Atonement by Lil black dog
Summary: This is a follow-up to the episode ‘City on the Edge of Forever.’ I’d imagine there was much confusion on McCoy’s part as to what just happened, and repressed anger on Kirk’s part. Here’s my take on what occurred after they beamed up to the ship. Rated T for McCoy's mouth.
Categories: Original Series Characters: Kirk, James T., McCoy, Leonard (Bones), Spock
Genre: Angst, Friendship
Warnings: Adult Language
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 1 Completed: Yes Word count: 4188 Read: 1203 Published: 09 Dec 2016 Updated: 09 Dec 2016
Story Notes:
Thanks to kes7. This was inspired by the free-write 'Dear Diary.' This has been lurking on a hard drive for months since the recent election had me so spun up and consumed waaay more of my time than it should have.

1. Atonement by Lil black dog

Atonement by Lil black dog
Atonement


I can’t stop shaking even as the doors to my quarters swish closed behind me. Despite the comforts my personal space usually offers me, I just can’t get the images of the events I just witnessed out of my head. I pull a bottle of bourbon and a glass off a shelf and fall heavily into the chair at my desk, slopping a little of the amber liquid onto the table as I pour myself several fingers of the strong alcohol. I drain the glass and the shaking eases ever so slightly. I rest my head in my hands, a forceful sigh torn from bone-dry lips as I rake my fingers through my hair. This is sheer madness. Has the universe gone crazy? I refill my glass and flip a switch on the computer console at my desk. Maybe if I talk about it, get everything in my head out in the open, I can make sense of what happened. Yeah right, and pigs will fly, carrying pink unicorns on their backs. After another sip to calm my nerves and grant me the courage – or whatever the hell it is – I need, I begin speaking:

“Personal log, Leonard H. McCoy, chief medical officer, stardate 3185.4

“What in blazes just happened? I’d chalk it up to cordrazine-induced hysteria, but the effects of my accidental overdose have definitely worn off. I just don’t get it. He let that woman die. As a matter-of-fact, went out of his way to keep me from saving her. What the hell?!

“After blocking my attempt to keep her from being hit by that truck, he pushed me away and started off down the sidewalk without a backward glance or even a thought for the person he’d just dismissed so callously, as if her life didn’t matter. I just don’t get it. This is the man who dies a little inside every time he loses someone under his command. She wasn’t part of his crew. Is that why her life didn’t matter to him? This is what I can’t wrap my head around. It seems to me he showed more remorse for the Romulan commander who blew himself and his crew up eight months ago than he showed for that woman. Why? It’s just not like him. What happened to him back there?

“Much as I wanted to go after him and just shake him, just scream in his face and demand to know why, my training kicked in and I tried to help the woman. I started to elbow my way through the crowd that had gathered around her broken body as it lay in the street, but Spock of all people stopped me. Grabbed me by the wrist and pulled me away from the carnage; jostled me along in front of him as he set out after Jim. Thrust the coat he was wearing at me and distractedly told me to put it on. I took my anger at Jim out on him. Dug in my heels and hollered at him that I would do no such thing until he explained why, but even with those ears it seemed as if he didn’t hear me. ‘We must retrieve the captain. If you will please follow me,’ he told me, no, ordered me, flat-out ignoring my demand for information, those cold, alien, logical eyes boring into me before he turned and continued his single-minded pursuit of Jim. I remained rooted to the spot for several long seconds, stunned and seething. What the hell was wrong with everyone? I’d never seen Spock kill anything, let alone go out of his way to deny assistance to someone in need.

“I did slip on the coat and raced after that green-blooded ice cube, curses flying in a non-stop stream under my breath as I did so. I caught up to him and tried to stop him, but it was like standing on the track and trying to prevent a maglev train from leaving the station. He kept his gaze fastened on the back of our captain, weaving his way through crowded street several meters in front of us. It was all I could do to keep up, not to mention keep from punching that emotionally challenged hobgoblin right in the back of his impeccably groomed head and knock some sense into those mathematically perfect brain waves.

“Up ahead, Jim ducked into a building. Spock followed, and so did I, trailing slightly behind. We climbed the stairs in silence, Jim a floor ahead of us. We finally reached a landing; stopped before a door left open. A crash from within drew my attention and I slipped around Spock to find Jim smashing…something. It looked like a combination of an engineer’s and chemist’s worst nightmares, shards from the broken glass tubes littering the floor like the razor-sharp flower petals we found on Merak VI.

