to create any degree between paralysis and unconsciousness that they desired. Spock simply dazed the other man. Leonard wondered if Spock knew that he was watching.

“I’m sorry, Doctor,” Spock said, “I have no time to discuss this logically.”

He tugged the gloves from Scotty who was still out cold and pressed his fingers to the meld points of Old McCoy’s face.

“Remember,” he said, and a jolt of something rippled through their minds. He pushed through the revolving seal door just as Old McCoy and Scotty roused themselves.

“Spock! What do you think you’re doing?!”

“Good god, man, get out of there!”

Leonard found his own voice was among them. “Not both of you, god dammit! Do not—Spock!”

There was nothing they could do. Spock ignored every plea. Even when Old McCoy was banging on the glass hard enough to bruise the bones in his hand, he tugged the chamber lock free. An explosion of white light knock him backward, singing his hair, tearing at his skin, but he reached inside and twisted the parts, enabling warp frequency. He slid the seal on just as the ship lurched forward.

“Spock, please…” Old McCoy whispered. Spock didn’t turn around.

A voice buzzed through the damaged intercom. “Engine room. Well done, Scotty.”

Mccoy pressed his hand to the glass in defeat. “Jim, I…I think you’d better get down here,” he said, voice catching.

“Bones?”

“Better hurry,” he replied, tearing his eyes away with visual anguish.

Leonard wanted to hug him. To tell him that it would be okay, that he would find a way to make things better. That even when his own love had died, he had found a way, and if Leonard had found a way, so could he. He couldn’t. he could barely move. His eyes were stinging and his head was feeling somewhat mucky from the mind meld. He wanted to say that it would be alright, and yet...he wasn’t so sure that it was true.

Jim slid down the latter and rushed for Spock. Scotty and McCoy wrestled him back, cringing.

“No! You’ll flood the whole compartment!”

“He’ll die!” he protested.

“He’s dead already,” Scotty said, looking like he might lose his breakfast just from saying those words.

“It’s too late,” Old McCoy said.

Leonard felt like his heart had been crushed in his chest. He could only imagine how his older self felt. How his own Spock had felt, watching Jim die in their own timeline. He himself hadn’t much time to grieve. He had been immediately swept away by the overwhelming drive to save his friend. These people didn’t have that. They had to sit and watch as Old Spock rasped about the ship, asking if it was okay, stumbling in blindness toward the source of Jim’s voice.

“Don’t grieve, Admiral,” he forced out, “it was logical. The needs of the many...outweigh…”

“…The needs of the few,” Jim finished, swallowing hard.

“Or the one.” He began to fall. “I never took the Kobayashi Maru test until now. What do you think…of my solution?”

That goddamned test. The one that got them into this whole goddamn thing. Another universal constant, only crueler. More bloody. Or, maybe, everything just seemed brighter in hindsight. Old Jim turned his face to the side. Leonard knew that expression. It was one of utmost loss.

“Spock,” Jim started, but moved to the floor as Spock’s legs finally gave way.

Spock opened his mouth once and failed to create sound. His vocal cords must have been shredded, his throat barely functioning, and god knows what happened to his lungs as he breathed radiation in.

“I have been… and always shall be… your friend,” he said, using the last of his strength to press the Vulcan salute against the glass. “Live long...and prosper.”

Leonard’s own Jim had told him, once, what it was like to die. That the last thing he consciously recalled was feeling the embrace of Spock’s mind through the impenetrable glass, their hands positioned in the ta’al. He said that it wasn’t cold like you would expect it to be, like it would have been had anyone else been there. It was Spock’s mind that lessened the blow. Spock had let him recede into the darkness embraced by warmth and, if he were to put a name to it, love.

Leonard stepped forward, through the impenetrable glass, and cradled Old Spock against his chest. His friend shuddered once, twice, and then didn’t inhale again. Leonard’s hands trembled in place.

Jim had better wake him up immediately, he prayed. If he died, he hoped that Jim and Spock weren’t there to see it. He didn’t think he could put them through that.

 

 

His plea must have been answered because when he shook himself awake, Jim, his Jim, was sitting over him, skin damp and eyes wide with terror.

“Oh, Bones, never do that to me again.”

He sat up quickly. His head swam and his stomach churned. The blanket was knotted at his feet and Jim’s hands were on his face, wiping away tears that he didn’t know he had shed.

