With the stress of the day, Leonard was certain that he needed to relax a bit more, although he was going to find it difficult. Jim had been injured on an away mission, not that that was a particularly surprising thing, but when you get to the transporter room and find your best friend bleeding out, with the first officer performing CPR on him, it’s daunting. In hindsight, it was especially daunting to see how much emotion he could see in the apparently emotionless Vulcan’s eyes as he fought to make Jim’s heart beat.
With the help of technology and a brilliant team, he got Jim’s heart to beat again before ensuring that he was wheeled straight into the operating theatre to heal the wounds from a particularly nasty weapon on the planet that he had got in the way of.
Jim had come out of surgery eventually in a stable state, especially compared to earlier. Leonard had been focused in the surgery, able to put all his concentration into Jim’s care, without having to focus on himself, however, the moment that he stopped, he felt the stiffness in his back and shoulders, bluntly aching with every movement that he made.
He could feel how the extreme focus had strained his eyes and the bright lights of the surgery had almost bleached them as he was focussing on putting Jim back together. He supposed that after having to do it for so long, it should almost be second nature, although, it was still just as much of shock to see Jim bleeding on his surgery table and the pristine floor gradually being covered by the striking crimson colour of his blood.
As he sat down in the chair next to Jim’s bed, he felt his stomach give a feeble grumble to show that he needed to eat. He knew that he ought to eat, but he couldn’t bring himself to, as his stomach was still roiling from the stress of having to treat Jim. Yet again. There was a touch and go moment in the surgery that he was worried that he would lose his best friend for sure and he wouldn’t be able to do anything to get him back. He was still shaken from that and he was still coming to terms with admitting it. Something in the corner of his eye caught his attention. He made a concerted effort to not move to look at the person who had entered the room.
When the figure moved closer, he noted the faint scents of incense as well as a flash of science blue. “Can I help you Mr Spock?” he asked quietly, not taking his eyes off Jim, still laying too still, disconcerting to see from the man who finds it difficult to stay in one place for more than a few seconds.
Within just a few seconds, there was a glass being placed on the bedside table beside where he sat. “You need to continue to hydrate yourself, Doctor.” Leonard pointedly took his eyes off Jim, only to roll his eyes at Spock before returning them to where they were before.
“You’re as bad as Christine,” he grumbled. His head nurse often had this chat with him about adequate hydration and nutrition. He knew he needed to drink as well, but his stomach was still too uneasy. With a deep sigh, he then leaned forward to lean his elbows on his knees, while he cradled his head and ran his hands through his hair, hating the feeling of the sterile fields reside in his hair, that he was sure that he could feel.
He heard the fabric of Spock’s clothes rustle as he moved silently, only moving a small amount, but enough to make him flinch slightly, thanks to instincts that he didn’t quite have control of.
A distant part of his brain realised that he was beginning to feel uncomfortable in his skin. It didn’t happen very often, but it was becoming more popular with the downfall of an adrenaline rush. His skin was feeling itchy as if it wasn’t sitting right and he had the desire to shimmy and shake to get rid of the feeling.
The silence was becoming an issue now, only the soft beeping from Jim’s monitors, but Spock wasn’t speaking and Leonard got the feeling that he was being scrutinised. It made him feel even more uncomfortable and in turn, the itching and unease got worse.
He lifted his head to look at the first officer with a glare, only to be surprised by the almost confused expression on his face. “What?! Is there something on my face?”
“No.” Spock paused and Leonard felt his heart jump slightly, without his permission.
“Then what is it?”
Spock paused once more and Leonard was beginning to wonder if he should grab his tricorder to make sure that Spock wasn’t sick or something. “It is your scent Doctor.”
“My scent?” he asked. It was a conversation that he had had before with some of his patients, but never aboard the Enterprise. Some people had noted that he didn’t quite smell right for a human.
“Yes, Doctor. I had not noticed before that your scent markers are not as human as I had first assumed. Am I correct in hypothesising that you are not human?”
“I am technically human Spock, but at the same time, no.” It was his turn to pause now. “I suppose, you would call me Terran, but not human.” He ran his hands through his hair. He had been taking suppressants to keep his natural scent under wraps, but recently they had been updating the crews’ physicals and the stress of away mission injuries as well, he must have forgotten.
“It is not on your file.”
“It is, but Starfleet class me as human with ‘gifted tendencies’ that are restricted on said file,” he replied, almost snarkilly. He still wasn’t too sure about Starfleet hiding his true nature on his file.
