Title: Untitled (12/?)
Summary Something has changed McCoy and he’s not sure how to explain it to his lovers.
Previous parts: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11
Warning: Take this with a grain of salt. I am not scientific-minded. :(
Doctor McCoy goes straight to the lab. He takes only a moment to cleanse his wounds and seal them up with a dermal regenerator. He is fairly positive that he has just saved both Jim and Spock from the terrible consequences of wrangling with Ceri’a. Now it’s a matter of explaining that to them—which he is also sure is a conversation he will regret.
He is halfway through jotting down a few notes about the blood cells under his (old-fashioned) microscope when Spock and Jim come banging through the entryway—mostly Jim, that is. Spock casts his sharp eyes over McCoy and the various instruments laid out around him before proceeding over to a cooling unit. Bones has only five seconds before he is spun around on his stool (thank God, it rotates with him).
Surprisingly, Jim does not look angry—only resigned. “How did you manage to track her down?” he wants to know.
“Whatever it is she’s done to me, we’re connected—” (Not like a bond.) He turns back to his work, with a lowered head. “I just knew where she would be, Jim.” Those words are painful to say, though they won’t realize that.
Spock reaches over his shoulder, tracing the lines of new skin on his face with a soft fingertip. Leonard shudders.
“Are you in need of medical attention?”
“No, I’m alright.” His tone says trust me.
They both let it go at that. It unnerves McCoy more than he can explain. Verbal castigation he expects, can accept (and even give back times three). But this lack of fight—of concern—from Jim and Spock sets off all the alarms in his brain.
He gives them his full attention and examines each from head-to-toe with a Doctor’s eyes. “You want to tell me what trouble you’ve gotten into? Scratch that—“ he prods a little around Jim’s ribcage. “Better start with where you’re injured.”
Spock prevents Bones from reaching for the medikit. “We are unharmed, Doctor.”
“Yeah, Bones,” Jim smiles with his mouth (but not his eyes), “I promised, didn’t I?”
“I don’t believe promises that I know you can’t keep, Jim, my boy. The universe is against you staying in one piece.” Must be karma, he mutters.
He’ll forego running the medical tricorder over them because he is satisfied that they are in good physical shape right now. (He’ll do it later once they are sleeping.)
“You want to tell me what Spock put in the cooler?”
“It is the remains of an indigenous fish we discovered inside your attacker’s lodgings.”
“A blue ‘ream or one of those little buggers with the orange stripes?”
“The striped, Doctor.”
“Half-eaten, you don’t say.” McCoy leans against the long steel table and crosses his arms. “This is what she ‘took from the sea?’”
“We think so, Bones.”
“That’s damned lucky. Now all we have to do is fit all the puzzle pieces together. I’ll finish the analysis of these samples. Spock, you up for a little dissection?”
Jim places a friendly hand on the Vulcan’s shoulder. “We’d better find a face mask for you, Spock. That fish stinks!”
“Ain’t it though?” Leonard compares the findings and is amazed. What the Hell kind of species is this?
Jim looks between them and is clearly impatient for an explanation. “How about letting me in on the fascinating discovery, okay?”
“Jim, I don’t how to say this without sounding crazy… these people are overdue in the evolution department.”
Jim’s look means you can do better than that, Bones.
“Hell, I don’t really understand it myself. I’m a doctor, not a geneticist!”
“Doctor McCoy refers to the structure of the DNA matter in each test subject—with the exception of the recent culture.”
“That’s right, Cer—her—DNA has been rearranged by some trigger…we think—“ he pauses, looks at Spock who answers the silent question with an inclination of his head. “Do you remember that new element Spock and I mentioned, the one that saturates the ocean here? Well, apparently anything that comes out of the sea is chock full of it. The Shii’reti, on the other hand, have it in a very low concentration.”
“We isolated the compound in a variety of specimens.”
“It’s what killed the Shii’reti in the article—or the lack of it.”
“That’s the kicker, Jim. She only died because she wasn’t on the planet. This here—“ he pushes a PADD under Jim’s nose, “shows that the Shii’reti are carrying the compound in their bloodstream.”
Spock adds, “A majority of crustaceans have hemocyanin in their cells which binds oxygen, unlike humans which produce hemoglobin to perform this function. The Shii’reti’s bloodstream has neither, instead utilizing a protein we have not previously identified.”
