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The Waiting Game

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Leonard McCoy is born long before First Contact, The Federation, The Phenomenon, etc. He's born in 2020, dies and is reborn in 2046. First Contact occurs on April 5, 2063 and kicks up a big fuss, though he only really pays attention because Sam has been so excited about the prospect of mankind's advancement. She regales him with her stories as he hides in her apartment, trying to get over the horror of Olduvai. He's left the Marines, but he doesn't know what else to do with his life. He spends a lot of time buried in books. In 2100 he finally starts living his life again. He has to now that Sam's gone. There's no one else looking out for him and he can't exactly die, so better get on living. In reality, it's more existing than living. The years kind of meld together, but he remembers 2161 being a big year for something. And then The Phenomenon.

No one's really sure when it starts, but by 2189 most babies are being born with another person's name on their body. The words start out as an inky blur of all different colors. As the person ages, however, the smudges smooth out. The words themselves don't turn into the clear, crisp signature of the person's name until skin-to-skin contact has occurred, though from what McCoy hears many people can recognize their distinctive scrawl without discerning the letters. Leonard is kind of amused by the whole thing. Half of him thinks it's exceedingly stupid. The other half wonders if it's possible for a 169-year-old man to gain a signature. Out of pure curiosity, he locks himself in his bedroom and examines himself in the mirror. When he's done, he shakes his head at his own stupidity and goes to bed.

Everything is kind of a blur until 2250. By that point, Leonard has explored all his options on Earth and he's looking for something new. He signs up for Starfleet despite the quiet terror at the back of his mind, the constant reminder about the dangers of space. He might be a doctor at the moment, but he was still a soldier first, goddamn it. He somehow acquires responsibility for a blond shithead named James Kirk, who saddles him with the nickname 'Bones'. It feels...good, like a handle ID. Not that he'll ever tell the kid that. Hell no.

For three years, he buries himself in his studies and cleaning up Jim's messes. The kid is desperate to find his soul mate, sleeping with anyone who gives him the time of day. Still, the smudges on his skin refuse to clear. Bones makes it a point not to look despite Jim's near-constant complaining. And he is always very careful about making sure he doesn't touch Jim's skin. He doesn't know why.

"I have two," Jim tells him one day out of nowhere.

"STD's? That's not exactly a personal record, Jimmy," McCoy says, shooting the kid a smirk before turning back to his book. Jim rolls his eyes and flops onto his bed.

"You know what I mean." He shoots the doctor-to-be a flirtatious grin. "Come on, I'll show you mine if you show me yours."

"Not a chance in hell, kid," McCoy tells him, throwing an eraser at his head without even looking. He absolutely does not grin when it bounces off the blond's forehead. He doesn't.

"Aw, come on, Bones!" Jim grouses, rubbing at the small red spot that appears on his skin. McCoy relents a little.

"Did it ever occur to you that maybe I don't have one?" he asks, raising an eyebrow. The kid scoffs, but Leonard figures that sometimes the best lie is the truth.

During the Narada attack, McCoy finds that it's impossible to avoid the occasional skin to skin contact on a fucking starship. Especially when that starship is under fucking attack. He curses under his breath because this was his decision, after all, and jumps back into the fray. When everything is said and done, once the dust has settled and they find out that they're not going to wind up court-martialed or whatever this century's equivalent is (Leonard has long since quit caring about political correctness), McCoy settles into his role as the Enterprise's Chief Medical Officer and all around Jim Kirk babysitter.

He's not surprised when he finds out that Jim and Spock are soul mates. He'd had a couple of talks with Spock Prime after the whole thing was said and done and the older Vulcan had confided in him that Jim had been his t'hy'la in the original timeline. Still, when the Captain makes his announcement to the crew, McCoy feels himself relax. He also ignores the curious looks being sent his way. Apparently, several crew members were under the impression that McCoy would be Jim's soul mate. McCoy tries really hard not to think about that. Focus on the positive: at least he won't have to be so guarded around the kid all the time.

Spock is good for the Captain, which in turn is good for Leonard's blood pressure. He tempers the blond's more unruly behaviors – such as rushing headlong into danger – and gives the kid a steadiness he didn't know he needed. McCoy's happy for them; he ignores the small ache in his chest.