“You are a shapeshifter, are you not?”
Leonard couldn’t help the slight drop of fear that trickled through his blood like an ice cube. It was an instinctive reaction that he wanted to be somewhere small, where he could curl up and protect himself from the dangers around him. Distantly, he realised that his breath was coming faster and he was finding it more difficult to concentrate. “Excuse me, Mr Spock.” He then retreated from the room, terrified that Spock was going to stop him as he hightailed it towards his office to break down and change into the form that he felt more comfortable in.
He had gone too long and he was way past being able to prevent it now. He figured that if he had the choice of where he would prefer to change, then he would rather it was in the privacy of his office.
As soon as the door closed behind him, he felt the familiar feeling of his bones and muscles shifting.
His clothes fell from his body as he became smaller, curling up on himself, allowing the change to happen naturally, rather than fighting it. In hindsight, his body had been wanting to change since he had finished surgery and so, this could have helped to contribute even more stiffness to his muscles as he forced them to stay in one form.
As his clothes dropped to the floor and he felt his hands and feet (paws, his mind supplied), hit the floor, he immediately felt his body relax even further. This therefore allowed the tension to flow out of his body as he shook himself off. His breath was easier and his movements were no longer stiff. He pushed his body down to the floor as adjusted to his new senses. A deep breath later and he was pushing himself back up to his now steady paws. He couldn’t help it, in this form, he was so much less tense than his human form.
From earlier changes in his life, he knew that the fur that covered his body was a deep brown in colour, with tortoiseshell patterns covering his body. He had one white paw (his front right) and a white patch on his chest with a small white patch on his furry belly. His tail was long and pure black with a few brown tones dappling the appendage.
His body is toned and lithe as he moved forward, shoulders relaxed. Pointed ears sit upon the top of his head that swivel and move, almost by themselves as a sound is detected. His eyes, he knows are now an ethereal green, the pupil elongated to run the length of his iris in a sharp slit, as they take in his surroundings.
Everything looks slightly different, because of the colour tone being duller than his human eyes and the height difference in objects make this quite disconcerting occasionally, but other than that, he feels completely calm. His nose is smaller now, but it is about three thousand times stronger and he can smell the coffee that he drank in here more than four hours ago clearly. He can even smell the sweet scent of the bourbon that lies in his bottom drawer, despite not having a drink for over three weeks in his office.
It was times like this that he was extraordinarily glad that the sensors on the doors are so sensitive as he moves forward and the doors hiss open (a noise that is almost too loud for his now sensitive ears) and allows him to move back into the main ward. Immediately, he goes to Jim’s bed, sits back on his haunches as he looks up at his target, coiling up his muscles and jumping up with ease, before settling down on the comfortable mattress.
From here, he could hear Jim and Spock’s heartbeat and breathing rates, Spock’s a little bit faster than Jim’s, but not by much, thanks to a reduced heartbeat to withstand the stupidly hot heats of Vulcan.
“Doctor McCoy?” Spock asked, sounding perplexed. He lifted his head and looked up at Spock, a little bit caught by how the colours were slightly darker than they should have been, making his eyes look even darker and slightly ominous. “You are a cat,” he said, as if he couldn’t quite understand the concept.
He rolled his eyes and shook his head a little to show how he was feeling before snuggling back into the covers. “My apologies Doctor, I understand that that may have appeared to be rude.” The surprise of the words caught Leonard’s attention again, causing him to look up, feeling an expression cover his face that would have resembled him raising an eyebrow in his human form. “The fact that you are a feline shapeshifter surprised me. I had expected you to be a larger animal.”
Like a big scary wolf or a bear, his mind supplied a small purring that he understood to be a laugh left his mouth. He then snuggled once more, this time, being able to find the sleep that seemed to come so much easier in this form than his human form that frequently had insomnia – he was just a bit of an enigma.
The sound of movement woke him and he opened his eyes, surprised to see the dull colours until he remembered that he was in his warm fluffy form rather than his usual human form. Jim had once mentioned that it was like each side was a half of him. The human half was grumpy and almost antisocial, whereas the cat half was relaxed and happy to be petted. It was an odd thing for him. As a human, he would never ask to be petted and if anyone did so, he would probably try to kill them, but as a cat, he didn’t have to ask to be petted and gain the reassurance he needed from the touch of fingers running through his fur.
