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[personal profile] damalurbackup
I haven't posted fic in weeks, practically, which is Not Cool, and here is rambling and an explanation and perhaps even a chance for you-the-reader to prod me-the-blocked in the right direction.

First: the Jocelyn McCoy story. I am stuckstuckstuck on this, probably because I'm not sure how this story wants to be told and I don't have a firm handle on Jocelyn's voice. I started out with this:

They marry at twenty-one and divorce at twenty-eight and in between are: Five years of bliss. One child (lost). One and a half years of grief and sorrow and anger vitriolic enough to scar the sides of a man made of steel. Pyrrhoneuritis. (That was his father, age fifty-eight, too young to die and too weak to pull the plug himself.) Six months of blank, numb indifference. An end.

He signs the divorce papers just before he leaves the state, although she has been sending them for two years. He signs the divorce papers and leaves the state and does his goddamn best to forget her, her name and history and curling smile. There will be other women.

They were, for what it's worth, going to name the baby Barbara.


You see, I feel sorrier for you than I do for him, because you'll never know the things that love can drive a man to—the ecstasies, the miseries, the broken rules, the desperate chances, the glorious failures and the glorious victories. All of these things you'll never know, simply because the word "love" isn't written into your book. ...Good night, Spock.
—Leonard McCoy, 2259

Leonard is five minutes from cutting into Ambassador Gav's body when the wall chirps at him. "Kirk to sickbay. Bones, are you there?"

He sets down his tricorder with a sigh and hits the control panel with the side of his fist. "Yeah, captain, I'm here."

"Good," Jim says, "then belay that autopsy."

"Belay that—Jim, do you even know what you're talkin' about?" He knows that the drawl slips in and leeches his diphthongs whenever he gets worked up, but this is a fucking tragedy and Jim oughta know better. "The man just died, and if you want to know what killed him—"

"I know, Bones," Jim says. "But that's straight from Command. We're stopping at Proxima Centauri to pick up a team sent from SCIS, and after that we're sealing the ship. Fleet seems to think that everyone on board could be a suspect."

He bites back a response with difficulty; it isn't Jim's fault that the higher-ups feel a need to paper everything with red tape. "Fine. Anything else, captain?"

"Yeah, you can come up to the transporter bay and meet the team with me, if you want. We'll be at the Proxima Yards in fifteen minutes or so, and I imagine they'll want to talk to you anyway."

"Fifteen minutes," he says. "Let me peel out of my scrubs and I'll be right up."

"Thanks, Bones," Jim says, and for just a second Len can hear the fatigue in his voice. As soon as this dog-and-pony show is over, he's flagging Jim for mandatory shore leave, putting him on a shuttle for Risa, and not letting him back onboard until—well, until his eyes stop looking bloodshot and he's been rigorously screened for a battery of STDs. "Kirk out."

"Chapel, you're in charge," he tells his head nurse, and strips off his gloves and smock. He leaves them folded on a side table and takes up a sheet to drape over Gav's body; Christine helps him smooth it out over the Tellerite's face. "No one comes in or out of this room. Once I leave, seal it from the outside."

"Yes, doctor," she says. Usually she'd be riding his case for—for not folding his scrubs, or recording the autopsy proceedings with video as well as audio—but death, he has found, is the one thing that makes Christine Chapel quiet.

Just inside the door he pauses and says, quietly, "We'll get it figured out, Chris."

"Yeah." She gives herself a little shake. "Yeah, we will. Go on, McCoy, the captain's waiting for you."

"Won't kill him," he mutters, but for once she doesn't crack a grin at his gruffness.

Jim is indeed waiting for him, as is Spock, who looks like he just swallowed a gallon of swamp water. "Hey, Bones," Jim says.

"You know who we're getting?" Len asks.

Jim tugs his tunic into place. "Apparently one of SCIS's major case response teams, shipped in straight from headquarters. Whatever that means. Believe it or not, I haven't had a whole lot of experience with the Criminal Investigative Service."

"You record disproves that statement, captain," Spock says smoothly.

"Not with Starfleet's CIS, then," Jim corrects, for once not rising to Spock's bait. "Ready, gentlemen?"

"Affirmative, captain," Spock says, and Len just scowls. They enter the room together, Jim half a pace ahead. As the door slides shut behind them, the air over the transporters begins to shimmer gold. Len has to look away; watching people's atoms reassemble is almost as bad as having it happen to himself, especially after he took Transporter Cellular Anatomy at the Academy.

