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Drink Your Heart Away

Chapter Text

One hour into shore leave

Based on the chatter around Jim, the first shore leave of the second five-year mission was going to be great for most of the crew.

He had already heard plans of at least fifteen crewmembers just walking to the transporter room from his quarters. Every one of the conversations he passed was filled with excitement and anticipation. He was excited about his crew members' time off. Their enthusiasm just filled every room of the ship. Morale was high, and high morale created a happy ship.

It helped that much of the crew from the last five-year mission had stayed with the ship for the next one. The Enterprise didn’t have the high turnover Starfleet was expecting from the first five-year exploratory mission. Most of the crew from the original five-year mission had told Starfleet they would like to stay with the Enterprise after the mission was done. Most of them had actually gotten that wish.

The ship was also filled with the excitement of the new crew members who hadn't been on shore leave with the Enterprise before. Jim had heard the phrase, "There's nothing like an Enterprise shore leave!" more than once in the past several days.

Just three months into the second five-year mission, the old crew and the few new crewmembers had begun to come together as a team. Jim wasn't concerned anymore about the balance between the old crew and the new. The few crewmembers they had lost along the way to launch had been due to transfers or family commitments.

Jim had been worried that they would have lost more people until Starfleet announced an experiment about families staying on ships that work in Deep Space, and the Enterprise had been picked as a pilot test ship.

Starfleet wanted to keep qualified crewmembers and not lose them to just missing their families too much. Jim found this out just before launch, but Starfleet had thought the ship would have a high turnover rate, so to combat that they chose the Enterprise as the test ship.

The Sulu’s were the first to sign up. Sulu had been so excited to tell them that Starfleet had approved his family’s application to the program and how they would be coming along with the ship. Everyone was thrilled for him because watching Sulu pine for his family wasn’t fun. They all knew he had missed his husband and daughter so much while the ship was out in the black.

It hadn’t taken long for the families to settle in and make a place for themselves. Ben Sulu had, in addition to running his own botany experiments, volunteered to be the school teacher for the older kids, and one of Scotty’s engineer’s two wives had taken care of the education of the younger ones. Between the three of them, the children about fifteen of them now living on the Enterprise, were very well entertained and educated. The other spouses all found a way to be useful. Some of them were working in the labs or with yeoman. One of Jim’s junior officer’s wife was fanatically writing her doctoral thesis in federation history and had already run the paper past most of the officers in the anthropology and history departments.

The families found ways of keeping the morale of the Enterprise high. But even they couldn’t help morale as much as the promise of a shore leave could. This shore leave was the first one of the mission, and it was on a planet known for its beaches and islands. They hadn’t even left Federation space yet, so everyone was excited to see the planet.

Jim nodded at the transporter chief as he entered the room. It was loud and crowded, with many people waiting for their turn to get on the transporter pad. The crew was split into five duty sections, so one-fifth of the ships' complement was staying on board to work while the rest of the ship went down to see the planet below.

“Captain!” came a cry from a small body who ran up and hit Jim at the waist. Demora Sulu was short for a ten-year-old, apparently. Jim didn’t know for sure because he didn’t have kids and wasn’t planning on having any; he just accepted what others told him about kids. Jim figured that with the life that he lived, he wasn’t going to be a father and thus didn’t need to know. He would be a cool uncle though.

“Hey ‘Mora! Getting ready for the beach?” Jim asked lifting Demora up onto his waist. The girl was wearing a bright yellow sundress with whales on it. She nodded and showed him the strap of her bathing suit.

Demora laughed.

She was honestly too big to be lifted by many people, but as Jim could lift Spock with his more massive density, a small ten-year-old wasn’t much.

“Yep! Daddy will go tomorrow with us, but today, me and Papa are going!” She said pointing at Ben Sulu who waved from the side of the transporter station. Jim walked toward him, carrying Demora in his arms. Demora was giggling while they moved.

Sulu was there too, standing off to the side of his husband. While his husband and daughter were dressed to go to a beach, Sulu still wore his uniform. He and Jim had swapped duty days for shore leave. Jim would generally be on duty the first day so that his crew could get to enjoy the time off sooner. But Sulu had asked to take the day so he could have uninterrupted time with his family.

Jim hadn’t even thought about the proposition twice before agreeing. The happiness on Sulu's face was worth any amount of paperwork he had to do to rearrange the shifts.

“Hey, Captain,” Sulu said, “Let me take my munchkin.” He held out his arms to take Demora, who burst into giggles again but allowed herself to be passed around. “Little one, you are getting far too big for me to do that,” Sulu said to her.

“I’m not! I’m short!” Demora said cheerily. She apparently wasn't concerned about her height.

Jim smiled at the family in front of him. He wouldn’t get a chance at this, and sometime in the past several years, that idea had stopped hurting. Again, Jim was determined to be the best cool uncle though. He didn’t mind babysitting.

“Thanks again for switching, Jim,” Hikaru said, taking Ben’s hand.

Jim waved him off, “It’s not a problem, trust me. It’ll be nice to get a day off. Me, Scotty and Bones have plans now.” Both Sulu’s and Ben’s eyes took on a knowing look. Jim did not grimace. They knew what the plans were at least. “We’ll be long done before last beam up of the night.”

Hikaru looked relieved, and Jim would feel hurt but all Hikaru said was, “Of course, Captain. No repeats of that night at Yorktown.”

Jim burst out laughing. “That won’t happen again!”

The door slid open behind him. “What won’t happen, Captain?” Uhura’s voice came from behind him. Jim turned, opening his mouth to tell her that nothing would happen, what was she talking about? But he stopped short and instead smiled at the sight that Uhura had managed to create.

Uhura was wearing a red dress that was much better than her usual uniform. But it was the sight of Spock that made Jim really happy. She had convinced him to wear human beach clothing. So Spock was wearing a long sleeve white shirt that had the sleeves rolled up and light tan pants.

He was a sight to see.

God, Jim loved Spock.

And Jim was really, honestly, thankful that Uhura had convinced him to dress like this.

“Mr. Sulu, you’re next.” The transporter chief said, making Jim jump and pull his attention away from Spock.