"Have you found your bond mate, doctor?" Spock asks. Leonard looks up from where he's observing their chess game. He's seen the trap the Vulcan has placed for Jim, knows that the kid will play right into it. He doesn't point it out, though.

"My what?" he asks with a scowl.

"Your soul mate," Spock clarifies, turning to look at the doctor.

"Don't have one," he says. "That was stupid," he tells Jim after the kid takes his turn. The Vulcan closes his trap and captures the Captain's king. Checkmate. The blond swears under his breath and McCoy rolls his eyes. Predictable.

"I was given to understand that you were born with a mark," Spock continues, turning his attention back to the doctor.

"You were given to understand incorrectly," he tells the man with a certain sense of perverse glee. He and Spock might be forming an uneasy truce for the sake of their Captain, but McCoy is still going to point out when the half-Vulcan's wrong, dammit. Jim's looking at him with startled eyes and McCoy shoots him a look. "What?" he huffs.

"I thought you were joking," Jim says softly. McCoy really wants to smash his head against a wall. Instead, he sighs. Heavily.

"Oh my god, kid, it's not like I have some terminal disease." he points out.

"The doctor is correct. Scientists are still trying to understand why certain individuals are born without bond marks. In the meantime, it seems as if those without marks can bond with whomever they desire, as former humans did," Spock elucidates. "There are no adverse side effects, and as the situation does not seem to bother the doctor, it would be illogical to feel sad on his behalf."

"Thanks," McCoy frowns. "I think."

They move on with their lives. Everything blows up in their face with Khan, and Leonard fights tooth and nail to keep Jim from dying. He never realizes that he's not wearing gloves when he checks Jim over. Then he's fighting to save Spock on Altamid because Jim will kill him if he doesn't bring the damn pointy-eared, green-blooded hobgoblin back with him. He tries to be respectful of the Vulcan's touch telepathy, tries to keep away from skin-to-skin contact, and he's pretty sure he's successful. He's wrong.

They're still on Yorktown the first time it happens. McCoy's got his own apartment – a regular occurrence since Jim and Spock bonded. He loves his friend, but he ain't about to continue sharing quarters when he's found his soul mate – it's just not right. They're still bouncing back from their latest brush with death, still waiting for the finishing flourishes on the shiny new Enterprise when McCoy is jerked from his sleep by a loud banging on his door.

He's still tired, dammit, but he drags on some clothing before answering the door. He covers as much skin as possible because he hates the look his unmarked skin gets – hates that someone is looking at him like he might be the answer to their prayer only to have their hopes dashed when they can't find a mark. He catches sight of the clock on his way there, irritation flaring when he sees that it's 8:00 am. Whoever is still banging on his door better have a damn good reason for doing so or be immune to hypos. Jim Kirk has neither a good reason nor is he immune to hypos. Bones knows for a fact that the kid is up to date on all his immunizations, but he stabs him with a vitamin hypo anyway because sometimes, McCoy is a sadistic son-of-a-bitch. Jim yelps in surprise, but that doesn't stop him from pushing in to McCoy's apartment, dragging his Vulcan boyfriend behind him.

"Jim, it's too early for this bullshit," McCoy grouses, but he's already moving to his small kitchenette to make coffee. He plugs the percolator in (because replicator coffee is shit) and starts the drip while Spock pokes his nose around the apartment. Jim is on the couch, practically vibrating with excitement, but McCoy doesn't much care. He'll care after he's caffeinated.

Armed with a cup of coffee, Bones meanders into the living room and sits in what is quickly becoming 'his' chair. Spock breaks off his investigation and settles next to his Captain on the sofa. McCoy knows that Jim wants him to ask what the hell they're doing here so early on goddamn shore leave. He stays silent and drinks his coffee, a smirk on his lips. Like he said: sometimes, he's a sadistic son-of-a-bitch.

"Well?" Jim finally huffs. McCoy pauses where he has the cup lifted to his lips.

"Well?" he parrots, lifting an eyebrow. The blond groans, but McCoy catches the glint of amusement in the Vulcan's eyes and considers it a win.