“It happened, didn’t it?” Jim asked.

“Spock,” Leonard choked out, kicking off the covers and stumbling toward the door. He was wearing an undershirt and boxers in the middle of the hallway and he couldn’t care less.

It was still nighttime and the halls were blessedly empty. Their bare feet made soft taps as they dashed down the hall. He heard Jim mumble something to his communicator, and the door opened with a swift hiss as Leonard burst in. Spock was sitting up in bed with a communicator open in his hand. He looked unsurprised.

Leonard hesitated as he got closer to the bed. “Spock, I…”

Spock tilted his head, probably running calculations, and scooted over. Perhaps his telepathy was sensitive enough to determine Leonard’s current state without touching. Or, more likely, he looked like hell warmed over. He smoothed the bed sheet next to him in invitation and Leonard launched himself forward and wrapped his arms around Spock’s thin waist. Spock let him bury his face in the folds of fabric at his shoulder.

“I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry,” he gasped, squeezing harder and thankful for the durability of Vulcan physique. The bed squeaked as another presence settled next to him. Jim.

It didn’t take a genius to tell that they were sending tacit messages back and forth over his shoulder. Eventually, possibly after the telepathic shock that was brought with physical contact and emotional unrest, warm Vulcan hands settled over the small of his back and Jim gently placed kisses up the bare skin of his shoulder.

“Spock,” said Jim, “I think Bones should go to sleep, don’t you?”

“I concur. Goodnight, Leonard.”

He made a quiet noise of protest as one of the hands removed itself from his back and squeezed the junction of his neck and shoulder.

Again in his own universe, Leonard awoke to the scent of regulation shampoo. The quiet mutterings from elsewhere in the room brought him back to a distant past in Georgia, when he fell asleep on the couch waiting for his father to get home and stirred only when the sun was bright enough to hurt through closed eyes. His mother would have something in the oven and the two of them would be coveting the short period of time they had alone together before Leonard and the rest of the house came to life. The quiet tones and soft murmurs were the unmistakable rhythm of two people who had been in love for some time.

He rolled onto his side. The clang of tools stopped.

“I suppose I have some explaining to do, don’t I?” he said, rubbing a hand over his eyes.

Spock was in the corner with something frightening and electrical. He raised a quizzical eyebrow. Jim sat next to him with a cup of coffee, softened by the simulated morning light.

“I think you might be right, Bones.”

Chapter Text

In His Own Universe:

 

Jim sipped his coffee, eyebrow raised in imitation of Spock.

“I’ll spill the whole story if you give me a sip of that,” Leonard said.

“You’re going to spill the whole thing anyway, but I think I can manage to share some coffee if it’ll ease the pain.”

He grabbed insistently at the cup. Jim handed it over, sitting cross legged on the bed next to him. Nobody made any effort to speak. Leonard took a long drink—long enough that Jim started to whine—and handed the cup back.

“That was not a sip,” Jim said.

“It was for me.”

“Fine, I’m only letting you siphon off of me out of pity and obligation, don’t get used to it,” Jim said, handing his now mostly empty cup back to Leonard who shrugged and took it.

“Should we do this now, or do you want me to compose myself?” he asked, thinking about how awful he must look and how scrambled his head still was.

Spock tucked his project under the chair and placed himself therapist-distance away from the two of them. Leonard clenched his teeth.

“Spock, you’re gonna have to get closer, I don’t want to yell at you from across the room.”

“My hearing is sufficient to hear you from the hallway, Doctor.”

He glared. “Suit yourself.”

He moved closer anyway. Jim smiled encouragingly.

So he told them, everything, starting from the beginning for Spock who looked neither surprised nor expectant. Jim chipped in eagerly with the mention of his fancy alarm clock invention. Leonard knew why he hadn’t told Spock from the very start. Of all people, having Spock discount his sanity would have been the most painful. Not because he wouldn’t have been able to argue against cold logic, but because he had wanted to show the best of himself. A voice that sounded suspiciously like Jim’s said, in relationships like these, you’ve got to let them see every part of you. Good and bad. He willed it away.

“I’m sorry, Spock,” he said. “I should have told you.”

“It was your decision to make,” he said, “although confiding in me would have been the logical choice.”

Leonard couldn’t help the smile that came from that.

“Would you be willing to describe the interaction between the older versions of ourselves before I exposed myself to the warp core?” Spock said, eyes flicking to Jim.

