The Doctor's Lady
Anna Mary Hall
Leonard McCoy, Chief Surgeon of the U. S. S. Enterprise, stood at attention, listening to the brief wedding ceremony, chafing inwardly as the stiff collar of his full dress uniform jabbed into the back of his neck.
The ceremony ended; there was a moment of silence, then Kang turned to signal an aide, who stepped forward with a tray bearing a squat bottle and several slender, smoky-gray glasses.
"Join us in a toast to the newly-married, Kirk!" Kang reached out to claim his glass. "I assure you that this is much safer than your coffee."
When Kirk, McCoy, and Uhura had all picked up their glasses, Kang and the other Klingons turned to face Karm and Christine.
"Health, victories, power and success over your enemies," Kang intoned formally. "Woman, be ye a strong helpmate at this, your mate's side! Karm, be ye a shield for this, thy mate, in battle and at rest."
They all drank, joined silently by the representatives from the Enterprise, then they replaced their empty glasses on the tray. The Klingons, with the exception of Kang and Karm, then saluted and returned to their duties.
Neither Klingon spoke, merely stood with their arms folded across their chests, waiting for Christine to take leave of her former shipmates.
Again, there was a moment of uneasy silence as the men shifted from one foot to the other. Finally, Uhura took the initiative by moving forward to give Christine a swift hug. She kissed Christine on the cheek and whispered, "Find happiness, Christine," then she made way for Captain Kirk.
Jim grinned and murmured something about kissing the bride as he approached Christine. Karm made a swift gesture, almost as if he wanted to intercept Kirk, then he halted, gritted his teeth, and looked grimly toward the ceiling. Apparently the Klingon had been told of the old Terran custom of male guests kissing the bride and was braced to allow it without a word.
Christine took Kirk's outstretched hands...and held him away. "No, Jim," she said softly, calling him by his given name to remind him that he was no longer her Captain. "Married Klingon women kiss only their husbands. I think I'll play by their rules."
McCoy saw how Karm's face lightened at Christine's words, and he approved her decision. If this was any indication, their marriage stood a better chance of surviving than he'd first thought. Karm apparently was going to try to alter the Klingon practice of commanding his mate, but the fact that Christine was also willingly making some changes to please her new husband augured well for their future together.
Now, it was his turn to say goodbye. He didn't even try to kiss Christine, merely clasped her hands and looked deeply into her eyes. They were clear and unwavering, shining with happiness.
"Here's wishin' you all the best, Honey," he whispered as he tightened his handclasp briefly.
No one was in any mood for idle conversation when the trio materialized back aboard the Enterprise. They stepped off their pads and headed for their quarters to change clothes.
Acting on a sudden hunch, McCoy halted in mid-stride and headed for Sick Bay. Moving silently, he entered a dimly lighted room and stood beside the crystal-clear case, which was sheltering a tiny form -- Lorna and Sarek's newborn daughter.
Several minutes passed while he gazed at the motionless infant, then he checked the dials on the monitoring equipment. No change, naturally. Clenching his hands in silent fury at his own helplessness, McCoy went into the adjoining room to check on Lorna. She was beginning to regain consciousness....
Much later, shortly after ship's dawn, McCoy felt emotionally exhausted by the tender scene he'd just witnessed while Lorna and Sarek were keeping their final vigil over their daughter.
He sat at his desk, unconsciously rubbing the slight bruises visible on his forearms, bruises made when Lorna had grabbed him and had asked about her child. He cast a measuring glance at his bottle of Saurian brandy, but he decided that a cup of coffee would be better for him.
After a final check to make sure Lorna was still sleeping soundly, he left, looking for Spock to tell him of his stepsister's death. He went up to the Bridge first - murmuring a word of greeting as he moved from station to station. Everything was going smoothly, and now that they were spaceborne again, the night crew exhibited every sign of normal, alert cheerfulness. Several of them inquired about Lorna, but McCoy didn't want to tell them of Angela's death - time enough for that after the family had had some time to themselves.
Spock was at his station, sitting with his hands folded in his lap, watching McCoy. The doctor postponed the moment as long as possible, but finally paused beside Spock for a moment before turning away. Perhaps it would be better to break the news in private.
"My sister has died?" Spock said softly, halting McCoy in mid-stride.
McCoy nodded without turning and said nothing, for he'd learned that his natural expressions of sympathy weren't always welcomed by this complex Vulcan.
"Bones," Spock said more softly. This use of the nickname turned McCoy as surely as if the Vulcan had touched him on the shoulder. He met Spock's gaze evenly, his sympathy showing in his eyes, and he silently challenged Spock to throw his emotions back in his face.
