Part 4: Resolutions
That first night, Bones didn’t get much sleep. He tried turning in at about 0200, after organizing and mapping and planning and writing up a proposal to the Federation Genomics Commission that would, he hoped, convince them to fast-track Jo’s application—if he found the solution he was looking for, he would administer the treatment no matter what, but if he could avoid losing his license, getting kicked out of Starfleet, and ending up in a penal colony in the process, that would be much better.
Still, his mind just wouldn’t shut off, and he got up after an hour of fitful tossing and turning and spent the rest of the night pacing back and forth in front of the wrought iron gate in the outside space underneath the stairs. He did doze off at 0600, only to be awakened twenty minutes later by the chime of the subspace comm. He spent the rest of the morning into the afternoon responding to the chirping of his communicator and the dinging of the comm. Somewhere around 1400, he finally had all the data he needed to get started and forwarded it on to Dr. Stobann, who in turn told Bones to shower and eat something, for it was illogical to expect to do his best work if he was neglecting basic hygiene and sustenance.
He took the hint—or rather, followed the instructions—and showered, changed, and forced down some tepid tomato soup and a dry grilled cheese sandwich. He’d put on another uniform… Stobann was right, it was difficult to feel comfortable wearing anything else.
By 1530 he’d finished adding to the emergency grant application, and had obtained the proper contacts at the FGC thanks to Jim’s message to Starfleet. He forwarded his work on to Stobann for him to add whatever information he could before sending it on to the FGC.
He hadn’t heard from Jim again… but that was probably good. Bones wasn’t sure how he’d react to more contact with Jim. Every time he thought of Jim, which was every few minutes, he was reminded of what he was supposed to be doing right now—what he would have been doing had he not received that fateful call from Jocelyn. What they had planned, rather than where he was. It just made him long for something he couldn’t have, that could probably never be.
So, Bones joined Joanna for an afternoon break of meds and storytelling and a few short card games (he bet Jo would like chess if only Jim were here to teach her properly), and had an early dinner with Jocelyn and Clay and Jo before retreating back to the Garden Floor to work. That night, he got a little more sleep (but not much more), and on the third day, he fell into a bit of a routine.
He would rise at 0545, hit he head, run through a few basic exercises, and sit down to research with a meal replacement bar, water, and coffee by 0700. Then Bones would work for hours, pouring through the data. He looked at Jo’s DNA and compared it and her synthesized protein profile to those of the other tertiary gene involvement cases looking for commonalities and patterns. He ran diagnostics. Compared samples. Ran his medical tricorder over everything, and had countless teleconferences with the doctors who’d responded amicably to his original queries. His days were punctuated with conversations with Stobann, and slowly they were making progress.
Each afternoon, when Jo got out of school (and on the weekend, when it was time for her meds) around 1330, Bones would take a break. He’d tinker with Jo’s meds—she was now able to eat with enthusiasm, and by the sixth day, had gained back two pounds. Then they’d take a walk, usually to Forsyth Park, but occasionally to one of the smaller squares in their part of the city, like Oglethorpe or Pulaski, so Jo and he could enjoy the outdoors—the beautiful, lush greenery and copious amounts of Spanish moss—in a space that was playful and kid-friendly and felt like childhood and not the sterile, morose insides of a medical facility.
By the end of the week, Stobann had developed a carrier virus that was specifically targeted to Jo’s genome. They were also very close—thanks in part to the geneticist of questionable ethics, Dr. Strauss, and one of the Academy professors (a colleague of one of the doctors Bones had contacted)—to figuring out the specific genetic tweak that would render Jo asymptomatic and not only send her disease into remission, but permanently keep it from coming back. Now Bones was waiting for the go ahead to try the viral vector therapy. If the FGC didn’t stop dragging their heels, he and Stobann would have the gene patch worked out long before he got the okay to treat Jo. He knew Stobann and half his students were hounding all relevant Starfleet and Federation contacts, and that he could beg and plead and throw his somewhat famous name around some more, but he was hoping it wouldn’t come to that.
Now he was faced with another decision, uproot Joanna and take her about 150 kilometers away to visit her grandmother, which would mean facing his demons—fear, loss, regret, and the lingering awkwardness he felt around his family in the wake of his Father’s death. His family still knew him as Leo… would they accept him as Bones? Especially when he felt a little (or maybe a lot) like if he got what he wanted—saving Jo’s life—he might still lose—need to leave behind—everything he’d found that made him who he was—Starfleet, the Enterprise, even Jim.
A knock at the door leading from the kitchen to the garden pulled him from his thoughts. He set down the PADD he was working on, dropping the stylus neatly on top so it wouldn’t get lost in the mess of papers, pads, and diagnostic equipment that currently littered the kitchen table, and stood, stretching enough that his back cracked. He wiped his sweaty palms on his pants—still uniform pants. Today he was wearing only the black undershirt and not the blue medical tunic—he still hadn’t managed to fully shed his uniform, nor did he desire to. Sparing a glance that the portable DNA / RNA sequencer that was running on the counter by the window, he strode to the door and pulled it open.
Jo and Jocelyn were both standing on the doorstep underneath the deck above. Jo smiled at him, looking up expectantly.
Bones couldn’t help but smile back. “How you feelin’ kiddo?” he asked, pulling her in for a hug, noticing how much sturdier she felt compared to when he’d first arrived.
“Okay, Daddy,” she giggled.
“To what do I owe the pleasure?” he asked Jocelyn, who was standing a half-step behind Jo and looking… awkward. There wasn’t outright—wrath and hatred there anymore, but it was clear he and Joce were never going to be friends.
“Well,” Joce began, but Jo cut her off.
