Title: Incidents in Aging
Summary: Spock and McCoy’s relationship takes a drastic turn after retirement. Nobody ever said
that aging was easy.
Disclaimer: I don't own TOS. I never have, and I never will. Star Trek and all of its relations are
property of Paramount and Viacom. I only own this story. Anybody who has a problem with the thought of
men in homosexual relationships with each other, please stay away. Flames and feedback are welcome. Please ask before putting
Authors Note: This story is probably sad. The “periods” of this story take place over
a period of many years with varying periods between each one. Part 1 begins after Star Trek: The Motion Picture and ends in
a time slightly before Part 3. Approximately four years pass between parts 2 and 3. Only a few days separate Parts 3 and 4.
Between a year and two years separate Parts 4 and 5. Part 6 is several years after that, with the decline. There may someday
be an expanded version of this, but it won’t be any happier.
Incidents in Aging
September 1, 2010
- Vulcans are peculiar about hygiene. They’re also peculiar about intimate relationships, and it never ceased to
astonish Leonard McCoy how Spock could seamlessly apply rules to others that dropped once they crossed the threshold of their
home. The doctor suspected there was a switch somewhere in Spock’s brain that he had yet to discover.
The same Vulcan who was unwilling
to eat a sandwich if it had been on someone else’s plate – even if untouched – found it unnecessary for
a two-person household to have more than one electric razor, nail file or toothbrush.
McCoy had been surprised when, after
they’d moved in together for the first time, Spock had thrown out all of their grooming supplies and had bought new
ones, but only one set. The Vulcan had seen nothing out of the ordinary, because he could not fathom why McCoy was perplexed
and uncomfortable. “There is nothing a Vulcan should be unwilling or unable to share with his bondmate.”
Spock had found the human’s
protests foolish, as both of them had impeccable oral hygiene and they had engaged in activities – frequently –
that were the functional equivalent of sharing a toothbrush.
However, McCoy had insisted, and
in the end, Spock preferred to have a content comfortable mate, even if he had to compromise on his views of relationships.
Leonard had bought them complimentary sets of everything: green for Spock and blue for himself. He always replenished their
items along that same color scheme.
And so when decades later, after
retirement, McCoy sometimes used Spock’s towels or toothbrush, the Vulcan found it peculiar. But he never commented,
since he didn’t mind.
- Leonard McCoy hadn’t accepted retirement lying down. In fact, he had argued with the Admiralty, with the Surgeon
General, and with Spock on the subject. Yes, he was old, but he was hardly infirm. Several of his relatives had been centenarians,
and the illness that had afflicted his father – may he rest in peace – had been eradicated. And his own xenopolycethemia
wasn’t in remission; it was gone, had been gone for thirty-plus years. There was nothing to be concerned about. Besides,
he would go crazy if he didn’t have work to occupy him while Spock was busy.
The doctor had a flair for wearing
down the resistance of others. The Brass had placed him on reserve, rather than retirement, and the Surgeon General gave him
a three-year extension on his teaching contract. Spock had already agreed to let bureaucrats make their decision, and as his
bondmate was pleased, he was pleased. The human simply had to remember to take care of himself. Spock assumed he could cope
with the stress and would be capable of taking detailed notes to compensate for the effect of age on memory, observation,
and reaction response.
- Leonard McCoy had a history of being less than forthright about his own limitations in an effort to shield those he
cared about. And occasionally from his Martyr Complex, as the Vulcan through that McCoy actually believed that he was the only one capable of helping others, and the inevitable toll on his body be damned. His
track record of disclosing medical maladies was abysmal. Beyond the xenopolycethemia, there was the mission with Gem, the
encounter with the Capellans, the horrifying experience in the Mirror Universe, the encounter with the Tholians, and the time
he performed surgery with a broken arm. Spock kept a list with countless more examples which was often useful in arguments.
The pattern was so familiar that
McCoy never disclosed the results of his own physical exams, instead shrugging off inquiries with the assurance that he was
“fine.” Spock had long since abandoned any expectation of receiving an informative answer, and he rarely asked
how the exam went.
His bondmate had not returned home
after his most recent physical. The Vulcan had waited an hour, then two, and then three from the estimated time of its ending.
There was no word from the human, no call to the house comm., or to his personal comm. The Vulcan was growing concerned.
Four point six three eight hours
after the examination should have ended, Spock heard the telltale sound of the front door unlocking, and he went to greet
his bondmate, intending to inquire in not so patient terms why he had not called.
He immediately abandoned that plan
of action when he saw the human’s condition. He slouched, which Leonard only did when depressed. His hands shook, his
pace was slow, and he radiated what Spock had come to associate with the mixture of disbelief and sadness which accompanied
missions that had gone particularly awry. When the human lifted his head, his eyes were red and swollen.
Spock approached him, guiding him
to their sofa. Perhaps Leonard would be willing to let him in.
- Ellison’s Disease. A degenerative, terminal disease which affected the brain, a form of dementia, most commonly
affecting those who spent a moderate to large quantity of time in space. First discovered in 2197, there remained no cure
after a century of research. There were drugs that could make the patients more comfortable, and one treatment purportedly
slowed the disease’s progression, but nothing existed to cure the disease or undo the damage caused. Life expectancy
ranged from four to twelve years. The earlier stages of the disease attacked the memory, the ability to reason, and emotional
response. Latter stages of the disease attacked the nervous system beyond the brain, often leading to loss of motor function
and possible paralysis.
