Title: A Fragile Hope
Fandom: Star Trek AOS
Disclaimer: Entertainment purposes only.
Summary: AU one-shot. Leonard does not join Starfleet.
Rain is drowning the streets. A man stops at the corner, stance indecisive, blind to the flood. Water steadily drips off of the brim of his hat, down the shoulders of a dirty old overcoat.
He ignores the puddles; his shoes are waterlogged and heavy, his socks damp and feet going numb from the cold. There is no sound except the rain which beats like drums behind and before him. It is unending, a parade, as he marches.
The directions keep coming, clearer with each step.
Straight. Turn right.
Side street, second door.
There is no doorknob, only a keypad for a passcode. His tired voice says each number as his finger punches it: 2-2-5-5.
Why is that significant? It should be, he knows in the back of his mind. It should have meaning, but for now 2255 is only a number which gets him out of the rain and finally stops the insistent voice in his head.
The building is dark and smells faintly of oil and machinery. He walks through the first room—the entrance—and down a long corridor, shadows too dark in some places, too light in others. It’s eerie but there is no sense of fear. There is only here-now and a tug which has been haunting him for weeks. He does not understand why it chooses him, a man of little prospects and no future. He fears—still—that it is merely insanity taking over; a condition that has long been looming over him, some days, when he wakes up to bright sun on a street-side bench and disgust written on people’s faces.
Follow the voice.
That’s all that is left to him now. (What else is there?)
So he stops again, without care or apprehension. The “Hello” that dredges up from a disused voice is rough, makes him wince. (Who’s he had to talk to, in so long?)
That’s something, at least. An actual voice. Or maybe his delusion grows.
It’s his full name, which no one has said in a very long time. There is a hollow ring to it, when he hears the words spoken outloud. Decides it’s best not to hear it again.
Ah, now that hurts.
“Not a doctor,” he grates, coughs. It’s an infection in his lungs, he knows only too well. Easy enough to cure. Easy enough to ignore too.
“Are you not?”
A man—no, not a man—steps toward him, out of the dark. Those ears are anything but Human. He’s seen this creature before, watching him. (Why?) If there is a small hint of interest budding in him, he tears it away before it can take root.
Time to get to the matter at heart.
“Quit fucking with my mind.”
“I apologize for the intrusion. You continued to ignore my presence.”
“You’re nothing to me.”
That answering voice is flat but not as cold as Leonard is. “This is a part of a grievance which I wish to discuss with you.”
Oh. Now he gets it. Shit, he’s hungry, desolate—but not a whore. “I’m not for sale. Sorry, you’ve wasted your time.”
“You misunderstand.” That thing with the coal black eyes is one step closer. Leonard takes a step back.
He has no weapon; remembers the rumors of the kind of strength this race packs and knows he won’t be able to fight back. But it’s been a long couple of years and living as he does has taught the man more than one way to survive.
“Okay. I’m listening.”
He pretends to listen and tries to see into the corners of the room. Scraps, nothing more. If he has to give in, he decides that he will fight after all. Better to leave one or two marks rather than none. Makes the experience potentially more traumatic, but chances are that this… Vulcan (he remembers the name now, finally cares to remember) is high-ranking enough—given the quality of his clothes—to want to keep things quiet. That means he’s going to end up dead.
It’d happen sometime, wouldn’t it, if he lived long enough?
“I am not here to hurt you, Doctor.” There is a pause. “Let me help.”
“Nothing to be done,” he replies, edging back towards the long hall.
“I do not understand why you desire to waste your… life.” He means potential, Leonard knows he does.
“It’s mine to waste.” Who is this asshole? “I don’t take charity. Leave me alone.” Okay, into the hall now but the Vulcan is still following him. He sighs (shudders).
“Leonard.” The way his name sounds does something unexpected—it scares him with its intensity (its promise).
He says, sharply, “No” and turns to run.