“Mama’s been talking to Memaw behind your back,” she piped up with a giggle, a devious glint in her eye speaking volumes about her involvement in this scheme. “And Memaw said that while I’m on vacation, we can come and visit, actually, we have to visit… as long as my doctors say it’s okay,” she added, eyes falling slightly, her smile faltering. She paused, fidgeting, before bursting out with an even brighter smile. “So, that’s why we’re dragging you along to my primary doctor’s today! He’ll have to listen to you; you’re Dr. McCoy, you saved Earth, and you’re famous! And then, we can go ride horses and Memaw says she’ll let me see your old room this time!” Jo grinned at him, beaming, as she bounced on her toes with new-found energy.
His point of indecision had been decided for him—how could he say ‘no’ to that?
Which was how he found himself an hour or so later, sitting—if you could call it that—in one of the too-stiff oak armchairs of Jo’s doctor’s office. Actually, Bones was more or less twitching on the edge of his seat, knuckles going yellow, then white, as he gripped the scrolled ends of the chair’s armrests tighter and tighter.
Jocelyn looked distressed, guilty almost.
Bones was livid, but Jo, even though she had more right than the rest of them to be angry, offended by this, this pompous bastard-quack-asshole who called himself a geneticist, she looked… pleased. Smug. Like she was in on some joke that was so awesome nothing else mattered, and she was just waiting for the punch line.
“I’m sorry Ms Darnell, I just don’t think it’s advisable for young Miss Joanna to travel. Your daughter is very ill. I know it’s difficult to hear this, but hers is a terminal case. If you want her to see her paternal grandmother,” he shot a glare at Bones, “one more time, I can respect that sentiment. Only Miss Joanna won’t be going anywhere. She should stay here close to her medical providers. Her grandmother can make the trip, if she cares to.” He followed up with a spiteful, despising look in Bones’s direction, and returned to glaring down his nose condescendingly at Jocelyn and flat out ignoring Jo.
“But Dr. LaPorte, you said in the past that it was just very unlikely Joanna would recover. We understand how… serious… her condition is, but she’s feeling so much better; she’s eating again and going outside, finishing her homework without extensions. It seems like she’s feeling up to it, and she wants to go so she can ride horses and her grandmother wants her to come, I don’t see…” Jocelyn was trying to stay calm, but it was clear by the way her hands (nails re-manicured in robin’s egg blue, but already chipped, not matching the cream beige sweater set she was wearing) were twisting and clutching in her lap, she was upset—hurt and pissed at this doctor.
“Your daughter needs to be within a five minute shuttle ambulance ride of this hospital or another hospital that is fully apprised of her condition. The only other hospital that fits the description is in New York, and I am not sure why Miss Joanna would suddenly feel up to eating or playing, but if she is finally starting to adjust to the medications we gave her, that is a good sign. I would like to schedule for another round of chemical drip treatments.” He paused adjusting the glasses on his nose—there for affect Bones was sure, since there was no reason to need glasses any more unless you were both allergic to all drugs used to treat eyesight conditions and contraindicated for eye surgeries—which was about 0.0001% of the human population, and the only person Bones knew who fit in that group was Jim Kirk. This guy was a smarmy, pompous asshole with no bedside manner, who refused to even respect or acknowledge Joanna as a person. He was making Bones sick.
“It’s not your medications, sir. Joanna’s father identified a few combinations of drugs that would counteract the effects of your treatment as far as her appetite and nausea were concerned, and she’s improved dramatically,” Jocelyn tried again.
“I wasn’t aware Mr. Treadway had any medical inclinations,” the doctor sneered.
“Not her stepfather her r—biological father,” Jocelyn interjected.
Bones was pretty sure Jocelyn had almost said ‘real’ father, which felt kind of amazing, a real acknowledgment. He worried though about Jo, how all this talk of death and doom and gloom, while Dr. LaPorte ignored her, was affecting her.
But Jo remained silent. She cast a sideways glance at Bones, the corner of her mouth twitching up in a tiny smile. Then she—winked at him, her eyes lingering, knowing. Bones wondered exactly what was going on, but Dr. LaPorte was talking again, and the words coming from his mouth really didn’t give Bones any room for distraction.
“Ms Darnell.” His words were clipped. “I know you care about your daughter, want to do anything you can to help her, but letting an unethical hack who just happened to dupe people into letting him serve in Starfleet and then managed to not die during an attack during which he further breached medical protocols by making a disgraced colleague ill in order to smuggle him onboard his ship.” Dr. LaPorte glared at Bones across his desk as if daring him to react violently. “Not to mention, he’s an inherently untrustworthy excuse for a human being who brought disgrace to your family with his homosexual antics.”
Oh, it was like that, then, Bones realized.
“Dr. LaPorte, I assure you my ex-husband is a fully qualified medical doctor. His treatments have improved Joanna’s quality of life exponentially. I think it would be beneficial to her mental health to visit her grandmother, and her father will be accompanying her to take care of her should any complications arise. In fact,” she paused to compose herself, expression settling into an encouraging smile, “his research has shown promise in actually curing the Vespasian-Telos—”
“Hah!” Dr. LaPorte’s reaction was so enraged it was almost comical. “So he’s what, going to violate the prohibition on genetic modifications to give you false hope? Jocelyn—”
Everyone, especially Jocelyn, bristled when the doctor addressed her by her first name. It went against her carefully cultured southern hospitality and proper manners and was a glaring sign of excessive familiarity—or in this case, disrespect.
“—Your daughter should come in for another round of treatment if she’s feeling better. And we should check to make sure whatever ill-advised concoctions Mr. McCoy is giving her aren’t making things worse.” He shot a venomous glance at Bones. “Lord knows after what he’s rumored to have done to his father, he shouldn’t be allowed near any patients, especially family—”
Dr LaPorte might have intended to say more, but Bones had already risen to his feet and was looming over the desk, apparently with enough menace that the smarmy doctor was cowering in his seat.