His brain was rotting from the inside. McCoy would never use such a crass, hopeless description with a patient, but he believed
he owed himself honesty and that he was entitled to frame it in whatever terms he wanted. He was the one who was ill.
Since the diagnosis, he had looked
back on his behavior and realized that there were signs, albeit subtle ones. Forgetting his comm., mixing up details of missions,
having trouble with patient charts. He should have known, shouldn’t have had to find out from some doctor probably forty
years younger than him.
Since the diagnosis, he’d had
no interest in leaving the house, no interest in talking to anyone. He had the urge to drink, but Spock had made him promise
to abstain until he was clear-headed.
The irony wasn’t lost on him.
He was as clear-headed as he was going to be, and soon enough, he wouldn’t be capable at all.
- Losing the ability to retain information that he read was the first “big” milestone that McCoy reached,
and it was the hardest. He still remembered enough to know that this was wrong,
and the frustration threatened to consume him. He’d tossed the data reader across the room, and he’d smiled at
sound the device made as it hit the wall and shattered.
The sound alerted Spock to a problem.
The noise had been loud enough to alert a human to the problem, and with Spock’s hearing, the Vulcan was on his way
to the living room before the device fell to the floor after impact.
His bondmate sat in an armchair,
fist clenched on the arm, looking very much like he had no patience left to test. “I can’t stand this,”
he confessed, irritation giving way to sadness. That had happened more often recently, his inability to keep his emotions
to himself. He felt everything more keenly, and he knew it was difficult for Spock; he didn’t want to burden him more,
not when he had already been slowly taking a greater load of the housework they used to split. But McCoy couldn’t help
Spock did not know how to reassure
his lover; by observing the broken device and McCoy’s frustration, he could hypothesize what had happened, and a quick
scan through the bondlink of the human’s thoughts confirmed that hypothesis. What could he say when such an intelligent
man was denied the pleasure of reading?
The Vulcan did what he could. Taking
down another reader from a cabinet, he settled in the arm chair beside McCoy’s. “We can read together.”
- Coping with Ellison’s Disease was a series of redefining the words “good” and “bad.”
By the old definitions, Leonard had not had a good day in years. To keep from letting that weight – the weight of loss
and failure – crush his bondmate, Spock redefined “good” on a daily basis. Leonard had a good day now when
he had no temper tantrum or when he walked of his own accord, using his cane.
Spock, meanwhile, had frequent bad
days. The act of shielding himself from Leonard’s emotions was exhausting, doubly so because he was Leonard’s
primary caretaker. On Vulcan, one did not assign a caretaker to skan, as that was seen as betrayal; as with many aspects of
Vulcan society pertaining to family, the practice was not quite logical. But there was nothing that a Vulcan was unwilling
to share with his bondmate, including his time, his life, and his devotion.
In this case, Spock knew the practice
was appreciated. He remembered how, soon after the diagnosis, Leonard had confessed that he dreaded the possibility of wasting
away in a hospice, the way his father had prior to his intervention. Spock had promised him then that he would not allow that
to happen. Vulcans strove to keep their promises. Considering how upset and confused Leonard became when Spock went out and
left him, it was not so difficult to keep that promise; he would never intentionally inflict such distress on the man he loved.
Spock received little in the way
of stimulation: physically, his urges had tapered off as Leonard had declined, as his lover was neither physically healthy
enough or mentally sound enough to participate, and in his mind, he had begun to view Leonard as a dependent, at least as
often as he did his beloved. They had solved the problem of pon farr by using a proxy. That problem would not reassert itself
for another five years. He was too tired from caring for Leonard and his natural curiosity had begun to taper off as well,
as he had few avenues through which to nurture it. Leonard rarely slept through the night, and he experienced nightmares.
The ultimate injustice was that his bondmate had lost so many memories and yet still, decades later, suffered the mental scarring
of his counterpart’s brutal actions. That he was forced to relive that experience in dreams, without the ability to
differentiate easily between dreams and reality or the ability to recognize his surroundings.
Mentally, Leonard was incapable
of holding a conversation which came close to interesting; he repeated his statements, his thoughts were scattered and simple,
and often he would stare blankly into space, lost in memories comprised primarily of aether. Spock did what he could to keep
Leonard mentally stimulated: talking to him about old missions, asking him simple questions, looking at holovids and holophotos
of his past, reading to him. Unfortunately, Leonard’s contributions to such conversations had steadily declined, such
that often he spoke only “thank you,” and “I love you.” If he were honest with himself, the Vulcan
would acknowledge that he dreaded the day when Leonard was incapable of speaking even those words, or became incapable of
Love merged with need. Devotion
merged with duty.
The sound of metal against the floor,
accompanied by awkward footsteps broke Spock from his reflective state, and he finished setting out Leonard’s afternoon
snack. The human smiled at him, always so happy to see him, and with effort, sat down in his usual chair. Spock settled in
the chair beside him, prepared to steady the other man’s trembling hands should he need the help.
But Leonard managed to drink his
iced tea without dropping the glass. And although he stopped eating and stared, he was looking at Spock and smiled, indicating
that he was thinking of something, possibly remembering.
For that, today was a good day.