"Thank you, Doctor."
"For what, Spock?" McCoy said gruffly.
"For trying to understand," Spock turned back to his station to check a flashing light, pressed the necessary relay, then turned back. "Lorna is all right?"
"I gave her a sedative; hopefully, she'll be better able to handle the sorrow of her loss when she wakes up."
"Our ways of mourning will give her strength and comfort. There is one favor I would ask, Doctor."
"Name it, Spock."
"There are certain foods we traditionally avoid at these times...will you make sure Lorna will not find them on her tray?"
"Make a list of them, Spock. Of course, she'll just be in Sick Bay for a few more hours, but there's no use addin' to her problems."
"You will have the list shortly." Spock turned back to his station again, this time to indicate that the conversation was over.
Len stood a few moments longer, visually examining the Vulcan's averted profile, noting the signs of tension and sorrow. As he'd anticipated, Angela's death, so soon after Christine's marriage and subsequent departure, had hit Spock hard - try as he might to conceal it. McCoy felt a deep sympathy for the Vulcan's suffering and started to lay his hand on Spock's shoulder, then let that hand drop to his side. The gesture could be more of an intrusion than a comfort.
He moved on to exchange a few words with Lt. M'ress, then entered the turbo-lift. He leaned against the wall, arms folded across his chest, allowing his mind to empty of all thought while weariness rolled over him. When the door opened a moment later, he didn't even look up.
"Good morning, Doc," said Sulu's melodious voice. "I never thought I'd see you coming from the Bridge this early. Going my way?"
"Oh, mornin', Sulu," Len didn't move. "Depends on where you're goin, I guess."
"I'm going for a cup of coffee," the Oriental replied, studying Len curiously.
"Same here. Let's share the same table. I've been wantin' to talk to you."
Sulu nodded and instructed the turbo-lift to deliver them to the level of their favorite Rec Room. He stood silently for a moment, then he gave McCoy a side-long glance as he took a deep breath. "I know about Lorna's baby, Doc," he said bluntly.
"Who told you?"
"I woke up awhile ago and decided to get up instead of staring at the ceiling. Went past Sick Bay to find out how Lorna and her baby were, and Diane told me what had happened. Doc, how'd Lorna take it?"
"Like a Vulcan, Sulu."
At this hour, they had the Rec Room to themselves, which suited McCoy perfectly.
"Sulu," he began after taking a cautious sip of his coffee. "You were at the helm yesterday during Christine's wedding.... I'm sure you kept one eye on Spock out of sheer concern.... How'd he take it?"
"Doc, he watched that screen without blinking, and his face never changed...but I'll bet there are a bunch of new dents in one arm of the Captain's chair."
"Ahuh!" McCoy snorted. "Might've known Spock would be that human. Now it's too late, he realizes he wanted Christine all the time. But, being Spock, he'll bury himself deeper in his work, refusing to admit his problems are just beginning...."
"Huh?" Sulu set his empty cup down with a thud and blinked in surprise. "You mind repeating that, Doc?"
"What...? Oh, it wasn't anything important, Sulu. I was just thinking aloud."
"If you say so.... Look, if a chance comes today before I get down to see her, relay my sympathy to Lorna?"
"Sure... I'll make a point of it."
The simple funeral was over. Angela had been laid to rest near Amanda, and the tiny Terran ivy plant that would become a living monument had been set in place.
This was no time for visiting, so the Enterprise crew prepared to take their leave as soon as possible.
McCoy kept silent, but his blue eyes were dark with concern as he studied first Lorna, and then Sarek. He made sure that Lorna knew he would be thinking of her and would be hoping all would work out when he said goodbye - not with words, but with the strength of his handclasp and with the expression in his eyes.
After beaming up with the rest of the party, he went back to his office; worrying and wanting to be alone with that worry for a while.
Within the hour, though, his worry was gone - for he'd received a thought-message from Lorna, vibrant with her joy at her reunion with her husband, yet clouded with the memory of their recent loss. All was well with her and Sarek again - now, Len could hope that Time would complete their happiness by bringing another child....
"Come in," he said in response to the buzzer.
He reached forward for a tape and pretended to be too busy to look up when the doors parted to admit the caller. But there were no coughs or shuffling of feet; the visitor merely stood quietly at the other side of the desk, waiting for him to finish his work.
Finally, McCoy laid the tape aside and looked up. "Yes, may I.... Maggie."
He rose, his eyes gleaming with recognition, surprise, and pleasure at sight of the graceful, blue-clad figure standing in front of his desk.
"Hello, Leonard," the warm voice sounded pleasantly in his ears. The honey-gold eyes that were so unexpected in contrast to her silvery-gray hair met his steadily.
