Part 2: Revisitations
He stared out at the alien-ness of what had once been familiar terrain. Spanish moss hung from the trees around the shuttleport as a smattering of palm trees were interspersed among the live oak trees. He could see the air shimmer with heat, moving like molasses, which told him how humid, muggy it was out there. Shit! he really should have worn different clothes. Now he was going to have to contend with nerves and fear and nausea (from being around Joce) and he’d be doing it all with his too heavy, too dark clothes plastered to his back.
The climate, like the scenery and the culture, had once been comfortable and familiar. But after three years dealing with the San Francisco fog and two years in the sterile climate control of the Enterprise, he’d de-acclimated.
The voice broke through the haze in Bones’s mind, and he jerked away from the shuttle’s window, looking up. A young ensign, a Betazoid woman probably fresh out of the academy, was standing in the aisle looking expectantly at him.
He looked around; the shuttle had emptied while he’d been distracted by the landscape. The other three passengers were now long gone, and he was alone—so alone. But he couldn’t delay any longer. Reluctantly, he stood, smoothing his blue uniform shirt with one hand as he reached for his bag with the other. He slung it over his shoulder and strode slowly down the aisle with all the enthusiasm of a condemned prisoner.
He stepped out into the scorching sun of a muggy late-May Savannah morning—it was almost noon by the look of the sun. It was completely surreal—pieces of two lives, wholly separate, suddenly mixed up and thrust together—Starfleet and Jim’s bag and Georgia and… Jocelyn… Bones’s eyes fell on her as he scanned the small crowd gathered in the terminal’s waiting room closest to the shuttle pad he’d stepped out onto. He had to use one hand to shield his eyes from the sun just to be able to see properly. Had it always been that…glaring?
Bones took another moment to brace himself. Jocelyn looked more harried and exhausted than she had on their subspace conversation earlier that day. Bones glanced at the sun, the shuttleport terminal’s giant chrono, and back at Jocelyn. He did the math. If it was 1150 hours local time now, and she’d spoken to him… five or six hours ago? It would have been six or seven in Savannah, and she looked like she’d been up for—
—Jocelyn wasn’t sleeping; she hadn’t even been going to bed. She had changed though, he realized. She was wearing a lightweight maroon skirt with matching jacket what looked like a black turtleneck underneath—a bit warm for the weather, but then again, Jocelyn was used to it, and she always did have a tendency to get cold easily when she was overtired. Hair was still falling from her up-do, only more strands had broken free now, giving her a harried, disheveled appearance.
Bones steeled himself and finally gathered the resolve he needed to move forward. He crossed the shtuttleport’s tarmac without his movement really registering. He’d just stepped inside the sliding doors of the climate-controlled terminal building, when Jocelyn noticed him.
“Hello, Leonard,” she said, bitterness breaking through the façade of faux politeness.
“Jocelyn,” he nodded, catching a glimpse of the traditional engagement ring displayed on her left hand as she brushed a wayward clump of hair from her face. “I wish the circumstances were different,” Bones murmured as he stopped awkwardly in front of her, unsure what greeting protocol to use when meeting one’s ex-wife under dire conditions and neither wanted to be on the same planet let alone in the same room.
“I wish this wasn’t happening, at all,” Jocelyn murmured glancing away.
Bones could see the glint of tears in Joce’s eyes, and he hated himself a little for contributing to their presence.
“Hey it’s—I’m gonna do everything I can. It will be alright,” Bones found himself saying, the words sounding hollow and meaningless to his own ears. He moved towards her to do the gentlemanly thing and offer a hug, or failing that, his hand, but Jocelyn glared at him and pulled away.
“Oh come off it, Leonard. It’s not okay. It’s not going to be okay, and I certainly don’t want your pity or charity!” Her voice rose a little as she spoke—another thing that never would have happened in the old days—Jocelyn was not the kind of person to cause a scene.
Bones noticed a few people glancing their way, saw maybe another two or three do a double-take—whether because they’d heard Jocelyn’s almost-outburst or because they thought Bones looked a little familiar, he wasn’t sure, but he really didn’t want to stick around and find out. “Come on,” he said, stepping close to Joce, but not touching her or grabbing her arm to hurry her along, even though he wanted nothing more than to get out of that terminal as quickly as possible.
“Let’s get out of here.” He spoke out of the corner of his mouth, voice low, as he started towards the street-side door of the waiting room.
Jocelyn didn’t follow for a moment, then half-jogged to catch up, her ridiculous traditional high-heeled shoes—completely not ergonomic pain producing things she’d insisted on wearing as long as he’d known her. “When did you decide you cared about appearances?” she muttered, clearly misinterpreting the reason for Bones’s speedy exit.
