DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Ingrid Cross and is copyright (c) 1986 by Ingrid Cross. Rated PG. Originally published in Odyssey #8.
There is a peculiar, numbing process that takes place in a man's mind when he is separated from his home, his roots, for any length of time. A process that takes the form of wishful thinking, wistful remembering, gentle softening of the harder edges.
A man will see the reality of things for a short time after he leaves his home: reality is one thing, the softening is another. In the first few days, maybe even weeks, he will remember things the way they really were, will recall the hurts and pains and good and bad without varnishing the jagged edges.
And in a few weeks, reality blurs and becomes the polished memory of the way things "are." Memories are no longer cruel or hurtful, nor do they possess the stinging bite of bitterness in the midst of joys. The memories blend together in a mixture of soft-focused days and nights. Summer evenings take on the coolness of autumn; hot, sun-parched streets are tinged with the kiss of an autumn rain. And winters are no longer the piercing, sharp toothed beasts that rip away at the throat. Long winter nights take on the hue and smell of lazy spring evenings, when the crickets make their presence known again.
Time, for the man separated from home, spins itself into shades of spiderweb-soft sparkles.
Once, Leonard McCoy had tried to explain that to Jim Kirk. Try as might, however, Jim didn't quite seem to understand. And of course, the doctor hadn't even tried to talk to Spock about it. Scotty nodded his head as though he understood ... but McCoy doubted it. Doubted it strongly. Kirk had only laughed gently, with no intention of hurting his friend, and quietly, "That's why I like you, Bones. You're our dreamer."
Hah. "The dreamer", was he? McCoy leaned back against the couch in the far corner of the officers' lounge, stared out at the stars without seeing them, and grunted softly in response to the memory of that day. 'Well, perhaps I am,' he answered Kirk's long-ago, casual remark. 'Perhaps ol' Jim-boy wasn't too far off the mark.'
Two other officers drifted into the room, glanced around and exited quietly, their mission unfulfilled. McCoy sank down further on his spine, savoring the feeling of his tired body relaxing into soft cushions. It had been a hard day and his mind just wouldn't let go. He'd been wrestling with memories this morning; he found that despite the long hard day, they had persisted, remained with him.
It all came back to that, didn't it? Under circumstances he'd hardly call welcoming, he'd returned home three years ago. Had gone back to Mother Earth to retrace his steps and find ... what? Solace, comfort? Or maybe an escape route?
At the time it had hardly seemed that.
He'd left Jim Kirk in a nicely-polished admiral's office, tied to new job by more rows of braid. He shifted uneasily when he remembered harsh words, heated phrases thrown out in passionate disregard feelings. Surely, though, he'd been right?
Of course he had been right. The job was all wrong for a man like Kirk; the former captain of the Enterprise was not suited to pushing papers back and forth on an empty desk. His was the life of adventure, challenge.
And what challenge was there in such an office?
So Bones McCoy had stomped out of the room, headed back to Earth. His roots. Georgia in a sweltering August. Red clay stickin' to his boots as he tramped about the small plot of land his family still held after all these years. He owned, rather.
Even now, in the air-conditioned, freshly recycled atmosphere of the starship, McCoy could smell the textures of that first afternoon, back home.
The thing that stuck in his mind trying to get free for a confrontation moved closer to the front.
It all had to do with the memory-thing. Yanked back to the Enterprise by a demanding Kirk and now-cowed Nogura, McCoy had had no time to grieve the lost days of rediscovery. Was that what was needed, though? Did he need to mourn for the time that had been pulled away from him with the arrival of the re-enlistment ("danged draft's more like it," he muttered).
He wasn't quite sure.
But after V'ger had been discovered, exposed, conquered ... he had had the time to sit back and think. Sure, he'd been kept busy with nursing Jim back to his former exuberance. Of course, he'd been occupied with Spock and his newly-budding emotional discoveries.
But what of Leonard McCoy? Where did he fit in, and why this persistent obsession with home?
He stood wearily, picked up his coffee cup, and moved to the food processor units. After punching up and receiving a fresh cup of coffee, he stood sipping it slowly, his mind more than a thousand miles away from his surroundings.
Everyone wanted something from him, it seemed. From the lowest-ranked yeoman ("I have this pain right here, Doc") to same-level colleagues ("Chris, your research project is goin' fine; don't worry"), his time was eaten away, stolen from him by well-intentioned shipmates. And perhaps that lay at the root of his problem.
He just honestly didn't have any time for himself.
He remembered the days back on Earth, in Georgia, when he had gotten started on his Fabrini research. Those mornings, he had enjoyed getting out of bed, bustling around the small office/home as he set up yet another day's routine. He'd enjoyed digging through the translations that Spock had given him before he left the ship, had relished the thought of prying loose some small scrap of information that might or might not hold the key for new stepping-stones in medicine.
He had enjoyed keeping himself too busy to think.
Stunned by his discovery, McCoy set the cup down and sank back into the couch. Was that it? Had he kept himself so busy he wouldn't have to think about Jim and Spock, his labs on the Enterprise, his friends, co-workers? And if' so, why?
"Because it would hurt too much," his mind whispered. "It would have meant thinking about them being so far away and you stuck in some small lab in the backwoods of Georgia. And you couldn't handle that."
No, he told himself firmly. That wasn't it. Because if it was, that meant he had been running away. Again. Like he'd done in the past.
And now he was mourning those memories? Those soft-focus, fuzzy-faced memories of the days back in Georgia? That was patently ridiculous, he assured himself. As if there was any question.
Home was where he was ... no matter what name it went by. If he was comfortable with his surroundings, that was "home". And if he was comfortable with himself as well as his surroundings -- well, that made more than home.
Home was transformed into something larger, a sense of belonging that transcended the normal feelings associated with home. And if that was the case, then the memories no longer held such great, all-fire attraction, did they?
No, he admitted readily. They didn't.
The old, long-past days of "home" contained securities that could be binding. He knew it; the feeling of not wanting to leave that dusty little lab to face the outer world, thinking that nothing could give him more satisfaction than his work. The gleeful, greedy guarding of that sanctuary of papers and books, of tapes and notes and scribblings long into the night. Securities that stifled and crushed one's spirit.
Safety that steadily turned into a suffocating cocoon wanting to enfold him in a false sense of belonging.
For he had never belonged in Georgia. Nor, he realized, had he ever belonged to Georgia, like he'd often thought. For that matter, he didn't belong to Jim, to Spock, or to the crew.
He belonged to himself.
As the inspired thought sank into his mind, McCoy came to understand why it was so ... right, somehow. He had always known that, hadn't he? Of course he had. Then why the memories that demanded attention? Why the wistful thinking about the crickets or the sunsets or any of that?
He had come full circle. Finally. After browbeating himself for three years with tons of work and isolation; after grumping and complaining to Jim lately when things went wrong; after all of that, it took a few simple moments to realize the greatest, most stunning truth of all since he'd returned:
He had come home ... and found himself waiting.