He fixes his gaze on the toes of his boots and swallows hard against the nausea. To his right Jim moves forward, hand no doubt extended. "I'm Captain Jim Kirk. Welcome aboard."

"Special Agent Jocelyn Darnell," says a voice; a low, feminine voice; a familiar voice. He whips his head up and there, right there in front of him, still shaking Jim's hand, is:

She catches sight of him a split second after he sees her and freezes dead in her tracks. Her eyes are still light, almost impossibly pale, but her hair—he'd loved her hair, thick and dark and long enough to brush her elbows—her hair barely reaches her collarbones; now it's the color of straw.

"Len!" she says, startled, and he can almost taste her ire at her own break in professionalism.

"Hello, Jocelyn," he hears himself say.


Jim pulls him into a small antechamber off to the side, leaving Joss and her four-man team to the mercy of Spock. He's aware that he's still staring blankly; Jim has to smack him in the shoulder before he focuses.

"Bones, what the hell was that?"

"What the hell was what?" he says automatically

"Agent Darnell. You know her? Wait, that's probably obvious. You know her, and not in a good way."

He scowls and folds his arms across his chest. "Yeah, I know her. Is that some kinda problem?"

Frustration tugs at the corners of Jim's mouth. "Let me rephrase that: What the hell is wrong with you, man?"

"She's my ex-wife, okay?" he blurts, and then looks away. "She's my ex. I didn't expect her to—I didn't expect her, is all."

"Okay," Jim says. "I can understand how that'd be weird, but, uh...I hate to put it this way, Bones, but I kind of thought you hated her."

"Why would you think that?" Joss had been a thorn in his side, and his feelings for her were—complex, but he'd never held a grudge.

Jim starts to tick off fingers matter-of-factly. "You said she'd taken the whole damn planet, you refuse to talk about her, when you do talk about her you call her 'whatshername'—"

"Well, yeah," Len says, "but I don't hate her."

"In addition, captain," Spock's voice cuts in, and holy hell, he hadn't even heard the man come in, "Doctor McCoy still wears his wedding ring, which is indicative of an ambivalent attitude, at very least."

"I thought that was your class ring," Jim says, and Len curls his fingers into a fist. The gesture is protective, but does nothing to hide the glint of sliver from his little finger. He wishes they would drop it, wishes Joss would go away, wishes she would look at him the way she used to, like he personally hung the moon and the stars and dragged the sun over the horizon each morning.

"No," he says, shortly.

"Bones, if it's a problem—"

"It isn't." Jim's eyes are sympathetic, and Spock is studying the far wall; it makes him want to punch something. "And even if it was, Jim, there's nothing you coulda done about it."


And then I took that opening and revised it into this:

They marry at twenty-one and divorce at twenty-eight and in between are: Five years of bliss. One child (lost). One and a half years of grief and sorrow and anger vitriolic enough to scar the sides of a man made of steel. Pyrrhoneuritis. (That was his father, age fifty-eight, too young to die and too weak to pull the plug himself.) Six months of blank, numb indifference. An end.

He signs the divorce papers just before he leaves the state, although she has been sending them for two years. He signs the divorce papers and leaves the state and does his goddamn best to forget her, her name and history and curling smile. There will be other women.

They were, for what it's worth, going to name the baby Barbara.

He leaves her the house. In this he can afford to be generous. He leaves her the house with the wide bay windows where they once set up their Christmas trees, with the spiral staircase in the basement and the broad front porch. After he leaves, she wanders the rooms one by one, remembering that this is where he always dumped his keys when he came home from the practice and that was where they'd made love for the first time in their new house and here was where the baby's room would have been. They'd already started putting up the wallpaper, and even two years later it hangs only half-finished.

She shuts the lights off as she passes through. The next day she starts searching for an apartment downtown.

It's funny, though; she's spent the last two years hating him for every reason and no reason, but now that she's Jocelyn Darnell again she only feels a thrumming, gentle ache that settles below her ribcage and refuses to leave.

He doesn't hate her. He resents her and he loves her still; and in conversations he refers to her as what's-her-name, as if she never meant anything to him at all.

She cuts her hair and dyes it blond. Nobody on her team mentions it, but one of her friends in the forensics department brings it up, says, "Oh Joss, what did you do to your hair? It was so pretty and long - "

"It wasn't practical," she snaps, brittle. She never had that brittleness, that edge to her - well, she thinks, that's not strictly true; she's good at what she does, and she takes bullcrap from nobody, but at twenty-one she was sweet and good-tempered and the best damn fisherman in the state. He used to tease her, say that's why he married her, because she's always be able to keep them fed.