“Where are we going?” he asked instead, not willing to get into an argument with her until they had a little privacy. He had a feeling there was going to be screaming and venting involved, and he would really rather get out of this with a little bit of dignity intact—or rather retain a little bit of the dignity he’d regained since leaving Georgia.
He could feel Jocelyn’s disbelieving glare. She didn’t say anything for a moment, but as they reached the front of the lobby where they’d either have to turn right to take the lift up to the shuttlecabs or step out the front door to access the wheeled and hover transport, she spoke. “My car’s parked with the valet.”
Bones nodded, continuing on his path towards the front door and stepping through the swishing transparent doors and onto the sidewalk. The air was sweltering, oppressive. Even hotter than it had been on the walk from the shuttle to the terminal building, if that was possible. He could feel sweat beading on his brow and dripping down his face, rolling down his neck and into his collar. The specially designed fabric used in Starfleet uniforms—at least the regular duty uniforms—was supposed to have almost magical properties. It could keep you warm in the cold, help you dry out in the rain, keep cool in a heat wave, and retain moisture in the desert. But even the high tech material wasn’t a match for late May in Georgia.
Jocelyn walked over to the valet booth, handed the attendant her key, and they waited at the curb until the valet driver returned with a spring-green hovercar—new, but not brand new. Jocelyn hadn’t owned it when Bones had last spoken to her, but then again, it had been five years. A lot had changed in five years. He was a different person, so why shouldn’t she be? She walked around to the rear of the car, and popped the trunk open, allowing Bones to carefully place his bag inside.
He didn’t really want to part from it, even momentarily. It, and its contents, were his only tangible connections to Jim at the moment. Well… he had his communicator, and he could make the right calls and get routed up to the Enterprise, but that was more trouble than it was worth while he was supposed to be on leave. Reluctantly, he let the bag go, flinching a little as Jocelyn closed the trunk over it.
He hesitated, looking around, trying to make sense of the situation. It was a bustling busy day… a Tuesday he thought the chrono outside the terminal building had said. Noon, lunch time. Hundreds of people—mostly human—were scurrying about their daily business. The sidewalk outside the shuttleport was a bustling mass of cabs and bikes and cars pulling up and letting out and taking on passengers. Across the street was a spiraling tall parking structure and vehicles of all descriptions were coming and going in a sort of frenetic, yet controlled chaos. He could smell peaches and the aroma of slightly sun-burnt cut grass drifting on the breeze along with the wafting aroma of at least a dozen different types of cuisine spilling forth from the restaurants all around. Yet true to the old stereotype of Southern Life, everyone was just a little more relaxed, and moving a little more slowly than they might in other places on Earth or in the Federation. It used to feel comfortable to Bones, now it just felt wrong. He didn’t belong here. He was used to the order and rhythm of the artificial day-night cycles of a starship, the pace of life in Starfleet—periods of monotonous routine punctuated by panicked flurries of activity.
Jocelyn was staring at him. Oh, and they were probably blocking the valet space, and he needed to go see Jo, and… “Do you want me to drive?” he asked.
Jocelyn actually scoffed!
“When was the last time you drove something that wasn’t a Starfleet shuttlecraft? Before you left Savannah?” she asked.
“Yeah,” he admitted.
“Just get in,” she commanded, shaking her head, as the driver’s side door slid up with a swoosh.
Bones did as he was told, settling into the passenger seat and gripping the dashboard in front of him as the door closed, latching with a subtle click. It had been a long time since he’d ridden in something this close to the ground.
“I do not understand you, Leo. You storm out of here. Make a mess of our lives. Ruining your family’s good name, bringing shame on me. And now, you come back and suddenly you want to stand on ceremony, and you’re worried about avoiding a scene, and you’re all… chivalrous?”
“That’s not what—” he started.
“Did you get tired of men opening doors for you Leo?” she shot back bitterly.
Bones jerked in his seat as if burned, turning so his back rested against the cushioned inside of the door (and pulling himself as physically far way from Jocelyn as he possibly could), he glared at her. That was way below the belt. She’d… she hadn’t said something that—direct—to him since the night she found out. No, it was all just shove it under the rug, pretend it didn’t exist. Use euphemisms and talk about how Leo was destroying her life.
It hadn’t been this bad on subspace. He’d hoped—he’d hoped that maybe with Jo’s illness and five years of non-contact between them the wound he’d left in Jocelyn’s soul would have healed a little. But it was pretty clear sharing the same general physical space, was tearing apart all their old scars.
“What was that back there at the terminal? After the stunts you pulled, suddenly you’re against airing our dirty laundry again?” she asked, keeping here eyes fixed steadfastly on the road. She’d started the car. They were moving now. Moving…
And Bones felt spacesick, even though he was on good ol’ terra firma.
