Donna C. Clark
"I can't take this anymore, I just can't!" Heather McCoy said while crying at the table where she had set up a romantic candlelit dinner for two. The candlelight danced across her features, the soft music played in the background. She had sent Joanna to her mother's for the weekend.
Tonight he was supposed to be home early; this was their anniversary. Maybe the traffic was holding him up. She hoped that with each second that passed he would be stepping through the front door, smiling with some roses for her, but even just his smile would be enough for her.
She had his gift sitting next to his plate. It was a box which held-something he had always wanted: a gold pocket watch with a chain. The type of watch with hands instead of digital readings. It fit his old-fashioned ways.
Lately, though, he didn't want to do anything but come home, eat dinner, go to bed, and get up again in the morning or whenever the televiewer buzzed to go to work. He didn't even want to touch her anymore.
She picked up the box, opened it and took out the watch. She held it up in the candlelight. Her tears were flowing steadily down her cheeks now; she was unable to hold it back.
She heard the front door open and the tossing of some tapes on the table in the greeting hall. Then the sound of him lying down on the couch. He had forgotten. She knew exactly what was coming next.
"Heather, have you got my coffee ready?"
She wiped the tears from her eyes and walked into the living room. "No, Leonard, I had other plans, but I guess I'll get it now."
"Okay," was all he said.
She went in the kitchen and got his coffee from the food selector. When she brought it into the living room, he looked up at her. "Heather, why are the lights all turned down, and what plans did you have?" He sat up, took the coffee, and then a deep swallow.
"Nothing special, just a private little dinner."
"We have that every night. By the way, is supper ready? I have to get to the hospital early in the morning. I have some lab reports coming in on a patient."
"It's on the table waiting for you. I'm not hungry. I'm going over to see Mom. Joanna is over there."
"Okay. I'll probably be asleep when you get in."
"Okay, Leonard." Heather got her purse and the keys to her car and went out the door.
Leonard McCoy got up and went into the dining room. He stubbed his toe on the table and cursed for the lack of light. Heather had blown out the candles. He went over to the wall panel and turned the lights up. When he turned around, he saw the table for two, the candles and the opened box.
He walked over and sat down at the table, examining the box's contents. Inside was the gold pocket watch and chain he had always wanted. Also inside was a small card that read: "My dearest Leonard, Happy Anniversary, Love Heather."
"Damn!" He hit the table with his fist. "Our anniversary and all I could think of were those reports!" He stood and ran over to the televiewer where he punched up Heather's mother's house. Her mother answered.
"Oh, it's you, Leonard."
What do you mean 'Oh, it's you'! Let me speak to Heather, please."
She turned away from the viewer a moment then back. "Sorry, Leonard. She doesn't wish to speak right now."
"I can understand that. Well, can I speak to Joanna?"
In the background, he heard the running of little feet. "Here I am, Daddy." He saw the face of his little girl framed on the screen like a picture.
"How's my little girl?" he asked with a smile.
"Fine, Daddy, but Mommy is cryin'," Joanna revealed. She turned as he heard Heather tell her not to say that. Joanna told her mother that she was sorry.
"Ask your Mom when you'll be comin' home."
The little girl's eyes grew big. "But Daddy, I thought you knew we were staying the night at Grandma's!"
"No, I didn't, babe," he said quietly. "I guess I'd better go now so you can get back to what you were doing."
"Okay, Daddy. Goodnight."
"Goodnight, Joanna. I love you."
The viewer went dark.
Heather McCoy was sitting in a chair with her head in her hands. "Mom, I just can't take this anymore!" she declared.
"I tell you what, Honey, let me put Joanna to bed then we can talk." She picked up Joanna and took her into the bedroom.
About the time Heather had got up and went into the kitchen for a cup of coffee and came back to sit at the dining table, her mother came back from putting Joanna to bed.
"Now tell me all about it, Honey," her mother said, sitting down at the table with her.
Heather looked down at her coffee, took a drink and looked up again. "Mom, he just isn't the same man I married ten years ago. Then, he was so compassionate, caring. Now he's cold! He forgot our anniversary!" She began to weep.