"Aren't you going to ask why we're here?" the kid presses.

"Should I?" he asks innocently. Really, he's a bastard. Jim growls but gives in.

"Do you remember how I told you that I have two names?" he asks. He leans forward, blue eyes shining brightly with his excitement. McCoy wracks his memories because it's been awhile, dammit – good lord, it's been almost a decade.

"Vaguely," Bones finally responds. Jim shoots Spock a look and the Vulcan takes over the narration.

"I, also, have two names, Leonard," he tells the doctor. "While Jim's second name became clear approximately 3.2 years ago, mine only became clear approximately 1.7 weeks ago. The cause for Jim's excitement stems from-"

"It's the same name," Jim interrupts gleefully.

"Uh, congrats?" McCoy asks more than states – honestly, he doesn't know what they want from him. "So, who's the lucky guy or gal?"

"His name is John Grimm," Spock informs him. McCoy carefully avoids breaking his coffee mug. Jim might give his friend shit about having the worst poker face in the world, but dammit if he can't carry it off when it counts.

"Grimm," he murmurs, eyebrows furrowed in concentration. "I don't think I recognize the name. Must not have been assigned to the ship." He shrugs. "Have you gotten into contact with him?"

"No," the younger man tells him. "That's just it, Bones. It's like he doesn't exist." Leonard can see the twinkle in Jim's eyes – there's a matching look in Spock's eyes as well. It's a challenge, and there is nothing the pair love more than a good challenge. The doctor stands, clasping the Vulcan's shoulder before patting Jim on the back as he passes them both on the way to the kitchen.

"Well, I wish you luck. If he's got you two after him, I'm sure he doesn't stand a chance."

Later, after Spock and Jim have left, McCoy locks his door, enters his bedroom and strips. After carefully mapping his skin in the mirror, he finds it. Two signatures resting on his left shoulder blade. James Tiberius Kirk and S'chn T'gai Spock. Leonard laughs until he cries and then cries himself to sleep.


"Dammit. Dammit. Dammit! DAMMIT!" Jim shouts before tossing his PADD across the room in frustration. Spock ignores his mate's outburst; McCoy's only immediate response is to quirk an eyebrow at the kid.

"Problem?" he drawls when it's clear that Jim is planning on wallowing in his depression.

"It's been months, Bones! The Enterprise is fixed. We've been back in space for a month and a half. And still," he continues, ignoring the doctor's mutter of don't remind me, dammit, "neither Spock nor I have been able to find out anything about this guy." Jim flops to the floor between Spock and Bones. The force of his move upsets the chessboard, interrupting the game between the First Officer and CMO. Spock lets out a heavy breath but says nothing as he moves to clean up the mess. Leonard helps him.

"Kid, why are you obsessing over it?" Bones can't help but ask. "It's not like you don't got a good thing going with Spock." This time, it's Jim that sighs.

"Believe it or not, Spock is 'obsessing' over it, too." the blond tells him. "It's not that Spock and I don't appreciate what we have. It just feels like a part of us is missing." Jim pauses, concentration contorting his face as he struggles to find a way to explain himself.

"Indeed," Spock agrees. "It is like in the older times. If you were injured enough, you could potentially lose a limb. You could survive without it, but you would spend the rest of your life cognizant that something was missing. That you were not whole. To know a bond mate is missing, to not have the contact that is so desperately craved..." The Vulcan trails off.

"Spock, that was damn near poetic," McCoy tells him. He's not even joking. "Look, y'all know that I have no idea how this soul mate thing works but...is it possible for the mark to show up without skin-to-skin contact?"

"In rare cases," Spock says. "If one soul mate dies before meeting the other, for instance."

"But in that case, the other mate usually has something else to work with," Jim jumps in. "A sharp pain of the bond severing. The signature becoming clear before fading away."

"The marks fade?" McCoy asks, surprised. He's never thought about it before – he's just always assumed that Spock's and Jim's signatures would remain on his skin for the rest of time. Now, though, hearing that they'll fade after their deaths... Leonard is inexplicably sad. He avoids the Captain and First Officer for a while after that.