“I know how much you care about keeping private things private,” he responded coldly, using one of Jocelyn’s favorite turns of phrase. He glanced ahead at the road, and back at Jocelyn, her insult still stinging too badly for him to turn his back to his seat. “But in case you didn’t notice, people tend to know who I am. I saw someone… recognize me. We don’t need their questions. Jo doesn’t need…”
“Sorry,” Jocelyn admitted with a shaking sigh. Her hands were trembling at the controls, the manicure more chipped than it had been on the holocall, and one of her nails was torn and ragged, like she’d been biting them. “It’s just… Jo and I, we had a good thing going here. You were out of our lives, and we were happy—I was happy. I thought Jo was happy. It was for the best,” she sniffed. “It was all for the best and then… She got sick, and… Now you’re back.”
“Joce, I’m here for Jo, not to fight with you,” Bones reiterated. “I didn’t want to intrude on your lives. When you won custody, I promised I’d stay away, and I did. But I need to see her—” his voice cracked, tears springing to his eyes. He let himself slump back into the seat so he had his hands free to wipe his eyes and didn’t need to brace himself.
“Well, thank you for coming. It means a lot to her,” Jocelyn said, voice flat. There was silence. Nothing but the hum of the car beneath them, the faint swish of the air moving around the vehicle. “I wasn’t sure you would.”
“Why wouldn’t I?” Bones asked, trying to keep his temper down. Jocelyn had a lot of—ideas about him. He knew that. Not all of them were right. He hadn’t understood that when he’d left. He’d pretty much bought and believed every single last name, slur, and insult she’d thrown at him. It was only with time, perspective, and Jim’s help, that he’d finally begun to understand she was wrong about him. He wasn’t a monster who hated his daughter or betrayed his father or set out to tarnish his family’s name. He was an adulterer… but not because he didn’t care about the sanctity of marriage, but because he’d gotten himself into a marriage that never should have existed, and tried to hard to stay too long… He’d made mistakes. Lots, and lots of mistakes, but he wasn’t uncaring, and he had learned, and grown, into a better man.
“Because you always put your… your selfish—urges—before your duty as a father and husband!” she shouted, slapping a trembling hand over her mouth in surprise at her own exclamation.
“Jocelyn,” Bones cleared his throat. When he continued, his voice was frank, assertive, calm—the voice he’d cultured over five years of dealing with overstressed, overwhelmed medical cadets and officers in countless crisis situations, real and simulated. “I never put anything above Joanna, except for the one time I missed her soccer final, and that was because I’d just said ‘yes’ when my father asked me to help him die. I was a mess, and I couldn’t pretend any longer, couldn’t deny… deny that I’m gay, and I just needed someone to make me feel.” Tears were flowing down his cheeks now. They’d never talked about this. He wanted Jim. Jim was the one person who’d just accepted him and spent his time trying to get Bones to accept himself rather than getting him to change. He shuddered, breath hitching, “But Jocelyn, I always put Jo first. That was the reason I told you. Because I couldn’t face lying to her. That’s why I left. Why I—” he gulped. “Why I didn’t fight harder.”
Jocelyn jerked the car to a stop. They were pulled over, in a tiny space in one of the narrow streets of Savannah’s historic district, even after hundreds of years it still bore cobble stone paving and allowed ground traffic in only one direction, just like it had for hundreds of. Tall stone and brick buildings with elaborate, filigreed wrought-iron gates and sweeping staircases lined both sides of the street, while ancient live oaks created shade up overhead. Bones knew, because he knew where they were. Remembered this place about three blocks from their old house, but Jocelyn wasn’t interested in the scenery, she was shaking, skewering him with her gaze. “Why you didn’t fight?” she asked, uncomprehending, voice wavering.
“I… I thought it was best for Joanna. For a while, I really believed she couldn’t forgive me for hurting you, even if she was only six. I thought she’d be better off with no father, or a stepfather, than a gay father, so I—” He’d never admitted this out loud. “You threatened to turn me in to the medical board, make sure they knew I’d helped my father die, and hadn’t followed the right protocols. You said you’d drag my name through the mud and make sure everyone knew what a selfish, heartless monster I was… If I contested custody. I convinced myself it was for the best. Figured I’d already lost Jo, and the only thing I had left was medicine. But… I would have given it all up for her if I’d realized then what I know now. I’m not a bad man, or an evil man,” he shook his head. “I just cared so much to make my family happy, I tried to be someone I wasn’t, and I screwed up.”
“What about me, Leo, did you ever love me? How could you, do that? How could you cheat on me with some man you barely knew?” Jocelyn was crying openly now, her voice hoarse and froglike.