“It’s Doctor McCoy to you, and don’t you dare bring my father into this. We’re not all so lucky as you. Some of us actually have to face and act in the presence of moral quandaries. And some of us actually know when we’re doing more harm than good, Doctor,” Bones said through clenched teeth.
“What are you implying?” Dr. LaPorte asked, when he’d recovered his composure enough to speak. He was leaning back in his chair at an angle, hands clutching the arm rests, face raised towards Bones in a despising glare.
“I’m not implying anything,” Bones spat back. “I’m saying you’re so caught up in being prim and proper and by-the-book, you’re so out of touch with your patients, you never stopped to notice Jo was getting sicker and sicker from your treatments. My god, man! The chemicals you’ve been pumping into her system are damaging healthy tissues. Much more and her liver is gonna shut down or she’s going to have heart failure. But no, we should just keep fighting the disease in the nice, safe, approved method. You figured you weren’t going to get clearance for another genetic intervention, so you didn’t even try!” He was leaning over the desk now, fists resting on its surface, knuckles down.”
“But the regulations are there for a reason—” LaPorte protested.
“Yes! But you’re also a doctor, and you have a duty to your profession and your patients to use the influence and privilege,” he almost spat the word at the now-cowering doctor, drops of spittle flying across the space between them, “to speak up and do something when the regulations aren’t serving their purpose” He glared. “You have a duty not to cause unnecessary suffering. To listen to your patients. It’s their lives you’re playing with.”
“I thought I had a duty to do no harm and respect the laws governing my profession! Doctor,” LaPorte added with a disgusted sneer.
“You and I may have a different idea of what harm is, doctor. Consider yourself lucky your life has been sheltered enough you’ve never had to deal with a situation that falls outside your precious regulations.” Bones glanced to Jocelyn and Joanna.
Jocelyn was regarding him with what appeared to be a mixture of embarrassment and admiration.
Jo was positively beaming at him, no hint of the usual exhaustion or pain in her features. He got what her earlier wink was about now. You’ve saved more lives and people and… I’m so proud that you’re my daddy. No one else in the entire universe can say that.
He winked back at Jo before turning to face Dr. LaPorte and drawing himself up to his full height once again. “We’re done here. Joanna won’t be enduring any more of your barbaric treatments. She’s going to visit her grandmother, and I am going to oversee her medical care while she’s there. And you—well, I’m assuming the role of Joanna’s primary treating physician, assuming her mother agrees.” His eyes drifted to Jocelyn, who nodded her agreement. Bones nodded back. “Good. Seeing as your services are no longer needed, we will be going now.” He turned and strode slowly towards the door, hearing the scrape of chairs behind him as Jocelyn and Joanna stood to follow him.
“You can’t just fire me!” Dr. LaPorte’s flustered reply came when Bones’s hand was gripping the old-fashioned door handle. “Joanna has been under my care for over a year!” He sounded incredulous, exasperated.
“Yeah, he can.” Jo was speaking, her voice happier and more hopeful than Bones had heard since his return to Georgia. “And thanks to my dad, maybe I’ll still be around in a year to celebrate the anniversary of being free from your treatments.”
Bones heard another splutter come from LaPorte as he pulled open the door.
“Homophobic asshole,” Joanna muttered behind him.
“Joanna!” Jocelyn scolded.
“Well he is,” Joanna retorted.
Jocelyn’s overwhelmed and relieved laughter followed Bones as he exited the doctor’s office.
The mood as they returned to Jocelyn’s townhouse that night was lighter than it had been since his arrival almost a week before. They were almost cheerful. Bones felt encouraged and buoyant. He could tell by the enthusiasm, with which Joanna both devoured her dinner and engaged in conversation that night that he’d done the right thing. The feeling of relative ease followed Bones all the way back to the garden apartment.
It faltered, though when he saw there was a message from Jim waiting for him. It was video as well as sound. Jim asked how Bones was, how Jo was, if there was anything else he could do to help. He wanted to know why Bones hadn’t replied to his last two messages and why he’d had boxes shipped to his mother’s house. It seemed light hearted and teasing, but Bones could hear the underlying question, ‘are you coming back?’
The closer he got to a successful treatment for Joanna, the closer he came to having to answer that question. He knew—thought—Jim would want him to stay here, be a dad, but… he didn’t know for sure, and even if it was the right thing to do, he still felt so conflicted, indecisive. And there was the small matter of Jo’s rather perplexing resistance he stay onboard the Enterprise. He worried she might be self-sacrificing, afraid to ask from something that would make her really happy. But then again, he wasn’t sure, especially after her smug display at Dr. LaPorte’s office today.
He saved the message from Jim without replying. He’d called in enough favors already. He really didn’t need to burden Jim with anything else, especially when Bones’s own absence was likely creating extra work.
The rest of his messages were far less distressing. Dr. Stobann estimated he’d have a solution within the next 75 hours. Starfleet Medical had agreed to file a supporting petition with his application to the Federation Genomics Commission, and the Commission itself had acknowledged receipt of his application and was granting expedited review.
He packed up his research materials and equipment, getting them ready for transport to his mother’s. But as he stowed his belongings inside the bag Jim had given him, he couldn’t suppress the ache of need and longing.
The farm where Bones had spent most of his childhood and a significant portion of the darkest days of his adulthood was virtually unchanged. Same centuries-old white farmhouse, same weathered grey clapboard-sided barn, same peach trees, same red dirt showing through the thinner patches of grass and lying in scuffed, hard-packed heaps and divots in the corral where Buttercup’s and Peaches’ hooves had worn paths in the grass. The horses were the same—just a little older, a little greyer around the muzzle than when Bones had last been there.