Because luck is not on his side – luck is never on his side – Leonard is unable to keep the ruse going. It's almost a year into their mission and Bones has saved Jim's ass no less than 47 times. He's saved Spock no less than 13 times because the half-Vulcan knows how to use his fucking brain. Jim and Spock still haven't given up trying to find John Grimm and McCoy can feel his resistance wearing down. The kid and the hobgoblin are exhausting, and McCoy's kind of a romantic at heart. He likes the idea of soul mates. Sue him.

They find the records. More specifically, they hacked into the records and find the only surviving picture of John 'Reaper' Grimm. Even more damning, Leonard is exiting the shower when they let themselves into his room and see the colors on his back. The doctor quickly finds himself getting up close and personal with a wall while a Vulcan gets up close and personal with his back.

"Leonard, I believe the phrase is 'you have some explaining to do,'" Spock tells him, breath hot in his ear and dammit that should not be a turn on. Then Jim is suddenly there, trying to look pissed but mostly just looking amazed while his hands skim over the names imprinted on McCoy's shoulder blade – the only thing that's been able to mar his skin in 216 years.

"We're going to talk about this," he whispers to McCoy. "Because there are a lot of unanswered questions. But right now, I just need- Can we-?" he asks, questions never quite finished and Leonard doesn't even really know what the two of them are asking but the answer is just yes, okay? Jesus fucking Christ, yes.

Later, McCoy wakes up disoriented. That's completely normal. What's not normal is finding Jim latched onto his front like some kind of demented octopus, while Spock is pressed up against his back, radiating heat like a... Oh, hell, it's too early (late?) for metaphors. He hasn't had his coffee yet, dammit.

He scrubs a hand over his face and considers his options. His cover is clearly blown, at least where Jim and Spock are concerned. What happens next will be up to the two of them. In the meantime, he needs another shower and a cup of crappy replicator coffee.

Sitting up jostles both Jim and Spock, and Leonard quickly finds himself pinned between both of them. Once they wake up enough to understand Bones' shouting – can't a guy get a fucking shower in his own quarters? Move, dammit! - they release him, and he disappears into the shower stall. The reprieve is slight. Both are dressed and waiting for him when he returns to the bedroom, and he muffles a sigh as he collapses into a chair.

"How long have you known?" Jim asks, but McCoy hears the real question: how long have you been rejecting us?

"Yorktown," he tells them. He sees the silent communication between the Captain and First Officer. Amazing what can be conveyed with a simple look. "I didn't think I'd get a name for...obvious reasons," he says with a wry grin before clearing his throat. "When you came to my apartment and said 'John Grimm'... After you left, I checked."

"Why did you not speak up?" Spock asks. His face is impassive – at least to McCoy. He hasn't learned to read it as well as Jim has. Bones has better luck catching the feelings that flash through Spock's eyes, but the man's Vulcan control is in full effect and even those are inscrutable at the moment.

"And say what?" Bones asks, quirking an eyebrow. "Maybe, 'oh, by the way. That guy you're looking for? He's a genetically modified super soldier – yeah, like the asshole that tried to kill you – and he's been hanging around for 216 years. You'll find him in med bay'." The doctor shakes his head.

"There is something else on your mind," the Vulcan states, eyes focusing intently on the doctor. McCoy sighs.

"I had a more…pressing reason to stay quiet," he admits softly. "After everything that happened, I burned Olduvai down," he continues, eyes hardening. "I destroyed every bottle of C-24, destroyed all the research and then dismantled the UAC. And then I hunted down and killed the scientists who authorized the research." McCoy suddenly sighs, releasing the tension that has steadily been building in his body during his speech. "It was as much to protect Sammy as myself. But there are still risks – just knowing who I am puts you in danger."

"You stayed away to protect us," Jim states with a grin. "Cause you're in love with us. Oh, Bones," the blond sighs, shaking his head softly. "When are you going to realize that we're in love with you, too?"

The statement surprises Leonard. He knew that Jim, at least, loved him, but he's never stopped to consider that the other man was in love with him. And Spock... McCoy eyes the Vulcan. The two had damn near come to blows when they first met, and his opinion hadn't improved when the half-Vulcan left Jim on Delta Vega. Still, they've had years now to mend that relationship, and McCoy can feel the rush of affection when he meets Spock's eyes. Spock might not be the most expressive of individuals, but Leonard's learning that those eyes can hold a lot of emotion. For once in his life, he wants to take a chance.