“I loved you, Joce, I’ve always loved you. Cared about you. Tried to convince myself I was in love with you, but I was really in love with the idea of being a proper son to do my family proud. I should have told you, but I was scared, and for a long time, I was convinced, I could be someone I’m not. And I’m sorry. But I love Jo with all my heart. She’s the best thing I’ve ever done, and I will never regret that.” He let the words hang in the air, composing himself. It was done. Said. The confrontation he’d been dreading for five years, but hoping would never come. He felt—relieved.
“She’s dying, Leo,” Jocelyn sniffed, wiping her eyes.
“Bones,” he whispered.
“What?” Jocelyn asked, hands frozen half way towards her making another swipe at her damp cheeks.
“I don’t go by Leo anymore,” Bones answered, “haven’t since I got to Starfleet,” he murmured. “My name is Bones.” He shrugged. “And Jo isn’t dying, not if I can do anything about it.”
“Bones?” The name sounded funny coming in her voice, but it was actually a lot less—unsettling—than hearing her call him someone he wasn’t. “You know, she isn’t David—she’s not your father—I won’t. I’m not going through that.”
“I know,” Bones said, feeling confidence fill him, just an inkling that had started to creep in when she’d called him ‘Bones,’ “She’s not Dad, and I’m not Leo. And I’ve learned a lot since then.”
Jocelyn regarded him in shock for a few moments, as if she thought maybe he’d lost his mind, but finally, she nodded, and pulled back into traffic. They drove the last three blocks to Jocelyn’s house in silence.
He still hadn’t asked her about the ring. He realized he wasn’t going to. It would either come up, or it wouldn’t. Jocelyn wasn’t his, and as long as Jo was okay, it wasn’t his business, either.
Bones followed Jocelyn up the steps to the second-story entrance of her—what used to be their home. He wondered how he’d ever liked it there because once upon a time he was very content and proud to call it his home: an old, proud, historical brick Savannah town house with four stories and armfuls of formality and character. He was the one who’d originally picked it out. Nowadays, open spaces, horses, and relative peace and tranquility were the positives he associated with Georgia… none of which were to be found here. There was a small courtyard garden in back, surrounded on all sides by the brick walls of townhouses, and overlooked by a spacious balcony deck complete with a fancy, filigreed spiral staircase, but even back there the noise and tempo of the city seemed to close in on all sides. Once upon a time, though, it had been part of a grand dream.
Jocelyn let them inside, and Bones was struck with the familiarity of the space. There were so many memories associated with it… He’d found the house at the tender age of twenty-one, while Joce was pregnant with Joanna. They’d bought it right away, even though Bones was still in med school in Mississippi and Jocelyn was still finishing her doctorate in Twentieth Century Earth History. He remembered Joanna’s first Christmas, and the med school graduation the McCoys had thrown for him here. He could almost see the smiling faces from his past and yet… yet it seemed so distant and cold. Had he really been that person? “We were happy once,” Bones murmured as Jocelyn brushed by him, crossing the foyer and striding off towards the kitchen, which was at the back of the house overlooking the garden.
He stood there, frozen to the spot, unsure what to do. It was like he was a trespasser in his old life. Should he follow Jocelyn?
Luckily, she returned only moments later, carrying a pitcher of sweet tea and two glasses on a tray. “Jo’s at school; thought you might want to read her medical file, while we wait for her to get back.”
Bones noticed how—composed—Jocelyn seemed compared to a few minutes ago. It wasn’t put-on either. Her hands were steady supporting the tray, and the bitterness was gone from her voice. He felt like he’d passed a test. Or maybe successfully apologized for spectacularly failing a test in the distant past.
“Okay,” he agreed, following as Jocelyn led him from the foyer into the formal living room. It was—more lived in, than when he’d last seen it. In the old days, they’d kept everything super neat and tidy, never allowing a cushion or knickknack out of place. Jocelyn believed cleanliness and order showed respectability and responsibility to the outside world. Bones—Leo—had felt like keeping a ‘perfect’ home was one thing he could actually achieve, one thing he could control.
He hadn’t been able to tell through his tiny glimpse the subspace transmission had provided, but by contrast, the room now looked comfortable. The furniture was still all of Terran origin, but some of the stiffer plantation-style pieces had been replaced with more contemporary furnishings like couches covered with temperature-regulating fabric and ergonomic gel foam—or at least that’s what it felt like as he ran a hand over it.
There were also a few throw pillows on the floor and an old chenille throw blanket was gathered in the crease of a gel foam chaise lounge. Discarded hypo vials littered the side table and floor next to the lounge, while a stack of PADDs was scattered around the comm terminal.
He was standing, staring, taking it all in, processing the changes, but a quick glance to Jocelyn, who had just set down the tray on an ottoman that stood in front of the couches and one arm chair, made it clear she had misinterpreted his behavior as disapproving shock. “I like it,” he explained. “The place feels more… real.”