But he was so different. He hadn’t been here, hadn’t seen his mother or the horses or the red dirt or anything, since David McCoy’s funeral. Back then, he’d been on the verge of disgrace. His marriage had just imploded. Jocelyn was threatening to tell the Georgia Regional Medical Association that he’d assisted his father in hastening death without following the proper paperwork and procedures. He’d admitted to cheating, and Joce wasn’t letting him see Jo—she’d even kept her clutched close to her as they’d stood at the funeral in matching black dresses. His sisters hadn’t known how to react to him—they’d whispered amongst themselves whether scandalized by the revelation their brother was gay or blaming him for taking their father from them, he’d never been sure; he’d been far too chickenshit cowardly to ask.
And then there was his mama. Eleanora McCoy was from wealthy, but hearty Southern stock, strong and gracefully plump, but she’d looked like a shadow of herself, standing alone, grieving. Bones—Leo—had wanted nothing more than to reach out and comfort her, let her know she wasn’t alone. To tell her he was sorry, to ask if he’d done the right thing, to let her know he’d only wanted to follow his father’s wishes and take away his pain. To apologize for disgracing the family by not being a good southern son… But he’d been too afraid. Too scared to face her.
Only now here he was. Alone in the kitchen of his childhood home with his mother. Jo was napping in the guest room that had been made up as her room, and Clay and Joce had headed back to Savannah that morning after enjoying the last day and night at the farm as some sort of surreal extended family.
“Leonard, I don’t blame you for it, you know. I’m not mad at you. I know what David wanted, and I know you did exactly as he asked. It was a kindness; a loving kindness that only you could have given.”
Bones looked up from his seat at the ancient resin-covered kitchen table, a giant slab of southern pine planed into a long rectangle supported by legs in the shape of two old-fashioned saw horses end to end under the center. He’d been staring out the window at Buttercup, the dappled grey mare who was munching at some of the taller grass that jutted into the corral from between the rungs of the fence. She had a perfectly good feeding trough full of oats and shorter grass inside the spacious pen, but she’d always preferred to snack… Bones had spent countless hours as a young boy making sure there was nothing toxic or harmful within grazing distance. Slowly, his mother’s words started to sink in… “Why only me? Because I’m the only one unethical enou—”
“Stop it!” Eleanora commanded, her tone was scolding, but her eyes were gentle, sad. “Stop beating yourself up. No.” She shook her head. “You were always the closest to your father and you wanted so desperately to please him. Your sisters, they loved him, but they never had the same devotion.” She shook her head again as if pushing away some unwanted thought. “I never understood how much you put yourself through. You were always trying to be perfect, weren’t you. You thought you needed to be the ideal Southern Gentleman, as if your father and I would stop loving you if you let yourself be… yourself. I should have pushed harder to let you know…”
“Know what?” he asked. The words were barely above a whisper.
“That we loved you unconditionally, for who you are, not who you thought you should be. I—when you started dating Jocelyn, I tried to convince myself that maybe I’d been wrong, and you could be happy with a man or a woman. I didn’t want to believe that you would go so far to fit what you thought we expected—”
“I loved Jocelyn,” Bones said, interrupting. “I loved her.” The words echoed and he found himself unable to look at his mother.
“But you weren’t in love with her.” She said it softly, gently, “You loved the idea.”
“Yes,” he whispered, almost afraid to say it. “But I don’t regret it. She gave me Joanna. Especially now that I get to see Joanna again. I’m going to make things right, make you proud to have me as your son—”
“Oh, Leonard.” It was Eleanora’s turn to interrupt. She crossed the space between the counter where she’d been standing peeling potatoes using an old-fashioned peeler to the table in two quick strides, laying her hand on Bones’s shoulder and squeezing reassuringly. “I am proud of you. And don’t think you have to go changing things with your life to make Joanna happy. She loves having you on the Enterprise; I may not have seen her much in the last five years, but ever since the whole Vulcan disaster, her daddy the hero is all she can talk about.”
Bones was having a hard time hearing her. Accepting what she said. The last five years—hell his whole life, he’d been carrying these ideas around inside him. Duty, family, honor, respectability. He’d thought they were the cornerstones of the McCoy family and their relatively prominent place in Georgia society; he’d been willing to do anything to bring honor his family in accord with the regional culture. Could he have been so wrong? Had he molded and shaped himself into the ideal son, to meet expectations that were never there in the first place?
“I never realized how much you took those expectations to heart, or how much they were hurting you,” Eleanora said as if reading his mind. She brought her fingertips up under his chin, tipping his face up to meet hers as if he were a small child. “I’m sorry about that. Like I said, you were always so devoted, pleasing everyone else seemed to make you so happy, I never stopped to make sure you were actually happy for yourself.”
He sniffed a little at that his emotions had been all over the map ever since Jocelyn’s call a week—almost a week and a half ago. That was more or less the same thing Jim had said to him early on, right after they started at the Academy, back when Bones was so busy being miserable and pessimistic he’d given up on the idea of being genuinely happy. “Family’s important,” he said at last.
“Yes it is,” his mother agreed, “but so is building a life for yourself, and finding your own family. You may not realize it, but we McCoys are thick-skinned. We don’t shy away or shut up just ‘cause someone wants to make a fuss.”
He chuckled ruefully. “I think you’re right about that.” He let his mind wander again, tracing back over the threads of the conversation. “You’re really not upset about… about Dad, I mean, if I hadn’t done anything—”
“If you hadn’t done anything your father would have found a way to stop the pain himself, or would have found someone else to do it,” she said, “and someone else might not have cared so much about what he wanted or needed.” It sounded so simple, cut and dry.
“But the cure—”
“He never would have made it. Even if you had managed to keep him alive,” she shook her head. “That wasn’t living. Even if he was technically alive that long, there was no way he could go on and still be himself... That wasn’t what he wanted, and you knew it. That’s why you helped him.” She bumped her hip gently against his side.
He gave into the childish urge to lean into his mother, wishing for a moment he were still a kid instead of a thirty-three-year-old man. It would be so much simpler. “I should never have treated him. I didn’t know how. How to maintain—perspective—while treating people… people I care about back then.”