“And it binds more than O2, but that concentration of … Damn it, Spock, we’ve got to think of a name for it, you know!” Spock makes no reply. Leonard continues on, “You are aware of what happens if your O2 sats drop, Jim. Imagine that, only this element is what she didn’t get enough of! Of course, because the shuttlecraft filters only the kind of air you and I—and Spock—breathe.”
“So she did suffocate.”
McCoy gives Jim a half-smile. “She did.”
“What does that have to do with their DNA?”
“We believe it to be more than just a respiratory gas, Captain. It is a reactive agent which, when introduced into the Shii’reti’s body in large quantities, has sufficient presence to incite a chemical process with the DNA molecules.”
“Meaning, it rewrites the instructions for the body.”
There is a period of contemplation which they use to absorb the facts. “So the basics of the situation, Bones, is that if these people cannot maintain a stable level of—It—then they either die or mutate.”
McCoy hikes his eyebrow. “Up shit creek without a paddle.”
“Unnecessary commentary, Doctor.”
“Damn, Spock, have a heart. We just made a discovery that will rile the Vulcan Science Academy like anxious little bees!”
“Vulcans do not ‘rile’ in the name of science.”
Leonard just smirks and drags a hand up Spock’s arm. “Don’t they, darlin’?”
“Bones, celebration later.” Jim squeezes himself into the fold, despite his words.
Spock takes the lead of the conversation once he slips away from petting human hands. “We understand the why of the ‘Change’ that occurs to the people of Shii’ret, but not the result of the mutation.”
“Spock, the natives seem to think they evolved from a sea creature (“a mermaid,” intercedes Jim winningly)—yes, Jim, a mermaid, you infant—and they literally worship the water like it’s holy—so maybe it is a component of their genetic makeup (or what-have-you, McCoy waves his hands to infer Spock-nonsense) that remains dormant. Until they actually ingest anything remotely from the ocean.” Makes ‘em crazier than the hooch from Engineering.
“They gain mental foresight (derangement, McCoy wants to add) and an ability to intrude on other mental faculties.”
Yes, Spock. To fuck with minds.
Spock queries, “Are there other apparent symptoms?”
McCoy is silent. Jim begins tossing out wild suggestions, Spock repeating the word “Illogical” at each. McCoy drinks in the sight of them—Jim with the light glinting on his hair; Spock equally dark as Jim is light and as beautiful.
“It gives the Shii’reti the ability to breathe underwater. Changes their physiology drastically—to some kind of aquatic life-form. Their teeth and nails are sharper (for tearing flesh, he doesn’t clutch at his arm), their ability to communicate is shifted to telepathy rather than phonation—“
Jim and Spock turn as one, observe McCoy walking back and forth across a strip of room as he rattles off a list.
“—the mutations are rapid once the course is set—“
“—and damn it all to Hell, Jim, Spock, it induces a sort of paralysis of the lower body but how does she move through the water like th—“
It’s Spock who stills Leonard’s movement. “You have withheld information, Leonard.”
“You’d already figured it out, Spock. The one of three logical explanations: ‘you could physically stay in the ocean,’ remember?”
“My God, Bones, what’re you—“
“Logical! The other two weren’t feasible.” McCoy starts to shake in the Vulcan’s grasp. “I tried—I couldn’t—admit that you were right.”
He looks directly over at Jim. “Yeah, I know what I’m saying, Captain. I am not human, okay!” he spits out the word like a bad taste (it used to be sweet).
“I know what the Change is because I was there with her and it took me too…” he trails off. Then quietly, “It was so strange, so surreal, like you wouldn’t believe. To breathe water. Terrifying.”
When he smiles, it is an ugly thing on his face. “I keep expectin’ to wake up in the sea, clueless as to who I am, clueless about every damned little thing that ever meant somethin’ to me. Do you know what that’s like?”
Spock has dropped his arms. Jim doesn’t touch him either.
“No, you don’t. I am not a man any more. I am not Doctor McCoy or Leonard or… t’hy’la.” He taps his head. “Can you even hear me, Spock?”
His laugh is harsh.
When he’s quiet again (like they are), there is only the hum of running equipment. Bones glances at no one, pushes past and exits the lab.
He’s half way across the street when he hears the slam of a door. Dirt is clouding in his wake as he moves through the Square. There are the sounds of boots on gravel behind him.
Leonard knows they are following. He’s glad for it. He only wants to do this demonstration once.
And then kiss his lovers goodbye.