He stood up and stretched his back, much further than he ever could when he was human-it was brilliant and felt so luxurious. “Hey Bones.” He looked up to see that Jim was awake and still in the bed. He shook himself off and padded over to where Jim was propped up on a mountain of pillows and curled up by his side as Jim began to run his hands through his fur in the long sweeping motions that made him purr without being able (or want) to stop.
“So, that’s Dr McCoy?” a small voice asked. Leonard looked up to see the bright blue eyes, framed by the childish face of Pavel Chekov.
“Yup. I keep telling everyone that he’s just a big softy,” Jim said with a chuckle as Leonard turned back to him and hissed before allowing Jim to continue his ministrations with a continuing purr, gaining another chuckle from his best friend.
He relaxed with the touch while keeping his ear on the beating of Jim’s heart to make sure that if anything was to happen, he would be ready to change back. “Chillax Bones,” he said in a soft voice that was almost a whisper.
Leonard hmphed but relaxed a bit more, still keeping tabs on what was happening.
He could hear lots of different heartbeats and a plethora of smells that was almost too much for his sensitive senses. As he closed his eyes, he focused on each smell. Jim was the closest and he could smell the scent of antiseptic as well as strong citric scents, coffee and a faint minty smell that he recognised as a perfect example of Jim’s scent.
From what he could recognise, the smell of engine oil, Earl Grey tea and fresh linen was the smell of Chekov.
Then there was a deep earthy smell, a sweet flowery smell, with the scent of the rubberised mats of the gym that he assumed was Sulu.
Then there was more engine oil, freshly baked bread, and a hint of Scottish Malt Whiskey that was undoubtedly Scotty.
Nearby, there was also the deep smell of a cinnamon latte, musky, yet sweet perfume and a deep berry smell that he imagined would belong to Uhura.
Following that, there was the smell of incense, spiced tea and the bland smell that he associated with Plomeek soup that was unquestionably Spock.
On top of that myriad of smells, he could also smell the tangy antiseptic and the bitter punch of a variety of different types of blood, along with the acrid smell of heated plastic that the dermal regenerators seemed to give off after they had been on for a while.
If he wasn’t so good at determining the different groups of smells, it might have been overwhelming, but the feeling of Jim’s gentle touch was enough to calm any over-sensitisation that he had.
Jim’s hand stopped and he had just lifted his head to glare at Jim when another hand began to fuss his fur. It wrapped behind his ears and caught a scratch that he hadn’t even realised was there until it was attended to. The smell of cinnamon latte had gotten stronger, telling him that it was Uhura who was currently fussing him into a purring stupor. If he was more sensitive, he might have been embarrassed by this, but he couldn’t find the attention to care.
It was an instinctive movement that led his head to be tilted into her hand to ensure that she didn’t stop anytime soon. She caught an area between the junction of his neck and cheek that was particularly mesmerising, leading to him stretching his head forward to give her better access, with a silent plea to not stop.
When she did finally stop, he was feeling like how he felt after a massage and when he stood up, he felt his legs were shaky. He shook himself of and nudged Jim again, this time tapping on the outside of his wrist three times in a motion that Jim understood. Jim looked quickly at the chronometer on the wall and looked back at him. “It’s 1945,” he said in reply to Leonard’s unspoken question.
Leonard stretched again and turned away from Jim, sauntering towards his office once more. He thought he heard Jim telling the people around his bed that Leonard would be back soon and this made him even more glad that Jim knew him so well.
The door, just as sensitive from the outside, let him in and he went into the small bathroom had one more back-creaking stretch before allowing himself to change back. He concentrated on the way that his human form felt and it was just a moment before he was kneeling on the ground, cold because of his lack of clothes. Jim had once asked what it felt like to change, but he still found it difficult to describe, because he just knew how to do it.
He shook himself off as he stood up, still feeling some feline traits filtering through into his human form. He gathered the clothes on the floor and threw them into the laundry chute in one of the panels in the wall before turning to the small bathroom that sat off his office to have a very quick sonic shower.
After he felt clean, he went back into his office, grabbed a spare uniform and underwear and got changed. He then sat down in his chair to put on his socks and boots on. He opened the top drawer of his desk and took out his PADD, opening it up to check over Jim’s vitals from when he’d been asleep.
It appeared that Jim had only been awake for about 20 minutes before Leonard woke up. How the hell he had stayed in the biobed, Leonard would probably never know, but he was thankful for it anyway.
He went to lick his lips and found that his tongue was cottony and dry, making him realise that he hadn’t had a drink in far too long. Well, he thought, I ought to fix that. With slow, controlled movements as he got used to muscles that were a bit stiffer and tense than his feline form, he got up and moved over to the replicator that had been placed in the wall and ordered a glass of water and a sandwich.