It isn't easy, this relationship of theirs. Each one of them comes with more than the average amount of baggage, and Leonard is well aware of the fact that he has absolutely no idea how to be in a relationship anymore. It starts gradually. They hang out like they usually do, but the conversation is...different. They skirt the topic of Olduvai, but ask questions about how he's survived since. And when it's clear that McCoy is getting uncomfortable, Spock turns the conversation to the latest science articles that he's read. Bones finds that it's easier for him to share his past in little chunks like this, and pretty soon he lets the stories slide into their conversations without Jim's gentle prodding. The grin lighting up the kid's face and in Spock's eyes are worth it.

After that, it's bigger things. There's a spare Vulcan meditation robe in his closet and a hazardously stacked pile of books on his coffee table that definitely don't belong to him. He's suddenly finding himself dragged out of his med bay (barring surgery) for sleep or food once he reaches the ten hour mark, or snatched away for outings on shore leave. Small gifts begin popping up in strategic locations and...and he's being courted, dammit.

"I'm a doctor, not a southern belle!" he snaps, ignoring the amusement radiating off the men in front of him.

"Bones, we're just returning the favor," Jim tells him, and that halts the doctor's tirade because huh? His brain short circuits even further when Spock pulls the smaller man against his chest and wraps his arms around him.

"Leonard, Jim is correct. You have always gone out of your way to ensure that Jim and I are taking optimal care of ourselves. We are simply doing the same for you."

McCoy blinks because oh. That kind of makes sense. He's never really realized that he was doing it. At the time he'd justify it as a CMO doing his duty, because it's not like anyone else was actively trying to keep the Captain and First Officer alive. The fact that he only went to such lengths for Spock and Jim was blatantly ignored. Well then.

Life on the Enterprise continues on. McCoy still finds his schedule interrupted – though not as often, and usually it's after a 16-hour shift following another attack on the Enterprise by whatever aliens happen to hate them that day. The gifts taper off but never quite stop, though they shift from random items to strategically placed food more often than not. Leonard rolls his eyes but accepts the compromise. He's still dragged out on shore leave, but he doesn't complain and the other two wisely say nothing about the lack of protests. McCoy does his job and endeavors to keep everyone alive, screaming bloody murder when Jim and Spock have too close of a call.

It reaches the boiling point when Jim comes back covered in burns, his heart almost too sluggish to register on any of their equipment. Spock looks like McCoy's greatest transporter fear – too many of his insides on the outside – and he'll be scrubbing green blood off his med bay floor for a long time to come. McCoy gets them stabilized, working his miracles to make sure these idiots of his don't die and once they're stable and aware... They fight – Spock maintaining that they had made logical decisions, Jim waving off the near-death experience as if it's all a big game, and McCoy has just had it. He's seen too many people die – too many people he cares about – and he storms off, cursing the entire way. He'd never expected to be marked and now he's not sure if he wants to be. He wonders if there's a way to erase Jim's golden signature, to wipe away the emerald green of Spock's name. He wonders if erasing the signatures would erase the feelings, too.

Spock finds him later, surrounded by destroyed sparring dummies. Leonard's breathing heavily, though not from exertion. His rage is still simmering below the surface, ready to be stoked into a blinding hot flame at the slightest provocation.

"What do you want?" he demands and then flinches at his tone. He really is his own worst enemy in this relationship. Spock ignores him, focusing on picking his way across the room, maneuvering around Leonard's mess with feline grace.

"I desire to understand," he tells the doctor as he stands in front of him and raises a hand. McCoy's eyes widen slightly. He knows what the Vulcan's asking.

The hand moves toward his face and Leonard grabs Spock's wrist, halting its progress. Sadness flashes through Spock's eyes and he attempts to tug his hand back, but McCoy refuses to release the appendage. His fingers tighten around the Vulcan's wrist, holding him still so Leonard can explain. He can't let the Vulcan misunderstand him – not about this.

