You Can Call Me Al

Title: You Can Call Me Al

Author: Tempest                  

Series: TOS

Paring: S/Mc

Rating: Currently PG for mentions of death

Summary: McCoy and Spock met for the first time years ago on Earth, after the death of McCoy’s father. McCoy is depressed; Spock is green, and their introduction is under peculiar and false circumstances.  

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 this anywhere.

Authors Note: There are two stories here: the story I began writing and the story that wanted to be written. What is being presented is the back story and the first meeting; there will be more, and it will be submitted separately. I’m sorry that I don’t write quickly enough to have something of this magnitude finished in three months.


You Can Call me Al

By Tempest

December 1, 2009



A man walks down the street, he says, “Why am I soft in the middle now? Why am I soft in the middle? The rest of my life is so hard. I want a photo opportunity. I want a shot at redemption. Don’t want to end up a cartoon, in a cartoon graveyard. Bone digger. Bone digger. Dogs in the moonlight. Far away, my well-lit door. Mister Beer Belly, Beer Belly, get these mutts away from me. You know, I don’t find this stuff amusing anymore.”


If you’ll be my bodyguard, I can be your long-lost pal.

I can call you “Betty,” and Betty when you call me, you can call me “Al.”


A man walks down the street, he says “Why am I short of attention? Got a short little span of attention, and woe my nights are so long. Where’s my wife and family? What if I die here? Who’ll be my role model, now that my role model is gone? Gone.” He ducked back down the alley with some roly-poly little bat-faced girl. All along, along there were incidents and accidents. There were hints and allegations.


If you’ll be my bodyguard, I can be your long-lost pal.

I can call you “Betty,” and Betty when you call me, you can call me “Al.”

You can call me “Al.”


A man walks down the street, it’s a street in a strange world. Maybe it’s the third world. Maybe it’s his first time around. Doesn’t speak the language. Holds no currency. He is a foreign man; he is surrounded by the sound, the sound. Of cattle in the marketplace. Scatterlings and orphanages. He looks around, around; he sees angels in the architecture, spinning in infinity. He says “Amen,” and “Hallelujah.”


If you’ll be my bodyguard, I can be your long-lost pal.

I can call you “Betty,” and Betty when you call me, you can call me “Al.”

You can call me “Al.”



Leonard McCoy hadn’t paid as much attention to the ethics and disciplinary hearing as befitted the severity of the situation. He hadn’t paid much attention to anything the past few days, not since the goddamned announcement that some goddamned medical research group had found a goddamned cure. Two weeks. If he had been stronger, if he could have made his father hold on for two weeks and understand why, he would still be alive. And Leonard McCoy would still have his medical license.


Technically, he hadn’t lost his license to practice; it had merely been suspended for an indeterminate period pending psychiatric evaluation. Several members of the panel were sympathetic to a young man doing his father a favor, despite the absence of a living will and the gross breach of medical authority.


The ethics panel had assigned him a psychiatrist to help him with the grieving process, and to keep an eye on him. Were he more coherent, less filled with rage that couldn’t decide whether to turn inward or outward, he would have informed them that his belief system turned on the idea of redemption, that he had a doozy to pay off, and that he couldn’t do that dead. Then again, if he were more coherent, the panel would never have assigned him the psychiatrist in the first place.


It took him three days to realize that he was on the medical equivalent of probation. However, by the time he realized, his anger had turned inward, and he had neither the strength nor the volition to complain. He felt he had no right to complain.

He had to check in with his psychiatrist three times a day, and he had appointments twice a week. As long as he complied, and was found stable at the end of observation period, he could have his medical license back when probation ended. He didn’t give two damns at the moment, but that was to be expected.


He was on leave from the hospital. He had been leave ever since the illness had reached the third stage; nobody would miss him. He was a young doctor; bright but in the end ultimately unimportant.  A story could be concocted that would suffice for his patients, and in the end, his replacement would be good enough.


He had no other family to worry about; his father had been it, and that was yet another reason this had drained him so completely. The loss and everything which had led up to it, the discovery and the resulting guilt. He had nobody to lean on, and so he buried inside himself as deeply as he could.


With nothing else to do with his time, he spent his days in introspection. When he grew tired of his house, he tried a change of scenery and began the process anew.




Spock was young and out of his element on a starship, serving among humans. That had been obvious before he had been formally assigned, and that was the reason he’d been stationed onboard the Enterprise. Christopher Pike was a caring man, one who would be sure to keep Spock out of trouble and to help him find his place in Starfleet.


Pike had more than surpassed those expectations; from Spock’s first day onward, he had guided the young Vulcan. By watching over him, the junior officer had been taken into Pike’s inner fold, and his adjustment had, amongst the senior staff, become something of a pet project; the officers viewed him somewhere between a son and a younger brother. They cared about his education, about his inter-personal relationships, and about his wellbeing.


When the crew had been granted shore leave on Earth for the purposes of a week-long refit, Pike had chosen immediately to go on a whirlwind tour of “the homeland” along with Number One and Doctor Boyce. Naturally, the Captain had extended Spock an invitation, which he had politely declined.