Ben nodded, kissed Sulu goodbye quickly and then took Demora’s hand. Sulu bent down and kissed Demora on the forehead.

“Have fun, you two,” Sulu said.

They walked to the transporter pad. Demora waved at everyone in the room. Uhura smiled and waved back. Spock only nodded. Jim gave a mock salute that earned him a giggle from Demora and a wave from Ben. They vanished in a shower of glittering sparkles.

“Captain, you are taking today off?” Spock asked, his gaze focusing on Jim.

Jim nodded. He always loved it when Spock placed all of his attention on Jim. “I am. Sulu and I switched.”

“I see,” Spock said.

Sulu smirked as he walked out the door. He understood what was going on better than most; Jim needed a drink.

Jim watched him go for a moment then turned back to Spock and Uhura, who were giving the transporter chief the coordinates of their lodging and pickup point.

Jim shook his head ruefully. “Now, I’m sure I don’t actually need to remind you, but as you two are the only ones that are completely duty-free, I actually have to say something. Look, Spock! I’m following regulations for once!”

Spock merely tilted his head, “Indeed,” he said in a mild tone that Jim long knew meant he was amused by Jim's antics.

“Please keep your communicators with you and be in reach of transport if we call. I don’t honestly suspect we’ll need anything, Scotty’s not messing with the communication system this time nor are any of the labs doing anything crazy. But just in case, keep the communicators on!” Jim said. He knew that this whole speech that Starfleet made him say to people who were duty-free while on shore leave was utterly pointless when it came to the scary determination of Uhura and the competency of Spock but, according to regulations, it had to be said.

“We will, Captain,” Uhura said. She fiddled with the tab of her duffel that was on her shoulder, looking impatient. She was clearly ready to leave. Jim kept his speech short - because if he had five days of time off with Spock, he would be eager to start shore leave too.

Jim hadn’t been surprised when Starfleet’s best couple had requested the full five days off so they could spend time at the beach planet.

Alone.

Together.

They had been spending a lot of time together, more than usual, and Jim thought he knew what was coming out of this shore leave.

He was already steeling himself to be happy for them.

“Commander and Lieutenant Commander, it’s your turn.” The Transporter Chief said. Spock shot Jim a look of confusion.

“Captain, you were here before Nyota and myself, are you not leaving?” Spock asked even as Nyota pulled him onto the transporter pad.

“I’m waiting for Bones and Scotty, but they will be along shortly.”

Spock nodded again and then stepped onto the transporter's platform on correct point. Jim waved as they vanished.

The sound of the door opening again caught Jim’s attention. Scotty and Bones walked into the transporter room, both out of uniform and both wearing a haggard look on their faces. Both of them looked like how Jim felt.

A little rung out.

A little tired.

A little heartbroken.

They needed a drink.

-

At a bar on the planet’s surface

Five hours into shore leave

Scotty took a sip of his beer. It was one from Scotland. He loved when he was still in Federation space and could get the beer he actually liked. He had already finished the shots he had ordered for himself and now was going to end the night with something less intoxicating.

He had learned his lesson about only drinking liquor on nights like this at Yorktown.  From what he could clearly remember, that bartender was very good at their job.

“I can’t believe they are going to get married,” Jim said after downing his third and last shot of the night. He placed the glass next to Scotty’s and winced at the row of nine shots. Between the three of them, they had already drunk a lot.

Jim had sounded wistful, sad and distant.

But that was what this night was all about, so Scotty didn’t blame him.

Bones nodded, fingers pulling at the label of his drink. “It’s been a long time coming.”

Scotty just frowned and took a drink of his beer.

And now the trio had drunk enough to get started.

Jim stared down at his own beer. “I mean, I know that Spock is going to ask her… or maybe Uhura will ask him? Whatever is most logical… anyway, I know it will happen this week.”

“They’ve been spending a lot more time than usual together, and they look so content when they are together.” Scotty said mournfully. Nyota didn’t look as happy as she once did but Scotty knew that relationships changed and became more comfortable as time went on. She and the Commander looked content and satisfied.

That’s all he really wanted for her.

He wanted the best for her. She deserved it, and if she thought Spock was the best for her, then Scotty was going to support her in that choice.

“Spock and Uhura have been together for - what, six or seven years now?” Bones asked. He was peeling the label off of his own Orion beer. It was half gone. “It’s only logical for them to get hitched. It only took Jocelyn and me three years to get to that point.”

Jim frowned, "Bones, you might not be the best example to emulate here."

Bones laughed, long past from the days where the reminders of his divorce hurt him.  "Right! But those two... They’re different. They'll be better than Joycelyn and me. They’re a better fit anyway.”

Scotty felt the flinch of pain run across his face to match the one that flashed on Jim’s face. “It will be a beautiful wedding. I’ll make sure of it.” Scotty said.

Jim laughed, and it was only a little hollow. “I’m probably going to be officiating it, so it better be.”

Both Scotty and Bones paused in taking a sip of their drinks. Then they both thought about the regulations and rules of ships, captains, and marriages.

Then chorused out, “Shit.”

“I know right?!” Jim said before taking another deeper swig of his beer. "Normally… I like that duty."

Scotty could see the whole ceremony in his head. He would be in the rec room; it would be all done up in white and silver, with a beautiful canopy that was above the podium. Jim would be at the podium, standing next to Spock with Bones as the best man. All three of them in their best dress uniforms. Bones would be the best man because Jim was officiating the wedding and they all knew it. Chapel or Marcus might be the maid of honor. Scotty wasn’t sure who Nyota would choose. Nyota would be in a beautiful and stunning white dress.

It would be beautiful and, in the end, very, very, heartbreaking.

“She would be gorgeous though,” Scotty said out loud.

“She would,” Bones hummed into his next drink.

“Spock will give her a run for her money though.” Jim piped up. “He would look great in a black tux or a gray suit.”

Even Scotty had to agree to that.

“Guys, don’t let me drink before that ceremony… And don’t let me drink after either. Just get me to a planet, and we can have shore leave. Or lock me in my room for a day.” Jim said seriously. He was staring at the table, and his voice was quiet. “I don’t think I’ll need much reminding then, but don’t let me get tempted. I won’t ruin what Spock has with Nyota because of … me.” He looked up at them each in turn.