“I made to move toward Jim but again Spock stopped me. ‘Let him be, Doctor. This is necessary; and cathartic for him.’ I demanded to know why but again Spock remained stubbornly silent, turning instead to a tall chest of drawers from which he pulled blue and gold uniform shirts, and regulation black trousers. He slipped into his as the bits of glass, wire and wood continued to fly, handing Jim his uniform once the strange contraption had been reduced to rubble. Jim took it without a word, shedding the clothes he was wearing and angrily tugging on his uniform. ‘Captain,’ Spock remarked quietly, retrieving the coat Jim had flung to the floor, ‘It is imperative that you cover your uniform. We must now return to the extraction point and cannot afford to draw any undue attention. We must blend in with this society for a few minutes longer.’ Spock scooped a tricorder off a small wooden table, slung it over his shoulder and proceeded to shrug on the blue button-down shirt he had been wearing overtop his uniform shirt, hiding the device beneath it. Once again, he had eyes only for Jim. ‘Captain, the room is now secure. I suggest we depart posthaste, in order to prevent any additional unintentional contamination of this timeline.’

“I couldn’t let that slide, no matter how much Spock’s cockeyed look said I should. ‘Unintentional contamination?! That woman – her name was Edith – is dead as a direct result of your actions, Jim! Care to explain why? And where the hell are we? This place looks like something out of a museum. I don’t know how you two set this up, but if it’s a roundabout way of telling me to be more careful with potent meds in the future, it’s not very damn funny.’ I grabbed him by the shoulders. I was furious, I know, but the captain thrust my hands away and stormed out the door. Spock focused his gaze on me, a strange mix of anger and compassion flitting briefly across his face before the Vulcan mask of non-emotion slammed into place. It took everything I had not to slap that look right off him. ‘Do not press him further, Doctor. Now is not the time or place to explain what has happened. All will be revealed to you once we return to our own time.’ He gestured for me to follow Jim. ‘Our own time?’ What the hell did that mean? Although my first instinct was to give him a tongue-lashing the likes of which he’d never experienced before – at least from me – I glared at Spock, bit back my curse-laden retort and started off after Jim once again, his lead over us now stretched to two floors.

“I pounded down the stairs and burst out into the crisp night air, Spock right behind me. ‘Which way did he go?’ I asked, standing on tiptoe and craning my neck as I scanned the bustling crowd for our captain. ‘This way,’ Spock responded as he set off for the sidewalk across the street, dodging traffic as he did so.

“I trailed after him, doing everything in my power to keep my anger from boiling over. I hate it when they keep me in the dark and expect me to do things just because they say so, as if somehow I wouldn’t reach the same conclusion if I were in the know! You’d think by now they’d realize just how much that pisses me off!

“Spock had caught up to Jim and the two of them stopped before a brick wall, a placard advertising something called a boxing match plastered on the wall next to it. Spock was speaking to Jim in hushed tones. I struggled to follow the conversation. ‘—we must go through together, with McCoy bringing up the rear alone. We must exit the portal the same way we entered. Remain here, I shall explain it to him, sir,’ Spock told the captain. That struck me as odd. I’d never heard that blasted Vulcan order Jim to do anything before, no matter how politely he phrased it.

“Spock turned and drew me a few steps away from Jim. I’m not sure, but I think I saw the captain wipe his eyes. After a few quick instructions which did absolutely nothing to clarify things for me, Spock turned back, took Jim by the elbow, and throwing off the clothing they had used to cover their uniforms, the two of them leapt at the wall and disappeared. You’ve got to be kidding me! I knew I was supposed to follow them, but where? I’m no fan of unconventional technology at the best of times, and quite frankly this scared me shitless, but the only other choice was to remain there – wherever there was – alone.

“After a split second of indecision I followed suit – things couldn’t get any worse, right? – and after a few moments of disorientation, landed on a dark, dead world. Scotty and Uhura were there, too along with two security guards. Scotty said, ‘What happened, sir? You only left a moment ago,’ but Uhura looked distinctly relieved. I heard Spock mutter, ‘We were successful,’ under his breath, while Uhura told Jim she was talking to the ship, it was up there now. ‘Up there now?’ Where in blazes had it been?

“‘Let’s get the hell out of here,’ Jim growled under his breath, and I felt the tingling of the transporter. As much as I hate that particular piece of machinery, it was the first familiar thing I’d experienced in some time. Certainly not comforting mind you, but familiar. Once the transporter room materialized around us, Jim beat feet off the platform and headed for the door to the corridor. ‘I’ll be in my quarters. Spock, you have the conn,’ he threw over his shoulder as the doors swished closed behind him. All heads, including mine, swiveled to Spock, as if waiting for an explanation. It seems I was not the only one in the dark about what had happened, but Spock merely said, ‘Report to your stations,’ then turned and made for the door. I stopped him with a hand on his shoulder, the others bustling past us to carry out their XO’s last order.

“I waited until everyone else had left before confronting him. I had to give Kyle the stink-eye to get him to abandon his post behind the transporter console. Something told me that in this case, decorum was the better part of valor. ‘All right, Spock. We’re obviously back in our own time. Time for answers, and if you won’t give them to me, so help me God I’ll ask Jim myself.’ I bounced on my toes, my face mere inches from Spock’s. I know he hates it when I get in his personal space, a fact I was counting on. I was hoping to unnerve the shit out of him.

