For the World is Hollow, but The Heart Is Not
Disclaimer: The usual. Paramount owns these folks; they just let me play with them.
Rating: PG for implied m/m feelings
Summary: Response to Janet's challenge. Explain the events of "For The World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky." This explains some of the events. Okay, so it tries to explain some of the events.
Feedback: Yes, please. I really appreciate it.
Note: McCoy's POV more than anything else, but not first person. It's that strange McCoy mix of optimism, pessimism, and realism.
Thanks to Janet for beta-ing and for giving me a wide interpretation on the challenge.
Dr. Leonard H. McCoy, Lt. Cmdr., U.S.S. Enterprise, keeps five hand-written letters in the top drawer of his dresser. He knows that a data chip is expected, but he felt an inexplicable need to put these thoughts down in writing the old fashioned way. Somehow actual letters seem more enduring to him. He's spent the better part of the last year writing and occasionally re-writing the letters. He even bought some fine linen paper at the first opportunity he had after he was "cured." And despite all the stereotypes to the contrary, his handwriting is perfectly legible if unadorned. Words did not come easily to him; these were chosen with as much care as if they were the serums that moved Xenopolycythemia from the terminal to the treatable category. As a doctor, he's supposed to think of life not
death. But being a doctor reminds him just how unexpected and permanent death can be. None of the letters was easy to write, but each one brought surprisingly good memories and left him feeling confident that this was the right thing to do. Only one of the letters contains anything that the recipients don't already know, but he knows that they will know the letters are as much about his needing to say these things as they are about his needing them to read them.
He knows that being diagnosed with a terminal illness is what made him think about leaving his last words to others. But it was his cure that drove him to actually do so. So the letters rest in a corner of the top drawer, ordered and tied with silk ribbon he took from Natira's hair when they consummated their wedding. He frequently thinks there ought to be a better place for them than next to his socks and underwear, but he knows they will be found here eventually should the time come. If he left them with his files, they would be shipped off with the medical stuff. If he put them in his trunk, they'd be shipped off to Joanna. This way, they'll be found in the course of packing up his belongings and distributed accordingly. The first letter is to Jim, because redundancy not withstanding, Jim would kill him if he didn't get the first letter. Oh sure, Jim might say he understood why the top letter was to Joanna, but then he'd
silently sulk because--well it's just the "captainly" thing to be
first. His letter to Jim speaks of respect, admiration, friendship,
and yes, even love. It tells Jim how he'd follow him into hell if
asked, but it also tries to encourage Jim from the foolish pursuit of following every trail like a bloodhound in case the trail does lead to hell. The letter also tells Jim where the key to liquor cabinet is and reminds him that there are any number of crew who would relish the chance to be the Captain's ear, the Captain's shoulder, the Captain's friend.
He knows that it is his age and role as CMO that has helped to foster his friendship with Jim. He hopes Jim can't intimidate the next guy or woman. (And wouldn't that be a hoot and a half, he thinks but doesn't include in the letter.)
The second letter is to Joanna. Mostly it speaks of a father's love and pride, of his hopes for her future. Though it also speaks of a father's regret. He wonders how each of them might be different if he had been a greater part of her life. Still he knows that he would not have traded his Starfleet training nor his Starfleet experiences. They have made him who he is. Smoothed over his roughness, honed his edge, softened his prejudices, and hardened his resolve. He always
wanted to be like his father, but the fact is, he is a better doctor than his father was. And though he misses Joanna greatly, he knows that she is a stronger woman because his influence was from afar. He tries to tell her that his absence is not a reflection of his level of love and devotion. That she is following in his space traveling, medical footsteps reassures him that they understand each other. If he regrets anything it is that delivery of this letter means he didn't get to stick around long enough to be a grandfather. He thinks he'd be a fun, if atypical, grandpa.
The third letter is to Natira, High Priestess of Yonada. He wonders what else to call her. She was his wife, albeit briefly. But she would never abide by Mrs. McCoy any more than he would relish "Leonard, Prince Consort." Now there's a title for someone from a little southern backwater!
Their time together was bittersweet. Sweet in finding love and hunger with an intelligent and beautiful woman; bitter because of his illness and the ill course of the asteroid ship. But he was lucky his letter tells her because it was mostly sweet. They are no longer married, though unlike his first marriage it did not end in divorce. The instrument of obedience to the Oracle that Spock removed from his temple lies in his small jewelry box next to his Legion of Honor medal and the family/symbiotic crest lapel pin from Emony. He is not sure why he kept the damn thing, though he suspects it has to do with his need to freely determine his own course rather than rely on the dictates of others. This is something he shares with Jim, even if he doesn't admit it often.
He supposes that his marriage to Natira was annulled. He finds an irony and a melancholy relief in that he neither regrets the marriage nor the dissolution of it. Right woman at the right time, better than he deserved certainly, but not the right person for him in the long run. He didn't want to believe it had been an act of desperation, more a gift of cosmic intervention, but even then, the morning after, still believing he had mere months to live, for all his gratitude and resignation at the situation he knew she did not hold his whole heart. He knew she never would.