"Spock, I'm not saying 'no'," McCoy whispers. "I just have to... Fuck, it shouldn't be this hard." He runs his free hand through his hair in frustration. "We've talked about almost everything, but we've always skirted around Olduvai. You've read the reports, but now you're going to see it and... Just be careful," he sighs before releasing the half-Vulcan's wrist. It's not what he wants to say, not by a long shot, but McCoy has never been eloquent, in any life.

Spock's fingers settle gently on his face, as if he's afraid he might bruise the human. McCoy feels a rush of fondness because the fact that Spock is still so careful despite knowing how indestructible Leonard is... He doesn't have words for it.

Leonard. Focus, Spock chides, but McCoy can feel the Vulcan's fondness being echoed back to him. Still, he follows Spock's instruction and begins sifting through his memories until he finds the pit where he buried Olduvai.

It's painful reliving the memories. The loss of his squad is still fresh, an open wound that hasn't healed in 200 years. Leonard pushes through it because Spock is worth it. Jim is worth it. And they've been trying to understand him for nigh on six months now, so if this fills in those missing blanks...

The thing is, McCoy is more than one person. And not in the way that he is Dr. Leonard Horatio McCoy and John 'Reaper' Grimm. McCoy is fashioned out of all the good that Sam saw in John. He's got the Kid's southern drawl, which had come in so thick when he'd been stoned out of his mind. John still feels a flash of anger – both at the Kid for being stupid enough to take those pills and at Portman for giving them to him. He has Duke's sense of humor and Mac's sense of honor and all of the best parts of Sarge, Destroyer, Goat – even Portman had his strengths. And the best of Sam's brilliant, scientific mind to top him all off. He's one human made up from the memories of nine different people, so of course he's complex.

Leonard gasps as Spock gently disentangles their minds. Belatedly, he realizes he's crying and that Spock is holding onto him like he's afraid he might shatter apart.

"I grieve with thee," Spock whispers, and Leonard does shatter apart. It's been 200 years and he's never really dealt with all the fallout. He and Sam had lied their asses off to make sure John would stay safe. John had then rained down fire and brimstone on the UAC to make sure history never repeated itself, but he'd never really worked through what happened. He thinks he can now. He thinks he wants to.

Leonard's pretty sure he falls asleep. He comes to still in the gym and finds at some point Spock moved them to a sitting position on the floor. Spock's back is leaning against the wall and he's still holding Leonard, though less tightly. Jim must have snuck in while Bones was sleeping because he's plastered against both of their sides, one hand lightly clasping the doctor's hand.

"Hey," Jim whispers when he notices McCoy is awake.

"Hey yourself," he grouses back, but there's no real bite behind the words. He feels completely relaxed for the first time in ages, and he wonders if this is what people mean when they say a burden shared is a burdened halved.

"You destroyed the sparring dummies," Jim tells him, amusement coloring his voice. McCoy hums in agreement.

"I was a mite pissed off," he points out. Jim laughs.

"Yeah..." he trails off. "...I'm sorry," he adds softly. "I know how upset you get when we get injured, especially when you think we could have avoided it, and Spock showed me why. Jesus Bones, I'm so sorry you had to go through that," he breathes out, momentarily sidetracked. "I can't promise it won't happen again but I do promise not to treat it so lightly." McCoy nods; apology accepted. When it comes down to it, 'try' is all they can really promise each other: Jim will try not to get killed, Bones will try to be less fucked up and Spock will... Leonard doesn't know what Spock will try. He'll probably try to keep this relationship from crashing and burning.


"Oh, for fuck's sake," Leonard grumbles as he searches through his drawers again. It's been months since their emotional heart-to-heart in the gym and their relationship has hit its stride. Except Leonard's retained his quarters, which means his belongings have been split between two rooms – which means more often than not, he can't find what he's looking for. It's extremely vexing considering how organized he usually is. He growls.

"May I assist? What are you looking for?" Spock asks, diverting his attention from the chessboard. McCoy has a brief flash of deja vu to that time nearly two years ago when Spock had asked about Leonard's soul mate. He glances at the chessboard and, sure enough, Spock's placed a trap for the kid and, sure enough, Jim plays right into it. He blinks and he's back to the present; Spock stares at him placidly, patiently waiting for his response.