“Well, it’s certainly more comfortable for Jo this way,” Jocelyn admitted. “Although she insisted on keeping that antique end table,” she gestured towards the spindly mahogany table on which the empty vials lay, whose sharp corners stood in stark contrast to the curves gracing the rest of the furniture in the room. “She said it reminds her of you.”
Bones heart clenched, but he managed a nod and a melancholy smile, as he plunked himself down in the arm chair. He reached out, took a sip of the tea, and said “Thanks.” Wow! It really was excellent sweet tea, homemade, not produced by a food synthesizer. Cool and refreshing and a bit nostalgic; he hadn’t had it in years. But back when they were a family, it had been his drink of choice. He’d like to say he’d given it up for its unhealthy sugar content, but the truth was, its flavor held too many memories and it wasn’t strong enough to dull the pain. So he’d replaced it with even-less-healthful glasses of bourbon.
He looked up to thank Joce again, only to find she’d gone. He glanced around, craning his neck to check back towards the foyer, but he didn’t see her. A moment later, she reappeared, descending the stairs from the third floor, and carrying a PADD.
“This is linked to all of Joanna’s medical records,” she explained, holding the PADD out for Bones to take.
He rose enough to grab it and sat back down, thumbing the interface to life.
“I had her doctors give you full access.”
“Thank you,” Bones murmured appreciatively.
Jocelyn fidgeted, “I—the study on the third floor is mostly storage now, and… this is Jo’s favorite room—” she glanced towards the chaise lounge with its resident blanket.
“This is fine, Jocelyn,” he reassured. And it was. He set the PADD down on the ottoman and turned to open his bag, which had been hanging half-forgotten on his shoulder since he’d retrieved it from Jocelyn’s trunk as they arrived. “I brought my own files, research, journals,” he said as he pawed through the bag’s contents, producing the PADDs and a few paper items. The papers were articles his Vulcan colleagues had shared at that conference he attended last year. If he recalled correctly, the New Vulcan Science Academy was encouraging the publication of paper journals because the paper’s tactile sensory input helping in the retention of emotional control after the ‘trauma of displacement’ while simultaneously providing continuity of Vulcan heritage and culture through a connection to ‘traditional Vulcan written forms’. His fingers handled the papers reverently, as if respecting them might transfer some wisdom and self control to their possessor.
“Oh, of course,” Jocelyn said, stooping to push the ottoman a little closer to the chair, to give Bones more room to spread out his research. “I’m going to go…” Jocelyn started, sounding a little lost, like she didn’t know what to do with herself, like she’d been running so hard and so long, the concept of a moment’s free time to herself was alien.
Bones looked up from the research to see her still standing there, as if she was waiting for a sign or permission maybe that it was okay to go. “Why don’t you take a nap?” Bones suggested, doing his best to keep any hint of curmudgeonly doctor out of his voice. Right now, talking to Jocelyn reminded him a little bit of talking to a spooked horse or… or…
Or talking to Jim, when he’s having a flashback about Frank or Tarsus IV or when he forgets to eat or when he’s in the middle of an allergic reaction but dreading the treatment.
It had been two minutes since he’d last thought of Jim, a detached voice in the back of his mind told him, and the realization that Jim wasn’t right there to lean on hit him anew. He could feel the growing tide of loneliness and overwhelmed concern start to build up inside, threatening to spill over, have him shaking again like he was on the shuttle ride. He struggled to retain composure, not wanting to have to explain Jim to Jocelyn, not so soon after they’d… cleared the air.
But luckily, Jocelyn didn’t seem to notice, or if she did, she chose not to question Bones about his sudden change of expression. Instead, she smiled, a bright, genuine, relieved smile that stretched all the way to her eyes, her features instantly looking younger, softer. “I think I just might do that, Le—Bones,” she corrected herself.
Bones smiled graciously.
Joce glanced at the chrono. “Jo will be home in about three hours,” her smile faltered, “um, Clay… Clay’s been picking her up at school and taking her home. She’s too sick to take a shuttle, and she likes him, enjoys his company.” She glanced away, biting her lip.
Ah, well that explains the ring, Bones realized. He swallowed, “So, so you and Clay are engaged?” he asked, nodding towards Jocelyn’s ring. “Good, he cares about you. Always cared about you. He’s a good man,” he added hastily, wanting to make it clear he didn’t blame Jocelyn for finding happiness. Hell, if he hadn’t been so dead set on trying to fill an imagined ideal, if he hadn’t thrown himself at women in general (and Jocelyn in particular), Clay Treadway probably would be Joanna’s father, and well, she’d be a different person, but she wouldn’t have inherited Bones’s problematic genes and she would have a real dad rather than an absent father who was gay and was off flying around the galaxy on a starship. But that wasn’t what had happened, and Jo, was his, with his bad genes, and if Jocelyn and Clay were together and happy, well, then maybe that was one more good thing that could come of this.
