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Musical Interlude

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“Though the level of cellular regeneration has proven to be remarkable, Captain Kirk remains in what I can only very optimistically call a persistent vegetative state, and only time will tell if the serum I derived from Khan’s blood will prove to have been effective in his—“

“Figaro. Figaro, Figaro, Figaro. Fig-ah-rooooooh!”

Leonard McCoy paused his dictation and looked up, a confused expression on his face. In the hall outside his temporary office at Starfleet Medical, an orderly filed past, pushing a hover gurney in front of him, singing inexpertly. The man kept it up as he made his way down the hall, his voice fading into the distance. Shaking his head, McCoy went back to his work, but then a nurse passed by, whistling the tune for the same passage from Rossini’s famous opera.

What were the odds he’d hear two different people on staff singing the same thing? Curious—and not really all that interested in finishing his dictation—he left his office to investigate. From somewhere down the hall he could hear the faint strains of strings and woodwinds.

“What the…?” he said, truly confused. The halls of Starfleet Medical were almost uniformly quiet and sedate, with the exception of the child birthing wards, so it was odd to hear classical opera being played. He followed the music until it became clear where it was coming from.

He paused in the doorway to Jim’s room to find his best friend still as comatose as he had been the last time McCoy checked on him that morning. And beside him sat Commander Spock. He was perched on a stool, his back as straight as a fire poker, staring into Jim’s face with an intent expression on his face. His lips were parted, as if he was about to say something.

“Oh, it’s you,” McCoy said.

Spock looked up and blinked slowly at him. “Yes.”

“What are you doing here?” Spock got that look on his face—the one that made him look like he was constipated—and cocked his head to the side. McCoy sighed. “What I mean is, I would have assumed you had more pressing duties on your docket than coming here to sit with Jim. Isn’t it illogical or something?”

“On the contrary, Doctor, it has been well documented that comatose patients respond to the playing of music. I am therefore providing such stimulation for the Captain.”


“Music elicits an emotional response, does it not?”


“The change in brainwave patterns indicated when experiencing emotions has been proven to be predictive of recovery in comatose humans, or so I have read.”

“Those studies are largely anecdotal.”

“Nevertheless, there have been cases?”

McCoy was forced to admit that there had. “Yes.”

Spock inclined his head as if McCoy had proven his point for him.

“But those patients had sustained injuries much different than Jim's. There’s still no guarantee he’ll pull out of this, Spock.”

They regarded each other for a long moment and McCoy was struck momentarily by how very expressive Spock’s eyes appeared at times such as these, how human.

“There is still hope of a recovery, however, or you would not be sustaining his life. Is that correct?” Spock asked quietly.


“Very well.” Spock looked away, and McCoy felt as if he’d just been dismissed. “Computer, suspend playback and replay from the beginning,” he ordered. The aria began to play once more, and since Spock was pointedly ignoring him, McCoy decided to return to his office.

“Damn stubborn Vulcans,” he muttered under his breath.


The next time McCoy heard the unmistakable strains of classical music being played, it was a Liszt concerto.

He'd been unable to sleep and rather than sit and stew in the disconcertingly spacious quarters Starfleet had secured for him, he dressed himself and went back to the hospital. He often did this during the years of his residency, stealing away from home when the restlessness descended on him. Jocelyn had hated it, but he found the quiet early morning hours to be particularly conducive to studying or preparing himself for a difficult surgery he was scheduled to assist on.

This morning was no different; he had a number of journal articles he'd earmarked to read as he struggled to find a reason for Jim's persistent coma. He could find no reason for it and the problem vexed him more than he'd admit to anyone. The brain was a tricky organ, but he was not about to let that tired old cliché lesser doctors sold to patient families become the truth for this case. Jim was alive and McCoy would be damned if he'd only get his best friend that far. So McCoy sat, and he read, this time a hundred year old Andorian medical journal. He was on the verge of either a stunning insight or giving up altogether—sometimes they amounted to the same thing—when the unmistakable strains of Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 filtered into his consciousness.

“The hell...?” McCoy rose and followed the sound of the music, unpleasantly reminded of the summer he spent with his grandmere Lola in New Orleans and she’d dragged him to every orchestra performance she could that summer season.

He shouldn't have been surprised to find the Vulcan seated beside Jim's bio bed, but he was. Spock held one of Jim's hands in both of his, stroking the first two fingers of his left hand slowly along the smooth skin on the back. There was something undeniably tender about the gesture, which was only slightly less alarming than the fact the Vulcan’s lips were moving as he spoke softly to Jim.

“What does he think he’s doing in there, anyway?” McCoy mused aloud.

“Commander Spock?” said a passing nurse, who'd assumed he'd been addressing xir. “He's in there every night, Doctor.”

McCoy could feel his brows practically touching as his face contorted in consternation. He relaxed with a visible effort. “What in hell for?”

The nurse shrugged two of xir four shoulders. “He doesn't get in the way or anything, just sits quietly and occasionally sings along when it’s an opera. I think it's sweet, actually. They must be very much in love.”

“They're not together.”

“Really?” The nurse looked at the pair in the hospital room. “You could have fooled me.”