“Spock,” Jim warned, arm tightening around Leonard’s shoulders. “Don’t…”

Leonard clenched his jaw. “I’d prefer it if you never said that again, but I think I owe you everything I know.”

“I would not ask if I did not consider it of great importance.” He looked like he wanted to stand from the chair.

He told him about Spock’s flawless deception and the neck pinch, how it had only been meant to daze. The young Spock’s tiny frown line got deeper.

“In your first account, you mentioned that he melded with you,” he said.

“He melded with the older me, yes. For barely a second, and then he said ‘remember’ and… well, you know the rest.”

Spock glanced at Jim, Leonard, and then back to Jim. He stood abruptly and typed insistently on the lock panel by the door. There was a beep and the door locked with a red flash. Leonard leaned further back into Jim. Someone locking them inside a room with so little warning was a bit ominous, even if it was Spock.

“I am about to discuss a matter of great cultural importance. Secrecy has been the way of my people for thousands of years,” Spock said, choosing so stand beside a wall rather than sit with his back to the door. “I would appreciate it if you considered this matter confidential.”

“Of course Spock,” Jim said, not before sending Leonard a panicked look.

He shrugged. “Alright, I’m still your doctor, even if I am currently the patient. Client confidentiality.”

Spock hesitated, locking eyes with both of them to ensure their attention. Leonard was partly sure it was because he was being dramatic. Spock’s eyes look a bit haunted, though, and he had adjusted his uniform twice in the last few minutes. Both were indicators that he had come to associate with apprehension.

“When a Vulcan’s body is damaged irreparably,” he began, “it does not always mean end of existence as it does in humans. Rather, as a telepathic species, we can protect our consciousness from following the path of our bodies by finding the mind of another to carry us. It is a dangerous process for all parties involved and very rarely used. Had there been any other option, I doubt he would have taken it.”

“I’m sorry,” Jim said, “Can you paraphrase? Perhaps in less words?”

Spock clenched his teeth. “The older version of myself chose Doctor McCoy’s counterpart as a host for his Katra while they prepare his body for the joining process titled Fal-Tor-Pan.”

Leonard gaped. “Are you saying that old Spock put his soul into old me’s head?”

“No, doctor. He simply displaced his telepathic consciousness. It is not unlike a bond, with their two personalities linked indefinitely. To remove it will be…” he frowned. “Extremely dangerous.”

“Of course it will,” Jim muttered.

“Doctor, should they choose to attempt Fal-Tor-Pan, I cannot guarantee the life of your alternate self.”

Leonard closed his eyes. Another death, another injury. I don’t think I can do this anymore, he thought. He wanted to curl up next to Jim and shove his head back under the covers and hope that the next morning would prove to be less painful.

Spock must have noticed look on his face. He migrated from his corner a and sat on the edge of the bed. When Leonard reached for him, Spock grasped his hand and entwined their fingers. A flood of confidence filled a cavity in his chest that he hadn’t noticed before. Jim claimed a hand for his own and kissed Spock’s knuckles as he tightened his grip on Leonard’s waist.

“I have to make this end, don’t I?” he asked.

“Yes,” Spock said.

“We’re going to be here, Bones. What I told you that night? This doesn’t change it.” Jim’s eyes were steady when they met his.

He had these two. He had Spock’s infuriating logic and endearing cynicism, he had Jim’s warmth and support. What they thought he could add to what they already had was beyond him, but he would take the opportunity. Anything that he had to give was theirs. Spock inhaled sharply. Leonard realized that he must have been projecting his emotions rather loudly. They would stay with him. Others would leave and fade, but not them.

“Well,” he said to one of them, either of them, “I’d rather like to kiss you, so speak now or—”

Jim’s lips covered his and he huffed out a laugh.

“Well, I guess that answers that,” he said as Jim released him with a grin as wide as Orion’s Belt.

The bed shifted next to him and he felt the contact before he saw Spock. He went helplessly as the other man drew him in by the chin and gently pressed their lips together. Their fingers were still tangled together and Jim’s thumb was circling over Spock’s knuckles and they were clustered oddly together on Spock’s tiny bed, but it was the safest he had felt in months.

They were his.

“We’ll fix this,” Jim said. “We’ll find a way.”

“Jim,” he said slowly, “I’ve had a solution ready since we found the cause. Spock probably has too, haven’t you?”