“Tha—ank you,” Jocelyn whispered, voice catching a little. “I thought you still hated him for…”
“For loving you when I couldn’t? For supporting you when I made a mess?” Bones supplied, shaking his head. “I was just jealous he was actually the kind of guy who could really have what I had only dreamed of, and I was angry with myself for failing, because I didn’t want someone else to take my place in Jo’s life, even if I did think it was for the best for me to… stay away,” he explained.
“Well,” Jocelyn sniffed, dabbing at her cheeks again with the back of her hand before crossing her arms and striking a pose somewhere between contemplative and defensive. “We got engaged just before Jo was diagnosed. We put everything on hold, then she was doing better for a while, we thought about trying to plan a wedding,” Jocelyn looked him straight in the eye, “And you know my parents would never approve to anything less than full church wedding with a huge reception and everyone invited.”
Bones nodded. Yeah, that sounded like Jocelyn’s family alright, appearances and propriety before practicality or individual wishes.
“But then Jo got sicker and now… we’re sort of in a holding pattern. Clay’s been very supportive of me, of Jo, but I— I don’t have energy to spend on our relationship right now. I’ve just been focusing on Joanna, taking her to appointments, helping her through the side effects. I took a sabbatical from the museum.” Jocelyn looked up nervously as if she expected Bones to disapprove. Jocelyn had always prided herself in her work. It was a monumental step for her to take time away from it.
“You’re taking care of Jo. You’ve been here for her when I wasn’t,” Bones offered. He looked up meeting her eyes. “Joce, you did the right thing.”
She sighed, “It’s just been hard, and… I haven’t had anyone to share it with. I couldn’t bring myself to burden Clay. So, thank you, for coming. I think I’m going to go take that nap now.”
Bones nodded and watched as Jocelyn turned and walked away. He took another sip of tea and turned his attention back to the PADD. Jocelyn wasn’t kidding—everything was there, including the records from Jo’s original gene therapy treatment and other childhood screenings, all arranged into neat folders organized by doctor and year. The sheer number of folders from the last two calendar years was sobering—she was seeing at least a dozen doctors, sometimes taking shuttles as far away as New York for treatments and appointments.
He gave in to the urge to see her current files, and immediately wished he hadn’t as the information about her current treatments, condition, and prognosis left him so nauseated, he nearly had to run from the room to vomit. The drugs they were pumping into her body were killing her. The disease was killing her—destroying her immune system in the process and making her susceptible to all sorts of other opportunistic infections that could also kill her. Yet still, somehow, Joanna was alive.
He could feel the tremors welling up inside him again. He was so… scared, and so very, very angry—at modern medicine for failing Joanna with the first intervention, at the Federation for their overly restrictive policies on genetic resequencing and manipulation, at himself for not being there for Jo when she needed him. He was mad at the treatments that were supposed to be prolonging her life, but were doing almost as much harm as the disease itself. He gripped the PADD so tightly it creaked, threatening to snap under the strain. He willed himself to calm, breathe, relax…
Freaking out wasn’t going to help anyone. If Jim... if Jim were here he’d tell Bones he was the best. Remind him he could work the impossible. He was brilliant, innovative, and resourceful, and if he had faith in himself, focused on what he had to do rather than panicking about what could go wrong, he’d succeed. With his temporary panic abated, he began a slow, steady crawl through Jo’s files, starting with her prenatal screenings and working up to the present. He was able to stay mostly detached, asking himself how he would approach the situation if Jo were any other patient, cultivating the mindset he used treating fellow crewmembers on the Enterprise.
That was it, what was probably the biggest difference between Bones as a doctor and Leo as a doctor. Starfleet had trained him how to approach treating people he knew—friends, colleagues, Jim—on a regular basis. How to maintain professional objectivity and clear-headedness in situations where clinical detachment was both inadvisable and impossible. In civilian life, unless one was working as a doctor in a very small community or their home base experienced a catastrophe of the greatest magnitude, one would rarely treat one’s close friends or family or others with whom one had emotional entanglements. In fact, doctors were actively encouraged not to treat family and friends, because doing so strained the relationship of affinity or kinship while the doctor’s professional judgment was impaired.
Only, a Starfleet doctor, especially one serving on a starship or starbase where the same, relatively small group of people formed a crew that was both isolated from regular outside contact and kept in close quarters together, didn’t have the luxury of not treating friends and family. This was even more true for the Chief Medical Officer. One of the job requirements for a CMO was establishing trust and respect both among a ship’s medical staff and between the CMO and the crew. As the only officer with the ability to overrule the Captain (or even remove the Captain from duty), it was imperative that the CMO have a good rapport with the entire crew. As a member of the senior staff, the CMO also knew and worked closely with the ship’s other senior officers—the people (well aside from green Ensigns and Lieutenants in the security specialty) most likely to be injured or become ill due to their participation in away missions, interaction with alien dignitaries, strange new life forms and the like. So, a CMO had to learn to balance that friendship/kinship/close working relationship/rapport with professional objectivity. Bones had learned how to funnel the desperation and anxiety that accompanied an injured loved one and funnel it into his professional determination and focus. It was a skill Leo had simply never learned, nor had any need to.