“He took a step backward, and once again, something – emotional pain? – clouded his eyes briefly before it was firmly caged and controlled. ‘Do not question him, Doctor it will only increase his current distress. I must report to the bridge, but upon completion of my shift I shall explain things to you to the best of my ability. In the meantime I suggest you report to sickbay and have Doctor M’Benga conduct testing to discover if there are any residual effects from your cordrazine overdose,’ and with that he turned and disappeared through the door, effectively putting an end to my Q&A session.

“I was fuming as I stomped off to sickbay. How dare he tell me what medical course to pursue! I had planned all along to have Geoff check me over, even though I felt totally normal now. Well, as normal as could be expected given the circumstances. After I received a clean bill of health the two hours left in my shift ticked by with excruciating slowness. I must’ve looked all sorts of pissed off, ‘cause everyone from the lowliest corpsman to my head nurse did their absolute best to avoid me at all costs. Not that I minded. It gave me time to chew some things over in my head. Not that it helped. Here I am, no more in the know right now than I was three hours ago.”

I took another healthy swig of my bourbon, when the buzzer to my cabin went off. “That’d better be Spock with some answers,” I growled under my breath as I turned off the recorder and thumbed the switch that would disengage the lock.

oooOOOooo


“Personal log, supplemental.

“Well damn it all to hell! Spock just left. He explained things in his cursory, Vulcan, sparsity-of-information sort of way. I’m sure he left out a number of details, mostly to spare Jim – it’s rare for him to bitch about Jim to me, unless he’s worried for the captain’s safety – and partly because I suspect he just wanted to get under my skin. Not motivated by emotion my ass, but that’s best left for another discussion. Bottom line, here’s what I took away from it: Not only were they intimately aware of who Edith Keeler was, Jim was head-over-heels in love with her. Not that Spock came right out and said that – he’d do everything he could to preserve Jim’s privacy – but it’s what I could glean from what he didn’t say. It seems they were in the 1930’s for several weeks, whereas I was only there for a few days.

“Spock told me that before he and Jim showed up to stop me, in that alternate reality I saved her life; kept her from being killed by that truck, and in doing so, changed history in a way that the Federation, the Enterprise, everything we knew, in fact, ceased to exist. Jesus! Could I have put Jim in a worse situation? Having to choose between the woman he loved and the future as we knew it? Millions upon millions of deaths versus his own personal happiness? It’s a wonder the captain didn’t rip my head off, or at least chew me a new one.

“Spock could have been the one to stop me. Hell, he only sees things in black and white anyway. For him, it would have been logical to let her die so that so many others could live. A dispassionate man making a dispassionate decision. Yep, that’s our resident Vulcan in a nutshell.

“But I think deep down he knew Jim had to be the one. It had to be the captain’s choice, no matter how painful it was. Of course he didn’t say this to me out loud, but Spock knew if he did it, Jim would eventually come to resent him, right or wrong. Damnit! Whether I meant to or not, I wound up laying some pretty heavy shit at Jim’s feet. No wonder he didn’t want to talk about it, and much as I hate to admit it, I’m grateful to Spock for not letting me press him – that would’ve been a real shit-show.

“The question now becomes, where do we go from here? Do I dare broach the subject with Jim? Will he ever get to a place where he can’t blame me for what happened, let alone forgive me? Do I let him stew until he’s ready to discuss it – which he may never be – or bite the bullet and force him to talk to me, even though this may be the final nail in the coffin where our friendship is concerned? I still have no idea what to do. Maybe I should sleep on it before I make a rash decision. Hah! That’ll be a first for me. I tend to open my mouth first and engage my brain later. That’s always worked for me in the past, but I’m not so sure it will here.”

I switch off the recorder and drain my glass. In the last hour I’ve managed to drink half a bottle of bourbon, but do you think I could enjoy the blissful pain-numbing, turn-off-your-brain side effect of a good drunk? Hell, no! I’m as sober as if I’d spent the last hour sucking down Altair water. It’s still early, so I know I’ll just toss and turn if I hit my bunk.