"Oh," her friend says. "I...I do like the color, though. It suits you."

"Thanks," she says, and flips open another folder of lab reports. The conversation stops, just ends; but that evening she finds herself fingering the ends of her hair where it brushes her collarbones, and it makes her angry.

She's never lived life as if it were a fairy tale. At eighteen she refused to be the damsel-in-distress; at twenty-eight she refuses to be the villain or the fading lover both.

As she packs her office and prepares to transfer from Atlanta's FBI office to Starfleet Criminal Investigative Services in San Francisco, he sits alone in his new office and drinks to those long lost. Foremost in his mind are the cadets killed in the battle against Nero, but also he thinks of his parents. It doesn't occur to him until later that he thought of her, too, that he mourned for her like someone dead.

He doesn't have the market on tragedies. Her father died when she was twenty of alcohol poisoning.


And the thing is - I have all the plot points worked out, I have dates and major events and everything, but I am just so completely and totally blocked on where to take this and, even more, how to tell it.

Anyway, in the meantime (as inspired by a tinychat session), I got the idea of setting a Sheldon/Penny story in St. Louis. I've always wanted to do a story that closely ties the location with the rest of the story, and there are few cities I know so well as St. Louis, but now I am stuck on that too, because it's turned into something very difficult and nearly raw.

They are in the parking lot at Best Buy when he turns to her and says:

We are going to go back to our apartments.
We are going to gather any absolutely vital possessions.
We are then going to drive somewhere that is far away and not Texas.

And they do.

"Morning," she says, and then, when he doesn't move except to turn the page of the paper, "You gonna tell me today what we're doing here?"

"Your constant badgering for an explanation is most irritating."

"You know, that's rich," she says, and reaches for the cornflakes, "coming from you."

The paper is the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. They have been ensconced in this hotel suite for nine-and-a-half days. As far as she can tell, Sheldon hasn't left yet, except to go to the ice machine down the hall.

Missouri is hot. Not hot like southern California, where even the worst weather is sweet and bright and ocean is only ever an afternoon's walk away; here the heat is wet, and her hair paradoxically starts to frizz and sticks to her necks as soon as she walks out the front door.

The people are friendly enough, though, even if they don't eat a lot of fish. She grew up in the Midwest, so it's all a familiar pattern. Even the city-dwellers who live in Clayton or the Central West End talk about the crops and taking the kids out to Eckert's for a home-made apple pie. Their second Saturday she takes herself out to dinner on Sheldon's dollar at the Chase Park Plaza, rides the elevator to the very top floor and orders a steak dinner. The prices aren't even listed on the menu, but the view is fabulous; she can see all the way to Illinois, where the fields of corn and soybeans blur together in one endless sea of green.

"You care if I call Howard?" she asks, one Monday afternoon. He's bent over a sheaf of papers at the counter, and she has a sudden image coming back (coming home) to find his equations spilling off the paper and marching up the walls like ants.

"Yes," he says, tersely, his pencil never stuttering in its unceasing motion.

"Oh, okay then," she says. The words don't come out nearly as sarcastically as she intends.

He says nothing. Off in his own little world, numbers and letters and symbol that, as far as she can tell, aren't really either. She stirs the salsa idly, with one finger, and envies him.

"Mind if I call my parents?"

"No, and really, Penny - "

She crunches into a chip, then, just to see the scowl on his face.

It rains on day thirteen. She turns the volume up on the TV and flips between a soap and a mock court show. His reaction continues to be predictable and reassuring.

Day fifteen is a Thursday. She rides the Metro-Link to Forest Park and spends the day exploring it on foot. She stumbles across the art museum entirely by accident and takes refuge inside because, hey, free air conditioning, and her mother didn't raise a fool. Many of the collections are only on limited display, the security guard tells her, because of renovations, but the bathroom is clean and they have a mummy. The Egyptian exhibit eats up an hour, two hours; she stares in fascination at the canopic jars, her mind flitting between Hollywood mummies and the thought of having her brain pulled out through her nose. Egyptians were some crazy kids, she decides, but this sort of thing seems right up Sheldon's alley. Maybe she'll bring him back here, if he ever comes back to what she's taken to calling "the real world" with a profound sense of irony. This in no way resembles her real world, at very least, because her real world is eight-hours shifts at The Cheesecake Factory and dead-end auditions for only the smallest of actors. There are, she always tells herself, no small parts; but that doesn't mean there isn't a line between starring in a film and playing the protagonist's antagonist's sister at the local playhouse.