He makes it halfway before strong arms catch him quite easily and swing him around, like an ill-trained puppy. Well, he’s no puppy. He may be a drunkard, sick and apathetic but he is NOT another man’s pet. (Never.)
The Vulcan catches his fist, pins it beside his head.
“You old bastard, let me go,” he growls.
“Negative, Doctor. I shall repeat: I do not wish to harm you.”
“Then why are you bruising me?” Surprisingly, his snarl gets a response. He is dropped back to his feet and given only a margin of space in which to breathe.
“Forgive me. I find that… I am disturbed by your presence more than I calculated.”
He must be fucking kidding. Leonard is the one who’ll be calling the cops once he gets out of here. Damn it, he should have ignored the voice and kept on drinking ’til it stopped. (He had tried that; didn’t work, even after a close call of alcohol poisoning. God, no telling what state his liver is in.)
“Why do you want me?”
“You are not where you should be, Doctor.”
The laugh is short, harsh and bitter. “Right,” he manages to contain himself, “and where am I supposed to be, you hobgoblin?”
Fuck, the Vulcan almost smiles. He can see it, faintly in the lines of that face—in those eyes.
“In space, Doctor McCoy, on the starship Enterprise.”
He stares. Then he laughs again, so hard his lungs protest and the coughing starts. It takes a minute or two to make his lungs accept the air he’s trying to breathe. There are strong, aged hands holding him upright. He pulls away, back pressed to the wall to reinforce the distance. (That he doesn’t want to be touched.)
“You’re crazier than I am.”
“See? Fucking nuts.”
The old Vulcan is amused at Leonard’s expense, and he doesn’t like it. “My mind is still of use, Leonard. Spock is my name. You may call me… Spock.”
“A’right, Spock. Hi, nice to meet you. Now get out of my way, thanks very much.” Why is that name familiar?
“I understand that you do not believe me.”
He doesn’t bother to resist rolling his eyes. “Look, buddy, I believe that you believe what you’re saying. But the truth is I hate space, they’d never let a homeless drunk on the flagship of the ‘Fleet, and we’re wasting each other’s time.”
It’s that number again. Leonard forgets inexplicably what he just said. “What does that mean?”
“The year 2255.”
Its significance hits him, then, as he remembers. Though it’s only been a few years, he’s forgotten—made himself forget by living a meaningless life with no need but for a spare dollar to buy a drink and a hat to keep the rain off his head.
It’s the year his life went to shit.
The year he got divorced. Lost his child. Joanna. The name makes his throat swell and he does not picture an angelic face, like his own, smiling—no, he sees blood and blank eyes and that gaping hole in the earth in which they interred her body for eternity. (He couldn’t get far enough away from it.)
A hand touches his face. He starts, opens his eyes.
“I grieve with thee.”
His answer is somewhere between disbelief and a sob. “Thanks, Spock. Thanks a lot for reminding me that my daughter’s dead.” He doesn’t mean to be so harsh, but the words cannot live inside him much longer. “Are you happy? Good,” he pushes that hand away. “Now go fucking die!“
Of course, this Vulcan is a stubborn one, which somehow goes against the myth that they are flesh-and-blood robots without the ability to emote. “I regret, Leonard, that you have suffered in this universe.”
What? Aw, Hell. Mr. Spock here is bananas.
“If it comforts you to know, in my timeline, Joanna lived a full and prosperous life.” He tries to slide away from Spock, from those words. The Vulcan catches him (again), says gently, “There are an infinite number of possibilities, and fates, Doctor.”
He half-cries, “And why should I suffer this one? She was so young, Spock! Too young to die.”
There is sympathy and an unknown thing in those dark eyes. Leonard wants neither.
Spock does not stop, does not let him go so easily. “In the year 2255, you were to join Starfleet along with a man named James Tiberius Kirk. You would befriend one another—” He pauses as if to add another comment, but continues, “—and in time, when the world had need of you both, you and J—Kirk would save Earth from the attack of the Romulan Nero.”
“But Earth was saved,” Leonard tells him.