And maybe that was why Leo had failed.
Bones looked up, eyes bleary with continued focus on the PADD. He checked the chrono on Jocelyn’s living room wall. It was the one his parents had given them for their wedding, styled to look like a Nineteenth Century Terran mantle clock. Fifteen hundred hours… Jo would be home in about a half hour or so. He’d been so focused he’d poured over her entire medical file in just over two hours.
He’d been relieved when Jocelyn had demanded she keep the clock. It… reminded him too much of David McCoy. His father. His hero. And he’d never lived long enough to meet the man his son became. David was… Leo’s biggest failure. He should never have tried to help. Never have even attempted to get involved in his father’s case back then. He could see that now. Only… Only how could he not?
Bones let himself slide down in the chair, dropping the PADD to rest on the ottoman as he propped his feet up along side it, giving in to the inevitable tug of memories.
David was a doctor; Leo had gone to med school, in part, to follow in his father’s footsteps. David had also been very healthy. So healthy, in fact, Leo had totally and completely taken his father’s presence and well-being for granted. Until, suddenly, David was diagnosed with pyrrhoneuritis, a fatal disease for which there was no cure. Pyrrhoneuritis often took years to progress, but David McCoy wasn’t so lucky. It was as if the disease was consciously mocking his health. Inside a year, he’d deteriorated to the point of being bedridden. He was in constant, agonizing pain, existing in misery.
Enter Leonard Horatio McCoy, he thought sarcastically. He’d been a bit shy of twenty-seven, had already been practicing medicine for almost five years, and was a well-respected, ‘rising star in the medical community. When his father had become ill, it seemed natural that Leo would take it upon himself to find a cure. However, on the inside, Leo had felt it was his absolute obligation as a good, loyal son to save the man after whom he’d modeled his life. It didn’t help that at the same time Leo’s carefully constructed, painstakingly maintained life was crumbling. The meticulously constructed persona of a straight man, loyal husband, and doting father was falling apart.
Before David got sick, Joce had been well, for lack of a better term, pestering Leo about having another baby. Leo adored Jo. She was the center of his world. He came home to her every day after a long shift at the hospital and spent time with her. He tried to be there for everything—from her first steps to her first day of pre-school, to her first school play. But Joce, well… The novelty and thrill of success he’d had when he’d realized he did have some attraction to women, or at least a woman, and that an exceptionally desirous, proper woman was attracted to him had worn off. So, he stalled. Claimed work kept him too busy. She tried to get him to change jobs, maybe go join his dad in the family practice, just so he’d have more time…
But then, well… David’s illness was the perfect excuse to work more. But as day after day and week after week, month after month spent working, studying, researching, turned up nothing useful he started to despair. His dad was so sick, but he had to find a cure. It had to be him. If he was really such a hot-shot awesome doctor, like everyone seemed to think he was, then he had to be able to do it. So he’d started drinking as a way to self medicate.
He’d still made time for Jo, but he started neglecting Joce more and more. As if the situation wasn’t already stressful enough, his relationship with Jocelyn already taxed and strained, she understandably began to feel truly left out and abandoned, and she didn’t get why. And it wasn’t like he could tell her. Well, she understood that he wanted to save his father’s life, but she didn’t understand why that was so important to him. Leo’d had an almost pathological need to make things right, live up to expectations, even if they were ridiculous expectations he layered on himself. It was his way of trying to atone, to be better, more worthy. If he couldn’t be straight, then he’d damn well be the most perfect son out there. And that meant saving his father. But he couldn’t explain that. Oh no ho. Because Jocelyn didn’t know…
Where Bones’s—Leo’s—family was just good, old-fashioned proper, Jocelyn’s was actually from a traditionally religious family that belonged to one of the fire-and-brimstone kinds of churches that still studded the ‘Old South’ even almost two hundred years after first contact with the Vulcans had shown Terrans the universe was a bit different than previously thought. So with Leo unable to explain himself, and Joce probably already feeling a bit burned by his prior stalling tactics, she started pushing.