McCoy followed xir gaze; the expression on Spock's face at that moment was filled with such pathos, McCoy felt like he was intruding on something private.


McCoy steered clear when he could whenever Spock visited from that point on. As the first week passed and then another, with no change in Jim’s condition, he found it harder to prevent himself from hovering, and he was beginning to find the continuous classical music irritating.

Today, it seemed, it was to be Wagner. “This is a bit melodramatic for a Vulcan, isn’t it?” he asked wearily as he fussed over Jim’s readouts on the biobed.

Spock, who’d been bent forward slightly as he looked into Jim’s face, raised an eyebrow and straightened.

“You know, if you want to really get a rise out of him, I suggest Klingon battle yodeling. If anything’d get anyone to hop out of bed, it’s that.”

“I was endeavoring to provide something familiar for him. I believe it is having some positive effect. If you will take note of the fluctuations in his brain activity—“

“I have been doing nothing but noting his brain activity, Spock, and it hasn’t been anywhere near where it ought to be.”

“Then you are examining the wrong things.”

McCoy was suddenly irritated. “Oh I am, am I? And I suppose you playing him all this eggheaded classical music is working? Because that’s not exactly Jim’s speed.” McCoy had suffered through enough late 20th century rap to know exactly what Jim liked to listen to.

“I disagree. In fact, I am in a singular position to know what the captain listens to.”

“And how do you know that?”

“Our quarters are adjacent—I hear all of these pieces emanating from his quite often.”

McCoy made a dismissive gesture. “You’re out of your Vulcan mind!”

“Nevertheless, it is my contention that providing familiar stimuli can be nothing but efficacious. And as my presence has not been intrusive, I can see no reason why I may not continue.”

“Not intrusive? I’ll be the judge what’s intrusive or… or…” McCoy searched for the proper word, “… trusive.”

“That is not an actual word.”

McCoy narrowed his eyes. “Are you sassing me, boy?”

“I am no boy.”

McCoy raised a hand, pointing at Spock. “Now listen to me—“

“Can you two stop bickering and let a guy sleep already?”

Both of them looked down at the man in the bed, astonished. “Jim?”

One single blue eye squinted up at McCoy. “I’m not dead?” he asked weakly.

McCoy gripped the bar on the bed for balance. This was nothing short of a miracle—but he’d be damned if he’d let on to his patient. “Oh don’t be so melodramatic, you were barely dead,” he said, his voice cracking. “The transfusion’s what really took a toll. You’ve been out cold for two weeks.”


“Your cells were heavily irradiated. We had no choice.”


“I synthesized a serum from his super blood. Tell me, you feeling homicidal? Power mad, despotic?”

Jim shook his head and then winced. “No more than usual.”

On the other side of his bed, Spock fidgeted uneasily. Jim’s gaze flipped over to his second in command. Even McCoy could not ignore the way both men’s demeanors changed when they looked at each other. They relaxed, then immediately looked self-conscious over it.

“You saved my life?” Jim asked Spock, over the sound of the bombastic opera that still played in the room. The young captain smiled, as if secretly pleased by something.

“I merely caught the fugitive. Captain, you saved my life, and the lives of the crew—“

“Thank you,” Jim interrupted.

McCoy ordered the computer to halt the music’s playback as he began to scan Jim.

“Hey, I liked that,” Jim protested weakly.

McCoy glanced up at Spock, who looked more unbearably smug than usual, and rolled his eyes.

“What?” Jim asked.

“I researched the effects of familiar stimuli on positive outcomes for comatose human patients, and concluded it would be beneficial for your recovery. The doctor has been less than supportive of the practice.”

“You don’t think music has therapeutic properties?”

“Well, I’d look like a prize idiot if I disagreed now, wouldn’t I?” The fact they both raised an eyebrow at him was supremely irritating. “Anyway, now that you’re back in the land of the living, I’m gonna want to run a few tests.” He looked up at Spock and hooked a thumb at the door. “That means you need to go.”

Spock jumped smoothly off the stool he’d been perched on and returned it to its spot along the wall. “Very well. Captain, I will return later so we may discuss the repairs to the ship and the disposition of Khan and his people’s bio pods.”

Despite what would likely be a very dull conversation, Jim looked like he couldn’t think of a better way to spend his time. “Very well, Commander. I’ll look forward to it.”

Spock nodded and stepped away, then turned back. “It is good to have you back. Jim.”

The smile on Jim’s face could have lit up half of San Francisco. McCoy shook his head once Spock was gone and went back to taking his readings. “What’s up with you? Why the puss?” Jim asked.

“That guy—you know he’s been hanging out around here this whole time, getting in my way.”

Jim glanced at the space Spock had just vacated. “Really?”

“Playing this goddamned classical music all the time. Barber of Seville? Franz Liszt? Who listens to that stuff?”

“Beats me how he got the idea.”

“That’s exactly what I told him!” Feeling vindicated, he turned away to find a hypospray in a lower drawer. Behind him, Jim began to sing:

“Kill the wabbit! Kill the wabbit! Kill the WABBIT!!!

McCoy stood up, suddenly remembering the Bugs Bunny Collection holovids he’d gotten Jim the previous Christmas, and laughed for five minutes straight.


Thank you for your time.