Life Changing Lessons in Fan Fiction: What is Love?

This is a new series I’m starting in the hopes that people will gain more respect for fan fiction. That amidst all the mindless, self-indulgent crap out there on the almighty Internets, there are more than a few precious gems that rival and even surpass some of the greatest literary works around. Today’s post is a chapter from a  Star Trek fan fic called Observations by anon j anon. Kirk and Spock are in a romantic relationship, but run into some trouble along the way. Spock is unsure of what to do and receives some invaluable information on love and relationships from Dr. McCoy. Even if you can’t stand slash, no worries. That’s not the issue. Just read carefully what McCoy has to say about love and relationships. It’s life-changing.


“Sit down, Spock.”

Leonard McCoy seats himself in his chair.  I remain standing.

“Or stand, if you like.  Mind if I pour myself a drink?”

“No, doctor.”

He took out a glass and a bottle of brandy.  “Jim won’t tell me what happened between you two.  He told bits and pieces to Nyota.”  He poured himself a glass of amber liquid with a steady hand.  “But Nyota read between the lines.  And I suppose it helps that she’s been in the same position.”

I stiffen, perceiving an accusation.  “Doctor, if you’ll excuse me, I have some experiments to which I must attend—“

“Woah woah, just hold your horses before you skitter off there, Spock.  I’m not blaming you.  Relationships’re tricky things.  You’re talking to a man who went through one helluva divorce.  I’m the last person to point fingers at anyone.”

I relaxed marginally.

“But there is one thing I’m gonna ask.  And if you can’t, or won’t, answer this question, there’s not much point in talking to me.  You’ve already got your answer to your problem.”

He took a sip of brandy.  He motioned for me to sit down, and I finally took a seat.  Leonard looked at me directly.

“Do you love him?”

I opened my mouth to reply, but Leonard interrupted me.

“Don’t say anything about how romance is different for Vulcans or the relativity of emotions for aliens, or anything like that.  Because even with humans, there’s different kindsa bonds between people.  But in the end, no matter how you slice it, love is love.  Aint no way to explain it.  It just is what it is.

“So, do you love him?”

I looked down at my hands, then up at Leonard again.

My head tilts imperceptibly.

Leonard exhaled, smiled and took his brandy.  He raised his glass to me, then took another sip.  He leaned back in his chair.

“For how long?”

I shook my head.  “I do not know.  It came upon me so gradually that I was in the middle of it before I was aware that I had even begun.  However, the realization of the depth of my emotional state, and the explicit acknowledgment of it on my part was only recent.”

“Fair enough.  Everyone falls in love differently.  You, being who y’are, had ta go about it in the most convoluted way possible, but as long as you’re not suppressing it, I’ve got no complaints.”

“Jim would beg to differ.”

“And I’d be the same way if I were in his shoes.”

“I do not understand.”

“Neither did I, when I was dating my ex-wife.  Look,” Dr. McCoy leaned towards me, “I don’t know what Vulcan expectations are in a romantic relationship, but I sure as hell know about the human side.  I aint saying that Jim’s this way, necessarily, but chances are some part—maybe all of it, for that matter—applies.

“There’s a lotta nonsense and hoopla built up over the centuries about romance.  I’m not talking about love here—love’s a different thing.  Romance is what people think love should be, and love is what it is, no apologies and misty eyed rose tinted glasses about it.”

He took another sip.

“Romance says that love completes you.  And while you’re sky high in love, that’s exactly what it feels like.  You feel like the pieces you were missing are right where they should be and you’re invincible, you can do anything, be anyone, face anything in the Milky Way and beyond.  Your problems melt away and everything’s perfect. There’s nothing in the universe that compares to that goddamn feeling of euphoria—not drugs, not some cocktail of neurotransmitters, not anythin’.

“But in reality—because reality’s still there, ready and waiting, it’s just been fogged up by this haze of feeling—you’ve still got problems.  You’re still a flawed person. And more importantly, your lover’s flawed.  Love doesn’t erase any of those things, and you find that out soon enough when gravity grabs your ass and you crash back down to the earth.  Then, you’re stuck in a conundrum.  See, you still love that person, but now you see things a little clearer.  There’s stuff you disagree on, issues that you don’t quite see eye to eye.  Things they do that drive you insane, habits they have they annoy you to pieces.  That’s where the real test comes in.