"Maggie Jones! Where have you been?"
"Now that's a silly question!"
McCoy motioned to the chair beside his desk, gazed at the lovely face of the woman sitting across from him, and realized just how much he'd missed seeing it every day. He and Maggie Jones had been good friends before she'd left, and he would be more than glad to have her return to his Department...if that was why she was here.
"It's been a long time since we left you and the others on Miri's planet," he said after a moment. "How are those...er...those 'children'?"
"They're doing fine, Leonard. Better than we could have hoped, considering that they'd been without the influence of adults for so long. We had our work cut out for us, though, for most of them were like savages. If it hadn't been for Miri and Jahn, we'd never have been able to find some of the ones ready to change.... They convinced the children to bring their friends, to locate those who were exhibiting signs of the disease, and we didn't lose one. After their inoculations, we ran tests to see how long the vaccine would last before boosters would be needed. Anyone leaving that world is all right, for they're no longer exposed to the virus. Those who stay have to have a booster every ten years. We...er...they're working on a vaccine now that will have a lifetime effect, and they were close to a breakthrough on it when I left."
Maggie shifted, leaning against the desk and tapping her fingers on its surface. "What a challenge, Leonard, turning those savages into civilized beings again! It was worth every scratch, bump, and bruise to see those pathetic children learn to smile again because things were good, instead of because they'd seen some cruel thing they'd learned to think was funny. Why, they've even discovered that learning is fun! Their minds are fertile, they're like thirsty plants yearning to soak up knowledge."
"Which means they'll do all right on their own now?" Len queried as he leaned back in his chair, enjoying the sound of her lilting voice.
"That's the best part of it, Leonard. They aren't on their own. You remember how lovely that planet is. Colonists came swarming in the minute it was declared safe. The children were hostile to the idea at first, until they realized there would be new 'Onlies' to play with. Settlers with children treated the 'Onlies' like they would any new neighbors, polite but letting them keep their distance. It wasn't long before the 'Onlies' began to want the same love and attention the settlers' children were getting from their parents. One thing led to another, and adoptions were being set up...."
"Good Lord! How in the world were you able to handle the adjustment of father-mother relationships to children three to four hundred years old?"
"The vaccine caused the children to begin to age normally...and that helped forestall some of the difficulties. Their normal yearning for parents' love and affection did the rest, Leonard. Even though they're centuries old, they're still children - and they act like children. The settlers had to have the vaccine too, of course, which gave them all something in common at the very start. Now, the 'Onlies' and the newcomers have become one - thanks to the love and guidance their parents give them."
"What about Miri?" McCoy's eyes became shadowed as he thought of the girl-woman who'd helped them when they'd discovered the Earth-like planet populated only by children. "How's she doing, Maggie?"
"She's just fine, Leonard. Right after you all left, she was very quiet and moody - I think she really loved our Captain. However, she soon realized that nothing could ever have come of it because of the differences between their biological time-rhythms. A wife who'd lived so many decades before receiving that vaccine would never have been happy with a husband who'd aged normally. It wasn't long before she perked up and began to work like a demon. Jahn, once he'd been convinced our help was a 'good thing,' worked just as hard. Besides, once Miri put aside all memory of the Captain, Jahn was there. They have married, Leonard, and they give every indication of being happy. Those 'children' are the patriarchs of the 'Onlies,' and they've been invaluable assistants."
"Sounds like things couldn't be better for them, Maggie, and I'm glad," McCoy said gently. "When did you leave them?"
"About a year ago, ship's time. My tour of duty on the planet was officially over, but the Enterprise was clear across the Federation at the time. I received orders to be picked up by the first ship passing by, and I worked on it until it was possible to request reassignment to the 'Big E' - now here I am!"
"A sight for sore eyes, I assure you!" McCoy held out his hand for her reassignment tape. "Are you coming into the same division you were working in when you left? Micro-biological research, wasn't it?"
"Umhum, same division, but different status. I earned a promotion while away from the ship. It's Lieutenant Jones now."
"Congratulations!" McCoy offered then became immersed in her tape. "Mmmmm, yes, I see. Well, there won't be any problem; no one has been able to fill your shoes. I think you'll even be able to get the same quarters, if you wish."
"That'd be fine - I always did enjoy that part of the ship. It's the most comfortable, other than the Senior Officers' quarters."
He gave her back the tape and just sat there, enjoying the quiet feeling of warmth and good fellowship that filled the air.
"I understand a lot of things have happened while I was away," she said finally. "Is it true that Christine Chapel is no longer with us, and that she married a Klingon? I always figured if she didn't get Spock, she wouldn't settle for anyone else."