He drank down the water quickly before ordering another glass and tucking into the sandwich. It wasn’t nearly enough, but it was a good start to prevent him from fainting as soon as he left the room. Changing tended to take quite a lot of energy, not even considering that he hadn’t eaten or drunk since before Jim’s surgery. Oops.
After he had finished, he replaced the empty plate and began to drink down the water, a little slower than before. Once he did that, he went back into the bathroom to check if his hair was in place to ensure that he wouldn’t scare everyone off. From there, he went to his desk, grabbed his PADD and left the room to go back to Jim.
“Hey Bones,” Jim said again, just as he had when he was a cat. Jim gave him a bright grin and he had to admit to himself that he was glad that he could see the full force of the blue in Jim’s eyes, as he wasn’t able to see it so well as a cat, instead they seemed to be slightly purple then.
“Jim,” he greeted. He felt slightly awkward as he looked at the crew surrounding Jim’s bed, all of whom (apart from Spock) looked as if they were comparing him to his feline form. Jim had admitted that the first time that he saw his other form, he couldn’t stop finding ‘kitty traits,’ as he called them, in his human form as well. He was sure that instinctively the crew were doing the same and comparing his forms. He did his best to ignore it, just for a moment.
He looked at his PADD and looked at the corresponding results on the biobed, before doing a quick check-up. After that, he took the time to note that the crew around the bed were doing their best to not stare at him of Jim, keeping their eyes diverted or keeping in small pockets of their own conversation, well, expect for Spock (again), who was openly watching him, making him feel a bit uncomfortable, as if he was an experiment.
Placing the PADD down on the bed, he took in a deep breath and turned to face the brilliant members stood near them. “I guess you guys have questions?”
Unsurprisingly, it was Uhura who spoke first. “Why didn’t you tell us?” The twinge of hurt in her voice made him feel a little bad, but he stood his ground, knowing this talk from before when Jim had found out.
“It’s not something that comes up in everyday conversation. ‘Hope you’ve had a good day and by the way I’m a shapeshifter,’” he gave a sharp, barking chuckle. Uhura shrugged in a ‘seems fair,’ gesture that helped him to feel a little less apprehensive.
“Does eet hurt?” Chekov asked, his voice small, yet filled with excitement.
Leonard looked to the young ensign. “No. It used to, but I’m used to it now,” he answered.
“Why are you a cat?” Sulu asked, his eyes filled with confusion and inquisitiveness.
“It’s genetic. We don’t get to choose what we change into, only the size. My mother’s preferred form is an ocelot, whereas her father prefers to be a Graviassa, which is similar to a lion.”
“Why is your preferred form a domestic Terran cat?” Spock asked, his head titled slightly to the side, like he did occasionally when he was confused as a cat.
“You don’t stand out as a small cat. I suppose it’s easier to get away from everyone if I need to as well. The larger cats tend to be fighters, who prefer to muscle their way out of a dangerous situation. I’d rather get out unnoticed without needing to fight if I can.”
“He holds his oath very seriously,” Jim supplied and Leonard nodded slightly.
“You often mention that I possess ‘pointy-ears,’” Spock said, “and yet…”
“I know, but I don’t have pointy ears all the time. Also, at least my blood still works with medications, unlike the green ice-water that you call blood,” he said with a small grin to show that it didn’t affect him that much. Spock gave a small nod, but didn’t give another reply. “Anything else?” Leonard asked, still tensed for a barrage of questions or hateful remarks.
There were a collection of negative replies and a couple of head shakes that made him feel like a weight had been removed from his shoulders. “See Bones,” Jim said from behind him on the biobed, “I told you that they wouldn’t mind.”
“I know ya did kid, but you know…”
Jim gave a small sympathetic smile but nodded. “I know, but no-one on this ship is gonna judge you for being the cutest, fluffiest little kitty.” Leonard turned to scowl at Jim, earning him a small chuckle. “I stick by it, it just shows how much of a softie that you are Bones.”
He gave a small swat to Jim’s leg, but couldn’t stop the grin that covered his face as he relaxed into the easy conversation that started up again between the seven friends around (and in) a biobed. Maybe now, around these 6 at least, he might not have to be so ashamed of having cat’s eyes as well as human ones, he thought to himself as he realised that he was so glad that he felt that he was finally somewhere he belonged in both of his forms.