Spock leaned back a bit. “Doctor, I do not know if—”

“Spock.”

“…yes, I have. It is invasive, but the only guaranteed way to separate the two of you permanently.”

Kirk sat up. “Wait, invasive? You don’t mean—”

Leonard chuckled. “Tell your overactive imagination to cut it out. Yes, theoretically cutting out part of my brain would do the trick, but all we need is to alter action potential levels within human functional parameters. I’ve got the two best doctors in the fleet on my side. There’s nothing to worry about.”

Spock interjected before Jim could explode. “It is an experimental procedure, Jim, and yet it is the safest option.”

“We are going to talk about this,” Jim said, “and only when you prove to me that it is the best course of action will I agree.”

Leonard let out the breath he had unintentionally been holding.

Spock squeezed his hand. “Although there is likely some time before they find his body and complete the ritual, the mere presence of his Katra in older McCoy’s brain may hasten any changes. We may have some time, but I recommend that we proceed at the earliest chance available.”

He nodded. “I need to tell them first,” he said. “What would you do if I suddenly vanished with no warning?”

If they were to halt contact abruptly, especially in their line of work and with their experiences, he would fear the worst. Either of them would. And as selfish as it was, Leonard didn’t want to leave without saying goodbye. Not just to his other self, but the rest of the crew. He would miss them immensely. It would be years before he saw the crows feet at the edges of Jim’s eyes. He didn’t know if his Spock would ever let his smile show through at the sight of them or toss out an almost-joke when they least expected it. He would miss the friendship that the rest of the crew shared. He hoped it wouldn’t take long to develop that.

“The procedure will need to be approved by Starfleet medical. That in itself will take time, likely enough for you to dissociate,” Spock said.

“That is something I didn’t consider. How are you going to get the equipment sanctioned by Starfleet? In the event that you convince me, of course,” Jim said, shimmying out of Leonard’s grasp and padding barefoot toward the replicator.

“Don’t worry,” he said, “I’ll take care of that. You get to work, Jim. I’ll try meditating again for an hour and head out myself. “

Jim looked like he wanted to offer to call in sick, but he was too attentive toward his captain’s duties to offer.

 

As much as he had hoped to switch with his older self for a day, it didn’t seem to be happening. He tried going to bed at different times, inducing REM, taking the supplements that his other self preferred, but to no avail. It was becoming distressing. Starfleet (and Jim) had approved the operation and sent the proper equipment. In less than a week, he would no longer be privy to the lives of his friends in the other universe. The thought of leaving them without saying goodbye made him sick.

“I don’t know what to do,” he told Jim.

They were huddled in Spock’s quarters again. They were the cleanest—no clothing on the ground, always pleasantly warm and smelling faintly of incense. There were plants grouped together under a natural light simulator, one a red and twisted thing of Vulcan origin, a bell pepper, and several other delicate embryophytes he could not identify. Foreign constellations were painted on the back of the coffee cups and plates. They were some indicator of how expected the two of them had become. Spock did not drink coffee. He found both the taste and the chemical effects unpleasant, but the hard ceramic cups were there for Jim’s benefit. Leonard was sure that the bell pepper was there for his.

At night he would stay with one of the two of them, not both because of space restraints that Jim was sure to find a way to correct, and if he assured them that Jim’s ‘baby monitor’ would be enough, they would stay together. It had become readily apparent that the mysterious ensign Jim had been seeing wasn’t an ensign at all. Leonard was somewhat relieved. He didn’t want to share Jim with anyone other than Spock. He didn’t want to share Spock with anyone other than Jim. That was something he believed they had in common.

“No luck again last night?” Jim asked, linking their arms as Leonard chopped carrots for their dinner.

“No. He hasn’t slept more than eight hours in the last three days. I keep missing him.”

“That can’t be good for you either,” Jim said, eyebrows pulling into a frown. Leonard just shrugged.

“I’ve gone longer.”

“Not exactly something to brag about, Bones.”

Spock stepped into the kitchenette, shrugging off his blue Starfleet tunic. He folded it neatly and placed it into a basket with two other identical ones.

“If I may offer a suggestion,” he said.

“You may always offer a suggestion, Mr. Spock,” Jim said, releasing Leonard to peck Spock on the lips and hand him a Padd with a report already loaded on it. Spock didn’t look totally pleased, but he brushed their fingers together anyway.