Scotty and Bones exchanged a look. “We won’t Jim-boy.” Bones told him.

Scotty nodded in agreement.  “If you don’t then I won’t either. We’ll watch each other.”

“Good,” Jim said and then finished his drink and raised it above his head. A waitress came by with another. He took it, paid and tipped her and thanked her.

Scotty liked this planet’s social traditions. They didn’t have tabs at bars, but they had them at all the restaurants. It made for entertaining moments.

They were silent for a moment, then Bones spoke in a quiet voice that was just as small as Jim’s had been before. “He’s meeting her parents today; he told me he was excited about the whole shindig.”

Neither Jim nor he pretended not to know who Bones was talking about. They'd spent far too much time together to do each other the disservice. “That’s rather serious for Chekov isn’t that?” Scotty asked.

“It is,” Bones agreed, “But Nurse Warrington has talked of nothing for the last two weeks. And then when I ran into him earlier, he was so happy…”

Jim frowned, “Warrington? Isn’t that the daughter of…”

“Newly promoted Captain Warrington of the Intrepid? Yes. The man sent me a comm before he got promoted, asking about his ‘little girl’s’ training. He was a little stuck up but nothing too annoying after working with Spock for so long. I can only imagine how much more annoying he’s gotten since putting on the Captain’s stripes.” Bones said. Jim laughed, and Scotty shook his head in amusement.

“I’m glad I’ve never had to deal with him. I can’t imagine having to deal with the parent of one of my engineers!” Scotty said, laughing.

Bones let out a long, frustrated sigh. “I sent him back a very nicely worded message that he would need to ask the captain of the ship about training on any ship that’s not his own. I wasn’t going to tell him a thing, and he would just have to deal.”

That caused Jim and Scotty to burst out laughing.

Jim laughed harder. "He never sent me that comm! I know what my answer would have been so," Jim said, dragging out the word, "It's probably best that he didn't."

Bones smiled into his drink. "I hope it would have been a firm but polite 'Fuck you.' I nominate Spock to write it."

That caused another round of laughter.

“I hope he isn’t trying to poach my navigator. I need Chekov here. You need Chekov here. We all need Chekov.” Jim said once he stopped laughing. "That asshat can't have him."

“We all do need him, but Pavel loves the Enterprise and would never leave her. Not even for a pretty face he’s meeting the parents of. He might poach his daughter though. She’s been making noise about it. Hope you won’t mind.” Bones said.

Scotty knew how Chekov felt. He loved the Enterprise, and Scotty was still stunned he had left her at all, even though it was for a short time. Chekov felt the same.  All of the main bridge crew did, including Bones, although he wasn’t one to admit that.

Jim, McCoy, and Spock had all refused the many promotion offers at the end of the last five-year mission. Any promotion would take them off of the Enterprise. Scotty scared too many people with his ideas about what an engine can and can't do, so he didn't get too many offers. Nyota had refused the most poaching offers of the senior bridge crew. Sulu had at least three different universities after him, and Chekov had the most captain's after him for the First Officer position than Scotty could shake a stick at.

Jim shrugged, like the loss of a nurse to nepotism wasn’t much. Scotty thought that if she was so willing to jump ship (as the saying went) after the five-year mission had started, then it wasn’t a big deal. Jim had already written her off. Scotty had to laugh a little at the pun.

The Enterprise needed the best. Those who didn’t want to stay on the ship weren’t working at their best. To keep them would be hurting everyone involved.

“But it is serious,” Scotty said, going back to Bones' problem with Chekov.

Bones nodded sadly. “We ran into each other before I met up with you, Scotty. He’s looking forward to the dinner. It’s at one of the best and most romantic restaurants in this city. They seem to be heading down to serious if it’s not already.”

Jim reached out and lightly bumped Bones shoulder with his fist. “Are you alright?”

Bones smiled, but it was small and just as hollow as Jim’s laugh from earlier. “I never had a chance with him anyway, so nothing has changed. I’ll be fine.”

Bones shook his head and changed the subject. He turned to Scotty and said, “Did Nyota tell you what she did for the med bay recently? She and Chapel revamped our traumatic-casualty first responder treatment cards, so the T-CFRC’s clearer to understand and easier to use. Anyone can fill them out now and understand what needs to happen, what needs to be said to medical and how to effectively treat the casualties. Not just the medics or the trained first responders.”

Bones was apparently sick of listening to them talk about the pain of unrequited love. He obviously wanted to get to the next part of the night. None of them were ones who enjoyed being miserable while pining.

“Nyota’s the one who redid the T-CFRCs?" Scotty said, as always impressed by the way Nyota could fix words and enable communication.  "A couple of drills I ran last week with the engineering crew using them flowed so smoothly it was amazing! We got the information needed for the medics so much quicker than before. According to the training team’s evaluators, we saved more crewmen then we ever have before in drills.” Scotty told them.

The drills had been run the week prior with the new responses, and they had been a massive success. Now if there were an accident in Engineering, they would be able to do a lot more for any casualties they might have while they waited for the medics to reach them.

“She’s wonderful, isn’t she?” Scotty sighed happily.

Jim laughed, “She is. Uhura’s been working on something that requires blueprints of the comm station, but she won’t tell me until she’s got a solid plan so you might get questions soon, there, Scotty.”

Scotty smiled, and while he knew it was small, it was real and not pained. “I’ll look forward to it. I always love to talk about our lady to her.” The ‘our lady’ was a comprise from an argument between Jim and Scotty about who loved the Enterprise more.

Bones had declared that they were both idiots and it was a tie. Sulu and his husband had laughed at them all, during this argument. Scotty, from that point on, ignored the fact he definitely loved the Enterprise more. He also ignored the fact that Jim thought the same thing about himself.

“Has Spock been kicking your ass lately in chess, Jim?” Scotty asked.

Scotty knew they were delving into the reason they got drunk together more often than not on shore leaves. They need someone, or someone’s, who would listen to them talk about their loves without rolling their eyes or telling them to get over it.