Her mother took her hand. "Do you still love him?"
"Yes, but he just doesn't know how to return it anymore. I guess the only way to get any attention from him is for me to have a serious accident, or come down with a serious illness!"
Her eyes met those of her mother. "Mom, I'm gonna leave him."
Leonard McCoy woke up the next morning and went through his usual morning routine of getting ready. Then he went to get his coffee, the televiewer buzzed. That'll probably be Heather wanting to apologize, he gloated to himself.
He pushed the button and the image appeared on the screen. It wasn't Heather.
"Hi, you ol' sawbones, what you been up to?"
Leonard's eyes grew big, and a broad grin broke over his face. "Why it's Charlie Riggs! Where the hell have you been these past few years!" Riggs was an old college friend of McCoy, from way back in med school.
"I've been all over the galaxy. Leonard," Riggs announced with a smile. He had black hair that was graying at the temples.
"Doing what?" McCoy gestured with a shrug, then he took a sip of coffee.
Riggs laughed. "Just a minute; let me get the wide-angle view here." The screen went fuzzy, then it focussed again. "There, how do I look?"
"Well, I'll be damned!" McCoy's mouth dropped open. "You're in Starfleet!"
"No kidding; this isn't a clown suit, you know."
"I don't know about that, Riggs," McCoy grinned.
"Hey, Leonard, I'm on leave for a couple of days. Why don't we get together for lunch or something?"
"Sure. Why don't you come over here this evening, and we could have dinner here?" McCoy suggested. "I have a busy day at the hospital today."
"Fine. What time?"
"About six o'clock...er, eighteen hundred for you service men."
"Okay," Riggs chuckled. "I'll catch you later then." The viewer went dark.
"Charlie in Starfleet," McCoy remarked to himself. "Well, I better get ready; I'm late." He finished getting dressed and left.
It was that afternoon when Heather McCoy came back to the house for the last time. Just like always, Leonard McCoy had left his dirty clothes all over the bathroom floor. She used to enjoy picking up after him, but now it was a chore. She cleaned up around the house, and then sat down in the huge lounge chair.
I have to do it today, she told herself. She got up and started packing Joanna's things.
It was almost six o'clock, and Heather only had half of her things packed. She had taken quite a lot of time packing Joanna's clothes and a couple of her favorite toys.
While she was closing the suitcase, the door chime rang. "Coming," she called. It's probably Mother, she thought to herself. Heather pushed the door button and it slid aside. No, it isn't Mother.
"Charlie Riggs!" Heather shouted.
"Heather!" Riggs threw open his arms; Heather did the same.
"What are you doing here? Where have you been?" Heather asked excitedly.
"Leonard invited me over," Riggs paused, "didn't you know--"
"No, Charlie, I didn't." Heather turned away from him, remembering why she was even in the house, and letting that somber thought dampen her excitement at seeing Riggs. "Please come in and sit down. I'm sure Leonard will be home in a moment."
"Is there something wrong, Heather?" Riggs asked, taking off his overcoat. He had noticed the cases next to the greeting hall. "Are you and Leonard going on a trip?"
"No, Charlie." Heather turned and saw his uniform. "So that's where you've been. In Starfleet!"
"Yeah. I got bored working at Tranquility General," Riggs said as he sat down on the couch.
Heather hung up his coat in the closet; only Riggs would still keep an overcoat with the fabrics being as water-repellant as they were. "Would you like a drink?"
Riggs smiled. "Yes, please. I think I could use a scotch if you have it."
"Just a minute, and I'll have it." Heather went into the kitchen. Just as she did, the front door opened. She heard the two old friends greet each other. There was more laughing from Leonard than she had heard from him in a month. They were talking about Riggs's past couple years in Starfleet.
"Well," Riggs told him, "I have just been commissioned as the chief surgeon of the U.S.S. Bowie. It's a scout of the Hermes class. It's nothing like the Constitution class, though. It takes a special breed for that one."
Heather walked in and placed a tray of drinks on the coffee table.
"Heather, you're home!" McCoy stood up to give her a kiss, but she turned away.