“But you do now.” It was a statement, not a question.
“Yeah, yeah I do,” Bones said with a long sigh, thanks to Starfleet he didn’t add aloud. “Joanna’s gonna be alright, if… well she’s going to be alright no matter what. I just hope the Federation comes through with the authorization for her treatment…” He didn’t want to have to give up medicine to save his daughter, especially with so many more kids who were stuck in the same position. He could help them. And then there was Jim and the Enterprise… sometimes he really wondered if anyone else would be able to take care of Jim, or rather if they would care enough.
Once again, his mother seemed to be reading his mind. “What about Captain Kirk, or uh, Jim, that’s what Joanna said you call him. Between the two of you, you’ve got to have enough leverage to make the Commission do the right thing.” Her voice was suggestive and hopeful.
“I… I don’t want to burden Jim.” It sounded weak to his own ears. “Besides, part—a big part—of the problem is right now ordinary people can’t make the system work. So, if I have to pull rank or get someone else to—”
“You’ll just have to use that influence to knock some sense into them,” Eleanora supplied.
“I guess.” He frowned. “I don’t… I hate that the way the system seems to work now leaves most people with no help, no hope, and rewards those who are in a position to exert influence with opportunities no one else gets. I’m hoping if I can get Joanna’s treatment approved, I can arm-twist the Federation into changing their entire approach to therapeutic gene repair.”
“I understand that, but if you’re going to use your position to change the system, why are you so hesitant to ask Jim for help?” she asked, her hand tracing up the side of his face to give his hair a motherly pat.
He didn’t answer. It was a good question. He knew the answer, but it was too complicated to explain. Bones was still too conflicted to articulate his reasoning. Instead he let his eyes drift over to the widow again, feeling the far-off tug of space and the Enterprise and Jim.
“Ah, it’s like that,” his mother observed.
His eyes shot up to meet hers again questioning.
She stepped back crossing her arms. “Bones, that’s what everyone calls you now, right?”
He nodded. He hadn’t realized Jo’d had that much time to chat with her grandmother. Then again, he had been rather… preoccupied with his research and her treatment; there was probably all sorts of stuff he’d missed.
“And Jim Kirk gave you that name?”
He nodded again.
“You’re in love with him,” she realized.
He didn’t nod, but had to look away. His eyes followed the same path over to the window and the horses and the universe outside. Buttercup had been joined by Peaches, a sorrel mare who was getting up there in age, over twenty now. They were playing with each other, nipping at the same clump of grass and then chasing each other around the corral only to settle down and start it all over again.
“I see,” Eleanora said, “You’re in love with him, but you’re thinking now that you’ve got Jo back, you should leave Starfleet, come back here, and you don’t want to tempt yourself.”
Bones eyes jumped back to his mother, burned by how close she’d come, hitting the nail on the head like that. “We were supposed to be spending vacation together,” he admitted in a low murmur. “But, I mean, there’s no reason for me to stay away. Jo’s here, and she needs her father.”
“She needs a father who’s happy. Were you not listening five minutes ago when I was talking about you not knowing how to be happy for yourself? Well this is what I’m talking about. You need to stop trying to sacrifice your own happiness for everyone else. Yes you have a daughter and she loves you, but listen to her when she says she feels safe having you up there zooming around the galaxy and taking care of people.”
It was one thing to hear that coming from Jo, who might have any number of reasons to be afraid to ask him to stay, but he was surprised to hear it coming from his mother. Actually, the entire conversation hadn’t gone anything like what he expected. If he’d known his mother wasn’t angry about his father’s death, wasn’t ashamed that he’d not turned out to be the proper Southern Gentleman, maybe he would have come back sooner? Only that wasn’t really accurate, because sooner he might not have known himself so well, wouldn’t have been so comfortable in his own skin.
“Don’t be foolish L—Bones,” she chuckled at the name. “Joanna told me about your conversation. Just… just think about what I said, okay. Know I’ll love you no matter what you decide.” She leaned over and kissed his temple, going back to the counter to peel more potatoes.
Bones still didn’t know what to do.
Eighty-two hours later—only seven hours longer than he’d estimated it would take—Dr. Stobann had a cure, or rather he and his students had engineered a way to incorporate the specific modification to the gene that had triggered Vespasian-Telos in Joanna that Bones had constructed into the custom virus. It had required the help of an ethically challenged geneticist and the head of Starfleet Medical, but it was done, ready, as close to tested as could be given its highly individualized nature.
Only Bones was still waiting for the green light from the Commission. He was anxious, tired, and distracted. It didn’t help that he’d received three messages from Jim during the last three days, and he’d yet to respond to a single one. What was he supposed to say? Jim was asking about Joanna, and until the Commission either approved her treatment or he gave up on waiting and administered the hypo with the retrovirus, there was nothing to say that he hadn’t already said. Besides, he didn’t want to jinx her recovery by counting his chickens before they hatched.
Jim had also asked about their shore leave plans, reminding Bones they had another six weeks before the Enterprise was due to leave spacedock. What was Bones supposed to say to that? Especially since he was presumably, officially, on indefinite leave.
Then Jim had the nerve to ask if he was okay… which was, again, impossible to answer. As long as Joanna’s situation remained in flux, Bones was in flux. He couldn’t make long-term plans, or even figure out what he was going to do next week, and he certainly couldn’t resolve how he felt. Right now, he felt like he was at the mercy of the Commission, even though it was really Jo’s life they held in their hands.
So, the messages remained unanswered… Bones felt guilty, but he hoped Jim would understand, if not now, in time. If he was going to stay, or if Jo’s situation was going to be… pending… for a while, it would make sense to get used to living life apart, not depending on each other so damn much.
Only deep down, he knew he was making excuses… excuses like Leo used to make… and Bones wasn’t Leo; he’d left that life behind.