“The degree of transference is dependent upon the release of neurochemicals within the brain. There have been no studies done to determine how a Katra might affect that, but I could attempt to replicate it with a sustained meld.”

“A sustained meld,” Leonard repeated. “Wouldn’t that take considerable energy from you?”

“Not necessarily. If I were to enter a trance with you, we could simply wait in that state until your older self fell asleep. I would then release you after you had both completed the necessary amount of REM cycles.”

“And it would work?” he asked rather skeptically.

Spock raised an eyebrow. “Alternatively, I could bond with you. The connection would be much more accurate. Is that what you would prefer?”

Jim snickered as Leonard tried to summon words. They decided to try the sustained meld.

 

In the Other Universe:

His body was old again. The first thing that he noticed this time was not the ache in his knees but the slight pain in the back of his mind. There was a strange itch in his thoughts.

“Spock,” he greeted. This is very, very strange. Some alien sentient hummed its agreement from his medulla. Had he not know what to look for, he might not have noticed at all.

There was a pressure upon him that had not been there before. He knew he didn’t have much time, a few hours at most. Spock had warned him that the transition back might not be as smooth as expected, so he planned to make the most of his time in case he simply went back to viewing mode.

He had to find Old Jim.

He knew they were on a stolen craft in search of the body of their friend, so he knew tensions would be very high. If he could, without revealing anything, he wanted to abate them.

He hurriedly threw on clothing: a somewhat garish purple button up shirt that looked like it could have belonged to his father and honest to god blue jeans. He smiled. When was the last time he had worn those? Georgia when he was seventeen?

The lights were dimmed in the corridor, indicating ship nighttime hours, but he heard quiet conversation from a hallway to his left. He didn’t know this ship as well as the other one and he had no idea where his feet were taking him, but he could hear Uhura’s quiet song filling the hallways as he got closer.

When the door slid open for him, their expressions were apprehensive but pleased.

“Bones?” Jim said, glasses peeking from a pocket at the front of his shirt. “How are you feeling?”

It hadn’t occurred to him how long it had been since the crew had heard word from him. Not his counterpart, but himself. Yes, the other had been seeing his Enterprise as he had seen theirs, but they hadn’t switched places in what must have years. How strange that it had only been months for him.

“Jim,” he managed. “It’s not…I’m not…” he sat down rather hard in the chair Jim waved him to.

“Bones, are you alright?”

“I’m fine, Jim,” he said, letting himself smile. How good it was to talk to them again. Spock’s consciousness agreed. “That is to say, I am, but I’m sure he is, too. Your McCoy, that is.”

Nyota’s eyes widened. “Could it be? Baby McCoy?”

“Please, for the love of god, tell me you haven’t been calling me that.”

She beamed. “It is! How are you, my dear?”

“I’m sorry,” Jim cut in, “that you have to see us in this state. I’m afraid you won’t be seeing Spock this time around.”

“No, I know. I saw.” The way Jim’s eyes widened in horror sent guilt straight up through his spine. “Well, and he’s in my head.”

Clearly that was the wrong thing to say.

“It’s really alright, Jim. I didn’t mean to make you explain it. He’s healthy as can be given the circumstances. More importantly, how are you?”

Jim sighed and exchanged glances with Uhura. “Well. We’re on our way to get him back. It will all be better soon enough.”

Leonard nodded approvingly. “You’ve got a plan underway, then?”

“Something like that,” he said.

Leonard laughed. “I know you well enough to know the type.” He let his smile fall. “Actually, I…”

“This isn’t a social visit, is it?” Uhura said quietly, resting her hand on his forearm.

He squeezed it and shook his head. “My Spock helped me get here. He figured out the business with Fal-Tor-Pan immediately, said that I was in danger if I remained…linked…to the other me. As cliché as it sounds, I came to say goodbye.”

“But you’re safe?” Jim asked.

“I will be. Tomorrow. We’re doing an invasive procedure that will permanently change certain aspects of my brain chemistry. If you give me a piece of paper, I’d like to write it down for my other self to reference.”

Jim obliged immediately, pulling a drawing pad from underneath a nearby table. It had colorful acrylic stains on it from what looked to be years of artwork, but he accepted it gratefully.

“Thank you for this,” he said, beginning what was not a scientific reference, but a series of letters. He couldn’t leave them with nothing.

“You know, if this is a goodbye, it shouldn’t be so solemn,” Nyota said, pushing the button on the intercom.