Jim grinned, “Nope! I’m on a five-game winning streak. If I can get to eleven, then I’ll have beaten the longest winning streak we’ve got. Spock is currently holding that record at ten!”

“What’s the score at now?” Bones asked. He was leaning over the table slightly. “I’ve got money on when one of you gets to five hundred games won.”

“490 to 489, Spock’s favor. But I’m catching up.” Jim said, still smiling as he drank from his beer.

“It’s rather impressive how much you two play chess,” Scotty told Jim. “It’s like you play every night.”

Jim shook his head. “It’s not every night, especially in the last few weeks. But some of the games do take a few days to play. Some don’t. What about Chekov? Anything up with him, Bones?”

Scotty thought that when Bones talked about Chekov, the man lit up. “Yep. Apparently, he was unhappy during the drills you ran, Scotty. He was telling me yesterday at lunch about them.”

Scotty blinked, “What was wrong with my drills? They were all things that can go wrong with the systems and cause problems. I tried to make them as accurate as possible.” He tried not to take that personally. He spent a lot of time making his drills so his crew could be prepared.

Bones laughed as he took another drink. “Not at the drills themselves but how he acted. Pavel wasn’t happy at his reactions at the medical portion, so he’s asking for more training. Warrington is going to give it to him. They had to run the paperwork up through me. I approved it. Scotty, you need more trained medics down there.”

Jim frowned at crossed his arms at his chest. “Warrington? Bones, is it okay for his girlfriend to be the one teaching him?”

Bones nodded, “It will have to be. She’s qualified. Chapel or I would do it normally, but Chapel has her hands full with the psych and medical parts of the families on ships experiment. And, you know, I’m in charge of the entire ship’s medical. I don’t have time to eat or sleep most days.”

Scotty scoffed. “You’re telling me that if young Chekov came to you and asked for personal training, you would deny him?”

Jim copied Scotty’s scoff. “Seriously, Bones? We know you better.”

Bones waved his hands placating with a slight flush on his face, “True, but they think they can do this so I’ll let them. If it gets out of hand, then I’ll take over. Still. I trust Pavel.”

All three of them took a drink at that.

Later when they had finished off their last drink, and they were back on the Enterprise, in their own quarters, not too late as all three of them had duty the next day, Scotty allowed himself to wish and dream.

He’d dream of a beautiful woman who deserves the world and that for once, he was the world she chose.

-

The next morning

Bones had been drinking for so long that he had a plan anytime he, Scotty and Jim all went out. Before he even left, Bones would lay out all he needed for the next morning. His uniform, his boots, a headache pill and a hydration hypo had all been laid out on the table next to his bed.

He was always grateful in the morning for the preparations. He was also reminded that he was getting older. Bones was glad they didn’t do this often.

Only when the feelings got to be too much would they go and drink like this.

Bones groaned as he sat up in bed. His headache wasn’t as severe as some of the other times. Thanks for small mercies.

He pushed himself off of the bed, and he reached for the pill. It helped his head.

Bones sighed. It didn’t help his heart. He was still in love with one Pavel Chekov.

Not that he wanted to complain all the time. Pavel was astonishing, and falling in love with him had allowed Bones to fully heal from the damage his failed marriage had caused. It just hurt sometimes. But Bones wouldn't change it for the world.

Bones sighed. He needed to get ready.

He walked into the bathroom and started to put together the image of a doctor who was not suffering a mild hangover.

Bones thought he wasn’t as successful as he wanted to be.

He just kept getting distracted by that conversation he had with Pavel right before he met up with Jim and Scotty.

Pavel had been excited but nervous for his date. Bones had asked why. Chekov said it was the first time he was meeting a partner’s parents. That it was a big day for him.

Bones had opened his stupid mouth and asked if Chekov was getting serious with Warrington. He didn’t know what possessed him to ask something so stupid. It was a double-edged sword. Either he would be left knowing that it wasn’t serious but Pavel would never look his way, or that it was serious and that Pavel was unreachable.

Bones now knew that Pavel was unreachable.

He was getting serious with someone who wasn’t Bones. Bones now knew how Jim and Scotty felt when it came to Spock and Uhura.

Pavel had been so excited when he spoke about Warrington. Chekov had smiled broadly. Some of his nerves had shown because the smile hadn’t reached his eyes.

Bones left his quarters with one look in the mirror. He hadn’t bothered to shave and was now sporting a scruff that would be annoying by the end of the day. But the rest of him looked neat and presentable.

It would do. Jim would forgive him if he were a little out of regulation. Most of the regulations when it came to facial hair and uniforms became a little lax when shore leave came around.

Most of the crew was on shore leave anyway, so Bones expected a quiet day of preparing the med bay for the next long haul in deep space. Now that he had spent the better part of nearly eight years in space, Bones found he didn’t shudder at the thought of those long voyages in deep uncharted space like he used to. Now it was just one more day on the Enterprise.

He was greeted by his duty team as he walked into the med bay. Two nurses had duty today. One of his most junior nurses, and Warrington.

“Doctor,” Warrington said, “We have no appointments today. Is there anything you would like us to get started on?” she smiled brightly. There was a hint of stress to her expression that Bones understood. Late nights with duty the next day sucked. Always had and always will.

Camelia Warrington was precisely what Bones pictured when he thought about Pavel’s future. She was beautiful, strong spirited and determined. Warrington was an excellent nurse, did her job excellently and was always ready to learn something new. She did think a little too much of her skills most of the time. But that wasn’t too big a problem. She was not ready to be the head nurse by far, maybe in a few years, but not right now. She needed more leadership skills.

Bones liked her overall.

The thing was, no matter how much Bones wanted to hate Warrington or any of Chekov’s partners, he never could. They were people that Chekov had chosen. So who was he to hate any of them? He was an adult. Not a teenager, always jealous of the people who had the attention of the one he loved.

“Can you start on organizing the shipment from the planet? Please make separate areas for the deliveries to the labs and the ones we keep.” He told her. “You understand the system better than Gillpe right now. I need him working on the basic qualifications for new nurses.” Warrington nodded and headed out to the loading dock to get the deliveries.