He should be spending more time with Jo, focusing on her, reconnecting with his mother too, but he was itchy and irritable, and started to panic about the Commission and the efficacy of the genetic repair every time he helped Jo with her meds.
She seemed mildly amused with his concern, and he knew it was because her faith in him was complete and unwavering, but that just made Bones twitchier… what if it didn’t work? What if he waited too long for the Commission to make up their minds? What if he failed her, lost not only her, but her trust as well? So he spent an awful lot of time pacing his room, and when Eleanora caught wind of that, she sent him outside ‘for his own good’ to keep him away from double-checking his research and his comm messages again and again and again. Then he wandered around the farm, visiting the horses. He thought about riding, but he knew his whipcord tension would only spook them, so he opted not to inflict his neuroses on the gentle animals until he’d resolved at least a little of his anxiety.
When another day and night had passed and there was still no word from the Commission, he contacted Dr. Stobann, looking for advice.
“Well, Dr. McCoy, I have no more advice than what I have told you. It is illogical not to use every resource at your disposal, although I can understand, as much as a Vulcan can, why your emotional considerations might motivate you otherwise.” The Vulcan researcher had looked positively exasperated over the subspace feed. “I’ll save my breath however, because I doubt I will change your mind. Instead, allow me to do my best at persuasion. Do I have your permission?”
“Yes, please, anything you can. It’s your research too, and I know you’re worried about the Commission’s current policies given the situation on New Vulcan,” Bones pleaded. “Thank you.”
After his conversation with Stobann, Bones resumed his listless pacing, but with a little less franticness. Stobann might be eccentric by Vulcan standards, but he was well-respected. Surely he could figure out a way to make the Commission listen, especially if he tied Jo’s treatment to the bigger picture, and even more so if that bigger picture involved helping Vulcans form potentially lethal diseases... by nature of their endangered status Vulcans commanded the attention and consideration of everyone these days.
His hope swelled enough that he ate a proper breakfast with Jo and his mother, enjoying the familiar fare of grits and eggs and biscuits and white gravy—cuisine that almost never made its way onto the Enterprise. Jo peppered him with questions about his missions and the crew, and his mother seemed genuinely interested in his answers. He loosened up, and told tales of Christine and Geoff and the rest of his staff in sickbay, he joked about Pavel and his genius, and how frighteningly talented Hikaru was with a katana, and he even talked about Spock and Nyota and Scotty...
“What about Jim, Dad? He’s your best friend and a hero and the most famous Captain in the fleet! Don’t you have any stories about him?” Jo asked eagerly, her voice far too knowing and suggestive with how she said ‘best friends.’
“Yes, Bones,” his mother said, teasing, “do tell us something about the man who managed to give you a new name.”
His fork clattered to his plate, knocking a bit of scrambled egg off onto the table. “Um, well... Jim—” he hedged, really unsure how he was going to handle telling more stories about the man he missed like a limb (it was one thing when Jo was feeling so poorly and he’d first arrived, but something else entirely after almost two weeks and three unanswered messages and a mountain of pain and indecision and maybe even burgeoning regret), but he was saved from the need to formulate an answer when the comm chimed, flashing with another priority one message addressed to his account. His jaw dropped a little when he saw the alert flashing through the open entryway between the kitchen and the office located next to it. “Excuse me,” he said instead, putting his napkin on the table and rising from his seat. The chair scrapped along the floor in the same stutter-step rhythm his heart had suddenly adopted.
Jo started to move to, and Eleanora was setting down her fork as if to follow suit. He couldn’t do this with an audience. Not yet. He needed to know the contents of the communiqué before anyone else. “Wait here,” he instructed, flashing a feeble smile to his daughter, but unable to really look at her.
He strode with purpose across the kitchen and into the office, pausing only to slap the pad that signaled the door to slide shut. It was a glass door and wouldn’t afford him much privacy, but even blocking the sound was better than nothing. His palms were sweating and his stomach was a hornet’s nest of dread, but he managed to slip into the seat without falling and accept the call.
“McCoy here,” he said as the image of a grey-haired, human woman in civilian clothing, but wearing a lab coat with the insignia of the Federation Genomics Commission filled the screen.
“Dr. McCoy,” she said with a smile. “Good, I’m so glad we caught you so quickly. The Commission has reviewed the application and affidavits for expedited review you submitted in your daughter’s genetic intervention petition.” She paused to pick up a PADD on the desk in front of her.
Bones twitched, the question, ‘and’ on his lips. He barely refrained from jumping up and demanding the Commissioner get to the point. But he managed to hold his tongue, not wanting to give a bad impression if she could be bearing good news.
She tapped at the pad for a few moments before setting it down and meeting his eyes with a huge smile on her face. “I have to say, with the array of researchers, clinicians, diplomats, and Starfleet officers backing you on this, we could ill afford to wait any longer. Congratulations on your discovery, doctor, if this works, you and Dr. Stobann and Dr. Straus,” she wrinkled her nose a little as she said the unpopular geneticist’s name, “will probably reshape the way we treat genetic diseases and handle gene resequencing treatments. Your request is approved. Your daughter sounds like she’s one very special little girl.”
When the Commissioner stopped talking, Bones was still trying to catch up, processing what she said. Diplomats? More Starfleet officers? Well, he supposed the doctors he’d contacted at Starfleet Medical were indeed officers, and perhaps Stobann had contacted a Vulcan diplomat, maybe even Ambassador Sarek or AmbassadorSpock, considering the treatment did have huge potential, and the Ambassador knew of Bones at least. He still bristled at the mention of Jo being very special—she was, to him, but his status and her relationship to him shouldn’t mean she got special treatment. Still, there was that old Terran saying about not looking gift horses in the mouth... his mind flicked momentarily to the battered copy of the Aeneid Jim had given him for his 29th birthday, and just how destructive gift horses could be. But—Joanna’s treatment was approved!! “Thank you, Commissioner,” he spluttered at last. Then, composing himself a little more, “I sincerely thank you on behalf of myself and my colleagues for the opportunity to employ this treatment, and as a parent, thank you for allowing me to save my daughter’s life. I hope this will convince the Commission to change its procedures—” and attitudes, he wanted to add, but didn’t—”so all who need it may access such treatments.”