"Yes, Leonard, but only to get a few things." Heather turned and went into the bedroom.
"Just a minute, Charlie, and I'm sure she'll have dinner ready." McCoy got up and followed Heather into the bedroom.
Riggs had an idea what was happening now. He just took a sip of his drink and shook his head. I don't think she will, Leonard, he thought.
In the bedroom, Heather was getting the rest of her things from the closet.
"Heather," McCoy said as he stormed into the room and shut the door behind him. "What are you doin'?" He watched her cross back and forth across the room, from the closet to the bed where her suitcases lay open.
She didn't even look up when he came in. "What does it look like?"
"Why are you packing your things?" He was trying to get her to look at him. The more he tried, though, the faster she moved.
Without looking up, she replied, "Why do people usually pack their belongings?"
He couldn't stand her not looking it him and also answering a question with a question. He grabbed her and turned her around to face him. Her gaze met his, but it was just ice. He couldn't read it at all. "You owe me an explanation," he told her, wanting a direct answer.
She mocked his expression. "And you owe me what a wife needs, Leonard!" Heather declared in a tone, not of hatred, but of a deep, hurting feeling.
McCoy sounded surprised. "I've given you everything you've wanted!"
"Everything but you." This time she looked at him, and tears were in her eyes. "You give yourself to the hospital, not your family!"
He let her go, deeply hurt, and she turned away from him. "You have company in the living room, Leonard."
McCoy didn't say anything; he just turned and walked out of the room. Heather slumped down on the bed and began to cry.
Riggs was still sitting in the living room when McCoy came back in. "Charlie, I think we might ought to go down to one of the nightclubs on Peachtree Street."
"Anything you say, Leonard," Riggs uttered, feeling uncomfortable. "Ah, Leonard, is there anything I can do?"
"Did you happen to minor in law in college?" McCoy asked as he poured himself some brandy.
Heather came down the hall carrying her suitcases. She sat them down and got out her keys to unlock the luggage compartment of her aircar. She would return it to Leonard as soon as she got all her things over to her mother's, both cars were in his name, after all. In the morning she would call the lawyer and have the necessary papers drawn up. She started out the door to pull her car around in the front yard.
In the Ichiban restaurant, Leonard McCoy and Charlie Riggs sat at a table. McCoy was plastered. He just kept drinking no matter how Riggs tried to stop him.
"Leonard, now you're not going to have a liver if you keep this up!" Riggs protested as McCoy downed another glass of hot saki.
"I'm a big boy, now, Sharlie," McCoy slurred.
Riggs got up and lifted McCoy up. "Forget the dinner, Leonard. I think we had better get you home."
McCoy looked at Riggs blankly as they walked out into the parking lot. "What home? My wife is gone, and my little girl." His eyes widened. "Charlie, I forgot about Joanna!"
"Come on, Leonard, in the car," Riggs said as he opened the passenger side of McCoy's aircar and put him in.
Riggs got in on the driver's side, and McCoy started sobbing uncontrollably. He sat there without starting the engine, and let McCoy get it out of his system.
McCoy leaned back in the seat and looked up into nowhere. "I had everything a man ever wanted," McCoy finally brought himself around to saying. "A loving wife, a beautiful daughter, and I blew it! I BLEW IT!!"
"You were lucky you found them, Leonard. I never did," Riggs said, looking down at the wheel. "That was why I joined Starfleet; I couldn't find that life."
McCoy looked over at him. "But Charlie, better not to have it at all, than to lose it after ten years and a child."
"I'm not so sure you're right," Riggs contended and started the engine. They drove back to McCoy's house.
It was a rough night's sleep, more so than the night before, for then he believed she'd be back the next day. He realized now how much he had taken Heather, and Joanna for that matter, for granted.
Modern medicine still hadn't found a cure for the hangover. He groaned as he sat up. The good Lord is punishing me, he thought, and heavens know I deserve it!
McCoy looked at the clock and saw that he was three hours late for work, and he didn't even care. To hell with my job! He got up and headed for the bathroom. As he stepped out in the hall, he smelled fried eggs and bacon. Then it hit him, and he grabbed his mouth as he ran for the bathroom. While in the bathroom, he had a glimmer of hope that Heather was back.