“You are absolutely right,” Jim nodded.

“This is an urgent notification,” she said, her voice echoing through the room. “All personnel is required on observation deck 2 immediately. I repeat, all personnel required on observation deck 1 immediately. Uhura out.”

The first one to dash through the door was Chekov, then Sulu. Scotty popped in, was informed of the situation, and departed immediately to find the alcohol that he had somehow managed to stow aboard. Leonard beamed. Yes, it was so much better when he could see them all.

“I admit,” Sulu said, sitting next to him at the table. “I had thought you were a rather strange dream. Are you sure it’s not our own Doctor pulling my leg?”

“Well, you’re just going to have to take my word for it. I can give you an anti amnesia hypospray if that would make you feel better,” he quipped, laughing as Sulu leaned away.

“I’m alright, thanks.”

“Doctor!” Chekov said, grinning. “It is good to see you again. Even I am older than you now, yes?”

He sipped on his drink. “Don’t get ahead of yourself, kid. You’ve got three years on me at most.”

Scotty bumped against him as he squeezed between two chairs. “Whoops, hope I didn’t spill anything on ya. Don’t want to waste a drop!”

“Careful there, Scotty, Next thing you know and they’ll have us for trafficking, too,” Jim said, hovering behind them.

There was far too much noise for such a small group of people. He had initially assumed that because of the time that had passed, he wouldn’t know them very well, but age didn’t seem to matter. He couldn’t stop smiling.

“So,” Scotty said, finally having found a place to sit. “How’s Spock? Is he in there?”

“Oh, he’s in there,” Leonard promised. “He told me to tell you that you’re illogical.”

His mind, or perhaps Spock’s mind, echoed indignation.

“Did he really?” Jim asked.

“No, but he is protesting at the taste of whatever the hell it is that I’m drinking.”

He was rewarded by a chorus of laughter.

“You know,” Uhura said, something in her voice commanding attention, “I think even Spock would agree that an occasion like this requires a little bit of music. What do you say?”

“I think that sounds like a mighty fine idea, lass,” Scotty said, giving her a sly look that bordered on flirtatious.

Leonard nodded. “For once, Spock and I are in agreement.”

She cleared her throat. “Doctor, I’m gonna need you on backup.”

“Darlin, I can’t even sing a lullaby,” he said, which was a bit of a lie. He was a band kid in high school. He hoped she didn’t know that.

She winked at him. “I think I should sing a bit of luck our way, don't you?”

Soctty whooped.

She held her hands out to Leonard. He did not dance. That was not to say that he couldn’t, but getting up in front of people and making a fool of himself was not a hobby of this. That being said, he was ready to do just about anything they asked him to. He went willingly when Uhura pulled him from his chair.

“Little forward, aren’t we ma’am?”

Scotty threw a balled up paper at the back of his head. Leonard flashed a quick smile his way. His mind was shouting “undignified, illogical,” but he told it to quiet down. He wasn’t about to let Spock’s Vulcan sensibilities distract him. That was a job for his Spock.

Uhura led him into a funny mix between blues and swing as he did his best not to step on her feet.

“I don’t believe in luck, but baby, I don’t’ care, I can’t seem to get your smile out of my head.
I’m blowing on the dice, I’m picking a card, I’m pointing my arrow straight at your heart,” she sang, laughing as he spun her and she lead him around in a circle. “Because honey, I’m bettin’ on me and you. Oh, yeah, I’m bettin’ on me and you!”

He would never tell his own Jim and Spock he joined in for a little bit. Never. It would be a secret that would remain his forever. Spock would probably see it through the meld the second he woke, but it still felt immensely personal.

“I lost the first round but never twice, I’m going for the gold and I won’t take no advice!” Even though there were no instruments to accompany her, she filled the room with her presence.

Uhura released him with a twirl and jumped into Scotty’s arms for the rest of the song. Leonard grinned and clapped with the rest of them. Spock in his head sighed in relief.

Leonard used the rest of his time to write. The stained paper was soon covered with his handwriting, as neat as he could make it, as sincere as he could manage. His hands and his head had begun to tingle.

“I think it’s about time that I head out,” he told them.

They all left him with a hug and a smile, however watery on his part.

He left the letter on the table.

 

To the crew of the Enterprise,

I fully intend for this to be the last contact I make with you, however I do not want it to be. Thank you all for making it so memorable.