She knew it to. He had not lied when he told her he found her
attractive. Nor had he lied when he confessed his love to her,
uncharacteristic as that timing had been. And neither he had he lied when he said that there was no woman for him. It simply had not been the complete truth.
She questioned him and not being able to ignore her trust in him, he told her. Amazingly she took it all in her regal stride. She loved him, wished to be with him, and would see that his final days were filled with compassion and kindness and intimacy. But she understood what it meant to give one's heart to another. Her people held her heart; they would always come first to her. It was more than just her responsibility or even her destiny; it was her desire. She could no more deny him his heart's desire than she could give up her own. Of course, she still had her people and they were about to reach their new home world, and he still had a heart full of unrequited feelings,
but he knew with a certainly he hadn't always held that he was where he belonged doing what he was supposed to be doing. So Natira's letter speaks of love and friendship and gratitude. He offers her his best advice--if it's a toss up between head and heart, go with the heart. The heart can regret; the head doesn't.
The fourth letter is to Uhura. Some might be surprised, but they shouldn't be. It is, in fact, the logical choice for these wishes. He can't help but wonder if a certain someone will give him credit for that. Who else but a communications officer can best communicate his final thoughts to the crew? Who else besides him throws the best ship's parties? So, Ny's letter details the wake he wants complete with booze and poker, music and dancing. No dirges either. Only reels on Scotty's bagpipes, and Spock must know how to play *something* upbeat on that lyre of his. He knows Ny can breathe hope and dreams into "Georgia" for him. This letter also conveys a few words to
Scotty, Sulu, Chekov, and Chris. Unnecessary instructions to cover a few words of friendship. He thought about writing a letter to Chris, but he finally just opted to leave one of his caduceus' pins to her. He figures that says all that needs to be said.
The final letter is addressed to Spock. He has rewritten this one more than the others. He's still not sure he's got it right. In it he
offers his thanks, inadequate though he knows they are, for finding the cure. He offers his apologies, also inadequate he suspects, for the verbal battles and heated exchanges that occasionally became less than professional if not down right personal.
He wishes he knew why sparring with Spock was so much fun. Even losing was fun in the long run. He knows that some think he fights with Spock because it's good for Spock or that it keeps Jim on an even keel. He's even heard that theory that they purposively fight in some odd attempt to maintain good crew morale. Hell, he does it because he gets off on it. He loves watching for the changes in Spock's pupils--the only sign he's getting a rise out of Spock. He's addicted to the attention Spock pays him when they fight. He also takes perverse pride in Spock's growing sense of humor, even if it is frequently directed at him.
There is no good way to tell Spock he loves him; certainly he knows of no elegant way. And because he is not a Vulcan, and because it is not logical, it hardly matters anyway. So he speaks of their mutual devotion to Jim, and tells Spock that Jim is not the only one to whom he was devoted. He speaks of all he has learned from Spock about logic and patience, and about emotions. He not quite teases Spock about learning about Vulcan physiology the hard way, and he reminds Spock to be careful because they both know Jim won't be. And Spock's
next physician might make the mistake of actually believing Spock when he claims he is unhurt.
As he did with Joanna, he offers Spock hopes for the future,
including the hope for happiness. He points out that he knows this is an emotion, but damnit he wishes it anyway. As he did with Natira, he offers his best advice: humans learn from their mistakes, let your human side learn once and awhile. He has included a holoprint with Spock's letter. It is a photo of the crew taken during the "Deck Olympics" that he and Ny organized a couple of years ago. A human pyramid with he, Jim, Scotty, on the bottom; Sulu and Chekov in the middle, and Ny on top. An utterly ridiculous and undignified pose
that had them howling and threatening blackmail with each other. He tells Spock that this is his family, whether he wants them to be or not. He tells Spock that this is where he belongs and that *that* does not diminish him as a Vulcan. It merely makes him a unique Vulcan. And a uniquely loved Vulcan.
He hopes Spock has learned the human trick of reading between the lines, but in case he hasn't he finally comes right out to say it. "Of all I have encountered, none have been better. Of all I have known, none have meant more." He hopes his words might mean something to Spock, but the pessimist in him doubts it and the realist in him reminds him that he'll never know anyway.
He thinks about his letters and his friends for a reason this
morning. Today he will go for his one-year check up. He'll report for it in an hour or so. Chris will run the tests; Spock will stand by just like he did a year ago. And then he will know if they really and truly have beaten it. If Spock will carry the mantle of miracle worker instead of Scotty.
Spock has told him all along that the cure he discovered among the Fabrini writings was, in fact, a cure, not just something to put him into remission. And he admits that he feels good. But he is the one with the medical degree, and he knows a follow up check is in order. But he is willing to admit that he'll gladly suffer Spock's arrogance to have Spock proven right on this. The treatments have worked for others since then. But he was the first to try them; so he'll be the first to know when they stop working. And if they have, well, he has his letters.
A year ago he faced his mortality and felt both numb and scared. But Natira taught him that he could still be loved. And Spock is frequently reminding him that there are always possibilities. So regardless of the test results today, his world will be fine.