"Yeah, but that was before she met Karm.... Maggie, you'd never believe what happened...."
He was interrupted by a chime from the intercom.
"Kirk here, Bones. You've been yelling that my monthly physical is overdue, and I find myself with a bit of free time right now. Can you work me in?"
"I..." he frowned and glanced at Maggie, reluctant to let her go.
"The Captain always has top priority, Leonard," Maggie said with an impish grin. "Maybe you can tell me the news later - or else I can get it from the other personnel."
"I suppose so...hey! When's your lunch, at 0100? Fine. Let's meet in the small mess room by the Brig - it's seldom crowded, and I'll bring you up to date."
"Fine. See you then."
McCoy stood in the middle of the room beside the diagnostic bed, leaning against it, staring sightlessly into space. Kirk had come and gone. As usual, except for a few pounds that kept creeping up when he wasn't watching his diet, he'd come off with an excellent report. Uttering the usual groan when McCoy had prescribed restrained food intake, Kirk had gone back to the Bridge. Now, if only the First Officer could be taken care of as easily....
Spock. That Vulcan is going to be a problem and a half, no matter how one looks at it! Not only because he's a half-human but also because of that crazy biological cycle of his. How often is it before he says he'd be driven to take a wife or die - seven years? Then, he doesn't have all that much time to waste! McCoy said to himself.
Insofar as McCoy knew, Spock had made no arrangements for a new wife - and Christine was gone. He wouldn't be able to turn to her when his next pon farr came.... And McCoy could see Spock dying for lack of someone to meet his need - unless there was something he could do...?
He went over to the far side of the room and opened the cooler where samples of blood and body fluids were kept on file for a period after examinations. The samples from Spock's latest work-up were still there. "I wonder," Len mused as he reached out to pick up the green tube at the top of Spock's section. "While we were fighting to save Sarek's life on the way to Babel, we had to filter out the human elements in Spock's blood.... Would it be possible to increase or alter those elements so Spock could be turned from the Vulcan to the human reproductive cycle? So he wouldn't be driven to seek a mate or die?"
McCoy took the samples and went to the Bio-Chemical Lab, which was closer to the supplies he'd be using. He went to the far end, which was seldom used, and soon was so busy that he nearly forgot his luncheon date with Maggie.
That set the pattern for their days; Maggie worked in her lab on Deck Two, McCoy in his on Deck Seven - but they always met for lunch. He'd taken several roads in his efforts to develop a serum that would change Spock's biological cycle, but all of them had led to a dead end, with one exception. So far, this approach was working. This serum had passed the test the others had failed, but it wouldn't be ready for the next hurdle for an hour or so. Might as well while away that time at lunch, with Maggie. No one needed anything, and he could use the relaxation....
"...so there we were, trying to explain to Ambassador Fox how this 'child' he was talking to could be a couple of hundred years older than him, and not making much of a success of it...." Maggie was saying over her Baked Alaska when McCoy checked the time.
"Oh, Hell! I've got to get back to the lab to check on an experiment - but I want to hear the end of this story. Can you come along with me? We can talk while I work!"
Thus another habit was formed. Maggie was like a cat, contented with her life and at peace with herself. The first time she went with McCoy, she chose a bench and worked on a private project of her own. McCoy had known she was in the room, of course, but she was so quiet that it didn't bother him. Once his experiment was on the road again and still gave every indication of working out well, he returned to hear the end of her story...only to become interested in her own project - the writing of her experiences on the Eternal Children's planet...and he decided to make sure there was a reason for her to do the same thing every day. Pleasant events like this were rare things in his life; he wasn't about to pass up a chance for one when it came around.
Three months into the experiment there'd been another setback, but now he was on the road again.
"Of all the times for this to happen!" he roared one day when he came into his office with Maggie after lunch and found an inventory sheet lying on his desk. "I thought I could postpone it for another week, at least!"
"What is it? The All-Materials or the All-Personnel Survey?"
"All-Personnel. It'll still take too much time. Christine used to do it for me, but Diane can't - she's still too overwhelmed by her new position...."
"Maybe it won't take as much time as you think. The computer has all the information, doesn't it?"
"Well," she grinned up at him. "So you tell me the proper tapes to pull; I'll pull them, get anything you need, and put it down for you...."
"What about your work?" McCoy asked as a courteous attempt to keep from accepting her offer.
"My current experiment has to 'cook' until morning, and my book is a week ahead of the schedule I laid out. I can spare the time."
"I already know most of that stuff by heart..." he mumbled as he reached out to adjust one of the shunts.
"You do? Okay, work; I'll ask the questions, you answer, and I'll fill in the blanks on this report for you."