Bones gestured to the junior nurse, a q’nnnaina name Gillpe. Gillpe had only been on the ship since they left earth and he was still getting his qualifications. So Bones assigned him to study, and Bones would sign off anything that the nurse could prove he learned at the end of the day.

Gillpe went pale, nodded and then disappeared to a computer station to do just that.

Bones sighed as he went into his office.  He knew why the nurses were all afraid of him. Bones would yell if their mistakes caused a problem for a patient and he would yell at the patients if they caused problems for his nurses. Chapel was the only one in the med bay who could handle him at his worst, and she wasn’t on the ship today.

He dropped into his chair and opened his padd up to do the paperwork that always appeared when they got a shipment in. Bones left his door open so he could hear what was going on in the med bay proper. He didn’t need to babysit his nurses, but he did like to know if they got a patient that required his attention or if they could handle themselves.

Bones hadn’t even gotten a full hours’ worth of work in before he heard someone come in. He looked up from his padd and paid attention to the sound coming in from the med bay. He heard Warrington start to greet whatever crewmember had injured themselves.

Bones went back to his paperwork. If Warrington needed him, she would get him.

When Gillpe poked his head in about five minutes later, Bones wondered what was going on. “Umm. Sir? Could you come here for a moment? I don’t think… that is... Umm…” Gillpe trailed off, apparently not knowing how to say whatever it was he was trying to say.

Bones sighed. “What is it? Just spit it out.” He hated when the nurses had no idea how to explain the insanity that occurred on the Enterprise. Chapel would just say things like “The crewmember's hand is trapped in an alien machine that is causing the ship to fall into a time portal. Again. But only if he’s leaning to the right,” with a straight face. Why couldn’t the newbies do it too?

“Well, sir, we just got a patient and well,” Gillpe dragged out the last part of the word before taking a deep breath, “Warrington is refusing to treat him. She keeps on saying she won’t treat anything she caused - or that he’s lying,” Gillpe finished in a rush. “I don’t think that’s allowed.”

“What.” Bones stared at him.

That was unlike Warrington. She was an excellent nurse. What was going on out there? Bones shook his head as Gillpe started to respond - “Nevermind, let’s go see what’s happening.”

Bones followed Gillpe to the primary treatment room. He was going to have to train the nervousness out of the q’nnnaina. This wouldn’t do if they got into a combat situation or when they ended up in a classic ‘Enterprise, what the fuck’ moment. Bones needed calm nurses. Not jumpy ones. Gillpe had potential if he was getting Bones on a gut feeling that something was wrong - but he needed work. Gillpe retreated back to the computer to study in a hurry.

As Bones walked into the room he saw Pavel, sitting on one of the beds, looking at Warrington and trying to talk to her. “Camelia, I just need some headache pills. Could you please get me that?” he asked, almost pleading.

Warrington glared down at Pavel. “No. You don’t deserve anything after what you did to me. Embarrassing me like that, in front of my father no less.” She didn’t have a tricorder in her hand, Bones noticed with a frown. It was like she didn’t even care to do her job. That struck Bones as not only unprofessional but out of character for the woman. “Don’t think I don’t know what you’re doing. Faking a headache just to talk to me.”

Pavel visibly sighed. “Can I speak to Chapel or Len? I would like to get treated for this headache.”

Nurse Chapel is not on duty right now, and Doctor McCoy is doing important paperwork and is not to be disturbed by malingerers like you. Go back to your station and stop stalling. I don’t care what you want or say.”

Bones felt his face flush at Pavel’s use of his nickname ‘Len.’ Most people don’t call him that. Most people call him McCoy, or Bones. A few people called him by his titles of Lieutenant Commander or Doctor. Almost no one called him Len.  Bones pushed the thought away as he got closer.

“Warrington, you should care what the tricorder says.” Bones said coming up to them. The pair jumped and turned to look at him. Pavel winced at the sudden movement. His gaze was slightly unfocused, face pale and drawn, and he had an enormous red mark on his cheek.

Bones pushed passed Warrington, opened up his tricorder, and took readings. The red mark was an impact bruise. Probably from a hard slap or a light punch but the body was already healing the damage, so Bones wasn’t sure. But the headache Pavel was complaining of was from a migraine that was reading something terrible on the body-pain scale.

If Warrington was ignoring the red bruise and was mad at Pavel, then she may, indeed, have been the one to have caused it - or knew who did.

“Go back to the inventory, Warrington. We’ll talk later about this,” Bones said, showing her the readings. She frowned at the results and then nodded. Bones didn’t want to reprimand her, but it looked like she had let her personal drama get in the way of doing her job. If he cut this behavior off now, then he would have fewer problems later.

“Chekov. When did your migraine start?” Bones asked, turning back to Pavel. He reached into the cabinet behind him, blindly looking for the hydration hypos.

Pavel closed his eyes and thought. Bones hated it when Pavel was in his med bay, but at least it was for something Bones could fix rather quickly. “It started during dinner last night. I thought it was a stress headache that would fade. Dinner last night was… not fun.”

Something in Pavel’s tone said there was a story there that Pavel wasn’t telling. Bones frowned and Pavel didn’t reopen his eyes. The silence stretched out for a moment.

“What happened, Pavel? Last time we talked you were looking forward to dinner,” Bones asked before he could stop himself. When it came to Pavel, Bones had never been able to stop himself from asking questions that he didn’t want to know the answers to. It seemed to be a habit he couldn’t break. But he was Pavel’s friend - and doctor. He could ask, and Pavel was comfortable enough to tell him.

That comfort meant a lot to Bones.

“A lot of stuff,” Pavel said, frowning again, eyes glued to the floor, “It ended up being a recruitment dinner and not a ‘meet the parents’.”

Bones could see that Pavel was unhappy. It was in every line of Pavel's body.

It made Bones wish he could hug Pavel.

“Camelia wants to transfer to her father’s ship. She wants me to go with her. Her father wants me there too. I don’t want to go. So, she broke up with me.” Pavel paused for a moment and then continued, “… And slapped me… but that was more or less deserved.”

Bones paused in filling the hypo. “What did you tell her that got you slapped so hard it left a mark more than twelve hours later?”