Scotty,
Rarely have I enjoyed my time someone to such an extent even when there was no alcohol involved (although there frequently was). You and my alternate self are going to wreak the most havoc, I know it, and I encourage it fully. I learned a few horrid tricks from you. I can’t wait to use them.

Chekov,
I had my doubts about you when we first met in my time. You were just a kid. 17, can you believe it? I was sure you would direct us straight into the nearest sun. Now I am eager to watch that boy grow to be the man I have come to know.

Sulu,
You were always strong, everywhere I have known you. The trait of yours is hereditary, as I understand it. My universe has allowed me to meet both your husband and your daughter. I think all three of us would prefer that you land yourself in the sickbay far less. Take care of yourself.

Nyota,
I admire you. I admire your radiance. We are not friends where I come from, but I hope that we can be. Life is far more enjoyable when I am friendly with you. Your songs string these people together, I hope you know that. I don’t know what we would do without you.

Spock,
I will be the first to admit that I did not like my universe’s version of yourself at all when we first met. You tried to throttle my best friend and you weren't much less of an ass to me. Granted, I wasn't much better. That changed. I don’t know when or how, but there was a strange evolution that I cannot name. Meeting you here allowed me to see the other you in a different way. You would likely cringe if you knew the relationship between us now, but I thank you for it anyway. You might deny your humanity, but I can’t count the times it has saved me.

Jim,
You were the first thing that I saw when I found myself in a strange universe. You were in the place you belong, in that chair, watching the stars speed by. I was afraid of getting old, I think, from a medical standpoint. The increase of age-related diseases and exposure to all sorts of different diseases inspired a bit of paranoia. When you smiled at me, it became clear that although there is change, some things are constant. You will always be my best friend. Nothing, not love, not time, will alter that.

And lastly,

L.H.M.,

This has been the biggest pain in the ass I have ever been privy to. God, I know that our health has taken a huge hit from the lack of sleep, but every second I see of your universe is one that I am glad I have been a part of. I’m glad you got to talk to Jo in mine and I’m glad you could experience my lithe young body (laughable) for a few hours. Things, relationships, people, are very different between our universes as I daresay you discovered this morning. It seems presumptuous of me to call you a friend, what with us being technically the same person, but I would very much like to claim so. I saw you die once. I saw Spock die, and Jim in my own universe. Life is too precious for us to waste a second of it, but I don’t have to tell you that. I’m going back to my Enterprise. Permanently. I don’t know what to say besides thank you.

 

In His Own Universe:

 

Leonard woke with Spock’s hands on the meld points of his head. He sat slowly. Spock pushed him back down.

“Rest,” he said.

“Where’s Jim?” he said, content to lay back and let Spock play mother hen.

“On the bridge. There was a call from the Admiral.”

He nodded and fell into the feeling of hands at his temples and breath moving his hair. He ran his fingers down the bumps on Spock’s spine.

“Leonard.”

“What is it?”

“Are you ready?”

He opened his eyes reluctantly. Spock peered back at him, something uncertain in his gaze.

“It’ll be fine, Spock. I’ll be fine. Better, hopefully,” he said.

“Leonard, this surgery is still in the experimental stages. I can feel your confidence from our touch, but I do not share it,” he said, removing the hand from his back and holding it steady.

This time Leonard didn’t let Spock’s protests keep him in bed. He sat up, watching the sheets slide to his waist. Spock was pleasingly ruffled in Starfleet sleepwear. Even in the gravity of the situation he could still admire the faint green tinge to his skin and angles that had only appeared sharp at first glance. He pressed his lips to the tip of Spock’s ear.

“Do you trust me?”

“…I do.”

“Then trust my research. I looked into the process. I couldn’t have designed it better myself. With M’Benga and Christine performing it, I could not be safer in the galaxy.”

Spock nodded as the door swished open.

“Good timing, Jim,” he said, swinging his legs off of the bed and brushing away the chill.

“M’Benga sent me to fetch you. And I brought you this,” he said, sitting on Spock’s stomach.

“Jim, I may be stronger than humans, but you are heavy enough to cause internal damage to even a full blooded Vulcan,” Spock said, voice strained.

Jim pouted, holding the cup out to Leonard. “That’s an exaggeration,” he said.

He thanked Jim and made a face when he found the liquid to be decaf. “Are you sure you want to watch?”