At first Jocelyn tried to be supportive and helpful, but every time she pushed, tried to come up with ways for them to spend more time together, he pulled away. As she felt more and more hurt, she pushed harder. That was when Leo began to feel trapped. Overwhelmed. Cornered. He needed an outlet, any outlet…
He started by sneaking off to gay bars, or at least bars that weren’t so straight-laced. He didn’t do anything, just talked, at first. He’d let guys flirt with him, while he drowned his sorrows in some good Kentucky Bourbon. After a while his eye started to wander. It had been well… over a year at that point since he and Jocelyn had fucked or been intimate in any way, and he was starting to long for companionship, touch, release. But he just looked. Didn’t touch. He still wanted to be that perfect son.
Until his father’s condition became critical. David was in agonizing pain. Leo’s life descended into an endless cycle of working and studying—an increasingly desperate struggle to find something to help. To buy his dad more time. To ease the pain. To improve his quality of life. To give hope…
He knew even then there were other doctors and researchers working for a cure, but it looked like his father’s time had simply run out. He worked harder. Eventually he resorted to begging his dad to hold on, just a little longer.
David asked him ‘please?’
Leo didn’t want to do that.
But David was in so much pain. It hurt Leo, broke his soul to see his father in that kind of agony. How could he force him to stay there? How could he ask his dad to wait for a cure that might never come? The Federation had laws that applied in that sort of situation… Precautions to make sure the person who wanted help dying really was terminally ill and really was making the choice of their own volition without pressure or influence from outside sources. But it was still such a moral grey area, and Leo wasn’t really sure how he felt. And following the procedures would mean filling out forms, going public, airing the family’s dirty laundry and exposing them all to a whole bunch of criticism. Criticism from folks like Joce and her family. It would be scandalous.
He struggled. But David kept asking and eventually the agony of seeing his father in that much pain got to him, and he said yes. He gave his father the drugs he needed. But he did it under the table, without going through proper channels.
After his father had died, peacefully, thanking him, Leo fell apart. He found comfort first at the bottom of a bottle and then in the arms of another man. It was just sex, but it felt like release, giving in, letting go, allowing himself to be himself—flawed and imperfect—for the first time, at least in his adult life. He cheated on Jocelyn.
Things might never have changed though, if he hadn’t emerged from his lost weekend to realize he’d also missed Jo’s soccer final. Like he’d reminded Jocelyn, it was the first time he’d ever missed out on an important event in Jo’s life—not counting the one time he was caught in a twelve-hour emergency surgery and missed the first half of her preschool graduation. But that was different. This… he felt guilt, shame, disgust with himself for letting her down.
So, Leo went home ashamed and worried and distraught. Jo missed him. Jocelyn just looked cold, her eyes holding a glare that said she’d just been waiting for him to start disappointing Joanna. He’d been so overcome with the enormity of what had happened hat he confessed to everything.
Even now, years later, the sound of Jocelyn slapping him in the face, crying in front of him—in front of Jo—the look of shock on her face, were so ingrained in his memory, he could pretty much play the recollection back like a holovid. Fast forwarding and rewinding and pausing through his worst memory. As if talking about sleeping with a man wasn’t enough, he’d gone on to explain exactly what happened with his father. To say Jocelyn had a major problem with it would have been an extraordinary understatement. And then there was the whole betrayal issue—him not telling her he was gay, cheating, ruining their dream. She’d said she realized her entire life was a thinly veiled lie. And that’s when things had gotten nasty between them.
Jocelyn lashed out and kicked Leo out, which he’d expected. What Jocelyn did next left him shocked and reeling. Jocelyn set out to do everything in her power to keep him away from Joanna. She said it was to protect Jo from his unhealthy, deviant, and immoral influence. She managed to find a lawyer, and a judge, who put stock in more “traditional” values and also saw Leo’s behavior as grossly irresponsible. Then, she’d threatened to reveal Leo’s role in his father’s death to the medical board. If he tried to fight her, to get to stay in Joanna’s life, she’d make sure he lost his license or worse—ensure he faced criminal charges and a stint in a Federation penal colony.
Leo had been so overcome with grief and self-loathing, especially after doctors discovered a cure for pyrrhoneuritis just two months after David had died… after he’d killed his father that he let his guilt, shame, and feelings of inadequacy consume him. His self-loathing certainly didn’t help, and since he’d let Jo down, he wasn’t so sure he wasn’t a destructive influence on her. But when it came down to it, he was screwed either way. If Joce did what she said she’d do, he’d lose Jo even if he fought for her. He would have lost his license, and then his freedom, and then his daughter… and he would have brought shame and scandal and humiliation to his good, upstanding, respectable family. And there was no way in hell that any judge that would have heard the case would have given custody to a cheating gay drunk who’d been convicted of patricide.
Leo gave in. Jocelyn kept Jo and most of the property, and Leo fled Georgia. Eventually wound up on a shuttle in Iowa to enlist in Starfleet. It had been a tragedy at the time, but without it, he never would have met Jim, never would have found himself, become Bones. But it had still been a very, very long time since he’d seen Joanna…