Pavel shrugged, still not having looked up. He looked like he was trying to puzzle out what happened the night before. “I told her that staying on the Enterprise is more important than going with her right now. Except not nearly as politely. Like I said: more or less deserved.”

Bones nodded. “I see.” Bones did not see. Even in his divorce, with all the horribleness and yelling and anger, he had never made his ex-wife so angry she slapped him, and that honestly sounded like Warrington’s problem. “Stay still,” he commanded, and Pavel patiently froze in place. “I can see why she’s angry with you. But that doesn’t explain why she thinks you were faking the headache to see her.” Bones pressed the hydration hypo into Pavel’s neck.

“I’m not sure honestly, but I think Camelia expects me to apologize and get back together with her. I don’t want to do that at all. She’s going to be transferring soon. I’m not doing a long-distance relationship with someone who doesn’t deeply care about me, and we just aren't there yet. I saw what it was like for Hikaru.” Pavel said as Bones watched color come back into his face.

Bones, with practice born of hearing about Chekov’s breakups, ignored the surge of hope in his chest. The situation still hadn’t changed. Pavel wasn’t looking for him. Pavel didn’t want Bones. He did want a friend though. He walked over to the cabinet with the most commonly used, non time-critical pills. He started to look for the strong headache pills, and the epidermis and capillaries fix-it pills.

“If you don’t think you’re that deep into the relationship yet and you don’t want to leave Enterprise, then don’t. I know we’ll miss you something terrible if you do go. But we’ll be happier if you stayed.” While Bones spoke with the plural, he knew that he meant ‘I’ll miss you a lot. I’ll be happier.’ He turned to face Pavel.

Pavel smiled, finally looking up at Bones. Pavel’s smile always made Bones feel like the universe was better and brighter. When he smiled at Bones like that, Bones felt himself fall in love all over again.

God, he really was lost for this man.

“Here. Take these,” Bones said handing Pavel a cup with two pills in it. One for the migraine and the other to heal the trauma of the slap. He watched Pavel swallow them back and then handed him a bottle. “Then you’re off duty for the next six hours as the pills kick in. This combination will cause some low-level dizziness, so expect that.”

“I will. Thanks, Len.” Pavel said as he began to feel the effects of the hypo and the pills, visibly gaining more color in his face. Bones, as always with every patient that he treated, felt relief at the healing. “For being my friend.”

“It’s the least I can do.” Bones told him, helping Pavel to his feet. He memorized the feeling of Pavel’s hands on his arm. They don’t often touch, so Bones would admit to holding the few times they did in a special place. “Just tell me if you need anything.”

“I will,” Pavel promised as he walked to the door. Bones stayed by the medical bed. He had to admire the view of Pavel walking away, all confidence and strength.

Pavel paused just before the door. He stood there and looked at Bones with a question in his eyes. Bones nodded gently to let Pavel know it was okay to ask his question. Pavel smiled very faintly and asked, “Actually, Len? Can you do the medical training I wanted, with me? The plan me and Camelia made so I can work on my medical quals won’t quite work if she won’t talk to me.”

Bones flushed as he remembered the teasing that Jim and Scotty had given him last night. If Pavel asked he would provide the man training. He nodded, “Of course I will, Pavel. Just send me some open times that will work for you, and I’ll see if I can fit in. It may be late in the night though.”

Pavel grinned at him and waved. “That won’t be a problem.” He turned away and started to leave. “I’ll see you later, Len. By the way - nice beard.”

Bones allowed himself small wave back. And since no one was looking an intense flush. Pavel had noticed his scruff!

Well, that was interesting.

Not how he expected the day to go.

Now he had to go deal with an oddly acting nurse. So, Bones put on his game face and turned back to the central part of the med bay.

-

Three days later, the end of shore leave

If Jim had ever dreaded the end of shore leave so much before, he'd be lying. As much as he was excited to see Spock and talk about the new orders they had received, he was dreading seeing a ring on Uhura's finger. Or seeing Spock touch her even more than they usually do.

Both were signs of a bonding or an engagement.

Scotty got out of seeing Spock and Uhura as they arrived; he was needed in engineering for something. Jim had to be there to greet his first officer. Neither Spock nor Jim had ever come onto the ship without the other welcoming them. It was less regulation, and more tradition.

Kyle, the transporter technician, said, “Sir! I’ve received the coordinates from the bridge. Ready to beam up.”

“Energize, Mr. Kyle. Let’s get our communication officers and first officer back.” Jim told him.

“Aye sir, Energizing now.” Kyle hit the transporter sequence and brought the transporters to full power.

Two forms appeared on the pad. They shimmered and coalesced into Uhura and Spock. They paused for a moment to get their bearings.

Jim waved. “Welcome back. Enjoy your vacation?”

“It was very relaxing,” Uhura said. She stepped off the transporter pad and made her way to the door. “I’m glad for the time off, Captain.”

Jim smiled. “Any time we can, Lieutenant Commander. Any time.”

She laughed as she left with her bag over her shoulder. She went without saying goodbye to Spock. That was a first as far as Jim knew. They didn’t say anything on the bridge, both of them holding themselves to a high level of professionalism, but when they were off duty, both Spock and Uhura were always doing little things like saying goodbye or tiny touches between each other that forever hinted at something more.

Jim hadn’t seen her do either. Nor, he noticed, was she wearing an engagement ring.

Maybe he would have a little more time to prepare his heart.

Spock stepped off the pad slower. “Good day, Captain.” He said as he got closer to Jim.

“Hi, Spock. Enjoy your time in the sun?” Jim asked as they walked together to the door. Jim knew that Spock did spend some time in the sun. His ordinarily pale complexion was slightly tinged a darker shade, like a very light tan on a human.

“I found it to be enjoyable,” Spock returned. They walked into the hallways of the ship. “If you mind, may we head to my quarters before we return to the bridge?” Spock asked.

Jim nodded. “Sure Spock, let me tell you about our new orders as we walk.” They got into a turbolift, and Jim told the computer to take them to the officer quarter’s deck.