“We’re sure,” Jim said.

“I insist upon it,” Spock said.

Leonard smiled. “We’d better go. I don’t want to keep them waiting.”

Chapter Text

“How are you feeling?” Christine asked, examining his pupils.

“Like I ate a bag of cotton balls,” he said, groaning when she shined a light at him. “I take it everything was successful, then?”

She nodded. “Never have I been part of a cleaner procedure.”

“That’s what I like to hear.”

M’Benga scribbled a note on a Padd from the other side of his sickbed. “Do you want me to save the news for when your boyfriends are in here or should I just tell you?”

“Cute. Hit me with it.”

He cracked a smile, his respiration mask shoved beneath his chin. “No more SSRIs for you, Doctor. The procedure was incredibly successful. We’ll have to monitor you for a couple months to see if any of the symptoms return, but you should be good to go.”

The containment door zipped open. Leonard didn’t have to look to know that it was Jim who had walked in, he could tell those footsteps from anywhere. With a wiggle he managed to prop himself up on a pillow. Chapel immediately took his vitals again.

“Dizzy?” she asked.

“Yeah.”

“Don’t worry, it’s the medication. You won’t need a recovery period from this. As soon as the drugs wear off you will be released.”

Leonard smiled, loving the way her eyes lit up with pride as she spoke. She did a damn good job. He was giving her a bouquet after this. He’d give one to M’Benga too, if only to be incendiary.

He glanced at the clear doors. He saw a familiar dark-haired figure peering at him, but he was still having trouble focusing his eyes. He offered a smile instead. Jim crossed the decontaminated floor and sat on the bed, gripping his Leonard’s wrist more delicately than necessary.

“Hey there,” he said.

“Jim.” He was still in his full captain’s uniform, the blue one, and he looked stunning. “Did you dress up for me?”

Jim smirked. “Gee, Bones, all you had to do was ask. No, I have a meeting with the admiralty in thirty minutes. You don’t know how glad I am that you woke up, I would hate to have missed it.”

“You can prove that to me later,” Leonard said, trying to shake himself awake. Those anesthetics must have been quite something. He couldn’t wait to get his hands on the report. Oh, yes, and the video.

Jim’s smile hardened slightly. “What did I hear about symptoms?”

He sighed. “It’s nothing to worry about, not anymore.”

“Mhm. Does Spock know?”

“Yeah.”

Leonard felt Jim’s warm hands brush hair from his face. He hoped the bald spot from the drill wasn’t too big.

“Well. I trust that it would have been brought to my attention if it was life threatening.” His voice still rose like a question.

“No, Jim, it wasn’t anything like that. I promise.” Post-traumatic stress could be life threatening in a way, sure, but he’d been managing fine on his own for years. “Some other time,” he assured him, leaning into the touch.

“I’ll hold you to it.” Jim’s voice suggested that he wouldn’t if Leonard didn’t want him to.

“Thanks, Jim.”

“Of course.”

He felt his eyelids drifting shut despite his efforts. Jim’s light touches weren’t helping him stay awake, that was for sure.

“I’ll see you in the morning, Bones.”

Leonard felt Jim press a kiss to his cheek as he fell asleep.

 

Old Leonard McCoy - The Other Universe

 

Leonard McCoy woke up on a sickbed. He was groggy, maybe even a little disoriented, but he felt good.

“How long’s it been?” he asked, voice gruff with sleep. He rubbed a stray eyelash from his eye.

“Eighteen hours, twenty eight minutes, and thirty four seconds,” Spock said, of course it was Spock, who else, but it was his Spock. Not beautiful young Spock, but his nonetheless.

“Good morning, Bones,” Jim said with a glowing smile.

“You’re too chipper,” he said. Jim’s smile was something of a novelty. Fal-Tor-Pan had gone, well, not great, but they still had their wits. Leonard might’ve had Spock in his head, but Jim had lost his son and his best friend. If he could smile, Leonard could too.

He was already starting to miss his young body, how he could handle two glasses of whiskey without a second thought, how he could sit up in the morning with no pains in his back.

That version of him was lucky: young and in love and full of life in a shiny new ship. But here he felt the breath of the ventilation systems teasing the hairs on his neck and he could smell the disinfectant on the carpets. He could feel the soft hum of the engines beneath the deck and hear the laughter of ensigns in the hall. He was old again, tired, but he loved this Enterprise much, much more.