It worked out amazingly well...for he really did have all the information about his personnel memorized - all except one.
"Maggie, it embarrasses me to admit it, but I don't think I ever knew your full name - 'Margaret,' I suppose?"
"No. 'Maggie's' short for Magnolia."
"'Magnolia.' You're kiddin!" He turned to stare at her, his eyes sparkling with mirth and interest. Now he realized why that lilt in her voice sounded so familiar; it was the touch of the South that always cropped out in his own voice when he was upset or excited. "That's about as Southern a name as you can get!"
"I'm from below the old Mason-Dixon line; what can you expect?"
To his astonishment, she named a suburb of Atlanta, his home town.
"We were practically next-door neighbors and didn't know it!" he exclaimed. "I'll bet we even went to the same school when we were kids!"
"Yes...but you were a lordly, Senior, and I was just in the Seventh level at the time, so you never noticed me. When I came aboard ship after graduating from the Academy, you were becoming quite well-known, thanks to your work in deep-space medicine, so...."
"You never mentioned where you were from. Why, Maggie?"
"I didn't want to claim friendship unless it was a genuine response on both our parts - not just duty to our home-town relationship."
"Guess you're right. Say, do you remember Miss Jamison in Biology? How she always told us that it took a steady hand and a clear head to be able to track down the critters we wanted to find under the glass...?"
They were off on an orgy of reminiscence about school and the many friends they'd both known - but at different times. Strange how their lives had paralleled so closely, yet with six years apart, had gone in such different directions.
He'd experienced an unhappy marriage and had a daughter he seldom saw. She was still single - not from lack of being asked, but from choice. She simply hadn't found anyone she'd cared for enough to give up her freedom for.
The final icing on the cake was when Len found she'd met his brother after returning to Earth for a refresher course before returning to the Enterprise.
It was funny that Charlie had never mentioned that visit in his messages...but, then, he probably hadn't realized that Len and Maggie had been friends when she had been on the Enterprise before....
Later that evening, McCoy lay on his bed, hands crossed beneath his head, recalling the many pleasant memories of the day. Eventually, he became aware of a familiar sensation at the back of his mind...a feeling that someone was standing at the threshold of a mental door, waiting to be admitted.
He grinned. Closing his eyes for a moment, he gathered his mental forces, then he looked up at a particularly restful area of the ceiling.
//Lorna, honey, is that you?// he thought, calling up the face of his friend in his memories as he waited for the reply.
//Yes, Len. How are you?//
//More to the point, Lorna.... How are you?// came his anxious query.
//All is well with me, Len...better than well, but it's hard to express.... Would you like to 'see' for yourself...?//
//If it pleases you....//
For a moment, he felt nothing, then it was as if he were hearing the bubbling sounds of a clear stream rushing over sparkling rocks, singing and chuckling as it went...to become one with a wide, deep, placid and clear pool of water that enfolded the stream in its protective banks.
//Honey, is - is that what the Oneness of Vulcan marriage is like?// came his uncertain thought.
//It's the best reflection I can give you, Len. Sarek isn't 'with' us really, but since he and I are joined in the Bonding, he knows what I'm doing right now...and he's participating this much. I think he might even join us completely if....//
//I won't ask him to do that, Lorna. It's enough to know that you've found your way again. How goes your work...?//
For several minutes, they exchanged gossip on a mental level, blocking what had to be blocked, but sharing everything else freely. One of the things he kept blocked was his current experiment concerning Spock - time enough to let them know if it succeeded; why raise Lorna's hopes until he was sure it could be done?
//Len, dear,// Lorna's thoughts sparkled with laughter. //Just who is 'Maggie'?//
//'Maggie'!// he almost blushed. //Oh, she's come back to my Department - we were friends a long time ago, but she left the Enterprise before you came.//
//I see - 'friends,' you say? I wonder....//
//Nah, it's nothin' like that! You know that men and woman can be friends without:....//
//I was just teasing, Len.... But you've such pleasant feelings when you think about her. Won't you let me 'see' her?//
Len had no objections and closed his eyes again to better recall the image of Maggie as she'd been the last time he'd seen her that afternoon, curled up on the divan in his office, busily entering notations in her latest revision of her book, swinging one foot idly and twisting a lock of hair around one finger in utter absorption.
//Len! She's delightful! Next time you're near Vulcan and there's time, bring her to see us?//
//Sure, Lorna, if she wants to come....//
//I'll be looking forward to it. It's time for me to go. Keep me posted on any developments?//
//Don't I always?// It wasn't until the communication ended that McCoy realized that Lorna had been referring to more than the normal ship's routine, but he knew better than to reopen communications to try to convince her that she was wrong.