Were Spock fully-human, or had he been raised to embrace any part of his human heritage, he would have been flattered by the invitation, and perhaps he would have accepted it. He had an attachment to the Captain that was likely unhealthy from a purely logical perspective. However, he had surmised that he would be intruding, even if only because the three older officers would need to make accommodations for him, and the three of them had a strong friendship, the likes of which Spock doubted he would ever encounter on his own. It was…enviable, if he were to indulge himself in such introspection.


In the end, he had chosen to explore his week of leave on his own, and had promised to call Pike if he “changed his mind.” He hadn’t commented on how that was impossible taken literally, and highly improbable taken figuratively. There was more than enough in San Francisco to hold his interest.


It was an art museum, one with exhibits on loan from the Louvre. Despite the artistic, cultural, and historic significance of artwork from four or five centuries prior, the museum was relatively empty. Spock attributed it to Terran impatience and a lack of reverence for the exhibit’s subject matter. Were he to be fair, he would acknowledge the low turnout was more likely influenced by the city-wide pub crawl in honor of the memory of the city’s first non-Terran magistrate.


One benefit of the low attendance was that Spock had full access to every piece he wished to see, with a minimum level of body traffic around which to maneuver, and essentially no waiting for a better view.


Passing through the Van Gogh exhibit, he noticed a young man sitting on a bench, staring at a painting on the wall. That was to be expected, and it was refreshing to see a Terran so captivated by artwork. Perhaps more captivated than was normal for the species, Spock noted. Perhaps he was, as Boyce would say, “an artistic spirit.”


He was still there, perched in the same spot on the same bench when Spock doubled back through the exhibit an hour later. Even that was to be expected, the Vulcan reminded himself. Many aspiring artists would settle themselves in museums for hours on end to sketch, seeking inspiration from the past masters.


With that thought, he noticed the human had no sketchpad, nor did he have any writing implements. He was simply…staring. Spock noted that the painting which so captivated the human was “At Eternity’s Gate.” He did not usually make idle conversation, yet something about the man’s attentiveness made him wish to approach. Coming closer, he remarked, “That is hardly his most famous work.”


The young human turned his head, but didn’t look directly at Spock. Instead, he was carefully assessing the otherwise empty exhibit, before determining that yes, in fact, this stranger was speaking to him. He turned fully, and the non-expression which confronted Spock could have belonged to a Vulcan, if not for the rounded ears and brow and the striking blue eyes. Deadpan, he asked, “Is that a fact?”


“Yes. Starry Night would take that title, and it is in the next room.”


There was a pause, while the human processed the response. Spock was used to such reactions, as he induced them often; Captain Pike had explained to him that it was often the disbelief associated with receiving literal responses. He tried to work on it, but there was little he could do to change his manner of speech, when it so often reflected his thoughts.


Finally, the human finished processing, and strangely, his expression didn’t change. Still nearly deadpan, he asked another question, “Tell me, stranger, do you usually hang around museums telling people what is or isn’t worth their time? Or am I special for some reason?”


“It is not a hobby or my usual behavior pattern,” Spock admitted. He rarely had occasion to be in a museum, and many non-Starfleet personnel were put off by his mannerisms, or were intimidated by the fact that he was a Vulcan. He continued, “As I do not know you, I cannot say that you are or are not special. However, your concentration on this one painting is unusual behavior for most museum patrons, and I took notice.”


“Hmm.” Spock recognized that as a noise of either disbelief or consideration. Apparently the latter, as he was informed, “I have something on my mind.”


“So I would assume.”


The human sighed; it was a subtle sound, rather than the louder noise accompanied by exaggerated gestures used by the officers when displeased with him. It almost appeared to be unconscious on his part. “Look, I don’t know why you’re talking to me, or why you found it necessary to take notice of my behavior, but the least you can do is display a little bit of courtesy.”


Spock reviewed his behavior from the diplomatic eye of his father, and from the critical eye of his mother and Captain Pike, and he arrived at the most logical course of behavior; he introduced himself. “My name is Spock.”


Rather than return the greeting, Spock was met with silence. He thought that perhaps he had misunderstood what the human meant by “courtesy;” that rather than an attempt to dictate the conversation in accordance with human social conventions, it was a polite way of telling him to – as Captain Pike would say – fornicate with himself.


He had no way of knowing what was actually going through the other man’s mind. McCoy, with the exception of his appointed psychiatrist, had not met anyone new since his father’s death and the subsequent suspension of his medical license. Depressed and ashamed, he knew that there was a risk that this Vulcan, this Spock might recognize his name and judge him. Truth be told, he appreciated the innocent anonymity. Add to that the fact that he didn’t currently feel worthy of the name McCoy, and that he had no reason to think he would see this Vulcan again after the conversation.  The pause was the sound of him thinking of an alias.


“Albert Ross,” he said, shaking off the pause as though it were mere distraction. Albert Ross had been a boy in his elementary school, whose father had been the local fire marshal. “You can call me Al.”