“It’s a test I failed, so I’m not sure you wanna listen to my advice like I’m some authority on this.  Well, failed or forgot, take your pick.  It amounts to the same thing.

“Love doesn’t complete anyone or anything.  And it alone isn’t enough to keep a relationship going.  The thing I never learned—and I wonder if I ever will—is, it’s not that the other person completes you.  It’s that they stand by you while you complete yourself, and accept you for who you are every step of the way.  You can’t find yourself in another person—there’s only one place for that.  Love’s what happens when someone’s willing to help, not expecting any gain, not expecting any sort of reciprocity. They’ll lend you strength when you need it, support when you want it, give you faith when you ask for it.  Love’s what happens when you’re willing ta do the same.

“Did you ever read that book?  I never woulda guessed in a thousand years that an Orion would write the truest words about love.  But they did.  And maybe it makes some sorta sense that someone from a society as messed up as the Orions, where love’s almost an impossibility because everything revolves around biochemistry and pheromones, would know what love is.  They don’t even bother with the words ‘I love you.’

“’Let me help.’

“That’s what love is.”

His voice was quiet and his eyes distant.

“It gives you the resolve to change, to become a better person.  It gives you courage to bear all things with patience and dignity; it gives you determination to live life to its fullest potential, to strive and strain and persevere from day to day.  Love humbles you, down to your very core.  It makes you feel like the luckiest sonuvabitch to walk and breathe and touch the stars.”

Leonard paused momentarily.  His emotions were tinged with bittersweet memories, vague impressions of the brief and happy glow of his own marriage, the wife and child he left on Earth.  He still loves them.

“What you’ve got with Jim is a rare thing.  But it’s like a supernova, liable to burn out real fast if some things don’t change.  I can’t tell you how to prevent that or what things to change.  You and Jim’ll have to figure that out yourselves as times goes on.  I will say that love means compromise.  Every day.  I know you love him, but if you’re not willing to compromise, you might as well end it right here and save yourself and Jim a lot of heartache.  Things’ll only get uglier.

“That’s the test.  Plain and simple.  Are you willing to meet him halfway?  And is he?  Are you willing to swallow your pride—both human and Vulcan—for Jim?  And is he?  Are you willing to give him what he needs, and trust that he’ll do the same for you?  I know you’re willing to die for him.  Are you willing to live for him?  Are you willing to forgive when he fails, hope when he despairs, abide when he falters?  And is he?

“I wasn’t.  Jill gave up a lot to make our relationship work.  She helped me through my schooling, through my residency and the first years at the hospital.  I didn’t realize the kind of woman I would lose, losing her.  I wasn’t willing to give up time or surgery or patients to be with her, to help her in equal measure, or Joanna.  I loved them, and I thought my love was enough to get us through.  It was a world of hurt for me to find out it wasn’t.

“I’m not gonna ask you some fool question about ‘can you imagine life without him.’  I couldn’t imagine my life without Jill and my sweet little girl, but here I am living it. Life goes on after love ends or fades or lingers.  The real challenge isn’t falling in love.  Any idiot with a few brainwaves can do that.  It’s sustaining love that hits everyone the hardest.

“And I’m not gonna say that it’s worth it.  I can’t tell you how stuff between you and Jim’s gonna work out—that’s up to time and circumstance.  To be honest, sometimes, two people’re better off apart.  Sometimes, the relationship never shoulda gotten started.  At best, romance makes you crazy and at worst, it punches a hole right in the middle of your heart.  Love’s the glue that holds things together, but it only goes so far.  The rest is made up of misunderstandins, conflicts, and moments scattered in between where ya just stop and realize—this is love.  This is life: a fight, a fire, a sorrow, a struggle.”

Leonard McCoy looked at me, his gaze assessing.

“This might not’ve been what you wanted to hear.  God knows the kind of mental leaps you had to make just to admit that you love him.  And I understand what it cost you, maybe better than Jim, to already compromise yourself this far.  You’re half human,” he nodded, “but you’re still half Vulcan.  You feel like you’re putting yourself out on a limb and you don’t even know if there’s anyone to catch you.  It’s a damn scary feeling.

“Whatever you choose, it’s your right.  There’s no one true answer, nothing set in stone to say you’re wrong or not.  A person’s either able to give up that much of himself, or he’s not.  But I want you to know that whatever you choose, we’ll stand by you both, through thick and thin, like we always have and always will.  As long as this ship’s flyin’, we’ll help you.”


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