Lorna had planted a notion in fertile ground. McCoy found he couldn't go back to the old relationship with Maggie, considering her as nothing but a part of the background.
Experiencing the closeness that Lorna and Sarek shared - even secondhand - had emphasized how alone he was. In fact, it was quite ironical that he'd be working on a serum, which could end Spock's peril and help him to endure his loneliness, while his own seemed to grow ever worse.
Len continued to work, and as he worked, Maggie helped wherever needed - often without having to be told, for they'd become a team.
"Thanks, Maggie; that's got it," he said one day after a particularly trying bit of fine work. "I think it'll be all right now."
She smiled and went back to her work, and he stood watching the test tube - waiting for the contents to boil.
Maggie's really something else! he mused. Seems to know what I need almost before I do - almost as good as Christine did...in a different way. Never thought anyone would be able to suit me, but Maggie and I work together well.... He blinked, then lifted his gaze and studied her as she worked a few paces away, totally oblivious of his intent regard. We do work together well!? he thought again, and his inner reaction this time was quite different. I wonder how well - odd, why didn't I realize earlier what a - a delicious scrap of female she is?
"Leonard. Leonard! That test tube's boiling over! What in Heaven's name are you thinking about?
The next evening, McCoy sat alone at a table in his favorite Rec Room, drinking Saurian brandy from the dispenser without enjoying it, hoping it would blot the sour taste of defeat from his mouth. Was he losing his touch, or was Maggie so totally contented with her present lifestyle that she didn't realize when a man was interested in her?
"Don't know what else I can call it," he grumbled. "I've been chasin' her - and she hasn't been eludin' me...but only because she hasn't been aware that I was chasin' her! Never thought I'd see the day when I'd ask this question...but how am I goin' to get Maggie to realize I want to be more than just a friend...?"
"Hello, Doctor McCoy. Is this a private gripe session, or can anyone join in?" asked a warm voice, and he looked up to see Uhura standing beside the table.
"Evenin', Uhura. Go ahead, sit down. I think the company of a lovely lady right about now is just what I need!" he said gallantly as he rose and held a chair for her.
She accepted his gallantry as what it was, an act of simple Southern courtesy, and sat down.
"Even if it's the wrong lady, eh, Doctor?" she retorted with an impish grin.
"Meanin'?" he demanded, his eyes like pieces of blue ice.
"Meaning that I've noticed how, more and more, you're keeping company with a certain lovely lady who recently returned to the Medical Department...or, you would be, if she realized that that's what you're wanting to do."
McCoy gasped, grateful that he was too mature to blush.
"So, I was right! I've seen you at the parties and gatherings with her..." Uhura continued softly. "You're lonely, Doctor...you need someone. You know, when Lorna first came, I thought maybe.... But, you don't need to tell me.... Lorna was Sarek's right from the start - anyone can see that now."
"Yeah, but Lorna's like a daughter to me...and that helps, since I don't get to see much of Joanna nowdays." McCoy reached out to dial another brandy, thought better of it, and pushed his glass away.
"Good! You won't find your answer in Saurian brandy," Uhura approved. "Why don't you go out after Maggie, Doc? You make a nice-looking couple."
"Look, Uhura, I failed one marriage and lost out on another.... That's not a very good record for a man my age...."
"'Man your age' indeed!" Uhura scoffed. "You're just in the prime of life, and you know it! Lots of years ahead of you, my boy! And Lorna agrees with me."
"You been 'talking' to her?"
"Last night...and she gave me a couple of messages for you. She said she figured she'd be prying if she tried to deliver them herself."
"I see. So...what were they?"
"Well, the first one was a saying from her former era: 'Faint heart never won fair lady'...." She broke off and grinned at him again.
"Ahuh! And, what was the other?"
"Lorna's second message was this: 'Tell Len that if he starts saying that he isn't "worthy" of Maggie, I'll set Uhura to following him around and telling him that he has a better chance than he thinks - just the way that he, Spock, and Captain Kirk did me when I was so sure I'd never be able to win Sarek'."
"God forbid!" McCoy raised his eyebrows in mock horror. "I wouldn't want to put anyone through that again - especially not me! I've never been able to understand what kept Lorna from popping us a good one!" He reached out to clasp Uhura's hand. "Okay, young lady.... I'll try not to disappoint either you or Lorna. Wish me luck?"
"All there is in the universe, Doctor McCoy."
McCoy felt fired with new purpose when he entered the Bio-Chemical Lab the next day. Maggie hadn't been able to stay after lunch the day before; she'd been too involved in her own work, and he'd been in a ticklish part of his experiment with the Vulcan serum, so he hadn't been able to continue "chasing her".