Somehow, I wind up in my office in sickbay. I guess I’m a lot like Spock in that regard – if I throw myself into my work, I won’t have to dwell on recent events. Ah, who am I kidding? It may work for the short term, but I’m gonna have to face Jim eventually, and for once I’ll have nothing to say. What kind of a lame apology can make up for a man having to let the woman he loves die, even if my part in it was unintentional at best and instrumental at worst? There’s nothing I can do, nothing I can say that will square this with Jim unless he wants it squared. My worst fear is that he might not. I push the PADD I’ve been working on aside and put my head in my arms on the desk. I’ll just close my eyes for a few minutes…

oooOOOooo


“Personal Log, Leonard H. McCoy, chief medical officer, stardate 3187.9

“I couldn’t stand it anymore. Jim’s done his damnedest to avoid me for the last two days, so I finally caved and sought him out in his quarters tonight. Spock was there when I arrived, the two of them in the midst of a chess game, but that logical, unemotional Vulcan must’ve sensed why I was there. He made up some excuse and practically ran outta there so fast I still have no idea what reason he gave. Once we were alone I found I couldn’t talk; couldn’t express why I was there. Another first for me. Jesus, Jim looked so defeated, and I knew it was my fault. To say it was awkward was an understatement. I licked my lips and began speaking, but Jim cut me off: ‘I know why you’re here, Doctor, but there’s nothing either of us need to say.’

“‘That’s where you’re wrong, Jim. There’s lots we need to say, starting with my apology, for what it’s worth.’ Jim’s head snapped up at that, his eyes swirling with an inner fury. You didn’t have to be a psychic to know what he was thinking. He was sure Spock had told me everything, and it pissed him off no end. His look said, ‘How dare he explain my personal matters to you,’ but that sentiment was all bundled up in his whispered, ‘Why?’ He used that quiet, measured tone of voice he reserves for when he is at his angriest. I’m no fan of Spock – everyone knows that – but I wasn’t willing to throw him under the bus if it wasn’t warranted. Now if the shoe fits…but in this case, it didn’t.

“‘Because you were in love with her.’

“‘Spock told you?’ I could see he was livid.

“‘No. Not that I can ever get anything of importance out of him anyway, but he didn’t have to. Yeah, I know, he tends to go on ad nauseam about scientific things, but you know how he gets when talking about emotional matters. It definitely has that deer-in-the-headlights quality.’ That seemed to satisfy the captain. He unclenched his jaw ever so slightly. ‘Look, I might have been slow on the uptake in the heat of the moment, given my condition, but hindsight is a powerful thing, and I’ve since figured it out.’

“He was quiet at that, but his look still said he didn’t believe that Spock hadn’t spilled the beans. God knows why I protected that walking computer, but I did. Some false sense of decency I’ll wager, but I did it anyway. Not that he’d ever do the same for me. ‘He did mention that she was the key; that letting her die would restore the future as we knew it. Wasn’t hard to figure out why you stopped me, or why it affected you the way it did.’

“He closed his eyes at that. I could tell he was reliving that moment. It was plastered all over his face. Finally he opened his eyes and looked straight at me. It was a little unnerving. I swallowed nervously. Here’s where he tells me to get the hell out of his sight, not to mention his life. I’d resigned myself to the fact that I’d do whatever he asked of me. I owed him that.

“But his next words totally threw me for a loop: ‘It wasn’t your fault, Bones. You had the best of intentions, and were only following what your gut told you was the right thing to do. You didn’t realize what saving her would do. I did. I knew at least a week before it happened and let my heart take over anyway. If anyone is to blame, it’s me. I should have known better.’ His gaze flicked away from mine and he subconsciously balled his hand into a fist. The words were right but the emotions were still a mess.

“‘Who the hell do you think you are, Jim – Spock? We humans can’t turn our feelings off by flipping a switch. You can’t blame yourself for loving her. It’s written into your DNA, and part of what makes you human. I’m just sorry for the part I played in it – it doesn’t matter that I had no clue what was going on.’

“‘No apology necessary, Bones. Really.’ He flashed me his trademark boyish grin, but the warmth didn’t reach his eyes, not that I expected it to. He would need time to process this in his own way, and I needed to give him that. I said my piece and had to let him figure it out for himself now. We might be okay, we might not. Only time would tell. We fell into an uncomfortable silence, and I cleared my throat and rose to my feet. ‘I should go, Jim. I just wanted you to understand how sorry I am for putting you through this, whether I was aware of the ramifications or not. That’s still no excuse.’

“He smiled at me again, genuinely this time, and I laid a hand on his shoulder before turning and making for the corridor. I knew five years in space would be hard, and would suck beyond belief – at least for me – but I was unprepared for just how badly that could shake out. My life was already in shambles; I sure as hell didn’t want to ruin my friend’s as well. My divorce and the loss of my daughter were what drove me into space in the first place, but Jim was a whole different can of worms. He was here for more altruistic reasons. He came in with the best of intentions, but the mantle of command is already weighing heavily on him after only a year. It’s my worst nightmare to be contributing to that somehow. My job is to keep the captain functioning on all thrusters, not to throw a wrench into the warp core and make him implode. Shit.”

I switch off the recorder. Talking about it only makes me feel worse, not better. Responsible, whether Jim believes I am or not. He’s dealing with a world of hurt, and so am I. Unfortunately, it’s all my fault. I reach for the half-empty bottle of bourbon…

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