The Commissioner’s expression soured a little, but she kept on smiling and didn’t scold him. “It’s my understanding that you have the materials necessary to assemble the treatment where you are in, uh, Georgia?” She asked, consulting her pad once more.
“Yes, ma’am. And I can administer it to Joanna right here as well,” he replied, not mentioning he’d already had the virus synthesized, loaded into a carrier solution, and waiting in a hypo since he’d finalized the formulation. It was sitting in a secure container just waiting for him to administer it.
“Well then, you are authorized to treat her at your—and her—earliest convenience. Please be sure to promptly file the necessary reports on the initial outcome and set up a schedule for further monitoring and supplemental updates.”
“I will be sure to, ma’am,” he replied. Of course he already had the schedule and diagnostics and prep work for the reports worked out... it was one of the few things he’d been able to do in the last two days that was actually productive.
“Good luck, Dr. McCoy. We await your reports.” The Commissioner ended the transmission.
Bones sat there for a moment, shaking. He was still curious about who else had submitted affidavits in support of his application, but he pushed the curiosity aside. After one week and six days of nonstop work and anxiety and forty-eight hours of constant fretting about getting approval, now that it was here, he was overwhelmed and a little nervous. Worst-case scenarios and highly improbable complications swept through his vivid imagination. Suddenly he was afraid the retrovirus and the gene repair it carried would go horribly awry, failing to help Jo or maybe even making her sicker. But that kind of fear wasn’t new, he’d felt it more times than he could count on the Enterprise, far too many of those occasions involving Jim’s life hanging in the balance. He always had a tiny bout of stage fright, before he pushed it aside and plunged forward, with the reassurance of the fully informed consent of the patient whenever possible. Grabbing onto the familiar touchstone, he pushed himself to his feet, and returned to the kitchen. If he was shaking, neither Jo nor Eleanora called him on it.
His mother didn’t say anything, just looked up at him with an expression that begged, ‘well.’
It was Jo who spoke, although she only said, “Dad?” her voice hesitant, hopeful, but so afraid. In that moment she looked far younger than her eleven-plus years.
“They, the Commission, I mean, said yes. They gave me the green light. I can give you the treatment with the Federation’s full blessing.” He burst into a smile, while tears of relief flooded his eyes.
“Yes!” Joanna exclaimed with a whoop, pumping her fist up and down enthusiastically. She sprang from her chair and ran to him, her thin body slamming into him as she wrapped her arms snuggly around his body.
“Oof,” he huffed with the surprise of the assault and the display of energy—it was more vigorous activity than he’d seen from Joanna since they were reunited. Although it made sense, she was probably riding high on adrenaline, so he’d have to be sure to watch out for the crash that was sure to come.
“Thank you, Daddy,” she murmured into his side. “I knew you could do it.” She pulled back a little, turning big, nervous-excited brown* eyes up at him. “So when do we, you, I?”
“Whenever you’re ready,” Bones said softly. “It’s a hypo, just a hypo. I give it to you and then we wait... there’s monitoring equipment—it would be easier with a biobed, but I’m assuming you don’t want to go to the hospital?”
Jo shook her head vigorously.
“We can do it in your room, or—”
“How about the living room?” Eleanora suggested.
Bones and Jo turned, synchronized, to face her.
“That way Jo’s got company, and I can keep an eye on you,” she shook her finger at Bones, “and make sure you don’t worry or grumble yourself into an early grave.”
“We could do that... is that okay with you, Jo?”
She nodded. “Yes. Can we start now?”
He looked down at his daughter, who was wearing a blue scarf on her bald head and dressed in fleece pyjamas with an IDIC print on them—he had a sneaking suspicion Jim had gotten them on one of their many missions to New Vulcan and had convinced Bones to send them to Jo as a birthday gift ‘to show her what awesome places her dad went for Starfleet.’ He glanced over to her half-eaten breakfast. “You should probably finish eating first,” he said matter-of-factly. “We don’t know how you’ll react to the treatment.”
“Okay,” she agreed, pulling away to go sit down, “but I don’t want to wait too long.”
He made an aborted nod, but his conscience got the better of him, “Jo, you should know... I, Dr. Stobann and I have tested this as much as we can, but there’s no guarantee... we don’t know.” He bit his lip, fighting nerves to look over and meet her eyes. “Jo, this could help, it could—should, if the math we’ve done is right—cure you, make it so there’s no chance of the Vespasian-Telos coming back. It could also give us the evidence we need to change how the Federation approaches people in similar situations to yours—no more waiting while butchers pump you full of chemicals, no need for you to know someone in Starfleet to get the treatment approved.” His voice turned grim, serious, “But there’s also the possibility it might not work, or might have an unintended side effect or consequence we didn’t expect. We try to factor in every variable, to calculate, model... but we’ve done this so fast and there’s no way to do a true field trial and—”
“Dad,” she interrupted. “It’s okay. I trust you. Even if it doesn’t work, if I still die? It’s still better than what Dr. LaPorte promised me. I’m gonna finish my grits, and we can do this, yeah?”
“I just don’t want to hurt you, or waste our chance if there’s a better—”
“Leonard. Bones.” his mother said firmly, “listen to your daughter. She isn’t your father. You aren’t that boy anymore, remember? Your best is the best shot she’s gonna have. I have faith in you too.”