Today, it was going to be different.
Or was it? Maggie didn't stop by the lab at lunchtime the way she'd been doing lately. He waited about fifteen minutes, just in case she'd been held up, then he checked to be sure the experiment could be left on its own for a few minutes - which it could - and went in search of her.
He stepped into the turbo-lift just a moment before Spock came down the corridor and entered McCoy's office.
"Doctor McCoy, I.... Doctor?" Spock lifted one eyebrow, wondering where McCoy could have vanished to this time. Since he'd just come from the Bridge, Spock knew McCoy wasn't prowling around up there. The Vulcan looked around the room, admitting how empty this deck seemed - and he knew why. Christine wasn't here, and never would be...but it was no one's fault but his own. As Lorna had told him, he'd had his chance, but he'd "blown it." Now, he had to learn to accept the fact of his loss and to go on from there. He'd have to before long, for it would soon be time for him to either take a wife or experience the horror of the blood fever...and he had no desire to die the lingering death that would be his lot.
He forced his thoughts to move on to different matters and went through the different rooms, searching for McCoy. At last, in the Bio-Chemical Lab, he heard something bubbling and followed the sound - to McCoy's experiment. Spock glanced idly at the notes, then looked closer. As Head of Starship Sciences, he should know of every research project being carried on aboard the ship, but this was something unfamiliar. He read a few more words, realized what McCoy was trying to do, and froze.
This is a violation of basic Vulcan philosophy! It must not be allowed! he told himself, struggling to maintain strict control of his instinctive reaction to this discovery. It must.... Yet, McCoy rejects rules or philosophies that endanger life - which, in itself, honors Vulcan.... What would it be like, to live free of the bondage imposed by my heritage - my dual heritage? I am not fully Vulcan; why must I be bound?
He took a deep breath and allowed himself to contemplate the possibilities this experiment offered:
What would life be like with no threat of pon farr - ever? No madness to creep gradually through my body and mind, robbing me of choice - of the will to even wish for a choice...? To be free...? Free to choose because that is what I want, not because, for a brief period, my body has wrenched control of my life from my mind...? Do I dare hope...?
He sat down on the stool and became immersed in McCoy's charts and notes - so much so that he didn't hear the sound of footsteps coming into the room nor hear a feminine voice calling McCoy's name.
"So, here you are!" McCoy had come in only a step or so behind Maggie. "I've been looking all over this ship for you!"
"For Heaven's sake, why? I came as soon as I could."
"Yeah, but you weren't here yesterday afternoon...you were late today, and...."
"'And'?" Maggie prompted when he paused.
"And I missed you."
"Oh, really? I've thought at times that you hardly knew I was here...."
"I've known, Maggie. Good Lord! How I've known...!"
There was a silence.
Spock shifted on his stool and wished that he were anywhere else but here. To listen in on one of McCoy's intimate moments hardly suited Spock's mood. However, since this was one of the few rooms in the Medical complex that had only one door, he couldn't leave without being seen.
He could retreat into meditation; indeed, he was ready to start the necessary disciplines, then he heard McCoy speaking Maggie's name with a tenderness in his tone that the Vulcan had never heard except when McCoy had been speaking to Natira. Spock's curiosity got the better of his discretion - backed by an unadmitted suspicion that this "courting behavior" was something he might need to know in the future.
"Maggie," McCoy said huskily. "I could kick myself for not doin' that the first day you came back, young woman!"
"'Young'! With this gray hair!" she said with a laugh, trying to pass off the moment as one of those bits of romance that come and go aboard a starship.
"You told me that your hair started turning gray when you were sixteen," McCoy said, demolishing her attempts to keep this moment light and non-consequential. "A common trait in your family. If anyone in this duo is old, it's me!"
"You're not old!"
"Ahuh! So, that makes us a couple of youngsters and, like all youngsters, I'm thinkin' about what comes naturally when I'm holdin' a young lady in my arms - a special young lady...."
McCoy kissed her again. This time, she wasn't startled or caught off-guard, but cooperated fully, enjoying the moment for what it represented, but too wise to expect more from this wary man.
"Maggie...I've been a fool!" McCoy exploded a moment later. "I should never have let you get away from me before...and I don't intend to do it now.... Listen, you're alone; and I'm alone. Why don't we do something about it?"
She stiffened in his arms. "If you're suggesting that we have an affair, forget it, Leonard! I don't want to lose your friendship, but it'll happen if we start sleeping together. Why should I bother with an affair? I'm content with my life as it is - I have everything I need...."