“Al,” Spock said, inclining his head in a greeting.


There was another pause, and McCoy – Ross – pushed off the bench. “Look, Spock, you seem like a nice enough guy, and you broke my concentration. Do you want to go get something to drink so we’re not chatting in the middle of the museum and ruining it for everyone else?”


That was an invitation not usually extended to the Vulcan, except by the senior officers of the Enterprise. “Do you mean that we should consume alcohol at a bar?”


*Yes,* was McCoy’s initial thought, but he knew better. Drinking in his state of mind, after hours of brooding, was the worst thing he could do, and he did not want to think about what would happen should he check in with his psychiatrist drunk. “I meant like coffee. Do Vulcans drink coffee?”


“I drink tea.” Spock preferred the sedate atmosphere of cafes to the rowdy, inebriated ones of bars.


“Good, I know a place.” With that, the human turned and began walking off. Spock noticed that despite being expected to follow, there was no confidence in the other man’s stride. Curious. Atypical, given what he had seen of humans over the years.



The café was reminiscent of every human café Spock had ever visited; for McCoy, it was more personally familiar, as he had taken to brooding here after his father’s death. He had been a frequent patron of its rival before, but he had cut all ties to his old patterns after losing his license. Nobody knew him here, and it was better that way. Nobody asked how he was coping or inquired about his father’s health or even asked for medical advice, since nobody knew that he was a doctor. It was perfect for the anonymity it granted, the same that this conversation with the Vulcan Spock was doing for him.


With a strong brew laced with espresso and Spock with a cup of herbal tea, they settled at the far end of the café to talk.


“Is it true that Vulcans are telepathic?” The question had occurred to him on line, while remembering the lesson on Vulcan neurology; their brains were wired differently for that reason.


“Yes,” Spock admitted, after sipping his tea. “However, the Vulcan range is typically limited to touch.” Spock knew that there were rumors about Vulcans on Earth, the result of never encountering one, which in turn bred tales of mystery; he remembered his time at the Academy. He was mildly surprised that this one was accurate.


“Then you don’t know what I’m thinking.” Despite the flat delivery, there was a hint of hope in the human’s tone.


“Not from any innate ability of mine. Using logic, I can deduce that whatever was plaguing you at the museum was related to that painting, or to be more precise, related to something reminiscent of that painting. A person or a religious crisis.”

That was too close for McCoy’s taste, although it was bereft of specifics. Glancing down at his coffee mug, he replied, “I suppose you could say that.”


Growing morose, he had to actively push away the heavy thoughts and feelings, and he shifted the conversation back to Spock. “What brought you to the museum?”


“I appreciate art.”


“And to Earth?”


“I am in Starfleet; we are on shore leave.”


“Ah.” McCoy had met a few Starfleet personnel in his relatively young life, although he had never before seen a Vulcan. “Doesn’t that not mesh with Vulcan pacifism?”


“I admit that sometimes I must make concessions. However, there is more to Starfleet than fighting, and I am a scientist.”


“But you appreciate art?”


“A mature being is a being with many interests.”


McCoy could hardly argue with that point, not that he was so inclined. He nodded to acknowledge the point and took a sip of his coffee. “Do you like Starfleet?”


“Like?” Spock  looked perplexed; at least, McCoy thought he did, although it could be his imagination. The Vulcan did not have many facial expressions.


“Yes, like. As in enjoy, appreciate, would recommend to your friends.”


“My friends are primarily Vulcans or other Starfleet personnel, and as such there is no need to make a recommendation. However, I do appreciate the work.”


“Hmm.” There was that noise again, and just as last time, Spock could not determine what, precisely, it indicated. The conversation lulled at that point, and Spock decided to do what Pike or Boyce would encourage him to do were they here. He asked a personal, but innocent, question. “And what do you do, Al?”


There was another one of those uncomfortable pauses. After far too long, he received his reply, “I’m between jobs right now.” That explained it: the embarrassment which often afflicted humans who were unemployed. So often internal value was tied in human culture to external acts, most typically the ability to earn a paycheck and provide for one’s family. Undoubtedly that was what had been affecting him, and was likewise causing his distraction and obsession with that painting, an existential crisis as it were. It might also explain his interest in Starfleet, although that might be for the sake of politeness; Spock could not tell.


The conversation ebbed and flowed from that point; it was difficult to hold a conversation between a Vulcan uncomfortable with non-military human social conventions and a human wallowing in depression who had never met a Vulcan before. They managed to the best of their ability, amidst awkward pauses, short answers, and questions which ranged from the mundane to the occasionally inappropriate.


Finally, the human asked, “How long are you in town for?”


“I have another week of leave.”


“Do you want to get together again later, if you’re still around? I need to get home and make a call,” McCoy would prefer not to, but he knew better than to make his psychiatrist wait for the check-in call, lest he find a patrol dispatched to his house, “for his own safety.”


“Yes.” The answer was simple; Spock found the human intriguing, and he knew that Pike would approve of the socialization.


“Give me your number; I’ll call you.”

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