He recalled their previous conversation, thought about all the times he’d been in a similar situation with Jim and whatever impossible mess he’d gotten himself in this time. Thought about the emergency surgery on then-Captain Pike two years ago. Took a deep, deep breath, and let go. “Okay. You’re right.” He scratched the back of his neck, a nervous-embarrassed tick he’d picked up from Jim. Glanced at his breakfast, which... nope, he’d lost his appetite. “I’ll go get set up in the living room, then.”
It only took a few minutes to retrieve the hypo and set up the monitoring equipment he needed. He could slip the portable monitor around Joanna’s wrist and it would allow him to track the replication of the virus in her system and the success (or not) of the retrovirus’s insertion of the modified gene segments. Bones finished up his preparations by linking the monitor, his medical tricorder, and a PADD so the readings and data would be stored and ready for further analysis. Once that was done, he fetched Jo’s favorite blanket and some soft pillows and made a sort of nest for her on the couch, and updated his project logs while he waited for her to finish up.
About five minutes after that, just after he’d finished recording all the details he could into the logs without having Joanna there, she and Eleanora entered from the kitchen, both with smiles on their faces, both nervous. Eleanora had grabbed her crotchet hooks—a sure sign she was on apprehensive—and sat down in an armchair on the other side of the room. Bones knew enough about his mother to have figured out long ago that the only reason she crocheted was because it was more productive (and socially acceptable) than punching walls when she was upset or on edge. Jo was shaking a little, but still putting on a brave face. He started to ask her if she was sure she wanted to go through with the treatment, when she cut him off.
“Okay, I’m all set, so… what do I do?” she asked, grinning up at him from where she’d stationed herself in the makeshift nest with a false bravado that would make Jim proud.
“Neck’s most efficient…” he said stepping towards her, hypo extended.
She tipped her head to the side, with practiced ease.
He hesitated, pulling back when he was less than a centimeter away from touching skin. “I forgot, you need the monitor—”
She picked it up from where it was lying on the arm of the couch and slipped it on her right wrist. “Like that?”
“Like that,” he agreed. “I promise, this doesn’t really hurt; I’ll be gentle—”
Jo giggled, actually giggled. “I’m not Jim, Dad. I don’t have a problem with hypos. Just get it over with. I want to know how this is going to turn out, now. I’ve been waiting for over a year for someone to figure out how to deal with my genes, so just… yeah…”
“I’m sorry it took so long,” he apologized as he closed the distance and pressed the hypo to her neck, the virus dispersing with a gentle hiss.
For several moments it seemed like nothing had happened. Jo said she didn’t feel any different, and he certainly didn’t observe any noticeable symptoms. He was almost at the verge of pacing again and ready to check over his notes to see if he’d done something wrong, when his mother let out a quiet, “oh,” from her seat across the room.
He looked up, startled, to find she was pointing with one crochet hook at his PADD.
“Those are the results, right? The PADD is tracking?” she started.
He dashed over and looked at the readout, sure enough a graphical representation of the infection rate and RNA replication and gene repair algorithms was filling the screen, the curves of each tracked category rising almost exponentially. If the data was correct, the virus had almost completely infected her cells, and far faster than anticipated. He strode over to his tricorder and examined the results. Huh! “How are you feeling?” he asked Jo.
“Okay, good, less tired, maybe, but I feel like… like, I’m going to—ah-choo!” she sneezed, surprised, catching the spray in her elbow. “Like I was going to sneeze. Does that mean my immune system’s reacting?”
“Well…” he hedged, checking through the data again and again to make sure the data was really there. “I’m already reading production of non-cancerous cells in 82% of your lymph nodes, and that number is rising. The infection is 90% complete, although,” he scanned himself, her sleeve where she’d sneezed, the air in the room, “the virus doesn’t appear to be contagious to me or likely anyone else… I’m reading a perfect match on the unique infectious qualities. And… you’re right, it appears your immune system is slowly starting to assert itself.” He looked up from his tricorder, “I say slowly because it’s not completely fixed yet, but it’s actually incredibly fast given how recently you were infected… damn! Stobann wasn’t kidding when he talked about making a ‘perfect infectious agent.’”
“So, am I cured?” she asked excitedly, pinching her nose to suppress another sneeze.
“Well,” he wasn’t hedging, just being honest, “you’re not completely cured, yet, but assuming the infection works in the remainder of your cells and your other lymph nodes and systems start to clear… within another few days, maybe a week, your body should be back to normal. It may take a little longer to clear the remains of the chemical therapy you were on, though,” he said disappointedly. “I could give you more drugs to try to purge the residuals, and repair the cell damage, but I really don’t want to introduce anything else into your system, especially—”
“Especially not while we’re waiting for the virus to finish its magic, got it.” Jo smiled. “So how long ‘til I’m all better?”
“Two months give or take; it will probably take a little longer for your hair to grow back, but the good news is, you’re already feeling better, and you shouldn’t have to worry so much about getting sick, now that your immune system is starting to work again, and even while you’re waiting for the chemicals to flush, you should have a lot more energy, feel less fatigued.”
“Thank you, daddy!” Jo exclaimed, throwing her arms up for a hug, but not rising from the couch.
Bones crossed to her and dropped to a kneel, wrapping his arms around her, as she flopped into him, squeezing tight. “You’re welcome, baby girl.”
“I knew you could do it! You’re definitely the most awesome doctor in Starfleet!” Jo murmured into his ear.
He felt the tug, torn again, missing Jim, the unanswered comms, his earlier promise to Jo to revisit the issue of whether he’d stick around or go back to the Enterprise when she was healed. Well, now the time was (almost) here, and he was no more certain of the right thing to do, no less torn. He turned his head, catching his mother’s expression out of the corner of his eye. She smiled at him, mouthing something that might have been, “Good job,” her expression far too knowing for his comfort. Nevertheless, now wasn’t the time to worry about Jim or the Enterprise. Now he needed to focus on Jo, and monitor her recovery, and finish up his first report and comm Stobann, and… yep, Bones knew how he’d be spending the rest of the day.