“And what are our new orders?” Spock prompted. Jim leaned on the turbolift walls and relaxed, but Spock remained straight-backed despite his bag on one shoulder.

“We’re heading to a planet called Yen’bu to witness a treaty signing and to pick up some of the diplomatic envoys for transport,” Jim said, reciting the orders he had read several times since they came in three days ago. “It should be a normal ceremony and treaty signing, but there is one minor complication that we have to be careful of.” The doors opened to the officer’s deck. Jim followed Spock off and they headend to Spock’s door.

“What is that complication, Jim?” Spock asked. Jim smiled at his name. Now that they were out of earshot of the crew, Spock would feel more comfortable relaxing the boundaries he had set for himself. Jim enjoyed when Spock did that.

Jim pulled a face at the question. “Something on the planet makes anyone on its surface unable to tell a lie.”

“Fascinating,” Spock said as he placed his bag on the floor next to the laundry shoot, clearly for later sorting. “Have they figured out why that is?”

Jim shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ll get you what the diplomatic scientists have managed to dig up.”

It was Spock’s turn to pull a face, although it was gone in a flash. Jim stifled a laugh. He had heard Spock’s very calm and logical rant about diplomatic scientists enough times to know what Spock thought about whatever conclusions that they had come up with.

“I’ll look forward to reading the papers and reports from the diplomatic scientists,” Spock said after a moment of reflection.

Jim didn’t bother hiding a snort at that. “Yes. I’m sure you will.” He said as sarcastically as he could.

Spock merely tilted his head, “I just said that. I am looking forward to reading their conclusions.”

“And then you will enjoy tearing said conclusions apart and leaving the pieces of bad science or half-assed conclusions on the floor in front of them,” Jim said. “Don’t think I don’t know about the last three times we had to deal with diplomatic scientists. You made one of them cry. The others haven’t even tried to publish anything since they met you.” He sat down on Spock’s desk. He ignored the way that Spock tried to subtly direct him off the desk and onto the chair.

“I am unsure what you are speaking of, Jim. However, if they want to publish anything again, they simply must present conclusions based on the evidence in front of them. Which, I am certain, they can so do.” Spock said mildly as he pulled out his padd from his desk drawer.

Jim laughed, knowing at least one of the scientists was going to reevaluate their life choices.

Jim felt somewhat uncomfortable about the idea that he couldn’t lie on a planet but he only had to be there for a few days before he would be off again, so Jim felt that he could just get over it. As long as he didn’t think about kissing Spock or just how amazing Spock was in general, then he should be fine.

Jim hoped. A good third of his thoughts would need to be censored if he wanted to not spill his guts out to someone who was already taken and had no interest.

Spock, on the other hand, would find the whole experience fascinating and would probably end up publishing a paper on the anti-lying capabilities of the planet himself.

Jim knew he was a goner for Spock - he wanted to read the paper.

“Is there anything else in the orders that are relevant?” Spock asked as he flipped through the orders on the padd.

“Just one. We have an after dinner live comm meeting with the Admiralty for a more complete idea of what we’ll be doing on Yen’bu. It will be on Friday, which I know is normally a date time for you and Uhura but I’ll have to ask you to be there.” Jim said apologetically.

Jim hated when he interrupted Spock’s dates with Uhura. One, it was a dick move, interrupting someone’s date. Two, it was always like stabbing himself in the heart, because he knew what a date with Spock looked like and he wanted that so badly. Three, Jim always felt terrible. Spock and Uhura had so little time for themselves and each other that Jim just tried to not interrupt date nights unless he had official pressing ship’s business that needed her or Spock, or both of them, to deal with.

“I will be there. Do not worry about interrupting any more dates between myself and the Lieutenant Commander. We are no longer seeing each other.” Spock said as he became absorbed in the orders on the padd.

Jim gaped at him.

“Did I hear that right? You and Uhura broke up?” Jim nearly yelled. The only thing that prevented Jim from shouting was the fact Spock was so damn calm.  Jim was stunned. He thought there would be an engagement, not a breakup. Spock didn’t answer or even look up from the padd. Jim glared at him. “You do not just drop a bombshell like that and not explain, Spock!”

Spock looked up at Jim. “There is no need to yell Captain; I am right here. Yes. Nyota and I are no longer in a romantic relationship.” He sat down in the chair that Jim ignored. He didn’t put the padd down though.

Jim sagged against the screen that separated the sleeping quarters and the working area. “But… I… I thought… that… I thought that you would be getting engaged not breaking up?" Jim said. Then a sudden realization came over him, and he asked, “Are you okay with this?”

Spock looked startled for a heartbeat before he pulled a blank expression over his face again. “An engagement was never the plan. Nyota and I realized the relationship had expired. This was a mutual choice.  I realized that you are asking about my emotional wellbeing as that is a standard human response. I am Vulcan. I am thus unchanged by the ‘break up.’”

Jim didn’t fully believe him, but if Spock were hiding emotional pain, he wouldn’t have brought up anything human about himself. He would have made himself seem more Vulcan so people would stop asking.

So, Jim accepted that fact and then tried to move on.

He failed.

All he could hear was that Spock was single. For the first time in nearly eight years of knowing him, Jim could, in theory, have a chance.

Jim could, in theory, just get up and kiss Spock right now and maybe Spock would respond positively and maybe –

Jim then violently shoved that thought away. And inwardly frowned at himself. He might be desperately in love with Spock, but the Vulcan had just gotten out of a nearly eight-year relationship.

Give Spock some time, man, he scolded himself.

“If you say so, Spock.” Jim agreed, “Just know I’m here if you want to talk.” He hopped off of Spock’s desk and landed on the floor.

“I will keep that in mind, Jim but I believe that it will be unlikely I will need to do so. After breaking up, Nyota and I found that we could actually speak to each other easier than before. It was quite refreshing to have her… friendship back. It was something we had lost in the last few years,” Spock said. Then he looked surprised. He clearly hadn’t meant to share that. “…Apparently, I am more willing to speak than I thought previously.”

Jim laughed. “Sometimes that happens. But you two are good? Like friends good? Or are you ‘we can still be friends’ good?” Jim asked.