“Yes, it was, as my planet could not have been.”
He punches down his emotional response. Vulcan was destroyed, in a heartbeat; he remembers watching reporters discuss the catastrophe on large broadcast screens, one of the dumbfounded, horror-struck crowd.
“Your story makes no sense. If I was gonna help save Earth, and we’re all still here, then you have messed up your facts somewhere along the line.” He tacks on, “Don’t listen to every soothsayer looking to make a buck, Spock.”
That prompts an eyebrow to go up. Interesting. Vulcans have facial expressions?
He thinks back to the newscast, about Earth being saved and… He goes pale, breaks the Vulcan’s hold on his arms. “You!”
The Vulcan says nothing, only watches him.
“Spock! Fuck it all, what kind of crazy are you? Do you think I’m that ignorant? Spock is the name of the guy who saved this fucking planet!” Shit, what a motherfucker this one is. Leonard can remember now, that face—but it wasn’t this guy’s, not quite, and much younger. He stabs a finger on the insignia patch of the other’s chest. “Don’t give me some shit about Spock being a common name either.”
“I would not as it is not true, nor shall I lie.”
“My self—of this universe—is given the credit for saving your planet. I do not know the details, only that a cadet named J.T. Kirk was aboard the Enterprise when Nero’s attack occurred. It is most… illogical that I was rewarded the rank of Captain, to command in place of Pike, and not Jim.”
“Look, what do you want me to say? Sorry? So my absence is a big cosmic fuckup. I’m sure the universe—” he adds dryly “—will correct itself. Maybe if your Jim is a good cadet, he’ll make Captain before he dies.” Really, who cares? Leonard doesn’t. He has no fucking clue about any of the people Spock has mentioned and, really, it’s not his problem.
“I admit that I am… uncertain of how to proceed with these events as they stand.”
He tries for reprimand. “I bet you’re not supposed to interfere. Just let things lie, Spock. Haven’t you ever heard of that?”
“It is most unusual that you, Doctor McCoy, speak this way. You were not one to… accept that which you found displeasing.”
“I’m not that guy,” he says roughly.
“You are altered by your circumstances. I understand,” the Vulcan concedes.
“Then why are you still bothering me?”
“I must try,” he answers simply.
“You are one of a triumvirate. I act selfishly, in this regard.”
Leonard says flatly, “I cannot help you.”
“You must try also.”
“Give me one good reason.”
When Spock raises a hand, Leonard stares at it blankly. “Permit me,” the Vulcan murmurs, “to show you.”
Then he gets it. “HELL no.” Backs up, nowhere to run.
“Leonard,” it’s that tone again. That fucking tone that says please, I know you well, and let me help all at once. His heart is in his throat, without proper reason.
The hand touches his face and he relaxes into it. So long since someone’s touched him that way, that softly. A voice calls my mind to your mind, my thoughts to your thoughts.
It’s all a jumble, an instantaneous impression of another life, in mere seconds. His brain cannot process the flashes well, not fully—not until later. Leonard only knows that when Spock pulls away, breaks whatever link it is between them, that he wants that bright world back—wants those fleeting feelings his heart recognized (returned) and the sense of not-alone.
Spock watches him (for it is Spock, he is suddenly sure). Leonard swallows once, his hand steadying himself against a wall. (Knees weak.)
“Okay,” he chokes. “Okay.”
The Vulcan does not touch him again, only says, “You must join Starfleet.”
“Is it too late?”
Those eyes are alive. How could he not see it before? “No,” Spock’s certainty is undeniable. “Jim is still there. We have hope.”
Leonard is silent. His coat is ill-patched and soaked through in spots. The world is cold, the air he breathes, except for the one lone (lonely, he also knows with a heartache) Vulcan. It is too easy to want to step in close, warm his very bones.
In the end, it takes little effort to believe that Spock won’t deny him this comfort (or help). So he accepts it and more: Leonard decides that, for today, he can hope.