That’s when he gave his life to God, seeking atonement for all that he has done. As a healer, he was supposed to save lives, not take them. Despite the begging entreaty by his father, he should have refused. The world is black and white in some ways, and Leonard chose to live in the gray when he assisted his father in leaving this world. The pain and suffering is not enough to justify taking a life, not when he had sworn to do everything to save and protect those under his care. His marriage crumbled because Jocelyn couldn’t understand, didn’t know why he quit his job and began to seek answers in church. Answers that he still doesn’t have.
Every day, he prays for guidance, for some kind of sign that will make him understand, but he doesn’t deserve God’s attention. He is a murderer, regardless of the new vows that he has taken and the instruction that he’s undergone to become a man of the cloth. In this life, Leonard McCoy is a priest, striving to help those in need so that they do not follow the same path that he once took. His father had been a lapsed Irish Catholic, his mother a Southern Baptist, and he never put much into religion until his father’s last breath brought down an overwhelming amount of guilt and confusion and fear that only a belief in something more could help get him through.
It is not enough that he has spent the last four years living this new life, though. He is being tested more now than ever before, has been since he arrived in Riverside, Iowa and met Frank and Winona Thomas and their son, James Kirk. James is troubled, twenty-two and living a sinful life that causes his parents to worry for his soul. Leonard has tried to reach the boy, but it only complicates things. James looks at him and sees the man beneath the cloth, sees glimpses of the past life that Leonard has left behind. And it’s terrifying to face a blue-eyed devil who seems determined to corrupt him.
It’s been six months of watching Frank verbally abuse the boy, of watching James act out worse every time he’s dragged into church, of listening to the confessions of drinking and fighting and casual sex that make the former Doctor McCoy want to lecture about disease and danger. Leonard wants to tell the boy, as he must think of James despite the fact that twenty-two is definitely not a child, that he is free to live his life away from a man who seems determined to beat the devil out of him and that he’s too bright to let this town tarnish that glow.
Only, Leonard can’t give any warnings, can’t say anything except ‘you are forgiven’ before instructing James to make reparations for his behavior. He is conflicted more than he has been since he made this choice, since he began a new life and vowed to be a better man, and God will not provide him with the guidance that he desperately needs. If he is so unworthy of God’s notice, how can he ever atone for his sins? He bows his head and prays before he steps into the confessional.
“Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned,” James Kirk says. Leonard replies and waits, knowing it won’t be long before James begins to describe, in vivid detail, every sinful thing that he’s done in the past week. “I have had impure thoughts about you, Father. Again. I have thought about taking you in my mouth, feeling your fingers in my hair as I suck you until I taste your come on my tongue.”
Leonard closes his eyes and tightens his hands into fists. This is what he has been hearing for weeks. It is temptation put in his path in an attempt to distract him from his goal. Another test for him to pass to prove his worth. He isn’t certain when James decided to torment him in such a way, but he noticed the infatuation, for want of a better word, after they repaired the kitchen together. It’s his fault for not thinking of propriety and working without a shirt, for not stepping away quickly when James touched the tattoo on his shoulderblade that he got after being accepted into med school. The skull and crossbones seemed an amusing choice at the time, but now it stands as a reminder that Leonard is a killer.
“I’ve thought about you being inside me, holding me so tight that I feel safe for the first time ever,” James continues confessing. His words and the soft tone to his voice make Leonard flinch because he wants to reach out and hold the boy. He notices James’ fingers on the screen between them, stroking it gently as if he were trying to caress Leonard. “You don’t belong here, Bones. This place isn’t right for either of us.”
“James, my name is Father McCoy,” he corrects quietly. He can’t risk anyone overhearing that silly nickname and questioning how James is aware of a tattoo on his back. Most of the town’s citizens already distrust him because he is younger than the other priests and more attractive, and his entire life has not been devoted to God.
“I’ve gotten into three fights since my last confession. The one last night was with a few of the cadets who are here to ship out to Starfleet,” James says. “There’s a transport leaving in five hours. I’m going to be on it.”
Leonard feels as if all the air has gone from the room. He wants the boy to move on, to get away from this place, but there’s a part of him that doesn’t want to lose this. He closes his eyes and prays for God to listen to him, to give him a sign. “I wish you luck, James,” he says finally.
“Father--Bones--will you come with me?” James whispers. He is scratching the screen now, leaning close to it. “They need doctors in space. I know that you used to be a doctor. I hacked into the church files and I read yours. We can leave this place and have a real chance at a future.”
“I’m sorry, son, but I cannot do that,” he says, moving his hand over his face and scratching his beard. “Go with God, James.”
“Please.” James sighs when he doesn’t reply, and Leonard hears the door to the confessional open and close. He closes his eyes and scrapes his nails against his palms. The door to his side opens suddenly, not giving him enough time to react before he’s pressed back into the wood as James kisses him desperately. Leonard can’t respond, he can’t give in to temptation, can’t want this boy and the sinful damnation that his lips promise. When James pulls back, he stares at Leonard. “Five hours, Bones.” Then, he’s gone.
Leonard manages to collect himself before he leaves the confessional and retires to his assigned room. He sits down to meditate, praying and asking for forgiveness even as his lips still tingle from the forbidden kiss. In a past life, he was a doctor, a healer who saved more lives than his colleagues because he was confident and capable. Now, he is a messenger for God, aiding those who seek comfort in order to receive forgiveness for all that he has done. As he sits and prays, he begins to wonder if his self-punishment isn’t the right choice. Is that why God won’t lead him?
When he opens his eyes, he is shaking and feels nauseous. This is wrong. It cannot be as he sees it, yet he feels a sense of resolution that he hasn’t felt in years. He stands and tosses his few personal items into a bag before he carefully removes his collar. “Forgive me,” he whispers, setting it down gently before he changes into clothes that he hasn’t worn since his past life. He runs his fingers through his hair, not bothering to comb it or shave before he leaves the church.
Five hours later, he is hiding in the bathroom on a shuttle to San Francisco, vomiting into the toilet and rinsing his mouth with a flask of bourbon that he hasn’t touched since joining the church. When he’s pulled out of the bathroom, he sees James and feels that sharp kick in the gut again. He sits down beside him, speaking first, talking about throwing up before he rambles about his ex-wife and disease and his fear of flying that he should have thought about earlier and anything but the collar that is no longer around his neck. He is no longer Father McCoy; now, he’s just Leonard McCoy, Starfleet cadet. James smiles at him, an open smile that makes his face light up in a way Leonard hasn’t seen nearly enough and makes his blue eyes shine, and he knows then that he’ll follow this blue-eyed devil anywhere.
As the shuttle leaves Riverside, he begins to wonder if maybe God hasn’t been talking to him all along, and he just hasn’t been listening. Maybe James has been sent to him to force him to pay attention, to give him a new goal as he sets off to save as many people as he can with the skills and talent that God has gifted him with. And, as James grins at him and casually touches his thigh, the promise of a future in his eyes, Leonard knows that he’ll be there whenever James needs to be saved.