Jim started to pace. It was a habit of his that Spock would be familiar with, Jim always had too much energy. Jim found out long ago, during one of the late nights where they stayed up and worked on the ship's business, that Spock didn't mind the habit at all. He found it curious and fascinating. Spock had said it was an excellent example of human idiosyncrasies.

“I am unsure of the difference between the two phrases, however, we are indeed friends. We had several days to reestablish that dynamic between us.” Spock said tilting his head again he watched Jim pace.

“Wait… days?" Jim asked, "Spock, when did you break up with Uhura? Or did she break up with you? Eh, who cares. You said ‘mutual.’” Jim said. He had thought it was only a day or so at the most. When did they break up on a five-day shore leave?

Spock sighed and picked up the padd again. “We broke up four days and ten hours ago. The first night of shore leave.”

Jim gaped again. “You guys broke up the first night of shore leave and then still stayed for the rest of shore leave?”

Spock was starting to look mildly annoyed. “I have said just that in several different ways over the course of this conversation, Jim. Have you been listening?”

Jim waved his hands in the air. “I have! I have!”

“The hotel was quite nice, and neither of us felt the desire to leave. I slept on the couch for the duration.” Spock told him. Jim could see the really logical way that decision came to be. He also wondered how awkward that first night was.

Jim nodded. Then a thought occurred to him and he realized he had to tell Scotty about this new development. “Are you sure you’re good?” he asked again.

Spock sighed, “As much as I hate the word, I am fine , Jim,” he stressed the word fine in a very human manner. Jim smiled at the sudden rush of affection he had for Spock. “I feel no deep sense of loss or pain about the end of my relationship with Nyota.” Spock looked around and then picked up his padd. His eyebrows raised in a manner Jim had taken to mean 'oh really?' A very skeptical response to something on the padd. Jim was usually amused by this expression and seeing it on Spock’s didn't fail him now. He half laughed as he nodded.

“If you’re sure...” Jim said as he started to their shared bathroom. “Then I’ll meet you on the bridge in an about a half hour? I just realized that I need to comm Scotty about something.”

“That is acceptable, Jim. I must read this report from the astrophysics lab, it is apparently time critical.” Jim could hear the unspoken, ‘and I will be the judge of that’ in Spock’s tone. Jim knew Spock hated when his labs said something was time critical and it wasn’t.  “I will see you in a half-hour,” Spock said as he became absorbed in the paper in front of him.

Jim walked calmly through the bathroom, calmly to the comm unit on his desk and calmly called the ship's communication center for Scotty.

That was where the calm ended.

Scotty was in Engineering. Therefore, he would be with other people. Jim weighed the options. Gossip on the ship traveled faster than one of Bones’ illnesses.  However, Scotty needed to know this bit of information.

Scotty answered quickly, “Scott here, Captain, what’s up?” While Engineering was ordinarily loud in the background of comm calls, it wasn’t today. Jim could hear Scotty’s voice clearly.

“How private are you right now, Scotty?” Jim asked, leaning over his desk.

Scotty’s voice was still clearly audible when he answered, “In my office, Captain. Just finishing up with a disciplinary issue. Anything wrong?”

“That shoebox in Engineering is not an office, Scotty. It’s a shoebox. What disciplinary issue? Anything I should know about?” Jim asked momentarily distracted by Scotty statement.

“Nah. Just a crewman not handling his workload well and acting out because of it. No need to worry at the moment. I’ve got it handled for now.” Scotty said sighing.

Jim hummed. "Scotty..."

Scotty caved with very little pressure. He wasn't a major disciplinarian, and so he often went to Jim with his 'problem children'. "It's Kent. He's been adjusting well, so I just think this is a one-off issue. I’m not worried."

Jim was glad Scotty felt that way. Sometimes new crewmen didn't adjust well to the Enterprise.  People who looked promising and would be great on any ship or station other than the Enterprise just burned out when they got on board the vessel. “Well tell me if you need me or if you need anything.”

“I will. Anyway, what’s up?”

“I’ve got some news that you may want to sit down for,” Jim said in response. He was already nervous, and it wasn’t even his relationship.

It did affect everything though.

“Well, Kirk? What’s so big that I need to sit down and that I need privacy?” Scotty’s voice was growing annoyed.

Jim took a deep breath, “Spock and Uhura broke up." Jim said in a rush. He didn't give Scotty time to respond before continuing. "It’s been a few days. It was mutual. Neither is acting any different, but they aren’t together.”

There as a slight crash on the other end of the line. Jim waited a moment before he called out, “Scotty? You ok down there?”

“Jimmy-boy, there was no way simply sitting down could have prepared me for that. But thanks for the attempt.” Scotty’s voice said from the com unit on the desk. “It’s true then? They aren’t together? No engagement?”

Jim shook his head even though Scotty couldn’t see it. “No engagement. They aren’t together. According to Spock, it was mutual.”

There was another moment of silence before Scotty’s voice came back, slightly pained. “Even if they both wanted it, we can’t go after them, can we, Jim?”

Jim sighed. “Not yet. But we can ask in a few months when they’re ready. Trust me, Scotty, this isn’t as easy as I want it. But I won’t be a rebound, and I won’t let you be one either.”

“Thanks, Captain.” Scotty said. “I need to think about this for a while. Scott out.”

“Kirk out, Scotty,” Jim said automatically. He leaned back in his chair. What was Jim going to do about this? He hoped it wouldn’t affect the dynamic on the bridge too much.

The Enterprise worked as a team for a reason.

There was a chirp from his padd. Jim glanced at it, but as he reached for the padd, his eyes fell on a handwritten letter, in Vulcan, that had been left to him by Ambassador Spock.

The letter wasn’t in Spock's handwriting.

And Jim felt a visceral, painful, giddy surge of hope shoot through him.

Jim shook his head, pushing the hope down and making it stay there, and grabbed the padd. The message was from Bones. All it read was ‘Chekov and Warrington are over. It’s been several days, and they are not doing the on again and off again thing according to Chekov.’

Spock and Uhura weren’t together.

And now according to Bones, Chekov came back to the ship after breaking up with Warrington.

What the hell happened on that shore leave?!