"Hey, Leonard. You up?"
It was definitely not her. This was the voice of Charlie Riggs. He had forgotten he had asked Riggs to sleep in the guest room.
McCoy stumbled out of the bathroom and sat down at the breakfast bar. "You don't have to shout," McCoy grumbled quietly while holding his head.
"Sorry," Riggs said as he put the plate of eggs and bacon on the bar. "Just a minute, and I'll have the coffee. Do you want something to eat?"
"Hell, no!!!" McCoy snapped then grabbed his head and swore to himself.
"The viewer's been going all morning," Riggs remarked as the televiewer buzzed.
McCoy got up to answer it. He never even thought about being in his underwear. Riggs grabbed his own robe from the couch and tossed it over to him. McCoy then realized it, and put it on. It turned out to be a wise move since the chief of staff was on the line.
"Doctor McCoy, where the hell are you!" came an angry voice.
"At home, or else I wouldn't be standing here answering, would I?" McCoy asked sarcastically.
"McCoy," the chief of staff began, anger building, "if you weren't one of our best surgeons, I'd fire you here and now on the spot!"
"Go ahead, do it," McCoy shot back. "To hell with the hospital anymore! That place just cost me the two things that meant more to me in life, but I was blind to see it because of the hospital!"
"Okay, McCoy, if that's the way you want it." The viewscreen went dark.
"Damn!!" McCoy shouted, forgetting his hangover. "Did you see what I just did, Charlie?" He turned to face his friend. "First my wife and little girl, now my job!" He walked over and sat down in his lounge chair.
Charlie had just finished his breakfast and came into the room with McCoy's coffee. "Leonard, this may sound awkward now," said Riggs, handing him the coffee and sat down on the couch. "But why don't you check out Starfleet? They need men with your degree of experience."
McCoy choked on his coffee. "Come off it, Charlie, I'm just a country doctor!"
"One of the best 'country' doctors on this planet." Riggs paused, then stood up and finished, "Well, you think about it, Leonard. You'll have more challenges than you'll know what to do with. Hell, I've got to go right now, they'll be expecting me to check in in the next fifteen minutes or so."
"Okay, Charlie, you take care, you heah?"
"Okay, Leonard, but think about what I just said, all right?"
McCoy stood up and shook Riggs's hand. "Okay." Then Riggs went out the door and was gone.
Half of the day, McCoy just sat in the living room thinking. This sitting around doing nothing was about to kill him. Finally, he walked over to the televiewer and called up the directory for the Starfleet Recruiting Office in Atlanta. He went ahead and punched it up.
The picture appeared on the screen, and a pretty blonde woman was looking at him. She smiled. "Starfleet Recruiting Office, Atlanta, District Nine. May I help you?"
McCoy cleared his throat. "Yes, ma'am. A friend recommended that I should find out about what you have to offer a loser who also happens to be a qualified surgeon. "
The young woman smiled. "Well, sir, it, of course, depends upon your years of practice, but there is an almost limitless opportunity in the field of medicine. Why don't you come down to the office, and we could talk about it?"
"I'll consider it this afternoon. Thank you." McCoy switched off the viewer. An almost limitless opportunity, he thought to himself. He got up, went to the bathroom, cleaned up, got dressed and left the house for the Recruiting Office.
It wasn't long before he stepped out of the office and took a look at the copies of paper he had signed. Well, now I belong to the Federation, he said to himself. He had to leave in a week for officer's training school. He was surprised with this, but they told him because of his college education, degrees and years of practice this was quite normal.
Lord, help me...
"Doctor McCoy to Sickbay, Doctor McCoy to Sickbay," came a voice over the speaker grid.
Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy was lying in the lounge in his office, his eyes opened wide, looking at the ceiling. It took a moment for the call to register in his mind. The Enterprise was now at Starbase 10 for R&R. Somebody had probably been in a fight. He got up and went to the sickbay next door. As he stepped through the doors...
"How you been, you ol' sawbones? So you took my advice!"
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2229-2265 THE BEGINNINGS1
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