"Except a husband," McCoy blurted.
"W-what?" she said incredulously.
"You heard me," he replied, holding his ground.
"You...want to marry me? Why?"
"Why not? We work well together; you understand my moods and either talk me out of them or else have the sense to let me alone so I can work my own day out of them.... Maggie, I've grown used to having you around, and this place seems empty without you. Look at the way I was running all over this ship hunting you, and you were only fifteen minutes late! I...."
A highly polished piece of equipment that reflected the far end of the room caught his eyes, and he felt a swift sensation of dismay. Spock was sitting on a stool in front of one of the benches there. Oh well, McCoy nearly sighed with relief. If anyone has to be listening in, thank goodness it's Spock! He'll certainly not tell anyone or tease me about hearing this!
"Leonard? You look so strange. Is something wrong...? Or, have you decided you want to take back your proposal...if that was a proposal."
"You'd better believe it was - is!" he growled as he reached out to catch her close again. "And I'm not takin' it back. I want you for my wife, Maggie, if you'll have me!"
"You really love me, Leonard?"
"I really love you, Maggie. Maybe not the way a younger man might...."
She shut him up with a kiss.
"I won't have you talking that way about the man I love," she said with a soft chuckle. "Yes, love! But I never dreamed that you'd act like this...."
It was McCoy's turn to silence her with a kiss. "Maggie, darlin', if you're willin' to marry me, I promise you, I'll give you all the love you want.... Maybe you'll have to tell me once in a while...but it'll be there, under the surface."
"That's all I could ask, Leonard...more than I ever expected, really," Maggie said as she reached up to run her finger along his lips, and smiling at his instant response.
"'Leonard' sounds so formal, Maggie. Couldn't you call me 'Len'?" he asked quietly.
"'Len's' a special nickname, isn't it?"
"Who would have a better right to use it than you, Maggie?"
"I'm sorry I don't have a ring or something for you, but this caught me...."
"Hush! We don't need a ring...but, if you want to give me one, you can do it when we get married.... What's so funny?"
"I'm just thinkin' of the uproar when the crew hears the announcement...."
"We'll live through it. Couples have for ages."
"Yeah, I suppose so. Come on. Let's tell Jim and see how soon he can perform the ceremony...."
"Oh, Len, I can't! I hate to put duty before us, but I do have to get back to Deck Two...we've been running some important tests, and they're due for a check in about ten minutes. I've just time to get up there...."
"Darlin', I understand," McCoy assured her. "We can see the Captain tonight, the first thing after goin' off duty...."
A final kiss, and the doors closed behind a very happy, starry-eyed Maggie.
McCoy stood looking at the doors and grinning for a long minute, then he turned toward the far end of the room, and squared his shoulders.
He approached Spock, then he stopped short.
The Vulcan was sitting on a stool in front of the experiment - McCoy's notes spread out in front of him.
McCoy gritted his teeth.
Spock reached out to replace the stylus on the clipboard then turned and rose. Hands behind his back, he faced McCoy. "It was not my intention to eavesdrop on your conversation, but I had little choice, Doctor," he said quietly. "May I be the first to congratulate you?"
"Thank you, Spock," McCoy said, glaring suspiciously at the Vulcan - wondering if he were playing a cat-and-mouse game with him.
Spock turned to survey the experiment-site.
"It was also not my intention to pry into this, but it is my duty to be aware of every experiment that is being conducted in this department. When I saw these notes and realized I had not been informed of this particular experiment, I started to read them."
McCoy still said nothing.
"If I interpret your notes and calculations correctly, you are seeking a method of reinforcing the human elements in my blood, confident that such reinforcement will eliminate the Vulcan reproductive cycle and will initiate the human cycle instead?"
McCoy nodded. "I studied it from every angle, and it seemed theoretically possible, Spock."
"I agree, and I compliment you upon your efforts to find a logical solution to an unreasonable problem. How long until you make the final test?"
"Five more days," McCoy replied, matching Spock's remoteness.
"I see. Are you assured of a successful result?"
"Yes - barring any unexpected setbacks."
"I shall be awaiting news of the completion of your experiment." Spock almost smiled. "When you summon me to Sick Bay, you will find that I will be most prompt in responding - this time."
He looked at the bubbling test tubes and reports again, looked back at McCoy, and nodded his head slightly, then moved past the startled doctor and left unhurriedly.
McCoy stood dumbfounded for a moment, then he shook his head. Unless he was mistaken, that had been a definite smile on Spock's face - a very faint one, but a smile nonetheless!
He turned back to his work, aware that this was one of the few totally happy moments that one can ever hope to experience in a lifetime.
Issue Number Three: December 1976
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