On day seventeen she pulls the pencil out of his hand and lays it gently on his open book. "Sheldon, you have to eat," she says, and isn't put off by his glares, by the fierce burn of his eyes.

"It would illogical for me not to eat, and if you'd paid attention - " His voice is hoarse from disuse.

"Sheldon Cooper, don't you dare pull that Spock crap with me," she says, and bullies him into shoes, and then out the door. They walk four blocks to a burger joint and he orders a patty melt and says not a word the entire time.

Almost when the sun is up he fools her into thinking he doesn't need her. Almost. But at night she hears him, rearranging the shampoo bottles by size, fixing the cable hook-up, paging through his books; and sometimes at night she feels him, curled around her body, his face wet against the nape of her neck. On those nights she doesn't breath for fear he'll shatter.

She feels sorry for him. Yes she does, of course she does, because he is not the sort to run lightly. Sheldon travels on set tracks and for him to deviate so dramatically is akin to the Earth suddenly deciding to realign its orbit around Jupiter. He can't loose himself, she decides, not really, can't turn his brain off and just stop thinking; there's something too sharp and too aware in him for that. And he can't mourn, he can't even feed himself. It isn't that he forgets, but rather that he doesn't care to remember. The best approximation he has to numbness is burying himself in work.

She should feel resentful. Perversely, she begins to resent him less. His weakness, at least, seems human.

He still grates on her. When he berates her for not cleaning her hair out of the shower drain she snaps at him and when he doesn't she worries. She starts cleaning our her hairbrush and dropping the debris into the bathtub deliberately, to gauge his mood.

Every morning starts the same way: She wakes up alone in bed, ignores the depression in the mattress made by someone both taller and heavier, traipses into the kitchenette, and says, "Feel like telling me why we're here?"

On the best days, he tells her no.

She has resented him, all this while. Their relationship has been fraught with doubts (at least on her side) from the very beginning, because Penny did not run away from home at the age of eighteen to be a supporting character in Sheldon Cooper's life. Penny ran away from home and moved to California

to be a star.

What can I tell you about her dreams? They are silly dreams, they are little girl dreams, because for every little girl that runs away to join the circus there are six more who run away to Hollywood and six hundred more who fail. Her dreams are the dreams of so many girls, so many girls with their bright hair like spun gold and their white teeth and their heads full of dreams, who think they can become actresses and big Hollywood stars. Penny is not a good actress. She cannot sing, she has difficulty suppressing her own personality and submerging herself in someone else, she forgets her lines and does not project. Still she has a need to become someone else, even for that soft lullaby moment, seductive and fleeting, but even in this she cannot crush her self. What can I tell you about her dreams? They are her own, and not yours or mine.

After that she bullies him more often. The cruelest thing she could ever do would be to take away his pencil and paper and books, so she does, and leads him around the city like he's feeble. They go to a Cardinals game, and she digs a red shirt out of her suitcase to show support. When he speaks it's only in statistics, to explain batting averages.

"Do you mind if I call my mother?" she asks, and he does not answer.

She ran away from home at eighteen because her family began to fall apart. Her brothers had moved away by then, one serving a tour overseas in the army and one to college, and she was the last one at home to watch her family fall apart.

And after that is: She cannot distract him with Doctor Who, but she coaxes him out of the apartment every few days and he stands blinking in the sunlight, like some awkward newly-birthed thing, which is patently ridiculous: There is something about Sheldon that resists the label of innocent, despite his confident naivety.

One day her phone rings. She picks up before she glances at the caller ID, hears Leonard's voice. "Penny? Is that you? We've been looking for you for ages, do you know where Sheldon is - ?"

"Yes," she says.

"Do you. Is he there with you?" Leonard asks.

"Yes," she says again.

"Could you tell him - his mom's looking for him, Missy died four weeks ago in an accident - "

She hangs up.


There's supposed to be this whole thing with, idk, twin-telepathy, and I wanted Penny to have to struggle with something while Sheldon goes through this whole process, and maybe they decide to stay in Missouri, or maybe they're completely different people when they finally return to Pasadena, or maybe...what? *tears at hair*
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