McCoy opens his mouth to answer but instead blurts out, "Jesus Christ, I love the both of you." He snaps his mouth shut as his face flushes and he looks away. But not before he sees Spock's eyes widen in surprise.

He's steadfastly looking at the wall but he can hear the clatter of the chess pieces. His statement has apparently caught Jim off guard, too. McCoy has no doubt that the blond's jerked in surprise, over-tipping the board and sending the pieces flying.

"Leave it," Jim orders breathlessly as he scrambles to his feet. McCoy knows they're heading for him and his flush deepens. And okay, maybe they've all been together for nearly a year and it's the first time he's said those words, but he really doesn't think they need to make a big fucking deal about it. He should have known better. Jim Kirk makes a big deal out of everything. "Bones, you said it," he grins, launching himself into the doctor's arms.

"Yeah well, if this is how you're going to react every time, I'm never saying it again." Bones scowls at the kid. He ignores the tingles shooting up his arm, knows it's from Spock trailing Vulcan kisses along his skin and McCoy glares at him, too. Consistency and all. "It ain't like you weren't already aware of the fact."

"Yeah, but you said it," Jim emphasizes. Leonard rolls his eyes and lightly shoves the kid away before returning to his search of the drawers. He's ignoring this ridiculousness.

"Infant," he mutters because sometimes he's petty. "And I'm looking for my dress uniform. That delegation from Nibiru is arriving tomorrow," he says, finally answering Spock's question.

"I believe it is in our quarters," the Vulcan tells him and Leonard sighs. Of course it is.

"Why am I living like this?" he asks no one in particular as he begins slamming the drawers shut. "It's inconvenient, it's confusing, it's illogical. At the end of the day I never know which room I'll be winding up in or if I'll even have clothes to wear the next day. It would make more sense to have one room." He's still mostly grumbling to himself but finds himself with an armful of James T. Kirk. Again. "This is getting to be a bad habit," he snarks. He looks to Spock for help, sees the amusement in those dark brown eyes – had he really found them so indecipherable once? - and knows what they're going to say before they say it.

"We were waiting on you, old man," Jim tells him, eyes twinkling in happiness. Leonard rolls his eyes and tugs Spock into the embrace.

"I'm a southern gentleman," he tells them, making sure his drawl his thick. "I believe in taking things slow."

"Leonard, you are not from the southern states," Spock disagrees, even as his hands begin mapping the man's torso.

"And like hell you're a gentleman. You also slept with us on the first date," Jim points out, pausing from where he's been pressing kisses along McCoy's jaw line. "Besides, you made us wait a year just to tell us you were our missing soul mate." Leonard ignores Spock and the entire first half of Jim's speech, choosing instead to tangle his hand in Jim's hair before hauling him in for a kiss before doing the same to Spock.

"Kid, that night didn't even qualify as a date. You and the hobgoblin practically pounced me. And as for making you wait, I assure you, I'm worth it," he tells them, eyebrow raised as if silently daring them to try and challenge the statement.

"Hell yes you are," the blond agrees. "Less talking, more undressing." It's a plan they can all get onboard with and it's a long time before anyone forms another coherent sentence.

Leonard blinks his eyes open, unsurprised to find himself sandwiched between his bond mates. It happens more often than not, despite having separate quarters. Jim and Spock are still sleeping, so Leonard lets the soft sound of their breathing lull him into a light doze while he thinks. His mind recalls their previous discussion – Jim telling Bones that he and Spock had been waiting for him to be ready. McCoy figures that this entire relationship, at least to this point, has been a bit of a waiting game – Jim and Spock watching while Leonard's been taking baby steps forward. He thinks he can afford to take one giant leap.

The day Leonard moves the rest of his belongings into their quarters, Jim makes an announcement to the crew. Bones ignores the pleased, if somewhat confused, expressions on the crews' faces. After all, two soul mates, while uncommon, is not unheard of. But this isn't about informing the crew, not for Leonard. This is for Jim and Spock. And for himself. They've waited long enough.

End